Analysis

Daily Briefing | Independent Scotland 'would be doomed by plummeting oil revenue'

  • 24 Aug 2015, 11:20
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Scotland flag waving on the wind

Scottish flag | Shutterstock

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What do the Labour leadership candidates think on climate and energy?
The UK's Labour party will soon choose a new leader, following the resignation of Ed Miliband after May's election. We've created a grid, distilling the candidates' thoughts on key climate policy issues.   Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Independent Scotland 'would be doomed by plummeting oil revenue'
Oil revenues from the North Sea tumbled to a record low in the first quarter of 2015, leading the Conservatives to claim there is "no way an independent Scotland could survive" in the current circumstances. Proceeds from North Sea oil in the first three months of 2015 were down 75% on the previous quarter, reports the BBCThe Sunday Times also reports that Fairfield Energy, a company raised more than $600m to breathe new life into the North Sea, has "given up on it" and decided to "become a decommissioning specialist that will make money by taking apart mothballed platforms and pipelines". In a comment piece, again in The Sunday Times. Danny Fortson says that "A domino effect may mean that North Sea production will dwindle rapidly in a few years".    The Sunday Times

BBC pulls plug on Met Office
The BBC has ended its 93-year partnership with the Met Office by deciding not to renew its contract to provide weather forecasts. The broadcaster said it was legally required to open up the contract to outside competition in order to secure the best value for licence fee payers, reports The Guardian. But the Met Office has already been told is has been unsuccessful, says the MailOnline, which speculates that the remaining bidders are Metra, an offshoot of the New Zealand national forecasting service and Meteo, a collaboration between the Press Association and the Dutch national weather service. Steve Noyes, Met Office operations and customer services director, said in a statement: "This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output", reports The Huffington Post, which also looks at some of the response on Twitter. The BBC will announce a replacement before the end of the year, with the last bulletin presented by the Met Office on October 2016. The Telegraph describes the decision by the BBC as "really just part of a long story of compromise", lamenting the BBC's drive "to modernise everything", which has resulted in the weather forecasts being "dumbed down". While a Daily Mail editorial says the Met Office only has itself to blame as it "has often felt less like a dispassionate provider of weather information and more like a lobbyist for the climate change agenda.". Also in the Mail Online Quentin Letts, whose Radio 4 programme "What Is The Point Of The Met Office?" was aired three weeks ago, says "I cannot say I was wholly surprised". And the BBC itself weighs in by producing a video of "the good, the bad and the bloopers" of Met Office forecasts.   The Sunday Times

Energy review spells end of the green bandwagon: Spotlight on true costs of power generation could save us billions
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has, according to the Mail on Sunday, launched a "groundbreaking project" to examine the "actual cost" of electricity generation in a move which "could spell the end of billions of pounds of subsidies for green energy". The study, which is being conducted by Frontier Economics, the consultancy chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell, will include not just the cost of constructing offshore wind farms, for instance, but also of connecting them to the national grid. It will also examine nuclear power and "conventional" energy, says the paper. A "senior energy source" is quoted as saying: "Many in the energy industry have suspected that previous governments have been 'economical with the truth' about the economics of moving to a low carbon producing energy sector."    Mail on Sunday

'Both sides are unhappy': Obama's Arctic drilling green light heightens tensions
A senior official at the State Department has admitted there is an "obvious tension" between the US's commitment to combat climate change and its approval of Shell's oil drilling in the Arctic. Last week, the Obama administration gave Shell the final green light to drill off the coast of Alaska on Monday. David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries at the State Department, said there are "people very unhappy on both sides of the issue". In a comment piece, in The Guardian. John Vidal says the decision may leave a stain on Obama's environmental legacy: "Here is the US - claiming to be the leader in the fight to reduce emissions - backing the riskiest, least-needed oil in the world while saying that the future is clean energy."

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What do the Labour leadership candidates think on climate and energy?

  • 21 Aug 2015, 10:15
  • Sophie Yeo & Simon Evans
Labour party logo

Labour logo | Shutterstock

The UK's Labour party will soon choose a new leader, following the resignation of Ed Miliband after May's election.

As former climate and energy secretary, Miliband had long been engaged on issues of emissions reductions, energy efficiency and the UN climate negotiations.

The leadership contest is between four candidates: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall - none of whom have held a climate-related position in government to date.

