Analysis

Daily Briefing | New runway would make emissions soar

  • 29 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Aircraft Landing

Aircraft landing | Shutterstock

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The Carbon Brief Interview: Janos Pasztor 
Janos Pasztor was appointed Ban Ki-moon's assistant secretary-general on climate change in January 2015. His interview with Carbon Brief covers everything from the importance of climate finance to whether the world could tackle climate change without the UN.    Carbon Brief 

Plan to begin first fracking operation in UK for four years rejected 
An application to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years has been refused by Lancashire County Council's planning committee. A second decision over another site looks likely to be approved today, but could be mired in legal argument. Carbon Brief summarises the decisions and explores what they might mean for the UK's energy mix and climate goals.    Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

New runway would make emissions soar 
Heathrow's nitrogen dioxide emissions would rise by more than 40% if it were allowed to build a new runway, according a preliminary report from the Airports Commission. The Commission's external consultants found that emissions from aircraft and traffic would increase from 5,850 to 8,300 tons a year under the favoured northwest runway scheme. With a recommendation expected soon, The Daily Telegraph reports that the Commission will "fudge" the decision by recommending expansion at Heathrow but without ruling out building at Gatwick - thus allowing ministers to oppose expansion at Heathrow. While The Independent says David Cameron and George Osborne will test to loyalty of their Cabinet by backing the Heathrow options. Several ministers have constituencies that would be affected by increased air and road traffic at Heathrow, and Boris Johnson has long opposed the plans, it reports. Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that anti-Heathrow campaigners are planning a big rally in central London this autumn in the event that Heathrow is chosen.    The Sunday Times 

Fracking: Energy Secretary's advisor received £5,000 election donation from company set to benefit from controversial technique 
A new advisor to the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd received a £5,000 donation to his local party from a company set to benefit from the introduction of fracking. Addison Projects, part of a £25m engineering company based in Lancashire, made the donation to the constituency party of Conservative MP Paul Maynard in March. Mr Maynard was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ms Rudd after the General Election. Both Mr Maynard and Addison insist that the donation was unconnected with efforts to introduce fracking.    Independent on Sunday 

Lancashire county council rejects Cuadrilla fracking bid 
Councillors have unanimously refused a planning application for fracking at one site in Lancashire. The Council's development control committee turned down Cuadrilla's application to explore for shale gas at Roseacre Wood because of "an unacceptable impact" on rural roads. The committee will resume discussions on a second proposal for Little Plumpton at 10am this morning. Carbon Brief has all the details.    Press Association via Guardian 

Barack Obama sets sizzling climate action pace in push to leave legacy 
The White House has pushed through around 40 new measures to fight carbon pollution just since the start of 2015, stepping up the pace ahead of critical talks for a global climate change deal. Since his speech on his climate ambitions to students at Georgetown University in June 2013, Obama has taken initial action on all 75 of the goals set out in the plan - to cut carbon pollution, prepare the US for climate change, and help reach a global warming deal, says analysis by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.    The Guardian 

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The Carbon Brief Interview: Janos Pasztor

  • 26 Jun 2015, 17:30
  • Leo Hickman
Janos Pasztor at the 2015 climate talks in Bonn

Janos Pasztor | Carbon Brief

Janos Pasztor was appointed Ban Ki-moon's assistant secretary-general on climate change in January 2015. He will serve as the UN secretary-general's senior advisor on climate change until the climate conference in Paris in December. Previously, he was director of policy and science at WWF International in Switzerland. From 2011 to 2012, he served as the executive secretary of the UN secretary-general's high-level panel on global sustainability.

Pasztor on how much time Ban Ki-moon is dedicating to climate change: "There is not another subject that he spends as much time on as climate change."

On the importance of tackling climate change: "If we don't fix climate change, all the development advances that we have achieved will go backwards again."

On the role of Ban Ki-moon: "[His] role...in all this is to keep reminding ourselves of what the science tells us and what the science tells us where we need to be and where we are now."

On the importance of climate finance: "We need a lot of trust in this negotiation process. To have a finance package be resolved...this would be very helpful for the overall negotiation process."

