Tag Archives: UK

UK’s nuclear future hangs on electricity tax

The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an unpopular electricity tax.

LONDON, 21 January, 2020 − Pressure is mounting on the UK’s new Conservative government to rescue its nuclear programme through an electricity tax, to throw a lifeline to the ailing French nuclear giant EDF, which wants to build more huge reactors in southern England despite its fragile financial plight.

The UK government has been consulting on what amounts to a proposed nuclear tax, which would require every electricity consumer to pay a levy of up to £50 a year on their bills while the new plants are being built, saving the beleaguered French company from having to finance the project itself.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will need to weigh the disadvantages of abandoning plans to build the new reactors against the effect the new tax would have on the electoral backing of his new Conservative supporters. Many of those who voted for him in last month’s general election swept him to power by switching support from their traditional choice, the opposition Labour Party.

EDF is very keen to get an early open-ended financial commitment to fund its new station, Sizewell C on Britain’s east coast. That is planned to contain two 1,640 megawatt European Pressurised Water reactors. Critics say the longer the decision is delayed, the clearer it becomes that the reactors are too expensive and also unnecessary.

Losing support?

With renewables, particularly wind and solar, now cheap and popular, and nuclear stations always late and over budget, EDF is believed to be nervous that its own political support is ebbing away.

The electoral risks for Johnson are clear. The US version of the nuclear tax the British are proposing, called Early Cost Recovery, had American electricity customers paying up front for a nuclear station, the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina. But consumers were left with a $10 billion (£7.7bn) debt for cancelled nuclear plants, and another $13.5bn (£10.4bn) in cost over-runs, with no reactors coming online.

And the chances of Sizewell C being cancelled are high, even if its costs are guaranteed. If a paper, Financing the Hinkley Point C project, just published, is correct, EDF is already in deep financial trouble.

According to its author, Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in London, it is impossible for EDF to finance the completion of its Hinkley Point C station in the West of England unless the UK government finds a way to pay the capital cost.

“The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white. EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell”

The paper says the twin reactor power station under construction there is draining EDF’s finances so severely that it will not be able to pay the construction costs (approximately £11bn) it has yet to find.

Professor Thomas says EDF is facing financial collapse because of the priority it must give to expensive uprating of most of its 58 reactors in France in order to keep them running safely. As a result, if Hinkley Point is to be completed, it needs an open-ended financial commitment of both British and French public money.

His report says: “The sensible course is to abandon the plant now before more public money is wasted.”

Despite the fact that, as the report says, EDF is currently £37.4bn in debt without including many of its nuclear liabilities, it is still officially pressing ahead with plans not only to complete Hinkley Point C by 2025 but also to start Sizewell C construction in two years’ time.

This now seems dependent on Boris Johnson getting the British consumer to pay for it in advance.

Tax on all

Tom Burke, co-founder and chairman of the green think tank E3G, told the Climate News Network: “The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white.

“EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell. To pay for this, EDF wants him to levy a nuclear tax on every electricity consumer in the country.

“They will be forced to pay EDF long before Sizewell is actually supplying electricity, and even if they get their own electricity from green providers who reject nuclear electricity, which, despite industry claims to the contrary, is not zero carbon.

“This expensive distortion of the electricity market will be sold under the incomprehensible banner of being a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financing package to disguise the fact that it is simply a tax on voters to pay for an uneconomic source of electricity.

Little faith

“We know it is uneconomic because no-one in the banks or investment houses is willing to invest in it without such a measure, which is similar to the one the Chinese Government uses to force Chinese consumers to pay for wasteful energy mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam.”

So far the government has made no official comment on what it proposes to do, following a public consultation last autumn on the RAB. Few outsiders have much faith in the government ministry responsible, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is supposed to make the decision. It is anyway likely to be referred to the prime minister since it is so politically important.

To some the department’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power when all the evidence is that it is uneconomic is incomprehensible. However, building eight new nuclear stations remains official policy.

The department has a record of being badly wrong in its forecasts. For example, its claim that new nuclear stations were needed was founded on a prediction in 2010 that the UK would be consuming 15% more electricity by 2020. In fact demand has gone down year on year, and the country is consuming 15% less.

So by the department’s own measure new nuclear power stations are not needed. However, that has so far had no effect on policy. − Climate News Network

The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an unpopular electricity tax.

LONDON, 21 January, 2020 − Pressure is mounting on the UK’s new Conservative government to rescue its nuclear programme through an electricity tax, to throw a lifeline to the ailing French nuclear giant EDF, which wants to build more huge reactors in southern England despite its fragile financial plight.

The UK government has been consulting on what amounts to a proposed nuclear tax, which would require every electricity consumer to pay a levy of up to £50 a year on their bills while the new plants are being built, saving the beleaguered French company from having to finance the project itself.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will need to weigh the disadvantages of abandoning plans to build the new reactors against the effect the new tax would have on the electoral backing of his new Conservative supporters. Many of those who voted for him in last month’s general election swept him to power by switching support from their traditional choice, the opposition Labour Party.

EDF is very keen to get an early open-ended financial commitment to fund its new station, Sizewell C on Britain’s east coast. That is planned to contain two 1,640 megawatt European Pressurised Water reactors. Critics say the longer the decision is delayed, the clearer it becomes that the reactors are too expensive and also unnecessary.

Losing support?

With renewables, particularly wind and solar, now cheap and popular, and nuclear stations always late and over budget, EDF is believed to be nervous that its own political support is ebbing away.

The electoral risks for Johnson are clear. The US version of the nuclear tax the British are proposing, called Early Cost Recovery, had American electricity customers paying up front for a nuclear station, the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina. But consumers were left with a $10 billion (£7.7bn) debt for cancelled nuclear plants, and another $13.5bn (£10.4bn) in cost over-runs, with no reactors coming online.

And the chances of Sizewell C being cancelled are high, even if its costs are guaranteed. If a paper, Financing the Hinkley Point C project, just published, is correct, EDF is already in deep financial trouble.

According to its author, Steve Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in London, it is impossible for EDF to finance the completion of its Hinkley Point C station in the West of England unless the UK government finds a way to pay the capital cost.

“The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white. EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell”

The paper says the twin reactor power station under construction there is draining EDF’s finances so severely that it will not be able to pay the construction costs (approximately £11bn) it has yet to find.

Professor Thomas says EDF is facing financial collapse because of the priority it must give to expensive uprating of most of its 58 reactors in France in order to keep them running safely. As a result, if Hinkley Point is to be completed, it needs an open-ended financial commitment of both British and French public money.

His report says: “The sensible course is to abandon the plant now before more public money is wasted.”

Despite the fact that, as the report says, EDF is currently £37.4bn in debt without including many of its nuclear liabilities, it is still officially pressing ahead with plans not only to complete Hinkley Point C by 2025 but also to start Sizewell C construction in two years’ time.

