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Climate

AM Briefing: Hope and Panic at COP28

On Saudi Arabia's red line, Tesla's Cybertruck, and 2023 Google Trends

AM Briefing: Hope and Panic at COP28
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: At least six were killed in tornadoes that ripped through Tennessee over the weekend • Severe Tropical Cyclone Jasper is intensifying off of Australia’s Queensland coast • Dubai’s air quality is “moderate” today.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Saudi Arabia opposes any mention of fossil fuels in COP28 deal

It’s crunch time at COP28. The United Nations climate summit is officially scheduled to end tomorrow morning, but is likely to run over, as much work remains even after a weekend of intense talks and pleas for compromise. There is still no consensus on the language in the global stocktake on the future of fossil fuels – phase out, phase down, or otherwise. Any agreement to come out of COP must be unanimous, meaning opposition from just one of the nearly 200 countries participating can sink a deal. Oil giant Saudi Arabia has “flatly opposed any language in a deal that would even mention fossil fuels,” reportsThe New York Times, adding that Saudi diplomats have intentionally slowed and obstructed the negotiation process. The United States, India, Russia, China, and Iraq have all called for caveats or provisions to a phase out. This morning U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres returned to the conference and called for an end to the fossil fuel age. “Now is the time for maximum ambition and maximum flexibility,” Guterres said.

Activists at COP28.Activists at COP28 call for negotiators to "hold the line" on ending fossil fuels. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

2. Some see signs of ‘panic’ from fossil fuel industry at COP

The “full-scale resistance” from oil producing nations and fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 is a sign of panic, Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan tellsPolitico. Others echo her assessment:

  • “Perverse though it may seem, in one sense the strenuous efforts of fossil fuel interests to hijack the U.N. climate process could be seen as a sign of hope. The industry understands that it is under threat.” –The Guardianeditorial board
  • “I think they’re panicking.” –Alden Meyer, an analyst with climate think tank E3G
  • “They’re scared. I think they’re worried.” –Former Ireland President Mary Robinson

COP negotiators are considering a historic call for phasing out fossil fuels in the summit's global stocktake. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is working hard to convince its members – and the world – that this would be a mistake. Last week OPEC’s leader urged members to reject any text that “targets energy i.e. fossil fuels.” Over the weekend the group hosted a youth event at the conference “aimed at convincing young people to support fossil fuels,” Reuters reports. About a dozen people attended.

3. The Cybertruck is eligible for the EV tax credit, but ...

Tesla’s Cybertruck is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit for 2023, according toInside EVs. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) variant and the tri-motor Cyberbeast are both eligible for the incentive. But there’s a catch: The tax credit is only available for pickups that cost less than $80,000, which would disqualify the $99,990 Cyberbeast. And the AWD version just barely qualifies at $79,990, but deliveries won’t start until next year. Taken together, this means “there might be no tax credit for Cybertrucks right now, period,” Inside EVs says. And this is compounded by the fact that the EV tax credit system is changing on January 1, and “nobody knows which — if any — EVs will qualify,” writes Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo. “All signs indicate that the list of qualifying vehicles is set to shrink.”

4. Argentina will remain committed to Paris Agreement

Argentina’s top climate diplomat Marcia Levaggi insists that the country will remain part of the Paris Agreement, Reutersreports. The news follows the shock election of the right-wing candidate Javier Milei as the nation’s next president. Milei has a history of climate skepticism. He has called climate change a “socialist lie” and promised to withdraw the country from the landmark climate agreement. “Yet, since his victory three weeks ago, the self-described ‘anarcho-capitalist’ has begun backpedalling on some of his more contentious policies,” saysThe Telegraph. Milei is a former TV star with “striking” similarities to former President Donald Trump, from his wild hair to his affinity for conspiracy theories, writesThe Washington Post. Trump infamously withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, only for the decision to be reversed by President Biden.

5. Extreme weather news dominated Google Trends in 2023

Three of the top 10 most-Googled news events in 2023 were hurricanes, according to Google’s annual Year in Search report. Other dominant topics on the list included war (between Israel and Gaza, and in Sudan), mass shootings (in Maine and Nashville), and the ill-fated Titan submersible. But extreme weather took the largest slice of the pie, with Hurricanes Hilary, Idalia, and Lee falling into slots 4, 5, and 6, respectively, on the global top 10 news list. When the list was narrowed to U.S.-based searches only, the hurricanes accounted for 3 of the top 5 searches. The Last Of Us, a TV show about a deadly fungus enabled by climate change, was the world’s most-Googled show of the year.

Screenshot of trending news events for 2023 in the U.S.Trending news events for 2023 in the U.S. Screenshot: Google Trends

THE KICKER

The vast majority of the 4,813 wildfires that have occurred this year in North Carolina were caused by humans.

Yellow

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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