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Daily Briefing

17.08.2016
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING World’s biggest offshore wind farm given go-ahead & U.S. losses from hurricanes set to soar by 2100, & more
World’s biggest offshore wind farm given go-ahead & U.S. losses from hurricanes set to soar by 2100, & more

News.

World’s biggest offshore wind farm given go-ahead

The UK government has approved plans yesterday for the world’s largest wind farm to be built off the coast of Yorkshire. With 300 large turbines capable of generating enough power for 1.6m homes, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said the Hornsea project secured Britain’s position as a global leader in offshore wind: “The UK’s offshore wind industry has grown at an extraordinary rate over the last few years, and is a fundamental part of our plans to build a clean, affordable, secure energy system.” The move has been welcomed by environmental and renewable energy groups, providing much-needed certainty after the future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear project was thrown into doubt, reports The Guardian. Together with the adjacent Hornsea 1 project, the two sites together would have a similar capacity to the Hinkley C nuclear project, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, The Telegraph and Daily Express report the reaction from RSPB, who say the turbines will be directly in the flight path of gannets and kittiwakes that nest in protected wildlife area, leading to the “unnecessary death” of hundreds of birds. Denmark’s Dong Energy now has to take a final investment decision on the Hornsea project, which will depend on the outcome of a new round of auctions for renewable energy support expected at the end of the year. BBC News, The Times and The Mirror all have more on the story.

The Financial Times Read Article
U.S. losses from hurricanes set to soar by 2100

The annual cost of hurricane damage in the United States could rise eight-fold by the end of the century, as climate change increases the number and intensity of the storms, researchers said on Tuesday. A new study by the Germany-based Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) found that, contrary to previous studies, the economic losses from hurricanes will rise more strongly than gross domestic product. Globally, tropical cyclones account for more than 50% of economic losses caused by weather. Co-author prof Anders Levermann said that “the hope in economic growth as an answer to climate change is ill-founded”.

Reuters via MailOnline Read Article
Antarctica's sea ice said to be vulnerable to sudden retreat

Sea ice around Antarctica shrank 65% in a natural warm period between Ice Ages about 128,000 years ago, when temperatures were slightly warmer than now, according to new research. The study in the journal Nature Communications could indicate a “tipping point” in the sea ice system, say the scientific team who carried out the research. Louise Sime of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement, “By uncovering, for the first time, a huge retreat around Antarctica, we have established that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is also susceptible to major climate changes.” The authors say man-made climate change could trigger an abrupt retreat similar to this ancient one, which may have preceded a collapse of an ice sheet in West Antarctica that spilled into the sea and pushed up sea levels.

Reuters Read Article
Hinkley Point not necessary to keep the lights on, says SSE chief

The UK does not need EDF’s proposed Hinkley Point new nuclear plant as it has plenty of alternative options for keeping the lights on, according to rival energy company SSE. Saying the importance of the £18bn project for the UK’s energy needs “has been repeatedly overplayed”, Alistair Phillips-Davies insisted offshore wind and gas plants could fill the gap if Theresa May’s new government decided to pull the plug on Hinkley. Writing on the Politics Home blog, Phillips-Davies said: “Whilst it is undoubtedly true that we need new, cleaner technology to replace the older power stations coming off the system, there are enough credible alternatives out there which can be built in time to deliver the balanced energy mix we need.”

The Telegraph Read Article
World's hottest month shows challenges global warming will bring

As the world warms, areas such as the Middle East will suffer more than others, scientists have warned. Record temperature increases in July were not spread evenly, says Jos Lelieveld, an atmospheric researcher at the Max Planck institute for chemistry, with brutal temperatures across parts of the Middle east underlining the urgency of the security and humanitarian crises already hitting the region. His research warns large areas could become so hot in future that they would be virtually uninhabitable for human beings, triggering an exodus of hundreds of millions of refugees.

The Guardian Read Article
UN science panel debates 1.5C as climate records fall

Top UN officials have branded a special report into the dangers posed by warming above 1.5C a “yardstick” on which efforts to tackle climate change will be based. The report, due in 2018, will findings will form the “scientific basis” of a global stocktake, when 195 countries’ progress towards the goals set in the Paris Agreement will be assessed. This comes after the widely-reported news this week that July was world’s hottest month since records began, cementing a 99% chance of a new annual record in 2016. Carbon Brief has more on the what the much-anticipated 1.5C report is expected to contain about the ‘feasibility’ of meeting the 1.5C goal.

Climate Home Read Article

Comment.

‘Yes’ to Hinkley would be the most reckless choice

After six years as home secretary, Theresa May is used to tough decisions but while she must feel the crushing weight of the decision over Hinkley point, there is only so long she can procrastinate, says Pagnamenta. “To press ahead with Hinkley would be by far the most reckless course of action she could take…At more than £30 billion, the estimated cost of the subsidies…in order to construct two reactors at Hinkley looks increasingly ludicrous.” Saddling UK consumers and businesses with “such a shabby deal” would place Britain at an economic disadvantage for decades, he notes, far outweighing any short-term diplomatic damage from pulling the plug.

The Times Read Article

Science.

Antarctic last interglacial isotope peak in response to sea ice retreat not ice-sheet collapse

In the last warm “interglacial” period between ice ages, over 128,000 years ago, Antarctica lost 65% of its sea ice, a new study suggests. Using ice cores drilled from four locations across the East Antarctic ice sheet and model simulations, researchers pieced together a picture of the state of Antarctic sea ice during the last interglacial. The findings demonstrate the sensitivity of Antarctic sea ice extent to climate warming, the researchers conclude, and may give vital clues to what might happen by the end of the next century.

Nature Communications Read Article
Projected changes of Antarctic krill habitat by the end of the 21st century

Warming temperatures and a decline in sea ice could see Antarctic krill lose as much as 80% of their current habitat by the year 2100, a new study suggests. Krill are small crustaceans around a centimetre long, which are an essential food source for whales, penguins, seals, fish and other marine life. Researchers built a model to forecast krill populations as the climate warms, and the findings suggest that only localised regions along the western Weddell Sea, isolated areas of the Indian Antarctic, and the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas will support successful spawning habitats for krill by the end of the century.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
High-income does not protect against hurricane losses

Economic growth alone will not be able to offset the financial losses caused by increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes in the US, a new study says. Using model simulations, the researchers analysed past hurricanes in the US to see how economic damages related to wind speed, exposed population, and per capita income. When the researchers looked specifically at income, their projections for the future shows that financial losses per hurricane could triple by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, while annual losses could rise by a factor of eight.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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