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The Guardian Climate Change
Thursday briefing: How the Conservatives went from ‘greenest government ever’ to giving up on climate
In today’s newsletter: With the news that Rishi Sunak may ditch a key climate commitment, we look back at the party’s poor record on the environment
When David Cameron threw his hat in the ring to be the leader of the Conservatives in 2005, his mission was to modernise the party and, crucially, make it more environmentally friendly. He took a trip to the Arctic where he posed with a husky and committed to leading the “greenest government ever”. His campaign worked. All the political parties in Britain were, generally, on the same page: the climate crisis was an imminent threat and they needed to cut fossil fuel use as quickly as possible.
UK news | Richard Ratcliffe - husband of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – alongside the families of other political prisoners, has accused the Foreign Office of complacency after it rejected a call by MPs to overhaul the way it goes about trying to secure the release of British nationals overseas.
Policing | The head of the Metropolitan police, Sir Mark Rowley, has said the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation may be irreparably damaged by the egregious errors made in the first weeks after the killing. Rowley also rejected a BBC report claiming a man called Matthew White, who died in 2021, was a new suspect in the investigation.
Lung cancer | The number of women diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK is expected to overtake men this year for the first time, prompting calls for women to be as vigilant about the disease as they are about breast cancer. Cancer experts said the “very stark” figures reflected historical differences in smoking prevalence.
Company profits | The world’s 722 biggest companies collectively are making more than $1tn a year (£780bn) in windfall profits on the back of soaring energy prices and rising interest rates, according to research by development charities. Windfall profits are defined as those exceeding average profits in the previous four years by more than 10%.
Threads | Meta’s Twitter rival, Threads, logged five million sign-ups in its first four hours of operation, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as the company seeks to woo users from Elon Musk’s troubled platform. The app is freely available in 100 countries, but regulatory concerns mean it will not be available in the EU.Continue reading...
As deforestation and fierce winds compound the climate crisis-driven drought, sand dunes are burying the medieval port of Hobyo. Will pledges to green the desert save families already displaced by war?
Hussein Karshe paces back and forth across the sand on the outskirts of the coastal town of Hobyo. Beneath the soft white dune lie the remains of the two-bedroom house he built for his family in 1993. A few sticks buried below the sand are the only visible sign of the building where his six children were born. Karshe lived there for nearly 20 years, supporting his family by selling goats.
But in 2011 heavy sandstorms covered the ground around his home. Over the next year the sand accumulated, creeping up the external walls of the house and blowing into the rooms. At first Karshe tried to keep the sand at bay by scooping it out with his hands or a small shovel, but his efforts proved futile.
‘I’ve lost everything. All I have left are memories’ … retired air force technician Hussein Karshe, 70Continue reading...
Proposal to improve soil health throughout continent by 2050 criticised for lack of legally binding targets
The European Commission has proposed the continent’s first soil law, intended to undo some of the damage done by intensive farming and mitigate global heating.
Amid intense opposition to proposed laws on nature restoration and curbs on pesticides, the European Commission put forward proposals in Brussels on Wednesday to revive degraded soils. Research indicates that this could help absorb carbon from the atmosphere and ensure sustainable food production.Continue reading...
Five ways AI could improve the world: ‘We can cure all diseases, stabilise our climate, halt poverty’
It is not yet clear how the power and possibilities of AI will play out. Here are the best-case scenarios for how it might help us develop new drugs, give up dull jobs and live long, healthy lives
- Coming on Friday: Five ways AI might destroy the world
Recent advances such as Open AI’s GPT-4 chatbot have awakened the world to how sophisticated artificial intelligence has become and how rapidly the field is advancing. Could this powerful new technology help save the world? We asked five leading AI researchers to lay out their best-case scenarios.Continue reading...
Average global temperature hits 17.18C and experts expect record to be broken again very soon
World temperature records have been broken for a second day in a row, data suggests, as experts issued a warning that this year’s warmest days are still to come – and with them the warmest days ever recorded.
The average global air temperature was 17.18C (62.9F) on Tuesday, according to data collated by the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), surpassing the record 17.01C reached on Monday.Continue reading...
Civil servants say bold action needed to meet target – but painful decisions need to be made
Rishi Sunak risks damaging trust in the UK among developing countries and reducing the country’s standing in negotiations, because of a failure to meet climate spending pledges, civil servants have told ministers.
They said that under current policies the only way to meet the £11.6bn international climate funding target agreed at Cop26 was to take a drastic combination of “hugely reputationally damaging” measures including delaying meeting the target, redefining already committed spending as climate funding, and cutting money for research and development, biodiversity and plastic pollution mitigation.
