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Who are you calling a skeptic? New survey identifies diverse views on climate change among US Republicans

  • 10 Jul 2014, 15:45
  • Ros Donald

Americans are more than twice as likely to vote for political candidates who support climate change action, according to a new study. 

It's well documented that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support climate action, but the new research identifies a clear split between moderate/liberal Republicans and their more conservative counterparts over the science of climate change and the need to do something about it. 

The  report, by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University, says: 

"In many respects, liberal/moderate Republicans are relatively similar to moderate/conservative  Democrats on the issue of global warming, potentially forming a moderate, middle-ground public on the issue." 

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Daily Briefing | Plausible decarbonisation pathways

  • 10 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Steve Daniels

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Shale 'could meet 41pc of UK's gas needs', says National Grid 
Network operator National Grid has released a new report outlining four "plausible" ways the UK could decarbonise its energy sector. One scenario it modelled - which the Telegraph focuses on - suggests shale gas could meet 41 per cent of the UK's gas demand by 2035. In another scenario, the UK's dependence on energy imports rises to 91 per cent. The Guardian says the report suggests electricity prices could double in the next two decades. In the "Gone Green" scenario, clean technology sectors could see a massive boost, with 5.4 million electric cars on the UK's roads by 2035, a national rollout of LED lighting, and heat pumps deployed in six million homes by 2030, BusinessGreen reports. 
Daily Telegraph 

Climate and energy news

European Commission and Industry Investing $5 Billion in Biomass 
The European Commission is providing 975 million Euros of funding to grow the bioenergy industry. The funds will be bolstered by a 2.7 billion Euro donation from the private sector, provided by companies including Coca-Cola and French fossil fuel company Total. 
Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

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Climate scientists tell us why it’s “utterly, utterly normal” to have a paper rejected

  • 09 Jul 2014, 13:30
  • Roz Pidcock

TimesdissentAn  article in yesterday's Times featured claims that a climate scientist's work was "censored" because it "questioned the accuracy of computer models used to predict global warming".

Rather less excitingly, what actually happened was an "utterly, utterly normal" example of peer review in action, scientists tell us.

The scientist involved agrees that the journal's comments were correct, and his paper was subsequently published - it's available here.

So what's the story?

Accusations of censorship

The Times  article - entitled 'Voices of dissent drowned out by climate change scientists' discusses research German climate scientist Vladimir Semenov submitted to the Journal of Climate in 2009.

Ben Webster, an experienced environment correspondent, suggests parts of Semenov's paper were "deleted" before publication because they represented a "voice of dissent". Webster says:

"The paper suggested that the computer models used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were flawed, resulting in human influence on the climate being exaggerated and the impact of natural variability being underplayed."

Semenov is quoted as suggesting the journal's intervention amounted to "some kind of censorship". Had the paper not been revised, it could have had "profound implications", the Times claims.

 

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Future flood risk: the CCC says under-investment is storing up trouble

  • 09 Jul 2014, 12:30
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 irBri

Increased flooding in future is the biggest climate change risk facing the UK. Floods and storms this winter highlighted the extent of disruption that can be caused.

But the government is still not spending enough to stop flood risks from increasing according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). It has published a progress report on climate adaptation that looks again at flood spending.

"There's still under-investment in the longer term," the CCC's head of adaptation Lord Krebs told journalists before the report was launched. "You're storing up trouble for the future… is the government prepared to allow risks to increase?"

Long term argument

Ever since the coalition came to power and brought in big cuts to government spending there has been debate over investment in flood defences. The CCC weighed in on the debate back in January.

Then in March the government promised an extra £270 million to shore up defences damaged by this winter's storms. The CCC has crunched the numbers and says this money, shown as purple bars below, is a temporary boost that fails to address long term increases in flood risk that are expected due to climate change.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 At 17.43.06

Source: CCC Adaptation Sub-Committee progress report 2014

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Funding boost nudges UK carbon capture and storage industry forwards

  • 09 Jul 2014, 11:25
  • Mat Hope

White Rose

The world uses a lot of fossil fuels - and there's plenty left to burn, if we want to - with all of the world's major economies still relying on coal, oil, and gas to provide most of their power. But the more countries burn, the more difficult it becomes to constrain global warming.

