Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK's oil industry 'entering final decade of production'
- Study saying climate change poses less of a threat than first thought 'has been dangerously misinterpreted,' academics warn
- Puerto Rico braces itself for 'worst atmospheric event in a century'
- French president: Paris climate deal ‘will not be renegotiated’
- Good news! Avoiding catastrophic climate change isn’t impossible yet. Just incredibly hard.
- Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel
- The Real Unknown of Climate Change: Our Behavior
- Carbon Capture and Utilization in the Industrial Sector
The North Sea oil industry is entering its final decade of production, according to new paper published by the Edinburgh Geological Society. The paper took into account the long-term downward trends of oil and gas field size and lifespan, alongside the break-even costs for fracking. It estimated only around 10% of the UK’s original recoverable offshore oil and gas remains untapped, and also concluded that fracking will be barely economically feasible in the UK, because of a lack of sites with suitable geology. The study started with a quote from Mr Salmond, the former First Minister, who predicted in March 2013 that: “There can be little doubt that Scotland is moving into a second oil boom.” Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking. We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems.” Energy Live News and the Scotsman also cover the story.
New research published yesterday suggesting the world could warm up less quickly than 10-year-old forecasts show is being “dangerously” misinterpreted, experts have warned. The research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggested that nations could continue to emit CO2 at the current rate for 20 years before breaching the agreement’s target, instead of in three to five years as previously predicted. But But Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at UCL, told the Evening Standard this projection is based on the assumption that every country “does absolutely everything in its power” to combat climate change. “The paper [published in the journal Nature Geoscience], assumes that every country is going to do as much as it can to tackle emissions, and that hasn’t been the case up to now,” he said. The authors themselves have also been clear the paper leaves no room for complacency. “The Paris goal of 1.5C is not impossible — it’s just very, very difficult,” lead author Richard Millar, a climate researcher at the University of Oxford, UK, told Scientific American. Millar also wrote a guest post on why the 1.5C warming limit is “not yet a geophysical impossibility”, published yesterday in Carbon Brief.
Puerto Rico is bracing itself for the “catastrophic” impact of Hurricane Maria, which has already caused severe damage to the island of Dominica as it tears through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center has warned of an “extreme” threat to life and property across Puerto Rico.
The Paris climate agreement “will not be renegotiated,” French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated on Tuesday, despite calls to do so from the Trump administration. During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Macron defended the 2015 climate accord, saying “we won’t go back” on the agreement. Macron added that he “respects” Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal. However Reuters reports that when talking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he “deplore[s]” the decision. “I continue dialogue with President Trump because I am convinced that in the end he will see that it is in the interest of Americans to be a part of the Paris climate pact,” he said. Macron also warned in his speech that international bodies are confronting doubts that they are merely venues for “a game for diplomats sitting around a table” and come up short on addressing such major threats as climate change, ABC News reports. This week is the first UN General Assembly of Macron, Trump and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. Guterres said on Monday that the catastrophic Atlantic hurricane season has been made worse by climate change, reports Climate Home, adding that cutting carbon emissions “must clearly be part of our response” to Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile China called on the international community to stick to Paris climate accord goals and work together to tackle climate change, the official news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing Foreign Minister Wang Yi, reports Reuters. Trump didn’t mention climate change in his speech to the UN, according to an annotated guide to the speech in the Guardian.
Following the publication yesterday of a paper in Nature Geoscience which found humanity’s “carbon budget” is somewhat larger than previously estimated, David Roberts sets out this and two other research publications looking at mitigation strategies which he argues together offer some hope that a limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C “may not be impossible yet”. “The imperative to act is not going to change,” he concludes. “At this point, research emphasising that well-established truth is less useful than research on how to overcome the social and political barriers to rapid action. Collectively, we know we need to act; we just don’t know how to make ourselves do it.” Meanwhile climate scientist Glen Peters Climate Home sets out a detailed analysis of the in and outs of the new Nature Geoscience paper “One thing this paper has convinced me, is that the carbon budget concept is just simply too uncertain to be of any practical use in policy,” he writes. In the same article, researcher Oliver Geden argues the new research “will probably lead to considerable confusion in the climate policy arena”. “Emissions have to go down to net zero (and net negative, eventually) if the world wants to reach ambitious temperature targets like 1.5 or 2C. This does not change if the remaining carbon budget is somewhat smaller or larger than previously calculated.” Meanwhile the BBC‘s science editor David Shukman, also puts the new paper in context, noting that the authors themselves are anxious that their research is not misunderstood. “The need for urgent action to reduce emissions is unchanged, they say. It’s just that the most ambitious of the Paris Agreement targets is not as unachievable as many once thought, that there is time to act, though the task remains a monumental one.” Meanwhile a fact check in the Independent examines claims made in an article published yesterday in the Daily Mail that the new Nature Geoscience paper shows “fear of global warming is exaggerated”. “For a section of the right-wing media, it was too good to miss, an opportunity to cast doubt on one of their favourite bugbears – climate change,” notes the Independent. […] “Those who say we will be fine make the same mistake as those who say we are heading for Armageddon – insisting on certainty when there is doubt.” However several commentators put a very different spin on the new paper. In a column for The Sun, columnist James Delingpole argues “the scientists owe us an apology” since “[t]thanks to their bad advice on climate change our gas and electricity bills have rocketed”. Meanwhile Graham Stringer, MP and trustee of climate sceptic lobby group GWPF, argues in the Daily Mail that the new study “reveals that the immediate threat from global warming is lower than previously thought, because the computer models used by climate change experts are flawed”. A separate MailOnline article quotes John Constable, who also works for lobbyists GWPF, argues that green taxes on energy bills should be cut in light of the new paper. The Daily Mail also carried an editorial this morning arguing that “for the umptheenth time, climate change scientists have been proved wrong”. However, writing in the Times letter pages, Professor Lord Stern, chairman of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change, notes that: “Fortunately, the ever-increasing attractiveness of low-carbon economic growth and development is becoming more widely recognised, with falling costs and substantial co-benefits through reductions in air pollution and energy waste.”
“Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity?” asks Guardian columnist George Monbiot “Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.” Monbiot goes on to detail Merkel’s “fatal weakness” for the lobbying power of German industry, and criticises her, among other things, for supporting European Commission’s drive to replace fossil fuel with biofuels. “The European biofuel rule is now a major driver of one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters: the razing of the Indonesian rainforests and their replacement with oil palm,” says Monbiot.
While there is a “long and vexing” list of uncertainties in climate science, there is a crucial point that climate sceptics don’t acknowledge, writes Justin Gillis in his final piece for the New York Times: “the uncertainties cut in both directions”. “Every time some politician stands up and claims that climate science is rife with uncertainties, a more honest person would add that those uncertainties could just as easily go against us as in our favour.” “The truth is that the single biggest uncertainty in climate science has nothing to do with the physics of the atmosphere, or the stability of the ice, or anything like that,” Gillis argues. “The great uncertainty is, and has always been, how much carbon pollution humans are going to choose to pump into the air.” Gillis is leaving The New York Times to write a book about the energy transition, but will still write for the Times occasionally.
Manufacturing industries could one day capture, transport and sell CO2, research suggests. The fabrication and manufacturing processes of industrial commodities such as iron, glass, and cement are carbon-intensive, accounting for 23% of global CO2 emissions. “This work develops a methodology that determines the levelized cost ($/tCO2) of separating, compressing, and transporting carbon dioxide,” the researchers say. “The results show that truck transportation is generally the low-cost alternative given the relatively small volumes.”
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