Author: Alex Kirby

About Alex Kirby

Alex Kirby is a former BBC journalist and environment correspondent. He now works with universities, charities and international agencies to improve their media skills, and with journalists in the developing world keen to specialise in environmental reporting.

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Tell us more on palm oil sources, say buyers

A British study says consumers must be able to make sustainable choices more easily on products containing palm oil.

LONDON, 4 January, 2019 − Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers’ own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.

Palm oil production causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions from peatland conversion, and biodiversity loss, and the oil is found in many products, often without consumers’ knowledge. It is a common ingredient in foods, body products, detergents and biofuels.

Dr Rosemary Ostfeld is the study’s lead author. She said: “The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has made efforts to improve the sustainability of palm oil production by creating an environmental certification system for palm oil.

Low uptake

“But currently only 19% of palm oil is RSPO-certified. This means the majority that finds its way into products people buy daily is still produced using conventional practices.

“We wanted to find out if consumers were actively seeking to make a sustainable choice about palm oil. We also explored what extra efforts governments could make to ensure sustainable palm oil consumption.”

The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, surveyed 1,695 British consumers through the market research company YouGov.

Respondents were asked about their awareness of palm oil and its environmental impact; their recognition of “ecolabels” such as Fairtrade, the Soil Association and RSPO; and which ecolabelled products they included in their weekly household shopping.

“Relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations”

The study found that UK consumer awareness of palm oil was high (77%), with 41% of those aware of it viewing it as “environmentally unfriendly”. Yet almost no consumers were aware of the RSPO label that showed a product contained sustainably-produced palm oil.

“In terms of label recognition versus action, 82% of people recognised the Fairtrade label, but only 29% actively buy Fairtrade products,” said Dr Ostfeld.

“Only five per cent recognised the RSPO label – the same as a fictional label we put into the survey as a control. Of that small number, only one per cent said they actively include products with the label in their shopping.”

The low recognition of the RSPO label could be caused by the scarcity of its use by consumer goods companies and retailers.

Action not guaranteed

Dr Ostfeld said: “This may be due in part to reluctance to draw attention to their use of palm oil, or it may be because they fall short of the 95% physical certified palm oil content that used to be needed to use the label.

“Either way, we found that relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations. Our results show that even when consumer awareness of an ecolabel is high, action is not guaranteed.”

To address this problem, the researchers put forward several policy recommendations. Dr Ostfeld explained: “Palm oil is more efficient to produce than other vegetable oils and plays a vital role in the livelihoods of millions of people, so banning it is not plausible. Instead, the goal should be to encourage sustainable palm oil production.

“We recommend governments require consumer goods companies and retailers to buy identity-preserved certified palm oil, which can be traced back to the individual plantation. If national targets must be met with identity-preserved certified palm oil, demand for it will increase. It will also enable unsustainable practices to be uncovered more easily.

Disclosure needed

“Companies should also publicly disclose their palm oil suppliers. This will help consumers know if they’re sourcing their palm oil from growers who use best practices.

“We believe these measures could promote a more rapid move towards sustainable palm oil consumption, and higher levels of accountability throughout the supply chain.”

Some campaigners argue that sustainability standards, including certification schemes, can have a wider effect by, for example, helping to shape governments’ policies and to steer investment into research.

A year ago one major US financial company, Dimensional, said it had divested two of its portfolios of all palm oil plantation companies. − Climate News Network

A British study says consumers must be able to make sustainable choices more easily on products containing palm oil.

LONDON, 4 January, 2019 − Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers’ own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.

Palm oil production causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions from peatland conversion, and biodiversity loss, and the oil is found in many products, often without consumers’ knowledge. It is a common ingredient in foods, body products, detergents and biofuels.

Dr Rosemary Ostfeld is the study’s lead author. She said: “The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has made efforts to improve the sustainability of palm oil production by creating an environmental certification system for palm oil.

Low uptake

“But currently only 19% of palm oil is RSPO-certified. This means the majority that finds its way into products people buy daily is still produced using conventional practices.

“We wanted to find out if consumers were actively seeking to make a sustainable choice about palm oil. We also explored what extra efforts governments could make to ensure sustainable palm oil consumption.”

The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, surveyed 1,695 British consumers through the market research company YouGov.

Respondents were asked about their awareness of palm oil and its environmental impact; their recognition of “ecolabels” such as Fairtrade, the Soil Association and RSPO; and which ecolabelled products they included in their weekly household shopping.

“Relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations”

The study found that UK consumer awareness of palm oil was high (77%), with 41% of those aware of it viewing it as “environmentally unfriendly”. Yet almost no consumers were aware of the RSPO label that showed a product contained sustainably-produced palm oil.

“In terms of label recognition versus action, 82% of people recognised the Fairtrade label, but only 29% actively buy Fairtrade products,” said Dr Ostfeld.

“Only five per cent recognised the RSPO label – the same as a fictional label we put into the survey as a control. Of that small number, only one per cent said they actively include products with the label in their shopping.”

The low recognition of the RSPO label could be caused by the scarcity of its use by consumer goods companies and retailers.

Action not guaranteed

Dr Ostfeld said: “This may be due in part to reluctance to draw attention to their use of palm oil, or it may be because they fall short of the 95% physical certified palm oil content that used to be needed to use the label.

“Either way, we found that relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations. Our results show that even when consumer awareness of an ecolabel is high, action is not guaranteed.”

To address this problem, the researchers put forward several policy recommendations. Dr Ostfeld explained: “Palm oil is more efficient to produce than other vegetable oils and plays a vital role in the livelihoods of millions of people, so banning it is not plausible. Instead, the goal should be to encourage sustainable palm oil production.

“We recommend governments require consumer goods companies and retailers to buy identity-preserved certified palm oil, which can be traced back to the individual plantation. If national targets must be met with identity-preserved certified palm oil, demand for it will increase. It will also enable unsustainable practices to be uncovered more easily.

Disclosure needed

“Companies should also publicly disclose their palm oil suppliers. This will help consumers know if they’re sourcing their palm oil from growers who use best practices.

“We believe these measures could promote a more rapid move towards sustainable palm oil consumption, and higher levels of accountability throughout the supply chain.”

Some campaigners argue that sustainability standards, including certification schemes, can have a wider effect by, for example, helping to shape governments’ policies and to steer investment into research.

A year ago one major US financial company, Dimensional, said it had divested two of its portfolios of all palm oil plantation companies. − Climate News Network

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European trains go down renewable route

Dutch train electric renewable
Dutch train electric renewable

Electric trains in the Netherlands have relied entirely on renewable energy since 1 January, and now the UK and Belgium are following in their tracks.

LONDON, 9 February, 2017 – Renewable energy is helping to power increasing numbers of the world’s road vehicles. Now several European countries are exploring the potential for using renewables to fuel their trains.

In the Netherlands, every electric train running on the Dutch railway network has relied entirely on wind energy since 1 January. The network, NS Dutch Railways, is using an energy company’s turbines to generate the energy needed to power its entire electric fleet.

NS uses 1.2bn kWh of wind-generated electricity a year, roughly equivalent to the total annual domestic consumption of every household in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The wind-powered trains carry 600,000 passengers a day.

Renewable approach

NS says three strokes of one of the turbines that supply it generate enough power to drive a train for 1km. Put another way, a single turbine running for an hour can power a train for 120 miles. Since 2005, NS says, its consumption of electricity per passenger kilometre has been cut by about 30%, and it hopes to reduce it by a further 35% by 2020.

The contract it signed with the company supplying its wind energy, Eneco, forbids the sourcing of electricity from the existing energy market, so only new-build wind farms can be used. The energy NS is using comes from wind farms in Belgium and Scandinavia as well in the Netherlands, and also from some offshore sites.

Critics of wind power say it is an unreliable source because it blows intermittently and so cannot guarantee round-the-clock availability. But Eneco is confident it has enough wind farms to ensure the power supply to NS will be able to keep the trains running.

What is particularly galling is that peak generation
from solar and peak demand from the trains
more or less match, but we can’t connect the two”

In the UK, a university and a climate change charity have joined forces to exploit renewables for railways in a novel and entirely renewable way – straight to the tracks on which the trains run.

