Today's climate and energy headlines:
- US carbon emissions surged in 2018 even as coal plants closed
- Solar panel households to be paid for surplus power under new scheme
- In climate change fight, Brazil owes nothing, new minister says
- Forest fire insurance costs soar
- Scarborough Council declares climate emergency in first major step to combat global warming
- Japan needs to do more to tackle ocean warming
- The Green New Deal rises again
- Anthropogenic fine particulate matter pollution will be exacerbated in eastern China due to 21st century GHG warming
- Taking climate model evaluation to the next level
- The social cost of automobility, cycling and walking in the European Union
There is widespread coverage of a new report showing that US CO2 emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years. The New York Times says: “Strikingly, the sharp uptick in emissions occurred even as a near-record number of coal plants around the US retired last year, illustrating how difficult it could be for the country to make further progress on climate change in the years to come, particularly as the Trump administration pushes to roll back federal regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions. The estimate, by the research firm Rhodium Group, pointed to a stark reversal.” The Washington Post says the spike “couldn’t have happened at a worse time” as it comes when “scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change”. It adds: “The findings…mean that the US now has a diminishing chance of meeting its pledge under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to dramatically reduce its emissions by 2025.” Vox notes that “for the third year in a row, the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions…is the transportation sector, fuelled by greater demand from industry, diesel trucks, and air travel. It’s followed by power generation, industry, and buildings.” The Guardian, Atlantic, Bloomberg News, BBC News, Reuters and BusinessGreen are among the other publications covering the story.
Households and businesses that install solar panels will be paid for any excess electricity they produce under new government plans, reports the Independent. The “smart export guarantee” means energy companies will have to pay people for surplus power they produce, it adds: “However, with the government abruptly ending a previous scheme that pays for such surplus power, there is still likely to be a period when customers are providing electricity to the grid for free. The closure of the original programme had left many concerned about the future of small-scale renewable energy production in the UK.” The Guardiansays: “The prospect of households giving clean energy away in the long term has been put to rest. The government said it believes ‘small-scale low-carbon generation should not be provided to the grid for free’. Energy minister Claire Perry defended the switch from a subsidy to a market regime, telling MPs yesterday: “It is only right that as the price of this power provision has tumbled that we stop using other people’s money to subsidise something that we don’t need to do in order to bring forward solar.” The Daily Telegraph says that the Solar Trade Association has given a cautious welcome to the plans, but warns the scheme will need to determine a fair way to determine the market price. BusinessGreen also covers the story.
Separately, BBC News has a feature headlined: “Climate change: ‘Right to repair’ gathers force.” Roger Harrabin, BBC News’s environment analyst, writes: “It is frustrating: you buy a new appliance then just after the warranty runs out, it gives up the ghost. You can’t repair it and can’t find anyone else to at a decent price, so it joins the global mountain of junk…But help is at hand, because citizens in the EU and parts of the USA will soon get a ”right to repair” – of sorts. This consists of a series of proposals from European environment ministers to force manufacturers to make goods that last longer and are easier to mend.“ Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has a report on the “Green Deal fiasco”. It says: “Thousands of homeowners face rip-off energy bills for decades after being ‘scammed’ into joining a state-backed £400m eco-energy scheme that ‘utterly failed’.”
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s new environment minister, says that his country “owes nothing” in the fight against global climate change and should be “paid for its work so far”. He states: “Brazil is not a debtor. We’re creditors…Our part needs to be remunerated, and regarding what we’ve done so far, the question is by how much, when and how?” Salles tells Bloomberg News that he “does not underestimate climate change” but says that, rather than “attending global summits”, he prefers to act practically: “Brazil has so many basic needs to be dealt with that it is not my role to go around the world discussing climate change. If I tackle the issue of access to sewage, aren’t I helping to deal with climate change?” Environmentalists have criticised his comments saying they “pave the way to climate hell”.
Reuters reports that Munich Re, the global reinsurance company, has said in its annual catastrophe report that forest fires are becoming increasingly likely because of climate change and costing insurers more than ever, with the deadly fire that ravaged northern California the single most expensive natural disaster in 2018. Insurers and reinsurers paid out $80bn for natural disaster claims last year, down from $140bn a year earlier but almost double the 30-year average of $41bn, according to Munich Re.
