UK facing drought in August following extreme heat - Carbon Brief

2022-07-29 09:13:43 By : Ms. Sarah Zhang

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Experts have warned that “the UK is facing the prospect of a drought being declared in August,” the Guardian reports. According to the paper, the National Drought Group – comprised of “government departments and affected groups” – will meet today to discuss a strategy for dealing with the “remarkably dry weather and extreme heat” facing England. It continues: “Hosepipe bans for households could be brought in across the UK and farmers could be restricted from irrigating their crops if the government implements a drought plan…Farmers could be banned from watering their crops in the crucial period of August and September, with root vegetables such as potatoes under particular threat. Crops could fail through lack of water, and dry soil can make harvesting difficult.” The Independent says that England “is not in widespread drought but most of England except for the North West has moved into a state of ‘prolonged dry weather’, the step before drought is declared”. It adds that much of the country already has low reservoirs, river flows and groundwater levels, as well as dry soils. The first six months of 2022 were the driest since 1976, the Times notes. The Daily Telegraph adds: “Southern Water has already made a drought permit request with the Environment Agency, which is likely to lead to a hosepipe ban in the area”. MailOnline adds that a drought was last declared in 2018. Meanwhile, the i newspaper explores the likelihood that the UK could see another heatwave this summer. And BBC News and the Guardian cover warnings from fire chiefs that the UK needs to prepare for wildfires.

In other UK news, the Guardian covers a new report from MPs, which warns that “millions of people will be plunged into ‘unmanageable’ debt this winter unless the government comes up with more support for those struggling to pay their energy bills”. According to the paper, the select-committee report called energy regulator OfGem “negligent”, said that a national home insulation programme “should be launched urgently” and said that the energy cap should be replaced with a “social tariff”. The MPs say the government “needs to immediately change its out-of-date energy bill support for households,” the Independent adds. The Times also covers the story. Reuters notes that the cap on energy prices is expected to rise more than 60% in October. It adds: “Charity National Energy Action said the October rise could push around 8.2 million people – or one in three British households – into energy poverty.”

Greenpeace is taking the UK government to court over Shell’s new Jackdaw gas field – one of six new North Sea fossil fuel projects given the green light by the government this year – the Independent reports. The paper says: “Greenpeace is taking the government to court claiming it is illegally ignoring emissions which will be generated from burning gas extracted from Shell’s Jackdaw gas field, worsening the climate crisis.” According to Greenpeace, burning gas from the new project will emit more CO2 than Ghana’s total annual emissions, it adds. The Evening Standard says that Friends of the Earth Scotland “welcome” the move and STV News adds that Jackdaw is “particularly polluting” due to an “unusually high” CO2 content. The Daily Telegraph reports that a Whitehall source “claimed that blocking domestic oil and gas production would leave Britain more exposed to European markets and a potential squeeze by the Kremlin”. This comes as the Wall Street Journal reports that Shell is “moving forward” with the Jackdaw project, which “could produce more than 6% of expected UK North Sea gas by mid-decade”. The paper adds that the UK government “gave Jackdaw the regulatory go-ahead in June, reversing a decision to block the project on environmental grounds”.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will meet with North Sea oil and gas producers today to discuss the government’s windfall tax. Meanwhile, MailOnline reports that Sir David Attenborough “warned against the ‘alarming’ practice of razing forests to fuel wood-burning power stations in Britain” in a letter to an anti-biomass campaigner seen exclusively by the Daily Mail. An editorial in the paper highlights Attenborough’s comment, saying that those who questioned the Drax biomass plant were “denounced as climate deniers”. It adds :“When preaching the green message, it’s crucial to remember the law of unintended consequences.”

The New York Times reports that Russian energy company Gazprom says it will cut gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1 from 40% to 20% starting Wednesday, citing problems with one of the powerful turbines manufactured by the German company Siemens Energy. However, the Berlin government has pushed back against Gazprom’s latest projected cut. “Based on our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries”, the German economy ministry said, notes the newspaper. A spokesman for Siemens Energy also tells German ZDF that the company sees no connection between the turbine and the new gas throttling: “The transport of the turbine has been prepared and could start immediately”. Die Zeit quotes German federal minister of economics Robert Habeck accusing Russian president Vladimir Putin of a “perfidious game”.

