Factcheck: Is climate change linked to recent UK flooding?

  • 20 Aug 2014, 14:15
  • Roz Pidcock

This morning's  Times claims new research says the increase in flooding in Britain in recent times is due to urban expansion and population growth, rather than climate change.

According to the piece, this "does not agree" with warnings from scientists that climate change can be linked to recent flooding. But a quick look at the science shows a combination of land use and climate change is upping the risk of flooding in the UK.


The Times story is based on a new study from the University of Southampton. The number of reported flooding events in the UK grew between 1884 to 2013, according to the research.

But although the number of reported floods went up, it's mainly down to more people being exposed, the authors tell us. During that time, the population grew from 38.2 to 59.1 million.

If you remove the effect of population rise, there's no longer a clear increase in the number of reported flooding events, the report suggests. This is presumably where the Times draws its conclusion that the new research "rules out a link between last year's winter flooding and climate change".

Read more

Daily Briefing | Big waves in the Arctic

  • 20 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe

Here's How Arctic Sea Ice Could Shrink Even More 
Waves are swelling to heights never before seen in the Arctic Ocean, and new research suggests this could be tied to the loss of sea ice caused by climate change. The larger waves could accelerate the rate of sea ice loss, it indicates, completing the destructive circle. "Swell waves carry more energy so you would expect them to have a larger impact (on sea ice). They're able to flex and stress and strain ice more than a short wave could", the research's lead author says. The difficulty of collecting data in the Arctic's inhospitable climes is currently limiting the research, however - though efforts are being made to add more buoys for better data, Climate Central reports. 
Climate Central 

Climate and energy news

Jet Stream Changes Driving Extreme Weather Linked Again To Global Warming, Arctic Ice Loss 
A new study from a team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) suggests climate change could explain increases periods of extreme heat, Climate Progress reports. It's likely linked to changes in the movements of the jetstream, the research shows. Jet stream waves appear to be stalling for longer in one place, PIK's data shows, possibly accounting for extreme weather. 
Climate Progress 

Read more

Questions and Answers on New Zealand's "climate change refugees"

  • 19 Aug 2014, 15:46
  • Alex Randall

Ocean waves / Shutterstock

Has the era of the 'climate change refugee' begun? That's the question  some have been asking following news that a Tuvaluan family has been granted residency in New Zealand after citing climate change impacts as a reason to migrate.

But the details of the case are complex, and the implications more limited than some media reports have suggested. Here are answers to some of the questions the case raises.

Did the court grant the family refugee status because of climate change?

No. The family was granted residency in New Zealand after a complicated court judgement. Although the impacts of climate change in Tuvalu were part of the family's case, they made several legal arguments for why they should be allowed to stay in New Zealand. The case contained refugee, human rights and humanitarian elements. The claim for refugee status because of climate impacts was rejected, as were several human rights claims.

The family made two arguments for residency on humanitarian grounds. The first was that climate change had created a humanitarian situation in Tuvalu that the family could not return to.

The second was that the family had strong family connections in New Zealand. The court decided that the family connections in New Zealand were enough to give the family residency.

Read more

Why scientists need public backing to engineer the climate

  • 19 Aug 2014, 12:35
  • Mat Hope


As global greenhouse emissions rise, scientists want to research the possibility of engineering the climate to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

But the public has so far been wary of such schemes. So the so-called geoengineers are planning to make a declaration they hope will be the first step to getting a "social license" to operate.

The world's most prominent geoengineering researchers are meeting in Berlin this week to discuss the the field's progress. Attendees have been asked to provide feedback on a draft document styled as  the Berlin Declaration, released by  VICE this morning.  

It seeks to clarify geoengineering's governing principles, and quell public concerns. But does it go far enough?

Building blocks

A lot of climate engineering sounds a bit sci-fi - from drawing carbon dioxide out of the oceans by dumping iron filings in the sea, to putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight away from earth. We've gone into much more detail, here.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) takes geoengineering seriously, even if it gets a relatively small amount of attention in its reports. The panel is also eager to  emphasise the technique's risks.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Soloman Islanders relocate to avoid impacts of climate change

  • 19 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe

Meet The First Pacific Island Town To Relocate Thanks To Climate Change 
A small provincial capital in the Solomon Islands plans to relocate its entire population to a larger nearby island in response to the threat of climate change. The town is moving from Taro Island which is 6.6 feet above sea level, against estimated sea level rise this century of 1 to 3 feet. Think Progress 

Climate and energy news

Globally, Last Month Was The Fourth Hottest July On Record 
July was the fourth hottest on record according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The first seven months of 2014 were also tied as the third-warmest start to the year. 
Think Progress 

Read more

Unpacking Christopher Booker's wind vs coal comparison

  • 18 Aug 2014, 17:30
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Martyn Bull

UK energy policy is "collapsing", says Christopher Booker, just like the cooling towers of closed coal-fired power station Didcot A in Oxfordshire. It's an arresting image, but is it right?

