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TODAY’S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Increasingly intense and frequent extreme weather is increasing the world’s yawning climate “adaptation gap”, according to a new UN Environment Programme report covered by Bloomberg. It reports: “Rising greenhouse gas emissions are fuelling more extreme weather around the world, increasing the need for funding to insulate communities from the impacts. Researchers found an annual gap of between $194bn and $366bn for projects that could help society adapt to climate change. That’s 50% higher than previous estimates and 10-to-18 times higher than the current level of global public finance, which was $21bn for 2021.” This is despite adaptation spending being “highly cost effective”, the Guardian says. It reports: “For example, every $1bn invested in protection against coastal flooding leads to a $14bn reduction in economic damages, [according to the report].” The Press Association carries remarks from UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who says: “Today’s Adaptation Gap Report shows a growing divide between need and action when it comes to protecting people from climate extremes. Action to protect people and nature is more pressing than ever. Lives and livelihoods are being lost and destroyed, with the vulnerable suffering the most. We are in an adaptation emergency. We must act like it. And take steps to close the adaptation gap, now.” Two of the authors of the “adaptation finance gap” chapter of the report have written a Carbon Brief guest post about their findings.
There is continued coverage of new research by a team of scientists including Dr James Hansen, known for his striking testimony on climate change before Congress 35 years ago, which finds that the Earth will warm by 1.5C this decade. Hansen tells a press briefing: “The 1.5C limit is deader than a doornail.” The New York Times reports: “The 2C goal could still be met, he said, but only with concerted action to stop using fossil fuels and at a pace far quicker than current plans.” It adds that “experts generally don’t quibble over the finding that the planet will soon pass 1.5C of warming”. The newspaper carries comments from Carbon Brief’s climate science contributor and scientist Dr Zeke Hausfather, who says: “I think everyone agrees that 1.5C is in the rearview mirror at this point.” The newspaper says: “What Hausfather and others disagree with is the Hansen team’s estimate of just how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to greenhouse gases, and accordingly, how soon the world might pass 2C of warming.” Hausfather tells the paper that Hansen’s projections for climate sensitivity are on the “high end of the range of estimates”. The Times also covers Hansen’s remarks, noting that last month was Earth’s hottest October on record. It says: “A preliminary assessment found that October was about 0.3C warmer globally than the previous October record. If confirmed, it will mark the fifth record warm month in a row, cementing scientists’ expectation that 2023 will be the hottest year on record.” Reuters also covers the research.
US president Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday postponed a sale of offshore drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico “pending the outcome of a lawsuit over oil and gas development and federal protection of an endangered species of whale”, Reuters says. It explains: “The move comes after a US appeals court on 26 October temporarily paused a lower court order requiring the interior department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to expand the auction, which was originally scheduled to be held in September.” The fossil fuel industry and the state of Louisiana had sued the interior department in August over its decision to scale back the auction in an effort to protect the habitat of the Rice’s whale. The American Petroleum Institute (API), an oil industry trade group that has spent decades lobbying against action to tackle climate change, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. A spokesperson for API tells Reuters: “The Department of the Interior continues to demonstrate its willingness to ignore the clear and growing need to expand American energy leadership and reduce reliance on foreign energy sources.” Separately, Reuters reports that the Biden administration has plans to award $440m for rooftop solar in Puerto Rico. Reuters also reports that US coal exports to Europe rose by 22% in the year following the bloc’s sanctions on Russia, according to official data.
Meanwhile, Politico has a report on how a series of economic setbacks could “batter” Biden’s low-carbon energy goals. It says: “A Danish developer’s decision to tank two giant New Jersey wind projects is just the latest sign that higher costs, driven by rising interest rates and continued supply-chain woes, are posing an unexpected obstacle to the clean-energy projects that hold the key to Biden’s legacy…Days earlier, Ford postponed production plans for a massive electric vehicle battery plant in Kentucky while General Motors reduced the number of EVs it plans to build in the coming year, as both companies reported financial losses amid slumping demand from consumers.” Bloomberg takes a different tone, saying that, according to experts, the wind project cancellations are “unlikely to rule out the Biden administration’s target of achieving a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2035”. It says: “At the moment only 10% of US electricity comes from wind, almost all from onshore turbines. Offshore capacity is a minuscule fraction of more than 144 gigawatts in total US wind power. Even if offshore wind did grow quickly, it would still be tiny in terms of overall percentage of the pie.”
Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports on how Republican lawmakers’ election of climate sceptic Mike Johnson as speaker of the US House of Representatives this month “marks another shift by the party away from Democrats on the issue of climate change”. The Hill reports that three Senate Republicans have introduced legislation that would impose import fees on foreign polluters, “earning rare praise from the Sierra Club”.
