Analysis

Daily Briefing | Greenpeace anti-fracking advert banned for claiming support of 'experts'

  • 06 May 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Greenpeace anti-fracking advert banned for claiming support of 'experts' 
A Greenpeace advert opposing fracking has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for claiming experts agreed that the process would not cut energy bills. The national press ad had said: "Fracking threatens our climate, our countryside and our water. Yet experts agree - it won't cut our energy bills." The pro-fracking Labour peer Lord Lipsey brought the complaint, reported the Mail. Greenpeace produced quotes from 22 energy experts, including academics, to support its case that bills will not fall. It also cited comment made by Ed Davey in an interview with Carbon Brief in March that claims by Tories that fracking would massively reduce prices and transform the economy were 'ridiculous'. But, reported the Guardian, the ASA ruled that such views were not "universally accepted" because, in part, David Cameron believed otherwise. The Telegraph also carries the story.        The Independent 

Climate and energy news

Fracking set to lose oil and gas price 'cushion' in 2016 
A study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) of five of the largest pure-play US exploration and production shale oil and gas companies finds that should oil prices fall much lower, many companies may need to restructure their debt or credit. This will be compounded because companies' hedging positions "decline or expire altogether in 2016", CTI says.        BusinessGreen 

China to expand coal ban to suburbs 
China will expand its bans on coal burning to include suburban areas as well as city centers in efforts to tackle air pollution, says the National Energy Administration. Detailing its clean coal action plan 2015-2020, the NEA said it would promote centralised heating and power supply by natural gas and renewables, replacing low quality coal.         Reuters 

EU agrees provisional deal to begin carbon market reforms 
The European Union has agreed a deal to start reforming the EU Emissions Trading System from January 2019. The outline legal text paves the way forward for the so-called Market Stability Reserve, which would take away some of the glut of permits that has depressed prices on the world's biggest carbon market.              Reuters 

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Flawed assumptions blight Telegraph analysis of UK decarbonisation costs

  • 05 May 2015, 16:45
  • Simon Evans

There is a £200 billion "carbon bombshell" lurking at the heart of Labour's election manifesto according to today's Daily Telegraph. Its promise to decarbonise the power sector by 2030 could "wreak havoc with the UK's finances", according to a second article in the same paper.

The stories centre on Labour's manifesto promise to set a decarbonisation target for UK electricity, in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Labour would mandate a reduction from the 450 grammes of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour of electricity generated today, to between 50 and 100 grammes in 2030.

The Telegraph analysis rests on a series of shaky assumptions. More significantly, however, it is flawed because it ignores the cost of the alternatives. Carbon Brief takes you through the details.

Flawed assumptions

The Telegraph says its £200 billion figure for the cost of a decarbonisation target is based on "educated guesses at best". Here are some of the trivially incorrect assumptions it makes.

The Telegraph says wholesale electricity prices will rise from around £40 per megawatt hour today to £55 in 2030. The paper does not explain how it arrived at this figure. DECC's central projection is £73, which would make top-up subsidies for low-carbon energy sources relatively cheaper. National Grid scenarios cover a range of £50 to £100 per megawatt hour in 2030. Future prices are highly uncertain.

Next, the Telegraph assumes that Labour aim for zero-carbon electricity in 2030 because its manifesto talks of "removing carbon" from electricity supplies. However, on a BBC Daily Politics debate on 20 April Caroline Flint, Labour's energy and climate change shadow, said the target would be in line with CCC advice. This would aim for 50-100gCO2 per megawatt hour.

The Telegraph then assumes, without offering any justification, that half of the UK's zero-carbon power in 2030 would be nuclear, up from 19% last year. It estimates the cost as the same as for building a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. The government says new nuclear plants will become cheaper through the 2020s, though nuclear has a poor record on cost.

