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.

Shutdown . . . Back Soon

LONDON, 24 December 2018


The Climate News Network is taking a short break: we shall not be publishing anything more from today until next Monday, 31 December.  Whether you’re celebrating a religious festival or just having a rest from the daily round, we wish you a happy break. Thank you for supporting us this year. We wish you the very best for 2019.

The Editors

LONDON, 24 December 2018


The Climate News Network is taking a short break: we shall not be publishing anything more from today until next Monday, 31 December.  Whether you’re celebrating a religious festival or just having a rest from the daily round, we wish you a happy break. Thank you for supporting us this year. We wish you the very best for 2019.

The Editors

Global warming ‘pause’ never happened

Claims of a global warming ‘pause’ in observed temperatures early this century are unfounded and lack statistical significance, researchers say.

LONDON, 19 December, 2018 − Yet another team of researchers has concluded that the much-debated global warming ‘pause’ which preoccupied climate science around the turn of the century simply did not happen.

If their work continues to win support from other researchers, it will leave those who have argued that the pause was real with some explaining to do.

Some scientists have argued that there was a pause, or hiatus, in the rate of global warming recorded from 1998 to 2013, and that this cast doubt on the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the available evidence showed the world had continued to warm.

Other researchers said variously that the pause had never started, or blamed changes in the trade winds. Many said the pause (or its absence) were anyway irrelevant, because the long-term global warming trend was continuing unabated.

“Global warming did not pause, but we need to understand how and why scientists came to believe it had, to avoid future episodes like this”

Some argued that the “missing” heat had been absorbed by oceans, a few that volcanic discharges might have masked sunlight, some that it was simply evidence of a natural cycle, others that in a longer time series the apparent slowdown became invisible.

Now an international team of climate researchers, after re-analysing existing data and studies, says there has never been a statistically significant pause.

This conclusion holds, they say, whether considering the supposed pause as a change in the rate of warming in observations, or as a mismatch in rate between observations and expectations from climate models. Their findings are published in two papers in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In other words, they say, there is no reason to doubt that warming continued as mainstream climate scientists argued it would, nor to doubt the methods they used, including climate modelling. But there are reasons to ask why the non-existent pause was so enthusiastically promoted by some scientists and others.

Unsupported by data

Dr James Risbey, from CSIRO Australia, is the lead author of one of the studies, which reassessed the data and put it into historical context.

He said: “Our findings show there is little or no statistical evidence for a ‘pause’ in GMST [global mean surface temperature] rise. Neither the current data nor the historical data support it … there was never enough evidence to reasonably draw any other conclusion.

“Global warming did not pause, but we need to understand how and why scientists came to believe it had, to avoid future episodes like this. The climate-research community’s acceptance of a ‘pause’ in global warming caused confusion for the public and policy system about the pace and urgency of climate change.

“That confusion in turn might have contributed to reduced impetus for action to prevent greenhouse climate change. The risks are substantial.”

Biassed interpretation

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, UK, is the lead author of the companion study, which looks at the alleged mismatch between the rate of global warming in observations and climate models.

He said: “We found the impression of a divergence – that is, a divergence between the rate of actual global warming and the model projections – was caused by various biases in the model interpretation and in the observations. It was unsupported by robust statistics.”

Despite this, the authors point out that by the end of 2017, the ‘pause’ was the subject of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Many of these articles do not give any reason for their choice of start year for the ‘pause’, and the range spans 1995 to 2004.

Professor Lewandowsky said: “This broad range may indicate a lack of formal or scientific procedures to establish the onset of the ‘pause’. Moreover, each instance of the presumed onset was not randomly chosen but chosen specifically because of the low subsequent warming. We describe this as selection bias … some of the biases that affect the datasets and projections were known, or knowable, at the time.”

Contrarian pressure

When the researchers re-analysed the data, accounting for the selection bias problem, they found that no evidence for a divergence between models and observations existed at any time in the last decade.

They offer several possible reasons why some scientists believed climate warming lagged behind modelled warming. One co-author, Professor Naomi Oreskes, from Harvard University, US, said: “An explanation lies in the constant public and political pressure from climate contrarians.

“This may have caused scientists to feel the need to explain what was occurring, which led them inadvertently to accept and reinforce the contrarian framework.”

Dr Dann Mitchell, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol, who was not involved with either study, said: “Given the fast pace of increasing climate change understanding, the conclusions of this paper will be very relevant for the inevitable future ‘apparent’ climate contradictions that emerge over time.” − Climate News Network

Claims of a global warming ‘pause’ in observed temperatures early this century are unfounded and lack statistical significance, researchers say.

LONDON, 19 December, 2018 − Yet another team of researchers has concluded that the much-debated global warming ‘pause’ which preoccupied climate science around the turn of the century simply did not happen.

If their work continues to win support from other researchers, it will leave those who have argued that the pause was real with some explaining to do.

Some scientists have argued that there was a pause, or hiatus, in the rate of global warming recorded from 1998 to 2013, and that this cast doubt on the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the available evidence showed the world had continued to warm.

Other researchers said variously that the pause had never started, or blamed changes in the trade winds. Many said the pause (or its absence) were anyway irrelevant, because the long-term global warming trend was continuing unabated.

“Global warming did not pause, but we need to understand how and why scientists came to believe it had, to avoid future episodes like this”

Some argued that the “missing” heat had been absorbed by oceans, a few that volcanic discharges might have masked sunlight, some that it was simply evidence of a natural cycle, others that in a longer time series the apparent slowdown became invisible.

Now an international team of climate researchers, after re-analysing existing data and studies, says there has never been a statistically significant pause.

This conclusion holds, they say, whether considering the supposed pause as a change in the rate of warming in observations, or as a mismatch in rate between observations and expectations from climate models. Their findings are published in two papers in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In other words, they say, there is no reason to doubt that warming continued as mainstream climate scientists argued it would, nor to doubt the methods they used, including climate modelling. But there are reasons to ask why the non-existent pause was so enthusiastically promoted by some scientists and others.

Unsupported by data

Dr James Risbey, from CSIRO Australia, is the lead author of one of the studies, which reassessed the data and put it into historical context.

He said: “Our findings show there is little or no statistical evidence for a ‘pause’ in GMST [global mean surface temperature] rise. Neither the current data nor the historical data support it … there was never enough evidence to reasonably draw any other conclusion.

“Global warming did not pause, but we need to understand how and why scientists came to believe it had, to avoid future episodes like this. The climate-research community’s acceptance of a ‘pause’ in global warming caused confusion for the public and policy system about the pace and urgency of climate change.

“That confusion in turn might have contributed to reduced impetus for action to prevent greenhouse climate change. The risks are substantial.”

Biassed interpretation

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, UK, is the lead author of the companion study, which looks at the alleged mismatch between the rate of global warming in observations and climate models.

He said: “We found the impression of a divergence – that is, a divergence between the rate of actual global warming and the model projections – was caused by various biases in the model interpretation and in the observations. It was unsupported by robust statistics.”

Despite this, the authors point out that by the end of 2017, the ‘pause’ was the subject of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Many of these articles do not give any reason for their choice of start year for the ‘pause’, and the range spans 1995 to 2004.

