Why scientists need public backing to engineer the climate

  • 19 Aug 2014, 12:35
  • Mat Hope


As global greenhouse emissions rise, scientists want to research the possibility of engineering the climate to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

But the public has so far been wary of such schemes. So the so-called geoengineers are planning to make a declaration they hope will be the first step to getting a "social license" to operate.

The world's most prominent geoengineering researchers are meeting in Berlin this week to discuss the the field's progress. Attendees have been asked to provide feedback on a draft document styled as  the Berlin Declaration, released by  VICE this morning.  

It seeks to clarify geoengineering's governing principles, and quell public concerns. But does it go far enough?

Building blocks

A lot of climate engineering sounds a bit sci-fi - from drawing carbon dioxide out of the oceans by dumping iron filings in the sea, to putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight away from earth. We've gone into much more detail, here.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) takes geoengineering seriously, even if it gets a relatively small amount of attention in its reports. The panel is also eager to  emphasise the technique's risks.

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Daily Briefing | Soloman Islanders relocate to avoid impacts of climate change

  • 19 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Meet The First Pacific Island Town To Relocate Thanks To Climate Change 
A small provincial capital in the Solomon Islands plans to relocate its entire population to a larger nearby island in response to the threat of climate change. The town is moving from Taro Island which is 6.6 feet above sea level, against estimated sea level rise this century of 1 to 3 feet. Think Progress 

Climate and energy news

Globally, Last Month Was The Fourth Hottest July On Record 
July was the fourth hottest on record according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The first seven months of 2014 were also tied as the third-warmest start to the year. 
Think Progress 

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Unpacking Christopher Booker's wind vs coal comparison

  • 18 Aug 2014, 17:30
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Martyn Bull

UK energy policy is "collapsing", says Christopher Booker, just like the cooling towers of closed coal-fired power station Didcot A in Oxfordshire. It's an arresting image, but is it right?

Booker thinks we should be sticking with cheap coal-fired electricity instead of investing in wind power, despite the large carbon emissions and health impacts from coal-generated air pollution.

Wind versus Didcot A

Booker's recurring theme is that wind power is a poor way to generate electricity, when compared to coal.

In order to rubbish it he presents a comparison with coal power. But it's not easy to understand, and more importantly it may obscure more than it reveals about what's actually going on with power generation in the UK.

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Daily Briefing | Australian advisor told to leave climate science to scientists

  • 18 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Australia's chief scientist tells PM's business adviser to stick to economics 
Australian chief scientist Ian Chubb has urged Tony Abbott's business adviser to stick to his own area of expertise rather than delve in climate science. Chubb accused Maurice Newman of "trawling the internet" for papers questioning the overwhelming scientific opinion on global warming after he wrote anerror-strewn article in last week's Australian warning the world was ill-equipped to deal with the political consequences of global cooling. The Daily Mail covered Newman's comments here

Climate and energy news

US government revs up electric car investment 
The US government is handing out $55 million to 31 separate projects designed to improve the performance and reduce the cost of clean vehicles. The new projects are part of an initiative launched by Obama in 2012 to make plug-in electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as petrol-powered vehicles by 2022. 

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‘Hiatus’ in surface warming is upping the odds of UK cold winters, say scientists

  • 17 Aug 2014, 20:20
  • Roz Pidcock

If you follow climate science, you'll be familiar with the so-called surface warming "hiatus". It's the fact that temperatures at earth's surface haven't climbed as much as expected in the last 15 years.

Now a  new paper published in Nature Climate Change says the slowdown in surface warming could be behind a spell of colder than average winters in the UK recently.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 At 20.07.46

UK winters in 2009/10 were two degrees and 1.3 degrees Celsius below the 1971-2010 long term average, respectively. The 2012/13 winter was 0.4 degrees below the 1981-2010 average. Source: Met Office

Cause of the pause

Scientists know greenhouse gases are driving up  global temperature. But data on land and from the surface of the ocean shows  slower than expected warming in the last 15 years or so.

Scientists say periods of slower and faster warming  aren't unusual. Most of  why we're seeing one now is down to natural climate cycles causing the surface of the  Pacific Ocean to cool.

