TckTckTck The Global Call for Climate Action Tue, 03 May 2016 16:06:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 UK coal battle heads to Wales as fossil fuel fight goes global Tue, 03 May 2016 16:06:31 +0000 UK coal battle
UK coal battle

Courtesy of: Reclaim the Power, 2016

In yet another call for the UK government to end its love affair with coal, hundreds of protesters have today shut down the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in Ffos-y-fran, South Wales.

The UK has pledged to end coal use by 2025, but by continuing to dig up the brown stuff it will still have a hand in driving global temperatures over 2DegC of warming.

Today’s protest calls on the government to ensure all UK coal is kept in the ground by closing its mines, and supports a local campaign to prevent new coal mines at Nant Llesg.

Coal is in crisis and last week the Aberthaw power station – which uses 95 per cent of the coal mined at Ffos-y-fran – announced it is scaling back operations, another sign the era of UK coal is coming to an end.

With collapsing fossil fuel prices, company bankruptcies and massive divestments, there have never been a better moment to break free from dirty energy and today’s action is the beginning of a global wave of civil disobedience calling for a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

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Reality of climate change sinks in across US party lines, say researchers Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:38 +0000 US party lines
US party lines

Creative Commons: Andrew Czap, 2011

The tides have shifted among conservative voters, as new research suggests that half of Republicans heading to the polls this year believe that global warming is a threat.

The survey, issued by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities, noted that twice as many conservatives believe that climate change is real compared to two years ago, highlighting a major leap in public opinion.

As the urgency of a changing climate becomes increasingly prevalent, more and more people are taking a part in finding solutions through jobs and lifestyle changes.

It’s now up to leaders to show their citizens that they are paying attention, and putting the concerns of communities – especially those at the forefront of climate impacts – at the heart of their political agendas.

Key Points

  • Climate change is a non-partisan issue. Last March, Florida mayors from across party lines called for debate moderators to step in and address climate change during the televised Republican debate. In vulnerable places like Florida, which faces the highest risk of flooding in the country, people realize that their communities are at the forefront of the climate crisis, regardless of their political allegiances.
  • People want governments to do their part in solving the climate crisis. Although there are still divides over people’s perceptions of climate science across party lines, this fundamental change in opinion shows climate action is increasingly mainstream. According to this poll, most people are in favour of climate-friendly policies, including increased funding for renewables, reducing CO2 emissions, and tax programs such as rebates on energy efficiency, or a carbon tax.

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Vulnerable countries suffer as heat epidemics hit worker health and productivity Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:25:41 +0000 worker health
worker health

Creative Commons: Dan DeLuca, 2008

Rising temperatures are already hitting the global workforce, and failing to tackle climate could risk billions of dollars in lost economic output and undermine efforts to reduce poverty.

That’s the stark warning of a new report released for International Workers’ Memorial Day, which shows that as extreme heat forces people to take more breaks, work less, and face increasingly serious health risks, families, incomes, and economic output all suffer.

According to the analysis from the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the International Labour Organisation, some emerging economies could see 10 per cent of working hours lost, with the lowest paid workers facing the biggest risks.

Globally, failing to tackle climate change could cost US$2.4 trillion a year by 2030 in lost productivity and health costs.

Coming just days after governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement this latest report is yet another reminder to leaders of the the huge benefits for their citizens and their economies of turning their national pledges into strong and definitive actions.

Key Points

  • The solution: a just transition to a 100 per cent renewable future for all. While workers continue to be exposed to the impacts of rising temperatures, they are also bearing the brunt of the world’s addiction to dirty fossil fuels, with oil and coal volatility already costing thousands of jobs in 2016. Only by setting a clear roadmap to a future powered by clean, secure renewables – and one that puts workers at its centre – will governments protect their citizens and their economies.

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Biodiesel not a solution to EU emissions, warns NGO Wed, 27 Apr 2016 11:59:21 +0000 biodiesel

Creative Commons: Kris Duda, 2011

Long touted as a way to decarbonise the EU’s transport sector, new analysis from NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) has shown the use of biodiesel could increase emissions by almost 4% – the equivalent of putting 12 million cars on the road by 2020.

The analysis, based on the European Commission’s own study into biofuels, found that biodiesel from virgin vegetable oil – known as “first generation biofuels” – leads to around 80% higher emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces.

As the EU looks to review its renewable energy legislation, T&E are calling it to end incentives for these “bad biofuels” – such as those from palm and soy – or be left with a “cure… worse than the disease.

Key Points

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Climate brings hard times for tea yields Mon, 25 Apr 2016 12:26:53 +0000 tea yields
tea yields

Creative Commons: US Department of Agriculture, 2007

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Slow changes in the annual monsoon season may be reducing yields in one of the world’s most important crops – and gradually watering down the tea in China.

Scientists in the US have used a new approach to examine harvests of Camellia sinensis – the evergreen bush whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea − in southern Yunnan and other regions of China, and have identified a decline that could only be linked to the retreat of the monsoon, along with greater levels of downpour.

That climate change in the form of greater extremes of heat and drought and flood will affect crop yields overall is well-established, but what matters to farmers is what gradual global warming and subtle shifts in seasonal weather patterns will bring to specific crops in traditional agricultural provinces.

For the moment, wine harvests in areas of France may have benefited from earlier springs and warmer summers, and the overall shift in average temperatures has brought new hope to the once-struggling English vineyards.

Economic importance

But tea – the most consumed beverage in the world, after water, and celebrated by the 18th-century English poet William Cowper as “the cups, that cheer but not inebriate” – is grown in 50 countries, but is of vital economic importance to 80 million rural people in China and at least three million in India.

Rebecca Boehm, PhD candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in the US, and colleagues report in Climate journal that rather than match annual production figures with the calendar dates of the east Asian monsoon onset, they looked at regional rainfall figures from 1980 to 2011 to decide precisely when the rainy season could be said to have begun and ended.

And their “yield response model” identified a set of incremental changes that each seemed to affect harvests.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity”

A 1% increase in the date of the monsoon retreat could be linked to a reduction in yields of between 0.48% and 0.535%. An increase of 1%  in average daily rainfall could be associated with a drop in yield of 0.18% to 0.26%. And a drop of 1% in solar radiation the previous growing season could mean a 0.55 to 0.86% fall in yields.

Tea is not a simple crop. The buds form on the evergreen perennial bush, and growers and skilled workers have to decide when to pick to deliver the product with the best flavour.

Producers have to maintain quality, but tea in particular is an astonishing mix of flavonoids, caffeine, non-protein amino acids and other natural chemicals that vary according to growing conditions, but which have been linked to human health.

Management techniques

Epidemiological studies have associated tea-drinking to lower rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms and reduced incidence of cold and ’flu symptoms.

Boehm says: “If monsoon periods continue to be longer and produce heavier daily rainfalls that could reduce tea yield and quality, then there needs to be changes in management techniques, such as possibly planting tea varietals that are more tolerant of increased precipitation, or managing soil in ways to increase water-holding capacity.”

The methodology could be employed to examine yield changes in other places, and with other crops.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity in tropical and subtropical regions globally,” Boehm adds.

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Emmanuel de Guzman: Sign on the dotted line, but don’t forget the fine print is 1.5C Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:32:32 +0000 1.5C

Creative Commons: DFID/Russell Watkins, 2010

Authored by Emmanuel de Guzman, reposted from Huffington Post
Emmanuel de Guzman is Secretary and Vice-Chair of Philippine Climate Change Commission

Anyone watching coverage of the Paris Agreement last December could be forgiven for thinking that countries had defeated climate change itself, there and then, once and for all. As a record number of heads of state and other government representatives gather in New York on April 22nd to reaffirm their vows to the Agreement and sign on the dotted line – fresh from the news that unprecedented amounts were invested in renewable energy last year – the feeling of momentum is palpable. As the minister of a country that has suffered severely from climate change, however, I would like to remind my counterparts that much of the work still remains to be done.

My country, together with other vulnerable countries grouped under the Climate Vulnerable Forum, fought tooth and nail to make the Paris Agreement as ambitious as it is. The Agreement’s very existence is historic and should be welcomed as a testimony to the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation in the face of threats to global peace and security.

For our nations, the most important provision we fought for – and won – in the Paris Agreement was the promise in Article 2 to endeavor to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A 1.5-degree limit is the most ambitious target that is still achievable, provided we act urgently.

Keeping warming below this level would preserve most of the world’s coral reefs and glaciers. It would limit the spread of vector-borne diseases exacerbated by climate change, slow the spread of poverty in my native South-East Asia and provide a boost to the world’s plans to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals it signed in 2015.

Nevertheless, even if the countries signing the Agreement this Friday also ratify it, the vision it enshrines is far from being realized. We’re still headed for a world 3-, 4- or even 5-degrees Celsius warmer. Such a world would create unbearable conditions for the one billion people who live in the member countries of our Forum. Failed harvests, wrecked infrastructure, a drain on emerging market growth, and migration out of worst-hit areas would also place immense strain on the whole world.

A massive increase in effort is already required to help those worst hit by climate change cope with the beginnings of these challenges. Under the new climate pact, obligations for financial support, technology sharing and measures to compensate for the loss and damage suffered by vulnerable groups that barely pollute would skyrocket if we don’t halt the warming.

We are doing our best to lead. Just last week, a meeting of our Vulnerable 20 (V20) Group of finance ministers agreed to adopt domestic carbon pricing systems within 10 years and called for an international tax on financial transactions to help fund efforts to tackle climate change. If small and poor countries can take such steps, any country can, especially developed countries who are expected to lead on emission cuts before 2020.

Read more: Huffington Post >>

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Payal Parekh: Breaking free from fossil fuels Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:53:13 +0000 fossil fuels
fossil fuels

Creative Commons: Max Phillips (Jeremy Buckingham MLC), 2011

Authored by Payal Parekh, re-posted from Project Syndicate
Payal Parekh is Program Director at

There has never been a better time to break free from fossil fuels. Record-breaking global temperatures, plummeting fossil-fuel prices, historic investments in renewable energy, and global pressure to honor climate pledges are all coming together to create the ideal setting for this world-changing shift.

The shift could not be more urgent. The United Nations climate agreement forged in Paris last December reconfirmed the level of 2°C above pre-industrial levels as a hard upper limit for global warming, beyond which the consequences for the planet become catastrophic. But it also included commitments to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5°C. Judging by the latest data published by NASA, achieving that lower limit should be viewed as an imperative.

Brazil storm Christ the Redeemer

The Brazil Syndrome

Economist Anders Åslund engages the views of Dani Rodrik, Nouriel Roubini, Joseph Stiglitz, and others on the growing turmoil in emerging markets.

PS On Point: Your review of the world’s leading opinions on global issues.

The new data confirm that 2015 was the hottest year on record, and show that the global run of record-breaking temperatures continued through the first two months of this year. According to NASA, global temperatures in February were 1.35°C above average, based on a 1951-1980 baseline.

Fortunately, the privileged position of fossil fuels already seems to be weakening. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global greenhouse-gas emissions and economic growth have already decoupled, with global energy-related CO2 (the largest source of human greenhouse-gas emissions) having remained at the same level for the second year in a row. This means that fossil fuels are no longer the lifeblood of our economy.

It seems that the precipitous decline in oil prices – by two-thirds over the last 18 months – has not, as many feared, encouraged increased consumption. What it has done is deal a major blow to the profits of fossil-fuel giants like Shell, BP, and Statoil.

Coal is not faring any better. Following China’s announced moratorium on new coal-fired power plants at the end of last year, Peabody, the world’s largest coal company, recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, after it could no longer make its debt payments, partly because of waning demand for coal.

Meanwhile, renewable energy sources are receiving record amounts of investment – some $329.3 billion last year, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As a result, a cleaner, fairer, and more sustainable future, powered entirely by renewables, is starting to become a real option.

Yet there is still a long way to go. Most governments are still clinging, to varying degrees, to destructive fossil fuels, with their volatile prices and devastating environmental impact, even as this dependence destabilizes their economies.