Delay the target. Officials said they could move it to the end of the 2026 calendar year instead of the financial year 2025/26, giving another three-quarters of a year to spend money. They warned this would “be hugely reputationally damaging at a time when the global south mistrusts wealthy countries”. They added: “The geopolitical ramifications are likely to extend beyond climate, damaging our standing with a wide range of developing countries, SIDs [small island developing states], Commonwealth and middle-ground nations, further undermining trust in the UK as a donor.”
Count other already-committed amounts to climate payments as part of the £11.6bn. Civil servants said: “This would be seen as the UK ‘moving the goalposts’ and would be seen as a backwards step, reducing UK standing and influence in climate negotiations.”
Eat into Defra and net zero department budgets. Currently half of the international funding paid by these departments is part of the £11.6bn commitment. Civil servants said it would be helpful for this to be closer to 75%, but this would eat into research and development funding as well as non-climate biodiversity protection programmes and other areas such as preventing plastic pollution.
Obtain a one-off sum from the Treasury. Officials admitted this would be “strongly resisted” by the chancellor but said if the Treasury directly funded loss and damage options, it “would be a strong signal of climate leadership by the UK”.Continue reading...
Exclusive: new database shows 1,500 US lobbyists working for fossil-fuel firms while representing universities and green groups
More than 1,500 lobbyists in the US are working on behalf of fossil-fuel companies while at the same time representing hundreds of liberal-run cities, universities, technology companies and environmental groups that say they are tackling the climate crisis, the Guardian can reveal.
Lobbyists for oil, gas and coal interests are also employed by a vast sweep of institutions, ranging from the city governments of Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia; tech giants such as Apple and Google; more than 150 universities; some of the country’s leading environmental groups – and even ski resorts seeing their snow melted by global heating.Continue reading...
State Farm stopped insuring California homes due to climate risks. But it shares lobbyists with big oil
Allstate, too, has pulled out of climate disaster-prone areas while hiring lobbyists who are also aligned to fossil fuel interests
The largest home insurer in the US, State Farm, which is halting new homeowner policies in California due to the “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” posed by wildfires, has hired lobbyists who also work to advance fossil fuel industry interests across 18 states, a new database shows.
While State Farm in May refused to take new home insurance applications in California, it retains a lobbying firm in the state – the Sacramento-based KP Public Affairs – which also represents Tenaska, a gas developer. Across the US, State Farm shares lobbyists with a raft of oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, Calpine and Occidental Energy.Continue reading...
Project Sea clears rubbish from Aqaba’s reefs, which is recycled into bags by Palestinian refugees – a female-led scheme in a country where women must still fight for equality
The yacht Diversity leaves the harbour of Aqaba, the only coastal town in Jordan. To the right is the Israeli resort of Eilat, framed by barren mountains; in the Red Sea, a boxfish makes leisurely circles in absurdly clear, turquoise water.
The boat soon anchors just offshore, directly in front of Aqaba’s electricity plant, and suddenly everything happens quickly: the passengers don wetsuits, pass around gloves and cloth bags, and then, one by one, dive in. They all have one mission: to collect as much rubbish as possible in 30 minutes.Continue reading...
World Meteorological Organization says weather pattern is in place, which for Australia increases risk of drought, heatwaves, bushfires and coral bleaching
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Ocean temperatures around Australia last month were 0.5C above average, as the UN’s weather agency declared the world was now in an El Niño.
El Niño events influence weather extremes around the globe and for Australia increase the risk of drought, heatwaves, bushfires and coral bleaching.Continue reading...
Heatwaves sizzled around the world from the US south and the north of Africa to China and Antarctica
This Monday, 3 July 2023, was the hottest day ever recorded globally, according to data from the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
The average global temperature reached 17.01C (62.62F), surpassing the August 2016 record of 16.92C (62.46F), as heatwaves sizzled around the world.Continue reading...
Exclusive: Disclosure provokes fury as Rishi Sunak accused of betraying populations vulnerable to global heating
The government is drawing up plans to drop the UK’s flagship £11.6bn climate and nature funding pledge, the Guardian can reveal, with the prime minster accused of betraying populations most vulnerable to global heating.
The disclosure provoked fury from former ministers and representatives of vulnerable countries, who accused Rishi Sunak of making false promises.Continue reading...
