10-31-21 COP26: Last seven years warmest on record, says UN climate report
As the COP26 climate summit opens in Glasgow, the UN's World Meteorological Organization says global average temperatures have been 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels for two decades. The past seven years were the warmest on record, in what UN scientists say is another clear sign that climate change is “getting worse and worse”. The provisional finding comes on the same day as the COP26 climate summit opens in Glasgow, UK, where nearly 200 countries are meeting to avoid future catastrophic warming. The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a report that 2021 is currently the sixth or seventh warmest year on record, based on data to the end of September. With this year 1.09°C above pre-industrial levels, that will make 2015-2021 the seven hottest years since records began in 1850. The hottest year on record was 2016. One reason 2021 didn’t eclipse 2016 was due to the effects of La Niña, a weather cycle that results in global cooling. However, it was still about 0.2°C warmer than the last big La Niña year, 2011. Omar Baddour at the WMO says even though 2021 didn’t break the record, such year-to-year variations are to be expected and climate change hasn’t slowed. “The signal is very clear and the indicators are very clear to say that we are still in the situation where climate change is getting worse and worse,” he says. This year also marks the first time the 20-year global average temperature has been 1°C above pre-industrial levels since records began. Baddour says that is “very significant” as the world’s goals of holding warming to 1.5°C or well below 2°C will be measured not by a single year but over a longer time period. He adds that he expects the 1.5°C threshold will “definitely” be breached in the next three decades.
10-31-21 COP26: 'Moment of truth' as world meets for climate summit
The highly anticipated COP26 climate change summit has begun in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Delegates from around 200 countries are there to announce how they will cut emissions by 2030 and help the planet. With the world warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans, scientists warn that urgent action is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the summit will be the "world's moment of truth". Speaking ahead of the two-week conference, Mr Johnson urged leaders to make the most of it: "The question everyone is asking is whether we seize this moment or let it slip away." COP26 President Alok Sharma said agreement would be "tougher than what we achieved in Paris" five years ago, when almost all the world's nations agreed a treaty to "pursue efforts" to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C. "This is on leaders," he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show. "They need to come forward and we need to collectively agree how we are going to meet this goal." He said "we expected more" of countries such as China, the world's largest carbon emitter, and called the summit a "real opportunity" for them to show leadership. Day one of the summit will see a report on the state of the climate released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO's provisional report by climate scientists will compare global temperatures this year so far with previous years. Extreme weather events linked to climate change - including heatwaves, floods and forest fires - are intensifying. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments agree urgent collective action is needed. The United Nations gathering is one of the biggest summits the UK has ever hosted, and was delayed for a year because of the pandemic. COP stands for "conference of the parties" and it is the 26th such conference.
10-31-21 G20 in final push to reach deal on climate at Rome summit
The leaders of the world's richest economies will spend Sunday trying to reach a meaningful deal on preventing climate change. The G20 is hoping to make progress ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, which begins on Sunday. However, they have yet to announce any firm new commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the coming years. The G20 group, made up of 19 countries and the European Union, accounts for 80% of the world's emissions. The first day of the summit, being held in Rome, Italy, focused on Covid and the economy, with an agreement being reached on a global tax rate which will see the profits of large businesses taxed at least 15%. It follows concern that multinational companies are re-routing their profits through low tax jurisdictions. Sunday is dedicated to discussions on climate, with Britain's Prince Charles addressing the group. He urged the leaders to take action "for the sake of humanity", but acknowledged with the costs for new infrastructure likely to spiral into "trillions of dollars" it needed both government and the private sector to work in tandem. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi - who is hosting the event - went on to call on his colleagues to accelerate phasing coal and investing in renewable energy, while outlining long term goals. However, reaching an agreement on how best to cut carbon emissions - and to stop climate change getting worse - is proving difficult. After years of talking, the planet is now at least 1.1C hotter than the pre-industrial level. Climate scientist want warming restricted to 1.5C to prevent climate catastrophe. There were already concerns reaching a deal would not be easy, as among the leaders not appearing in person is China's President Xi Jinping. China is the world's biggest polluter - although, per person, its emissions are about half those of the US.
10-31-21 Summit is last, best hope to hit climate target - COP26 chief
'We have run out of excuses' - UN general assembly president. We're continuing to go back to the some of the speeches earlier at the official COP26 opening ceremony. The UN general assembly president told delegates the world was facing an existential crisis which it had the capacity to avert. But, he said, we are "simply not doing enough". Abdulla Shahid, who also serves as the foreign minister of the Maldives, said: "We have had decades to argue the facts about climate change...yet we have still failed to act with the conviction or determination required." On a more optimistic note, he argued the world was entirely capable of turning this around if leaders so chose. "We have run out of excuses. It is time to do the right thing." 1. The UK is hosting an international summit seen as crucial to bringing climate change under control. 2. The goal is to keep warming limited to 1.5C by 2100 but we are on track for 2.7C, which the UN says would result in "climate catastrophe". 3. COP26 president Alok Sharma says the summit is the world's "last, best hope" to hit the 1.5C target.4. More than 25,000 people are descending on the Scottish city of Glasgow for the two-week event, with large protests expected. 5. Nearly 200 countries are being asked for more ambitious targets to reduce their carbon emissions. 6. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls it a "moment of truth" and warns that failing to act will harm future generations. 7. Leaders from the world's wealthiest countries, including Johnson, are currently at the G20 summit in Rome - and will travel to Glasgow later
10-31-21 Greta Thunberg: It's never too late to do as much as we can
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg has been highly critical of global leaders over their action to limit global warming. But speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr ahead of the COP26 climate summit, she said she was still hopeful - but that "massive changes" were needed. The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.
10-31-21 JCB signs green hydrogen deal worth billions
Construction equipment maker JCB has signed a deal to buy billions of pounds of green hydrogen, defined as hydrogen produced using renewable energy. The deal means JCB will take 10% of the green hydrogen made by the Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries (FFI). FFI said the deal was a "first-of-a-kind partnership" that would see it become the UK's largest supplier of the clean fuel. Production, mostly done outside the UK, is expected to begin early next year. JCB and a firm called Ryze Hydrogen would then distribute it in the UK. green hydrogen a viable solution, telling the BBC it was "the right thing to do". Hydrogen does not produce carbon emissions when it is burned, so is considered a likely replacement for fossil fuels in heavy industries such as shipping and steel and cement-making. Lord Bamford has also called on the government to invest in hydrogen-fuelled forms of transport such as buses, trains and aircraft. In a statement, he said: "It's fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can't get green hydrogen to fuel their machines. "This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution." Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said low carbon hydrogen has a critical role to play in the UK's transition to net zero - that is balancing the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. In the government's UK Hydrogen Strategy, the business secretary argues the UK's "infrastructure and technical know-how make us ideally positioned to be a global leader in hydrogen". However, he has previously admitted its production, and use, would have to rapidly increase for the government's ambitions to be achieved. Robert Buckley, an energy analyst at Cornwall Insights, said: "Hydrogen has the potential to be a very important energy source for heavy transport and industry." But he pointed out that Australia, where the hydrogen for the JCB deal will largely be produced, has more solar electricity resources than the UK, as well as an established gas export industry.
10-31-21 COP26: Antarctic glacier is named in honour of Glasgow
A previously unnamed glacier in West Antarctica is to be called Glasgow Glacier to mark the Scottish city's hosting of the COP26 climate meeting. The 100km-long ice stream is in a region of the White Continent known to be experiencing rapid melting. Eight other nearby glaciers will also carry the names of cities where important climate reports were issued, or policies were agreed. They include Geneva, which held the very first climate conference in 1979. But anyone who's followed the meandering road of international climate diplomacy down the years will recognise, too, the significance of Rio, Berlin, Kyoto, Bali, Stockholm, Paris and Incheon (see their history below). The scientists who proposed the names said they wanted the glaciers to be a symbol of what was at stake in Glasgow over the next couple of weeks. "We know that if we continue on the current emissions path, we're heading for 2.7 degrees of warming (by the end of the century) and the consequences this will have for the intensity and regularity of events such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and issues with crop yields, etc," said Heather Selley, who monitors the glaciers using satellite imagery. "It's now up to us to decide whether this is the point where humans step up and try to address climate change, or whether it represents a downward spiral with continuing reliance on fossil fuels and the pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," the Leeds University and Alan Turing Institute researcher told BBC News. Ms Selley's team reported in February how the glaciers entering the ocean along the Getz coast in West Antarctica were being thinned and accelerated on encountering relatively warm seawater. Using the satellite data, the researchers calculated the area as a whole had lost some 315 billion tonnes of ice over the past 25 years - the equivalent of 126 million Olympic swimming pools of water.
10-30-21 Climate protesters flood Rome amid G-20 summit
Combating climate change is a major focus at this weekend's G-20 summit in Rome — not only among the world leaders gathered, but for the scores of protesters who have flooded the streets to call for stronger action. Global leaders meeting for the first time in two years have an ambitious agenda for the weekend, and started by all endorsing a global minimum corporate tax. The focus then turned to climate change, a welcome subject for the estimated thousands of protesters in Italy who are pushing for even stronger government commitments to climate justice, reports CNN. Italian authorities bolstered security measures to account for the weekend's protesters, blocking traffic around the G-20 venue and deploying 5,000 police officers to the area. Climate change activists blocking a main road near the G20 venue were forcibly removed by police on Saturday morning, police told CNN. In addition to climate protesters, demonstrators also include vaccine equity advocates, and workers who lost their jobs to globalization. Several public figures have chimed in on climate measures related to the weekend's summits: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said G-20 is a chance to "put things on track" in avoiding "climate catastrophe," while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asserted there is "no chance" leaders will so quickly land on an agreement to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. After the G-20 events, President Biden will head to COP26, a United Nations climate summit, where he will give a major address on climate issues. Read more at CNN.
10-30-21 Supreme Court to consider case that could block the EPA from limiting greenhouse gases
The Supreme Court will consider an appeal that could block the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting greenhouse gas output from power plants, reports Bloomberg. The court will hear from coal mining companies and Republican-led states that want to pare back the EPA's authority to curb emissions. Depending how the court rules, President Biden's administration could be prevented from enacting climate change measures working toward its pledge to reduce U.S. emissions in half by the end of this decade. As Bloomberg writes, critics have argued the EPA has overstepped its bounds in establishing new rules around greenhouse gas emissions. Even so, the decision by the Supreme Court to hear the appeal came as a "big surprise," Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA assistant administrator, told Bloomberg. The ruling will have "massive consequences," predicted a West Virginia-led group of 18 states, and could force "dramatic changes" in the regulation and production of U.S. energy. A ruling in favor of the mining companies would not only keep the EPA from regulating emissions, but would also block Congress from delegating that power to the agency, writes the University of Texas School of Law's Steve Vladeck. In the wake of the court's decision to take this case, energy reporter David Roberts predicted "SCOTUS [will] gut EPA authority" in several ways over the next few years. "It will radically constrain Biden's ability to reduce carbon," wrote Roberts, and "there's nothing he (or we) can do about it." In similarly dire terms, Reason's Jonathan Adler wrote: "Whichever way the Court goes, this will undoubtedly be the most important environmental law case on the Court's docket this term, and could well become one of the most significant environmental law cases of all time." EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the administration is "very optimistic that EPA does have the appropriate statutory authority to reduce CO2 emissions from coal plants." Read more at Bloomberg.
10-30-21 G20: Climate and Covid top agenda as world leaders meet
Climate change and Covid are top of the agenda of leaders from the world's major economies meeting in Italy. It is the first time the G20 leaders are meeting face-to-face since the start of the pandemic. However, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin are not in Rome for the summit, choosing to appear via video link instead. The talks come amid increasingly dire warnings for the future if urgent action is not taken to cut emissions. The G20 group - made up of 19 countries and the European Union - is estimated to account for 80% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Speaking to the BBC, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described climate change as "the biggest threat to humanity", saying it posed a "risk to civilisation basically going backwards". However, he acknowledged that neither the G20 meeting, nor the COP26 summit in Glasgow which begins on Monday, would halt global warming, but could, if the right measures were taken, "restrict the growth in the temperature of the planet". According to Reuters news agency, a draft communiqué outlines a promise from the G20 to work towards limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5C (2.7F), saying it "will require meaningful and effective actions by all countries". The draft also notes the need for "developed countries to mobilise $100bn (£73bn) annually from public and private sources through to 2025 to address the needs of developing countries" so they can tackle climate change - a promise richer countries have failed to keep since 2009, when it was initially pledged. COVID: Vaccine equality is at the front and centre of many leaders' minds. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the fact just 3% of the more than six billion Covid vaccine doses administered worldwide had gone to the poorest countries was "morally unacceptable". He called on fellow leaders to "do all we can" to vaccinate 70% of the world's population by the middle of next year.
10-29-21 COP26: Biden on diplomatic drive ahead of climate summit
President Joe Biden has arrived in Europe ahead of next week's key UN climate summit, with his signature climate policy yet to pass through the US Congress. The president's $1.75 trillion (£1.2tn) Build Back Better social welfare package includes more than $500bn of spending on green policies. Before leaving Washington, Mr Biden described the measures as historic. But differences among Democrats mean it is unlikely to pass before the summit. "It's a framework that will create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity," Mr Biden said in a TV address from the White House. The president heads for the COP26 global climate summit in Scotland on Sunday, but his first stop was the Vatican where he met the Pope after arriving in the early hours of Friday. Mr Biden thanked the pontiff for his advocacy for the world's poor and those suffering from hunger and persecution. He also praised the Pope's leadership on climate change. Mr Biden will also attend the G20 summit of major economies in Rome. His Build Back Better legislation covers a wide range of extra funding for health and child care, education and clean energy reforms. The green spending would seek to dramatically slash US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, provide new tax breaks for electric vehicles and roll out installation of solar panels on American homes. The president had hoped to have the package passed in time for COP26 which begins in Glasgow on Monday. The package is linked in Congress to a separate infrastructure bill worth $1.2tn. The bill has passed through the evenly split Senate, but some left-wing Democrats want changes to Build Back Better before agreeing to pass the infrastructure legislation through the House of Representatives and say both bills must be voted on at the same time. Mr Biden's fellow Democrats abandoned plans for a vote on Thursday. The president implored Democrats during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill to support his legislative plans, saying he wanted to prove that US democracy still works.
10-29-21 Climate change: What are the big polluters doing to cut carbon emissions?
Most carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by just four countries - China, the US, India and Russia - plus the European Union. They all agreed, in Paris, in 2015, to cut emissions to help limit dangerous rises in global temperatures - but what steps have they taken since? China is the largest producer of CO2, responsible for quarter of all global emissions. And its carbon emissions are still rising, largely because of a reliance on coal. China has not made clear if its carbon neutrality will involve cutting emissions or offsetting them by finding other ways to reduce an equivalent amount of CO2. Last month, President Xi Jinping announced it would stop funding new coal-fired projects overseas. But at home, coal mines have been ordered to ramp up production to meet surging energy demand, although Beijing has promised to cut back on coal use from 2026. China has made progress on renewable energy - it now accounts for more than a third of all global solar power and is the world's biggest producer of wind energy. But the country needs to cut demand for coal by more than 80% by 2060 to meet its climate goals, according to the International Energy Agency. Climate Action Tracker, meanwhile, says China's policies and actions are "insufficient" - and if every country followed the same path it would lead to a global temperature rise of 3C. US: The most emissions per person More than 80% of US energy comes from fossil fuels, although renewable energy sources are on the increase. President Joe Biden's environmental plan looks to expand green energy further, with a $150bn (£100bn) clean-electricity programme to reward utility companies switching from fossil fuels. But it has faced opposition from some US lawmakers concerned about the impact on the coal and fracking industry. CO2 emissions have been dropping over the past decade. But Climate Action Tracker says US actions and policies are "insufficient", needing "substantial improvement" to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping to a 1.5C increase in global warming. The European Union: Emissions falling The top CO2 emitters in the EU are Germany, Italy and Poland. And while it has overall emissions targets, EU states have differing financial and technical capabilities. But all member countries need to agree how they reach the bloc's targets, as the EU negotiates as a single entity when it comes to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop26). Climate Action Tracker says its policies and actions are "almost sufficient" to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2C, noting emissions have been falling since 2018.
10-29-21 Why China's climate policy matters to us all
China's carbon emissions are vast and growing, dwarfing those of other countries. Experts agree that without big reductions in China's emissions, the world cannot win the fight against climate change. In 2020, China's President Xi Jinping said his country would aim for its emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and for carbon neutrality before 2060. His statement has now been confirmed as China's official position ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow. But China has not said exactly how these goals will be achieved. While all countries face problems getting their emissions down, China is facing the biggest challenge. Per person, China's emissions are about half those of the US, but its huge 1.4 billion population and explosive economic growth have pushed it way ahead of any other country in its overall emissions. China became the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2006 and is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world's overall greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected to come under intense scrutiny at the COP26 summit over its commitments to reduce these. Along with all the other signatories to the Paris Agreement in 2015, China agreed to make changes to try to keep global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, and "well below" 2C. China strengthened its commitments in 2020, but Climate Action Tracker, an international group of scientists and policy experts say its current actions to meet that goal are "highly insufficient". Getting China's emissions down is achievable, according to many experts, but will require a radical shift. Coal has been the country's main source of energy for decades. President Xi says China will "phase down" coal use from 2026 - and will not build new coal-fired projects abroad - but some governments and campaigners say the plans are not going far enough. Researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing say China will need to stop using coal entirely for generating electricity by 2050, to be replaced by nuclear and renewable energy production. And far from shutting down coal-fired power stations, China is currently building new ones at more than 60 locations across the country, with many sites having more than one plant. (Webmasters Comment: Per capita the United States has twice China's emissions!)
10-29-21 Greta Thunberg: Activist calls on banks to stop funding climate 'destruction'
Greta Thunberg has called on banks to "stop funding our destruction", ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit. The teenage Swedish climate activist is in London to take part in protests demanding the financial system stops funding fossil fuel projects. She told the BBC's Andrew Marr that "change is possible" at the summit, if pressure on politicians is maintained. But she added she has not been "officially" invited to speak at the event in Glasgow. The demonstrations against investment in fossil fuel projects come as world leaders gather in the Scottish city ahead of COP26's opening on Sunday. The protest in London is part of a series taking place on Friday at financial centres around the world, including New York, San Francisco and Nairobi. Campaigners are calling on banks not to lend money to companies and projects that use fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The COP26 conference will see more than 200 countries asked to set out their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The summit is seen as crucial if countries are to implement a pledge made in 2015 keep global warming "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels. As the host country, the UK is under pressure to get them to make ambitious commitments to reduce the greenhouse gases they emit. Ms Thunberg confirmed this week she will travel to Glasgow to join a "climate strike" taking place during the summit. But asked whether she had been asked to speak at the event, she replied: "I don't know. It's very unclear. Not, like, officially." In its official summit programme, the UK said it wanted to "elevate youth voices" during a series of events arranged on one of the summit days alongside the UN's official youth climate arm. There will also be a discussion on the outcomes of September's Youth4Climate summit in Milan, where Ms Thunberg delivered a speech in which she mocked politicians' use of climate slogans. The interview was recorded at the Natural History Museum, where the activist examined a newly discovered species of beetle named after her in 2019. The interview will be shown on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show on BBC One.
10-29-21 Climate change: Major US oil companies face grilling by Congress
.Top oil executives have appeared before US lawmakers to face allegations they misled the public about climate change. Major producers were quizzed about the impact of the fossil fuels they profit from and their environmental toll. The hearing on Thursday, which Democrats hailed as historic, marked the first time oil bosses had answered questions publicly and under oath. The six-hour session saw some heated exchanges, with firms such as BP and Shell facing tough questions. "Some of us actually have to live the future that you are all setting on fire for us," Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said. But the executives of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell repeatedly spoke about their efforts to transition to clean energy and denied misleading the public. The session, which saw decades of lobbying and public statements by America's biggest energy firms put under the spotlight, came just days before the start of the UN's COP26 climate conference. President Joe Biden is set to fly to Glasgow for the meeting of world leaders, which is being seen as a crucial moment in the global fight against climate change. The hearing in House of Representatives Oversight Committee hearing was part of a broad probe that Democrats said would last a year. "For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of a climate catastrophe," committee chairwoman Carolyn B Maloney said during her introduction. Questioning Exxon's CEO, she said there had been a "clear conflict" between what past executives had said publicly versus the the effects of the company's activities on the climate. Ms Maloney also condemned the companies for failing to provide internal documents that the committee had requested ahead of the hearings. The committee had been seeking records relating to "payments to shadow groups," public relations firms and other firms, as well as records of communications from senior executives discussing their companies' role in the climate crisis.
10-29-21 Pope urges 'radical' climate response in exclusive BBC message
In a message recorded exclusively for the BBC, Pope Francis has called on world leaders meeting next week at the UN Climate conference in Glasgow to provide "effective responses" to the environment emergency and offer "concrete hope" to future generations. Speaking from the Vatican for BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, the Pope talked of crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and economic difficulties, and urged the world to respond to them with vision and radical decisions, so as not to "waste opportunities" that the current challenges present. "We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism and exploitation," the pontiff said, "or we can see in them a real chance for change." He evoked the need for "a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world", adding that "each of us - whoever and wherever we may be - can play our own part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home." The Pontiff is due to meet US President Joe Biden at the Vatican later. Mr Biden's domestic climate policies are yet to pass through the US Congress. The message is a reminder of the emphasis Francis has placed on environmentalism throughout his pontificate. He has frequently evoked the climate crisis in speeches, and in 2015 published an encyclical, or papal document, called Laudato Si' focusing on the issue. In the text, subtitled On Care for our Common Home, he decried environmental destruction, stressed the need to take mitigating measures and gave an unambiguous acceptance that climate change was largely manmade. The letter was issued before the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris, COP21, and was seen as having some impact on pushing leaders towards an agreement. It was evoked during discussions, including by the president of Paraguay, who spoke of the Pope's "dramatic warning that we face a crisis and need to protect the world upon which we rely for life".
10-29-21 Arnold Schwarzenegger calls leaders 'liars' over climate
The actor and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaks to the BBC ahead of the COP26 climate summit. He has become a champion of clean air and renewable energy and speaks powerfully about tackling climate issues. In an interview for Radio 4's '39 Ways to Save the Planet', the Terminator star criticises countries for not doing more to tackle pollution.
10-29-21 COP26: Arnold Schwarzenegger angered by world leaders' climate policies
Arnold Schwarzenegger says leaders who claim combating climate change hurts the economy are "stupid or liars". Ahead of the COP26 climate summit, the former governor of California told the BBC that cutting carbon emissions will benefit global economies. The Terminator actor said reducing meat intake does not have to mean sacrificing something - instead cutting his own has led him to be healthier. He also took aim at pollution caused by international trade. In a wide-ranging interview for BBC Radio 4's 39 Ways to Save the Planet series, Mr Schwarzenegger claimed California's continued economic success and prolific job creation proves carbon dioxide reduction and boosting wealth go hand in hand. "They are liars, they are stupid. Or they don't know how to do it, because we figured how to do it and it's all about having the balls to do it," he argued. Mr Schwarzenegger became a champion of clean air and renewable energy while governor between 2003 and 2011 - setting targets to reduce exhaust fumes and greenhouse gas emissions. Since leaving office he has used his fame and influence to promote carbon-cutting policies, notably with the Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative. Mr Schwarzenegger is also critical of an environmental agenda focused on lifestyle sacrifice. The former champion bodybuilder says he has reduced his meat intake by around three-quarters in the last few years, but argues he is "gaining" as a result. "Since eating more vegetables and plant-based foods my heart doctor said my arteries have stopped narrowing," he said. "So how have I given up something? I gained my health, it gave me an extra two years." Mr Schwarzenegger also believes technology is delivering solutions and cites his Hummer - a massive military style off-road vehicle - that he switched from diesel to battery power as evidence, given the electric version goes faster with more horsepower.
