The licensing round also faces criticism as it will not solve Britain’s short-term problems around potential gas shortages or sky-high bills.
Climate campaigners at Greenpeace said the decision to launch the licensing round was “possibly unlawful and we will be carefully examining opportunities to take action”.
Since Liz Truss became prime minister she has reopened the door to fracking in the UK and resisted calls from Labour to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas companies. The chief executive of Shell this week said governments may need to tax energy companies to fund efforts to protect the “poorest” people from soaring bills.
The government argues the new licences will boost Britain’s energy security and create jobs.
Graham Stuart tells MPs that awarding more than 100 licences for North Sea drilling is a green policy
Fracking and drilling for new oil and gas in the North Sea is green and good for the environment, Liz Truss’s new climate minister said on Wednesday.
Graham Stuart insisted that awarding more than 100 licences to companies for North Sea drilling, covering almost 900 locations, and rolling out fracking across the countryside, were green policies. He told MPs on the environmental audit committee that drilling for new fossil fuels would help the UK reach net zero by 2050.
“It’s good for jobs and good for the economy and it is good for the environment,” said Stuart. He argued that as UK oil and gas production was on a declining trajectory, at a faster pace than required by the International Energy Agency, opening up new fields was green because they would have a lower carbon impact than importing oil and gas which was extracted in a less sustainable way. He called the fossil fuel extraction pioneered by Shell and BP in the North Sea “world-leading”.
“Producing [oil and gas] domestically creates only half the emissions around production and transportation than importing it from around the world,” he said. “In terms of the economy and the environment, domestic production is a good thing and we should all get behind it … it is good for the economy, good for jobs and stops us giving money to dubious regimes.”
The committee corrected Stuart on the issue of gas imports. The UK produces 45% of its gas domestically, and imports 38% not from a dubious regime, but from Norway, which has the highest standards in the world for gas extraction and decades ago banned flaring – where the gas is burned off, producing methane emissions and air pollution. Flaring still takes place in North Sea extraction.
Clive Lewis, a Labour member of the committee, also challenged Stuart, quoting the executive director of the IEA saying there should be no new oil and gas drilling beyond 2021 if the world were to stay within safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Lewis also cited the UCL Energy Institute, which said development of new UK oil and gas fields was not compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5C in the Paris climate change agreement. And Lewis referred to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which said rich countries must stop oil and gas extraction to keep the world on track for limiting global heating to 1.5C.
“We have got 38 new oil and gas projects already in the pipeline, and now your government is allowing a further 100 licences to be awarded. Is that going to help us get through to net zero by 2050?” Lewis asked.
“Yes,” replied Stuart. “Why will it? Because production even in the best scenario is still going to fall … The idea that … commissioning all these new oil and gas licences … you are going to be spilling oil and gas into the world, undermining net zero … Well no, because we are an importer, net, we will continue to be all the way to 2050 … so our production is predicted to fall faster than the IEA says needs to happen globally.”
“The industry in the North Sea basin is committed in a unique fashion around the world to reduce emissions around that production by 50%,” he added.
“It … shows why support for the oil and gas industry in this country makes sense.
“They have developed new technologies to minimise flaring and now you are seeing companies like BP and Shell exporting that to other parts of the world. It’s more efficient, it’s good for emissions and it is us playing the leading role that we should in the transition.”
Lewis responded: “So I hear what you are saying, but it seems from my perspective and, I imagine, the public’s perspective, that you are talking about 100 new licences, more exploration, more oil coming out of the ground. It sounds like you are peeing on our heads and telling us it is raining.”
It was also pointed out to Stuart that Lord Deben, the chair of the climate change committee, the government’s statutory adviser, had warned that future oil and gas production in the UK risked undermining the credibility of the its global leadership on climate change, and sent the wrong signal to the world.
But Stuart disagreed: “You have given me these assertions from these various bodies.”
“Scientific research, I think it is called,” said Lewis.
Stuart continued, saying he did not understand the point: “How is it contradictory to net zero for us to produce, on that descending scale, some of the greenest oil and gas in the world?”
In one corner, there is the agile climber with steak knife-like horns. In the other is America’s largest wild sheep. They are locked in significantly one-sided combat in the mountains of the US west, scientists have found, in a battle over resources uncovered by the region’s vanishing glaciers.
