Today's climate and energy headlines:
- British government launches review to cut long-term energy costs
- Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100
- Paris Agreement: Trump admin leaves room to stay in pact
- Shell challenges power giants
- Trial to phase in hydrogen as fuel to begin in north-west
- Every second we waste denying climate change exists is time we steal from the next generation who will suffer the terrible consequences
- What if negative emission technologies fail at scale? Implications of the Paris Agreement for big emitting nations
- Ocean Reanalysis Intercomparison Special Issue
The UK government confirmed an earlier pledge yesterday by announcing it has launched a review on how best to reduce long-term energy bills for households and business while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reuters says it has been prompted “in part by concern that high electricity costs could damage industrial competitiveness”. It adds: “The review is due to conclude by the end of October, and will be chaired by Dieter Helm, an economics professor at the University of Oxford who has advised the government previously.” The Guardianbroke the news about Helm’s appointment last month. The Mail on Sunday says in its headline that Helm is a “critic on cost of windfarms and solar panels”. Helm says he will “sort out the facts from the myths about the cost of energy”. The Times says the review will “ignore price caps, profits and smart meters”, adding “that large areas of energy costs would be off-limits for the review, which the professor, supported by a panel of industry experts, will have only three months to complete…A key focus of the review is expected to be power generation costs, including the use of greater competition when awarding subsidies that are then levied on bills.” The Sunday Telegraph says the review will look at “soaring energy bills” but “green taxes will stay”, adding that Helm “has been told he cannot suggest any ‘detailed’ changes to green taxes”. The paper highlights an earlier article by Helm in the Spectator in which he said: “Current renewables like wind turbines, rooftop solar and biomass stand no serious chance of making much difference to decarbonisation. It’s simply a matter of scale.” The Financial Times says that “the decision to mount a review is likely to provoke accusations that the government is postponing difficult decisions in the area”. The story is also carried by iNews, Channel 4 News, BBC News and PoliticsHome, among others.
Extreme weather could kill up to 152,000 people yearly in Europe by 2100 if nothing is done to curb the effects of climate change, scientists say. The number is 50 times more deaths than reported now, the study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal said. Heat waves would cause 99% of all weather-related deaths, it added, with southern Europe being worst affected. BBC News says: “Experts said the findings were worrying but some warned the projections could be overestimated.” Reuters says the study is “based on an assumption of no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and no improvement in policies to reduce the impact of extreme climatic event”. The Express says “the weather could spark a surge in deaths 50-fold if the EU bigwigs do not devise a plan”. Meanwhile, many publications focus on the extreme heatwave affecting large parts of southern and eastern Europe. The New York Times says “Europe swelters under a heatwave called ‘Lucifer'”. Reuters says that “Wine growers in Italy have started gathering the grape harvest weeks earlier than usual due to the extreme heat. Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, wrote in La Stampa newspaper that the grape harvest had never started before 15 August in living memory.”
E&E News led the pack in reporting the news last Friday that the US has submitted a formal communication to the United Nations signalling its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The move follows Donald Trump’s speech in June when he set out his views for doing so. E&E News says “sources cited State Department communication from Kim Carnahan of the department’s Office of Global Change that indicated the United States intends to remain engaged in the Paris process until it can officially exit in November 2020. But the memo to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will also state that the US could reverse course if ‘suitable terms for reengagement’ are met”. E&E News adds: “It’s not clear what those would be. But sources familiar with a set of talking points that will accompany the memo say it points to steps the U.S. can take unilaterally, rather than a full-blown renegotiation of the Paris Agreement, as previously called for by President Trump. While the communication from Carnahan doesn’t explicitly say so, the source said talking points being circulated indicate that unilateral action would include altering the U.S. nationally determined contribution to Paris. That pledge offered to cut emissions between 26% and 28% compared with 2005 levels by 2025…The memo also hints that the United States will remain actively engaged in negotiations over the next two years as parties write the ‘rulebook’ that will govern Paris implementation.” The story is reported by others outlets including Reuters and Associated Press. The Financial Times says that he statement is “at one level momentous…In terms of the consequences for the global energy industry, however, its impact has so far been negligible. Of course, the full implications have yet to play out.”
Royal Dutch Shell is to launch as an electricity supplier in Britain, challenging some of Europe’s biggest utilities, reports the Times. The oil major has applied for a licence to supply power to businesses across Britain and plans to start signing up industrial customers now to provide them with electricity early next year. “The move forms part of a strategic push into the electricity sector by the Anglo-Dutch company as it adapts to rising global demand for clean energy,” adds the paper. “The entrance of the world’s second-largest oil and gas company into the UK’s industrial and commercial power supply market presents a huge challenge to established utilities.”
The Guardian reports that Liverpool and Manchester are to be the testbed for an “ambitious £600m project aiming to solve the thorny problem of how the government cuts the carbon footprint of the gas that heats most of Britain’s homes”. Cadent, which runs the connections to half of the UK homes on gas, hopes to undertake a trial in the 2020s using hydrogen as a cleaner alternative to methane in pipelines across the region. Formerly known as National Grid Gas Distribution Limited, the company will focus on industrial users in sectors such as chemicals and oil refining, because using 100% hydrogen requires new boilers to be installed.
The deputy leader of the Green Party uses the publication of a new study in the Lancet examining how many people are likely to die from weather-related deaths up to 2100 as a springboard for her opinion article: “Our planet is being destroyed. But it is not only the forests and the oceans, the wildlife and the Arctic sea ice that is being wiped out – soon it will be the people, too…It is the poor who will suffer first – particularly those who live in the most hostile climates and lack the resources to protect themselves. In fact, they are already suffering.”
Many future scenarios that keep global temperature rise to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels include optimistic assumptions on negative emissions technologies, yet underplay the urgency of 2C mitigation, a new study says. Researchers assessed the short-term CO2 reductions needed by the world’s largest emitters if the 2C limit were to be met under a “what if” assumption that negative emissions technologies do not work at scale. The findings challenge “the feasibility of maintaining a 50% chance of avoiding 2C without urgent mitigation efforts in the short-term,” the authors say.
A special issue in the journal Climate Dynamics compiles the main coordinated research under the ongoing Ocean Reanalyses Intercomparison Project (ORAIP). Ocean reanalyses use observed data from the atmosphere and ocean in climate models in order to recreate reliable past data for further analysis. The studies in this special issue “attempt to measure the maturity of the climate information provided by the current generation ocean reanalyses,” the authors of this introduction say, in terms of signal-to-noise ratios of variables such as ocean heat content, sea level, ocean salinity, sea-ice variables, the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, and others.
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