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Daily Briefing | Energy policy pendulum

  • 16 Apr 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

World must act quickly to reverse buildup of heat-trapping gases, UN climate change panel says 
The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, reports Fox News. The piece quotes IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, saying "the cost is not something that's going to bring about a major disruption of economic systems. It's well within our reach." 
Associated Press via Fox News 

Climate and energy news:

Beijing says one third of its pollution comes from outside the city 
The chief of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau has said that about 28-36 per cent of hazardous airborne particles comes from surrounding provinces, home to seven of China's top ten most polluted cities. Of the smog generated in Beijing, 22.4 per cent is from coal burning - but the city plans to cut coal consumption by 13 million tonnes by 2017, down from about 23 million tonnes in 2013.
Reuters 

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Degrees of change: the IPCC’s projections for future temperature rise

  • 15 Apr 2014, 12:00
  • Robin Webster

Many governments are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But unless policymakers raise their ambition significantly, temperatures are likely to rise beyond safe levels. We examine the pathways that could take us towards a two degrees temperature rise by the end of the century - or considerably higher. 

On Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the last in a series of three reports, which together assess the physical evidence that climate change is happening, the  expected impacts over the course of this century and what would need to happen to curb the rise in greenhouse gases.

Embedded in the reports are the scientists' predictions for how high temperatures are likely to rise this century - and what that's likely to mean for ecosystems and societies around the world. 

Comparing scenarios 

The IPCC bases its projections for future temperature rise on two different techniques. 

First, the IPCC has created its own storylines, or scenarios, describing how high temperatures are likely to rise in the future and what that might mean. The scenarios vary according to different predictions for how societies develop and how much effort we make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the course of this century.

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From RCP to WG3: A climate change acronym cheat sheet

  • 15 Apr 2014, 11:15
  • Mat Hope

Know your AFOLU from your LULUCF? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made great efforts to  cut the "weirdo words" and put its big climate reports into terms everyone can understand. But that hasn't stopped it from occasionally befuddling readers with a range of complex acronyms.

We decode some of the most common.

Organisations

IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The IPCC is an international group of scientists set up in 1988 under the auspices of the United Nations. It doesn't do any of its own research, but aims "to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge" about climate change through a series of reports released every six or seven years.

UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
In 1992, hundreds of heads of state signed up to the UNFCCC. Under the convention, countries aim to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference with the climate system."

Reports

AR1/2/3/4/5 - Assessment Reports 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
The IPCC has so far produced five reports reviewing the latest climate change research. The most recent - AR5 - is due to be released in its entirety before the end of April 2014.

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Excitement over ‘clean’ underground coal gasification masks technical reality

  • 15 Apr 2014, 10:50
  • Mat Hope

Credit: US Department of Energy

Coal is cheap, abundant, and responsible for about 40 per cent of the world's electricity generation. That's a problem, because it also has some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions of any energy source. It's no wonder that a technology that could allow the world to continue burning coal - but cleanly - is being met with some excitement, then.

Writing in the  Telegraph at the end of last year, Algy Cluff, chief executive of energy company Cluff Natural Resources, said 'underground coal gasification' could "provide a vital energy solution and produce abundant and cheap gas for generations". The technology briefly put its head above the parapet again today, as the  BBC asked whether it be "the clean energy of the future".

The prospect has certainly piqued the government's interest, with energy minister Michael Fallon  establishing a working group to explore its feasibility.

But is it too good to be true? We explore underground coal gasification's prospects and try to separate the theory from the reality.

What is underground coal gasification?

Underground coal gasification (UCG) involves drilling down into coal - normally deep underground - then igniting it. The resulting gas then runs up another borehole and is collected on the surface, as the diagram below shows:

 

underground coal gasification diagram

Once the gas is collected, companies can use it to run power stations, or convert it into transport fuel. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can be added, reducing the process' emissions, and making it relatively 'clean'.

As such, the government now sees the "exciting potential" of UCG as means to generate abundant, domestically-sourced, ostensibly fairly low carbon power in the UK, the Telegraph  reported.

So, what are UCG's prospects in the UK?

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Daily Briefing | The end of business as usual for fossil fuel users?

  • 15 Apr 2014, 09:20
  • Carbon Brief staff

Author: Alan Murray-Rust

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March Was 4th Warmest on Record Globally 
"March 2014 was the fourth-warmest March on record globally, according to recently released NASA data, making it the 349th month - more than 29 years - in which global temperatures were above the historic average." 
Climate Central 

Climate and energy news:

Europe speeds up gas storage to prepare for Russian cut 
Reuters reports: "European utilities are filling up gas storage sites to prepare for a potential Russian supply cut to Ukraine, an important transit route to Europe, taking advantage of mild weather and healthy flows from alternative sources such as Norway." 
Reuters 

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Does the IPCC endorse fracking?

  • 14 Apr 2014, 17:00
  • Ros Donald

Credit: Daniel Foster 

Nations must cut their emissions very quickly if they are to limit the extent of global emissions: that's the conclusion of a new report out yesterday from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  

Some media outlets have focused on an IPCC spokesperson's apparent endorsement of shale gas as a way to mitigate global warming. But a look at the summary reveals gas has to be deployed with caution if countries are to reduce emissions and limit the extent of climate change.

