Tag Archives: climate policy

More vegetables, less meat for all our sakes

Researchers are clear: the healthy diet for a healthy planet is more vegetables, less meat. What matters is the food that’s served, and the way it’s produced too.

LONDON, 17 January, 2019 − An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, wholegrains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor’s orders, tomorrow’s farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

A commission sponsored by one of the oldest and most distinguished medical journals in the world today provides what it calls the first scientific targets for a healthy diet, from a sustainable food production system, that operates within what its authors term “planetary boundaries.”

The commission is the result of three years’ consultation by 37 experts from 16 countries, among them experts in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and political governance.

Goal within reach

It addresses the twin problems of global food supply: altogether 3 billion people are either under-nourished, or approaching clinical obesity because they are too well-nourished.

And global food production in its present form is helping to drive global warming and climate change, trigger accelerating biodiversity loss, pollute the rivers, lakes and coasts with ever greater levels of nitrogen and phosphorus run-off, and make unsustainable use of both land and fresh water.

“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said Tim Lang, a food scientist at the City University of London, and one of the authors.

“ We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances. While this is uncharted policy territory and these problems are not easily fixed, this goal is within reach and there are opportunities to adapt international, local and business policies. The scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change.”

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet”

The study simultaneously addresses what should be on the global supper table, and how it gets there. It presumes a daily intake for a 70kg active adult male aged 30, or a 60kg woman, of up to 2,500 kilocalories per day, with around 35% of these from wholegrains and tubers.

It recommends a limit of 14 grams of red meat per day, and 500 grams of vegetables and fruits. The global appetite for red meat and sugar must be halved, while consumption of nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruit intake must double.

And it recommends fair shares on a global scale; North Americans chew their way through more than six times the recommended meat portion; people in South Asia right now consume only half what they should.

And across the globe, people depend too much on starchy foods such as potato and cassava: in sub-Saharan Africa, 7.5 times too much. If people adopt a healthy diet and limit the use of processed foods, this would avert between 10.9m and 11.6m premature deaths each year.

Unprecedented change

But the same advice then addresses the global and seemingly intractable problem of managing agriculture so that it serves all and saves the planet for permanent occupation. To make this happen, change is necessary at rates so far without precedent in history.

Somehow, production must be intensified, but without greater destruction of forests and savannah, and while eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

Another of the authors, Johan Rockström, of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and who now directs the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, calls it “nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.”

“The good news is that not only is it doable, we have increasing evidence that it can be achieved through sustainable intensification that benefits both farmer, consumer and planet,” he said.

Planetary perspective needed

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet. Sustainability of the food system must therefore be defined from a planetary perspective.”

The study is the latest and most authoritative iteration of a series of research papers that have argued, over and over again, for a change in planetary diet, a shift towards more efficient but also more sustainable  farming methods, and a greater focus on planetary equity.

The message from most of them is that it is, or should be, technically possible to grow food for a hungry planet without wasting productivity and without devastating wildlife and natural ecosystems any further.

Five-point plan

The Lancet Commission proposes a fivefold strategy. It includes campaigns and pricing policies to promote sustainable sources; a shift from high-volume crops to a greater variety of nutrient-rich plants; appropriate agricultural practices; careful governance of land and ocean use, along with protection of natural areas; and a concerted attempt to at least halve food wastage, an issue in high-income countries and in different ways also in poor and middle-income countries.

This is one of a series of studies published by the Lancet to address global problems related to climate: in December the same journal carried an authoritative assessment of the health costs of heat extremes in the decades to come.

Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, said the issue of global nutrition was “everyone’s and no-one’s problem. The transformation that this Commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat.

“Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for the planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored. The very nature that is disappearing holds the key to human and planetary survival.” − Climate News Network

Researchers are clear: the healthy diet for a healthy planet is more vegetables, less meat. What matters is the food that’s served, and the way it’s produced too.

LONDON, 17 January, 2019 − An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, wholegrains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor’s orders, tomorrow’s farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

A commission sponsored by one of the oldest and most distinguished medical journals in the world today provides what it calls the first scientific targets for a healthy diet, from a sustainable food production system, that operates within what its authors term “planetary boundaries.”

The commission is the result of three years’ consultation by 37 experts from 16 countries, among them experts in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and political governance.

Goal within reach

It addresses the twin problems of global food supply: altogether 3 billion people are either under-nourished, or approaching clinical obesity because they are too well-nourished.

And global food production in its present form is helping to drive global warming and climate change, trigger accelerating biodiversity loss, pollute the rivers, lakes and coasts with ever greater levels of nitrogen and phosphorus run-off, and make unsustainable use of both land and fresh water.

“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said Tim Lang, a food scientist at the City University of London, and one of the authors.

“ We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances. While this is uncharted policy territory and these problems are not easily fixed, this goal is within reach and there are opportunities to adapt international, local and business policies. The scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change.”

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet”

The study simultaneously addresses what should be on the global supper table, and how it gets there. It presumes a daily intake for a 70kg active adult male aged 30, or a 60kg woman, of up to 2,500 kilocalories per day, with around 35% of these from wholegrains and tubers.

It recommends a limit of 14 grams of red meat per day, and 500 grams of vegetables and fruits. The global appetite for red meat and sugar must be halved, while consumption of nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruit intake must double.

And it recommends fair shares on a global scale; North Americans chew their way through more than six times the recommended meat portion; people in South Asia right now consume only half what they should.

And across the globe, people depend too much on starchy foods such as potato and cassava: in sub-Saharan Africa, 7.5 times too much. If people adopt a healthy diet and limit the use of processed foods, this would avert between 10.9m and 11.6m premature deaths each year.

Unprecedented change

But the same advice then addresses the global and seemingly intractable problem of managing agriculture so that it serves all and saves the planet for permanent occupation. To make this happen, change is necessary at rates so far without precedent in history.

Somehow, production must be intensified, but without greater destruction of forests and savannah, and while eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

Another of the authors, Johan Rockström, of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and who now directs the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, calls it “nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.”

“The good news is that not only is it doable, we have increasing evidence that it can be achieved through sustainable intensification that benefits both farmer, consumer and planet,” he said.

