Daily Briefing | Green electricity up, but decarbonisation requires more

  • 01 Aug 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Six charts that show how challenging decarbonising the UK really is 
Despite a surge in renewables and plummeting energy use the UK remains a long way from its long-term climate goals. We've plotted six charts to help explain why, using annual UK energy statistics from the department for energy and climate change (DECC). Simon Evans, Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Who does Russian energy giant Gazprom sell gas to in the UK? 
Russian gas firm Gazprom has claimed a 15 per cent share of the UK's gas market selling to clients including the NHS and Oxford University, according to analysis from Greenpeace EnergyDesk. The firm is Russian but the gas isn't necessarily. Yesterday BBC Radio 4's Today programme heard that less than 5 per cent of UK gas comes from Russia, according to Sam Laidlaw, boss of British Gas owner Centrica. Europe is already receiving a trickle of oil from the Arctic, Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe said in a Q&A with Road to Paris. Damian Kahya and Christine Ottery, EnergyDesk 

India and US pledge "active cooperation" on climate change 
Two of the most important participants in any future global climate deal have promised to work together actively on that goal, reports RTCC. A high-level US delegation is currently visiting India where new prime minister Narendra Modi is said to be "much committed" to the climate change debate. Sophie Yeo, RTCC 

Energy firms to 'double' profit margins, predicts Ofgem 
The row over home energy bills is in the news again following a report from energy regulator Ofgem that predicts firms' profit margins will double over the next year. But Ofgem's figures are inaccurate saysBritish Gas owner Centrica, which has just reported a slump in profits because a warmer winter meant it did not sell as much gas. BBC Business, BBC 

Turning a slate quarry green: 40 years of Centre for Alternative Technology 
Welsh hippies ushered in an era of sustainable living well before the world had woken up to climate change says Roger Harrabin, in a retrospective on the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid Wales. The centre's latest report, Zero Carbon Britain, argues that a zero-emissions UK is possible using current technology. Roger Harrabin, The Guardian 

IMF: Hike fossil fuel taxes and reap benefits now 
Fossil fuels are "widely and substantially underpriced" according to a new study from the International Monetary Fund, reports RTCC. The IMF says national governments should not wait for a global climate deal before they start to address this because the case for action does not rest on climate concern alone. Traffic and air pollution would be cut too, the IMF points out. Megan Darby, RTCC 

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Six charts that show how challenging decarbonising the UK really is

  • 31 Jul 2014, 14:20
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Keith Laverack

Despite a surge in renewables and plummeting energy use the UK remains a long way from the green energy champion it must become if we are to reach our ambitious climate targets, new data from the department for energy and climate change (DECC) shows.

Today DECC published the 2013 version of its annual energy data bible DUKES, the digest of UK energy statistics. It's a veritable gold mine of fascinating stories about who's using the most energy and where it comes from.

We already took a sneak peak at provisional data back in February that showed electricity from wind on the up, but coal and gas still dominating. Now with the help of the final stats, here are six charts that give you the big picture of the UK's progress towards a greener energy future.

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Three White House charts showing why the world needs to take immediate action on climate change

  • 30 Jul 2014, 13:40
  • Mat Hope

CC2.0 Intel Photos

President Obama has taken significant, if limited, steps to try and curb the US's emissions and tackle climate change. A new White House report explains why he appears to be acting with a sense of urgency: "delay is costly".

Yesterday, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers released a  report suggesting a 10 year delay could increase the cost of taking climate action by 40 per cent, as the world would have to take larger steps to curb emissions down the line. Furthermore, each degree of warming could lead to billions of dollars worth of additional damage, it says.

Here's three charts from the report showing why the council says policymakers need to act now.

Additional damage

The more the world warms, the more damaging the  impacts of climate change are likely to be - from more intense weather events, to diminishing crop yields and species migration and extinction. All these things have an economic cost, even if it's sometimes  hard to define.

And the council's study says the costs will rise as the world warms - as the blue bars on this graph show:

Additional Costs Chart

The White House report uses a model by Yale economist Bill Nordhaus to put a number on the potential impact of additional warming.

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Air pollution and climate change could mean 50 per cent more people going hungry by 2050, new study finds

  • 30 Jul 2014, 12:20
  • Roz Pidcock

The combination of rising temperatures and air pollution could substantially damage crop growth in the next 40 years, according to a new paper. And if emissions stay as high as they are now, the number of people who don't get enough food could grow by half by the middle of the century.

Burning question

Feeding the world's rapidly growing population is a serious concern.

Research shows  rising temperatures are likely to lead to lower crop yields. Other work suggests air pollution might reduce the amount of food produced worldwide. But nobody has considered both effects together, say the paper's authors.

The two effects are closely related as warmer temperatures increase the production of ozone in the atmosphere, the paper explains. 

The  new study looks at global yields of the four principle food crops - wheat, rice, corn and soybean - and how they're expected to change by 2050 under different levels of future emissions.

Together, these provide nearly  60 per cent of all the calories consumed by humans worldwide.

Global losses

The maps below show some of the results.

The top panel shows an optimistic scenario in which greenhouse gases stabilise at 630 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. For reference, we're at about 400 ppm now.

The team compared this with what might happen if greenhouse gases continue to rise as rapidly as they are now. That's the bottom panel.

