Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UN scientists call for change to human diet to limit climate change
- Climate change: Marine heatwaves kill coral instantly
- A more active hurricane season could lie ahead, scientists warn
- The Times view on the environmental benefits of eating less meat: Plant-based Planet
- It is high time to reboot our relationship with nature
- Rapid Coral Decay Is Associated with Marine Heatwave Mortality Events on Reefs
- Changes in hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) emissions in China during 2011‐2017
Coverage continues of the IPCC’s conclusions, with many outlets focusing on what the report had to say about dietary changes, and specifically shifting towards more plant-based diets. Sky News reports comments from a report author that “diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change”. The Daily Telegraph also reports that people were being “urged” to eat less red meat to cut emissions, while another piece in the same paper reported the response from the British beef industry that the report was “misleading” for consumers [it is worth noting that report does not strictly “urge” anyone to change their diets]. Politico also leads on the report’s mention of plant-based diets, as does The Australian, while BBC News has a “climate change food calculator” where readers can estimate the carbon footprint of their diet. The Independent reports comments from scientists and farming spokespeople suggesting the UK needs to “ramp up sustainable farming to maintain food security”, and also runs an analysis piece on that theme. The Guardian features a call from an Australian farming group for a fully funded national strategy to deal with climate change and agriculture. Separately, a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald warns climate change could slash productivity on Australia farms in the coming decades.
Meanwhile, BBC News reports that Green and Social Democrat (SPD) politicians in Germany have called for a higher meat tax to help curb emissions. They say the 7% sales tax rate on meat should be raised to 19%. The Times also has that story, and Deutsche Welle includes an in-depth analysis of it.
Climate Home News leads its coverage of the IPCC report on concerns about food security, considering the issue of potential trade-offs between food and bioenergy crops. New Scientist’s take on the report’s conclusions is that “most plans” to limit climate change would “wreck the planet”, noting the competing pressures for land space. The Conversation has a piece describing how modern farming is “based around oil, not soil”, referring to the carbon-intensive fertilisers used to grow crops.
Extreme temperatures on reefs are damaging coral much more rapidly than previously thought, according to BBC News. The news outlet says scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef found that heatwaves not only cause corals to expel the algae that provide them with support (in events known as “bleachings”) but also leave the coral skeleton itself “really brittle”. In its coverage of the new paper documenting these findings, the Times reports that when corals in this study were exposed to heatwave conditions, they were killed within days. Vice also covers the story, and includes a statement from lead researcher William Leggat: “This work provides very clear evidence that the intense heatwave conditions, which are now becoming a feature of bleaching events, are far more severe and are changing how we understand the impact of climate change on coral reefs”. [Carbon Brief has previously published an in-depth interactive feature on how climate change is affecting the Great Barrier Reef.]
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned that hurricane activity for the rest of this year’s season is expected to be greater than normal, according to the New York Times. Initial predictions for the Atlantic Ocean were for 12 named storms before the season finishes at the end of November, but this has now been revised to 17. The revision comes as the El Niño phenomenon, which tends to suppress storms, has died down. The paper says the impact climate change has on hurricane formation is getting clearer, noting that “once storms do form, the trend of warming oceans can make those storms more powerful and can cause them to intensify quickly”. Fox News and ABC News also have the story.
Several comment pieces pick up on the IPCC’s land report, and again specifically focus on its conclusions regarding people’s diets. While an editorial in the Times acknowledges the scientists behind the report are not instructing consumers to become vegetarians, their “message is clear. If more people in wealthy countries ate less meat, the environment would benefit”. Noting the difficulties in switching to an environmentally friendly diet, the editorial states that “eating food that is locally sourced and seasonal is a good place to start, but we all need to learn to eat more sustainably”. It goes on to described the broader context of the report, and some of its conclusions about soil quality, farming practices and food waste.
Meanwhile, a strongly worded piece by George Monbiot in the Guardianadmonishes the IPCC for not taking a firmer line on the carbon cost of meat and dairy. “Was the fear of taking on the farming industry – alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely – too much to bear? At the moment, I have no idea. But what the panel has produced is pathetic,” he writes. “The IPCC, like our governments, fails to get to grips with these issues. But when you look at the science as a whole, you soon see that we can’t keep eating like this. Are we prepared to act on what we know, or will we continue to gorge on the lives of our descendants?”. Monbiot finds some support for lower meat consumption from public health doctor Adam Briggs in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph, who writes about how cutting red meat production would be “a win for British farmers, public health and the planet”. He suggests a tax on meat would bring consumption down but would also counterintuitively benefit farmers. “The tax could help the UK corner a much larger segment of the global premium red meat market… In place of volume all British farmers should be scaling down and prioritising quality”.
In light of the IPCC’s new report, co-facilitators of the nature-based solutions work stream for the UN secretary general’s Climate Action Summit Susan Gardner and David Nabarro liken the stream of scientific warnings about climate change to an alarm clock on snooze setting: “It disturbs our sleep but we put off responding for as long as we can”. They say people must remain positive in their outlook on climate change, and encourage better connections between people and nature to deal with some of the planet’s challenges. Nature-based solutions that reduce carbon emissions are cost effective and globally scalable. They are an indispensable complement to the rapid decarbonisation that must take place in all corners of our economies,“ they write. “And they can be rolled out in ways that combat land degradation, put healthy and nutritious food on peoples’ tables, deliver economic benefits, create jobs in rural communities and build resilience to climate change, all at the same time.”
Severe marine heatwaves have become increasingly common due to rapid climate change. These increasingly severe thermal conditions are causing an unprecedented increase in the frequency and severity of mortality events in marine ecosystems, including on coral reefs. The degradation of coral reefs will result in the collapse of ecosystem services that sustain over half a billion people globally. This study shows that marine heatwave events on coral reefs result in an immediate heat-induced mortality of the coral colony, rapid coral skeletal dissolution, and the loss of reef structure. During heatwaves, coral skeletons are encased within days by a biofilm of microbes that accelerates coral dissolution. This dissolution reduces the skeletal density and hardness and increases porosity. Severe-heatwave-induced mortality events should be considered as a distinct biological phenomenon from bleaching events on coral reefs.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), the main substitutes of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are regulated by the Montreal Protocol. Chinese HCFC emissions increased rapidly around 2000. However, limited data has been available for the years after 2011. This study finds that he emissions of four main HCFCs peaked before 2015. China accounted for around 37% of global totals from 2011 to 2016. China, the European Union and the US accounted approximately a half of the global totals, suggesting large HCFC emission emitted from the rest of the world.
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