Carbon Brief has created a grid, distilling the candidates' thoughts on key climate policy issues.

Frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has released a detailed  manifesto of his climate and energy policies. Andy Burnham has also released a formal  manifesto, which briefly touches on the environment.

We have also collected climate- and energy-related statements from the candidates' speeches, blogs, newspaper articles, interviews and essays.

Labour -leadership -grid

The Labour Leadership Grid. Visit our Google doc for the full, interactive version.

What do they think?

Each candidate has acknowledged that climate change is a key threat that must be tackled.

That is not to say they always agree on how the problem should be approached.

Perhaps the most widely reported climate angle of the leadership campaign has been left-winger Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion that he could reopen coal mines in South Wales. Both Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper have explicitly rejected this, preferring instead to focus on creating jobs in the technology sector - in Cooper's case, this could include clean coal technology.

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Daily Briefing | Climate change intensifies California drought, scientists say

  • 21 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Irrigation pipe | Shutterstock

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Scientists warn of unprecedented damage to forests across the world 
Forests around the world are being affected by humans - both directly by deforestation and indirectly by climate change, say experts in a special issue of the journal Science. The researchers examined the health of the world's tropical, boreal and temperature forests, finding that they're far from being in good shape to cope with climate change in the coming decades.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Climate Change Intensifies California Drought, Scientists Say 
A new study looking at how much of the current drought in California can be blamed on global warming concludes that changing temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and other factors intensified the drought by 8-27% between 2012 to 2014. The drought is largely driven by natural fluctuations in weather patterns but rising temperatures dry the soil faster and cause more rapid evaporation from streams and reservoirs, says the authors. The study isn't the first to say warming has played a key role in fuelling California's dry conditions, says  The Washington Post but it's the first to measure its impact. The authors predict the sunshine state is set for "more or less permanent" drought by the 2060s, says  RTCC. The authors tell  The Guardian they hope hoped their findings motivate California to thinking more carefully about a long-term strategy for drought.      New York Times 

July was Earth's hottest month on record, NOAA says 
The month of July was the hottest on Earth since records began, scientists announced yesterday. At 16.6C, the average temperature over the month was 0.08C higher than the previous record set in 1998 - a significant margin in weather records, says the BBC. The high temperatures are caused by a combination of man-made climate change and a strong El-Nino, said the monthly report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is almost certain 2015 will be the hottest year recorded, with the first seven months of this year already topping the charts for the hottest January to July on record, says  The Independent.      BBC News 

EU urges speeding of efforts to clinch global climate deal 
The EU has called for more urgency in thrashing out a draft negotiating text for the upcoming climate talks in Paris in December. Calling the pace of progress so far "painfully slow", Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU's climate commissioner, said countries faced a battle against the clock. At more than 80 pages and with only 10 formal negotiating days before Paris, the text remains "far too long", Cañete told a press conference in Brussels, adding that "the technical talks are seriously lagging behind the political discussion and this must change."  The Guardian has the story.  Reuters reports Canete's comments that The EU will only support a U.N. agreement to cap global emissions if it is legally binding and is reviewed every five years.      The Financial Times 

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Scientists warn of unprecedented damage to forests across the world

  • 20 Aug 2015, 19:00
  • Robert McSweeney
Edge of the forest with dead trees

Forest edge | Shutterstock

Forests around the world are being affected by humans - both directly by deforestation and indirectly by climate change, say experts in a special issue of the journal Science.

In a series of reviews of the latest research into the health of the world's forests, scientists find they are far from being in the best shape for coping with climate change over this century. And this could affect how well trees absorb and store carbon in the future, they say.

Forest distribution

The world's forests generally fall into three categories, according to where they're found. You have the warm, humid conditions of tropical forests around the equator, the mild conditions enjoyed by temperate forests in the mid-latitudes, and the freezing cold of boreal forests in the North.

Forest -distribution

Global forest distribution. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation.

Today's special issue tackles each type in turn. We'll start with tropical forests, home to half of the world's species of plants and animals.

Human impacts such as logging and clearance for farmland and mining have left less than a quarter of tropical forests intact, say the authors of  one of the special issue papers. The remaining three-quarters are either fragmented or otherwise degraded.