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What does the state aid ruling on UK energy subsidies mean?

  • 30 Jul 2014, 11:25
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Nick Page

Last week two UK energy subsidy schemes got the green light. They are at the heart of government plans to cut energy emissions while minimising consumer bills and keeping the lights on.

But before the UK could press ahead with its plans it needed approval under EU rules designed to prevent government support or 'state aid' that unfairly favours particular industries.

It's all an "immensely complicated business" according to Conservative peer Lord Jenkin who says he's spent many months trying to understand the details of the government's reforms.

We didn't want to do the same - and you probably don't either. So we asked for help from state aid legal expert Erika Szyszczak, barrister at Littleton Chambers and professor of law at the University of Sussex.

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Daily Briefing | Costly delays

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

Credit: BeckyF

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Delay Action on Climate Change by 10 Years and Costs Rocket 40%: Report 
The cost of avoiding dangerous climate change could rise by 40 per cent if action is delayed ten years, a new White House report says. That equates to $150 billion a year, the New York Times reports. The White House's Council of Economic Advisers calls on the government to take action now as a form of "climate insurance". Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the report claims a three degrees jump in temperatures would mean a 0.9 per cent cut to global output. With a rise of three to four degrees, the world would incur additional annual costs of 1.2 per cent of global output, Inside Climate News reports. The study was conducted to help justify President Obama's executive actions to curb emissions and combat climate change, the council's chairman Jason Furlong tells Scientific American. The report is released in advance of two new White House measures to deal with fast-rising methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and buffering food security against future climate change, according to the Guardian

Climate and energy news

Global warming seven miles up: Researchers say rising levels of water vapour high in Earth's atmosphere could intensify the effects of climate change 
Rising levels of water vapour in the atmosphere could worsen the impacts of climate change, new research suggests. It shows that as temperatures rise, the moistening of the atmosphere absorbs more heat and raises the Earth's temperature further, the Daily Mail reports. The study's lead author says the research "is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapour in the upper troposphere." 
Daily Mail 

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Does British belief in climate change really go up and down? A look at 14 polls

  • 29 Jul 2014, 15:30
  • Ros Donald

Newspapers love to cover surveys that show  belief in climate change has  risen or fallen. But how much can polls really tell us about what the UK public believes when it comes to climate change? We surveyed 14 polls to try and understand what's happening. 

We looked at polls by the  Guardian, the Sunday Times, the  Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC),  Carbon Brief ( twice), the  UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) and Ipsos Mori.  

The polls were released between 2009 and 2014, but UKERC's poll includes earlier results from surveys in 2005 2010 and  2012

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Daily Briefing | UK gas and US coal

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

CC2.0 Kimon Berlin

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Britain sets out shale rules with new oil, gas licensing round 
The British government has announced a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration in the UK, in the face of public opposition to the nascent industry. The government promised safeguards for sensitive environments such as national parks, but it is unclear what these will amount to. The FT notes that the progress the shale gas industry has made so far has been limited. The Guardian reports that the new section of government tasked with promoting shale gas has already had £2.5 million of funding. 

Climate and energy news

Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad 
As US coal use falls, America is exporting pollution by shipping cheap coal abroad, reports AP. Fossil fuel exports threaten to undermine President Obama's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, experts tell the news service. In 2012, about nine per cent of worldwide coal exports originated in the US, and the US has the largest recoverable coal reserves in the world. 

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UK Parliament says IPCC report is an "unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised"

  • 29 Jul 2014, 00:01
  • Roz Pidcock

A group of MPs has today released a report examining the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN body tasked with assessing the state of climate change science. The report concludes that the IPCC presents "a clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised."

The report from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) committee completes a nine-month long investigation, during which a number of witnesses were called on to give evidence on the robustness of the IPCC's workings and conclusions.

The inquiry came mid-way through the publication of a series reports on climate change released by the IPCC over the course of a year.

Minutes released with the report show efforts by two climate skeptic MPs - Graham Stringer and Peter Lilley - to change the report to conclude that the work of the IPCC was unsound in various ways. But the committee rejected the changes - finding no cause for concern with the way the IPCC operates or the conclusions it reaches.

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Scientists lambast The Australian for misleading article on deep ocean cooling

  • 28 Jul 2014, 13:50
  • Roz Pidcock

An article in Friday's  The Australian suggested brand new research by two eminent oceanographers casts doubt on scientific understanding of global warming. But the authors of the research have taken the newspaper to task for its coverage of their work.

The research by Carl Wunsch from Harvard University and Patrick Heimbach from MIT found temperatures seem to be falling in parts of the very deep ocean, known as 'the abyss'.

In a piece headline headlined "Puzzle of deep ocean cooling", journalist Graham Lloyd of the Australian interpreted the new research for readers:

"The deep oceans have been cooling for the past two decades and [so] it is not possible to say whether changes in ocean heat adequately explain the "pause" in global warming".

But the authors think Lloyd's article is misleading. In an  letter to the editor in today's edition of the Australian, they say:

"The article by Graham Lloyd will likely leave a mis-impression with many of your readers concerning the substance of our paper."

Wunsch tells us Lloyd's article "cherrypicks" statements from their paper and "misses some key points".

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