Tag Archives: climate policy

Geo-engineering could make poor countries richer

There is still no certainty that geo-engineering could save the world. But, paradoxically, if it did work it might repair climate injustice.

LONDON, 15 January, 2020 – Californian scientists have just made a case for geo-engineering as a solution to the climate crisis. One stratospheric technology – the reflection of incoming sunlight back into space – could do more than just lower global average temperatures.

It could also enhance the economic performance of some of the world’s poorest countries and reduce global income inequality by 50%.

“We find hotter, more populous countries are more sensitive to changes in temperature – whether it is an increase or a decrease,” said Anthony Harding, of Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Diego.

“With solar geo-engineering, we find that poorer countries benefit more than richer countries from reductions in temperature, reducing inequalities. Together, the overall global economy grows.”

Uneven benefits possible

Harding and his colleagues report in the journal Nature Communications that they simply applied climate models to the consequences of a successful international collaboration to systematically reduce or reflect incoming sunlight, to compensate for the consequences of a steady increase in global average temperatures as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.

Geo-engineering requires technologies that are not yet proven and that many scientists think may never work in any way that helps all nations evenly.

The authors acknowledge that many climate scientists are “reluctant to pursue one global climate intervention to correct for another” – a tacit recognition that humans have already inadvertently geo-engineered the climate crisis driven by global heating simply by burning fossil fuels and destroying forests. Nor do they specify a preferred version of any technology that puts sulphate aerosols or other reflecting particles into the stratosphere to reduce incoming radiation.

They simply consider the economic impacts of global temperature reductions under four different climate scenarios: if climates stabilised naturally; if temperatures went on soaring; if they were stabilised by geo-engineering; and if geo-engineering worked too well and lowered the planet’s temperature.

“A robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit”

They identified historical connections between the heat of the day and the wealth of a nation. Rainfall didn’t seem to matter so much. What was important was the temperature. And in the models, temperature seemed to make all the difference.

If tomorrow’s world, thanks to geo-engineering, cooled by 3.5°C – and right now the planetary temperature seems set to rise by about that much – average incomes in countries such as Niger, Chad and Mali would rise by more than 100% in a century.

In southern Europe and the US, gains would be a more modest 20%. Impacts from country to country might vary according to each scenario. But changes in temperature driven by solar geo-engineering consistently translated, they say, into a 50% cut in global income inequality.

“We find that if temperatures cooled, there would be gains in gross domestic product per capita,” Harding said. “For some models, these gains are up to 1000% over the course of the century and are largest for countries in the tropics, which historically tend to be poorer.”

Poorest hit hardest

Researchers have consistently found that global heating brings yet more economic hardship, and even social conflict, to the world’s least developed nations: these are the countries that have benefited least from the exploitation of oil, coal and natural gas to drive wealth, and therefore contributed least to the creation of a climate crisis.

The latest study suggests that although the best way to confront the challenge is to reduce and eventually reverse greenhouse gas emissions, concerted global action – carefully agreed and executed – might in theory cool the globe and limit the losses of everybody, but especially the poorest.

There is a catch: nobody has yet agreed on the technology that would work best. And nobody knows how to achieve the other prerequisite: international co-operation.

“Our findings underscore that a robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit,” the authors write. – Climate News Network

There is still no certainty that geo-engineering could save the world. But, paradoxically, if it did work it might repair climate injustice.

LONDON, 15 January, 2020 – Californian scientists have just made a case for geo-engineering as a solution to the climate crisis. One stratospheric technology – the reflection of incoming sunlight back into space – could do more than just lower global average temperatures.

It could also enhance the economic performance of some of the world’s poorest countries and reduce global income inequality by 50%.

“We find hotter, more populous countries are more sensitive to changes in temperature – whether it is an increase or a decrease,” said Anthony Harding, of Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Diego.

“With solar geo-engineering, we find that poorer countries benefit more than richer countries from reductions in temperature, reducing inequalities. Together, the overall global economy grows.”

Uneven benefits possible

Harding and his colleagues report in the journal Nature Communications that they simply applied climate models to the consequences of a successful international collaboration to systematically reduce or reflect incoming sunlight, to compensate for the consequences of a steady increase in global average temperatures as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.

Geo-engineering requires technologies that are not yet proven and that many scientists think may never work in any way that helps all nations evenly.

The authors acknowledge that many climate scientists are “reluctant to pursue one global climate intervention to correct for another” – a tacit recognition that humans have already inadvertently geo-engineered the climate crisis driven by global heating simply by burning fossil fuels and destroying forests. Nor do they specify a preferred version of any technology that puts sulphate aerosols or other reflecting particles into the stratosphere to reduce incoming radiation.

They simply consider the economic impacts of global temperature reductions under four different climate scenarios: if climates stabilised naturally; if temperatures went on soaring; if they were stabilised by geo-engineering; and if geo-engineering worked too well and lowered the planet’s temperature.

“A robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit”

They identified historical connections between the heat of the day and the wealth of a nation. Rainfall didn’t seem to matter so much. What was important was the temperature. And in the models, temperature seemed to make all the difference.

If tomorrow’s world, thanks to geo-engineering, cooled by 3.5°C – and right now the planetary temperature seems set to rise by about that much – average incomes in countries such as Niger, Chad and Mali would rise by more than 100% in a century.

In southern Europe and the US, gains would be a more modest 20%. Impacts from country to country might vary according to each scenario. But changes in temperature driven by solar geo-engineering consistently translated, they say, into a 50% cut in global income inequality.

“We find that if temperatures cooled, there would be gains in gross domestic product per capita,” Harding said. “For some models, these gains are up to 1000% over the course of the century and are largest for countries in the tropics, which historically tend to be poorer.”

Poorest hit hardest

Researchers have consistently found that global heating brings yet more economic hardship, and even social conflict, to the world’s least developed nations: these are the countries that have benefited least from the exploitation of oil, coal and natural gas to drive wealth, and therefore contributed least to the creation of a climate crisis.

The latest study suggests that although the best way to confront the challenge is to reduce and eventually reverse greenhouse gas emissions, concerted global action – carefully agreed and executed – might in theory cool the globe and limit the losses of everybody, but especially the poorest.

There is a catch: nobody has yet agreed on the technology that would work best. And nobody knows how to achieve the other prerequisite: international co-operation.

“Our findings underscore that a robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit,” the authors write. – Climate News Network

Germany’s green energy quest stalls

Despite its ambitious goals and promising start, Germany’s green energy quest is faltering, and it has missed a key target.

LONDON, 8 January, 2020 – The city of Munich – one of Europe’s wealthiest urban conurbations – has expansive plans to tackle the fast-growing problems associated with climate change: its policies are a good example of Germany’s green energy quest, the Energiewende.

At the end of last year Munich, Germany’s third largest city with a population of just under one and a half million, joined a rapidly expanding group of countries, cities, towns and councils around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Munich’s council has already announced plans to source all the city’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It has also pledged to make the city – its transport systems and building sector as well as its energy supplies – carbon neutral by 2035.

As the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance and other similar organisations point out, switching energy sources away from fossil fuels, while vital for the future of the planet, is a considerable challenge. And transitions which start off at a gallop may as time passes risk slowing to a trot.