The trouble is, it's difficult to quickly swap a fossil fuel based energy system for one that's low-carbon. It takes considerable time and money to replace coal and gas with nuclear and renewables.

There is a technology that promises to allow continued fossil fuel use while providing emissions cuts, however - carbon capture and storage (CCS). In theory, CCS technology can capture emissions from fossil fuel power plants and lock them underground. That could allow power plants to burn fossil fuels with a fraction of the emissions.

For energy companies and governments wanting to tackle climate change, that's good news. But the bad news is that CCS has so far struggled to get off the ground, and is yet to be proven in a full scale power plant.

After nearly a decade of false starts, the UK's CCS industry is slowly getting moving. Earlier this year, the government allocated  £100 million to two new demonstration projects. Today, the European Union awarded one of those projects  €300 million for its next phase of development. After a long series of disappointments, the industry is hoping all the pieces are in place to make CCS a success.

Potential

It's increasingly likely that the world will need carbon capture and storage in a big way if it's going to reduce emissions quickly.

Research by thinktank Carbon Tracker suggests countries have already used about two-thirds of the fossil fuel allowance that will give a good chance of preventing more than two degrees of global temperature rise. That leaves a lot more coal, gas and oil in the ground than Carbon Tracker says can be burned.

 

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What the fossil fuel industry thinks of the 'carbon bubble'

  • 09 Jul 2014, 10:40
  • Mat Hope

Carbon Tracker

What does the fossil fuel industry make of the argument that it won't be allowed to burn its main product?

In 2011, campaign group Carbon Tracker warned that large portions of fossil fuel companies' assets are "unburnable" if the world intends to limit global warming to no more than two degrees.

If energy companies can't burn their reserves, they're overvalued, the group argues, in an analysis aimed squarely at the world's financial markets.

In the intervening years, the argument has gained some traction, including in key financial industry publications like the  Financial Times and  The Economist. But what do the fossil fuel companies themselves think?

While we weren't particularly optimistic that they'd want to talk about it, we asked oil, gas and coal companies for their take on the carbon bubble research. Many didn't respond. But some of the bigger companies did, acknowledging that while strong climate action could affect their activities, none of them considered it a threat to their business this century.

Responses

We contacted  76 oil, gas and coal companies, drawn from the main trade groups. Seven companies provided substantial responses. 58 companies didn't respond. We got no response from the coal industry.

Of the substantial responses, six came from major oil companies on the Fortune 500 list of the world's largest businesses, and followed a similar formula.

BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, and MOL all acknowledged climate change was real, and that climate policy posed a risk to their businesses - to an extent. They agreed that regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions should become more stringent over time, and probably will.

But none of the companies we asked saw climate action as a threat to their business in the coming decades - or if they did, they weren't prepared to share that assessment with us.

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Daily Briefing | Is coal winning?

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

CC2.0 Kimon Berlin

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Environment Secretary turned down offer of a briefing on climate change from the Met Office 
Owen Paterson refused a briefing from Met Office chief Dame Julia Slingo before the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was published, the Independent reports. 
The Independent 

Climate and energy news

If It's a War on Coal, Coal Is Winning 
Emissions from the US power sector are not projected to fall much by 2040, Bloomberg reports, in a pessimistic look at the likely success of President Obama's 'clean power plan'. Reuters market analyst John Kemp says coal is here to stay, and takes a look at the options for cleaning up its act. 
Bloomberg 

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Gatwick, Dawlish and the consequences of failing to adapt to climate change

  • 09 Jul 2014, 00:01
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Number 10

When things go wrong with our critical infrastructure, it makes national news. Cornwall was cut off from the rail network when the line collapsed into the sea at Dawlish during last winter's storms. And Gatwick airport closed on Christmas Eve when an electricity sub-station was flooded.