Imperial College London is working with the 10:10 group in the Renewable Traction Power project, in which university researchers will look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains. This would bypass the electricity grid in order to manage power demand from the trains more efficiently.

A rail tunnel in Belgium has already been fitted with solar panels that provide current to passing trains. But the university says the UK researchers will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea of trackside generation, which would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”.

It would also open up thousands of new sites to small- and medium-scale renewable developments by removing the need to connect to the grid,” Imperial says.

In many rural areas of Britain the electricity grid has reached its limit for both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to train firms.

Innovative thinking

What is particularly galling is that peak generation from solar and peak demand from the trains more or less match, but we can’t connect the two,” says10:10’s Leo Murray, who is leading the project. “I actually believe this represents a real opportunity for some innovative thinking.”

Initially, the project will look at the feasibility of converting third-rail systems, which, instead of using overhead wiring, supply electricity to the trains through an electrified rail just above the ground and are used on approximately one-third of the UK’s tracks.

The new approach could exploit reserves of energy that currently go to waste. “Many railway lines run through areas with great potential for solar power but where existing electricity networks are hard to access,” says Professor Tim Green, director of Energy Futures Lab at Imperial. – Climate News Network

Electric trains in the Netherlands have relied entirely on renewable energy since 1 January, and now the UK and Belgium are following in their tracks.

LONDON, 9 February, 2017 – Renewable energy is helping to power increasing numbers of the world’s road vehicles. Now several European countries are exploring the potential for using renewables to fuel their trains.

In the Netherlands, every electric train running on the Dutch railway network has relied entirely on wind energy since 1 January. The network, NS Dutch Railways, is using an energy company’s turbines to generate the energy needed to power its entire electric fleet.

NS uses 1.2bn kWh of wind-generated electricity a year, roughly equivalent to the total annual domestic consumption of every household in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The wind-powered trains carry 600,000 passengers a day.

Renewable approach

NS says three strokes of one of the turbines that supply it generate enough power to drive a train for 1km. Put another way, a single turbine running for an hour can power a train for 120 miles. Since 2005, NS says, its consumption of electricity per passenger kilometre has been cut by about 30%, and it hopes to reduce it by a further 35% by 2020.

The contract it signed with the company supplying its wind energy, Eneco, forbids the sourcing of electricity from the existing energy market, so only new-build wind farms can be used. The energy NS is using comes from wind farms in Belgium and Scandinavia as well in the Netherlands, and also from some offshore sites.

Critics of wind power say it is an unreliable source because it blows intermittently and so cannot guarantee round-the-clock availability. But Eneco is confident it has enough wind farms to ensure the power supply to NS will be able to keep the trains running.

What is particularly galling is that peak generation
from solar and peak demand from the trains
more or less match, but we can’t connect the two”

In the UK, a university and a climate change charity have joined forces to exploit renewables for railways in a novel and entirely renewable way – straight to the tracks on which the trains run.

Imperial College London is working with the 10:10 group in the Renewable Traction Power project, in which university researchers will look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains. This would bypass the electricity grid in order to manage power demand from the trains more efficiently.

A rail tunnel in Belgium has already been fitted with solar panels that provide current to passing trains. But the university says the UK researchers will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea of trackside generation, which would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”.

It would also open up thousands of new sites to small- and medium-scale renewable developments by removing the need to connect to the grid,” Imperial says.

In many rural areas of Britain the electricity grid has reached its limit for both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to train firms.

Innovative thinking

What is particularly galling is that peak generation from solar and peak demand from the trains more or less match, but we can’t connect the two,” says10:10’s Leo Murray, who is leading the project. “I actually believe this represents a real opportunity for some innovative thinking.”

Initially, the project will look at the feasibility of converting third-rail systems, which, instead of using overhead wiring, supply electricity to the trains through an electrified rail just above the ground and are used on approximately one-third of the UK’s tracks.

The new approach could exploit reserves of energy that currently go to waste. “Many railway lines run through areas with great potential for solar power but where existing electricity networks are hard to access,” says Professor Tim Green, director of Energy Futures Lab at Imperial. – Climate News Network

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Arctic tipping points put planet at risk

Arctic sea ice
Arctic sea ice

A warming climate is exposing the Arctic to the possibility of radical changes that could affect the rest of the planet, scientists say.

LONDON, 29 November, 2016 – If the world fails to slow the pace of climate change very soon by cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet, Arctic tipping points threaten to overwhelm the region, new research reveals.

Not only that – the authors of the Arctic Resilience Report say the changes that are liable to affect the high northern latitudes could also trigger drastic changes worldwide.

The report, written by an international research team, is a project of the Arctic Council. It says the signs of change in the Arctic itself are everywhere. Temperatures nearly 20°C above the seasonal average are being felt over the Arctic Ocean. Summer sea-ice cover has hit new record lows several times in the past decade. Infrastructure built on permafrost, including houses, roads and railways, is sinking as the ground beneath thaws.

But the authors say that underlying these distinct impacts is a much larger trend. At the scale of entire ecosystems, the Arctic is fundamentally threatened by climate change and other consequences of human activities.

Accelerating change

Change – often rapid – is the norm in the Arctic, they write. But environmental, ecological and social changes are happening faster than ever, and accelerating. They are also more extreme, well beyond what has been seen before. And while some changes are gradual, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, can be not only abrupt but also irreversible.

The report identifies 19 Arctic tipping points (which it calls regime shifts) that can and have occurred in the region’s ecosystems. These shifts affect the stability of the climate and landscape, plant and animal species’ ability to survive, and indigenous people’s subsistence and ways of life.

“Without rapid action to slow climate change
by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,
the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed”

The tipping points include: vegetation growth on tundra, replacing snow and ice and helping to absorb more of the sun’s heat; higher methane releases; the disruption of the Asian monsoon by changing Arctic snow distribution warming the ocean; and collapses of some Arctic fisheries, with global ocean ecosystem consequences.

One of the study’s most important findings is that not only are regime shifts occurring, but there is a real risk that one regime shift could trigger others, or simultaneous regime shifts could have unexpected effects,” says Johan Kuylenstierna, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Johan Rockström, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, co-chair of the project, says: “If multiple regime shifts reinforce each other, the results could be potentially catastrophic. The variety of effects that we could see means that Arctic people and policies must prepare for surprise. We also expect that some of those changes will destabilise the regional and global climate, with potentially major impacts.”

By altering existing patterns of evaporation, heat transfer and winds, the impacts of Arctic regime shifts are likely to be transmitted to neighbouring regions such as Europe and to affect the entire globe.

Building resilience

The study says many communities that have lost their livelihoods are already struggling to survive or maintain their cultural identity. “Climate change is severely stressing Arctic livelihoods and people,” says Miriam Hultric, a lead author of the report. “Without rapid action to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed.”

But the report cites Arctic communities that have maintained reindeer herding and other traditional practices in the face of external shocks. Others have reinvented themselves: from nomadic hunters to internationally recognised artists in Cape Dorset in Nunavut, Canada, for instance.

The fishing community of Húsavík on Iceland’s Skjálfandi Bay turned itself into a tourist destination for whale-watching after cod-fishing quotas and a moratorium on whaling condemned its traditional livelihoods.

The report warns that building resilience is complex, partly due to conflicting interests. Some see the Arctic as a home, others as a source of minerals and other resources, and yet others for what it does globally to regulate the climate. – Climate News Network

A warming climate is exposing the Arctic to the possibility of radical changes that could affect the rest of the planet, scientists say.

LONDON, 29 November, 2016 – If the world fails to slow the pace of climate change very soon by cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet, Arctic tipping points threaten to overwhelm the region, new research reveals.

Not only that – the authors of the Arctic Resilience Report say the changes that are liable to affect the high northern latitudes could also trigger drastic changes worldwide.

The report, written by an international research team, is a project of the Arctic Council. It says the signs of change in the Arctic itself are everywhere. Temperatures nearly 20°C above the seasonal average are being felt over the Arctic Ocean. Summer sea-ice cover has hit new record lows several times in the past decade. Infrastructure built on permafrost, including houses, roads and railways, is sinking as the ground beneath thaws.

