Month: October 2014

How will Antartica’s ice-sheet contribute to 21st century sea level rise?

by Professor Martin Siegert, Co-director, Grantham Institute

On 27th October I convened a meeting at the Royal Society of London to discuss the results of a recent 20-year research horizon scanning exercise for Antarctic Science (Kennicutt et al. 2014). Part of the discussion focused on the research needed to better quantify Antarctica’s likely contribution to sea level rise in the coming decades and beyond, as published in the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report.

The report states that, ‘Global mean sea level rise will continue during the 21st century, very likely at a faster rate than observed from 1971 to 2010, and will likely be in the ranges of 0.26 to 0.55 m [in the lowest emissions scenario] … and … 0.45 to 0.82 m [in the highest emissions scenario – the closest to “business as usual”]’.

The costs of decarbonising the UK

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

The costs associated with reducing emissions in the UK have been discussed recently in the press. In an article in the Mail on Sunday, David Rose made the claim that energy policies shaped by the so-called “Green Blob” –  a term coined by Owen Paterson for what he called “the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials” – will cost the UK up to £400 billion by 2030, and that bills will rise by at least a third.

How much will action on climate change actually cost?

In defence of biomass energy

By Professor Colin Prentice, AXA Chair in Biosphere and Climate Impacts

Further to previous posts on this blog regarding Owen Paterson’s recent speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, I would like to take this opportunity to correct his dismissive statement about biomass energy as a potential contribution to decarbonized energy production in the UK. This is what the former Environment Secretary said:

Biomass is not zero carbon. It generates more CO2 per unit of energy even than coal. Even DECC admits that importing wood pellets from North America to turn into hugely expensive electricity here makes no sense if only because a good proportion of those pellets are coming from whole trees.

Has climate change been exaggerated? Fact-checking Owen Paterson’s comments

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

In a lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has criticised the current government’s climate and energy policies, suggesting there is too much emphasis on renewables and that the consequences of climate change have been exaggerated. A discussion of Mr Paterson’s comments on UK energy policy appears in another Grantham blog by Dr Simon Buckle. Here I will discuss one of the reasons for Paterson’s position, the belief that climate change has been exaggerated.

Paterson suggested that the Earth has not warmed as much as had been predicted, “ … I also accept the unambiguous failure of the atmosphere to warm anything like as fast as predicted by the vast majority of climate models over the past 35 years, when measured by both satellites and surface thermometers.

Paterson misses the point

By Dr Simon Buckle,  Grantham Institute

Owen Paterson’s remarks on the UK response to climate change miss the point.  I do not disagree with him that the UK decarbonisation strategy should be improved.  In particular, there is a need for a more effective strategy on energy demand.  However, my preferred policy and technology mix would be very different to his and include the acceleration and expansion of the CCS commercial demonstration programme in order to reduce the energy penalty and overall costs of CCS. And without CCS, there is no way responsibly to use the shale gas he wants the UK to produce in the coming decades for electricity generation or in industrial processes, or any other fossil fuels.

2°C or not 2°C – should we ditch the below 2°C target for global warming?

By Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director, Grantham Institute

A commentary published in Nature this week has opened up a discussion about the value of using the goal of keeping global warming to below 2°C.

David Victor and Charles Kennel are concerned that the below 2°C target for global warming is not useful, partly because they consider it is no longer achievable and partly because global mean surface temperature does not present a full picture of climate change.  The problem comes, of course, in identifying an alternative approach to establishing what is required from attempts to mitigate global warming.

The 2 degree target is in a sense nominal, in that it there is no precise threshold at which everything goes from bearable to unbearable, but it does have the advantage of being easy to understand, for both policy makers and the wider public .