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Europe’s coal plants could stay open despite air pollution rules

  • 25 Jul 2014, 17:25
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Rich

There is a widely held view that tough EU air pollution rules will force most coal-fired power stations to close by the early 2020s. But that simply isn't true, according to campaign group Sandbag.

It explains why in a new report called " Europe's failure to quit coal". Its plant-by-plant analysis finds that 110 gigawatts of EU coal capacity - nearly three-quarters of the total - will be able to stay open despite air pollution rules.

The remaining 40 gigawatts could stay open too, Sandbag says, with 14 gigawatts of that in the UK. It adds that recent policy changes make it more attractive for UK plant to continue to operate.

We've taken a look at why Sandbag says everyone's been getting it wrong on coal.

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Daily Briefing | Adaptation aptitude

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

flickr:HNDB

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Study Gives Hope of Adaptation to Climate Change 
Some species may be better placed to adapt to changing climate conditions than previously thought. Research on flies has found that some species may have the capacity to evolve quickly and survive a little longer as temperatures rise and conditions become drier. But the researchers involved in the study question how useful such adaptive potential will actually be in real world conditions given the potential pace of environmental change. 
New York Times 

Climate and energy news

Australian Press Watchdog Criticises Climate Report From Rupert Murdoch's Flagship Newspaper 
An investigation by Australia's press watchdog has found the Australian newspaper "got it wrong" in an article suggesting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had admitted its projections about global warming were incorrect. The Australian's piece, by Environment Editor Graham Lloyd, drew heavily on an article for the Mail on Sunday by climate skeptic polemicist David Rose, which was itself corrected by the Mail. The ruling states that "rigorous steps should have been taken before giving such forceful and prominent credence to The Mail on Sunday's claim." 
DeSmogBlog

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Why measuring fugitive methane emissions from shale gas production matters

  • 24 Jul 2014, 14:40
  • Mat Hope

CC 2.0 Tim Evanson

As an ever-increasing number of countries consider exploiting their shale gas resources, and researchers scramble to understand what a production boom could mean for the climate, two new pieces of research appear to come to opposite conclusions.

What is the climate impact of shale gas?

Since gas has about half the emissions of coal when it's burned for electricity, it has been touted as  a 'bridging fuel' for countries seeking to decarbonise their economies to use as a stop gap on the way to a low carbon electricity system.

But as we've  explored before, scientists are struggling to establish the full impact of increased shale gas production on the climate, due to methane that escapes during the extraction process - known as fugitive methane emissions.

Two papers released this month examine what the actual climate impact of natural gas is. At first glance they seem to show opposite things. The graph on the left, taken from a paper by Robert Howarth appears to show natural gas electricity generation emissions - the towering left bar - can be much higher than coal's. The second graph, from  Heath et al, appears to show the opposite - that coal's generation emissions (on the left) are much higher than those from both conventional and shale gas.

Howarth Vs Heath Coal And Gas Emissions

Both papers examine the 'lifecycle emissions' of the fuels: the amount of gas emitted from extraction to combustion. So why is there such a large discrepancy between two papers?

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Daily Briefing | Drax decision reversed

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

Source: Arnold Paul

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UK energy department reverses Drax biomass decision 
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has reversed its decision to exclude Drax Group from receiving an enhanced subsidy package to help fund the conversion of one of its coal-fired generating units to biomass. The volte-face by the government department follows a successful legal challenge by the operator of the UK's biggest power station to a decision by the DECC in April to exclude it from receiving a £1.3bn investment contract. 
Financial Times

Climate and energy news

Cuba looks to mangroves to fend off rising seas 
Worried by forecasts of rising seas from climate change, the effects of hurricanes and the salinization of farmlands, authorities say they are beginning a forced march to repair Cuba's first line of defense against the advancing waters - its mangrove thickets, which have been damaged by decades of neglect and uncontrolled logging. 
AP 

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Battle over EU energy efficiency targets ends in compromise 30 per cent goal

  • 23 Jul 2014, 14:00
  • Simon Evans

The EU should aim to cut its energy use 30 per cent by 2030, the European Commission said today, despite rumoured attempts to weaken the goal to 27 per cent.

Green NGOs are arguing that's still not very ambitious. They say a higher goal of 35 or 40 per cent would have been more beneficial in terms of reducing reliance on Russian gas, boosting growth, creating jobs and cutting consumer energy bills.

But if it's such a good idea why has the commission gone for a lower target? In our analysis of the announcement we've dissected the competing explanations of what's going on.

Energy saving goal for 2030

The commission is proposing that EU energy use in 2030 should be cut by 30 per cent compared with the level of energy use that was expected when the commission made projections back in 2007.

