Natural variability could slow the pace of Arctic summer sea ice loss, study says

  • 30 Mar 2015, 20:00
  • Robert McSweeney

Arctic landscape | Shutterstock

Natural fluctuations in the oceans and atmosphere are currently conspiring to amplify the impact of manmade global warming on summer Arctic sea ice, according to a new paper.

Were these different cycles to weaken or reverse, they could instead dampen the warming effect in the Arctic, and slow the rate of Arctic sea ice loss, the author says.

But any change of pace would only be temporary, Dr Ed Hawkins, who leads an Arctic predictability project, tells Carbon Brief. We should expect the decline in sea ice to continue in the long-term, he says.

Declining summer sea ice

Scientists have been using satellites to measure Arctic sea ice since 1979. As one measure of the Arctic's health, scientists record its smallest extent each year, which it usually hits at the end of summer. You can see the long-term decrease in September sea ice in the graph below, with the eight smallest summer extents all recorded in the last eight years.

Monthly _ice _NH_09

Average September Arctic sea ice extent from full satellite record (1979-2014), Source:  NSIDC

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The Carbon Brief Interview: Tim Yeo

  • 30 Mar 2015, 14:00
  • Leo Hickman

Tim Yeo has been the Conservative MP for South Suffolk since 1983 and is the current chair of the Commons'  Energy and Climate Change (ECC) committee. Yeo served as the minister for environment and countryside from 1992-3. Yeo is standing down as an MP at the general election in May after being deselected by his local party members in 2013.

In his final in-depth interview before stepping down as the chair of the ECC select committee, Yeo discusses…

Fracking: "By the late 2030s we won't need to be fracking in this country, but for the time being, I think it's better than not doing so."

The Paris COP: "What I would like to see, it something which facilitates the move towards a global cap and trade."

The Fifth Carbon Budget: "I'll be very surprised if there isn't quite a high penalty on those companies and industries that have not decarbonised by the 2030s. And the fifth carbon budget needs to be challenging, so that people can start making their plans now."

Beyond the Climate Change Act: "We know that unless we've got to that net-zero by mid-century, the danger is that the concentration in the atmosphere will be so great, and for so long, that the cost then will become very expensive, and very disruptive."

Wind power: "Onshore wind is relatively good value for money, but it's being blocked at the planning system, which is a mistake. We've put, I think, too much into some of the expensive ones, offshore wind, the early CFDs."

Investing, hypothetically, his own money: "Well, I think I'd put a decent chunk into solar."

The Green Deal: "It's been a failure, I'm afraid"

The "older, white male" climate sceptic Tories: "To be brutal, they're going to die off. Very few people under the age of 40 now, I think, seriously question the science."

The UK exiting the EU: "Given we have got quite ambitious [carbon] targets set domestically, I don't think it should have too much of a damaging effect on our own approach."

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Daily Briefing | US to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

  • 30 Mar 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

President Obama | Shutterstock

U.S. to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay 
The US will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, Reuters reports. The US submission, due on Monday or Tuesday according to a White House official, will add to national strategies presented by the EU, Mexico, Switzerland and  Norway. Other emitters such as China, India, Russia and Brazil say they are waiting until closer to the Paris summit - complicating work on a global climate deal due in December.  Scientific American also has the story.        Reuters 

Climate and energy news

Earth hour: millions will switch off lights around the world for climate action 
The annual Earth Hour, where millions of homes, businesses and landmarks symbolically switch off their lights, has extra significance in the run-up to UN climate talks in Paris says UN chief Ban Ki-moon.  Time  says citizens from Australia to Austin are "sending a message about climate change", while  AP has a video of Prince Charles on the importance of the campaign.    The Telegraph has a selection of Earth Hour photos from around the world.        The Guardian 

Mexico Announces Ambitious Climate Target 
Mexico announced a 'landmark' climate target on Friday, making it the first developing country to present a formal pledge under the United Nations process. It promised that its emissions of greenhouse gases will peak by 2026 and then begin to decline - with a cut of 22% by 2030. Hitting the target will mean sharply raising fuel efficiency, and Mexico has also set goals for increasing the share of renewable and nuclear energy in its power sector. The  Washington Post,  the Guardian and  RTCC also have the story.       Inside Climate News 

Antarctica Recorded Its Hottest Temperature Ever This Week 
According to the weather blog Weather Underground, on March 24 the temperature in Antarctica rose to 63.5°F (17.5C) - a record for the polar continent. Setting a new all-time temperature record for an entire continent is rare and the verification process could take months. But even in their unofficial capacity "the readings are stunning", Climate Progress writes.       Climate Progress 

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Carbon capture and storage: Can the UK hit climate goals without killing off heavy industry?

  • 27 Mar 2015, 10:00
  • Simon Evans

Credit: Tata Steel

The UK should develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters incorporating industrial sites as well as power plants, says the thinktank Green Alliance.

This would increase the amount of carbon captured nine-fold while cutting costs per tonne by two thirds, but it won't happen without new financial incentives, says the 25 March  report. Meanwhile new government roadmaps show heavy industry needs CCS to make significant emissions reductions.

