Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Trump risks ‘lasting damage’ if U.S. pulls out of Paris climate agreement
- BP restarts production at £4.4bn North Sea oilfield
- EPA remains top target with Trump administration proposing 31 percent budget cut
- $12bn Australian coal mine deferred in subsidy war
- Scientists say the rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990
- Clean Energy
- Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand
- Paris Isn't Burning
- Shell CEO says climate change is real but energy demand growth is ‘unstoppable’
- Better out than in
- Holocene warming in western continental Eurasia driven by glacial retreat and greenhouse forcing
- Climate mitigation from vegetation biophysical feedbacks during the past three decades
The Trump administration risks causing “lasting damage” to relations with European allies if the US withdraws from the Paris climate agreement, Germany’s environment minister has warned. In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, seen by The Washington Post, Barbara Hendricks wrote that US withdrawal would “cause lasting damage to the long-standing mutual trust and close cooperation between our two countries and between the US and other countries in Europe and elsewhere.” Hendricks also noted the US could help shape the details and implementation of the deal, and had latitude to adjust its own targets, without having to withdraw. In response, a spokesperson from the US State Department said “the Administration is reviewing the United States’ international climate change policies. At this point, we do not have any decisions to announce.” And Bloomberg reports that Hendricks says she expects Trump to make his final decision on Paris after arriving for the G7 talks in Italy on Friday. Meanwhile, the UN’s deputy secretary general has accused President Donald Trump of “treading water” over the decision on the Paris Agreement, reports the Guardian. Amina Mohammed told the Guardian she was hopeful the US would not renege on the deal signed last year, but that Trump appeared to be avoiding a public declaration after taking such a hard line during his campaign for the White House. Elsewhere, former vice president Al Gore says he believes that Donald Trump will not halt the momentum of the climate movement even if he withdraws the US from the Paris agreement, reports the Guardian. “I don’t know what [Trump’s decision] will be, but I think there’s an excellent chance that he will surprise many by deciding to stay in the Paris agreement,” he said. ““But in the first four months of his presidency, we have already learned that he cannot stop the solutions to the climate crisis.” Gore made his comments at the Cannes film festival, notes the Associated Press, where he was promoting his new documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. CNN and Reuters also cover the story. And finally, Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s transition team for the EPA, told a conservative conference that the new administration is moving too slowly to unravel climate change regulations. In a recording obtained by Reuters, Ebell said Trump’s administration had made a series of missteps, including delays in appointing key EPA officials, that could hamper efforts to cut red tape for industry. “This is an impending disaster for the Trump administration,” he said.
BP has restarted production at a £4.4bn project in the North Sea that will return its operations in the maturing British oilfields to growth. The project sees the completed upgrade to operations in the Schiehallion area west of the Shetland Islands, which have been shuttered since 2013. Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said the project, called Quad 204, was “one of the largest recent investments in the UK”. It is the third of seven major upstream projects BP expects to start this year around the world. The project is expected to deliver 130,000 barrels of oil per day, says the Times, representing about a 7% increase to total North Sea output compared to last year. The redevelopment should allow production of a further 450m barrels of oil and keep the field operating until at least 2035. The news “is more of a last hurrah for BP in the North Sea, and for the UK Continental Shelf more broadly,” says an FT analysis article. The Telegraph also has the story.
When the White House releases its latest budget proposal today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will fare worse than any other federal agency, the Washington Post reports. An advance copy of EPA’s budget for fiscal 2018, obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, indicates the administration will proceed with its effort to reduce current funding by more than 31%, to $5.65bn. This would eliminate several major regional programmes, including restoring the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, EPA’s lead risk-reduction program, and leave “significantly less money for enforcement of environmental crimes and for research into climate change and other issues,” the Post says. The budget is also proposing to reduce by half the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a cushion against global price shocks and supply disruptions, says another Post article. The Reserve is the world’s largest stockpile of emergency crude oil, and lies near the largest US refiners and pipeline networks in four large salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas. The budget would also seek to raise $1.8bn over the coming decade by allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, reports Reuters, which is the largest protected wilderness in the US. The Hill also has the story.
