Ice in the Arctic staged a surprise revival in 2013, bucking the long-term trend of decline, according to the first analysis of the entire ice cap’s volume. The revival was the result of cooler temperatures that year and suggests that, if global warming was curbed, the Arctic might recover more rapidly than previously thought. The shrinking Arctic ice cap is one of the best known impacts of climate change. The indication that it could be reversible is rare good news for a region where climate change has driven up temperatures far faster than the global average. The extent of Arctic ice has shrunk by 40% since the late 1970s, when satellite measurements began. But getting comprehensive data on the thickness of the ice, rather than just its area, was difficult until the European Space Agency launched the Cryosat satellite in 2010.
Left: Average thickness of Arctic sea ice in spring as measured by CryoSat-2 between 2010 and 2015. Image: CPOM/ESA and more on the Guardian here.
But whatever the sea ice is, or isn’t, doing – 2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record. There have already been heatwaves in Spain and France, droughts in California and Portugal, thousands of deaths from the heat in India and forest fires in Alaska. Now figures from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveal that the average global temperatures in the first six months are the highest for 136 years and is 0.85C hotter than the average in the last century. One of the strongest El Nino’s for decades will just add to the warming. In California there is a new business – lawn painting – turning parched brown lawns back to a ‘natural’ green
An unprecedented coalition of the UK’s most eminent scientific, medical and engineering bodies says immediate action must be taken by governments to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But the joint communiqué, issued by 24 academic and professional institutions, also says that tackling global warming would drive economic progress, benefit the health of millions by cutting air pollution and improve access to energy, water and food. To have a reasonable chance of keeping warming below 2C, the internationally agreed danger limit, the world must end all emissions within the next few decades, the communiqué warns. The British Academy is one of the 24 institutions and its president, the climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, said David Cameron and the UK had a special responsibility to lead the fight against climate change. “The UK led the world with both the modern scientific revolution and the industrial revolution, and must lead again now on the creation of a safer, cleaner and more prosperous world,” Stern said. Another institution involved is health research charity the Wellcome Trust, which has been the focus of a Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign. The campaign has asked the charity to sell its substantial investments in fossil fuel companies. The Wellcome Trust acknowledges climate change is a great threat to health and the campaign argues that it is therefore “morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal.”
After news of the UK government’s swathe of changes to its environmental initiatives caused widespread negative comments, the Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said the drastic changes were needed to drive down consumer bills. Lord Nick Bourne, who is responsible for the Conservative Party’s energy efficiency policy, says last week’s decision to axe the Green Deal along with recent moves to restrict clean energy subsidies will mean “people are not paying bills that are totally unaffordable”. Speaking to edie.net, Bourne said: “This is a new Government and we are setting the scene. What we’ve done this week and last week is ensure bills will come down. We’re keen to strip some of these measures out… to have a simplified system which is subsidy-free.” And a week after the Conservative Government cut renewable energy subsidies and closed off key energy efficiency schemes, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has said “it cannot be left to one part of the political spectrum to dictate the solution” to climate change. In her first major speech on climate change since the election, Rudd said that she understands why people see tackling global warming as “cover for anti-growth, anti-capitalist, proto-socialism” but said “It was Margaret Thatcher who first put climate change on the international agenda. She [said] ‘the danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.’ I agree.” Rudd reiterated that the Tories are committed to climate action, and that “our long-term economic plan goes hand in hand with a long-term plan for climate action”. Image.
Insurance giant Aviva has announced a target to invest £500m every year for five years in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The announcement of £2.5bn worth of investment will give the insurance giant carbon savings of 100,000 for these investments. Aviva’s plans were announced in a speech by chief executive Mark Wilson at the launch of an Aviva-commissioned report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, which investigates the economic risks of climate change. Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson said: “As an investor, we’re going to challenge fossil fuel companies to look longer term and to the low carbon economy. We will divest where we think a company is not making sufficient progress towards the engagement goals set.”
