Analysis

MPs brand fracking 'incompatible' with UK climate targets

  • 26 Jan 2015, 06:56
  • Simon Evans

Onshore gas rig | Shutterstock

Fracking should be banned because it is incompatible with the UK's climate targets, according to the cross-party House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

The committee's report has been rushed out in advance of a series of parliamentary votes this afternoon on the government's Infrastructure Bill. Ten MPs have tabled an amendment to the bill that would ban fracking "in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached".

This amendment also has cross-party support: it is backed by former Conservative environment secretary Caroline Spelman along with two other Conservatives, five Labour MPs and one each for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

The Labour Party says it will block UK fracking unless the government agrees to a series of environmental conditions set out in a separate amendment to the Infrastructure Bill.

The committee report and parliamentary votes come at a crucial time for the nascent UK shale gas industry. It is hoping to resume exploration activities, which have been on hold since causing earth tremors in 2011.

Last week, Lancashire council's planning department said exploratory fracking at two sites should not go ahead, citing concerns over noise and traffic. The council's planning committee was due to have voted on the plans this week until developer Cuadrilla asked for more time.

Carbon Brief takes you through the EAC's conclusions on fracking and the climate, and assesses the evidence behind its findings.

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Daily Briefing | EU Carbon Plummets as Panel Rejects Market Fix recommendation

  • 23 Jan 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

EU Carbon Plummets as Panel Rejects Market Fix Recommendation 
European Union carbon credits fell by as much as 8 per cent yesterday after the European Parliament's industry committee failed to agree a position on planned reforms, reports Bloomberg. The failure puts the reforms in doubt, says Business Green. But the committee's failure increases the chances of political backing for early reforms seen as crucial by the likes of Germany and the UK, reports Reuters. The Guardian also has an optimistic take on the prospect for ambitious, early reforms following the industry committee vote. RTCC also has the story.     Bloomberg 

Climate and energy news

New Saudi king seen holding line on OPEC policy to keep oil output high 
Saudi Arabia's new king is expected to stick to an OPEC policy of keeping oil output steady, even as the energy markets face some of the biggest shifts in decades, in fight to protect their market share from rival producers. The price of oil has jumped since King Abdullah's death earlier today added to uncertainty in energy markets.       Reuters

Fossil fuel firms accused of renewable lobby takeover to push gas 
Energy firms including Total and EOn have secured a majority position on the board of Europe's wind energy and solar trade associations, the Guardian reports. The firms' presence has seen the renewable trade groups shift away from promoting a 100 per cent renewable energy future, the article says, towards a more pro-gas stance. It adds that the shift may have influenced the outcome of the EU's 2030 targets for climate and energy.      The Guardian 

The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists' charts 
The amount of heat stored in the world's oceans rose to record levels in 2014, Guardian blogger John Abraham reports, pointing to new data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric. There was more heat in the top 2,000 metres of ocean in 2014 than in recorded history, Abraham says, with the figure so much higher than previous years that NOAA had to remake its graphs.      The Guardian 

 

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Factcheck: Scientists hit back at claims global warming projections are "greatly exaggerated"

  • 22 Jan 2015, 17:15
  • Roz Pidcock

The MailOnline today reports on a study claiming scientists' projections of climate change are overstated. Using an alternative "simple" model, there is "little evidence for alarm" about the scale of future warming, say the authors.

Today's news report is picking up on a study published earlier this month in the Chinese journal Science Bulletin, lead-authored by climate skeptic politician Viscount Christopher Monckton. The MailOnline headline reads:  "Is climate change really that dangerous? Predictions are 'very greatly exaggerated', claims study".

But climate scientists have been quick to point out serious flaws with the new research, calling its approach "cherry-picked", "meaningless" and "simply physically implausible".

                          Screenshot 2015-01-22 14.31.05

Source: MailOnline, 22nd January 2015

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Daily Briefing | World Bank chief makes climate action plea at Davos

  • 22 Jan 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

World Economic Forum | Shutterstock

Davos 2015: World Bank chief makes climate action plea 
In a call to make 2015 a year of action on climate change, the president of the World Bank urged the international community to help developing nations cope with a warming planet. Jim Kim told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, "We are seeing the accelerated impact of climate change. Last year was the hottest on record." A video in the Telegraph sees singer Pharell Williams join Al Gore on stage at the conference to announce plans for Live Earth 2015. The event - the largest of its kind - will take place on June 18 across seven continents, including Antarctica, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, the Guardian has a complete guide to the World Economic Forum - who the delegates are, what they are talking about and whether the event produces any tangible benefits for the world and its economy.     The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