The Green Alliance report is the latest in a long line to highlight the pressing need for CCS to cut carbon cost-effectively, while noting a long history of false starts and proposing a fresh approach to energising the sector.

Carbon Brief takes a look at why industrial CCS is considered essential to decarbonise sectors such as steel and cement, and why meeting UK carbon targets will cost more without it.

The case for industrial CCS

The attraction of CCS, and the reason it is opposed by some, is that it seems to offer the chance to keep burning fossil fuels while reducing emissions.

In December, David Cameron told MPs that CCS was "absolutely crucial if we are going to decarbonise effectively". The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says avoiding dangerous warming will cost twice as much without CCS.

UK decarbonisation would also be about twice as expensive without CCS, says a 17 March report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

However, research published in January shows CCS doesn't actually make much difference to the total amount of fossil fuel that can be burnt, within a budget that gives a likely chance of limiting warming to less than two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.

This adds to arguments that CCS shouldn't be used to decarbonise coal- and gas-fired power stations on a large scale, since other low-carbon electricity sources are available. It's a different story for heavy industry, however, where CCS is one of the few ways to radically cut carbon in line with UK and EU targets to reduce emissions by 80% or more by 2050.

The new Green Alliance report says CCS is "the only currently feasible technology" to cut emissions of many energy intensive industries, yet the UK's current approach focuses only on cutting the cost of power sector CCS.

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Daily Briefing | Study reveals Antarctic ice shelves have shrunk by as much as 18% in ten years

  • 27 Mar 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Antarctic ice shelf | Shutterstock

Study reveals Antarctic ice shelves have shrunk by as much as 18% in ten years 
Antarctica's icy edge is disappearing in warming ocean waters, with the last decade seeing the rate of ice loss increase dramatically. Scientists combined 18-years of ice thinning data from three satellites, discovering that some ice shelves in West Antarctica have lost as much as 18 per cent of their volume in the last ten years and some in the Amundsen could disappear within this century. This could unlock extra sea level rise from larger ice sheets jammed behind them, the Guardian writes. Carbon Briefthe BBC Scientific American and Inside Climate News also have the story.       Mail Online 

Climate and energy news

Leaders of European cities make pledge to tackle climate change 
Leaders and representatives of 30 European cities gathered in Paris on Thursday to sign a declarationof their commitment to "clean' policies to fight climate change, pledging to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030. It also commits them to use their collective purchasing power of around €10bn to buy eco-friendly. Mayors from 26 European cities, including London and Bristol, hoped that the move would have a "leverage effect on the private sector". The summit comes a week after Paris was declared the most polluted city on the planet. Business Green also has the story.      The Guardian 

'Cat litter mix' closed US nuclear waste repository 
A mixture that included organic cat litter forced the closure of the only underground nuclear waste repository in the US, a team of government experts has determined, the BBC reports. Cat litter used to absorb liquids in a barrel of nuclear waste was the wrong type, sparking a chemical reaction and a subsequent $240m radioactive leak, scientists told the Guardian. 22 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico were contaminated and the release forced the repository to close indefinitely, Reuters writes.      BBC News 

Shell cuts jobs in North Sea as low oil price hits Aberdeen 
Royal Dutch Shell has said it plans to cut jobs and adjust shifts in the North Sea in a bid to counter the impact of falling oil prices on its operations in Aberdeen, the Telegraph reports. The Anglo-Dutch group said it would shed 250 roles - even after the Chancellor's recent announcement of a package of measures in the budget to boost the offshore petroleum industry. The Financial Times also covered the story.       The Telegraph 

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Antarctic ice shelf thinning is accelerating, reveals new study

  • 26 Mar 2015, 19:30
  • Robert McSweeney

Antarctic ice shelf | Shutterstock

A new study reveals ice shelves in the western part of Antarctica are melting much faster than a decade ago. Satellite data from three separate missions shows melting of these vast, floating ice shelves has increased by 70% in the last decade.

If current warming trends continue, the researchers say the ice could thin so much that these icy 'gatekeepers' risk collapsing, unlocking parts of the ice sheet to faster ice loss.

Floating sheets of ice

Ice shelves form where a glacier on land reaches the coast and flows into the ocean. They surround 75% of the Antarctic continent. If the ocean is cold enough, the ice doesn't melt but instead forms a floating sheet of ice that extends over the ocean.

Ice Shelf Diagram

Ice shelf diagram. Credit: Professor Helen Fricker, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

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Large fall in UK emissions in 2014, official figures confirm

  • 26 Mar 2015, 11:00
  • Simon Evans

Smoke stacks | Shutterstock

UK carbon dioxide emissions fell by 9.7% in 2014 year-on-year, according to official figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The provisional figures, published today, confirm Carbon Brief's estimate published on 4 March of a 9.2% reduction, as the table below shows.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 At 09.56.01

Source: DECC emissions data and Carbon Brief analysis of DECC energy data

A 23% reduction in coal use and record warm temperatures were the main contributors to the decline in emissions. Continued falls in energy use were also a factor.