10-28-21 Climate change: Polls shows rising demand for government action
Popular support for governments to take tough action on climate change is growing around the world, according to a BBC World Service opinion poll. The survey of over 30,000 people finds that 56% want their countries to play a leadership role at the critical COP26 meeting next week. The desire to see ambitious goals set in Glasgow has grown substantially since 2015. Concern about climate change is also at its highest point since 1998. Presidents and prime ministers from around 120 countries will gather in Glasgow next week for the COP26 conference, dubbed the last, best chance of averting dangerous climate change. Recent research shows that the plans so far on the table will not prevent global temperatures going far above 1.5C this century - a level that scientists say is the gateway to extreme impacts. The UK, which is presiding over the talks, will hope that in negotiations with leaders they will be able to find a pathway that reduces emissions fast enough to stay below 1.5C. This new poll suggests that people in rich and poor nations alike are supportive of the idea of greater ambition from their leaders. Across the 31 countries polled, an average of 56% of people want their governments to set stronger targets that would address climate change as quickly as possible. Another 36% want their government to take a more moderate approach and support gradual action. Just 8% want their governments to oppose a deal. In the 18 countries where a similar survey was carried out ahead of COP21 in Paris in 2015, the expectation for governments to play a leading role has grown substantially. In 2015, 43% of those polled wanted strong action, but that has risen to 58% now. "In advance of the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015, global public opinion exhibited relatively strong expectations for governments to deliver an ambitious climate change agreement, which in the end is what transpired," said Chris Coulter, the chief executive of Globescan, which carried out the poll. "Now, in advance of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow next week, we are seeing significantly higher levels of expectations - an increase of 25% worldwide - for governments to conclude an ambitious deal. This is an extraordinary shift in a relatively short period of time and the implications being that governments that don't deliver on these expectations could face political consequences." There are some interesting changes in some of the biggest emitting countries, particularly China, where the percentage of respondents wanting to see their country play a leadership role has increased from 18% in 2015 to 46% now.
10-28-21 Climate change: Human activity makes forests emit carbon
Ten of the world's most protected forests have become net emitters of carbon, as they are degraded by human activity and climate change. The alarming insight is from a study of planet-warming gases emitted from and absorbed by forests in Unesco World Heritage sites. It revealed 10 protected forests had emitted more carbon than they locked away over the past 20 years. World heritage forests span an area twice the size of Germany. The same research also revealed the network of 257 World Heritage forests around the world collectively removed 190 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. "That is nearly half of the UK's annual carbon emissions from fossil fuels," said Dr Tales Carvalho Resende, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), who co-authored the report. "We now have the most detailed picture to date of the vital role that [these] forests play in mitigating climate change." But forests face a raft of pressures, including illegal logging, the expansion of farming and wildfires - which are made more likely by climate change. Combining satellite-derived data with monitoring information at the site level, researchers estimated the carbon absorbed and emitted by World Heritage forests between 2001 and 2020. But as well as calculating the billions of tonnes of carbon absorbed by all that "biomass" of trees and vegetation, the research revealed how much pressure some of these sites were under. The sites studied in this assessment have some of the highest levels of official protection. They are deemed globally significant in terms of their natural value to the world and are closely and continuously monitored. "But they're still under significant pressure," Dr Carvalho Resende said. "The main pressures are agricultural encroachment, illegal logging - human-induced pressures. "But we also found climate-related threats - most specifically wildfires."
10-28-21 Oil bosses face landmark hearing on climate change
Top oil executives are to testify before Congress amid accusations their companies misled the public about climate change. Democrat lawmakers say the hearings will focus on the industry's decades-long denial of its products' role in global warming. The oil companies say they hope to use the hearings to highlight recent efforts to address the problem. The hearings come days before world leaders gather in Glasgow for the UN's COP26 climate conference. World leaders will be pressed in Glasgow on their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and thereby reduce warming. Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney has opened proceedings, saying she hopes today's hearing "represents a turning point for big oil". "I hope that today the executives own up the industry's central role in this crisis and commit to the changes we need," she says. "After four decades of deception and delay, it is time for the fossil fuel industry to finally change its ways." The hearing is the start of a year's worth of investiations into whether oil firms misled Americans about their role in climate change. The hearing has kicked off, with some members in the committee room and others appearing by Zoom. Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney has called it a "historic" event. Democrats are trying to compare this hearing to the blistering testimony by Big Tobacco in the 1990s, when executives admitted to the harmful impacts of smoking cigarettes. A photo of the so-called Seven Dwarfs, leaders of the largest tobacco companies testifying to Congress was emblazoned on the front pages of newspapers all over the US and around the world. But this hearing will not likely have quite the same impact. The oil execs are allowed to testify by video, which means it won’t have the same visual impact. And as with most things in Washington these days, the hearing will be very partisan. Republicans have already said they will use the hearing to denounce the Biden administration’s climate change agenda.
10-28-21 China's new climate plan promises to peak CO2 emissions before 2030
China is responsible for 27 per cent of global emissions, making its newly announced climate plan an important move ahead of the COP26 climate summit. China has promised to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030, in a significant upgrade to its climate change plans made just three days before the start of COP26 summit in Glasgow, UK. The revised plan submitted to the United Nations, known as a nationally-determined contribution, formalises several pledges made by the Chinese president Xi Jinping earlier this year and in 2020. It commits China to peaking the country’s emissions “before” 2030, rather than “around” 2030 as previously pledged. China also says it will reduce its “carbon intensity” – a measure of emissions per unit of gross domestic product – by 65 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. That is the upper end of a range of 60-65 per cent in its earlier plan. The plan also promises to cut the share of fossil fuels in China’s energy consumption to 75 per cent by 2030, an upgrade on the previous pledge of 80 per cent. China is the world’s biggest emitter, responsible for 27 per cent of global emissions, making it a key player in determining whether the world meets the goals of the Paris Agreement. The aim of COP26 is to put governments on track closer to meeting those goals.
10-28-21 Climate change: Can India meet its targets?
The Indian government has yet to submit its latest plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, ahead of the forthcoming United Nations climate summit in the UK. India is the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), after China and the United States. With its rapidly growing population and an economy heavily dependent on coal and oil, its emissions are set on a steep upward trajectory unless radical action is taken to curb them. ndia has resisted setting a target for an overall reduction, saying industrialised nations should bear a much greater share of the burden as they have contributed far more to emissions over time. An "emissions-intensity" target, which reflects a country's economic growth, is a fairer way to compare it with other countries, it says. It has set a target of a 33-35% cut in its emissions intensity from the 2005 level by 2030. However, a fall in carbon intensity does not necessarily mean a reduction in overall emissions. And India's relatively rapid economic growth in recent years has been driven by its reliance on fossil fuels - accounting for most of the country's greenhouse-gas emissions. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says a target of global net zero - where a country is not adding to the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - by 2050 is the minimum needed to keep the temperature rise at 1.5C. And more than 130 countries have publicly promised to meet this. But India is not yet among them. In 2015, India promised a fivefold increase - to 175GW - by 2022 in the generating capacity of its wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, such as small hydroelectric plants. But by September of 2021, it had achieved just over 100GW only. Also in 2015, India promised to provide 40% of all electric power from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 - according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2019 this figure was 23%. But the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), which measures a country's policies against Paris Agreement goals set in 2015, calls this target "critically insufficient". Cindy Baxter, of CAT, says developing countries such as India, need international support to decarbonise their economies and limit the temperature increase to 1.5C in line with the Paris Agreement. "India has no plan to decarbonise," Ms Baxter said. "Nor does it have a conditional target that identifies where it needs support or indeed how much support it needs."
10-28-21 UK will 'pause' publication of data showing biodiversity in decline
Next year will see an important meeting to agree global biodiversity targets, but the UK says it won't be publishing key data on wildlife and habitats. Conservationists and politicians have criticised the UK government for its decision to temporarily stop publishing new data on the state of the country’s wildlife and habitats in 2022, the same year as a landmark UN biodiversity summit. Figures published today by the Department for Food, Rural Affairs & Environment (Defra) show a deteriorating picture for habitats, as well as for priority species, such as otters and red squirrels; woodland birds and butterflies that are reliant on specific habitats, such as the Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon). The UK, like many other countries, has failed to arrest declines in biodiversity in recent years despite signing up to global targets to protect nature. In April 2022, nations are expected to renew their commitment to act by agreeing new biodiversity targets for 2030 at the COP15 summit in Kunming, China.However, Defra said that it will “pause” publishing new data on the state of UK biodiversity in 2022 to enable a “thorough review” of the indicators, such as the pressures from invasive species or the health of bird populations and other animals. Publication will not resume until 2023. Mark Avery, a conservationist and former conservation director of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, says: “It seems like Defra’s response to a biodiversity crisis is to stop publishing the data that show it’s happening. That’s not very good, is it?” “It’s depressing,” says Chris Packham, the naturalist and broadcaster. “There’s one way to avoid a crisis and that’s to pretend there isn’t one. By not making that data available, it’s not giving people access to the stick to beat them with.” He adds the timing is especially galling, given the COP26 climate summit starting this Sunday, and the biodiversity summit in China next year.
10-28-21 Sir David Attenborough polar ship makes its London debut
The UK's new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has completed basic sea trials and is ready to undertake its first expedition. The vessel came up the Thames on Wednesday through the Woolwich Barrier and is now tied up in Greenwich. It is spending a few days at the home of the Prime Meridian to enable the public to see it, but also to mark the start of the COP26 climate conference. World governments meet in the Scottish city of Glasgow from Sunday. The Attenborough, named after the TV naturalist and BBC presenter Sir David, is the ship the public wanted to call "Boaty McBoatface" in an online poll but were overruled by ministers. International senior scientific advisers are using the Attenborough as a platform to issue a statement about the urgent need to address the climate crisis. They want to see a concerted drive to develop - and use - the technologies that will keep global temperature rise below 1.5C and underpin the net zero economies of tomorrow. These technologies include better ways of creating, storing and using low-emissions energy - including improving semiconductors, batteries and low-emitting fuel production - as well as work on heating and cooling, and carbon capture and storage. "I think the first thing to say is sticking to 1.5 is both important and achievable," Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, told BBC News. "But it's only achievable if we get urgent action. If you work back, for example, from 2050, and ask what you need to do, you can't rely on something coming along late in the day and saving us. It's about utilising the technologies we have now, getting them in place as soon as we can at scale. And that in itself requires R&D (research and development), and making sure that we use both technology, and, of course, natural actions, and the behavioural changes that we all need to take."
10-27-21 Andreas Malm interview: Why climate protesters need to embrace unrest
Given the scale of threat and the size of the organisations they are fighting, climate activists must move beyond civil disobedience to property destruction and even sabotage, says controversial campaigner Andreas Malm. WHAT is it about Sweden and climate campaigners? It has produced Greta Thunberg, of course, but also Andreas Malm, a writer and human ecologist at Lund University and a long-time climate activist. You might think of him as Greta turned up to 11. His controversial new book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to fight in a world on fire, has a deliberately provocative title, but in it he makes the point that escalating environmental protests, from mass civil disobedience to property destruction and even sabotage, look necessary. Rowan Hooper: Your book isn’t a manual about how to literally go about destroying pipelines. Rather, it asks why climate activists don’t use tactics of destruction. So why don’t they? Andreas Malm: It’s a paradox. Just look at the most recent summer, which was truly a season in global hell with so many climate disasters one after the other. And still you don’t see people taking out their frustration on the sources of their misery. And the paradox is also intensifying, given how much social unrest of other kinds you’ve seen in the world in recent years. Generally, the climate movement behaves in a very gentle and polite fashion. The International Energy Agency said just a few months ago that we cannot have any new installations in coal and oil and gas [if the world is to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming], and still that’s going on without any mass backlash against it. Most protest movements emphasise peaceful, non-violent resistance as the only way to overcome tyranny. Is that true? No. I find it very hard to accept the reading of history that people from the leadership of Extinction Rebellion, for instance, have promoted – namely the idea that in past social struggles for progressive causes, those that have succeeded have steered clear of any kind of violence and only engaged in absolutely peaceful civil disobedience. You can very easily find significant components of militant confrontation, ranging from the very obvious case of the abolition of slavery – which in the US happened through a very bloody civil war – to property destruction at the hands of the suffragettes, to rioting in the case of the poll tax in the UK.
10-27-21 Meadows could be our secret weapon in the fight against climate change
HUMANITY’S connections to grasslands run deep. Our ideas of the perfect habitat lean heavily on the meadow, brimming with bumblebees and butterflies flitting between wild flowers: the perfect idyll. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote: “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” Permanent grasslands hold about a third of Earth’s terrestrial carbon, meaning they can’t be overlooked when we talk about slowing climate change. More grasslands, and especially more biodiverse ones, means more natural carbon storage. Yet instead of expanding these habitats, we risk losing them entirely. The past 100 years has seen this terrain destroyed on a terrifying scale. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the UK alone has lost at least 97 per cent of its meadows. Tall grass prairie in the US once covered 170 million acres, less than 4 per cent of which survives. Pollinators, such as butterflies and bumblebees, that create and depend on these biodiverse environments are also at risk. Often, grasslands are seen as empty spaces. They are there to be ploughed and sown and built on. Their destruction isn’t met with the same angst as deforestation by the public or politicians. While one of the goals of the COP26 climate conference is the halting of deforestation, there is no such stated aim to protect meadows, savannahs and steppes. That is why my organisation, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, has joined a group to push the protection and restoration of species-rich grasslands to the top of the global political agenda. The Grasslands+ coalition will be led by UK charities Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation and the trust I head, and together we will advocate for the symbiosis of plants, pollinators and people.
10-27-21 Eat less meat and fly less to help climate, says Patrick Vallance
The UK's chief scientist has said that both green technology and behavioural changes will be needed to tackle climate change. Tackling the climate crisis will require behavioural changes such as eating less meat and flying less, as well as green technology, the UK’s chief scientific adviser has said. Patrick Vallance made the comments as he joined senior scientific advisers from around the world to issue a statement ahead of the COP26 climate talks, which begin on 31 October in Glasgow, UK. It called on leaders to take urgent action to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – beyond which more severe impacts of global warming will be felt. The statement, signed by nearly 40 chief scientists and equivalents, said it was still possible to curb temperature rises to 1.5°C, but only with steep reductions in global emissions by 2030 and reducing them to zero overall by 2050. The advisers said stabilising the climate would limit sea level rises and extreme weather events, improve prosperity and protect human health and nature. They also said addressing climate change would require intense international collaboration on research and innovation to develop and deliver new solutions across all sectors of the global economy. Action to adapt to the consequences of climate change that are already inevitable “is critical”, they warned. The statement, released as leaders and negotiators head to Glasgow for the latest round of UN talks to tackle the climate crisis, said limiting warming “will require rapid, urgent and sustained action and significant behavioural, socioeconomic and technological transformations across the world”. “This must begin with rapid scale-up and deployment of a wide range of existing and novel technological solutions,” it said.
10-27-21 Earth will warm 2.7 degrees Celsius based on current pledges to cut emissions
On the eve of a major climate meeting, a U.N. report flags too little progress reining in warming. This year was supposed to be a turning point in addressing climate change. But the world’s nations are failing to meet the moment, states a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme. The Emissions Gap Report 2021: The Heat Is On, released October 26, reveals that current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in global warming still put the world on track to warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. Aiming for “net-zero emissions” by midcentury — a goal recently announced by China, the United States and other countries, but without clear plans on how to do so — could reduce that warming to 2.2 degrees C. But that still falls short of the mark, U.N. officials stated at a news event for the report’s release. At a landmark meeting in Paris in 2015, 195 nations pledged to eventually reduce their emissions enough to hold global warming to well below 2 degrees C by 2100 (SN: 12/12/15). Restricting global warming further, to just 1.5 degrees C, would forestall many more devastating consequences of climate change, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, reported in 2018 (SN: 12/17/18). In its latest report, released in August, the IPCC noted that extreme weather events, exacerbated by human-caused climate change, now occur in every part of the planet — and warned that the window to reverse some of these effects is closing (SN: 8/9/21). Despite these dire warnings, “the parties to the Paris Agreement are utterly failing to keep [its] target in reach,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “The era of half measures and hollow promises must end.” The new U.N. report comes at a crucial time, just days before world leaders meet for the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. The COP26 meeting — postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — holds particular significance because it is the first COP meeting since the 2015 agreement in which signatories are expected to significantly ramp up their emissions reductions pledges.
10-27-21 Report: White House telling Democrats climate spending could top $555 billion
The White House has told several congressional allies that the Democrats' spending bill will include between $500 billion and $555 billion for climate change programs, four people familiar with the matter told Politico Tuesday. During a phone call with reporters, a senior Biden administration official did not share any details on the amount, only saying, "We continue to engage with Congress on this incredibly important topic and see the ball moving forward. We feel that the conversations have been accelerating in the right direction." People with knowledge of the negotiations told Politico the bill will not include a proposed system of penalties intended to get power companies to increase renewable energy. To replace this program, which Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposed, there will be grants, tax credits, and loans that will help steel, cement, and aluminum companies quickly decarbonize. President Biden, who has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels this decade, will attend a global climate summit next week in Scotland. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters the goal has "always been, send the president to Glasgow with a very strong position."
10-26-21 Earth will warm by 2.7°C under net-zero pledges made ahead of COP26
Standing a chance of staying under the Paris Agreement's target of 1.5°C of warming would require annual emissions in 2030 to be 28 billion tonnes lower than what countries' plans and pledges ahead of COP26 deliver. Earth will warm by 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels under pledges made by countries ahead of the COP26 climate summit, a disastrous level that would drive devastating flooding, heatwaves and the risk of dangerous tipping points. The grim estimate in Emissions Gap Report 2021, a report for the United Nations Environment Programme, uses an analysis of governments’ promises and their formal emissions reductions plans ahead of the summit in Glasgow. One of the key aims of COP26 is to elicit new, stronger plans from countries for the first time since the Paris Agreement in 2015. But despite bold commitments from the US, EU, UK, Japan and other big emitters, and even counting China’s public promises in lieu of a formal plan, the world is set to fall far short of Paris’s goals of limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. “On the positive side, we do see things are moving. Countries have, in general, submitted stronger plans,” says Anne Olhoff at the Technical University of Denmark, one of the report’s authors. “At the same time, this is happening way, way too slowly. It’s like turning around a supertanker. Progress is simply too slow. We’re taking baby steps instead of giant leaps,” she adds. Totting up all the plans and pledges shows they are estimated to reach 4 billion fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide from annual emissions in 2030 than the original plans dating back to Paris. However, standing a chance of staying under 1.5°C of warming would require annual emissions in 2030 to be 28 billion tonnes lower than what the plans and pledges deliver. Annual emissions today are about 40 billion tonnes. “It clearly shows we are way off the target,” says Olhoff. One key country that could move the dial slightly is India, which hasn’t yet put forward a plan.
10-26-21 Climate change: UN emissions gap report a 'thundering wake-up call'
National plans to cut carbon fall far short of what's needed to avert dangerous climate change, according to the UN Environment Programme. Their Emissions Gap report says country pledges will fail to keep the global temperature under 1.5C this century. The Unep analysis suggests the world is on course to warm around 2.7C with hugely destructive impacts. But there is hope that, if long term net-zero goals are met, temperatures can be significantly reined in. Just a few days before COP26 opens in Glasgow and another scientific report on climate change is "another thundering wake-up call", according to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. This week, we've already had a study from the WMO showing that warming gases were at a new high last year, despite the pandemic. Now in its 12th year, this Emissions Gap report looks at the nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) or carbon-cutting plans that countries have submitted to the UN ahead of COP. These pledges run up to 2030 and have been submitted by 120 countries. Unep has also taken account of other commitments to cut warming gases not yet formally submitted in an NDC. The report finds that when added together, the plans cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by around 7.5% compared to the previous pledges made five years ago. This is nowhere near enough to keep the 1.5C temperature threshold within sight, say the scientists who compiled the study. To keep 1.5C alive would require 55% cuts by the same 2030 date. That means the current plans would need to have seven times the level of ambition to remain under that limit. "To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts," said Inger Andersen, executive director of Unep.
10-26-21 Climate change: Sir David Attenborough in 'act now' warning
"If we don't act now, it'll be too late." That's the warning from Sir David Attenborough ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The broadcaster says the richest nations have "a moral responsibility" to help the world's poorest. And it would be "really catastrophic" if we ignored their problems, he told me in a BBC News interview. "Every day that goes by in which we don't do something about it is a day wasted," he said. Sir David and I were speaking at Kew Gardens in London during filming for a new landmark series, The Green Planet, to be aired on BBC1 next year. Our conversation ranged from the latest climate science to the importance of COP26 to the pace of his working life. The UN climate science panel recently concluded that it is "unequivocal" that human activity is driving up global temperatures. And Sir David said that proved that he and others had not been making "a fuss about nothing", and that the risks of a hotter world are real. "What climate scientists have been saying for 20 years, and that we have been reporting upon, you and I both, is the case - we were not causing false alarms. "And every day that goes by in which we don't do something about it is a day wasted. And things are being made worse". But he said the report had not convinced everyone and that they are acting as a brake on efforts to tackle climate change. "There are still people in North America, there are still people in Australia who say 'no, no, no, no, of course it's very unfortunate that there was that forest fire that absolutely demolished, incinerated that village, but it's a one-off'. "Particularly if it's going to cost money in the short term, the temptation is to deny the problem and pretend it's not there. "But every month that passes, it becomes more and more incontrovertible, the changes to the planet that we are responsible for that are having these devastating effects."
10-26-21 Climate change: Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050
Leading global coal and gas supplier Australia has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Prime Minister Scott Morrison however said the plan would not include ending Australia's fossil fuel sectors. The nation will also not set ambitious targets for 2030 - an objective of next month's COP26 global climate summit. His plan has drawn criticism, with Murdoch University fire ecology expert Joe Fontaine saying it had "all the strength of a wet paper bag". Australia has long dragged its heels on climate action. It has some of the highest emissions per head of population and is a massive exporter of fossil fuels. Strategic allies the US and UK have both pledged to cut emissions faster. The UK has pledged that all its electricity will come from renewable sources by 2035, while the US has announced plans to halve its emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. "We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia. The Australian Way is all about how you do it, and not if you do it. It's about getting it done," Mr Morrison wrote in a newspaper column on Tuesday. To halt the worst effects of climate change, nations have pledged to limit rising temperatures to 1.5C by 2050. This requires cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050, scientists say. Over 100 nations have committed to carbon neutrality. Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is achieved by a combination of cutting emissions as much as possible - mainly by reducing gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), which are released in the use of fossil fuels - and so-called offsetting measures, such as planting trees and carbon-capture technology. Mr Morrison announced an investment of more than A$20bn (£11bn; $15bn) in "low-emissions technologies" over the next 20 years - such as efforts to capture carbon in soil, lower solar energy costs, and developing greener industries.
10-26-21 Climate change: Make people fly less, ministers told
The government has been blamed for failing to reduce demand for flying and meat-eating as part of its plans to rein in climate change. The Climate Change Committee advisory body says ministers also have not shown how to achieve their ambition of cutting the demand for road travel. It warns a “techno-centric” approach to cutting emissions adopted by the prime minister has a high risk of failure. But a report from the committee praised the government's Net Zero Strategy. A government spokeswoman welcomed the CCC’s generally positive response to the Net Zero Strategy and said it would meet all its climate change goals. Boris Johnson has regularly promised that climate change can be tackled without what he calls “hairshirtery”. Many experts agree technology is needed but say behaviour must change too. They judge that the demand for high-carbon activities must be cut for the UK to meet climate targets in the 2030s. The report from the CCC - an independent body advising the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets - comes ahead of the COP26 climate summit which will be held in Glasgow from Sunday. It says: "There is less emphasis on reducing demand for high carbon activities than in the CCC's scenarios. "The government does not include an explicit ambition on diet change, or reductions in the growth of aviation, and policies for managing travel demand have not been developed to match the funding that has been committed." The committee added: "These remain valuable options with major co-benefits and can help manage delivery risks around a techno-centric approach. They must be explored further with a view to early action." Nick Eyre, Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at the University of Oxford, went even further. With reference to the PM's "hairshirtery" jibe, he told a COP26 media briefing: "The PM's headline about not changing the way we use energy is not just helpful - it's unrealistic. "We won't reach climate goals unless there's a combination of technology and behaviour change."