Under its Energiewende or energy transition policy unveiled 20 years ago, Germany has made substantial progress in transforming its energy sector, reducing the use of climate-changing fossil fuels and boosting energy from renewable sources.

“Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector”

According to the latest figures, renewables – wind, hydro-power, biomass and solar – now account for just over 40% of Germany’s total energy production.

Along with this transition, there’s been a 30% drop in Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the last 30 years.

But, though the Energiewende policy was initially successful, making further progress on replacing fossil fuels with renewables and cutting back on GHG emissions is now proving ever more difficult.

The initial aim was to achieve an overall 40% drop in GHG emissions by the end of 2019 as compared to 1990 levels: clearly that target has not been met.

Several factors are in play: despite early progress on cutting back on coal use, Germany – which has Europe’s largest economy – has so far failed to wean itself off its dependence on what is the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Coal burning persists

More than 25% of Germany’s total energy production comes from coal – one of the highest rates among European countries. Most of the coal burned is lignite, the most polluting form of the fossil fuel.

In 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany announced it would be phasing out its use of nuclear power. Since then, 11 of its 17 nuclear reactors have closed, the latest at the end of 2019.

Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector.

The German government says it will shut its more than 100 coal-fired power stations by 2038. Some say this is far too late, while others question Germany’s increasing reliance on imported energy – particularly gas from Russia.

Other factors are hindering the Energiewende. Though many German households and small businesses are switching to solar power, a large proportion of the country’s renewable energy – about 20% – is sourced from wind power, most of it land-based.

Out of sight

In recent years there’s been growing concern about the proliferation of land-based wind turbines: more restrictions have been brought in on their construction, resulting in a drastic cut-back in wind project start-ups.

All this means that the goals of the Energiewende will be tough to achieve for Munich – and for Germany.

Munich is the capital city of the southern state of Bavaria, home to BMW and many other leading German industries.

The state has brought in some of the country’s most stringent restrictions on wind power projects: to meet its ambitious decarbonisation targets and, at the same time, ensure its energy supply, Munich is now having to invest in wind power installations abroad, some as distant as Norway.

But such enterprises carry their own set of problems. Environmental groups in Norway have raised objections to wind power turbine installations which they say threaten the beauty of the landscape. In particular they criticise the construction of such projects solely for the export of energy. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is 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 work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Despite its ambitious goals and promising start, Germany’s green energy quest is faltering, and it has missed a key target.

LONDON, 8 January, 2020 – The city of Munich – one of Europe’s wealthiest urban conurbations – has expansive plans to tackle the fast-growing problems associated with climate change: its policies are a good example of Germany’s green energy quest, the Energiewende.

At the end of last year Munich, Germany’s third largest city with a population of just under one and a half million, joined a rapidly expanding group of countries, cities, towns and councils around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Munich’s council has already announced plans to source all the city’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It has also pledged to make the city – its transport systems and building sector as well as its energy supplies – carbon neutral by 2035.

As the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance and other similar organisations point out, switching energy sources away from fossil fuels, while vital for the future of the planet, is a considerable challenge. And transitions which start off at a gallop may as time passes risk slowing to a trot.

Under its Energiewende or energy transition policy unveiled 20 years ago, Germany has made substantial progress in transforming its energy sector, reducing the use of climate-changing fossil fuels and boosting energy from renewable sources.

“Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector”

According to the latest figures, renewables – wind, hydro-power, biomass and solar – now account for just over 40% of Germany’s total energy production.

Along with this transition, there’s been a 30% drop in Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the last 30 years.

But, though the Energiewende policy was initially successful, making further progress on replacing fossil fuels with renewables and cutting back on GHG emissions is now proving ever more difficult.

The initial aim was to achieve an overall 40% drop in GHG emissions by the end of 2019 as compared to 1990 levels: clearly that target has not been met.

Several factors are in play: despite early progress on cutting back on coal use, Germany – which has Europe’s largest economy – has so far failed to wean itself off its dependence on what is the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Coal burning persists

More than 25% of Germany’s total energy production comes from coal – one of the highest rates among European countries. Most of the coal burned is lignite, the most polluting form of the fossil fuel.

In 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany announced it would be phasing out its use of nuclear power. Since then, 11 of its 17 nuclear reactors have closed, the latest at the end of 2019.

Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector.

The German government says it will shut its more than 100 coal-fired power stations by 2038. Some say this is far too late, while others question Germany’s increasing reliance on imported energy – particularly gas from Russia.

Other factors are hindering the Energiewende. Though many German households and small businesses are switching to solar power, a large proportion of the country’s renewable energy – about 20% – is sourced from wind power, most of it land-based.

Out of sight

In recent years there’s been growing concern about the proliferation of land-based wind turbines: more restrictions have been brought in on their construction, resulting in a drastic cut-back in wind project start-ups.

All this means that the goals of the Energiewende will be tough to achieve for Munich – and for Germany.

Munich is the capital city of the southern state of Bavaria, home to BMW and many other leading German industries.

The state has brought in some of the country’s most stringent restrictions on wind power projects: to meet its ambitious decarbonisation targets and, at the same time, ensure its energy supply, Munich is now having to invest in wind power installations abroad, some as distant as Norway.

But such enterprises carry their own set of problems. Environmental groups in Norway have raised objections to wind power turbine installations which they say threaten the beauty of the landscape. In particular they criticise the construction of such projects solely for the export of energy. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is 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 work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Bank of England unveils climate stress test

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network

Politicians not markets slow new energy dawn

It is politicians, not economists, who stand in the way of wider adoption of cheap renewable energies across the world.

LONDON, 12 December, 2019 − Often blamed for society’s problems, politicians have now been brought to book for the slow take-up of renewable forms of energy.

These are now so cheap that installation worldwide is happening faster than governments have allowed for in their national plans for action, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This shows, IRENA says, that it is politicians, many of whose election campaigns are still financed and overly influenced by the fossil fuel lobby, that are the barrier to tackling climate change, rather than any lack of available technology.

A report by IRENA, using calculations made by Carbon Action Tracker, says that as a result the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that each government is supposed to produce to show how they will cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement of 2015 are woefully inadequate.

Even if implemented in full, they would still allow the world to warm by 2.6°C, 70% more than the 1.5°C regarded as desirable by the Agreement,  and well above the agreed danger level of 2°C. As it is, governments are not even reaching their declared NDC targets.

“By adopting targets to transform the global energy system, policymakers could finally begin to turn the tide against global warming”

A “profound transformation” is required, the report says. Higher renewable energy deployment amounting to 7.7 TW, or 3.3 times the current global capacity, could be achieved cost-effectively, and would bring considerable social and economic benefits.

“Given the competitiveness of technologies and the multiple benefits they bring the economy (e.g., job creation) renewables are a readily-available and cost-effective option to raise NDC ambitions today.”

“By adopting targets to transform the global energy system, policymakers could finally begin to turn the tide against global warming.”

The national plans that governments have produced to try to stem climate change currently allow for only a 4% annual growth in wind and solar power between 2015 and 2030 – even though annual renewable power growth averaged 5.8% between 2010 and 2014.

With current growth, the targets governments had set for 2030 would be met by 2022. According to the agency’s calculations, the progress made already means there could be 3.3 times as much global capacity installed by 2030.