This now seems dependent on Boris Johnson getting the British consumer to pay for it in advance.

Tax on all

Tom Burke, co-founder and chairman of the green think tank E3G, told the Climate News Network: “The prime minister is reputed to have a fondness for elephants – especially if they’re white.

“EDF is pressing him hard to support another white elephant – a new nuclear power station at Sizewell. To pay for this, EDF wants him to levy a nuclear tax on every electricity consumer in the country.

“They will be forced to pay EDF long before Sizewell is actually supplying electricity, and even if they get their own electricity from green providers who reject nuclear electricity, which, despite industry claims to the contrary, is not zero carbon.

“This expensive distortion of the electricity market will be sold under the incomprehensible banner of being a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financing package to disguise the fact that it is simply a tax on voters to pay for an uneconomic source of electricity.

Little faith

“We know it is uneconomic because no-one in the banks or investment houses is willing to invest in it without such a measure, which is similar to the one the Chinese Government uses to force Chinese consumers to pay for wasteful energy mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam.”

So far the government has made no official comment on what it proposes to do, following a public consultation last autumn on the RAB. Few outsiders have much faith in the government ministry responsible, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is supposed to make the decision. It is anyway likely to be referred to the prime minister since it is so politically important.

To some the department’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power when all the evidence is that it is uneconomic is incomprehensible. However, building eight new nuclear stations remains official policy.

The department has a record of being badly wrong in its forecasts. For example, its claim that new nuclear stations were needed was founded on a prediction in 2010 that the UK would be consuming 15% more electricity by 2020. In fact demand has gone down year on year, and the country is consuming 15% less.

So by the department’s own measure new nuclear power stations are not needed. However, that has so far had no effect on policy. − Climate News Network

Physicians press climate emergency button

If you were doubtful before, the news that British doctors are now acting to limit the climate emergency may prompt a rethink.

LONDON, 17 January, 2020 – The doctors are worried about the climate emergency. In recent days the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced it’s halting investments in climate-changing fossil fuel and mining companies.

The RCP, the British doctors’ professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, which has funds in global stock markets amounting to nearly £50 million (US$65m), says it will start divesting immediately from the worst-polluting oil and gas companies, which are mainly in the US.

As part of a phased disinvestment policy the RCP – the oldest medical college in England, with more than 35,000 members – says that within the next three years all investments in fossil fuel companies
not aligned with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change
will be withdrawn.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”, says Dr Will Stableforth of the RCP.

“As physicians we have a duty to speak out against this industry and hold it accountable for the damage it is doing to human health.”

Gathering impetus

The RCP’s action forms part of a fast-growing worldwide movement involved in withdrawing investment funds from the fossil fuel industry. A growing number of health organisations – both in the UK and elsewhere – has already announced similar divestment moves.

According to the campaign group +350, investment and pension funds managing more than $11 trillion round the globe have committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies.

BlackRock, the world’s largest fund investment management company with nearly $7tn assets under its control, has announced it will withdraw funds from firms sourcing 25% or more of revenues on thermal coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Larry Fink, BlackRock’s head, says investors are becoming increasingly aware of climate change in assessing various companies’ long-term prospects.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”

“Awareness is rapidly changing and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance”, Fink told fund managers and chief executives this week.

“In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

The banking and insurance sectors are also being forced to confront the dangers posed by climate change. The Bank of England recently became the world’s first central bank to introduce a climate change “stress test”,  requiring the UK’s banks and insurance companies to evaluate their exposure to the risks of a warming world.

Despite the moves on divestment and tighter finance controls on climate change-related investments, investors – along with the fossil fuel companies themselves – continue to pump millions into various projects around the world.

BlackRock and other major fund management groups talk of their commitment to sustainability and helping in the fight against climate change, but remain leading fossil fuel investors.

Greenwash continues

Although investments in the coal industry have declined, multi-million dollar investments in new projects are still being made, particularly in Asia.

Carbon Tracker, an independent financial think tank, estimates that between January 2018 and September last year oil and gas companies approved $50bn worth of new projects.

“Gas and mining companies have been furiously trying to “greenwash” their images and promote false solutions to the climate crisis”, says Dr Deidre Duff of the UK-based Medact health charity.

“But in reality, these companies are devastating human and planetary health and exacerbating health inequalities around the world.” – Climate News Network

If you were doubtful before, the news that British doctors are now acting to limit the climate emergency may prompt a rethink.

LONDON, 17 January, 2020 – The doctors are worried about the climate emergency. In recent days the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced it’s halting investments in climate-changing fossil fuel and mining companies.

The RCP, the British doctors’ professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, which has funds in global stock markets amounting to nearly £50 million (US$65m), says it will start divesting immediately from the worst-polluting oil and gas companies, which are mainly in the US.

As part of a phased disinvestment policy the RCP – the oldest medical college in England, with more than 35,000 members – says that within the next three years all investments in fossil fuel companies
not aligned with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change
will be withdrawn.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”, says Dr Will Stableforth of the RCP.

“As physicians we have a duty to speak out against this industry and hold it accountable for the damage it is doing to human health.”

Gathering impetus

The RCP’s action forms part of a fast-growing worldwide movement involved in withdrawing investment funds from the fossil fuel industry. A growing number of health organisations – both in the UK and elsewhere – has already announced similar divestment moves.

According to the campaign group +350, investment and pension funds managing more than $11 trillion round the globe have committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies.

BlackRock, the world’s largest fund investment management company with nearly $7tn assets under its control, has announced it will withdraw funds from firms sourcing 25% or more of revenues on thermal coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Larry Fink, BlackRock’s head, says investors are becoming increasingly aware of climate change in assessing various companies’ long-term prospects.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”

“Awareness is rapidly changing and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance”, Fink told fund managers and chief executives this week.

“In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

The banking and insurance sectors are also being forced to confront the dangers posed by climate change. The Bank of England recently became the world’s first central bank to introduce a climate change “stress test”,  requiring the UK’s banks and insurance companies to evaluate their exposure to the risks of a warming world.

Despite the moves on divestment and tighter finance controls on climate change-related investments, investors – along with the fossil fuel companies themselves – continue to pump millions into various projects around the world.

BlackRock and other major fund management groups talk of their commitment to sustainability and helping in the fight against climate change, but remain leading fossil fuel investors.

Greenwash continues

Although investments in the coal industry have declined, multi-million dollar investments in new projects are still being made, particularly in Asia.

Carbon Tracker, an independent financial think tank, estimates that between January 2018 and September last year oil and gas companies approved $50bn worth of new projects.