Booker thinks we should be sticking with cheap coal-fired electricity instead of investing in wind power, despite the large carbon emissions and health impacts from coal-generated air pollution.

Wind versus Didcot A

Booker's recurring theme is that wind power is a poor way to generate electricity, when compared to coal.

In order to rubbish it he presents a comparison with coal power. But it's not easy to understand, and more importantly it may obscure more than it reveals about what's actually going on with power generation in the UK.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Australian advisor told to leave climate science to scientists

  • 18 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe

Australia's chief scientist tells PM's business adviser to stick to economics 
Australian chief scientist Ian Chubb has urged Tony Abbott's business adviser to stick to his own area of expertise rather than delve in climate science. Chubb accused Maurice Newman of "trawling the internet" for papers questioning the overwhelming scientific opinion on global warming after he wrote anerror-strewn article in last week's Australian warning the world was ill-equipped to deal with the political consequences of global cooling. The Daily Mail covered Newman's comments here

Climate and energy news

US government revs up electric car investment 
The US government is handing out $55 million to 31 separate projects designed to improve the performance and reduce the cost of clean vehicles. The new projects are part of an initiative launched by Obama in 2012 to make plug-in electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as petrol-powered vehicles by 2022. 

Read more

‘Hiatus’ in surface warming is upping the odds of UK cold winters, say scientists

  • 17 Aug 2014, 20:20
  • Roz Pidcock

If you follow climate science, you'll be familiar with the so-called surface warming "hiatus". It's the fact that temperatures at earth's surface haven't climbed as much as expected in the last 15 years.

Now a  new paper published in Nature Climate Change says the slowdown in surface warming could be behind a spell of colder than average winters in the UK recently.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 At 20.07.46

UK winters in 2009/10 were two degrees and 1.3 degrees Celsius below the 1971-2010 long term average, respectively. The 2012/13 winter was 0.4 degrees below the 1981-2010 average. Source: Met Office

Cause of the pause

Scientists know greenhouse gases are driving up  global temperature. But data on land and from the surface of the ocean shows  slower than expected warming in the last 15 years or so.

Scientists say periods of slower and faster warming  aren't unusual. Most of  why we're seeing one now is down to natural climate cycles causing the surface of the  Pacific Ocean to cool.

Read more

Fracking in the UK - the Carbon Brief summary

  • 15 Aug 2014, 14:30
  • Simon Evans and Mat Hope

No Dash for Gas

Shale gas is normal gas extracted from shale rock using a technique known as fracking - or hydraulic fracturing.

Protests have sprung up in recent years in opposition to what is sometimes perceived as an unsafe practice. Major studies have been conducted to try and answer such fears. But new research is often met with a mixture of scepticism and spin so has done little to dampen the debate.

Negotiating arguments about fracking from the UK can be tricky. Most of the industry's experience is in the US, where regulatory regimes are very different, and evidence of fracking's environmental impact is often contested.

We try to summarise the key questions about shale gas' impacts and, where possible, draw some conclusions.

Read more

Daily Briefing | Fracking protesters march on Blackpool promenade

  • 15 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Source: Frack Off

Get the daily briefing in your inbox at 9AM - click here to subscribe

Protesters occupy Cuadrilla's proposed fracking site in Blackpool 
Anti-shale gas protesters have taken over a part of east Blackpool earmarked as a test site by fracking company Cuadrilla. The 300 or so activists, part of the same group that staged a protest in Balcombe last year, say they'll hold a mass march on Blackpool promenade this Sunday to protest against the potential consequences of fracking for air and water pollution. A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said the landowner of the proposed site is commencing legal proceedings to recover possession of his land.
The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Melting glaciers are caused by man-made global warming, study shows 
The Independent reports on new research suggesting human activity is playing an increasing role in melting glaciers. The team of Austrian and Canadian scientists found between 1851 and 2010, human activity was responsible for a quarter of the global loss of glacier mass, but the human contribution rose to 69 per cent in the last 20 years of that period. Associated PressReutersClimate Central and RTCChave more on the story. 
The Independent 

Read more