Planetary perspective needed

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet. Sustainability of the food system must therefore be defined from a planetary perspective.”

The study is the latest and most authoritative iteration of a series of research papers that have argued, over and over again, for a change in planetary diet, a shift towards more efficient but also more sustainable  farming methods, and a greater focus on planetary equity.

The message from most of them is that it is, or should be, technically possible to grow food for a hungry planet without wasting productivity and without devastating wildlife and natural ecosystems any further.

Five-point plan

The Lancet Commission proposes a fivefold strategy. It includes campaigns and pricing policies to promote sustainable sources; a shift from high-volume crops to a greater variety of nutrient-rich plants; appropriate agricultural practices; careful governance of land and ocean use, along with protection of natural areas; and a concerted attempt to at least halve food wastage, an issue in high-income countries and in different ways also in poor and middle-income countries.

This is one of a series of studies published by the Lancet to address global problems related to climate: in December the same journal carried an authoritative assessment of the health costs of heat extremes in the decades to come.

Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, said the issue of global nutrition was “everyone’s and no-one’s problem. The transformation that this Commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat.

“Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for the planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored. The very nature that is disappearing holds the key to human and planetary survival.” − 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

UK’s dream is now its nuclear nightmare

Nobody knows what to do with a vast uranium and plutonium stockpile built up in the UK by reprocessing spent fuel. It is now a nuclear nightmare.

LONDON, 14 December, 2018 − Thirty years ago it seemed like a dream: now it is a nuclear nightmare. A project presented to the world in the 1990s by the UK government as a £2.85 billion triumph of British engineering, capable of recycling thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel into reusable uranium and plutonium is shutting down – with its role still controversial.

Launched amid fears of future uranium shortages and plans to use the plutonium produced from the plant to feed a generation of fast breeder reactors, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, known as THORP, was thought to herald a rapid expansion of the industry.

In the event there were no uranium shortages, fast breeder reactors could not be made to work, and nuclear new build of all kinds stalled. Despite this THORP continued as if nothing had happened, recycling thousands of tons of uranium and producing 56 tons of plutonium that no one wants. The plutonium, once the world’s most valuable commodity, is now classed in Britain as “an asset of zero value.”

Over its lifetime the giant plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, north-west England, has taken spent fuel from eight countries as well as the UK and succeeded in producing a small mountain of plutonium and uranium of which only a tiny fraction has ever been re-used as intended. Instead most has been stockpiled and is now stored under armed guard with no use or purpose in sight.

White elephant

From the start, THORP was lampooned by cartoonists as a balloon in the shape of a great white elephant hovering over the English Lake District. The UK government maintained then − and still insists − that it was a major foreign currency earner, bringing £9 bn (US$11.4 bn today) to the UK over its lifetime.

There is though no publicly available profit and loss account for the plant. (Most of the prices and costs quoted here are those reported by the owners of THORP in their publicity at the time, but the total of foreign currency earnings and some of the 2018 figures below are new ones provided to the Climate News Network).

All that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which runs THORP on behalf of the government, will say is that the plant has employed 500 people and costs £70 million a year to run. Even after it has closed it will cost £35 million a year to maintain for 10 years while it is cleaned out. Final demolition is set for 2095 with a price tag of £4 billion, a lot more than THORP cost to build.

For its customers back then, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada, or rather for their governments, it solved a terrible problem − how to dispose of or store the ever-increasing amounts of spent fuel coming out of their nuclear reactors?

Problems exported

To avoid any anti-nuclear issues at home they were prepared to pay to send the fuel to Britain to be “recycled”. This conveniently postponed for decades the prospect of dealing with the problem of where to deposit the nuclear fuel as waste − well after the time any of the politicians involved would be held to account.

But even as THORP closes and the last load of fuel is dissolved in acid to extract the plutonium and uranium it contains, the problems the plant was designed to solve remain, and new ones have been created.

Every view about the success or failure of the plant is still contested, even its cost. When it opened in 1994 it was said to have cost £2.85 billion, but this week the NDA, its current owner, claims the cost was only £1.4 billion and that all of that was paid for by the foreign governments that wanted to use its services.

In the 1990s British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL), the government-owned company that built THORP, claimed that the plant would work up to reprocessing 1,200 tons of spent fuel a year and make £500 mn profit in its first ten years of operation. In the first decade its target was to have reprocessed 7,000 tons, but it fell short by nearly 2,000 tons as a result of accidents and leaks which caused a series of shutdowns

“The plant should never have been built, has never worked as planned and has left a legacy stockpile of uranium and plutonium that no-one knows what to do with”

These failures, which grew worse over time, led to overseas customers losing faith in the running of the plant and to the cancellation of reprocessing contracts by Germany. Perhaps more importantly, no new contracts were signed.

The fundamental issue, however, was THORP’s failure to achieve its purpose. In order to justify its existence the plutonium and uranium should have been re-used for peaceful purposes. Plans for the new generation of fast breeder reactors that could have used the plutonium were abandoned, so in order to show they were using some of the product from the plant BNFL added another factory. This was to make new reactor fuel, made of mixed oxides of plutonium and uranium (MOX), using material recycled from THORP.

This project was also mired in controversy, but the government insisted on going ahead. It ended in abject failure because the plant failed to work. Instead of producing 120 tons of MOX fuel a year it made just 13.8 tons in nine years and was abandoned in 2011. A government report into the plant concluded in 2013 that this new factory added to THORP had lost taxpayers £2.2 bn.

Despite the reasons for THORP’s existence being comprehensively undermined, the plant continued. This was principally because it still had unfulfilled contracts from foreign customers to reprocess spent fuel, earning money producing plutonium and uranium that no one has a use for – except perhaps a terrorist.

Embarrassment

So at the end of its life there is a stockpile of uranium and plutonium at Sellafield that is an embarrassment to its owners. According to the contracts signed in the 1980s the reprocessed material has to be returned to the country of origin – along with the nuclear waste created in the process.

But naturally these countries do not want it back, some, like Germany, Italy and Spain, because they have abandoned nuclear power. To help them out the UK is holding on to it, but at a price.