The grey shaded areas in the map below show where forest has been cleared since the 1700s, and the red areas show recent hotspots for deforestation. But through the coming century, the threat of forest clearance will be "increasingly combined with the impacts of rapid climatic changes," the researchers say.

Disturbed -forests

Map of current and historical year-round ("evergreen") and seasonal tropical forest extent. Source: Lewis et al. (  2015)

Tropical

Climate change will have competing impacts on forests, lead author Dr Simon Lewis, from  University College London and the University of Leeds, tells Carbon Brief:

"One the one hand more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good for tree growth, increasing carbon stocks. On the other higher air temperatures and drought events tend to reduce tree growth, decreasing carbon stocks."

 

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Daily Briefing | China’s carbon dioxide emissions may have been overstated by more than 10%

  • 20 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Rows of Chinese lanterns

Chinese lanterns | Shutterstock

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Study: China's carbon emissions substantially overestimated 
A new paper finds China's emissions in 2013 were as much as 14% lower than previously thought, because of faulty assumptions on coal quality and energy use. It says China released 10.6 billion tonnes less carbon dioxide (CO2) during 2000 to 2013, equivalent to three years of EU emissions. Carbon Brief considers the implications for climate policy and science.      Carbon Brief 

10 years on from Hurricane Katrina: What lessons have we learned? 
Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked destruction on the southern US 10 years ago this month, went on to become a focus for arguments about the link between climate change and (individual) extreme weather events. Carbon Brief has spoken to some scientists in the field to find out what has and hasn't been learned since 2005.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

China's Carbon Dioxide Emissions May Have Been Overstated by More Than 10% 
Inaccurate assumptions about China's coal burning mean China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may have been overstated, says the New York Times. That doesn't mean current CO2 levels in the atmosphere are lower, it says. Instead, China's share of responsibility may be reduced, though it's still the largest emitter. The Guardian quotes co-author Dabo Guan saying the results don't mean China should do less to tackle emissions. "The findings came as a surprise", one of the researchers tells  Nature News The FT says the results are built on a national survey of about 5,000 coal mines, used to show Chinese coal is of poorer quality than that used in the west, emitting more air pollution but up to 50% less CO2 per tonne. Chinese government researchers questioned if this data was representative of coal quality in other years,Reuters reports. The BBCIndependentBloombergClimate CentralBusiness GreenGreenpeace EnergyDesk and Carbon Pulse all have the story. Carbon Brief looked at the implications for climate policy and science.     New York Times 

EU debate on green energy targets pitches UK against Germany 
The UK and Germany disagree on how to translate an EU renewable energy target for the next decade into national action, Reuters reports. Germany wants there to be strong a compliance mechanism with consequences if national efforts fail to add up to the EU goal. The UK, with the Czech Republic, is urging a "light-touch and non-legislative" approach.    Reuters 

Climate philanthropist George Soros invests millions in coal 
George Soros, who once described coal as "lethal" to the climate, has invested $2m in struggling coal firms Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the Guardian reports. The investments are small relative to his wealth, it adds. RTCC says financial results from commodities giant Glencore show "more pain for the coal sector". It reports comments that a moratorium on new mines would help existing coal firms. Reuters says Glencore expects Chinese coal imports to fall sharply, with the drop offset by falling Indonesian production. The Guardian says the Wellcome Trust has "lost millions" due to the falling share price of its fossil fuel investments, including coal.     The Guardian 

National climate pledges made so far falling short -study 
Climate pledges received so far fall short of the reductions needed to avoid more than 2C of warming, according to a study from the Grantham Research Institute. The 'bottom-up' approach of nationally-determined pledges is failing to deliver, it says. Business Green also has the story. Carbon Brief is tracking climate pledges as they come in.     Carbon Pulse 

India 'central to Paris success' say small island states 
Some 14 of the world's most climate vulnerable nations will call on India to back ambitious emissions targets this week, says RTCC. The states' leaders say India is central to success in Paris and is "well poised for strong and visible leadership on climate". A heated debate over India's forthcoming climate pledge appears to be taking place at cabinet level, RTCC adds.     RTCC

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Study: China's carbon emissions substantially overestimated

  • 19 Aug 2015, 18:00
  • Simon Evans

Coal plant | Shutterstock

China, the world's largest emitter, has had its contribution to global warming radically downsized.