On whether the world could tackle climate change without the UN: "Change...is not happening fast enough...We need a global agreement that clarifies the direction in which we are going and, therefore, accelerates the whole process. Who else can do this other than the UN?"

On whether the 1.5C target is still politically possible? "It is possible. The feasibility is more difficult, let's be honest."

On the need for a ratchet mechanism in the Paris deal: "We have to be sure that in the agreement there is a good system of monitoring and review...ratchet up the ambition over time, correcting and adjusting as needs be, to make sure that we can move off the 4-5C pathway."

On the need for a long-term goal in the Paris deal: "The long-term goal also has to address adaptation and address the financing  of developing countries."

 

CB: What proportion of Ban Ki-moon's working week is he dedicating to climate change?

JP: Wow, it's a lot! He has consistently, since his first term, been very much focused on climate change. It's hard to say how many hours. We don't count the hours when your secretary general; the days and the weeks and so on. But I can tell you that I don't think there is another subject that he has to deal with - and there are many - there is not another subject that he spends as much time on as climate change.

CB: And at what point did it become this intense? At the summit last September in New York? Has this been a dominant theme for the last two years? Or was it particularly 2015?

JP: No, no. It goes back to his first term. He's been there now for eight years. And his interests and his engagement in climate change was from the very beginning, shortly after he became secretary-general. And the first major event where he was in action was at the Bali conference and this was in 2007. That's where he was then  he spoke very engagingly and then he left and the negotiations were not going well so he came back and got the people together and said, "You've got to agree on something". That's how the Bali agreement was finalised. That was his first real interaction and after that he formulated a strategy that he really needs to deal with this particular issue as it was so important to everything that the United Nations does. If we don't fix climate change, all the development advances that we have achieved will go backwards again: the impact on poverty and food security, and all the things of the UN stands for.  So he recognised it quite early and he said this is something I have to focus on. Then he went on and has been focused on this ever since. It's not just this year or last year. It's a long-term, eight-year project.

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Updated: Two plans to begin first fracking operations in UK for four years rejected

  • 26 Jun 2015, 15:05
  • Simon Evans

Update 29/6 - Councillors this morning voted to reject a second application to resume exploratory fracking, following publication of three separate pieces of legal advice. The refusal passed with nine in support, three against and two abstentions.

Two applications to carry out exploratory fracking in the UK for the first time in four years have been refused by Lancashire County Council's planning committee.

The decision to refuse fracking firm Cuadrilla's plans for Roseacre Wood near Blackpool was "very significant" and a "test case" for the UK's nascent shale gas industry,   said the BBC last week. Today's decision to refuse plans at Preston New Road cements the situation and leaves Conservative plans to accelerate UK fracking hanging in the balance.

The  Guardian calls the decision a "major blow". The  Telegraph says it is a "major setbeck" to government hopes of a shale industry.

A government moratorium on fracking was imposed in 2011 after Cuadrilla caused earth tremors at another nearby site. The council's decisions are the first since that ban was lifted in 2012.

Carbon Brief summarises the decisions and explores what they might mean for the UK's energy mix and climate goals.

Planning decisions

Lancashire County Council has been considering two Cuadrilla planning applications to carry out exploratory fracking. As the first since 2011, the cases have generated huge interest, attracting tens of thousands of responses to public consultation on the schemes.

In January, planning officers said the bid to resume UK fracking at Little Plumpton Farm and Roseacre Wood near Blackpool should be  refused, because of noise and traffic concerns.

Cuadrilla then  amended its proposals and officers said the Little Plumpton application should be  accepted, on condition of further controls to limit noise. The Roseacre Wood site was still deemed to pose "unacceptable" traffic impacts because of its rural setting.

The Preston New Road/Little Plumpton Farm site (central yellow marker and red area, below) is closer to Blackpool and has easier access to trunk roads. The Roseacre Wood site (top right) is more rural.

Fracking -mapMap of Cuadrilla's proposed shale gas exploration sites on the Fylde peninsula in Lancashire. The yellow flags and areas show the location of each proposed well-pad. The red areas show the maximum extent of underground drilling at each site. Have a look at an interactive version. Map created by Carbon Brief with Mapbox, using information from Cuadrilla environmental statements.

