Analysis

Daily Briefing | Lancashire fracking debate: 'they are changing the laws to suit themselves'

  • 17 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Beach huts on the Fylde coast

The Fylde coast | Shutterstock

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Explainer: The rise and possible fall of Australia's Carmichael coal mine 
The Carmichael coal mine is a proposed project in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, which could become one of the world's biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. We take a look at the controversial project and how a rare lizard might prove to be an unlikely stumbling block to the mine.      Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Lancashire fracking debate: 'they are changing the laws to suit themselves' 
Patience with the political system appears to be wearing thin as residents near Lancashire's Fylde coast come to terms with the government's unveiling last week of a new fracking fast-track policy. The measures would strip local authorities of the right to decide fracking applications unless they approve them swiftly. To one resident, the government intervention is nothing less than a subversion of democracy: "They are actually changing the laws to suit themselves, to suit the industry and the lobbyists.     The Guardian 

Festival star supports protesters in demand to end BP sponsorship deal 
One of the stars of the Edinburgh International Festival has condemned its organisers for accepting sponsorship from BP. Actor Simon McBurney urged the festival to take responsibility and refuse financial support from companies who were damaging the environment. McBurney was speaking during a demonstration by BP or not BP, who staged a day of "guerilla theatre" at various points around Edinburgh, including within the festival headquarters, reports The National. BP has supported the festival for more than 30 years, but the size of the donations are unknown, it says.      The Times

Oil states burn billions as global axis of power shifts 
Saudi Arabia is burning through its foreign reserves at an unprecedented rate as it struggles to cope with oil prices plummeting to below $50 a barrel last week, and the soaring costs of waging war in both Yemen and Syria. Venezuela and Nigeria face bankruptcy, and there are fears that the collapse in the oil price could trigger a seismic shift in the global balance of power. A separate piece takes a closer look at how the "glut of black gold" is affecting countries worldwide.      The Times 

Fracking: 6,000 square miles of England earmarked for shale exploration 
Households in England are expected to learn within days whether their areas have been earmarked for possible fracking. The government is expected to announce the names of companies who have been awarded exploration licences covering an area roughly 1,000 square miles, with a further 100 further licences spanning an extra 5,000 square miles to be announced in a second batch later this year.    The Telegraph 

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Explainer: The rise and possible fall of Australia's Carmichael coal mine

  • 14 Aug 2015, 17:30
  • Sophie Yeo
A large yellow conveyor belt carrying coal and emptying onto a huge pile.

Coal pile, Australia | Shutterstock

What links yakka skinks, Standard Chartered bank and the president of Kiribati?

They are all some of the recent obstacles to the Carmichael coal mine - a proposed project in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, that could become one of the world's biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions.

The A$16.5 billion coal mine was approved by the Australian government in 2014, and is being developed by Indian company Adani Mining. It is expected to start operating in 2017 and run for 90 years, producing 60 million tonnes of coal a year when operating at full capacity.

Controversy

This would make it Australia's largest coal mine, as well as one of the largest in the world. Its production would be equivalent to around 5% of global coal exports. Burning this amount of coal would  produce 128.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) a year - roughly equivalent to the emissions of Belgium.

The mine is an environmental double whammy. Not only would it increase CO2 emissions, but activists are concerned that it will threaten the Great Barrier Reef.

The coal produced at the Carmichael mine would be exported to India. In 2013, Australia was the second largest coal exporter in the world, after Indonesia. It is slated to  regain the top spot by 2017.

Top -five -coal -exporters -2012

Source:  US Energy Information Administration. Chart by Carbon Brief

Though Australia is the world's second largest coal exporter, it ranks only fifth in terms of total production.