A new paper finds China's emissions in 2013 were as much as 14% lower than previously thought, because of faulty assumptions on coal quality and energy use. It says China released 10.6 billion tonnes less carbon dioxide (CO2) during 2000 to 2013, equivalent to three years of EU emissions.

Despite the huge numbers involved, however, today's findings could have greater significance for scientists than for policymakers. Carbon Brief has the details.

Data adjustments

CO2 emissions are rarely measured directly at source, as there are so many cars, factories and power plants contributing. Instead, scientists estimate emissions from the amount of fuel that is burnt and the amount of carbon contained in each tonne of coal, oil or gas.

The problem is that energy use data is hard to collect and is sometimes revised, while the carbon content of a tonne of fuel can vary widely. Today's research addresses these problems for China, where statistics are notoriously unreliable, and where fuel quality is relatively untested.

It finds that China used 17% more coal, 2% more oil and 3% more gas in 2013 than reported by China's national government. During the period from 2000 to 2012, energy use was 10% higher.

The researchers' figures are more accurate, they say, citing among other reasons the risk that official statistics may have been subjected to "'adjustment' for political or other purposes".

China uses almost a quarter of the world's energy and burns more than half of the world's coal, so this update is significant in its own right. More important for the climate, however, is emissions.

Here, the researchers also make large adjustments. Using samples from thousands of mines, they conclude that Chinese coal is of much lower quality and has lower carbon content than in other countries. One reasons is that it is 27% ash on average, compared to 14% in the US.

What is the net effect of China burning more tonnes of more coal, oil and gas but each tonne containing less carbon? The paper concludes:

"Results suggest that Chinese CO2 emissions have been substantially overestimated in recent years."

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10 years on from Hurricane Katrina: What have we learned?

  • 19 Aug 2015, 17:30
  • Roz Pidcock
Hurricane Katrina from the NASA GOES Satellite

Hurricane Katrina | NASA

Shortly after 10am on 29th August 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through the city of New Orleans, a vibrant port in the US state of Louisiana. Extreme winds and heavy flooding cost more than 1,800 people their lives and caused an estimated $108bn in damages.

As images of the destruction beamed across the world, the  media began asking questions about how far the scenes were a  product of our  own actions. The  New York Times said:

'With one American city swamped by one great hurricane and then by another one only a month later … it is no surprise that debate has flared over the role of global warming."

Or as the BBC's Richard Black put it:

"Hurricanes and global warming - a link? Here's a recipe for an explosive news cocktail."

As well as kickstarting an energetic media and public  interest in extreme weather and climate change, Katrina also put pressure on the science community to provide answers.

Carbon Brief spoke to some scientists working in the field about what has and hasn't been learned in the ten years since Hurricane Katrina made its destructive mark on Louisiana.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 17.10.28

New York Times, Aug 30th  2005

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Paris 2015: Tracking country climate pledges

  • 19 Aug 2015, 10:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Updated 19 August with the Dominican Republic'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:

Dominican -Republic

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

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Daily Briefing | Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use

  • 19 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Photo of tropical rainforest in Borneo being destroyed to make way for oil palm plantation.

Deforestation in Indonesia | Shutterstock

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Islamic climate declaration calls for fossil fuel phase out 
Islamic scholars from around the world have endorsed a declaration calling on nations to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and switch to 100% renewable energy. Released during a two-day symposium on Islam and climate change in Istanbul, the declaration will be seen as the religion's major contribution ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December. Carbon Brief summarises the key messages of the declaration.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use 
Islamic environmental and religious leaders have called on rich countries and oil producing nations to end fossil fuel use by 2050, in an Islamic Climate Declaration released yesterday. Drawing on Islamic texts, it says that the world's 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change, and urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, "or preferably 1.5 degrees." Like the Papal encyclical last month, the Declaration calls on the rich countries to recognise their "moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth's non-renewable resources". Unlike Roman Catholicism, Islam is a highly decentralised religion, yet the declaration was endorsed by prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, including the grand mufti's of Lebanon and Uganda, at a symposium in Istanbul, the Guardian reports. Like the Papal encyclical last month, the Declaration calls on the rich countries to recognise their "moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth's non-renewable resources". The move was praised by global campaigners. RTCC and DeSmogBlog also carried the story.     BBC News 