In study sites across a 1,500-mile span of the Rocky Mountains, scientists have documented mountain goats and bighorn sheep competing over mineral deposits among the rocks, at elevations of up to 14,000ft.
These contests, never previously outlined in detail, show that two of the US’s heftiest native mammals are involved in a struggle that may be influenced by the climate crisis, as the mountains’ snow and ice rapidly dwindles. Conflict between such species “may be reflective of climate degradation coupled with the changing nature of coveted resources”, the new study states.
Joel Berger, lead author of the research and senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and Colorado State University, said he was “flabbergasted” to see the number of skirmishes between the two ungulate species, with the mountain goats appearing to have the upper hand, or hoof. Of the observed battles, the goats triumphed 98% of the time, clearly making them the superior mountain brawler.
“They are the badasses of the mountains,” said Berger. “They have these saber-like horns; they are bolder, more aggressive. The goats just have a very high win rate.”
The goats and the sheep usually avoid battle when near each other but when conflict does arise around clumps of minerals, the goats typically chase off the sheep in order to enjoy the nutrients in peace.
Bighorn sheep are roughly the same size as the mountain goats and sport long, curved horns that resemble a Princess Leia hairstyle. But the goats are the more feared combatant due to their assertiveness and razor-sharp horns – a mountain goat gored a grizzly bear to death in Canada last year, while in a separate, and extremely rare, incident a hiker was killed by a goat in Olympic national park in 2010.
About 300 glaciers have disappeared from the Rocky Mountains over the past century as global heating has winnowed away the region’s snow and ice. Scientists have said it is now “inevitable” that places such as the celebrated Glacier national park will lose all of their major ice formations within the coming decades.
This upheaval is disrupting ecosystems and raising concerns for communities in the US west that rely upon water that comes from rivers and streams fed by melting glaciers. The melt is also uncovering deposits of salt and potassium that are valued by the goats and sheep, who need to lick these mineral deposits in order to gain crucial nutrients.
These animals, able to move deftly up rocky inclines, are now able to venture higher into the mountains for these resources as the ice retreats. This may be leading to more of these irate interactions, although it’s not clear whether the conflicts are increasing in number as no previous work has been done on the topic.
“Not long ago these areas were covered in ice and snow. They’ve now opened up and there’s some conflict over access,” said Berger. “Direct conflict isn’t something any of these species want, but this is what happening.”
Berger said that global heating was heightening the risk of conflict in various parts of the world, among creatures such as rhinoceroses and elephants as they try to access diminishing water supplies. Some humans, too, are reacting to these changes with adversity in mind, with the US and Russia viewing the melting away of the Arctic as a military threat.
“Whether we are dealing with humans or non-human mammals, we know climate change is reshaping all of our futures,” Berger said.
Climate change poses a “significant and growing threat” to health in the UK, the country’s most senior public health expert has warned.
Speaking to the Guardian, Prof Dame Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said there was a common misconception that a warmer climate would bring net health benefits due to milder winters. But climate change would bring far wider-reaching health impacts, she said, with food security, flooding and mosquito-borne diseases posing threats.
“The heatwave this summer really brought home to people the direct impact,” said Harries. “But it’s the breadth of the impact. It’s not just the heat.”
Referring to the recent floods in Pakistan, Harries said the UK needed to build resilience to protect the population from the health impacts of extreme weather events.
“Colleagues from Pakistan … are suffering from the impacts of flooding. They are dealing with stagnant water, higher risks of sewage overflowing into publicly accessible water spaces,” she said. “We are seeing in some of the things that could be happening in the UK.”
The aim is not to paint a “doom and gloom scenario”, she added, but to identify threats for which the UK could prepare.
Speaking at the UKHSA’s annual conference in Leeds this week, Harries launched a Centre for Climate and Health Security. She argued that the threat to health should be considered as part of the UK’s broader policy on climate change, including the commitment to bring greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050.
Even with action to limit climate change, “there is an in-built element of temperature advance that we can’t control”, she said, and that would require adaptations to protect health.
This summer, the UK experienced record temperatures of 40.3C and six separate heatwave periods associated with more than 2,800 excess deaths. “If several aeroplanes all exploded and we’d lost that many people it would be front-page news in health protection terms,” Harries said.
It is projected that numbers of heat-related deaths will triple by 2050, with the hottest summers on record that we have observed in recent years becoming simply “normal” summers. “That’s quite a near-term risk and so a priority for us,” she said. “There are things we can do about it, so we should act.”
