Analysis

Daily Briefing | BP says CO2 emissions unsustainable, warns on global warming

  • 18 Feb 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

BP says CO2 emissions unsustainable, warns on global warming 
Oil major BP says carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are unsustainable and calls for a global carbon price to incentivise action, reports the Telegraph. The BP Energy Outlook 2035, published yesterday, sees emissions growing less quickly than it expected last year. Low-carbon energy sources could generate 38 per cent of power by 2035 in the outlook, reports the Financial Times. The Guardian also covers the BP outlookThe Times says the outlook finds UK shale gas production will be of "no great significance". Business Green has a summary of the outlook's findings.      The Telegraph 

Climate and energy news

EU on track for green energy goal but UK, Dutch lagging 
The EU is on track with a target to get one fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) says. That's despite the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg lagging behind, Reuters reports. Coal use would have been 13 per cent higher without renewables, the EEA says.      Reuters 

Biofuel from trash could create green jobs bonanza, says report 
Creating biofuels from waste could generate 36,000 jobs in the UK and save around 37 million tonnes of oil use annually by 2030, according to a report covered by the Guardian. Advanced biofuels from waste could replace 16 per cent of EU road transport fuel, the report says.     The Guardian 

G20 climate pledges likely to determine success of Paris summit 
The success of the UN's planned climate deal will hinge on emission reduction pledges made by major economies between now and October, a senior EU official tells RTCC. Artur Runge Metzger, head of international climate strategy at the European Commission, says Intended Nationally Determined Contributions from major economies including China, should be submitted in the first half of the year.      RTCC 

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New satellite reveals places on Earth most at risk from ocean acidification

  • 17 Feb 2015, 13:15
  • Roz Pidcock

images beamed back from space are helping scientists monitor how vulnerable the world's oceans are to human pressures. As the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, it gets absorbed into the oceans, making them more acidic.

Ocean acidification is a serious but often overlooked concern facing the world's oceans and the ecosystems that depend on them, say the researchers.

The international team of scientists published some of their early findings and images in the journal Environmental Science and Technology today.

Acidifying oceans

quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere dissolves into our seas. This changes the seawater chemistry, making it more acidic. This is known as ocean acidification.

Since the start of the industrial era, the pH of ocean surface water has dropped by 0.1, equivalent to a  26 per cent increase in acidity.

But acidification isn't happening at the same pace everywhere, some places are acidifying faster than others. Observing the earth from space using satellites can help identify which regions on Earth are most at risk from ocean acidification.

Alkalinity From Space

A global map of total ocean alkalinity, an indication of the sea surface's ability to buffer itself against ocean acidification. Credit: Ifremer/ESA/CNES

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Daily Briefing | How razing the rainforest has created a devastating drought in Brazil

  • 17 Feb 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Sao Paolo skyline | Shutterstock

How razing the rainforest has created a devastating drought in Brazil 
Twenty million people in Sao Paolo now face severe rationing due to the disruption of the far-away Amazon's rain-making machine, the Telegraph reports. The giant Cantareira reservoir system, which supplies nine million people, is now only five per cent full, and predicted to run dry in April. Years of maladministration and neglect play some role in this, but population growth and other environmental factors like climate change and deforestation are also to blame. Climate change and local weather patterns are also wreaking havoc in Central America and the US,  The Times reports. RTCC also has the story.      Telegraph 

Climate and energy news

Green Investment Bank launches £100m community renewables push 
Business Secretary Vince Cable announces initial £60m funding drive for community-scale projects, as work gets underway to attract a further £40m from co-investors. The new funding follows similar funding commitments for offshore wind projects, waste-to-energy facilities, and energy efficiency programmes, BusinessGreen reports.      BusinessGreen 

Nasa climate study warns of unprecedented North American drought 
California is in the midst of its worst drought in over 1,200 years, exacerbated by hot weather. A new study at Nasa GISS examines how drought intensity in North America will change in a hotter world, and finds that things will only get worse. Record temperatures have intensified the current California drought by about 36 per cent, the Guardian reports. The research predicts that the Central Plains and Southwest region of the US face "unprecedented" megadroughts later this century, RTCC reports.     The Guardian 