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Daily Briefing | Water 'could warm a million homes in England'

  • 26 Mar 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Canal | Shutterstock

Water 'could warm a million homes in England' 
A million properties across England could in future be heated by water from rivers, canals and the sea, the government says. The Department for Energy has published a heat map, identifying more than six gigawatts of potential low-carbon heat. Launching the new map at Battersea Power Station in London, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: "We need to make the most of the vast amount of clean, renewable heat that lays unused in our rivers, lakes and seas. BusinessGreen speaks to energy company SSE, who have been appointed by the government to investigate the feasibility of using water source heat pumps when the power station is converted into flats.      BBC News

Climate and energy news

One in six UK homes at risk from flooding, says MPs report 
MPs have warned that England's ability to sustain current levels of flood protection for homes and businesses faces major risks. Five million properties across the country, or around one in six, are at risk of flooding from coastal, river and surface water, and climate change is increasing the risks of extreme weather and floods, a report by the public accounts committee says. Cutting spending on maintaining some flood defences may prove to be a false economy in the future, the report warns.     The Guardian 

Green taxes on firms double under the Coalition to £4.6billion 
Green taxes for businesses have doubled under the Coalition, according to official figures. Levies amounted £2.5 billion in 2010-11 and are expected to reach £4.6 billion in 2015-16. According to the Mail, environment campaigners say such taxes on firms' energy use set an example to other countries and will help tackle climate change, while critics point out that many levies are UK specific, which could encourage energy-intensive businesses to move abroad.        Mail Online 

Can London cope with more heatwaves and flooding? 
London's homes and businesses are badly prepared for increasing climate change risks, warns a new report from the London Assembly Environment Committee. The report finds London's houses and infrastructure are already unprepared for extreme weather events, especially older properties that are poorly insulated. This could cause thousands of premature deaths from heatwaves and flooding over the coming decades, the report says.      BusinessGreen 

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Daily Briefing | Hopes grow for climate-proof beans

  • 25 Mar 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

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Hopes grow for climate-proof beans 
Scientists have developed 30 types of beans capable of withstanding high temperatures and drought. Beans provide key sustenance for more than 400 million people across the developing world but the area suitable for growing ordinary beans could drop 50 percent by 2050 as global temperature rises. Bred through traditional crossing of different species, some of the new "heat-beater" beans also have higher iron content to increase their nutritional value, reports Reuters.  BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Liz Truss rejects call for MPs' pension fund to divest from fossil fuels 
The Conservative environment secretary, Liz Truss, has said she would not request MPs' pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. Speaking at a public debate on green energy policy hosted by environmental NGOs on Tuesday, Truss said the "right way" to affect investment is through carbon reduction targets. Labour's shadow energy secretary also declined to support divestment, reports the Guardian. The Guardian 

HSBC: Green bonds to hit $100bn as investors back renewables 
The value of "green bonds" to finance environmentally sustainable energy and transport projects is expected to triple to around £67 billion this year, according to Stephen Williams, head of capital financing in Asia at HSBC. The majority of the growth is likely to come from China, as the government looks to tackle pollution and reduce its carbon intensity. BusinessGreen has the story. The Telegraph 

UK government Green Bank to invest in Africa and India 
The UK's Green Investment Bank is set to expand its reach overseas after the government gave it £200 million to back renewable and energy efficiency projects in Africa and India over the next three years, reports RTCC. BusinessGreen also has the story. RTCC 

US coal sector in 'terminal decline', financial analysts say 
The US coal sector is in a "terminal decline", according to a report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. In the past five years, the US coal industry lost 76% of its value and at least 264 mines closed between 2011 and 2013. The coal industry has been pummelled by cheap shale gas that took the legs out from under the sector and a series of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, say the authors. The Guardian 

Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church 
Climate change is a moral challenge threatening the rights of the world's poorest people and those who deny it are not using God's gift of knowledge, says presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the highest ranking woman in the Anglican communion. The Guardian 

Bet big on trapping CO2 from industry, government told 
Without carbon capture and storage (CCS), there is no obvious route to decarbonisation for industries such as steel or cement manufacture, a report by the think-tank Green Alliance is expected to say today. But spending on CCS may need to rise significantly, says the report, which calls for industrial CCS to be developed in "clusters" around existing power sector demonstration plants. BusinessGreen 

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Are National Trust libraries at risk from climate change?

  • 24 Mar 2015, 17:15
  • Sophie Yeo

Library | Flickr

The National Trust delivered bad news for bibliophiles yesterday: its historic collection of around 230,000 books could become victim to the impacts of climate change.

Launching its  10-year strategy, National Trust leader Dame Helen Ghosh said that climate change is the biggest challenge faced by the conservation charity. In particular, she said, the rise in pests poses a threat to its libraries.

"Some of the bugs that we get in our furniture and in our books, for example silverfish, we used to only get those in the summer. They used to be killed off in winter. But because the winters have got warmer and wetter we get those kinds of bugs all year round," she  said.

Carbon Brief takes a look at what risks lie ahead for the National Trust's literary collections.

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