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Climate Change Bulletin November

This is our 18th edition and this month it’s a somewhat bleak view of the Climate Change future .We will take a look at the latest research on Global Warming .and ask the question is Phil Jones the scientist at the centre of Climategate owed an apology ? Also are Britain’s Business league tables on Carbon savings just plain misleading and we cover the Durban Climate Change conference being endorsed by top British politicians. Finally there is a special Guardian Feature on the World’s shrinking deadline to deal with Climate Change .


• Scientists say the World is getting warmer –Climategate or not

• UK call for leadership over Durban.

• Do the CRC tables flatter British Business

• Carbon tax passes final Australian hurdle

• Japan may bankroll UK reactors

• Solar powers arts centre in Wales

• Small Yorkshire power station funded by local shares

• SPECIAL FEATURE:Will the World run out of time to deal with Climate Change ?


We would appreciate your feedback on the usefulness of the bulletin. Please let us know if you would like to know more or if there are other subject areas of interest. Please send any feedback or requests for further information or research to: chris.harrington@fco.gov.uk . If you wish to unsubscribe please contact us.

Global warming 'confirmed' by Independent study

Weather station at airportWeather stations are giving a true picture of global warming, the group found

The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded.The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change."Climategate", in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated.Emails of University of East Anglia (UEA) climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data.

Fresh start

The Berkeley group says it has also found evidence that changing sea temperatures in the north Atlantic may be a major reason why the Earth's average temperature varies globally from year to year.

Saul PerlmutterThe group includes physicist Saul Perlmutter, a Nobel Prize winner this year

The project was established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller, who was concerned by claims that established teams of climate researchers had not been entirely open with their data.He gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including such luminaries as Saul Perlmutter, winner of this year's Nobel Physics Prize for research showing the Universe's expansion is accelerating.

Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming. “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Prof Muller told BBC News.

"Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."The group's work also examined claims from "sceptical" bloggers that temperature data from weather stations did not show a true global warming trend.The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing - the urban heat island effect.

The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form.It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world's three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles.

graphThe Berkeley group's record of global land temperature mirrors existing ones closely

Two of those three records are maintained in the US, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).The third is a collaboration between the UK Met Office and UEA's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), from which the e-mails that formed the basis of the "Climategate" furore were hacked two years ago.

"Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK," said Prof Muller."This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions."

Since the 1950s, the average temperature over land has increased by 1C, the group found. They also report that although the urban heat island effect is real - which is well-established - it is not behind the warming registered by the majority of weather stations around the world.They also showed that in the US, weather stations rated as "high quality" by Noaa showed the same warming trend as those rated as "low quality".

'Time for apology'

Prof Phil Jones, the CRU scientist who came in for the most personal criticism during "Climategate", was cautious about interpreting the Berkeley results because they have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal."I look forward to reading the finalised paper once it has been reviewed and published," he said.

Professor Phil JonesThe findings so far provide validation for Phil Jones, targeted during the "Climategate" affair "These initial findings are very encouraging, and echo our own results and our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall global temperature is minimal."

The Berkeley team has chosen to release the findings initially on its own website.They are asking for comments and feedback before preparing the manuscripts for formal scientific publication.In part, this counters the accusation made during "Climategate" that climate scientists formed a tight clique who peer-reviewed each other's papers and made sure their own global warming narrative was the only one making it into print.

But for Richard Muller, this free circulation also marks a return to how science should be done."That is the way I practised science for decades; it was the way everyone practised it until some magazines - particularly Science and Nature - forbade it," he said.

"That was not a good change, and still many fields such as string theory practice the traditional method wholeheartedly."This open "wiki" method of review is regularly employed in physics, the home field for seven of the 10 Berkeley team.Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the warming of the Earth's surface was unequivocal.

"So-called 'sceptics' should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities," he said."More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for 'sceptics' to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored."It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists."

Richard BlackBy Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News


UK calls for climate leadership

The Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Secretary of State for Climate Change, Chris Huhne, has called on the international community to show the leadership necessary to forge consensus in the run up to the Climate Summit in Durban.

http://inforrm.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/william_hague400.jpg

Speaking to an international youth audience at the Question Time: Climate Change event held at the Foreign Office today, the Foreign Secretary said:“Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge. We all have a responsibility to tackle this threat and the decisions we take now will have a profound effect on future generations. Young people in the UK and across the world play a critical role in the climate debate, and it is essential that their opinions are heard through events such as this. As we approach Durban, we all have an important duty to show the next generation the leadership needed to build international consensus on this vital issue.”

