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Daily Briefing

17.02.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

17.02.2017 | 10:43am
DAILY BRIEFING US scientists attack Trump government over policies and ‘alternative facts’, Weather experts say new El Niño possible later this year, & more
US scientists attack Trump government over policies and ‘alternative facts’, Weather experts say new El Niño possible later this year, & more

News.

US scientists attack Trump government over policies and 'alternative facts'

Donald Trump’s administration has been savaged by two leading members of the US scientific community over “alternative” facts, climate change, gagging orders and the travel ban. Prof Barbara Schaal, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and colleague Dr Rush Holt spoke out strongly against the apparent willingness of US government officials to adopt an Orwellian approach to factual evidence, downplay the importance of climate change and restrict public access to information. Prof Schaal said: “If climate science is shut down it’s very important that scientists make a very strong case, a very compelling case, a clear case, that climate science is extraordinarily important for the future of nations and for the future of the globe.” Dr Rush added: “I would say scientists have to redouble their efforts. Sometimes that will require courage. There is as yet no clampdown on climate science in the US government. I would say there has been no indication that it will thrive. “No-one has said how important climate science is to the wellbeing of current and future generations, so that gives people grounds for concern. It’s too important to let biased or uninformed views stop it.”

Press Association Read Article
Weather experts say new El Niño possible later this year

There is a possibility of the weather phenomenon El Niño forming later this year, according to scientists at the World Meteorological Organisation. In 2015 and 2016 a strong El Niño contributed to high global temperatures and played a role in droughts, the BBC reports. Normally El Niño only reappears every 2-7 years, and often after an event you get a marked reversal of conditions known as a La Niña. But recent cooler ocean conditions were only intermittently indicative of La Niña, and scientists says that there is now a 40% chance of a new one forming later this year. “It is a bit unusual but not completely unprecedented,” Dr Rupa Kumar Kolli of the WMO told the BBC.

Matt McGrath, BBC News Read Article
Alps may lose 70% of snow by end of the century

The Alps could lose 70% of snow cover by the end of the century unless there are drastic cuts in emissions to limit global warming, according to a new paper by scientists at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland. Almost a third of snow cover (30%) will disappear even if world leaders stick to the Paris Agreement on climate change and limit the global average temperature increase to 2C above pre-industrial levels. “It has already warmed by almost 1C”, the Times adds. MailOnline says that “the ski season could also be up to a month shorter than it is at present”. Bloomberg and the Denver Post are among the other publications covering the story. Carbon Brief has also covered the paper.

The Times Read Article
Trump signs bill undoing Obama coal mining rule

US President Donald Trump has signed legislation ending a key coal mining rule of the previous administration. The Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule was a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste, that government officials only finalised in December. The repeal will mean more greenhouse gas pollution and is bad news for imperiled species, such as 50 types of freshwater mussels, Inside Climate News reports. It is the second Obama-era environmental legislation that Trump has undone, after he ended a financial disclosure requirement for energy companies on Tuesday.

David Henry, The Hill Read Article
Climate change could threaten entire financial system, APRA warns

Climate change could threaten the stability of the entire financial system, Australia’s prudential regulator has warned, as it prepares to apply climate change “stress tests” to the nation’s financial institutions. In its first major speech on climate change, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chastised companies for a lack of action on the risks it poses. “While climate risks have been broadly recognised, they have often been seen as a future problem or a non-financial problem,” APRA executive board member Geoff Summerhayes told an Insurance Council conference in Sydney. “Many of these risks are foreseeable, material and actionable now.” The Guardian also has the story.

ABC News Read Article
Drax bet on biomass leaves investors short on payouts

The Times reports that Drax, the company that operates the UK’s largest coal plant in North Yorkshire, disappointed investors yesterday by not “committing to a step-change improvement” in its dividend payouts after winning a key government contract in December. The company conceded, says the Times, that it is not winning the argument in persuading the government to back biomass as a large-scale renewable fuel to cut carbon emissions. Its three biomass units represented 65% of the electricity it generated last year.

The Times Read Article
Scientists highlight deadly health risks of climate change

Deadly heatwaves, the spread of infectious diseases and food shortages related to climate change could all cause premature deaths in the future, said former US Vice President Al Gore and a panel of experts, gathered at the Carter Center in Atlanta for the Climate & Health Meeting yesterday.

Judge orders release of EPA nominee’s emails

A judge has ordered the release of thousands of documents relating to Scott Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma attorney general, report the Hill and the Washington Post. Democrats are attempting to delay Pruitt’s appointment to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency, arguing he prioritised corporate interests, according to two further articles from the Hill. Meanwhile EPA employees have been attempting to block Pruitt’s appointment, report the New York Times and the Hill.

The Hill Read Article

Comment.

Dash for gas — and move on from nuclear power folly

“A financially viable nuclear power station looks increasingly like a mirage,” writes Neil Collins in the Financial Times. He suggests gas-fired power stations are the “cheapest and quickest” alternative and that this means “repealing the Climate Change Act with its arbitrary targets for dramatic cuts”. Collins does not say what should replace the Act.

Neil Collins, Financial Times Read Article
Thanks to Blair and Brown diesel has done more damage than Chernobyl, and you’ve got to pay the bill

The Sun has handed over its main slot on its comment pages to the climate sceptic James Delingpole who tries to argue that the current diesel particulate pollution afflicting cities such as London is solely down to politicians in the 1990s being “so obsessed with the imaginary problem of ‘climate change'”. He says “they chose to overlook the genuine problem of diesel pollution” and that “every one of these administrations has blood on its hands”. He fails to properly address the issue of vehicle manufacturers subsequently failing to meet the required standards for NOx claiming the “only way to pass the EU’s emissions tests was to cheat”.

James Delingpole, The Sun Read Article

Science.

Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study

Spells of cold weather result in more deaths than hot weather, a new study says. Researchers analysed 74 million deaths between 1985 and 2012 in 13 countries. They estimate that around 8% of all deaths were caused by “non-optimal temperatures”, ranging from 3% in Thailand, Brazil, and Sweden to 11% in China, Italy, and Japan. Of the 8%, cold weather was responsible for 7.5% of deaths, and 0.5% by hot, the researchers say. Deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from “extreme” heat waves or cold spells, they add.

Nature Read Article

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