EU launches pilot projects to leverage green energy spending 
European Union climate and energy bosses yesterday launched two projects designed to unleash more than a billion euros of spending to save energy and adapt to climate change. It is hoped the pilot projects will help prove a scheme to turn 21 billion euros of EU and European Investment Bank funds into at least 315 billion euros of investment can work. Governments are meant to endorse the broader plan in June but many analysts are skeptical, saying there has been little detail on how private spending will be catalysed. Energy Live News also has the story.      Reuters 

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How significant is the UK party leaders' joint climate pledge?

  • 16 Feb 2015, 15:10
  • Simon Evans

Over the weekend, the UK's three main political leaders pledged to tackle climate change after the next election, whatever the outcome on 5 May.

The Conservative's David Cameron, Labour's Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg agreed to work towards a legally-binding global climate deal, to agree new UK emissions-cutting goals and to phase out unabated coal-fired power stations.

Carbon Brief assesses the significance of the unusual joint pre-election pledge.

Cross-party pledge

There are three parts to the party leaders' pledge, published on Saturday after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations brokered by NGOs, including Green Alliance, Christian Aid and the Women's Institute.

The leaders agree:

  • To seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below two degrees.

  • To work together, across party lines, to agree carbon budgets, in accordance with the Climate Change Act.

  • To accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low-carbon economy and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation.

The first part of the pledge, on a legally-binding climate deal consistent with limiting warming to two degrees, is in line with official EU policy. So the UK government already supported this aim.

The wording does not specifically refer to the UN climate talks where leaders are supposed to agree a deal in Paris this December. This omission may be to allow for the chance that the Paris talks agree a deal which is not legally binding, or which falls short on the goal of limiting warming to no more than two degrees.

The second part, on UK carbon budgets, is also a restatement of current policy. The Climate Change Act is legally binding and says that carbon budgets must be agreed according to a fixed timetable and the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.

The coal phase out pledge is a new policy for Labour and the Conservatives. However, it reflects current government expectations that unabated coal use for energy would have in any case ceased by around 2030. Unabated coal would be off the electricity grid by 2027 under central projections from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

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Scientists: Climate change is attracting more disease-carrying insects to the UK, but don't panic

  • 16 Feb 2015, 13:55
  • Roz Pidcock

Disease-carrying insects are finding new places to call home, according to new research. A Royal Society  special issue finds that as the climate warms, traditionally tropical insects are spreading to more temperate regions, including the UK and Europe.

The UK could play host to a black and white-striped insect known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito by the middle of the century,  one paper finds.

As The Times reported today:

"Yellow fever and dengue threaten to reach Britain as climate change makes the country more hospitable to a mosquito that carries an arsenal of exotic diseases, a study warns."

But it's important not to overreact, the scientists involved tell Carbon Brief. While new health risks need careful monitoring, a public-health emergency isn't on the cards in the UK.

New, unfamiliar territory

Disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks, respond very quickly to changes in their surroundings.  Dr Paul Parham, expert in health and public policy at the University of Liverpool and  organiser of the special issue, explains:

"The behaviour of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, is known to be very sensitive to   temperature and rainfall, for example, so it seems unquestionable that climate change will affect many, if not all, of these diseases. "

As new habitat becomes suitable and the insects expand their geographical ranges, scientists expect the UK could be exposed to new diseases. Parham tells Carbon Brief:

"Based on the latest modelling studies ... it appears that the UK (and other areas of northern Europe) will become slightly more suitable for one of the key vectors of dengue and chikungunya, possibly by up to around 20 per cent over the next few decades."