The Secretary of State for Climate Change added:“It’s hugely important young people’s voices on climate change are heard and I’m really pleased so many took part in the Question Time event. Making the shift to a low carbon economy in the UK will create new markets and exciting job opportunities for the next generation as well as providing a more sustainable future. We pledged we’d be the greenest government ever, so as well as the action we’re taking at home we’ll be working for further progress towards a global deal at the next international climate talks at Durban in South Africa later this month.”

Last week’s event, arranged by the FCO, DECC and the British Council, gave eighty 16-25 year-olds an important opportunity to debate these aims and their implications for future generations. Discussions also covered a wide range of climate change issues including the UK’s policies to cut its emissions, and the role of wider society and young people in the climate debate.

Hosted by Rick Edwards, the two Secretaries of State were joined on the panel by South Africa’s Climate Change Ambassador, N.J. Mxakato-Diseko, and Martin Davidson, Chief Executive at the British Council.

The event was webcast live to an international audience, with FCO posts and British Council offices across the world, including in South Africa, the US, India, and several European countries organising screenings of the webcast for relevant groups. The webcast will also be available to view on demand from 9 November.

Video of the event can be found at: http://video.webcasts.com/events/felt001/40339/

Source : Foreign Office

Carbon League Table faulted as 800 firms fail to take action

British businesses have been warned against celebrating the results of the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) league table , after they revealed 40 per cent of firms are failing to take action on climate change.

The inaugural CRC Energy Efficiency League Table was unveiled today by the Environment Agency, ranking 2,000 organisations according to how they manage their energy use.

The government welcomed the figures showing that 60 per cent of firms are taking action , either by installing smart meters or gaining energy management certification from the Carbon Trust or equivalent body.

But energy management companies expressed concerns that 40 per cent of CRC organisations failed to take steps to improve their energy consumption.

A total of 803 organisations scored zero points in the Early Action Metrics, including big brand names such as Xerox, Virgin Atlantic, Goldman Sachs, Kraft Foods, ING, Diageo, Astra Zenica, and BMW.

Government departments that also scored zero include the Home Office and HMRC.James Ramsay, head of CRC at Carbon Clear, argued that the results show there is still "huge room for improvement"."This is the first time that UK companies have been forced to disclose publicly their carbon data, and the results are really quite extraordinary," he said.

"The fact that over 40 per cent - including many big brand names - failed to score a single point is a clear indicator that they are not even monitoring their energy data."

David Symons, director at WSP Environment & Energy consultancy, warned the lowest ranked organisations are wasting money.

Significantly, he argued that such companies could reduce UK carbon emissions by a total 100,000 tonnes, cut £12m off their energy bills, and avoid having to buy £1.2m of CRC allowances, simply by installing smart meters.

"Installing the simplest of automatic meter readers, and acting on the data these produce, saves firms around 10 per cent on their energy bills with little capital expense," he said.

Dave Worthington, director of Camco, also warned that a "large wedge" of organisations had failed to apply measures to cut energy use.

However, he suggested that some low-scoring organisations might have been caught out by confusion late last year about how many credits would be awarded for installing smart meters.

FURTHER READING

Updated: Manchester United tops CRC league table

Top of the CRC league table - at a glance

Source :Businessgreen


Australian Senate grants final approval for carbon tax

Australia has finally passed landmark legislation that will result in a national carbon tax on the country's most carbon-intensive firms being introduced from next year.

The Senate voted by 74 to 72 to pass a controversial package of 18 new laws, which will result in the introduction of a carbon tax of A$23 a tonne for 500 companies from next July, the development of a national emissions trading scheme from 2015, and the roll out of tax breaks and other incentives designed to help businesses and househohttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Juliagillard-CROP.jpg/170px-Juliagillard-CROP.jpglds cope with any increase in energy bills that results from the new levy.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed the Senate vote as a major victory, after her coalition government defied fierce opposition to steer the package of measures through the upper and lower houses of parliament.

"Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land," she told reporters. "This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division."

The bill raises the prospect of Australia providing the world's third large-scale emissions trading scheme, following the EU and New Zealand. It could also provide a template for several other countries and regions currently moving forward with plans for emission pricing mechanisms, including South Korea, China, California and Japan.

However, despite the victory for the government and green campaigners, fears remain that the new carbon levy and promised emissions trading scheme could prove short lived.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is currently leading Gillard in national polls, has publicly sworn a "blood oath" to repeal the legislation and remove the new carbon tax should he win the next election in 2013.

The lack of a political consensus on the future of the scheme has angered many businesses, which have warned that policy uncertainty will make it very difficult to make future investments.

However, Abbott has secured the support of a number of carbon intensive energy and mining firms which have consistently argued that the carbon tax will drive up costs and result in job losses and diminished competitiveness.

In contrast, the government has consistently maintained that the tax will spur investment in clean technology, saving at least 160 million tonnes in annual carbon emissions by 2020, while the package of tax breaks and other incentives will minimise the impact on households and businesses.

It has argued that the tax breaks will be offered to nine out of 10 households, leaving the majority of households better off even if energy prices rise as a result of the tax.

Green businesses and NGOs were quick to hail the passage of the bill as an historic breakthrough for the country's emerging low carbon economy.

"We are finally penalising pollution and rewarding clean energy," said John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society. "This will deliver substantial investment in solar power and position Australia as a solar nation."

His comments were echoed by Nathan Fabian of the Investor Group on Climate Change who predicted that the passage of the bills will "provide a platform for future investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies".

"It is in the interests of investors that it remain in place to maintain a certain regulatory environment," he added.

Source: Businessgreen


Japan may bankroll UK Reactors

Japan could bankroll Britain’s plans to build a new generation of reactors. The state-controlled export credit agency JBIC has promised to underwrite a €5 billion (£4.3 billion) capital-raising by Toshiba, which owns the reactor company Westinghouse.

http://www.catastrophemonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/nuclear-power-plant1.jpg

Toshiba and Areva are competing to provide a reactor design to Horizon, the joint venture between Germany’s E.ON and RWE that will build up to half a dozen new atomic plants in the UK. If its bid is successful, Toshiba will inject money into Horizon, which is seeking new investors.

E.ON and RWE have been hit by the German Government’s decision to close the country’s reactors early after the Fuskushima nuclear meltdown. Toshiba, which bought Westinghouse from the British government for $5.4 billion (£3.4 billion) five years ago, is understood to be the favourite.

To read more you will have to go to the Times site which is subscriber only : http://www.timesplus.co.uk/tto/news/?login=false &url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetimes.co.uk%2Ftto%2Fnews%2Fuk%2F

Source : The Times


Clean energy funds the arts

Description: Description: Description: Artistic energy: a vast solar park supports an arts centre (left, front) in Wales. Image by Glen Peters.Artistic energy: a vast solar park supports an arts centre in Wales. Image by Glen Peters.

In what is claimed as a “global first”, a novel solar array is funding one of the largest arts centres in Wales - by feeding clean electricity into the local area.

At a time of plummeting arts funding globally, Menter Rhosygilwen near Cardigan - which is dedicated to making the arts “an engine of rural regeneration” - has built a 1.2-hectare (3-acre) solar park next to its world-renowned concert hall.

The solar park cost five million pounds and has unobtrusively sited, low-cost, thin film photovoltaic (PV) panels. This will ensure the long-term survival of its international arts centre by generating two megawatt (MW) of electricity to power 600 homes, creating a carbon-neutral region in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion - in Wales, part of the United Kingdom.

The high efficiency energy produced is distributed by Green Energy UK. At the time of its construction it is the largest solar array in the UK and the first in Wales, and the project will also create a model for sustainable solar farming in rural areas.

Similar parks could be discreetly sited on farmland anywhere, supplying an additional “cash crop”, said Dr Glen Peters, the founder of the centre.

The 10,000 solar panels, produced by MiaSolé in California’s Silicon Valley, have been specially designed to let rainwater to fall between the arrays. This inhibits grass growth by only 15 per cent, allowing the land to remain in agricultural use with livestock happily grazing beneath the panels.

