Daily Briefing | EPA poised to push carbon rule compliance to 2022

  • 30 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Emission from coal power plant

Coal power plant | Shutterstock

**Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe**

Updated: The climate change papers most featured in the media 
We've updated our Altmetrics analysis of which research articles have made the biggest splash in the news and on social media, as part of our Climate Papers series. The update comes thanks to expanded search functionality at Altmetric, in response to eagle-eyed Carbon Brief readers who pointed out that some widely covered papers had been overlooked.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

EPA poised to push carbon rule compliance to 2022, according to agency document 
President Obama's flagship Clean Power Plan, meant to cut US power plant emissions by 30%, is due to be finalised early next week, reports EnergyWire, based on an administration document later taken offline. The final rule will give states more time to comply, EnergyWire says. The rule will also be stronger than the draft, reports Bloomberg, which  adds that it will offer new incentives for renewables. The Hill also carries the story, along with  reaction from opponents that it says "dismiss" the expected deadline extension, arguing the rule will "inflict serious pain on the economy". The Hill also reports on lobbying by some business groups against moves to tighten ozone standards. Meanwhile Grist asks what a relaxed Clean Power Plan deadline would mean for the US pledge to international climate talks.      EnergyWire 

Earth now halfway to UN global warming limit 
The earth's surface is now more than 1C warmer than in pre-industrial times according to analysis for New Scientist, based on all but one of the main trackers of the trend. Its front-page says "the first big climate threshold is upon us". We're halfway to the outcome the world wants to avoid, the magazine says, referring to the internationally agreed 2C warming limit to avoid dangerous climate change.      New Scientist 

World Bank rejects energy industry notion that coal can cure poverty 
Continued use of coal is exacting a heavy cost on some of the world's poorest countries, says World Bank climate envoy Rachel Kyte. In comments reported by the Guardian, Kyte says "globally we need to wean ourselves off coal" because of "huge social cost" related to local health impacts and climate. When it comes to lifting countries out of poverty coal is part of the problem, not the solution, Kyte says.     The Guardian 

Oregon bridge danglers hope to delay Shell's Arctic drilling 
Protestors in Portland, Oregon are dangling below a bridge in an effort to halt a ship carrying equipment to Alaska, where Shell hopes to drill for oil for the first time since 2012. The Guardian also has the story. US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton says she has "doubts" over permits for Arctic drilling in the context of "our clean energy, climate change agenda", reports The Hill. Shell is cutting 6,500 jobs and will cut capital spending by a fifth in response to falling oil prices, says the     Reuters 

Ahead of Paris, Russia becomes a climate policy wallflower 
With just months to go before the Paris UN climate summit, Russia is in a "bizarre diplomatic limbo", says RTCC. Given international sanctions post-Crimea, it is not clear if the country has any real allies, RTCC says.     RTCC

Read more

Updated: The climate change papers most featured in the media

  • 29 Jul 2015, 15:45
  • Robert McSweeney
Front covers of the most influential climate papers

Climate papers | Carbon Brief

In our recent series on the top climate change papers, we brought you which ones scientists think are the  most influential and which are the most cited by other researchers.

With the help of Altmetric, we also looked into which research articles have made the biggest splash in the news and on social media. But, as a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out to us, it seems there were some papers that were overlooked.

Altmetric has now expanded their search to make sure no paper is missed. So here's our revised take on which papers have made the biggest impact in the wider world.

Media mentions

Altmetric tracks when academic papers are mentioned in online news articles and on social media platforms, such Twitter and Facebook. It collates these mentions and gives each paper a  score for how much attention it received. Featuring in a major national newspaper will contribute a bigger score to a paper than being in a niche publication. A paper with no mentions will score zero, for example, while an article with a score of  over 20 has received significant attention from journalists or perhaps caused a stir online.

To match our analysis of the most cited climate change papers, Altmetric ran a keyword search for papers mentioning "climate change" or "global warming". However, the original Altmetric search capped the number of papers it returned to 10,000, which meant some high-scoring papers were missed off.