 

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Daily Briefing | Shale oil plans rejected

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

Credit: National Wildlife Federation

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Germany, UK and Poland top 'dirty 30' list of EU coal-fired power stations 
The UK and Germany lead a list of the EU's most polluting coal-fired power stations compiled by environmental campaigners, both with nine of the co called "dirty 30" power stations. We covered the new research here
Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Global warming ISN'T slowing down, research shows 
The Mail writes up research from the weekend which explained why the fact that most climate models didn't predict the timing of the current period of sluggish surface warming isn't reason to question their projections for how much warming we can expect in the long term. Though slightly confusingly explained in the Mail article, the paper showed that models which happened to be exactly in sync with natural variability - though they are not designed to do so - did a good job of simulating the current slowdown in surface warming. 
The Daily Mail 

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UK and Germany top ‘dirty 30’ league of coal plants

  • 22 Jul 2014, 16:45
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Gareth Davies

The UK and Germany are ranked joint first  - or last, depending on your perspective - in a new league table of Europe's 30 most polluting coal-fired power stations.

The ranking comes from several NGOs including WWF and the European Environmental Bureau. They're using it to argue for specific anti-coal policies, saying Europe won't meet its climate targets without them.

We take a look at what they want, and why.

Europe's biggest emitters

The NGOs have listed the EU's top 30 emitters of carbon dioxide in 2013, dubbing the contenders the "dirty 30". All of them are coal-fired power stations.

The UK and Germany both have nine coal plants on the list, putting them joint top of the league table. If you count up the emissions for each country, however, Germany comes out top because its coal plants are generally larger than the UK's and burn more coal.

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Have satellites overestimated Antarctic sea ice growth?

  • 22 Jul 2014, 15:30
  • Roz Pidcock

It's puzzling why Antarctic sea ice seems to be growing while earth's other icy expanses are shrinking as temperatures rise.

Now new research questions whether there has been much of a rise in Antarctic sea ice after all. The paper suggests the small but significant growth scientists thought had occurred since 1979 could be little more than a "spurious artifact" of how satellite data is interpreted.

But other polar scientists tell us the implications of the new findings" are very limited indeed" and they're confident Antarctic sea ice is still growing.

Bucking the trend

Scientists know ice is being lost from both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. They also know the amount of sea ice in the Arctic is rapidly decreasing.

But satellite data suggest the amount of sea ice around Antarctica has been growing since 1979. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year put the size of the increase at  1.5 per cent on average per decade.

For comparison, that's about a third of the rate of sea ice retreat in the Arctic. A  new paper just published in journal The Cryosphere explains the puzzle this poses for scientists:

"[T]here has been substantial interest in the trend in Antarctic sea ice extent … primarily because of the observed asymmetry between increasing ice extent in the Antarctic and rapidly diminishing ice extent in the Arctic, and the inability of current climate models to capture this."

The new paper raises an interesting point. It notes that the growth in Antarctic sea ice in the latest IPCC report is much bigger than suggested in the previous one in 2007. The authors say:

"[The 2007 report] reported the trend in Antarctic sea ice extent to be small and statistically indistinguishable from zero".

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Government decides not to amend UK’s fourth carbon budget

  • 22 Jul 2014, 10:35
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC: Policy Exchange

The government  today announced it will leave the UK's emission reduction targets as they are.

The UK has a legally binding obligation to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 on 1990 levels. To ensure progress is made at a steady pace, four interim targets were included in the law - known as carbon budgets.

It has been reported for some time that chancellor George Osborne wanted to  weaken these targets, opening the door for increased use of gas power. The government's advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has always maintained there were  no grounds for such a move.

The UK met its first carbon budget and is currently making progress towards the second. The chancellor was reportedly looking to change the  fourth carbon budget, covering the period from 2023 to 2027, which is roughly when new gas capacity might be expected to come online.

The budget requires emissions to be reduced by 50 per cent on 1990 levels in 2025. Having gone through a  review of the basis of the fourth carbon budget, the government today decided to keep that target.

No change of circumstance

The Climate Change Act says the government can legally change the carbon budget if there were  "significant changes" in circumstances since the target was set. Changes in the scientific evidence on climate change, economic circumstances, and the rate at which other countries are decarbonising can all be considered.

Energy and climate change secretary  Ed Davey says  the fourth carbon budget review made it "clear that the evidence does not support amending the budget", with the government's decision being "consistent with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change".

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Daily Briefing | Seals, cows, and really hot weather

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

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Climate models that accidentally got El Niño right also show warming slowdown 
Depending on which story you read, a new paper published in Nature Climate Change is either about models "accidentally" predicting surface warming slowdown or "climate models are indeed reliable". Ars Technica has the former view, the Guardian's Climate Consensus blog the latter. The paper finds that, simply by chance, a few of the models do produce an accurate El Nino/Southern Oscillation pattern thought to be a "major player" in temperature changes from one decade to the next, Ars Technica reports. We explain the paper's findings, here. 
Ars Technica 

Climate and energy news

Dirty coal plants undermine EU climate leadership - report 
While EU policy looks set to curb the use of coal plants in the long term, the highly-polluting fuel is currently enjoying something of a revival. Countries' failure to tackle this short-term spike is undermining efforts to tackle climate change, a report from a coalition of environmental groups says. The EU needs to ensure there are strict controls in place to ensure coal plants are phased out over the next decade, the report says. BusinessGreen also has the story. 
RTCC 

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