Daily Briefing | Fracking challenged in the US

  • 06 Nov 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Clouds farmland | Shutterstock

Split Decision by Voters on Local Fracking Bans 
The small city of Denton, Texas, voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in Tuesday's election after a hard-fought battle between environmentalists and local oil companies in the heart of natural gas country, reports the New York Times. But nationwide, local initiatives to ban or restrict the oil and gas production process lost as many elections as were won, it reports, including a ban that was rejected by landslide in Youngstown Ohio. The Guardian picks up on the story with a piece focussed on Denton's vote to ban fracking. The ban is already facing legal challenge, less than 24 hours after it passed. 
New York Times 

Climate and energy news

GOP Election Rout Delivers Blow to U.S. Leadership Role on Climate Change 
US efforts to tackle climate change have been cast into serious doubt after an election that stacked the deck in Congress in favour of fossil fuel industries, says Inside Climate News. The Republican leadership is opposed to President Obama's climate policies, it says, from the domestic policies aimed at carbon emissions from coal plants to plans for a global climate treaty. 
Inside Climate News 

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What the Republicans’ midterm election victory means for global climate policy

  • 05 Nov 2014, 11:00
  • Mat Hope

US Congress | Shutterstock

The US electorate has spoken. The Republican party yesterday  won a majority in the US Senate, meaning the party controls both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2005.  That's thrown the future of US climate policy into some doubt, as Republican voters and politicians are generally  less concerned about the issue than their Democrat colleagues. 

US commentators have done a good job of rounding up  what the Republican's victory may mean for climate policy state-side. We take a more international perspective, looking at how it affects the world's chances of agreeing a  new global climate deal.

Obama's climate action plan

Last year, President Obama announced his  climate action plan. The centrepiece of the policy is a new regulation requiring power plants to cut emissions 30 per cent by 2030, known as the  clean power plan.

The Republican's Senate leader-elect, Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, describes the policy as "a massive,  big-government boondoggle", and has pledged to try and overturn it. There are a number of ways the Republicans may set about this.

Congress can override the president if the House of Representatives and Senate both pass joint-resolutions - a kind of formal statement - as thinktank the  Centre for American Progress and blog  Climate Progress point out.

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How can climate negotiators avoid Paris 2015 being a rerun of Copenhagen 2009?

  • 05 Nov 2014, 10:25
  • Mat Hope

Climate march | Shutterstock

World leaders have a self-imposed deadline to agree a new global climate deal by the end of 2015.

The last time politicians met under such a spotlight was in Copenhagen in 2009, and the headlines following it were heavy with adjectives like  "failure" "setback" and  "disaster". So the next 13 months are being touted as crucial preparation for next year's crunch talks in Paris.

This week, representatives from business, government and civil society mulled over past mistakes and future obstacles at international affairs thinktank Chatham House's annual climate change conference - a kind of high-level get-together for climate.

Carbon Brief was there, and while the conference was held under the famous Chatham House Rule meaning we can't say who said what, we can give you an idea of what the attendees say needs to be done to get to an agreement in Paris.


Outside the conference,  protesters waved banners complaining about Shell's sponsorship of the event. That was presumably music to the ears of those inside the room, who were talking up the need for more public engagement on climate change in the build up to 2015.

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Daily Briefing | Investors eye opportunities as Republicans take US Senate

  • 05 Nov 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

US Capitol Building | Shutterstock

Investors eye opportunities as Republicans take US Senate 
Reuters reports: "The Republican takeover of the US Senate on Tuesday could lead to new legislative measures that directly effect the energy sector and other slices of the equities market... Investors with a stake in the energy sector ... hope Republican control of the Senate will speed up approval of oil and gas pipelines, reform crude and natural gas export laws, and motivate the Obama administration to include those energy exports in new, or broader, trade agreements."      Reuters 

Climate and energy news

Kerry: U.S., China should set example by agreeing on climate goals 
Reuters reports: "The United States and China, the world's largest carbon emitters, have an opportunity to agree on ambitious targets to reduce climate-warming gas emissions and set the stage for a global deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday." An article on ChinaDialogue  argues that a climate deal between the US and China might prove a useful step to reducing tension between the two countries.      Reuters 

Leaked Transcript Gives Oil Lobbyist Taste of His Own Medicine 
A transcript from a talk given by an oil industry lobbyist records his talking about mounting an "offensive" campaign against environmentalists - "[destroying] their credibility by airing the personal histories of 'every single activist,' diminish their moral authority and use humor to 'minimise or marginalise' them", InsideClimateNews reports.     Inside Climate News 

Extreme weather 'will cost lives and billions of pounds of damage' 
Figures released by the Met Office reveal 2014 has had the warmest and second-wettest January to October on record - with scientists suggesting that 2014 may well turn out to be the warmest year on record, even though natural climate cycles are not in their warmer phase.       The Independent 

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Media round-up: The IPCC synthesis report

  • 04 Nov 2014, 16:54
  • Robert McSweeney & Rosamund Pearce

Rajendra Pachauri on Sky News

On Sunday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its synthesis report, which summarises the findings of three huge assessment reports. It prompted a flurry of media coverage. Here are some selected highlights.