For large but undisclosed sums of money, the ownership of this unwanted uranium and plutonium is gradually being transferred to the UK. Negotiations are still going on with Japan to transfer to UK ownership more than two tons of its reprocessed plutonium that would otherwise have to be returned with no end use.

This complex situation is further muddled by the fact that the UK already has another much older reprocessing plant, in operation since 1952. This still dissolves fuel from even older and long-closed British Magnox reactors. The first few of these power stations were built in the 1950s to make plutonium for the UK’s nuclear weapons, and then more were erected, mainly to generate electricity for the grid. The Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield is also due to close in the next two years.

Permanent armed guard

The result of all this reprocessing is a staggering store of 140 tons of plutonium, enough to power 30 never-to-be-built fast breeder reactors or to provide material to make thousands of nuclear missiles. The UK government has had frequent reviews but as yet has no policy on how to deal with the stockpile, which has to be constantly guarded by armed police to prevent terrorist attacks.

Perhaps even more incredible is the fact there are more than 100,000 tons of uranium in store across the UK, again with no end use in sight. This consists mainly of waste, depleted uranium left over from making fuel, and uranium from spent fuel left over after reprocessing.

An irony of the whole THORP saga, considering the current frosty relationship between the UK and President Vladimir Putin, is that one beneficiary of reprocessing was Russia. The Russians have a plant capable of re-enriching the uranium recovered from THORP and turning it back into fuel for nuclear reactors.

Taking advantage of this facility, which is not not available in the UK, one of THORP’s overseas customers, believed to be Germany, sent 1,000 tons of its recovered uranium from Britain to Russia over a period of five years to be turned back into fuel.

Rivalling Disneyland

So at least one customer managed to recycle some of THORP’s output. But what will happen to the remaining 9,000 tons of uranium produced by the plant from spent fuel and now stored remains a mystery.

Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, who opposed the building of the plant and has monitored its fortunes ever since, summed up: “The plant should never have been built in the first place, has never worked as planned and has left a legacy stockpile of uranium and plutonium that no-one knows what to do with.”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is currently sponsoring an art exhibition to celebrate THORP’s achievements. Its website says: “Thorp’s contribution to the global nuclear industry is a source of great pride for the communities of West Cumbria.

“It was the second reprocessing plant built at Sellafield and, at the time, was one of the largest and most complex construction projects in Europe, rivalled only by the Channel Tunnel and Disneyland Paris.” − Climate News Network

Nobody knows what to do with a vast uranium and plutonium stockpile built up in the UK by reprocessing spent fuel. It is now a nuclear nightmare.

LONDON, 14 December, 2018 − Thirty years ago it seemed like a dream: now it is a nuclear nightmare. A project presented to the world in the 1990s by the UK government as a £2.85 billion triumph of British engineering, capable of recycling thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel into reusable uranium and plutonium is shutting down – with its role still controversial.

Launched amid fears of future uranium shortages and plans to use the plutonium produced from the plant to feed a generation of fast breeder reactors, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, known as THORP, was thought to herald a rapid expansion of the industry.

In the event there were no uranium shortages, fast breeder reactors could not be made to work, and nuclear new build of all kinds stalled. Despite this THORP continued as if nothing had happened, recycling thousands of tons of uranium and producing 56 tons of plutonium that no one wants. The plutonium, once the world’s most valuable commodity, is now classed in Britain as “an asset of zero value.”

Over its lifetime the giant plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, north-west England, has taken spent fuel from eight countries as well as the UK and succeeded in producing a small mountain of plutonium and uranium of which only a tiny fraction has ever been re-used as intended. Instead most has been stockpiled and is now stored under armed guard with no use or purpose in sight.

White elephant

From the start, THORP was lampooned by cartoonists as a balloon in the shape of a great white elephant hovering over the English Lake District. The UK government maintained then − and still insists − that it was a major foreign currency earner, bringing £9 bn (US$11.4 bn today) to the UK over its lifetime.

There is though no publicly available profit and loss account for the plant. (Most of the prices and costs quoted here are those reported by the owners of THORP in their publicity at the time, but the total of foreign currency earnings and some of the 2018 figures below are new ones provided to the Climate News Network).

All that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which runs THORP on behalf of the government, will say is that the plant has employed 500 people and costs £70 million a year to run. Even after it has closed it will cost £35 million a year to maintain for 10 years while it is cleaned out. Final demolition is set for 2095 with a price tag of £4 billion, a lot more than THORP cost to build.

For its customers back then, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada, or rather for their governments, it solved a terrible problem − how to dispose of or store the ever-increasing amounts of spent fuel coming out of their nuclear reactors?

Problems exported

To avoid any anti-nuclear issues at home they were prepared to pay to send the fuel to Britain to be “recycled”. This conveniently postponed for decades the prospect of dealing with the problem of where to deposit the nuclear fuel as waste − well after the time any of the politicians involved would be held to account.

But even as THORP closes and the last load of fuel is dissolved in acid to extract the plutonium and uranium it contains, the problems the plant was designed to solve remain, and new ones have been created.

Every view about the success or failure of the plant is still contested, even its cost. When it opened in 1994 it was said to have cost £2.85 billion, but this week the NDA, its current owner, claims the cost was only £1.4 billion and that all of that was paid for by the foreign governments that wanted to use its services.

In the 1990s British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL), the government-owned company that built THORP, claimed that the plant would work up to reprocessing 1,200 tons of spent fuel a year and make £500 mn profit in its first ten years of operation. In the first decade its target was to have reprocessed 7,000 tons, but it fell short by nearly 2,000 tons as a result of accidents and leaks which caused a series of shutdowns

“The plant should never have been built, has never worked as planned and has left a legacy stockpile of uranium and plutonium that no-one knows what to do with”

These failures, which grew worse over time, led to overseas customers losing faith in the running of the plant and to the cancellation of reprocessing contracts by Germany. Perhaps more importantly, no new contracts were signed.

The fundamental issue, however, was THORP’s failure to achieve its purpose. In order to justify its existence the plutonium and uranium should have been re-used for peaceful purposes. Plans for the new generation of fast breeder reactors that could have used the plutonium were abandoned, so in order to show they were using some of the product from the plant BNFL added another factory. This was to make new reactor fuel, made of mixed oxides of plutonium and uranium (MOX), using material recycled from THORP.

