Arctic summer sea ice is disappearing fast, but can we rescue it?

  • 14 Jul 2014, 15:30
  • Roz Pidcock

Diminishing Arctic sea ice is perhaps the most iconic consequence of climate change. And there's a good chance we'll lose it in summer before too long if emissions stay high, according to a new paper. But its demise is not a foregone conclusion - with a swift peak and decline in greenhouse gases we could still reverse that trend, the scientists say.

Losing ice

Arctic sea ice cover is declining by about  four per cent per decade. But the seasonal low in summer is shrinking particularly quickly, at more like 11.5 per cent per decade.

At the other end of the planet, Antarctic sea ice is growing - but much slower than it's being lost in the Arctic. We've written more about global sea ice loss  here.

AR5_summer _Arctic _sea _ice _extent

Arctic sea ice summer extent has decreased by between 9.4 to 13.6% per decade. Source: IPCC 5th Assessment Report,  Summary for Policymakers


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Daily Briefing | Can we still stay below 2 degrees as climate change cuts rainfall, damages health?

  • 14 Jul 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Top Story

Analysts: Global climate change deal unlikely to prevent dangerous climate change 
Even if countries deliver a global deal to slash carbon emissions next year, the world is still likely to exceed the two-degree "tipping point" by 2100 that experts fear could lead to catastrophic climate change impacts. That is the stark conclusion of a new paper by analyst firm Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

Climate and energy news

Poll: Voters prefer pro-wind farm MPs 
The Conservative Party's controversial plan to effectively ban the development of new onshore wind farms if it wins the next election could prove to be a "vote-loser", according to a new poll of voters' attitudes towards candidates who oppose wind-farm development. The ComRes poll of over 2,000 adults consistently found that a higher proportion of voters were likely to be put off voting for a candidate or party that opposed onshore wind farm development than were attracted to the policy. 

Analysts: Global climate change deal unlikely to prevent dangerous climate change 
Even if countries deliver a global deal to slash carbon emissions next year, the world is still likely to exceed the two-degree "tipping point" by 2100 that experts fear could lead to catastrophic climate change impacts. That is the stark conclusion of a new paper by analyst firm Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, which examines the impacts of a range of potential scenarios that could emerge from the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris at the end of 2015. 

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Australian carbon tax repeal fails after surprise vote

  • 11 Jul 2014, 14:06
  • Ros Donald

Australia's government has failed to repeal the country's carbon tax. An unlikely alliance of Labor, the Greens, the Palmer United Party and... one member of the Motoring Enthusiast's Party voted down the proposal today. So what happened, and what's next?

Done deal?

It seemed like a sure thing. Key Senate member Clive Palmer had agreed to support the Australian government's plan to repeal Australia's carbon tax, in return for keeping key renewable energy legislation in place.

So convinced was the Spectator Australia that the government would get its way, its cover for tomorrow's edition declares 'Our victory!'.


When a  piece starts: "it looks as if the Senate will repeal the carbon tax; so allow us a little gloating," you'd better be pretty sure it's going to work out the way you call it. But this is perhaps a sign of exactly how unexpected the result was. So what went wrong for opponents of the scheme?

Australia's previous government brought in its carbon tax in 2012. But there were widespread protests against the measure, which the Liberal party - then in opposition - said would cost jobs and raise the cost of living. When the Liberals came into power, they said they'd  repeal  the tax by 1 July this year.

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Daily Briefing | Australian carbon tax dead. Or is it?

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

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Australia carbon tax repeal ambitions thrown into disarray 
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's plan to scrap Australia's tax on carbon emissions has been thrown into disarray after minority party senators combined with the Labor opposition to block the levy's repeal. The legislation to scrap the tax had been widely expected to pass the upper house on Thursday, but was defeated when senators including those from the party of Clive Palmer, who had originally promised to back the repeal of the tax in return for retaining other climate change measures, raised objections. 
Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

Monsoon rains sharply lower than average 
Monsoon rainfall was 41 percent below average for the week ended July 9, the weather office said on its website on Thursday, the fifth straight week of poor rains after a late start to the season. A poor monsoon season cuts exports, stokes food inflation and leads to lower demand for industries ranging from cars to consumer goods, while even a slow start can delay exports of some crops and increase the need for imports. 

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What’s your city doing to protect you from climate change? In six charts

  • 10 Jul 2014, 16:45
  • Roz Pidcock

From London to São Paulo, half the world's population resides in huge urban metropolises. But living in some cities will be worse for your health than others. New research pinpoints more than 200 cities leading the way in tackling climate, protecting citizens and businesses along the way.

Is yours one of them?

Cities under pressure

Cities are hubs of economic and human activity. They house at least 50 per cent of the world's population and produce more than  80 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

But the concentration of people and assets make cities vulnerable when disaster strikes. In its  latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  warned of an increasing risk to cities from climate change, through rising temperatures, increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves, and greater risk of flooding. Coastal cities also have to deal with rising sea level rise.

But cities are taking the initiative in tackling climate change, according to a  new report from the Cities Climate Leadership Group (  C40). It looked at what 207 cities across the world are doing to alleviate climate change's impacts.

Waking up to climate change threats

Cities Report Infographic

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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.


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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