10-25-21 What to expect from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow
The United Nations COP26 climate summit, which runs from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow, UK, has been described as a “turning point for humanity” and “the most consequential summit… ever”. Delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic, the meeting is by far the most important gathering on climate change since nearly 200 countries adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015. Where the Paris meeting’s job was to forge a new global treaty on curbing global warming, the task in Glasgow is to ensure that action is being delivered. The pandemic meant vital in-person diplomacy to lay the groundwork for the summit was largely replaced by virtual meetings. Meanwhile, unequal access to covid-19 vaccines and the inequity around delegates’ capacity to be in Glasgow has heightened old tensions between high- and low-income countries that have dogged past international climate summits. But it would be wrong to think that everything was rosy in 2015 and terrible now. “My memory, but human memory in general, is pathetically short,” says Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of UN Climate Change. “We look back at Paris in 2015 and assume everything was already ironed out.” That wasn’t the case. There is no single official goal for Glasgow’s outcome, but as hosts, COP26 president Alok Sharma and the UK government have framed the meeting’s purpose as “keeping 1.5°C alive”, a reference to the toughest of the Paris Agreement’s targets for limiting warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The main way of measuring that is the “emissions gap”. This is the chasm between what nations have pledged in their climate plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – and what is needed to have a chance of staying under 1.5°C of warming.
10-25-21 Arctic wildfires threatening North America’s black spruce trees
The black spruce is a common species in North American boreal forests and it needs wildfires to survive, but the blazes are now so frequent that the spruces are struggling. For millennia, black spruces (Picea mariana) have been a common presence across Arctic forests in North America, but they are now being threatened by more frequent and severe wildfires. Like many other trees in these forests, the spruce – an evergreen conifer – depends on fire for regeneration. As fire moves across the landscape, the trees’ cones, which are covered in a waxy coat, heat up and slowly open to release their seeds onto the new seedbed. But climate change is leading to more frequent and severe fires, as well as warmer, drier conditions in these boreal forests. Jennifer Baltzer at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, and her colleagues have found that these rapid environmental changes are hindering the black spruces’ ability to regenerate. The team looked at data from 1538 field sites affected by forest fires across the entire boreal region of North America. Collectively, the sites experienced 58 fires between 1989 and 2014. By comparing the pre- and post-fire composition of tree species growing at the sites, the researchers could evaluate how well black spruce populations bounced back after the fires. They found that the black spruce was able to regenerate after forest fires at 62 per cent of the sites. Tree regeneration failed entirely at 18 per cent of sites, while black spruces at the remaining areas were replaced by competing trees, such as aspens and poplars. “The frequency of this [complete replacement with other trees or the failure to regenerate at all] was fairly surprising, given that black spruce is a fire-embracing species that requires fires for regeneration,” says Baltzer.
10-25-21 Massive storm brings Lake Tahoe's water levels back above natural rim
Heavy rain and snow fell in Northern California over the weekend — so much that Lake Tahoe's water levels are back above the natural rim. Water levels at the Tahoe City dam rose almost 6 inches in 24 hours, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and more than 24 inches of snow fell in the mountains around the Tahoe Basin. This was welcome news, as last week, Lake Tahoe's water levels dipped about an inch below the natural rim of the basin. When the levels plummet below the rim, the lake is no longer connected to the Truckee River, its only outlet. Drought, fueled by climate change, is causing the levels to drop more often and earlier than normal. While the rainfall was definitely needed, it's not enough to solve Lake Tahoe's water troubles, experts say. Because the lake was only an inch below the rim, the massive storm was able to raise the water levels quickly, but they are nowhere near where they should be, SFGate reports — Lake Tahoe is considered full when water levels are roughly 6 feet above the natural rim. For Lake Tahoe to get into a good position, scientists say this winter needs to have above-average rain and snow fall, with the snowpack not melting until after spring. Without this, the lake may drop below its natural rim earlier next year. While this weekend's storm was significant, it isn't going to make much of a dent in the drought hitting the Western U.S. Nevada's Lake Mead is a major water source for California, and Bill Patzert, a retired climate scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, told the Los Angeles Times that he estimates it would take 17 years of above-normal rainfall and snowpack to bring the depleted lake back to where it should be. "There's no quick fix to the drought," Patzert said.
10-25-21 Climate change: Greenhouse gas build-up reached new high in 2020
The build-up of warming gases in the atmosphere rose to record levels in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide rose by more than the annual average in the past 10 years. The WMO says this will drive up temperatures in excess of the goals of the Paris agreement. They worry that our warmer world is, in turn, boosting emissions from natural sources. The news comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "touch and go" whether the upcoming COP26 global climate conference will secure the agreements needed to help tackle climate change. "It is going to be very, very tough this summit. I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done," he said on Monday. The restrictions imposed around the world during the Covid pandemic saw an overall decline in emissions of CO2 of 5.6%. So why hasn't that fall been echoed in atmospheric concentrations - which are the subject of this latest data from the WMO? There are a number of factors involved. Around half of emissions from human activity are taken up by trees, lands and oceans. But the absorbing ability of these sinks can vary hugely, depending on temperatures, rainfall and other factors. Another issue is that over the past decade, emissions of CO2 have increased progressively. So even though carbon output was down last year, the increase in the level in the atmosphere was still bigger than the average between 2011-2020. According to the WMO's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, CO2 reached 413.2 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2020 and is now 149% of the pre-industrial level. This is bad news for containing the rise in Earth's temperature.
10-25-21 Climate change: Pledge of $100bn annual aid slips to 2023
A key pledge ahead of an upcoming climate change conference has still not been met and the money is not sure to be available before 2023. The update was part of a new financing plan ahead of next week's climate change conference known as COP26. It talks of how developed countries hope to deliver $100bn a year in climate finance to developing countries. The original aim was for that target to be reached by 2020. But the financing plan said the target looked "unlikely" to be met but that it was "confident" the target would be hit by 2023. Some environmentalists say the new plan is too little, too late. COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said: "This plan recognises progress, based on strong new climate finance commitments. There is still further to go, but this delivery plan, alongside the robust methodological report from the OECD, provides clarity, transparency and accountability. "It is a step towards rebuilding trust and gives developing countries more assurance of predictable support." Climate finance plays a critical role in helping developing countries tackle climate change and adapt to its impacts. In 2009, developed countries agreed to mobilise $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020, and in 2015 agreed to extend this goal through to 2025. However, the UK COP26 Presidency now says the $100bn goal is likely to fall short in 2021 and 2022 - though is confident it will be met in 2023. The finance delivery plan was produced by Jonathan Wilkinson and Jochen Flasbarth, environment ministers from Canada and Germany, respectively, at the request of Mr Sharma. The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.
10-25-21 Climate change: How do we know it is happening and caused by humans?
Scientists and politicians say we are facing a planetary crisis because of climate change. But what's the evidence for global warming and how do we know it's being caused by humans? Our planet has been warming rapidly since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The average temperature at the Earth's surface has risen about 1.1C since 1850. Furthermore, each of the last four decades has been warmer than any that preceded it, since the middle of the 19th Century. These conclusions come from analyses of millions of measurements gathered in different parts of the world. The temperature readings are collected by weather stations on land, on ships and by satellites. Multiple independent teams of scientists have reached the same result - a spike in temperatures coinciding with the onset of the industrial era. Scientists can reconstruct temperature fluctuations even further back in time. Tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and corals all record a signature of the past climate. This provides much-needed context to the current phase of warming. In fact, scientists estimate the Earth hasn't been this hot for about 125,000 years. Greenhouse gases - which trap the Sun's heat - are the crucial link between temperature rise and human activities. The most important is carbon dioxide (CO2), because of its abundance in the atmosphere. We can also tell it's CO2 trapping the Sun's energy. Satellites show less heat from the Earth escaping into space at precisely the wavelengths at which CO2 absorbs radiated energy. Burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees lead to the release of this greenhouse gas. Both activities exploded after the 19th Century, so it's unsurprising that atmospheric CO2 increased over the same period. There's a way we can show definitively where this extra CO2 came from. The carbon produced by burning fossil fuels has a distinctive chemical signature. Tree rings and polar ice both record changes in atmospheric chemistry. When examined they show that carbon - specifically from fossil sources - has risen significantly since 1850. Analysis shows that for 800,000 years, atmospheric CO2 did not rise above 300 parts per million (ppm). But since the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 concentration has soared to its current level of nearly 420 ppm. Computer simulations, known as climate models, have been used to show what would have happened to temperatures without the massive amounts of greenhouse gases released by humans. They reveal there would have been little global warming - and possibly some cooling - over the 20th and 21st Centuries, if only natural factors had been influencing the climate. Only when human factors are introduced can the models explain increases in temperature.
10-25-21 Climate change: The environmental disasters we've almost fixed
There are no simple solutions to complex problems like climate change. But there have been times in the past when the world has come together to try to fix an environmental crisis. How did we deal with acid rain, for example, or the hole in the ozone layer? And are there lessons for tackling the bigger issue of global warming? It's the 1980s, and fish are disappearing in rivers across Scandinavia. Trees in parts of the forests are stripped bare of leaves, and in North America some lakes are so devoid of life their waters turn an eerie translucent blue. The cause: Clouds of sulphur dioxide from coal-burning power plants are travelling long distances in the air and falling back to Earth in the form of acidic rain. "In the '80s, essentially the message was that this was the largest environmental problem of all time," says Peringe Grennfelt, a Swedish scientist who played a key role in highlighting the dangers of acid rain. Headlines warning of the threats of acid rain were commonplace. For years there had been obfuscation, denial and diplomatic stand-offs, but once the science was settled beyond doubt, calls for action quickly gathered momentum. It led to international agreements curbing the pollutants from burning fossil fuels that acidify rain. Amendments to the Clean Air Act in the US saw the development of a cap and trade system, giving companies an incentive to reduce emissions of sulphur and nitrogen, and trade any excess allowances. Each year, the cap was ratcheted down until emissions dropped dramatically. So did it work? Acid rain is now largely a thing of the past in Europe and North America, although it remains a problem elsewhere, particularly in Asia. However, Canadian scientist John Smol, a young researcher back in the 1980s, says in many ways acid rain was a "success story", showing that countries can come together and deal with an international problem. "If you don't price pollution, people will pollute. We learned that for sure," he says.
10-25-21 Recycling plastics does not work, says Boris Johnson
Recycling plastic materials "doesn't work" and "is not the answer" to threats to global oceans and marine wildlife, Boris Johnson has said. Answering children's questions ahead of the COP26 climate change summit, the prime minister said reusing plastics "doesn't begin to address the problem". Instead, he said, "we've all got to cut down our use of plastic". The Recycling Association said the PM had "completely lost the plastic plot". The association's Simon Ellin told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme Mr Johnson's comments were "very disappointing" and seemed to conflict with government policy. During the special event organised by Downing Street, Mr Johnson told an audience of eight to 12-year-olds that rather than relying on recycling, people should reduce their consumption of plastic products. Tanya Steele, chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature, told the event: "We have to reduce, we have to reuse - I do think we need to do a little bit of recycling, PM, and have some system to do so." But the PM said it was a "mistake" to think society can recycle its way out of the problem, and added: "It doesn't work." Asked later about Mr Johnson's comments, his official spokesman said the PM continued to encourage recycling - though he said relying on it alone would be a "red herring". There are plans to increase recycling in England, which the government has said "typically results in lower carbon emissions in comparison to manufacturing products from virgin materials". "Priority goes to preventing the creation of waste in the first place, followed by preparing waste for reuse; to recycling, and then recovery," the waste management plan for England said. The most recent figures for England showed a recycling rate of 45.5% for household waste. Waste policy is largely set by the devolved administrations in the UK. Each UK council collects its plastic recycling differently. A BBC analysis in 2018 showed there were 39 different sets of rules for what can be put in plastic recycling collections.
10-25-21 Canada: Evacuations as ship spews toxic gas off coast
Sixteen people have been evacuated from a burning container ship off Canada's Pacific coast. The Zim Kingston ship is expelling toxic gas but officials said there is "no safety risk" to people on land. The ship was en route to Vancouver when it caught fire late on Saturday. Response vessels spent the night cooling the exterior of the ship with water, but could not douse the flames directly because of the chemicals, CBC News reports. "The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas," the Canadian coast guard said. It added that 10 containers had been affected by the fire. "Currently there is no safety risk to people on shore, however the situation will continue to be monitored," it said. The coast guard reported the ship was carrying more than 52,000kg of chemicals located in two of the containers that are on fire.
10-24-21 ‘It’s anarchic’: Ed Miliband on what COP climate talks are really like
Around 25,000 delegates will descend on Glasgow, UK, for COP26, a climate conference like no other. As a key player at one of the most important climate summits that preceded it, Ed Miliband has a better insight than most on what those people will experience. Miliband, who is currently shadow business secretary for the UK’s Labour Party, was the nation’s climate minister at the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, which was widely seen as a flop for failing to make a breakthrough on global action to curb emissions. With 197 countries and blocs party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees the climate talks, Miliband likens the process to 190-dimensional chess. “I think people underestimate – and I fear the UK government has underestimated – the complexity of the process,” he says. “It’s not like any other international summit, it’s not coming out with a pre-prepared communiqué. Of course, there’s been negotiations, but it’s a relatively chaotic process. It’s a process that requires unanimity.” He recalls the then UK prime minister Gordon Brown negotiating with other leaders through the night in 2009 to end a deadlock and agree a three-page document, the Copenhagen Accord. “Gordon’s parting words for me before he left for London the next morning were, ‘I’m glad we’ve got this, but don’t screw it up’, except he didn’t use the words ‘screw it up’.” But late that day, things went awry. “That night, as I was going to bed, Pete [Betts, then the UK’s chief climate negotiator] rang me while I was standing in my pants in my hotel room and said ‘it’s all going down the toilet. The agreement is an empty shell’.” Miliband, both worried about the geopolitical ramifications and Brown’s reaction, rushed back to the conference centre. There, he found a Sudanese diplomat giving a speech comparing the accord to the Holocaust. With the UK’s microphone not working, Miliband took the US one to say: “We can’t have come this far and just junk the agreement.”
10-24-21 Greta Thunberg: 'We need public pressure, not just summits'
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has told the BBC that summits will not lead to action on climate goals unless the public demand change too. In a wide-ranging interview ahead of the COP26 climate summit, she said the public needed to "uproot the system". "The change is going to come when people are demanding change. So we can't expect everything to happen at these conferences," she said. She also accused politicians of coming up with excuses. The COP26 climate summit is taking place in Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, from 31 October to 12 November. It is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming. Ms Thunberg, who recently launched a global series of concerts highlighting climate change called Climate Live, confirmed she would be attending COP26. She said her message to world leaders was to "be honest". "Be honest about where you are, how you have been failing, how you're still failing us... instead of trying to find solutions, real solutions that will actually lead somewhere, that would lead to a substantial change, fundamental change," she told the BBC's Rebecca Morelle. "In my view, success would be that people finally start to realise the urgency of the situation and realise that we are facing an existential crisis, and that we are going to need big changes, that we're going to need to uproot the system, because that's where the change is going to come." Ms Thunberg did not believe that UK plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions to reach a target of net zero by 2050 were sufficient, or that the UK was a climate leader. "Unfortunately there are no climate leaders today, especially not in the so-called global north. But that doesn't mean that they can't suddenly decide that now we're going to take the process seriously," she said. Speaking about the targets for reaching net zero - which means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - she said that it was a "good start", but cautioned that it "doesn't really mean very much in practice" if people continued to look for loopholes.
10-23-21 The climate summit that could save the planet — or doom it
Why COP26 could be the 'last, best chance' to prevent climate disaster World leaders are calling the upcoming COP26 summit a make-or-break moment in the fight against climate change. Why is this gathering so critical?
- What is COP26? It is a looming summit slated for the end of October in Glasgow, Scotland, at which the United Nations hopes world leaders will make big commitments to reining in climate change and keeping global temperatures in check. COP stands for "Conference of the Parties," and refers to the 197 nations that agreed to the U.N. framework on climate change at a 1992 meeting
- Why is this meeting such a big deal? The Paris Agreement, a product of COP21 in 2015, called for keeping global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), above the pre-industrial, 1850-1900 average. Scientists say it's critical to hit the low end of that range.
- Is the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees really that important? A half-degree of additional warming above 1.5 degrees would result in more frequent heat waves, flooding, and water shortages for tens of millions of people, a recent United Nations report says. As The New York Times notes: "Half a degree may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them."
- Can the worst still be avoided? While it's wishful thinking to expect miracles from COP26, Alok Sharma, the British lawmaker who is president of COP26, has said the summit will be successful if it can keep "1.5 alive." But governments all over the world have to act fast.
- What other goals do organizers have for COP26? Sharma wants the conference to lead to a host of firm agreements. One of those is establishing a target date for ending "unabated" coal, a term that refers to coal burned without the capturing of its greenhouse-gas emissions before they reach the atmosphere.
- Why not? The fight against climate change has lost momentum in recent years. COP26 was delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. And before that, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark climate agreement. President Biden has rejoined the deal, and promised to show up in Glasgow "with bells on."
- So is there any hope COP26 will do any good? Many countries have already made new pledges to cut emissions, so there's a strong chance others will step up, too. Seventeen countries, including Japan and the United States, and the European Union have announced new commitments. Biden has said that America will cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade.
10-23-21 Greta Thunberg: 'We need public pressure, not just summits'
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has told the BBC that summits will not lead to action on climate goals unless the public demand change too. In a wide-ranging interview ahead of the COP26 climate summit, she said the public needed to "uproot the system". "The change is going to come when people are demanding change. So we can't expect everything to happen at these conferences," she said. She also accused politicians of coming up with excuses. The COP26 climate summit is taking place in Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, from 31 October to 12 November. It is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming. Ms Thunberg, who recently launched a global series of concerts highlighting climate change called Climate Live, confirmed she will be attending COP26. She said her message to world leaders was to "be honest". "Be honest about where you are, how you have been failing, how you're still failing us... instead of trying to find solutions, real solutions that will actually lead somewhere, that would lead to a substantial change, fundamental change," she told the BBC's Rebecca Morelle. "In my view, success would be that people finally start to realise the urgency of the situation and realise that we are facing an existential crisis, and that we are going to need big changes, that we're going to need to uproot the system, because that's where the change is going to come." Ms Thunberg did not believe that UK plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions to reach a target of net zero by 2050 were sufficient, or that the UK was a climate leader. "Unfortunately there are no climate leaders today, especially not in the so-called global north. But that doesn't mean that they can't suddenly decide that now we're going to take the process seriously," she said. Speaking about the targets for reaching net zero - which means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - she said that it was a "good start", but cautioned that it "doesn't really mean very much in practice" if people continued to look for loopholes.
10-23-21 Saudi Arabia commits to net zero emissions by 2060
The world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, has pledged to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2060. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Gulf state would invest more than $180bn (£130bn) to reach the goal. But he said the kingdom would continue to produce oil for decades to come. The announcement comes days before the COP26 climate change summit, at which world leaders will be pressed on their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and thereby reduce global warming. Saudi Arabia now joins more than 100 countries that have committed to reaching net-zero emissions. Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is achieved by a combination of cutting emissions as much as possible - mainly by reducing gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), which are released in the use of fossil fuels - and so-called offsetting measures, such as planting trees and carbon-capture technology. While China and Russia have plans to reach net zero by 2060, other countries - including the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia's neighbour the United Arab Emirates, another major oil producer, aim to achieve the goal 10 years earlier. Saudi Arabia's move does mark a shift for the world's 10th-largest emitter of carbon dioxide. It has long resisted calls to cut its investment in fossil fuels. This week, documents leaked to the BBC revealed Saudi officials asked the UN to play down the need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels, ahead of the COP26 meeting, which starts in Glasgow on 31 October. At the launch of a climate conference in Riyadh, Prince Mohammed - Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler - said it would reach the target without affecting the "stability of global energy markets". He said the country also would cut its emissions of methane by 30% by 2030. The plans would rely on "the availability of the required technologies to manage and reduce emissions", the prince said. Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said the country would use carbon capture - technology that extracts CO2 from the air - to help it meet the goal. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia said it would reduce carbon emissions by shifting to renewable energy and planting billions of trees.
10-23-21 Saving a million salmon and a tribe in a historic drought
The Klamath river is becoming too warm for salmon to live. If it dries up, a Native American tribe could face its doom. The extreme drought in California has made the river shrink and heated it up. The fish couldn’t swim upstream because of the dams. Officials are removing them to save over a million salmon, and the Hupa tribe, which relies on salmon as a food source for centuries.
10-22-21 What's really at stake with Biden's climate agenda
Millions of lives. Washington, D.C., is waiting to see if our broken political system can produce any climate policy as part of President Biden's agenda, but the stakes of the issue tend to get lost in horse race-obsessed political news coverage. "Winner: Manchin; Loser: Environmentalists" blares Politico Playbook (presented by Google), in an issue written by Rachel Bade, Eli Okun, and Garrett Ross. "The entire climate agenda of the Biden administration is in question right now thanks to one man — and it's unclear if this dynamic will change," they write. So let's be clear about one of the biggest climate policy stakes: the literal lives of millions and millions of human beings. One way to unplug from the Playbook mindset is to simply punch some key words into your favorite search engine. Did you notice the unusual flooding in Venice recently? Or London? Or how about the torrential rains and mudslides in India that have killed a reported 150 people at time of writing? How about flooding in Thailand? Did you notice that scientists recently estimated California just had its driest year in a century? Have you seen that Lake Mead — the largest reservoir in the country — is at its lowest level since 1937, when it was first filled? How about the unusual "atmospheric river" that is predicted to strike northern California in the next few days, likely causing tremendous rainfall and thence mudslides thanks to the constant plague of climate change-fueled wildfires that have burned up stabilizing undergrowth? (Though that probably won't bring enough precipitation to end the drought.) The savvy beltway media is certainly not paying close attention to any of those things. Another more empirically rigorous way to understand the stakes is by consulting a recent report from The Lancet, in which dozens of doctors and research scientists summed up the threat climate change poses to health around the world. Among other things, they find that in 2020: high temperatures caused people over 65 to suffer 3.1 billion more person-days of exposure to heatwaves as compared to the 1986-2005 baseline; that the spectacularly extreme heatwave in the Pacific Northwest killed hundreds of people; that a record of 295 billion work-hours were lost to extreme heat; and that each month up to 19 percent of the Earth's land surface suffered extreme drought, as compared to a record of 13 percent between 1950 and 1999. They find that last year, drought and heat cut crop yields of staple crops compared to the 1981-2010 baseline — corn by 6.0 percent, winter wheat by 3.0 percent, soybeans by 5.4 percent, and rice by 1.8 percent; that the area of the globe suitable for transmission of malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, chikungunya virus, and cholera is increasing rapidly; and that very few countries are taking this health threat seriously. Few countries are doing anything close to their part to cut greenhouse gas emissions, either. On the contrary, "Of the 84 countries reviewed, 65 were still providing an overall subsidy to fossil fuels in 2018 and, in many cases, subsidies were equivalent to substantial proportions of the national health budget," the authors write.
10-22-21 Climate change will bring global tension, US intelligence report says
Climate change will lead to growing international tensions, the US intelligence community has warned in a bleak assessment. The first ever National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change looks at the impact of climate on national security through to 2040. Countries will argue over how to respond and the effects will be felt most in poorer countries, which are least able to adapt. The report also warns of the risks if futuristic geo-engineering technologies are deployed by some countries acting alone. The 27-page assessment is the collective view of all 18 US intelligence agencies. It is their first such look-ahead on what climate means for national security. The report paints a picture of a world failing to co-operate, leading to dangerous competition and instability. It has been issued just ahead of President Joe Biden attending next month's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which is seeking international agreement. It warns countries will try to defend their economies and seek advantage in developing new technology. Some nations may also resist the desire to act, with more than 20 countries relying on fossil fuels for greater than 50% of total export revenues. "A decline in fossil fuel revenue would further strain Middle Eastern countries that are projected to face more intense climate effects," the report says. Soon, it warns, the impact of climate change will be felt around the globe. The US intelligence community identifies 11 countries and two regions where energy, food, water and health security are at particular risk. They tend to be poorer and less able to adapt, increasing the risks of instability and internal conflict. Heat waves and droughts could place pressure on services like electricity supply. Five of the 11 countries are in South and East Asia - Afghanistan, Burma, India, Pakistan and North Korea - four countries are in Central America and the Caribbean - Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua. Colombia and Iraq are the others. Central Africa and small states in the Pacific are also at risk. Instability could spill out, particularly in the form of refugee flows, with a warning this could put pressure on the US southern border and create new humanitarian demands.