A company controlled by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani has deferred a decision to build one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Australia. The decision comes after the Labor government in the state of Queensland was unable to agree on whether to provide tax relief for the Carmichael mine. The company had been planning to make a final investment decision on the 25m tonnes-a-year coal mine and rail project by the end of May, says Reuters. “Adani is advised that the Queensland cabinet did not consider any submission or make a decision on royalties for the Adani project today,” an Adani spokesman. “In light of that, Adani has today deferred a decision by the board on FID until the government makes a decision.” The Guardian reports that a Labor senator has said the Adani coalmine would be “a huge mistake for this country” in a departure from the official position of Australia’s Labor party. “If we are going to be serious about climate change, we should not be starting any new coalmines in this country,” Lisa Singh said. “I understand the need for jobs in the regions, but those jobs need to be long-term sustainable jobs.
A new scientific analysis finds that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as rapidly as they were throughout most of the 20th century. The isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies. While sea level rise throughout much of the 20th century was driven by the melting of land-based glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms, the 21st century has now, on top of that, added in major contributions from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the study says.
The FT has a series of articles in a special report on clean energy. These include how major oil companies are seeking to survive in transition to low-carbon world, how nuclear developers are stumbling over technology and financing, the Indian minister for power promoting renewables and ‘cleaner’ coal, the improving power storage of green batteries, the potential for contactless electric vehicle charging, and how Kenya is planning to plug its power supply gaps with renewables.
The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how the world’s largest oil companies are preparing for a peak and subsequent decline of global oil demand in the coming years. Despite uncertainty over the timing of a plateau in oil demand, “for many companies and investors, the question isn’t whether this immense turning point will happen—it’s when,” the authors write. “Getting that timing right will separate the winners from the losers, and it has become a major preoccupation for energy economists and a flashpoint for controversy within the industry.” The article looks at the projections from oil companies and the various pressures on demand – such as electric cars, the Paris Agreement, and usage in developing countries. “Carbon intensity and energy intensity have already peaked,’ the authors note, “But many analysts say the Paris Agreement to limit global warming is just the beginning. And some companies are starting to plan accordingly.”
While the Trump administration has not yet decided whether to leave the Paris agreement, “whatever it decides, the agreement itself will survive,” writes Brian Deese, former senior adviser on climate change, energy and conservation to President Obama. “Negotiators designed it to withstand political shocks. And the economic, technological, and political forces that gave rise to it are only getting stronger,” Deese says. “US policy cannot stop these trends.” “Sticking with the deal would mitigate the damage and is clearly in the US national interest,” he notes, “but Washington’s failure to otherwise lead on climate change would still hurt the United States and the world.” Last month, Carbon Brief published an in-depth interview with Deese.
The Washington Post carries the transcript from an in-depth interview with Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell. The topics covered include BP’s transformation, climate change, the new Trump administration, economic sanctions and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. When asked about his views on climate change, van Beurden said “We believe that climate change is real. We believe that the threat of climate change is real. And we believe that action is needed. It doesn’t mean we have to kiss hydrocarbons goodbye. In fact, we can’t. But it does mean that we have to make more intelligent choices.”
A rogue US can cause more damage inside the Paris Agreement rather than outside it, argues Dr Luke Kemp, a lecturer at the Australian National University, in a commentary piece for Nature Climate Change. “The conventional wisdom is that a US withdrawal would be a worst-case scenario for international climate policy,” he says. “However, a sober analysis of the political, legal, and financial impacts suggests otherwise.” Were the US to stay in and wilfully miss its emissions targets, it “could provide political cover for other laggards and weaken the soft power of process,” Kemp writes. “Paris may forfeit legitimacy due to the loss of a major emitter, but it is equally likely that its legitimacy will be grievously injured by the US blatantly violating the spirit and purpose of the agreement.”
Carbon and oxygen isotopes from stalagmites from Kinderlinskaya Cave in the southern Ural Mountains are helping scientists reconstruct the Earth’s temperature from 11,700 years ago to the present – a period known as the Holocene. The stalagmites show evidence of warming in the winter season, in line with the long-term warming in model simulations. The authors attribute this warming to retreat of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets until about 7,000 years ago, and to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and winter insolation thereafter.
The slow but persistent increase in leaf area index observed over the past 30 years has slowed down the rise in global land-surface air temperature by nearly a tenth of a degree since 1982, according to new research. The various biophysical feedbacks involved in the process, known as global greening, together mitigated 12% of the global land-surface warming for the past 30 years, say the authors. Boreal Eurasia, Europe, India, northwest Amazonia and the Sahel have felt the biggest changes while in eastern North America and East Asia, the effects of large-scale atmospheric circulation changes have masked any local vegetation feedbacks.
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