Analysis

Daily Briefing | Report boosts Scotland's hopes of a fracking bounty

  • 05 Sep 2014, 00:00
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC: J Macdonald

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£600bn in North Sea oil? That's a fracking fortune 
The Scottish Sun covers a report claiming offshore fracking technology could lead to a new oil and gas bonanza from the North Sea. The report comes from Scottish business think tank N-56 and oil industry consultancy Tulloch Energy. 
Scottish Sun 

Climate and energy news

Aircraft Emissions May Be Next for US Climate Rules 
The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering regulating aircraft greenhouse gas emissions, it announced yesterday. It will release findings of a scoping study by next April. If it deems aircraft emissions a risk to public health, it will begin the process of writing rules. 
Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

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Scientists may have solved a climate change mystery using Greenland ice cores

  • 04 Sep 2014, 19:09
  • Robert McSweeney

Greenland Camp | Oregon State Uni

Scientists have long known that carbon dioxide is the main cause of most of the warming we've seen since pre-industrial times. But there are periods in the Earth's distant past when the connection between carbon dioxide and temperature rise has been harder to see.

New research into Greenland's ice sheets now seems to have explained one of the mysteries of our climatic past, confirming the importance of carbon dioxide on global temperature changes.

Mystery interval

Around 20,000 years ago the Earth was emerging from an ice age as orbital changes meant it received slightly more of the sun's energy.

As ice sheets melted into the oceans, sea levels rose and ocean circulation patterns changed.

Scientists think these changes caused carbon dioxide from the oceans to be released into the atmosphere.

Yet despite the planet being closer to the sun and higher levels of carbon dioxide, records for Greenland didn't seem to show much change in temperature. While the rest of the northern hemisphere appeared to warm, Greenland didn't seem to follow suit for another 3,000 years. Scientists couldn't explain why, and it was even dubbed the 'mystery interval' by one study.

But now the new study published in the journal Science suggests that temperatures actually had risen - but the rise wasn't captured by earlier ice core records.

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The fossil fuel alternative that comes from food poisoning

  • 04 Sep 2014, 14:30
  • Simon Evans

E. coli | Shutterstock

Scientists at London's Imperial College have tricked E. coli bacteria into making renewable propane that could replace the petrol in your fuel tank. Their work has caught the imagination of the nation, receiving wide press coverage, and it's not hard to see why.

E. coli bacteria are commonly found in the human gut, with some strains associated with food poisoning. It may sound unpleasant, but if it were possible to conjure carbon-neutral gas using clever biochemistry, what's not to like?

Well, allow us to explain...

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Daily Briefing | National Grid prepared for power crunch

  • 04 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Pylons | Shutterstock

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UK seeks extra electricity ahead of 'uncertain winter' 
The National Grid is having to seek additional supplies of electricity this winter. A series of unplanned shutdowns at large power plants means that supplies are "uncertain" and measures are being taken as a "sensible precaution". The decision was support by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the energy regulator Ofgem. 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Fuel plan 'could slash greenhouse gases' 
A british engineering firm has developed a way of using nanotechnology to cut the level of nitrogen oxide in diesel fuel by up to 60 per cent. The firm claim their idea - which involves a new mixing process - is reminiscent of the government's efforts during the Second World War to create emulsions to make fuel go further. The company intends to test the technology this week. 
Telegraph 

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Is there enough water to frack?

  • 03 Sep 2014, 12:40
  • Mat Hope

Derrick rig: Shutterstock

There are many reasons policymakers across the world have been casting envious glances at the US's shale gas boom: from falling energy prices to curbing emissions. But a range of geological, economic, and social obstacles have made it  tricky to replicate elsewhere.

A new  report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) thinktank highlights another: water availability.

Getting shale gas or oil out of the ground can be very water intensive. Knon as fracking, it involves shooting large amounts of water and chemicals into the shale rock to create fractures through which the resources can be pumped. The  International Energy Agency estimates it could require anywhere between a few thousand to 20 million litres of water per well.

That's a problem, the WRI says, as many of the countries with the largest shale resources don't have much water to spare.

Water availability

For the first time, the WRI has mapped global water availability alongside the location of the world's shale resources. It finds that 38 per cent of the countries thought to have the largest shale resources also have strained water supplies.

