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DAILY BRIEFING Voters in three U.S. states reject initiatives to curb fossil fuel use
Voters in three U.S. states reject initiatives to curb fossil fuel use


Voters in three U.S. states reject initiatives to curb fossil fuel use

Voters in Colorado, Arizona and Washington states on Tuesday rejected ballot initiatives that sought to curb fossil fuels use, Reuters reports, despite polls having indicated rising concerns over carbon emissions and water quality. In Arizona, voters said no to accelerating the shift to renewable energy, says the Washington Post. (In Nevada, voters appeared poised to pass a measure similar to the one Arizonans rejected, the Washington Post adds, which would require utilities to generate 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030, although this would need to survive a second vote in 2020.) In Colorado, a measure known as Proposition 112 failed to pass. This would have required new oil and gas wells to be at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other “vulnerable areas” such as parks and irrigation canals. A separate Reuters article has more on the defeated measure. Meanwhile a measure known as Initiative 1631 to make Washington the first state to tax carbon emissions was also rejected by voters, the Guardian reports. The measure would have put a $15 fee on each tonne of CO2 emitted in the state. “It’s a setback because nothing really happens at a federal level until it happens in the states – just look at gay marriage,” Heidi Peltier, an expert in low-carbon policy at the University of Massachusetts, told the Guardian. “If we are going to have a carbon tax nationally, we need to have enough states doing it. Washington state had a chance to be one of the leaders.” Meanwhile Florida passed a measure to put its ban on oil and gas leases in state waters in the state constitution, Inside Climate News reports. The restrictions will be much harder to change the ban in the face of perennial pressure to do so, Inside Climate News adds. Inside Climate News also has a list of the “mixed results” delivered by voters on renewable energy and fossil fuels in different states. Several outlets also focused on spending by the oil industry against efforts to fight climate change. The oil industry spent more than $60m to kill the two efforts in Colorado and Washington, reports Think Progress. But there were also setbacks for the industry, says the FT, including the new offshore drilling restrictions in Florida and failure to repeal a petrol tax increase in California. In an analysis on energy industry spending on the election, Axios says: “The industry wins are stark examples of how money-fuelled negative messaging can persuade voters. It also shows how fights over energy policy have moved to the states as the issue remains mostly off the table in Washington.”

Reuters Read Article
US funds with big Amazon farming stakes face Bolsonaro choice

The world’s largest asset managers could play a pivotal role in safeguarding the Amazon forest, a report published on Thursday shows, Climate Home News reports. The report shows US asset managers BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street have major holdings in corporations driving deforestation in the country, including beef and soy companies, Climate Home adds. The authors say the US funds could influence corporate behaviour through voting, direct engagement with managers and divestment (or threat of) “which may push stock prices down and signal discontent”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that campaign pledges from Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro to merge the agriculture and environment ministries “have…gone awry”. “As he named Congresswoman Tereza Cristina, the leader of Brazil’s farm caucus, to be his agriculture minister on Wednesday, he ditched his initial plan to merge the two portfolios,” says Reuters. The Independent reports on a new study which has found temperatures and droughts are affecting the Amazon as trees are unable to adapt to the changing climate. Carbon Brief‘s profile of Brazil set out the country’s key policy developments, pledges and statistics on climate and energy.

Climate Home News Read Article
Norway wealth fund will not yet blacklist greenhouse gas emitters

Norway’s trillion dollar wealth fund will not yet blacklist firms for producing too much greenhouse gases, the board of the country’s central bank has said, Reuters reports. Among other reasons, the board of the bank said more work was needed to assess the ground for exclusion, Reuters adds. “Compared with other criteria in the (ethics) guidelines, the climate criterion does not provide a very precise definition of what conduct should constitute grounds for a decision to exclude,” said Governor Oeystein Olsen and Deputy Governor Egil Matsen in a letter. The fund is already forbidden from investing in firms that produce nuclear weapons or landmines, or are involved in the production of tobacco.

Reuters Read Article


Scientists are coming to Congress

As of Wednesday afternoon in the US, seven candidates with science degrees had won seats in US Congress, Quartz says, with an eighth ahead of her opponent. “These eight candidates were part of a class of Americans with some training in science who attempted to fill seats in US House of Representatives and Senate in the midterm elections,” says Quartz. A Mother Jones article argues democratic control of the House means science will get higher billing in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Despite its name, this has been run by Republican “science deniers” since 2011, Mother Jones adds. Vox likewise sets out how newly elected Democrat governors are “poised to charge ahead” with clean energy. An article in Grist meanwhile argues that: “As the results of the midterms continue to trickle in, one thing is clear: bipartisan climate action in the US is over…. During the time the US has waited for bipartisan, market-based policies to manifest, the climate stakes have gone up.” The New Republic says the midterm results show both the impact of massive political spending by the fossil fuel lobby and Democrats’ failure to mobilise voters on climate. Another Vox article says fossil fuel money “crushed clean energy ballot initiatives” across the US. “After being boxed out of climate and energy policy at the federal level, the left has turned to states, but at least last night, the states did not deliver much good news,” it says. The Guardian asks what the midterms mean for climate change, concluding: “Attempts to ramp up action to address climate change faltered, most notably in Washington state where voters rejected a proposal to implement a price on carbon pollution.” The New York Times also sets out what the midterms meant for climate change, and a separate New York Times article gives five takeaways on climate change and the elections. Also writing in the New York Times, Bill McKibben notes that: “Even where climate campaigns were well-funded, the industry spent substantially more, and that spending was enough to defeat change….[E]nvironmentalists will have to figure out how to focus fire on the fossil fuel industry itself, to see if somehow its political power can be broken.”

Zoë Schlanger & Katherine Ellen Foley, Quartz Read Article


Impacts of climate change on apple tree cultivation areas in Iran

Almost half of Iran could become unsuitable for growing apples by the end of the century if global CO2 emissions are not curbed, a new study suggests. Climate model simulations under the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 emissions scenarios show future air temperature that would put a “serious stress” on fruit trees in cold regions of Iran, the researchers say. By the 2090s, “46.7% of apple tree cultivation areas will be lost”, the study finds, and apple tree cultivation will need to move to higher regions in the country.

Climatic Change Read Article
Congo Basin forest loss dominated by increasing smallholder clearing

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is on track to have cleared all of its primary forests by 2100, a new study warns. Using time-series satellite data, the researchers tracked forest loss in the Congo Basin and its main causes between 2000 and 2014. They found that small-scale, manual forest clearing had doubled over the 14 year period and was responsible for 84% of the total forest loss. Logging and industry were the next most significant drivers of deforestation. Nearly two-thirds of the forest loss in the basin has occurred in the DRC, the study finds, concluding that: “Under the assumption that population growth continues to correlate with the increase in annual primary forest loss area, all of DRC’s primary forests will have been cleared by 2100”.

Science Advances Read Article


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