Altmetric's founder, Euan Adie, explains to Carbon Brief:

"What I didn't realize when pulling this data the first time round was that the search engine I used to find articles with the two terms we were interested in only returned the 'most relevant' results. Instead of 17,000 results we got back 10,000, and amongst the missing articles were many that, to be consistent, should have been in the top 100. This means the original data was incomplete and the ranking was out; the updated data fixes this."

Altmetric have now extended this cap to 20,000 papers, and intend to remove the cap completely in the near future. You can try out the tool yourself with the Altmetric Explorer.

From the new set of search results, we filtered out all the entries that were news, editorials and books, leaving just research articles to analyse, which we then trimmed to a top 100.

Unfortunately, this did mean cutting out the highest-scoring climate change article of any kind, which was a spoof  News & Views piece in Nature on the reemergence of dragons due to warmer temperatures, published on 1st April this year.  

Finally, one point to note is that Altmetric only started tracking papers in July 2011, so this analysis only covers papers published over the past four years.

So what research have we all been reading and tweeting about?

Top paper

The top-ranked article is "High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change" by lead author Prof Matthew Hansen at the University of Maryland in the US, which was published in November 2013.

The paper describes how the researchers used satellite data to map global forest change between 2000 and 2012. They found that forest losses of around 2.3m square kilometers (sq km) outweighed gains of 0.8m sq km. With the help of Google Earth, the team created an  interactive mapping tool to show changes in forests down to a resolution of just 30 metres.

Hansen and his colleagues found forest clearance was largest in the tropics, with increases in deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia and Angola offsetting a reduction in Brazil.

Read more

Paris 2015: Tracking country climate pledges

  • 29 Jul 2015, 12:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Updated 29 July with Monaco's INDC.

31 March marked the loose deadline for countries to submit their pledges to the UN on how far they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

These promises, known as "intended nationally determined contributions", or INDCs, will determine the success of the deal that the UN hopes to sign off in Paris in December this year.

While only five countries plus the EU made the deadline, more than a hundred others are expected to filter in throughout the coming eight months.

Carbon Brief is tracking the pledges made by each country. We'll update this post as each INDC comes in.

To find out exactly what an INDC is and why it matters, read our INDC explainer.

Click to enlarge:


Who has pledged an INDC so far, and what percentage of the world's emissions are covered. Credit: Rosamund Pearce, Carbon Brief, based on EU data

Read more

Daily Briefing | Biomass is the way ahead, insists Drax as it begins review

  • 29 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Burning wood pellets.

Wood pellets | Shutterstock

**Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe**

Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal 
Carbon Brief walks you through the new document - or "tool" - released late last week by the United Nations which outlines what the wording of the Paris climate deal could look like. The new text is based on the Geneva negotiating text - an 86-page document that countries constructed in February, following a major round of talks in December 2014 in Lima. The new text has been reduced to 76 pages through a process of careful streamlining and is now divided into three distinct categories.     Carbon Brief

Hillary Clinton's renewable goals could significantly raise US climate ambition 
Renewable energy goals announced by Hillary Clinton, who hopes to succeed President Obama in 2017, could significantly raise US climate ambition, according to Carbon Brief analysis. Clinton wants renewables to supply a third of US electricity by 2027, enough to power "every home in America". Our analysis shows this could shave a further 4 percentage points off US emissions, against its existing pledge to cut carbon by 26-28% by 2025.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Biomass is the way ahead, insists Drax as it begins review 
A strategic review is under way at Drax, which runs the UK's largest coal-fired power plant, after it admitted that uncertainty over green subsidies for its co-burning of biomass has left a question mark over the half of its North Yorkshire power station that still burns coal. Dorothy Thompson, the chief executive, said that burning coal would remain a viable business over the next four years but could not predict how long that would persist after 2019. She said that the conversion of the remainder of the station to burning wood pellets would depend on a study being conducted for DECC on the total cost of different forms of low-carbon energy, including the cost of accommodating intermittent output from wind and solar. The Telegraph says Drax has "sparked a row" with other green energy producers for "attacking" wind and solar for being "costly and unreliable". Carbon Pulse focuses on Drax's financial results which reveal that the company saw its CO2 emissions fall 12.8% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period last year. This was as a result of bringing a second biomass unit online. Bloomberg notes that Drax's earnings were up 18% as its biomass investments shielded it from rising carbon prices. BusinessGreen also carries the story. In May, Carbon Brief published an in-depth investigation into whether burning biomass can help solve climate change.     The Times 

