5 Bits Of News About The Climate Crisis You May Have Missed

News about the climate crisis can seem overwhelming, but it’s still important to stay up to date with our changing environment – and the initiatives to protect it.

So, ahead of the 28th meeting of the UN’s annual climate conference, COP28, here’s a look at a handful of the climate headlines to reach the UK recently.

1. Could planes go green?

A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane
A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane

A Virgin Atlantic Airways plane

The first ever transatlantic flight by a large passenger plane powered only by alternative fuels successfully took off on Tuesday – although it had no paying passengers.

Flying from London’s Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport, the Virgin Atlantic plane operated solely on so-called sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can be made from sources like plant proteins, household waste and cooking oils.

It’s seen as a major step forward for the aviation industry which is known for its high carbon emissions.

“It’s really the only pathway to decarbonising long-haul aviation over and above having the youngest fleet in the sky,” Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.

However, there is not enough SAF right now to fuel a lot of flights – and because it is more expensive, even if it was used en masse, the cost of each flight would be higher.

These fuels are not official “net zeros” either, but transport secretary Mark Harper told BBC Breakfast they produce around 70% less carbon emissions than traditional fuels – meaning is is a “really big step forward”.

The UK government is hoping to make 10% of aviation fuel SAF by 2030.

2. Reefs off the Texas coast are thriving

A scuba dive at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Galveston, Texas,
A scuba dive at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Galveston, Texas,

A scuba dive at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Galveston, Texas,

Reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, in the Gulf of Mexico, are truly thriving around 100 miles off the Texas coast.

After years of reports that coral around the world is dying, news that a reef is not just surviving but covering 50% of the sanctuary (compared 10% in other regions), has delighted scientists.

“To see that much coral in one place is really magnificent — an experience that most people don’t get on reefs in this day and age,” acting superintendent and research coordinator for the area, Michelle Johnston, said.

The federally-protected area has experienced some bleaching this year due to the intense heatwaves from the summer, but it appears to have recovered very quickly.

However, there are fears that all of the world’s coral will be suffering severe bleaching every year from 2040 onwards – meaning they may not get a chance to recover fully before the next heatwave.

3. UK household food bill soar

UK food bills have been climbing because of the global climate emergency and soaring energy prices by more than £600, according to a new report.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank revealed on Monday that global heating was directly impacting the cost of living crisis.

ECIU’s land analyst Tom Lancaster said: “Climate change is playing havoc with global food production and this is inevitably feeding through to higher prices at the tills.

“Across 2022 and 2023, the climate emergency alone added the equivalent of six weekly shops to the average household food bill.”

That’s because extreme or unseasonal weather accounted for a third of all food price inflation in the UK this year. Olive oil has increased in price by 50% after years of drought and heatwaves in Spain.

4. Channel 4 News accuse Saudi Arabia of plan to artificially increase global oil demand

Saudi Arabia is said to be trying to “hook” poor countries on oil, according to a new report from Channel 4 News.

The channel conducted an undercover sting operation and claimed the Saudi Arabian government want to increase global oil demand – artificially.

Channel 4 News reported: “Officials from Saudi Arabia’s Oil Sustainability Programme (OSP) have admitted the country’s state-backed plan to target Africa and Asia with petrol, oil and diesel products, under a public programme from its Ministry of Energy.”

It comes amid a global concern over fossil fuels and soaring carbon emissions – and hope that the world will start to turn to renewable energy instead.

5. Joe Biden not expected to go to COP28

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden

A White House official said Biden plans to skip the UN climate summit this week, even though he still sees climate change as the “ultimate threat”.

Other senior aides told The New York Times that the president is too preoccupied with the Israel and Hamas war.

He did go to both COP summits which have happened since he’s been in office, COP26 and COP27.

It comes amid hopes that this year’s summit could be the world’s first deal to phase out CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas.

King Charles III, Pope Francis and leaders from almost 200 countries are expected to be in attendance.