Read more: Project Syndicate >>

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Paris signing ceremony marks milestone in journey towards fossil free future Fri, 22 Apr 2016 10:34:04 +0000 Paris signing ceremony
Paris signing ceremony

Creative Commons: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto, 2005

As the world’s record warming streak moves into its 11th month, and climate impacts, continue to hit communities, nations will be using Earth Day 2016 to take their first collective step from ambition to action on the global climate deal agreed last December.

In the largest UN signing ceremony to-date, at least 168 nations will sign the historic Paris Agreement in New York this Friday against a backdrop of growing voices calling for a transition to a world powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

These collective calls helped drive the ambitious action agreed upon in Paris, and with 2016 already bringing deadly heatwaves in India, drought in southern Africa, record-breaking cyclones in the Pacific and coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, these actions are only set to get louder.

With leaders reaffirming their own commitment to the transition on Friday, attention will now shift to ensuring they implement and improve the Paris Agreement and urgently move towards a healthier, fairer, more prosperous and fossil free future for all.

Key Points

  • A record-breaking number of countries are expected to sign the Paris Agreement this Earth Day. After forging the historic deal in December, more than 168 countries are now expected to formally sign on to the deal in a single day, more than any other international agreement before it. With leaders including French President Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in attendance, the ceremony marks a vital step towards the implementation of the agreement, while some countries – led by vulnerable nations like Fiji and the Marshall Islands – are expected to further accelerate the process by presenting their plans to cement the agreement at national level.
  • The Paris signing ceremony is a significant milestone, but there’s a long road of actions needed ahead. Indonesia and Argentina are already injecting more ambition into their national plans, but to limit global warming to 1.5DegC, urgent action is needed to align all national climate plans with a complete fossil fuel phase out. At the international level, climate needs to stay atop governments’ agendas – including when G7 countries meet next month and when G20 nations meet in China in  September G20. During these meetings nations can make progress towards fulfilling their promises to ditch fossil fuel subsidies, and provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to support the renewable transition while boosting resilience in climate vulnerable communities.
  • People power helped drive ambition in Paris, and it will keep the pressure on. Faith leaders, parenting groups, health advocates,leading investors, climate vulnerable countries and more than 13 million people are amongst those urging their governments to not just participate in Friday’s signing ceremony but to implement the Paris agreement at home as swiftly as possible. Between 4 and 15 of May, thousands more will participate in a coordinated, global wave of mass action targeting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects, and carry forward the momentum for an urgent and just transition to 100% renewable energy.

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Climate warning: Coral bleaching hits 93% of Great Barrier Reef Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:12:20 +0000 Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef

Creative Commons: Sarah Ackerman, 2009

The Great Barrier Reef is under siege from climate change and coal, with scientists confirming that 93 per cent of the world heritage area is now suffering from severe coral bleaching.

The unprecedented event, caused by climate change warming the ocean, is being called “an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth.” Only around 50 per cent of the impacted corals are expected to survive, and in some areas, only a mere 10 per cent may recover.

So heavy is the toll, 56 scientists have once again called on the Australian government to phase out coal, and are taking ever greater message to their warnings are heard. The expansion of Australian coal is already having dire impacts on the Reef, and will continue to drive the climate impacts that are killing Australia’s famous heritage site.

Yet despite the government’s willingness to pick up the phone about the parlous state of the reef, they seem unwilling to acknowledge that it’s way past time Australia ditched coal.

Key Points

  • This vital ecosystem can be saved, but it will take extraordinary effort. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most diverse ocean habitats, it generates more than $5 billion in tourism revenues and employs nearly 70,000 people. Despite this, the Australian government has recently approved a massive new coal mine in Queensland that will threaten the reef and see the country’s emissions skyrocket. Only an end to coal expansion and exports will allow Australia to adequately protect the Reef.
  • Governments must favour coral over fossil fuels. The world is in the midst of a global coral bleaching event on scale with the worst ever bleaching on record and scientists warn dire predictions made on coral decline could now be realised. As leaders look to re-affirm their commitment to tackling climate change, they can show they are serious about protecting this vital marine ecosystem by urgently moving towards a fossil free and 100 per cent renewable future.

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Amid Brazil’s energy corruption claims, Euro firms eye Amazon mega-dam Tue, 19 Apr 2016 16:07:56 +0000 Amazon mega-dam
Amazon mega-dam

Creative Commons: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), 2011

While the Brazilian government fights for its political survival, European companies risk being caught up in the fall-out as it’s revealed that major energy firms plan to build and run a controversial mega-dam project in the heart of the Amazon.

French utilities EDF and Engie are among the group of companies – which also includes Brazilian firms linked to the ongoing corruption investigation – that may bid to win contracts for the Tapajos river project.

A joint venture between German firms Siemens and Voith is also thought likely to manufacture the turbines used in the dam.

The news comes as President Dilma Rousseff and other political figures are engulfed by a corruption scandal at the nearby Belo Monte dam and as new Greenpeace research shows the country’s Amazon region is under attack by uncontrolled exploitation.

Economic activities – including dams – have already seen 750,000 km² of forest cleared, risking the region’s biodiversity, driving traditional forest communities from their land and threatening the world’s climate.

Key Points

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Swedish government under pressure to end Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:51:34 +0000 Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal
Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal

Creative Commons: Bert Kaufmann, 2009

The Swedish government is in the spotlight today with calls for it to stop state-owned Vattenfall’s “dirty deal” to sell its German lignite – or brown coal – assets.

Czech energy company EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments, agreed to buy Vattenfall’s loss-making lignite coal mines and associated power plants.

Vattenfall is expected to incur up to €2.9 billion in losses from the sale.

A previously strong supporter of the clean energy transition, campaigners are urging the Swedish government to block the sale, saying that “getting the dirtiest of fossil fuel off Vattenfall’s books is not going to clean Sweden’s hands”.

Instead, they urge the government to hold onto and close down its mines. Next month, thousands of people will be putting their bodies on the line for this aim, as they attempt to bring Vattenfall’s coal operations in the Lusatia region of Germany to a halt.

Key Points

  • Swedish, and European citizens are the ones paying the price for dirty coal. Last year alone, Swedish taxpayers, had to bear over €1.6 billion in losses associated with Vattenfall’s German lignite business. Meanwhile, citizens across Europe continue to pay the price for coal, including billions in clean-up and health costs. Companies continuing to bet on coal – such as the Czech company buying Vattenfall’s assets – are gambling not only their future, but that of European citizens.

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Climate threat to vulnerable islands Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:03:02 +0000 vulnerable islands
vulnerable islands

Creative Commons: Christopher Michel, 2007

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Almost three quarters of a sample of island groups – atolls and archipelagos that are home to more than 18 million people − are expected to become increasingly more arid under a regime of climate change.

The new research implies a systematic underestimate of the plight of islanders as the world warms because of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It also poses another threat to the survival of island communities.

Poignantly, many of the islands are too small even to be included in climate science calculations. So the communities that have, historically, contributed least to global warming could become the most immediate victims.

Kristopher Karnauskas, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, US, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that they took a fresh look at the world vision of climate projections and the assumptions made in calculating the impacts of climate change.

Water stress

Overall, as the world warms, some regions will become moister, some more parched. The impact on the islands would be about half and half: 50 per cent would see more rain, 50 per cent would feel water stress.

But the scientists found the “resolution” of such projections was too coarse to include many tiny spots that have always figured on naval charts. And many islands in Polynesia are too small to register on the climate map of the world, so an estimated 18 million inhabitants are, in effect, “computationally disenfranchised”.

Even a dot on the map as famous as Easter Island a World Heritage Site in the South Pacific, and home to a set of vast, enigmatic statues that tell of a vanished culture − is deemed not to be there. The grid on the climate map that contains it is regarded as open ocean.

The islands of French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands and the Lesser Antilles are all among the most “water vulnerable” places on the planet, but they do not register at all on climate projection models.

“This shows that any rainwater they have is also vulnerable. The atmosphere is getting thirstier, and would like more of that freshwater back”

It’s not as if islanders didn’t have problems already. Coral atolls are rarely more than two metres above sea level, and many are projected to disappear altogether under water as the sea levels rise − unless the world stops burning fossil fuels and switches to renewable energy on a massive scale. .

Even with limited sea level rise, their citizens face an uncertain future. If the ocean invades the groundwater and poisons their crops, before washing away their villages, it isn’t clear if inhabitants of the islands could technically qualify as refugees deserving of international help.

And the latest research brings no comfort. Even if more rain does fall, evaporation will also increase, so perhaps 73% of the islands could become more parched as a result of increased evaporation.

Regional changes

“Islands are already dealing with sea level rise,” Dr Karnauskas says. “But this shows that any rainwater they have is also vulnerable. The atmosphere is getting thirstier, and would like more of that freshwater back.”

Climate scientists divide the world into grid boxes 240 km by 210 km to consider regional changes. If the area is almost entirely ocean, they consider it ocean and make predictions of change.

Altogether, the researchers say, there are thousands of islands too small to figure on the climate maps. The UN estimates the population of the Small Island Developing States to have been at 64 million in 2010. By 2100, it would be 80 million.

“Paper after paper in my field shows changes in drought or aridity, but my eye always looks at the maps and graphs in those papers and I wonder why we can’t see islands,” Dr Karnauskas says.

“Using models, it turns out, is much less straightforward for islands than for places where there are big chunks of land.”

BP faces pressure over climate hypocrisy Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:43:45 +0000 climate hypocrisy
climate hypocrisy

Protesters oppose BP’s plans to drill in the Australian Bight. Courtesy of: The Wilderness Society, 2016

BP is under pressure over its increasingly bare hypocrisy on climate change this week, with the British Museum being called on to drop it as a sponsor, and protests in Australia and outside its AGM in London demanding it abandon plans to drill for vast new reserves in the formidable, inhospitable frontier of the Great Australian Bight.

Shareholders at the AGM are angry that a dramatic increase to BP Chief Bob Dudley’s pay sends the wrong message given the company is being hammered by oil market volatility, and are calling on the company to explain how it will respond to the global transition away from fossil fuels.

Exxon knew, and BP knows the impact it is having on the global climate. But instead of putting their  businesses on a less destructive path, oil, gas and coal companies continue to chose to focus on denial, greenwashing and lobbying efforts, as they push for new reserves in deeper, riskier deposits, like BP’s plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

Six years on from the infamous Deepwater Horizon disaster, which is expected to cost the company $53 billion, the company is once again risking huge economic, reputational and environmental damage on a dire oil gamble; and is doing so at a time when most of the world has woken up to the disastrous consequences of remaining hooked on fossils, and is now racing into a clean energy future.

Key Points

  • Ending dangerous oil exploration will benefit people and planet. Despite paying out $20 billion in penalties for its Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP continues to search for new reserves in deeper, riskier locations; such as the Australian Bight, where a spill could cost South Australia’s fishing and tourism industries over $1 billion, and decimate its rich marine ecosystem. Extracting and using oil pollutes the air,the water and the environment, and spills put people, their communities and livelihoods, local plants, fish and animals in danger. Only by plugging the boreholes – and favouring clean energy sources – will companies eradicate these threats.

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Jan Vandermosten: Coal is a climate killer, whatever its efficiency Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:59:30 +0000 climate killer
climate killer

Creative Commons: Jan Tik, 2006

Authored by Jan Vandermosten, re-posted from WWF
Jan Vandermosten is the Sustainable Finance Policy Officer for WWF’s European Policy Office.

The argument that high-efficiency coal-fired power plants are a viable solution for reducing CO2 emissions, the main cause of climate change, is still defended with vigour by the coal industry – and by governments that have a stake in the coal industry, in particular Japan, Germany, South Korea, Australia and Poland. Japan even goes as far as to counting public finance for coal plants as ‘climate finance’.

Research by consultancy Ecofys, commissioned by WWF, completely discredits these claims.

It shows that in order to achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep temperature rise under 2 degrees – an international commitment confirmed in Paris in December – power production from coal needs to reduce drastically as from today, and be completely phased out by the middle of this century. This is based on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken at the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015 to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.
Coal development still continues, however.

