We’re (Not) Dreaming of a White Halloween

The eastern USA has been hit by unseasonal snowstorms with widespread snowfall across many States. Nine people are reported to have died in weather-related incidents with over 3 million homes suffering from power loss. Meteorologists point to the scarcity of October snowfall as an indicator of quite how unusual an event this is. Saturday was only the fourth time snowfall has been recorded in New York’s Central Park.

States of emergency have been called in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts as local authorities and power companies struggled to clear roads this early in the season and restore power to homes.

It has been 40 years since Pennsylvania has seen a significant snowstorm so early and snowfall records tumbled in Massachusetts as over half a metre of snow fell across parts of the State.

Transport disruption is widespread with air, rail and road links all badly affected. While the worst of the storm, which saw winds of up to 70mph at Nantucket, now seems to have passed, emergency agencies warn that it will take many days before normality is restored.

Climatologists, however, cautioned against extrapolating from this event that the coming winter was going to be colder than average.

‘The Earth is Warming’ Concludes New Independent Study.

A new study into the global temperature record, part-funded by climate sceptics, has produced remarkably similar conclusions to the other notable records.

The study was set up by a new body of US scientists, the Berkeley Earth Project, in the wake of “Climategate”, which saw emails hacked from the University of East Anglia published online as ‘evidence’ that data had been manipulated by scientists to support predetermined conclusions. It led to criticism and attacks on the three main temperature records, compiled by NASA, NOAA and The Met Office/University of East Anglia. These records all indicate global land-surface temperature increases of around 1C over the last 50 years, findings echoed by the Berkeley Earth Project. A series of official inquiries into the controversy found that while some of the University’s data management practices were substandard, there was no evidence of manipulation of data.

The Berkeley Earth Project was set up by Professor Richard Muller, University of California, who assembled a team of 10 other notable scientists, largely physicists, including recent Nobel Physics Laureate, Saul Perlmutter.

One of the key issues examined by the Project was the claim from climate sceptics that the 3 main global surface temperature records are biased due to excessive weighting of data from urban weather stations that are increasingly influenced by the heat island effect as cities expand. They confirmed that, as is well-known, the urban heat island effect is real but that it is not behind the warming registered by the majority of weather stations around the world.
The report also finds that claims of poor station quality and skewed data selection have no basis in fact.

Since the 1950s, the average temperature over land has increased by 1C, the group found.

The Berkeley Earth Project has broken with recent common practice in publishing its results on its website in advance of the peer-review process. Inviting comments on its methodology and findings, the group is effectively crowd-sourcing its work.

The study, based on data from over 39,000 stations worldwide, confirms that the three main records were undertaken carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.
The conclusions of the Project knock away a key plank of the arguments advanced by those who described the three main global surface temperature records as unreliable and effectively puts to bed the complaint that scientists at UEA and elsewhere had manipulated data to show warming that was not real.

Mike Rigby, of climate consultancy, Original Carbon welcomed the report saying it was time for those sceptical of the published science to drop their claims. “This report, funded in part by those well-known for their climate scepticism must surely draw a line under the fanciful attacks that this lobby has mounted on climate scientists in recent years. There has been no doctoring of data. The temperature records reflect what is happening to global temperatures.”

The Project next plans to look at ocean temperatures, in order to construct a global land/ocean dataset.

The Original Carbon Co. Features in Good Shopping Guide. Again.

The Ethical Company Organisation has once again featured The Original Carbon Co in its annual publication The Good Shopping Guide.

Edition 10 of this world-leading ethical shopping reference book features brand new research as well as the Ethical Company Index, which provides comparative ethical shopping rankings for over 700 companies and brands, scoring each out of 100. Order the book direct now with free delivery.

The Good Shopping Guide is the world’s leading ethical shopping reference book. The book is supported by ethical consumers and NGOs like Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and the World Development Movement.

It reports on and ranks the ethical scores of the companies behind hundreds of the world’s biggest brands – with regard to the Environment, Animal Welfare and Human Rights records.

Under our former name, Copenhagen Carbon, we feature in the Good Network part of the book. Thanks ECO!

Climate Change Poses ‘Grave Security Threat’


Climate change poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security around the world, according to an expert conference in London.

Officers in the UK military warned that the price of goods such as fuel is likely to rise as conflict provoked by climate change increases.

A statement from the meeting adds that humanitarian disasters will put more and more strain on military resources.