Professor Lewandowsky said: “This broad range may indicate a lack of formal or scientific procedures to establish the onset of the ‘pause’. Moreover, each instance of the presumed onset was not randomly chosen but chosen specifically because of the low subsequent warming. We describe this as selection bias … some of the biases that affect the datasets and projections were known, or knowable, at the time.”

Contrarian pressure

When the researchers re-analysed the data, accounting for the selection bias problem, they found that no evidence for a divergence between models and observations existed at any time in the last decade.

They offer several possible reasons why some scientists believed climate warming lagged behind modelled warming. One co-author, Professor Naomi Oreskes, from Harvard University, US, said: “An explanation lies in the constant public and political pressure from climate contrarians.

“This may have caused scientists to feel the need to explain what was occurring, which led them inadvertently to accept and reinforce the contrarian framework.”

Dr Dann Mitchell, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol, who was not involved with either study, said: “Given the fast pace of increasing climate change understanding, the conclusions of this paper will be very relevant for the inevitable future ‘apparent’ climate contradictions that emerge over time.” − Climate News Network

Katowice climate talks run short of time

The annual UN global warming conference is over. Despite some progress, the Katowice climate talks show political action still lags far behind the science.

LONDON, 17 December, 2018 − By tradition, United Nations conferences on tackling global warming always over-run. No surprise then that the Katowice climate talks ended a day late. They made some useful progress. But the underlying message from Poland is that diplomatic efforts to prevent global temperatures increasing to dangerous levels are nowhere near what climate scientists say is needed.

Katowice (COP-24, in UN jargon, otherwise the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was meant to be an opportunity to put flesh on the bare bones of the Paris Agreement, the achievement of the 2015 COP, held three years ago in the French capital.

That agreed that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise by more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, and that every country should do its utmost to keep the rise if possible to a maximum of 1.5°C.

The Agreement’s commitments do not actually commit governments to anything, because they are entirely voluntary. So Katowice sought to agree a rule book: countries would sign up to more demanding pledges of greenhouse gas emission cuts and would be more transparent about how far they were living up to them.

The meeting did agree on measures to improve transparency: how governments will measure, report on and verify their attempts to cut emissions. But there was little movement on the central question of how countries will step up their targets on making bolder cuts, and without that it is hard to see the Paris Agreement being able to have much practical effect.

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

For all that, there was praise for Katowice. The incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, said: “The Katowice agreement is a relief. The Paris Agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism. With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented. Overall the Katowice decisions provide enough momentum to move forward…

“My biggest concern is that the UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 to stay in line with the IPCC 1.5 C report.

“This is a real concern. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4°C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events are hitting people all across the planet already, with only 1°C of global warming.”

Professor Rockström identifies exactly why many people, despite Katowice’s acknowledged progress, are disappointed at its outcome: it does not seem to have absorbed the scientists’ message that the planet needs far faster action on reducing emissions than anything now on offer.

Approaching crisis

Once again, the careful pace of diplomacy as the annual COPs roll around is the best that the UNFCCC can manage, and it is not remotely fast enough to confront the scientific reality. The negotiators make gradual progress, while in the real world the climate gallops towards crisis point, now only 12 years away according to the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Add to this the fact that the entire COP process is voluntary, consigning the fate of the single biosphere which sustains life on Earth to the choices − and sometimes the whims − of around 200 widely differing governments, and it is little surprise that the UN is being left behind by events.

Yet it remains the only game in town, the only way so far developed for potentially slowing global temperature rise. It’s not enough, but it still offers hope of reducing the threat from climate change to some degree.

The Katowice negotiators ran out of time. It is ironic that at this rate the planet could do so too. − Climate News Network

The annual UN global warming conference is over. Despite some progress, the Katowice climate talks show political action still lags far behind the science.

LONDON, 17 December, 2018 − By tradition, United Nations conferences on tackling global warming always over-run. No surprise then that the Katowice climate talks ended a day late. They made some useful progress. But the underlying message from Poland is that diplomatic efforts to prevent global temperatures increasing to dangerous levels are nowhere near what climate scientists say is needed.

Katowice (COP-24, in UN jargon, otherwise the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was meant to be an opportunity to put flesh on the bare bones of the Paris Agreement, the achievement of the 2015 COP, held three years ago in the French capital.

That agreed that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise by more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, and that every country should do its utmost to keep the rise if possible to a maximum of 1.5°C.

The Agreement’s commitments do not actually commit governments to anything, because they are entirely voluntary. So Katowice sought to agree a rule book: countries would sign up to more demanding pledges of greenhouse gas emission cuts and would be more transparent about how far they were living up to them.

The meeting did agree on measures to improve transparency: how governments will measure, report on and verify their attempts to cut emissions. But there was little movement on the central question of how countries will step up their targets on making bolder cuts, and without that it is hard to see the Paris Agreement being able to have much practical effect.

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

For all that, there was praise for Katowice. The incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, said: “The Katowice agreement is a relief. The Paris Agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism. With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented. Overall the Katowice decisions provide enough momentum to move forward…

“My biggest concern is that the UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 to stay in line with the IPCC 1.5 C report.

“This is a real concern. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4°C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events are hitting people all across the planet already, with only 1°C of global warming.”

Professor Rockström identifies exactly why many people, despite Katowice’s acknowledged progress, are disappointed at its outcome: it does not seem to have absorbed the scientists’ message that the planet needs far faster action on reducing emissions than anything now on offer.

Approaching crisis

Once again, the careful pace of diplomacy as the annual COPs roll around is the best that the UNFCCC can manage, and it is not remotely fast enough to confront the scientific reality. The negotiators make gradual progress, while in the real world the climate gallops towards crisis point, now only 12 years away according to the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Add to this the fact that the entire COP process is voluntary, consigning the fate of the single biosphere which sustains life on Earth to the choices − and sometimes the whims − of around 200 widely differing governments, and it is little surprise that the UN is being left behind by events.

Yet it remains the only game in town, the only way so far developed for potentially slowing global temperature rise. It’s not enough, but it still offers hope of reducing the threat from climate change to some degree.

The Katowice negotiators ran out of time. It is ironic that at this rate the planet could do so too. − Climate News Network

Climate treaty plan urged to cut warming

To inject some urgency into efforts to slow planetary warming, scientists, politicians and citizens are mulling how far a climate treaty plan could help.

LONDON, 3 December, 2018 − Could a new climate treaty be the way to tame global warming? With world leaders receiving constant demands to act far more urgently to limit climate change, events at either end of Europe are today increasing the pressure on them. At both, hopes are focusing on international diplomacy.

In eastern Europe the Polish city of Katowice is hosting the latest round of annual negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (the UNFCCC), formally known as the 24th Conference of the Parties, or COP24 (due to end on 14 December).

Hopes for significant progress are muted. The 2015 talks produced the Paris Agreement, praised for making progress on how to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases which human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are adding to warming.

But little has happened since then actually to slow climate change, and in important respects the situation is now worse than it was three years ago.

The combination since 2015 of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action by the Agreement’s signatories to slow them means that the gap between where emissions are now and where they ought to be is bigger than ever.

Clear verdict

Speaking before COP24 began, Johan Rockström, incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in a statement: “The scientific verdict is clear; global emissions must be cut by half by 2030 to stand a chance of staying well below 2°C [the more modest target agreed in Paris]”.