But the authors say that underlying these distinct impacts is a much larger trend. At the scale of entire ecosystems, the Arctic is fundamentally threatened by climate change and other consequences of human activities.

Accelerating change

Change – often rapid – is the norm in the Arctic, they write. But environmental, ecological and social changes are happening faster than ever, and accelerating. They are also more extreme, well beyond what has been seen before. And while some changes are gradual, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, can be not only abrupt but also irreversible.

The report identifies 19 Arctic tipping points (which it calls regime shifts) that can and have occurred in the region’s ecosystems. These shifts affect the stability of the climate and landscape, plant and animal species’ ability to survive, and indigenous people’s subsistence and ways of life.

“Without rapid action to slow climate change
by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,
the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed”

The tipping points include: vegetation growth on tundra, replacing snow and ice and helping to absorb more of the sun’s heat; higher methane releases; the disruption of the Asian monsoon by changing Arctic snow distribution warming the ocean; and collapses of some Arctic fisheries, with global ocean ecosystem consequences.

One of the study’s most important findings is that not only are regime shifts occurring, but there is a real risk that one regime shift could trigger others, or simultaneous regime shifts could have unexpected effects,” says Johan Kuylenstierna, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Johan Rockström, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, co-chair of the project, says: “If multiple regime shifts reinforce each other, the results could be potentially catastrophic. The variety of effects that we could see means that Arctic people and policies must prepare for surprise. We also expect that some of those changes will destabilise the regional and global climate, with potentially major impacts.”

By altering existing patterns of evaporation, heat transfer and winds, the impacts of Arctic regime shifts are likely to be transmitted to neighbouring regions such as Europe and to affect the entire globe.

Building resilience

The study says many communities that have lost their livelihoods are already struggling to survive or maintain their cultural identity. “Climate change is severely stressing Arctic livelihoods and people,” says Miriam Hultric, a lead author of the report. “Without rapid action to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed.”

But the report cites Arctic communities that have maintained reindeer herding and other traditional practices in the face of external shocks. Others have reinvented themselves: from nomadic hunters to internationally recognised artists in Cape Dorset in Nunavut, Canada, for instance.

The fishing community of Húsavík on Iceland’s Skjálfandi Bay turned itself into a tourist destination for whale-watching after cod-fishing quotas and a moratorium on whaling condemned its traditional livelihoods.

The report warns that building resilience is complex, partly due to conflicting interests. Some see the Arctic as a home, others as a source of minerals and other resources, and yet others for what it does globally to regulate the climate. – Climate News Network

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Concerns raised over Paris climate goals

New analysis shows that the science underpinning the global treaty aiming to stop average temperatures rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels urgently needs more research.

LONDON, 26 July, 2016 – Breaching the lower emissions limit set at the historic Paris Agreement on climate change last December may expose the world to damage caused by rising temperatures, scientists say.

And to achieve the Agreement’s goals, they say controversial and still-unproven technologies − including bio-energy and carbon capture and storage − will be needed.

A new analysis of the science and policy underlying the 1.5°C temperature rise limit included in the Agreement’s long-term temperature goal has identified several areas that its authors say need more research.

The Agreement aims to keep global average temperature rise “well below” the 2°C previously agreed, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The analysis by a team of scientists − including from Climate Analytics and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) − who have published key research papers on the science, impacts and policy aspects of the 1.5˚C limit is the centrepiece of a collection of content by Nature Climate Change, Nature Geoscience and Nature journals, titled Targeting 1.5°C.

Low emission pathways

Much of their focus is on what available science says on low emission pathways that could achieve 1.5˚C. They say most such scenarios at least temporarily overshoot the 1.5˚C limit − that warming would rise above this level before returning to below 1.5˚C by 2100.

“Whether the presently available pathways are in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal is not a scientific but a political question,” says the paper’s lead author, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, scientific adviser at Climate Analytics. “Many vulnerable countries see 1.5°C as a limit that should not be exceeded..

“Further research on the feasibility of pathways that limit warming to below 1.5°C is therefore a central element of a post-Paris science agenda.”

The paper confirms that limiting warming to 1.5˚C significantly reduces risks and impacts compared with 2˚C, but also underlines that more research can improve the scientific understanding of impacts at 1.5°C.

These include the consequences for vulnerable systems, such as agricultural production in tropical regions, impacts on human health and natural systems such as coral reefs, and on ice sheets and sea level rise.

“Are we confident that exceeding 1.5°C, even if only for a limited time, is safe and reversible?”

Some scientists think the world will find it difficult to achieve even the 2°C limit Paris aimed for, and that preventing warming of more than 1.5°C is almost certain to remain an unachievable aspiration.

But the authors are convinced that it is essential to research what the effects of going beyond 1.5°C, even briefly, could be, and that the world should find out without delay.

“In the light of our findings of discernible impact differences between 1.5°C and 2°C, we urgently require a better scientific understanding of the potential impact legacy of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C limit,” says Michiel Schaeffer, co-author and scientific director at Climate Analytics.

The analysis agrees that early peaking of global emissions around 2020 and rapid decline towards zero emissions are critical for achieving the Paris goal. But governments’ near-term mitigation targets for 2020-2030 are not enough to achieve the temperature limit, so the Agreement includes a mechanism aimed at increasing climate action over time.

“We outline how the legal and policy mechanisms in the Paris Agreement would, in principle, allow us to achieve its goals − through a regular, science-driven and synchronised five-year review of national emission reduction commitments that aims at enabling countries to regularly improve their pledges,” says Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics.

“The first major review in 2018 of national mitigation commitments, which is meant to lead to governments increasing their 2025-2030 emission reduction targets by 2020, could be a crucial first test of the Paris Agreement’s effectiveness.”

In the mid-term, achieving the Agreement’s mitigation and temperature goals will mean globally negative CO2 emissions are required by the second half of the century − removing the gas from the atmosphere and storing it on land, underground, or in the oceans.

Achieving negative emissions will involve what the analysis calls “the deployment of uncertain and at present controversial technologies, including biomass energy with carbon capture and storage.”

Genuine sustainability

Joeri Rogelj, energy programme research scholar at IIASA and co-author of the report, says: “We find there is no clear difference in the assumed levels of bioenergy and negative emissions between 1.5˚C and 2°C pathways. Nevertheless, important and genuine sustainability concerns linked to these technologies have to be researched and addressed.

“Acting earlier and faster can substantially reduce the need for these technologies, but at this point not entirely eliminate it.”

He told Climate News Network: “Research on climate impacts needs to be strengthened and become more specific. For example, are we confident that exceeding 1.5°C, even if only for a limited time, is safe and reversible? If it is, for how long?

“These value judgments will be different for different impacts in different regions. So broadening the research would be extremely valuable. And even if we aim today to limit warning to below 1.5°C, the uncertainty in the climate response teaches us that we could well end up with 2° or 2.5°C by the end of the century.”

Bill Hare told the Network: “1.5°C is a safer limit than 2°C, but 1.5°C will still have a lot of negative impacts on both natural and human systems, specifically in tropical regions and small island states. 1.5° will not make us ‘safe’ from negative impacts, but it will make us significantly safer overall than higher levels of warming.

“The modest amount of research done to date shows a surprisingly large difference between 1.5° and 2°C for many systems.” – Climate News Network

New analysis shows that the science underpinning the global treaty aiming to stop average temperatures rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels urgently needs more research.

LONDON, 26 July, 2016 – Breaching the lower emissions limit set at the historic Paris Agreement on climate change last December may expose the world to damage caused by rising temperatures, scientists say.

And to achieve the Agreement’s goals, they say controversial and still-unproven technologies − including bio-energy and carbon capture and storage − will be needed.

A new analysis of the science and policy underlying the 1.5°C temperature rise limit included in the Agreement’s long-term temperature goal has identified several areas that its authors say need more research.

The Agreement aims to keep global average temperature rise “well below” the 2°C previously agreed, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The analysis by a team of scientists − including from Climate Analytics and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) − who have published key research papers on the science, impacts and policy aspects of the 1.5˚C limit is the centrepiece of a collection of content by Nature Climate Change, Nature Geoscience and Nature journals, titled Targeting 1.5°C.