There are currently plans to build no fewer than 2,300 new coal plants globally, equivalent to a capacity of 1,400GW. If all these plants were to be built, CO2 emissions from existing and new plants in 2030 would amount to 11 gigatonnes: this is six times higher than what a 1.5°C carbon budget would allow. According to the report equipping all new plants with even the most efficient technologies would only lead to marginal emission reductions of approximately 1 gigatonne, keeping the 1.5°C target far out of reach.

While governments prepare to come together and officially sign the global climate Paris Agreement, it is time for them to start taking their climate change commitments seriously. They should recognise what research demonstrates: that the global carbon budget and the time remaining to reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply do not allow for the replacement of retired coal plants with new more efficient coal plants, let alone capacity extensions.

Rich countries should lead the effort to phase out coal. The G7 summit to be held on 26–28 May in Japan – whose government is one of the biggest coal supports worldwide – offers an opportunity to do so. The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States – should commit to putting their money where their mouth is, and immediately end all public financial support for any type of coal plant technology, whatever its efficiency. They should also publicly commit to phase out coal plants in their country by 2035 at the latest, as a precursor to the global phase-out needed by 2050.

The Ecofys research rebuts once and for all that high-efficient coal can be a solution to climate change. As a result, it makes clear that in a post-Paris world, there is simply no role for coal anymore. More renewable energy, more energy efficiency and a giving a more central role to power consumers are the solutions we need.

Call for Saudis to be a solar power Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:32:42 +0000 solar power
solar power

Creative Commons: Philippe Roos, 2010

Authored by Kieran Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

The announcement by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia sent tremors through global energy markets.

He said that the desert kingdom – the world’s biggest oil exporter – would, within 20 years, no longer be dependent on oil revenues and plans to use an estimated US$2 trillion in assets to diversify the country’s economy and invest in companies and projects around the globe.

Great news, say the renewable energy specialists. Now is the time for Saudi Arabia – for years, one of the countries most opposed to any serious global action on tackling climate change – to use its massive financial resources to invest in renewable energy, and in particular solar.

“In 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a major opportunity to develop a new industry,” says Jeremy Leggett, a leading solar specialist, in an article written for Saudi’s national finance daily, Al Eqtissadaih.

Global prices

Not only have has Saudi Arabia been hit by recent declines in global oil prices, which account for more than 90% of government revenues, it is also consuming more and more of its own oil reserves to generate power.

Leggett, founder of the independent solar energy company Solarcentury, points out that there has been what he calls an “astonishing” cost reduction in solar power in recent years – with the cost of the average solar power plant falling more than 80% since 2008.

He says: “The opportunity is for Saudi Arabia, with its fuel resource – the sun – and its capital from its oil revenues, to become a major player in the new global solar industry: a hub in what is likely to become the biggest industry in the world a few decades from now.”

Whether or not there is the political will within the tightly-knit and secretive Saudi ruling circle to invest in a solar future is the big question.

The announcement by Prince Mohammed, made in the course of an interview given to the Bloomberg news agency, made no mention of developing renewable energies.

The Prince – second in line to the Saudi throne – said the aim was to sell shares in Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil company, and create what would be the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund to invest in companies and projects around the globe.

“The opportunity is for Saudi Arabia to become a major player in what is likely to become the biggest industry in the world a few decades from now”

The sale of shares, said the Prince, “will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil.

At successive climate change negotiations, Saudi Arabia has generally been opposed to any global action that might have a negative impact on its oil exports.

However, the fall in the price of oil has seriously affected the Saudi economy. Last year, the country recorded a budget deficit of US$98 billion, the highest ever.

Reduced subsidies

As a result, generous fuel, water and electricity subsidies have been reduced, and there are indications that taxes on fossil fuels will be raised.

In the course of last December’s Paris climate conference, Saudi officials told Climate News Network that while the kingdom planned to diversify its energy sources, frequent dust storms in the country’s deserts could inhibit the workings of solar installations.

Solar experts disagree, pointing out that solar plants have been built and operate successfully in several desert areas. Earlier this year, one of the world’s biggest solar installations began operations in the desert of Morocco.

Other solar plants operate in the Gulf States of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And a Saudi company, ACWA Power, played a major role in the construction of the plants in Morocco and Dubai.

World’s largest private coal company files for bankruptcy Wed, 13 Apr 2016 11:55:26 +0000 coal company
coal company

Creative Commons: Paul Sableman, 2013

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately-owned coal company, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, becoming the 50th coal company to do so since 2012.

The company blames “prolonged industry downturn” on its predicament, hinting at the structural decline the coal industry is in, but fails to admit how its willful denial of climate change and refusal to move with the rest of the world towards a low carbon economy has destroyed its business.

Investment in renewables has outstripped fossil fuels in recent years, with more and more clean energy coming online.

When combined with the historic Paris Agreement last year, it is becoming abundantly clear that there is no place in a low carbon future for companies like Peabody Energy, and strong questions are now being raised around whether it and others like it can fulfill their obligations to workers and affected communities and clean up the mess their mines have left behind.

Key Points

  • Renewables are the future, and it’s a healthier, wealthier future for all. Renewable energy is already far outstripping coal in investment and new capacity globally; and this trend will continue as technology improves and countries increase climate action, boosting GDP, creating new jobs, saving millions of lives and increasing access to energy. . Coal’s only answer has been the misnomer of “clean coal” but this fails to solve the many issues it comes bundled with, such as human rights abuses, and health impacts.
  • The zero carbon transition is inevitable, and happening increasingly fast. As Peabody’s case makes clear, some fossil fuel companies are delusional about the change happening before their eyes, and are at risk of absconding from their responsibilities. As governments look to turn their Paris pledges in action, their first step should be urgent measures to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and ensure a smooth transition that protects workers, communities and taxpayers.

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Countries urged to turn Paris promises into action, ratify swiftly Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:53:32 +0000 Paris promises
Paris promises

Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2015

As many nations make calls for the swift ratification of the Paris Agreement, the profound impacts of climate change is hitting home, 2016 is forecast to be the hottest on record and more extreme weather events hit across the globe.

55 countries – representing 55 per cent of global emissions – need to ratify the agreement for it to formally take effect, and early support is in countries’ interest according to a UN aid.

Failing to ratify could leave countries out in the cold when it comes to deciding just how the new agreement will work, potentially putting them at a diplomatic and economic disadvantage.

As over 130 countries prepare to head to New York for the biggest ever UN signing ceremony – a symbolic first step towards fully implementing the agreement – calls are growing for countries to urgently adopt the deal and enact national laws and policies in line with the rapid global decarbonisation and the 1.5DegC temperature limit agreed in Paris.

Key Points

  • Delivering on Paris means turning promises into action. Four small island states have already passed laws in support of the Agreement and countries from China to Germany and the UK are examining new legislation to take them closer to their Paris pledges. The sooner all governments move towards implementation and action the sooner they will embark on their collective abandonment of dirty energy.

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Drought-hit California feels pressure Mon, 11 Apr 2016 12:10:42 +0000 Drought-hit California
Drought-hit California

Creative Commons: Joe Shlabotnik, 2005

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

California is being sheltered from stormy weather by what climate scientists have dubbed a Ridiculously Resilient Ridge – a band of high pressure that disrupts wind patterns.

But the discovery is not welcomed, as storms are what normally deliver the rainfall that California desperately needs to alleviate its crippling drought conditions.

Daniel Swain, a PhD student in environmental earth system science at Stanford University, and colleagues report in Science Advances journal that they analysed the atmospheric circulation patterns that have been coincident with rainfall and temperature extremes in the Golden State’s history.

Water availability

“California’s driest and warmest years are almost always associated with some sort of persistent high pressure region, which can deflect the Pacific storm track away from California,” Swain says.

“Since California depends on a relatively small number of heavy precipitation events to make up the bulk of the annual total, missing out on even one or two of these can have significant implications for water availability.”

California has been in the grip of a prolonged and remorseless drought that is one of the worst in history, with immediate and long-term threats to the supply of water for agriculture and the crowded cities of the region.

And researchers − including Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of earth system science at Stanford University, who is one of the co-authors of the new study − have linked the drought to global climate change resulting from the release of greenhouse gases worldwide as human economies burn ever more fossil fuel. Which means that Californians can expect more of the same.

“We find clear evidence that atmospheric patterns that look like what we’ve seen during this extreme drought have in fact become more common in recent decades”

“The current record-breaking drought has arisen from both extremely low precipitation and extremely warm temperature,” Professor Diffenbaugh says.

“In this new study, we find clear evidence that atmospheric patterns that look like what we’ve seen during this extreme drought have in fact become more common in recent decades.”

Surface melting

The scientists found that the blocking ridge of high pressure was deflecting storms northward, and that the phenomenon had become more common in recent decades.

Blocking high pressure systems affect all regions of the planet, and a team from Rutgers University recently reported in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate that such blocking highs could stop cold Canadian air from reaching Greenland, and thus accelerate the surface melting of the Arctic’s largest ice cap.

The take-home message from the Stanford research is that climate change research should embrace large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, as well as the patterns of temperature rise and precipitation.

Paradoxically, the resilience of the pressure ridge doesn’t mean the end of heavy rain in California − just a shift in the balance of dry and wet seasons.

“What seems to be happening is that we are having fewer ‘average’ years, and instead we’re seeing more extremes on both sides,” Swain says. “This means California is indeed experiencing more warm and dry periods, punctuated by wet conditions.”

Energy East ‘threatens’ drinking water for millions of Canadians Fri, 08 Apr 2016 12:47:22 +0000 energy east
energy east

Creative Commons: 2010

A proposed TransCanada pipeline could contaminate the drinking water sources for up to five million Canadians, a new report suggests.

According to Environmental Defence, TransCanada’s Energy East project – which would pump 1.1 billion barrels of crude from Alberta’s tar sands to coastal seaports – places nearly 3,000 drinkable water sources at risk of oil contamination if the pipeline were to rupture.

TransCanada has a history of their oil infrastructure failing in the past, with one of its pipelines transporting Alberta crude bursting earlier this week in the US.

As reports continue to magnify the dangers of sustaining a fossil fuel economy, Canada’s leaders face surmounting pressure to phase out any prospects of a dirty energy economy, and to instead make room for a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

  • Energy East could devastate communities. Not only would this pipeline risk contaminating the drinking water for millions of Canadians, Energy East – the largest proposed pipeline in North America – would cut through major cities and First Nations living along its proposed route. Energy East could also generate up to 32 million tonnes in additional greenhouse gas emissions each year in Canada, once again placing frontline communities at the forefront of its devastating impacts.
  • TransCanada has a history of being reckless. At the end of last summer, TransCanada drilled boreholes in the Bay of Fundy for pipeline exploration without consulting nearby communities, while just this week, the oil giant is caught up in another scandal with its Keystone pipeline rupture in South Dakota. By allowing TransCanada to build Energy East, the federal government would be placing people’s safety in the hands of a company that has continuously failed to protect the interests of communities.
  • Fossil fuels no longer make sense for Canada’s economy. The oil price slump has created economic instability in provinces like Alberta, which was highly dependent on the volatile commodity, and projects like Energy East won’t alleviate that situation since it would create few permanent jobs. At a time where leading experts agree that switching to renewables could stimulate growth, a full transition towards a 100 per cent clean energy future could be within Canada’s reach as early as 2050.

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Global wealth faces higher climate risk Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:20:38 +0000 global wealth
global wealth

Creative Commons: Kamyar Adl, 2015

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

Do you want to know how much climate change could cost the global economy? UK-based researchers have come up with an answer, which they present with some surprising qualifications.

If global average surface temperature rises by 2.5C over its pre-industrial level by 2100, they say, then an average of US$2.5 trillion, or 1.8%, of the world’s financial assets would be at risk from the impacts of climate change.

The researchers found that limiting warming to 2C in 2100 would significantly reduce the “climate Value at Risk” (VaR), which measures the risk to investments, estimating how much they might lose  given normal market conditions  in a set time period.

The average value of global financial assets at risk would be $1.7 trillion, with a one per cent chance of $13.2 trillion being at risk, they add.