He said Katowice needed to find the ambition to ensure that the emissions cuts governments promise match the latest scientific assessments, and should also insist that every country’s emissions were counted accurately.

As well, he called for proper financing of the attempt to breathe new life into the Paris process: “The Green Climate Fund needs reliable and substantial contributions from industrialised countries.”

Professor Rockström concluded: “Science clearly shows that we have just one decade to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we must start doing it now.” It sounds like a pretty intense two weeks ahead in Poland, then.

Over 800 miles to the west, London is the scene for the launch of a new international group, the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA). Its founders are setting it up to push for accelerated action at the scale and speed needed to meet the 1.5°C climate target, the more ambitious Paris aim.

“Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of”

By gathering and sharing what it calls evidence-based hope,  the Alliance seeks to remove excuses for inaction, show what is possible, and find ways for everyone to take an active part in change.

Its members range from household-name environmental groups to professional bodies and international research centres, working internationally and locally, specialists and generalists, involved in practical work, research and campaigning.

The Alliance says examples of rapid action it has already analysed include responses to economic shocks, public health emergencies, financial and energy crises, and conflicts.
The examples range from transport to food, energy and the built environment.

With an eye on Katowice, Andrew Simms, the Alliance’s coordinator, said: “International climate talks matter, but they are not the whole story. The shift to a low-carbon economy isn’t just something for diplomats and presidents. You could say that we are crowdsourcing rapid actions to prevent climate breakdown.”

Results from diplomacy

Yet much like those who continue to work to get the best out of the Paris Agreement, the founders of the Alliance think high-level diplomacy and statecraft do matter and can bring about change.

They say: “A new line in the sand is needed to underpin the existing [Paris] climate agreement, to exert influence over the immediate choices of policymakers. At the very least, the science should mandate a moratorium in rich countries on any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, or any infrastructure dependent on it.

“A moratorium could take the form of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. The threat of nuclear catastrophe provides a precedent for how, quickly, to stop a bad situation getting worse. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),  agreed between 1965 and 1968, was a triumph of rapid diplomacy, at the height of cold war mistrust, and against an immense security threat.”

Andrew Simms does not accept the argument that the NPT, while so far it has not failed, perhaps does not yet deserve to be called a success. He told the Climate News Network that a climate treaty modelled on it could really work: it would also “create jobs, clean air, tackle fuel poverty and generally make the world a better place”.

Extraordinary ability

And ignoring a climate non-proliferation treaty’s potential, he said, “underestimates humanity’s extraordinary ability to cooperate, innovate and act quickly with ambition when the moment demands it. Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of.

“First, and most importantly, we need to let go of the old fossil fuel economy, accept that it brought great benefits for some but that its time is now over and we must find better ways to meet our energy needs.

“Next we can look at the evidence base for hope in a warming world and get to work on a rapid transition.

“We’re calling on people and organisations to get in touch and let us know about such stories of rapid change from which we can learn, and we will work to get them seen and heard by others who can make a difference.” − Climate News Network

The Rapid Transition Alliance is being coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its activities.

To inject some urgency into efforts to slow planetary warming, scientists, politicians and citizens are mulling how far a climate treaty plan could help.

LONDON, 3 December, 2018 − Could a new climate treaty be the way to tame global warming? With world leaders receiving constant demands to act far more urgently to limit climate change, events at either end of Europe are today increasing the pressure on them. At both, hopes are focusing on international diplomacy.

In eastern Europe the Polish city of Katowice is hosting the latest round of annual negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (the UNFCCC), formally known as the 24th Conference of the Parties, or COP24 (due to end on 14 December).

Hopes for significant progress are muted. The 2015 talks produced the Paris Agreement, praised for making progress on how to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases which human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are adding to warming.

But little has happened since then actually to slow climate change, and in important respects the situation is now worse than it was three years ago.

The combination since 2015 of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action by the Agreement’s signatories to slow them means that the gap between where emissions are now and where they ought to be is bigger than ever.

Clear verdict

Speaking before COP24 began, Johan Rockström, incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in a statement: “The scientific verdict is clear; global emissions must be cut by half by 2030 to stand a chance of staying well below 2°C [the more modest target agreed in Paris]”.

He said Katowice needed to find the ambition to ensure that the emissions cuts governments promise match the latest scientific assessments, and should also insist that every country’s emissions were counted accurately.

As well, he called for proper financing of the attempt to breathe new life into the Paris process: “The Green Climate Fund needs reliable and substantial contributions from industrialised countries.”

Professor Rockström concluded: “Science clearly shows that we have just one decade to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we must start doing it now.” It sounds like a pretty intense two weeks ahead in Poland, then.

Over 800 miles to the west, London is the scene for the launch of a new international group, the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA). Its founders are setting it up to push for accelerated action at the scale and speed needed to meet the 1.5°C climate target, the more ambitious Paris aim.

“Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of”

By gathering and sharing what it calls evidence-based hope,  the Alliance seeks to remove excuses for inaction, show what is possible, and find ways for everyone to take an active part in change.

Its members range from household-name environmental groups to professional bodies and international research centres, working internationally and locally, specialists and generalists, involved in practical work, research and campaigning.

The Alliance says examples of rapid action it has already analysed include responses to economic shocks, public health emergencies, financial and energy crises, and conflicts.
The examples range from transport to food, energy and the built environment.

With an eye on Katowice, Andrew Simms, the Alliance’s coordinator, said: “International climate talks matter, but they are not the whole story. The shift to a low-carbon economy isn’t just something for diplomats and presidents. You could say that we are crowdsourcing rapid actions to prevent climate breakdown.”

Results from diplomacy

Yet much like those who continue to work to get the best out of the Paris Agreement, the founders of the Alliance think high-level diplomacy and statecraft do matter and can bring about change.

They say: “A new line in the sand is needed to underpin the existing [Paris] climate agreement, to exert influence over the immediate choices of policymakers. At the very least, the science should mandate a moratorium in rich countries on any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, or any infrastructure dependent on it.

“A moratorium could take the form of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. The threat of nuclear catastrophe provides a precedent for how, quickly, to stop a bad situation getting worse. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),  agreed between 1965 and 1968, was a triumph of rapid diplomacy, at the height of cold war mistrust, and against an immense security threat.”

Andrew Simms does not accept the argument that the NPT, while so far it has not failed, perhaps does not yet deserve to be called a success. He told the Climate News Network that a climate treaty modelled on it could really work: it would also “create jobs, clean air, tackle fuel poverty and generally make the world a better place”.

Extraordinary ability

And ignoring a climate non-proliferation treaty’s potential, he said, “underestimates humanity’s extraordinary ability to cooperate, innovate and act quickly with ambition when the moment demands it. Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of.

“First, and most importantly, we need to let go of the old fossil fuel economy, accept that it brought great benefits for some but that its time is now over and we must find better ways to meet our energy needs.

“Next we can look at the evidence base for hope in a warming world and get to work on a rapid transition.

“We’re calling on people and organisations to get in touch and let us know about such stories of rapid change from which we can learn, and we will work to get them seen and heard by others who can make a difference.” − Climate News Network

The Rapid Transition Alliance is being coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its activities.