Later Deadline Expected in Obama's Climate Plan 
The final version of President Obama's signature climate change policy is expected to extend an earlier timeline for states to significantly cut emissions from power plants, according to people familiar with the plan, says Davenport. The initial proposal would have required that states to submit plans for cutting carbon pollution by 2016, with an option to extend the deadline to 2017, and it would have required states to put their plans in place and start demonstrating emissions cuts by 2020. However, an extension could see the deadline for states to submit their plans lengthened to 2018, and it would give states two more years, until 2022, to comply with those plans. But, adds Davenport, "a person familiar with the rules said they would include incentives designed to reward states that comply as early as 2020."     New York Times 

Turning off street lights does not cause increase in traffic accidents or crime, says study 
Turning street lights off late at night to save money does not seem to trigger an increase in either traffic accidents or crime according to a survey of local councils in England and Wales where such cuts have been made. Data gathered from 62 out of 174 local authorities on road casualties and on crimes that may have benefited from streets being in the dark has failed to find a link with reductions in street lighting, scientists said. The BBC adds that the researchers said the findings could help save money and reduce carbon emissions. The AA said the results were "extremely surprising" and differed from their own analysis of inquest findings. The Times also carries the story.     The Independent 

DECC urged to extend 'unfair' solar subsidy consultation 
Lawyers for Friends of the Earth have written to Amber Rudd calling on her to extend the consultation period for the government's proposed changes to solar subsidies, warning the current consultation is "unfair", contrary to the government's consultation guidelines, and potentially in breach of administrative law. The letter argues that DECC should immediately move to extend the consultation by four weeks in order to give all interested stakeholders sufficient time to respond.     BusinessGreen 

Read more

Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

  • 28 Jul 2015, 17:00
  • Sophie Yeo

UN Photo/Mark Garten

The United Nations has released a new document outlining what the Paris climate deal could look like, which countries hope to sign in December this year.

The two diplomats responsible for steering the challenging negotiations towards a successful outcome in December, Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, released a new text - or a "tool", as they are calling it - last Friday.

It is the product of a six weeks of work, following  the latest round of talks in June. It attempts to summarise the latest positions and thinking from the 196 parties involved in crafting the new deal, which will guide international efforts to tackle climate change beyond 2020.


The new text is based on the  Geneva negotiating text - an 86-page document that countries constructed in February, following a major round of talks in December 2014 in Lima.

The new text has been reduced to 76 pages through a process of careful streamlining. This largely involved erasing duplication and redundancies from the Geneva text - a messy, if comprehensive, document, that had, as far as it was possible, attempted to accommodate all parties' views.

The co-chairs have not removed any substantive language or options from the text concerning the final content of the agreement. This sort of whittling down is the responsibility of the parties, and is likely to commence in earnest in Bonn in upcoming sessions, the first of which begins this August

Read more

Hillary Clinton’s renewable goals could significantly raise US climate ambition

  • 28 Jul 2015, 10:10
  • Simon Evans

Hillary Clinton | Instagram

Renewable energy goals announced by Hillary Clinton, who hopes to succeed President Obama in 2017, could significantly raise US climate ambition.

Clinton wants renewables to supply a third of US electricity by 2027, enough to power "every home in America". Carbon Brief analysis shows this could shave a further 4 percentage points off US emissions, against its existing pledge to cut carbon by 26-28% by 2025.

Clinton says she wants to make climate change a major campaign issue in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. Only two of 15 Republican candidates have acknowledged that climate change is real and must be tackled.

Carbon Brief explores what Clinton's renewable energy goals could mean for the climate and why solar seems to be top of her agenda.

Renewable target

Current expectations for US renewables are based on Obama's Clean Power Plan. Due to be finalised within weeks, the plan will set targets for power sector carbon intensity in each state and could encourage states to set or increase renewable portfolio standards that require generators to source a set share of electricity from renewables.