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Daily Briefing | Food production shocks 'will happen more often because of extreme weather'

  • 14 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Bad rice crop

Bad rice crop | Shutterstock

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Explainer: How and why the UK government hopes to fast-track fracking 
UK ministers have announced a series of measures designed to fast-track shale gas planning applications in England. The government says shale gas is a "national priority" and that today's measures will ensure the industry gets up and running without delay. Carbon Brief runs through the changes and explores the government's argument for fracking.        Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Food production shocks 'will happen more often because of extreme weather' 
Climate change and a growing population mean that food "shocks" - where the production of staple crops such as rice, wheat and soybean falls by 5-7% - will triple in just 25 years, according to new research. The report by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience says the odds are currently once-in-a-century but such an event will occur every 30 years or more by 2040, leaving people in developing countries vulnerable to instability and conflict. Global food shortages would expose Britain to greater risk from terrorism, says The Times. Agriculture faces a triple challenge, reports New Scientist: boosting yields to feed a growing global population, reducing its impact on the environment and becoming more resilient to increasingly extreme weather.      The Guardian 

El Niño could break record 
This year's El Niño could be the most powerful on record, US forecasters said yesterday. Already the second strongest for this time of year in more than 60 years, scientists say this year's event could be on a par with the record-breaking 1997-98 El Niño. With a 90% chance of persisting throughout the northern hemisphere winter, the super El Niño means 2015 is very likely to be the warmest year on record, says The New York Times. Dubbed the 'Godzilla El Niño' or 'Bruce Lee El Niño', the weather event looks set to bring record rain to the west coast of the US but is unlikely to assuage the severe drought across California, says The Daily Mail.      The Hill 

Pacific island nation calls for moratorium on new coal mines 
The president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati has written a letter to world leaders, urging them to support a global moratorium on new coal mines in a bid to slow sea level rise. Most of Kiribati's population lives on atolls, some just two metres above sea level, which are already suffering erosion of the coastlines. RTCC has the story.      Reuters 

US states seek to halt Obama's climate plan 
Fifteen US states have launched an effort to halt President Barack Obama's landmark climate policy while they prepare a full-blown legal challenge to have it overturned. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement, "With this rule, the EPA is attempting to transform itself from an environmental regulator to a central planning agency for states' energy economies ... it flies in the face of the powers granted to states under the U.S. Constitution." The Hill has the story.      The Financial Times 

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Daily Briefing | Put fracking on fast track, councils told

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

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Explainer: How and why the UK government hopes to fast-track fracking 
UK ministers have announced a series of measures designed to fast-track shale gas planning applications. The government says shale gas is a "national priority" and today's measures will ensure the industry gets up and running without delay. Carbon Brief runs through the changes and explores the government's argument for fracking.     Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Put fracking on fast track, councils told 
Councils could be stripped of the right to determine fracking applications unless they respond quickly, under new measures to be announced by the government today. If they delay rulings or repeatedly knock back drilling applications that ministers deem reasonable, they will risk the communities secretary stepping in to overrule them, writes the Financial Times. Fracking companies have complained that councils are taking too long to decide on applications and making unreasonable objections. Environmental groups say the move will deny local residents a say, the BBC reports. In contrast, the Scottish government has placed a moratorium on fracking while consultation takes place on environmental concerns, the Times reports, which means that Scotland "could lose out on hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in a shale energy boom". The GuardianReuters, and the Telegraph also carried the story.     The Times 

Global oil supply grows at 'breakneck speed', says IEA 
The global oil glut will persist well into 2016, the world's leading energy body said yesterday, even as the collapse in prices is pushing up demand at the fastest pace in five years. The International Energy Agency said global oil supplies are still growing at "breakneck speed" and outstripped consumption in the second quarter by 3m barrels a day. The IEA says that "while rebalancing has clearly begun", it will take time, Reuters reports. "Global inventories will pile up further," the IEA said, adding that demand will not cut into the surplus until late 2016 at the earliest.      Financial Times 

Rich nations' climate plans fall short of hopes for Paris summit 
Developed nations are on track to cut their greenhouse emissions by almost 30 percent by 2030, Reuters calculations show, falling far short of a halving suggested by a UN panel of scientists as a fair share to limit climate change. "The overall ambition of the developed countries is still not sufficient," said Niklas Hoehne, founding partner of the New Climate Institute that tracks pledges, referring to a UN goal of limiting rising temperatures to 2C.     Reuters 

Humans have already used up 2015's supply of Earth's resources - analysis 
Humans have exhausted a year's supply of natural resources in less than eight months, according to an analysis by the Global Footprint Network (GFN). Earth 'overshoot day' - the day each year when our demands on the planet outstrip its ability to regenerate - comes six days earlier than in 2014. The date is based on a comparison of humanity's demands - in terms of carbon emissions, cropland, fish stocks, and the use of forests for timber - with the planet's ability to regenerate such resources and naturally absorb the carbon emitted.     The Guardian 

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Explainer: How and why the UK government hopes to fast-track fracking

  • 13 Aug 2015, 08:50
  • Simon Evans
Shale Gas Exploration

Shale gas exploration | Geograph

UK ministers have announced a series of measures designed to fast-track shale gas planning applications in England.