More states opt to phase out oil production

Cutting fossil fuel supply can help to limit demand, and more governments are deciding to phase out oil production, a new study finds.

LONDON, 29 November, 2018 – A growing number of governments are choosing to phase out oil production, reasoning that cutting the availability of fossil fuels can help to cut the demand for them.

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, yes? And one of the main causes of the emissions is the burning of fuels such as oil, gas and coal? Right again. So the simple and obvious answer, these governments are deciding, is to stop the drilling and mining which extract fossil fuels.

That’s the argument examined in a report by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). There’s already a growing movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground. But their study concentrates specifically on governments.

They say phasing out oil production could be the next big step in climate policy, thanks to an initial group of first-movers who’ve already taken the plunge.

One is Spain, which announced this month that it plans to completely decarbonise its electricity system by mid-century, a move which includes a total ban on all oil and gas exploration.

“Limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand”

The SEI team outlines its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors will present their results in greater detail in the Polish city of Katowice on 5 December at this year’s UN global climate summit, COP24.

They focus on California as the possible next addition to this growing list of governments choosing to forego oil extraction. The study finds numerous benefits to restricting production, including not only reducing global emissions but also helping to revoke the “social licence” of fossil fuel producers – the public acceptance of their activities.

“Countries like France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Belize and – just last week – Spain are sending a clear signal by phasing out oil production,” said Georgia Piggot, an SEI sociologist and co-author of the study. “The fossil fuel era needs to end soon, and governments need to have clear plans in place to ensure an orderly and fair transition.”

With California as a case study, the SEI report points to a resolution by the state’s Air Resources Board to “evaluate and explore” reducing the production of petroleum.

Boosting environmental justice

It finds that phasing out oil in California would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the same amount as many of the other climate policies currently planned by the state. And, because most oil drilling there happens in the most pollution-vulnerable communities, phasing it out would have important environmental justice benefits as well.

“Gradually phasing down oil production is a reasonable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said SEI senior scientist Peter Erickson, the study’s lead author.

“California is one of the top oil-producing states in the US, but it is also a climate leader. Restricting oil production would complement the state’s flagship policies, such as strengthened standards for clean power or energy efficiency.”

The study’s lessons apply to other states too. It concludes that governments that aim to demonstrate leadership and meet the Paris Agreement goals have “a number of policy options that can limit future production of oil and other fossil fuels, while delivering important global emissions and local environmental benefits.”

Limiting temperature rise

The Paris Agreement settled on a target that global temperatures should increase by no more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, with governments striving to keep the rise to just 1.5°C.

Peter Erickson told the Climate News Network that the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its recent report Global Warming of 1.5°C provided guideposts to the SEI’s work.

He said: “The median results of those scenarios suggest that global oil production (and consumption) needs to decline more than 40% between 2020 and 2030 to meet a 1.5°C target, global coal production (and consumption) more than 80%, and global gas production (and consumption) by more than 40% (the declines are rather less for meeting a 2°C goal).

“These declines could be accomplished most effectively with both demand and supply-side measures. That is our central point – that limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand.” – Climate News Network

Cutting fossil fuel supply can help to limit demand, and more governments are deciding to phase out oil production, a new study finds.

LONDON, 29 November, 2018 – A growing number of governments are choosing to phase out oil production, reasoning that cutting the availability of fossil fuels can help to cut the demand for them.

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, yes? And one of the main causes of the emissions is the burning of fuels such as oil, gas and coal? Right again. So the simple and obvious answer, these governments are deciding, is to stop the drilling and mining which extract fossil fuels.

That’s the argument examined in a report by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). There’s already a growing movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground. But their study concentrates specifically on governments.

They say phasing out oil production could be the next big step in climate policy, thanks to an initial group of first-movers who’ve already taken the plunge.

One is Spain, which announced this month that it plans to completely decarbonise its electricity system by mid-century, a move which includes a total ban on all oil and gas exploration.

“Limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand”

The SEI team outlines its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors will present their results in greater detail in the Polish city of Katowice on 5 December at this year’s UN global climate summit, COP24.

They focus on California as the possible next addition to this growing list of governments choosing to forego oil extraction. The study finds numerous benefits to restricting production, including not only reducing global emissions but also helping to revoke the “social licence” of fossil fuel producers – the public acceptance of their activities.

“Countries like France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Belize and – just last week – Spain are sending a clear signal by phasing out oil production,” said Georgia Piggot, an SEI sociologist and co-author of the study. “The fossil fuel era needs to end soon, and governments need to have clear plans in place to ensure an orderly and fair transition.”

With California as a case study, the SEI report points to a resolution by the state’s Air Resources Board to “evaluate and explore” reducing the production of petroleum.

Boosting environmental justice

It finds that phasing out oil in California would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the same amount as many of the other climate policies currently planned by the state. And, because most oil drilling there happens in the most pollution-vulnerable communities, phasing it out would have important environmental justice benefits as well.

“Gradually phasing down oil production is a reasonable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said SEI senior scientist Peter Erickson, the study’s lead author.

“California is one of the top oil-producing states in the US, but it is also a climate leader. Restricting oil production would complement the state’s flagship policies, such as strengthened standards for clean power or energy efficiency.”

The study’s lessons apply to other states too. It concludes that governments that aim to demonstrate leadership and meet the Paris Agreement goals have “a number of policy options that can limit future production of oil and other fossil fuels, while delivering important global emissions and local environmental benefits.”

Limiting temperature rise

The Paris Agreement settled on a target that global temperatures should increase by no more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, with governments striving to keep the rise to just 1.5°C.

Peter Erickson told the Climate News Network that the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its recent report Global Warming of 1.5°C provided guideposts to the SEI’s work.

He said: “The median results of those scenarios suggest that global oil production (and consumption) needs to decline more than 40% between 2020 and 2030 to meet a 1.5°C target, global coal production (and consumption) more than 80%, and global gas production (and consumption) by more than 40% (the declines are rather less for meeting a 2°C goal).

“These declines could be accomplished most effectively with both demand and supply-side measures. That is our central point – that limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand.” – Climate News Network

Tripled climate cuts needed to fulfil pledge

The gap between the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and countries’ planned reductions is growing, and only tripled climate cuts can reduce global warming enough, researchers say.

LONDON, 28 November, 2018 − The world is not yet living up to its undertaking to tackle global warming, and it will have to make tripled climate cuts − at least − if it is to do so, a report says.

The emissions gap − the difference between the global emissions of greenhouse gases scientists expect in 2030 and the level they need to be at to honour the world’s promises to cut them − is the largest ever.

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report is published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). While it is still possible to keep global warming below 2°C, its authors say, the world’s current pace of action to cut emissions must triple for that to happen.

In 2015 almost 200 governments adopted the target of keeping global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to try for a lower level, 1.5°C. Their decision is set out in the Paris Agreement.

Inadequate targets

But the Gap Report spells out in detail a criticism scientists have been making since soon after the Agreement was reached, saying the current pace of countries’ plans for reducing emissions − which they decide for themselves − is not enough to meet the Paris targets.

As well as allowing signatories the freedom to cut emissions as savagely or as modestly as they wish, the Agreement is also condemned by those who believe its targets are themselves so unrealistic that they fail to measure up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

The combination of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action to slow them means that the emissions gap is bigger than it has ever been.

