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Daily Briefing

31.08.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING US: How climate change helped make Hurricane Ida one of Louisiana’s worst
US: How climate change helped make Hurricane Ida one of Louisiana’s worst

News.

US: How climate change helped make Hurricane Ida one of Louisiana’s worst
The Washington Post Read Article

There is widespread media coverage of the fallout from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday. The Washington Post reports that the storm “brought 150-mile-per-hour wind, torrential rain and several feet of storm surge to the most vulnerable part of the US coast. It rivals the most powerful storm ever to strike the state.” The newspaper notes that raised sea levels and higher temperatures can “exacerbate” the effects of a storm, adding that “few places in the US have suffered more from rising waters as Louisiana, where seas in some areas are 24 inches above their 1950 levels”. The outlet calls Ida “the poster child for a climate change-driven disaster”. According to Bloomberg, “the storm’s rapid intensification before landfall is a telltale indication of the role played by global warming”. Meanwhile, a New York Times piece entitled, “What we know about climate change and hurricanes” lists higher winds, more rain, slower storms, wider-ranging storms and more volatility as the main consequences of climate change for storms. ForbesDeSmog and a separate piece in the New York Times also point out a link to global warming.

The Category 4 hurricane struck Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times reports, adding that “the links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time.” BBC News reports that one million people in Louisiana are currently without power and that 5,000 National Guard members are helping with search and rescue efforts. “President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in the state, releasing extra funds for rescue and recovery efforts”, it adds. The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times carry news of Ida on their frontpages. The Financial Times notes that at least one person has died. Meanwhile, a separate piece in the New York Times notes that New Orleans has lost power, despite a natural gas power plant that was intended to power the area in an emergency. Extreme weather events have “strained electric grids around the country, compounding the toll of natural disasters by leaving hospitals, governments, people and businesses without electricity for days or weeks”, it adds. The New York Times reports that Ida has hit one of the country’s biggest oil and chemical hubs. And Reuters notes that oil prices have dropped over concerns that “power outages and flooding in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida will cut crude demand from refineries at the same time global producers plan to raise output”. Meanwhile, a further New York Times piece notes that Julian – which formed as a tropical storm in the Atlantic on Sunday – has been downgraded to a “post-tropical cyclone”.

Elsewhere in the US media, there is continuing coverage of the Caldor fire in California. The New York Times reports that mandatory evacuations around Lake Tahoe have been ordered. It adds: “Although wildfires occur throughout the West every year, scientists see the influence of climate change in the extreme heat waves that have contributed to the intensity of fires this summer.” The New York TimesSan Francisco Chronicle and Buzzfeed News link the fires to climate change, while Yale Environment 360 runs a piece entitled, “Climate change producing more ‘fire weather’ as far east as Oklahoma”. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Colorado river is “drying up fast”.

Madagascar on the brink of the world’s first ‘climate change famine’, UN warns
The Telegraph Read Article

There is continuing media of the drought in Madagascar which is “the worst drought since 1981”, according to the Daily Telegraph. It adds that the United Nations has stated that “even before ‘lean season’ hits, tens of thousands of people in southern Madagascar are on the brink of catastrophic levels of hunger in the world’s first ‘climate change famine’”. It continues: “Shelley Thakral, a spokeswoman for the Africa office of the World Food Programme (WFP), told the Telegraph that the severe hunger crisis was the first to be driven by changing climate, rather than conflict. It is the first time climate change has been directly attributed to such a situation.” The newspaper also notes the effect of the pandemic, which has limited the short seasonal employment in tourism that many families usually seek on the island, as well as complicating food delivery systems. The Times adds that “subsistence farming lives of the island’s rural communities have contributed little to the carbon emissions that are causing the planet to warm. Yet they, more than those living in the polluting nations of the developed world, are suffering its ‘unprecedented’ effects: the world’s first famine driven by climate change, not conflict.” The newspaper adds that five of the past six rainy seasons in the country have failed, driving sandstorms and locust swarms that “have turned huge stretches of arable land to dust”, as well as killing livestock. It continues: “Many farmers have already abandoned their land and turned to fishing, adding to the impact of warming sea temperatures that have bleached the coral and reduced fish stocks. Others are cutting down whatever trees are left — 90% of Madagascar’s forests have already gone — to produce and sell charcoal…The speed with which the changing climate has wreaked such devastation has alarmed global health leaders. ”

