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‘Destructive’ Hurricane Idalia
FLORIDA SURGE: Hurricane Idalia struck Florida on Wednesday, destroying homes and flooding coastal communities, NBC News reported. Idalia subsequently weakened to a tropical storm on Thursday “as it swept back out to sea on a path toward Bermuda” after hitting other south-eastern US states, the New York Times said. A large tree fell on Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ “mansion” in the storm, Sky News said, while reports emerged that he had rejected $350m in energy efficiency funds for Florida from the federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act.
CLIMATE ROLE: As Idalia rapidly intensified on its approach to Florida, the storm was “feeding on some of the hottest water on the planet”, the Associated Press reported. Recent high water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico acted as “rocket fuel for the storm”, Colorado State University hurricane researcher Dr Phil Klotzbach told the outlet. Climate change is one of the factors driving an “upward trend in rapidly intensifying storms”, the Washington Post said, while BBC News showed footage of the “destructive” storm from space.
‘CRAZY’ WEATHER: Following the storm, US president Joe Biden said that nobody can “deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore”, Reuters reported. Earlier this week, the Guardian spoke to more than 40 leading scientists about this year’s “crazy” extreme weather. Experts told the newspaper that global heating has so far been in line with “decades of warnings”, but current extremes are just the “tip of the iceberg”.
UK cabinet shake-up
FIFTH-TIME LUCKY: UK conservative MP and former children’s minister Claire Coutinho has taken over the role of energy security and net-zero secretary following a “mini-reshuffle” in cabinet, Sky News reported. The outgoing minister Grant Shapps is the country’s new defence secretary, his fifth role in a year, replacing Ben Wallace.
SUNAK ‘ULTRA-LOYALIST’: Coutinho’s appointment has “raised hopes among environmental campaigners and the Conservatives’ green wing that the government’s net-zero agenda could be back on track”, the i newspaper said, but it cautioned that “as an ultra-loyalist to Sunak, she may toe the line on his net-zero agenda”. Before becoming a minister, Coutinho was a member of the Conservative Environment Network, BBC News noted.
ULEZ EXPANDS: Also in the UK, the expansion of London’s ultra low emission zone (Ulez) to cover the outer areas of the city came into force on Tuesday, reported the Guardian. People driving a vehicle that does not meet minimum emissions standards in these zones must pay a £12.50 daily fee or risk a fine of up to £180, the newspaper said, adding that the Conservative government “has continued to criticise the scheme, despite showing previous support”. The expansion triggered widespread backlash in right-wing newspapers, while Politico reported that the Ulez debate is a precursor to the “Tory green wars” that are “about to heat up” as parliament returns from summer recess.
- SCORCHED: An ongoing blaze in Greece is the “largest in the EU” since records began in 2000, Reuters reported, scorching through an area bigger than New York City. At least 20 people have died so far in the fire, Greek newspaper Kathimerini noted.
- YOUR HONOUR: Children have the right to pursue legal action to ensure countries take action on climate change, an independent panel of experts that interprets UN human rights law said, according to the New York Times.
- AUSSIE RISKS: The Australian government has agreed to settle a “world-first” court case, which accused it of misleading investors by failing to disclose climate-related financial risks, ABC News reported.
- UPROOTED: Ahead of next week’s Africa Climate Summit, environmentalists criticised Kenyan president William Ruto’s plans to lift a ban on logging, Climate Home News said.
- INCOMING WINDS: Super Typhoon Saola is barrelling towards China’s southern coast, Al Jazeera reported. Several major cities are under “red alert”, the highest level in China’s typhoon warning system, said state-run newspaper China Daily.
The amount Denmark will donate to Brazil’s Amazon Fund to help combat deforestation, Reuters reported. The newswire said that Norway, Germany, the UK and the EU have also contributed to the fund, which was set up in 2008.
- A study in Nature suggested that marine heatwaves have a negative effect on some fish populations, but not others.
- According to research in Earth’s Future, floods that currently take place annually will occur hundreds of times per year under an extent of sea level rise projected to occur this century in most locations.