Inevitable uncertainties

At the UN climate conference in Paris last December, 195 countries agreed to work to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2C, and to drive efforts to limit the increase even further, to only 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. So this estimate sounds fairly reassuring.

But suppose the world overshoots the Paris target and ends up above 2C by the end of the century? Estimating VaR is by no means an exact science, and the researchers found that the inevitable uncertainties in trying to establish it mean the average risk fails again to tell the whole story.

They say there is a one per cent chance that, in a world 2.5C warmer, the total level of global financial assets at risk in 2100 could reach $24 trillion, or 16.9% of assets.

The authors point out that this total is almost five times greater than the estimates of $5 trillion for the total stock market capitalisation of fossil fuel companies today.

“Our results may surprise investors, but they will not surprise many economists working on climate change” 

The researchers, from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Vivid Economics, publish their findings in Nature Climate Change journal.

The lead author, Professor Simon Dietz, says: “Our results may surprise investors, but they will not surprise many economists working on climate change, because economic models have over the past few years been generating increasingly pessimistic estimates of the impacts of global warming on future economic growth. 

Financial assets

“When we take into account the financial impacts of efforts to cut emissions, we still find the expected value of financial assets is higher in a world that limits warming to 2°C. This means risk-neutral investors would choose to cut emissions, and risk-averse investors would be even more keen to do so.

“Our research illustrates the risks of climate change to investment returns in the long run and shows why it should be an important issue for all long-term investors, such as pension funds, as well as financial regulators.” 

Of the uncertainties in estimating the climate VaR, he says: “Although we are the first to produce a comprehensive estimate of the climate Value at Risk using an economic model, it is important to remember there are huge uncertainties and difficulties in performing economic modelling of climate change, so this should be seen as the first word on the topic, not the last.”

White House weighs in on health risks of climate change Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:13:27 +0000 health risks of climate change
health risks of climate change

Creative Commons: 2012

Evidence of the health risks of climate change is stronger than ever, according to US federal researchers.

In a new report, the US Global Climate Change Research Program shows the strong correlations between global warming and the prevalence of health problems in the country, like asthma, allergies and the West Nile virus.

While this isn’t the first time that scientists have drawn such conclusions, this latest public health warning offers “the strongest evidence to date that links climate change to health risks,” according to the US surgeon general.

With Americans already reaping benefits to their health and the economy by shifting to renewables, this new study acts as yet another stark reminder for US leaders requiring further affirmation that a 100 per cent renewable future is inevitable, and needs to be accelerated.

Key Points

  • Embracing renewables is beneficial to people’s health and the economy. In 2015, AWEA reported that US wind farms contributed to a reduction of 132 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the electric power sector, slashing respiratory issues and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. By adopting smart and steady energy policies, communities that are ahead of the curve are healthier, safer and more prosperous than ever.
  • A renewables-only future is the only way to keep people safe from a warming planet. Around the world, hospitals have divested from fossil fuels, while an alliance of 13 million doctors, nurses and health workers issued a strong declaration urging leaders to put health at the forefront of climate action. Health professionals have and will continue to stand behind strong legislation that protects people from the impacts linked to rising temperatures and polluting fossil fuels.

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Coal plant closures becoming the new normal for Europe? Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:28:18 +0000 coal plant closures
coal plant closures

Creative Commons: 2012

The downward spiral for Europe’s coal industry continued this week, with Belgium becoming the latest country to rid itself of the dirty energy source.

With the closure of the country’s last coal-fired power station, Langerlo, on 30 March, the once coal-dependant Belgium is hot-on-the-heels of Scotland’s abandonment of coal, becoming the seventh EU nation to kick the dirty habit.

With a heavy nuclear dependency and proposals to converting Langerlo into a biomass-plant, the spotlight is now on the country to support its bustling renewables industry.

From China to the US, countries are increasingly moving to phase-out coal, leaving those clinging to it at a disadvantage both economically and politically.

Australia, for example, continues to pursue new mines at drastic cost to taxpayers, while Poland, Turkey and Japan look to burn even more coal, risking growing international condemnation, and facing years of dealing with the inevitable damage to their economy, health and communities.

Key Points

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Antarctic ice melt may be happening faster than feared Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:11:03 +0000 Antarctica ice melt
Antarctica ice melt

Creative Commons: Oliver Dodd, 2012

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network 

Climate scientists may have collectively underestimated the hazards of sea level rise. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their present rate, then, in Antarctica alone, enough ice will have run into the sea by the end of the century to raise the high tide mark worldwide by a metre.

And if the process continues, then by 2500 enough of Antarctica’s massive ice cap will have melted to raise sea levels by 15 metres.

The new finding focuses only on revised calculations for Antarctica. It does not count the melting from all the world’s mountain glaciers, the permafrost, or the Greenland ice cap, and it is concerned principally with the immediate impact of global warming. But the consequences are ominous enough.

“This could spell disaster for many low-lying cities,” says Robert DeConto, professor of climatology  at  the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “For example, Boston could see more than 1.5 metres of sea level rise in the next 100 years. But the good news is that an aggressive reduction in emissions will limit the risk of major Antarctic ice retreat.”

Professor DeConto and co-author David Pollard, senior scientist at Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, publish their new simulations in Nature and begin by thinking about sea level rise long before the emergence of humankind, let alone human civilisation.

Waiting for action

“We looked at the long-standing problem posed by geological evidence that suggests sea level rose dramatically in the past, possibly by up to 10 to 20 metres around 3 million years ago in the Pliocene,” Dr Pollard says. “Existing models couldn’t simulate enough ice sheet melting to explain that.”

The scientists’ warning comes with an important proviso: this is what could happen if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the present rate, to increase the carbon dioxide composition of the atmosphere, and to drive global warming. In Paris in December 195 nations vowed to take steps to contain climate change.

But promises have yet to become sustained action. And the predictions of climate change on which the Paris judgment was based were essentially compromise: a consensus around a median between the most and least hopeful calculations.

“We regard the results as worst-case envelopes of possible future behaviour, and the mechanisms should be considered seriously in future work”

The two US scientists are not the only ones to see heightened dangers of south polar melting or to suggest that warming is happening fasteror thatAntarctica’s glacial ice is running more swiftly into the sea than the consensus predicts.

They started with an exquisitely detailed model that embraced the physical processes that conserve ice or lead to its loss.

These include the fine detail of atmospheric warming and ice dynamics – what rainwater might do to the ice sheet that floats on the Southern Ocean and blocks the glacial flow from the land, for instance, and what makes ice cliffs collapse into the sea – along with a lot of lessons from the past.

Warmer ocean

Right now, what pushes the loss of ice is a warmer ocean, thinning the ice sheet from below. Melting water from the surface will penetrate the ice and cause it to crack.

When the ice shelves are gone, the glaciers can accelerate. But the continent bears a massive burden of ice: the remaining ice cliffs would be so huge they could not support their own weight, and these too would collapse at an increasing rate. Once the process begins, then atmospheric warming will prevent the formation of more ice.

“Although the future sea-level contribution in our model is greater than previously thought, it is based on credible mechanisms and is consistent with geologic evidence of past sea-level rise,” Dr Pollard says. “We regard the results as worst-case envelopes of possible future behaviour, and the mechanisms should be considered seriously in future work.”

Health benefits surge as US clean tech soars Fri, 01 Apr 2016 09:50:17 +0000 US clean tech
US clean tech

Creative Common: Edith Maracle (Berghout), 2009

As renewable jobs skyrocket in the US, so do their immense health benefits. According to a recent report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, the clean energy industry currently employs more than 2.5 million Americans in sectors like energy efficiency and renewable energy.

These findings come at a time where the health benefits of renewables are increasingly apparent – the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported $7.3 billion in savings for 2015 on healthcare costs, such as respiratory issues caused by polluting emissions.

Despite the significant benefits brought on by a burgeoning clean energy industry, there’s still plenty of progress to be made – according to conservation policy analysts, oil production on public lands increased by more than 11 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Following today’s joint announcement from the US and China that they would both sign the Paris Agreement on 22 April, all eyes will be on federal leaders to implement policies that break free from fossil fuels “as early as possible” for a safer and healthier future.

Key Points

  • Clean energy growth creates jobs nationwide. The American solar industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy, now employing more people than coal mining, while the US continues to be the world leader in the wind energy sector. As renewable energy becomes more affordable and abundant, the sector will continue to surge.
  • Communities that embrace renewables are reaping the benefits. In 2015, AWEA reported that US wind farms contributed to a reduction of 132 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the electric power sector, slashing respiratory issues and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. By adopting smart and steady energy policies, communities that are ahead of the curve are healthier, safer and more prosperous than ever.
  • Climate action and fossil fuel growth are mutually exclusive. Over the past few months, US President Barack Obama has worked to cement his climate legacy before leaving office. With the US and China announcing today that they would indeed move forward with the Paris Agreement, all eyes will be on the Obama administration to roll out the historic climate agreement “as early as possible” by moving away from dangerous fossil fuels for good.

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Bleak outlook for coal as UK closes three plants Thu, 31 Mar 2016 15:22:26 +0000 coal pollution
UK coal plants

Creative Commons: Tobias Scheck, 2011

The UK has put the world another step closer to ridding itself of coal with the closure of three more polluting power stations. Last week, Longannet – Scotland’s last coal-fired power station – and Ferrybridge shut its doors.

Today, Yorkshire based Eggborough follows suit, remaining available only for emergency back-up.

Another station Fiddlers Ferry was also due to shutdown this week, but obtained an additional contract to keep some of its units open, while this spring Rugeley power plant in Staffordshire is expected to join the list of closures.

Together, the three closures will save 20 million tonnes of CO2, take UK government closer to its target to phase out unabated coal use by 2025, and set an example for Europe’s other coal-hungry government’s to follow.

With a growing appetite from renewables and increasing evidence to show that getting out of coal will protect lives, shield governments from an increasingly volatile coal market, and help them meet their emission reduction targets, there is little argument left for any country to continue investing in this dirtiest of energy sources.

Key Points

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Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:28:54 +0000 Arctic sea ice
Arctic sea ice

Creative Commons: NASA/Kathryn Hansen, 2011

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Researchers in the US say that Arctic sea ice has reached a record low winter maximum for the second year running.

Data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the US space agency NASA shows that the sea ice peaked on 24 March at 5.607 million square miles, or 14.52 million square kilometres. This is the lowest maximum since satellite measurements began in 1979.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” says the NSIDC director, Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

The extent of the ice is only slightly smaller than the 2015 measurement of 5.612 million square miles, or 14.54 million square kilometres. The 13 smallest maximum extents of ice have all been recorded in the last 13 years.

Warmest year

The steady shrinking of the winter ice in the last four decades means that the Arctic has lost ice over 1.6 million square kilometres or 620,000 square miles  an area as big as the Xinjiang region in China, or twice the size of Texas.

The finding is no great surprise: 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded, and both around the planet and in the Arctic, December, January and February all broke monthly temperature records. Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean for those three months of were 2° to 6° C above average in nearly every region.

And not only were air temperatures at the edge of the ice significantly warmer than usual in the last century, warm winds from the south prevented the growth of the ice pack, and warming ocean waters continued to contain the sea ice extent.

“Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year, we’re seeing a significant downward trend”

The Arctic ice cap plays a powerful role in maintaining polar temperatures. Ice and snow reflect 60% of incoming solar radiation back into space, while blue seas absorb sunlight and accelerate warming.

So as the ice caps get smaller, they are likely to go on getting smaller. But what climate scientists call the albedo effect matters most in summer, when the sun is higher in the Arctic sky.

Summer melting

Ironically, the latest measurements come only months after researchers expressed hopes that, for the moment, the steady shrinking of the ice caps may have faltered.

The dwindling extent of winter ice also suggests that the summer melting could continue over time to be more extensive. The year 2012 saw the summer pack ice shrink to its lowest ever, and researchers now confidently expect the Arctic Ocean to become increasingly open to shipping for at least part of the year.

“It is likely that we’re going to keep seeing smaller wintertime maximums in the future because, in addition to a warmer atmosphere, the ocean has also warmed up,” says Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland. “That warmer ocean will not let the ice edge expand as far south as it used to.” 

“Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year, depending on winter weather conditions, we’re seeing a significant downward trend, and that’s ultimately related to the warming atmosphere and oceans.”


Are Australian taxpayers to fund Adani’s zombie coal project? Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:16:59 +0000 Adani’s zombie coal project
Adani’s zombie coal project

Creative Commons: John Englart, 2014

With over dozen financial institutions essentially ruling out funding Indian coal conglomerate Adani’s Carmichael mine in Queensland, Australian taxpayers are now being asked to open their wallets for the project.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is in the country this week, seeking a handout from Australia’s Future Fund for the economically disastrous project, which has been described as financially unviable, as well as an environmental and climate disaster.

While the project appears to be walking dead, if Australia’s sovereign wealth fund ignores the neon warning signs – such as ANZ’s almost billion-dollar writedown of coal loans, the halt of coal plant construction in China, Peabody Energy’s imminent demise, and a new report out today showing that coal plants are increasingly sitting idle around the world on the back of drastic consumption declines – then the Future Fund will be risking red on its balance sheet on the scale of the white currently bleaching the Great Barrier Reef.

Key Points

  • Australians are not only being asked to sign a death warrant for the Great Barrier Reef with Adani’s new coal mine, they are now being asked to pay for it too. Every bank within cooee is backing away from coal, so Adani is looking to Future Fund chairman and former Howard Government Treasurer Peter Costello to put taxpayer money where his mouth is. Costello has already been called out on willful blindness and a breach of fiduciary duty for his continued support for fossil fuel investments, but even considering investing taxpayer money in Adani’s zombie project – as ANZ issues almost a billion dollar writedown for coal loans – would be the definition of “ludicrous”, as former Liberal Leader John Hewson put it in late 2015.
  • This is the face of the Coalition government’s climate policy. If it can schizophrenically push coal expansion while pretending to act on climate change, say coal is “good for humanity” while the new coal plants in the pipeline alone will result in an estimated 130,000 more premature deaths per year, then it isn’t hard to believe that it will allow taxpayer money to be hastily gambled on a coal project that both directly and indirectly threatens Australia’s multi-billion dollar Great Barrier Reef tourism industry on its watch.
  • New coal is good for no one. The economic case for Adani’s Carmichael mine is dire, but it does not stack up in any other way either.The coal industry is deepening the world’s water crisis and hurting the vulnerable, but in turn the water crisis in India has left coal struggling too, with coal plants forced to sit idle due to lack of water. Not only is the coal industry putting greater pressure on water flows badly needed for people and food and risking the health of millions globally, the almost US$1 trillion that could be spent on the current expansion of coal plants is 2.5 times the amount needed to end energy poverty for 1.2 billion people.

More resources for this story can be found here >>

UK doctors: Climate change ‘gravest threat’ to human health Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:00:17 +0000 human health
human health

Flooding at the River Severn, UK in November 2012. Creative Commons: 2012

The UK’s leading health institutions are today calling for greater action to tackle one of the “the gravest threats to health”.

The newly formed UK Health Alliance on Climate Change warns that more frequent extreme weather events like flooding and heatwaves pose direct risks to health and systemic threats to hospitals and health services, while climate change will also bring untold impacts for human health, including the spread of diseases and malnutrition.

As with other risks before it, such as tobacco, HIV/AIDS and polio, the alliance aims to address the “unacceptable threat to wellbeing” caused by climate change, and add their weight to growing calls for a cleaner, safer, healthier future.

Responding to climate change will have real benefits for health, with the alliance stressing that strong action would put the UK at the centre of the “greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

Key Points

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Asia loses its appetite for coal Tue, 29 Mar 2016 12:35:40 +0000 appetite for coal
appetite for coal

Creative Commons: Gustavo M, 2008

Authored by Kieran Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

Asia, the world’s biggest coal market by far, is showing signs of turning its back on what is the most polluting of fuels, shelving or cancelling a large number of coal-fired power plant construction projects.

Four Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam – together account for about 75% of an estimated 2,457 coal-fired power stations at present planned or under construction around the world.

A study published by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a UK-based non-profit organisation, says a combination of factors – including slowing economic growth and a rapid growth in renewables – means that a large percentage of these plants will never be built.

That’s good news for people living in cities such as New Delhi andBeijing, where coal-burning power plants are major contributors to health-threatening levels of air pollution.

It’s also good news for the planet: the burning of coal accounts for nearly 50% of global energy-related carbon emissions and is a main driver of climate change

The ECIU says that in both India and China existing coal-fired power plants are under-utilised. In China – at present the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer – a faltering economy, over-optimistic projections of electricity demand and rapidly falling costs for renewable power are among the factors slowing coal demand

Scaleback likely

In India, the world’s second biggest coal consumer, severe infrastructure problems are one factor hampering full use of existing coal plants.

In both countries, says the study, this may make new plants progressively less profitable, and less attractive to investors. Also, both countries are “massively expanding” renewable and nuclear generation.

Though both Vietnam and Indonesia have ambitious coal plant construction plans, the ECIU says these are likely to be scaled back in the years ahead.

After the global climate meeting in Paris late last year, Vietnam announced it was reviewing all new coal plant projects in order to implement “international agreements to cut emissions.” 

Indonesia remains focused on expanding its coal-fired power sector, though projects on Java – one of the most densely populated islands on earth – are meeting strong opposition from those worried about air pollution

Indonesia has also announced plans to source 23% of its energy from renewables by 2025 – up from 6% at present.

“The argument that there is no point in Western nations decarbonising because their emission cuts will be dwarfed by emission gains from Asia is based on shaky ground”

Gerard Wynn, founder of the UK’s GWG Energy consultancy and author of the ECIU study, says the idea that a coal boom in Asia will undermine climate change pledges made at the Paris summit is exaggerated.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuels in favour of cleaner forms of energy is happening much faster than anyone could have expected”, says Wynn.

“The report’s assessment of new capacity that will be built may even be an over-estimate once the Paris Agreement comes into effect, as it will further restrict financing for new coal projects.” 

China’s electricity demand last year grew at its slowest rate since at least 1970, at 0.5%. Wynn says: “That slowing power demand growth explains why the country doesn’t need new coal power plants. And it contradicts the official headline rate of 6.9% GDP growth last year.”

The report says it is far too soon to signal the end of coal in Asia, but the case for building new coal plants is quickly shrinking. “In our estimation, the number of new coal-fired power plants built across Asia is likely to be in the hundreds, probably the low hundreds”, says the study.

“As such, the argument that there is no point in Western nations decarbonising because their emission cuts will be dwarfed by emission gains from Asia is based on shaky ground.”

US faces floods of climate refugees Wed, 23 Mar 2016 14:13:19 +0000 climate refugees
climate refugees

Creative Commons: Coast Guard News, 2009

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

By the century’s end, millions of US citizens could become climate refugees. A study of US counties vulnerable to sea level rise warns that if the coasts are not protected, the movement of people could match the scale of the 20th-century “Great Migration” of African-Americans from the south to the northern states.

Altogether, the new research concludes, more than 13 million people could be affected by a sea level rise of 1.8 metres. This is the high end of climate science projections for sea level rise, but even at the low end a rise of 0.9 metres will put more than 4 million people at risk.

And another study of vulnerability worldwide suggests that, everywhere, the chance of being affected by sea level rise has been underestimated. What matters in such calculations are the concentrations of population in the coastal zones.

High-tide mark

Finnish scientists report that 1.9 billion people live within 100kms of the coast and lower than 100 metres above sea level. By 2050, this number will have increased to 2.4 billion, and 500 million will dwell less than 5 metres above the high-tide mark.

Studies such as these are not scaremongering, they are a sober attempt to provide basic information for city planners, coastal engineers and policy-makers.

Mathew Hauer, a population scientist, and colleagues at the University of Georgia in the US report in Nature Climate Change that they looked at the end-of-century population forecasts for all 319 coastal counties in the continental US to see who would be most at risk from storm surges and flood tides by 2100.

This is not the first such study. Researchers have previously made ominous projections on a global scale, and a number of US cities have been warned of the growing hazard.

“Impact projections are up to three times larger than current estimates, which significantly underestimate the effect of sea level rise in the United States”

But the implication of the Georgia research is that the numbers of those potentially vulnerable may have been underestimated.

Some of the fastest-growing communities face the highest risks. More than a quarter of all the people living in major cities such as Miami and New Orleans could face coastal flooding by 2100, unless steps are taken. In the Florida Keys, and parts of North Carolina, four-fifths of the population could be affected.

“The impact projections are up to three times larger than current estimates, which significantly underestimate the effect of sea level rise in the United States,” Hauer says. “In fact, there are 31 counties where more than 100,000 residents could be affected by sea level rise.”

His study invokes the great mass movement of African-Americans as a parallel to the migration that climate change will bring. Between 1916 and 1970, more than six million abandoned their homesteads in the rural southern states and moved to the crowded cities of the north.

Given that the resettlement of one Alaskan coastal village is put at $1m per resident, the cost of such relocation on a scale of millions could reach – at 2014 values – an estimated $14 trillion.

But rural hinterlands could, conversely, become steadily more important in a world of rising tides.

Century of change

Matti Kummu, post-doctoral fellow in the water and development group at Aalto University in Finland, and his European colleagues report in Environmental Research Letters that while the planet’s people and their wealth are concentrated in coastal zones, the more sparsely-populated highland and mountain areas are likely to become increasingly important as food-producing regions.

Their study is a back-to-basics survey of economic and population geography in a century of change, and they too conclude that the hazards have been under-estimated.

They warn that even if the sea-level rise may have a limited effect overall, “our results indicate that effects on the economy and people may be substantial.

“Moreover, our findings suggest that food is being produced further and further away from where people live. As a result, more and more elevated areas of the globe might be experiencing increasing pressure to utilise land and water resources.

“Projected climate change-induced sea level rise and continuous population growth in already resource-scarce areas might further increase the stress on less-populated areas.”

Germany on the brink of 95% emission reductions target Tue, 22 Mar 2016 13:33:06 +0000 emission reduction target
emission reductions target

Creative Commons: Greg Men, 2009

Germany could soon be a step closer to implementing the December’s historic Paris climate agreement with reports it is mulling a target to reduce emissions 95% on 1990 levels by 2050.

Europe’s economic powerhouse joined others this month in calling for more ambitious emission reduction targets in light of the agreement, and a 95% target would add greater momentum to this call.

A leader in clean energy – with nearly 33% of power demand met with renewables last year – Germany’s latest plan would still be a “mammoth task” that would leave “no sector… excluded.

Eyes will now be on the German government to see its promise through by moving past  dirty energy – namely coal – in favour of a cleaner energy future.

Key Points

Subrata Biswas: How coal dries out villages in western India Tue, 22 Mar 2016 12:01:24 +0000 coal dries out villages
coal dries out villages

Drought in Maharashtra. Courtesy of: Subrata Biswas / Greenpeace, 2016

Authored by Subrata Biswas, re-posted from Greenpeace
Subrata Biswas is an independent photo journalist

It’s only the first week of March, but the weather has already turned curiously dry and hot; the harsh wind permeating through the car as we drive through remote Maharashtra. Located in the western region of India, Maharashtra is one of the wealthiest and most developed states, home to the glittering capital of Mumbai. But where we are, is far away from any type of plentiful and resourceful area.

What we see are acres of dried fields full of burnt crops; people carrying large water pots; long queues beside a deep tube well or water tanker; dried canals connecting dams with nearby villages. Over four days and travelling almost 1,500 km these sights are common as I document the drought-affected villages in Solapur, Beed and Osmanabad districts in Maharashtra. 

The World Economic Forum has listed water security as one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today. The high water intensity of global energy generation is creating a need for an analysis of water-coal conflict caused by coal power production.

Released on World Water Day, Greenpeace has prepared a groundbreaking analysis of the impacts of the world’s coal power plants on global water resources. The results show that the world’s coal power plants are consuming an amount of water that could meet the basic requirements for 1 billion people.