We all rely on things like drinking water treatment works, broadband connections, trunk roads, rail lines, power stations, airports and the electricity network to go about our daily lives.

So we should all be worried that efforts to make this infrastructure more resilient to flooding, drought or coastal erosion are patchy. That's according to a new report from the government's Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

It says the task is getting harder too, as climate change raises sea levels and changes rainfall patterns, although uncertainty about the UK's future climate makes it hard to know exactly how much.

The CCC says the number of the most important national infrastructure assets at high risk of flooding, for instance, will increase by at least 50 per cent by the 2050s because of climate change. Other climate risks are also expected to increase.

We've taken a look at the risks our infrastructure faces and efforts to boost resilience in different sectors.

Risks, multiplied

Climate change has already increased some risks compared to historical norms. Sea levels rose by 16 centimetres during the 20th century making tidal flooding and coastal erosion more likely. And the chance of very wet winters in southern England has increased by 25 per cent because of already-emitted carbon, according to preliminary results from the University of Oxford.

That means a substantial proportion of England's critical infrastructure is facing some level of flood risk today, as the chart below shows. The number of assets at risk is shown in blue. Those numbers are broken down into different levels of flood risk in shades of red and orange.

Risk Today

Source: CCC Adaptation Sub-Committee progress report 2014

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The verdict on smart meter privacy, security and health concerns as UK smart meter rollout begins

  • 08 Jul 2014, 10:00
  • Ros Donald

Adapted from a blog originally posted in June 2012

Will the UK government's planned rollout of smart meters leave homes vulnerable to marketing companies desperate for us to overshare information about our most personal habits? Will an information grid linked to energy delivery systems be open to hackers, leaving whole districts vulnerable to disruption? Will smart meters really create a "spy in every home", as the Daily Mail has reported? We take a look at the risks.

Smart meters give people detailed information about how much energy they use and when. The theory is that this can help reduce bills, and level out peak-time stresses on the grid. As such, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is promoting smart meters as a tool for helping the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and plans to ensure one is installed in every home starting this week.

Privacy: will my smart meter be able to track what I do at home?

The short answer is yes - as long as you're using electricity. Energy meters show which appliances use the most electricity so that you can plan energy use effectively. Because of the different ways that appliances use electricity, such data could, for example, reveal whether you use medical devices or baby monitors, or even show the TV programme you're watching. And obviously, it can give information on when you're in or out, or track when you toilet light goes on. So, technically, it might know when you are on the loo.

The Mail reported that this information will be "will be collected every 30 minutes and beamed from a box in the home to the central databases." Some groups are worried about this. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), which tracks privacy issues in Europe, produced a report last week warning that smart meter rollout will " enable massive collection of personal data which can track what members of a household do". EDPS is concerned that patterns and profiles could be mined for marketing and advertising, or price discrimination, and is asking the European Commission to consider legislating to protect consumers.

It does sound pretty alarming. However, the government appears to have taken some of these worries to heart already, outlining plans in April designed to ensure consumers have control over how much data they share with suppliers and third parties. 

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Daily Briefing | Canada's permafrost problem

  • 08 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Canada Struggles with Melting Permafrost as Climate Warms 
A new report from Natural Resources Canada examines the effect climate change is having on the country. Melting permafrost threatens infrastructure in the far north of the country, damages from extreme weather are rising, and new pests threaten Canada's forests. The report also suggests that climate change may bring some benefits to the fishing industry as temperatures rise. 
Scientific American 

Climate and energy news

Voices of dissent drowned out by climate change scientists 
The Times runs another story based on complaints made by a climate scientist about comments made by peer reviewers of their work. Vladimir Semenov claims that his work was subjected to "a kind of censorship". The Times suggests that the work "could [have meant] that ... the risk of catastrophic global warming has been overstated." The Times story follows, and references, an earlier piece about Professor Lennard Bengtsson, who complained his work had been subjected to unfair peer review processes - a claim that got a largely unimpressed reception from the scientific community. 
The Times 

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