The government says shale gas is a "national priority" and that today's measures will ensure the industry gets up and running without delay.

Carbon Brief runs through the changes and explores the government's argument for fracking.

National priority

Since prime minister David Cameron said the country would be going "all out" for shale back in January 2014, no fracking has taken place. More formally known as hydraulic fracturing, it has been on hold since exploratory drilling caused earth tremors near Blackpool in 2011.

Two applications from shale firm Cuadrilla were rejected by Lancashire County Council in June, prompting Cameron to say "these decisions must be made by local authorities under the planning system". This seemed to row back from his previous, more gung-ho approach.

Since then, however, Number 10 has published a short promotional video explaining why it believes the UK needs shale gas. Department of energy and climate change (DECC) secretary of state Amber Rudd has also written an article for the Sunday Times arguing that "our country needs shale gas".

Planning changes

Today's changes are designed to "fast-track" shale gas planning applications in England through a "dedicated planning process". That's so fracking, as a "national priority", isn't "frustrated by slow and confused decision making", according to a joint announcement from Rudd and Greg Clark, secretary of state at the department of communities and local government (DCLG).

So what changes are actually being made?

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Daily Briefing | Australia outlines low end emission cut targets

  • 12 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Loy Yang power plant, Australia

Australian power plant | Shutterstock

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Australia disappoints with weak UN climate pledge 
Australia's climate pledge to the UN -- a 26-28% reduction by 2030, based on 2005 levels -- has met with disappointment on many fronts. Carbon Brief looks at how it compares to other developed country pledges. If Australia meets its target, per capita emissions in 2030 would be 50% above those in the US and double those in the EU.    Carbon Brief

Mapped: The world's top ranked countries for nuclear power 
Yesterday, Japan restarted a reactor for the first time since it shuttered its nuclear sector in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. To mark the occasion, Carbon Brief has mapped the world's top countries for nuclear power, showing Japan's dramatic fall and the rise of its Asian neighbours.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Australia outlines low end emission cut targets 
Canberra's 26-28% emissions reduction pledge for 2030 from a 2005 baseline is "towards the lower end" of developed nation offerings, says the Financial Times. The BBC disputes prime minister Tony Abbott's insistence that the pledge is on par with others. Lord Deben calls the pledge "pathetic" and says it puts Australia among the world's "don't cares", in an interview with The GuardianInsideClimate News says the plan "drew instant derision" while Grist labels it a "joke". A comment from The Australian says Australia is "not in the business of taking the lead". New Scientist says the pledge "defies the 2C target". Unpublished government forecasts show the pledge will hit the coal sector hardest, says The GuardianThe New York TimesThe TelegraphRTCCThe HillClimate Progress and  Business Greenall carry the story.  Carbon Pulse asks carbon market experts for their views on the plan. Meanwhile Reuters reports on the billions being poured into Australia's coal industry. Carbon Brief also covered Australia's climate pledge.     Financial Times 

Japan Restarts Reactor in Test of Nuclear Policy 
Prime minister Shinzo Abe is "seeking to reassure a nervous public", as Japan restarts its nuclear industry, Reuters reports. The Mail and The Financial Times also have the story. The move won't cut carbon in line with a 2C goal, reports Nature NewsThe BBC looks at why Japan is restarting Sendai reactor while Business Green carries opposing reactions. Carbon Brief has charted the fall of Japan as a nuclear power.     Aaron Sheldrick and Issei Kato 

Govt advisor urges full revamp of India's UN climate talks strategy -media 
A major shift in India's climate negotiating tactics is being recommended, according to media reports. They say the country's chief economic advisor wants India to drop its focus on climate finance, stop insisting on a "firewall" between developed and developing nations, put more emphasis on cutting its emissions and work more closely with coal-rich nations.     Carbon Pulse 

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Australia disappoints with weak UN climate pledge

  • 11 Aug 2015, 17:20
  • Sophie Yeo

Drop of Light | Shutterstock

Australia has pledged to reduce its emissions by 26-28% by 2030 based on 2005 levels - the latest in a line of countries to formally submit its contribution to a UN climate deal expected later this year.