Globally 44 % of the proposed coal power plants are in areas categorized as high water stress. Among them, a quarter are situated in red-list areas, which are at risk of running out of water. Among the globally critical areas are western China, such as Inner Mongolia, and Central India such as Maharastra. In these areas a conflict with other water users like farmers and food production is already happening.

See full PHOTO BLOG here >>

Emissions standstill boosts Paris hopes Mon, 21 Mar 2016 11:06:39 +0000 Bleak outlook for coal
Bleak outlook for coal

Creative Commons: Zhang Yu, 2007

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

The world continued to make progress towards a low-carbon economy during 2015, according to analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

It says analysis of preliminary data for the year reveals that global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide − the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions − showed no increase for the second year in a row.

The IEA announcement will be doubly welcome as some Arctic temperatures continue to warm bizarrely. It comes a day after reports from Fort Yukon in Alaska said temperatures there had reached up to 10°C higher than expected for this time of year.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said of the emissions report: “The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news. We now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth.

Landmark agreement

“Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”

Significantly, the global economy continued to grow in 2015 by more than 3%, which the IEA says is further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.

In more than 40 years, it says, there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness.

But the recent stall in emissions comes amid economic expansion. According to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP grew by 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.

The IEA says global emissions of CO2 stood at 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015, having remained essentially flat since 2013. Its preliminary data suggest that electricity generated by renewables was critical, accounting for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. And wind alone produced more than half of new electricity generation.

The two largest emitters, China and the US, both registered a decline in energy-related CO2 in 2015.

“We now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth”

In China, emissions declined by 1.5% as coal use dropped for the second year in a row. The economic restructuring towards less energy-intensive industries, and the government’s efforts to decarbonise electricity generation, forced coal use down. In 2015, it generated less than 70% of Chinese electricity, 10% below the 2011 figure.

Over the same period, low-carbon sources jumped from 19% to 28%, with hydro and wind accounting for most of the increase.

In the US, emissions fell by 2% because of a large switch from coal to natural gas for generating electricity.

But these declines were matched by increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies and the Middle East, and also by a moderate increase in Europe.

Premature deaths

The IEA will provide more detail on the emissions in a special report on energy and air quality, to be released at the end of June.

The report will go beyond CO2 emissions and will provide a first in-depth analysis of the role the energy sector plays in air pollution, which causes 7 million premature deaths a year.

Meanwhile, the warming already stored in the atmosphere by past greenhouse gas emissions continues to produce striking results.

The US space agency, NASA, published data earlier this week that shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35°C warmer than the average temperature for the same month between 1951 and 1980 − a far bigger margin than ever seen before.

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, says: “We are in a kind of climate emergency now. This is really quite stunning – it’s unprecedented.”

Coal pollution costs Western Balkans dear Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:45:04 +0000 coal pollution
coal pollution

Creative Commons: Tobias Scheck, 2011

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

One dollar in three earned by the economy of Serbia is accounted for by those of its citizens who die early because of the country’s soaring air pollution.

The finding, by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is contained in a report published by a campaign group that argues for an end to coal-burning throughout Europe by 2040 to protect health and to reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

The WHO list of the economic cost of deaths from air pollution (both outdoor and indoor), as a percentage of GDP, puts Serbia in second place, with 33.5% of its gross domestic product spent on this increasingly avoidable mortality. For comparison, the UK figure is barely one-tenth as large: 3.7%.

Top of the list, which covers all the countries of the WHO’s European region, is Georgia, at 35.2%. The report, however, concentrates on the West Balkans, and so does not include the Caucasus countries.

Public health

The WHO published the list in 2010, but the figures it reports are the latest available and were repeated in anotherreport published by the WHO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015.

The group campaigning for an end to coal-burning in Europe is the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). It says the public health costs from coal-fired power plants in five Western Balkan countries, with seven of the 10 most polluting coal plants in the whole of Europe, may be as high as €8.5 billion (US$9.4 billion) a year.

The calculation by HEAL includes costs directly related to air pollution from the plants, including from premature deaths, respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, new cases of chronic bronchitis and lower respiratory problems, medication use, and days of restricted activity caused by ill-health, including lost working days. The region depends heavily on coal and lignite.

Air pollutants in the Western Balkans, HEAL says, are at levels up to two-and-a-half times above national air quality safety limits, and well beyond what the WHO recommends.

“This potential for a major improvement in population health should be taken into account when developing energy policies”

The WHO says that “air pollution at current levels in European cities is responsible for a significant burden of deaths, hospital admissions and exacerbation of symptoms, especially for cardiorespiratory disease”.

Anne Stauffer, deputy director of HEAL, says the report “uncovers the myth that coal is the cheapest form of energy.

“Opting out of coal offers the prospect of a healthier and more prosperous future. The EU should encourage the change to a healthy energy future by significantly increasing financial support for renewables and energy savings.”

The report says a significant part of the Balkan pollution is carried on the wind and affects people elsewhere in Europe. It says that Europe, in this context, includes countries as far away as western Russia and Norway, and the EU’s current efforts to ensure cleaner air in member countries should not stop at its own borders.

Strong support

There is strong local support for phasing out coal among leading health policy-makers in the Western Balkans, HEAL says.

Serbia’s State Secretary for Health, Professor Berislav Vekić, says: “Reducing the level of pollutants in the air would produce very significant health benefits. This potential for a major improvement in population health should be taken into account when developing energy policies.”

Garret Tankosic-Kelly, principal and founder of SEE Change Net, says: “Choosing cleaner air is a no-brainer.

“Our expert energy models clearly show that the enormous potential for solar, wind and biomass – combined with much more energy efficiency – would lead to a cleaner, fairer, and more efficient energy system in South East Europe, and for the same cost as the currently planned investments in dirty lignite.”

Governments, including those in the Western Balkans, are being urged by HEAL and SEE Network to close existing coal plants and not to build any new ones.

China goes big on clean energy in latest Five-Year Plan Thu, 17 Mar 2016 09:33:31 +0000 Five-Year Plan
Five-Year Plan

Creative Commons: Beyond Coal and Gas, 2011

For the first time ever, China will cap its total primary energy consumption, and set targets to improve its air quality, outlined in its 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development.

China also plans to cut energy and CO2 intensity by 15 per cent and 18 per cent respectively in the next five years, putting the country in a position to likely surpass its 2020 carbon intensity reduction target.

This announcement comes at a time when coal use continues to decline throughout the country and renewable capacity is soaring.

A recent study shows that the country is likely to meet its climate pledges quicker than expected, to protect the vulnerable from adverse climate impacts. As emissions stall and renewables surge, China is on a path that cleans up its air, cuts coal reliance and ends extreme poverty.

Key Points

  • Accelerated action brings cleaner air and better health. As renewables are increasingly eating into coal’s energy share in China, new findings show that the nation’s coal use may have peaked, as well as its carbon emissions. Paired with a strong Five-Year Plan, accelerating ambition over the next five years could help the nation clean up its air quicker and improve public health while bringing other substantial benefits to its people.

Find more resources for this story here >>

Coal’s demise paves way for renewable-friendly future Wed, 16 Mar 2016 17:06:09 +0000 coal's demise
coal's demise

Creative Commons: 2014

As fortunes continue to fade for coal, new beginnings are on the horizon for renewables. Oregon has become the first US state to introduce legislation that phases out coal completely by 2030, and doubles renewables in their energy mix by 2040.

Meanwhile in Canada, the Ontario-based Nanticoke coal plant – formerly the largest in North America – will be repurposed into a solar farm, producing 45 MW of power.

According to the International Energy Agency, the global surge in renewables is having an impact on CO2 emissions, which have stalled for the second year in a row.

With subnational governments stepping up for the climate, and world leaders expected to ratify the Paris deal in a matter of weeks, these latest developments signal an uptick in momentum in the ongoing transition towards a 100 per cent clean energy future.

Key Points

  • Strong policies have sent renewables soaring. Where Ontario led the way – becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to eradicate coal power for health and environmental reasons – others, including Oregon, are now following, taking steps to phase out coal in favour of clean, safe renewables. By implementing strong and stable policies that allow clean energy to thrive, governments are also boostingbusinesses, jobs and the economy.
  • To accelerate the ongoing transition, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Momentum is higher than ever, with leaders around the world are taking steps to cement their Paris pledges into national policy. With all eyes on leaders to keep their word, people around the world will also be making their voice heard this spring and urging governments to break free from fossil fuels for good.

Find more resources for this story here >>

Two steps forward, one step back: UK touts zero carbon future but backs fossils Wed, 16 Mar 2016 16:36:46 +0000 UK touts zero carbon future
UK touts zero carbon future

Creative Commons: Lee Davy, 2014

The UK government made history this week, when it took the first step towards enshrining the Paris goal of a zero emissions future into law.

But just days after the announcement it is accused of not putting “enough fuel in the tank to get us there”, as it delivered a 2016 Budget that continues to prop up an ailing oil and gas industry to the tune of £1 billion.

While there was some good news in the budget for the low-carbon future, including new funding for renewables and additional support for flood defences, it appears the Chancellor didn’t get the “memo about the government’s plan to build a net-zero emission economy”.

Beyond missing the memo, the Chancellor isn’t hearing the countless calls from all sectors of society, including think-tanks, conservative MPs and even the big energy industry, demanding the government invest in the energy infrastructure of the future.

If the UK truly aims to lead the world in “translating the Paris agreement into domestic policy”its long-term vision will need stronger short-term policies so it can cash in on the huge benefits this transition has to offer.

Key Points

Find more resources for this story here >> 

Another climate warning: February smashes heat records Tue, 15 Mar 2016 09:56:17 +0000 February smashes heat records
February smashes heat records

Anomalies in surface temperature across the globe for February 2016. Source: NASA/GISS.

The world’s recent run of record-breaking temperatures continued into February, smashing previous monthly records by an unprecedented amount.

New data from NASA shows global surface temperatures across land and ocean were 1.35DegC above the February average – based on a 1951-1980 baseline.

2016 is already forecast to be the hottest year on record, and as extreme weather events continue to hit communities across the globe, scientists are becoming more certain than ever of human’s role in increasing the magnitude and probability of many of these climate change-related events.

Coming just weeks before governments meet in New York, where they are expected to sign the landmark climate agreement reached in Paris last December, these latest findings offer yet another stark warning of the urgency to turn their Paris pledges into definitive actions.

Key Points

More resources for this story can be found here >>

Obama and Trudeau join forces to move their countries ahead of the climate curve Fri, 11 Mar 2016 10:25:08 +0000 Obama and Trudeau
Obama and Trudeau

Public Domain: Pete Souza/White House, 2015

The US and Canada have taken strong strides towards creating a low carbon economy, cementing a number of climate-friendly agreements today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who is in Washington this week for the first official visit from a Canadian federal leader in nearly 20 years –  agreed with President Barack Obama to significantly slash dangerous methane emissions.

The two leaders also pledged to implement plans for Arctic conservation and to insulate against climate-fueled damages to the region, while protecting Indigenous peoples living on the frontlines of those impacts.

With the two of the world’s most influential leaders stepping up to meet their Paris climate pledges, all eyes will be on their international colleagues – especially those who also have a stake in the Arctic – to ramp up their contribution towards the ongoing transition to a 100 per cent clean energy future.

Key Points

  • The Obama-Trudeau meeting signals a new era in climate diplomacy. Trudeau aggressively campaigned for “real change” on climate, and after ousting 10 years of Conservative leadership from office, the people he represents are holding him to his word. While Trudeau still has a lot to prove when it comes to his position on pipelines, two major world leaders aligning their progressive vision for a low carbon future is another significant step.
  • With these two major leaders on board, now is the moment for the rest of the world to get on track. South of the US border, Mexico has an opportunity to get in on the action when all three North American nations strive to partner on climate later this year. Meetings at the G7 in Japan, the G20 in Beijing and China’s highly anticipated five year plan, are all other big moments for nations to cement their post-Paris climate legacy.

Find more resources for this story here >>

Electric car sales are powering ahead Wed, 09 Mar 2016 12:24:42 +0000 electric-car-cc-Hakan-Dahlstrom-2011

Authored by Kieren Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

Within six years, the cost of owning an electric car will be cheaper than purchasing and running a petrol or diesel model. That’s the conclusion of a report on the fast-expanding electric car market by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The report says that even if petrol or diesel driven cars improve their fuel efficiency over the coming years, the cost of owning an electric car – buying it and running it – will be below that of conventional vehicles by 2022.

