Climate Weekly: CO2 fingerprints found in Europe’s heatwave

Sign up to get our weekly newsletter straight to your inbox, plus breaking news, investigations and extra bulletins from key events

(Photo: Deposit Photos)


Once they’ve exhausted stories about sunscreen sales, travel disruption and health risks, the media may eventually, if a heatwave goes on long enough, think to mention climate change.

Things reached that peak in the UK this week, Soila Apparicio reports, with mainstream outlets like the BBC showing increased confidence in reporting on the science.

Human activity more than doubled the likelihood of the heatwave across northern Europe, according to the World Weather Attribution service.

“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said leading scientist Friederike Otto.

The heat complaints may seem over the top to readers from the tropics, but countries like the UK are poorly prepared for temperatures over 30C. The Met Office forecast a 20% chance of setting an all-time record high temperature on Friday, before the weather was set to cool off.

Imran can

As cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan won the premiership of Pakistan, we looked at his party’s climate policies.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s flagship green initiative is the “10 billion tree tsunami”, a scaling up of the forest programme it ran in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The incoming government will also champion green jobs and resilience to climate impacts, according to Malik Amin Aslam, the likely next environment minister.

Trade climbdown

It is all very well for EU figures to say trade deals must be climate-friendly, but when sales of BMWs are threatened, that goes out the window.

So it seems after commission president Jean-Claude Juncker visited the White House this week. In a joint statement with Donald Trump, the two sides pledged to “reduce bureaucratic obstacles” to free trade.

That is usually code for watering down environmental protections and is a significant softening of the EU stance that any trade deal must honour the Paris Agreement.

Managing expectations

It reflects an increasingly cautious German position, as it falls short of its domestic climate targets and protects its powerful auto lobby.

Angela Merkel blamed an accounting change for the likely failure to meet the country’s 2020 emission reduction goal, reported Clean Energy Wire.

And she is getting her excuses in early for 2030 carbon cuts, which she says will be “very, very challenging”.

Climate conversations

The fires ravaging parts of Europe show our forest policies are failing – Linde Zuidema, Fern

Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change – Rebecca Harris, David Bowman and Linda Beaumont

Elon Musk’s disaster capitalism – Soila Apparicio

Coal lock-in

Also ducking the tough decisions is Australia. A draft energy policy circulated to ministers may breach its Paris climate commitments, analysts warned.

The problem is in the timeline: Canberra proposes to fix an electricity emissions target until 2024, but is due to “update and enhance” its Paris pledge in 2023.

If the country is locked into weak action in the electricity sector, it will have to make up the carbon cuts from other, harder-to-green sectors.

China’s #MeToo

Prominent Chinese green campaigner Feng Yongfeng stepped down after appearing to admit to sexual harassment of several women, in a social media post that was later deleted.

Feng resigned as head of Nature University after an anonymous letter circulated that accused him of groping female colleagues.

It came as the #MeToo movement gained traction in China’s NGO sector, with health and anti-discrimination activist Lei Chuang confessing to similar behaviour.

UN warning

Development gains across the Arab region could be swallowed up by climate change, a new report from the UN Development Programme has warned.

The local bureau chief said increasing a decade of droughts had brought “famine and food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and life, and the displacement of millions”.

Coming up next week

  • The co-chairs of the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement working group are due to deliver new tools for negotiators to land a deal in Katowice in December
  • The New York Times Magazine will publish a huge new feature on a decade when climate change might have been averted

Read more on: Climate politics