Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK has 'one shot' at success at Glasgow COP26
- Sainsbury's pledges £1bn to cut emissions to zero by 2040
- Global heating may lead to wine shortage
- Antarctica melting: Journey to the 'doomsday' glacier
- China, not America, will decide the fate of the planet
- UK climate change Citizen Assembly seeks net-zero policies
- Paris Climate Agreement passes the cost-benefit test
- Complex evolving patterns of mass loss from Antarctica’s largest glacier
- Influence of Arctic sea-ice variability on Pacific trade winds
The UK’s COP26 president Claire O’Neill has said in an interview for a BBC World Service documentary there will be just “one shot” of success at the climate change conference to be held in Glasgow later this year – or else “it could mark the end of the global approach to tackling the problem”, BBC News reports. According to BBC News, O’Neill said: “I think if we don’t have a successful outcome next year people will legitimately look at us and say ‘what are you doing, is there a better way?’” COP26 in Glasgow “marks a critical moment for the UN in the long running effort to find a global solution to climate change”, explains BBC News, as, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries pledged to update their plans for reducing emissions by the end of this year. “A key part of the Glasgow meeting will be trying to push countries to go even further,” BBC News adds.
Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that National Grid, the system operator of the UK’s energy supply, has warned that the UK government will need to create 120,000 green energy jobs within a decade if the country is to meet its climate targets. By 2040, this figure “is likely to reach” 400,000, the Guardian says. The report from National Grid also warns that “the UK’s energy industry faces stiff competition from other sectors and has a narrow pipeline of young people pursuing Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualifications to draw from”, the Guardian says. Press Association reports that many in the UK “do want jobs with an environmental purpose”, according to YouGov research, which found 78% of people thought they should play a role in the UK’s journey to net zero.
A second Guardian story reports on a government survey finding that many English councils are set to miss their climate targets. The survey has found that many councils do not know how much energy they use, making it “inconceivable” that will reach net zero within 30 years, the Guardian says.
The UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has promised to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, BBC News and others report. Currently, Sainsbury’s – the UK’s second largest supermarket chain – produces 1m tonnes of carbon each year, BBC News reports. Sainsbury’s has pledged to spend £1bn to help reduce risk and said it will focus on areas such as refrigeration and transport, BBC news adds. Reuters reports that Sainsbury’s has criticised the UK government’s target of reaching net zero by 2050 – saying that it “wasn’t soon enough”. “We have a duty to the communities we serve to continue to reduce the impact our business has on the environment and we are committing to reduce our own carbon emissions and become net zero by 2040 … because 2050 isn’t soon enough,” Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe has said in a statement, according to Reuters. BusinessGreen also has the story.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that hundreds of workers from the online retailer Amazon have defied company policy to criticise the firm’s inaction over climate change. More than 340 tech workers at Amazon used the hashtag #AMZNSpeakOut in “public statements that condemn the company for not taking sufficient action”, the Guardian says. “Every person who shared a statement had to decide for themselves that whatever the consequences, they needed to stand up for what they felt was right,” Victoria Liang, a software development engineer at Amazon who joined the public action, tells the Guardian. “The climate crisis is just that urgent. We just couldn’t be silenced by these policies on issues of such moral weight.” Employees at Amazon have increasingly criticised the company in recent years for its contracts with large oil and gas firms, the Guardian adds. Amazon has so far enforced a “like-it-or-lump-it strategy” towards employees who disagree with its actions, the Financial Times adds. The Hill also covers the protests.
Several publications cover a new study finding that global warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels could reduce the amount of land available to grow 11 popular wine grape varieties by 56%, when compared to the 1970s. The Guardian reports that, according to the study, the white grape variety ugni blanc (also known as trebbiano toscano) is expected to lose 76% of its suitable growing area, while the riesling grape could lose 66% of its growing area. The red grape grenache is predicted to lose 31% of the area currently deemed suitable for growing the variety, according to the study, the Guardian says. USA Today reports the changes would occur because “wine grapes are extremely sensitive to the changes in temperature and season”. “In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture, because these grapes are so climate-sensitive,” study co-author Dr Benjamin Cook, from Columbia University, tells USA Today. Bloomberg and the Hill also cover the study.
Justin Rowlatt, chief environment correspondent at BBC News, has published the first in a series of in-depth features about his recent visit to Thwaites Glacier, an Antarctic glacier that has been described as “the most important in the world”. Rowlatt, who has been in Antartica for two months, says: “It is massive – roughly the size of Britain. It already accounts for 4% of world sea level rise – a huge figure for a single glacier – and satellite data show that it is melting increasingly rapidly.” Its remoteness makes it extremely difficult to access and study, he adds: “I’ve been in Antarctica five weeks before I finally board the red British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter that takes me to the front of the glacier. I will be camping with the team at what is known as the grounding zone. They are camped on the ice above the point where the glacier meets the ocean water, and have the most ambitious task of all. They want to drill down through almost half a mile of ice right at the point where the glacier goes afloat. No-one has ever done that on a glacier this big and dynamic.”
Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator at the Financial Times, writes “that the battle to control climate change now depends much more on what happens in China than in America”. “China’s coal addiction and authoritarian system mean that it will struggle to provide a global lead on the climate. The Europeans are passionate on the subject but probably lack the organisation and the international heft to take charge,” he says. “Nonetheless, the Trump administration’s climate scepticism (denialism, if you prefer) still matters.”
Writing in Bloomberg, Akshat Rathi takes a deep look at the UK government’s Citizen Assembly on climate change, which began last weekend in Birmingham. The article reads: “The process began in November…with invitations sent to 30,000 randomly chosen people. From among the 1,800 who replied, a computer algorithm chose a representative sample of 110 people, reflecting the country’s make up by age, gender, education, geographic location and views on climate change. Nearly 30% of the group are over the age of 60, and fewer than 5% are ‘not at all concerned’ about climate change.” Rathi speaks to several assembly members whose views run the spectrum. The Guardian also speaks to assembly participants.
The Paris Agreement on climate change “constitutes the economically optimal policy pathway for the century”, a new study says. Using the integrated assessment model DICE, researchers “provide an inter-temporally optimising cost-benefit analysis of this century’s climate problem”. Taking into account uncertainties “regarding the damage curve, climate sensitivity, socioeconomic future, and mitigation costs”, the study shows “that the politically motivated Paris Climate Agreement also represents the economically favourable pathway, if carried out properly”.
The pattern of thinning of Pine Island – Antarctica’s largest glacier – “is evolving in complex ways both in space and time”, a new study suggests. Using high-resolution satellite observations of elevation change since 2010, the researchers show that “thinning rates are now highest along the slow-flow margins of the glacier”. In contrast, rates “in the fast-flowing central trunk have decreased by about a factor five since 2007”, the researchers say. The findings imply that the glacier’s grounding line – the point where the grounded ice first meets the ocean – is likely to see “only modest changes” over the next few decades.
New research suggests there is a connection between declining Arctic sea ice in summer and changes in El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. The researchers used a conceptual model – originally proposed to connect changes in Arctic sea ice to changes in mid-latitude extreme weather – to explain the strengthened Central Pacific trade winds and increased frequency of Central Pacific El Niño events. Sea ice melt and warming in the Arctic have “teleconnections” with the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the tropics, the study says, which have knock-on effects for triggering Central Pacific El Niño events. “These results add to the evidence that loss of Arctic sea ice is having a major impact on climatic variability around the world,” the study concludes.
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