Three White House charts showing why the world needs to take immediate action on climate change

  • 30 Jul 2014, 13:40
  • Mat Hope

CC2.0 Intel Photos

President Obama has taken significant, if limited, steps to try and curb the US's emissions and tackle climate change. A new White House report explains why he appears to be acting with a sense of urgency: "delay is costly".

Yesterday, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers released a  report suggesting a 10 year delay could increase the cost of taking climate action by 40 per cent, as the world would have to take larger steps to curb emissions down the line. Furthermore, each degree of warming could lead to billions of dollars worth of additional damage, it says.

Here's three charts from the report showing why the council says policymakers need to act now.

Additional damage

The more the world warms, the more damaging the  impacts of climate change are likely to be - from more intense weather events, to diminishing crop yields and species migration and extinction. All these things have an economic cost, even if it's sometimes  hard to define.

And the council's study says the costs will rise as the world warms - as the blue bars on this graph show:

Additional Costs Chart

The White House report uses a model by Yale economist Bill Nordhaus to put a number on the potential impact of additional warming.

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Air pollution and climate change could mean 50 per cent more people going hungry by 2050, new study finds

  • 30 Jul 2014, 12:20
  • Roz Pidcock

The combination of rising temperatures and air pollution could substantially damage crop growth in the next 40 years, according to a new paper. And if emissions stay as high as they are now, the number of people who don't get enough food could grow by half by the middle of the century.

Burning question

Feeding the world's rapidly growing population is a serious concern.

Research shows  rising temperatures are likely to lead to lower crop yields. Other work suggests air pollution might reduce the amount of food produced worldwide. But nobody has considered both effects together, say the paper's authors.

The two effects are closely related as warmer temperatures increase the production of ozone in the atmosphere, the paper explains. 

The  new study looks at global yields of the four principle food crops - wheat, rice, corn and soybean - and how they're expected to change by 2050 under different levels of future emissions.

Together, these provide nearly  60 per cent of all the calories consumed by humans worldwide.

Global losses

The maps below show some of the results.

The top panel shows an optimistic scenario in which greenhouse gases stabilise at 630 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. For reference, we're at about 400 ppm now.

The team compared this with what might happen if greenhouse gases continue to rise as rapidly as they are now. That's the bottom panel.

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What does the state aid ruling on UK energy subsidies mean?

  • 30 Jul 2014, 11:25
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Nick Page

Last week two UK energy subsidy schemes got the green light. They are at the heart of government plans to cut energy emissions while minimising consumer bills and keeping the lights on.

But before the UK could press ahead with its plans it needed approval under EU rules designed to prevent government support or 'state aid' that unfairly favours particular industries.

It's all an "immensely complicated business" according to Conservative peer Lord Jenkin who says he's spent many months trying to understand the details of the government's reforms.

We didn't want to do the same - and you probably don't either. So we asked for help from state aid legal expert Erika Szyszczak, barrister at Littleton Chambers and professor of law at the University of Sussex.

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Daily Briefing | Costly delays

  • 30 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Credit: BeckyF

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Delay Action on Climate Change by 10 Years and Costs Rocket 40%: Report 
The cost of avoiding dangerous climate change could rise by 40 per cent if action is delayed ten years, a new White House report says. That equates to $150 billion a year, the New York Times reports. The White House's Council of Economic Advisers calls on the government to take action now as a form of "climate insurance". Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the report claims a three degrees jump in temperatures would mean a 0.9 per cent cut to global output. With a rise of three to four degrees, the world would incur additional annual costs of 1.2 per cent of global output, Inside Climate News reports. The study was conducted to help justify President Obama's executive actions to curb emissions and combat climate change, the council's chairman Jason Furlong tells Scientific American. The report is released in advance of two new White House measures to deal with fast-rising methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and buffering food security against future climate change, according to the Guardian

Climate and energy news

Global warming seven miles up: Researchers say rising levels of water vapour high in Earth's atmosphere could intensify the effects of climate change 
Rising levels of water vapour in the atmosphere could worsen the impacts of climate change, new research suggests. It shows that as temperatures rise, the moistening of the atmosphere absorbs more heat and raises the Earth's temperature further, the Daily Mail reports. The study's lead author says the research "is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapour in the upper troposphere." 
Daily Mail 

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Does British belief in climate change really go up or down? A look at 14 polls

  • 29 Jul 2014, 15:30
  • Ros Donald

Newspapers love to cover surveys that show  belief in climate change has  risen or fallen. But how much can polls really tell us about what the UK public believes when it comes to climate change? We surveyed 14 polls to try and understand what's happening. 

We looked at polls by the  Guardian, the Sunday Times, the  Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC),  Carbon Brief ( twice), the  UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) and Ipsos Mori.  

