Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- US: Ian re-strengthens into hurricane as it nears South Carolina
- Countries ‘furious’ over EU reluctance to consider gas price cap
- US urges China to resume talks ended after Pelosi went to Taiwan
- ‘It sounds like you don’t know’: Liz Truss falters on fracking consent question
- Nord Stream gas leaks examined by scientists for climate damage
- What it will take to escape Russia’s fuel war with Europe
- Climate change drives rapid decadal acidification in the Arctic Ocean from 1994 to 2020
- Economic estimation of Bitcoin mining’s climate damages demonstrates closer resemblance to digital crude than digital gold
There is continued widespread coverage of cyclone Ian, which has re-strengthened to become a hurricane again while heading over the Atlantic Ocean en route to South Carolina, the Independent reports. Hurricane Ian is due to hit the state today, the Independent says, adding: “A hurricane warning has been issued for the entire South Carolina and the southern end of the North Carolina coast.” It comes after the hurricane battered Florida, leaving behind “deadly floodwaters, downed power lines and widespread damage”, Reuters reports. Florida’s death toll from the hurricane “remain[s] uncertain amid scattered reports of casualties”, Reuters adds. Climate Home News reports that the hurricane is likely to be one of the costliest in US history. It reports: “Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller at Enki Research, said the storm could cost the US up to $67bn in economic damages. Besides damaging homes and infrastructure, the hurricane also ruined orange farms in the largest producing state, causing orange juice prices to surge.” The New York Times notes that, according to data, most of the Florida homes in the path of Hurricane Ian lack flood insurance – “posing a major challenge to rebuilding efforts”. A second New York Times article reports that excess water from Hurricane Ian “had prompted at least a dozen wastewater treatment facilities in Florida to discharge either raw or partially treated waste, which can contain bacteria or other disease-causing organisms as well as high levels of nitrogen and phosphates”.
Many outlets report on the links between hurricanes and climate change. Associated Press covers snap analysis finding that climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian. It reports: “Thursday’s research, which is not peer-reviewed, compared peak rainfall rates during the real storm to about 20 different computer scenarios of a model with Hurricane Ian’s characteristics slamming into the Sunshine State in a world with no human-caused climate change.” Michael Wehner, study co-author and scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, tells the newswire: “The real storm was 10% wetter than the storm that might have been.“ The New York Times publishes a graphic illustrating how Hurricane Ian became so powerful. The Washington Post covers how climate change is “rapidly fuelling super hurricanes”. The Guardian reports on how climate change is “driving stronger storms further inland”. The Atlantic carries an explainer describing the link between climate change and hurricanes as “complicated”. The Economist also examines whether climate change is making hurricanes worse. The New York Times separately looks at a study finding hospitals in coastal US cities face risk of flooding even during “weak” hurricanes.
Tensions are mounting in the EU over demands for the bloc to consider a gas price cap amid the energy crisis, Politico reports. The publication says: “The European Commission has some explaining to do Friday when national energy ministers gather to discuss ways to lower energy prices, several diplomats said. They want to know why Brussels still hasn’t detailed what a cap on the price of imported natural gas could look like — three weeks after being asked to do so at the last emergency Energy Council.” The Commission this week published a policy paper on the proposed cap, which “consists mainly of warnings against capping the price of all gas imports, and encourages countries to consume less and renegotiate better supply contracts with ‘reliable’ suppliers like Norway and Algeria”, according to Politico. It adds: “One national diplomat summarised the general reaction to the reheated policy leftovers: ‘Da f*ck is this?’” Bloomberg also covers the clash over price cap proposals, saying: “Even as EU countries jockey over the plans, many governments are moving ahead with their own steps, including expensive plans to shield their consumers from the price spikes.” Reuters reports that, despite disagreement on the price cap, the bloc is poised to approve a new package of emergency energy measures today, including windfall profit levies on energy companies. A second Reuters story says that the Netherlands is ill-equipped to deal with the current energy crisis, according to a national auditor.
The US’s top envoy to China has “called on the nation to reopen dialogues it halted after House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan almost two months ago”, Bloomberg writes, saying the move comes “as Washington tries to get ties back on track”. Nicholas Burns, the US ambassador to China, is quoted saying via video on Thursday to the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore that “our message to the Chinese is let’s talk, open these dialogues and let’s move forward.” Climate change talks have been frozen since Pelosi’s visit.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Foreign Policy, Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has explained Islamabad’s relations with Beijing and Washington and how his country is dealing with “deadly” floods. He stressed: “Not everything is about the geopolitical conflict of the US and China. And I think it’s preposterous that we’re even having that conversation while talking about my country’s survival and our ability to deal with cataclysmic flooding – it’s absolutely ridiculous. We won’t be able to confront climate change if the US and China don’t work together.” He added: “In this time of great geopolitical division, I would much rather play the role of a bridge by uniting these two great powers around working together for climate change. Perhaps Pakistan’s unique position as a friend of both the US and China could encourage cooperation on this front.”
There is a continued coverage of the US-Pacific islands summit, with Reuters reporting that the US “released its first strategy for ties with Pacific island nations” on Thursday, which the newswire says is the second day of a “historic summit with leaders from the region, pledging to help them fight climate change and rebuff China’s ‘economic coercion’”.