“It really is a case of us now being able to sing with a hand on our hearts ‘You are my sunshine’ or ‘Sheep may safely graze’,” said Dr Peters who recently created the Western Solar Power company that built the solar park. “This company represents not only a new approach for funding the arts in rural communities but the start of an exciting growth industry worldwide that can partner the arts in environmental projects,” he added.

Western Solar aims to pass on the technical know-how gained at Rhosygilwen to others interested in installing PV systems of their own. Over the operational life of the facility, the company will encourage sharing experiences on performance, optimisation and the suitability of large-scale PV projects dealing with weather conditions such as those in west Wales and other parts of the UK.

The park is already paying artistic dividends. MiaSolé sponsored Rhosygilwen’s recent annual ArtAt festival, with art from recycled resources as one of its themes. Swansea-based Pure Wafer, technical adviser to Western Solar, also sponsored this summer’s opera Carmen.

The west Wales centre’s advanced copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film PV panels are the first of their type to be installed in the UK. The solar park represents a new model for funding arts in rural communities, accomplished without government funding, reflecting UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s concept of the “big society” whereby communities find new ways to fund social and cultural endeavours by their own initiatives.

But the park also represents a new model for sustaining farming in rural communities. Similar parks tucked discreetly into a couple of hectares of farmland could provide an additional income stream to farmers as well as supplying energy without impacting on the environment, said Dr Peters.

Farmers would be “harvesting energy” as well as traditional crops. Industry research expects the market for solar panels that use thin-film technology instead of traditional silicon-based materials to more than double by 2013. Thin-film now represents 20 per cent of the market.

Dr Peters has been a management consultant for 30 years with an international firm of accountants, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and holds a doctorate in the managerial sciences. Link

Source :David Welsh , London Press Service


Small local power station in Yorkshire goes public.

Community co-operative Whitby Esk Energy has launched a share issue to raise £320,000, in order to install a community owned 50kw hydroelectric turbine, using a fish-friendly Archimedes screw, on the River Esk near Whitby.

The share issue is an example of community investment, where communities are engaged to invest in themselves, harnessing the collective investment powers of whole communities, to raise large amounts of capital in small sums.

Community Shares , a Government-funded action learning research project looking at new ways for social enterprises to attract finance, explains the unifying feature of diverse examples of community investment across the country:

Community Shares is funded by the Office of Civil Society and led by the Department for Communities and Local Government, and delivered by the Development Trusts

The co-operative is promoting the shares as a social investment, not a financial investment, describing it as an ideal way to act locally to offset carbon emissions and help promote renewable energy. Shares are available through to 18th September 2011 for as little as £250, up to a maximum of £20,000. The project intends to pay up to 6% interest from year 3 and shares will be withdrawable from year 5..

Whitby Esk Energy steering groupThe Whitby Esk Energy steering group on site

Further information is available from the Esk Energy Group

Source : Nick Saltmarsh SD Scene

Special Feature

World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns

If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will 'lose for ever' the chance to avoid dangerous climate change

Pollution due to carbon emissions due to rise says IEA : Coal burning power plant, Kentucky, USA

Any fossil fuel infrastructure built in the next five years will cause irreversible climate change, according to the IEA. Photograph: Rex Features

The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy -guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be "lost for ever", according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.

Anything built from now on that produces carbon will do so for decades, and this "lock-in" effect will be the single factor most likely to produce irreversible climate change, the world's foremost authority on energy economics has found. If this is not rapidly changed within the next five years, the results are likely to be disastrous.

"The door is closing," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. "I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."

If the world is to stay below 2C of warming, which scientists regard as the limit of safety, then emissions must be held to no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the level is currently around 390ppm . But the world's existing infrastructure is already producing 80% of that "carbon budget", according to the IEA's analysis, published on Wednesday. This gives an ever-narrowing gap in which to reform the global economy on to a low-carbon footing.

If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available "carbon budget" will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA's calculations.

Birol's warning comes at a crucial moment in international negotiations on climate change, as governments gear up for the next fortnight of talks in Durban , South Africa, from late November. "If we do not have an international agreement, whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door to [holding temperatures to 2C of warming] will be closed forever," said Birol.

