DeBriefed 8 March 2024: Climate cost of a Trump victory calculated; ‘Weird’ winter heat; China’s pivotal ‘two sessions’ meeting; Young female activist interview


Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

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Long hot winter

‘WORLD’S WARMEST’: Record heat has affected “everywhere from northern Siberia and central and north-west America to parts of South America, Africa and Australia” this winter, reported the Financial Times. BBC News reported that last month was the world’s warmest February “in modern times”, the ninth month in a row to be the hottest on record since June 2023. This puts the world temporarily above the 1.5C threshold, noted the Guardian.

‘WEIRD’ WINTER HEAT: The New York Times reported that the “fingerprints of climate change” were detectable on the “weird” winter heat, including in Iran’s capital city Tehran, which was 4.2C warmer than average during the winter months. Morocco experienced the hottest January since measurements began, the country’s meteorological department told Agence France-Presse, at 3.8C above normal. 

SMOKEHOUSE SCAR: Record winter heat continued to fan the flames of the “largest wildfire on record” in Texas, reported Axios. It added the blazes had left “a burn scar so large it is clearly visible from space”. Known as the Smokehouse Creek fire, it has burned more than 1.2m acres and “killed two people and thousands of cattle”, reported BBC Future. The publication explained that the fire has a “complex link” with climate change.

China’s pivotal ‘two sessions’ meeting

WHAT, WHEN, WHERE: China’s “two sessions” meeting, which sees the annual parliamentary gathering of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is currently underway in Beijing, Carbon Brief’s China Briefing newsletter reported. Its centrepiece is the “government work report”, a speech traditionally delivered by the premier that outlines priorities for the year ahead.

CLIMATE TARGETS: One of the few quantitative climate targets China set in the report is to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 2.5% over the coming year, a goal that Bloomberg described as “modest”. The target was lower than analysts’ expectations of 4%, the outlet added.

FOSSIL FUELS REMAIN: The work report also restated a commitment to boosting fossil fuels in the name of “energy security”, Reuters reported. The newswire noted that China also aims to step up exploration of “strategic minerals”.  

  • SURPRISE SNOW: Pakistan experienced unusual snowfall and heavy rains, resulting in the death of at least 35 people, including 22 children, reported BBC News
  • CORAL BLEACH: The world is on the brink of a fourth global mass coral bleaching event, which could see many tropical reefs killed by extreme ocean temperatures, reported Reuters. The Guardian reported that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is facing its fifth mass coral bleaching event in eight years.
  • FUNDING THREAT: Individuals from global south climate groups that depend on finance from the German government “feel unable to criticise Israel’s military action in Gaza” due to pressure from their German-funded employers, Climate Home News reported.
  • MISSING MONEY: A UN official said that “Africa will be $2.5tn short of the finance it needs to cope with climate change by 2030”, noted Reuters, despite the continent producing the lowest emissions and experiencing the worst effects.
  • NEW ZEALAND LAWSUIT: An elder of the Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahu tribes “won the right to sue seven New Zealand-based corporate entities”, including fuel, coal and gas companies and dairy exporters, for their contribution to climate change, noted the Guardian.
  • NOTHING TO SEE HERE: The UK’s spring budget announcement was one of the “least green budgets in recent years” experts told the Guardian, with disappointment around electric vehicles and North Sea oil and gas. Carbon Brief had all the details.

The amount of land in hectares that has been degraded by human activity over the past 500 years, reported Bloomberg.

  • A Nature Climate Change study found that, while climate change drives population growth in lizards “when trees are present”, deforestation could reverse this effect and even exacerbate the negative impacts of climate change.
  • Under an additional 1C of warming, around 800 million people in the tropics will live in areas where “heavy work should be limited for over half of the hours in the year” due to the heat, a One Earth review paper found.
  • The severe “Tinderbox drought” in southeast Australia, which preceded the country’s largest wildfires on record from 2019-20, was intensified by human-caused climate change, according to a Science study.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

A Trump election win could add 4bn tonnes to US emissions by 2030. With images of Trump and Biden.

A victory for Donald Trump (red line) in November’s US presidential election could lead to an additional 4bn tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with Joe Biden’s plans (blue line), new Carbon Brief analysis revealed. It is based on an aggregation of modelling by various US research groups. For context, 4bn tonnes of greenhouse gases is equivalent to the combined annual emissions of the EU and Japan, or the combined annual total of the world’s 140 lowest-emitting countries. “Regardless of the precise impact, a second Trump term that successfully dismantles Biden’s climate legacy would likely end any global hopes of keeping global warming below 1.5C,” the analysis added. 

Female climate activist Angel Arutura

Angel Arutura, a social and climate justice activist in Northern Ireland, passionate about “connecting people and the planet” through social media.

On International Women’s Day, Carbon Brief speaks to Angel Arutura, a social and climate justice activist in Northern Ireland passionate about “connecting people and the planet” through social media.

Carbon Brief: How long has environmental activism been part of your life?

Angel Arutura: I’ve always been interested in the world around me, but it goes back to school, where geography was a subject that grabbed me. My teacher made lessons engaging and I became interested in how different parts of the world are affected by issues. I think my mixed-race heritage also helped. I have a multifaceted identity so, naturally, it made sense for me to think about how actions from the global north affected communities in the global south. I’m half Irish, half Zimbabwean, so I’ve been able to see that not just from an academic standpoint, but an emotional standpoint. Since then, I’ve been committed to connecting people to our true nature of love and protection and harbouring that loving connection for the people and the world around us.

CB: How has your identity as a woman shaped your activism, particularly your identity as a Black woman?

AA: I really started being vocal with my activism around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, where the conversation was heavily on social justice. Growing up in a 98% White country, I experienced a lot of racism and my experience as a Black woman living in Ireland has been overwhelmingly negative. I rejected my Zimbabwean culture, my heritage, for so long. I went through a transformation at 17 where I started to connect with my heritage and it was through those years of self-reflection that I was able to speak at the protests. That’s when I found my voice. But, I thought to myself, hold on. Why are we just talking about social justice here? From then, I talked about the intersectionality of climate and social justice. As a Black woman, the driving power behind this was, in a weird way, finding that self-love.

CB: Why is it important to lift up the voices of women, particularly women of colour, when it comes to climate change?

AA: The majority of the time, when people talk about climate change and sustainability, they only talk about the exploitation of the planet. Think about fast fashion and women’s rights violations, and how those brands do sustainability initiatives and all this greenwashing. But how can you talk about the exploitation of the planet and not also the exploitation of women in the global south? The climate crisis, social justice, women’s rights, it’s all interconnected. An intersectional approach is the only one we need to take when it comes to climate change. It’s imperative if we want to create real, sustainable change. One of the best ways we can do this is through storytelling, in particular, elevating and uplifting the voices of the most vulnerable, especially those from the global south. And, unfortunately, that is women. 

This interview was edited for length.

SOUND WAVES: A three-part Sky documentary narrated by David Attenborough, revealed – amid glunking elk, popping grouse and laughing insects – how harnessing the sound of fish could be a vital tool to help save coral reefs.

‘FOLKLORIST’: Grist spoke to a “folklorist” about how community, culture and tradition are vulnerable to, but may also hold solutions for, climate change.

REPORTING FOR DUTY: In the face of extreme heat, “chief heat officers” in Sierra Leone and Mexico explain what this rare role entails in BBC World Service’s The Climate Question podcast.

  • 5-11 March: China’s “two sessions” meeting
  • 10 March: Portugal general elections
  • 11-12 March: G20 second research and innovation working group meeting, Brasília, Brazil

DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected]

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