On Thursday, the council's planning committee voted to refuse the Roseacre Wood scheme, in line with the advice of its planning officer, citing the likelihood of heavy goods vehicle traffic on rural roads near the site.

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Daily Briefing | Lancashire council under pressure to approve fracking

  • 26 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Operating oil and gas well profiled on sunset sky

Oil & gas well | Shutterstock

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UK meets interim renewable energy target, says DECC report 
New data from DECC show, contrary to recent press reports, the UK met its interim renewable energy target for 2013/14. The UK got 6.3% of its energy from renewables averaged over 2013/14, easily passing its interim goal of 5.4%. However, the UK remains well short of its target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The UK must source 15% of its energy for heat, transport and power from renewable sources by 2020.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Lancashire council under pressure to approve fracking 
The Times reports that councillors in Lancashire are under pressure to approve the first fracking site in Britain for four years after their own barrister said it would be "unreasonable" to reject it. The council's development committee has deferred its decision whether to greenlight fracking at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site until Monday. However, the council's barrister told councillors he was "unaware of any objective evidence" that Cuadrilla's application would cause unacceptable visual, light and noise impact, or pollute the air and groundwater. A lost appeal could land the authority with millions in costs. The Financial Times said that the councillors had decided to reject Cuadrilla's parallel application to frack at Roseacre Wood near Preston. In an analysis piece for the BBC, the local reporter Steve Becker, said the Roseacre Wood rejection was "very significant": "It is the first test case on whether fracking will be given the go-ahead in Lancashire and it has been turned down because of traffic."     The Times 

Gates to double investment in renewable energy projects 
The FT's interview with the Microsoft founder and philanthropist features on the frontpage with Gates saying that he plans to double his personal investment in "innovative green technologies" to $2bn over the next five years in an attempt to "bend the curve" in combating climate change. He argues that current technologies could only reduce global CO2 emissions at a "beyond astronomical" economic cost. "The only way you can get to the very positive scenario is by great innovation," he said, adding that he would prefer to see a move away from subsidies towards R&D: "It should be like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project." He lists "recycling nuclear", "solar chemical" and high-altitude wind power among the most promising new technologies.     Financial Times

David Attenborough and Barack Obama face-to-face in TV interview 
Preview footage has been released of the meeting in May at the White House where the US president interviewed the TV naturalist. The full interview will be broadcast on BBC1 this Sunday. Challenged by Attenborough on why he cannot show a commitment to tackling climate change in the same way previous presidents had strived to put people on the moon, Obama says: "We're not moving as fast as we need to and part of what I know from watching your programmes, and all the great work you've done, is that these ecosystems are all interconnected. If just one country is doing the right thing but other countries are not, then we're not going to solve the problem, we're going to have to have a global solution to this." The BBCTimes and Telegraph also carry the story.     The Guardian 

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UK meets interim renewable energy target, says DECC report

  • 25 Jun 2015, 11:40
  • Simon Evans
Department for Energy and Climate Change

Carbon Brief

Contrary to recent press reports, the UK met its interim renewable energy target for 2013/14, according to a report issued earlier this morning.

The news came as ministers for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)  defended their approach in parliament, fending off questions about the decision to end support for onshore wind early despite it being the cheapest form of renewable power.

The UK remains well short of its target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The UK must source 15% of its energy for heat, transport and power from renewable sources by 2020. As of 2013, the UK was  further behind its 2020 goal than any other EU member state.

Renewable progress

Last week, the Guardian  reported on progress towards the EU 2020 renewables goals under the headline, "UK misses interim renewable energy target". The headline was later amended.  ENDS Report also said the UK had missed its target.  Business Green and other publications said a European Commission report found the UK was at risk of missing its 2020 goal.

Today, a new  update from DECC says the UK actually surpassed its interim target for 2013/14. Renewables supplied 7.0% of UK energy needs in 2014, it says, up from the previously reported figure for 2013 of 5.1%. That means the UK got 6.3% of its energy from renewables averaged over 2013/14, easily passing its interim goal of 5.4%.