UK nuclear ambitions dealt fatal blow by Austrian legal challenge, say Greens 
Plans for a new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK have been dealt a fatal blow by Austria's decision to launch a legal challenge to the EU's approval of a £17.6 billion subsidy deal, according to the Green Party. Austria will appeal the EU's decision last year to approve the subsidy deal between the UK government and EDF for Hinkley Point C.      The Guardian 

Six in 10 UK onshore windfarms rejected, says report 
New analysis by the Fabian Society, a left-leaning thinktank, has found 57 per cent of all onshore projects were rejected in 2014, meaning only 161 mostly smaller ones got the go-ahead. The rejection rate is now double that when the coalition came to power, as onshore wind power has become a major area of political tension, says the Guardian.      The Guardian 

Cuadrilla Lancashire fracking application 'should be refused' 
Fracking should not go ahead at two sites in Lancashire, a Lancashire County Council report said yesterday. The recommendation said energy firm Cuadrilla should be refused permission to explore for shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood due to concerns over noise, which would "unnecessarily and unacceptably" affect neighbouring properties. Cuadrilla chief Francis Egan told the BBC that while the recommendation was a "set-back", the limited issues can be resolved. Councillors are due to make a final decision next week, reports The GuardianThe ExpressThe Telegraph and The Times all have the story.     BBC News 

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DNA: How it's helping scientists understand species’ adaptation to climate change

  • 21 Jan 2015, 17:00
  • Robert McSweeney

DNA molecules | Shutterstock

How species respond to climate change could well determine their chances of survival. A new paper describes how scientists are finding new ways to understand how plants and creatures adapt to climate change - by digging deep into their DNA.

The methods are allowing scientists to measure responses to climate change at a greater scale than ever before, the study's lead author tells Carbon Brief.

DNA sequencing

DNA holds all the genetic information that controls how an organism will develop and function. In humans, it dictates physical traits such as height and  eye colour.

DNA sequencing is the way scientists identify which genes control particular traits in a species. But as organisms may have millions or billions of pieces of DNA, sequencing can be a lengthy process.

The new paper, published in BioScience journal, describes how a technology called 'next-generation DNA sequencing' (NGS) allows scientists to analyse millions of pieces of DNA at the same time. This dramatically reduces how much time and money sequencing takes, the paper says.

Lead author, Prof Jonathon Stillman, uses an analogy of analysing a haystack to describe NGS. Using traditional methods you would need to pick out a few straws and use those to try understand the whole haystack, he says, but with NGS you can look at every straw of hay individually.

Move, adapt or die

So what are scientists doing with all this genetic information?

There are three ways a species can respond to changing conditions: move, adapt or die. While it is relatively easy to measure if a species is dying out, monitoring how it moves or adapts is more difficult. This is because scientists need to be able to study how its DNA or physical characteristics are changing.

Scientists use the data they gather from NGS to see where species migrate and which physical traits they're developing to survive. One  study, for example, uses NGS to track how the habitat of three species of giant clams expanded as sea levels rose after the last ice age. And a  study also published this week shows how polar bears have gradually migrated north in search of more year-round sea ice.

There's more than one way that a species can adapt, the study says, and NGS can help with both.

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How the Met Office forecast a hot 2014 and why it thinks 2015 may be even hotter

  • 21 Jan 2015, 14:30
  • Simon Evans

When the Met Office publishes its 2014 global temperature figure on Monday, a group of scientists will be quietly congratulating themselves for having correctly forecast the outcome.

Just over a year ago in December 2013 the Met Office forecast that 2014's temperature would be 0.57 degrees Celsius above the long-term average, a statistical tie for the warmest year on record. Its forecast looks set to be right on the money, agreeing with actual temperatures to within a few hundredths of a degree.

The Met Office has been predicting global temperatures one year in advance since 1999, and it turns out its scientists are rather good at this.

Carbon Brief spoke to the Met Office's Professor Chris Folland to find out how his team forecast the hot year for 2014 and why they are forecasting that 2015 could be even hotter.

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Lancashire council report recommends refusing fracking plans

  • 21 Jan 2015, 10:35
  • Mat Hope

Onshore gas rig | Shutterstock

Lancashire council today recommended that energy company Cuadrilla's application to explore for shale gas on two sites in the county should be refused. The recommendation is a significant blow to the UK's nascent shale gas industry.