This project was also mired in controversy, but the government insisted on going ahead. It ended in abject failure because the plant failed to work. Instead of producing 120 tons of MOX fuel a year it made just 13.8 tons in nine years and was abandoned in 2011. A government report into the plant concluded in 2013 that this new factory added to THORP had lost taxpayers £2.2 bn.

Despite the reasons for THORP’s existence being comprehensively undermined, the plant continued. This was principally because it still had unfulfilled contracts from foreign customers to reprocess spent fuel, earning money producing plutonium and uranium that no one has a use for – except perhaps a terrorist.

Embarrassment

So at the end of its life there is a stockpile of uranium and plutonium at Sellafield that is an embarrassment to its owners. According to the contracts signed in the 1980s the reprocessed material has to be returned to the country of origin – along with the nuclear waste created in the process.

But naturally these countries do not want it back, some, like Germany, Italy and Spain, because they have abandoned nuclear power. To help them out the UK is holding on to it, but at a price.

For large but undisclosed sums of money, the ownership of this unwanted uranium and plutonium is gradually being transferred to the UK. Negotiations are still going on with Japan to transfer to UK ownership more than two tons of its reprocessed plutonium that would otherwise have to be returned with no end use.

This complex situation is further muddled by the fact that the UK already has another much older reprocessing plant, in operation since 1952. This still dissolves fuel from even older and long-closed British Magnox reactors. The first few of these power stations were built in the 1950s to make plutonium for the UK’s nuclear weapons, and then more were erected, mainly to generate electricity for the grid. The Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield is also due to close in the next two years.

Permanent armed guard

The result of all this reprocessing is a staggering store of 140 tons of plutonium, enough to power 30 never-to-be-built fast breeder reactors or to provide material to make thousands of nuclear missiles. The UK government has had frequent reviews but as yet has no policy on how to deal with the stockpile, which has to be constantly guarded by armed police to prevent terrorist attacks.

Perhaps even more incredible is the fact there are more than 100,000 tons of uranium in store across the UK, again with no end use in sight. This consists mainly of waste, depleted uranium left over from making fuel, and uranium from spent fuel left over after reprocessing.

An irony of the whole THORP saga, considering the current frosty relationship between the UK and President Vladimir Putin, is that one beneficiary of reprocessing was Russia. The Russians have a plant capable of re-enriching the uranium recovered from THORP and turning it back into fuel for nuclear reactors.

Taking advantage of this facility, which is not not available in the UK, one of THORP’s overseas customers, believed to be Germany, sent 1,000 tons of its recovered uranium from Britain to Russia over a period of five years to be turned back into fuel.

Rivalling Disneyland

So at least one customer managed to recycle some of THORP’s output. But what will happen to the remaining 9,000 tons of uranium produced by the plant from spent fuel and now stored remains a mystery.

Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, who opposed the building of the plant and has monitored its fortunes ever since, summed up: “The plant should never have been built in the first place, has never worked as planned and has left a legacy stockpile of uranium and plutonium that no-one knows what to do with.”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is currently sponsoring an art exhibition to celebrate THORP’s achievements. Its website says: “Thorp’s contribution to the global nuclear industry is a source of great pride for the communities of West Cumbria.

“It was the second reprocessing plant built at Sellafield and, at the time, was one of the largest and most complex construction projects in Europe, rivalled only by the Channel Tunnel and Disneyland Paris.” − Climate News Network

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

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro puts Amazon at risk

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

Geoengineering is no closer to working

Humans cannot expect a safer, cooler world from geoengineering. The only sure way to slow dangerous global warming and climate change is to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

LONDON, 30 October, 2018 – Scientists have established a strategic error in one version of the climate change debate: they still say geoengineering is no guarantee of a cooler world.

There is no practical technology available to cool the Earth, they say – except the obvious one of ceasing to stoke the fires with fossil fuels.

One new study looks at all the tested and yet-to-be-explored mechanisms for either lowering global temperatures by reducing sunlight, or by harnessing new and old ways to capture the extra carbon dioxide released by two centuries of industrial growth.

And, the authors report, the sure way to reduce the dangers of global warming and keep the planetary temperature increase to 2°C or lower by 2100 is to switch to wind and solar energy sources and drastically cut fossil fuel emissions.

A second, separate study looks closely at an often-proposed form of geoengineering – the injection of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to intercept sunlight and shade the planet – and delivers a cautious verdict.

“None of the proposed technologies can realistically be implemented on a global scale in the next few decades”

Yes, it might reduce planetary surface warming. But the same technology could lead to continued ocean warming and ever-faster loss of the ice caps.

Geoengineering – the technological fix that would permit humans to go on burning coal, oil and natural gas – has been repeatedly dismissed as an answer by successive teams of researchers: either the outcome is uncertain, or the consequences potentially hazardous or politically dangerous.

European climate scientists report in the journal Nature Communications that they looked at the goals of the Paris Agreement – in which 195 nations in Paris in 2015 vowed to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C and if possible 1.5°C above the average for most of recorded human history – and came to a simple answer: no proposed technological solution could make much difference to global warming, without also the impact of drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Plans to sow the soil with biochar as a form of carbon storage were probably impractical on any scale. Massive planting of trees to draw down carbon from the atmosphere might not work as planned. The addition of nutrients to spur phytoplankton blooms in the oceans would disrupt natural nutrient cycles and might increase the emissions of another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. Plans to capture carbon directly from the air could be ferociously expensive – because humans released 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels in 2017.

No significant contribution

“None of the proposed technologies can realistically be implemented on a global scale in the next few decades. In other words, we can’t rely on these technologies to make any significant contribution to holding the average temperature increase under the 2°C limit, much less the 1.5°C limit”, said Mark Lawrence, scientific director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, who led the research.

And scientists at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado took a close look at perhaps the most-studied and much-disputed proposal to engineer the climate: the injection of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to reduce incoming radiation.

