Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Warming to boost deadly humidity levels across South Asia
- Ex-energy chiefs warn Big Six to ‘adapt or die’
- China energy regulator raises targets for curbing coal-fired power
- British inventor close to 'Holy Grail' of carbon capture at zero cost
- Satellite launched to monitor climate change
- Changing the game: the Paris Agreement and the role of scientific communities
- World’s first floating wind farm towed to North Sea base
- Red/Blue and Peer Review
- Fukushima disaster is still radiating fallout nuclear industry wishes to avoid
- Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia
- “How often does it really rain?”
Without cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, millions of people living in South Asia face a dangerously high combination of heat and humidity driven by global warming, report the BBC and others, covering new research. “Most of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will experience temperatures close to the limits of [human] survivability by 2100,” the BBC says. The new research, published in the journal Science Advances, looks at when a lethal “wet bulb” temperature might start occurring, says the Washington Post. The paper explains that this is a temperature “likely to be lethal after just a few hours…unless people are able to get away from the heat, such as by going indoors into an air-conditioned space”. At a wet bulb temperature of 35C, even healthy people would be unable to survive for more than six hours, reports the Guardian. River valleys in South Asia will face the highest risk of such deadly humid heat, reports InsideClimate News. Up to a third of the 1.5bn population already living across the Indo-Gangetic Plain could be affected, says the Associated Press. The monsoon brings warm and humid air masses into these valleys, notes the Hindu, and surface air is warmer here because of the relatively low elevation. The Reuters and Time Magazine also cover the new research. Carbon Brief covered similar research by the same authors in 2015, which found that parts of the Middle East could experience “unbearable heat” by the end of the century.
The UK’s largest energy firms could face an “existential threat” from new technology that could “upend the traditional utility business model”, says the Telegraph, reporting comments from a group of six former energy chief executives and policymakers. The group includes former SSE boss Ian Marchant, former National Grid chief Steve Holliday, the Lib Dem former energy secretary Ed Davey and the Conservative former energy minister Charles Hendry. The group say “Big Six” energy firms must “accept and embrace” the rapidly changing market for clean energy, reports BusinessGreen. This includes a shift from centralised fossil fuel generation towards smarter energy services and local renewable power, adds Energy Live News. Separately, deputy political editor Steven Swinford has another article on energy on page two of today’s Telegraph, under the headline “green energy taxes to treble in five years”. Swinford implies that he is reporting long-running Office for Budget Responsibility figures on environmental levies for the first time and links them to his front page article yesterday, which was the subject of a Carbon Brief factcheck over its confusing claims on “green taxes”.
Between 2016 and 2020, China will halt or suspend construction of new coal plants with a combined capacity of 150 gigawatts (GW) says Reuters, reporting a statement from the country’s National Energy Administration. China will shut down 20GW of older coal plants in the same period, it adds.
A new type of gas power plant that hopes to capture CO2 at no extra cost – or even a profit – is nearing completion near Houston, Texas, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph. The plant is based on the “Allam Cycle”, designed by British inventor Rodney Allam, who came out of a brief retirement to develop the idea with NET Power, the firm set up to build the new 50 megawatt plant.
A satellite designed to monitor the effects of climate change on vegetation was successfully launched into orbit from French Guiana on Tuesday, reports AFP. The satellite is a joint project of the French National Centre for Space Studies and Israel’s space agency. It will photograph 110 specific sites around the world every two days for the next 2.5 years, charting the impact of climate change on ecosystems, agriculture and carbon stocks.
Advances in science are needed to inform the negotiations over raising climate ambition, write Timothée Ourbak and Laurence Tubiana in the journal Climate Policy. Their article proposes “several areas where scientific communities could help to implement the Paris Agreement and promote low carbon, climate-resilient economies and societies,” including the upcoming IPCC special report on 1.5C and future “stocktakes” to measure policy progress.
Financial Times reporter Nathalie Thomas looks at the world’s first floating wind farm, off Scotland, in a feature exploring the prospects for the technology. “Whether floating wind moves beyond small pilot projects will depend on cost,” Thomas says, noting that “the costs of conventional offshore wind have dropped so dramatically that [some] companies…are starting to develop schemes without any subsidies.” Carbon Brief published a detailed Q&A on the viability of floating offshore wind last week.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s idea to have a “red team poke holes in the mainstream scientific community’s consensus on climate change…discounts that such challenges have already been applied thousands of times,” write Eric Davidson and Marcia McNutt in Eos. “We are old enough to remember when many, if not most, scientists were skeptical that the human impact on climate could be distinguished from natural climatic variation. The journey from the healthy skepticism that existed 40 to 50 years ago to today’s well-supported and widespread scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate is a remarkable story of the integrity of the scientific process,” they argue, before giving an extended account of that journey. They also pose a series of procedural questions for the “red team” proposal, which they say “must be answered before applying the approach to science”. In an article for Vox, David Roberts also explores the “red team” idea. It is a “terrible plan” for assessing climate science, Roberts argues. But it could offer benefits in finding the best response to climate change, he says: “Like military strategists, we will have to think in terms of risk management, make decisions based not primarily on optimality — the situation is too urgent and too uncertain for economic optimisation — but on resilience…That is the kind of thing red-team exercises can help with.”
The “spiralling” bill to clean up the stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor “matters, because…it is feeding uncertainty hanging over the nuclear industry as it grapples with a profound crisis,” writes deputy business editor Robin Pagnamenta in the Times. He points to the recent cancellation of a half-built new nuclear plant in South Carolina, as well as the price tags for EDF’s schemes in northern France, Finland and Hinkley Point in the UK that run into the billions. “With such gigantic figures being bandied around…it’s no surprise that questions are being asked like never before about the commercial viability of nuclear power,” Pagnamenta writes. He adds: “The business opportunity for cleaning up or dismantling old nuclear plants looks a lot more compelling than building new ones.”
An increasingly hot and humid climate in South Asia could push conditions towards, or even beyond, the limits of human survivability, a new study suggests. Researchers project that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in South Asia are likely to approach a critical threshold of 35C by the late 21st century under the business-as-usual scenario. The most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around densely-populated farming regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins, the paper says
The perception about whether a place is a nice place to live often depends on how often it rains, yet information about the frequency of rainfall is patchy. A new paper remedies this by analysing a global rainfall dataset to assess 3-hourly, daily and seasonal patterns across the Earth. The researchers find that, averaged across the globe, it rains 11% of the time, and 8% of the time over land areas. In tropical regions in the path of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, this increases to more than 30%, and in arid areas it drops to less than 4%.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.