Councillors are due to make a final decision at the end of next week. Carbon Brief takes a look at what the decision could mean for shale gas's prospects in the UK.

The decision

Cuadrilla was hoping to get permissions to frack two sites in Lancashire, Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. A report from Lancashire's planning department today said the council should refuse such permission as the operation would cause "unacceptable" levels of noise and traffic, the  Telegraph reports.

Last week, the Environment Agency gave the Preston New Road site an  environmental permit.

The Preston New Road proposed fracking site. Source: Environment Agency

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Daily Briefing | Poorly located renewable power plants cost Europe $100bn

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

Badly located renewable power plants cost Europe $100 bln-Davos report 
Europe could have saved itself $100 billion by installing solar power panels in sunnier countries and wind turbines in windier places, says a report from the World Economic Forum's 'Future of Electricity' platform. Another $40 billion could have been saved by better cross-border coordination and bigger power cables between countries, the report adds.      Reuters 

Climate and energy news

Environment Agency pension fund tells oil groups to go green 
The Environment Agency's pension fund has urged BP and Royal Dutch Shell to invest in renewable energy and do more to tackle climate change. The government-backed agency's £2.5 billon fund has teamed up with more than 150 other investors, including the Church of England, to file shareholder resolutions urging both oil companies to take more action on global warming. The Guardian also has the story.     Financial Times 

Labour accused of trying to split country over fracking 
Labour has been accused of trying to make fracking easier in the north of England than in the south. MPs are due to vote on changes to trespass laws that allow drilling for shale gas 300 or more metres below properties without householders' permission. Labour wants the limit extended to 1,000 metres, but critics claim it would make fracking all but impossible in areas such as the Weald, in Sussex, where shale reserves are relatively shallow, while allowing drills to be sunk in the deeper reserves in the north.      The Times 

Lancashire planning officials to reveal shale gas fracking recommendations 
Planning officials are expected to reveal their recommendations on Wednesday over whether fracking for shale gas should be given the go-ahead at two sites in Lancashire. The county council is set to publish reports with recommendations regarding planning applications from shale company Cuadrilla to develop two new sites.      Press Association via Guardian 

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Obama’s strong words on climate change in sixth State of the Union address

  • 21 Jan 2015, 08:10
  • Mat Hope

Credit: US Army

President Obama last night delivered his sixth and penultimate  State of the Union address. The speech outlined the major policy proposals the president hopes to implement before he leaves office at the end of 2016.

Unlike some of his previous addresses, Obama this year dedicated a large chunk of his speech to climate change. "No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change", he said.

Carbon Brief takes a look at what Obama had to say, and how the media responded.

Hottest year

Obama began his climate change section by talking about the  recent announcement that 2014 was the hottest year on record. This highlighted the threat the world is facing from climate change, he said.

"2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does - 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

"I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act.

"Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what - I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe."

That means "no challenge - no challenge - poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change", he argued. "The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it", he added.

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Daily Briefing | China cuts energy intensity by 4.8 per cent

  • 20 Jan 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

China cuts energy intensity by 4.8 pct in 2014 
China beat a key energy efficiency target in 2014, cutting its energy intensity by 4.8 percent from a year earlier, the State Council said on Tuesday. The government had aimed for a 3.9 percent cut in energy intensity after a 3.7 percent drop in 2013 in order to meet its target of cutting energy intensity to 16 percent below 2010 levels by 2015.     Reuters 

Climate and energy news

British Gas to cut gas prices by 5% 
British Gas - the UK's biggest domestic energy supplier - is to cut gas prices by 5 per cent on 27 February. The Financial Times says the company has become the second energy company in less than a week to cut the cost of household gas supplies in response to falling wholesale costs, prompting an admission from Labour that cost-of-living pressures were easing in the short term.     BBC News 

Britain needs 14 fewer power stations thanks to energy efficiency gains 
Britain would need 14 extra power stations today if it had not invested in energy efficiency and decentralised generation over the past 30 years, a new report by the Association for Decentralised Energy will claim today.      BusinessGreen 

Food diversity under siege from global warming, U.N. says 
Climate change threatens the genetic diversity of the world's food supply, and saving crops and animals at risk will be crucial for preserving yields and adapting to wild weather patterns, a U.N. policy paper said on Monday.     Reuters 

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