Broadcast media

  • BBC News discusses the "controversial" recommendation that fossil fuels should be phased out by the end of the century - "a huge undertaking". Since every attempt to negotiate a new climate treaty has failed, and with Paris on the horizon, the BBC asks: "has anything really changed?"

  • With the "glacial" pace of the UN negotiating process,  Channel 4 news asks: can we adapt fast enough? Professor Joanna Haigh argues that climate change has not dropped of the agenda, discusses geoengineering versus preventative measures, and the value of the political process.


  • In The IPCC report: why it matters, the BBC debates why another report was needed right now. Scientists believe that political leaders are in the process to agree a new climate deal - and they want to give them the most succinct report for this - "It may be the runt of the litter in size, but in political terms, it could turn out to be a real heavyweight".

  • In Climate change action will cost, the BBC broadcasts Ban Ki-moon's speech at the launch of the report.

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Daily Briefing UN to investigate claims that UK spies infiltrated climate talks

  • 04 Nov 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

UN | Shutterstock

UN to investigate claims that UK spies infiltrated climate talks 
The UN secretary general will launch an investigation into reports that Britain spied on other governments at two successive global climate summits. A 23-page powerpoint presentation delivered to officers in 2011 allegedly details how a GCHQ officer travelled to the UN's climate summits in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010. Concealed within the 38-person British delegation, the officer was reportedly tasked with reporting back on how far other countries were prepared to negotiate.       The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Businesses urged to digest latest IPCC climate science report 
Business leaders have been urged to draw on the latest climate science report by selecting from a "menu" of clean technologies and solutions that will help them cope with a changing climate. IPCC chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri said businesses that take a long term perspective, rather than "just focusing on the profits they generate in the next quarter", would prove more climate resilient.      BusinessGreen 

After 5 reports: Future of UN climate body debated 
Following the release of its fifth assessment report on Sunday, the UN's official climate panel is set to make a decision about whether to embark on a sixth report next year. The IPCC cycle means that some of its findings are already out of date by the time its reports are published, reports AP. Journalist Karl Ritter asks a selection of climate change experts about the value of the panel and its giant reports.     Associated Press 

Republicans seek a chance to govern 
The United States' Republican party say President Barack Obama has not done enough to help the oil and gas industry and will seek to give it an extra boost if it wins a senate majority in this week's midterm elections. The stakes are high - the prospect of a global climate change deal in 2015 could rest on who US voters choose to represent them this week, says  RTCC.      The Financial Times 

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Untangling greenhouse gas emissions highlights the importance of carbon dioxide

  • 03 Nov 2014, 20:38
  • Robert McSweeney

Power Plant Emissions | Shutterstock

Efforts to limit climate change should focus on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide over any other greenhouse gas or air pollutant, a new study finds.


You might find you hear about efforts to cut carbon dioxide more than any other greenhouse gas (GHG). This is because carbon dioxide makes the biggest contribution of any of the gases emitted from human activities.

We emit more carbon dioxide than any other GHG, and once in the atmosphere it can stay there for centuries.

But there is also a group of 'short-lived' gases and pollutants that have an important warming effect. These include methane, ozone, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and black carbon (soot).

A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) recommended that reducing atmospheric concentration of these gases could "slow the rate of near-term climate change", alongside other benefits such as improving air quality and public health.

Now a study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at the long-term impact on global temperatures of reducing short-lived gases. And the results suggest that carbon dioxide should remain central to GHG emission cuts.


Many GHGs and pollutants are emitted from the same sources. Burning coal, for example, releases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and black carbon. Cutting coal use to reduce emissions of one gas would mean a reduction in the others as well.

These overlaps between gases and pollutants are significant. For example, 70 per cent of black carbon emissions are related to energy use, such as burning diesel in cars or biomass for cookstoves.