Meeting the 2°C target will require climate action efforts to triple, the Gap Report says. But to meet the 1.5°C limit, which many governments and scientists are urging, needs nations not just to triple their efforts, but to increase them five-fold.

“The science is clear … governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach”

Current action to limit emissions suggests that global warming will reach about 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and will continue to rise after that. If the gap is not closed by 2030, the report’s authors say, it is highly unlikely that the 2°C target can be reached.

In 2017 global emissions rose again, after a three-year decrease, as countries’ efforts to combat climate change fell short of what was necessary for global emissions to peak. That year global emissions reached reached 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), the highest levels yet recorded. Just 57 countries, representing 60% of global emissions, were on track to peak emissions by 2030.

(A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. “GtCO2e” is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide” − emissions of various GHGs put on a common footing to express them in terms of the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming effect.)

The Gap Report has been released just before this year’s UN global climate summit, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Polish city of Katowice.

Critical decade ahead

Two of the contributors are researchers from IIASA, based in Laxenburg, Austria: Joeri Rogelj and Daniel Huppmann.
“This year’s report shows with renewed urgency that emissions reductions in the next decade are critical, and that there are readily available options to achieve this”, said Dr Rogelj.

He is a lead author of the chapter that updated the assessment of the emissions gap, which found that little or no progress had been made in the past year on new policies or more ambitious pledges.

New, more conservative assumptions about the potential contribution of negative emissions technologies (geoengineering) in the future mean that even bigger emissions cuts will be needed.

Dr Huppmann led the year-long effort to compile a large database of emissions scenarios through the IIASA Scenario Explorer. The 2018 Emissions Gap Report draws from this database, first published in Nature Climate Change.

Closing the gap

The report outlines a roadmap which could still meet the Paris Agreement targets and close the emissions gap by 2030. It includes possible contributions by government fiscal policy, the pace of innovation, and a review of climate action by groups other than governments.

If they make commitments to the strongest climate action globally, the authors say, emissions could be cut by 19 GtCO2e, enough to close the 2°C gap.

Governments could subsidise low-emission alternatives and impose higher taxes on fossil fuels. If a carbon price of US$70 a tonne were adopted, emissions could be cut by 40% in some countries.

Removing fossil fuel subsidies would cut global emissions by 10% by 2030, compared with a situation where no climate policies were imposed.

“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment’s deputy executive director, Joyce Msuya. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.” − Climate News Network

The gap between the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and countries’ planned reductions is growing, and only tripled climate cuts can reduce global warming enough, researchers say.

LONDON, 28 November, 2018 − The world is not yet living up to its undertaking to tackle global warming, and it will have to make tripled climate cuts − at least − if it is to do so, a report says.

The emissions gap − the difference between the global emissions of greenhouse gases scientists expect in 2030 and the level they need to be at to honour the world’s promises to cut them − is the largest ever.

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report is published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). While it is still possible to keep global warming below 2°C, its authors say, the world’s current pace of action to cut emissions must triple for that to happen.

In 2015 almost 200 governments adopted the target of keeping global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to try for a lower level, 1.5°C. Their decision is set out in the Paris Agreement.

Inadequate targets

But the Gap Report spells out in detail a criticism scientists have been making since soon after the Agreement was reached, saying the current pace of countries’ plans for reducing emissions − which they decide for themselves − is not enough to meet the Paris targets.

As well as allowing signatories the freedom to cut emissions as savagely or as modestly as they wish, the Agreement is also condemned by those who believe its targets are themselves so unrealistic that they fail to measure up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

The combination of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action to slow them means that the emissions gap is bigger than it has ever been.

Meeting the 2°C target will require climate action efforts to triple, the Gap Report says. But to meet the 1.5°C limit, which many governments and scientists are urging, needs nations not just to triple their efforts, but to increase them five-fold.

“The science is clear … governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach”

Current action to limit emissions suggests that global warming will reach about 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and will continue to rise after that. If the gap is not closed by 2030, the report’s authors say, it is highly unlikely that the 2°C target can be reached.

In 2017 global emissions rose again, after a three-year decrease, as countries’ efforts to combat climate change fell short of what was necessary for global emissions to peak. That year global emissions reached reached 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), the highest levels yet recorded. Just 57 countries, representing 60% of global emissions, were on track to peak emissions by 2030.

(A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. “GtCO2e” is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide” − emissions of various GHGs put on a common footing to express them in terms of the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming effect.)

The Gap Report has been released just before this year’s UN global climate summit, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Polish city of Katowice.

Critical decade ahead

Two of the contributors are researchers from IIASA, based in Laxenburg, Austria: Joeri Rogelj and Daniel Huppmann.
“This year’s report shows with renewed urgency that emissions reductions in the next decade are critical, and that there are readily available options to achieve this”, said Dr Rogelj.

He is a lead author of the chapter that updated the assessment of the emissions gap, which found that little or no progress had been made in the past year on new policies or more ambitious pledges.

New, more conservative assumptions about the potential contribution of negative emissions technologies (geoengineering) in the future mean that even bigger emissions cuts will be needed.

Dr Huppmann led the year-long effort to compile a large database of emissions scenarios through the IIASA Scenario Explorer. The 2018 Emissions Gap Report draws from this database, first published in Nature Climate Change.

Closing the gap

The report outlines a roadmap which could still meet the Paris Agreement targets and close the emissions gap by 2030. It includes possible contributions by government fiscal policy, the pace of innovation, and a review of climate action by groups other than governments.

If they make commitments to the strongest climate action globally, the authors say, emissions could be cut by 19 GtCO2e, enough to close the 2°C gap.

Governments could subsidise low-emission alternatives and impose higher taxes on fossil fuels. If a carbon price of US$70 a tonne were adopted, emissions could be cut by 40% in some countries.

Removing fossil fuel subsidies would cut global emissions by 10% by 2030, compared with a situation where no climate policies were imposed.

“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment’s deputy executive director, Joyce Msuya. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.” − Climate News Network

Biofuel land grab will slash nature’s space

Growing enough greenery to provide cleaner fuel and slow climate change will need a biofuel land grab: a 10 to 30-fold rise in land devoted to green crops.

LONDON, 21 November, 2018 − Replacing fossil fuels with alternatives derived from some natural sources may be prohibitively high: the biofuel land grab needed could require at least 10% more land than the world uses now to grow green crops, conservationists say.

But that’s the good news. They believe the total increase in green energy-related land use could be much higher, closer to 30%, meaning “crushing” pressure on habitats for plants and animals, and undermining the essential diversity of species on Earth.

Their warning was spelt out at a UN biodiversity meeting in Egypt by Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES.

IPBES says it exists to organise knowledge about the Earth’s biodiversity to offer information for political decisions globally, like the work over the last 30 years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

Extremely urgent

She said the latest IPCC report, on limiting climate warming to 1.5°C, had given “a sense of extreme urgency for these exchanges on tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”

Dr. Larigauderie said most IPCC scenarios foresaw a major increase in the land area needed to cultivate biofuel crops like maize (or corn, as it is also known) to slow the pace of warming by 2050 − up to 724 million hectares in total, an area almost the size of Australia. The current amount of land used for biofuel crops is uncertain, but conservationists say it lies somewhere between 15 and 30m ha.