Meanwhile, the New York Times carries a piece entitled, “A new breed of crisis: war and warming collide in Afghanistan”. It states: “Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope…A third of all Afghans face what the United Nations calls crisis levels of food insecurity. Because of the fighting, many people haven’t been able to plant their crops in time. Because of the drought, the harvest this year is certain to be poor. The World Food Program says 40% of crops are lost, the price of wheat has gone up by 25%, and the aid agency’s own food stock is due to run out by the end of September.” It continues: “Of the world’s 25 nations most vulnerable to climate change, more than a dozen are affected by conflict or civil unrest”. Climate Home News also notes that links between climate change and conflict in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Washington Post carries an opinion piece by Israeli historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg entitled “While Israelis and Palestinians fight, climate change threatens the land”. And Reuters mentions climate-driven droughts and hurricanes in a piece on hunger in Haiti. Elsewhere, Climate Home News reports on an early intervention approach tested in Pakistan and Senegal “to unlock aid for predictable and predicted extreme weather before communities suffer”.

UK: Scottish Greens to join SNP in government after members back coalition deal
The Independent Read Article

The Scottish Green party has agreed a “historic” power-sharing deal with the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Independent reports. “The agreement will see the Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater become government ministers – the first,” according to the newspaper. It adds that the deal was negotiated over the summer – after the SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority in May’s election – and was agreed in an extraordinary general meeting on Saturday. BBC News notes that the deal required a two-third majority of the party’s National Council to be passed. The Guardian, via the Press Association, reports that public disagreement between the parties would only be allowed on a set of agreed topics, including “aviation policy; green ports; direct financial support to businesses involved in the aerospace, defence and security sectors; field sports; and the economic principles related to concepts of sustainable growth and inclusive growth”.

The Herald quotes Harvie: “Humanity has just been given a code-red warning on the climate emergency and it’s a couple of months before the [COP26] climate conference comes to Glasgow, so there couldn’t be a more urgent and important moment to take that step. From renewable energy, to tenants’ rights, through to restoring nature, there’s a huge job of work that Greens are keen to do in government.” The National adds that “the Scottish Conservatives branded the deal as creating a ‘coalition of chaos’ focused on independence, while Scottish Labour said the ‘coalition of cuts’ is a ‘disaster for Scotland’”. Politico and the Press Association also highlight that both parties are in favour of Scottish independence.

In other UK news, the Guardian covers the results of a survey which finds that “the majority of over-50s believe the UK government should be doing more to address the climate crisis, even if it leads to higher prices”. According to the newspaper, more than two-thirds of the 500 people polled “said they had bought fewer clothes to cut down on waste in recent years, while half reduced their vehicle use and consumed less meat and dairy. One in five said they only bought seasonal food, while half said they had reduced home energy use”. The Independent and the Daily Telegraph also cover the survey. Meanwhile, Vicky Allan – senior features writer for the Herald – writes that, according to a recent survey by plant-based food producer Upfield, half of people aged 18-34 “said they believed climate control could wait until 2025”, while more than half of over-55s said the same. “Too much talk about one generation showing more concern seems like a stoking of generational division,” Allan says.

UK: Cumbrian mine could sell coal to polluting Turkey
The Times Read Article

The Times reports that “coal from the UK’s first deep mine for 30 years could be sold to a country that has one of the worst records for acting on climate change”. It continues: “West Cumbria Mining (WCM) has identified Turkey as a potential major customer for the planned mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria. The Climate Change Committee has warned that allowing the mine to go ahead would damage Britain’s standing as a leader in tackling global warming. Documents submitted by WCM to a public inquiry into its plans, due to start next month, show that Turkey is the biggest market for the type of coal the mine would produce: coking coal for making steel…Supporters of the mine, which would employ up to 532 people, have said that it would help to reduce the UK’s reliance on coal from the US to make steel. But WCM’s submission states that about 85 per cent of the coal would be exported.” The newspaper quotes the reaction of Prof Mike Berners-Lee of Lancaster University, an expert on carbon footprinting, who says: “It would be climate madness for the UK to open a mine to export coal to Turkey, one of the world’s great climate laggards, to be burnt there instead.”

Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion protesters have attached themselves to railings in London’s Science Museum, demanding that oil company Shell stop funding the Our Future Planet exhibition, the Independent reports. According to the newspaper, the exhibition in question explores CO2 removal technologies. “Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has also hit out at the Shell sponsorship after previous reports said the museum had signed a gagging clause over the exhibition funding”, it adds. The Guardian notes that protesters staged a “die in” on the ramp leading to the museums entrance and that “a group called Silent Rebellion sat outside in silence and appeared to meditate near the entrance to the museum”. MailOnline notes that a group of protesters blockaded a road, leading to a “clash” with police. Reuters adds that on Monday, protesters “staged a sit-down protest that stopped traffic from using Tower Bridge in London”. The Daily Telegraph carries a video of the road block.