“Gas and mining companies have been furiously trying to “greenwash” their images and promote false solutions to the climate crisis”, says Dr Deidre Duff of the UK-based Medact health charity.

“But in reality, these companies are devastating human and planetary health and exacerbating health inequalities around the world.” – Climate News Network

Nuclear power ‘cannot rival renewable energy’

Far from tackling climate change, nuclear power is an expensive distraction whose safety is threatened by wildfires and floods, experts say.

LONDON, 14 January, 2020 – Nuclear power is in terminal decline worldwide and will never make a serious contribution to tackling climate change, a group of energy experts argues.

Meeting recently in London at Chatham House, the UK’s Royal Institution of International Affairs, they agreed that despite continued enthusiasm from the industry, and from some politicians, the number of nuclear power stations under construction worldwide would not be enough to replace those closing down.

The industry was disappearing, they concluded, while the wind and solar sectors were powering ahead.

The group met to discuss the updated World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019, which concluded that money spent on building and running nuclear power stations was diverting cash away from much better ways of tackling climate change.

Money used to improve energy efficiency saved four times as much carbon as that spent on nuclear power; wind saved three times as much, and solar double.

“Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight”

Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, told the meeting: “The fact is that nuclear power is in slow motion commercial collapse around the world. The idea that a new generation of small modular reactors would be built to replace them is not going to happen; it is just a distraction away from a climate solution.”

On nuclear and climate change, the status report says that new nuclear plants take from five to 17 years longer to build than utility-scale solar or on-shore wind power.

“Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow. It meets no technical or operational need that these low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper, and faster,” the report says.

There was considerable concern at the meeting about the possible danger to nuclear plants caused by climate change. Mycle Schneider, the report’s lead author, said the reason why reactors were built near or on coasts or close to large rivers or estuaries was because they needed large quantities of water to operate. This made them very vulnerable to both sea and coastal flooding, and particularly to future sea level rise.

He was also concerned about the integrity of spent fuel storage ponds that needed a constant electricity supply to prevent the fuel overheating. For example, large wildfires posed a risk to electricity supplies to nuclear plants that were often in isolated locations.

Cost pressure

Loss of coolant because of power cuts could also be a serious risk as climate change worsened over the 60-year planned lifetime of a reactor. However, he did not believe that even the reactors currently under construction would ever be operated for that long for commercial reasons.

“The fact is that the electricity from new reactors is going to be at least three times more expensive than that from renewables and this will alarm consumers. Governments will be under pressure to prevent consumers’ bills being far higher than they need to be.

“I cannot see even the newest reactors lasting more than a decade or so in a competitive market at the prices they will have to charge. Nuclear power will become a stranded asset,” Schneider said.

The report shows that only 31 countries out of 193 UN members have nuclear power plants, and of these nine either have plans to phase out nuclear power, or else no new-build plans or extension policies. Eleven countries with operating plants are currently building new ones, while another eleven have no active construction going on.

Only four countries – Bangladesh, Belarus, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – are building reactors for the first time. In the last 12 months only Russia and China have started producing electricity from new reactors – seven in China and two in Russia.

Unable to compete

One of the “mysteries” the meeting discussed was the fact that some governments, notably the UK, continued to back nuclear power despite all the evidence that it was uneconomic and could not compete with renewables.

Allan Jones, chairman of the International Energy Advisory Council, said one of the myths peddled was that nuclear was needed for “baseload” power because renewables were available only intermittently.

Since a number of countries now produced more than 50% of their power from renewables, and others even 100% (or very close) while not experiencing power cuts, this showed the claim was untrue.

In his opinion, having large inflexible nuclear stations that could not be switched off was a serious handicap in a modern grid system where renewables could at times produce all the energy needed at much lower cost.

Amory Lovins said the UK’s approach appeared to be dominated by “nuclear ideology.” It was driven by settled policy and beliefs, and facts had no connection to reality. “Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight,” he concluded. – Climate News Network

Far from tackling climate change, nuclear power is an expensive distraction whose safety is threatened by wildfires and floods, experts say.

LONDON, 14 January, 2020 – Nuclear power is in terminal decline worldwide and will never make a serious contribution to tackling climate change, a group of energy experts argues.

Meeting recently in London at Chatham House, the UK’s Royal Institution of International Affairs, they agreed that despite continued enthusiasm from the industry, and from some politicians, the number of nuclear power stations under construction worldwide would not be enough to replace those closing down.

The industry was disappearing, they concluded, while the wind and solar sectors were powering ahead.

The group met to discuss the updated World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019, which concluded that money spent on building and running nuclear power stations was diverting cash away from much better ways of tackling climate change.

Money used to improve energy efficiency saved four times as much carbon as that spent on nuclear power; wind saved three times as much, and solar double.

“Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight”

Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, told the meeting: “The fact is that nuclear power is in slow motion commercial collapse around the world. The idea that a new generation of small modular reactors would be built to replace them is not going to happen; it is just a distraction away from a climate solution.”

On nuclear and climate change, the status report says that new nuclear plants take from five to 17 years longer to build than utility-scale solar or on-shore wind power.

“Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow. It meets no technical or operational need that these low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper, and faster,” the report says.

There was considerable concern at the meeting about the possible danger to nuclear plants caused by climate change. Mycle Schneider, the report’s lead author, said the reason why reactors were built near or on coasts or close to large rivers or estuaries was because they needed large quantities of water to operate. This made them very vulnerable to both sea and coastal flooding, and particularly to future sea level rise.

He was also concerned about the integrity of spent fuel storage ponds that needed a constant electricity supply to prevent the fuel overheating. For example, large wildfires posed a risk to electricity supplies to nuclear plants that were often in isolated locations.

Cost pressure

Loss of coolant because of power cuts could also be a serious risk as climate change worsened over the 60-year planned lifetime of a reactor. However, he did not believe that even the reactors currently under construction would ever be operated for that long for commercial reasons.

“The fact is that the electricity from new reactors is going to be at least three times more expensive than that from renewables and this will alarm consumers. Governments will be under pressure to prevent consumers’ bills being far higher than they need to be.

“I cannot see even the newest reactors lasting more than a decade or so in a competitive market at the prices they will have to charge. Nuclear power will become a stranded asset,” Schneider said.

The report shows that only 31 countries out of 193 UN members have nuclear power plants, and of these nine either have plans to phase out nuclear power, or else no new-build plans or extension policies. Eleven countries with operating plants are currently building new ones, while another eleven have no active construction going on.

Only four countries – Bangladesh, Belarus, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – are building reactors for the first time. In the last 12 months only Russia and China have started producing electricity from new reactors – seven in China and two in Russia.

Unable to compete

One of the “mysteries” the meeting discussed was the fact that some governments, notably the UK, continued to back nuclear power despite all the evidence that it was uneconomic and could not compete with renewables.