“The key issue here is: where would this huge amount of new land come from”, she asked. “Is there currently such a large amount of ‘marginal land’ available or would this compete with biodiversity? Some scientists argue that there is very little marginal land left.

“Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come”

“This important issue needs to be clarified, but the demand for land for energy will almost certainly increase, with negative consequences for biodiversity.”

Dr. Larigauderie was speaking at the start of the annual conference of the states which support the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Deep cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities which drive global warming would be possible without massive bioenergy resources, she said, but this would need substantial cuts in energy use as well as rapid increases in the production of low-carbon energy from wind, solar and nuclear power.

Safeguarding the variety of plant and animal species and the services nature provides was itself essential to reducing global warming, she said. Land ecosystems today soak up about a third of annual carbon dioxide emissions, with the world’s oceans accounting for about another quarter annually.

Forests achieve more

In any case, Dr Larigauderie said, reforestation was better at protecting the climate than most biofuel crops. In temperate climates, one reforested hectare was four times more effective in climate mitigation than a hectare of maize used for biofuel.

“All methods that produce healthier ecosystems should be promoted as a way to combat climate change”, she said. “This includes afforestation and reforestation, as well as restoration − implemented properly using native species, for example.”

IPBES plans to publish a primer detailing elements of its Global Assessment of Biodiversity in May 2019. The British scientist Sir Robert Watson, formerly chair of the IPCC and now chair of IPBES, says: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come.

“Policies, efforts and actions − at every level − will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence. This is what the IPBES Global Assessment provides.” − Climate News Network

Growing enough greenery to provide cleaner fuel and slow climate change will need a biofuel land grab: a 10 to 30-fold rise in land devoted to green crops.

LONDON, 21 November, 2018 − Replacing fossil fuels with alternatives derived from some natural sources may be prohibitively high: the biofuel land grab needed could require at least 10% more land than the world uses now to grow green crops, conservationists say.

But that’s the good news. They believe the total increase in green energy-related land use could be much higher, closer to 30%, meaning “crushing” pressure on habitats for plants and animals, and undermining the essential diversity of species on Earth.

Their warning was spelt out at a UN biodiversity meeting in Egypt by Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES.

IPBES says it exists to organise knowledge about the Earth’s biodiversity to offer information for political decisions globally, like the work over the last 30 years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

Extremely urgent

She said the latest IPCC report, on limiting climate warming to 1.5°C, had given “a sense of extreme urgency for these exchanges on tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”

Dr. Larigauderie said most IPCC scenarios foresaw a major increase in the land area needed to cultivate biofuel crops like maize (or corn, as it is also known) to slow the pace of warming by 2050 − up to 724 million hectares in total, an area almost the size of Australia. The current amount of land used for biofuel crops is uncertain, but conservationists say it lies somewhere between 15 and 30m ha.

“The key issue here is: where would this huge amount of new land come from”, she asked. “Is there currently such a large amount of ‘marginal land’ available or would this compete with biodiversity? Some scientists argue that there is very little marginal land left.

“Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come”

“This important issue needs to be clarified, but the demand for land for energy will almost certainly increase, with negative consequences for biodiversity.”

Dr. Larigauderie was speaking at the start of the annual conference of the states which support the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Deep cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities which drive global warming would be possible without massive bioenergy resources, she said, but this would need substantial cuts in energy use as well as rapid increases in the production of low-carbon energy from wind, solar and nuclear power.

Safeguarding the variety of plant and animal species and the services nature provides was itself essential to reducing global warming, she said. Land ecosystems today soak up about a third of annual carbon dioxide emissions, with the world’s oceans accounting for about another quarter annually.

Forests achieve more

In any case, Dr Larigauderie said, reforestation was better at protecting the climate than most biofuel crops. In temperate climates, one reforested hectare was four times more effective in climate mitigation than a hectare of maize used for biofuel.

“All methods that produce healthier ecosystems should be promoted as a way to combat climate change”, she said. “This includes afforestation and reforestation, as well as restoration − implemented properly using native species, for example.”

IPBES plans to publish a primer detailing elements of its Global Assessment of Biodiversity in May 2019. The British scientist Sir Robert Watson, formerly chair of the IPCC and now chair of IPBES, says: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come.

“Policies, efforts and actions − at every level − will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence. This is what the IPBES Global Assessment provides.” − Climate News Network

UK scientists risk prison to urge action

A group of British scientists and their supporters is willing to risk a prison term to press governments to tackle climate change and environmental crisis.

LONDON, 31 October, 2018 − A growing number of British academics, writers and activists say they are ready to go to prison in support of their demands for action on the environment.

Scientists are not normally renowned for their political activism, and the UK is hardly a hotbed of determined and risky protest against its rulers. But, if this group of nearly 100 British scientists and their backers is right, all that may be on the brink of changing.

Today sees the launch of ExtinctionRebellion, which describes itself as an international movement using mass civil disobedience to force governments to enter World War Two-level mobilisation mode, in response to climate breakdown and ecological crisis.

The group is launching a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse” at the Houses of Parliament in central London.

“We need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in”

From today it promises “repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to its demands, and says “there will be mass arrests.”

“Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose.”

The group’s demands include the declaration by the UK government of a state of emergency, action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025, and the establishment of a national assembly of “ordinary people” to decide what the zero carbon future will look like.

Based on the science, it says, humans have ten years at the most to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero, or the human race and most other species will be at high risk of extinction within decades.

“Children alive today in the UK will face unimaginable horrors as a result of floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society when the pressures are so great. We are unprepared for the danger our future holds.”

Ecological crisis

On 30 October the Worldwide Fund for Nature reported that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, something it says threatens the survival of civilisation. ExtinctionRebellion says the loss of species shows that “the planet is in ecological crisis, and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced.”

Its members say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested and to go to prison. They hope to inspire similar actions around the world and believe this global effort must begin in the UK, today, where the industrial revolution began.

Many of the Declaration’s signatories are well-known in the academic world. They include Danny Dorling, professor of geography at the University of Oxford, and Dr Ian Gibson, who formerly chaired the Parliamentary science and technology select committee. Serving Members of Parliament who support ExtinctionRebellion include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Other backers are probably better-known for their achievements beyond science, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now the Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, and the journalist George Monbiot.

Cry of desperation

Another supporter is Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. He told the Climate News Network: “This is almost a cry of desperation. People are bewildered. But almost every profound change in British society, from the abolition of slavery to the improvement of shipping safety, has involved people risking arrest.

“The signs I am getting from the UK government now are that it is a reckless administration putting its own people and others at risk by putting climate change virtually nowhere.

“The Declaration alone won’t bring about change: we’ll need people working practically to make change happen on the ground. But we need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in.”

Simms, convinced that an entirely new potential for rapid societal change now exists, says: “We know what’s needed, and the resources to do it are there. ExtinctionRebellion is one example of how new ideas can spread quickly and rapid shift − and radical action − can come closer.” − Climate News Network

A group of British scientists and their supporters is willing to risk a prison term to press governments to tackle climate change and environmental crisis.

LONDON, 31 October, 2018 − A growing number of British academics, writers and activists say they are ready to go to prison in support of their demands for action on the environment.