Our leaders’ addiction to economic growth and its consumption of environmental resources has me paralysed with fear and solastalgia
Many of us have experienced grieving after the death of a family member or a longtime friend. We regard it as a form of suffering which we hope will be alleviated with time. Advice from loved ones, doctors and therapists may help us to cope by offering the solution that time will heal.
In some, like Queen Victoria, the loss of a partner may cause lifelong grief with self-imposed withdrawal and solitude.Continue reading...
Better farming techniques across the world could lead to storage of 31 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, data shows
Marginal improvements to agricultural soils around the world would store enough carbon to keep the world within 1.5C of global heating, new research suggests.
Farming techniques that improve long-term fertility and yields can also help to store more carbon in soils but are often ignored in favour of intensive techniques using large amounts of artificial fertiliser, much of it wasted, that can increase greenhouse gas emissions.Continue reading...
World Meteorological Organization warns of record temperatures and extreme heat in environmental ‘double whammy’
The arrival of a climate-heating El Niño event has been declared by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with officials warning that preparation for extreme weather events is vital to save lives and livelihoods.
The last major El Niño was in 2016, which remains the hottest year on record. The new El Niño comes on top of the increasing global heating driven by human-caused carbon emissions, an effect the WMO called a “double whammy”. This can supercharge extreme weather, and temperature records are already being broken on land and at sea across the globe.Continue reading...
We are not helpless: we need to do big things quickly, though, to halt the disturbance of nature. And I fear that’s not happening
- John Vidal is a former Guardian environment editor
When he bought the pretty little striped field mouse on the internet for $8 to give to his daughter for her sixth birthday, the businessman from São Paulo was told it was free of infection and had been bred by a registered dealer. In fact, it had been sourced from the vast sugar cane fields planted in Brazil to grow biofuels to reduce the use of fossil fuels – and which were swarming with rodents after yet another heatwave.
It nipped his daughter on the finger, but no one thought much of it – and six days later, he left on a trip to Europe. By the time he reached Amsterdam, she had started suffering fevers, muscle aches and breathing problems and had been rushed to hospital, and he too felt unwell. It was the start of one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing more people than Covid-19, Sars or the 1918 flu pandemic put together.
John Vidal is the Guardian’s former environment editor and author of Fevered Planet: How Diseases Emerge When We Harm Nature (Bloomsbury, £20). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.Continue reading...
Eoghan Daltun has spent 14 years rewilding part of Beara peninsula into a showcase of diversity
Eoghan Daltun stood on a slope and pointed to a distant vista of verdant fields, craggy hills and conifer trees across the Beara peninsula in west Cork.
Sun glinted off the rocks and sheep grazed in meadows. It was serene – the sort of bucolic panorama that draws tourists and appears on Irish postcards to embody the Emerald Isle.Continue reading...
Australian government stands by safeguard mechanism’s design and indicates it will not change in response to lobbying
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The Albanese government is resisting a push by Japan for a major new Northern Territory gas export development to be given special treatment under Australia’s revamped emissions reduction policy.
The Kishida government has lobbied the Albanese government over its concerns about Australia’s safeguard mechanism, a climate policy that requires major industrial polluters to either cut greenhouse gas emissions intensity – how much they emit per unit of production – or pay for carbon offsets.Continue reading...
Heat dome of high pressure hovers over Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma as thousands remain without power in Chicago with heavy rains knocking down trees and power lines
The heating of the earth’s atmosphere and oceans by the burning of fossil fuels made the current extreme heatwave across the us at least five times more likely, according to a recent analysis by Climate Central, a climate science non-profit.
The rolling heatwave marks the latest in a series of recent extreme “heat dome” events that have scorched various parts of the world.
If you have this sort of high-pressure system sitting stationary over a region, you can have these really impressive heatwaves.Continue reading...
Opposition by mainstream conservatives to key parts of the package is part of an insidious trend
A European parliament plenary vote, held in mid-July, might normally pass under the radar of all but the most passionate aficionados of Brussels politics. That will not be the case next week, when environmental campaigners will watch through their fingers as one of the most consequential decisions so far is made in relation to the EU’s net zero targets.
Before heading for their summer holidays, MEPs are expected to vote on a proposed nature restoration law, committing European governments to rehabilitate and rewild swathes of territory suffering from desertification, deforestation and the draining of peatlands. Along with action on pesticides, this is essentially the biodiversity strand to the EU’s green deal. The law’s role in facilitating carbon capture and creating healthy, resilient ecosystems is deemed indispensable by scientists, if emissions reduction targets are to be met. But as with other aspects of the green transition, Europe’s increasingly dominant right is now mounting a sustained campaign to derail it.Continue reading...