Unlike hotter European neighbours, such as Spain or Italy, the UK’s infrastructure is not designed to allow people to live and work in such conditions. “[Hot] European countries will routinely have air conditioning, they will have stone floors which keep the buildings cool. We don’t have that in the UK,” said Harries. “There is an absolute need to think through what our buildings are like going forward.”
Lifestyle adaptations such as not going outdoors in the middle of the day in summer and longer summer holidays for schools might also have a role in future, she said.
“We have much to learn from countries that currently have warmer temperatures,” she said. “If we’re going to be a hot country soon we need to be thinking the same way.”
Viewed purely in terms of annual excess deaths, climate change is likely to have an interim benefit in the UK due to warmer winters, Harries said. But other factors could soon reverse this trend. As temperatures rise, Europe is becoming vulnerable to infectious diseases historically seen in the tropics. The Asian tiger mosquito, which carries dengue fever and chikungunya, is now established in southern Europe and this year France experienced its most severe outbreak yet of dengue, which mosquitos can transmit efficiently only when average temperatures rise above 28C.
“In France, they have had cases of infectious disease that you would normally see in tropical climates and the vector has come right up to Paris,” said Harries. “We’re starting to witness the progression of this impact in European countries.
In the UK, Asian Tiger mosquito eggs have been detected in the south-east and the Culex modestus mosquito, which can transmit West Nile virus, is present in parts of Kent and Essex. “We’ve already beefed up [our surveillance programme], but it’s one of those areas where we need to raise the flag and build out capacity in advance,” she said.
New Unicef report finds that in even best-case scenario 2 billion children will face four to five dangerous heat events annually
The climate crisis is also a children’s rights crisis: one in four children globally are already affected by the climate emergency and by 2050 virtually every child in every region will face more frequent heatwaves, according to a new Unicef report.
For hundreds of millions of children, heatwaves will also last longer and be more extreme, increasing the threat of death, disease, hunger and forced migration.
Geneva/New York, 26 October (WMO) - In yet another ominous climate change warning, atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all reached new record highs in 2021, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reported the biggest year-on-year jump in methane concentrations in 2021 since systematic measurements began nearly 40 years ago. The reason for this exceptional increase is not clear, but seems to be a result of both biological and human-induced processes.
The increase in carbon dioxide levels from 2020 to 2021 was larger than the average annual growth rate over the last decade. Measurements from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network stations show that these levels continues to rise in 2022 over the whole globe.
Between 1990 and 2021, the warming effect on our climate (known as radiative forcing) by long-lived greenhouse gases rose by nearly 50%, with carbon dioxide accounting for about 80% of this increase.
Carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million (ppm), methane at 1908 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide at 334.5 ppb. These values constitute, respectively, 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels before human activities started disrupting natural equilibrium of these gases in the atmosphere.
“WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin has underlined, once again, the enormous challenge – and the vital necessity – of urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperatures rising even further in the future,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
CH4 annual increase
“The continuing rise in concentrations of the main heat-trapping gases, including the record acceleration in methane levels, shows that we are heading in the wrong direction,” he said.
“There are cost-effective strategies available to tackle methane emissions, especially from the fossil fuel sector, and we should implement these without delay. However, methane has a relatively short lifetime of less than 10 years and so its impact on climate is reversible. As the top and most urgent priority, we have to slash carbon dioxide emissions which are the main driver of climate change and associated extreme weather, and which will affect climate for thousands of years through polar ice loss, ocean warming and sea level rise,” said Prof. Taalas.
“We need to transform our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life. The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible. Time is running out,” said Prof. Taalas.
WMO UN Climate Change conference, COP27, in Egypt from 7-18 November. On the eve of the conference in Sharm-el-Sheikh it will present its provisional State of the Global Climate 2022 report, which will show how greenhouse gases continue to drive climate change and extreme weather. The years from 2015 to 2021 were the seven warmest on record.
The WMO reports seek to galvanize COP27 negotiators into more ambitious action decision makers to achieve the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. The average global temperature is now more than 1.1°C above the 1850–1900 pre-industrial average.
Given the need to strengthen the greenhouse gas information basis for decisions on climate mitigation efforts, WMO is working with the broader greenhouse gas community to develop a framework for sustained, internationally coordinated global greenhouse gas monitoring, including observing network design and international exchange and use of the resulting observations. It will engage with the broader scientific and international community, in particular regarding land surface and ocean observation and modelling.