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Daily Briefing | The Observer's climate change special

  • 05 May 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Arctic sunset | Shutterstock

Observer Tech Monthly climate change special 
The Observer published a 22-page "climate change special" on Sunday, which included a wide range of content. It began with a comment piece by  Lord Stern mulling over the findings of specially commissioned Opinium survey. The special also included an opinion piece by climate scientist  Tamsin Edwards looking at "lukewarmer" climate sceptics and a piece by  Hannah Devlin "exploding" the "big myths" of climate change.         Observer 

Climate and energy news

Elon Musk's energy revolution - a new home battery 
The chief executive of electric car maker Tesla has launched a networked battery harnessing solar power, which he thinks could herald the end of the conventional power-sharing grid, Channel 4 reports. The billionaire entrepeneur revealed the "Powerwall" wall-mounted lithium ion rechargeable storage units, based on the company's car batteries, at an event in California. With residential models sellling for for $3,000-$3,500, the battery is being marketed as a way to use solar power when energy prices are low, for powering the home in the evening and also protecting against power cuts. "Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy," Mr Musk said.  The BBC and  Scientific American also have the story.           Channel 4 

A third of Catholics would go green if Pope Francis makes statement on climate change 
A third of Catholics say they will make their lifestyle greener if Pope Francis makes an official statement on climate change, ahead of a significant publication from the Vatican on the environment, the Independent reports. A poll of 1,049 Catholics in England and Wales found more than seven out 10 (72%) were concerned that the world's poorest people were being hit by climate change and more than three-quarters (76%) said they felt a moral obligation to help them.        The Independent 

Global hopes for renewable energy fading, patents data show 
The number of patents for renewable energy products filed worldwide has fallen by 42% over the last three years, which could suggest that global investment in green energy is stalling. Research from commercial law firm EMW shows that 20,655 green energy patents were filed globally in 2014, for solar power, wind energy, biofuels and waste-generated energy - down from 35,590 in 2012. This could risk governments missing carbon reduction targets, the Guardian writes.          The Guardian 

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Climate change made England's record hot year in 2014 at least 13-times more likely

  • 01 May 2015, 10:30
  • Robert McSweeney

Evening sunset | Shutterstock

Last year was England's hottest year since records began over three and a half centuries ago, the Met Office revealed in January. Now a new study shows that this record-breaking year was at least 13-times more likely because of human-caused climate change.

And as our influence on the climate becomes more evident in the future, we can expect the chances of record hot years to increase further, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Hottest year

Stretching back over three and a half centuries, the Central England Temperature (CET) record is the longest instrumental record in the world. It provides daily and monthly temperatures averaged over a roughly-triangular area between London, Bristol and Lancashire.

With an average temperature of 10.93C, 2014 topped the list as England's hottest year, just edging ahead of the 10.87C recorded in 2006. Since the difference between the two numbers is smaller than the error associated with these types of measurements, scientists can't be absolutely sure that 2014 was the warmest year - but it's the most likely to be.

Cet -record -2014

40 highest-ranked years from warmest to coldest of the Central England Temperature record. Colours show the time period of each year, and height of the bar shows the uncertainty in the measurement. Source: Dr Ed Hawkins of Reading University.  Source: Dr Ed Hawkins of Reading University.

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Daily Briefing | Climate change risk to 'one in six species'

  • 01 May 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Tiger | Shutterstock

Climate change risk to 'one in six species' 
One in six species on the planet could face extinction if nothing is done to tackle climate change, analysis suggests. If carbon emissions continue on their current path, 16% of animals and plants will be lost, according to a review of evidence. These species "will be on the train towards extinction, but we don't know when it will arrive," says the study's author in  The Independent, who ran the story on their front page. While  The Guardian reports that creatures in Australia, New Zealand and South America will be hit much harder than North American and Europe, due to a high number of species not found anywhere else. "We urgently need to adopt strategies that limit further climate change if we are to avoid an acceleration of global extinction," the author tells  The Telegraph.  The Mirror,  The Washington Post,  RTCC,  The New York Times,  Reuters,  Climate Central,  The Conversation, and  Time all have similar coverage.  The Guardian also brings you animal and plants species most at risk in pictures, and you can read Carbon Brief's take on the research  here.        BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Church of England to sell fossil fuel investments 
The Church of England is adopting a new climate change policy and will sell off investments worth £12m in firms where more than 10% of revenue comes from thermal coal or tar sands. The Church said it had a "moral responsibility" to act on environmental issues to protect the poor, who were the most vulnerable to climate change.  The Financial Times describes the move as a "a striking victory for campaigners seeking to make fossil fuels as unpopular as tobacco". The church will remain an investor in BP and Shell to try to influence them to reduce emissions, reports  The Times. Of its £9 billion investment fund, the church has about £101m invested in Shell and £91.9m in BP, says  The Guardian.  Reuters andRTCC also have the story.        BBC News 