Political refusal

The report, released during the current UN climate talks in Spain, is designed to show that combatting the climate emergency by using renewables to electrify the power system is well within the grasp of governments − if only politicians were prepared to endorse the idea.

The issue becomes critical next year at the climate summit due to be held in Glasgow, in the UK, when governments are due to ratchet up their commitments to tackle the climate crisis. The report notes that, despite the lack of government support, many financial institutions are already moving towards investment in renewables and climate-resilient investments.

However, this on its own will not achieve the estimated US$110 trillion dollars that need to be invested in the energy sector by 2050. There have to be positive policies from governments to switch from fossil fuels – what the report calls addressing “economic and social misalignments.”

At the moment the report notes it is not reluctance on the part of wider society that is preventing this change, merely the lack of action by politicians. For example, executives who run companies are driving the renewable energy build-up by buying renewables for their businesses.

In 75 countries, with 2,400 businesses, surveyed for the report, more than half said they actively looked for renewable energies to power their activities. These decisions were driven by the environmental and social benefits that renewables brought. − Climate News Network

It is politicians, not economists, who stand in the way of wider adoption of cheap renewable energies across the world.

LONDON, 12 December, 2019 − Often blamed for society’s problems, politicians have now been brought to book for the slow take-up of renewable forms of energy.

These are now so cheap that installation worldwide is happening faster than governments have allowed for in their national plans for action, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This shows, IRENA says, that it is politicians, many of whose election campaigns are still financed and overly influenced by the fossil fuel lobby, that are the barrier to tackling climate change, rather than any lack of available technology.

A report by IRENA, using calculations made by Carbon Action Tracker, says that as a result the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that each government is supposed to produce to show how they will cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement of 2015 are woefully inadequate.

Even if implemented in full, they would still allow the world to warm by 2.6°C, 70% more than the 1.5°C regarded as desirable by the Agreement,  and well above the agreed danger level of 2°C. As it is, governments are not even reaching their declared NDC targets.

“By adopting targets to transform the global energy system, policymakers could finally begin to turn the tide against global warming”

A “profound transformation” is required, the report says. Higher renewable energy deployment amounting to 7.7 TW, or 3.3 times the current global capacity, could be achieved cost-effectively, and would bring considerable social and economic benefits.

“Given the competitiveness of technologies and the multiple benefits they bring the economy (e.g., job creation) renewables are a readily-available and cost-effective option to raise NDC ambitions today.”

“By adopting targets to transform the global energy system, policymakers could finally begin to turn the tide against global warming.”

The national plans that governments have produced to try to stem climate change currently allow for only a 4% annual growth in wind and solar power between 2015 and 2030 – even though annual renewable power growth averaged 5.8% between 2010 and 2014.

With current growth, the targets governments had set for 2030 would be met by 2022. According to the agency’s calculations, the progress made already means there could be 3.3 times as much global capacity installed by 2030.

Political refusal

The report, released during the current UN climate talks in Spain, is designed to show that combatting the climate emergency by using renewables to electrify the power system is well within the grasp of governments − if only politicians were prepared to endorse the idea.

The issue becomes critical next year at the climate summit due to be held in Glasgow, in the UK, when governments are due to ratchet up their commitments to tackle the climate crisis. The report notes that, despite the lack of government support, many financial institutions are already moving towards investment in renewables and climate-resilient investments.

However, this on its own will not achieve the estimated US$110 trillion dollars that need to be invested in the energy sector by 2050. There have to be positive policies from governments to switch from fossil fuels – what the report calls addressing “economic and social misalignments.”

At the moment the report notes it is not reluctance on the part of wider society that is preventing this change, merely the lack of action by politicians. For example, executives who run companies are driving the renewable energy build-up by buying renewables for their businesses.

In 75 countries, with 2,400 businesses, surveyed for the report, more than half said they actively looked for renewable energies to power their activities. These decisions were driven by the environmental and social benefits that renewables brought. − Climate News Network

Investors fight back against climate wreckers

Investors are using their shareholdings to force polluting companies to change their ways and cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 9 December, 2019 − Two strands of action are being taken by investors against the planet’s biggest and most polluting companies to try to coerce them into complying with climate targets.

One group, known as the divest/invest movement, and including forty of the world’s largest cities, is acting on ethical grounds, simply selling members’ shares in polluters and investing in green alternatives.

Members of the second group are hanging on to their profitable holdings but attempting to use their financial clout to persuade companies to stop killing the planet.

The first group began in 2012, basing themselves on the principles so successful in achieving divestment in South Africa during the apartheid era, which Nelson Mandela acknowledged put great pressure on the regime. DivestInvest says the number of organisations involved has grown to 1,101, which between them promise to withdraw US$8.8 trillion (£6.7tn) from fossil fuel companies.

It is a diverse group of organisations from 48 countries including banks, insurance companies, trade union and other pension funds, universities, cultural organisations and local authorities, which are unloading their shares in oil companies and other heavy polluters that profit while making little effort to curb their contribution to climate change.

Seeking maximum return

The second group, Climate Action 100+, represents more than 370 investors with over $35tn in assets. Many of these “investors” are managed funds held on behalf of thousands of individual shareholders who expect maximum return on their investments.

The managers of these funds say this duty to their investors means it is difficult to sell off shares in profitable companies, so the sensible option is to get the companies to reform.

They think this is also in the best interests of their funds, because climate change is a long-term threat to companies’ financial health and therefore to their investments. So, the argument runs, persuading polluters to change their ways to protect the planet is in everyone’s interest.

Both groups are claiming success. The trump card for the first group is that they believe fossil fuel companies, particularly coal and oil producers, will have to leave most of their “reserves” in the ground if the planet is not to heat by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the internationally agreed limit.

The group argues that when the big oil companies like Shell, BP and Exxon count these reserves as assets they are deluding themselves and their shareholders, and the true worth of their companies is far less than they claim. DivestInvest calls them stranded assets.

“We are now at a tipping point. A significant number of companies have made bold commitments to achieve net zero emissions”

There is already strong evidence that this argument is having an effect on coal companies, with a string of bankruptcies in the US because sales have slumped as the power stations they supply have been unable to compete.

The movement cites some influential backers. “The fossil fuel industry is set to lose $33tn in revenues by 2040, including $27.9tn in oil and gas alone,” says Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder director of Ashden, which supports sustainable energy enterprises worldwide, says: “Through DivestInvest, you can avoid the risks facing the fossil fuel sector, limit the wider climate risks, and make attractive returns from the clean economy.”

Among the lessons it draws from the experience so far of the campaigners, the Rapid Transition Alliance stresses two. It says:

“Finance is the lifeblood of the global economy. Withdrawing it from the coal, oil and gas sector pulls the plug on the fossil fuels that drive climate change. That leaves a challenge to ensure that divested funds get reinvested into low carbon transition, such as renewable energy.

Controversy continues

“Investors understand the language of risk and increasingly recognise that putting money into a potentially unusable commodity – fossil fuels which cannot be safely burned due to climate targets – runs the risk of their ‘assets’ being stranded, and therefore the loss of their investment.”

There is still controversy, though, because many in the oil industry predict that demand for their product will continue to rise for a decade or more. Others argue that there is already over-production of oil, keeping the price at less than $60 a barrel, and meaning that even setting aside the arguments about climate, extracting a large proportion of the “assets” in the ground is unlikely ever to be economic.