Scientists are not normally renowned for their political activism, and the UK is hardly a hotbed of determined and risky protest against its rulers. But, if this group of nearly 100 British scientists and their backers is right, all that may be on the brink of changing.

Today sees the launch of ExtinctionRebellion, which describes itself as an international movement using mass civil disobedience to force governments to enter World War Two-level mobilisation mode, in response to climate breakdown and ecological crisis.

The group is launching a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse” at the Houses of Parliament in central London.

“We need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in”

From today it promises “repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to its demands, and says “there will be mass arrests.”

“Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose.”

The group’s demands include the declaration by the UK government of a state of emergency, action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025, and the establishment of a national assembly of “ordinary people” to decide what the zero carbon future will look like.

Based on the science, it says, humans have ten years at the most to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero, or the human race and most other species will be at high risk of extinction within decades.

“Children alive today in the UK will face unimaginable horrors as a result of floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society when the pressures are so great. We are unprepared for the danger our future holds.”

Ecological crisis

On 30 October the Worldwide Fund for Nature reported that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, something it says threatens the survival of civilisation. ExtinctionRebellion says the loss of species shows that “the planet is in ecological crisis, and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced.”

Its members say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested and to go to prison. They hope to inspire similar actions around the world and believe this global effort must begin in the UK, today, where the industrial revolution began.

Many of the Declaration’s signatories are well-known in the academic world. They include Danny Dorling, professor of geography at the University of Oxford, and Dr Ian Gibson, who formerly chaired the Parliamentary science and technology select committee. Serving Members of Parliament who support ExtinctionRebellion include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Other backers are probably better-known for their achievements beyond science, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now the Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, and the journalist George Monbiot.

Cry of desperation

Another supporter is Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. He told the Climate News Network: “This is almost a cry of desperation. People are bewildered. But almost every profound change in British society, from the abolition of slavery to the improvement of shipping safety, has involved people risking arrest.

“The signs I am getting from the UK government now are that it is a reckless administration putting its own people and others at risk by putting climate change virtually nowhere.

“The Declaration alone won’t bring about change: we’ll need people working practically to make change happen on the ground. But we need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in.”

Simms, convinced that an entirely new potential for rapid societal change now exists, says: “We know what’s needed, and the resources to do it are there. ExtinctionRebellion is one example of how new ideas can spread quickly and rapid shift − and radical action − can come closer.” − Climate News Network

Doubled raw materials use is climate risk

We’re using more and more raw materials to build the world anew: our demands will almost have doubled by 2060. That’s bad news for the climate.

LONDON, 24 October, 2018 − Just when you might think the world has heard an unmistakable warning of the need to curb climate change drastically and fast, along comes another warning, about humans’ voracious appetite for the raw materials we use so profligately.

Its message is simple: one of the main causes of the Earth’s growing warmth is likely to be twice as severe 40 years from now as it is today.

This latest warning, from the club of the world’s richest countries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says consumption of raw materials is on course to nearly double by 2060 as the global economy expands and living standards rise.

And that will mean a steep increase in emissions of the greenhouse gases which drive global warming. Total emissions are projected to reach 75 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq.) by 2060, of which materials management would constitute about 50 Gt CO2-eq. A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. Gt CO2eq is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide”, a unit based on the global warming potential of different gases.

“More than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are related to materials management activities”

If you find it hard to visualise raw material, the OECD offers some helpful examples. The main sort of “stuff” it’s talking about includes the building blocks of the modern world: sand, gravel and crushed rock. Metals are next, and third is coal. It uses a disarmingly wide image to bring the message home: “The total raw materials consumed by an average family in a day would fill up a bathtub”.

The full OECD report, the Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060, will be available from 27 November, but a preview  was released this week at the World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan.

The Outlook expects global materials use to rise from 90 gigatonnes (GT) today to 167 GT in 2060, because of the increase in world population to 10 billion people expected by then, and the rise in average global income per capita to converge with the current OECD level of US$40,000 (€34,900).

Immense human footprint

The projected figures are immense. But so are those that quantify today’s hunger for materials. Scientists calculate, for instance, that the weight of objects made by humans is about 30 trillion tonnes, and that by 2050 we shall have built another 25 million km of roads, enough to circle the Earth 600 times. None of this bodes well for us, let alone for the other species that share the planet.

Without action to address these challenges, the projected increase in the extraction and processing of raw materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals is likely to worsen the pollution of air, water and soils, and contribute significantly to climate change, the OECD says.

This increase will happen despite both a shift from manufacturing to service industries and continual improvements in manufacturing efficiency, which has lessened the amount of resources consumed for each unit of GDP.

Without this, it says, environmental pressures would be even worse. The projection also acknowledges flattening demand in China and other emerging economies as their infrastructure booms end.

Coal boom

The preview report says the biggest rises in resource consumption will be in minerals, including construction materials and metals, particularly in fast-growing developing economies. The OECD projects a big increase in coal consumption by 2060, but a much smaller increase for oil.

Its overall conclusion on the impact of materials use on climate change is bleak: “More than half of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to materials management activities. GHG emissions related to materials management will rise to approximately 50 Gt CO2-equivalent by 2060.”

The report’s global environmental impact analysis of the extraction and production of seven metals (iron, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and manganese) plus building materials − concrete, sand and gravel − also shows significant impacts in areas like acidification, air and water pollution, energy demand, human health and the toxicity of water and land. − Climate News Network

We’re using more and more raw materials to build the world anew: our demands will almost have doubled by 2060. That’s bad news for the climate.

LONDON, 24 October, 2018 − Just when you might think the world has heard an unmistakable warning of the need to curb climate change drastically and fast, along comes another warning, about humans’ voracious appetite for the raw materials we use so profligately.

Its message is simple: one of the main causes of the Earth’s growing warmth is likely to be twice as severe 40 years from now as it is today.

This latest warning, from the club of the world’s richest countries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says consumption of raw materials is on course to nearly double by 2060 as the global economy expands and living standards rise.

And that will mean a steep increase in emissions of the greenhouse gases which drive global warming. Total emissions are projected to reach 75 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq.) by 2060, of which materials management would constitute about 50 Gt CO2-eq. A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. Gt CO2eq is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide”, a unit based on the global warming potential of different gases.

“More than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are related to materials management activities”

If you find it hard to visualise raw material, the OECD offers some helpful examples. The main sort of “stuff” it’s talking about includes the building blocks of the modern world: sand, gravel and crushed rock. Metals are next, and third is coal. It uses a disarmingly wide image to bring the message home: “The total raw materials consumed by an average family in a day would fill up a bathtub”.

The full OECD report, the Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060, will be available from 27 November, but a preview  was released this week at the World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan.

The Outlook expects global materials use to rise from 90 gigatonnes (GT) today to 167 GT in 2060, because of the increase in world population to 10 billion people expected by then, and the rise in average global income per capita to converge with the current OECD level of US$40,000 (€34,900).

Immense human footprint

The projected figures are immense. But so are those that quantify today’s hunger for materials. Scientists calculate, for instance, that the weight of objects made by humans is about 30 trillion tonnes, and that by 2050 we shall have built another 25 million km of roads, enough to circle the Earth 600 times. None of this bodes well for us, let alone for the other species that share the planet.

