Your Weekly Climate News Round-up

This week, we have a new Environment Minister after the cabinet reshuffle, a study has found that people are less likely to have children amid climate change fears, and temperatures are rising in the southern hemisphere as summer approaches.  

Environment Minister replaced in cabinet reshuffle 

Steve Barclay has replaced Therese Coffey following Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle this week. Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said she felt it was “the right time to step back from government.”  

This comes as good news to many climate groups as Coffey was not popular in her role as Environment Minister. Earlier this autumn, she faced widespread criticism for being unprepared for flooding that resulted from storms when the rain came from the wrong direction.  

She has been replaced in cabinet by Steve Barclay, who had previously been serving as health secretary. Barclay, since his appointment, has been reported to have taken donations from the funder of a climate-critical thinktank. Set up by former Conservative MP Nigel Lawson, the thinktank focuses on questioning climate policy.  

Whilst Barclay could legitimately accept the donation, this raises concerns amongst many environmental groups about how Barclay will advocate for the environment in his new role.  

Fewer people having children due to climate change fears 

A study published in the PLOS Climate Journal has suggested that fears about the impact of climate change are negatively affecting people’s decisions to have children.  

Bringing together findings of 13 studies over the last 10 years, the report has found that young people in Europe and North America choose not to have children due to fears about the world their children will grow up in. One of the studies cited found that 33% of childfree Americans aged 20-45 cited being “worried about climate change” as a reason for not having children. 

Whilst the decision not to have children may be becoming more common, it is a conversation which couples have been having for a long time. Emma Smart, talking to the Guardian, made the decision with her partner over 10 years ago not to have children, citing the “moral responsibility” of bringing a child into the world when they may not have a liveable future.  

The study notes that whilst climate crisis informs decisions not to have children, the reasoning does vary, with the four main reasons being cited as uncertainty about the future of an unborn child, environmentalist views centred on overpopulation and overconsumption, meeting family subsistence needs, and other political sentiments.  

Brazil experiences record high temperatures amid eighth heatwave of the year 

Temperatures felt like 58.8C on Tuesday in Rio, marking the beginning of their summer with record highs. This comes after Brazil has experienced its hottest July, August, September, and October on record.  

The country’s national meteorological institute, Inmet, warned of risks to health and “even to life” following the sustained high temperatures. Climate scientists and policymakers warn that this highlights levels of social inequality in Brazil, with the poorest members of society being hit the hardest by the high temperatures. Rising costs of electricity bills means that even if people have air conditioning, it can be too expensive to run during these heatwaves. 

The record heat made headlines after a fan died at a Taylor Swift concert last week. Ana Clara Benevides Machado, 23, suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of the sweltering heat, having been forbidden from taking water into the show under stadium rules.  

The heatwave is due to peak this weekend, with a particularly hot summer lying ahead. 

The good news: California exploring carbon capture technology 

Heirloom, a California based carbon capture and storage (CCS) company, is using limestone to absorb carbon from the air and store it away from the atmosphere.  

The facility is the first commercial direct air capture plant in the US, and opened last week. Whilst it currently can only capture 1000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year, the company’s chief executive Shashank Samala plans to expand the company to be capturing 1bn metric tonnes per year by 2035.  

The carbon capture process involves splitting down limestone under high temperatures to break it into CO2 and calcium oxide. The CO2 is then stores in concrete, which can be sustainably used in construction projects, whilst the calcium oxide is sprayed with water and reacts with CO2 in the air, bonding with and absorbing it. The process is repeated, using heat to separate the carbon again.  

The Biden administration has pledged $251m to CCS projects across the US. Although still in its early stages, this is reason to be hopeful about the future of our emissions: it may yet be possible to curb the impacts of the climate crisis.  

Until next time… 

That’s it for this week. If you find any of these stories distressing or upsetting, the university has a range of welfare support available, and there are many climate societies where you can get involved in more direct action.