Scarborough Council in North Yorkshire has voted to declare a “climate emergency”, according to the local newspaper. In an “unprecedented move to tackle global warming”, Greens Councillor and deputy mayor Dilys Cluer’s climate-focused motion passed following a lengthy period of debate at Monday’s full meeting of council. The Scarborough News says: “It means the seaside council will now…[commit] to a target of zero-carbon emissions by 2030 and seek up to £80,000 in funding over two years for a sustainability officer to help achieve their goals.”
An editorial in one of Japan’s biggest-selling national newspapers, the Mainichi Shimbun, laments the loss of “marine harvests”, such as salmon and yellowtail tuna, due to the warming oceans: “As a country surrounded by oceans Japan should be ashamed of the current situation.” It adds: “On top of global warming, overfishing, plastic pollution and other tough issues are threatening the oceans. Japan has the world’s sixth largest territorial waters and exclusive economic zones combined. The country must tackle the crisis head on and exercise its leadership to introduce countermeasures, but it is lagging behind other countries in addressing these problems…Japan can do more as a country surrounded by oceans, such as using ‘blue carbon’…Just as forests absorb CO2 through photosynthesis, sea grass, kelp and tidelands are important CO2 sinks…Japan has a responsibility to hand down the world’s indispensable oceans in a healthy state to future generations.”
Friedman writes in his latest New York Times column that he is “excited” that the Green New Deal proposal put forward by the new Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others is “now getting some real attention”. Friedman has been calling for such a proposal since 2007, he says, and expanded on it in his bestselling book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”. He adds: “I like the urgency and energy she and groups like the Sunrise Movement are bringing to this task. So for now I say: Let a hundred Green New Deal ideas bloom! Let’s see what sticks and what falls by the wayside.” (Carbon Brief recently published an explainer of the Green New Deal.) In the Guardian, Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs in the US, writing about the Green New Deal, says: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right. A 70% tax on the rich makes sense…If we are serious about tackling climate change, this is precisely the kind of policy we need to see.” In the Wall Street Journal, Mark P Mills, a senior fellow at the climate-sceptic lobbyist Manhattan Institute, says that “this could be the year Congress tries to enact the mother of all taxes, a carbon tax — a levy on the use of oil, natural gas and coal”. He concludes: “For rent-seekers, this would all be good. For virtue-signalers, it would be sufficient. For green lobbyists, it would be progress. For cynics — well, what do they care? Everyone would benefit—except taxpayers.” Meanwhile, HuffPost carries the reaction of Bernie Saunders to Donald Trump’s televised address last night: “Mr President, we don’t need to create artificial crises, we have enough real crises”, saying that climate change is “biggest crisis of all”. And in Vox, David Robert writes about how “Colorado could save $2.5bn by rapidly shutting down its coal power plants”.
Climate change will cause air quality in eastern China to worsen even if emissions of air pollutants are stabilised, a new study says. Using century-long simulations of a climate model, the researchers assess air pollution in eastern China into the future under a scenario where aerosol emissions are kept constant at 2005 levels. An increase in days with high pressure, stagnating weather patterns and a decrease in light rainfall contribute to higher concentrations of aerosols in the atmosphere, the findings suggest. The authors conclude: “In the future, more stringent regulations on regional air pollution emissions are needed to balance the effect from climate change.”
A new perspective article suggests that giving projections from different climate models equal weight in multimodel assessments is “suboptimal”. The authors discuss “newly developed tools…that are a promising way to focus evaluation on the observations most relevant to climate projections, and advanced methods for model weighting”. The paper concludes: “These approaches are needed to distil the most credible information on regional climate changes, impacts, and risks for stakeholders and policy-makers.”
The cost of motor vehicles use across the European Union amounts to around €500bn per year, a new cost-benefit analysis (CBA) suggests. The study aims to provide a more comprehensive CBA of different transport options in the EU, incorporating parameters such as climate change, noise, air pollution, accidents and collisions, and health impacts. The results suggest that each kilometre driven by car incurs an external cost of €0.11, while cycling and walking represent benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per km. Due to positive health effects, cycling is an external benefit worth €24bn per year and walking €66bn per year, the researchers note.
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