In other UK news, Politico reports that the UK plans to start vaccinating COP26 delegates from developing countries. “The vaccines would be authorised on the basis of a four-week gap between doses, leaving just enough time for delegates to reach full inoculation before the conference starts on November 1”, according to the outlet. It adds that Alok Sharma has pledged to make the conference the “most inclusive COP ever”. However, DeSmog has published a piece entitled, “UK accused of running ‘most exclusionary COP ever’ as activists face Covid barriers”. According to the outlet, residents of Latin America, the Philippines, parts of Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh have told the COP26 coalition – a UK-based climate campaign group – that they are “facing obstacles” to attending COP. Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports that Alok Sharma has “come under fire” after nuclear industry representatives wrote an open letter to him, revealing that “‘every application’ so far to put on nuclear-related exhibits or events at the UN summit [COP26] had been rejected”. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that the Queen will attend a reception at the conference. Gareth Redmond-King, COP26 lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, tells the i newspaper that “the head of state attending something as big and important as this is an indication of how seriously the hosts take it”. Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 conference, tweeted that he is “absolutely delighted that Her Majesty the Queen will attend #COP26”, Sky News adds. A separate piece in i newspaper notes that Prince Charles is also expected to attend the conference. The news is also covered in the Daily TelegraphMailOnline and Reuters. Elsewhere, the Guardian, the Times and the Evening Standard report via the Press Association that thousands of police officers will receive “public order training” in the run-up to COP26.

Separately, the Guardian reports that Ofgem has launched a £450m fund “to help homes and businesses go green”. Under the scheme, businesses are encouraged to present proposals for “heating, transport, digitalisation and system integration”, the Financial Times reports. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that, according to a new study, “burnishing your home’s green credentials adds less than 2% to its price tag”. And a separate Daily Telegraph piece reports that “boiler manufacturers will be required to speed up production of green alternatives, under government plans to meet Britain’s net zero target”. Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Times discuss the future of the UK’s North Sea oil industry, while a separate piece in the Guardian reports that “floating wind turbines could open up vast ocean tracts for renewable power”.

US: Biden opens new federal office for climate change, health and equity
The New York Times Read Article

The Biden administration has announced the formation of the “Office of Climate Change and Health Equity” – the first federal programme aimed at understanding the impacts of climate change on health – the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, the programme will fall under the Department of Health and Human Services. The Hill adds: “Assistant secretary for health Rachel Levine, who is expected to help oversee the initiative, told reporters on Monday that the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity will have three main jobs: building resilience to climate health impacts; partnering with hospitals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and build resiliency; and combining climate resilience with health equity”. Reuters notes that the office “will identify communities disproportionately exposed to climate hazards, address health disparities resulting from climate change, and help with regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the healthcare sector”. And the Wall Street Journal states that the office could make hospitals and other care facilities reduce their carbon emissions.

Elsewhere, the Independent reports via the Associated Press that US climate envoy John Kerry is in Tokyo to discuss efforts to fight climate change ahead of COP26. “In his talks with [environment minister] Koizumi, Kerry was expected to discuss decarbonisation efforts and cooperation between the two countries”, the paper says. Reuters adds that Kerry will discuss “cooperation on carbon emissions and cutting support for fossil fuels, especially coal”. And a separate Reuters piece notes that Kerry will visit China between 31 August and 3 September, where he is “expected to build on commitments he helped secure during his earlier visit in April”. The Hill adds that Kerry “is reportedly looking to push China to issue a moratorium on financing coal projects during a trip to the country next week”.

In other US news, the New York Times reports that Biden is currently deciding whether or not to reappoint Jerome Powell as economist in chief, noting that “climate activists and others on the left have argued that Mr Powell should be replaced by someone with stronger credentials as a climate hawk”. Meanwhile, the Democrats “face a tough choice” on whether or not to impose new restrictions on agriculture to reduce methane emissions, according to the Hill. A separate piece in the Hill notes that more than 50 Democrats are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to “include a repeal of fossil fuel subsidies in the party’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package”. And the New York Times carries a piece on California’s plans to make buildings greener.