F9.large

Habitat suitability for the Asian Tiger mosquito expressed as the increase between 2000-2009 and 2045-2054 (a) North America and (b) Europe. Source: Proestos et al. ( 2015)

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Daily Briefing | UK political leaders in joint pledge on climate change

  • 16 Feb 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

UK political leaders in joint pledge on climate change 
The leaders of the UK's three main political parties have agreed to stick to the UK's goal of slashing carbon emissions, to phase out all coal-fired power plants without carbon-capture equipment, and to work on making a global climate deal to be signed this year legally binding. The FT said it was a "novel agreement, brokered over several months by environmental groups, the Women's Institute and Christian Aid, is an attempt to take climate change out of the political arena". The BBC's Roger Harrabin noted that "environmentalists say the pledge is significant because it quells some of their fears that the Conservatives might adopt a more climate-sceptic line, to mirror UKIP's position". Reuters and the Times also carry the story. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that in Australia, Brian Schmidt, who won the Nobel prize for physics in 2011, has called on Australia's political parties to emulate the political joint pledge in the UK. "We should be inspired by what the three major parties in the UK have done, so soon before an election," he said.      Pilita Clark & Jim Pickard, Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

Can Russia control the weather? Climate researcher says CIA fears hostile nations are triggering floods and droughts 
A leading academic told journalists at a conference in San Jose how he got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding. Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: "Consultants working for the CIA rang and said we'd like to know if someone is controlling the world's climate would we know about it? Of course they were also asking - if we control someone else's climate would they then know about it." The Guardian and the Times also report the story.     Daily Mail 

Climate change could bring dengue and yellow fever to UK, scientists warn 
A research paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B shows that the threat from the Asian tiger mosquito will grow over the next 35 years if temperatures across Europe continue to rise and the population continues to expand. It could bring tropical diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya to the UK. The Times also has the story.     BusinessGreen 

UK carbon market plan would boost emissions price, report says 
The European Union could have a higher, more robust and credible carbon price, if countries agree to adopt a fix to the scheme from 2017, rather than 2021, concludes new analysis jointly published today by 12 research organisations, including the London School of Economics' Grantham Institute and the University of Oxford.      BusinessGreen 

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Briefing: The 15 options for net-zero emissions in the Paris climate text

  • 13 Feb 2015, 15:55
  • Simon Evans

Credit: Leila Mead/IISD

Many of the world's nations want this year's Paris climate talks to aim for net-zero emissions, so that the world becomes climate neutral later this century.

Achieving near-zero emissions in the second half of this century is central to the Paris deal, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said today at the close of UN climate talks in Geneva.

A long-term net-zero goal would provide a new focus for international action, which has so far aimed to limit warming to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. Emissions can be measured and controlled directly, whereas the link between temperatures and dangerous warming is complex.

Yet the concept of a net-zero emissions goal is by no means a done deal. It has been expressed in many ways, including 15 different versions in the latest draft of the Paris climate text, published late last night.

Carbon Brief explains what net-zero means, how it could work and what a target might look like.

Next steps

The next step will be for negotiators to  attempt to "streamline" the current 84-page text, including its 15 net-zero options, when they meet again in June. The 194 parties to the UNFCCC could amend, add to or completely discard the concept of net zero at this stage.

So while net zero could provide a much-needed clear and easy-to-measure framework for international climate action, it's far too early to be sure it will be part of any Paris climate deal.

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Daily Briefing | EDF pushes back Hinkley Point nuclear decision

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

Hinkley Point C | EDF

EDF pushes back Hinkley Point nuclear decision 
Plans to build the first nuclear reactor in a new generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset suffered a setback yesterday as EDF energy deferred an investment decision to later this year. The French energy giant's chief executive said the company was now in "the final phase of negotiations" but that reaching the proposed March deadline is now unlikely, reports the Financial Times. Industry insiders believed EDF has set aside a provisional target of June, says The Guardian. The Telegraph charts the long history of Hinkley point C, from Labour's initial backing of new nuclear in 2006 to lengthy strike price negotiations and the ongoing legal challenge from Austria over state aid. The Telegraph also has ananimation of what Hinkley Point power plant might look like.     BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Scientists warn of 'mega-drought' in western US if climate change ignored 
Mega-droughts lasting 35 years or more could occur more often in the western United States in we fail to curb climate change, according to new research. The scientists' projections suggest we'll see droughts of similar proportion to the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest, but they'll last much longer in the coming century. The risks of such events is increasing with the rising population and greater dependence on water resources, the Telegraph notes. BBC NewsThe GuardianTIME and Reuters all have more on the story.      AFP via The Telegraph 

