Analysis

Rising temperatures will delay disease reduction in China, study shows

  • 02 Nov 2014, 18:01
  • Robert McSweeney

Child washing hands | Shutterstock

Efforts to reduce water-related diseases in China will be hampered by climate change, a new study finds.

Despite continued improvement in access to clean water and sanitation across China, rising temperatures could set back progress in reducing infectious diseases by as much as seven years by 2030.

Warmer temperatures

According to the UN, China has made significant progress on reducing water-related diseases in recent years. It has already met its Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

Recent decades have seen a huge drop in cases of water-related diseases in the country. Between 1990 and 2010 deaths from diarrheal diseases fell by 94 per cent. Malaria and Japanese encephalitis, both spread by mosquitoes that breed in water, fell by over 60 per cent and over 80 per cent, respectively .

However, a study published in Nature Climate Change suggests further progress on water-related diseases will be stunted by climate change.

Read more

10 charts illustrating the IPCC's report, from rising emissions to transforming the energy sector

  • 02 Nov 2014, 12:00
  • Mat Hope

Tractor and crops - Shutterstock

Scientists today completed the world's most comprehensive review of research into the science, causes, and impacts of climate change. It's over 5,000 pages long, cites more than 31,000 pieces of research and has taken seven years to complete.

Here's 10 charts that illustrate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report, from rising carbon dioxide emissions to transforming the energy sector.

What's going on?

The first part of the IPCC's report looks at how human activities affect the climate. It says scientists are more sure than ever - 95 per cent certain - that humans are causing extra warming.

1. Emissions are increasing

Since pre-industrial times, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 40 per cent, as this graph shows:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 15.03.12.png

The biggest cause of the increase? Burning fossil fuels. Land use changes, such as turning forest into farmland, are the second biggest cause.

2: It's getting warmer

What are the consequences of such as increase? Rising temperatures, for a start.

This graph shows how temperatures have changed since 1950, and how they're expected to rise in the future:

The earth's surface warmed by approximately 0.85 degrees between 1880 and 2012.  Surface temperatures fluctuate substantially, and warming has occurred more slowly in some decades than others. But the IPCC's data confirms a long-term warming trend.

If the world cuts emissions aggressively, temperatures may rise by only around one degree by the end of the century (the blue chunk of the graph above). But the IPCC says the world is likely to be 3.7 degrees warmer by 2100 if emissions continue to increase at the current rate (the red chunk).

Read more

Briefing: What's new and interesting in the IPCC synthesis report

  • 02 Nov 2014, 10:00
  • Roz Pidcock

Clouds farmland | Shutterstock

The world has received the clearest message yet on how humans are changing the climate. Delegates from 195 countries gathered in Copenhagen this week to add their seal of approval to a 100-page "synthesis report". It's the final instalment in a four-part series from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The synthesis report condenses the IPCC's three other major reports on different aspects of climate change into one concise document. While that means some parts of it may sound familiar, there are some new and different sections as well. Here's our assessment of what's new, as well as a look at the report's main conclusions.

Warming continues unabated

Evidence that the climate is warming is unequivocal, the IPCC says. Each of the last three decades has been warmer than any previous one since 1850, and the world has warmed by about 0.85 degrees since then.

Today's report explains how the rate of surface warming varies from decade to decade, noting that warming since 1998 has been a third to half of the average since the 1950s. But, it adds:

"Even with this reduction in surface warming trend, the climate system has very likely continued to accumulate heat since 1998".

Read more

The IPCC synthesis report: A summary for everyone

  • 02 Nov 2014, 10:00
  • Roz Pidcock

Daniel Julie

Today marks the release of an important document in the climate science world.

At 10 am this morning, the group of experts tasked by the United Nations with assessing the state of the climate released a major report on how and why it is changing, as well as what we can do about it.

Covering everything from declining sea ice to harnessing energy from the wind, the 100-page document has been hailed as an  essential "handbook" on climate change.

It connects the dots between three reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past year, each looking at a different aspect of climate change.

Totting up the risks

Greenhouse gas emissions from humans are the highest in history, the first in the series of reports told us last year. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

As a result the oceans, land and atmosphere are warming, snow and ice cover is melting, our weather is getting more extreme and sea levels are rising.