This is in one sense nature’s way to cool down the planet a little: it happened, for instance, after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 hurled enough ash into the stratosphere to lower planetary temperatures by 0.5°C for about two years.

And, the scientists report in Nature Geoscience, one version of the proposal could be made to work, and computer modelling predicted that it would minimise changes in the planetary surface temperature.

Seas to rise

But it would also accelerate the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – a powerful force at work in the ocean – and lead to continued warming of the deep, and of the polar oceans.

So the ice caps would go on melting, and sea levels would rise. There would be unpredictable changes in the Indian, South American and African rainy seasons and in hurricane activity.

“Considerable uncertainty therefore surrounds the potential impacts of such shifts, and the relative magnitude of such impacts to those where geoengineering is not implemented”, they write.

They say their study highlights the need to better understand the risks of such actions, along with the sheer complexity of the planetary climate machine and “the need to better develop our understanding of the climate system before the character of a geoengineered climate can be estimated with confidence.” – Climate News Network

Humans cannot expect a safer, cooler world from geoengineering. The only sure way to slow dangerous global warming and climate change is to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

LONDON, 30 October, 2018 – Scientists have established a strategic error in one version of the climate change debate: they still say geoengineering is no guarantee of a cooler world.

There is no practical technology available to cool the Earth, they say – except the obvious one of ceasing to stoke the fires with fossil fuels.

One new study looks at all the tested and yet-to-be-explored mechanisms for either lowering global temperatures by reducing sunlight, or by harnessing new and old ways to capture the extra carbon dioxide released by two centuries of industrial growth.

And, the authors report, the sure way to reduce the dangers of global warming and keep the planetary temperature increase to 2°C or lower by 2100 is to switch to wind and solar energy sources and drastically cut fossil fuel emissions.

A second, separate study looks closely at an often-proposed form of geoengineering – the injection of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to intercept sunlight and shade the planet – and delivers a cautious verdict.

“None of the proposed technologies can realistically be implemented on a global scale in the next few decades”

Yes, it might reduce planetary surface warming. But the same technology could lead to continued ocean warming and ever-faster loss of the ice caps.

Geoengineering – the technological fix that would permit humans to go on burning coal, oil and natural gas – has been repeatedly dismissed as an answer by successive teams of researchers: either the outcome is uncertain, or the consequences potentially hazardous or politically dangerous.

European climate scientists report in the journal Nature Communications that they looked at the goals of the Paris Agreement – in which 195 nations in Paris in 2015 vowed to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C and if possible 1.5°C above the average for most of recorded human history – and came to a simple answer: no proposed technological solution could make much difference to global warming, without also the impact of drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Plans to sow the soil with biochar as a form of carbon storage were probably impractical on any scale. Massive planting of trees to draw down carbon from the atmosphere might not work as planned. The addition of nutrients to spur phytoplankton blooms in the oceans would disrupt natural nutrient cycles and might increase the emissions of another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. Plans to capture carbon directly from the air could be ferociously expensive – because humans released 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels in 2017.

No significant contribution

“None of the proposed technologies can realistically be implemented on a global scale in the next few decades. In other words, we can’t rely on these technologies to make any significant contribution to holding the average temperature increase under the 2°C limit, much less the 1.5°C limit”, said Mark Lawrence, scientific director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, who led the research.

And scientists at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado took a close look at perhaps the most-studied and much-disputed proposal to engineer the climate: the injection of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to reduce incoming radiation.

This is in one sense nature’s way to cool down the planet a little: it happened, for instance, after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 hurled enough ash into the stratosphere to lower planetary temperatures by 0.5°C for about two years.

And, the scientists report in Nature Geoscience, one version of the proposal could be made to work, and computer modelling predicted that it would minimise changes in the planetary surface temperature.

Seas to rise

But it would also accelerate the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – a powerful force at work in the ocean – and lead to continued warming of the deep, and of the polar oceans.

So the ice caps would go on melting, and sea levels would rise. There would be unpredictable changes in the Indian, South American and African rainy seasons and in hurricane activity.

“Considerable uncertainty therefore surrounds the potential impacts of such shifts, and the relative magnitude of such impacts to those where geoengineering is not implemented”, they write.

They say their study highlights the need to better understand the risks of such actions, along with the sheer complexity of the planetary climate machine and “the need to better develop our understanding of the climate system before the character of a geoengineered climate can be estimated with confidence.” – Climate News Network

China’s action on air quality is saving lives

air quality

Emissions control policies in China are rapidly proving effective in improving air quality and helping to increase life expectancy.

LONDON, 22 October, 2018 − Air quality in China has substantially improved over the last three years with a 20% reduction in small particulates, the most dangerous form of pollution that has been causing more than one million deaths a year.

The figures shows that Chinese government policies designed to improve air quality are working, and that life expectancy in the country will increase as a result.

The news is also good for climate change because the same policies mean less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer greenhouse gases released.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters by the University of Leeds in England, is based on air quality readings taken at 1,600 locations in China from 2015 to 2017.

Hourly assessments were made of concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and fine particles measuring less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre (µm), known as PM2.5s.

Dangerous pollutant

Concentrations of PM 2.5s − the most dangerous pollutant − fell by 7.2% a year over the three-year period, and sulphur dioxide by 10.3%.

Low-level ozone, which is produced by sunlight acting on pollution, rose by 5% per year. This increase, which would have caused some extra irritation of the lungs, may have been the result of more sunlight reaching the ground.

Study co-author Professor Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, says: “Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions have led to serious air quality issues across China.

“One of the most dangerous components of air pollution is fine particulate matter that measures less than the width of a human hair.

“These particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing serious health complications. Exposure to these particles is estimated to cause more than 1 million deaths across China each year.

“In response, the Chinese government introduced policies to reduce emissions and set ambitious targets to limit the amount of particulates in the atmosphere. This is the first detailed assessment as to whether these policies are having an impact.”

“Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions
have led to serious air quality issues across China”

Ben Silver, study lead author and post-graduate researcher at Leeds, says: “Our work shows rapid and extensive changes in air pollution right across China. In particular, it is encouraging to see that levels of fine particulate matter have fallen rapidly in the last few years.