- The negative indirect impacts of tropical cyclones, river floods and heat stress on global consumption are larger when a country’s economy is under stress, a study in Environmental Research Letters said.
(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)
China experienced both extreme heat and “devastating” floods this summer, which had a “major impact” on food supplies and rice crops, BBC News reported. This chart, prepared for a Carbon Brief article on how climate change is affecting China’s cropland, shows the change in the country’s arable land in hectares from 1961 to 2020. The area of cultivated land has slowly decreased over the past decade, after seeing a rapid rise in the 1980s in line with China’s economic reform in rural areas.
Ireland’s temperate rainforests
Ireland remains to be one of the least forested countries in Europe, with 11.6% of the land now covered in trees, according to new government statistics. The country’s recently approved forestry programme will “mark a turning point for Irish forestry”, junior minister for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett said, boosting sluggish tree-planting rates.
On the nation’s south-west coast, Eoghan Daltun (pictured) has rewilded farmland into a temperate rainforest – a rare habitat found in humid, rainy areas with little temperature variation. Daltun, a sculptor and the author of An Irish Atlantic Rainforest, discusses with Carbon Brief his path to rewilding and his thoughts on the Irish government’s forestry progress.
Carbon Brief: Why did you want to rewild land into forest in the south-west of Ireland?
Eoghan Daltun: It was 2009 when I bought this farm down in the Beara Peninsula. I hadn’t heard of rewilding at that time, but what I had in mind for the place was essentially rewilding. There was already a lot of forest on the land, which had…regenerated naturally due to the farm not being used for agriculture for a long time. So the forest was already there, it was just in a terrible state due to overgrazing and invasion by a whole bunch of invasive species.
CB: Can you describe the experience of being in a temperate rainforest?
ED: It’s hard to describe just how amazing it is. I’m going in and out for over 14 years now and it still blows my mind. Even now, every time I go in, there’s so much life in there. Between the flora and the fauna and birds, insects, wildflowers, ferns, lichens, mosses, fungi – there’s just so much life in such a small area, because we’re only talking about 30 acres.
CB: Given the recent forestry statistics, how would you describe the current state of Ireland’s forests?
ED: Desperate. It’s kind of hard to imagine how things could be worse for Irish forests. It’s estimated that around 80% of Ireland was forested in prehistory. We’ve gone from that down to only around 1% [of native trees]. And pretty much all, or certainly the vast majority of that 1% that we have left, is wrecked ecologically due to the same things that were affecting my place when I arrived – severe overgrazing by livestock or wild herbivores, goats or deer, and then invasion by invasive plant species.
I think the authorities, the powers that be in this country, don’t care about any of this. They’re hell bent on a programme of afforestation that just wants to carpet the land in more and more non-native monoculture dead zones. On the positive side, I think people are increasingly unwilling to accept the state of things in Ireland and they’re saying: ‘We’ve had enough and we don’t want any more of this. We don’t want Ireland to be just an ecological dead zone. We want to bring nature back.’ And that’s very encouraging.
‘COOKING THE BOOKS’: In an article for Climate Home News, reporter Matteo Civillini investigated cookstove carbon credits and found that certain projects in India are “likely overstating emissions reductions by as much as eight times”.
FREE SPEECH: The first episode of a new season of the Drilled podcast on climate free speech examined “what prompted extractive industries to start agitating for governments to crack down on protest”.
CLIMATE BEAT: In a piece for Grist, author Zack O’Malley Greenburg wrote about the largely “unnoticed” role of hip hop in “advocating for climate solutions”.
- Associated Press, artist, video graphics producer (climate and environment) | Salary: $46,048-80,714. Location: US
- UN Food and Agriculture Organization, communication and research specialist | Salary: Unknown. Location: New Delhi
- European Environmental Bureau, associate communications officer for climate and energy | Salary: From €2,653 p/m. Location: Brussels
- Climate Change Committee, lead analyst, power | Salary: £54,693-61,800. Location: London
- Springer Nature, sustainability intern | Salary: London living wage. Location: London/hybrid
DeBriefed is written in rotation by Carbon Brief’s team and edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected]
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