Low emission pathways

Much of their focus is on what available science says on low emission pathways that could achieve 1.5˚C. They say most such scenarios at least temporarily overshoot the 1.5˚C limit − that warming would rise above this level before returning to below 1.5˚C by 2100.

“Whether the presently available pathways are in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal is not a scientific but a political question,” says the paper’s lead author, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, scientific adviser at Climate Analytics. “Many vulnerable countries see 1.5°C as a limit that should not be exceeded..

“Further research on the feasibility of pathways that limit warming to below 1.5°C is therefore a central element of a post-Paris science agenda.”

The paper confirms that limiting warming to 1.5˚C significantly reduces risks and impacts compared with 2˚C, but also underlines that more research can improve the scientific understanding of impacts at 1.5°C.

These include the consequences for vulnerable systems, such as agricultural production in tropical regions, impacts on human health and natural systems such as coral reefs, and on ice sheets and sea level rise.

“Are we confident that exceeding 1.5°C, even if only for a limited time, is safe and reversible?”

Some scientists think the world will find it difficult to achieve even the 2°C limit Paris aimed for, and that preventing warming of more than 1.5°C is almost certain to remain an unachievable aspiration.

But the authors are convinced that it is essential to research what the effects of going beyond 1.5°C, even briefly, could be, and that the world should find out without delay.

“In the light of our findings of discernible impact differences between 1.5°C and 2°C, we urgently require a better scientific understanding of the potential impact legacy of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C limit,” says Michiel Schaeffer, co-author and scientific director at Climate Analytics.

The analysis agrees that early peaking of global emissions around 2020 and rapid decline towards zero emissions are critical for achieving the Paris goal. But governments’ near-term mitigation targets for 2020-2030 are not enough to achieve the temperature limit, so the Agreement includes a mechanism aimed at increasing climate action over time.

“We outline how the legal and policy mechanisms in the Paris Agreement would, in principle, allow us to achieve its goals − through a regular, science-driven and synchronised five-year review of national emission reduction commitments that aims at enabling countries to regularly improve their pledges,” says Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics.

“The first major review in 2018 of national mitigation commitments, which is meant to lead to governments increasing their 2025-2030 emission reduction targets by 2020, could be a crucial first test of the Paris Agreement’s effectiveness.”

In the mid-term, achieving the Agreement’s mitigation and temperature goals will mean globally negative CO2 emissions are required by the second half of the century − removing the gas from the atmosphere and storing it on land, underground, or in the oceans.

Achieving negative emissions will involve what the analysis calls “the deployment of uncertain and at present controversial technologies, including biomass energy with carbon capture and storage.”

Genuine sustainability

Joeri Rogelj, energy programme research scholar at IIASA and co-author of the report, says: “We find there is no clear difference in the assumed levels of bioenergy and negative emissions between 1.5˚C and 2°C pathways. Nevertheless, important and genuine sustainability concerns linked to these technologies have to be researched and addressed.

“Acting earlier and faster can substantially reduce the need for these technologies, but at this point not entirely eliminate it.”

He told Climate News Network: “Research on climate impacts needs to be strengthened and become more specific. For example, are we confident that exceeding 1.5°C, even if only for a limited time, is safe and reversible? If it is, for how long?

“These value judgments will be different for different impacts in different regions. So broadening the research would be extremely valuable. And even if we aim today to limit warning to below 1.5°C, the uncertainty in the climate response teaches us that we could well end up with 2° or 2.5°C by the end of the century.”

Bill Hare told the Network: “1.5°C is a safer limit than 2°C, but 1.5°C will still have a lot of negative impacts on both natural and human systems, specifically in tropical regions and small island states. 1.5° will not make us ‘safe’ from negative impacts, but it will make us significantly safer overall than higher levels of warming.

“The modest amount of research done to date shows a surprisingly large difference between 1.5° and 2°C for many systems.” – Climate News Network

*

Europe’s renewables spending hits 10-year low

The reputation of Europe as a renewable energy leader has taken a serious knock as its investment dropped by 21 per cent last year while global figures reached record levels.

LONDON, 3 June, 2016 – Much of Europe prides itself on its determination to act resolutely on climate change, but in at least one key respect it has failed to back its rhetoric with action. Its investment in renewable energy showed a significant drop in 2015, falling to its lowest level in almost a decade.

Globally, investment in renewables reached a record $328.9 billion last year, according to a study published by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), an international coalition of governments, renewable energy trade associations, and financial institutions, including the International Energy Agency and the World Bank.

But the REN21 study says Europe’s reputation as a leader in the field is now in jeopardy as its investment in clean energy fell by 21% last year to $48.8 bn − its lowest total since 2006.

Overall, investment in developed countries fell by 8% last year to $130 bn, with Europe registering the most significant decrease as investment dropped by $13.2 bn between 2014 and 2015.

Marked differences

The report points out that there are marked sectoral differences included within Europe’s falling investment total. For offshore wind power, for instance, 2015 set a record, with financing growing by $17 bn, which is 11% above the year before.

But it shows that the pace of investment in renewable energy in Europe has been slowing down since 2011, dropping by about $74 bn over four years, after a steady increase from $33.3 bn to $122.9 bn between 2005 and 2011.

“The renewables train is barrelling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th-century infrastructure”

The report says the causes of Europe’s steep drop in investment in 2015 included a sluggish economy and policy changes to subsidies.

Last year, the British trade association RenewableUK, which describes itself as the voice of wind and marine energy, threatened to take legal action after the UK government announced subsidy cuts to the industry.

The US and China registered investment investment increases in 2015 of 19% and 17%, respectively. The year also saw the total investment in renewable power and fuels in developing countries exceeds that in developed economies.

Remarkable results

Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, told the DeSmogUK website: “What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies.”

Arthouros Zervos, who chairs REN21, says: “The renewables train is barrelling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th-century infrastructure – a system based on outdated thinking where conventional baseload is generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power.

“To accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build the equivalent of a high-speed rail network – a smarter, more flexible system that maximises the use of variable sources of renewable energy, and accommodates decentralised and community-based generation.” – Climate News Network

The reputation of Europe as a renewable energy leader has taken a serious knock as its investment dropped by 21 per cent last year while global figures reached record levels.

LONDON, 3 June, 2016 – Much of Europe prides itself on its determination to act resolutely on climate change, but in at least one key respect it has failed to back its rhetoric with action. Its investment in renewable energy showed a significant drop in 2015, falling to its lowest level in almost a decade.

Globally, investment in renewables reached a record $328.9 billion last year, according to a study published by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), an international coalition of governments, renewable energy trade associations, and financial institutions, including the International Energy Agency and the World Bank.

But the REN21 study says Europe’s reputation as a leader in the field is now in jeopardy as its investment in clean energy fell by 21% last year to $48.8 bn − its lowest total since 2006.

Overall, investment in developed countries fell by 8% last year to $130 bn, with Europe registering the most significant decrease as investment dropped by $13.2 bn between 2014 and 2015.

Marked differences

The report points out that there are marked sectoral differences included within Europe’s falling investment total. For offshore wind power, for instance, 2015 set a record, with financing growing by $17 bn, which is 11% above the year before.

But it shows that the pace of investment in renewable energy in Europe has been slowing down since 2011, dropping by about $74 bn over four years, after a steady increase from $33.3 bn to $122.9 bn between 2005 and 2011.

“The renewables train is barrelling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th-century infrastructure”

The report says the causes of Europe’s steep drop in investment in 2015 included a sluggish economy and policy changes to subsidies.

Last year, the British trade association RenewableUK, which describes itself as the voice of wind and marine energy, threatened to take legal action after the UK government announced subsidy cuts to the industry.

The US and China registered investment investment increases in 2015 of 19% and 17%, respectively. The year also saw the total investment in renewable power and fuels in developing countries exceeds that in developed economies.

Remarkable results

Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, told the DeSmogUK website: “What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies.”

Arthouros Zervos, who chairs REN21, says: “The renewables train is barrelling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th-century infrastructure – a system based on outdated thinking where conventional baseload is generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power.