10-22-21 COP26: PM warned over aid cuts ahead of climate summit
Senior government climate change advisers have warned Boris Johnson against more foreign aid cuts ahead of the COP26 summit, the BBC has learned. In a letter to the PM, they expressed "deep concern" at the cuts planned by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak next week. The experts said the cuts would show the UK was "neither committed to nor serious about" helping countries vulnerable to climate change. The Treasury said the UK was a "world leader" in international development. The panel - known officially as the Friends of COP - was appointed by Alok Sharma, the Cop president, to advise the government ahead of next month's summit in Glasgow - and includes some of the most experienced climate experts in the world. Their letter - which has been seen by the BBC - said: "As 'Friends of COP' we are writing to you to express our deep concern at the prospect of further UK aid cuts in the final few days before COP26." It went on: "The ability of the UK to act as a genuine, trusted partner for developing countries is of crucial importance to COP26's success. Further implied cuts to overseas aid at the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) would send a signal that the UK is neither committed to, nor serious about, enabling a green global recovery from the pandemic, nor improving the resilience of the most vulnerable to climate change." The cuts would come as the result of complicated accounting changes planned by the Treasury for next week's Spending Review. Officials want to broaden the definition of what counts as overseas aid. Specifically, they want to include complex currency handouts from the International Monetary Fund known as Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), and Covid vaccine donations for poorer countries. If these counted towards the government's current overseas aid target of 0.5% of national income, it could mean more than £1bn less is spent on humanitarian and development support. The letter says the UK would "maintain its credibility and maximise the chances of a successful summit" if it did not classify SDRs and Covid vaccines as foreign aid.
10-21-21 COP26: Document leak reveals nations lobbying to change key climate report
A huge leak of documents seen by BBC News shows how countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change. The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels. It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies. This "lobbying" raises questions for the COP26 climate summit in November. The leak reveals countries pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties to the team of scientists compiling a UN report designed to bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change. These "assessment reports" are produced every six to seven years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body tasked with evaluating the science of climate change. These reports are used by governments to decide what action is needed to tackle climate change, and the latest will be a crucial input to negotiations at the Glasgow conference. The authority of these reports derives in part from the fact that virtually all the governments of the world participate in the process to reach consensus. The comments from governments the BBC has read are overwhelmingly designed to be constructive and to improve the quality of the final report. The cache of comments and the latest draft of the report were released to Greenpeace UK's team of investigative journalists, Unearthed, which passed it on to BBC News.
10-21-21 Environment Bill: MPs reject tougher air quality target
MPs have voted against bringing in a tougher air quality target, after it was introduced to the Environment Bill by the House of Lords. Peers had amended the legislation to set a limit on particle pollution which would be at least as strict as World Health Organisation guidance, by 2030. But the Commons rejected this, in line with the government's wishes. The bill, first published in 2019, is currently going back and forth between the two Houses of Parliament. The process - known as "ping-pong" - will continue until both can agree on the final measures to be included, after which it can finally enter law. The Commons votes come just a few days ahead of the COP26 global climate summit beginning in Glasgow on 31 October, with ministers keen to get the bill through Parliament before then. MPs also rejected an amendment added by the Lords which would place a duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers. The government says the bill will improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife, and protect the climate. Some of its measures apply only in England, or in England and Wales, but there are a number of UK-wide provisions. The bill would also set up a watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection - to monitor progress on improving the environment. The Commons voted to remove a Lords amendment designed to guarantee that body's independence, but MPs did agree to a proposal to allow charges to be levied on all single-use items, rather than just those made of plastic. Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, accused the government of "falling short of its pledge to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited it". And campaign group Surfers Against Sewage said it was "astonishing that, in this critical decade for the environment, the government is opting out of amendments designed to better protect the planet and all its precious inhabitants".
10-21-21 How Finland plans to create a circular bioeconomy that runs on wood
I’m in a forest in Finland watching trees die a brutal death. A monstrous machine like something from The War of the Worlds is lumbering among the pines, its deadly arm swaying menacingly. Every now and again it selects a victim, grasps it at the base and slices through the trunk like butter. As the tree crashes through the canopy, the machine – called a Scorpion – raises it aloft as if in triumph, strips the branches and butchers the trunk into three. It is all over in seconds. Despite its apparent ruthlessness, this is how benign forest management is done in a country which is betting the farm on wood. Finland is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2035, largely by creating a “circular bioeconomy”. That means all the material and energy inputs come from sustainable wood or renewable energy, and all the products are 100 per cent recyclable. Fossil fuels are history. That brave new economy starts right here. The forest I am visiting is on a farm about 100 kilometres north of Helsinki. The current owners, Laura and Mika Hämäläinen, are the latest in a long line. Their 350-hectare forest has been passed down the generations since 1724. Family ownership of forests is the norm in Finland; about 60 per cent of its 23 million hectares of woodland is owned by 600,000 private individuals. They can largely do as they please with their trees, but many are enlightened, long-term owners who understand the concept of a circular bioeconomy and manage their forest accordingly, says Marko Mäki-Hakola, forest director at MTK, Finland’s federation of farmers and forest owners. Today’s operation is called thinning, where about 10 per cent of the trees are chopped down to give others light and space to reach their full potential. This pinewood was planted in the 1960s and has been thinned twice before. In another 20 years most of the remaining trees will be felled and the area replanted.
10-21-21 Meet the key players and big names at the COP26 climate summit
The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, starting 31 October, has been billed as a “turning point for humanity“, as the world wrestles to get climate change under control. Some big names will be in attendance at the two-week summit, and New Scientist has put together a guide on who to look out for. Alok Sharma, COP26 president: The man tasked with shepherding an ambitious consensus from the 197 parties meeting at COP26. Dubbed “no drama Sharma” by some, he is more technocrat than radical environmentalist. “I’m a normal person, right, I’m not someone who’s some great climate warrior coming into this,” he told New Scientist recently. He may not be flashy, but he is across the detail of the key issues at stake in Glasgow and acutely aware of potential sensitive topics, such as trust between richer and poorer countries. Sharma is respected and has built relationships with governments around the world by travelling to meet officials and heads of state, including Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India and a key player at the summit. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary at UN Climate Change: Before taking the reins five years ago at the UN agency charged with coordinating global action on climate change, Espinosa was a diplomat and the former foreign minister of Mexico. Her job is to work in tandem with Sharma to forge a strong outcome at COP26. Her style is to be circumspect but upbeat. “One thing we cannot do is give up,” she told New Scientist after a new analysis showed countries were wildly off track one of the Paris Agreement’s key temperature goals. Greta Thunberg, climate activist: The Swedish climate campaigner hasn’t officially confirmed whether she will attend the summit, but whether she is there in person or tweeting her views remotely, her presence will be felt. She expects Glasgow to just be “blah blah blah” from leaders – words but no action – and for “things to continue to remain the same.” She is calling on people in civil society, who will be present in force at COP26, to keep the pressure up. The summit’s outcome will almost certainly fall short of her hopes, as it won’t deliver promises of emissions cuts needed to avoid catastrophic warming.
10-20-21 Doctors warn climate change is now 'the greatest global health threat facing the world'
Every year, the Lancet medical journal publishes its countdown on health and climate change, and the 2021 edition shows that global warming caused by human activities is threatening the health of everyone in myriad ways. Published Wednesday, the report was put together by more than 100 doctors and health experts. They wrote that climate change is "the greatest global health threat facing the world in the 21st century, but it is also the greatest opportunity to redefine the social and environmental determinants of health." Hotter temperatures have caused problems in all corners of the globe. In the U.S. this summer, extreme heat led to the death of elderly people without air conditioning and farm workers in the fields. Other threats are more subtle — in tropical climates, insects that carry disease are multiplying and on the move. Heavy flooding is contributing to an increased risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, and wildfire smoke causes breathing problems, with the wind carrying smoke for miles. Severe droughts could lead to food shortages and starvation. If bold action is taken worldwide to cut greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean energy, millions of unnecessary deaths could be averted, the report states. Renee Salas, an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, contributed to the report, and told The Washington Post that "lowering greenhouse gas emissions is a prescription. The oath I took as a doctor is to protect the health of my patients. Demanding action on climate change is how I can do that." World leaders will soon meet in Glasgow for a United Nations climate change summit, and dozens of public health experts will attend the gathering in an effort to convince them to take aggressive measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions. What is decided at meetings like this will either "lock humanity into an increasingly extreme and unpredictable environment," the report says, or "deliver a future of improved health, reduced inequity, and economic and environmental sustainability."
10-20-21 COP26: A moment for the world to truly confront the climate emergency
IN JUST over a week, the doors will open in Glasgow, UK, on what is arguably one of the most consequential international summits in history. Yet for many people, it remains unclear why COP26, the 26th UN-sponsored “conference of the parties” on climate change, is so crucial. What would a good outcome even be? It doesn’t help that the UK, the host and diplomatic leader of the summit, which begins on 31 October, seems so muddled in its approach. Its long-delayed announcement this week of major green policies was welcome, but has been tarnished by political infighting over funding that raises old canards pitting the economy against the climate. The president of COP26, Alok Sharma, has repeatedly said that its goal is to “keep 1.5°C alive”, a reference to the toughest of the 2015 Paris Agreement’s targets on checking global warming. Perhaps a first step towards public clarity in Glasgow would be to get the politicians to agree unambiguously with what the science says: that to avoid the worst of climate change, limiting warming this century to 1.5°C must be the goal, rather than the current messy twin target of 1.5°C (ideally) and “well below” 2°C (otherwise). There are many more metrics that could be used to judge a “good” COP: from agreeing a timetable for phasing out fossil fuels, to thrashing out details of a global carbon-trading scheme, to accelerating the process by which nations come up with new, improved emissions-reducing plans. What is abundantly clear is that the cuts pledged by countries in the past year in time for Glasgow, as required by the Paris Agreement, leave us far from the 45 per cent reduction in emissions needed by 2030 to hit a 1.5°C path. In fact, they would equate to a 16 per cent rise in emissions. Faced with the enormity of such figures, it is easy to be downbeat about securing a “good” outcome at the summit. But pessimism is the last thing we need. COP26 shows that the world is at least talking. Perhaps the best, intangible outcome that can be hoped for is a renewed focus on humanity’s common purpose and ability to solve this crisis of its own making by working together.
10-20-21 Why hope and optimism are crucial for fighting climate change
CLIMATE change is no longer a future issue or a distant one. It is here now, intensifying extreme weather events, threatening food and water supplies and putting our health at risk. Headlines bombard us with an increasing litany of disasters, from coastlines flooding and ice sheets disintegrating to drought in Madagascar and wildfires across western North America. Record numbers of us are worried about climate change – 66 per cent in the US where I live, 76 per cent in the UK and 84 per cent of young people across 10 different countries. However, the disconnect between now and the future we face grows starker every day. Only around 50 per cent of people in the US and UK believe climate change will have much of an effect on them personally, and even less think individuals can do anything to combat it. It is no wonder the question I’m asked most often is: “What gives you hope?” We need hope, desperately, because if we believe it is too late, it will be. The kind of hope we need – rational, stubborn hope – isn’t about positive thinking, but it doesn’t begin with imitating an ostrich, either. It starts by acknowledging just how serious climate change is and what is at risk: the future of civilisation as we know it. Recognising the overwhelming nature of this crisis can fill us with fear and anxiety, and we need to acknowledge these emotions as well. Here is where the turning point must occur. Will we allow fear to paralyse us or use it to galvanise us into action? Only one path leads to hope. The other ends in despair. It is only our actions that offer a chance of a better future. And when we realise the giant boulder of climate action isn’t sitting at the bottom of an impossibly steep hill with only a few hands trying to push it up, but rather it is already at the top and rolling down the hill with millions of hands pushing it in the right direction, that gives us hope. It isn’t going fast enough yet; but for each new hand that joins, it will go a little faster. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says: “Every action matters… Every choice matters.”
10-20-21 Should everyone have their own personal carbon budget?
I WILL be spending a lot of time in northern climes over the next few weeks, and I am preparing myself for a roller coaster of climate emotions. As I write, I am getting ready for a trip to Finland to report on some of the world’s most advanced sustainable industries. I am expecting to be inspired by what I see. Later this month, I will arrive in Glasgow, UK, to cover the first week of the COP26 climate negotiations. The constant warnings that leaders are set to fail, yet again, to commit to the actions needed to avoid catastrophic warming have me worried that my optimism may not last. You can read a comprehensive preview of COP26 on page 36 of this magazine, and I will keep my Finnish powders dry for later editions (though here’s a spoiler: wooden satellites!). But the two trips already promise to be a microcosm of covering the climate crisis, with occasional glimpses of a brighter, greener future all too quickly overshadowed by crushing realism. There is still hope, however, and new, transformative ideas. One that seems ripe for further exploration is personal carbon allowances (PCAs), which do exactly what they say on the tin. Everybody in the scheme gets a PCA that is automatically debited when they pay for fuel, food or consumer goods. The allowances are tradable, so anyone who emits less than their quota can sell the surplus to somebody who has over-egged it. You can already see the incentives at work here. The magic ingredient is that the total allowance in circulation is reduced over time. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is – it is a personalised version of the emissions trading schemes that are already in operation for carbon-heavy industries in the EU, UK, China, some US states and elsewhere. The idea of personalising carbon trading is nothing new. It was first proposed in the 1990s and has reappeared in various guises over the years, but has never made it off the drawing board. In the mid 2000s, for example, advanced economies began to sniff around PCAs as a way to incentivise lifestyle changes. France looked at transport, California at household energy and Ireland at its whole economy.
10-20-21 Microplastics in the air have a small cooling effect on our climate
Tiny pieces of plastic in the air may have a minor cooling effect on our climate by reflecting sunlight. In recent years, microplastics floating in the atmosphere have been detected around the world, with the highest concentrations found in the air above London and Beijing. With a size of between 15 and 250 micrometres, similar to the thickness of a strand of hair, airborne microplastics are bigger than most other aerosols in the atmosphere, such as black carbon and sulphates. However, due to their low density, microplastics particulates are easily carried over large distances. These extremely small pieces of plastic typically come from synthetic textiles, such as polyester, synthetic rubber tyres, paint and even bits of larger plastic that have been broken down by the environment. Laura Revell at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and her colleagues investigated the effect these airborne microplastics have on our climate. After calculating the optical properties of microplastic pieces, the team used a global climate model to evaluate their overall effect. The modelling assumed a microplastic concentration of 100 microplastic particles per cubic metre of air, in line with the average concentrations reported in previous studies. Microplastic particles both reflect sunlight back out to space and absorb heat emanating from Earth’s surface, which means they contribute to climate cooling and warming respectively. However, the researchers discovered that microplastics have an overall cooling effect on the climate, as they reflect more heat than they absorb. But the team also found that this cooling effect is negligible compared with the cooling and warming influences of greenhouse gases and other atmospheric aerosols. The atmospheric concentration of microplastic particles is several orders of magnitude smaller than other types of atmospheric aerosols, which is why their climate effect is so small, says Revell.
10-20-21 COP26: Your essential guide to the crucial climate conference
The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow is the world's last chance to spur real action on global warming. But what issues are at stake – and what does a good outcome look like? IT ISN’T often that international summits are pitched as a “turning point for humanity”. But that is how UK prime minister Boris Johnson described the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, which starts on 1 November, in a speech to the UN this September. The question is which way we will turn. To within touching distance of a safe future climate comparable with the past 10,000 years or so that enabled humanity to flourish? Or continuing towards a hothouse Earth with higher sea levels, extreme weather getting worse, more wildlife wiped out – and an incalculable burden on the well-being of future human generations? The person charged with making the summit a success, COP26 president Alok Sharma, is adamant that the fortnight-long meeting, delayed for a year because of the covid-19 pandemic, can maintain hopes of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the goal agreed at the 2015 Paris climate change summit. “I think keeping 1.5°C alive has to absolutely be the aim,” he says. “We don’t have another option. If this summit doesn’t keep 1.5 degrees alive, we are in such trouble,” says Christiana Figueres, former chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement. “We have only the last years of this decade to make a major, major turnaround.” After years of tough talks, those involved will be keen to trumpet their success following the summit, whatever the result may be. But what will an outcome that is genuinely good for us and the planet look like? Read on for your guide to the key issues that will determine all our futures. The absolute biggie facing the UN and the UK, which as host of the summit has been spearheading the diplomatic effort leading up to it, is the 20 to 23 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide cuts needed each year to avert truly dangerous warming. That is what one analysis estimates as the extra annual emission reductions needed by 2030, on top of those that countries have already pledged, if we are to avoid breaching 1.5°C. Global emissions are currently about 40 billion tonnes of CO2.
10-20-21 Climate change: Fossil fuel production set to soar over next decade
Plans by governments to extract fossil fuels up to 2030 are incompatible with keeping global temperatures to safe levels, says the UN. The UNEP production gap report says countries will drill or mine more than double the levels needed to keep the 1.5C threshold alive. Oil and gas recovery is set to rise sharply with only a modest decrease in coal. There has been little change since the first report was published in 2019. With the COP26 climate conference just over a week away, there is already a huge focus on the carbon-cutting ambitions of the biggest emitters. But despite the flurry of net zero emission goals and the increased pledges of many countries, some of the biggest oil, gas and coal producers have not set out plans for the rapid reductions in fossil fuels that scientists say are necessary to limit temperatures in coming years. Earlier this year, researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of the dangers for humanity of allowing temperatures to rise by more than 1.5C this century. To keep under this threshold will require cuts in carbon emissions of around 45% by 2030 based on 2010 levels. But instead of curbing carbon, many of the biggest emitting countries are also planning to significantly increase their production of fossil fuels, according to the UN. The production gap report finds that countries plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuel than would be compatible with a 1.5C temperature rise by the end of this century. The plans are around 45% more than what's needed to keep the temperature rise to 2C. According to the study, coal production will drop but gas will increase the most over the next 20 years, to levels that are simply incompatible with the Paris agreement. The report profiles 15 major production countries including Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US and UK. Most governments continue to provide significant policy support for fossil fuel production, the authors say.
10-20-21 Global fossil fuel extraction plans are double what we can safely burn
Countries around the world are planning to extract more than double the amount of fossil fuels permitted by the toughest climate change goal of the Paris Agreement, an analysis for the United Nations has found. “Governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn,” says Ploy Achakulwisut at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which produced the Production Gap report. The production gap is the mismatch between the amount of coal, oil and gas that government plans imply will be extracted in coming years, and the amount that needs to stay in the ground to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets of limiting warming to 1.5°C or “well below” 2°C. In 2030, 240 per cent more coal, roughly 60 per cent more oil and around 70 per cent more gas will be produced than is allowed by the 1.5°C goal. Overall, 110 per cent more fossil fuels will be produced in 2030 than the 1.5°C target allows, with the figure 45 per cent for the 2°C goal. The gap remains largely the same since the first version of the report was published in 2019, according to the update today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The covid-19 pandemic hasn’t significantly changed governments’ attitudes towards fossil fuel production. Since January 2020, governments have directed nearly $300 billion of public finance towards fossil fuel projects, more than they have to clean energy, the report finds. “We’re not seeing the sustainable recovery we need to see happen,” says Michael Lazarus at SEI. The report describes the government plans and projections for 15 key countries, including China, the US, the UK and Brazil, which together make up 77 per cent of fossil fuel production. The authors note that the UK government has promised to “extract every drop of oil and gas that it is economic to extract”, and in March chose to continue issuing new oil and gas licences.
10-20-21 Is the UK's green plan enough to halt climate change?
On Tuesday, the government set out a number of plans aiming to put the UK on course to achieve its climate goals. Funding for green cars, an end to gas boilers and tree-planting are some of the key announcements. But are they enough? Let's not be ungenerous: the government's great over-arching green strategy is, on the face of, it a remarkable achievement. Previous governments have theoretically espoused the need to live in harmony with the planet - but none has laid down a roadmap as to how that would be achieved. It is especially important as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to welcome world leaders to Glasgow for the vital climate conference known as COP26. Mr Johnson will brandish his sheaf of eco-documents at delegates and offer a challenge: My friends - if we can do it, you can do it. But huge uncertainties remain: `1, Are the government's new initiatives potent enough to transform the UK into a near zero emissions economy? 2. Who will pay? 3. And (I really don't want to ask this) are the government's carbon-cutting targets ambitious enough to protect a natural world that already appears in angry rebellion. Let's tackle one and two because they're both sides of the same question. Mr Johnson, for instance, has gained widespread credit for his global leadership in calling a halt to petrol and diesel cars and to gas boilers for home heating. The cars announcement has triggered a competitive rush in international car makers who've been preparing for this moment for decades. Motorists can just slip behind the wheel and drive away. Boilers is a different issue. Heat pumps are expensive and a hassle to fit. The Treasury has agreed to subsidise them at £5,000 a time but the total pot for installations is far too low to make a difference - just 30,000 boilers a year for three years, a trifling number that's not remotely high enough to kick-start an entire industry.
10-20-21 Environment bill: Green groups' dismay as ministers reject changes
Environmental campaigners have expressed disappointment after the government confirmed it would reject almost all the changes made to the Environment Bill by the House of Lords. The changes included greater protection for ancient woodland, and a legal duty on water companies to reduce sewage damage to rivers. The Commons will debate later whether to accept the Lords' amendments. However, without ministers' support they are likely to be rejected by MPs. The Greener UK coalition said the government's decision was "hugely disappointing," especially ahead of this month's COP26 climate summit. But the government said it would be bringing forward its own changes to the bill, to demonstrate "global leadership" before the conference in Glasgow. The government says the bill - which was published in 2019 - is designed to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife, and protect the climate. Some of its measures apply only in England, or in England and Wales - but there are a number of UK-wide provisions. The law sets up a new independent watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection - to monitor progress on improving the environment. During the bill's passage through the House of Lords, peers voted for an amendment which sought to strengthen the watchdog's powers. They also voted to reverse a government move to exempt defence, national security and fiscal policy from a requirement to consider environmental principles when making policies. Other cross-party amendments would put in place a binding deadline on reducing harmful particles in the air to WHO levels by 2030, and compel the government to meet interim environmental targets, in addition to long-term ones. However, on Tuesday Environment Secretary George Eustice formally recommended MPs reject almost all of the proposals. Ruth Chambers from the Greener UK coalition said the decision was "hugely disappointing". However, she welcomed the government's decision to compromise on one Lords amendment, by enabling charges for single-use plastic bags to be extended to other single use items.
10-20-21 From Billie Eilish to Bessie Smith: A climate playlist for COP26
We are now in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, UK. You have heard how important it is: the most consequential climate summit in a generation; the meeting on which the future of the planet rests. Also, it is a massive gathering, and every gathering needs a soundtrack. So we have put one together. Also, it is a massive gathering, and every gathering needs a soundtrack. So we have put one together. Our rules for inclusion are loose. If it is a good tune and it mentions climate change or something related, then it might make the cut, but we are also allowing anything that just makes you think about the unprecedented environmental crisis we are living in, even if it was recorded in a bygone age. By this reasoning, we are including To Live & Die in L.A. by 2Pac, even though it is very much a life in the city story, not a climate crisis one. But with the temperature in parts of Los Angeles exceeding 49°C in September 2020 and south-western North America gripped by a water shortage so severe it has been called a megadrought, we thought the track should get onto our playlist. We are also including Five Years by David Bowie, which, again, though not about climate change, does emphasise the speed of action required if we are going to prevent more than 1.5°C of warming. (Smallprint: inclusion of a song doesn’t imply endorsement of its message. In the case of the climate crisis, we don’t have five years until the end of the world; on the other hand, it may well be the end of the world as we know it.) We start our playlist with a blues classic from Bessie Smith, recorded in 1927. Back then, carbon dioxide was present in the atmosphere at 305 parts per million, compared with 280 ppm in pre-industrial times and a monstrous 413 ppm today. But some people believe that Smith’s song, Backwater Blues, refers to the massive Mississippi flood of 1927, so we think it counts as the first climate change song. Do take a look at our playlist and please suggest your own additions additions to us on Twitter @rowhoop (Rowan) and @inkerley (Bethan).
10-20-21 California Gov. Gavin Newsom declares statewide drought emergency
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday declared a statewide drought emergency, telling residents it is "critical that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to save water in every way possible." Before Newsom's statewide proclamation, most of California's 58 counties were placed in a drought emergency in July. That month, with temperatures soaring, Newsom urged residents to reduce their water use by 15 percent, and the numbers have been slowly dropping — in July, water use decreased by 1.8 percent, and by 5 percent in August. The State Water Resources Control Board will have the authority to impose emergency regulations to help save water, and if necessary may take measures like banning people from hosing down sidewalks or washing cars without shut-off nozzles, the Los Angeles Times reports. Newsom's declaration comes one day after it was announced that for the water year ending on Sept. 30, California had its driest year since 1924, with 11.87 inches of rain and snow falling — well below the yearly average of about 23.58 inches. Forecasters expect storms will hit in parts of Northern and Central California in late October, and while this will help with fire conditions, it's estimated that 140 percent of average statewide precipitation is needed over the next year to achieve average statewide runoff. Read more at the Los Angeles Times.