China Dialogue focuses on “public calls” over recent days by leading Chinese officials’ – including China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and foreign minister Wang Yi – on “developed countries not to backtrack on their stated climate goals”. It says that the comments “offer a preview of likely exchanges between China and other major emitters at the UN’s COP27 climate conference”. Separately, Muizz Akhtar says in a feature published by Vox: “Still, for whatever progress China has made toward mitigating climate change, its adaptation strategies may not be enough to meet the current moment.” The article cites a recent report by Carbon Brief that found China’s carbon emissions have seen their “longest decline in a decade”.
Elsewhere, the state-run newspaper China Daily has published an article titled: “Climate change ‘tipping points’ an ill omen, scientists say.” Finally, the state-run industry newspaper China Energy News writes that the state’s “green power” trading transactions have exceeded 20 terawatts-hours until now, citingJiang Yi, an official from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top economic planner, at a press conference on Thursday. (The NDRC issued guidance in January 2022 on accelerating the formation of a national power market system, announcing its goal to form a national power market by 2025 to pave the way for cross-regional and inter-provincial trading of electricity.)
Several UK publications report on the fall-out from new policies and positions put forward by new prime minister Liz Truss during a round of broadcast interviews yesterday. The Guardian reports that, in an interview with BBC Radio Lancashire, Truss “refused to give details of how local consent would be given for fracking in a particular area”. Truss, who has lifted the moratorium on fracking on the condition of it achieving local consent, struggled to explain what such consent would look like, saying: “The energy secretary will be laying out, er, in more detail exactly what that looks like but it does mean making sure there is local support for going ahead…” It comes as the Press Association reports Truss has been urged to publicly correct her statements on local radio yesterday that “nobody” will pay more than £2,500 for their annual energy bill. The publication explains: “The government’s plan only caps the cost per unit that households pay, with actual bills still determined by how much energy is consumed.” The Independent reports on comments from environmental charities describing Truss’s latest policy moves as “an attack on nature”. The Big Issue says documents illustrate that the government still has no definition for green jobs two years after the launch of its green jobs task force. Elsewhere, the Times reports that Truss’s net-zero adviser Chris Skidmore has promised that the target will be upheld.
In other UK news, the Daily Telegraph reports that the government is “urgently” reviewing North Sea oil and gas infrastructure after underwater explosions caused unprecedented damage to pipes connecting Europe and Russia. Politico says that Truss’s government is also weighing up plans to drive down energy demand as winter looms. It comes as BBC News reports that households are turning to coal and logs to heat their homes as energy prices soar amid cooling winter temperatures. The Daily Mail notes that woodburner sales have soared by 40% amid the crisis.
In addition, the Press Association reports that the body that represents the UK’s offshore energy sector has insisted it is “confident” plans for new oil and gas licences for the North Sea will withstand a threatened legal challenge from climate campaigners.
Scientists have begun work examining the “climate damage” caused by leaks from the Nord Stream pipelines, the FT reports. The publication says: “Large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas methane are estimated to be leaking into the atmosphere from damaged European pipelines stretching from Russia to Germany that several EU leaders have said were sabotaged. While the precise volume of methane escaping into the atmosphere from underwater pipelines is difficult for scientists to quantify with certainty, experts say the amount estimated to be coming from four leaks detected in the Nord Stream pipelines is likely to be significant.” Politico reports that Sweden on Thursday confirmed there are four leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the UK’s infrastructure tsar Sir John Armitt says the energy crisis shows that the country “urgently need[s] an exit strategy that reduces our exposure to the price volatility of fossil fuels”. He continues: “Part of the answer – as the government has noted in its recent announcements – is to embrace the homegrown solution of cleaner sources of energy that won’t deplete over time, in the form of renewables like wind and solar power supported by nuclear as necessary…Alongside addressing supply, we could be doing much more to reduce waste. Many of us are already taking simple steps like reducing boiler flow temperatures and switching off devices that sit idle on standby in the corner of the room. Switching off the floodlighting of statues and public buildings can serve a symbolic and educative purpose.” It comes as the Economist publishes a feature titled: “Why is the British government so reluctant to tell people to conserve energy?” And an editorial in the Sun calls for the government to “launch a public information campaign to stop energy being wasted”. The Times Red Box carries a comment piece by “consumer champion” Will Hodson headlined: “Insulation for homes can help us battle inflation and boost growth.”
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail carries an op-ed from climate-sceptic columnist Richard Littlejohn attacking a government plan that aims to harness solar and wind power from Morocco.
A new study finds that climate change is causing rapid ocean acidification in the Arctic at a rate of three or four times faster than the other oceans are acidifying. Scientists use data from nearly 50 research cruises spanning 1994-2020 to determine how the near-surface ocean chemistry has changed over that time. The researchers attribute the accelerated acidification to changes in sea-ice cover – exposing the seawater to the atmosphere “promotes rapid uptake” of CO2. They conclude by saying: “We predict a further decrease in pH, particularly at higher latitudes where sea ice retreat is active.”
For every $1 of value created, Bitcoin is responsible for $0.35 in climate damages, according to new research. Using global estimates of Bitcoin mining, electricity mixes and regional CO2 emissions, scientists determine the climate damages associated with mining the cryptocurrency. They find that the damages per market value are larger than those of beef production but below those of burning petrol – and are an order of magnitude higher than those of renewable energy sources. They also find that per-coin climate damages have been increasing over time, and conclude that “these results represent a set of sustainability red flags”.