The target has been criticised by analysts, politicians and campaigners as too low, putting Australia behind the other countries that have already outlined their future climate targets.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott disagreed. He  said:

"It's better than Japan. It's almost the same as New Zealand. It's a whisker below Canada. It's a little below Europe. It's about the same as the United States. It's vastly better than Korea. Of course, it is unimaginably better than China."

The pledge

Australia has made its pledge relative to a 2005 baseline, and covers all sectors of the economy, including land use emissions.

In its contribution, known in UN jargon as an  "intended nationally determined contribution", or INDC, Australia says that it will implement the upper range of its target (28%) "should circumstances allow".

It also stresses that it "reserves the right to adjust our target" ahead of its finalisation under the global agreement expected to be signed at the end of this year.

Assuming that Australia does meet the 28% end of the target, this is what Australia's emissions trajectory will look like up to 2030.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 At 11.22.11

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Mapped: The world's top countries for nuclear power

  • 11 Aug 2015, 16:00
  • Simon Evans
Japanese nuclear power plant

Japanese nuclear | IAEA Imagebank

Today, Japan restarted a reactor for the first time since it shuttered its nuclear sector in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Sendai number one reactor could be the first of 25 plants to restart operations, though all are facing legal challenges. If Japan succeeds in resuscitating its nuclear industry, it would once again be a leading producer of atomic energy. If it fails, its  climate pledge to the UN will be at risk.

Carbon Brief has mapped the world's top countries for nuclear power, showing Japan's dramatic fall and the rise of its Asian neighbours.

Nuclear share

The amount of electricity generated in nuclear power stations grew steadily through the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, reaching a peak of around 2,800 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2006 (below left). For comparison, that would have nearly powered the entire EU last year.

With most of the world's 391 nuclear reactors built in the 1970s and 1980s, however, older plants have started to close down and the expansion of the sector has stalled. Nuclear's share of global electricity generation has fallen back from a 1996 peak of 18% to just 11% last year (below right).

The average age of the world's nuclear fleet is 28.8 years, according to the latest  World Nuclear Industry Status Report. A third of the reactors in the US are more than 40 years old.

Nuclear TWh - GenerationElectricity generation from nuclear power for selected countries and the rest of the world (left). Nuclear's share of total power generation (right). Source:  BP statistical review of world energy. Charts by Carbon Brief.

Apart from  ageing reactors, there are three other reasons for the decline of nuclear generation after 2005. First, Lithuania's nuclear phase out after 2009. Second,  Germany's decision to start phasing out atomic power in stages (green area, above).

The third and most dramatic reason is the  Fukushima disaster and Japan's shuttering of its entire nuclear fleet (pink area). This has only be partly offset by growth in China (light blue area).

The earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima plant reinforced Germany's resolve on its nuclear phase out. Other countries reacted in different ways, choosing to improve safety systems but retain their nuclear sectors. Today's restart at Sendai comes after investing in the world's toughest safety measures, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Daily Briefing | Australia sets 26-28% emission reduction target by 2030

  • 11 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Uluru, Australia

Uluru, Australia | Shutterstock

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UK butterflies could suffer 'widespread extinction' by 2050, study warns 
Climate change could devastate butterfly populations by the middle of the century, according to a new study. Severe droughts are expected to occur more frequently as temperatures rise, leaving vulnerable butterfly species with little time to recover in between, leading to a collapse in numbers.      Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Australia sets 26-28% emission reduction target by 2030 
Australia will reduce its emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, says Prime Minister Tony Abbott - a target that some politicians and analysts have said leaves Australia trailing behind other developed countries in efforts to cut carbon emissions. The target will be met through the government's Direct Action policy. The Guardian says that Abbott has defended the policy: "It's better than Japan. It's almost the same as New Zealand. It's a whisker below Canada. It's a little below Europe. It's about the same as the United States. It's vastly better than Korea. Of course, it is unimaginably better than China," he said. A separate Guardian article features analysis from economist Warwick McKibbin showing that Australia could meet a higher target with little extra economic pain.     Carbon Pulse 