Storm Ciarán caused widespread disruption in the UK and Channel Islands yesterday, with schools closed and 9,000 homes left without power, ITV News reports. It says that the Environment Agency issued 79 flood warnings, mostly for England’s south coast. It adds: “A major incident was declared in Jersey, where three people were hospitalised and dozens were forced to take refuge in a hotel, after winds of up to 104mph damaged properties.” Sky News reports that large parts of the UK are now “wet like a sponge”, leaving them vulnerable to flooding. It adds: “Storms are normal for the time of year. But the current position of the jet stream means they are tracking further south than usual, so they are affecting more people. They’re also lingering over the country because of high pressure blocking their progress. And the Atlantic Ocean is unusually warm for the time of year, which increases evaporation into the atmosphere, so rainfall is much heavier.” In the Conversation, two climate scientists write that Storm Ciarán is “unusual among North Atlantic storms, which rarely produce both heavy rain and high winds over large areas”. They say: “Low pressure in the eye of the cyclone deepened rapidly as it moved over the UK, dropping by more than 24 millibars in 24 hours to a near-record low of 953 millibars. This is what meteorologists call a bomb cyclone. Only two events with similarly low pressure have been recorded this far south in the UK.” They add that storms with high winds and extreme rainfall, like Ciarán, “will happen more often over northern Europe in future” as the climate warms.
Even as disruption from the storm continues, the Daily Mail publishes a full-page column from climate sceptic Richard Littlejohn, who says that “you don’t need a weatherman to tell it’s not the end of the world as we know it”. He says: “I’m in no way trying to diminish the misery Storm Ciaran has caused to many people across the country, who have suffered their homes and businesses being flooded out. But the reaction has been off the charts. Six inches of water under the Brent Cross flyover is hardly up there with Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out half of New Orleans a few years ago.”
A new investigation by Reuters and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that “a Canadian start-up run from a private home was chosen by Democratic Republic of Congo for a technically complex project to extract methane from the deep waters of a volatile lake, despite the company not meeting the tender’s financial criteria”. It adds: “Canada-based Alfajiri Energy Corporation was included in the auction although an evaluation report produced by a government-appointed commission in October 2022 found the company did not meet minimum financial requirements…Additionally, a technical report assessing the bid, dated 8 December 2022, appeared to have been altered in Alfajiri’s favour, according to the documents and the sources.” DRC hydrocarbons minister Didier Budimbu denied any problems with the tender process in an emailed response to questions from Reuters. Alfajiri’s founder and chief executive Christian Hamuli tells Reuters that the process was “rigorous, transparent and credible”.
China, the world’s top methane emitter, is expected to reveal its plan to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas “imminently”, reports Reuters, although insiders say that China might refrain from specifying exact reduction targets. Marcelo Mena, head of the Global Methane Hub and former environment minister of Chile – who discussed the plan with China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua during a visit to China last month – tells the newswire: “I would say that what we could expect from this is going to be a very detailed plan of policies – of different regulations – that will be enacted”. Mena also says that the plan focuses on some of China’s most challenging methane sources, including emissions from coal mine seams and agriculture – including rice production, but “he did not see any numerical targets”, the outlet adds.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that US and Chinese climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua will “discuss enhanced implementation and ambition and efforts to promote a successful COP28” during their weekend meeting in California. Another SCMP article writes that analysts believe “no breakthrough” should be expected from a meeting between presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden in San Francisco next week. Politico writes that a group of US Republicans is introducing a bill which would “impose a fee on products imported from countries with high greenhouse gas emissions”. The move aims to counter the competition of Chinese manufacturers, it adds. The state broadcaster CGTN has published a commentary by Farhad Chowdhury, a security and strategic affairs researcher and columnist, who writes that “the US and China should collaborate to provide the ideal environment…for China-US climate cooperation”.
Meanwhile, energy outlet IN-EN.com reports that the national development and reform commission (NDRC) and the national energy administration (NEA) have officially issued a policy to accelerate construction of the power spot market, which calls for “expediting the development of regional electricity markets and accelerating the participation of various types of power sources in the national market”. (See China Briefing from 21 September for the initial release.) Chinese economic outlet Jiemian says that with the entry of new energy into the power spot market, revenue from power generation is likely to decrease significantly. To address this, Tang Jun from State Power, a major Chinese power company, says that China should introduce a “mandatory quota system” for new energy power consumption and “ensure the connection between green electricity, green certificates and the power spot market”.
