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12.09.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING UN ‘very confident’ China plans to raise climate ambition
UN ‘very confident’ China plans to raise climate ambition

News.

UN 'very confident' China plans to raise climate ambition

Climate Home News reports that China is expected to bring a “more ambitious” climate action plan to the forthcoming UN climate action summit in New York, according to a senior UN official. The UN’s special envoy on climate change, Luis Alfonso de Alba, said he was “very confident that China will come to the summit with a clear commitment on a number of areas… with a much higher level of ambition”, Climate Home News reports. The summit, which starts on 23 September, is expected “to kickstart a process for countries to announce increased ambition [on climate action] a year ahead of schedule”, Climate Home News says. UN chief António Guterres has “also asked countries to reduce emissions by at least 45% by 2030, plan for carbon neutrality by 2050, end fossil fuel subsidies and ban new coal-fired power plants by next year”, it adds.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison will not be attending the summit, despite being in the US at the time. Australia will instead be represented by their foreign minister, Marise Payne, and the Australian ambassador for the environment, Patrick Suckling, the Guardian reports. “Guardian Australia understands speaking slots at the event in New York on 23 September were reserved for countries announcing new emissions reduction targets or financial commitments to the UN Green Climate Fund – and Morrison has been signalling Australia won’t be going further, at least at this point, than commitments previously announced,” the article reads.

Climate Home News Read Article
Chief climate sceptic William Happer to depart White House

Several US publications report that one of the Trump administration’s most well-known climate sceptics – William Happer – is leaving his position on the White House National Security Council. The New York Times, who describes Happer as “the White House architect of a stalled plan to attack the established science of climate change”, reports that Happer will leave on Friday, according to three people “familiar with plans”. The New York Times reports: “His signature effort at the White House was a plan to establish a panel to question the scientific consensus that climate change is overwhelmingly caused by humans and is a growing threat to national security. The effort was blocked by other senior White House and administration officials, including members of the military and intelligence communities.” Bloomberg reports that Happer’s departure follows that of his “patron” John Bolton, a top national security official who was reportedly fired by Trump earlier this week. The Hill and Reuters also have the story.

Axios Read Article
Brazil foreign minister says 'there is no climate change catastrophe'

Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said yesterday that “unfounded alarm over global climate change was threatening Brazilian sovereignty”, Reuters reports. “There is no climate change catastrophe,” Araujo said in a talk at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank based in Washington DC. “From the debate that is going on it would seem that the world is ending.” His comments follow a recent surge in Amazon fires, which sparked political condemnation across the world. The fires and the political reaction to them were covered in depth by Carbon Brief.

Reuters Read Article
Climate change 'could make planet uninhabitable for birds'

Sky News reports on a study using fossils to explore how climate change could impact bird distributions across the world. The report says: “Tropical birds were once widely distributed around the world due to the higher temperatures, but now it is more common to see them concentrated around the equator. If global temperatures continue to rise at their current rates, these tropical birds may once again become more widely distributed around the world…The research warns that if temperatures increase too rapidly, birds may not be able to colonise appropriate regions quickly enough. Instead of becoming more widely distributed, these species would die.”

Sky News Read Article

Comment.

Shut Up, Franzen

Several columnists offer their thoughts on a comment piece in the New Yorker titled “What if we stopped pretending the climate apocalypse can be stopped?” by US novelist Jonathan Franzen. In her Scientific American column, climate scientist Kate Marvel writes in response that “climate change is real and things will get worse – but because we understand the driver of potential doom, it’s a choice, not a foregone conclusion”. She continues: “We are, I promise you, not doomed, no matter what Jonathan Franzen says. We could be, of course, if we decided we really wanted to…Doom is a possibility; it may that we have already awakened a sleeping monster that will in the end devour the world. It may be that the very fact of human nature, whatever that is, forecloses any possibility of concerted action. But I am a scientist, which means I believe in miracles. I live on one. We are improbable life on a perfect planet.” In the Guardian, environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey responds to Franzen’s argument that more focus should be shifted towards climate adaptation rather than mitigation. “The view that adapting to inevitable climate change should be our priority, over futile and ruinously expensive attempts to cut emissions, has been spread by those who want to continue to emit CO2, come what may. Fossil fuel companies saw adaptation, along with the idea that we could geo-engineer our way out of trouble, as a way to keep selling oil while paying lip service to the climate science.” Elsewhere, Buzzfeed culture writer and editor Shannon Keating points out the differences between Franzen’s opinions and that of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. She writes: “As a young person, she’s more than justified in fearing for her future, but despite her anger and her sadness — because of her anger and her sadness — she still believes in something better. Why bother even trying otherwise?” Meanwhile, Vox takes a closer look at why Franzen’s New Yorker piece has “proved so controversial”.

Kate Marvel, Scientific American Read Article
Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world

The Washington Post presents a new interactive analysis looking at global warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels and beyond. The article, which quotes Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather, reads: “A Washington Post analysis of multiple temperature data sets found numerous locations around the globe that have warmed by at least 2C over the past century. That’s a number that scientists and policymakers have identified as a red line if the planet is to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. But in regions large and small, that point has already been reached.” A second article counts “six key takeaways” from the new analysis.

Chris Mooney and John Muyskens, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

Unlocking pre-1850 instrumental meteorological records: A global inventory

A new study attempts to create “a worldwide compilation of metadata on early instrumental meteorological records prior to 1850”, and to 1890 for Africa and the Arctic. This global inventory “comprises information on several thousand records, about half of which have not yet been digitised…and only approximately 20% of which have made it to global repositories”, the researchers explain. “The inventory will help to prioritise data rescue efforts and can be used to analyse the potential feasibility of historical weather data products,” the authors say, adding that “additions to the inventory are welcomed”.

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Read Article
Reduction of urban heat island and associated greenhouse gas emissions

Urban green space is the “most natural and effective mitigation strategy” for the urban heat island (UHI) effect, a new study suggests. Focusing on Tianjin in China as a case study, researchers quantified the performance of mitigation strategies for the UHI effect using computer models and satellite data. Creating urban water bodies is the next preferred strategy keeping air temperatures cool at pedestrian level, the researchers say, while “green roofs, rainwater gardens, and permeable brick pavements are also more feasible in high-density cities for mitigating the UHI effect”.

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change Read Article
Climate, irrigation, and land‐cover change explain streamflow trends in countries bordering the Northeast Atlantic

Trends in climate largely explain the observed changes in river flows in northwest Europe since the early 1960s, a new study suggests. The researchers constructed “a very dense network of gauging stations from Ireland, the UK, France, Spain and Portugal for the period of 1961‐2012 to detect and then attribute changes in annual streamflow”. For southern Europe, which has seen a decrease in river flows, “large increases in irrigated areas, agricultural intensification and natural revegetation of marginal lands are inferred to be the dominant drivers”, the researchers note.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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