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Daily Briefing | Burning garbage, what a waste

  • 03 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Landfill: Shutterstock

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Burning Trash Bad for Humans and Global Warming 
Some 1.1 billion tons of waste is burned in open piles, potentially contributing more greenhouse gas emissions than scientists previously thought. The National Centre for Atmospheric Research provides the first comprehensive estimate of global emissions from burning waste. It suggests five per cent of global emissions could be attributed to waste, though it's likely much higher in particularly poor localities. 
Climate Central via Scientific American 

Climate and energy news

Stalled El Niño poised to resurge 
Researchers at Colombia University say there is a 75 per cent chance there will be a weak to moderate El Nino weather event by the end of the year. Scientists across all disciplines - from marine biologists to meteorologists - are keenly watching for the event to try and understand how it affects both past and future climates. Nature News focuses on one scientist hoping to use the El Nino to calibrate records of past climate that are preserved in fossilized coral. Shifting ratios of oxygen isotopes captured in coral layers can reveal changes in ocean temperature, providing a record of El Niño events going back thousands of years, it says. 
Nature News 

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Analysis: China's big carbon market experiment

  • 02 Sep 2014, 17:05
  • Mat Hope

Macau: Shutterstock

China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Historically, it has been reluctant to cut emissions, fearing that doing so could impede its economic growth. But there are signs that position is shifting.

Late last year, the government  banned the building of new coal power plants in particular areas due to air pollution concerns. Now it has announced it will seek to implement  a national carbon market by 2016.

The announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Since 2011, China has been developing seven pilot carbon markets with the aim of one day creating a national scheme. The National Development and Reform Commission - the department responsible for the schemes - has long said it wants to include plans for a national market in  China's next five year plan.

But could a carbon market form the backbone of China's response to climate change?

Rationale

China has  pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy - the level of greenhouse gas emitted for each Yuan of GDP generated - by 40 to 45 per cent. That means its economy is destined to become more efficient, but doesn't guarantee an overall emissions cut.

The government is putting  a range of policies in place to help hit that goal. Its now clear a carbon market is also part of the plan.

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Assessing the climate and environment impact of London's airport plans

  • 02 Sep 2014, 16:48
  • Robert McSweeney

Airplane taking off | Shutterstock

The Airport Commission has  dismissed Mayor of London Boris Johnson's proposal for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary. With remaining options for expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick what are the potential climate and environmental impacts of each?

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, recommended adding a second runway to south east England by 2030, with the possibility of another by 2050.

In December 2013, the Commission shortlisted three options for the first additional runway in its  Interim Report - a second runway at Gatwick, a third runway at Heathrow or an extension to the second runway at Heathrow (so it operates like two).

Any expansion of airport capacity will lead to more flights and more passengers, and increase carbon emissions from aviation.

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Who is Donald Tusk and what does he think about climate?

  • 02 Sep 2014, 15:50
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 M. Śmiarowski/KPRM

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk will be the next president of the European Council where heads of state meet four times a year to set the direction of EU affairs.

Poland has resisted stronger EU climate policy in the past and has built its economy around coal, the most polluting source of electricity. So just who is Donald Tusk, what does he think about climate change - and does it matter?

Tusk became prime minister of Poland in 2007, 16 years after first being elected to parliament.

Under his leadership Poland has long resisted climate action, including controversial use of its veto to attempt to block long-term EU policies and targets. He is also an advocate for shale gas.

UK climate secretary Ed Davey has called Poland the main barrier to agreement of targets for 2030. Indeed in March, Tusk said Poland could not agree to any new EU climate targets. But at last year's UN climate talks in Warsaw Tusk said that climate change was a fact that could not be ignored and that it posed a real threat.

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How the IPCC is sharpening its language on climate change

  • 01 Sep 2014, 17:40
  • Simon Evans

Barometer | Shutterstock

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is sharpening the language of its latest draft synthesis report, seen by Carbon Brief.

Not only is the wording around how the climate is changing more decisive, the evidence the report references is stronger too, when compared to the previous version published in 2007.

The synthesis report, due to be published on 2 November, will wrap up the IPCC's fifth assessment (AR5) of climate change. It will summarise and draw together the information in IPCC reports on the science of climate change, its impacts and the ways it can be addressed.

We've compared a draft of the synthesis report with that published in 2007 to find out how they compare. Here are the key areas of change.

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