Allan Jones, chairman of the International Energy Advisory Council, said one of the myths peddled was that nuclear was needed for “baseload” power because renewables were available only intermittently.

Since a number of countries now produced more than 50% of their power from renewables, and others even 100% (or very close) while not experiencing power cuts, this showed the claim was untrue.

In his opinion, having large inflexible nuclear stations that could not be switched off was a serious handicap in a modern grid system where renewables could at times produce all the energy needed at much lower cost.

Amory Lovins said the UK’s approach appeared to be dominated by “nuclear ideology.” It was driven by settled policy and beliefs, and facts had no connection to reality. “Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight,” he concluded. – Climate News Network

Bank of England unveils climate stress test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worthless assets possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worthless assets possible

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

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

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

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

Greenland ice melt feeds glacier instability

In a runaway effect, the Greenland ice melt lets surface water gurgle down to the bedrock – and at unexpected speeds.

LONDON, 6 December, 2019 – British scientists have caught a huge ice sheet in the act of draining away, with significant effects on its surroundings: they have seen what happens to the water created by the Greenland ice melt.

For the first time – and with help from drones – researchers have witnessed water flowing at a million cubic metres an hour from the surface of ice sheets through caverns in the ice and down to the glacial bedrock.

The study does not change the big picture of increasingly rapid melt as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, and ever more of the northern hemisphere’s biggest ice cap flows downhill to raise global sea levels.

But it does throw light on the mechanisms by which glaciers turn to sea water, and it does suggest that many estimates of melt rate so far might prove to be under-estimates.

Greenland is the planet’s second largest ice sheet and the biggest single contributor to global sea level rise. Researchers have been alarmed for years about the increasing rate of summer melt and the accelerating speed of what had once been imperceptible glacial flows.

“These glaciers are already moving quite fast, so the effect of the lakes may not appear as dramatic as on slower-moving glaciers elsewhere, but the overall effect is in fact very significant”

And researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Aberystwyth and Lancaster have now been able to put a measure on water surface loss.

They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used custom-built aerial drones and complex computer modelling to work out how fractures form below vast lakes of meltwater that collect on the surface of the Store Glacier on the island’s northwestern sheet.

They watched splits form in the glacial ice, to suddenly open up an escape route for the supraglacial pool. As they watched, such fractures became caverns called moulins, down which in one case five million cubic metres of water – think of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools – flowed in just five hours.

The ice of the glacier is typically a kilometre thick, so the scientists may have observed the planet’s longest waterfall. And as the ice drained away to the bottom of the ice sheet, it may have served as a lubricant to speed up glacier flow over the bedrock.

The ice sheet lifted by half a metre, presumably in response to the sub-surface flood, and four kilometres downstream glacial speed picked up from a speed of two metres to more than five metres a day.

Daily billion-tonne loss

“It’s possible we’ve under-estimated the effects of these glaciers on the overall instability of the Greenland ice sheet. It’s a rare thing to observe these fast-draining lakes – we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” said Tom Chudley, of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, one of the authors.

Until now, scientists have been able to estimate glacial flow and surface melt only by satellite studies – which reveal little of the detail – or direct on-the-ground measurement under conditions that are difficult even in good weather.

But even with these constraints researchers have been able to calculate the shrinkage of the Greenland ice sheet at the rate of a billion tonnes a day, as temperatures rise in response to ever-increasing use of fossil fuels around the globe.

The next step is to deploy drilling equipment for a closer look at how the water gets below the glacier to reach the bedrock, and calculate how the ice sheet may change not just over hours but over the coming decades as well.

“These glaciers are already moving quite fast, so the effect of the lakes may not appear as dramatic as on slower-moving glaciers elsewhere,” said Poul Christofferson, who led the project, “but the overall effect is in fact very significant.” – Climate News Network

In a runaway effect, the Greenland ice melt lets surface water gurgle down to the bedrock – and at unexpected speeds.

LONDON, 6 December, 2019 – British scientists have caught a huge ice sheet in the act of draining away, with significant effects on its surroundings: they have seen what happens to the water created by the Greenland ice melt.

For the first time – and with help from drones – researchers have witnessed water flowing at a million cubic metres an hour from the surface of ice sheets through caverns in the ice and down to the glacial bedrock.

The study does not change the big picture of increasingly rapid melt as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, and ever more of the northern hemisphere’s biggest ice cap flows downhill to raise global sea levels.

But it does throw light on the mechanisms by which glaciers turn to sea water, and it does suggest that many estimates of melt rate so far might prove to be under-estimates.

Greenland is the planet’s second largest ice sheet and the biggest single contributor to global sea level rise. Researchers have been alarmed for years about the increasing rate of summer melt and the accelerating speed of what had once been imperceptible glacial flows.

“These glaciers are already moving quite fast, so the effect of the lakes may not appear as dramatic as on slower-moving glaciers elsewhere, but the overall effect is in fact very significant”

And researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Aberystwyth and Lancaster have now been able to put a measure on water surface loss.

They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used custom-built aerial drones and complex computer modelling to work out how fractures form below vast lakes of meltwater that collect on the surface of the Store Glacier on the island’s northwestern sheet.

They watched splits form in the glacial ice, to suddenly open up an escape route for the supraglacial pool. As they watched, such fractures became caverns called moulins, down which in one case five million cubic metres of water – think of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools – flowed in just five hours.

The ice of the glacier is typically a kilometre thick, so the scientists may have observed the planet’s longest waterfall. And as the ice drained away to the bottom of the ice sheet, it may have served as a lubricant to speed up glacier flow over the bedrock.

The ice sheet lifted by half a metre, presumably in response to the sub-surface flood, and four kilometres downstream glacial speed picked up from a speed of two metres to more than five metres a day.

Daily billion-tonne loss

“It’s possible we’ve under-estimated the effects of these glaciers on the overall instability of the Greenland ice sheet. It’s a rare thing to observe these fast-draining lakes – we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” said Tom Chudley, of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, one of the authors.

Until now, scientists have been able to estimate glacial flow and surface melt only by satellite studies – which reveal little of the detail – or direct on-the-ground measurement under conditions that are difficult even in good weather.

But even with these constraints researchers have been able to calculate the shrinkage of the Greenland ice sheet at the rate of a billion tonnes a day, as temperatures rise in response to ever-increasing use of fossil fuels around the globe.

The next step is to deploy drilling equipment for a closer look at how the water gets below the glacier to reach the bedrock, and calculate how the ice sheet may change not just over hours but over the coming decades as well.

“These glaciers are already moving quite fast, so the effect of the lakes may not appear as dramatic as on slower-moving glaciers elsewhere,” said Poul Christofferson, who led the project, “but the overall effect is in fact very significant.” – Climate News Network

Do your maths and tackle the climate crisis

So you want to be a climate scientist? For a start, you’ll need good maths. And Oxford educators have found a way to help you.