Acting on climate change, a $11tn opportunity for India: report
The Hindu Read Article

The Hindu covers a new report which finds that “India must act now to prevent the country from losing $35tn in economic potential over the next 50 years due to unmitigated climate change”. The report also finds that the country could gain $11tn by limiting its temperature increase and “realising its potential to ‘export decarbonisation’ to the world”, the outlet adds. Elsewhere, the Hindu reports that Maharashtra’s environment minister, Aaditya Thackeray, has unveiled the Climate Action Plan for Mumbai. It adds that the plan will focus on sustainable waste management, urban greening and biodiversity, urban flooding and water resource management, building energy efficiency, air quality and sustainable mobility. Meanwhile, a further piece in the Hindu notes that “the state government has planned to approach Asian Development Bank (ADB) for funding the second phase of the Climate Change Adaptation Programme in the Cauvery delta.” And a final piece in the Hindu notes that, following predictions of decreased rainfall in the Madurai district, an Indian MP has appealed for “a slew of environmental protection steps”. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that floodwaters are rising across Eastern India and “threaten hundreds of thousands”.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that India plans to ration its coal supplies as electricity demand surges. And the Economic Times carries a comment piece by Bhupender Yadav, India’s minister of environment, forest and climate change, entitled, “India is showing that equity and justice must be a touchstone of any global response to climate change”.

Comment.

Don’t let climate goals be lost in culture wars
Editorial, Financial Times Read Article

An editorial in the FT argues that “trying to convince everyone they must change their lifestyles radically” in order to tackle climate change is “unlikely to work: demands that essentially put the onus on individuals will alienate too many people in an environment of insufficient knowledge about what net zero means and distrust about the intentions of politicians”. It continues: “Some particularly extreme forms of climate activism – such as the millenarian radicalism embodied by Extinction Rebellion – have raised awareness. But by doom-mongering, rather than providing practical guidance, their work risks alienating often well-intentioned individuals and could even be counterproductive to the cause of climate change mitigation. Instead, the message politicians must communicate is twofold. First, emphasise the facts: climate change is an urgent threat, it requires all of us to act – but if we act together, the sacrifices are far from prohibitive. Second, acknowledge that people will need help to take the right choices – and ensure that it is forthcoming. A consensus around mass adoption of carbon-reducing technologies can be achieved if adoption is rewarded and costless for those at the bottom. The alternatives – insufficient action, or calls for asceticism — will lead to division and failure.”

Various UK newspaper columnists also choose to criticise Extinction Rebellion protesters. In the Times, Hugo Rifkind writes: “Abandon capitalism? Come off it. Do humans really care about the planet enough to give up on the fundamental, individual desire for more, and more, and more? Have you ever met any?…Extinction Rebellion may be only three years old but already this is all starting to look as archaic as anything. For one thing, it scares people off, but for another, you really should have realised by now that it just isn’t going to bloody happen. It’s time to find allies wherever you can, whether it’s the banks, the media, even the energy industry and the Conservative Party.” In the Sunday Times, climate-sceptic columnist Dominic Lawson comments: “The XR faithful, inspired by their own Joan of Arc, Greta Thunberg, proclaim that their mission is to save the lives of children yet to be born. However, it is economic growth, primarily through increased productivity, that has transformed the chances of children’s survival – a feature of the West that has more recently spread across the planet as a whole.” Giles Coren in the Times takes his children to see the XR protests in London and concludes: “We can’t leave our future on the planet to this handful of drumming monkeys and their surrendered wives.” Stephen Jardine in the Scotsman says “thankfully, it’s a long time since anyone took [XR] seriously.”. In the Daily Telegraph, climate-sceptic writer Ross Clark says it is “the absolutist quest for zero emissions by a fixed date that is the problem, which threatens to derail economies and make us poorer”. And in the Daily Express, Carol Malone cries: “Extinction Rebellion, I dare you…go and protest in China!”

Some commentators focus on the news that the Green party in Scotland has entered into a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish National Party. Andrew Neil in the Daily Mail asks “what price will Scotland pay for giving power to eco-zealot Marxists?” The sporadic GB News presenter concludes: “The Scottish Greens could achieve their goal of zero economic growth sooner than they think. They are too insignificant to save the planet. But they could easily wreck Scotland.” John McLellan in the Scotsman worries that the “SNP-Green deal could be catastrophic for house prices”. Ian Jack in the Guardian says the SNP’s “useful alliance with the Greens…may invigorate the party and enhance Scottish credibility at COP26”.