England faces major rise in record hot years due to climate change - scientists 
Record-breaking hot years in England have become at least 13 times more likely because of manmade climate change, scientists have discovered. The new study suggests England faces a "significant and substantial increase" of years similar to 2014, which was the warmest in England since records began more than three and a half centuries ago. The researchers say they have "90 per cent confidence" of humans' influence on annual temperatures, reports  The Times. The  BBC and  The Independent also have the story.      The Guardian 

Europe calls for tougher limits on super greenhouse gases 
The European Commission has called for a tougher limits to emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that have a powerful greenhouse effect. The European Union has already introduced its own law to curb HFCs, used in fridges and air conditioners, but is asking industrialised nations to commit to an ambitious reduction schedule beginning in 2019 and ending in 2034. Earlier this week,  Carbon Brief reported on rising HFC emissions.       Reuters 

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Climate change threatens one in six species with extinction, study finds

  • 30 Apr 2015, 19:00
  • Robert McSweeney

American Pika | Shutterstock

The risk of Earth's species becoming extinct will accelerate as global temperatures rise, new research shows.

After reviewing more than one hundred scientific papers, the study finds as many as 16% of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans would be under threat with four degrees of warming.

Climate change could even overtake habitat loss and degradation as the main cause of extinctions, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Extinction risk

The rate at which plants and animals are becoming extinct is now a thousand times higher than before humans inhabited the Earth.

Habitat loss is the principal cause of extinctions, as forests are cleared and urban areas expand. But a new study, published in Science, suggests that climate change could soon become a key threat to species around the world.

A warmer world could have many different impacts on plants and animals, not least by pushing temperatures beyond species' physical tolerance. Shifting seasons can affect breeding patterns, and hot days may mean animals have less energy to search for food.

Changes to rainfall patterns may affect availability of water and freshwater habitats. These changes could conspire to influence how much food a species can access, and what predators and diseases it is exposed to.

The combination of habitat loss and climate change is likely to intensify their individual impacts on different species, Prof Joshua Lawler, who wasn't involved in the study but who is an author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, tells Carbon Brief:

"[H]abitat loss and fragmentation will make it harder for species to move to suitable climates, and climate change will drive human migrations and shifts in the distribution of cultivated lands which will, in turn, reduce habitat for species."

In the new study, Prof Mark Urban from the University of Connecticut aggregates the results of 131 studies on extinction risk to give a global picture of the risks posed by climate change.

Exponential rise

The current target for international climate policy is to limit global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial temperatures. Even with this level of warming, we can expect to lose around 5% of species, the study finds.

But as you can see in the graph below, the predicted extinction percentage increases as global temperatures rise beyond the 2C limit.

Urban (2015) Fig2

Predicted extinction rates from climate change rise with global temperature. Blue bubbles show individual studies, and their size shows how many species the study assessed. Source: Urban (  2015).

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UK must reform climate policies to become global leader, say economists

  • 30 Apr 2015, 17:20
  • Sophie Yeo

Alexander Chaikin | Shutterstock

A steep reduction in UK emissions over the last two decades disguises a number of ineffective government policies, argues a new report from the London School of Economics.

In a briefing on the key environmental policy issues ahead of the 7 May general election, three academics from LSE's Centre for Economic Performance look at the policies that aim to reduce the UK's emissions and examines their successes and failures.

The headline figures suggest an impressive record on tackling climate change in the UK, say authors Ralf MartinJonathan Colmer and  Antoine Dechezleprêtre.

By 2012, the UK's emissions had fallen by 25% on 1990 levels, meaning that it met its international target under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as its legally binding domestic target.

This makes the UK a leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions among major economies, with countries such as the US and Japan still emitting more than they were in 1990.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 At 11.50.09

Greenhouse gas emissions trends for selected countries. Source: UNFCCC and Global Carbon Budget 2014/LSE CEP report

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What the UK public thinks about climate change and energy - in seven charts

  • 30 Apr 2015, 13:15
  • Roz Pidcock

Survey via Shutterstoock

Each year in March, the UK government's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) carries out a  nationwide poll, asking people for their opinions on climate change and how the UK gets its energy. The 2015  results are in.