The UK solar industry remains on track to deliver power without subsidies by 2020, but clearer and more stable support from the Government will be needed in order to avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ of deployment. That’s the conclusion of a major new report from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and consutancy firm KPMG, released just a day after the Tories unveiled shock proposals to end a key subsidy support scheme for solar energy developers.
“This report shows how close solar is to competing with traditional power generation, and with positive government decisions we can ensure the smooth transition from subsidy to business as usual,” said REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska.
The number of single-use plastic bags handed out by UK supermarkets has increased for the fifth year running to 8.5bn, figures show. The number is up by 200m on 2013 despite the average household already having 40 plastic bags stashed away, research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found. In England, the number of single-use bags from supermarkets rose from 7.4bn in 2013 to just over 7.6bn, the statistics from waste reduction body Wrap revealed.
A farmer and beekeeper has revealed that 37 million bees dropped dead after other farms in Ontario, Canada sprayed neonictinoids on their GMO crops. Bees’ importance to the planet cannot be overstated. The tiny, bumbling bee is responsible for pollinating one-sixth of flowering plants in the world, and also about 400 different types of agricultural plants. In fact, it is estimated that just last year, the honey-producing pollinators helped provide over $19 billion worth of agricultural crops with their pollination services. Globally, they are responsible for helping to create a $300 billion revenue.
Argos is to become the first big UK retailer to offer customers the chance to trade-in their unwanted mobile handsets and tablets as part of a new recycling initiative.The service will allow customers to take older handsets and tablets to any of the firm’s 788 stores where they will be paid for the items in Argos vouchers. The items will then be refurbished and sold on, or recycled for parts. Argos has been supported in developing the take-back scheme by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which through the EU Life+ funded REBus project is seeking to help companies implement resource efficient business models to keep products in use for longer. UK householders are estimated to have around £1bn worth of electrical and electronic equipment in their homes which is no longer used, and two-thirds of those surveyed by WRAP said they would be willing to trade in their tech products with a reputable retailer.
Apple, Coca-Cola and Walmart are among 13 American multinationals that have put forward $140bn of new low-carbon investment in an announcement at the White House today (27 July). The 13 companies have expressed their support for US President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut six billion tonnes of carbon pollution by 2030 at a White House event hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. The businesses have signed up to an American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Together, the companies are voicing strong support for the Paris climate change talks which will be held in December. The group aims to demonstrate a commitment to climate action, with collective investment of $140bn in low-carbon technologies and plans for more than 1,600MW of renewable energy. The companies launching the Climate Pledge include Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, GM, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi-Co, UPS and Walmart.
And more from the USA: Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has promised to build more than 500 million solar panels by the end of her first term has US President. In an announcement on her campaign website yesterday (26 July), Clinton said climate change required the US to stand up and do more to invest in clean energy. Clinton said: “You don’t have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all. You just have to be willing to act.”
And the US has put steel in the water for what will be the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. The Block Island project, developed by energy company Deepwater Wind, has begun construction of its first large-scale offshore wind facility. The landmark project will see the construction of a five-turbine, 30MW capacity wind farm in Rhode Island state waters. The turbines will rise 589ft above sea level, making them some of the tallest wind turbines in the world with the capability to withstand a ‘Category 3’ storm.
Zero Waste Scotland’s chief executive Iain Gulland has announced the launch of a new fund to boost remanufacturing innovation. The resource efficiency organisation opened a fund offering awards of up to £100,000 over two years to encourage remanufacturing for items such as commercial and industrial equipment, furniture and small electronics. “The remanufacturing sector presents a fantastic economic opportunity for Scotland,” said Gulland, “and Zero Waste Scotland is focused on getting the right infrastructure and supply of products and materials in place for Scotland to reap the rewards.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott may be more interested in economic growth than climate change but the fact that scientists say climate change is prompting man eating salt water crocodiles, cane toads and dengue fever carrying mosquitoes to move South down the gold coat must surely cause him some concern – maybe?
Greenpeace have released this rather telling image: Its TRUE!