But although BP and Shell are said to be already “cooperating” with Climate Action 100+, fossil fuels are only part of the story. Steel, mining, and all sorts of manufacturing industries are also heavy polluters. The investors are focusing on 161 of the world’s largest polluting companies in which they are shareholders.

Apart from getting them to curb emissions, obviously a core issue, the investors are demanding that companies stop campaigning to cast doubt on the science of climate change, funding climate deniers and attacking campaigners.

The group says it has secured record support for action on climate at company meetings, with many companies committing to reaching net zero emissions. Carbon emissions are already falling, it says, although acknowledging that progress is nowhere near fast enough.

Improving on Paris

Already 70% of the 161 companies have emission reduction targets, and 9% have targets that are in line with or better than the maximum 2°C rise agreed at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

Stephanie Maier, director of responsible investment at HSBC Global Asset Management and a steering committee member at Climate Action 100+, said: “We are now at a tipping point. A significant number of companies have made bold commitments to achieve net zero emissions, with others increasingly following suit.

“Given the urgency of the situation, the role of investor engagement is critical in ensuring we build on this momentum.”

However Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and also a steering committee member at Climate Action 100+, was more cautious.

“We have much more to do before business is on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”, she said. “We must now build on the momentum achieved to date if we are to succeed in addressing the climate crisis and safeguarding investments on which the futures of millions of pensioners depend.” − Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is 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 work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Investors are using their shareholdings to force polluting companies to change their ways and cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 9 December, 2019 − Two strands of action are being taken by investors against the planet’s biggest and most polluting companies to try to coerce them into complying with climate targets.

One group, known as the divest/invest movement, and including forty of the world’s largest cities, is acting on ethical grounds, simply selling members’ shares in polluters and investing in green alternatives.

Members of the second group are hanging on to their profitable holdings but attempting to use their financial clout to persuade companies to stop killing the planet.

The first group began in 2012, basing themselves on the principles so successful in achieving divestment in South Africa during the apartheid era, which Nelson Mandela acknowledged put great pressure on the regime. DivestInvest says the number of organisations involved has grown to 1,101, which between them promise to withdraw US$8.8 trillion (£6.7tn) from fossil fuel companies.

It is a diverse group of organisations from 48 countries including banks, insurance companies, trade union and other pension funds, universities, cultural organisations and local authorities, which are unloading their shares in oil companies and other heavy polluters that profit while making little effort to curb their contribution to climate change.

Seeking maximum return

The second group, Climate Action 100+, represents more than 370 investors with over $35tn in assets. Many of these “investors” are managed funds held on behalf of thousands of individual shareholders who expect maximum return on their investments.

The managers of these funds say this duty to their investors means it is difficult to sell off shares in profitable companies, so the sensible option is to get the companies to reform.

They think this is also in the best interests of their funds, because climate change is a long-term threat to companies’ financial health and therefore to their investments. So, the argument runs, persuading polluters to change their ways to protect the planet is in everyone’s interest.

Both groups are claiming success. The trump card for the first group is that they believe fossil fuel companies, particularly coal and oil producers, will have to leave most of their “reserves” in the ground if the planet is not to heat by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the internationally agreed limit.

The group argues that when the big oil companies like Shell, BP and Exxon count these reserves as assets they are deluding themselves and their shareholders, and the true worth of their companies is far less than they claim. DivestInvest calls them stranded assets.

“We are now at a tipping point. A significant number of companies have made bold commitments to achieve net zero emissions”

There is already strong evidence that this argument is having an effect on coal companies, with a string of bankruptcies in the US because sales have slumped as the power stations they supply have been unable to compete.

The movement cites some influential backers. “The fossil fuel industry is set to lose $33tn in revenues by 2040, including $27.9tn in oil and gas alone,” says Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder director of Ashden, which supports sustainable energy enterprises worldwide, says: “Through DivestInvest, you can avoid the risks facing the fossil fuel sector, limit the wider climate risks, and make attractive returns from the clean economy.”

Among the lessons it draws from the experience so far of the campaigners, the Rapid Transition Alliance stresses two. It says:

“Finance is the lifeblood of the global economy. Withdrawing it from the coal, oil and gas sector pulls the plug on the fossil fuels that drive climate change. That leaves a challenge to ensure that divested funds get reinvested into low carbon transition, such as renewable energy.

Controversy continues

“Investors understand the language of risk and increasingly recognise that putting money into a potentially unusable commodity – fossil fuels which cannot be safely burned due to climate targets – runs the risk of their ‘assets’ being stranded, and therefore the loss of their investment.”

There is still controversy, though, because many in the oil industry predict that demand for their product will continue to rise for a decade or more. Others argue that there is already over-production of oil, keeping the price at less than $60 a barrel, and meaning that even setting aside the arguments about climate, extracting a large proportion of the “assets” in the ground is unlikely ever to be economic.

But although BP and Shell are said to be already “cooperating” with Climate Action 100+, fossil fuels are only part of the story. Steel, mining, and all sorts of manufacturing industries are also heavy polluters. The investors are focusing on 161 of the world’s largest polluting companies in which they are shareholders.

Apart from getting them to curb emissions, obviously a core issue, the investors are demanding that companies stop campaigning to cast doubt on the science of climate change, funding climate deniers and attacking campaigners.

The group says it has secured record support for action on climate at company meetings, with many companies committing to reaching net zero emissions. Carbon emissions are already falling, it says, although acknowledging that progress is nowhere near fast enough.

Improving on Paris

Already 70% of the 161 companies have emission reduction targets, and 9% have targets that are in line with or better than the maximum 2°C rise agreed at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

Stephanie Maier, director of responsible investment at HSBC Global Asset Management and a steering committee member at Climate Action 100+, said: “We are now at a tipping point. A significant number of companies have made bold commitments to achieve net zero emissions, with others increasingly following suit.

“Given the urgency of the situation, the role of investor engagement is critical in ensuring we build on this momentum.”

However Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and also a steering committee member at Climate Action 100+, was more cautious.

“We have much more to do before business is on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”, she said. “We must now build on the momentum achieved to date if we are to succeed in addressing the climate crisis and safeguarding investments on which the futures of millions of pensioners depend.” − Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is 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 work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Climate ‘is the election priority’ for the UK

Britain’s general election campaign is squarely focused on the UK leaving the EU. But persuasive voices say the climate “is the election priority”.

LONDON, 7 November, 2019 − The real issue facing the United Kingdom in next month’s general election is not whether to choose Brexit, to stay in the European Union or leave it, a prominent lawyer says, because the climate “is the election priority” for the UK.

With Britain due to host the November 2020 United Nations climate talks, she told a London conference, it is vital that the new government elected on 12 December takes the lead by enacting policies to tackle the climate emergency.

Farhana Yamin, an international climate change lawyer, said that currently the world was failing to tackle the climate and ecological disaster facing the planet. The UK posed as a climate leader but was “way, way behind” what was needed and did not have the policies in place to reach its own target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Nothing less than a green industrial revolution is required to turn the situation around. A war-like mobilisation of society to stop nature being destroyed needs to be in place by next year when the climate talks are being held in Glasgow”, she said. British voters had an opportunity to choose a government that could lead the world by example.