Separately, Reuters reports that the removal of air pollution might have had a more significant impact on temperatures in certain industrial cities in China over the past decade than the warming caused by greenhouse gases alone. It adds that official data suggest that pollution control measures for coal plants have led to a nearly “90% reduction in SO2 emissions”, saving thousands of lives. Another Reuters article warns that “temperatures in northern China are set to plunge as much as 20C”, continuing China’s recent extreme weather patterns. Bloomberg says that China’s coal imports and production could “reach their highest annual levels” in 2023, adding to the “mining boom”. Finally, the New York Times writes that China is “building about as many solar panels and wind turbines as it had promised to build…but continues to add coal-fired power plants”.
Christian Lindner, the German finance minister and Free Democratic Party leader, is publicly questioning the coal phase-out planned by the German government for 2030, reports Die Welt. The outlet quotes the minister saying: “As long as it is not clear that energy is available and affordable, we should end the dreams of phasing out coal-fired electricity in 2030.” The newspaper claims that “this requirement has no effect on the climate anyway, as the CO2 emissions saved in Germany are likely to occur additionally in Poland, for example, due to European rules”. Lindner also supports “intensified gas production” in Germany, adds the outlet. Tagesschau explains that this dispute comes in response to the Greens’ support for temporarily suspending the “debt brake”, Germany’s constitutional cap on new borrowing, which Lindner supports. The outlet adds that Lindner “may be trying to win support within his party and send a message to the Greens: if you want to touch my sacred cow (the debt brake), you need to make sacrifices first”. Die Tageszeitung reports that Kathrin Henneberger from the Green party rejected Lindner’s demand and is quoted saying: “The climate crisis is getting worse every day…That’s why we have to stop burning lignite and hard coal sooner, not later.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Germany is expected to consume “the lowest amount of energy in more than three decades this year as the nation’s struggling manufacturing industry has weighed on fuel demand”. According to forecasts by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), total energy consumption in Germany dropped by 8%, notes the outlet. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) adds that business associations are concerned about this trend. Christian Noll, managing director of the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency, is quoted saying: “Decreasing energy consumption is desirable for climate protection, but not at the expense of economic performance.”
Separately, the New York Times carries a news feature under the headline: “How Germany’s Greens lost their lustre.” It explains why Germany’s Green party is losing its voters after entering the government in 2021 with the best election showing of its history “to advance the country’s economic transition toward a greener future”. It says the Greens have become a symbol of “environmental elitism” and it is disconnected from the concerns of many voters. As a result, this has driven numerous voters toward far-right political groups, which have portrayed the Greens as their enemy. The newspaper says two significant factors are contributing to this situation: the Greens’ commitment to phasing out nuclear power plants and the pushing of a heating law by the minister of economics and climate action, Robert Habeck. However, the article says that the Greens can still recover and Habeck will be “key to whether the party [can] restore its stature”.
Tributes to pioneering climate scientist Prof Saleemul Huq continue. Bloomberg’s Zero podcast, hosted and produced by Akshat Rathi and Oscar Boyd, speaks to leading climate experts about Huq’s legacy. They write: “COP meetings, the most important global forum to tackle climate change, see few successes. Huq was the enabler of one its biggest yet, and his sudden death last week has many worried the world has lost a guiding voice as big fights brew ahead of the COP28 meeting due to start in late November.” [Huq’s Bangladeshi research organisation the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) has started a petition for the UN’s loss and damage fund to be named after Huq in recognition of his efforts.]
For Climate Home News, Nick Buxton, from the thinktank Transnational Institute, and Deborah Burton, co-founder of Tipping Point North-South campaign group, argue that military activities from countries such as the US and the UK have played an “overlooked” role in driving climate change. They say: “Largely because of the US not paying its fair share, the developed world has failed to meet its promise to provide $100bn in climate finance to the developing world. For years, this has sowed distrust and hindered negotiations with major emerging economies like China and India. But on 16 October, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen told Sky News that the US can ‘certainly’ afford to support Israel’s war on Palestine as well as Ukraine’s war against Russia. This is a prime example of how militaries do not only contribute to the climate crisis through their emissions, they suck up funds which could be used to tackle climate change.”
A new study finds that modifying crop management practices could help farmers increase yields and decrease fertiliser waste in a warmer world. Using climate models, researchers compare the amount of runoff and nutrient loss in a world with 2C of warming to one with 1.5C of warming. They find that the extra warming exacerbates runoff, “leading to amplified nutrient leaching” and putting stress on the crops, diminishing yields. By “altering the timing of planting/harvesting and the fertiliser application rate in response to a warming climate”, they write, farmers could increase soya yields by more than 20% under 2C of warming.
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