Renewable -energy -directiveShare of UK energy for heat, transport and power supplied by renewables. Source:  DECC

The fastest growth in 2014 was in renewable electricity, which was up 11,377 gigawatt hours (GWh) (21%) on 2013's output to 64,654GWh, according to DECC figures.  Renewables generated nearly a fifth of all UK electricity needs in 2014.

Biomass power was the largest contributor to the increase in 2014, as the Drax plant in Yorkshire converted additional units from coal to wood pellets. Drax says this conversion generates large greenhouse gas benefits. A DECC-funded research project is  investigating claims that biomass could be worse for the climate than coal.

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Daily Briefing | Dutch government ordered to speed up greenhouse gas cuts

  • 25 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Old windmill and new wind turbine in a tulip field in the Netherlands

Dutch wind power | Shutterstock

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Solar minimum could bring cold winters to Europe and US, but would not hold off climate change 
Solar cycles have a powerful effect on the world's climate but a prolonged period of lower solar output wouldn't have much impact on rising temperatures, according to new research. However, it might increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and the US.    Carbon Brief

Tackling climate change will reap benefits for human health 
Curbing climate change could be the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century. But if we choose not to act, we could reverse all the progress made by economic development in the last 50 years towards improving global public health, concludes a new report by the Lancet Commission.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Dutch government ordered to speed up greenhouse gas cuts 
A Dutch district court has ordered the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than it has so far promised to. A judge in the Hague ruled that as a developed country, the state should "take the lead" in averting the imminent danger of climate change by reducing emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2025, instead of the 17% that national policy currently dictates. Europe-wide, the target is a 20% reduction. The Guardian calls the victory for environmental group Urgenda Foundation a "landmark decision" while a separate article says it could "inspire a global civil movement." The Daily Mail says this is the first case in the world to use human rights as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change. The move has strong cross party support in the Netherlands and though it can be appealed, the ruling is unlikely to be overturned, says  RTCCBBC News and The Financial Tines have more on the ruling.     Reuters 

Campaigners alarmed over plans to sell stake in Green Investment Bank 
The government is set to announce the sale of a majority stake in the Green Investment Bank later today. Environmental think tank E3G has called the move "completely reckless", saying it would cast doubt on the government's commitment to a low-carbon economy and deter private investment in green schemes. The bank was set up in 2012 with £3.8bn of government funds to invest in low-carbon energy sources but has been hampered by the Treasury's refusal to let it borrow, says The Guardian. The Telegraph and Reuters have more on the story.     The Guardian 

Lancashire county council defers fracking decision 
Lancashire county council has deferred its decision on whether to allow fracking for shale gas on a site on the Fylde Coast until Monday. Councillors were minded to reject the proposal because of concerns over traffic, writes The Guardian. But after a "tense and often baffling day", the decision was delayed after legal advice apparently warned that there were no legal grounds for such a rejection.     The Guardian 

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Daily Briefing | Fall in sun’s energy will not halt global warming, say scientists

  • 24 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
The sun in space showing solar activity

Solar activity | Shutterstock

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Solar minimum could bring cold winters to Europe and US, but would not hold off climate change 
Solar cycles have a powerful effect on the world's climate but they are no match for global warming, according to new research. A prolonged period of lower solar output wouldn't have much impact on rising temperatures. However, it might increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and the US.     Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Fall in sun's energy will not halt global warming, say scientists 
The earth is facing a fall in solar activity like that which saw ice skating on the Thames in centuries past, says the Financial Times, but the widely reported Met Office research says the changes won't dent global warming. A 100-200 year solar cycle could be entering a low phase, says RTCC, not seen since the seventeenth century Maunder Minimum. The Times says global warming will "offset [the] big freeze". The Guardian and the  Independent also have the story.      Financial Times 

