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Daily Briefing

02.06.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Trump will withdraw US from Paris climate agreement while California, New York, Washington unite to back climate pact
Trump will withdraw US from Paris climate agreement while California, New York, Washington unite to back climate pact

News.

Trump Will Withdraw U.S. From Paris Climate Agreement

President Trump carried through with a campaign pledge and announced yesterday that he will withdraw the US from the Paris agreement on climate change. In a long speech from the Rose Garden, Trump said the landmark 2015 pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers. He vowed to bring back jobs and stand with the people of the US against what he called a “draconian” international deal. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the US president said, drawing support from members of his Republican Party, but widespread condemnation from political leaders, business executives and environmentalists around the globe says the New York Times. It adds: “[It] is a remarkable rebuke to heads of state, climate activists, corporate executives and members of the president’s own staff, who all failed to change his mind with an intense, last-minute lobbying blitz.” The Financial Times and Guardian are among a number of newspapers who have published an annotated transcript of Trump’s speech. BBC News says Trump claimed in his speech that the “agreement would cost the US $3tn in lost GDP and 6.5 million jobs – while rival economies like China and India were treated more favourably”. The Beast was the first publication to confirm the news yesterday that Trump was exiting the agreement reporting White House officials who briefed media that the US would “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States” – a process that could take four years. The Washington Post has published an article explaining the “top questions and answers now that the US has decided to leave the Paris climate accord”. The Guardian has a piece reminding the world the US has form: “The US tried to derail climate action before – and it ended in humiliating defeat…Trump threatens to repeat the George W [Bush] playbook.”

New York Times Read Article
California, New York, Washington unite to back climate pact

The reaction to Trump’s decision has been swift. AP reports that three Democratic governors have said they won’t let the US back away from a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “This is an insane move by this president,” said California governor Jerry Brown, blasting the decision as “deviant behavior from the highest office in the land.” Brown has joined Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to form the US Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris climate agreement, a pact involving nearly 200 nations aimed at slowing the warming of the planet. California, New York and Washington together account for about 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Elsewhere, the decision was widely condemned by business leaders. The Hillreports that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is now following through on his threat to step down from his positions on advisory councils in the White House. Reuters reports that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein criticised Trump’s decision in his first message on Twitter Inc since joining the platform six years ago. The Financial Times rounds up the rest of the business reaction including the defiant responses from the CEOs of Walt Disney, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and PepsiCo. The rare voices of support came from those in the coal industry. The New York Times has more details about the so-called “synthetic pledge” which involves an “unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — [which] is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations”. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview. Time magazine carries the reaction of former US president Barack Obama, who helped to forge the Paris Agreement. He says: “Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

Associated Press Read Article
France, Germany and Italy: Paris deal ‘cannot be renegotiated’

France, Germany and Italy have no intention of renegotiating the Paris climate agreement, their leaders have said in response to Trump’s announcement. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a joint statement. A Politico source says that Trump and Macron spoke on the phone for about five minutes in a “direct” exchange. Macron told Trump that France would continue working with the US but not on the subject of climate change. In a separate article, Politico describes Trump’s decision as “Climate’s Brexit moment”. It says: “In private, a different sentiment is emerging among policymakers and politicians on the Continent — relief. It’s a relief, in part, to return to a familiar dynamic. During decades of negotiations over emissions pacts from Kyoto to Paris, America mostly played spoiler. The reprisal of that role creates, in the view of EU officials, fresh diplomatic and policy opportunities.” The Mail Online reports that Macron released a video message in which he delivered a “take-down” of Trump’s move. The new French president said: “Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility. Make our planet great again. Thank you.”

Politico Read Article
France, Germany and Italy: Paris deal ‘cannot be renegotiated’

France, Germany and Italy have no intention of renegotiating the Paris climate agreement, their leaders have said in response to Trump’s announcement. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a joint statement. A Politico source says that Trump and Macron spoke on the phone for about five minutes in a “direct” exchange. Macron told Trump that France would continue working with the US but not on the subject of climate change. In a separate article, Politico describes Trump’s decision as “Climate’s Brexit moment”. It says: “In private, a different sentiment is emerging among policymakers and politicians on the Continent — relief. It’s a relief, in part, to return to a familiar dynamic. During decades of negotiations over emissions pacts from Kyoto to Paris, America mostly played spoiler. The reprisal of that role creates, in the view of EU officials, fresh diplomatic and policy opportunities.” The Mail Online reports that Macron released a video message in which he delivered a “take-down” of Trump’s move. The new French president said: “Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility. Make our planet great again. Thank you.”

Politico Read Article
Paris climate deal: PM May tells Trump of 'disappointment'

The BBC reports that Theresa May, the UK prime minister, has told Donald Trump of her “disappointment” with his decision to pull the US out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. In a phone call with the US president, May said the UK remained committed to the deal, according to a Downing Street statement. But the BBC notes that May has been criticised for not signing a joint condemnation from France, Germany, and Italy. Downing Street said: “President Trump called the prime minister this evening to discuss his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. “The prime minister expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement, as she set out recently at the G7. She said that the Paris Agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses.” The UK’s climate and business ministers also each tweeted their own determination for the UK to support the Paris Agreement.