“The fact is we already know that normal life is going to be disrupted. Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The electorate has a chance to shape that change.

Inadequate Paris Agreement

“This is going to be a climate and ecological election. The future will be very different depending on the decisions taken in the next five years – and it depends on which direction the new government wants to take,” she said.

This was because it was already clear that the commitments made in Paris in 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions were nowhere near enough to hold global temperature rise to safe levels. The whole pack of nations was failing, and needed to make new commitments at the Glasgow talks a year from now.

Yamin, from Pakistan, lives in Britain and is an advocate and adviser to the Marshall Islands. She has represented many members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which are most threatened by climate change, particularly sea level rise.

Talking to an audience of senior business executives and heads of environmental groups at the conference of the Fit for the Future network, she said the horrors of climate change were already apparent.

The 20 million people in Delhi suffering from toxic air pollution, and those in the Marshall Islands which she champions who are facing inundation by the sea, were just two examples of the problem, and 2020 was a crucial year to try to turn the problem round.

“We already know that normal life is going to be disrupted. Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The electorate has a chance to shape that change”

Yamin told the Climate News Network she feared that in the UK election Brexit would crowd out the much more important issue of climate change. This was not to suggest how people should vote, but she asked people to cast aside other considerations and look at the parties’ climate policies.

“Whatever government is elected now will take decisions that will have a fundamental effect on the future of the planet. Take the right decisions in this four-year term of office, and there is still a chance of turning things around,” she said.

The co-leader of the UK Green Party, Sian Berry, said at the launch of the Greens’ campaign yesterday: “Some things are even bigger than Brexit. This must be the climate election.”

Yamin took part in London’s Extinction Rebellion protests and is one of the 1,300 people arrested there: she superglued herself to the entrance of the Shell oil giant’s London HQ. That had been necessary to raise public awareness of the problem, she said.

“For me it is the most historic and meaningful election I can remember. The environmental movement is all about social justice, so people now have the opportunity to vote to live and work in an equal society,” she said. − Climate News Network

Britain’s general election campaign is squarely focused on the UK leaving the EU. But persuasive voices say the climate “is the election priority”.

LONDON, 7 November, 2019 − The real issue facing the United Kingdom in next month’s general election is not whether to choose Brexit, to stay in the European Union or leave it, a prominent lawyer says, because the climate “is the election priority” for the UK.

With Britain due to host the November 2020 United Nations climate talks, she told a London conference, it is vital that the new government elected on 12 December takes the lead by enacting policies to tackle the climate emergency.

Farhana Yamin, an international climate change lawyer, said that currently the world was failing to tackle the climate and ecological disaster facing the planet. The UK posed as a climate leader but was “way, way behind” what was needed and did not have the policies in place to reach its own target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Nothing less than a green industrial revolution is required to turn the situation around. A war-like mobilisation of society to stop nature being destroyed needs to be in place by next year when the climate talks are being held in Glasgow”, she said. British voters had an opportunity to choose a government that could lead the world by example.

“The fact is we already know that normal life is going to be disrupted. Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The electorate has a chance to shape that change.

Inadequate Paris Agreement

“This is going to be a climate and ecological election. The future will be very different depending on the decisions taken in the next five years – and it depends on which direction the new government wants to take,” she said.

This was because it was already clear that the commitments made in Paris in 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions were nowhere near enough to hold global temperature rise to safe levels. The whole pack of nations was failing, and needed to make new commitments at the Glasgow talks a year from now.

Yamin, from Pakistan, lives in Britain and is an advocate and adviser to the Marshall Islands. She has represented many members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which are most threatened by climate change, particularly sea level rise.

Talking to an audience of senior business executives and heads of environmental groups at the conference of the Fit for the Future network, she said the horrors of climate change were already apparent.

The 20 million people in Delhi suffering from toxic air pollution, and those in the Marshall Islands which she champions who are facing inundation by the sea, were just two examples of the problem, and 2020 was a crucial year to try to turn the problem round.

“We already know that normal life is going to be disrupted. Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The electorate has a chance to shape that change”

Yamin told the Climate News Network she feared that in the UK election Brexit would crowd out the much more important issue of climate change. This was not to suggest how people should vote, but she asked people to cast aside other considerations and look at the parties’ climate policies.

“Whatever government is elected now will take decisions that will have a fundamental effect on the future of the planet. Take the right decisions in this four-year term of office, and there is still a chance of turning things around,” she said.

The co-leader of the UK Green Party, Sian Berry, said at the launch of the Greens’ campaign yesterday: “Some things are even bigger than Brexit. This must be the climate election.”

Yamin took part in London’s Extinction Rebellion protests and is one of the 1,300 people arrested there: she superglued herself to the entrance of the Shell oil giant’s London HQ. That had been necessary to raise public awareness of the problem, she said.

“For me it is the most historic and meaningful election I can remember. The environmental movement is all about social justice, so people now have the opportunity to vote to live and work in an equal society,” she said. − Climate News Network

Nuclear cannot help against climate crisis

With new plants costing from five to ten times more than renewable options, and taking far longer to build, nuclear cannot help against global warming.

LONDON, 30 September, 2019 − Finding a way to head off the galloping climate crisis, although it’s taxing the world’s best brains, leaves one clear and inescapable conclusion, reiterated not only by researchers but acknowledged implicitly by the industry: nuclear cannot help.

Last week the French builders of the nuclear reactors being built in the United Kingdom announced a startling rise in construction costs. The news came on the day a report was published which said nuclear generation worldwide is now hopelessly uncompetitive in cost compared with renewable power.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019 also stresses that as far as climate change is concerned nuclear power has another huge disadvantage. Wind and solar power stations take only months to build before they produce power, so they quickly start to displace fossil fuels and save emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, take at least five years to build and very often more than a decade and so the fossil fuel plants they are designed to replace continue to pump out greenhouse gases. With the need to cut carbon emissions increasingly urgent, this makes nuclear power the wrong solution to climate change, the report says.

The announcement by the French nuclear giant Électricité de France (EDF) of the rise in costs of the twin reactors being built at Hinkley Point C in the West of England put the cost of construction at up to £22.5 billion (US$27.9bn) an increase of up to £2.9bn ($3.6bn) from its last estimate in 2017.

“Nuclear new-build costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar”

With the construction of the station still in its initial stages, costs are expected to rise further before the first power is generated in late 2025 – even if there are no further delays.

Two similar pressurised water reactors close to completion in France and Finland have taken more than twice as long to construct as originally estimated and are still not producing power. Both projects have recently announced yet more delays.

The 2019 status report, produced by a group of independent energy consultants and academics, makes grim reading for the nuclear industry because it compares the cost of producing electricity from renewables – particularly wind and solar – with nuclear. It says nuclear now costs between five and ten times as much as solar and wind power.

The report says: “Nuclear new-build thus costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar, than these major low-carbon competitors. That reality could usefully guide policy and investment decisions if the objective is to save money or the climate or both.”

Existing plants affected

This gap is widening as nuclear costs keep rising and renewable costs falling. The report quotes the International Energy Agency which says: “Solar PV costs fell by 65 percent between 2012 and 2017, and are projected to fall by a further 50% by 2040; onshore wind costs fell by 15% over the same period and are projected to fall by another 10–20% to 2040.”