It asks governments to adopt ambitious targets for curbing greenhouse gases.

The annual UN climate conference opens in about six weeks’ time, and the doctors, academics and military experts represented at the meeting (held in the British Medical Association’s (BMA) headquarters) argue that developed and developing countries alike need to raise their game.

Scientific studies suggest that the most severe climate impacts will fall on the relatively poor countries of the tropics.

UK military experts pointed out that much of the world’s trade moves through such regions, with North America, Western Europe and China among the societies heavily dependent on oil and other imports.

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, climate and energy security envoy for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), said that conflict in such areas could make it more difficult and expensive to obtain goods on which countries such as Britain rely.

“If there are risks to the trade routes and other areas, then it’s food, it’s energy,” he told BBC News.

“The price of energy will go up – for us, it’s [the price of] petrol at the pumps – and goods made in southeast Asia, a lot of which we import.”

Coffee climate

A number of recent studies have suggested that climate impacts will make conflict more likely, by increasing competition for scare but essential resources such as water and food.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, for example, recently warned that climate change “will increase the risks of resource shortages, mass migration and civil conflict”, while the MoD’s view is that it will shift “the tipping point at which conflict occurs”.

Alejandro Litovsky, founder of the Earth Security Initiative, said that even without the increasing effect of conflict, prices of essential goods were bound to rise.

“From the year 2000 onwards, we have been seeing commodity prices climb, and this is not likely to stop,” he said.

“It is primarily driven by resource scarcity, and the trends suggest that depletion of these natural resources is unlikely to be reversed in the near future without drastic interventions.”

He also said that degradation of natural resources such as forests and freshwater was removing much of the resilience that societies formerly enjoyed.

Last week, multinational coffee house Starbucks warned that climate change threatened the world’s coffee supplies in 20-30 years’ time.

Compromised by carbon

The military officers at the meeting also emphasised the interest that armed forces have in reducing their own carbon footprint.

In Afghanistan, for example, fuel has to be delivered by road from Pakistan.

By the time it reaches its destination, it can cost 10 times the pump price. And the convoys are regularly targeted by opposing forces.

Several officers admitted that armed forces were “the gas-guzzlers of the world” – and while that was sometimes necessary in operations, reducing fossil fuel use and adopting renewables wherever possible made sense from economic and tactical points of view.

Rear Admiral Morisetti recalled that when commanding an aircraft carrier, it took a gallon of oil to move just 12 inches (30cm), while as many as 20 tonnes per hour were burned during a period of intensive take-off and landing.

“You can do that [with oil prices at] $30 a barrel, but not at $100 or $200,” he said.
Health gains

On the health side, doctors warned of a raft of impacts, particularly in developing countries.

Hunger and malnutrition were likely to increase, and some infectious diseases were likely to spread, they said.

Poorer societies could expect to see an unholy symbiosis between the two, with under-nourished people more prone to succumb to infections.

Tackling carbon emissions, by contrast, would bring a range of health benefits, they argue in their statement.

“Changes in power generation improve air quality.

“Modest life style changes – such as increasing physical activity through walking and cycling – will cut rates of heart disease and stroke, obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, dementia and depressive illness.

“Climate change mitigation policies would thus significantly cut rates of preventable death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

No cause for optimism

As the UN summit in South Africa approaches, the statement here calls on the EU to increase its ambition and pledge to reduce emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, rather than the current target of 20%.

Currently, there does not appear to be political consensus for such a move within EU governments, however.

Additional recommendations are that developing country governments should analyse climate threats to their health and security, and that all governments should stop construction of new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage (CCS) – which, as commercial CCS systems do not exist, would as things stand amount to a complete ban.

Without urgent action, carbon emissions could rise to levels that should cause major alarm, said Chris Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London.

Already, he noted, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen to about 380 parts per million [ppm] – whereas in the millions of years before the pre-industrial era, it fluctuated between about 180ppm during Ice Ages and about 280ppm in the warm interglacial periods.

“If we don’t do something, then at the rate we’re going, carbon emissions will continue to accelerate, and the atmospheric concentration is not going to be 450ppm or 650ppm by the end of the century, but 1,000ppm,” he said.

“That is 10 times the difference between an Ice Age and an interglacial; and you have to be a pretty huge optimist to think that won’t bring major changes.”