OXFORD, 29 November, 2019 – Who would have thought it, that everything which goes under the name of maths is a crucial part of the armoury of climate scientists? But, as the scientists themselves know well, it is, and anyone who wants to make an effective contribution to tackling the global climate emergency must be a competent mathematician.

That’s a lesson not lost on the movement that gave life to the idea of regular school climate strikes, Fridays For Future, which today embarks on another round of action aimed at stirring older generations into tackling the global crisis. It has already earned the backing of senior scientists, and now teachers as well are supporting its activities.

If you search online to find the qualifications you need to become a doctor, you’ll find thousands of answers. But ask the same question for solving climate change – for many people the defining issue of our time – and you may search in vain.

Enter MathsforPlanetEarth.org, part of a project on climate engagement with young people and schools being undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK.

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students. Our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job”

The project began with a pop-up “Ask a climate scientist” stand at the student marches, where ECI scientists quickly realised they needed a more strategic offer. They are now working with the university’s education department, with local teachers and with app developers, both “on curriculum” and extra-curriculum. MathsforPlanetEarth.org is their first output and is working to get climate change into A-level maths.

“We’ve started with maths”, says Myles Allen, Oxford’s professor of geosystem science and leader of climateprediction.net, the world’s largest climate forecasting experiment. “There are a lot of numbers and calculations in the weather, temperature and climate models, and around solutions like renewable energy and adaptations like where and how high to build flood defences. We need more brainy mathematicians.”

MathsforPlanetEarth.org has begun deliberately with exam questions. A team of local students – school and university – have worked with scientists at ECI, crafting a collection of climate-related problems based on the A-level and GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) syllabuses (see here for examples). Their problems closely follow the format of the more traditional topics usually associated with school maths.

Irritating topics

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students”, Professor Allen told the Climate News Network. “They have extraordinary energy. As educators, our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job.

“Many climate strikers seem taken aback when I urge them to keep their maths going. And when we looked at the examples of maths questions they are given at school, it’s not surprising: almost all of them seemed to be about cars or money, two topics almost guaranteed to irritate a concerned climate-striker.

“So we put this website together to provide teachers with interesting problems in climate change and sustainability, using exactly the techniques they are teaching in GCSE and A-levels anyway. For now, we just have to explain to kids how much of what they learn is relevant to climate change already.”

What MathsforPlanetEarth.org can do in the UK could work well elsewhere too. Dr Kim Polgreen, founder of a new social enterprise, Leadership in Global Change (LIGC), has been collaborating with ECI, hosting sustainability summer schools for 15-18 year olds from across the world, and from local schools in Oxford.

Impatient ambition

She is working to get ECI’s project into schools through teacher training organisations and teacher groups. “While teachers like the idea, they are challenged by needing some confidence in the science that lies behind the questions”, she says.

She is one of over 800 international graduates from ECI, now working in more than 80 countries, who could be a good way to tell teachers about the project worldwide. She also sees maths as just a start: “I am hopeful that we can expand the concept to texts used in English, to more case studies in geography and the sciences. This approach can make the curriculum across all subjects more real and meaningful for today’s teenagers.”

Professor Allen agrees: “Climate change – and the environment – are today’s pioneering topics for young people’s education. We must be ambitious and impatient about creating stimulating material across all subjects, equipping our children with the skills they need.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How would you make MathsforPlanetEarth.org better?

ECI would like to hear from teachers, students and others about what you think of MathsforPlanetEarth.org – and how you would improve and add to it.
Please send your comments to: mathsforplanetearth@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Thank you!

So you want to be a climate scientist? For a start, you’ll need good maths. And Oxford educators have found a way to help you.

OXFORD, 29 November, 2019 – Who would have thought it, that everything which goes under the name of maths is a crucial part of the armoury of climate scientists? But, as the scientists themselves know well, it is, and anyone who wants to make an effective contribution to tackling the global climate emergency must be a competent mathematician.

That’s a lesson not lost on the movement that gave life to the idea of regular school climate strikes, Fridays For Future, which today embarks on another round of action aimed at stirring older generations into tackling the global crisis. It has already earned the backing of senior scientists, and now teachers as well are supporting its activities.

If you search online to find the qualifications you need to become a doctor, you’ll find thousands of answers. But ask the same question for solving climate change – for many people the defining issue of our time – and you may search in vain.

Enter MathsforPlanetEarth.org, part of a project on climate engagement with young people and schools being undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK.

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students. Our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job”

The project began with a pop-up “Ask a climate scientist” stand at the student marches, where ECI scientists quickly realised they needed a more strategic offer. They are now working with the university’s education department, with local teachers and with app developers, both “on curriculum” and extra-curriculum. MathsforPlanetEarth.org is their first output and is working to get climate change into A-level maths.

“We’ve started with maths”, says Myles Allen, Oxford’s professor of geosystem science and leader of climateprediction.net, the world’s largest climate forecasting experiment. “There are a lot of numbers and calculations in the weather, temperature and climate models, and around solutions like renewable energy and adaptations like where and how high to build flood defences. We need more brainy mathematicians.”

MathsforPlanetEarth.org has begun deliberately with exam questions. A team of local students – school and university – have worked with scientists at ECI, crafting a collection of climate-related problems based on the A-level and GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) syllabuses (see here for examples). Their problems closely follow the format of the more traditional topics usually associated with school maths.

Irritating topics

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students”, Professor Allen told the Climate News Network. “They have extraordinary energy. As educators, our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job.

“Many climate strikers seem taken aback when I urge them to keep their maths going. And when we looked at the examples of maths questions they are given at school, it’s not surprising: almost all of them seemed to be about cars or money, two topics almost guaranteed to irritate a concerned climate-striker.

“So we put this website together to provide teachers with interesting problems in climate change and sustainability, using exactly the techniques they are teaching in GCSE and A-levels anyway. For now, we just have to explain to kids how much of what they learn is relevant to climate change already.”

What MathsforPlanetEarth.org can do in the UK could work well elsewhere too. Dr Kim Polgreen, founder of a new social enterprise, Leadership in Global Change (LIGC), has been collaborating with ECI, hosting sustainability summer schools for 15-18 year olds from across the world, and from local schools in Oxford.

Impatient ambition

She is working to get ECI’s project into schools through teacher training organisations and teacher groups. “While teachers like the idea, they are challenged by needing some confidence in the science that lies behind the questions”, she says.

She is one of over 800 international graduates from ECI, now working in more than 80 countries, who could be a good way to tell teachers about the project worldwide. She also sees maths as just a start: “I am hopeful that we can expand the concept to texts used in English, to more case studies in geography and the sciences. This approach can make the curriculum across all subjects more real and meaningful for today’s teenagers.”