“While more research is needed to fully assess what is driving the trends we’ve uncovered here, particularly what is causing the widespread increase in ozone concentrations, we can see that China’s emissions control policies seem to be on the right track.”

Another study, published in Environment International, says that replacing fossil fuels with renewables in China and India will add years to people’s lives.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at the effect of air pollution on the life expectancy of 2.7 billion people who live in the two countries – more than a third of the world’s population.

Air pollution is one of the largest contributors to death in both countries. China is rated as the fourth most polluted country in the world, and India is ranked fifth.

The researchers found that eliminating harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants could annually save an estimated 15 million years of life in China and 11 million years of life in India.

Highest priority

Using local data from the worst-affected regions of the two countries, the researchers could calculate annual changes to life expectancy.

They were able to narrow down the areas of highest priority, recommending upgrades to the existing power generating technologies in Shandong, Henan and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India, due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.

Chris Nielsen, executive director of the Harvard-China Project and a co-author of the paper, says: “This study shows how modelling advances and expanding monitoring networks are strengthening the scientific basis for setting environmental priorities to protect the health of ordinary Chinese and Indian citizens.

“It also drives home just how much middle-income countries could benefit by transitioning to non-fossil electricity sources as they grow.” − Climate News Network

Emissions control policies in China are rapidly proving effective in improving air quality and helping to increase life expectancy.

LONDON, 22 October, 2018 − Air quality in China has substantially improved over the last three years with a 20% reduction in small particulates, the most dangerous form of pollution that has been causing more than one million deaths a year.

The figures shows that Chinese government policies designed to improve air quality are working, and that life expectancy in the country will increase as a result.

The news is also good for climate change because the same policies mean less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer greenhouse gases released.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters by the University of Leeds in England, is based on air quality readings taken at 1,600 locations in China from 2015 to 2017.

Hourly assessments were made of concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and fine particles measuring less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre (µm), known as PM2.5s.

Dangerous pollutant

Concentrations of PM 2.5s − the most dangerous pollutant − fell by 7.2% a year over the three-year period, and sulphur dioxide by 10.3%.

Low-level ozone, which is produced by sunlight acting on pollution, rose by 5% per year. This increase, which would have caused some extra irritation of the lungs, may have been the result of more sunlight reaching the ground.

Study co-author Professor Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, says: “Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions have led to serious air quality issues across China.

“One of the most dangerous components of air pollution is fine particulate matter that measures less than the width of a human hair.

“These particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing serious health complications. Exposure to these particles is estimated to cause more than 1 million deaths across China each year.

“In response, the Chinese government introduced policies to reduce emissions and set ambitious targets to limit the amount of particulates in the atmosphere. This is the first detailed assessment as to whether these policies are having an impact.”

“Rapid economic growth and large increases in emissions
have led to serious air quality issues across China”

Ben Silver, study lead author and post-graduate researcher at Leeds, says: “Our work shows rapid and extensive changes in air pollution right across China. In particular, it is encouraging to see that levels of fine particulate matter have fallen rapidly in the last few years.

“While more research is needed to fully assess what is driving the trends we’ve uncovered here, particularly what is causing the widespread increase in ozone concentrations, we can see that China’s emissions control policies seem to be on the right track.”

Another study, published in Environment International, says that replacing fossil fuels with renewables in China and India will add years to people’s lives.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at the effect of air pollution on the life expectancy of 2.7 billion people who live in the two countries – more than a third of the world’s population.

Air pollution is one of the largest contributors to death in both countries. China is rated as the fourth most polluted country in the world, and India is ranked fifth.

The researchers found that eliminating harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants could annually save an estimated 15 million years of life in China and 11 million years of life in India.

Highest priority

Using local data from the worst-affected regions of the two countries, the researchers could calculate annual changes to life expectancy.

They were able to narrow down the areas of highest priority, recommending upgrades to the existing power generating technologies in Shandong, Henan and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India, due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.

Chris Nielsen, executive director of the Harvard-China Project and a co-author of the paper, says: “This study shows how modelling advances and expanding monitoring networks are strengthening the scientific basis for setting environmental priorities to protect the health of ordinary Chinese and Indian citizens.

“It also drives home just how much middle-income countries could benefit by transitioning to non-fossil electricity sources as they grow.” − Climate News Network

Slower climate warming is still possible

The world can achieve slower climate warming, preventing temperatures from rising by more than 1.5˚C, a global scientific panel says. But time is short.

LONDON, 8 October, 2018 – The good news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that slower climate warming is still within reach. With an enormous and united effort, it says, the world is certainly still capable of keeping global temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5˚C over historic levels (they’ve already risen by over 1˚C).

The more worrying findings in the IPCC’s report, described by one scientist as “historic”, show that the impacts of even 1.5˚C of warming are far greater than previously thought, and that the problem is far more urgent than most governments have acknowledged.

The IPCC, set up 30 years ago, assesses the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options, to provide a scientific base to help governments to decide policy.

Its conclusions are published in the Panel’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which says limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society of a sort not yet seen.

One British IPCC scientist, Jim Skea, said: “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

“Act now, because it’s almost too late! … We have to phase out CO2 emissions completely”

In one cautionary section the report warns that letting the global temperature temporarily exceed 1.5ºC would require more reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return it to below 1.5ºC by 2100. “The effectiveness of such techniques is unproven at large scale”, it says judiciously.

But the report says there is plenty of action that will help. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner of the IPCC’s Working Group II.

For instance, the report says, by 2100 global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.

The 1.5ºC limit was accepted as a goal by 195 governments in 2015 in the Paris Agreement, which committed them to work to keep temperatures “well below” the 2°C previously agreed and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The IPCC’s report has been widely welcomed. Climate Analytics is a global research organisation whose scientists have contributed widely to the literature used by the IPCC and also advise small island developing states and least developed countries on climate change. It says the IPCC has shown that it is “definitely still feasible to hold warming to that level” [1.5ºC].

Hopeful message

Bill Hare, the CEO of Climate Analytics, said: “We welcome the conclusions of this historic report, one that should give the international community not just a wake-up call, but also hope that we can avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.”