The increased sale of electrically-powered cars is seen as an important element in the fight against climate change. CO2 emissions from vehicles fuelled by petrol and diesel cause a build-up of greenhouse gases and, especially in cities, pollution from exhausts causes serious damage to health.

Worldwide sales

Bloomberg says electric vehicle (EV) sales worldwide reached just under half a million in 2015 – a 60% rise on the previous year. Although electric-powered cars make up only one per cent of the global vehicle total at present, it is predicted that worldwide EV sales will be more than 40 million by 2040, making up approximately 35% of all light duty vehicle sales.

The report’s authors say developments in battery technology are one of the key factors driving the downward trend in prices in the electric car market.

“At the core of this forecast is the work we have done on EV battery prices,” says Colin McKerracher, a Bloomberg analyst.

Lithium-ion battery costs have already fallen by 65% since 2010, reaching $350 per kilowatt hour (kWh) last year. We expect EV battery costs to be well below $120 per kWh by 2030, and to fall further after that as new chemistries come in.”

To date, two types of electric car have been produced for the mass market: a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is solely dependent on batteries for power, while a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) uses a combination of rechargeable batteries and a conventional engine as back-up.

“We expect EV battery costs to be well below $120 per kWh by 2030, and to fall further after that as new chemistries come in”

Recent improvements in battery technology mean that a BEV can travel up to 200 miles without recharging.

Electric vehicle manufacturers say that as more sales are achieved, manufacturing costs will drop as economies of scale are achieved.

Various electric-powered sports models manufactured in the US and Europe have tended to grab the headlines recently, but the main sales growth in future is likely to take place in China.

At present, the US continues to be the world’s biggest EV market, although it isJapan’s Nissan Leaf that heads electric car sales.

The government in China, faced with tackling serious pollution problems in many cities, is giving big subsidies to the country’s electric car manufacturers.

Incentives to buyers

It is also offering incentives to buyers, in terms of lower insurance premiums and road taxes, discounted charging facilities, and access to urban road networks when other vehicles are banned due to high pollution levels.

Xindayang, a Chinese manufacturer, is marketing electric vehicles in China at a cost of $10,000 – much cheaper than EVs elsewhere.

Chinese EV manufacturers have global ambitions. Faraday Future, a China-backed EV maker, recently announced plans to invest more than a billion dollars in a manufacturing plant in the US.

China is also investing heavily in the necessary infrastructure for EVs. The State Council – the main law-making body in China – announced last year that facilities would be developed to handle up to five million plug-in vehicles by 2020.

Greenland’s darkening ice is melting faster Wed, 09 Mar 2016 10:54:19 +0000 Greenland's darkening ice
Greenland's darkening ice

A scientist launches a measuring sensor into a meltwater river on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet. Creative Commons: NASA/Goddard/Jefferson Beck, 2015

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Greenland is getting darker. Climatology’s great white hope, the biggest block of ice in the northern hemisphere, is losing its reflectivity.

According to new research, the island’s dusty snows are absorbing ever more solar radiation, which is likely to accelerate the rate at which the icecap melts.

The Greenland icecap covers 1.7 million square kilometres and contains enough ice to raise sea levels by seven metres. Right now, the rate of melting is on the increase, and meltwater flowing off the icecap could be raising sea levels by 0.6mm a year.

A powerful contributing factor, scientists report in The Cryosphere journal, could be that the ice has darkened over the last two decades. By 2100, the albedo – the climatologists’ term for the reflectivity of rock, sand, water or ice – could have fallen by 10%.

Feedback loop

Soot blown in from wildfires further south – already fingered as one of the suspects by previous studies – may be part of the problem, but the researchers have a more complex agency in mind: the feedback loop.

In the summer, the surface ice starts to melt. As the top layers trickle away, old impurities are exposed, darkening the surface and making it more sun-receptive. As the snow freezes again, the grains of snow get bigger – as water becomes ice, it makes a glue for the snow grains – and the bigger grains make a less reflective surface.

Greenland still looks icy and snowy, and enough optical light is reflected to make snow-blindness a danger. But in the infra-red region of the spectrum − where the global warming happens in the thickening soup of greenhouse gases − it’s a different story.

“You don’t necessarily have to have a ‘dirtier’ snowpack to make it dark,” says the study’s leader, Marco Tedesco, founder of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory, which is now based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“A snowpack that might look ‘clean’ to our eyes can be more effective in absorbing solar radiation than a dirty one. Overall, what matters is the total amount of solar energy that the surface absorbs. This is the real driver of melting.”

“As warming continues, the feedback from declining albedo will add up. It’s a train running downhill, and the hill is getting steeper”

The latest study is not likely to settle the question of the future of the Greenland ice cap, if only because repeated studies keep delivering different conclusions.

Overall, climate scientists are increasingly sure that global climate change, as a consequence of global warming driven by ever-higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere – itself a consequence of ever greater combustion of fossil fuels – is to blame. But big questions remain.

How much of the surface meltwater makes it to the ocean? What is going onwhere the ice meets the bedrock? And why have the glaciers started to accelerate on their journey towards the sea? What is the role of the warming ocean? Do clouds play a part?

Nevertheless,  the darkening of the snows remains a potentially powerful contributing factor.

Summertime changes

The Cryosphere science team used satellite information to compare summertime changes in Greenland’s albedo from 1981 to 2012. The darkening started around 1996 and the ice began absorbing 2% more radiation per decade.

On the other hand, the Global Fire Emissions Database revealed no statistically significant increase in soot released by forest fires in the northern hemisphere that could account for such darkening during that period, so questions remain.

But, over the same period, summer near-surface temperatures in Greenland increased by 0.74°C per decade to help accelerate the feedback. Computer models were used to settle the questions of grain size and albedo. Over the entire ice sheet, average albedo will fall by 8% over the rest of this century, and by as much as 10% on the western edge.

Professor Tedesco thinks these are conservative estimates. Global warming will mean more precipitation. As well as the winter snow, there will be more summer rain, which would also speed up melting. As average global temperatures creep up, higher altitudes are more likely to warm and melt.

“As warming continues, the feedback from declining albedo will add up,” he says. “It’s a train running downhill, and the hill is getting steeper.”

EU Commission softens climate stance, all eyes turn to leaders Tue, 08 Mar 2016 16:46:55 +0000 eu-commission-cc-Sebastien-Bertrand-2010


As EU environment ministers offer their support for more ambitious emission reductions, the Commission could be softening its stance, with its chief negotiator saying that he is open to increasing the bloc’s 2030 target. Last week, the

Last week, the Commission ruled out an increase, but was quickly countered when big hitting ministers, including from Germany, France and the UK, supported higher ambition. Europe was a key mover in Paris, building bridges with developing countries. With leaders meeting later this month to take-stock of what the agreement means for its

With leaders meeting later this month to take-stock of what the agreement means for its 2030 goals, they are under pressure reinforce these ties by collectively aligning their targets with the rapid global decarbonisation and the 1.5DegC temperature limit agreed in Paris, and enacting national laws in line with December’s agreement.

Key Points

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Warming means unfair share for poor Mon, 07 Mar 2016 11:20:05 +0000 unfair share for poor
unfair share for poor

Creative Commons: Dennis Jarvis, 2009

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Climate change could seriously redistribute resources and reallocate wealth – but not in a fair way.

In a reverse of the famous Robin Hood folklore, it could rob from the poor to give to the rich, according to researchers. Yet even the rich may not feel any richer.

In one clear instance, as scientists have repeatedly warned, fish stocks are likely to move away from the equator and towards the poles, as the tropics heat up and expand.

This means that at least one valuable resource will move away from some of the world’s poorest nations, and in the direction of societies that are relatively wealthier − if only because economic power has for so long been vested in the temperate zones. And this shift will have economic consequences.

Eli Fenichel, assistant professor of bioeconomics and ecosystem management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the US, says: “People are mostly focused on the physical reallocation of these assets, but I don’t think we’ve really started thinking enough about how climate change can reallocate wealth and influence the prices of those assets. We think these price impacts can be really, really important.”

Real cash value

Only last month,  Dr Fenichel identified a way of calculating a real cash value for what environmentalists call “natural capital”.

Now he and other colleagues, in a study for Nature Climate Change, have started to think about where and for whom the cash might start accumulating. He has no immediate answer.

“We don’t know how this will unfold, but we do know there will be price effects,” he says. “Prices reflect quantity and scarcity, and natural capital is hard for people to move. It is just as inevitable as the movement of these fish species.”

“The losers are losing much more than the gainers are gaining. And when that happens, it’s not an efficient reallocation of wealth”

The researchers say cautiously that climate change – driven by greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in the last century or so – “can reallocate natural capital, change the value of all forms of capital, and lead to mass redistribution of wealth”.

And it isn’t obvious, they suggest, that even the better-off will always benefit from changes of natural capital, such as a shift in the fishing grounds. An influx of desirable species off the more northerly fishing ports could actually reduce the cash value of catches.

Dr Fenichel says: “If the northern community isn’t a particularly good steward or manager, they’re going to place a low value on that windfall they just inherited. So the aggregate could go down.

Clearly better off

“To be clear, the gainers here are clearly better off. They’re just not more better off than the losers are worse off. The losers are losing much more than the gainers are gaining. And when that happens, it’s not an efficient reallocation of wealth.”

Climate scientists have frequently warned that climate change could hit the poorest hardest. For example, the world’s drylands are likely to become more parched with climate change, and many of the world’s poorest people are already feeling stress.

Tropical forests and reefs are rich in the “natural capital” of biodiversity, but global warming also threatens some of this.

“We tend to think of climate change as just a problem of physics and biology,” says co-author Malin Plinsky, an ecologist at Rutgers University.

“But people react to climate change as well, and at the moment we don’t have a good understanding of the impacts of human behaviour on natural resourcesaffected by climate change.”

Solar power poised to claim top spot for new energy in the US Fri, 04 Mar 2016 14:23:22 +0000 solar power
solar power

Creative Commons: 2012

As fortunes fade for fossil fuels, solar power is on it’s way to becoming the top new energy source in the US, according to new data from the US Energy Information Administration.

Solar projects are expected to generate about 9.5 gigawatts of new energy in 2016 – adding more new capacity to the nation’s grid than any other industry.

While natural gas ranked second place, wind power came in closely behind in third, and is expected to generate 6.8 gigawatts in the coming year.

With renewables becoming increasingly mainstream across the country, a clean energy future may indeed be within reach for the US.

Key Points

  • Renewables are more popular than ever, and will become even more so. Solar energy is the fastest growing source of new energy in the country, while wind industry developers installed more megawatts during the fourth quarter of 2015 than they did in 2014’s entirety. Investors get that a renewable-power future is inevitable, and those ahead of the curve are putting their money where their mouths are.
  • With more solar energy comes more US jobs. According to the Solar Foundation, the US solar industry employs just 200 000 people — growing 20 per cent since 2014, with over 70 000 more employed in the wind industry. With a renewable energy boom anticipated in the upcoming year, job growth can also be expected.
  • If the US is serious about the climate, all fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. While the solar surge is a testament to climate progress, the country’s natural gas industry – the energy source behind the recent California methane crisis – is still growing. If the US is truly committed to making climate a priority, it needs to be ready to stand up to the oil lobby, continue investing in renewable projects and end support for fossil fuels both at home and abroad.

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Tributes pour in for murdered activist Berta Cáceres Fri, 04 Mar 2016 12:07:25 +0000 Berta Cáceres
Berta Cáceres

Berta Cáceres was killed at her home on Thursday. Courtesy of: Goldman Prize, 2015

Tributes are being paid across the world, today, for Honduran indigenous and environmental right campaigner, Berta Cáceres following her murder at her home in La Esperanza.

Cáceres, who is a member of the Lenca indigenous group, co-founded the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh).

Last year, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin.

The campaign has successfully held up the project and pressure the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the project.

