Today's climate and energy headlines:
- World-leading climate scientist who made 'global warming' a household term dies age 87
- Fund more lab-grown meat to fight climate change, experts tell EU leaders
- Researchers plan to enlist ocean viruses in climate change fight
- Independent Group of MPs vows to 'act on the urgency of climate change'
- Rise in summertime thunderstorms 'robustly connected' to climate change
- Britain spent £440m on green schemes in well-off countries last year
- Becoming Greta: ‘invisible girl’ to global climate activist, with bumps along the way
- I can’t wait for the striking schoolchildren to grab the reins of power
- Climatic issues in early modern England: Shakespeare's views of the sky
Wallace Smith Broecker, a Columbia University professor and researcher who “fought to popularise the view that greenhouse gases could lead to a dramatic climate change”, has died aged 87, the Evening Standard reports. The “world-leading” climate scientist brought the term “global warming” into common use with a 1975 article that “correctly predicted rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced temperature rises”, the paper says. Broecker was also the first to recognise the “Ocean Conveyor Belt” – a global system of currents affecting everything from rain patterns to air temperature. His colleagues have described him as “unique, brilliant and combative”. Associated Press also has the story. Carbon Brief has previously analysed how well Broecker’s 1975 model projected global warming.
The thinktank Chatham House is calling on EU leaders to back the expansion of lab-grown meat to enable Europe to help tackle climate change, according to the Independent. The new report suggests that high-tech food will be key to the EU meeting its goals on climate change, human health and drug resistance, and “recommends that policymakers write new regulations on labelling and product naming, and invest in research and development of lab-grown meat”. “Animal agriculture is a significant driver of carbon dioxide emissions”, the Independent notes. The Financial Times also covers the Chatham House report, in addition to a new report from Barclays, examining how more attention is being paid to the contribution of the farming and food sectors to CO2 emissions. “Burping cows are more damaging to the climate than all the cars on this planet” analysts at Barclays says. “We believe that the biggest risk for companies and farmers along the value chain would be some sort of aggressive regulatory change.”
Manipulating the viruses that infect most of the bacteria in the oceans enables the microbes to absorb more CO2, which could be used to tackle climate change, the Financial Times reports. It had been assumed that viruses reduce the uptake of CO2 in bacteria, but new research from a team at Ohio State University found the opposite to be true. “The oceans are an important ‘carbon sink’”, the Financial Times writes. “If the oceans that cover 70% of the Earth’s surface can be harnessed to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere it could help to slow down the warming process”.
Seven disaffected MPs resigned from the UK’s Labour Party yesterday and have formed a new ‘Independent Group’, BusinessGreen writes. The new group – which includes former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, former shadow energy and climate minister Luciana Berger and former shadow environment minister Gavin Shuker – has promised to pursue steps to “safeguard the planet” and “act on the urgency of climate change”. While the group’s statement of values “was light on policy details”, it “hinted it was preparing to make action on climate change a key part of its platform”, BusinessGreen says. BusinessGreen’s James Murray has also written an opinion piece on the new group.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have for the first time “robustly connected” an increase in summer thunderstorms to climate change. The MailOnline reports that using annual data from 1979-2017, researchers “were able to calculate the change in the amount of electrical energy that can trigger storms across the globe year on year”. Their study – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – found that the energy that fuels storms rose by 13% over the period, while there was 6% less energy going to summer cyclones. Dr Paul O’Gorman, one of the study’s co-authors, commented: “We can see how this energy goes up and down over the years, and we can also separate how much energy is available for convection, which would manifest itself as thunderstorms for example, versus larger-scale circulations like extratropical cyclones.”
The Sun has written an article attacking the UK’s foreign aid spent on climate change projects. “Nearly half a billion pounds of Britain’s bloated foreign aid budget was spent promoting green projects in wealthy nations such as Brazil”, the paper says. The money is part of a five-year £5.8bn commitment to International Climate Finance, to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and to develop their economies without a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Carbon Brief has mapped out how the UK will spend “climate-specific” aid in 284 projects around the world.
Greta Thunberg’s “solitary act of civil disobedience…has turned her into something of a global commodity” begins a profile of the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, in the New York Times. Her protests have “inspired huge children’s demonstrations elsewhere, prompted a debate about whether children should skip classes for climate action, and invited trolls, haters and sceptics who wonder who profits from Greta”. The piece considers the impact of her new-found public role. Thunberg tells the paper: “All my life I’ve been invisible, the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything…From one day to another, people listen to me. That’s a weird contrast. It’s hard.”
In a comment piece for the Guardian, columnist Suzanne Moore praises the “passionate, articulate and unafraid” children protesting climate change in the UK. She writes: “I cannot wait for these people to grab the reins of power…Ageing is a fact, but open minds stay youthful. Those with old ideas need to get out of the way.” She also suggests that “the denunciation of the protests by the right wing is also a refusal to take climate change seriously”. Guardian readers also praised the schoolchildren, in letters to the paper.
Over in the Independent, comedian and actress Jenny Eclair expresses a similar opinion. “We are slowly and systematically poisoning the planet…thank goodness for the marching kids who bunked off school and gathered in central London to demonstrate against climate change”. She concludes: “My generation have made such a pig’s ear of everything, the only hope we have is that the next lot will take control and sort out some of the mess”. Elsewhere, a piece in the Conversation asks: “what next for the latest generation of activists?”
A new “focus article” examines the role of the weather in the plays of William Shakespeare in the 16th century. “Then as now, Shakespeare’s ‘sceptred isle’ was often exposed to the wind, the rain and the freezing air,” the article notes, and “people then had to struggle against the adverse weather conditions characterised by what is now referred to as the ‘Little Ice Age’”. “As actor and playwright, Shakespeare saw the sky as a theatrical element,” the author argues, “with a natural, elemental, and cosmic background whose effects and sounds were then made more than perceptible on the stages of the public playhouse”. In addition, his interest in the way weather conditions can affect human behaviour “prompted him to modify, and sometimes reverse, traditional religious or superstitious points of view”.