He said the report was “very clear in its confirmation that wide-ranging impacts of climate change will be much worse at 2˚C of warming than at 1.5˚C. This report shows the longer we leave it to act, the more difficult, the more expensive and the more dangerous it will be.”

The report says renewable energy must make up half of the global energy mix by 2050, and coal needs to be out of the power sector altogether by then. Carbon dioxide emissions must be halved by 2030, and reach zero by 2050.

“The advantages of early action are made stark in this report – especially regarding the sustainable development benefits, around poverty alleviation, health and access to clean energy,” said Hare.

“It is clear that governments must be preparing now to commit to much stronger 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement that need to be submitted by all governments no later than 2020, and they have to ditch coal.”

Complete CO2 phase-out

Niklas Höhne of the NewClimate Institute is an author of the IPCC ‘s Fourth and Fifth Assessment reports. He says the IPCC report sends a clear message to policymakers: “Act now, because it’s almost too late! Fulfilling the 1.5°C limit is extremely difficult, but not impossible. We have to phase out CO2 emissions completely.”

Limiting warming to 1.5 °C is technically and economically feasible and, properly implemented, it can contribute to sustainable development, he says – but only if all join forces. Almost every area of life will have to be turned upside down: how we live, eat, move around, what we consume.

Accurately, as regular readers of the Climate News Network will recognise, Professor Höhne points out that the report contains nothing new: it sums up what has already been published. But it does it starkly, in black and white..

The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007, and its Fifth (2013) both expected a probable temperature rise by 2100 of up to 4°C. Less than a year ago, one leading climatologist suggested that was too optimistic. Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said there was a 93% chance that global warming would exceed 4°C by the century’s end.

The IPCC reminds us that 2100 is really quite close. Even its mix of rigorous science with unambiguous explanation of what it will bring is familiar. We have been here before. But this report leaves us with less room than ever for doubt. – Climate News Network

The world can achieve slower climate warming, preventing temperatures from rising by more than 1.5˚C, a global scientific panel says. But time is short.

LONDON, 8 October, 2018 – The good news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that slower climate warming is still within reach. With an enormous and united effort, it says, the world is certainly still capable of keeping global temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5˚C over historic levels (they’ve already risen by over 1˚C).

The more worrying findings in the IPCC’s report, described by one scientist as “historic”, show that the impacts of even 1.5˚C of warming are far greater than previously thought, and that the problem is far more urgent than most governments have acknowledged.

The IPCC, set up 30 years ago, assesses the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options, to provide a scientific base to help governments to decide policy.

Its conclusions are published in the Panel’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which says limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society of a sort not yet seen.

One British IPCC scientist, Jim Skea, said: “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

“Act now, because it’s almost too late! … We have to phase out CO2 emissions completely”

In one cautionary section the report warns that letting the global temperature temporarily exceed 1.5ºC would require more reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return it to below 1.5ºC by 2100. “The effectiveness of such techniques is unproven at large scale”, it says judiciously.

But the report says there is plenty of action that will help. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner of the IPCC’s Working Group II.

For instance, the report says, by 2100 global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.

The 1.5ºC limit was accepted as a goal by 195 governments in 2015 in the Paris Agreement, which committed them to work to keep temperatures “well below” the 2°C previously agreed and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The IPCC’s report has been widely welcomed. Climate Analytics is a global research organisation whose scientists have contributed widely to the literature used by the IPCC and also advise small island developing states and least developed countries on climate change. It says the IPCC has shown that it is “definitely still feasible to hold warming to that level” [1.5ºC].

Hopeful message

Bill Hare, the CEO of Climate Analytics, said: “We welcome the conclusions of this historic report, one that should give the international community not just a wake-up call, but also hope that we can avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.”

He said the report was “very clear in its confirmation that wide-ranging impacts of climate change will be much worse at 2˚C of warming than at 1.5˚C. This report shows the longer we leave it to act, the more difficult, the more expensive and the more dangerous it will be.”

The report says renewable energy must make up half of the global energy mix by 2050, and coal needs to be out of the power sector altogether by then. Carbon dioxide emissions must be halved by 2030, and reach zero by 2050.

“The advantages of early action are made stark in this report – especially regarding the sustainable development benefits, around poverty alleviation, health and access to clean energy,” said Hare.

“It is clear that governments must be preparing now to commit to much stronger 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement that need to be submitted by all governments no later than 2020, and they have to ditch coal.”

Complete CO2 phase-out

Niklas Höhne of the NewClimate Institute is an author of the IPCC ‘s Fourth and Fifth Assessment reports. He says the IPCC report sends a clear message to policymakers: “Act now, because it’s almost too late! Fulfilling the 1.5°C limit is extremely difficult, but not impossible. We have to phase out CO2 emissions completely.”

Limiting warming to 1.5 °C is technically and economically feasible and, properly implemented, it can contribute to sustainable development, he says – but only if all join forces. Almost every area of life will have to be turned upside down: how we live, eat, move around, what we consume.

Accurately, as regular readers of the Climate News Network will recognise, Professor Höhne points out that the report contains nothing new: it sums up what has already been published. But it does it starkly, in black and white..

The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007, and its Fifth (2013) both expected a probable temperature rise by 2100 of up to 4°C. Less than a year ago, one leading climatologist suggested that was too optimistic. Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said there was a 93% chance that global warming would exceed 4°C by the century’s end.

The IPCC reminds us that 2100 is really quite close. Even its mix of rigorous science with unambiguous explanation of what it will bring is familiar. We have been here before. But this report leaves us with less room than ever for doubt. – Climate News Network

Protecting public health shows way on climate

Tackling climate change is urgent. Can we act in time? Yes, one argument runs. What we are doing in protecting public health shows how.

LONDON, 1 October, 2018 – The world’s growing urgency in protecting public health is an encouraging example of what we can do to slow planetary warming, a new group says.

Most climate scientists – and many politicians – agree that the time left for effective action to tackle climate change is frighteningly short. A report due out on 8 October from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to say that only radical and systemic change now will avert disaster.

One of the report’s co-authors has said already that it will be “extraordinarily challenging” for the world to reach the target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and that governments are “nowhere near on track” to do so.