Coal industry blames carbon taxes as Scottish power plant closes 
Carbon taxes are throttling Britain's coal producers and could cause a power capacity crunch, the coal industry has said, following the announcement of the closure of Scotland's largest power station, coal-fired Longannet, which will close on the 31st of March. Coal production is set to fall from 10m tonnes last year to about 8m this year. Prospect, the union representing Longannet technical staff, described the closure as a "body blow" to the country's hopes of being self-sufficient. Elsewhere, the move was welcomed by green groups like WWF as further evidence of coal's declining importance to the UK's energy mix and the effectiveness of carbon pricing policies.      Financial Times 

Fracking in the pipeline as exploration sites offered to firms 
The Oil and Gas Authority has announced 27 more locations in England where licences to frack for shale oil and gas will be offered, covering around 1,000 sq miles, including areas in the Midlands and the North East. Twelve firms, including Cuadrilla and Ineos, have been given the exclusive right to explore for oil and gas, however, whether exploration can actually go ahead is subject to local planning consent. The announcement comes after Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said last week that planning decisions on fracking would be speeded up. Elsewhere, the Telegraph has mapped where fracking could occur, following the latest announcements.      BBC News 

Green fury after Shell is given go-ahead for Arctic drilling 
Shell has been granted final permission by the US regulatory authorities to begin exploratory drilling for oil and gas beneath the Arctic seabed, prompting environmentalists to accuse President Barack Obama of "double-speak" over his calls to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Activists have warned of catastrophic consequences for the fragile Arctic ecosystem should an accident occur. Tapping resources in the Arctic is extremely difficult and risky, and it could be at least 10 years before any commercial production begins, analysts said. But Shell welcomed the decision by the US government to allow it to proceed and sought to reassure stakeholders that it would operate safely in the pristine Arctic environment.     The Independent 

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Islamic climate declaration calls for fossil fuel phase out

  • 18 Aug 2015, 16:50
  • Sophie Yeo
Mosque in Istanbul against blue sky

Mosque in Istanbul | Zaprittsky

Islamic scholars from around the world have endorsed a declaration calling on nations to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and switch to 100% renewable energy.

The  Islamic Declaration on Climate Change will be seen as the religion's major contribution ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December.

Released during a two-day symposium on Islam and climate change in Istanbul, the declaration lays out why Muslims should be concerned about the planet, and sets out a series of demands to world leaders and the business community.

It is the second major intervention to have emerged from the faith community this year, after Pope Francis released his  encyclical on climate change and the environment in June.

Writing the declaration

The process of drafting the declaration began around six months ago. A team of five Islamic scholars were involved in crafting the initial document.

These were Ibrahim Ozdemir (professor of philosophy and founding president of Gazikent University), Azizan Baharuddin (a professor at the University of Malaya), Othman Llewellyn (environmental planner at the Saudi Wildlife Authority), Fazlun Khalid (founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science) and Fachruddin Mangunjaya (vice chairman of Center for Islamic Studies at the Universitas Nasional in Jakarta).

Abdelmajid Tribak, head of environmental programmes at ISESCO (the Islamic version of UNESCO), helped to convene environment ministers from around the Muslim world.

Other Muslim scholars were then invited to give their input to the draft, which went through around eight or nine incarnations before it was presented to 60 participants at this week's symposium, where it was fine-tuned and finalised during a late-night session in Istanbul, says Khalid.

The message

The declaration calls on four separate groups with a series of demands for tackling climate change.

First, it calls on the policy makers responsible for crafting the UN's climate change agreement this December to come to "an equitable and binding conclusion". Specifically, the deal should set clear targets and establish ways to monitor them, says the declaration.

It calls on well-off nations and oil-producing states to phase out their emissions no later than the middle of the century, turn away from "unethical profit from the environment" and invest in a green economy.

It calls on people and leaders from all nations to commit to 100% renewable energy and a zero emissions strategy as soon as possible, and to recognise that unlimited economic growth is not a viable option. It adds that adaptation should also be prioritised, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.

And finally it calls on the business sector, which it says should take a more active role to reduce their carbon footprint, also commit to 100% renewables and zero emissions, shift investments into renewable energy, adopt more sustainable business models and assist in the divestment from fossil fuels.

It finally issues a call to "all Muslims wherever they may be" - including the media, education, mosques and UN delegations.

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