World power sector emissions seen peaking in 2029 - research 
Global greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector are expected to peak in 2029 and then start falling, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Its report predicts a solar surge, says BusinessGreen, but it won't be enough to limit dangerous climate change. RTCC says the report sees coal overshadowing the sunny outlook for solar. Greenpeace Energydesk picks out four lessons from the Bloomberg report, including that gas may have a limited role as a transition fuel between coal and renewables. The world will invest $3.7tn in solar by 2040, reports The Washington Post. But the extent of any solar surge/revolution is questioned by Carbon Counter.       Reuters 

UK officials delay shale permit decision to Wednesday 
Lancashire County Council's planning committee will reconvene this morning to decide whether the first fracking in the UK for four years should be allowed to proceed. Councillors heard evidence from locals and businesses for and against the plans put forward by shale firm Cuadrilla, but ran out of time to make a decision. They will consider a second application tomorrow and Friday. Hundreds attended a protest outside the meeting, reports The Guardian.      Reuters 

Amber Rudd: 250 onshore wind farm projects 'unlikely' to be built 
Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd has told parliament that 250 onshore windfarms may now not be built, following the early closure of one government subsidy scheme. Doubts continue to hang over onshore wind's place in a second, newer scheme, BusinessGreen reports. The Telegraph reports her claim that the change could save "hundreds of millions of pounds".      BusinessGreen 

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Solar minimum could bring cold winters to Europe and US, but would not hold off climate change

  • 23 Jun 2015, 16:00
  • Robert McSweeney
Low winter sun over a common

Winter sun | Flickr

Over the past few decades, our Sun has been relatively active, giving off high levels of the solar radiation that warms the Earth. However, in recent years this peak activity has tailed off, prompting scientists to wonder if the Sun is heading into a period of lower output.

A new study says even if the Sun's activity did drop off for a while, it wouldn't have much impact on rising global temperatures. But it could mean a higher chance of a chilly winter in Europe and the US, the researchers say.

Solar output

The Sun's activity rises and falls on an approximately 11-year cycle, but it can experience longer variations from one century to another. Over the past 10,000 years, the Sun has hit around 30 periods of very high or very low activity - called 'grand maxima' and 'grand minima'.

One of these occurred between 1645 and 1715, when the Sun went through a prolonged spell of low solar activity, known as the Maunder Minimum. This didn't have much of an effect on global climate, but it was linked to a number of  very cold winters in Europe.

In 2010, scientists  predicted an 8% chance that we could return to Maunder Minimum conditions within the next 40 years.

But since that study was published, solar activity has declined further, and this likelihood has increased to 15 or 20%, says new research published today in open-access journal Nature Communications.

In fact, the Sun's output has declined faster than any time in our 9,300-year record, say the researchers. And so they set out to analyse what this could mean for global and regional climate.

Small decrease

The researchers used a climate model to run two scenarios where solar activity declines to a grand minimum. They then compared the results with a control scenario where the Sun continues on its regular cycle.

For all model runs they used the RCP8.5 scenario to account for future climate change - this is the scenario with the highest greenhouse gas emissions of those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC). Global emissions are currently tracking just above this scenario.

You can see the modelling results in the maps below. Overall, a grand solar minimum could see global average temperature rise trimmed by around 0.12C for the second half of this century, the researchers say. Larger changes (shown as dark greens and blues) are seen in some parts of the northern hemisphere.Ineson Et Al (2015) Fig2Projected difference in annual average surface temperature for 2050-99 between RCP8.5 emissions scenario and a) Solar scenario 1 and b) Solar scenario 2. Areas of blue and green show regions projected to be cooler because of the solar minimum. Source: Ineson, S. et al. (2015)

 

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Daily Briefing | ‘Climate change a medical emergency,’ says commission chairman

  • 23 Jun 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

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Tackling climate change will reap benefits for human health 
Curbing climate change could be the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century. But if we choose not to act, we could reverse all the progress made by economic development in the last 50 years towards improving global public health, concludes a new report by the Lancet Commission out today. Curbing air pollution, phasing out coal, access to clean energy worldwide and promoting healthier lifestyles would have "immediate gains" for human health, says the report.    Carbon Brief