“To accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build the equivalent of a high-speed rail network – a smarter, more flexible system that maximises the use of variable sources of renewable energy, and accommodates decentralised and community-based generation.” – Climate News Network

*

Climate damage threatens heritage sites

Scientists warn that some of the jewels in the crown of the world’s natural and man-made treasures face decay and destruction because of climate change.

LONDON, 27 May, 2016 – A world that faces the loss of the Statue of Liberty, where the ancient Italian city of Venice has been overwhelmed by flooding and a Ugandan forest that shelters mountain gorillas is at risk is all too real a possibility, says a new report.

Its authors say 31 natural and cultural world heritage sites in 29 countries have been identified as affected by climate change. The impacts include rising temperatures, higher sea levels, more extreme weather, and fiercer droughts.

The report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Environment Programme and the Union of Concerned Scientists says climate change is rapidly proving to be one of the most significant risks for world heritage sites.

In an ironic twist, one of the sites the report lists is a national park on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), 500 km west of Chile. It faces water shortage, sea level rise and coastal erosion. Some scientists have suggested that the collapse centuries ago of the island’s civilisation was caused by human over-exploitation of its resources.

Tourist attractions

The report says climate change is a major threat to some of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, to the tourism industry itself, and to the entire economies of some countries which are home to the sites.

It says tourism, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economic sectors, generates 9% of the world’s gross domestic product and provides one job in every 11 globally. But the authors warn that unplanned or poorly managed tourism is itself a separate threat to many heritage sites.

They list some of the climate threats to the sites, including damage from extreme wind and rainfall, coastal erosion, flooding and increasing damp. Changes in soil moisture destabilises building foundations, and thawing permafrost can cause problems for Arctic sites.

“Some of the archaeological resources that can provide insights for our future by opening windows on the past are in danger of being lost”

Humidity causes mould, rot and insect infestations inside buildings. In the open air, earthen architecture is at particular risk, and many such sites – for example, the Djenné mosque in Mali, West Africa – are in jeopardy.

Rising sea levels in the Adriatic have already damaged hundreds of buildings in Venice.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy raised wave heights in New York Harbour to a record 9.91 metres, and the Statue of Liberty, the report says, faces a drastically increased risk from future storms, although Sandy was judged to be a once-in-700-years event.

Valuable lessons

But while $100 million has been allocated to protecting the statue and its surroundings, and work to protect Venice costing $6 billion is nearing completion, the amount available to the World Heritage Fund totals $4 million – a drop in the ocean, the authors say, to support a thousand sites.

The report includes a number of recommendations. One, which could be valuable more widely than to heritage and tourism alone, is to make sure we learn the lessons of the past while we can.

It urges scientists to “analyse archaeological data and cultural heritage to use what can be learned from past human responses to climatic change to increase climate resilience for the future”.

But it warns that there’s little time to lose: “Some of the archaeological resources that can provide insights for our future by opening windows on the past are in danger of being lost, particularly in rapidly warming Arctic regions and along eroding coastal and riverine sites.” – Climate News Network

Scientists warn that some of the jewels in the crown of the world’s natural and man-made treasures face decay and destruction because of climate change.

LONDON, 27 May, 2016 – A world that faces the loss of the Statue of Liberty, where the ancient Italian city of Venice has been overwhelmed by flooding and a Ugandan forest that shelters mountain gorillas is at risk is all too real a possibility, says a new report.

Its authors say 31 natural and cultural world heritage sites in 29 countries have been identified as affected by climate change. The impacts include rising temperatures, higher sea levels, more extreme weather, and fiercer droughts.

The report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Environment Programme and the Union of Concerned Scientists says climate change is rapidly proving to be one of the most significant risks for world heritage sites.

In an ironic twist, one of the sites the report lists is a national park on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), 500 km west of Chile. It faces water shortage, sea level rise and coastal erosion. Some scientists have suggested that the collapse centuries ago of the island’s civilisation was caused by human over-exploitation of its resources.

Tourist attractions

The report says climate change is a major threat to some of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, to the tourism industry itself, and to the entire economies of some countries which are home to the sites.

It says tourism, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economic sectors, generates 9% of the world’s gross domestic product and provides one job in every 11 globally. But the authors warn that unplanned or poorly managed tourism is itself a separate threat to many heritage sites.

They list some of the climate threats to the sites, including damage from extreme wind and rainfall, coastal erosion, flooding and increasing damp. Changes in soil moisture destabilises building foundations, and thawing permafrost can cause problems for Arctic sites.

“Some of the archaeological resources that can provide insights for our future by opening windows on the past are in danger of being lost”

Humidity causes mould, rot and insect infestations inside buildings. In the open air, earthen architecture is at particular risk, and many such sites – for example, the Djenné mosque in Mali, West Africa – are in jeopardy.

Rising sea levels in the Adriatic have already damaged hundreds of buildings in Venice.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy raised wave heights in New York Harbour to a record 9.91 metres, and the Statue of Liberty, the report says, faces a drastically increased risk from future storms, although Sandy was judged to be a once-in-700-years event.

Valuable lessons

But while $100 million has been allocated to protecting the statue and its surroundings, and work to protect Venice costing $6 billion is nearing completion, the amount available to the World Heritage Fund totals $4 million – a drop in the ocean, the authors say, to support a thousand sites.

The report includes a number of recommendations. One, which could be valuable more widely than to heritage and tourism alone, is to make sure we learn the lessons of the past while we can.

It urges scientists to “analyse archaeological data and cultural heritage to use what can be learned from past human responses to climatic change to increase climate resilience for the future”.

But it warns that there’s little time to lose: “Some of the archaeological resources that can provide insights for our future by opening windows on the past are in danger of being lost, particularly in rapidly warming Arctic regions and along eroding coastal and riverine sites.” – Climate News Network

*

Poorest nations will feel heat soonest

Very high temperatures are set to affect some of the world’s least developed countries before touching the richer nations that are more responsible for climate change.

LONDON, 18 May, 2016 – Some of the world’s poorest people, who have contributed least to climate change, are likely to feel its effects sooner than most of their neighbours.

Research by an international team of scientists has found that many of the planet’s poorest countries are likely to experience daily heat extremes caused by climate change before wealthier nations do.

The research published in Environmental Research Letters shows that the poorest fifth of the global population will be the first to experience more frequent heat extremes, despite together emitting the smallest amounts of CO2. Countries likely to be worst affected include those in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

The scientists, who include researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, say their study is the first to examine the link between cumulative CO2 emissions and more frequent hot days.

Dr Manoj Joshi, senior lecturer in climate dynamics at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, says: “Most of the poorest people in the world live in tropical latitudes, while most of the world’s wealthiest people live in mid-latitude climates.

Extreme hot days

“We know that low-latitude regions have much less variability in day-to-day temperatures when compared with the mid-latitudes, which means the ‘signal’ of climate change emerges quite quickly, and because of this the frequency of extreme hot days increases rapidly too.”

The study’s lead author, Luke Harrington, a PhD student at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, says: “Previous studies have shown a link between rising global temperatures and increases in the frequency of local heat extremes, while others have shown a clear relationship between the total amount of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere and rising temperatures.

“This study is the first to use climate models to simulate the end-to-end link between cumulative CO2 emissions and people experiencing more frequent hot days.”

“Much fewer cumulative emissions are required for the poorest fifth of the global population to experience a robust increase in the number of extreme hot days

Earlier studies have already shown that more of the world can expect more frequent dangerous heatwaves unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut drastically, and that temperatures in parts of the Middle East and North Africa could rise so far as to make some regions uninhabitable.

Others have warned of the potential damage to harvests because of extremes of heat and of how climate-induced warming could rob from the poor to give to the rich.

In this latest study, the researchers used state-of-the-art climate models to estimate cumulative CO2 emissions and subsequent changes to extreme local daily temperatures over the 20th and early 21st century.

They defined an extreme hot day as one that occurred 0.1% of the time in model simulations of the pre-industrial climate.

Wealthiest population

Dr Chris Jones, who leads the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle group at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, says: “Our results show much fewer cumulative emissions are required for the poorest fifth of the global population to experience a robust increase in the number of extreme hot days, when compared with the wealthiest population quintile [fifth].”