BBC News Read Article
UN climate conference 2018 heads to heartland of Polish coal

The pivotal 2018 UN climate conference will be held in the heart of Poland’s coal mining industry, in a move that Climate Home says has angered some campaigners but offered others hope that it symbolises transition away from fossil fuels. The town of Katowice – founded on coal mining – is in the heart of the Upper Silesian coal basin and plays host to one of the European mining industry’s biggest trade fairs. The choice of town was announced by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on the day US president Donald Trump was expected to leave the Paris climate agreement. It will be the fourth time the Poles have chaired the annual conference.

Climate Home Read Article
Theme issue: Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events

In a special issue of the Royal Society’s biological sciences journal, a series of papers look at the responses in the natural world to extreme climate events. Studies include assessing the impact of extreme sea surface temperatures on albatross populations, how birds cope physiologically and behaviourally with extreme climatic events, and why the 1976 drought was the worst on record for British butterflies and moths.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences Read Article

Comment.

US withdrawal from Paris accord a global setback

Reaction around the rest of the world has been overwhelmingly negative, according to local press coverage. Xinhua, the Chinese state news organisation, has published a critical opinion piece by Wang Haiqing: “One can only assume that Trump has very good reasons to leave the Paris agreement, and that he knows the implications of US retreat from the landmark deal, signed by more than 190 countries and representing a common aspiration of mankind for a low-carbon future. But it is still worth mentioning that leaving the Paris deal and easing efforts to control emissions would hardly translate into a substantial increase in new jobs since the fossil fuel industries are highly automated and are unlikely to employ more workers, as more than many experts have pointed out. It may take time for the U.S. president to find out if there’s any truth in these experts’ conclusion about the relevance between US jobs and the Paris deal, but he has already faced criticism from some key allies…Trump’s decision to ditch the Paris deal will leave a fairly big shoe for a single country to fill, but other major players including the European Union, China and India have reiterated their willingness to step up efforts in the face of the U.S. change of heart over the landmark deal.” Coverage in the French daily Le Monde is largely negative in tone describing it as a “victory for the nationalist wing of the White House embodied by [Steve] Bannon”. In Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, known as “Faz”, carries a column by Andreas Mihm, which provides a rare note of support for Trump amid the European press, arguing the deal was too weak to be meaningful: “Everyone can decide for themselves when and how to reduce emissions. The fact that the treaty does not impose sanctions on those who disobey it does not make things simpler.” In India, the Tribune defiantly reports that “India and China are showing strong leadership to combat climate change”, despite Trump’s move. In Brazil, Folha de S.Paulo columnist Clovis Rossi writes that Trump has “alienated the US, reducing it to the size of a poor Nicaragua or a devastated Syria”. Meanwhile, in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald carries a column by its environment writer Adam Morton, who says: “There was, and remains, no evidence Trump had spent even five minutes considering the science he rejected.”

Xinhua Read Article
Trump turns his back on the world

Reaction to Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement has been overwhelmingly condemned in the US media. An editorial in the Washington Post says: “The traits reflected in Mr. Trump’s decision are self-defeating selfishness, insecurity and myopia.” Separately, Chris Mooney in the Washington Post says “Trump’s reasons for leaving the Paris climate agreement just don’t add up”. An editorial in the New York Times describes Trump’s move as “disgraceful”, adding: “The only clear winners, and we’ve looked hard to find them, are hard-core climate deniers like Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and the presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, and various fossil fuel interests that have found in Mr. Trump another president (George W. Bush being the last) credulous enough to swallow the bogus argument that an agreement to fight climate change will destroy or at least inhibit the economy.” Bill McKibben, writing in the New York Times, says: “It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.” An editorial in the Boston Globe says it is a “decision that might play to his benighted Breitbart base but will align US environmental policy with pariah nations like Nicaragua and Syria”. Equally, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times says this is the “clearest evidence yet that Trump is turning the U.S. into a force for bad in the world”. An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle says: “His decision makes for a monumental political blunder, at home and abroad. His unpopularity in California can’t sink much lower, but elsewhere in the country climate change worry is also a front-and-center issue…Dumping the accord will take several years to play out officially. That means that future elections could produce a fresh direction or a change of mind by an impulsive president.” An editorial in the Denver Post says that America should do its “fair share, as the world’s superpower, to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions in coming years”, but adds: “Trump, Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are right to have a healthy concern about the economic costs of complying with Paris goals and other climate change driven policies.” The New York Daily News has published a stark frontcover saying, “Trump to World: Drop Dead”, with an editorial that adds: “[Trump’s jobs] myth [is] borne out of campaign demagoguery, utterly unrooted from economic reality. The coal mining industry employs about 50,000 people in the United States. Car washes employ three times as many people; theme parks, too; casinos, twice as many.” CNN‘s Nic Robertson says “Trump should start thinking about how history will remember him”. Bloomberg says, “Coal Isn’t Coming Back, Even With Trump Leaving the Paris Accord”. Even in Virginia, deep in the Trump-voting heartlands, an editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch is critical: “The accord is little more than the international version of virtue signaling…From a broader perspective, though, the agreement remains important. With the exception of Syria and Nicaragua, every nation on the planet signed on, thereby signaling at least a recognition of the global-warming problem and a willingness, however faint, to help ameliorate it…We hesitate to use an old-fashioned term like honor, since few know what it means anymore. But by repeatedly pulling out of international agreements, or threatening to, the Trump administration is eroding American honor in the eyes of the world. Over time, that could inflict far more harm on the U.S. than the Paris agreement ever could.” A rare example of positivity about Trump’s decision comes via the Trump-supporting Washington Examiner. Its editorial says: “Without a mechanism to enforce promises, parties to the Paris agreement aren’t going to make the sacrifices to meet their lofty, ersatz, goals. If you need proof, just look at how many of our NATO allies meet their defense-spending promises — just 4 out of 27. In short, the Paris agreement is a big flashy set of empty promises…The Earth’s climate is changing, as it always has. And part of the reason it is changing is due to human activity. But those two facts are excuses neither for alarmism and reflexive, but ineffective action, nor for sacrificing sovereignty to give politicians a short-term buzz of fake virtue and green guerrillas another weapon with which to ambush democratic policymaking.”