Read more

Why the IPCC synthesis report is necessary but not sufficient to secure a response to climate change

  • 31 Oct 2014, 13:45
  • Simon Evans

Factory chimneys | Shutterstock

On Sunday 2nd November, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its latest synthesis report, distilling the latest knowledge on what UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has  called the greatest threat ever faced by humanity.

The synthesis report will wrap up the IPCC's fifth assessment (AR5) of climate change. It draws together information from the IPCC's reports on the science of climate change, climate impacts and the  ways climate risks can be addressed.

It takes a mammoth collective effort on the part of scientists, economists and policymakers to produce these IPCC reports. Is it worth it?

We've collected a range of views on the need for, and wider significance of, the IPCC's work. These suggest it remains a necessary but not sufficient part of the job of addressing climate change.

The synthesis report is necessary

Does the world need an IPCC, asks former IPCC chair and former scientific adviser to the UK government Bob Watson. "My answer would be absolutely yes," he says. "I think it's critically important the IPCC does routinely report back on what we know."

The synthesis report collects together scientific opinion on the technical and socio-economic aspects of the causes of climate change, the risks it poses and the options for adaptation and mitigation. It is unique in taking such a wide ranging and considered view of climate.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Russia and Ukraine reach gas deal

  • 31 Oct 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Gas pipe | Shutterstock

Russia and Ukraine reach gas deal 
Russia has agreed a deal with Ukraine to restart the flow of gas to the country. The deal was "a first glimmer of a thaw between the two countries," EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger says. Ukraine agreed to pay $378 per thousand cubic metres until the end of the year, then $365 until March. Russia dropped its demanded price from an original $485, the FT reports.      Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

European Commission Allocating $816 Million for Energy 
The European Commission has allocated €647 million to invest in power projects across the continent. It intends to spend €5.85 billion to support intra-continental power infrastructure through 2020, including an undersea cable connecting Norway's hydropower supplies to Britain.      Justin Doom 

Offshore wind farms may be scrapped due to budget cap, ScottishPower warns 
Scottish Power are scaling back the size of a planned 240 turbine windfarm due to subsidy cuts, its chief corporate officer says. Trade body RenewableUK says it expects five projects to be competing for a pot of money big enough to only fund a single 700-800 megawatt project. Scottish Power says the government's decision to only award about half the anticipated funds is putting the brakes on the industry's development.  Emily Gosden, Telegraph 

Swedish energy company Vattenfall plans sale of German coal operations 
Swedish energy company Vattenfall plans to sell off its huge mining operations in Germany. As Vattenfall's 72 million tonnes annual emissions in Germany are larger than all of Sweden's, that may seem like good news. But Greenpeace says the operations will continue, just operated by another company. That means Vattenfall will be be able to say it has cut emissions without actually doing anything, campaigners warn.     Guardian 

Read more

Seven unexpected graphs about the UK’s energy sector

  • 30 Oct 2014, 12:45
  • Simon Evans & Mat Hope

Pylons and roads | Shutterstock

Sometimes our understanding of what's going on in the world is at odds with the facts - on issues ranging from  teen pregnancies and immigration to levels of voter turnout and the ethnic makeup of the UK.

The energy sector is no different, it seems.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) delivered one of its increasingly common  data dumps this morning.

We've delved through the  pile of stats to bring you seven graphs about energy in the UK that raise some questions about received wisdom in the area.

Energy costs aren't high, historically speaking

The media is fond of pointing out that households are paying more for  energy than they used to. This is true - but the data shows the cost of energy is a long way from being at historic highs.

The cost of electricity, gas and other fuels has been rising since it bottomed-out in 2004. Between 2002 and 2012 energy bills  increased by 55 per cent, after accounting for inflation. But the amount households spend on energy compared to other things is still relatively low. 