The study looks at the impact on global temperatures of cutting these short-lived gases with, and without, similar reductions in carbon dioxide.

In a scenario of 'no carbon dioxide mitigation', global temperatures would rise by over five degrees by 2100, but cutting emissions of methane, HFCs and black carbon would reduce this rise by around 0.9°C.

However, when carbon dioxide mitigation was included and global temperatures only rose by just over two degrees, the influence of reducing the other pollutants reduced to around 0.5°C. You can see the difference in the figure below.

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The implications of the US midterm elections for climate change policy: An international perspective

  • 03 Nov 2014, 17:00
  • Mat Hope

US Capitol | Shutterstock

US voters will head to the polls tomorrow to decide which party rules Congress for the next two years. Environmental groups have  spent millions trying to make climate change an electoral issue. Come Wednesday morning, they'll see what those bucks bought.

The US legislature looks like it's heading for a shake up. Polls show the Republican party has a  good chance of winning a majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time in almost a decade. That could have serious ramifications for the country's climate policy.

US commentators have done a good job of rounding up  what that could mean state-side. We take a more international perspective, looking at what it might mean for the world's chances of agreeing a  new global climate deal.


Congress is a perennial thorn in the side of those pressuring the US to take action on climate change. The outcome of this week's election could make the task a whole lot harder.

Unlike the President, who gets elected every four years, Congressional elections take place every two years. This week's election is known as the midterms, as it's held midway through the President's term.

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Carbon Brief’s guide to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report

  • 03 Nov 2014, 09:45
  • Carbon Brief staff

Night earth | Shutterstock

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just completed a major review of global climate research - its fifth assessment report (AR5).

The report is split into three sections. The first two instalments cover the science and impacts of climate change. The third part looks at policies to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC also produces a synthesis report, drawing all the research together.

We've covered each instalment in detail. Here's a catalogue of Carbon Brief's summaries, guides, and analyses of the IPCC's fifth assessment report.

Working group 1: The science

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The IPCC’s untapped resource: the frequently asked questions

  • 03 Nov 2014, 09:41
  • Robert McSweeney

Answers | Shutterstock

This Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its latest Synthesis Report, a non-technical summary of three huge Assessments Reports.

But there is another easily-accessible IPCC resource that has already been published and is often overlooked: the IPCC's Frequently Asked Questions.

So what information does an FAQ written by the world's top climate scientists provide?

Here are some of the questions they cover:

- FAQ 1.1: If understanding of the climate system has increased, why hasn't the range of temperature projections been reduced?

- FAQ 2.1: How do we know the world has warmed?

- FAQ 2.2: Have there been any changes in climate extremes?

- FAQ 3.1: Is the ocean warming?

- FAQ 3.2: Is there evidence for changes in the Earth's water cycle? 

- FAQ 3.3: How does anthropogenic ocean acidification relate to climate change?

- FAQ 4.1: How is sea-ice changing in the Arctic and Antarctic? 

- FAQ 4.2: Are glaciers in mountain regions disappearing?

- FAQ 5.1: Is the Sun a major driver of recent changes in climate? 

- FAQ 5.2: How unusual is the current sea level rate of change?

- FAQ 6.1: Could rapid release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost or ocean warming substantially increase warming? 

- FAQ 6.2: What happens to carbon dioxide after it is emitted into the atmosphere? 

- FAQ 7.1: How do clouds affect climate and climate change?

- FAQ 7.2: How do aerosols affect climate and climate change?

- FAQ 7.3: Could geoengineering counteract climate change and what side effects might occur?

- FAQ 8.1: How important Is water vapour to climate change?

- FAQ 8.2: Do improvements in air quality have an effect on climate change?

- FAQ 9.1: Are climate models getting better, and how would we know? 

- FAQ 10.1: Climate is always changing. How do we determine the causes of observed changes?

- FAQ 10.2: When will human influences on climate become obvious on local scales?- FAQ 11.1: If you cannot predict the weather next month, how can you predict climate for the coming decade?

- FAQ 11.2: How do volcanic eruptions affect climate and our ability to predict climate?

- FAQ 12.1: Why are so many models and scenarios used to project climate change?

- FAQ 12.2: How will the Earth's water cycle change? 

- FAQ 12.3: What would happen to future climate if we stopped emissions today? 

- FAQ 13.1: Why does local sea level change differ from the global average? 

- FAQ 13.2: Will the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contribute to sea level change over the rest of the century?

- FAQ 14.1: How is climate change affecting monsoons?

- FAQ 14.2: How are future projections in regional climate related to projections of global means?

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