The polls were released between 2009 and 2014, but UKERC's poll includes earlier results from surveys in 2005 2010 and  2012

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Daily Briefing | UK gas and US coal

  • 29 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC2.0 Kimon Berlin

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Britain sets out shale rules with new oil, gas licensing round 
The British government has announced a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration in the UK, in the face of public opposition to the nascent industry. The government promised safeguards for sensitive environments such as national parks, but it is unclear what these will amount to. The FT notes that the progress the shale gas industry has made so far has been limited. The Guardian reports that the new section of government tasked with promoting shale gas has already had £2.5 million of funding. 

Climate and energy news

Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad 
As US coal use falls, America is exporting pollution by shipping cheap coal abroad, reports AP. Fossil fuel exports threaten to undermine President Obama's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, experts tell the news service. In 2012, about nine per cent of worldwide coal exports originated in the US, and the US has the largest recoverable coal reserves in the world. 

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UK Parliament says IPCC report is an "unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised"

  • 29 Jul 2014, 00:01
  • Roz Pidcock

A group of MPs has today released a report examining the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN body tasked with assessing the state of climate change science. The report concludes that the IPCC presents "a clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised."

The report from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) committee completes a nine-month long investigation, during which a number of witnesses were called on to give evidence on the robustness of the IPCC's workings and conclusions.

The inquiry came mid-way through the publication of a series reports on climate change released by the IPCC over the course of a year.

Minutes released with the report show efforts by two climate skeptic MPs - Graham Stringer and Peter Lilley - to change the report to conclude that the work of the IPCC was unsound in various ways. But the committee rejected the changes - finding no cause for concern with the way the IPCC operates or the conclusions it reaches.

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Scientists lambast The Australian for misleading article on deep ocean cooling

  • 28 Jul 2014, 13:50
  • Roz Pidcock

An article in Friday's  The Australian suggested brand new research by two eminent oceanographers casts doubt on scientific understanding of global warming. But the authors of the research have taken the newspaper to task for its coverage of their work.

The research by Carl Wunsch from Harvard University and Patrick Heimbach from MIT found temperatures seem to be falling in parts of the very deep ocean, known as 'the abyss'.

In a piece headline headlined "Puzzle of deep ocean cooling", journalist Graham Lloyd of the Australian interpreted the new research for readers:

"The deep oceans have been cooling for the past two decades and [so] it is not possible to say whether changes in ocean heat adequately explain the "pause" in global warming".

But the authors think Lloyd's article is misleading. In an  letter to the editor in today's edition of the Australian, they say:

"The article by Graham Lloyd will likely leave a mis-impression with many of your readers concerning the substance of our paper."

Wunsch tells us Lloyd's article "cherrypicks" statements from their paper and "misses some key points".

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Q & A - everything you need to know about UK fracking

  • 28 Jul 2014, 12:45
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Push Europe

About half the country is being opened up to fracking for shale gas and oil today, various newspapers reported this morning. Here's everything you need to know about UK fracking.

What's shale gas?

Shale gas is normal gas, extracted from shale rock using a technique known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the rock. Our full briefing on the fuel is here .

What has been announced today?

The government has opened the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round. A licensing round is when firms get the chance to apply for exclusive rights to search for and extract oil and gas from beneath blocks of land measuring 10 by 10 kilometres.

The round announced today closes on 28 October this year. The last round was held six years ago when few had heard of fracking.

It is only four years since the first exploratory well to look for shale gas in the UK was sunk. Seismic tremors caused by early shale exploration operations in 2011 delayed the launch of the 14th licensing round, preparations for which had also begun in 2010.

Today's announcement and any licenses handed out as a result do not grant permission to actually start fracking. Other regulatory permissions are required first - see below.

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Daily Briefing | Shale of the century?

  • 28 Jul 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Climate and energy news
Fracking licences to be granted by government 
Energy companies are this morning invited to bid for a new round of fracking licences covering more than half the country. Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast, says The Telegraph. As part of new guidance from the government, the licenses will allow drilling in national parks and other protected areas only in "exceptional circumstances", reports The Guardian and The Times. The oil and gas industry welcomed the move, while some environmental campaigners said ministers had fired the starting gun on a "reckless race for shale", reports the The Financial Times. Fracking is vital but a balance has to be struck, argues a  Telegraph editorialBBC News 

Fruit, wildlife and even whales soak up the sun as Britain basks in summer 
After seven years of weird weather thought to be linked to climate change, an unusual phenomenon is unfolding across Britain: a lovely, sultry, old-fashioned summer, reports the Guardian. After a series of cool wet summers, nature is taking advantage of a return to order. The recent warm weather is causing an abundance of early-ripening blackberries across Britain, reports The IndependentThe Guardian 

Researchers tackle link between climate change and public health 
The Australian Academy of Science has brought together 60 scientists and researchers in Brisbane, hoping to influence how policymakers and governments respond to the impacts of climate change on public health. Each group spent two days discussing their recommendations, which will be translated into a report later in the year. The Guardian 

Heatwave may kill thousands 
The UK will bake in temperatures well above the July average for at least another week, reports the Daily Express. With temperatures in the south set to say in the high 70s this week, experts are warning elderly and vulnerable people to take extra care during the extreme heat. The Daily Express 

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