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Fracking in the UK - the Carbon Brief summary

  • 15 Aug 2014, 14:30
  • Simon Evans and Mat Hope

No Dash for Gas

Shale gas is normal gas extracted from shale rock using a technique known as fracking - or hydraulic fracturing.

Protests have sprung up in recent years in opposition to what is sometimes perceived as an unsafe practice. Major studies have been conducted to try and answer such fears. But new research is often met with a mixture of scepticism and spin so has done little to dampen the debate.

Negotiating arguments about fracking from the UK can be tricky. Most of the industry's experience is in the US, where regulatory regimes are very different, and evidence of fracking's environmental impact is often contested.

We try to summarise the key questions about shale gas' impacts and, where possible, draw some conclusions.

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Daily Briefing | Fracking protesters march on Blackpool promenade

  • 15 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Source: Frack Off

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Protesters occupy Cuadrilla's proposed fracking site in Blackpool 
Anti-shale gas protesters have taken over a part of east Blackpool earmarked as a test site by fracking company Cuadrilla. The 300 or so activists, part of the same group that staged a protest in Balcombe last year, say they'll hold a mass march on Blackpool promenade this Sunday to protest against the potential consequences of fracking for air and water pollution. A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said the landowner of the proposed site is commencing legal proceedings to recover possession of his land.
The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Melting glaciers are caused by man-made global warming, study shows 
The Independent reports on new research suggesting human activity is playing an increasing role in melting glaciers. The team of Austrian and Canadian scientists found between 1851 and 2010, human activity was responsible for a quarter of the global loss of glacier mass, but the human contribution rose to 69 per cent in the last 20 years of that period. Associated PressReutersClimate Central and RTCChave more on the story. 
The Independent 

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Daily Briefing | EPA reprimanded for 'managing' scientists' media contact

  • 14 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Credit: Roland Unger

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Science And Journalism Groups Accuse EPA Of Stopping Science Advisers From Talking To Press 
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been criticised for instructing scientists to avoid interacting with journalists directly. All enquiries should be diverted through the EPA's press office and "appropriately managed", an EPA memorandum sent in April said. Scientific and journalistic organisations have criticised the instruction for giving the impression the EPA is prioritising message-management over informing the public. 
Climate Progress 

Climate and energy news

Fracking operations get even closer to drinking water sources than we thought 
Companies often claim that fracking occurs thousands of feet underground, limiting the risk of water contamination. But a new paper suggests fracking may be occurring at much shallower depths. While the research does not show water contamination has occurred as a consequence, fracking is being conducted "scarily close" to drinking water sources, Grist reports. The research also shows fracked wells may be more porous than companies often suggest. 

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Transition énergétique: What France’s energy law learns from Germany and the UK

  • 13 Aug 2014, 11:05
  • Mat Hope

CC 2.0: Hans

France has announced it will undertake  an ambitious energy sector transformation that will see the country cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 per cent by 2030. France joins neighbours Germany and the UK, who both have their own legislation to cut energy sector emissions. If the plans come off, they will leave the EU's three biggest economies with radically different power systems to those they're operating today.

Such transformations aren't technoligically straightforward, and getting the public to back such ambitious schemes hasn't always been easy.

Here's a look at the three countries' respective plans, and the challenges they're likely to face.

Energy transformations

France, Germany and the UK all have ambitious policy programmes to cut energy sector emissions.

The UK has had legally binding emissions reduction goals since 2008, and  passed a law late last year outlining a range of new schemes designed to achieve them. Germany began implementing sweeping reforms to decarbonise its energy sector in 2010, known as the Energiewende France has just followed suit, passing a law last week that was described by France's environment minister, Ségolène Royal, as "the  most advanced legislation in the European Union".

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Daily Briefing | China, India, Brazil and South Africa claim they lead on climate change

  • 13 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Rising economies 'ahead on climate' 
Emerging economies from the BASIC bloc have claimed they are leading the world in efforts to slow climate change. China, India, Brazil and South Africa accuse developed countries of a lack of ambition on carbon cuts. The EU rejects the charge. 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Defective Photovoltaics and Other Flaws Plague China's Push to Build Solar Power 
Solar power in China is failing to generate as much electricity as expected, Scientific American reports, amid concerns about quality control in solar installations. China had nearly 19.5 gigawatts of solar panel capacity installed at the end of 2013. 
Scientific American 

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