The warming of the oceans due to climate change is now unstoppable after record temperatures last year, bringing additional sea-level rise, and raising the risks of severe storms, US government climate scientists have said. The annual State of the Climate in 2014 report, based on research from 413 scientists from 58 countries, found record warming on the surface and upper levels of the oceans, especially in the North Pacific, in line with earlier findings of 2014 as the hottest year on record. Global sea-level also reached a record high, with the expansion of those warming waters, keeping pace with the 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year trend in sea level growth over the past two decades, the report said.
Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger has said global warming is a ‘battle in the real world’ that’s bigger than any movie, at the first summit of conscience for the climate in Paris. Schwarzenegger has been chosen by the French government to join Nobel prizewinners, philosophers, UN secretary generals, spiritual leaders and theologians to make the moral case for the world to act urgently on climate change. Talking at the world’s first summit of conscience for the climate on Tuesday – ahead of the crucial UN climate change meeting in the city in December – the Terminator star and former California governor declared the science debate over, saying planetary catastrophe could only be avoided with ethical action saying “I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction, this is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.”
Britain’s first low cost ‘energy positive’ house, which can generate more electricity than its occupants will use, opens on Thursday despite George Osborne axing plans to make housebuilders meet tough low carbon housing targets from next year. The modest three-bedroom house built in just 16 weeks on an industrial estate outside Bridgend in Wales cost just £125,000 to build and, said its Cardiff University designers, will let occupants use the sun to pay the rent. Using batteries to store the electricity which it generates from the solar panels that function as the roof, and having massive amounts of insulation to reduce energy use in winter months, it should be able to export electricity to the national grid for eight months of the year. For every £100 spent on electricity used, it should be able to generate £175 in electricity exports, said Professor Phil Jones, whose team from the Welsh School of Architecture designed the house specifically to meet the low carbon housing targets set by the Labour government in 2006. More on the Guardian here.
The UK government has gagged its own pesticide advisers, after they refused to back an application by the National Farmers Union to lift a ban on bee-harming chemicals. The gag is intended to prevent campaigners lobbying ministers on the issue, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticide, were banned in the European Union in 2013. Substantial scientific evidence indicates that the nerve agents cause serious harm to bees, whose pollination is vital for many crops. The National Farmers Union says oil seed rape is becoming impossible to grow without the pesticides and applied for an emergency lifting of the ban on two neonicotinoids.
A best-selling herbicide that the World Health Organisation suspects causes cancer could get a new lease of life in Europe after being deemed safe by a key assessment based largely on classified industry reports. A decision on whether to extend the license for glyphosate’s use in Europe is pending, but earlier this year, it was deemed “probably carcinogenic to humans” in a preliminary report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The full report is due for release imminently. More here.
Nearly 9,500 people die early each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to new research. The premature deaths are due to two key pollutants, fine particulates known as PM2.5s and the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2), according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London.
The first conclusive sighting of a pine marten in England in over 100 years suggests that the elusive domestic cat-sized member of the stoat and weasel family may have been living in the Shropshire hills for years. Amateur wildlife recorder Dave Pearce took two photographs of the dark brown creature thought to be extinct, in a wood in south west Shropshire last week. The photographic evidence has now been verified by Stuart Edmunds, chair of the Shropshire mammal group.
Britain should drop its focus on nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) and refocus spending on optimising renewables and energy efficiency, a leading academic has urged. Catherine Mitchell – a professor of energy policy at Exeter University a lead author on the IPCC’s Fifth Synthesis report – said: “I think the current energy policy in place is simply not credible.” Speaking at an event in Westminster, titled ‘Renewable energy: How far can Britain go?’, Mitchell said: “We may have one or two new nuclear plants, we may not. Even if we do, it doesn’t actually matter, because it does very little for carbon reductions. There may also be CCS being talked about – but even if CCS comes out, there’s really no space to put the carbon. “The only thing in town is renewable energy and energy efficiency. And it’s because those are the only things in town that we need to take stock as a country, and make sure that things are in place to be the building blocks of the future.”
Developers of a new biomass plant in Sheffield have secured £30m funding from the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) and fund managers Equitix. The funding will see the construction of a 6.5MW capacity combined heat and power (CHP) facility in the Holbrook area of Sheffield, with the potential to heat more than 6,700 local properties. The scheme received £14.6m from the fund Energy Savings Investments, in which GIB is an investor, and £15m private capital from the Equitix Energy Efficiency Fund.
The former US vice-president and climate champion Al Gore has made a rare criticism of Barack Obama as Royal Dutch Shell prepares to drill an exploratory well in the Arctic Ocean, denouncing the venture as “insane” and calling for a ban on all oil and gas activity in the polar region. With Shell planning to begin drilling in the oil-rich Chukchi Sea within days, Gore said in an interview with the Guardian that Obama was wrong to ever allow drilling in the Arctic. It was the only real point of criticism from Gore of Obama’s efforts to fight climate change, at home and through a global deal to be negotiated in Paris at the end of the year. “I think Arctic drilling is insane. I think that countries around the world would be very well advised to put restrictions on drilling for oil in the Arctic ocean,” Gore told the Guardian in Toronto, where he was passing on his techniques for talking about the climate crisis to 500 new recruits from his Climate Reality Project.
Andy Gotts has photographed almost 60 celebrities wearing the Save the Arctic T-shirt designed by fashion icon and activist Dame VivienneWestwood, in a project that has taken 18 months.