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Daily Briefing

21.01.2016
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING 2015 ‘shattered’ global temperature record & Shell pushes ahead with BG deal
2015 ‘shattered’ global temperature record & Shell pushes ahead with BG deal

News.

Climate change: 2015 'shattered' global temperature record by wide margin

Most major news outlets report the news that global temperatures in 2015 were the warmest on record, according to data published by meteorologists in the UK and US. The BBC says that the Met Office figures show that 2015 was 0.75C warmer than the long-term average between 1961-1990, with US data suggesting that 2015 “shattered” the temperature record by the widest margin ever recorded. “Experts say the record temperatures were due to a combination of El Niño and human-induced warming,” it adds. The BBC report includes a video report by its science editor, David Shukman. Many of the UK papers covered the story, including the Guardian, Telegraph and Mail. In the US, Fivethirtyeight.com says that both land and satellite-based data shows warming, but what’s happening on the ground is especially urgent, according to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information: “The reason why we emphasise and regularly record what’s going on at the surface is that’s where we live, that’s where we work, that’s where we grow our food.” The New York Times reports NASA saying there is no statistical evidence for a “pause” in temperatures, as many climate sceptics try to promote: “Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and that the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.” Inside Climate News, New Scientist, Nature and Reuters also carry the story.Associated Press compares the land-based measurements with the data gathered by satellites, which are favoured by climate change “doubters”. It quotes Carl Mears, senior scientist for Remote Sensing Systems: He says they measure the average temperature of thick layers of the atmosphere about 50,000 feet off the ground. “For impacts on human society and the environment, the surface data are more important,” says Mears, adding that his analysis of his own satellite data has five times the margin of error of ground measurements. Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the Cambridge University climate expert who has now won a £2,000 bet with two climate sceptics due to the record breaking temperatures in 2015: “British climate expert Chris Hope…has won a wager made five years ago against a pair of scientists who reject man-made global warming and bet Hope that the Earth would be cooling by now.” Reuters said the two sceptics, both of whom advise the UK climate sceptic lobby group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, were not available for comment.

BBC News Read Article
Shell pushes ahead with $47bn BG deal despite tumbling oil prices

The chief executive of Shell insisted that its $47bn (£33bn) takeover of rival BG would still be completed despite warning that falling oil prices halved Shell’s profits last year. Shell forecast that fourth-quarter profits would come in at between $1.6bn and $1.9bn – compared with $3.3bn a year earlier, in an update ahead of its official results announcement on 4 February. The Financial Timessays the news led to a sell off across the energy industry, with Shell’s shares sliding almost 7%. Meanwhile, in a separate article, the Financial Times reports on the idled oil rigs now “stacking up” off the Scottish coast as the oil price crash “grips” the North Sea sector. And the industry group Oil and Gas UK is urging the Treasury to take “crucial” steps in the March budget to support North Sea firms and protect British jobs, says the Telegraph.

The Independent Read Article
Natural gas likely overtook coal as top U.S. power source in 2015

US power companies in 2015 for the first time may have burned more natural gas than coal to generate electricity, according to analysts who attribute it to the cheapest gas prices in 16 years and a record number of coal-fired plants retired from service because of the high cost of meeting environmental regulations. Data from the US Energy Information Administration showed that power plants used more gas than coal to produce electricity in five of the first 10 months of 2015.

Reuters Read Article
MEPs urge EU to revisit long-term climate goals, issue warning on GHGs from aviation and shipping

Several senior MEPs have raised the prospect of the EU deepening its long-term emission reduction goals in the light of the Paris Agreement, with one suggesting that current efforts to tackle global aviation emissions might not be enough to prevent a return to unilateral action by the bloc. The remarks came during a webstreamed debate with EU’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete and France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius at a session during the monthly meeting of the full European Parliament in Strasbourg. Centre-right MEP Ian Duncan, who is steering that ETS proposal through the parliament’s environment committee, said the Paris deal’s reference to 1.5C meant the EU’s 2050 aim to cut its emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels “must be reconsidered”.

Carbon Pulse Read Article
China to allocate $4.6 bln to shut 4,300 coal mines - Xinhua

China will allocate 30 billion yuan ($4.56bn) in funds over the next three years to support the closure of small and inefficient coal mines and redeploy around 1 million workers, reports state media. “The Chinese government is determined to reduce the share of coal in its overall energy mix as part of efforts to cut smog and greenhouse gas emissions, but it also looking to secure a soft landing for a sector that employs around 6 million people,” says Reuters. Total raw coal output fell 3.5% to 3.68bn tonnes last year, according to official data, the second annual decline in a row. Prices fell by about a third during the year, causing heavy losses in the industry.

Reuters Read Article
E.On becomes first Big Six supplier to cut gas prices

Energy company E.On has become the first of the Big Six suppliers to bow to pressure and cut prices, announcing a 5.1 per cent reduction in gas bills. The cut, which comes into effect on February 1, is equivalent to £32 off a typical household’s annual gas bill and reduces a standard dual fuel bill to £1,057 a year, the supplier said. The announcement follows calls from politicians, regulator Ofgem and campaign groups alike for the suppliers to cut prices to pass on steep falls in wholesale gas costs. The Times reports that energy companies are facing calls by consumer groups to cut bills by 10%.

The Daily Telegraph Read Article
Renewable energy, clean tech, and green finance poised for $16.5tr post-Paris take-off

The global energy transition has begun, with renewables, clean technology and green finance sectors set to receive at least $16.5tr of investment as countries embark on climate plans agreed as part of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report from influential ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P).

BusinessGreen Read Article

Comment.

Oil prices are at the mercy of geopolitics

Yergin, the author of “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World” looks at what could reverse the oil price crash and says Iran could be key: “The agreement of the nuclear deal removes a big uncertainty that has been hanging over the market. Now the question is exactly how much additional oil the Iranians will — or can — bring back to the market. Iran’s finance minister has described the current oil price as representing ‘an all-out war’ for market share. But if the actual volumes turn out to be lower than has been anticipated, or if the Iranians are slower in bringing them back, then the market would have further reason to moderate its bleak outlook. The direction of the oil price and, to a considerable degree, the future of highly volatile global financial markets hang on the outcome.”

Daniel Yergin, The Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Missing the forest for the trees? Navigating the trade-offs between mitigation and adaptation under REDD

The Paris agreement recognises the role of forested landscapes in sequestering carbon and supporting adaptation, a win-win for efforts to tackle climate change. A new study examines the limitations of the REDD approach to reducing deforestation, including the possible trade offs in terms of biodiversity and redirecting ecosystem service benefits away from local communities toward state agencies.

Climatic Change Read Article
Earth system commitments due to delayed mitigation

A new study quantifies how sensitive different elements of the Earth system are to delays in tackling climate change. The authors calculate that the current growth rate of emissions would lead to an increase in the peak temperature that is roughly 3–7.5 times as fast as the observed current warming, and a millennial sea level rise that is 7–25 times as fast as the observed rate. A near complete loss of area suitable for coral reef growth is unavoidable if mitigation is delayed by a few years to decades.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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