10-20-21 Will London's expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone cut air pollution?
MILLIONS more people in London will wake on 25 October to find themselves living in a clean air zone, designed to deter the most polluting cars, motorbikes and vans and reduce the health effects of exposure to air pollution. The expansion of the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) from the centre to the suburbs is a key part of mayor Sadiq Khan’s battle to rein in areas with levels of nitrogen dioxide in breach of legal limits. “It is going to be the biggest scheme of its type in the world,” says Shirley Rodrigues, London’s deputy mayor. “These are big interventions. What’s so powerful about them is they happen quickly and that they are sustainable interventions, not one-offs.” Such zones are starting to yield important data on their impact. Analysis of NO2 levels in London’s original ULEZ area, which is about 18 times smaller than the new one, found that they fell at four times the rate of sites in outer London between February 2017 and February 2020. Gary Fuller at Imperial College London, who reviewed that analysis, says: “In terms of do low emissions zones work, there is a really strong evidence base that they do.” He says there is evidence from elsewhere in Europe, too. German cities, for example, have seen reductions of up to 7 per cent for particulate matter pollution (PM10) and 4 per cent for NO2. Such information suggests that there is no dramatic change in air quality on the day they take effect, says Fuller, because the shift is gradual. Simply announcing the start date of a zone usually triggers “pre-compliance”, in which people upgrade their cars to newer, cleaner ones years in advance. “The benefits start well before the charge starts,” says Fuller. That is how low emissions zones, also known as clean air zones, are designed to work: as a catalyst for change rather than through people paying fees to keep polluting (£12.50 per day in London for most vehicles). Rodrigues says more than 80 per cent of cars in the area meet the London ULEZ’s emissions standards, which generally means diesels sold after 2015 and petrol models sold after 2005, and she expects that figure to rise.
10-19-21 UK net zero strategy under fire for failure to show carbon savings
The UK government has been criticised after publishing a sweeping climate change strategy that didn’t show the carbon emissions savings any of its measures would deliver. With the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow 12 days away and the UK off track for several of its future carbon targets, the net zero strategy laid out a crucial set of new policies for cutting emissions, including backing a large nuclear power station and mandating electric vehicles sales. The strategy said the new plans taken together put the UK “on the path” to its tough 2035 target of slashing emissions by 78 per cent. In a foreword, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said: “This strategy sets out how we will make historic transitions to remove carbon from our power, retire the internal combustion engine from our vehicles and start to phase out gas boilers from our homes.” However, the strategy doesn’t detail any of the anticipated emissions savings that will stem from action on homes, transport, industry and more, and doesn’t give an aggregate figure for how much the moves will cut emissions. New Scientist has learned the government has a spreadsheet breaking down the emissions savings of individual actions, but has decided against making it public. That spreadsheet is likely to assume varying savings for different levels of technologies being deployed. “They’ve said they are now on track and they need to show their workings,” says Ed Matthew at think tank E3G in the UK. “If they don’t, there’s not transparency: how can we possibly hold them to account and test their claims are true?” Government data published last year showed the UK needed stronger policies to reduce emissions by more than a hundred million tonnes of CO2 to meet its carbon targets for the end of this decade and the middle of the next decade.
10-19-21 UK university climate targets strongly criticised for lack of ambition
One hundred and forty UK universities have agreed their first sector-wide climate change targets, but the goals have been condemned as inadequate, unambitious and omitting key issues. Universities UK, which represents the institutions, says its members will cut their emissions by at least 78 per cent by 2035 on 1990 levels. They have committed to net zero by 2050. Both targets are identical to those set by the UK government for the economy as a whole. “It is rubbish,” says Will Richardson at consultancy firm Green Element, who has audited the emissions of universities for decades. “My overall opinion of this is that it is cap in hand asking for money whilst not actually looking at what change has happened in their sector.” A Universities UK report due out tomorrow, Confronting the Climate Emergency, includes examples of universities that have committed to stronger action, such as the University of Glasgow’s and Keele University’s plans to be net zero by 2030. “Why not celebrate them and bring the sector up to their standard and not to the lowest?” says Richardson. The sector-wide targets only cover the direct and indirect emissions generated by the universities, known as “scope 1” and “scope 2” in the parlance of emissions accounting. However, the commitment doesn’t cover “scope 3” emissions, which for universities are mostly around travel, particularly international flights by staff and students. Scope 3 targets will instead be set “as soon as possible”, says Universities UK. Kevin Anderson, an energy and climate change researcher at the University of Manchester, UK, says: “[The plan] offers little more than a rhetorical mission statement, more typical of a large oil company than the very institutions where cutting-edge climate research is undertaken.” On scope 3 emissions, he adds: “Where is the strategy of virtual teaching of foreign students to reduce international travel? Where is the policy to facilitate longer but fewer fieldwork trips?”
10-19-21 Net zero announcement: UK sets out plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions
Another big push towards electric vehicles is being made in the UK government's latest strategy to make the great shift to a virtually zero-carbon economy. Ministers are investing £620m in grants for electric vehicles and street charging points. Car makers will be mandated to sell a proportion of clean vehicles each year. An extra £350m is promised to help the automotive supply chain move to electric. The new plan set out by the government is supposed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach a target of net zero by 2050. The announcement comes 12 days before global leaders meet in Glasgow to negotiate how to curb climate change. Achieving net zero means the UK will no longer be adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Without action on climate change, the world faces a hotter planet, rising sea levels and extreme weather that threaten many forms of life. The UK has already made progress in cutting emissions compared to the levels released in 1990. In 2019, the country released 40% less than in 1990. On Tuesday the government also announced a strategy to address emissions from the UK's 30 million buildings. Homeowners will be able to apply for grants of up to £5,000 to install low-carbon heat pumps to replace gas boilers. The Labour party's Ed Miliband responded to the strategy, saying the "plans falls short on delivery" adding "we've waited months for a heat and buildings strategy, it's a massive let-down". Prof Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said the plan will require "strong investment and innovation" and would generate a "new and attractive form of growth". But he warned that low-income households will need support. And Prof Dan Lunt, Professor of Climate Science at University of Bristol, called the strategy's approach to flying weak and unambitious.
10-19-21 What is net zero and how are the UK and other countries doing?
The UK government has set out more details about how it intends to cut greenhouse gas emissions and achieve "net zero" by 2050. The announcement comes days before the start of the important climate change summit, COP26. Presenting the net zero strategy to the House of Commons, Energy Minister Greg Hands pledged: 1. £620m in grants for electric vehicles and charging points, plus £350m to help the transition from petrol, 2. Grants of up to £5,000 for householders to install low-carbon heat pumps, 3. £120m to develop small nuclear reactors (no announcement on the go-ahead for the Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk), 4. £625m for tree planting and peat restoration, 5. More money for carbon capture and storage hubs. The government has already announced a ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, and that all the UK's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2035. Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband called the latest announcements "a massive let-down". Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Achieving it will involve reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and balancing out any that remain by removing an equivalent amount. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are released when we burn oil, gas and coal for our homes, factories and transport. This causes global warming by trapping the sun's energy. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 197 countries agreed to try to limit temperature rises "well below" 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Experts say that to achieve this target countries would need to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. Nations will be asked to set out what steps they are taking to move towards this at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Not all emissions can be reduced to zero, so those remaining will have to be compensated for, or offset. Almost every country is planting trees as a cheap way of absorbing carbon, although there are questions over whether there's enough space for the trees needed. Technology involving carbon capture and storage has also been suggested. This involves using machinery to remove carbon from the air, then solidifying it and burying it underground. However, the technology is still emerging, very expensive and as yet unproven.
10-19-21 COP26: 'Hate tells scientists their work is important'
The scientist at the centre of the Climategate scandal and the subject of BBC drama The Trick said scientists need protecting from abuse. Prof Phil Jones was head of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in Norwich when its servers were hacked in 2009. Stolen documents were used to wrongly accuse him of making up data on climate change, for which he got hate mail. Of the on-going abuse of scientists, he said: "It tells us the work is really important and inspires us to continue." He still receives hate mail each November and December, around the anniversary of the data breach at the University of East Anglia unit and the subsequent "media storm" 12 years ago. Back then, as dramatised in The Trick, his life's work was called in to question, both in some sections of the press and by climate-change deniers. "It was a really awful time - I was used to dealing with comments on my work at scientific conferences, but when the media storm arrived, I just couldn't respond to it," he told BBC Look East. "We were fighting against a massive tide, and people just didn't seem to want to know about the science, they wanted to know about a few words in a few emails." He said he has seen parallels in other branches of science. "The best analogy at the moment is what's been happening to some of the people working on Covid and the vaccines, who are getting some of the same thing from some recent reporting," he said. "They are really just messengers of the work they do; there shouldn't be this hate. "People have to stand up for science, and realise scientists themselves need protecting." All allegations against Prof Jones and the CRU were rejected in subsequent inquiries. Prof Jones still works at CRU and said he had "got to be hopeful" about COP26 later this month. "The science is much stronger now," he said. "If they had acted after Copenhagen [December 2009], we'd be 10 years further down the line.
10-18-21 UK plans £5000 grants for heat pumps ahead of gas boiler ban in 2035
Households in England and Wales will be offered a £5000 government grant from April to buy low-carbon heating systems, as the UK government takes a major first step to ending the country’s reliance on fossil fuels for keeping warm. The government is also planning to ban the sale of new gas boilers from 2035. Gas boilers are used in about 86 per cent of UK homes, meaning heating and hot water for homes generates more than a fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions. The boilers also account for a growing share of air pollution in towns and cities. Under the long-delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy, one of the decarbonisation strategies planned to help the UK achieve net-zero emissions, people will be encouraged to shift to heat pumps, which provide heating and hot water by using electricity to draw heat from the ground, air and other sources. The new grants will effectively halve the typical £10,000 cost of an installed air-source heat pump, bringing it closer in line with gas boilers, which usually cost less than £3000 to be installed. A total of £450 million has been allocated for the new grants over three years, enough for 90,000 homes. About 67,000 heat pumps are expected to be sold this year, but the government has a target of 600,000 installed each year in homes and buildings by 2028 to help meet its climate change targets. “There’s some really good stuff [in the strategy],” says Chris Venables at Green Alliance, a UK-based think tank. The £450 million for grants is larger than expected, he says, with £100 million previously mooted. The Confederation of British Industry, which represents UK businesses, welcomed the grants, which it said would “get the ball rolling when it comes to decarbonising homes”. However, Jan Rosenow at the non-profit Regulatory Assistance Project says the funding is too low. “Given that the target is to install 600,000 heat pumps per year, this is clearly not enough,” he says.
10-19-21 Heat pump grants worth £5,000 to replace gas boilers not enough, say critics
Experts have criticised plans to subsidise low-carbon heat pumps in place of gas boilers for homeowners in England and Wales from next April. Households will be offered subsidies of £5,000 from next April to help them make the switch. Although up to 25 million UK homes have gas boilers, the grants will fund just 90,000 pumps over three years. The government says this will boost demand for the pumps, but critics say the plan does not go far enough. Homeowners will be encouraged to switch to a heat pump or other low-carbon technology when their current boiler needs replacing. An air-source heat pump costs between £6,000 and £18,000, depending on the type installed and the size of a property. Ministers say the subsidies will make heat pumps a comparable price to a new gas boiler. However, the £450m being allocated for the subsidies over three years has been criticised as insufficient. Experts also point to the need for costly new insulation and other home improvements to help households get the best out of the switch. "Gas is in the news for price increases that are on the horizon," said Dr David Glew, head of energy efficiency and policy at the Leeds Sustainability Institute at Leeds Beckett University. "But gas is actually relatively cheap to heat your home with," he added. "Needing to insulate your house might cost you tens of thousands of pounds and you're only going to be saving several hundreds of pounds, so the economics of that doesn't really add up." Media caption, Boris Johnson: "Green is good, green is right, green works" Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said the number of heat pumps that the grants would cover "just isn't very much" and meant the UK would not meet its climate targets. "These grants will only incentivise the best-off households," he said. Greenpeace UK's climate campaigner, Caroline Jones, said the government needed to provide more money to speed up the switch. "A clearer signal would have been a phase-out of new boilers before 2035," she said. The government says it wants no new gas boilers to be sold after 2035, but it has not banned them outright.
10-18-21 California had its driest year since 1924
California recorded one of its driest water years, receiving just half the amount of precipitation that falls during an average 12 months. A water year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. After adding up precipitation measurements recorded at its different stations during the time period, the Western Regional Climate Center calculated that 11.87 inches of rain and snow fell in California over the 2021 water year, the Los Angeles Times reports. This is well below the yearly average of roughly 23.58 inches. The California Department of Water Resources said this is the second driest year on record, and the last time the state experienced such little rain and snowfall was in 1924. California saw record heat this summer, and more than 87 percent of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has asked residents to reduce their water use by 15 percent before the state imposes mandatory restrictions. Only two of California's major reservoirs are at or above their average storage level, and one of Los Angeles' major water sources, Lake Mead in Nevada, has been declining over the last two decades. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study found that because of warmer temperatures caused by climate change, precipitation and melted snowpack are evaporating faster than in previous years. "We've already had this dry year, and we're in a drought situation, and then trends are that it potentially could be below the low rainfall season again this winter," Jayme Laber, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, told the Times. "All those things add up to not looking good."
10-18-21 COP26: Does a climate summit need 25,000 people? And more questions
It's two weeks until the start of the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow - one of the biggest ever world meetings on how to tackle global warming. But what's it all about? BBC News environment correspondent Matt McGrath answers some of your questions. Does COP26 really need 25,000 people there? They will generate a lot of CO2, so why can't many elements be online? - David, Birmingham: The pandemic might be seen as the perfect moment for the UN to use technology for negotiations, and it was attempted during a preparatory meeting for COP in June, which ran for three weeks. Unfortunately, it didn't go well - time-zone and technology challenges made it almost impossible for countries with limited resources, progress was limited and decisions were put off. As a result, many developing nations have insisted on having an in-person COP. They feel that it is far easier for their voices to be ignored on a dodgy Zoom connection. They also bring a lived experience of climate change that it is critical for rich countries to hear first-hand. There's some evidence that this works. In 2015, the presence of island states and vulnerable nations was key to securing the commitment to limit temperature changes to 1.5C in the Paris Agreement. Why aren't the heads of state of China, India and Saudi Arabia attending COP26? - Thomas Myett, Dorset: Making the attendance of presidents and prime ministers a key measure of success is dangerous for the organisers. If President Xi, Prime Minister Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman don't turn up, the risk is that the conference is declared a failure even before it starts. But, in fairness to the organisers, decisions by leaders to travel to such events are often very last minute. In the case of China, President Xi hasn't left the country since the start of the Covid pandemic. Perhaps more of an issue is the fact all three countries have so far failed to submit updated carbon-cutting plans ahead of COP26. This might be of ultimately greater importance than the presence or absence of their leaders.
10-18-21 Kerala floods: At least 26 killed as rescuers step up efforts
At least 26 people have been killed in floods in southern India after heavy rains caused rivers to overflow, cutting off towns and villages. Five children are among the dead. There are fears the death toll could rise further as many people are missing. Several houses were washed away and people became trapped in the district of Kottayam in Kerala state. Video from the area showed bus passengers being rescued after their vehicle was inundated with floodwater. Kottayam and Idukki are two of the worst affected districts in the state. Days of heavy rainfall has also caused deadly landslides. Swollen rivers have washed away bridges connecting many small villages. Military helicopters are being used to fly in supplies and personnel to areas where people are trapped, officials said. Thousands of people have been evacuated and 184 relief camps have been set up across the state, where over 8,000 people are being provided food, bedding and clothing. The government has also announced financial aid for those who have lost houses and crops. It has decided to leave the decision of whether various dams in the state should be opened to an expert committee. In 2018, some 400 people died when heavy rains flooded the state. There was controversy over the fact that dams were opened without any warning to people living in low-lying areas. Kerala's chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the committee will decide which dams need to be opened. "District collectors will be notified hours before opening the dams so that local people have enough time to evacuate," his office said in a statement. Meanwhile, India's meteorological department has predicted heavy, isolated rainfall in the state for up to four more days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that he had spoken to Mr Vijayan about the situation. "It is sad that many people have died due to the heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. My condolences to the bereaved families," Mr Modi wrote. Officials from Alleppey city told BBC Hindi that the situation in the city was worrying. Alleppey has a network of canals and lagoons and it is vulnerable to flooding.
10-17-21 Investigators believe cargo ship dragged California oil pipeline in January
Federal investigators trying to determine what caused an oil spill off the Southern California coast earlier this month believe that during a heavy storm in January, the anchor of the MSC DANIT hit the underwater pipeline, pulling it for more than 100 feet. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. SondraKay Kneen said on Sunday that it's thought the anchor bent the pipeline, but did not break it. The MSC DANIT is a 1,200-foot cargo ship registered in Panama and operated by the MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company. The ship arrived at the Port of Long Beach this weekend, and investigators are on board. It's estimated that 25,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean because of this leak, killing wildlife. Kneen made it clear that investigators do not know for certain yet if the DANIT's anchor caused the leak, or if there was another reason for the pipeline damage. "We're still looking at multiple vessels and scenarios," she said.
10-17-21 Kerala floods: At least 19 dead and dozens missing in India
At least 19 people have been killed in floods in southern India after heavy rains caused rivers to overflow, cutting off towns and villages. Several houses were washed away and people became trapped in the district of Kottayam in Kerala state. Video from Kottayam showed bus passengers being rescued after their vehicle was inundated with floodwater. Days of heavy rainfall in Kerala has caused deadly landslides and the Indian military has joined rescue efforts. Helicopters have been used to fly in supplies and personnel to parts of Kottayam district, where people have been trapped under debris by the landslides, officials said on Sunday. Sections of road have also been swept away and trees uprooted. Fishing boats are being used to evacuate residents trapped in Kollam and other coastal towns. Dozens of people have been reported missing and there are fears the death toll could rise further. Local residents joined rescue teams on Sunday to help remove mud, rocks and fallen trees from affected areas as the search for survivors continued. Refuge centres have been set up in various areas across the state. It is not uncommon for heavy rainfall to cause flooding and landslides in Kerala, where wetlands and lakes that once acted as natural safeguards against floods have disappeared because of increasing urbanisation and construction. In 2018, some 400 people died and more than one million others were displaced by the worst flooding in Kerala in a century. An assessment carried out by the federal government that same year found that the state, which has 44 rivers flowing through it, was among the 10 most vulnerable to flooding.
10-16-21 Joe Manchin reportedly vetoed Biden clean-energy proposal, gets in public fight with Bernie Sanders
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has told the White House he firmly opposes a clean electricity program that is a major part of President Biden's climate agenda, suggesting it is likely to be removed from a massive spending bill before Congress, The New York Times reported Friday, citing congressional staffers and lobbyists. The $150 billion program would speed up the replacement of coal- and gas-fired power generation with wind, solar, and nuclear energy. West Virginia produces both coal and natural gas, and Manchin still earns money from a coal brokerage he founded. Democrats can pass the budget legislation without Republican votes using a process known as budget reconciliation, but with the Senate split 50-50, they can't afford to lose a single vote from their own caucus. That has forced White House staffers to write a new version of the legislation deleting the clean energy program and trying to come up with replacement policies to reduce emissions, the Times reports. Losing the Clean Electricity Performance Program poses a couple of problems for Biden, because it makes it much harder to achieve his goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, leaves him heading to Glasgow for a U.N. climate summit with less leverage, and diminishes Democratic enthusiasm for the reconciliation bill, Politico notes. Environmentalists were predictably unhappy with Manchin's veto. And adding to the discord, Manchin and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took their disagreements over the reconciliation package to a new public high on Friday night. Sanders' decision to name-check Manchin in an op-ed in his hometown newspaper, the Charleston Mail-Gazette, prompted a sharp response. "This isn't the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state," Manchin wrote. "Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that." "Sanders' office ran a draft by Manchin's after the op-ed was submitted to the paper but before it published," Politico reports. But "Manchin and Sanders have plenty of history: Sanders won West Virginia's Democratic primary in 2016, defeating Manchin-backed Hillary Clinton in the state. And a year later Sanders' wife appeared alongside Manchin's primary opponent in his 2018 re-election race." In his op-ed, Sanders made the case that Manchin was blocking policies popular in West Virginia.
10-16-21 78 arrested for blocking traffic in last day of D.C. fossil-fuel protests
Police arrested 78 people Friday as Indigenous groups and other environmental activists wrapped up five days of "People vs. Fossil Fuels" demonstrations in Washington, D.C. The arrests came after about 100 people sitting in the street refused to leave when U.S. Capitol Police warned them to disperse or face arrest for obstructing traffic. Three of those arrested also were charged with assault on a police officer, Capitol Police said. During the week, hundreds of protesters called for political leaders to reject fossil fuels to fight climate change and show respect toward Indigenous communities. On Thursday, 55 people were arrested after protesters trying to occupy the Interior Department clashed with security personnel, causing injuries on both sides.
10-16-21 US heating bills set to surge as energy costs jump
US heating bills are set to surge this winter as energy prices soar, the US Energy Information Administration says. About half of households use natural gas for heating and will see their bills jump by 30% in October-March compared to last year, the EIA it said. Those who use heating oil or propane - around 10% - could see their costs jump by 54% and 43% respectively. For the remainder that use electricity for heating, costs should rise by a more modest 6%, it said. Energy prices have soared globally, amid a shortage that has hit firms and households in Europe and Asia. The US has not seen the same chaos, but fuel costs have risen to multi-year highs which is likely to hit household finances as the weather gets colder. "As we have moved beyond what we expect to be the deepest part of the pandemic-related economic downturn, growth in energy demand has generally outpaced growth in supply," said Steve Nalley, acting administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA). "These dynamics are raising energy prices around the world." Natural gas is plentiful in the US, but prices have doubled this year from pandemic-era lows in-part because the country failed to stockpile enough last winter. According to the EIA's baseline scenario, heating bills between October and March for gas users will hit $746, a third more than the same winter period last year. But it said this would rise to a 50% increase if the winter was colder than average, hitting cities such as Chicago which rely heavily on central heating in colder months. It forecasts that households that use propane - mainly in the South, the Northeast and Midwest United States- will spend $631 more on average for heating this winter. Heating oil users could expect to pay $1,734 more ,it added. Again, prices in both cases would be considerably higher if it's a very cold winter. The cost of living in the US has risen sharply amid surging consumer demand, supply chain bottlenecks and labour shortages.
10-15-21 Queen Elizabeth caught expressing irritation with world leaders who talk but 'don't do' on climate change
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is preparing to host some number of world leaders at the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow in a couple of weeks, but, she was overheard telling Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on Thursday, they "still don't know who is coming." The stakes are very high but the expectations are fairly low for the climate summit. And the 95-year-old queen appears irritated with a certain type of world leader. "We only know about people who are not coming," Queen Elizabeth was heard saying. "It's really irritating when they talk, but they don't do." President Biden, for what it's worth, has RSVP'd for himself and 13 high-ranking administration officials. London's The Sun tabloid had a little fun with the queen's comments on the environment, and the video, filmed on a friend's phone as the queen helped reopen the Welsh parliament, or Senedd Cymru. The Welsh government also posted a clip of Queen Elizabeth speaking with Senedd presiding officer Elin Jones. In it, Jones agrees with the queen that "it is a time for doing — and watching your grandson (Prince William) on TV this morning saying there's no point going to space, we need to save the Earth." The queen beamed and replied, "Yes, I read that." Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, doesn't expect much from world leaders, either, she told Reuters earlier this week. "What I would consider to be a success would be honesty, that we highlight the gap between what we are saying and what we are actually doing," Thunberg said. "Maybe leaders being honest will create a sense of urgency that will make people wake up. We don't know what will lead to the change. All that we can do is to try to raise awareness and create that sense of urgency that we so drastically need right now.."