“We also know the wealthiest countries will be able to cope with the impacts more easily than poorer nations,” says Dr Erich Fischer, lecturer in the department of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich.

“What our research shows is that heat extremes do not increase evenly everywhere, but are becoming much more frequent more quickly for countries nearer the equator. These happen to be disproportionately poorer nations, including those in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

“In fact, this pattern was robust even when we considered future projections of population and income.”

Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science,  says: “Most importantly, this disparity in exposure to more frequent temperature extremes between the global rich and poor only becomes more pronounced as cumulative CO2 emissions continue to rise.

“This result is yet another piece of evidence demonstrating that limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over the 21st century will help avoid these impacts.” – Climate News Network

Very high temperatures are set to affect some of the world’s least developed countries before touching the richer nations that are more responsible for climate change.

LONDON, 18 May, 2016 – Some of the world’s poorest people, who have contributed least to climate change, are likely to feel its effects sooner than most of their neighbours.

Research by an international team of scientists has found that many of the planet’s poorest countries are likely to experience daily heat extremes caused by climate change before wealthier nations do.

The research published in Environmental Research Letters shows that the poorest fifth of the global population will be the first to experience more frequent heat extremes, despite together emitting the smallest amounts of CO2. Countries likely to be worst affected include those in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

The scientists, who include researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, say their study is the first to examine the link between cumulative CO2 emissions and more frequent hot days.

Dr Manoj Joshi, senior lecturer in climate dynamics at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, says: “Most of the poorest people in the world live in tropical latitudes, while most of the world’s wealthiest people live in mid-latitude climates.

Extreme hot days

“We know that low-latitude regions have much less variability in day-to-day temperatures when compared with the mid-latitudes, which means the ‘signal’ of climate change emerges quite quickly, and because of this the frequency of extreme hot days increases rapidly too.”

The study’s lead author, Luke Harrington, a PhD student at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, says: “Previous studies have shown a link between rising global temperatures and increases in the frequency of local heat extremes, while others have shown a clear relationship between the total amount of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere and rising temperatures.

“This study is the first to use climate models to simulate the end-to-end link between cumulative CO2 emissions and people experiencing more frequent hot days.”

“Much fewer cumulative emissions are required for the poorest fifth of the global population to experience a robust increase in the number of extreme hot days

Earlier studies have already shown that more of the world can expect more frequent dangerous heatwaves unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut drastically, and that temperatures in parts of the Middle East and North Africa could rise so far as to make some regions uninhabitable.

Others have warned of the potential damage to harvests because of extremes of heat and of how climate-induced warming could rob from the poor to give to the rich.

In this latest study, the researchers used state-of-the-art climate models to estimate cumulative CO2 emissions and subsequent changes to extreme local daily temperatures over the 20th and early 21st century.

They defined an extreme hot day as one that occurred 0.1% of the time in model simulations of the pre-industrial climate.

Wealthiest population

Dr Chris Jones, who leads the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle group at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, says: “Our results show much fewer cumulative emissions are required for the poorest fifth of the global population to experience a robust increase in the number of extreme hot days, when compared with the wealthiest population quintile [fifth].”

“We also know the wealthiest countries will be able to cope with the impacts more easily than poorer nations,” says Dr Erich Fischer, lecturer in the department of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich.

“What our research shows is that heat extremes do not increase evenly everywhere, but are becoming much more frequent more quickly for countries nearer the equator. These happen to be disproportionately poorer nations, including those in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

“In fact, this pattern was robust even when we considered future projections of population and income.”

Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science,  says: “Most importantly, this disparity in exposure to more frequent temperature extremes between the global rich and poor only becomes more pronounced as cumulative CO2 emissions continue to rise.

“This result is yet another piece of evidence demonstrating that limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over the 21st century will help avoid these impacts.” – Climate News Network

*

Climate confusion creeps into Trump camp

Despite the Republican US presidential candidate’s claim that climate change is a hoax, a new survey has found that more than half of his supporters believe global warming is happening.

LONDON, 6 May, 2016 – Perhaps you think nothing else could surprise you in the run-up to this year’s US presidential election, with Donald Trump apparently certain to be the Republican candidate. You could be wrong.

Trump has described global warming as “a total, and very expensive, hoax”, and told The Washington Post he is “not a great believer in man-made climate change”.

But a national survey of US voters has found that more than half of Trump supporters (56%) think global warming is happening  − although almost all of them (55%) blame natural causes. And almost half of them (49%) think the US should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do.

The survey findings are published in a report produced by the Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication. They are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,004 American adults, aged 18 and older, who are registered to vote.

Presumptive nominee

It showed that, with the exception of Ted Cruz voters, most supporters of all the Democratic and Republican candidates think global warming is happening.

Only 38% of Cruz supporters think global warming is a reality. But now that Cruz has dropped out of the race – leaving Trump as the presumptive nominee – it will be interesting, the report’s authors write, “to see if Cruz backers decide to support Trump or sit this election out”.

The survey also found that registered voters support a broad array of energy policies, including many designed to reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. Democrats are most enthusiastic, but many Republicans are also keen.

When it comes to funding more research into renewable energy, for example, 76% of Trump’s backers are in favour, and 70% of them think people who buy energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels should receive tax rebates.

At least half the supporters of all candidates except Cruz would also support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

And more than half of all respondents – again, except Cruz supporters – favour requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax, and then using the money to reduce income and other taxes by an equal amount. The Trump camp squeaks in here by 51%.

“Some reassurances about the stability of the economy . . . might help everyone get on the same page about climate change so we can seek some solutions”

The report says supporters of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton are more likely to be African-American, women, Catholics, and baby boomers than the other candidates’ supporters. Trump supporters are likelier to be white, male, baby boomers with a high school education. Cruz supporters are more typically southern, older, white, evangelical, men, and very conservative.

While fewer than half of any candidate’s supporters realise that virtually all climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is happening, only 3% of Trump backers understand the scientific consensus. Despite this, 35% of them say they are very or quite worried about global warming.

Politics aside, some social scientists say Americans may be likelier to accept the scientific evidence if they believe the economy is strong.

Research published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by the American Psychological Association suggests that people who are concerned about the economy and who are strong supporters of the free market may be more sceptical about climate change.

Scientific consensus

“The problem isn’t primarily ignorance,” says the lead researcher, Erin Hennes, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. She and her colleagues noticed that acceptance of the scientific consensus fell by 11% in the US during the recession from 2007 to 2009.

In an online experiment, they found that of 187 Americans who watched a newscast with sceptical commentary about a NASA documentary on climate change, those who more enthusiastically supported the capitalist system were more dubious about climate change and failed to remember facts from the newscast about its severity.

But those who were more critical of capitalism and more interested in social change recalled the information about climate change as being even more severe than the facts they had seen. Two other experiments produced broadly similar results.

Acknowledging the small sample sizes in all three experiments, Dr Hennes says: “Some reassurances about the stability of the economy may help people take information about human-caused climate change more seriously. It might help everyone get on the same page about climate change so we can seek some solutions.” – Climate News Network

Despite the Republican US presidential candidate’s claim that climate change is a hoax, a new survey has found that more than half of his supporters believe global warming is happening.

LONDON, 6 May, 2016 – Perhaps you think nothing else could surprise you in the run-up to this year’s US presidential election, with Donald Trump apparently certain to be the Republican candidate. You could be wrong.

Trump has described global warming as “a total, and very expensive, hoax”, and told The Washington Post he is “not a great believer in man-made climate change”.

But a national survey of US voters has found that more than half of Trump supporters (56%) think global warming is happening  − although almost all of them (55%) blame natural causes. And almost half of them (49%) think the US should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do.

The survey findings are published in a report produced by the Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication. They are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,004 American adults, aged 18 and older, who are registered to vote.

Presumptive nominee

It showed that, with the exception of Ted Cruz voters, most supporters of all the Democratic and Republican candidates think global warming is happening.

Only 38% of Cruz supporters think global warming is a reality. But now that Cruz has dropped out of the race – leaving Trump as the presumptive nominee – it will be interesting, the report’s authors write, “to see if Cruz backers decide to support Trump or sit this election out”.

The survey also found that registered voters support a broad array of energy policies, including many designed to reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. Democrats are most enthusiastic, but many Republicans are also keen.