Professor Allen agrees: “Climate change – and the environment – are today’s pioneering topics for young people’s education. We must be ambitious and impatient about creating stimulating material across all subjects, equipping our children with the skills they need.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How would you make MathsforPlanetEarth.org better?

ECI would like to hear from teachers, students and others about what you think of MathsforPlanetEarth.org – and how you would improve and add to it.
Please send your comments to: mathsforplanetearth@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Thank you!

Our children await a radioactive legacy

We are leaving our children a radioactive legacy, the lethal waste that current governments still cannot make safe.

LONDON, 26 November, 2019 − After 70 years of building and operating nuclear power plants across the world, governments are bequeathing to future generations a radioactive legacy.

They remain unable to deal with the huge quantities of highly radioactive spent fuel they produce, says a group of independent experts − and as more reactors are reaching the end of their lives, the situation is worsening fast.

That is the conclusion of the first World Nuclear Waste Report (WNWR), produced by a group which says there are ever-growing challenges in waste management and no sustainable long-term solutions. They include two British academics: the economist Professor Gordon MacKerron, of the University of Sussex, and the independent radiation biologist Dr Ian Fairlie.

“Despite many plans and declared political intentions, huge uncertainties remain, and much of the costs and the challenges will fall onto future generations,” the report says.

Persistent risk

The waste, which can remain dangerous for more than 100,000 years, constitutes a continuous health hazard because of the routine release of radioactive gas and liquid waste into the environment. Yet it is likely to be another century before the problem is solved, the WNWR report says.

It notes: “The continued practice of storing spent nuclear fuel for long periods in pools at nuclear power plants (wet storage) constitutes a major risk to the public and to the environment.” There are now an estimated 250,000 tons of spent fuel in storage in 14 countries.

Despite its stark findings, the report makes no comment on the ethics of continuing to build nuclear stations when there is no way to get rid of the wastes they create.

The authors do not even quote the sixth report of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution from 1976, only 20 years after the dawn of the nuclear age, chaired by the physicist Sir Brian Flowers.

Beyond reasonable doubt

That said: “There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived, highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future.”

Successive British governments, along with the rest of the world, ignored Flowers. 40 years on, there are massive stockpiles of radioactive waste in every nuclear nation across the planet.

However, because the problem is now so vast, this latest report concentrates on describing the issues faced in the democracies of Europe where there is a lot of official information available. Even here, governments have failed to properly estimate the true cost of dealing with the waste, and most are many decades away from finding any solutions.

Finland is the only country in the world currently building a permanent repository for its high-level waste. Many other countries have tried and failed, either because the geology proved unsuitable or because of objections from those affected.

“There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived, highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future”

As a result, spent fuel from reactors and other highly dangerous waste is in interim storage that carries severe safety risks, not least from loss of cooling water or terrorist attack. There are 60,000 tons of spent fuel in store in Europe alone.

The bill for dealing with the waste is huge, but no government has yet calculated accurately what it is, nor has any put aside enough funds to deal with it. By mid-2019 there were 181 closed nuclear reactors globally, but only 19 had been fully decommissioned, with just 10 restored as greenfield sites.

The report does not comment on governments’ competence or honesty, but it does make it clear they are not facing up to reality. For example, the UK has more than 100 tons of stored plutonium, for which it has no use − but it refuses to class plutonium as a waste. The report says it will cost at least £3 billion ($3.8bn) “to manage” whatever decision is reached to deal with it.

Each of the countries in Europe that has nuclear power stations is studied in the report. Spent fuel is the single most dangerous source of highly radioactive waste, and all 16 countries in Europe with highly irradiated fuel have yet to deal with it. France has the highest number of spent fuel rods with 13,990 tons in cooling ponds, Germany 8,485, the UK 7,700.

Information withheld

France has the largest unresolved stockpile of all categories of nuclear waste, plus the legacy of a uranium mining industry. The cost of decommissioning and waste management was put at €43.7 billion ($60.3bn) in 2014, but this is almost certainly an underestimate, the report says.

Looking outside Europe, the US probably has the largest and most complex volumes of nuclear waste in the world, the experts say. Yet it has no plans for dealing with it, and vast quantities of all types of waste are in temporary storage.

The authors admit that, despite their year-long study, the report cannot be comprehensive. This is because information from some countries, for example Russia and China, is not available. But they add that across the world all governments are failing to face up to the size of the task and its costs.

Although some countries had set notional dates for dealing with their wastes as far into the future as 2060, others had no idea at all. The authors promise to produce updated reports in future years. − Climate News Network

We are leaving our children a radioactive legacy, the lethal waste that current governments still cannot make safe.

LONDON, 26 November, 2019 − After 70 years of building and operating nuclear power plants across the world, governments are bequeathing to future generations a radioactive legacy.

They remain unable to deal with the huge quantities of highly radioactive spent fuel they produce, says a group of independent experts − and as more reactors are reaching the end of their lives, the situation is worsening fast.

That is the conclusion of the first World Nuclear Waste Report (WNWR), produced by a group which says there are ever-growing challenges in waste management and no sustainable long-term solutions. They include two British academics: the economist Professor Gordon MacKerron, of the University of Sussex, and the independent radiation biologist Dr Ian Fairlie.

“Despite many plans and declared political intentions, huge uncertainties remain, and much of the costs and the challenges will fall onto future generations,” the report says.

Persistent risk

The waste, which can remain dangerous for more than 100,000 years, constitutes a continuous health hazard because of the routine release of radioactive gas and liquid waste into the environment. Yet it is likely to be another century before the problem is solved, the WNWR report says.

It notes: “The continued practice of storing spent nuclear fuel for long periods in pools at nuclear power plants (wet storage) constitutes a major risk to the public and to the environment.” There are now an estimated 250,000 tons of spent fuel in storage in 14 countries.

Despite its stark findings, the report makes no comment on the ethics of continuing to build nuclear stations when there is no way to get rid of the wastes they create.

The authors do not even quote the sixth report of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution from 1976, only 20 years after the dawn of the nuclear age, chaired by the physicist Sir Brian Flowers.

Beyond reasonable doubt

That said: “There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived, highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future.”

Successive British governments, along with the rest of the world, ignored Flowers. 40 years on, there are massive stockpiles of radioactive waste in every nuclear nation across the planet.

However, because the problem is now so vast, this latest report concentrates on describing the issues faced in the democracies of Europe where there is a lot of official information available. Even here, governments have failed to properly estimate the true cost of dealing with the waste, and most are many decades away from finding any solutions.

Finland is the only country in the world currently building a permanent repository for its high-level waste. Many other countries have tried and failed, either because the geology proved unsuitable or because of objections from those affected.