Report: Axing fossil fuel subsidies could cut global emissions 13 per cent 
Phasing out fossil fuels subsidies could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by between six and 13 per cent by 2050, according to a major new report presented to delegates at the UN climate meeting in Geneva this week. The Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) report notes that almost 30 countries, including Egypt, Indonesia and India, delivered some form of fossil-fuel subsidy reform last year, with low oil prices meaning others are expected to follow suit.     BusinessGreen 

Cheaper oil will not boost global growth, says Moody's 
Lower oil prices will fail to boost global growth in the next two years because of high unemployment, low or negative inflation and resurgent political uncertainty in some countries. Weak demand in EU suggests companies will have to pass on the lower energy costs, limiting the potential for higher profit margins, the report suggests. The ratings agency is keeping its expectations for G20 economies unchanged at just under three per cent each year in 2015 and 2016.     BBC Business 

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Daily Briefing | Shell chief urges industry to speak up in climate debate

  • 12 Feb 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Shell logo | Shutterstock

Shell chief urges industry to speak up in climate debate 
In a speech tonight, Ben van Beurden, Shell's chief executive, is expected to say that big energy companies have not been assertive enough in the global warming debate and some need to take a critical look at themselves. "In the past we thought it was better to keep a low profile on the issue. I understand that tactic but in the end it's not a good tactic," he will say. The Times reports that he will criticise the oil industry for being "aloof" for failing to acknowledge climate change. The Guardian and Reuters also have the story. The Telegraph focuses on another aspect of the speech in which he cautions investors not to expect a quick rebound in the oil price from the current six-year lows. He will also dismiss concerns over the "so called carbon bubble", says the paper.     Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

EDF to decide on UK Hinkley Point investment in 2015 
The French power utility EDF will make an investment decision on its £16 billion project to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point in Somerset this year, it said on Thursday, but added negotiations could take a long time. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that the UK will take "every opportunity to sue or damage Austria" if Vienna does not drop a legal challenge to the construction of the Hinkley reactors, according to a leaked memo.       Reuters 

Slim down climate science reports to boost impact, IPCC told 
The UN's climate science body should slim down its reports to have more impact and curb the mounting workload for authors, according to submissions to the IPCC made by countries such as Germany and Japan ahead of its next meeting later this month.      RTCC 

California moves climate action up a gear 
The US state has unveiled a raft of new policies designed to drive clean tech investment, including legislative push for state funds to divest from coal.     BusinessGreen 

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Reaction: Geoengineering is no substitute for cutting carbon emissions, conclude US researchers

  • 11 Feb 2015, 16:30
  • Robert McSweeney

Above and below clouds | Shutterstock

On Tuesday, the US National Research Council published two new reports on 'climate interventions', or what's more commonly known as 'geoengineering'.

Geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale intervention into the Earth's climate system to try and limit the effects of human-caused global warming, and it can be divided into two main areas Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, sometimes known as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), is one approach. The other is reflecting some sunlight away from the Earth before it can be trapped by greenhouse gases, referred to as 'albedo modification' in the reports, but more commonly known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM).

The new reports are the result of an 18-month study into the potential impacts, benefits and costs of geoengineering. The study produces a set of recommendations, which call for more research and development, but also caution that sunlight-reflecting technologies "should not be deployed at this time".

Geoengineering Summary Table

Overview of general differences between carbon dioxide removal approaches and albedo modification approaches. Source: US National Research Council ( 2015)

While the reports make clear that geoengineering is not a substitute for global action to reduce carbon emissions, it recognises that some action may be necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The reports have prompted a flurry of reaction, particularly in the US. Here are some of the selected highlights.

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