10-15-21 Scott Morrison: Australia PM to attend COP26 summit after global pressure
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will now attend the COP26 UN climate conference after weeks of initial hesitation. Global leaders will meet in Glasgow next month to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures. Mr Morrison drew criticism when he indicated last month that he might skip the meeting. Australia, a large producer of coal and gas, is under pressure to commit to stronger climate action. Its climate policies and emissions reductions are ranked among the worst in the OECD. "I confirmed my attendance at the Glasgow summit, which I'm looking forward to attending. It is an important event," Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday. Climate activists had slated Mr Morrison for not committing to attend, and it was being seen as a diplomatic snub to the UK, a close ally of Australia. In an interview to the BBC, Prince Charles earlier expressed surprise at Mr Morrison's comments, urging leaders to act urgently to combat climate change. COP26 will be held between 31 October and 12 November in Scotland's largest city. It will be the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Mr Morrison had cited the challenges of Covid as a reason he might not attend, saying he had already served a great deal of quarantine. But Australia is beginning to make plans to end quarantine requirements. Many countries have set ambitious targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but Australia has refused to do so. Australia has committed to a 26% cut on its 2005 emissions by 2030 - a target frequently criticised as too weak. Experts say it needs to commit to a 47% cut by 2030 if it is to meet the UN goal of keeping temperature rise below or within 1.5C. Australia is one of the largest emitters on a per capita basis because its energy grid is still largely reliant on coal power. The conservative government has faced months of pressure, both at home and overseas, to improve its climate policies. It is expected to reveal higher emission targets next week. "The government will be finalising its position to take to the summit. We're working through those issues," Morrison said on Friday.
10-14-21 La Niña has arrived, will likely stick around through early 2022
La Niña conditions have returned, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday, and will likely stay around through the winter. La Niña is a weather pattern marked by cooler sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. It usually brings colder temperatures and more rain to the Pacific Northwest and northern Plains and drier and warmer conditions in the South and Southwest — unwelcome news for drought-stricken California. "La Niña is associated with reductions in vertical wind shear in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic," Colorado State University research scientist Phil Klotzbach told CNN. "Too much shear is typically what ends the Atlantic hurricane season, so La Niña can extend the active part of the season." While La Niña typically lowers global temperatures, the Earth has been warming so fast in recent years that it's unlikely this will make much of an impact.
10-14-21 Prince William: Saving Earth should come before space tourism
Prince William has suggested entrepreneurs should focus on saving Earth rather than engaging in space tourism. (Webmasters Comment: I couldn't agree more! What a waste of money!) The Duke of Cambridge said great brains and minds should be "trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live". He also warned about a rise in "climate anxiety" among younger generations. William spoke to the BBC's Newscast ahead of the first Earthshot Prize to reward those trying to save the planet. The prize's name is a reference to the "moonshot" ambition of 1960s America, which saw then-President John F Kennedy pledge to get a man on the moon within a decade. Speaking about the current space race and the drive to promote space tourism, William said: "We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live. "I think that ultimately is what sold it for me - that really is quite crucial to be focusing on this [planet] rather than giving up and heading out into space to try and think of solutions for the future." On Wednesday, Hollywood actor William Shatner became the oldest person to go to space as he blasted off aboard the Blue Origin sub-orbital capsule developed by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk are also building up space businesses. William told Newscast's Adam Fleming he had "absolutely no interest" in going as high as space, adding there was a "fundamental question" over the carbon cost of space flights. He warned there was "a rise in climate anxiety" among young people who whose "futures are basically threatened the whole time". "It's very unnerving and it's very, you know, anxiety making," he said. The father-of-three challenged adults to channel their inner child to "remember how much it meant to be outdoors and what we're robbing those future generations of". William also said his father, Prince Charles, had a "rough ride" when warning about climate change, adding: "It's been a hard road for him."
10-14-21 Biden administration announces plan for large wind farms along most of the U.S. coastline
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday announced an "ambitious road map" to developing wind farms along most of the U.S. coastline, leasing plots for seven major offshore wind farms by 2025. The leases off Maine, New York, California, Oregon, the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic States, and the Gulf of Mexico would host windmills that generate a combined 30,000 megawatts of power by 2030, avert 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and create up to 77,000 jobs, the White House says. The plan advances President Biden's "plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation's transition to a cleaner energy future," Haaland said. "This timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency. Together, we will meet our clean energy goals while addressing the needs of other ocean users and potentially impacted communities." She added that the Interior Department is also working with other federal agencies to generate at least 25,000 megawatts of solar and wind power on public lands by 2025. Biden's big push for offshore wind power is likely to run into resistance from the commercial fishing industry, coastal landowners, and offshore oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico who see "wind energy as a threat to not only their local operations but their entire business model," The New York Times reports. Some environmental groups are also wary of how wind farms affect birds and other ocean life. Wind energy supporters and environmental groups welcomed the plan. Amanda Lefton, director of Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the Biden administration "will engage early and often with all stakeholders prior to identifying any new wind energy areas." And Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $11.5 million to study how wind farms may affect birds, bats, marine animals, and commercial fisheries. "In order for Americans living in coastal areas to see the benefits of offshore wind, we must ensure that it's done with care for the surrounding ecosystem by coexisting with fisheries and marine life," she said. The wind farm plan was announced amid "an energy crisis around the world" nestled inside "a perfect storm of crises," Axios reports. "A combination of weather-related issues (many of which are related to climate change), unexpected demand, and planned outages has sent natural gas and coal prices through the roof," and the "global energy transition to renewables" just "hasn't come soon enough."
10-14-21 Earth is reflecting less light. It’s not clear if that’s a trend
Our planet dimmed by 0.5 percent in 20 years, but the trend may not last. The amount of sunlight that Earth reflects back into space — measured by the dim glow seen on the dark portions of a crescent moon’s face — has decreased measurably in recent years. Whether the decline in earthshine is a short-term blip or yet another ominous sign for Earth’s climate is up in the air, scientists suggest. Our planet, on average, typically reflects about 30 percent of the sunlight that shines on it. But a new analysis bolsters previous studies suggesting that Earth’s reflectance has been declining in recent years, says Philip Goode, an astrophysicist at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. From 1998 to 2017, Earth’s reflectance declined about 0.5 percent, the team reported in the Sept. 8 Geophysical Research Letters. Using ground-based instruments at Big Bear, Goode and his colleagues measured earthshine — the light that reflects off our planet, to the moon and then back to Earth — from 1998 to 2017. Because earthshine is most easily gauged when the moon is a slim crescent and the weather is clear, the team collected a mere 801 data points during those 20 years, Goode and his colleagues report. Much of the decrease in reflectance occurred during the last three years of the two-decade period the team studied, Goode says. Previous analyses of satellite data, he and his colleagues note, hint that the drop in reflectance stems from warmer temperatures along the Pacific coasts of North and South America, which in turn reduced low-altitude cloud cover and exposed the underlying, much darker and less reflective seas. “Whether or not this is a long-term trend [in Earth’s reflectance] is yet to be seen,” says Edward Schwieterman, a planetary scientist at University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the new analysis. “This strengthens the argument for collecting more data,” he says.
10-14-21 Lords return Environment Bill to the Commons with big changes
The Environment Bill is heading back to the House of Commons, having been significantly changed by the Lords. Peers made 14 amendments to the bill, in the face of government opposition. Changes include a demand for government to declare a biodiversity and climate change emergency, improve protection for ancient woodland and to eliminate sewage discharges into rivers. The government is now under pressure to get the bill passed, having previously said it would be law before COP 26. Last month, environment minister Lord Goldsmith said it was in the "national and international interest" for the bill to be become law before the November climate conference in Glasgow. And speaking to the i in July, he suggested delaying the bill could mean "weakening our hand in these extraordinarily important climate and environment negotiations". However, time is running out as both the House of Commons and House of Lords have to agree any changes to the bill before it can become law. A spokesperson for the environment department said: "We continue to work across parliament to complete its passage into law as soon as possible", adding "we will look closely at amendments passed at Report stage and consider how to respond when the Environment Bill returns to the House of Commons". The government says its bill, which was published by the government back in 2019, aims to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife, and protect the climate. The proposed new law sets up a new independent watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection - which would monitor progress on improving the environment. However, the passage of the bill through Parliament has been slow, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Progress will now be further delayed as the bill heads back to the House of Commons for MPs to vote on the changes introduced by the Lords. Opposition peers voted to compel the government to set long-term targets for improving soil quality and air pollution.
10-14-21 Climate change: Carbon emissions from rich countries rose rapidly in 2021
Carbon emissions are rebounding strongly and are rising across the world's 20 richest nations, according to a new study. The Climate Transparency Report says that CO2 will go up by 4% across the G20 group this year, having dropped 6% in 2020 due to the pandemic. China, India and Argentina are set to exceed their 2019 emissions levels. The authors say that the continued use of fossil fuels is undermining efforts to rein in temperatures. With just two weeks left until the critical COP26 climate conference opens in Glasgow, the task facing negotiators is stark. One of the key goals of the gathering is to take steps to keep the important 1.5C temperature threshold alive and within reach. With the world currently around 1.1C warmer than pre-industrial times, limiting future incremental increases is extremely challenging. If Glasgow is going to succeed on this question, then the countries that create the most carbon will have to put ambitious policies into place. The evidence from this new report is that it isn't happening fast enough. The G20 group is responsible for around 75% of global emissions, which fell significantly last year as economies were closed down in response to Covid-19. But this year's rebound is being powered by fossil fuel, especially coal. According to the report, compiled by 16 research organisations and environmental campaign groups, coal use across the G20 is projected to rise by 5% this year. This is mainly due to China who are responsible for around 60% of the rise, but increases in coal are also taking place in the US and India. Coal use in China has surged with the country experiencing increased demand for energy as the global economy has recovered. Coal prices are up nearly 200% from a year ago. This in turn has seen power cuts as it became uneconomical for coal-fired electricity plants generate electricity in recent months. With the Chinese government announcing a change in policy this week to allow these power plants to charge market rates for their energy, the expectation is that this will spur even more coal use this year. When it comes to gas, the Climate Transparency Report finds that use is up by 12% across the G20 in the 2015-2020 period.
10-13-21 Energy watchdog says net zero can protect against future price shocks
The world’s energy watchdog says consumers would be cushioned against future energy price shocks like the one affecting many countries today, if the world adopts policies that put it on a path to net-zero emissions. However, governments are a long way from that trajectory and are failing to deliver on their promise of a “green recovery” after the covid-19 pandemic, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Paris-based group’s World Energy Outlook report warns that this year will see the second biggest annual rise in carbon dioxide emissions from energy. Despite rapid growth in renewables, a strong demand for coal and oil are driving 2021’s increase, which is set to wipe out two-thirds of the CO2 savings brought about by lockdowns and other restrictions last year. For the first time since the World Energy Outlook was originally published in 1977, oil demand will fall in all of the authoritative report’s three main scenarios – peaking this decade at the earliest, or in the mid-2030s at the latest. Tim Gould at the IEA says the current energy price spikes the world is facing, which are driven primarily by soaring gas prices, aren’t caused by a transition to cleaner energy. In fact, the group’s analysis suggests that renewables, energy efficiency and electric cars may hold the answer to protecting against a repeat of today’s crisis. The IEA modelled a price shock in 2030, where coal, gas and oil prices reached the highest levels they hit in each region between 2010 and 2020. The group found it would be 30 per cent less costly for households in a scenario where the world is on a trajectory to net zero by 2050 than a scenario similar to the path we are currently on. “That all sounds great. [But] those benefits don’t come for free,” says Gould. He notes the net-zero route would require significant up-front investment, such as for upgrading buildings and buying electric cars. Protecting vulnerable citizens in that transition will be key, he says. “If you find a way to do that, you’ve not just insulated your home, but you’ve insulated your wallet.”
10-13-21 Poorer nations will be hit by rising energy costs from climate change
Climate change will lead to a small drop in global spending on energy by the end of the century, but many middle-income countries, including India, face a rise in these costs as people turn to air conditioning to keep cool, a study suggests. The research by a US and Chinese team contradicts some past studies that suggested higher spending on energy would be one of global warming’s biggest financial costs. “The actual global cost in energy consumption is much lower than people had previously thought. A lot of days, people are expecting every study to come out and say climate change is way worse than we expected [but that’s not the case here],” says Solomon Hsiang at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the study’s authors. However, he says the team’s other key finding is the unequal burden of future spending in different countries. Instead of extrapolating from one country’s energy use to a global picture, as some previous research has done, Hsiang and his colleagues collected data on income, temperature and energy consumption for 146 countries from 1971 to 2010. They used that to build a model of how energy spending will change by 2099 in 24,000 geographic areas – each about the size of a US county – under two widely-used climate scenarios. The high emissions scenario would see a small saving equivalent to 0.17 per cent of global GDP in 2099. For a lower emissions scenario – closer to what the world is on path for – there would be a more modest fall on a par with 0.08 of 2099’s GDP. Today’s high-income countries are expected to see the biggest savings, as milder winters reduce their heating needs. Meanwhile, middle-income areas in the tropics and subtropics, including parts of China, India, Indonesia and Mexico, will spend much more due to “dramatically” increased electrical energy demands for cooling, the study authors write. Many low-income countries are expected to be too poor by 2099 to spend more on energy, the authors write.
10-13-21 Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from Environment Agency
Hundreds of people could die in floods in the UK, the Environment Agency has warned in a hard-hitting report that says the country is not ready for the impact of climate change. Earlier this year in Germany, dozens of people died in floods. "That will happen in this country sooner or later" unless the UK becomes more resilient to increasingly violent weather, the agency concludes. Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the agency, said: "It is adapt or die." The apocalyptic tone is deliberately intended to startle governments, companies and communities into preparing for global warming effects such as higher sea levels and more extremes of rainfall and drought. The new report, seen by the BBC ahead of its publication on Wednesday, assesses the country's readiness to cope with the many different risks of climate change. In its response, environment department Defra said it was taking key measures to protect the UK from the effects of global warming. We are currently heading for an increase in the global average temperature of just under 3C by the end of the century. But the agency projects that even a smaller rise of 2C would have severe consequences: 1. Winter rainfall up by 6% by the 2050s and 8% by the 2080s (compared with 1981-2000). 2. Summer rainfall down by about 15% by the 2050s. 3. London's sea level up by 23cm by the 2050s and 45cm by the 2080s. 4. By the 2050s, peak river flows could be up 27% while summer flows could be down as much as 82%. 5. An extra 3.4 billion litres of extra water needed every day before 2050, on top of the 15 billion used now. According to Ms Howard Boyd: "We can successfully tackle the climate emergency if we do the right things, but we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures. "Some 200 people died in this summer's flooding in Germany. That will happen in this country sooner or later, however high we build our flood defences - unless we also make the places where we live, work and travel resilient to the effects of the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing."
10-13-21 Energy watchdog says net zero can protect against future price shocks
The world’s energy watchdog says consumers would be cushioned against future energy price shocks like the one affecting many countries today, if the world adopts policies that put it on a path to net-zero emissions. However, governments are a long way from that trajectory and are failing to deliver on their promise of a “green recovery” after the covid-19 pandemic, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Paris-based group’s World Energy Outlook report warns that this year will see the second biggest annual rise in carbon dioxide emissions from energy. Despite rapid growth in renewables, a strong demand for coal and oil are driving 2021’s increase, which is set to wipe out two-thirds of the CO2 savings brought about by lockdowns and other restrictions last year. For the first time since the World Energy Outlook was originally published in 1977, oil demand will fall in all of the authoritative report’s three main scenarios – peaking this decade at the earliest, or in the mid-2030s at the latest. Tim Gould at the IEA says the current energy price spikes the world is facing, which are driven primarily by soaring gas prices, aren’t caused by a transition to cleaner energy. In fact, the group’s analysis suggests that renewables, energy efficiency and electric cars may hold the answer to protecting against a repeat of today’s crisis. The IEA modelled a price shock in 2030, where coal, gas and oil prices reached the highest levels they hit in each region between 2010 and 2020. The group found it would be 30 per cent less costly for households in a scenario where the world is on a trajectory to net zero by 2050 than a scenario similar to the path we are currently on. “That all sounds great. [But] those benefits don’t come for free,” says Gould. He notes the net-zero route would require significant up-front investment, such as for upgrading buildings and buying electric cars. Protecting vulnerable citizens in that transition will be key, he says. “If you find a way to do that, you’ve not just insulated your home, but you’ve insulated your wallet.”
10-13-21 Energy prices: EU unveils plan to ease Europe's gas crisis
The European Commission has announced a package of measures to alleviate an energy price surge that has sent bills skyrocketing across Europe. The approval of tax cuts and the joint purchase of fuel by the EU members were among the proposals put forward. Energy prices have hit record highs for various reasons, including high demand for natural gas as economies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Commission has been under pressure to act on the price crunch. The wholesale price of gas has increased by 250% since January, triggering a knock-on spike in costs for consumers and businesses. On Wednesday the Commission's energy chief, Kadri Simson, said the EU's executive was responding to calls for action by unveiling an "energy price toolbox". The toolbox outlines steps member states can take to reduce energy bills in their countries without breaching EU law. It mostly confirms the measures national governments can already use, but considers what more the Commission can do. Ms Simson said member states were best placed to ease the burden of rising energy prices as winter approaches. She urged EU countries to consider emergency income support for vulnerable households, state aid for companies, and targeted tax reductions. She also advised member states to temporarily pause bill payments where necessary, and put in place safeguards to avoid disconnections from the grid. "Rising global energy prices are a serious concern for the EU," Ms Simson said. "As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies." On top of those measures, Ms Simson said the Commission would look into the possible benefits of EU countries jointly buying natural gas. Ms Simson said countries could collectively buy gas to form a strategic reserve. But, like the joint scheme to buy Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic, participation would be voluntary. The idea was proposed recently by governments that want more EU intervention, such as Spain. All member states were encouraged to use the EU's €750bn (£636bn; $867bn) Covid-19 recovery fund to invest in clean energy to meet the bloc's climate targets. "We are not facing a surge because of our climate policy," Ms Simson said. "Fossil fuel prices are spiking. We need to speed up the green transition, not slow it down."
10-13-21 Waste electronics will weigh more than the Great Wall of China
The "mountain" of waste electronic and electrical equipment discarded in 2021 will weigh more than 57 million tonnes, researchers have estimated. That is heavier than the Great Wall of China - the planet's heaviest artificial object. The assessment is by an international expert group dedicated to tackling the global problem of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). They point out that the value of those discarded materials is vast. According to a 2019 report by the World Economic Forum, the world's electronic waste has a material value of $62.5 billion (£46 billion) - more than the GDP of most countries. "A tonne of discarded mobile phones is richer in gold than a tonne of gold ore," said Dr Ruediger Kuehr, director of the UN's Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) programme. The waste includes items such as mobile phones, fridges, kettles, televisions and electric toys or sports equipment. Globally, the amount of so called e-waste generation is growing by two million tonnes every year. It is estimated that less than 20% is collected and recycled. Pascal Leroy, who is director general of the expert group the WEEE Forum, says by making products with shorter lifespans and limited repair options, manufacturers have a major role to play in the increase of waste. "Fast mobile phone development, for example, has led to a market dependency on rapid replacement of older devices," he told BBC News. Consumers can also be reluctant to recycle their personal electronic equipment. In the UK, a 2019 study by the Royal Society of Chemistry found that as many as 40 million unused gadgets are languishing in our homes. That puts pressure on the supply of many valuable and rare elements. "Consumers want to do the right thing but need to be adequately informed and a convenient infrastructure should be easily available to them so that disposing of e-waste correctly becomes the social norm," added Pascal Leroy. He also pointed out that recycling electronics, rather than throwing them away, also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. "Every tonne of WEEE recycled avoids around two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions," he said. "So this is more important than ever as our governments go into COP26 to discuss global action to reduce carbon emissions." In the UK, the organisation Material Focus has a postcode locator for people to find their nearest e-waste recycling point for items such as toasters and old cables.
10-13-21 Ros Atkins on... The US climate conundrum
Ahead of COP26, Ros Atkins looks at what the world's biggest emitters are doing to tackle climate change. US President Joe Biden has made many promises on climate change, reversing some of his predecessor Donald Trump's policies. But is it enough? The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.
10-13-21 Fire burning near Santa Barbara grows to 13,400 acres
The Alisal Fire burning north of Santa Barbara, California, is threatening 120 structures, including Rancho del Cielo, the vacation home once used by former President Ronald Reagan. As of Tuesday night, the fire, which started on Monday afternoon, has burned 13,400 acres, and is only 5 percent contained, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said. The flames have jumped the 101 freeway, which is shut down in both directions. There are 600 firefighters on the scene, working to keep the flames from spreading across dry hillsides. The blaze is crossing terrain that likely hasn't burned since 1955's Refugio Fire, officials said, and firefighters are hopeful that with the winds dying down, they'll be able to gain the upper hand.
10-12-21 COP26: Which countries are doing best at tackling climate change?
The chief aim of the COP26 climate summit is to “keep 1.5°C alive”, according to the president of the talks, Alok Sharma. But meeting that Paris Agreement goal, of holding global temperature rises to 1.5°C, will require bold ambition from countries in their emissions plans for the end of the decade. Governments had to submit plans in 2015 and were given a deadline of submitting new ones showing “progression” by the end of 2020. However, many missed that schedule and the COP26 meeting starting in Glasgow, UK, on 31 October is now a de facto deadline for stronger plans. So which countries are leading with their new plans for 2030, and which are lagging? Which are contributing a fair amount to ensuring the world warms by no more than 1.5°C, and which aren’t? These 10 charts, drawing on data provided by non-profit organisation Climate Action Tracker, tell the story. Rapid industrialisation around the turn of the century and a huge expansion of coal power have propelled China to account for more than a quarter of global emissions. The country is yet to update the original climate plan it submitted in 2015, which allowed for emissions to keep growing and only peak “around” 2030. The country has the biggest renewable electricity capacity globally, yet its size, growth and continued reliance on coal for more than 60 per cent of its energy pose a serious challenge to cutting emissions. A new plan from China is expected to reflect President Xi Jinping’s previous promise to peak emissions before 2030, but don’t expect that to be enough to put the country on a pathway towards its fair share. There is still hope for China to do better, though. The International Energy Agency has modelled one scenario in which emissions peak in 2025 and decline 4 per cent per year from then, but only by retiring old coal plants and implementing an accelerated roll-out of renewable power and electric vehicles. The US was a key player in forging the Paris Agreement. Yet under former president Donald Trump, it withdrew from the accord, leaving it with no formal plan to cut emissions. Within months of taking office, Joe Biden had rejoined the treaty and set a goal of a 50 to 52 per cent emissions cut by 2030, on 2005 levels. That was at the upper end of expectations. (Webmasters Comment: But the United States has twice the emissions per person than China has! 15.5 per person for the United States, 7.4 for China!)
10-12-21 Pamela expected to strengthen into hurricane before striking Mexico
Tropical Storm Pamela weakened on Tuesday afternoon, but forecasters expect it to strengthen into a hurricane before slamming into Mexico's Sinaloa state on Wednesday morning. As of 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, Pamela was about 200 miles southwest of the resort town of Mazatlan, moving north-northeast at 9 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. It has sustained winds of 70 mph. Forecasters have warned that the storm could bring "large and destructive waves" to the west-central coast of Mexico, dropping 4 to 12 inches of rain in Sinaloa and the neighboring state of Durango. Sinaloa is home to many farms, and is Mexico's top producer of corn. The region has been going through a dry spell, leaving farmers concerned over dying crops. When Pamela formed Sunday evening south of Mexico, it was the 16th named storm of this year's East Pacific hurricane season. On Tuesday, when it briefly strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, Pamela became the season's seventh East Pacific hurricane.
10-12-21 COP26: Which countries are doing best at tackling climate change?
The chief aim of next month’s COP26 climate summit is to “keep 1.5°C alive”, according to the president of the talks, Alok Sharma. But meeting that Paris Agreement goal, of holding global temperature rises to 1.5°C, will require bold ambition from countries in their emissions plans for the end of the decade. Governments had to submit plans in 2015 and were given a deadline of submitting new ones showing “progression” by the end of 2020. However, many missed that schedule and the COP26 meeting starting in Glasgow on 1 November is now a de facto deadline for stronger plans. So which countries are leading with their new plans for 2030, and which are lagging? Who is contributing a fair amount to reaching a 1.5°C world, and who is not? These ten charts, drawing on data provided by the non-profit Climate Action Tracker, tell the story. Rapid industrialisation around the turn of the century and a huge expansion of coal power has propelled China to account for more than a quarter of global emissions. The country is yet to update the original climate plan it submitted in 2015, which allowed for emissions to keep growing and only peak “around” 2030. The country has the biggest renewable electricity capacity globally, yet its size, growth and continued reliance on coal for more than 60 per cent of its energy pose a serious challenge to cutting emissions. A new plan from China is expected to reflect president Xi Jinping’s previous promise to peak emissions before 2030, but don’t expect that to be enough to put the country on a pathway towards its fair share. There is still hope for China to do better, though. The International Energy Agency has modelled one scenario where emissions peak in 2025 and decline 4 per cent a year after, but only by retiring old coal plants and implementing an accelerated roll-out of renewable power and electric vehicles.