Under Obama's plan, renewables are expected to generate a quarter of US electricity by 2030, up from 13% today. If the renewable share were to grow steadily in the years to 2030, it would be expected to reach just 23% by 2027.

So Clinton's goal of 33% renewables by 2027 would represent a genuine increase in ambition. If nuclear plants continue to operate at current levels, then the US power mix would be roughly 50% zero carbon. This is the minimum for 2030 before billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer would give presidential hopefuls his backing and financial support.

Calculating the emissions impact of the 33% renewables target is not straightforward, however. US power plant emissions are expected to be around 1,700m tonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2027, according to projections from the US Energy Information Administration.

If renewables met Clinton's 2027 goal and took generation share exclusively from fossil fuels, emissions in that year could be reduced by up to 280Mt. This is equivalent to 4% of emissions in 2005, the US climate pledge baseline.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Hillary Clinton lays out climate change plan

  • 28 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Hillary Clinton | Shutterstock

Hillary Clinton Lays Out Climate Change Plan 
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton yesterday unveiled ambitious goals for tackling climate change and producing energy from renewable sources. She set a goal to produce 33% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2027, up from 7% today - a higher target than the 20% that President Obama has called for by 2030. Clinton also called for half a billion solar panels to be installed by 2020 and to generate enough energy from carbon-free sources within 10 years of her inauguration to power every home in America, through she is still refusing to say if she opposes the Keystone XL pipeline. Clinton's words are significant but they are not "bold," the word her campaign used to describe them, says InsideClimate News. To be transformational would require her to set a price on carbon and walk away from big investments in long-lived fossil fuel projects. Promising to make climate change a key pillar of her campaign platform, these proposals are the first steps toward fleshing out what has mostly been bare-boned climate rhetoric, says Reuters.        New York Times

40 percent of adults on Earth have never heard of climate change 
A new survey across 119 countries finds that developed nations have a much higher awareness of climate change than developing ones, mainly thanks to higher access to education and communication. However, when participants were asked whether or not they perceived climate change as a threat, over 90% of people in every South American country, Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco all said yes. In Australia, the US, UK and most of the rest of Europe, more than 75% of people were aware of climate change but far fewer considered it to be detrimental to themselves or their families, reports The Guardian. Japan is one of the few highly advanced economies whose population shows very high concern about the risks of climate change.        Washington Post

Rain, Storm Surge Combine to Put U.S. Coasts at Risk 
Climate Central covers new research which looks at how storm surges occurring at the same time as heavy rainfall can up the risk of flooding in US cities. Author Thomas Wahl tells Time, "Usually it requires an extreme storm surge to cause flooding or an extreme rainfall event. But the combination of two events that are not really extreme on their own may cause larger damages than one of the two events alone." Carbon Brief has a guest post from the authors explaining their research.        Climate Central 

Read more

Global survey: Where in the world is most and least aware of climate change?

  • 27 Jul 2015, 17:35
  • Robert McSweeney

Form closeup | Shutterstock

Analysis of a global survey finds that more than a third of the world's adults have never heard of climate change. For some countries, such as South Africa, Bangladesh and Nigeria, this rises to more than two-thirds of the adult population.

The study says that education is the "single strongest predictor" of public awareness of climate change. Improving basic education and public understanding of climate change are vital to garner support for climate action, the researchers add.

Awareness and concern

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, uses the results of a Gallup World Poll in 2007-08, which collected responses in 119 countries. This is the largest survey ever conducted on climate change, the paper's authors tell Carbon Brief, representing more than 90% of the world's population.

The poll asked people: "How much do you know about global warming or climate change?" Those who were aware of the issue were then asked the follow-up question: "How serious a threat is global warming to you and your family?"

The results show that adults in developed countries were more likely to say they are aware of climate change. Awareness rates in much of North America and Europe were well over 90% of respondents. Japan comes top with 99% of the population aware of climate change, with the US (98%) and Finland (98%) following closely behind.