WMO measures atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – what remains in the atmosphere after gases are absorbed by sinks like the ocean and biosphere. This is not the same as emissions.
A separate and complementary Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment will be released on 27 October. The Emissions Gap report assesses the latest scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions. This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the emissions gap.
As long as emissions continue, global temperature will continue to rise. Given the long life of CO2, the temperature level already observed will persist for decades even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero.
Highlights of the Bulletin
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 149% of the pre-industrial level in 2021, primarily because of emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and cement production. Global emissions have rebounded since the COVID-related lockdowns in 2020. Of the total emissions from human activities during the 2011–2020 period, about 48% accumulated in the atmosphere, 26% in the ocean and 29% on land.
There is concern that the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as “sinks” may become less effective in future, thus reducing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and act as a buffer against larger temperature increase. In some parts of the world the transition of the land sink into CO2 source is already happening.
Atmospheric methane is the second largest contributor to climate change and consists of a diverse mix of overlapping sources and sinks, so it is difficult to quantify emissions by source type.
Since 2007, globally-averaged atmospheric methane concentration has been increasing at an accelerating rate. The annual increases in 2020 and 2021 (15 and 18 ppb respectively) are the largest since systematic record began in 1983.
Causes are still being investigated by the global greenhouse gas science community. Analysis indicates that the largest contribution to the renewed increase in methane since 2007 comes from biogenic sources, such as wetlands or rice paddies. It is not yet possible to say if the extreme increases in 2020 an 2021 represent a climate feedback – if it gets warmer, the organic material decomposes faster. If it decomposes in the water (without oxygen) this leads to methane emissions. Thus, if tropical wetlands become wetter and warmer, more emissions are possible.
The dramatic increase might also be because of natural interannual variability. The years 2020 and 2021 saw La Niña events which are associated with increased precipitation in tropics.
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas. It is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural sources (approximately 57%) and anthropogenic sources (approximately 43%), including oceans, soils, biomass burning, fertilizer use, and various industrial processes. The increase from 2020 to 2021 was slightly higher than that observed from 2019 to 2020 and higher than the average annual growth rate over the past 10 years.
However, the WMO praises the European Union as a model region in terms of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In the EU, emissions have fallen by 31 per cent from 1990 to 2020, it said. "In Europe, we are seeing the world warming live, and this shows us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from the effects of extreme weather events," said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
Report at Cop27 shows the world is now deep into the climate emergency, with the 1.5C heating limit ‘barely within reach’
The past eight years were the eight hottest ever recorded, a new UN report has found, indicating the world is now deep into the climate crisis. The internationally agreed 1.5C limit for global heating is now “barely within reach”, it said.
The report, by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), sets out how record high greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are driving sea level and ice melting to new highs and supercharging extreme weather from Pakistan to Puerto Rico.
The stark assessment was published on the opening day of the UN’s Cop27 climate summit in Egypt and as the UN secretary-general warned that “our planet is on course to reach tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible”.
The WMO estimates that the global average temperature in 2022 will be about 1.15C above the pre-industrial average (1850-1900), meaning every year since 2016 has been one of the warmest on record.
Experts say warmer, saltier water caused by rising temperatures may have profound impact on sea ice
Oceanographers sometimes classify seawater as either “spicy”, meaning warm and salty, or “minty”, when it is cooler and has a lower salt content. Temperature and salinity are important factors because of their effect on the density of seawater.
Cold water is heavier and tends to sink, which can drive large-scale movement. This contributes, for example, to the well-known El Niño oscillation off South America. Salty water is also denser, and again tends to sink.
These two effects may cancel each other out though, so spicy water, which is warmer but saltier, can have the same density as cooler but fresher minty water.
In some sea areas, such as the Bay of Bengal, salty and minty bodies of water with the same density swirl against each other. Understanding the mixing process is important because it affects the temperature at the surface, a key factor in the formation of seasonal monsoon rains.
There is concern that the Arctic Ocean is becoming spicier because of climate change. Previously, water density in this region was determined largely by the salt levels.
The Mississippi River's water levels are the lowest they have been in a decade.
The river is the second largest in the U.S. and provides drinking water to around 20 million people but as water levels continue to decline, this integral water source could be at risk.
Particularly low water levels have been recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, where levels have dropped to as low as -6.1 feet as of November 15.