“There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived, highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future”

As a result, spent fuel from reactors and other highly dangerous waste is in interim storage that carries severe safety risks, not least from loss of cooling water or terrorist attack. There are 60,000 tons of spent fuel in store in Europe alone.

The bill for dealing with the waste is huge, but no government has yet calculated accurately what it is, nor has any put aside enough funds to deal with it. By mid-2019 there were 181 closed nuclear reactors globally, but only 19 had been fully decommissioned, with just 10 restored as greenfield sites.

The report does not comment on governments’ competence or honesty, but it does make it clear they are not facing up to reality. For example, the UK has more than 100 tons of stored plutonium, for which it has no use − but it refuses to class plutonium as a waste. The report says it will cost at least £3 billion ($3.8bn) “to manage” whatever decision is reached to deal with it.

Each of the countries in Europe that has nuclear power stations is studied in the report. Spent fuel is the single most dangerous source of highly radioactive waste, and all 16 countries in Europe with highly irradiated fuel have yet to deal with it. France has the highest number of spent fuel rods with 13,990 tons in cooling ponds, Germany 8,485, the UK 7,700.

Information withheld

France has the largest unresolved stockpile of all categories of nuclear waste, plus the legacy of a uranium mining industry. The cost of decommissioning and waste management was put at €43.7 billion ($60.3bn) in 2014, but this is almost certainly an underestimate, the report says.

Looking outside Europe, the US probably has the largest and most complex volumes of nuclear waste in the world, the experts say. Yet it has no plans for dealing with it, and vast quantities of all types of waste are in temporary storage.

The authors admit that, despite their year-long study, the report cannot be comprehensive. This is because information from some countries, for example Russia and China, is not available. But they add that across the world all governments are failing to face up to the size of the task and its costs.

Although some countries had set notional dates for dealing with their wastes as far into the future as 2060, others had no idea at all. The authors promise to produce updated reports in future years. − Climate News Network

Scientists’ climate gap is narrowing

A poll shows scientists’ climate gap is shrinking − between their work on climate change and their own response to it..

LONDON, 18 November, 2019 − There’s evidence that a scientists’ climate gap − a hesitation to reflect their findings in their personal lives − is diminishing, with significant changes under way in individuals’ behaviour.

The world’s climate scientists spend their working lives establishing what is happening as the world heats up. They tell the rest of us the facts they discover so that we can decide how to respond. But how they respond themselves is a telling indicator of how concerned they are − and how worried we should be.

A poll of scientists − many working in fields related to the climate emergency – reveals a gap between awareness of international climate goals, and action to change lifestyles so as to reflect them. But there are signs that science professionals are starting to make radical shifts in their behaviour.

The poll, detailed in a new briefing, Scientists Behaving Responsibly, was published to mark a conference on 16 November in London, Scientists behaving responsibly: should science walk the talk on climate breakdown?, organised by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)..

SGR acknowledges that it was a small exercise, a straw poll disseminated to specialist scientific audiences including its own membership and those who follow the international climate negotiations. There were 153 responses.

“Be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it”

The poll found that nearly one in three respondents are choosing not to have children. More than one in three already reject flying, with that number pledged to increase to nearly half (48%).

While 87% of respondents said they had considered the implications of the climate goals for their own lives, only around half (52%), thought their lives were aligned with the goals. 71% thought the response of the sector in which they work on the climate emergency was either unsatisfactory, or highly unsatisfactory

Over one in three (38%) do not own a car and rarely use one, and the number planning to take “very serious” steps to reduce the impact of their car use is rising “dramatically”.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) say they are adopting largely plant-based diets, and 13% are vegans. 76% say they are turning their backs on new consumer goods, choosing fewer items and second-hand ones and long-term repair options instead.

Systemic change needed

“Meeting agreed international emissions targets and preventing climate breakdown needs systemic and behavioural change”, says Andrew Simms, assistant director of SGR. “Nearly two-thirds of the changes needed to meet the UK national zero carbon target have been officially recognised as involving societal and behavioural change.

“This poll shows scientists starting to make big life changes to walk the talk on climate breakdown, including getting involved in protest.

“Research on behaviour change shows that seeing people act differently matters. It is hugely influential in persuading others to make changes, creating a positive ‘social contagion’ effect.

“However, many behaviour changes are shaped by the energy, food and transport systems we live within, and the lack of easily available low carbon alternatives was cited as the biggest obstacle to change.”

Lobbyists’ billions

One of the speakers at the London conference was Farhana Yamin, an international climate change lawyer. She tweeted: “So many climate initiatives fail because of the vast lobbying power of vested interests. The oil majors spent US$1billion since the Paris climate talks [in 2015] on greenwash and lobbying. That’s why I broke the law and glued myself to Shell.”

Another speaker was Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London. In a recent blog, An alarmist’s guide to climate change, he called for “some healthy and realistic alarmism”.

He ended: “Be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it.

”Drastically change your lifestyle; become an activist; vote into power a government that will walk the walk on climate change, not just talk the talk. Or – preferably – all three.” − Climate News Network

A poll shows scientists’ climate gap is shrinking − between their work on climate change and their own response to it..

LONDON, 18 November, 2019 − There’s evidence that a scientists’ climate gap − a hesitation to reflect their findings in their personal lives − is diminishing, with significant changes under way in individuals’ behaviour.

The world’s climate scientists spend their working lives establishing what is happening as the world heats up. They tell the rest of us the facts they discover so that we can decide how to respond. But how they respond themselves is a telling indicator of how concerned they are − and how worried we should be.

A poll of scientists − many working in fields related to the climate emergency – reveals a gap between awareness of international climate goals, and action to change lifestyles so as to reflect them. But there are signs that science professionals are starting to make radical shifts in their behaviour.

The poll, detailed in a new briefing, Scientists Behaving Responsibly, was published to mark a conference on 16 November in London, Scientists behaving responsibly: should science walk the talk on climate breakdown?, organised by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)..

SGR acknowledges that it was a small exercise, a straw poll disseminated to specialist scientific audiences including its own membership and those who follow the international climate negotiations. There were 153 responses.

“Be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it”

The poll found that nearly one in three respondents are choosing not to have children. More than one in three already reject flying, with that number pledged to increase to nearly half (48%).

While 87% of respondents said they had considered the implications of the climate goals for their own lives, only around half (52%), thought their lives were aligned with the goals. 71% thought the response of the sector in which they work on the climate emergency was either unsatisfactory, or highly unsatisfactory

Over one in three (38%) do not own a car and rarely use one, and the number planning to take “very serious” steps to reduce the impact of their car use is rising “dramatically”.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) say they are adopting largely plant-based diets, and 13% are vegans. 76% say they are turning their backs on new consumer goods, choosing fewer items and second-hand ones and long-term repair options instead.