Editorial, Washington Post Read Article
Clean Break

Reaction in the UK newspapers is limited to date, with only a handful of papers publishing reactive editorials or opinion pieces. The Times editorial says: “If in the process Mr Trump has ended the pretence that a non-binding agreement was ever the climate change panacea that its most ardent supporters hoped, that is no bad thing. Mr Trump campaigned last year on a claim that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China to put the US at a competitive disadvantage by encouraging environmental groups to demand unsustainable clean energy subsidies. It is not a hoax. The extent to which mean global temperature increases in our age are a result of man-made emissions may be subject to debate, but the long-term advantages to all economies of switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources are clear…Mr Trump should be wary of Chinese efforts to use climate change to isolate the US. He can do this by championing a renewables sector capable of thriving without subsidies, and clean gas from fracking to complement it…The Paris accords are not about to unravel, but they are not going to save the world either. Technology and markets stand a much better chance.” The Daily Telegraph‘s editorial claims the “Paris climate accord is old-fashioned and naive”. It goes on to argue that it is “time for Britain to join the fracking revolution…Here is a technology cheaper and greener than, say, coal – and yet environmentalists oppose it. This is why ideology must not be allowed to drive the energy debate. Instead, let the world invest in what works and what it can afford – and put a little more faith in the ability of mankind to invent smart solutions to its problems.” The Telegraph has also published an article by persistent Paris Agreement critic Bjorn Lomborg. In contrast, the Independent‘s US editor Andrew Buncombe says Trump has “just broke one of the best deals we had”. The Guardian carries an op-ed by Graham Readfearn who says Trump’s decision shows “it’s time to get to grips with the climate science denial industry”.

Editorial, The Times Read Article
How scientists reacted to the US leaving the Paris climate agreement

Nature rounds up the reaction of climate scientists to Trump’s decision. There is not an ounce of support. Prof Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, says: “The Paris agreement is far from perfect: and one of its problems, as we are seeing now, is the lack of any real penalty for pulling out. Talk of trade sanctions is pure hyperbole: and the last thing the world needs right now. But perhaps it is time to think about a simple product-label: ‘Made in and sourced from regions that support the Paris climate agreement’. With California and Oregon insisting they will abide by the terms of the Paris agreement anyway, we could then have an interesting discussion about whether and how this could be stuck on Californian orange-juice — or computers containing Intel chips.” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, adds: “The Washington people around Trump hide in the trenches of the past instead of building the future. They fail to recognize that the climate wars are over, while the race for sustainable prosperity is on.” Scientific American also carries an opinion piece by the US climate scientist Ben Santer: “Today our government ceded moral, ethical, economic, and political leadership to other, more enlightened countries.”

Nature News Read Article

Science.

Massive blow-out craters formed by hydrate-controlled methane expulsion from the Arctic seafloor

Large reservoirs of methane formed beneath Arctic ice sheets may have had explosive exits at the end of the last glacial period, a new study says. Researchers analysed geophysical data from the seafloor of the northern Barents Sea, which is riddled with more than 100 giant craters, between 300 and 1,000m in diameter. The study suggests that these craters formed as ice retreated at the end of the last glacial period 11,000 years ago, which allowed pockets of methane buried in the seafloor to escape in explosive blow-outs. These events “provide an analog for the potential future destabilisation of subglacial gas hydrate reservoirs beneath contemporary ice sheets,” the researchers conclude.

Science Read Article
Climatic warming in China during 1901–2015 based on an extended dataset of instrumental temperature records

Average surface temperatures in China warmed by 1.56C per century between 1901 and 2015, a new dataset suggests, which is a larger increase than other datasets show. Researchers collated and synthesised monthly average instrumental surface air temperature observations back to the nineteenth century across China. For specific regions, the new dataset suggests northeastern China has warmed by 1.1-4.0C per century, western China by 1.4-3.7C per century, and southeastern parts by 0.4-1.9C per century.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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