Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK experiences winter temperatures of more than 20C for first time
- Very high CO2 could suppress cooling clouds, climate change model warns
- Hundreds of young protesters confront McConnell over Green New Deal
- ‘Good news’ as climate policies deliver emissions cuts in some countries
- Wrecking ball not needed to tackle climate change
- Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth
- Drivers of declining CO2 emissions in 18 developed economies
- Early sowing systems can boost Australian wheat yields despite recent climate change
- Commitment failures are unlikely to undermine public support for the Paris agreement
Many publications lead on the news that the UK experienced its hottest winter day on record yesterday. The Guardian reports that temperatures in Trawsgoed, Wales, reached 20.3C on Monday morning and rose to 20.6C in the afternoon. The previous highest recorded temperature in February had been 19.7C in London in 1998, it adds. The Metro reports that it is the first time temperatures have exceed 20C during winter, according to a Met Office official. The newspaper also carries a tweet from former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas. She said: “This isn’t some jovial Guinness World Record. This is a climate emergency. Ministers must get off their sun loungers and introduce a #GreenNewDeal.” Mirror Online also carries Lucas’s comments. The Sun carries the story on its front page, with the headline: “Fabruary: UK has hottest winter day on record.” Coverage from BBC News includes a box asking: “Does climate change have a role?” BBC science editor David Shukman continues: “Previous research has shown how the odds of particular weather events – like last summer’s heatwave – have been made more likely because of the increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases heating up the atmosphere.” A second article in the Guardiancarries readers’ concerns on the unseasonably hot weather, as well as the first signs of spring. The Daily Mail has an opinion piece by John Naish explaining why “spring in February is a disaster for nature”. He says: “This beats the previous high of 17.9C recorded in Aberdeen in February 1897. (One wonders if they were fretting about climate change back then.)” [Actual previous record was in 1998.] A third Guardian piece asks: “Should weather forecasters talk about climate change?”
Several outlets report on a new study which finds that extremely high CO2 levels could cause stratocumulus clouds – which cool the planet – to break up. This could “further intensifying global warming”, the Washington Post says. Clouds could dissipate if “CO2 reached 1,200 parts per million — three times the current level”, the Washington Post adds. “If CO2 reached 1,300 parts per million, the new report states, the global atmospheric temperature would rise 8C above whatever warming had already been produced from greenhouse gases.” This level of warming would be “cataclysmic”, New Scientist reports. “For instance, large parts of the tropics would become too hot for warm-blooded animals, including us, to survive.” Quanta magazine has in-depth coverage of the new research. MailOnline also covers the study, as does Carbon Brief.
Many US publications report that “hundreds” of young climate activists marched on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s Washington office on Monday. Up to 42 protesters were arrested by police, the Guardian reports. The young people filled the Republican leader’s office and the hallway outside chanting “Which side are you on now?”, the Guardian adds. CNN reports that the protesters were demanding that McConnell and other senators support the green new deal. The demonstration was organised by the youth environmental activist group Sunrise Movement, CNN says. The Washington Post reports that the protest was the first of several planned for “senators’ offices around the country”. The Hill and Politico also cover the protests.
Press Association covers a new study finding that CO2 emissions are falling in 18 countries. “These countries, which include the UK, Ireland, the US, France and Germany and account for 28% of global emissions, have seen carbon pollution fall by 2.4% a year on average between 2005 and 2015,” PA reports. The Timesreports that the decline in CO2 emissions is “greatest in those that have implemented renewable energy and energy efficiency policies”. It adds that the scientists behind the study said their findings show that “mitigation strategies could work”. The authors of the study have written a guest post on their findings for the Conversation.
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison writes an article for the Sydney Morning Herald following the news that his government has launched a A$2bn emissions reduction fund. “Our land, air, oceans, reefs, fisheries and biodiversity are all vital parts of our inheritance. We hold them in trust today for Australians who will come after us. And reducing carbon emissions to address the real challenge of climate change requires practical policies,” he writes. “We’re absolutely on track to meet our 2020 Kyoto emissions reduction target and that’s no small feat…Our task now is to meet our international commitment, set by the Abbott government in 2015, to reduce our emissions by 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.” He says his plan for tackling climate change, however, “won’t involve taking a wrecking ball to the economy and higher electricity prices”. He says that his priorities involve restoring degraded agricultural land and investing in hydroelectricity. Meanwhile, the Guardian carries an opinion article with the headline: “The government thinks we’re idiots and is not serious about cutting emissions.” Writer Greg Jericho says: “Tackling climate change is tough and Scott Morrison’s latest policy is an insult.” The Guardian also reports that A$2m of the emissions fund has been given to mining firm Rio Tinto to fund the switch from oil to diesel generation.
A new paper explores the reasons behind decreasing CO2 emissions in a group of 18 developed economies that have decarbonised over the period 2005–2015. Within this group, “the displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy and decreases in energy use explain decreasing CO2 emissions”, the authors say, although “the decrease in energy use can be explained at least in part by a lower growth in gross domestic product”. The study concludes: “Overall, the evidence shows that efforts to reduce emissions are underway in many countries, but these efforts need to be maintained and enhanced by more stringent policy actions to support a global peak in emissions.”
Employing early sowing systems for wheat farming in Australia could boost yields even in the warmer, drier weather of a changed climate, a new study finds. In a series of experiments across the grain belt of Australia, scientists tested an early sowing system combined with slower-developing wheat varieties in order to exploit a longer growing season. The results suggest the approach can boost national yields by around seven million tonnes per year “under reduced rainfall and increasing temperature regimes”.
The failures of other countries to make emissions cuts doesn’t erode public support in the US and China for the Paris Agreement, a new study suggests. The researchers surveyed around 3,000 citizens in both countries, finding that “information on other countries failing to reduce their emissions does not undermine support for how international agreements are designed”. The authors conclude that “while other factors still make large emission cuts challenging, these results suggest that the Paris approach per se is not posing a problem”.
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