But the report also makes clear that it is not just in new build that renewables are a much better option than nuclear in combating climate change.

In many nuclear countries, especially the US, the largest nuclear energy producer, new renewables now compete with existing nuclear plants. If the money spent on operating expensive nuclear plants were invested instead in cheaper renewables, or in energy efficiency projects, then that would displace more fossil fuel generation than keeping nuclear plants running.

The report catalogues the dismal record of delays in nuclear new build across the world. At the beginning of 2018, 15 reactors were scheduled for startup during the year; seven of these made it, plus two that were expected in 2019; of these nine startups, seven were in China and two in Russia. Of the 13 reactors scheduled to start up in 2019, four have already been postponed to 2020.

The problem for the industry is that the capital cost of new stations is so great that outside totalitarian regimes the finance cannot be found without massive subsidies from the taxpayer or levies on electricity consumers.

Plans abandoned

Even in the UK, where the government has enthusiastically endorsed new nuclear power station projects, most planned projects for new stations have been abandoned.

Even before the latest cost escalation for Hinkley Point was announced, the Nuclear Status report was casting doubt that EDF’s follow-on project for another giant nuclear station on the UK’s east coast, Sizewell C, was likely to come to fruition.

The report says: “Given the problems EDF is having financing Hinkley, this makes the Sizewell project appear implausible.

“Over the past decade the extraordinary cost of the UK’s proposed nuclear power program has become apparent to a wider academic community and public bodies. Even when the Government was willing to invest directly into the project, nuclear costs were prohibitive.” − Climate News Network

With new plants costing from five to ten times more than renewable options, and taking far longer to build, nuclear cannot help against global warming.

LONDON, 30 September, 2019 − Finding a way to head off the galloping climate crisis, although it’s taxing the world’s best brains, leaves one clear and inescapable conclusion, reiterated not only by researchers but acknowledged implicitly by the industry: nuclear cannot help.

Last week the French builders of the nuclear reactors being built in the United Kingdom announced a startling rise in construction costs. The news came on the day a report was published which said nuclear generation worldwide is now hopelessly uncompetitive in cost compared with renewable power.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019 also stresses that as far as climate change is concerned nuclear power has another huge disadvantage. Wind and solar power stations take only months to build before they produce power, so they quickly start to displace fossil fuels and save emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, take at least five years to build and very often more than a decade and so the fossil fuel plants they are designed to replace continue to pump out greenhouse gases. With the need to cut carbon emissions increasingly urgent, this makes nuclear power the wrong solution to climate change, the report says.

The announcement by the French nuclear giant Électricité de France (EDF) of the rise in costs of the twin reactors being built at Hinkley Point C in the West of England put the cost of construction at up to £22.5 billion (US$27.9bn) an increase of up to £2.9bn ($3.6bn) from its last estimate in 2017.

“Nuclear new-build costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar”

With the construction of the station still in its initial stages, costs are expected to rise further before the first power is generated in late 2025 – even if there are no further delays.

Two similar pressurised water reactors close to completion in France and Finland have taken more than twice as long to construct as originally estimated and are still not producing power. Both projects have recently announced yet more delays.

The 2019 status report, produced by a group of independent energy consultants and academics, makes grim reading for the nuclear industry because it compares the cost of producing electricity from renewables – particularly wind and solar – with nuclear. It says nuclear now costs between five and ten times as much as solar and wind power.

The report says: “Nuclear new-build thus costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar, than these major low-carbon competitors. That reality could usefully guide policy and investment decisions if the objective is to save money or the climate or both.”

Existing plants affected

This gap is widening as nuclear costs keep rising and renewable costs falling. The report quotes the International Energy Agency which says: “Solar PV costs fell by 65 percent between 2012 and 2017, and are projected to fall by a further 50% by 2040; onshore wind costs fell by 15% over the same period and are projected to fall by another 10–20% to 2040.”

But the report also makes clear that it is not just in new build that renewables are a much better option than nuclear in combating climate change.

In many nuclear countries, especially the US, the largest nuclear energy producer, new renewables now compete with existing nuclear plants. If the money spent on operating expensive nuclear plants were invested instead in cheaper renewables, or in energy efficiency projects, then that would displace more fossil fuel generation than keeping nuclear plants running.

The report catalogues the dismal record of delays in nuclear new build across the world. At the beginning of 2018, 15 reactors were scheduled for startup during the year; seven of these made it, plus two that were expected in 2019; of these nine startups, seven were in China and two in Russia. Of the 13 reactors scheduled to start up in 2019, four have already been postponed to 2020.

The problem for the industry is that the capital cost of new stations is so great that outside totalitarian regimes the finance cannot be found without massive subsidies from the taxpayer or levies on electricity consumers.

Plans abandoned

Even in the UK, where the government has enthusiastically endorsed new nuclear power station projects, most planned projects for new stations have been abandoned.

Even before the latest cost escalation for Hinkley Point was announced, the Nuclear Status report was casting doubt that EDF’s follow-on project for another giant nuclear station on the UK’s east coast, Sizewell C, was likely to come to fruition.

The report says: “Given the problems EDF is having financing Hinkley, this makes the Sizewell project appear implausible.

“Over the past decade the extraordinary cost of the UK’s proposed nuclear power program has become apparent to a wider academic community and public bodies. Even when the Government was willing to invest directly into the project, nuclear costs were prohibitive.” − Climate News Network

Scientists back global climate strike

20 September sees the start of a week-long youth-led global climate strike. Students will be voicing their demands for action − backed by many scientists.

LONDON, 20 September, 2019 − Leading scientists have declared their support for the global climate strike which starts today.

In a statement published by the Earth League, headed Humanity is Tipping the Scales of the World, 20 respected scientists throw their weight into the argument. Among a stellar company, they number Lord Nicholas Stern, Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, its founder.

The world is approaching a dual tipping point of social and environmental systems that will arguably determine the future of life-support systems on Earth, they say.

On the one hand, young people across the world are struggling to tip the social scale towards swift and concerted climate action.

“If that tipping towards sustainability does not happen quickly, we risk crossing different kinds of tipping points – those in the Earth System that may threaten the stability of life on our planet.

“Humanity is tipping the scales of our planet’s future”

“Tropical coral reef systems and the Arctic summer ice are at risk already at 1.5°C warming and we now know that there is a likely tipping point for the destabilisation of the Greenland Ice sheet, which may be as low as 2°C.”

Much of the factual material they explain is by now all too well-known; many of their specific warnings, however acutely they present them, echo with leaden but still necessary familiarity. But there is a new note to what they have to tell the world: that time really is running out.

“Humanity may tend to take the benign conditions of the past 10,000 years for granted, but we are already experiencing the highest global mean temperature on Earth since the last Ice Age”, they write.

“If anything, there is a growing understanding that expert assessments, which are usually conservative in the best sense of the word, have contributed to allow decision-makers to underestimate – not overestimate – the risks of climate impacts. Now it is apparent that impacts are happening much sooner and more severely than expected.

“In each report since 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has corrected its assessments of the so-called ‘reasons for concern’ upwards, i.e., to higher levels of worry.