When it comes to funding more research into renewable energy, for example, 76% of Trump’s backers are in favour, and 70% of them think people who buy energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels should receive tax rebates.

At least half the supporters of all candidates except Cruz would also support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

And more than half of all respondents – again, except Cruz supporters – favour requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax, and then using the money to reduce income and other taxes by an equal amount. The Trump camp squeaks in here by 51%.

“Some reassurances about the stability of the economy . . . might help everyone get on the same page about climate change so we can seek some solutions”

The report says supporters of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton are more likely to be African-American, women, Catholics, and baby boomers than the other candidates’ supporters. Trump supporters are likelier to be white, male, baby boomers with a high school education. Cruz supporters are more typically southern, older, white, evangelical, men, and very conservative.

While fewer than half of any candidate’s supporters realise that virtually all climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is happening, only 3% of Trump backers understand the scientific consensus. Despite this, 35% of them say they are very or quite worried about global warming.

Politics aside, some social scientists say Americans may be likelier to accept the scientific evidence if they believe the economy is strong.

Research published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by the American Psychological Association suggests that people who are concerned about the economy and who are strong supporters of the free market may be more sceptical about climate change.

Scientific consensus

“The problem isn’t primarily ignorance,” says the lead researcher, Erin Hennes, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. She and her colleagues noticed that acceptance of the scientific consensus fell by 11% in the US during the recession from 2007 to 2009.

In an online experiment, they found that of 187 Americans who watched a newscast with sceptical commentary about a NASA documentary on climate change, those who more enthusiastically supported the capitalist system were more dubious about climate change and failed to remember facts from the newscast about its severity.

But those who were more critical of capitalism and more interested in social change recalled the information about climate change as being even more severe than the facts they had seen. Two other experiments produced broadly similar results.

Acknowledging the small sample sizes in all three experiments, Dr Hennes says: “Some reassurances about the stability of the economy may help people take information about human-caused climate change more seriously. It might help everyone get on the same page about climate change so we can seek some solutions.” – Climate News Network

*

Rainfall patterns cloud climate changes

Analysis of data stretching back 12 centuries reveals questions surrounding climate models that have linked wet and dry weather extremes to current temperature rise.

LONDON, 7 April, 2016 – The 20th century was neither much drier nor wetter for half the globe than many of its predecessors, European scientists say. On the contrary, they say several centuries in the last 1,200 years experienced much more variable rain and drought than the 1900s.

Their findings, which are published with several caveats and which have not so far been replicated, differ markedly from the conclusions published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In what they say is the first 1,200-year record of water availability, rainfall and drought across Europe, North Asia and North America, the researchers from Sweden, Germany and Switzerland found that climate models overestimate the increase in wet and dry extremes as temperatures rose during the 20th century.

Their research published in Nature journal allows scientists to see accurately for the first time how rainfall patterns changed during the 20th century compared with the last 12 centuries. It shows the northern hemisphere experienced much larger variations in rainfall and drought patterns during the time from 800 AD than in the 20th century.

Warmer world

The scientists say the new results − a contribution to the Past Global Changes (PAGES) 2k Network − can help improve how climate models represent future rainfall changes in a warmer world.

What will happen to rainfall and drought when temperatures rise across the globe is a preoccupation for climate scientists and policymakers, as it will affect water resources, crop yields and ecological change.

On the basis of climate model simulations, the IPCC says wet areas are likely to get wetter and dry areas drier in a warmer world. It cannot comment on the substance of an individual paper or press release, but says that if any relevant new research is published it can consider it in its future assessments.

But the European team of researchers challenges the conclusions of the IPCC’s climate models. Its results show that the temperature rise last century – which is not disputed – may not have affected the hydroclimate (rainfall and drought-related climate anomalies) as much as earlier thought.

“Actual measurements of precipitation and drought
are too short to tell if the observed changes today
fall outside the range of natural variability”

The lead author, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, a historian and climate researcher at Stockholm University, says: “Despite strong 20th-century warming, we find that rainfall and drought extremes in the 20th century have varied within the natural variability we can now see in earlier centuries.

“Several other centuries in the past 1,200 years show stronger and more widespread extremes and deviations from the average. Climate models strongly overestimate the intensification of wet and dry extremes in the 20th century.”

The team used tree-rings, lake sediment, historical data and other types of archive material to produce their new picture of past climate. They found larger land areas with relatively wetter conditions in the 9th to 11th centuries and the 20th century. But drier conditions than during the 20th century were more widespread between the 12th and 19th centuries.

“The lack of agreement between the reconstruction and the climate models in the 20th century indicates that the models can have limitations in realistically predicting which regions may get wetter and which may get drier in a warmer world,” Dr Ljungqvist says.

Climate predictions

“But one reason climate model predictions do not agree well with actual data could also be that 20th century warming may not yet have been strong enough to trigger large-scale hydroclimate changes.”

To investigate the links between temperature and hydroclimate variations, the scientists compared their reconstructed variations with a new temperature reconstruction they had also developed.

They conclude that only in a few regions is it possible to see clear correlations between changes in temperature and hydroclimate. For instance, drought was most widespread during both the relatively warm 12th century and the relatively cold 15th century.

“The study shows the importance of placing recent hydroclimate changes in a millennium-long perspective,” Dr Ljungqvist says.

“Actual measurements of precipitation and drought are too short to tell if the observed changes today fall outside the range of natural variability. Instrumental measurements are also too short to test the ability of state-of-the-art climate models to predict which regions will get drier or wetter with global warming.” – Climate News Network

Analysis of data stretching back 12 centuries reveals questions surrounding climate models that have linked wet and dry weather extremes to current temperature rise.

LONDON, 7 April, 2016 – The 20th century was neither much drier nor wetter for half the globe than many of its predecessors, European scientists say. On the contrary, they say several centuries in the last 1,200 years experienced much more variable rain and drought than the 1900s.

Their findings, which are published with several caveats and which have not so far been replicated, differ markedly from the conclusions published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In what they say is the first 1,200-year record of water availability, rainfall and drought across Europe, North Asia and North America, the researchers from Sweden, Germany and Switzerland found that climate models overestimate the increase in wet and dry extremes as temperatures rose during the 20th century.

Their research published in Nature journal allows scientists to see accurately for the first time how rainfall patterns changed during the 20th century compared with the last 12 centuries. It shows the northern hemisphere experienced much larger variations in rainfall and drought patterns during the time from 800 AD than in the 20th century.

Warmer world

The scientists say the new results − a contribution to the Past Global Changes (PAGES) 2k Network − can help improve how climate models represent future rainfall changes in a warmer world.

What will happen to rainfall and drought when temperatures rise across the globe is a preoccupation for climate scientists and policymakers, as it will affect water resources, crop yields and ecological change.

On the basis of climate model simulations, the IPCC says wet areas are likely to get wetter and dry areas drier in a warmer world. It cannot comment on the substance of an individual paper or press release, but says that if any relevant new research is published it can consider it in its future assessments.

But the European team of researchers challenges the conclusions of the IPCC’s climate models. Its results show that the temperature rise last century – which is not disputed – may not have affected the hydroclimate (rainfall and drought-related climate anomalies) as much as earlier thought.

“Actual measurements of precipitation and drought
are too short to tell if the observed changes today
fall outside the range of natural variability”

The lead author, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, a historian and climate researcher at Stockholm University, says: “Despite strong 20th-century warming, we find that rainfall and drought extremes in the 20th century have varied within the natural variability we can now see in earlier centuries.

“Several other centuries in the past 1,200 years show stronger and more widespread extremes and deviations from the average. Climate models strongly overestimate the intensification of wet and dry extremes in the 20th century.”

The team used tree-rings, lake sediment, historical data and other types of archive material to produce their new picture of past climate. They found larger land areas with relatively wetter conditions in the 9th to 11th centuries and the 20th century. But drier conditions than during the 20th century were more widespread between the 12th and 19th centuries.

“The lack of agreement between the reconstruction and the climate models in the 20th century indicates that the models can have limitations in realistically predicting which regions may get wetter and which may get drier in a warmer world,” Dr Ljungqvist says.

