Climate Change News
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
According to a new scientific analysis, many tar sands wells are actually using more energy than they produce. If it requires a barrel of oil - or its equivalent in gas - to retrieve a barrel of oil, then what's the point? It appears this is only possible at present in Canada as the price of oil is lower than the price of oil, so it is commercially viable to burn the cheaper gas in order to get out the more expensive oil. It may make some (warped) financial sense, but it makes no energy or environmental sense. But if the price of gas rises, in relation to the price of the oil, these tar sand wells will go bust. The economics of oil extraction use the term EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Investment) - ideally with EROEI as high as possible (eg. the light, sweet crude found near the surface in Iraq). Other assessments have found the EROEI for tar sands may be 7:1 for extraction and 3:1 after it has been upgraded and refined into a useful fuel. Squeezing oil out of tar sand is an extremely wasteful process, requiring between 2 - 4 tons of tar sand and 2 - 4 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil. The richest deposits are being exploited first, but already produce a low return - which will become worse once the "lowest hanging fruit" has been removed.
In hard economic times there is always a temptation for politicians to prioritise short-term economic growth and electoral success above cutting carbon emissions - despite recognition that man-made climate change is one of humanity's most important issues. This shows the importance of the Climate Change Act, which reached its 5th birthday this week. It was given Royal Assent in 2008, when it became the first national law committing to legally binding annual cuts in CO2 emissions. Its purpose is to limit the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted, not just long-term reduction targets, so 5 year carbon budgets are needed. And these are legally binding. There are people and politicians now who advocate weakening the 4th carbon budget, 2023 and 2027. But the CCC says there is no scientific or legal basis to do so, and if anything carbon pollution limits should be made tougher. The problem is that these budgets are set by politicians, not scientists. UK international aviation remains outside the carbon budgets. The UK Climate Change Act has so far successfully constrained UK politicians who want to ignore the reality of climate change. But it only covers the UK - the world needs a global carbon budget.
Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments against anthropogenic climate change. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem. A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as weather station records have been suggesting, but have in fact continued to rise as fast as previous decades, during which we have seen an unprecedented acceleration in global warming. Two university scientists have found that the “pause” or “hiatus” in global temperatures can be largely explained by a failure of climate researchers to record the dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures over the past decade or more.They have found a way of estimating Arctic temperatures from satellite readings. Getting Arctic readings has been difficult, due to seasonal melting so fixed stations are more difficult. When these readings are included, the so-called pause effectively disappeared. NOAA monthly temperature data on land surface, ocean surface and combined land ocean show recent years have been much warmer than previous averages.
Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments against anthropogenic climate change. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem. A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as […]
The world's oceans are becoming acidic at an "unprecedented rate" and this may be happening at faster than at any time in the past 300 million years. In their strongest statement yet on this issue, a large number of scientists say ocean acidification could increase by 170% by 2100. They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive in these conditions. The researchers conclude that human emissions of CO2 are clearly to blame - humanity is putting some 24 million tonnes of CO2 into the oceans each day. That is already altering the chemistry of the waters, and will do so even more in future. Since the start of the industrial revolution, the waters have become 26% more acidic - and there are serious concerns about the impact this is having, and will have, on many ocean species. These include oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the UK's 4th carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. It says there is therefore no legal or economic basis for the government to change the budget or reduce its ambition. Only if there is significant change in circumstances can budgets be altered. Considering the recent IPCC report, the CCC agrees the emissions cuts to meet the 4th carbon budget are a minimum UK contribution to required global action. It reiterates that the UK is not acting alone in shouldering its responsibilities. In fact our targets are relatively unchallenging. It and says the UK has an important role in securing an ambitious international agreement. The latest IPCC report reiterates how vital continued action is and that a global temperature rise of 4 degrees C is likely if emissions continue to increase. The CCC will provide its final advice on the 4th carbon budget in December 2013.
Writing in the Hindustan Times, in India, Mary Robinson - who is a former president of Ireland and president of the "Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice" - talks of the impacts of climate change on the poor in the developing world. Shailesh Nayak, secretary, Indian ministry of earth sciences, said climate change may be causing extreme weather. It is the poor who are picking up the tab for the carbon profligacy of developed nations. Taking into account all the climate impacts of aviation, estimates put aviation’s overall contribution to global warming at 4.9%. ICAO anticipates CO2 emissions from international aviation (about 60% of total aviation emissions) will grow from about 400 million tonnes in 2010 to 650 million tonnes by 2020. So aviation bears a share of responsibility for the accelerated drought-flood cycle that climate change will bring to countries like India. "The time for everyone to take their share of the responsibility and to act is now. And this must include the aviation industry."
The Emissions Gap Report 2013 has been produced by UNEP, in the run-up to the climate conference in Warsaw. It was produced by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries. It says that if the global community does not immediately embark on wide-ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse gas emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century will swiftly diminish and open the door to a host of challenges. Not cutting emissions enough by 2020 will make later cuts more expensive and difficult - as there will be locked-in carbon-intensive infrastructure - as well as increasing the risk of not meeting the 2°C target. Even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be 8 to 12 GtCO2e above the "safe" level. Emissions should be a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020, 40 GtCO2e by 2025, 35 GtCO2e by 2030 and 22 GtCO2e by 2050. The report says "Some sectors, notably international transport, are not covered by national pledges. The mitigation potential in these sectors is 0.3 GtCO2e"
At the ICAO Assembly last month, it was agreed it would work towards a global market based measure (MBM) for aviation emissions, by 2020 - itself a weak position taking too long to start to deal with the issue. GreenAir online reports that now China says the adoption of a carbon-neutral growth goal from 2020 without differentiated responsibilities would impede development of its international aviation activities. China and other emerging countries, with fast expanding aviation, say that though they may want goals to reduce international aviation emissions, it should be the responsibility of the developed countries to make the cuts. ie. this is further wrangling within the ICAO, which is why the organisation has failed over decades to get any agreement on practical action on aviation emissions. To add to the obstacles in getting progress on a MBM, the USA has objected to the de minimis provisions [ie. that the smallest countries, which contribute each below 1% of global aviation CO2 are excluded] in the Assembly climate resolution and the inclusion of the differentiated responsibilities principle. The deep divisions remain on this issue, between the developed and developing world.
Eight of the key environmental organisations in the UK have written an open letter to Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, to express their concern about the Commission's "emerging thinking" that more runway capacity is needed for the south east, as expressed in Sir Howard's speech on 7th October. They have serious concerns about how adding a new runway could be compatible with UK climate targets, and they call on the Commission to demonstrate how its recommendations will avoid gambling on our future ability to meet the UK climate target. The NGOs say the Committee on Climate Change's analysis concluded that stabilising UK aviation’s emissions at their 2005 level could translate to a maximum 60% growth in the number of passengers at UK airports. They set out 4 key arguments why no new runway capacity is needed even if passenger numbers are permitted to grow by up to 60%. They also urge the Commission to retain a “no new runways” option in its deliberations as the best way of achieving the targets set in the UK Climate Change Act. The eight green NGOs which have signed the letter are: Aviation Environment Federation; Campaign for Better Transport; Friends of the Earth; Greenpeace; RSPB; Stop Climate Chaos; The Woodland Trust; WWF-UK.