He urges “a real sea change” leading to “a massive, immediate transformation” of global production and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

The 1.5°C limit, agreed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, is approaching fast: world temperatures have already risen by about 1°C over their historic level.

“We’ve shown in the past that surprising changes are possible … We now know more than ever about how to create the conditions for this kind of change”

But one group of researchers argues that we are not bound to breach it: there may still be time to save the day. In a report they say efforts to alter people’s behaviour so that they address climate change seriously must learn from the great public health campaigns of the past: on smoking, drink-driving and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Their report (sub-titled “Evidence-based hope”) reviews lessons from campaigns not only for public health but for disaster awareness and equality as well. It is the first publication of the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA), a global initiative which aims to learn from rapid change to address urgent environmental problems.

It suggests that rapid change may now be more possible than ever. The authors say recent cultural shifts in diet and single-use plastics, sexism and attitudes to gender and identity are examples of accelerating change in society and culture, aided by the speed of new communication technologies and social media in spreading ideas.

The report finds that while measures focused on modifying behaviour have been sidelined in the mix of policies considered for tackling climate change, the past shows that people can change even the most ingrained and addictive behaviours.

Wider changes

Campaigns have succeeded especially when accompanied by transformations in finance, infrastructure and culture and to be effective, the report says, behavioural change campaigns must be linked to wider structural changes.

“The complexity of climate change means that to address it, we’ll need changes in areas ranging from food, to transport, manufacturing, water use, urban planning and finance. To be legitimate and effective, these need to be fair and democratic,” says Andrew Simms, the report’s lead author.

He and his colleagues say such changes are not simple to achieve. For example, cutting smoking in the UK needed legislation on age limits and workplace smoking, public awareness campaigns, taxation and information campaigns, and advertising. They say long-term support and helpful  pricing mechanisms will also be essential, even though these can never be enough on their own.

Pollution linked to climate change is already causing unprecedented concern, the report points out. In September the European Union Court of Auditors found that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 400,000 premature deaths a year across the EU. Climate, the report says, needs to be seen in the context of dementia, asthma and deaths from extreme weather.

Tipping point

“Climate now and into the future is set to be among our greatest public health challenges,” says Simms. And that is what encourages him to think that global society may be approaching a tipping point where radical change is possible.

“We’ve shown in the past that surprising changes are possible in how people behave, in smoking, driving, antibiotics, and sexual health. We now know more than ever about how to create the conditions for this kind of change.

“Past radical changes in behaviour are about inclusive cultural movements, not just government campaigns. In moving urgently to address climate change, we should ensure that the onus for change falls on those most responsible for it, and the benefits are shared by all.

“The climate is changing faster than we are”, says Simms. But we can change too. “First, we can’t imagine a situation being different. Then things change and we can’t imagine going back to how they were before.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance will be launched later in 2018. It 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.

Tackling climate change is urgent. Can we act in time? Yes, one argument runs. What we are doing in protecting public health shows how.

LONDON, 1 October, 2018 – The world’s growing urgency in protecting public health is an encouraging example of what we can do to slow planetary warming, a new group says.

Most climate scientists – and many politicians – agree that the time left for effective action to tackle climate change is frighteningly short. A report due out on 8 October from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to say that only radical and systemic change now will avert disaster.

One of the report’s co-authors has said already that it will be “extraordinarily challenging” for the world to reach the target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and that governments are “nowhere near on track” to do so.

He urges “a real sea change” leading to “a massive, immediate transformation” of global production and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

The 1.5°C limit, agreed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, is approaching fast: world temperatures have already risen by about 1°C over their historic level.

“We’ve shown in the past that surprising changes are possible … We now know more than ever about how to create the conditions for this kind of change”

But one group of researchers argues that we are not bound to breach it: there may still be time to save the day. In a report they say efforts to alter people’s behaviour so that they address climate change seriously must learn from the great public health campaigns of the past: on smoking, drink-driving and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Their report (sub-titled “Evidence-based hope”) reviews lessons from campaigns not only for public health but for disaster awareness and equality as well. It is the first publication of the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA), a global initiative which aims to learn from rapid change to address urgent environmental problems.

It suggests that rapid change may now be more possible than ever. The authors say recent cultural shifts in diet and single-use plastics, sexism and attitudes to gender and identity are examples of accelerating change in society and culture, aided by the speed of new communication technologies and social media in spreading ideas.

The report finds that while measures focused on modifying behaviour have been sidelined in the mix of policies considered for tackling climate change, the past shows that people can change even the most ingrained and addictive behaviours.

Wider changes

Campaigns have succeeded especially when accompanied by transformations in finance, infrastructure and culture and to be effective, the report says, behavioural change campaigns must be linked to wider structural changes.

“The complexity of climate change means that to address it, we’ll need changes in areas ranging from food, to transport, manufacturing, water use, urban planning and finance. To be legitimate and effective, these need to be fair and democratic,” says Andrew Simms, the report’s lead author.

He and his colleagues say such changes are not simple to achieve. For example, cutting smoking in the UK needed legislation on age limits and workplace smoking, public awareness campaigns, taxation and information campaigns, and advertising. They say long-term support and helpful  pricing mechanisms will also be essential, even though these can never be enough on their own.

Pollution linked to climate change is already causing unprecedented concern, the report points out. In September the European Union Court of Auditors found that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 400,000 premature deaths a year across the EU. Climate, the report says, needs to be seen in the context of dementia, asthma and deaths from extreme weather.

Tipping point

“Climate now and into the future is set to be among our greatest public health challenges,” says Simms. And that is what encourages him to think that global society may be approaching a tipping point where radical change is possible.

“We’ve shown in the past that surprising changes are possible in how people behave, in smoking, driving, antibiotics, and sexual health. We now know more than ever about how to create the conditions for this kind of change.

“Past radical changes in behaviour are about inclusive cultural movements, not just government campaigns. In moving urgently to address climate change, we should ensure that the onus for change falls on those most responsible for it, and the benefits are shared by all.

“The climate is changing faster than we are”, says Simms. But we can change too. “First, we can’t imagine a situation being different. Then things change and we can’t imagine going back to how they were before.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance will be launched later in 2018. It 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.