In the 1980s, energy bills represented over five per cent of a household's costs. In 2012, it was a little under 4 per cent:


Source:  DECC energy sector indicators 2013

Read more

Daily Briefing | IPCC "will abolish doubt in climate politics" says Danish climate minister

  • 30 Oct 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

IPCC will abolish doubt in climate politics 
The UN's forthcoming climate report will take the doubt out of climate politics, says Denmark's minister of climate and energy. Rasmus Helveg-Petersen said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report, which is being finalised in Copenhagen this week, would build a strong scientific basis for future political decisions.      RTCC 

Climate and energy news

Report highlights 'strong' economic case for national energy efficiency overhaul 
A more ambitious national energy efficiency programme could provide a near £14 billion boost to the UK economy by 2030, according to a report from campaign group Energy Bill Revolution and thinktank E3G. It calls for energy efficiency retrofits in six million low income homes by 2025.      BusinessGreen 

Climate change could create more Boko Haram extremists - study 
Climate change could open the door for extremist groups like Boko Haram to take control of parts of Africa and South Asia, risk analyst firm Maplecroft has warned. In its latest Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas it identifies 32 countries across the two continents where food shortages linked to drought and other natural disasters could "amplify" civil unrest.     RTCC 

Desmond Tutu: Rejoice in opportunities for a cleaner planet 
The opportunities to tackle climate change are cause for "hope and rejoicing", says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He spoke to a service at Copenhagen Cathedral marking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's synthesis report, due out on Sunday. God has provided new ways of generating electricity to replace dirty fossil fuels, he says.     RTCC 

Read more

Daily Briefing | Climate change could spark conflict in emerging economies

  • 29 Oct 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Bangladeshi refugees | Shutterstock

Climate change could spark conflict in emerging economies, study finds 

Climate change vulnerability and food insecurity could damage economic growth and amplify the risk of conflict in India, Bangladesh, and a number of other major emerging markets, according to risk analysts Maplecroft.     BusinessGreen

Climate and energy news 

UK weather forecasting just got £97m better as Met Office reveals new supercomputer 
More on the Met Office unveiling of a new £97 million supercomputer capable of performing 16,000 trillion calculations per second. The new computer will accurately predict whether there will be fog on Heathrow's runways in 12 hours' time, giving the airport time to make contingency plans, says the Independent.  BusinessGreen and  The Daily Express have more on the super-computer's capabilities.     The Independent 

EU on track so far with green energy goals, 2030 a challenge 
EU nations have work to do if they are to meet the new set of green energy goals agreed last week, including reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. Official figures from the European Environment Agency suggest emissions fell by 1.8 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, meaning the bloc looks on course to overachieve on its earlier 2020 goal to cut pollution by 20 percent versus 1990, reports  RTCC. An understanding with coal-dependent Poland will be key to achieving the end goal, UK energy secretary Ed Davey tells  BusinessGreen     Reuters 

Lack of wind or nuclear problems 'could wipe out UK's spare power capacity' 
A series of power plant fires and closures has cut the UK's spare capacity - the safety buffer between electricity supplies and peak demand - to just four per cent, according to new National Grid figures. But ministers have reassured households and businesses  emergency measures will ensure there is little threat of blackouts even in a cold winter, reports  The Guardian. So what happens to a country a major power outage occurs?  Channel 4 looks at some of the biggest power outages of the last 50 years.      The Telegraph 

Read more

Nitrous oxide emissions could double by 2050, study finds

  • 28 Oct 2014, 17:42
  • Robert McSweeney

Emissions of nitrous oxide could double by the middle of the century if left unchecked, a new study finds. And nitrous oxide is the third biggest contributor to manmade climate warming. So should we be worried?

Laughing gas

Most people know nitrous oxide as 'laughing gas', used as a mild anaesthetic by doctors and dentists. But it is also a powerful greenhouse gas.

Nitrous oxide is the third-largest contributor to the manmade greenhouse effect, after carbon dioxide and methane.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, brings together all the projections for future nitrous oxide emissions from different researchers. The results show that on average emissions will increase 83 per cent by 2050, if we carry on with business as usual.

The study also looks at how emissions might be curbed between now and the middle of the century. If 'moderate' attempts are made, the study finds, nitrous oxides would still increase by around 26 per cent. But emissions could reduce by as much as 22 per cent if we really get our act together.

All the projections were made using a starting point of 2005. This means the researchers are able to see how actual nitrous oxide emissions in recent years compare to the different scenarios. And the bad news is that we're currently on the business-as-usual path, the researchers say.

Human activities

Bacteria release nitrous oxide naturally by breaking down nitrogen in the soil and oceans. Total emissions from natural sources are currently around twice those of emissions from human activities.

But while natural emissions have not changed significantly since the industrial revolution, manmade emissions have. This increase has caused nitrous oxide concentrations in the atmosphere to rise steadily since the the mid-19th century, as shown below.

Read more