In October, Tower Rock—an island in the middle of the Mississippi River in Missouri—became accessible by foot for the first time in living memory. Water levels were so low people were able to walk to the island rather than take a boat as usual.
It is not the only anomaly to occur as the river dries up. The sunken remains of a 19th-century trading ship—previously covered by the river's waters—were discovered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Even relics and artifacts from the American Civil War have been discovered on the river banks.
Riley Bryant, from Memphis, shared videos of him finding Civil War-era bullets and an intact belt buckle from the river.
Why is the Mississippi River drying up?
Parts of the U.S. have been in the grips of an ongoing megadrought. The Mississippi River is just the latest body of water to be affected by the dry conditions.
"Around 1/3 of rainfall in the U.S. ends up in the Mississippi River, and with decreased rainfall in the Midwest, there is less water entering the river to begin with," Alexander Loucopoulos, Partner of Sciens Water and Chair of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI)'s Corporate Advisory Board, told Newsweek.
It is suspected that climate change is the main reason for the ongoing drought.
But it is hard to tell for certain. Some scientists have noted that in previous years, the river has actually produced record water flows, meaning this could just be a one year issue.
If water levels continue to recede, however, the discovery of shipwrecks will not be the only result.
"The Mississippi River provides drinking water to around 20 million people, or 16% of the U.S. population. It's also a primary mode of transportation, carrying around 500 million tons of cargo every year," Loucopoulos said. "The Mississippi River Basin is home to 57% of US farmland, producing 60% of US grains and 54% of US soybeans. This interconnected network, spanning much farther than just the Mississippi River Basin, will be affected by this drought."
A new model explains that water evaporating from the Arctic Ocean due to a warming climate is transported south and can lead to increased snowfall in northern Eurasia in late autumn and early winter. This information will allow for more accurate predictions of severe weather events.
Rising air temperatures due to global warming melt glaciers and polar ice caps. Seemingly paradoxically, snow cover in some areas in northern Eurasia has increased over the past decades. However, snow is a form of water; global warming increases the quantity of moisture in the atmosphere, and thus the quantity and likelihood of rain and snow. Understanding where exactly the moisture comes from, how it is produced and how it is transported south is relevant for better predictions of extreme weather and the evolution of the climate.
Hokkaido University environmental scientist Tomonori Sato and his team developed a new tagged moisture transport model that relies on the "Japanese 55-year reanalysis dataset," a painstaking reanalysis of world-wide historical weather data over the span of the past 55 years. The group used this material to keep their model calibrated over much longer distances than hitherto possible and were thus able to shed light onto the mechanism of the moisture transport in particular over the vast landmasses of Siberia.
A standard technique to analyze moisture transport is the "tagged moisture transport model." This is a computer modeling technique that tracks where hypothetical chunks of atmospheric moisture form, how they are moved around, and where they precipitate due to the local climatic conditions. But the computer models become more and more inaccurate as the distance to the ocean increases. In particular, this makes quantitative predictions difficult. Thus, these methods have not been able to satisfyingly explain the snowfall in northern Eurasia.
The results of the study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science show that water evaporation from the Arctic Ocean has increased over the past four decades, and that the biggest changes have occurred from the Barents and Kara Seas north of western Siberia, as well as over the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas north of eastern Siberia, between October and December. At this time of year, the Arctic Ocean is still warm and the area not covered by ice is still large.
Importantly, this development coincides with the area where sea ice retreat has been strongest over the time frame of the study. In addition, the quantitative model shows that evaporation and snowfall are especially strong during certain weather events such as cyclonic systems taking up unusually large quantities of moisture and transporting them south into Siberia, thus also highlighting detailed and specific mechanistic insights into the weather dynamics of the region.
With the Arctic Ocean being twice as sensitive to rapid warming than the global average, evaporation and subsequent changes to the hydrological cycle over northern Eurasia will become even more pronounced in the years to come.
The researchers say that, since snowfall often delays the downstream effects of the abnormal weather events that cause it, "knowledge of the precursor signal stored as a snow cover anomaly is expected to help improve seasonal predictions of abnormal weather, e.g., the potential for heatwaves that enhance the risk of fire in boreal forests."
This study therefore yields a key element to understanding the mechanism of this weather system as well as others that are influenced by it, and thus to making better predictions of severe events that could do harm to people and infrastructure.