Without action to address these challenges, the projected increase in the extraction and processing of raw materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals is likely to worsen the pollution of air, water and soils, and contribute significantly to climate change, the OECD says.

This increase will happen despite both a shift from manufacturing to service industries and continual improvements in manufacturing efficiency, which has lessened the amount of resources consumed for each unit of GDP.

Without this, it says, environmental pressures would be even worse. The projection also acknowledges flattening demand in China and other emerging economies as their infrastructure booms end.

Coal boom

The preview report says the biggest rises in resource consumption will be in minerals, including construction materials and metals, particularly in fast-growing developing economies. The OECD projects a big increase in coal consumption by 2060, but a much smaller increase for oil.

Its overall conclusion on the impact of materials use on climate change is bleak: “More than half of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to materials management activities. GHG emissions related to materials management will rise to approximately 50 Gt CO2-equivalent by 2060.”

The report’s global environmental impact analysis of the extraction and production of seven metals (iron, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and manganese) plus building materials − concrete, sand and gravel − also shows significant impacts in areas like acidification, air and water pollution, energy demand, human health and the toxicity of water and land. − Climate News Network

Weakened hurricanes may be wind farm bonus

When high winds meet tall sails in the right place, something’s got to give. Offshore wind farms may lead to weakened hurricanes.

LONDON, 23 October, 2018 − US scientists have identified yet another wonder of that icon of renewable energy, the offshore wind farm: they may result in weakened hurricanes. Turbines in the right place could not just take the heat out of a hurricane, they could reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding as well.

The prediction is based entirely on computer simulation: the US so far has just one 30MW commercial wind farm in operation with just five turbines, off the coast of Rhode Island.

But the reasoning begins from the basic laws of physics, and the answer delivers yet another argument for investment in renewable sources of energy, if only because the ferocity and destructive power of US hurricanes is set to increase with ever-greater emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, and consequent ever-greater global warming.

Cristina Archer, a scientist at the University of Delaware, has already studied the ideal placing of wind turbines to extract maximum energy from the world’s winds, and more recently confirmed, with other researchers, that any hurricane that blew over a big enough marine wind farm would shed energy and hit the land with less destructive power.

“If you have arrays of wind turbines in the areas where there are hurricanes, you will likely see a reduction in precipitation inland”

It is an axiom of physics that energy is always conserved: if a turbine’s sails generate electrical energy from wind, then some of the kinetic energy of the wind must be surrendered.

Professor Archer and her colleagues report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they took, among others, the case of Hurricane Harvey, which in 2017 deposited almost two thirds of a metre of rainwater on Houston, Texas, to cause devastating floods. They tested the behaviour of the simulated hurricane as it blew across a hypothetical barrier of from zero to 74,619 turbines.

When strong winds hit the turbines, they slow down. Wind scientists call this convergence. Winds slow, and are more likely to dump the water they hold, and then rise. Then the winds speed up again, a phenomenon known as divergence.

“Divergence is the opposite effect. It causes a downward motion, attracting air coming down, which is drier, and suppresses precipitation. I was wondering what would also happen when there is an offshore farm”, she said.

Multiple simulations

The researchers modelled a range of simulations with hypothetical wind farms staggered along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Hypothetical hurricanes caught up in a pattern of convergence would drop their rain before they hit the coast, and then begin divergence, which would mean that even less rain would be carried to landfall.

“By the time the air reaches the land, it’s been squeezed out of a lot of moisture,” Professor Archer said. “We got a 30% reduction of the precipitation with Harvey simulations. That means, potentially, if you have arrays of wind turbines in the areas where there are hurricanes, you will likely see a reduction in precipitation inland if the farm is there.”

This doesn’t mean that wind farms can always take the heat out of a hurricane: important factors include the hurricane’s precise track and the distance offshore of the turbines. There are no wind farms anywhere in the world with the tens of thousands of turbines modelled in the simulation: one of the world’s biggest, off Anholt Island, Denmark, has only 111 turbines.

“The more windfarms you have, the more impact they will have on a hurricane,” Professor Archer said. “By the time a hurricane actually makes a landfall, these arrays of turbines have been operating for days and days, extracting energy and moisture out of the storm. As a result, the storm will be weaker. Literally.” − Climate News Network

When high winds meet tall sails in the right place, something’s got to give. Offshore wind farms may lead to weakened hurricanes.

LONDON, 23 October, 2018 − US scientists have identified yet another wonder of that icon of renewable energy, the offshore wind farm: they may result in weakened hurricanes. Turbines in the right place could not just take the heat out of a hurricane, they could reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding as well.

The prediction is based entirely on computer simulation: the US so far has just one 30MW commercial wind farm in operation with just five turbines, off the coast of Rhode Island.

But the reasoning begins from the basic laws of physics, and the answer delivers yet another argument for investment in renewable sources of energy, if only because the ferocity and destructive power of US hurricanes is set to increase with ever-greater emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, and consequent ever-greater global warming.

Cristina Archer, a scientist at the University of Delaware, has already studied the ideal placing of wind turbines to extract maximum energy from the world’s winds, and more recently confirmed, with other researchers, that any hurricane that blew over a big enough marine wind farm would shed energy and hit the land with less destructive power.

“If you have arrays of wind turbines in the areas where there are hurricanes, you will likely see a reduction in precipitation inland”

It is an axiom of physics that energy is always conserved: if a turbine’s sails generate electrical energy from wind, then some of the kinetic energy of the wind must be surrendered.

Professor Archer and her colleagues report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they took, among others, the case of Hurricane Harvey, which in 2017 deposited almost two thirds of a metre of rainwater on Houston, Texas, to cause devastating floods. They tested the behaviour of the simulated hurricane as it blew across a hypothetical barrier of from zero to 74,619 turbines.

When strong winds hit the turbines, they slow down. Wind scientists call this convergence. Winds slow, and are more likely to dump the water they hold, and then rise. Then the winds speed up again, a phenomenon known as divergence.

“Divergence is the opposite effect. It causes a downward motion, attracting air coming down, which is drier, and suppresses precipitation. I was wondering what would also happen when there is an offshore farm”, she said.

Multiple simulations

The researchers modelled a range of simulations with hypothetical wind farms staggered along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Hypothetical hurricanes caught up in a pattern of convergence would drop their rain before they hit the coast, and then begin divergence, which would mean that even less rain would be carried to landfall.

“By the time the air reaches the land, it’s been squeezed out of a lot of moisture,” Professor Archer said. “We got a 30% reduction of the precipitation with Harvey simulations. That means, potentially, if you have arrays of wind turbines in the areas where there are hurricanes, you will likely see a reduction in precipitation inland if the farm is there.”

This doesn’t mean that wind farms can always take the heat out of a hurricane: important factors include the hurricane’s precise track and the distance offshore of the turbines. There are no wind farms anywhere in the world with the tens of thousands of turbines modelled in the simulation: one of the world’s biggest, off Anholt Island, Denmark, has only 111 turbines.

“The more windfarms you have, the more impact they will have on a hurricane,” Professor Archer said. “By the time a hurricane actually makes a landfall, these arrays of turbines have been operating for days and days, extracting energy and moisture out of the storm. As a result, the storm will be weaker. Literally.” − Climate News Network