Analysis: Polling finds widespread doubt amongst Conservative MPs about climate science

  • 11 Sep 2014, 09:00
  • Leo Barasi

UK Parliament

A new poll of UK Members of Parliament has found widespread doubts about climate science, particularly among Conservative MPs. 

The poll, conducted for PR Week by Populus and  reported in the Guardian yesterday, found that 51 per cent of MPs think that man-made climate change is "an established scientific fact". Two in five think it is a theory that "has not yet been conclusively proved", while nearly one in ten say man-made climate change is "environmentalist propaganda".

The findings suggest that MPs have similar views on climate science to those of the general public. A poll in August 2013 by Opinium for Carbon Brief, with similar questions,  found that 56 per cent believe that climate change is happening and is caused by humans.

Polling 1

Polling 2b

MP attitudes on climate change (Populus, 2014) and public attitudes ( Opinium, 2013).

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Six things to know about the climate change summit happening in New York this month

  • 10 Sep 2014, 13:33
  • Christian Hunt

"There is a sense that change is in the air." That's the pitch for the UN secretary general's summit on climate change, taking place two weeks from now at the UN headquarters in New York. With international climate politics approaching a critical point, the UN wants to bolster the world's resolve to do something about climate change.

So what's planned, who is going, and what's the significance? We consider six things you might want to know about the summit.

This is a one-off summit, called by the UN secretary general

The summit seeks to "advance climate change action and ambition", and on the 23rd September it will bring together more world leaders to discuss climate change than at any moment since the ill-fated climate meeting in Copenhagen, five years ago.

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UN secretary general  Ban Ki-moon | Shutterstock

There's already a UN process to address climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This summit is something different. Secretary general Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to "bring bold announcements and actions to the summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will" to address climate change.

In practice, that means it's going to be a talking shop, albeit a pretty high-level one. Responding to Climate Change reports that  half the summit will be taken up by speeches from heads of state, designed to help create the right mood music for the climate politics to come in 2015.


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Going green is good for the economy (depending on your economic worldview)

  • 10 Sep 2014, 00:01
  • Simon Evans

Business concept | Shutterstock

The UK economy will be larger, its households better off, unemployment lower and its businesses richer if it chooses to cut emissions. Say what?

Most studies show tackling climate change will be a drag on the economy, but a new report from Cambridge Econometrics is different. It says the UK economy would be 1.1 per cent bigger in 2030 if it met its carbon targets, despite the costs associated with decarbonisation.

To understand how it came to such a counterintuitive finding, read on.

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The UK’s plan for a new global climate deal

  • 09 Sep 2014, 17:20
  • Mat Hope

UK Government

The government today released a  report outlining what it wants from a new international climate deal. World leaders are due to meet in New York later this month to add impetus to the negotiations, with a deal set to be agreed in Paris at the end of 2015.Here's what the UK is hoping for.

'Fair' commitments from all countries

The 70 page document makes it clear that the UK expects all countries to commit to making emissions cuts. It doesn't expect all the commitments to be the same, however.

"Countries will need to make the low-carbon transition in a way that reflects their national situation, the opportunities available to them, and both their relative past and future contributions to climate change", the report says.

It suggests a three-tiered system where countries make commitments based on their different levels of economic development. That wouldn't be a radical departure from the current system. The United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has already enshrined the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities in a similar way.

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If energy efficiency is so great, why aren’t we doing more of it?

  • 09 Sep 2014, 16:30
  • Simon Evans

Facade insulation | Shutterstock

Forever the Cinderella of climate and energy policy, two reports published this week say we should remember to invite energy efficiency to the ball.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says investing in efficiency can boost growth, jobs, health, government budgets, industrial productivity - and those are just the benefits backed by robust analysis. Meanwhile left-leaning thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says efficiency could reduce EU reliance on Russian gas.

It's an impressive list of benefits. So what's going wrong?

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Scottish Independence: How would we divide up our oil, wind and gas?

  • 08 Sep 2014, 16:30
  • Simon Evans

Hadrian's wall | Shutterstock

The build up to the 18 September Scottish independence referendum has now officially reached fever pitch. With polling suggesting a vote for independence is a real possibility, the question of how the union might be divided has taken on a new significance.

Scotland and the rest of the UK are closely interdependent for energy infrastructure and fossil fuel resource. So how would the UK divide up its oil, wind and gas resources with an independent Scotland, and what would it mean for each of the new nations' efforts to decarbonise?

North Sea oil and gas

The largest energy prize in economic terms is North Sea oil and gas. Some 40 billion barrels have been extracted so far and anything from 2 to 24 billion barrels remain, depending who you ask.

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Global carbon intensity is falling - but not quickly enough to avoid worst impacts of climate change

  • 08 Sep 2014, 14:55
  • Mat Hope

Chimneys | Shutterstock

World leaders are set to meet in New York in two weeks time to discuss how best to address global climate change. High on the agenda will be working out how to wean countries off cheap fossil fuels while keeping their economies afloat.

A new  report by consultancy PwC shows that for all the  politicians' promises , the global economy is still far from being "green". Current efforts to incentivise cleaner economic growth are falling short of those needed to avoid dangerous global warming, it says.

Emissions 'cuts'

Global carbon intensity - annual emissions divided by GDP - has  fallen by 1.2 per cent, the report shows. But that somewhat masks what's actually happening to global emissions.

Carbon intensity is a measure of how efficiently countries use their polluting energy resources, such as coal, oil and gas.

So long as a country's energy sector emissions grow at a slower rate than its GDP, the carbon intensity of its economy falls. But although some countries are ramping up renewables, many still rely on burning large amounts of fossil fuels to drive economic growth.

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Why undersea fracking is unlikely to give Scotland a £600 billion windfall

  • 05 Sep 2014, 13:30
  • Mat Hope

Scotland flag waving | Shutterstock

As Scotland prepares to decide whether to vote 'yes' for independence, the North Sea oil and gas industry's economic prospects have become something of a political football.

Today, a new report backed by the 'Yes' campaign claims the industry's taxes could be worth over £600 billion. But other experts have been quick to cast doubt on the findings.

Geologists think there's still plenty of oil and gas under the North Sea. The problem is that companies have extracted most of the easy-to-reach resources. Uncertainty around the fate of the remaining oil and gas has created space for speculation over how much the industry is worth.

That's where today's  report from consultancy N-56, founded by  a Yes campaign board member, fits in. It claims there could be around 45 billion barrels of oil and gas remaining - almost double previous estimates - worth £665 billion in tax receipts.

Conventional oil and gas

The North Sea's oil and gas reserves are becoming depleted, with companies extracting fewer and fewer barrels each year. Experts believe the industry could persist for  a few more decades, but only if companies are willing to explore hard to reach spots.

Whether they will - or even can - access such resources is very open to debate, however.

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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?


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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