New report

The report is the third and final in a series assessing the state of climate change. It tackles the measures nations will have to take to limit climate change to the internationally-agreed threshold of two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

At present, the IPCC has only released its  Summary for Policymakers (SPM) - a document intended to distil the main messages of the full report for global decisionmakers. More detailed chapters are due to be released later this week.

The energy sector will have to play a big part in emissions reduction, the IPCC says, indicating that the amount of power generated by renewable and low-carbon sources of energy must increase dramatically.

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Climate fixes and Plan Bs: The IPCC’s guide to staying below two degrees of global warming

  • 14 Apr 2014, 13:10
  • Roz Pidcock

Cutting emissions, ramping up renewable energy, adapting to a new way of life and sucking carbon dioxide out of the air: recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) appear to offer a number of ways to limit the scale and seriousness of climate change.

Which are the real climate solutions, and which are pretty risky bets? Here's what the IPCC says about what will and won't work when it comes to fixing the climate.

The two degree target

What we can do to curb the  impacts of climate change is the topic of the  third in a series of recent reports from the IPCC. But when we talk about limiting climate change, what do we really mean?

The idea that we should avoid "dangerous" interference with the climate has been around for a while. But at the UN climate summit in  Cancun in 2010, governments made the goal of keeping warming to no more two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels an official target.

The world has already warmed by 0.85 degrees over the industrial period and if emissions stay high, we're on course for more like three to five degrees by 2100, the IPCC  noted in its September report.

In other words, without efforts to reduce warming, we're set to fall a long way short of the target.

RCP2.6-8.0

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Media reaction: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's big climate mitigation report

  • 14 Apr 2014, 12:50
  • Mat Hope

While many were still engulfed in their duvets recovering from the night before, the UN spent Sunday morning launching a big report on strategies to tackle climate change. The report was the third instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) major review of the most up-to-date climate change research.

If you've been too busy to catch up on the swathes of media coverage since then, have no fear - we've speed-read it all for you:

International cooperation

A significant proportion of the media focused on the report's message that there is still time for countries to act to avoid the worst impacts of climate change - but only if they work together.

  • The  Financial Times said the IPCC was sure there is "still time to save the world". It quotes one of the report's co-chairs, Ottmar Edenhofer, saying the report carried "a message of hope"  that tackling climate change "can be done".
  • Doing so would mean cutting emissions "by up to 70% by 2050 if it is to prevent global temperatures rising by more than two degrees", the  Sunday Times reports. The IPCC's research shows "stabilising climate is humanity's biggest challenge", it adds.
  • Newswire  Agence France Presse described the report's findings as a "wake up call" for governments. It said the IPCC identifies a 15-year window in which countries' will be able to act to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
  • That means "governments must do more" to address rising emissions, the Washington Post argues. Countries must work together to lower emissions by 40 to 70 percent, according to the IPCC's findings, it said.
  • Taking a slightly different angle, the  Independent on Sunday was the only major UK newspaper to focus on the consequences of inaction. Unless the world acts soon, the IPCC says emissions could reach a level "that could reap devastating effects on the planet", the newspaper reports.

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Daily Briefing | IPCC: There's still time to take climate action, if countries cooperate

  • 14 Apr 2014, 09:30
  • Carbon Brief staff

UN: 'Massive shift' needed on energy 
The BBC covers the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report in detail. One piece focuses on the IPCC's headline finding that curbing warming to two degrees could mean trebling the amount of low carbon energy generation. A short video looks at what that would mean for fossil fuels, with a longer piece exploring geoengineering technology's potential. A longer investigation accuses the IPCC of overlooking the concerns of developing countries. Finally, environment correspondent Matt McGrath reflects on the intense final weeks of the IPCC report-writing process, with scientists concluding it's time for "A little less conversation, a little more action please...". 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news:

UN climate study: still time to save the world 
The Financial Times takes a long look at the IPCC's new climate mitigation report. The report estimates that investment in power generation from conventional fossil fuels should fall $30 billion a year, while investment in low-carbon plants (nuclear, renewables and carbon capture) rises $147 billion a year, the FT says. The IPCC says international cooperation is essential to make that happen, the FT reports.
Financial Times 

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Not just another climate report: main messages from the UN report on tackling emissions

  • 13 Apr 2014, 14:15
  • Robin Webster

If we're going to curb the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, the world's governments need to co-operate - and they're running out of time to do it. That's one of the top-line messages from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s latest mega-report into current and future greenhouse gas emissions. 

Today's report is the last in a series of three from the IPCC. The first two summarised the physical evidence base for climate change and its potential  impacts on ecosystems and human societies. Now the organisation is looking at what's likely to happen to greenhouse gas emissions over the course of this century - and what possibilities there are for reversing the upwards trend. 

The full report runs to thousands of pages, providing an overview of all the research in the area. In order to complete it, the scientists assessed more than 1200 scenarios for how the future might unfold from different studies. The report's  summary is slightly more digestible, at just 33 pages. Here's our run-down of its key points. 

Emissions rising

Between 2000 and 2010, greenhouse gas emissions grew at 2.2 per cent a year -  a faster rate of increase than over the previous three decades. Human-caused emissions were "the highest in human history" in the first decade of this century, the IPCC says. 

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