But world governments are preparing to postpone a speedy conclusion to the negotiations again. Originally, the aim was to agree a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, the only binding international agreement on emissions, after its current provisions expire in 2012. But after years of setbacks, an increasing number of countries – including the UK, Japan and Russia – now favour postponing the talks for several years.

Both Russia and Japan have spoken in recent weeks of aiming for an agreement in 2018 or 2020, and the UK has supported this move. Greg Barker, the UK's climate change minister, told a meeting : "We need China, the US especially, the rest of the Basic countries [Brazil, South Africa, India and China] to agree. If we can get this by 2015 we could have an agreement ready to click in by 2020." Birol said this would clearly be too late. "I think it's very important to have a sense of urgency – our analysis shows [what happens] if you do not change investment patterns, which can only happen as a result of an international agreement."

Nor is this a problem of the developing world, as some commentators have sought to frame it. In the UK, Europe and the US, there are multiple plans for new fossil-fuelled power stations that would contribute significantly to global emissions over the coming decades.

The Guardian revealed in May an IEA analysis that found emissions had risen by a record amount in 2010, despite the worst recession for 80 years. Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels , a rise of 1.6Gt on the previous year. At the time, Birol told the Guardian that constraining global warming to moderate levels would be "only a nice utopia" unless drastic action was taken.

The new research adds to that finding, by showing in detail how current choices on building new energy and industrial infrastructure are likely to commit the world to much higher emissions for the next few decades, blowing apart hopes of containing the problem to manageable levels. The IEA's data is regarded as the gold standard in emissions and energy, and is widely regarded as one of the most conservative in outlook – making the warning all the more stark. The central problem is that most industrial infrastructure currently in existence – the fossil-fuelled power stations, the emissions-spewing factories, the inefficient transport and buildings – is already contributing to the high level of emissions, and will do so for decades. Carbon dioxide, once released, stays in the atmosphere and continues to have a warming effect for about a century , and industrial infrastructure is built to have a useful life of several decades.

Yet, despite intensifying warnings from scientists over the past two decades, the new infrastructure even now being built is constructed along the same lines as the old, which means that there is a "lock-in" effect – high-carbon infrastructure built today or in the next five years will contribute as much to the stock of emissions in the atmosphere as previous generations.

The "lock-in" effect is the single most important factor increasing the danger of runaway climate change, according to the IEA in its annual World Energy Outlook, published on Wednesday.

Climate scientists estimate that global warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels marks the limit of safety , beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. Though such estimates are necessarily imprecise, warming of as little as 1.5C could cause dangerous rises in sea levels and a higher risk of extreme weather – the limit of 2C is now inscribed in international accords, including the partial agreement signed at Copenhagen in 2009 , by which the biggest developed and developing countries for the first time agreed to curb their greenhouse gas output.

Another factor likely to increase emissions is the decision by some governments to abandon nuclear energy, following the Fukushima disaster. "The shift away from nuclear worsens the situation," said Birol. If countries turn away from nuclear energy, the result could be an increase in emissions equivalent to the current emissions of Germany and France combined. Much more investment in renewable energy will be required to make up the gap, but how that would come about is unclear at present.

Birol also warned that China – the world's biggest emitter – would have to take on a much greater role in combating climate change. For years, Chinese officials have argued that the country's emissions per capita were much lower than those of developed countries, it was not required to take such stringent action on emissions. But the IEA's analysis found that within about four years, China's per capita emissions were likely to exceed those of the EU.

In addition, by 2035 at the latest, China's cumulative emissions since 1900 are likely to exceed those of the EU, which will further weaken Beijing's argument that developed countries should take on more of the burden of emissions reduction as they carry more of the responsibility for past emissions.

One close observer of the climate talks said the $400bn subsidies devoted to fossil fuels, uncovered by the IEA, were "staggering", and the way in which these subsidies distort the market presented a massive problem in encouraging the move to renewables. He added that Birol's comments, though urgent and timely, were unlikely to galvanise China and the US – the world's two biggest emittters – into action on the international stage.

"The US can't move (owing to Republican opposition) and there's no upside for China domestically in doing so. At least China is moving up the learning curve with its deployment of renewables, but it's doing so in parallel to the hugely damaging coal-fired assets that it is unlikely to ever want (to turn off in order to) to meet climate targets in years to come."

Energy demandEnergy demand Source: IEA

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