The Financial Times has a story adding that European politicians have decried Russia’s “weaponisation” of gas supplies. The FT explains that “gas flows will drop to 33m cubic metres a day, down from a full capacity of more than 160m cubic metres and half of the current flows”. In addition, it says, European gas prices rose by 10% – five times higher than the price a year ago – after Gazprom signalled that the volume of gas flowing to the continent would be cut. Die Zeit reports that filling German gas storage by 95% by November is an “unrealistic target”, according to Federal Network Agency chief Klaus Müller.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “high coal prices, supply bottlenecks and aged plants are posing a challenge to Germany’s plan to increase electricity production from hard coal-fired power plants to compensate for declining gas deliveries”, according to operators and industry experts. It says that, according to rough estimates, the coal plants reopening could compensate for 1% to 2% of Germany’s gas consumption, but energy operators have either declined to reactivate plants or are facing difficulties in acquiring the necessary coal.

In other German news, Die Welt reports on the economy ministry’s plans for the mandatory optimisation of German consumers’ gas heaters. It says that the details are not fixed yet, but the information that is already known suggests a medium to high three-digit investment sum for an average single-family house with an older heating system. By the turn of 2023-2024, at the latest, around 14m gas heating devices should have been tested, notes the media outlet.

Finally, Climate Home News reports that German finance minister Christian Lindner “has proposed cutting the development ministry’s slice of the aid budget by 12%”. It adds that Lindner also halved Germany’s contribution to the World Food Programme, which suspended food assistance in South Sudan last month, citing a lack of funds. Germanwatch analyst David Ryfisch tells Climate Home that the cuts in the ministry’s budget could lead to cuts to climate finance: “At minimum, it completely contradicts Germany’s aspiration to increase climate finance from budgetary sources to €6bn by 2025. For that, it would need to start increasing.”

Severe heat warnings have been issued in nearly 70 Chinese cities where temperatures are expected to top 40C, CNN reports, citing the China Meteorological Association. It notes: “Temperatures in China have been rising faster than the global average and the latest heatwave has raised new concerns about the pace of global warming.”

Elsewhere, Shanghai-based outlet Caixin carries a cover story on the heatwaves that it says are covering “wide swathes” of Europe, North Africa, North America, East Asia and the Middle East. It reports: ”From Shanghai to Dallas, from Paris to London, a record-shattering heatwave is sweeping the entire northern hemisphere.”. It adds that “this round of extreme heat is more extreme and is spreading farther, lasting longer and having a bigger impact”, citing the National Climate Center, a subordinate unit of China Meteorological Administration. The outlet reports: “Scientists agree that extreme heatwaves are just one sign that the Earth’s surface is getting hotter, and the root cause remains the old story of global climate change caused by human activities. They also predict that persistent extreme heat is a trend and will occur more frequently.” Additionally, a Diplomat article by Sara Hsu says that the extreme heat in China will have “economic impacts through power rationing, reduced crop yield, and effects on delivery and other outdoor workers”.

Meanwhile,, a Chinese website focusing on electric power, writes that the country’s coal power generation in the first half of 2022 fell by “4.0% year-on-year”, according to the China Electricity Council, a non-profit and trade association. The publication says the fall is due to the “slowdown in demand” for electricity consumption and the “rapid growth” of non-fossil energy generation such as hydropower. The article notes that from January to June, the nation’s electricity consumption amounted to 4,100 terawatts hours (TWh), up 2.9% year-on-year, citing the data from the report. The report says hydropower grew by 20.3% year-on-year during the same period, with solar increasing by 29.8%, wind by 12.2% and nuclear by 2.0%.

Finally, a Reuters comment by columnist Clyde Russell says: “Talk that China may end its unofficial ban on imports of Australian coal is unlikely to result in any significant increase in shipments to the world’s biggest coal buyer [China].“ He adds that Australian thermal and coking coal is “too expensive for Chinese utilities and steel makers to consider buying”.

There is considerable coverage of the ongoing Northern American heatwave, bringing temperatures “well above historic averages” to “Oregon, Washington [and] parts of northern California and British Columbia”, by the end of the week, reports the Guardian. “28 states” in the north-east of the US are currently experiencing heat warnings, with “most Americans” exposed to temperatures higher than 90F (32C) this past weekend, reports the Hill. Heat in the north-east is expected to “wane”, as the Pacific northwest prepares to “roast” in temperatures of 110F (43C) this week, reports the Washington Post. Reuters writes: “Man-made climate change…is certainly playing a role in what the US is experiencing.”