Lee Et Al (2015) Table 1

Percentage of respondents saying they were aware of climate change: top and bottom 10 countries. Data source: Lee et al. (2015)

Read more

How storm surges and heavy rainfall drive coastal flood risk in the US

  • 27 Jul 2015, 16:00
  • Dr Thomas Wahl & Dr Shaleen Jain

Hurricane Sandy | Jason DeCrow

A guest post from Dr Thomas Wahl of the College of Marine Science at University of South Florida and Dr Shaleen Jain at the University of Maine.

Nearly 40% of the US population lives in coastal counties. These are often low-lying and densely-populated areas, which means flooding can have devastating impacts. 

For coastal areas, flooding can happen in two main ways: from sustained heavy rain that doesn't drain away, or from storm surges, when storms drag the sea up and over the coastline. But when they occur together, or in close succession, the consequences can be even more severe. 

In a study, just published in the journal Nature Climate Change, we look at how heavy rainfall and high water levels combine to cause "compound flooding". The results show the risk of compound floods has increased for many major US cities in the last century.

Compound flooding

When a storm weather system is over the sea, its low pressure centre pulls up the surface of the water. As the storm blows onto the land, the wind pushes the sea towards the coast, creating even higher sea levels and battering the coastline with large waves. This is known as a  storm surge, which can breach coastal defences and cause flooding. With higher global sea levels, storm surges are more likely to overwhelm sea defences.

Heavy rainfall can combine with a storm surge to cause a "compound flood". High water levels can impede stormwater draining into the sea, causing flooding inland, or high rainfall can add yet more water to an existing tidal flood. You can see this illustrated in the graphic below.

How the joint occurrence of rainfall and storm surge (large enough to cause direct flooding or to slow down or fully block freshwater drainage) can lead to compound flooding in coastal regions. Credit: Theodore Scontras, University of Maine.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Hillary Clinton stakes out climate change agenda

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

Hillary Clinton | Shutterstock

Hillary Clinton Stakes Out Climate Change Agenda 
Hillary Clinton said she would both defend and go beyond the efforts of Obama to address climate change in the first detailed description of her potential environmental polices if elected president. A four-page campaign fact sheet said the goal was to increase the share of US power generation from renewable sources to 33% by 2027, compared to 25% under Obama's carbon plan. Clinton pledged to defend from legal or political attack the Obama administration's rule to cut carbon pollution from the nation's fleet of power plants, as well as rewarding communities that speed rooftop solar panel installation, backing a contest for states to go beyond the minimums called for in the environmental rules, and boosting solar and wind production on federal lands. Her promise to install half a billion solar panels by 2021 represents a 700% increase on current installations, Climate Progress reports. The announcement was accompanied by a video, in which she also criticises her Republican opponents' stance on climate, the Hill reports. The Guardian also carried the story.     Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

U.S. companies pledge financial, political support for U.N. climate deal 
Thirteen major American companies are to announce $140 billion in low-carbon investments to lend support to a global climate change deal in Paris in December, the White House has said. Companies including General Motors, Bank of America, Microsoft and Coca Cola, will today join the US Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to support the administration as it tries to secure a climate agreement. The companies also announced they would bring at least 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy on line, reduce water use intensity by 15 percent, purchase 100 percent renewable energy, and target zero net deforestation in their supply chains. Securing long-term climate finance is seen as a crucial step for a deal in Paris, Reuters reports.        Reuters 

Global Warming Deal Takes Shape as UN Envoys Shuffle Options 
A global agreement to fight climate change is beginning to take shape after the United Nations published a new draft of a deal that 194 nations are working to seal at a December summit, Bloomberg reports. The 88-page document is intended to more clearly organise the options that negotiators have grappled with for months. The new version whittles down the main part of the agreement to a 19-page draft that lays out requirements for all nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The streamlined text "gives delegates a strong foundation to advance the climate negotiations," said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute.       Bloomberg 

Oil groups have shelved $200bn in new projects as low prices bite 
The world's big energy groups have shelved $200bn of spending on new projects in an urgent round of cost-cutting, as the oil price slumps for a second time this year. The plunge in crude prices since last summer has resulted in the deferral of 46 big oil and gas projects with 20bn barrels of oil equivalent in reserves - more than Mexico's entire proven holdings.       Financial Times 

Read more