Could our white butterflies soon be facing extinction? 
Some of Britain's best known butterfly species could face extinction after 2050 due to the impacts of climate change, warns a new study. Even under the most favourable emissions scenarios, six butterfly species studied by a team of scientists have a "low probability of persistence" by the middle of the century as droughts become more persistent. The Guardian has a gallery of the butterflies under threat, and the news was also picked up in the US by the The New York TimesCarbon Brief also covered the study.     The Daily Express 

Pope Francis declares annual Catholic environment day 
Pope Francis, who recently released his encyclical on the environment, has declared 1 September to be an annual "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation". The Pope will address the US congress in September - an event that is previewed today in an an article by the Associated Press, which runs through reactions from US politicians on what they expect from the "political pope".     RTCC 

Standard Chartered quits controversial Carmichael coalmine in Queensland 
Standard Chartered bank has announced that it is pulling out of a controversial coal mining and port expansion project in Australia, throwing its continuation into further doubt. The London-based bank had been advising the Indian company Adani on the £7.8bn project, which is seen as a threat to the Great Barrier Reef. The bank's involvement in the project could have been seen as a threat to its reputation after a number of other lenders said they would steer clear of the project, says the Guardian. A separate Guardian article points out that predictions that India's coal imports could drop to zero by 2021 could be another hurdle for the project.     The Guardian 

Solar activity is NOT linked to global warming: Sunspot theory of climate change is the result of an ancient error in the data 
Scientists have corrected an error in sunspot data, which now suggests that there has been no upward trend in the number of sunspots over the past 300 years. The increase in sunspots since the 17th century has been behind the idea that increased solar activity could be responsible for causing the planet to warm. But the corrections mean that changes in the climate since the pre-industrial era can therefore not be attributed to an increase in solar activity, writes the Daily Mail.     The Daily Mail

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UK butterflies could suffer ‘widespread extinction’ by 2050, study warns

  • 10 Aug 2015, 16:00
  • Robert McSweeney
Speckled wood butterfly

Speckled wood butterfly | Jim Asher

Frequent droughts and habitat loss could push drought-sensitive butterflies in the UK to local extinction by the middle of the century, new research suggests.

Even in a very optimistic scenario, where habitat is improved, the likelihood of these butterflies surviving climate change drops to zero by 2100, if emissions stay very high.

The "alarming" results highlight the need to limit climate change by capping emissions, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Very hungry caterpillars

In the summer of 1995, the UK experienced an exceptionally dry summer, the most arid since records began in 1776. Among the impacts of the hot, dry season, the population of several species of butterfly collapsed, says Dr Tom Oliver, a researcher at the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Heatwaves and droughts affect adult butterflies, says Oliver, but caterpillars are even more sensitive to extreme weather, he explains to Carbon Brief:

"If their host plants dry out under prolonged severe drought then this can cause death or, at the very least, reduce the quality of their food so that they grow very slowly."

Populations of some species of butterfly took several years to recover to normal levels, says Oliver.

With droughts  likely to become more frequent as the climate warms, Oliver set about testing what effect this could have on butterfly numbers. Looking at data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Service (UKBMS), they identified six species that tend to suffer a fall in number after dry years and suffered a major drop after the 1995 drought.

Selection Butterflies

The six species of butterfly considered in the study: a) Cabbage white, b) Small cabbage white, c) Ringlet, d) Green veined white, e) Speckled wood, and f) Large skipper. Source: Oliver et al. (2015)

The results of the study, published in Nature Climate Change, suggest that rising temperatures and fragmented habitats could mean we lose entire species of butterfly by the middle of the century.

Recovery time

With global temperature as it is today, we wouldn't expect another drought as severe as 1995 for more than 200 years. But climate change will drastically cut this return time in the future, the researchers say.

Even if global temperature rise is held at 2C above pre-industrial levels - that's  1.15C above the warming we've already seen to date - we could still expect to see a drought as serious as 1995 every six years. On the other hand, if emissions stay very high, a severe drought could be expected almost every year.

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