Firefighters in California began to contain a four-day wildfire on Monday, “halting its eastward expansion toward nearby Yosemite National Park”, reports Reuters. “More than 6,000 people” were evacuated and a state of emergency declared after the wildfire started blazing on Friday, reports the Independent. The Guardian explains, “almost record” levels of dryness, strong winds and “soaring” temperatures are responsible for the blaze, which is the third to burn in Yosemite “in recent weeks”. The US Department of Agriculture announced on Monday it had “tripled” annual reforestation spending in light of “intense, climate-driven wildfires”, reports Reuters: “The reforestation drive is the largest in the US since the 1930s when billions of trees were planted under New Deal work programs, USDA director of forest and rangeland management and vegetation ecology David Lytle said. The Biden administration this week will announce further actions “aimed at reducing wildfire risk and protecting people from extreme heat”, according to a White House official, reports the Hill. Cities including Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona, are introducing “innovative measures” to combat temperatures, including heat-reflecting coatings to “cool down” black asphalt roads, reports the Independent.

In other US news, the Independent reports on a poll which finds that 44% of Americans – a near-record number – say they worry “a great deal” about the environment. The paper reports that 64% of Democrats worry “a great deal” about the environment. Meanwhile, 32% of Republicans aged 18-34 and 14% of Republicans over 55 worry “a great deal”, according to the survey. The Hill also covers the results of the survey.

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that six staffers were arrested in Congress on Monday afternoon for staging a sit-in at Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer’s office to demand he reopen climate negotiations. And, the Hill reports that the Biden administration has announced plans to plant one billion trees “as part of efforts to address an extensive reforestation backlog”.

Author and climate activist Daniel Sherrell has penned an opinion piece in the Guardian arguing that Biden’s “latest climate defeat” shows he “isn’t the man for the moment”. Sherrell says that, on 15 July, Biden “acknowledged the death of his signature climate bill, conceding defeat in a war he never truly seemed willing to wage”. He continues: “It was painful to watch. The fossil fuel oligarchs had him right where they wanted him: his climate ambitions foiled, his rhetoric defanged, his hat in his hand…Young people have waited in vain for the administration to evince a fiery, existential urgency around climate. But Biden has shown himself either unwilling or unable to don the same brass knuckles as his opponents.” However, he says that Biden could still “flip the script” by declaring a climate emergency, waging “ rhetorical and political war” on Manchin, or appealing privately to Mitt Romney. But “if he’s unwilling to do even that, he shouldn’t run for president in 2024”, Sherrel adds. He concludes that Biden is a “decent man”, but “he needs to realise he’s at war with the oligarchs. And then he needs to start winning.”

In other US comment, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes that “as a society and as individuals, we are going to have to adapt to global warming.” Robinson says that most cities know how to set up cooling centres, but that “few city governments do a good enough job of reaching those most at risk”. He concludes: “It is vital that the world curb greenhouse-gas emissions before the worst scenarios become inevitable. But it is equally vital that we — as a nation, as communities, as individuals — take needed steps to deal with the climate change we’ve already caused.” Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles Times, Mark Butler – chief of project management at Yosemite National Park – writes about the threat of fire at Yosemite. He says: “Fighting out-of-control wildfires is far more expensive than preventing them, but for decades agencies such as the National Park Service and Forest Service have been consistently underfunded by Congress…Our national parks need Congress to provide the agencies running them with the necessary staff and funds. If Congress won’t act, Biden should.” Elsewhere, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal argues that US climate envoy John Kerry is “meddling” in the UK election. It concludes: “Promising a low-emissions future 30 years down the road sounds nice, until people start noticing what those policies cost today – whether in household energy or gasoline prices. Mr Kerry wants to lecture the world on a policy he can’t even sell to the US Senate.”

A new study uses proxy data to estimate climate sensitivity by focusing on a global cooling event during the late Miocene, around 7 to 5m years ago. The researchers analyse boron isotopes in foraminifera – microscopic shells secreted by single celled organisms that live as plankton or on the sea bed. Having accounted for non-CO2 greenhouse gasses and slow climate feedbacks, the researchers estimate equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) to be 3.9C, with a 95% confidence range of 1.8-6.7 C. The authors conclude that “changes in CO2 and climate were closely coupled during the latest Miocene” and that ECS “was within range of estimates for the late Pleistocene, other intervals of the Cenozoic and the 21st century as presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. (For more on ECS and proxydata, see Carbon Brief’s explainers.)

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