Irreversible change

“The world is following a path which even at a conservative assessment will result in more than 3°C of warming – with definite irreversible tipping points – by the end of this century. Last time we had this level of warming on Earth was 4-5 million years ago.”

The scientists echo the call of the young strikers: “This is not a single-generation issue”, they say. “Humanity is tipping the scales of our planet’s future.”

Serious scientists are usually cautious people, unwilling to stick their necks out and speak out on something about which they are not absolutely certain. But today’s statement is not like that − and it is not the first of its kind.

Three other experts, all renowned in their fields, last April urged support for the school strikers, declaring: “The world’s youth have begun to persistently demonstrate for the protection of the climate and other foundations of human well-being … Their concerns are justified and supported by the best available science. The current measures for protecting the climate and biosphere are deeply inadequate.”

They attracted the support of more than 6,000 of their colleagues. When scientists are prepared to voice their fears as openly as they are now doing, where does that leave the rest of us? − Climate News Network

20 September sees the start of a week-long youth-led global climate strike. Students will be voicing their demands for action − backed by many scientists.

LONDON, 20 September, 2019 − Leading scientists have declared their support for the global climate strike which starts today.

In a statement published by the Earth League, headed Humanity is Tipping the Scales of the World, 20 respected scientists throw their weight into the argument. Among a stellar company, they number Lord Nicholas Stern, Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, its founder.

The world is approaching a dual tipping point of social and environmental systems that will arguably determine the future of life-support systems on Earth, they say.

On the one hand, young people across the world are struggling to tip the social scale towards swift and concerted climate action.

“If that tipping towards sustainability does not happen quickly, we risk crossing different kinds of tipping points – those in the Earth System that may threaten the stability of life on our planet.

“Humanity is tipping the scales of our planet’s future”

“Tropical coral reef systems and the Arctic summer ice are at risk already at 1.5°C warming and we now know that there is a likely tipping point for the destabilisation of the Greenland Ice sheet, which may be as low as 2°C.”

Much of the factual material they explain is by now all too well-known; many of their specific warnings, however acutely they present them, echo with leaden but still necessary familiarity. But there is a new note to what they have to tell the world: that time really is running out.

“Humanity may tend to take the benign conditions of the past 10,000 years for granted, but we are already experiencing the highest global mean temperature on Earth since the last Ice Age”, they write.

“If anything, there is a growing understanding that expert assessments, which are usually conservative in the best sense of the word, have contributed to allow decision-makers to underestimate – not overestimate – the risks of climate impacts. Now it is apparent that impacts are happening much sooner and more severely than expected.

“In each report since 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has corrected its assessments of the so-called ‘reasons for concern’ upwards, i.e., to higher levels of worry.

Irreversible change

“The world is following a path which even at a conservative assessment will result in more than 3°C of warming – with definite irreversible tipping points – by the end of this century. Last time we had this level of warming on Earth was 4-5 million years ago.”

The scientists echo the call of the young strikers: “This is not a single-generation issue”, they say. “Humanity is tipping the scales of our planet’s future.”

Serious scientists are usually cautious people, unwilling to stick their necks out and speak out on something about which they are not absolutely certain. But today’s statement is not like that − and it is not the first of its kind.

Three other experts, all renowned in their fields, last April urged support for the school strikers, declaring: “The world’s youth have begun to persistently demonstrate for the protection of the climate and other foundations of human well-being … Their concerns are justified and supported by the best available science. The current measures for protecting the climate and biosphere are deeply inadequate.”

They attracted the support of more than 6,000 of their colleagues. When scientists are prepared to voice their fears as openly as they are now doing, where does that leave the rest of us? − Climate News Network

Politics tops science under Trump

If you don’t like the news, then suppress it − because politics tops science in the US today, researchers are finding.

LONDON, 20 August, 2019 − When the news is bad, punish the messenger, as in today’s United States it’s increasingly the case that politics tops science.

This, according to a top scientist formerly working at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is what’s happening to government employees involved in climate change research under the administration of President Trump.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist who has worked for more than 20 years at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), recently resigned his post, saying department officials had not only questioned the results of a peer-reviewed research paper he was involved in on the adverse impact of climate change – they had also attempted to minimise its coverage in the media.

“You get the sense that things have changed, that this (the ARS) is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views”, Ziska tells the Politico website.

“That’s so sad – I can’t even begin to tell you how sad that is.”

Research ‘not sidelined’

The paper in question is a collaboration involving Ziska and other researchers at the ARS and various academic institutions in the US, Japan, China and Australia.

Published last year in the journal Science Advances, it analysed how increasing levels of climate-changing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might affect various nutrients in rice, a crop on which hundreds of millions around the world depend.

The paper not only confirmed earlier research on rice losing proteins and minerals in a more carbon-rich environment; it found, for the first time, that levels of key vitamins in rice can also drop significantly as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A USDA spokesperson said the department’s failure to promote the paper was due to disagreement over the study’s claim that millions would be affected by falling nutritional levels in rice; the spokesperson said USDA’s actions had nothing to do with politics and denied that climate research was being sidelined under the Trump administration.

Trump has in the past dismissed climate change as a hoax and has announced that the US will withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement on meeting the challenges of a warming world.

“You get the sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views”

There have been persistent reports of administration officials resigning or being sacked for highlighting the dangers posed by climate change.

Ziska and others say a pattern is emerging in which policymakers identify “good science” as studies which agree with a certain political agenda; if the science doesn’t agree with the politics, then it’s flawed.

Ziska told Politico he’s concerned that the politicisation of science is a threat to the future of agriculture both in the US and overseas.

“You have farmers who are looking at climate and weather that they’ve not seen in their lifetimes. It’s not your father’s climate – it’s changing…this is a fundamental change across all aspects.

“To ignore it, to dismiss it and say, ‘Oh that’s political’ – I don’t have the words to describe that. It’s surreal. It’s like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.”

In June this year additional research into carbon dioxide’s impact on vitamin levels in rice published in the journal AGU100 confirmed the findings of the study Ziska and others were involved in. − Climate News Network

If you don’t like the news, then suppress it − because politics tops science in the US today, researchers are finding.

LONDON, 20 August, 2019 − When the news is bad, punish the messenger, as in today’s United States it’s increasingly the case that politics tops science.

This, according to a top scientist formerly working at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is what’s happening to government employees involved in climate change research under the administration of President Trump.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist who has worked for more than 20 years at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), recently resigned his post, saying department officials had not only questioned the results of a peer-reviewed research paper he was involved in on the adverse impact of climate change – they had also attempted to minimise its coverage in the media.

“You get the sense that things have changed, that this (the ARS) is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views”, Ziska tells the Politico website.

“That’s so sad – I can’t even begin to tell you how sad that is.”

Research ‘not sidelined’

The paper in question is a collaboration involving Ziska and other researchers at the ARS and various academic institutions in the US, Japan, China and Australia.

Published last year in the journal Science Advances, it analysed how increasing levels of climate-changing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might affect various nutrients in rice, a crop on which hundreds of millions around the world depend.

The paper not only confirmed earlier research on rice losing proteins and minerals in a more carbon-rich environment; it found, for the first time, that levels of key vitamins in rice can also drop significantly as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A USDA spokesperson said the department’s failure to promote the paper was due to disagreement over the study’s claim that millions would be affected by falling nutritional levels in rice; the spokesperson said USDA’s actions had nothing to do with politics and denied that climate research was being sidelined under the Trump administration.

