climate change

What does 2013 hold for the UK’s Climate Change Committee? This worthy body was established in 2009 and is responsible for advising the government on emissions targets and reporting to parliament on the progress being made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The remit sounds reasonable but the reality is that the committee has been written off in Whitehall. The committee’s advice is blatantly ignored and its chief executive, despite his obvious knowledge and capability, has been dismissed by no less than the prime minister as too inexperienced and unqualified to be appointed as permanent secretary of the energy department. For a serious public servant that is pretty damning. 

President of the World Bank. Getty

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president, has made an urgent plea for action to address the “devastating” risks of climate change as the development body releases a stark assessment of the potential impact of rising global temperatures.

“It is my hope that this report shocks us into action,” Dr Kim said in the foreword of a study the bank commissioned to look at what would happen if the world warmed by 4°C from pre-industrial levels.

 

Vast onshore wind farms are not a viable option for the UK

Barring a last minute intervention by the Treasury, the UK government will publish its new energy bill within the next few days. As it stands, the bill is a triumph of politics over economics and common sense – a symbolic victory for the Liberal Democrats designed to keep the coalition’s unhappy marriage together.

The problem is that serious investors will not believe a bill that reinforces subsidies to onshore wind, puts no hard numbers on the subsidies necessary for nuclear new build, sidelines the potential of energy efficiency and further technological advances, and completely ignores the issue of energy costs and competitiveness. 

Thanks to those who have commented on the post on adaptation to climate change – or at least thanks to most of them.

Just to be clear, I don’t see adaptation as an alternative to emissions reductions but as an essential part of a twin track strategy.  We need both.  As I said, I can’t see emissions being kept low enough to avoid the risk of an increase of around 2 degree C.  That isn’t a statement of what is desirable, but a judgment of the current political reality.  I hope I’m wrong, but watching what is happening in the US in particular, I am not optimistic.  I will write more on the US situation in the run up to the election. Given my lack of optimism I feel that adaptation is an imperative.  But the other track should be pursued as well.  If we don’t limit emissions at all, the risk is that the average temperature change could go well beyond 2 degrees.  Then we really will be in trouble, especially in terms of food production and the fate of low lying territories and their inhabitants. 

Images provided by NASA

Evidence from the American space agency NASA published at the end of July shows the remarkable and disturbing degree to which Greenland’s ice cap has melted.  Taken in combination with extreme weather conditions in the US and Asia over the last few months, what is happening in Greenland raises again the unresolved issue of climate change and what should be done to mitigate the associated risks.  But the traditional approach of gradually reducing emissions by changing the energy mix may no longer be a viable option.