Finally, writing in London’s Evening Standard, COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma urges the city’s residents to “seize the moment and reap the benefits of a cleaner city”. He adds: “The City can mobilise the trillions needed for a zero emissions global economy, and every Londoner can get inspired by our ‘one step greener’ campaign.”

Hurricane Ida’s climate resilience lesson
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal Read Article

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal says that “the good news is that New Orleans appears to have weathered the tempest as well as could be expected thanks to its post-Katrina flood-protection investments”. It continues: “This is a reminder of how hardening infrastructure against unpredictable Mother Nature pays off…Louisiana and the feds have since spent $14.5bn on bolstering flood walls, levees and drainage systems [since Hurricane Katrina in 2005]…These investments appear to have paid off.” But the newspaper’s long-time climate-sceptic editorial board goes on to say: “As predictable as the sunrise, the climate lobby is blaming humanity’s fossil-fuel sins for Ida…No matter how much the world warms, more extreme weather will happen. Building more resilient infrastructure and better emergency alert systems will do far more good than all of the Biden administration’s climate policies…Government can’t command the tides, but it can protect people from them.” Another WSJ editorial notes that “President Biden’s climate plans could soon be advancing through the administrative state, and the place to watch is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC”. It adds: “This obscure outfit oversees America’s natural-gas pipelines and electricity markets, and Democrats are poised to take control.”

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times is headlined: “For the sake of the planet, don’t remove California’s governor.” It says: “With Newsom, California will continue to aggressively press forward toward a cleaner, fossil-fuel-free future with policies that drive investments and innovations that will help the world fight climate change. The leading candidates to replace [Gavin] Newsom would almost certainly slow the state’s ambitious efforts…California is too important to this fight to cede the state’s leadership. For the sake of the planet, vote no on the recall.” And an editorial in the Boston Globe focuses on the fact that “about 70% of the city’s emissions come from our homes and offices and hospitals”. It continues: “If Boston is to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050…it has to get serious about reducing emissions from buildings. And that means approving a measure championed by city council president Matt O’Malley that would require building owners to ratchet down emissions or face fines.”

Gas, like coal, has no future as the world wakes up to climate emergency
Christina Figueres, South China Morning Post Read Article

“Asian countries and companies must put an end to the billions they continue to pour into gas and turn to greener energy options,” writes former UN climate chief Christian Figueres in the South China Morning Post. She continues: “While coal is not going away overnight, the pipeline of proposed coal power projects in Asia has shrunk to a fraction of its former self. What’s more, companies which held on to coal for too long have found themselves with expensive stranded assets on their hands…But with so much focus on coal, remarkably, fossil gas appears to be slipping under the radar…Let’s be clear, gas is not an alternative to coal and nor is it a transition fuel…For us to have any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we cannot afford to waste any more time [by pouring money into gas]. I am optimistic Asian leaders will be up to the challenge.”

Also in the South China Morning Post, Neil Newman says that “the US, Britain and Europe ‘led’ in creating climate change. China, Japan and Australia can lead the solution.” And in the Daily Telegraph, Douglas Murray says: “Good luck convincing China to stop burning coal.” He adds sarcastically: “I am sure that the Communist authorities will listen with great interest to the president of the UK’s upcoming climate change conference [during his visit to China].”

Temperature control on CO2 emissions from the weathering of sedimentary rocks
Nature Geoscience Read Article

A new study finds that sedimentary-rock weathering increases with rising temperatures, creating a positive feedback to a warming planet. Over the course of 2.5 years, researchers measure the flux of CO2 as sedimentary rocks weathered. They find that the CO2 release varies seasonally, with summertime fluxes about five times larger than their wintertime counterparts. A temperature increase of 10C, they write, corresponds to a factor of 2.2 increase in CO2 release. They add: “This temperature sensitivity is similar to that of degradation of recent-plant-derived organic matter in soils.”

Science.

Extreme sea levels at different global warming levels
Nature Climate Change Read Article

A large portion of the world’s coastal sites may see 100-year sea-level extremes at least once a year by 2100 – even if warming is limited to 1.5C, according to a new study. Using historical observations and climate models, researchers analyse more than 7,000 coastal sites around the world to determine both present-day 100-year extreme events and the frequency of those same events in 2100 for a range of future temperatures. They find that with just 1.5C warming, many sites will see a 100-fold increase in extreme sea-level event frequency by the year 2080. Even if the world achieves the Paris Agreement’s goal, the authors write, extreme sea-level events “will be experienced at unprecedented frequencies in many parts of the world’s coasts”.

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Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.