10-12-21 Building strategy to look at embodied carbon, says government
The government is looking at how to tackle "embodied carbon" as part of an upcoming building strategy. Developers may have won praise in the past for demolishing draughty buildings for energy-efficient replacements. But engineers now say existing buildings should be kept standing due to the amount of carbon emitted when original building materials were made - known as embodied carbon. A government spokeswoman said they were working on this issue. And Business minister Lord Callanan told a recent conference that it was "one of the areas we want to look at". But despite the peer saying the government was in "the final stages" of creating its new heat and building strategy, neither gave more detail about what measures may appear. Making steel, concrete and bricks for buildings creates a lot of carbon, with concrete alone causing 8% of global emissions. As a result, climate experts are urging ministers to make it hard for developers to demolish buildings without first exploring ways to refurbish and extend them. The chairman of the government’s advisory climate change committee, Lord Deben, said the government had been slow to accept this reversal of established thinking and ministers had not had "the will and the clout to develop these policies". “We need to think differently," he said. "It’s not acceptable to pull buildings down like this. We have to learn to make do and mend." Lord Deben said there needed to be a planning law to stop giving permission for demolitions, adding: "We are simply not going to win the battle against climate change unless we fight on every front." Lord Callanan told a recent conference run by Property Week: “We’re in the final stages of building our Heat and Building Strategy at the moment. This is one of the areas we want to look at." Experts said one simple step would be to make firms planning large scale developments to calculate the total impact on the climate before starting work - something that is already mandatory in several countries.
10-12-21 Breadfruit could be the food of the future as the climate warms
Planting more breadfruit trees could help make food supplies more stable as the planet warms, as climate models suggest they will grow well across the tropics for many decades to come. There is an especially big opportunity in tropical Africa, where large areas are suitable for growing breadfruit trees and will remain so until at least the end of the century. Breadfruit is a bit like a potato that grows on a tree, says Lucy Yang at Northwestern University in Illinois. The starchy fruits can be cooked in many ways and also turned into a flour. “They are highly productive and extremely nutritious,” she says. “In addition, once a tree is established it is quite resilient.” For this study, Yang and Daniel Horton, also at Northwestern, worked with Nyree Zerega at Chicago Botanic Garden. Climate models are usually used to look at all the bad stuff that will happen, says Horton, but his team has begun using them to identify opportunities and solutions.The researchers first looked at where in the tropics breadfruit grows now and identified the climatic conditions cultivated trees require. Next, they used climate models to look at where breadfruit could still be grown between 2060 and 2080. They found the crop will be relatively unaffected, with the overall suitable area shrinking by just 4 per cent globally. “Areas today that grow breadfruit will continue to be able to grow breadfruit, although yields may decrease,” says Horton. This is significant because some studies suggest the yields of staple crops such as rice could be hard hit by rising temperatures and more extreme weather. There are expected to be many more food shocks like that of 2010, when Russia stopped exporting wheat after a heatwave slashed yields, leading to price rises that helped trigger the Arab Spring.
10-11-21 Study: 85 percent of global population has been affected by human-induced climate change
Researchers have found that about 85 percent of the world's population has experienced weather events exacerbated by human-induced climate change. In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists wrote that they analyzed data from more than 100,000 events that could be linked to global warming, including floods, heat waves, and crop failures, as well as changes in temperature and precipitation caused by carbon emissions. They were able to make a connection between more extreme weather and human activities, and determined climate change has affected 80 percent of the Earth's land area, where 85 percent of the population lives. "We have a huge evidence base now that documents how climate change is affecting our societies and our ecosystems," the study's lead author, Max Callaghan of Germany's Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, told The Washington Post. "Climate change is visible and noticeable almost everywhere in the world." This summer, Americans died in the Pacific Northwest due to extreme heat waves and in New York and Louisiana because of flooding caused by an intense hurricane. Madagascar and Afghanistan are both experiencing record droughts, which could cause mass starvation, and some island nations are facing rising sea levels. Callaghan said that as long as the world continues to burn fossil fuels, "things will get worse. Until we reach net-zero, things will continue to get worse." Read more at The Washington Post.
10-11-21 Decaying oil tanker near Yemen could trigger humanitarian disaster
A huge abandoned oil tanker anchored off Yemen could unleash a catastrophic oil spill in the Red Sea, bringing starvation and death to the region, according to an analysis of the potential health impacts of such a disaster. The tanker, called Safer, is anchored about 9 kilometres off the coast of Yemen. It is owned by Yemen’s national oil company, The Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company (SEPOC), which once used it to store crude oil. In March 2015, SEPOC abandoned the ship after it was captured by Ansar Allah, a rebel group commonly known as the Houthis who are combatants in Yemen’s civil war. Safer hasn’t been inspected or maintained since 2015. It was built in 1976 and should have reached the end of its working life in 2016, but is still afloat with approximately 150,000 tonnes of oil inside its fragile single hull. It is visibly dilapidated and “continues to deteriorate”, according to Benjamin Huynh at Stanford University in California. A gigantic oil spill is increasingly likely, he says. A team led by Huynh modelled the public health effects of such a spill. “We’re looking at a potential humanitarian catastrophe: millions without food or clean water, outbreaks of waterborne illness and mass hospital shutdowns due to lack of fuel,” says Huynh. Around half of Yemen’s 30 million people depend on food aid, 68 per cent of which enters the country through two Red Sea ports, Hudaydah and Salif. An uncontained spill would close both ports within days and keep them closed for weeks. Up to 8.1 million people wouldn’t receive food aid for the duration. If the spill spread into the Gulf of Aden, that number could rise to 11.9 million, according to the modelling. A spill would also shut down the Red Sea fishing industry, which provides subsistence for a further 1.7 million people. Yemen is already on the brink of famine, says Huynh. Desalination plants that supply more than a million people with drinking water would be disrupted too. Many other Yemenis rely on groundwater pumps and water trucks, which require fuel. Yemen imports more than 90 per cent of its fuel, and previous port closures have led to severe shortages.
10-11-21 Prince Charles: I understand climate activists' anger
The Prince of Wales has told the BBC he understands why campaigners from organisations like Extinction Rebellion take to the streets to demand action on climate change. In the interview at his home in Balmoral, Prince Charles said action such as blocking roads "isn't helpful". But he said he totally understood the "frustration" climate campaigners felt. And he warned of a "catastrophic" impact if more ambitious action isn't taken on climate change. Speaking in the gardens of his house on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, the prince said it had taken too long for the world to wake up to the risks of climate change. And he worried that world leaders would "just talk" when they meet in Glasgow in November for a crucial UN climate conference. "The problem is to get action on the ground," he said. Asked if he sympathised with Greta Thunberg, the climate campaigner who has also criticised leaders for failing to act, he said: "Of course I do, yes. "All these young people feel nothing is ever happening so of course they're going to get frustrated. I totally understand because nobody would listen and they see their future being totally destroyed." The prince also said he understood why groups such as Extinction Rebellion were taking their protests to the streets. "But it isn't helpful, I don't think, to do it in a way that alienates people. "So I totally understand the frustration, the difficulty is how do you direct that frustration in a way that is more constructive rather than destructive." When asked if the UK government was doing enough to combat climate change, the prince replied: "I couldn't possibly comment." The interview took place in Prince George's Wood, an arboretum the Prince of Wales has created in the gardens of Birkhall on the Balmoral estate. He planted the first tree when Prince George, his oldest grandchild, was born and he said the project had become "an old man's obsession". Prince Charles was frank about the shortcomings of businesses to take action on climate. He has long argued engaging business leaders in tackling climate change would be crucial in limiting global temperature rises. This has been a key strand of his campaigning over the years, most recently through his Sustainable Markets Initiative. The prince said that, while governments can bring billions of dollars to the effort, the private sector has the potential to mobilise trillions of dollars.
10-11-21 The race to save California’s famous sequoia trees
Tourists flock to see California’s famous sequoia trees, but record-breaking wildfires, driven by higher temperatures and extreme drought, have threatened the existence of these natural wonders. The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.
10-11-21 China floods: Nearly 2 million displaced in Shanxi province
More than 1.76 million people have been affected by severe flooding in China's northern Shanxi province, according to local media. Torrential rain last week led to houses collapsing and triggered landslides across more than 70 districts and cities in the province. Heavy rainfall is hampering rescue efforts, officials said. The flooding comes less than three months after extreme rains in Henan province left more than 300 dead. In neighbouring Hebei province, a bus fell into a flooded river. State media said three people had died, and 11 of the 51 on board were missing. In Shanxi, China's Meteorological Administration also told local media that heavy and prolonged rainfall and storms had hampered rescue efforts. Shanxi is also home to a number of ancient monuments which are at major risk from the severe rainfall. More than 120,000 people have been urgently transferred and resettled, and 17,000 homes have collapsed across Shanxi province, authorities told the Xinhua news agency. Four police officers died as a result of a landslide, according to the state-run Global Times, although information about other casualties has not been released. The Shanxi flooding may have been worse than the floods in Henan earlier this year, it added. Shanxi's provincial capital Taiyuan saw average rainfall of around 185.6mm last week, compared with the 25mm it saw in October between 1981 and 2010. Global Times spoke to a resident from Ji county on the Yellow River. "This year, the level of the Yellow River is particularly high," she told the paper. "Some houses in rural areas collapsed in the flood, but people were relocated in advance." Rescuers in Taiyuan reportedly used megaphones to tell stranded people: "Hold the children above your head, the elderly and women are given priority to go ashore. Don't panic, everyone will be rescued." Shanxi is a major coal-producing province and the government was forced to halt operations at mines and chemical factories as a result of the rain. China is already facing an energy shortage which has caused power cuts. The government has been limiting electricity usage at ports and factories. The local government said it had suspended output at 60 coal mines, 372 non-coal mines and 14 dangerous chemical factories in the province. Operations had already been stopped at 27 other coal mines on 4 October.
10-10-21 How the worst drought in 3 decades could exacerbate Afghanistan's national crises — and create new ones
Amid all of its political upheaval, Afghanistan is also facing its "worst drought in 35-36 years," Richard Trenchard, the country director for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Afghanistan, told The Wall Street Journal. Farmers, naturally, are struggling and most lack the technology and money needed to implement more climate-resistance agricultural methods. In short, economic disaster looms, and because the Taliban has not presented any plan to create jobs or provide Afghanistan's population with financial support, there's a chance of unrest in the countryside. "We will wait for six months," Mohammad Amir, a 45-year-old farmer from Wardak province, told the Journal. "If things don't get better, we will stand against the Taliban." The fallout could also include rising tensions with neighboring Iran, which receives water from the Helmand River and has often accused Afghanistan of keeping more water than it was supposed to under the terms of a 1973 water treaty between the two nations, the Journal notes. Oli Brown, a senior research associate with the Berlin-based environmental think tank Adelphia, said the drought could also accelerate migration from Afghanistan, or force farmers in some areas to switch to growing opium poppies, which require less water to cultivate than other crops and are more lucrative. Of course, their production comes with its own consequences. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
10-10-21 Biodiversity loss risks 'ecological meltdown' - scientists
The UK is one of the world's most nature-depleted countries - in the bottom 10% globally and last among the G7 group of nations, new data shows. It has an average of about half its biodiversity left, far below the global average of 75%, a study has found. A figure of 90% is considered the "safe limit" to prevent the world from tipping into an "ecological meltdown", according to researchers. The assessment was released ahead of a key UN biodiversity conference. Biodiversity is the variety of all living things on Earth and how they fit together in the web of life, bringing oxygen, water, food and countless other benefits. Prof Andy Purvis, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, said biodiversity is more than something beautiful to look at. It's also what provides us with so many of our basic needs," he told BBC News. "It's the foundation of our society. We've seen recently how disruptive it can be when supply chains break down - nature is at the base of our supply chains." The new tool for assessing biodiversity, known as the Biodiversity Intactness Index, estimates the percentage of natural biodiversity that remains across the world and in individual countries. The UK's low position in the league table is linked to the industrial revolution, which transformed the landscape, the researchers said. The UK has seen relatively stable biodiversity levels over recent years, albeit at a "really low level," team researcher Dr Adriana De Palma explained in a news briefing. The assessment was released on the eve of the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP 15, hosted by China, a mega-diverse country with nearly 10% of plant species and 14% of animals on Earth. World leaders are attending week-long virtual talks seen as pivotal in raising ambition for slowing the loss of nature ahead of face-to-face talks in Kunming, China, in April next year and the climate conference in Glasgow at the end of the month.
10-10-21 How the worst drought in 3 decades could exacerbate Afghanistan's national crises — and create new ones
Amid all its political upheaval, Afghanistan is also facing its "worst drought in 35-36 years," Richard Trenchard, the country director for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Afghanistan, told The Wall Street Journal. Farmers, naturally, are struggling and most lack the technology and money needed to implement more climate-resistance agricultural methods. In short, economic disaster looms, and because the Taliban has not presented any plan to create jobs or provide Afghanistan's population with financial system, there's a chance of unrest in the countryside. "We will wait for six months," Mohammad Amir, a 45-year-old farm from Wardak province, told the Journal. "If things don't get better, we will stand against the Taliban." The fallout could also include rising tensions with neighboring Iran, which receives water from the Helmland River and has often accused Afghanistan of keeping more water than it was supposed to under the terms of a 1973 water treaty between the two nations, the Journal notes. Oli Brown, a senior research associate with Berlin-based environmental think tank Adelphia, said the drought could also accelerate migration from Afghanistan, or force farmers in some areas to switch to growing opium poppies, which require less water to cultivate than other crops and are more lucrative. Of course, their production comes with its own consequences. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
10-10-21 Power returns to Lebanon after 24-hour blackout
Power has been restored in Lebanon, officials say, after a 24-hour shutdown of the country's energy supply. The energy ministry says the central bank has granted it $100m (£73m) of credit to buy fuel and keep its power stations operating. The power grid shut down yesterday and officials said it was unlikely to restart for several days. For the past 18 months Lebanon has endured an economic crisis and extreme fuel shortages. That crisis has left half its population in poverty, crippled its currency and sparked major demonstrations against politicians. A lack of foreign currency has made it hard to pay overseas energy suppliers. The total outage began at midday on Saturday when Lebanon's two biggest power stations shut down because of fuel shortages. But in a statement on Sunday, the state electricity provider said it is now delivering the same level of power as it was before the outage. But even before the latest shutdown people were often receiving just two hours of electricity a day. Saturday's blackout meant the whole of Lebanon was depending on private diesel-powered generators for power. These however have become increasingly expensive to run amid the lack of fuel, and cannot cover for the lack of a nationwide power grid. The army has agreed to hand over some of its fuel to get the power stations working again until more can be imported.
10-9-21 Lebanon in darkness as electricity grid shuts down
Lebanon has been left without electricity, plunging the country into darkness amid a severe economic crisis. A government official told Reuters news agency the country's two largest power stations, Deir Ammar and Zahrani, had shut down because of a fuel shortage. The power grid "completely stopped working at noon today" and was unlikely to restart for several days, they said. For the past 18 months Lebanon has endured a severe economic crisis which has got worse amid fuel shortages. That crisis has left half its population in poverty, crippled its currency and sparked major demonstrations against politicians. A lack of foreign currency meanwhile has made it hard to pay overseas energy suppliers. In a statement reported by Reuters, Lebanon's state electricity company also confirmed the shutdown of the two power plants, which together provide some 40% of the country's electricity. Their closure led to the "complete outage" of the power network, the statement reportedly said, "with no possibility of resuming operations in the meantime". Many Lebanese people already depend on private diesel-powered generators for power. These however have become increasingly expensive to run amid the lack of fuel, and cannot cover the lack of a nationwide power grid. People were often receiving just two hours of electricity a day in the country before this latest shutdown. The country is also grappling with the aftermath of the Beirut blast in August 2020, which killed 219 people and injured 7,000 others. After the explosion its government resigned, leaving political paralysis. Najib Mikati became prime minister in September, more than a year after the previous administration quit. Last month the militant group Hezbollah brought Iranian fuel into the country to ease shortages. Its opponents say the group is using the fuel delivery to expand its influence.
10-8-21 UK National Grid in talks to build an energy island in the North Sea
UK company National Grid has revealed it is in talks with two other parties about building an “energy island” in the North Sea that would use wind farms to supply clean electricity to millions of homes in north-west Europe. The idea of a renewable energy hub in the North Sea has been floated for years, but has yet to progress from studies to reality. The concept envisages offshore wind farms that have a much larger capacity than those in use today, with sub-sea electricity cables taking the energy to whichever country needs it most. National Grid is a major developer of such long-distance cables in the region, most recently one from Norway to the UK, so its involvement in talks with other energy firms increases the chance of the idea being developed. “We are in tripartite discussions over an energy island that the UK would likely connect to,” says Nicola Medalova at National Grid. She wouldn’t name the two other parties the company is talking to. A spokesperson for National Grid also declined to confirm the parties involved. “There are now a number of energy island concepts being promoted by different parties in countries such as in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, and we’re in conversations with them all to understand the concepts out there,” said the spokesperson. Other energy network operators around the North Sea have signalled their interest in building an energy island, including Elia in Belgium and TenneT in the Netherlands. Two years ago, TenneT concluded that such a project would be technically feasible, despite the engineering challenges. However, the company tells New Scientist that it isn’t in “concrete” talks with National Grid about an energy island. Belgium’s energy minister, Tinne Van der Straeten, said in May that the country would build an island to “interconnect our wind turbines”, built by Elia. A spokesperson for Elia says it is developing a second electricity interconnector cable between the UK and Belgium, known as Nautilus, but “whether Nautilus will be connected to the Belgian energy island is currently uncertain.”
10-7-21 Ros Atkins On... China's climate change promises
Ahead of the COP26 summit on climate change, the BBC's Ros Atkins looks at the world's biggest emitters of CO2 - what they're promising, what they're doing, and whether climate scientists think it's enough. The first in the series focuses on China, the world's biggest emitter. It is responsible for 27% of global CO2 emissions and has announced that it's aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060. Experts agree that China plays a crucial role in global efforts to tackle climate change, but is it moving far enough - and fast enough?
10-7-21 Greenpeace loses North Sea Vorlich field legal challenge
Environmental group Greenpeace has lost its case against the UK government over a North Sea oil field permit. Permission to drill the Vorlich site off Aberdeen was given to BP in 2018. Greenpeace argued in Scotland's highest civil court there had been "a myriad of failures in the public consultation" and the permit did not consider the climate impacts of burning fossil fuel. The Court of Session ruling means operations will continue at the field. Greenpeace plans to appeal. The UK government welcomed the outcome. It follows a two-day hearing into the case last month. Production from the development started in November after BP was granted approval by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) in 2018. Greenpeace said it was the first time an offshore oil permit had ever been challenged in court and that if it had won, the case would have had huge ramifications for other sites, such as the planned Cambo field off Shetland. Ruth Crawford QC for Greenpeace said UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had been "deprived" of information about the environmental impact of the development. Ms Crawford said Greenpeace wanted proper public participation in important developments such as the Vorlich oilfield. Roddy Dunlop QC, representing the UK government, said the challenges advanced by Greenpeace were "largely procedural and opportunistic". Jim Cormack, representing oil firms BP and Ithaca, had previously told hearing that the challenge was "highly significant" and if the original decision was overturned, production from the field would have to stop until new consent could be obtained. He said the works for which consent was granted had been implemented by BP and Ithaca at a cost of about £230m and the project was fully operational and in the production phase. John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director, said: "We will not give up the fight for the climate. Our intention is to appeal this ruling before the Supreme Court."
10-6-21 Living Proof review: A unique take on Scotland's environmental history
An era-defining investigation of how growth occurs in nature and society, from tiny organisms to empires and civilisations, exploring the pitfalls of the drive to go big. MOST environmental documentaries concentrate on the environment. Most films about climate change focus on people tackling the crisis. Living Proof, assembled and edited by Emily Munro, a curator of the moving image at the National Library of Scotland, is different. It is a film about working people and their employers, about people whose day-to-day actions have contributed to Scotland’s industrialisation, its export of materials and methods (particularly in the field of offshore oil and gas) and the associated environmental impact. Collated from an array of public information films and promotional videos from the 1940s onwards, and set to a contemporary soundtrack, Living Proof is an archival history of what Scotland has told itself about itself. It also explores the local and global repercussions of those stories, ambitions and visions. Munro is in thrall to the changing Scottish industrial landscape, from its herring fisheries to its dams, from its slums and derelict mine-heads to the high modernism of its motorways and strip malls. Living Proof is also – and this is more important – a film that respects its subjects’ changing aspirations. It tells the story of a nation that is trying to do right by its people. It will come as no surprise, as Glasgow prepares to host the COP26 global climate conference, to hear that the consequences of those efforts haven’t been uniformly good. Powered by offshore oil and gas, and a redundancy-haunted grave for a dozen heavy industries, from coal mining and shipbuilding to steel manufacture, Scotland has a somewhat chequered environmental history.
10-6-21 'Ionic wind' could power planes, save energy and fight wild weather
Airflow induced by electric fields, known as ionic wind, has already propelled a small aircraft – now engineers think it could help to ease the clean-energy transition and protect infrastructure from natural winds. THE wind is nothing if not capricious. It can be a gentle breeze, making fallen leaves dance and clothes flutter on the washing line. Or it can blow a gale, tearing down trees and power cables and causing all manner of damage. But what if we could switch the wind on and off at the push of a button, or turn it up and down with a dial? We’re not talking about a mechanical desk fan here. There is, as it happens, such a thing as electric wind – airflow induced by electric fields, no moving parts required. We have known about the phenomenon for centuries, but it is only in the past few years that we have come to understand electric wind with the precision needed to control it. Now the challenge is to put it to work. Engineers have already flown a simple aircraft pushed along by electric wind. We might use a gentler, finely tuned breeze to help improve the efficiency of industrial processes like steel-making and to lubricate our transition to a greener energy system. Ultimately, we might even use it to protect ourselves against the destructive force of natural winds too. Electric wind, sometimes called ionic wind, was discovered in 1709 by Francis Hauksbee the Elder, then the curator of instruments for the Royal Society of London. Hauksbee reported that he rubbed a glass tube to give it a static charge and, when he held it close to his cheek, he could feel a gentle force. Isaac Newton repeated the experiment and confirmed the finding. “The electric vapour,” he later wrote, “will sometimes push against the finger so as to be felt.” Newton didn’t fully understand what was going on. By 1899, however, physicist Arthur Prince Chattock had mostly figured it out, leaving only a few loose ends (see “How the electric wind blows“). If you apply a high voltage to a pair of electrodes spaced apart, this strips electrons from molecules in the air and creates charged particles. These are then tugged towards the oppositely charged electrode. As they fly through the air, the charged particles collide with other molecules and impart some of their momentum to them, creating a wind-like flow.
10-6-21 Work on complex systems, including Earth’s climate, wins the physics Nobel Prize
Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi each found hidden patterns in disordered systems. Earth’s climate is a vastly complex system on a grand scale. On a microscopic level, so is the complicated physics of atoms and molecules found within materials. The 2021 Nobel Prize in physics knits together the work of three scientists who illuminated such intricate physical systems by harnessing basic tools of physics. Half of the prize goes to climate scientists Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University and Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, for their work on simulations of Earth’s climate and predictions of global warming, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced October 5. The other half of the 10 million Swedish kronor (more than $1.1 million) prize goes to physicist Giorgio Parisi of Sapienza University of Rome, who worked on understanding the roiling fluctuations within disordered materials. All three researchers used a similar strategy of isolating a specific piece of a complex system in a model, a mathematical representation of something found in nature. By studying that model, and then integrating that understanding into more complicated descriptions, the researchers made progress on understanding otherwise perplexing systems, says physicist Brad Marston of Brown University. “There’s an art to constructing a model that is rich enough to give you interesting and perhaps surprising results, but simple enough that you can hope to understand it.” The prize, normally an apolitical affair, sends a message to world leaders: “The notion of global warming is resting on solid science,” said Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, during the announcement of the prize winners. Human emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, have increased Earth’s average temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times. That warming is affecting every region on Earth, exacerbating extreme weather events such as heat waves, wildfires and drought (SN: 8/9/21).