Climate change attribution studies are asking the wrong questions, study says 
The latest in so-called attribution studies is to examine each individual extreme weather event by itself, looking for how climate change may have made it stronger or more likely. But a new paper says the methods used in many of these studies underestimate the influence of climate change, and suggests a new approach to identify the "true likelihood of human influence".    Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

'Climate change a medical emergency,' says commission chairman 
Climate change poses such a threat to human health that it could undermine all the gains in global development during the past 50 years, an independent international commission reports today. Led by experts on medicine and economics at University College London and published in the Lancet, it says immediate action is needed to avert the direct health impacts of climate change through extreme weather such as heatwaves, the spread of infectious diseases - and indirect effects such as forced migration and crop failures. "Climate change is a medical emergency," said the director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, who co-chaired the commission. Current predictions by the World Health Organisation suggest that 250,000 people a year could die worldwide by 2030 as a direct result of climate change, the Telegraph reports, but without taking into account factors like an ageing population. The review also found that the risk of extreme weather is to rise over the next century, says the New York Times. The commission recommends getting off coal as soon as possible: "The prescription for patient Earth is that we've got a limited amount of time to fix things," co-chair Dr Anthony Costello told Associated Press. The study also says that a healthier lifestyle will help fight climate change, writes the Independent. The story was widely covered, including in the GuardianTimeEnergy Live News and New Scientist. Read  Carbon Brief's coverage.    Financial Times 

Study sees a 'new normal' for how climate change is affecting weather extremes - The Washington Post 
Every time the world witnesses a weather related disaster, an attribution battle begins, says Chris Mooney, where some scientists seek to explain how the event could have been worsened by climate change and others dismiss it. A new paper in Nature Climate Change wants to change this whole process - by changing its assumptions, and not starting with the null hypothesis that there's no influence of humans. "We've proved over and over that there is [a human influence], so why do we do it that way?", said lead author Kevin Trenberth. Human warming both changes the odds that any given extreme event will occur and more importantly it makes the events more severe, writes the Guardian. "The climate is changing: we have a new normal," they write in the study. Carbon Brief also covered the story.    Washington Post 

E.P.A. Warns of High Cost of Climate Change 
In the absence of global action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the US may face up to $180 billion in economic losses by the end of the century because of drought and water shortages, according to a report released yesterday by the White House and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The report analyses the economic costs of a changing climate across 20 sectors of the American economy, and comes as Obama is trying to build political support both at home and abroad for an ambitious climate change agenda.    New York Times 

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Tackling climate change will reap benefits for human health

  • 23 Jun 2015, 00:01
  • Roz Pidcock

Curbing climate change could be the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century. But if we choose not to act, we could reverse all the progress made by economic development in the last 50 years towards improving global public health.

These are the conclusions of a new report by the Lancet Commission out today.

Curbing air pollution, phasing out coal, access to clean energy worldwide and promoting healthier lifestyles would have "immediate gains" for human health, says the report. 

The authors also call for a global price on carbon and a scaling-up of adaptation financing.

The Lancet Commission is a body set up to map out the impacts of climate change on health, and make recommendations to improve health standards worldwide.

Today's report is a collaboration between European and Chinese academics across the physical, health, political and social sciences, economics, energy policy and engineering.

Impacts are here and now

The risks posed by climate change are already unacceptably high, today's report begins:

"After only 0.85C warming, many anticipated threats have already become real-world impacts."

And if we continue to track the highest emissions scenarios - taking us to  4C or 5C by the end of the century - the risk of potentially catastrophic impacts rises even higher, the report adds.

Screenshot 2015-06-22 17.21.32

Changing exposure in over 65s to heatwaves by 2090 for RCP8.5 (left). Growth in annual heatwave exposure for over 65s with and without accounting for a growing and ageing population (right). Source: Lancet Commission report on health and climate change (2015)

The impacts of climate change on human health are all-pervading. Small risks can interact to produce larger-than-expected chances of catastrophic outcomes, the report notes.

As well as the  direct effects of rising temperatures on heat stress, floods, drought and other extreme weather, climate change increases air pollution, alters the spread of disease and raises the risk of food insecurity, malnutrition, migration and conflict.

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