Climate predictions

“But one reason climate model predictions do not agree well with actual data could also be that 20th century warming may not yet have been strong enough to trigger large-scale hydroclimate changes.”

To investigate the links between temperature and hydroclimate variations, the scientists compared their reconstructed variations with a new temperature reconstruction they had also developed.

They conclude that only in a few regions is it possible to see clear correlations between changes in temperature and hydroclimate. For instance, drought was most widespread during both the relatively warm 12th century and the relatively cold 15th century.

“The study shows the importance of placing recent hydroclimate changes in a millennium-long perspective,” Dr Ljungqvist says.

“Actual measurements of precipitation and drought are too short to tell if the observed changes today fall outside the range of natural variability. Instrumental measurements are also too short to test the ability of state-of-the-art climate models to predict which regions will get drier or wetter with global warming.” – Climate News Network

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GM crops can thrive as climate warms

Plants genetically modified to take advantage of hotter temperatures and increased carbon dioxide could cut fertiliser use and raise yields to alleviate global food shortages.

LONDON, 4 April, 2016 – Genetically engineering photosynthesis in plants could take advantage of rising global temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide, US scientists say.

They believe this could achieve much higher yields on the same amount of land and help to stave off the prospect of widespread hunger as human populations increase.

Researchers at the University of Illinois report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on their experiments with an enzyme that can determine the rate of photosynthesis − the way that plants use light to produce oxygen and organic compounds − and a molecule linked to plant growth.

They say field tests have shown that their concept works, and now plan trials on staple food crops. The project, Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Urgent need

The global need to grow more food is urgent. By 2050, the researchers say, the world population will have grown so much and become so urban that humans will need to produce 87% more of the four primary food crops – rice, wheat, soya and maize/corn − than they do today.

Climate change over the next 30 years is expected to mean warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Crop plants cannot evolve fast enough to adapt to change at that rate, and land suitable for growing food is also being lost across the world.

Stephen Long, professor of crop sciences and plant biology at Illinois and co-author of the report, says: “We have to start increasing production now, faster than we ever have. Any innovation we make today won’t be ready to go into farmers’ fields for at least 20 years, because we’ll need time for testing, product development, and approval by government agencies.

“On that basis, 2050 is not so far off. That’s why we say we’re one crop breeding cycle away from starvation.”

The researchers say their proposed solution will not only take advantage of the increased warmth and CO2, but will also achieve much higher yields on the same amount of land.

The rate of photosynthesis in crops such as soya and rice is determined by two factors – the first being the enzyme that traps CO2, known as RuBisCO.

With lower CO2 levels and at high temperatures RuBisCO can, as the researchers put it, “make a mistake and use oxygen instead of CO2”. When that happens, the plant ends up releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere.

“We have to start increasing production now.
Any innovation we make today won’t be ready
to go into farmers’ fields for at least 20 years”

Under higher levels of CO2, such as those projected for future climates, RuBisCO becomes much more efficient and photosynthesis rates naturally increase as it makes fewer mistakes. The carbon fixed by RuBisCO is eventually turned into carbohydrates that the plant can use as an energy source for producing grain and fruit.

But more CO2 will mean rising temperatures, and RuBisCO’s increased efficiency under high CObegins to break down in hot climates. So scientists want to improve RuBisCO so that it will operate efficiently in both high temperature and high CO2 conditions.

“Our partners are looking at a wide range of RuBisCOs from different organisms to see whether they can find one that will make fewer of these mistakes in hot climates,” Long says.

The second factor that can limit photosynthesis is the rate at which everything else in the leaf regenerates a molecule involved in accepting CO2, known as RuBP.

“As we go to higher CO2 levels, instead of being limited by RuBisCO, we’re limited by this regeneration step,” Long says. We’re looking at ways to manipulate the speed of that regeneration.”

Increase emissions

The researchers developed mathematical models that showed how to alter the way nitrogen is divided by the plant, letting it make more carbohydrate under higher temperature and CO2 without the crop requiring more nitrogen fertiliser. This can pollute soil and water, and can increase emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.

The models were then tested in the field. Using genetic engineering, the team tried to speed up the regeneration of RuBP in tobacco plants while subjecting them to high-CO2 environments.

The proof of concept worked: photosynthesis rates and yield increased. The next step will include tests on staple food crops in controlled environments and in field trials.

In many countries, there is fierce controversy over genetically modified food. Despite this, Professor Long says: “In the face of the extraordinary challenges ahead, we simply do not have the luxury to rule out the use of any technology that may hold promise to improve crop performance.” – Climate News Network

Plants genetically modified to take advantage of hotter temperatures and increased carbon dioxide could cut fertiliser use and raise yields to alleviate global food shortages.

LONDON, 4 April, 2016 – Genetically engineering photosynthesis in plants could take advantage of rising global temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide, US scientists say.

They believe this could achieve much higher yields on the same amount of land and help to stave off the prospect of widespread hunger as human populations increase.

Researchers at the University of Illinois report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on their experiments with an enzyme that can determine the rate of photosynthesis − the way that plants use light to produce oxygen and organic compounds − and a molecule linked to plant growth.

They say field tests have shown that their concept works, and now plan trials on staple food crops. The project, Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Urgent need

The global need to grow more food is urgent. By 2050, the researchers say, the world population will have grown so much and become so urban that humans will need to produce 87% more of the four primary food crops – rice, wheat, soya and maize/corn − than they do today.

Climate change over the next 30 years is expected to mean warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Crop plants cannot evolve fast enough to adapt to change at that rate, and land suitable for growing food is also being lost across the world.

Stephen Long, professor of crop sciences and plant biology at Illinois and co-author of the report, says: “We have to start increasing production now, faster than we ever have. Any innovation we make today won’t be ready to go into farmers’ fields for at least 20 years, because we’ll need time for testing, product development, and approval by government agencies.

“On that basis, 2050 is not so far off. That’s why we say we’re one crop breeding cycle away from starvation.”

The researchers say their proposed solution will not only take advantage of the increased warmth and CO2, but will also achieve much higher yields on the same amount of land.

The rate of photosynthesis in crops such as soya and rice is determined by two factors – the first being the enzyme that traps CO2, known as RuBisCO.

With lower CO2 levels and at high temperatures RuBisCO can, as the researchers put it, “make a mistake and use oxygen instead of CO2”. When that happens, the plant ends up releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere.

“We have to start increasing production now.
Any innovation we make today won’t be ready
to go into farmers’ fields for at least 20 years”

Under higher levels of CO2, such as those projected for future climates, RuBisCO becomes much more efficient and photosynthesis rates naturally increase as it makes fewer mistakes. The carbon fixed by RuBisCO is eventually turned into carbohydrates that the plant can use as an energy source for producing grain and fruit.

But more CO2 will mean rising temperatures, and RuBisCO’s increased efficiency under high CObegins to break down in hot climates. So scientists want to improve RuBisCO so that it will operate efficiently in both high temperature and high CO2 conditions.

“Our partners are looking at a wide range of RuBisCOs from different organisms to see whether they can find one that will make fewer of these mistakes in hot climates,” Long says.

The second factor that can limit photosynthesis is the rate at which everything else in the leaf regenerates a molecule involved in accepting CO2, known as RuBP.

“As we go to higher CO2 levels, instead of being limited by RuBisCO, we’re limited by this regeneration step,” Long says. We’re looking at ways to manipulate the speed of that regeneration.”

Increase emissions

The researchers developed mathematical models that showed how to alter the way nitrogen is divided by the plant, letting it make more carbohydrate under higher temperature and CO2 without the crop requiring more nitrogen fertiliser. This can pollute soil and water, and can increase emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.

The models were then tested in the field. Using genetic engineering, the team tried to speed up the regeneration of RuBP in tobacco plants while subjecting them to high-CO2 environments.

The proof of concept worked: photosynthesis rates and yield increased. The next step will include tests on staple food crops in controlled environments and in field trials.

In many countries, there is fierce controversy over genetically modified food. Despite this, Professor Long says: “In the face of the extraordinary challenges ahead, we simply do not have the luxury to rule out the use of any technology that may hold promise to improve crop performance.” – Climate News Network