John Goldman, President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation expressed his saddened at Cáceres calling her a “fearless environmental hero”, and praising her “amazing strength and conviction.”

“We mourn the loss of an inspirational leader, and will honour her life’s work by continuing to highlight the courageous work of Goldman Prize winners like Berta,” he said. “She built an incredible community of grassroots activists in Honduras, who will carry on the campaign she fought and died for.”

Meanwhile a statement from Oxfam International “laments the loss of such an inspiring woman, mother, wife, activist and human rights defender.

It said:

Standing up against powerful interests is a dangerous proposition. Berta and other Indigenous leaders have had their lives repeatedly threatened, but courageously kept up, and keep up their work. Honduran authorities have continuously been pressured by international agencies and governments to guarantee the safety of human rights activists, but today we see the price of their failure to act.

Terry Odendahl, President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund, of which Cáceres was a grantee said: I am deeply saddened about the death of my friend and courageous leader Berta Cáceres.”

“Her assassination is another horrific example of the violence against environmental activists and the criminalisation of people, particularly women and indigenous peoples, around the world who are fighting to protect human and environmental rights,” he continued.

Cáceres was shot dead by gunmen at her home in La Esperanza at around 1am on Thursday (3 March). It is not clear how many gunman – who escaped without being identified – took part in the attack.

Police told local media the killing occurred during an attempted robbery, but Cáceres’ family has refuted the claims, saying they had no doubt that the killing was promoted by her high profile environmental campaigns.

The killing comes barely a week after Cáceres and others were threatened following a Copinh march in Río Blanco.

“Berta was a tireless activist who had faced numerous death threats over the years,” said Global Greengrants Board-member, Regan Pritzker. “Words cannot express the sadness I feel to live in a world where hate and fear destroy beauty.”

Her death has prompted international outrage at the murderous treatment of campaigners in Honduras and widespread calls for their protection.

Jagoda Munic, chair of Friends of the Earth International said:

This is a sad day for Honduras and the world. Given the situation in Honduras, in which indigenous, environmental and human right activists like Berta Cáceres are targeted by government and corporate security forces alike, international pressure is needed to bring the murderers to justice and protect those brave enough to speak out on behalf of their fellow citizens and the environment.”

Honduras has been called the deadliest place for environmental activist by a report from UK-based NGO Global Witness.

Twelve activists were killed in 2014 alone for their effort to defend land and protect the environment, found the report, more per capita than any other country.

VIDEO: Berta Cáceres accepts the Goldman Prize 2015

EU under fire for ignoring Paris and backing gas Thu, 03 Mar 2016 13:04:20 +0000 backing gas
backing gas

Creative Commons: Matt Buck, 2009

As the European Commission is accused of “pretending Paris didn’t happen”, new analysis warns the continent could waste up to €11.4 billion if it does not wake up to the risk of continued gas investment.

While Europe continues to tout new gas infrastructure, and support it through the use of EU funds, demand for gas is falling and at most, just a handful of new targeted projects will be needed to secure supply, warns the analysis.

It comes as the EU is back in the spotlight over climate action, following the Commission’s failure to recommend a review of the bloc’s 2030 targets in light of the ambitious promises delivered in the French capital.

Amidst renewed calls for robust climate policies that are “coherent with Paris’ goals”, the EU will be expected to speed up its move away from fossil fuels – including gas – and towards a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

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Acid test shows real threat to coral reefs Wed, 02 Mar 2016 10:05:14 +0000 Coral reefs
Coral reefs

Public Domain: NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 2016

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Scientists from the US and Australian scientists have direct evidence that the increasing acidity of the oceans is slowing the growth of coral reefs.

In the first-ever experiment that manipulated seawater chemistry in a natural coral reef community, they used a set of semi-detached lagoons – reef enclosures naturally cut off from the ocean at low tide – to run a sustained experiment in which they altered the chemistry of the immediate seas.

What they found was that when they returned the lagoon’s pH value − a measure of the acidity of water − to the marine alkalinity levels that had been consistent for most of human history, the corals grew with measurably more vigour.

They report in Nature journal that they were able to match levels of pH to a measure of the net calcification (how much calcium they were accumulating) of the community of corals they were examining.

Weakened growth

The message is simple. Corals grow better when oceans are at the levels of low acidity that encouraged the evolution of coral communities in the first place.

The rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are not only raising global temperatures. They are also making the oceans more acidic, and, as a consequence, coral growth is weakened. Since tropical coral reefs represent one of the richest ecosystems in life’s web, this is not good news.

This real-life, real-ocean experiment confirms predictions based on climate models and on controlled laboratory studies, and also on direct observationsmade by members of the same research team in previous years.

But what has consistently bedevilled prediction has been uncertainty about the extent of other impacts.

The planet’s coral reefs have, over time, been hurt by human action in the form of pollution, overfishing and even quarrying. They have also been damaged at intervals by periods of extreme water temperatures, driven by natural phenomena such as the El Niño cycle. So direct measurement of the impact of changes in water chemistry has been hard to establish.

“The only real, lasting way to protect coral reefs is to make deep cuts in our carbon dioxide emissions”

The scientists measured the acidity of seawater that flowed over a reef off Australia’s One Tree Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef. At low tide, the reef encloses a lagoon isolated from the rest of the ocean

They then added sodium hydroxide to bring the pH closer to what it would have been two centuries ago, based on estimates of what carbon dioxide levels must have been at the time.

The altered water was then they pumped onto the reef, and measurements were taken of the rate at which the corals took up calcium from the water to make their skeletons.

“Our work provides the first strong evidence from experiments on a natural ecosystem that ocean acidification is already slowing coral reef growth,” says the study’s leader, Rebecca Albright, a marine biologist in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, California.

“Ocean acidification is already taking its toll on reef communities. This is no longer a fear for the future, it is the reality of today.”

Her Carnegie colleague, environmental scientist Ken Caldeira, says: “The only real, lasting way to protect coral reefs is to make deep cuts in our carbon dioxide emissions.

“If we don’t take action on this issue very rapidly, coral reefs – and everything that depends on them, including wildlife and communities – will not survive into the next century.”

The effect so far is small: without the acidification trend, corals might make 7% more growth. But the implication is that, over time, the entire Great Barrier Reef system could be threatened by ocean acidification.

Ocean circulation

In a second study, published in Nature Communications, a team led by Mathieu Mongin, a biogeochemical modeller at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Hobart, Tasmania, used a computer model based on ocean circulation and biogeochemistry and other data from 3,581 reefs to confirm the hazard.

Their results also indicate the complexity of the problem. Corals build their skeletons with a form of calcium carbonate called aragonite, and the change in ocean chemistry is steadily lowering the aragonite saturation state of the reef waters.

However, these levels are not uniform, and the latest study suggests that the corals upstream – that is, to the north and on the ocean edge – could be making the most of the available calcium, while those further inshore and to the south get less, and are therefore increasingly at risk of eventual dissolution.

“In other words, good coral health in the outer reefs, especially in the northern and southern regions, creates less favourable conditions for the mid-lagoon central reefs,” Dr Mongin reports.

Bleak outlook for coal as China befriends renewables Tue, 01 Mar 2016 12:41:14 +0000 Bleak outlook for coal
Bleak outlook for coal

Creative Commons: Zhang Yu, 2007

China’s transition towards a renewable energy future is picking up pace, as the country recorded an historic fall in coal consumption in 2015.

After a drop of 2.9 per cent in 2014, coal use across fell another 3.7 per cent last year, according to newly released government data.

While coal’s future looks increasingly bleak – with 1.3 million jobs expected to be lost across the industry – Chinese renewables are growing at record speed, with a 34 per cent rise in wind and a 74 per cent rise in solar helping to meet growing electricity demand across the country.

This on-going transition could also see the nation peak carbon emissions as early as 2025.

With all countries now urged to turn their Paris pledges into action, the expected release of China’s next Five-Year Plan, at its People’s Congress next week, gives it a vital opportunity to further accelerate the pace of its energy transition and raise its climate ambition, for its economy, its people and public health.

Key Points

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Cold light shines on Paris climate pledges Mon, 29 Feb 2016 15:39:40 +0000 Paris climate pledges
Paris climate pledges

Creative Commons: Rennett Stowe, 2009

Authored by Komila Nabiyeva, re-posted from Climate News Network

The world’s leading economies are heading in the right direction on tackling climate change, but some still have a long way to go to make their undertakings politically credible, according to a UK research centre.

With the Paris Agreement barely two months old, the world now moves from talk to action − or at least that’s the theory.

The Agreement will open for signature from 22 April. And after those two frantic and heady weeks in the French capital last December, individual countries’ commitments to cut their greenhouse gas emissions will shuffle into the coldly critical light of day.

Researchers from the London-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment have asked a critical question: will countries honour their commitments to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2˚C?

Political credibility

They examine the political credibility of what the Paris conference called the “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) – the word “intended” has now been dropped – and  they focus on the pledges submitted by the G20 countries responsible for about 75% of global greenhouse emissions.

Their report assesses four indicators of credibility: rules and procedures; public and private players; public opinion; and the governments’ past performance in implementing international commitments and domestic policies.

“We were positively surprised that none of the G20 countries finds itself at the bottom on all indicators, and this is a good starting basis for the commitments to be implemented,” Alina Averchenkova, co-author of the study, told Climate News Network.

“Yet there are big differences between countries. Some countries still have a lot of work to do to ensure credible implementation of their pledges.”

The study found that in the European Union as a region, and in France, Germany, Italy and the UK nationally, as well as in South Korea, most credibility indicators appeared “largely supportive” for the implementation of the pledges.

Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the US, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Turkey have indicators that are at least “moderately supportive” in terms of credibility, but each displays a significant weakness in one or other indicator.

“Some countries still have a lot of work to do to ensure credible implementation of their pledges”

But Argentina, Canada, China, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia showed a need for increasing credibility across most indicators.

The study found that developing and emerging countries scored lower on private bodies, the indicator that reflects the balance of power between environmental organisations and carbon-intensive industry.

But they scored better on public bodies that support addressing climate change, which reflects efforts by many of them to establish dedicated climate agencies.

They also scored better on past policy reversal. The researchers think that may be because legislation in developing countries is still being developed.

The credibility of Australia’s INDCs was undermined by its repudiation of emissions trading, and those of the US and Japan by their past UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) performance. The US did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and in 2013 Japan significantly weakened its national pledge on domestic emissions reductions.

Public awareness

Developing and emerging countries scored lower on average on effective decision-making processes and public opinion. “That does not necessarily have to do with opposition to climate action, but is rather an issue of lower public awareness of climate change consequences,” Dr Averchenkova says.

The authors acknowledge that the report does not analyse every factor that can influence the successful implementation of climate pledges, but say it provides a first framework for a deeper analysis.

“Some factors, such as the role of leadership or political consensus, are very dynamic and are therefore difficult to evaluate,” Dr Averchenkova says.

“For instance, in the US, the Clean Power Plan was enabled due to the strong leadership of President Obama. We are aware of these factors, but did not include them within the scope of this assessment.”

The authors say the G20 governments can improve the credibility of their current and future commitments by strengthening their policies, legislation and transparency, and by ensuring that their decision-making processes are more inclusive.

Tools they recommend include carbon pricing mechanisms, more frequent preparation of greenhouse gas inventories, and improving public awareness about climate change.

Brexit: What does it mean for climate and energy? Fri, 26 Feb 2016 12:21:58 +0000 Creative Commons: David Iliff, 2014.
Creative Commons: David Iliff, 2014.

Creative Commons: David Iliff, 2014.

On 23 June, the British people will go to the polls to decide whether they want to leave or remain in the European Union.

Following intense negotiations on reforms to the UK’s membership of the EU – which focused on migration and the Eurozone – on 19 February, Prime Minister David Cameron fired the official starting gun on the referendum campaign.

As influential politicians, business leaders and organisations lineup to take sides on the debate, there is immense speculation on what the decision could mean for a wide range of environmental issues, what impact it could have on the UK’s ability to effectively tackle climate change, and how it could hit the UK’s renewable energy industry.

Key Points