Systemic change needed

“Meeting agreed international emissions targets and preventing climate breakdown needs systemic and behavioural change”, says Andrew Simms, assistant director of SGR. “Nearly two-thirds of the changes needed to meet the UK national zero carbon target have been officially recognised as involving societal and behavioural change.

“This poll shows scientists starting to make big life changes to walk the talk on climate breakdown, including getting involved in protest.

“Research on behaviour change shows that seeing people act differently matters. It is hugely influential in persuading others to make changes, creating a positive ‘social contagion’ effect.

“However, many behaviour changes are shaped by the energy, food and transport systems we live within, and the lack of easily available low carbon alternatives was cited as the biggest obstacle to change.”

Lobbyists’ billions

One of the speakers at the London conference was Farhana Yamin, an international climate change lawyer. She tweeted: “So many climate initiatives fail because of the vast lobbying power of vested interests. The oil majors spent US$1billion since the Paris climate talks [in 2015] on greenwash and lobbying. That’s why I broke the law and glued myself to Shell.”

Another speaker was Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London. In a recent blog, An alarmist’s guide to climate change, he called for “some healthy and realistic alarmism”.

He ended: “Be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it.

”Drastically change your lifestyle; become an activist; vote into power a government that will walk the walk on climate change, not just talk the talk. Or – preferably – all three.” − Climate News Network

Climate ‘is the election priority’ for the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inadequate Paris Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inadequate Paris Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate threat from inhalers can prove costly

The climate threat from inhalers used by millions of people to combat asthma and other breathing problems can also waste scarce resources.

LONDON, 5 November, 2019 – Many people affected by breathing conditions like asthma may be unwittingly adding to global heating, because of the climate threat from inhalers often used to relieve their suffering.

Many of the appliances used at present – termed metered-dose inhalers – contain propellants that are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the problems of climate change.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK says that if health services switched to prescribing “green” inhalers instead, big cuts would be possible in the output of the climate-damaging gases.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, says that by switching from expensive brand-named drugs and inhalers to alternative products, there’d also be considerable cost savings.

It’s estimated that more than 330 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with a substantial proportion of that number having to use inhalers.

Ozone damage

Commonly-used metered-dose inhalers contain liquefied compressed gases that act as a propellant, atomising the drug in the inhaler and pumping it out to the user.

At one stage chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – potent greenhouse gases which also damage the Earth’s ozone layer) were used in inhalers. Their use is now banned, and another gas called hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, acts as the propellant instead.

The Cambridge study says that though HFAs do not damage the ozone layer, they are nonetheless potent greenhouse gases and contribute to overall global warming.

It recommends a switch from metered-dose inhalers containing HFAs to what it describes as effective alternatives such as dry powder inhalers or aqueous mist inhalers.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet”

The researchers were mainly examining the use of inhalers in the UK and the costs to the country’s National Health Service (NHS). Some countries have already switched to non-HFA inhalers.

“In 2017, around 50 million inhalers were prescribed in England, of which seven out of ten were metered-dose inhalers, compared to only one in ten in Sweden”, says the study.

The researchers say they found that the output of greenhouse gases from metered-dose inhalers was between 10 and 37 times that of dry powder inhalers.

“At 2017 prescription levels, replacing one in ten metered-dose inhalers in England with the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhalers could lead to a reduction in drug costs of £8.2 million (US$10.6m) annually and would reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 58 kilotonnes.”

“At the individual level each metered-dose inhaler replaced by a dry powder inhaler could save the equivalent of between 150 and 400kg of CO2 annually, which is similar to many actions that environmentally-concerned individuals are taking at home already, such as installing wall insulation, recycling or cutting out meat.”

Zero carbon aim

The researchers stress that patients shouldn’t stop using inhalers, but should discuss their treatment with their doctor. Patients should ensure inhalers are used correctly and properly disposed of.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease”, says Dr James Smith, consultant in public health at the University of Cambridge.

“Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals and the NHS as a whole, and reduce their impact on the climate significantly.

“This is an important step towards creating a zero carbon healthcare system fit for the 21st century.” – Climate News Network

The climate threat from inhalers used by millions of people to combat asthma and other breathing problems can also waste scarce resources.

LONDON, 5 November, 2019 – Many people affected by breathing conditions like asthma may be unwittingly adding to global heating, because of the climate threat from inhalers often used to relieve their suffering.

Many of the appliances used at present – termed metered-dose inhalers – contain propellants that are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the problems of climate change.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK says that if health services switched to prescribing “green” inhalers instead, big cuts would be possible in the output of the climate-damaging gases.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, says that by switching from expensive brand-named drugs and inhalers to alternative products, there’d also be considerable cost savings.

It’s estimated that more than 330 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with a substantial proportion of that number having to use inhalers.

Ozone damage

Commonly-used metered-dose inhalers contain liquefied compressed gases that act as a propellant, atomising the drug in the inhaler and pumping it out to the user.

At one stage chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – potent greenhouse gases which also damage the Earth’s ozone layer) were used in inhalers. Their use is now banned, and another gas called hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, acts as the propellant instead.

The Cambridge study says that though HFAs do not damage the ozone layer, they are nonetheless potent greenhouse gases and contribute to overall global warming.

It recommends a switch from metered-dose inhalers containing HFAs to what it describes as effective alternatives such as dry powder inhalers or aqueous mist inhalers.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet”

The researchers were mainly examining the use of inhalers in the UK and the costs to the country’s National Health Service (NHS). Some countries have already switched to non-HFA inhalers.

“In 2017, around 50 million inhalers were prescribed in England, of which seven out of ten were metered-dose inhalers, compared to only one in ten in Sweden”, says the study.

The researchers say they found that the output of greenhouse gases from metered-dose inhalers was between 10 and 37 times that of dry powder inhalers.

“At 2017 prescription levels, replacing one in ten metered-dose inhalers in England with the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhalers could lead to a reduction in drug costs of £8.2 million (US$10.6m) annually and would reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 58 kilotonnes.”

“At the individual level each metered-dose inhaler replaced by a dry powder inhaler could save the equivalent of between 150 and 400kg of CO2 annually, which is similar to many actions that environmentally-concerned individuals are taking at home already, such as installing wall insulation, recycling or cutting out meat.”

Zero carbon aim

The researchers stress that patients shouldn’t stop using inhalers, but should discuss their treatment with their doctor. Patients should ensure inhalers are used correctly and properly disposed of.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease”, says Dr James Smith, consultant in public health at the University of Cambridge.

“Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals and the NHS as a whole, and reduce their impact on the climate significantly.

“This is an important step towards creating a zero carbon healthcare system fit for the 21st century.” – Climate News Network