10-6-21 Climate change: Voices from global south muted by climate science
Climate change academics from some of the regions worst hit by warming are struggling to be published, according to a new analysis. The study looked at 100 of the most highly cited climate research papers over the past five years. Less than 1% of the authors were based in Africa, while only 12 of the papers had a female lead researcher. The lack of diverse voices means key perspectives are being ignored, says the study's author. Researchers from the Carbon Brief website examined the backgrounds of around 1,300 authors involved in the 100 most cited climate change research papers from 2016-2020. They found that some 90% of these scientists were affiliated with academic institutions from North America, Europe or Australia. The African continent, home to around 16% of the world's population had less than 1% of the authors according to the analysis. There were also huge differences within regions - of the 10 authors from Africa, eight of them were from South Africa. When it comes to lead authors, not one of the top 100 papers was led by a scientist from Africa or South America. Of the seven papers led by Asian authors, five were from China. "If the vast majority of research around climate change is coming from a group of people with a very similar background, for example, male scientists from the global north, then the body of knowledge that we're going to have around climate change is going to be skewed towards their interests, knowledge and scientific training," said Ayesha Tandon from Carbon Brief, who carried out the analysis and says that "systemic bias" is at play here. "One study noted that a lot of our understanding of climate change is biased towards cooler climates, because it's mainly carried out by scientists who live in the global north in cold climates," she added. There are a number of other factors at play that limit the opportunities for researchers from the global south. These include a lack of funding for expensive computers to run the computer models, or simulations, that are the bedrock of much climate research. Other issues include a different academic culture where teaching is prioritised over research, as well as language barriers and a lack of access to expensive libraries and databases.
10-6-21 UK could halve energy demand by 2050 without reducing quality of life
The UK could halve its demand for energy by 2050 without compromising quality of life, according to researchers who say curbing energy use will be vital to meet the country’s climate targets. A growth in vegan diets from 3 per cent of the population to a quarter, steps to ensure electronics, clothing and cars last much longer, and a 25 per cent cut in travel by making local services closer to people are some of the 500-plus changes looked at in a report published today by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), a research institute across 24 universities. The team also looked at a frequent flier levy for aviation and increased car sharing. “We can reduce energy demand by improving quality of life for most residents in the UK,” says John Barrett, one of the report’s authors, who is based at the University of Leeds. “This is a low risk option to deliver on our global [climate] targets.” Meeting the targets by relying on costly technologies such as machines to remove CO2 from the air would be riskier, he says. The CREDs team point out that the UK government currently has no comprehensive plan for energy reduction, and limits itself to energy efficiency measures, such as better insulation of buildings. On current policies, energy demand will fall just 5 per cent by mid-century. But in the four scenarios modelled for reaching the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050, the two lowewst energy scenarios would see demand fall by 41 per cent or 52 per cent. The research is built on sectoral models for transport, buildings, food, and industry, several of which are also used by the government. Barrett and colleagues call for the government to draw up an energy demand reduction plan as soon as possible. But he acknowledges the radical and potentially controversial nature of some of the shifts required means achieving a halving of energy demand will be a challenge.
10-6-21 A town in Italy just got 60 percent of its annual rainfall in 12 hours
Rossiglione, a town in Italy's Liguria province near Genoa, got 29.2 inches of rain in 12 hours over Monday and Tuesday, nearly 60 percent of its 50-inch annual rainfall. Typically, that part of Italy gets 6 to 7 inches of rain in all of October, The Washington Post reports. That sets a new European record for most rainfall in a 12-hour period, climatologists said. The system of thunderstorms that hovered over the Italian Riviera also set an Italian record with 19.5 inches of rain in six hours in the town of Cairo Montenotte, 22 miles west of Rossiglione. And Vicomorasso, about halfway between those two towns, got 7.1 inches of rain in one hour during the storm. "For comparison, that's more than double the 3.15 inches that fell during the record-setting one-hour cloudburst that overwhelmed New York City on Sept. 1 as the remnants of Hurricane Ida passed," the Post notes. The deluge caused flooding in the port city of Savona and prompted Genoa to close parks and schools on Monday, The Associated Press reports. Temperatures were about 10 degrees warmer than average before the storm, the Post explains, and climate scientists have found that higher temperatures make rainstorms wetter and more severe. Along with the extreme rainfall in the U.S. Northeast, last summer saw flooding in Germany, Central Europe, and China.
10-6-21 Brazil: Strong winds cause sandstorm in São Paulo
A sandstorm that lasted 20 minutes has caused significant damage to houses in the town of Catanduva in São Paulo, Brazil. Sandstorms also blanketed other cities and towns in the state causing the sky to turn different shades of orange and brown. The skylines across the state changed colour as strong winds combined with a drought that has hit the country. Not all droughts are due to climate change, but excess heat in the atmosphere is drawing more moisture out of the earth and making droughts worse. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.
10-6-21 Climate change drove the expansion of the Tupi people in South America
The Tupi people, who originated in what is now Brazil, probably spread out from this ancestral location following climatic change. The language they speak, also called Tupi, is one of the most widespread language families among the Indigenous peoples of South America, and emerged about 5000 years ago in the south-west Amazon. Jonas Gregorio de Souza at the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and his colleagues explored just how it came to be so widespread by simulating different scenarios for human expansion in South America. The team discovered that increased forest cover resulting from climatic changes may have played a role in the expansion of the Tupi throughout the continent. “We found that the movement of the Tupi group was constrained by the forest,” says de Souza. “They were essentially looking for forested areas when they were expanding.” Around 2000 to 3000 years ago, parts of the Tupi group left the Amazon to occupy other parts of South America, including the Brazilian coast. This movement coincides with a period – about 3000 years ago – when the continent’s climate became increasingly humid. The higher humidity may have resulted in forest expansion, which was ideal for the migrating Tupi, who were forest farmers. However, other factors also seem to be at play, says de Souza. “There are some discrepancies in the timing of the colonisation of certain areas that cannot be explained by climate change alone,” he says. “One of the factors that we are not taking into account is relationships with other groups of people, for example conflicts or areas that were already densely settled by other people.”
10-5-21 Physics Nobel awarded for work on chaotic systems such as the climate
The 2021 Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to three researchers for two discoveries that together represent “groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems” such as weather and, on a longer time scale, climate change. One half of the Nobel was awarded jointly to Syukuro Manabe at Princeton University and Klaus Hasselmann, formerly at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, for their work developing physical models of Earth’s climate that helped to reliably predict global warming and prove that human actions have an impact on the climate system. The other half was awarded to Giorgio Parisi at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, for his discoveries on chaotic systems such as how disorder and tiny fluctuations interplay on atomic to planetary scales. Both discoveries relate to chaotic systems that can be difficult to describe mathematically due to enormous numbers of variables or large deviations in results from small changes to input. The winners have all contributed to gaining greater knowledge of such systems and their long-term development, said the Nobel Committee for Physics. Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the committee, said that although the two prizes were separate, there was a common theme “that has to do with disorder, that has to do with fluctuations, and how disorder and fluctuations together, if you understand it properly, can give rise to something we can understand”. Manabe led the development of physical models of Earth’s climate in the 1960s, particularly investigating the interaction between the heat coming into our atmosphere from the sun and that leaving via reflected radiation. His work laid the foundation for the development of climate models used subsequently to predict the extent of climate change under various scenarios.
10-5-21 Nobel in physics: Climate science breakthroughs earn prize
Three scientists have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work to understand complex systems, such as the Earth's climate. Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi were announced as the winners at an event in Stockholm. Research by Manabe and Hasselmann led to computer models of the Earth's climate that can predict the impact of global warming. The winners will share the prize money of 10 million krona (£842,611). It is incredibly difficult to predict the long-term behaviour of complex physical systems such as the climate. Computer models that anticipate how it will respond to rising greenhouse gas emissions have therefore been crucial for understanding global warming as a planetary emergency. Indeed, the award comes as world leaders are preparing for a critical UN climate conference, known as COP26, to be held in Glasgow this November. Asked about the timing, Prof Parisi said: "We have to act now in a very fast way and not with a strong delay." The climate models that have built on the winners' research form a crucial part of the evidence on which leaders at COP26 will base their decisions. Syukuro Manabe, 90, who is senior meteorologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could lead to increased temperatures at the surface of the Earth. In the 1960s, he led the development of physical models of the climate. Roughly a decade later, Klaus Hasselmann, 89, from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, created a computer model that linked together weather and climate. His work answered the question of why climate models can be reliable despite weather being changeable and chaotic. On a superficial level, the original work carried out by Prof Parisi, at the Sapienza University of Rome, seems to bear little relation to climate change. It was concerned with a metal alloy called spin glass, in which iron atoms were randomly mixed into a grid of copper atoms. Even though there are only a few iron atoms, they change the material's magnetic properties in a radical and very puzzling manner. But the Nobel Committee saw spin glass as a microcosm for the complex behaviour of the Earth's climate. Complex systems, on atomic and planetary scales, may share certain features, such as being chaotic and disordered, with behaviour that seems to be governed by chance. Parisi, who is 73, found that hidden rules influence the apparently random behaviour of solid materials - and worked out a way to describe them mathematically.
10-5-21 3 scientists awarded Nobel Prize in Physics for foundational methods of quantifying climate change
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics early Tuesday to three physicists — Syukuro Manabe of Japan, Klaus Hasselmann of German, and Giorgio Parisi of Italy — for "groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems" that laid the foundation for modern climate science. Manabe and Hasselmann, who jointly "laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth's climate and how humanity influences it," will split one half of the $1.14 million prize, the Nobel committee said, while Parisi was awarded the other half for "his revolutionary contributions to the theory of disordered materials and random processes. Starting in the 1960s, Manabe, 90, showed how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led to higher surface temperatures on the ground and led the development of physical models of the Earth's climate. "His work laid the foundation for the development of current climate models," the Nobel committee said. About a decade later, Hasselmann, 89, "created a model that links together weather and climate," and developed methods to identify specific marks of human activity influencing the climate, proving "that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide." Parisi's research in the early 1980s on hidden patterns in disordered complex materials made it "possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena, not only in physics but also in other, very different areas, such as mathematics, biology, neuroscience, and machine learning," the Nobel committee said. Parisi, 73, responded to his Nobel award by urging the world to "take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace" to tackle climate change, adding, "It's clear for future generations that we have to act now."
10-5-21 Study: In less than a decade, 14 percent of the world's coral reefs were wiped out
Between 2009 and 2018, about 14 percent of the world's coral was lost, primarily due to climate change, scientists say in a report released Tuesday by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Coral reefs are found in more than 100 countries around the world, providing habitat for about 25 percent of marine life while also serving as a source for food, jobs, and medicine. The study is the largest-ever analysis of coral reef health, with data collected by 300 scientists in 73 countries over the span of four decades. It also found that between 2010 and 2019, reef algae — which grows when coral is stressed — increased by 20 percent. Higher sea surface temperatures caused by global warming are the main factor in coral bleaching events, the scientists said, with overfishing and coastal developments also playing a role in coral loss. "There are clearly unsettling trends toward coral loss, and we can expect these to continue as warming persists," Paul Hardisty, CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told The Guardian. "Despite this, some reefs have shown a remarkable ability to bounce back, which offers hope for the future recovery of degraded reefs." Hardisty said the study has a "clear message," and that is "that climate change is the biggest threat to the world's reefs, and we must all do our part by urgently curbing global greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating local pressures."
10-5-21 Huntington Beach: Anchor theory after huge oil spill off California
US investigators are looking into whether a ship's anchor may have struck a pipeline on the ocean floor after a huge oil slick off California. The spill sent up to 126,000 gallons (573,000 litres) of heavy crude into the ocean off Huntington Beach. It then washed on to miles of beaches and a protected marshland, killing fish and birds, contaminating wetlands and leading to beach closures. A state of emergency has been declared in Orange County. The slick, about five miles (8km) off the coasts of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, was discovered on Saturday morning. Popular beaches along a 15-mile stretch of coastline south of Los Angeles have been closed. It is thought to be one of the largest oil spills in the state's recent history. Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify Energy Corp which owns three offshore platforms, said it was possible a ship anchor could have struck the pipeline. The US Coast Guard was assessing whether one of their anchors could have hit the line, said Captain Rebecca Ore. "It is possible they would transit over a pipeline," she was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. When the spill was discovered will also be investigated, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley: "Mariners and other were reporting they saw a sheen on Friday night." Amplify said it had stopped operations and shut its pipeline on Saturday. Mr Willsher said the pipeline had been suctioned to ensure that no more oil would spill. Governor Gavin Newsom, who ordered the state of emergency in Orange County, directed state agencies "to undertake immediate and aggressive action to clean up and mitigate the effects" of the spill. Some 2,050ft (625m) of protective booms, which help contain and slow the oil flows, have been deployed, and about 3,150 gallons were recovered on Sunday, the US Coast Guard are quoted by Reuters as saying. The Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in 2010 caused the deaths of 11 crew and a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There were also other longer-term impacts on marine life including impaired reproduction, reduced growth, lesions and disease.
10-4-21 People in cities have faced huge increase in heat exposure since 1983
Extreme heat has been a far greater challenge for urban populations around the world than rural ones over the past 40 years. Cities are vulnerable to heat because of both climate change and something called the urban heat island effect – a phenomenon where urban areas are much hotter than surrounding rural regions due to their higher concentration of built infrastructure and human activities. Cascade Tuholske at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his colleagues used worldwide urban population data combined with global fine-resolution maximum air temperature and relative humidity estimates to figure out just how much urban regions have been affected by daily temperatures greater than 30 °C between 1983 and 2016. “I really think we’ve been flying blind in terms of understanding the health and heat impacts, and I think this study provides a map, so to speak, for us to start thinking about where to target interventions and policies,” says Tuholske. The team combined data for 13,115 urban settlements – including some in rapidly urbanising regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia, that are frequently underrepresented in urban studies. Tuholske and his colleagues estimated that global exposure to extreme heat – assessed using a metric that considered the number of individuals affected and the number of days each person was affected – increased by almost 200 per cent from 1983 to 2016. In 1983, there were 40 billion person days of exposure per year, while that figure was 119 billion in 2016. “This work points to the need for further research on the drivers of heat-health outcomes in urban areas,” from the diversity of urban fabric to mobility, social inequality and temperature-related mortality, says Gabriele Manoli at University College London.
10-4-21 The classic cars being converted to electric vehicles
Oswald is a black 1953 Morris Minor. But he is as quiet as a mouse after having his fossil-fuel drinking heart replaced with a recycled electric motor. Previously, the car's 68-year-old petrol engine would have masked most other sounds. But driving beside the Thames in London all you can hear are a few creaks, and the revving of motorbikes and other traffic passing by. The image of electric vehicles (EVs) as sleek and futuristic is changing. Oswald is owned by a man called Matthew Quitter, who on a mission to help save old gas guzzlers from the scrapheap, converted him to battery power, and set up a company called London Electric Cars back in 2017. Working out of a garage under a railway arch in Vauxhall, the company replaces the combustion engines in classic cars with electric motors and batteries that would otherwise be scrapped. These parts typically come from crashed EVs, such as Teslas and Nissan Leafs, that have been written off by insurance firms but have motors and batteries that are not damaged. "We're the ultimate recycling," says Mr Quitter. The firm currently charges around £20,000 per conversion, so not cheap. But the company says it aims to drive that cost down to £5,000 to make it affordable for more people. While the UK government currently offers a grant of £2,500 towards the cost of buying a new EV, Mr Quitter says they should also consider introducing grants for conversions. "It's a disaster to waste the millions of old [petrol and diesel] cars on our roads, and the governments' EV rebates are encouraging scrappage," he says. "The government needs to offer affordable conversions on cheap old cars, to make use of the scrapped EV batteries - which have raw materials that are still sky-rocketing in price," he adds. Steve Drummond, who runs another firm that converts old cars to run on electric power - Oxford-based Electrogenic - agrees. "The incentives are to buy new EVs, but that's throwing away a whole car when you could just change the engine," he says. A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport says it is looking at the issue: "Retrofitting vehicles with batteries is an emerging market, and we're working with green travel researchers."
10-4-21 Life at sea by world's largest offshore wind farm in North Sea
Fancy a job with great sea views?Meet the engineers who maintain 174 turbines that make up the world's largest offshore wind farm, off the coast of Yorkshire. They live on a ship in the North Sea for 14 days at a time, working 12-hour shifts. Each turn of a turbine blade can provide enough electricity for an average UK home's day. BBC climate editor Justin Rowlatt jumps on board to meet the crew, and even goes up a turbine himself.
10-4-21 Huntington Beach: California oil spill sparks concern for wildlife
An oil slick off the coast of California has started washing ashore, killing fish, contaminating wetlands and closing beaches. About 3,000 barrels of oil have spread over an area covering 13 square miles (33 sq km), off the Orange County coast. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said portions of the coastline were covered in oil. An investigation into the pipeline breach that caused it is under way. The slick, about five miles off the coasts of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, was discovered on Saturday morning. It is thought to be one of the largest oil spills in the state's recent history, according to the Associated Press news agency. Authorities are now attempting to contain the oil by using protective booms - a type of floating barrier. Divers are also working at the scene to determine how the leak occurred. "Wildlife is dying. It's very sad," Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told CBS News. She added that there were reports of dead animals along the shore and that Talbert Marsh, an ecological reserve had also suffered "significant damage". Amplify Energy Corp, which owns three off-shore platforms, said it stopped operations and shut its pipeline on Saturday. CEO Martyn Willsher said the pipeline had been suctioned to ensure that no more oil would spill. The area, 40 miles (64km) south of Los Angeles, is extremely popular with surfers. Beaches have been closed and the last day of the Pacific Airshow was cancelled. Residents have been told not to approach animals affected by the spill and to instead call authorities. Michelle Steel, a Republican representative for part of the affected area, has asked President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster, which would allow for funds to help with clean-up operations. In 2010, the Deep Water Horizon incident off the Gulf of Mexico saw nearly 300,000 tonnes of oil spill, resulting in the death of thousands of species ranging from plankton to dolphins. There were also other longer-term impacts on marine life including impaired reproduction, reduced growth, lesions and disease.
10-3-21 Huge oil spill hits Southern California's Huntington Beach, threatening 'environmental catastrophe'
Residents of Huntington Beach, California, started smelling oil fumes on Friday evening, and by Sunday, Mayor Kim Carr was calling the large oil spill an "environmental catastrophe" and a "potential ecological disaster." An estimated 126,000 gallons of crude oil, or 3,000 barrels, leaked into the waters off Orange County, affecting about 13 square miles of ocean and washing ashore on Huntington Beach, a famous surfing and recreation area about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. The oil is believed to be leaking from a pipeline about 4.5 miles offshore, owned and maintained by Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. Amplify said early Sunday that it had drained and capped off the relevant section of pipe, though it isn't clear that the leak has been fully stopped. The pipeline carries crude oil 17.5 miles from an oil processing platform in federal waters to a facility in Long Beach. The platform, dubbed Elly, and its adjacent oil drilling platforms have been in operation since 1980. "In a year that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades," Carr said at a news conference. "We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, our visitors, and our natural habitats." There are reports of dead birds and fish covered in oil, and Carr said "our wetlands are being degraded and portions of our coastline are now covered in oil." Huntington Beach also canceled the second day of its popular Pacific Air Show on Sunday. More than a million people had visited the city for the first day, on Saturday. Along with the oil blobs on the beach and the sheen of oil in the coastal waters, the oil spill has left the area with a palpable stench. Amplify, the Coast Guard, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are working to contain and clean up the mess, which is among the largest oil spills off California in decades.
10-3-21 Climate change: Stop smoke and mirrors, rich nations told
Rich countries' plans to curb carbon are "smoke and mirrors" and must be urgently improved, say poorer nations. Ministers meeting here in Milan at the final UN session before the Glasgow COP26 climate conference heard that some progress was being made. But officials from developing countries demanded tougher targets for cutting carbon emissions and more cash to combat climate change. One minister condemned "selfishness or lack of good faith" in the rich world. US special envoy John Kerry said all major economies "must stretch" to do the maximum they can. Around 50 ministers from a range of countries met here to try to overcome some significant hurdles before world leaders gather in Glasgow in November. But for extremely vulnerable countries to a changing climate the priority is more ambitious carbon reductions from the rich, to preserve the 1.5C temperature target set by the 2015 Paris agreement. Scientists have warned that allowing the world temperatures to rise more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is highly dangerous. An assessment of the promises made so far to cut carbon suggests that the world is on track for around 2.7C. Ministers from developing countries say this is just not acceptable - they are already experiencing significant impacts on their economies with warming currently just over 1C. "We're already on hellish ground at 1.1C," said Simon Steill, Grenada's environment minister who argues that the plans in place just weren't good enough to prevent disaster for his island state. "We're talking about lives, we're talking about livelihoods, they cannot apply smoke and mirrors to that." "Every action that is taken, every decision that is taken, has to be aligned with 1.5C, we have no choice." Some delegates felt that richer countries aren't sufficiently engaged on the issue of 1.5C, because they are wealthy enough to adapt to the changes.
10-3-21 What climate scientists can teach us about dealing with climate change doom
"It's a kind of hopelessness I guess. Helplessness," says Ross Simpson, 22, from Glasgow. He's telling me how he and his friends feel about stopping the worst effects of climate change. The warnings keep coming of more heatwaves, droughts, floods, and global temperatures going up and up and up. Seeing so many negative stories in the news only makes Ross feel worse. Like many, he worries it's already too late. "What difference does changing your lifestyle actually make in the grand scheme of things? Why do anything, if we're all doomed anyway?" Noor Elmasry, 22, has been having similar conversations with her friends across the Atlantic, in Chicago. "I think a lot of the frustration manifests from seeing people in power just constantly disappoint you," she says. Their feelings are shared by young people around the world. In a recent survey, 10,000 young people were asked about climate change. Three quarters said the future of the world was frightening, while more than half said they thought humanity was doomed. Feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anger and frustration have been given a name: climate anxiety. And it's on the rise. So what can you do if you're worried the planet is doomed? The BBC asked a group of scientists who have been working on climate change for years about what worked for them. Repeatedly, scientists said taking action in their own lives helped to ease their anxieties. Many were proud of the scientific work they had been part of, but some also spoke about doing simpler things: recycling, eating a plant-based diet, insulating their homes, going on marches and engaging with politics. Dr Nana Ama Browne Klutse, a scientist who contributed to a major report on climate change this year, said she occasionally planted mango saplings by the roadside. Would it save the world on its own? No. Did it make her feel a bit better? Yes.
10-2-21 Brazil: A drought with roots in the Amazon jungle
Large parts of South America are facing the most severe drought in nearly a century. At threat is one of the largest waterways in the region, the Paraná water system that millions of people in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina rely on for water and energy. The reason, say climatologists, is La Niña, a natural phenomenon that disrupts weather patterns. But there are also other factors at play – like deforestation further north in the Amazon jungle..
10-1-21 2020 babies may suffer up to seven times as many extreme heat waves as 1960s kids
A new analysis calculates a much heavier climate burden for today’s children. The kids are not all right. Children born in 2020 could live through seven times as many extreme heat waves as people born in 1960. That’s the projected generational disparity if global greenhouse gas emissions are curbed by the amount currently promised by the world’s nations, climate scientist Wim Thiery of Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium and colleagues report September 26 in Science. Under current pledges, Earth’s average temperature is expected to increase by about 2.4 degrees Celsius relative to preindustrial times by 2100. While the older generation will experience an average of about four extreme heat waves during their lifetime, the younger generation could experience an average of about 30 such heat waves, the researchers say. More stringent reductions that would limit warming to just 1.5 degrees C would shrink — but not erase — the disparity: Children born in 2020 could still experience four times as many extreme heat waves as people born in 1960. Scientists have previously outlined how climate change has already amped up extreme weather events around the globe, and how those climate impacts are projected to increase as the world continues to warm (SN: 8/9/21). The new study is the first to specifically quantify how much more exposed younger generations will be to those events. An average child born in 2020 also will experience two times as many wildfires, 2.8 times as many river floods, 2.6 times as many droughts and about three times as many crop failures as a child born 60 years earlier, under climate scenarios based on current pledges. That exposure to extreme events becomes even higher in certain parts of the world: In the Middle East, for example, 2020 children will see up to 10 times as many heat waves as the older cohort, the team found.