The poll started in March 2012, so there are only four years of data to compare. But there are some noteworthy things about the way the British public perceives renewable energy, fracking and carbon capture and storage.

Here are seven Carbon Brief charts, highlighting some interesting patterns in DECC's data:

1. Climate change drops down list of top challenges, but concern remains high

The percentage of people ranking climate change as one of the top-three issues facing Britain dropped to 15% in 2015, compared to 22% last year (thick green line below). Five per cent of people put climate change top of the list - above the NHS, unemployment, crime and education, for example - compared to 8% last year (thin green line).Tracker _ChallengesWhy the drop? Other  nationwide polls show a peak in public awareness and concern about climate change in 2014, too. Researchers have  attributed this boost largely to the severe flooding parts of the country experienced in the winter of 2013/2014.

The drop in the proportion of people ranking climate change as a top-three priority in 2015 could signal a return to pre-flooding levels. The figure is now similar to that seen in 2013, which is still a fair bit higher than than when the question was first asked in 2012.

The proportion of people who place energy supply in their top-three concerns shows a similar pattern to climate change, but more pronounced. Levels peak in 2014 with 31% and drop to 20% in 2015 (thick blue line). This year, 3% of people ranked energy supply as the top challenge facing the UK, compared to 8% last year (thin blue line).

Despite differences ranking which issues should take priority over others, public concern about climate change remains high. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) in the March 2015 poll reported feeling very or fairly concerned about climate change, a figure that remains largely unchanged in the last four years.

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Daily Briefing | G20: fossil fuel fears could hammer global financial system

  • 30 Apr 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

G20: fossil fuel fears could hammer global financial system 
The G20 has launched an inquiry into the impact that tougher climate rules could have on investments in the fossil fuel industry. The Financial Stability Board has been instructed to assess the scale of the fall out should two thirds of reserves have to stay in the ground in order to limit warming to below 2C. The Telegraph says that France has led the push, though it has the support of all countries.         The Telegraph 

Climate and energy news

California Governor Orders New Target for Emissions Cuts 
California governor Jerry Brown issued a new target to reduce the state's emissions by 40% on 1990 levels by 2030. His executive order acts as an interim target on the road to reaching an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. An Associated Press Q&A on the new goal suggests that it is "more symbolism than substance", pointing out that he has not spelled out how he will achieve the planned cuts. Reuters and The Guardian also have the story.       The New York Times 

House panel passes bill to delay, weaken EPA climate rule 
Obama's centrepiece climate policy faces a threat from Republicans, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to delay and allow states to opt out of a rule to cut the emissions from coal fired power plants. The panel passed the vote by 28-23, which will now move to the full House of Representatives. The EPA wants to finalise the rule this summer.     The Hill 

Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats failing on climate change, report claims 
A new report from Climate Hawks Vote has ranked Democrats according to their leadership and vocal support for action on climate change. Scoring them between -100 and +100, it found that most fell in the middle range, while some scored negatively. Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse, who is approaching 100 speeches on climate change, came top of the list.       The Guardian 

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Vatican spells out vision for zero-carbon world

  • 29 Apr 2015, 17:30
  • Sophie Yeo

TTstudio | Shutterstock

The Vatican has gathered religious leaders, scientists, politicians and businessmen under one roof to agree that acting on climate change is a "moral and religious imperative for humanity".

This was the essence of a  declaration signed by the attendees of a one-day meeting hosted yesterday by the Holy See. It outlines a vision for the future of the planet, including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems, a shift of investment away from the military and towards sustainable development, and the transfer of money from the rich to the poor.

The meeting was organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences - academic bodies under the auspices of the Pope that seek to combine scientific and spiritual values.

Today, these institutions released their  own report, designed to accompany the declaration and to support a forthcoming encyclical on climate change authored by Pope Francis.

The report is entitled "Climate change and the common good: a statement of the problem and the demand for transformative solutions". It was prepared by a selection of high-profile scientists and economists, including Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute.

After outlining the history of climate change and its expected impacts, the document gives a set of proposals for how to deal with the problem. Unlike the declaration, it did not need to be sanctioned by the politicians and businesspeople in attendance, meaning the authors could afford to be more specific and, arguably, less consensual in their recommendations.

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