Trump has in the past dismissed climate change as a hoax and has announced that the US will withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement on meeting the challenges of a warming world.

“You get the sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views”

There have been persistent reports of administration officials resigning or being sacked for highlighting the dangers posed by climate change.

Ziska and others say a pattern is emerging in which policymakers identify “good science” as studies which agree with a certain political agenda; if the science doesn’t agree with the politics, then it’s flawed.

Ziska told Politico he’s concerned that the politicisation of science is a threat to the future of agriculture both in the US and overseas.

“You have farmers who are looking at climate and weather that they’ve not seen in their lifetimes. It’s not your father’s climate – it’s changing…this is a fundamental change across all aspects.

“To ignore it, to dismiss it and say, ‘Oh that’s political’ – I don’t have the words to describe that. It’s surreal. It’s like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.”

In June this year additional research into carbon dioxide’s impact on vitamin levels in rice published in the journal AGU100 confirmed the findings of the study Ziska and others were involved in. − Climate News Network

Political lobbying buys off climate law

When it comes to influence, big bucks are hard to beat. Climate campaigners can learn from a study of US political lobbying.

LONDON, 4 June, 2019 − Big money talks loudest. A decade ago Washington saw political lobbying spend $700 million to influence the political shape and progress of the American Clean Energy and Security Act – and significantly reduce its chances of success.

The reward for the investment was a 13% reduction in its chances of progress into law. The pay-off for the rest of humanity was, at a conservative estimate, an extra $60 billion worth of climate damages from future superstorms, droughts and heatwaves associated with global heating.

The political initiative was at the time the most prominent and promising US climate regulation legislation so far on the books. It failed.

“The popular media widely postulated at the time that oppositional political interests played a key role in the bill’s demise,” say two US scientists in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“If valid, this points to lobbying as an explanation for why so few climate change regulations are enacted. It also provides an example in which lobbying had welfare consequences by reducing the likelihood of enacting a socially beneficial policy.”

“There is increasing concern that this lack of climate action may be due to political influences”

That political persuaders, funded ultimately by the fossil fuel industries or think-tanks and associations that act for them, can affect the political process is not news. Research has at least twice linked the strident voice of climate denial with very big corporations or unexplained sources of funding.

And the lobby industry in Washington has been linked with systematic attempts to muddy or cast doubt upon the science that now comprehensively supports evidence of human-triggered and potentially catastrophic climate change.

Since then, President Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, backed in 2015 by 195 nations, and the US Department of Energy has started to rebrand the potent greenhouse gas methane as the “freedom molecule” in a bid to give an exported fossil fuel a more wholesome reputation.

“There has been a striking disconnect between what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change and what has actually been done to date,” said Kyle Meng, of the University of Southern California at Santa Barbara, who led the study. “There is increasing concern that this lack of climate action may be due to political influences.”

But all political decisions involve compromise and there are many reasons why legislation can fail. Dr Meng and his co-author played statistical games with the available evidence to make calculations of the chances of success for the so-called 2009-2010 Waxman-Markey Bill that would have become the American Clean Energy and Security Act had it been passed.

Reduced chances

They made judgements about how successful legislation would affect the stock prices of businesses that were involved in lobbying congress and senate. They calculated that the bill had about a 55% chance of adoption, and used available data to calculate that big business which might have been affected by the bill in various ways spent $700 million on trying to influence the politicians.

And they found that lobbying by corporations that might expect to lose was more effective than lobbying by those businesses that might gain from successful legislation, and in effect reduced the bill’s chances of success to 42%.

They then used the same statistical logic to set a total for the extra “social cost” of greenhouse gases in terms of damage to human health, agriculture, insurance costs and so on: a total, they calculate, of $60bn at 2018 prices.

There are always problems with this kind of “what if?” or counter-factual research, and the authors concede the need for caution. But they argue that lessons can be learned about the way such legislation should be drawn up in the first place.

“Our findings also provide a glimmer of hope by paving a path toward politically more robust climate policies,” Dr Meng said. “Subtle design changes to market-based climate policies can alleviate political opposition and increase chances of adoption.” − Climate News Network

When it comes to influence, big bucks are hard to beat. Climate campaigners can learn from a study of US political lobbying.

LONDON, 4 June, 2019 − Big money talks loudest. A decade ago Washington saw political lobbying spend $700 million to influence the political shape and progress of the American Clean Energy and Security Act – and significantly reduce its chances of success.

The reward for the investment was a 13% reduction in its chances of progress into law. The pay-off for the rest of humanity was, at a conservative estimate, an extra $60 billion worth of climate damages from future superstorms, droughts and heatwaves associated with global heating.

The political initiative was at the time the most prominent and promising US climate regulation legislation so far on the books. It failed.

“The popular media widely postulated at the time that oppositional political interests played a key role in the bill’s demise,” say two US scientists in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“If valid, this points to lobbying as an explanation for why so few climate change regulations are enacted. It also provides an example in which lobbying had welfare consequences by reducing the likelihood of enacting a socially beneficial policy.”

“There is increasing concern that this lack of climate action may be due to political influences”

That political persuaders, funded ultimately by the fossil fuel industries or think-tanks and associations that act for them, can affect the political process is not news. Research has at least twice linked the strident voice of climate denial with very big corporations or unexplained sources of funding.

And the lobby industry in Washington has been linked with systematic attempts to muddy or cast doubt upon the science that now comprehensively supports evidence of human-triggered and potentially catastrophic climate change.

Since then, President Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, backed in 2015 by 195 nations, and the US Department of Energy has started to rebrand the potent greenhouse gas methane as the “freedom molecule” in a bid to give an exported fossil fuel a more wholesome reputation.

“There has been a striking disconnect between what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change and what has actually been done to date,” said Kyle Meng, of the University of Southern California at Santa Barbara, who led the study. “There is increasing concern that this lack of climate action may be due to political influences.”

But all political decisions involve compromise and there are many reasons why legislation can fail. Dr Meng and his co-author played statistical games with the available evidence to make calculations of the chances of success for the so-called 2009-2010 Waxman-Markey Bill that would have become the American Clean Energy and Security Act had it been passed.

Reduced chances

They made judgements about how successful legislation would affect the stock prices of businesses that were involved in lobbying congress and senate. They calculated that the bill had about a 55% chance of adoption, and used available data to calculate that big business which might have been affected by the bill in various ways spent $700 million on trying to influence the politicians.

And they found that lobbying by corporations that might expect to lose was more effective than lobbying by those businesses that might gain from successful legislation, and in effect reduced the bill’s chances of success to 42%.

They then used the same statistical logic to set a total for the extra “social cost” of greenhouse gases in terms of damage to human health, agriculture, insurance costs and so on: a total, they calculate, of $60bn at 2018 prices.

There are always problems with this kind of “what if?” or counter-factual research, and the authors concede the need for caution. But they argue that lessons can be learned about the way such legislation should be drawn up in the first place.

“Our findings also provide a glimmer of hope by paving a path toward politically more robust climate policies,” Dr Meng said. “Subtle design changes to market-based climate policies can alleviate political opposition and increase chances of adoption.” − Climate News Network