Thai Floodwaters Reach Bangkok

The floodwaters that have claimed almost three hundred lives in Ayutthaya have now reached the Thai capital, Bangkok. Exceptionally heavy monsoon rains have caused the worst flooding in the country for decades. Widespread damage to crops has occurred together with damage to hundreds of factories and thousands of homes. Over 100,000 people have been displaced by the floods and sheltering in emergency refuges.

Authorities believe that while northern suburbs of Bangkok will see flooding of up to one storey, the commercial and tourist centre will be spared. Engineers have been racing to repair a damaged dyke as part of the defence bid and temporary sandbag levees have been erected along the banks of the Chao Phraya River to try and keep water out of adjoining areas.

Some blame poor planning and water management for the extensive damage caused and concerns have been raised that Bangkok has lost its natural defences through the infilling of a huge network of canals, with many of those that remain becoming clogged with rubbish. Deforestation and construction on floodplains have considerably magnified the damage caused.

The cost of repair, already estimated at over $5bn, is expected to rise as the floodwaters recede and the extent of the damage becomes clear.

The flooding was triggered by Severe Tropical Storm Nock-Ten which delivered exceptionally heavy rain with persistent precipitation of 50mm per hour being measured by NASA satellites.

MPs Warn of Government’s Schizophrenic Approach to Climate Change

The UK Government’s approach to climate change has been described as “schizophrenic” by a Committee of MPs, and is undermining investor confidence in low-carbon industries.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has re-iterated comments by Chancellor, George Osborne, at last week’s Conservative Party Conference. There, Osborne announced that the UK would no longer try and lead on carbon cuts but instead reduce emissions at the same rate as the rest of the EU. His justification for this move was that to cut more quickly would jeopardise jobs in this country and export emissions overseas.

However, the House Environmental Audit Committee warned that sending ‘sending mixed messages’ to the market risked investment in the required low carbon technology.

The UK has committed to cut carbon emissions in half by 2025. However, the current administration has now said that this will be reviewed in 2014.

Committee Chair Joan Walley (Labour) said, “The chancellor’s comments last week show that five years on from the Stern Review, the Treasury still doesn’t get climate change – or the risk it poses to global stability and economic prosperity.”

Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative committee member, said, “Unless they provide real long-term certainty, the transition to a low-carbon economy will be slower and bumpier than it needs to be.”

Mike Rigby, CEO of climate consultancy, Original Carbon, agreed with these sentiments, pointing out that the drive towards a low carbon future had the potential to provide a massive boost in high quality jobs. “The current Government attitude is inconsistent with David Cameron’s commitment to lead “the greenest government ever”, said Rigby. “We should be leading the drive to low carbon energy production rather than just opening the door to foreign firms and workers to provide this infrastructure in the UK. I went to talk to the installers at a local 2MW solar plant near my home recently. It was just as well I could speak German as I would otherwise not have been able to communicate with any of them,” he continued.

“This work should be the preserve of British firms but through the Government’s ambivalent attitude towards renewable energy, other countries have stolen a march on the UK.” Rigby poured cold water on Barker’s assertion that the UK was doing more than any other nation to provide long-term certainty for those investing in the low-carbon economy. “That statement is simply not borne out by the reality on the ground. Germany is way ahead of us,” Rigby pointed out.

It Never Rains But It Pours…..or not

Pacific island nation, Tuvalu has declared a state of emergency due to severe shortages of fresh water.
Tuvalu, one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of less than 11,000 and a total land area of just 26 sq km, is already under imminent threat from rising sea levels. Its representative at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, Ian Fry, was one of the strongest critics of the final document, stating “It looks like we are being offered thirty pieces of silver to betray our people and our future.” Saline water from the sea has seeped inland on the main atoll due to rising sea levels.

Now, it is claimed that water supplies may dry up in some parts as soon as this week.
New Zealand has come to the country’s aid, flying in water supplies and desalination units to help ease the crisis.
Local people have been advised to avoid drinking water abstracted from the ground as it is not considered safe for consumption. Whether this is the result of additional saline intrusion or some other form of contamination is not yet clear.

Tuvalu’s average annual rainfall is a not insignificant 3,048 mm. However, no significant rainfall has materialised in six months with experts blaming the La Nina phenomenon. Water resources are typically collected from roofs and stored, with little opportunity for groundwater abstraction or reservoir storage.
As well as battling rising sea levels and the loss of land and damage to groundwater that that causes, Tuvalu is now battling the climate on a second front, calling into question the island’s long-term habitability and the county’s survival.