Return to the home of the blizzard: Chris Turney reflects on his recent scientific mission to Antarctica

  • 16 Jul 2014, 11:00
  • Professor Chris Turney

Although often overlooked in the popular press, the Australian Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson is one of the great heroes of Antarctic science. Raising an equivalent of $25 million from public and private benefactors, Mawson led what was then the largest, most multidisciplinary team to head south.

The Australasian expedition was of a scale never previously attempted: three bases, thirty-one land-based members, seven major sledging journeys and a full oceanographic program. Mawson's venture gave the world its first complete scientific snapshot of a new continent. 

Setting up his main base at Cape Denison - which they soon discovered to be the windiest place in the world - his men explored a vast stretch of eastern Antarctica. The resulting 89 scientific volumes described Antarctica's violent and extreme weather, its flourishing plant and animal life, the ocean's fickleness. A more detailed description of the expedition is available  here. 

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Daily Briefing | Cabinet politics

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

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Texas judge upholds $3 million fracking verdict 
A Texan couple have won a landmark lawsuit against energy company Aruba Petroleum. Lisa and Bob Parr successfully sued the company for $3 million after a judge ruled that they were exposed to gases and industrial chemicals from fracking sites near their home. The ruling is being hailed as a victory for the anti-fracking movement. 

Climate and energy news

Ideas on UN climate deal "converging", says German environment minister 
Countries are finding areas of agreement that should lead to some sort of international deal to curb emissions by the time they meet in Paris in 2015, Germany's environment minister says. She also believes a number of big players including the US, EU and China should be ready to submit emissions reduction pledges by March 2015 at the latest. 

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Mind the gap: the holes in UK climate policy

  • 15 Jul 2014, 11:00
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 raghavvidya

The UK will miss its legally-binding carbon budgets in future without new policies, according to the government's Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The UK's first ever carbon budget running from 2008 to 2012 was met, the CCC says in its latest Progress Report, and there has been good progress on car fuel efficiency, installing more efficient boilers and building wind turbines. But that's about where the good news for government ends.

The first budget was met largely because of the 2008 economic crisis slashing industrial output and ripping a hole in consumers' pockets, the CCC says. Lower output and lower demand reduced the need to burn fossil fuels in power stations, cars and boilers.

Without the impact of the crash and a particularly cold winter in 2010, emissions would have fallen by around 1 per cent per year between 2007 and 2012. To meet the fourth carbon budget in 2027 that rate will need to triple.

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Cabinet reshuffle 2014: Who’s in and out in the key energy and climate positions

  • 15 Jul 2014, 09:42
  • Carbon Brief staff

Prime minister David Cameron is reshuffling his cabinet today. Many of the old guard are reportedly set for the chop as he looks to promote more women and young MPs to the front bench.

We'll be tracking who's in and who's out in the key energy and climate change positions through the day.

IN: Liz Truss - Environment Secretary

Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk and formerly an education minister, has been announced as the  new environment secretary, replacing  Owen Paterson.

Vote-tracking website the Public Whip says Truss has  voted "ambiguously" on climate change. It records her voting for 47.6 per cent of measures to curb emissions and tackle global warming. 

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Daily Briefing | A cabinet reshuffle and UK falls short of emissions targets

  • 15 Jul 2014, 09:40
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Liz Truss 'to be environment secretary' in cabinet reshuffle 

Owen Paterson has lost his role as environment secretary in today's shake-up. One of several leading female politicians set to be promoted, Liz Truss - an MP since 2010 and an education minister for two years - is lined up to take over the role, reports the BBC. Energy minister Greg Barker is also stepping down in today's extensive re-shuffle. BBC News 

Climate and energy news

UK on track to miss carbon targets, climate advisers warn 
The coalition's insulation programmes have failed to put the UK on the right track to meet its commitments on cutting greenhouse gases, a review by the government's climate change advisors has warned. The Committee on Climate Change has warned that with current rates of progress, the UK will only reduce its carbon emissions by 21 to 23 per cent between 2013 and 2025, leaving it nearly a third short of the 31 per cent drop required over the period, reports The IndependentThe Guardian 

Drax wins appeal over biomass conversion contract 
Drax Group has won an appeal against a decision to exclude it from receiving a £1.3bn investment contract to fund the conversion of one of its coal-fired generating units to biomass. The surprise decision by the Department for Energy and Climate Change in April to allow just one of Drax's units to qualify for the contracts for difference mechanism led to shares in Drax falling 13 per cent in a single day and the immediate launch of legal action against DECC. The Financial Times 

Nestlé warns water scarcity 'more urgent' than climate change 
World leaders must make water scarcity a bigger priority than climate change because the problem is far more urgent than global warming, the chairman of one of the world's biggest food companies has warned. The Financial Times 

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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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