Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — UN: National climate pledges won’t cut it

An old hotel is submerged by rising water levels in Lake Baringo in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya on July 20, 2022. Madeleine Diouf Sarr, the chair of an influential negotiating bloc in the upcoming United Nations climate summit in Egypt has called for compensation for poorer countries suffering from climate change to be high up on the agenda. Sarr said that the bloc will push for funds to help developing countries adapt to droughts, floods and other climate-related events as well as urging developed nations to speed up their plans to reduce emissions. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

A United Nations report says international climate pledges fall short of what’s needed, greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new high and the hole in the ozone layer shrinks slightly. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk.


Pledges to cut emissions are insufficient, UN finds

Promises to cut emissions by governments around the world are not ambitious enough to significantly counter global warming, which will likely subject future generations to worsening effects from climate change. 

What are we looking at? new report from the United Nations has found that by the year 2100, the world will probably have warmed by between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius — or about 3.8 to 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit.  

That’s warmer than the goals agreed to under the Paris Agreement — in which countries said they would seek to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius — and preferably below 1.5 degrees.  

  • Surpassing these levels of warming is expected to subject more people to heat waves, intense storms, sea level rise and food insecurity.
  • Global warming is typically compared to pre-industrial times, before humans began to burn planet-warming fossil fuels.  

Too little, too late? The U.N.’s report shows that global pledges have been improving, but that the world is still on track to increase its emissions in the coming decade. 

It predicted that under current climate commitments, global emissions will be about 10.6 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010. However, this is an improvement compared to a similar assessment last year, which predicted that emissions would increase by 13.7 percent.  

Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on countries to update their goals in light of the finding.  

“We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years,” Stiell said in a written statement. 

Read more about the report here. 

Greenhouse gases in atmosphere hit new high

The concentration of planet-warming gases in the atmosphere once again reached new highs last year, according to a new report. 

  • The report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that planet-warming gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were at 149 percent, 262 percent and 124 percent, respectively, of their pre-industrial levels.
  • This is a measure of how much of the gases remain trapped in the atmosphere in total, and is not a measure of new greenhouse gas emissions that are added annually.  

Because the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, lasts in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, its concentrations are expected to continue to grow rather than diminish for a very long time.  

This heats up the planet and exacerbates climate impacts such as heat waves, sea level rise and food insecurity. 

And that’s not all: The report also found a relatively high increase in carbon dioxide concentrations, saying that the increase from 2020 to 2021 was larger than the average annual growth from the last decade.  

Meanwhile, methane concentrations saw their largest increase on record. Methane has more than 25 times the power of carbon dioxide to warm the Earth but usually only lasts for about 12 years in the atmosphere

The head of the WMO — which is part of the United Nations — said the finding underscores the importance of taking action on climate change. 

Read more about the report here. 

ROUND AND ROUND 

Vice President Harris and EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited Seattle on Wednesday to tout the first installment of cleaner school buses that will be funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The first $1 billion of $5 billion total will go to support 2,468 new school buses in all 50 states, as well as D.C., territories and tribal institutions. 

  • Nearly all — 95 percent — of these buses will be electric. The rest will be powered by natural gas or propane. The buses will serve 389 school districts.
  • Yet they represent only a small fraction of the country’s fleet of approximately 500,000 school buses. 

A White House fact sheet noted that buses that run on diesel, rather than electricity, produce pollution that can worsen lung problems like asthma. 

In a statement, Regan celebrated the clean school bus program as a way to cut down on this pollution.  

Read more about the announcement here.

Antarctic ozone hole shrinks slightly 

The hole in the Antarctic ozone layer shrank to about 8.9 million square miles in 2022, continuing a year-over-year trend, according to the latest data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The stratospheric layer, which absorbs the majority of hazardous ultraviolet radiation from the sun, thins above the Antarctic during the region’s spring season, which extends from September to December. Chemicals from man-made substances attach to polar clouds throughout the region’s winter and then damage the layer once the sun rises. 

“Over time, steady progress is being made, and the hole is getting smaller,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “We see some wavering as weather changes and other factors make the numbers wiggle slightly from day to day and week to week. But overall, we see it decreasing through the past two decades. The elimination of ozone-depleting substances through the Montreal Protocol is shrinking the hole.” 

Atmospheric scientists had been concerned the January eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the South Pacific could lead to a wider than usual hole after a 1991 eruption had similar effects, but no such extra depletion was apparent in the data. 

This year, NASA and NOAA researchers determined the ozone hole reached a single-day maximum width of 10.2 million square miles early this October but has been shrinking since. Last year, the maximum width was about 9.6 millions square miles and, as in 2022, began shrinking in mid-October. 

Read more about the NASA announcement here. 

KERRY: ‘A NUMBER OF’ ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING AT COP27

President Biden’s special climate envoy John Kerry gave some clues about upcoming U.S. announcements at a global climate summit during a press call with reporters on Wednesday, but did not share specifics.

“The United States is going to make a number of announcements when we get there. I hope you’ll forgive me I’m not going to make them today,” he said.  

But, he signaled there could be news relating to financing the energy transition, providing new money to help countries adapt to climate impacts and to efforts to cut down on releases of a planet-warming gas called methane.  

“We will drive additional financing to accelerate the transition worldwide. We will be working on multilateral development bank guidelines in order to make more money available for lending. We will be announcing different initiatives including increased effort on the global methane pledge, additional funding for adaptation and resilience from president Biden and the U.S.” 

ICYMI

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • You Can’t Always Trust Claims on ‘Non-Toxic’ Cookware (Consumer Reports
  • NC gov executive order to up EV trucks and buses on NC roads (The Raleigh News & Observer
  • EPA: “All options are on the table” regarding a possible federal takeover of Jackson’s water system (CBS News
  • U.S. Officials Had a Secret Oil Deal With the Saudis. Or So They Thought. (The New York Times
  • Nova Scotia touted its huge ‘green’ energy plant. Turns out it’s powered by coal (The Guardian

Lighter click: These boots are made for waddlin’

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

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