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Sun10222017

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2012 second wettest year on record for UK

alt2012 was the second wettest year on record in the UK and the wettest ever in England, the Met Office announced on Thursday.

The downpours that caused more than 8,000 homes and businesses to suffer flooding led to a total of 1,330.7mm of rain for the year, just 6.6mm short of the wettest UK year recorded in 2000 (1337.3mm).

Analysis by the Met Office also suggests that the UK may be getting increasingly wetter as climate change causes warmer air to carry more water. Days of extreme rainfall – downpours expected once every 100 days – occurred every 70 days in 2012.

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Lisa Jackson's legacy at the Environmental Protection Agency

altAs Lisa Jackson gets ready to step down as head of the EPA shortly after the president's inauguration later this month, she is being hailed by environmentalists for pushing through the toughest new air and water pollution rules in over two decades, and speaking out on climate change in an administration that has largely avoided confronting the issue head-on.

Jackson is admired even by some of her critics. Republican James M Inhofe of Oklahoma, a leading Senate opponent of environmental legislation, referred to the charming Jackson as "my favorite bureaucrat".

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How will climate change impact on fresh water security?

altFresh water is crucial to human society – not just for drinking, but also for farming, washing and many other activities. It is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, and this is partly due to climate change.

Understanding the problem of fresh water scarcity begins by considering the distribution of water on the planet. Approximately 98% of our water is salty and only 2% is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has several effects on these proportions on a global scale. The main one is that warming causes polar ice to melt into the sea, which turns fresh water into sea water, although this has little direct effect on water supply.

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China and US hold the key to a new global climate deal

altChina and the US are to be the clear focus of the next year of climate change negotiations, following a hard-fought climate conference that ended in Doha on Saturday night.

The world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases hold the key to forging a new global agreement on climate change, that for the first time would bind both developed and developing countries to cut their emissions. But both face severe political problems that will make the talks for the next few years extremely difficult.

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Young people doing their bit to improve the environment

altYoung people from all over Europe are working with broadcasters to create films about improving their environment.

What are the small things they can do to make a big change? How can they all do something to make their planet more sustainable? Simple. They each need to do a little bit. That's the idea of Energy Bits.

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Why cutting CO2 is more important than stopping methane

altGlobal warming is caused by a whole host of gases and particles. In addition to the chief villain – carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use – two of the most important are methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are generated in large quantities by agriculture and fossil fuel extraction, among other sources. Then there are all the refrigerant gases used in the world's air conditioners, fridges and freezers; the soot generated by cars, industrial plants and cooking fires the world over; and even the vapour trails left by in the sky by aircraft.

With so many warming agents at work, companies and governments are often faced with complex and even controversial decisions about which ones to prioritise. The debate stems from the fact that the various gases and particles operate at very different timescales. Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and some refrigerants stay in the air for centuries or even millennia, locking in warming for all the time they are there. The others – collectively know as short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs – create a burst of warming that is powerful but brief. Soot's impact is gone within a few weeks. Methane stays in the air for an average of around 12 years (confusingly, it then becomes CO2) and hydroflurocarbons, used in refrigeration and insulation foam, typically last around 15 years.

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How will climate change impact on fresh water security?

altFresh water is crucial to human society – not just for drinking, but also for farming, washing and many other activities. It is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, and this is partly due to climate change.

Understanding the problem of fresh water scarcity begins by considering the distribution of water on the planet. Approximately 98% of our water is salty and only 2% is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has several effects on these proportions on a global scale. The main one is that warming causes polar ice to melt into the sea, which turns fresh water into sea water, although this has little direct effect on water supply.

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After the floods, we must rebuild homes differently

altAs the water passes its height and ebbs away from St Asaph, Ruthin and York, we look on with sympathy. This time round we had only minor puddles in our bedroom from water oozing through the stone walls. Back in July, the whole ground floor of our converted riverside barn was feet deep in black river water and devastated. The worst time, I now appreciate, is not when the water is swirling past your windows and gushing under your doors. While that's going on you have too much to do to panic or feel sorry for yourself – carrying stuff to safety, rescuing the cats and chickens, checking on neighbours – and everyone else wants to help. The misery comes later, when the rest of the world seems to be back to normal: the news no longer shouts "Floods devastate England and Wales", and yet your home is a wreck.

Outside lie enormous heaps of sodden possessions, not just beds and carpets that can be replaced, but once-loved books, old clothes, photographs and paintings that cannot. These stinking heaps do not instantly disappear but remain as a reminder of all you've lost until the insurers give the go-ahead. Then begin the phone calls and emails to loss adjusters, builders, engineers; the forms and databases of every item lost, with estimates, receipts and even photographic evidence to prove that you really did have that little wooden summer house that was completely swept away in the torrent.

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Climate change adaptation cash fails to materialise

altWealthy countries have not only failed to provide cash to help poor people adapt to climate change, but much of what they have agreed to give so far has come out of existing aid budgets or in the form of loans that will need to be repaid, new research by two international agencies shows.

The EU and nine countries including the US, Canada and Australia agreed at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 to make a downpayment of $30bn (£18.7bn) by the end of this year on the eventual $100bn that must be raised by 2020.

But separate analysis by Oxfam and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), shows only $23.6bn, or 78%, has been committed and much of that is not "new and additional" to existing aid, as was agreed.

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Doha climate talks live chat: what's at stake for poor countries?

altNext week, thousands will travel to Doha, Qatar, for the next round of climate change talks at COP (Conference of the Parties) 18. It's a crucial time for climate change and development, coming only six months after the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, and as discussions intensify around the post-2015 development agenda. The Kyoto protocol – the only global agreement on cutting greenhouse emissions – is set to expire at the end of this year.

A recent report (pdf) commissioned by the World Bank examines the potential impact a 4C increase in global temperature could have on economic development. It outlines stark scenarios for developing countries: the inundation of coastal cities, risks for food production, which could potentially increase malnutrition, heatwaves, water scarcity and the loss of biodiversity.

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China defends carbon emissions growth

altChina says its emissions will keep rising until its per capita GDP is around five times its current rate, further dampening hopes that the world's largest polluter will agree in principle to ambitious binding emission reduction targets at this month's Doha Climate Change Summit.

Heading into the conference, Xie Zhenhua, China's chief negotiator, told state news agency Xinhua it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect the county to make absolute cuts in emissions when its per capita GDP stands at $5,000.

He said emissions peaked in Western countries when their per capita GDP was between $40,000 and $50,000 and China's were still climbing towards that point.

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David Cameron has gone cold on climate change

altBack in 2006, WWF took David Cameron – then leader of the opposition – on a trip to the island of Svalbard, high in the Norwegian Arctic. He wanted to see for himself the impact climate change is already having on one part of the natural world, and to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of climate change. The Conservative leader also used the resulting publicity, including the now-famous "husky hugging" photograph, in his efforts to "detoxify" the party's brand.

At the time, it seemed to us that Cameron had a strong personal commitment to this agenda. In Oslo on his way back to the UK, he gave a speech in which he spoke passionately about what he had learned on the trip – and on his return, he made "vote blue, go green" a central part of the Conservatives' electoral platform.

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All nations will suffer effects of climate change, warns World Bank

altAll nations will suffer the effects of a world 4C hotter, but it is the world's poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report published on Monday on climate change.

Under the new World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, the global development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to integrate climate change into development.

"We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today," Kim told reporters on a conference call on Friday.

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US considers shifting climate negotiations away from UN track

altThe US is considering a funnel of substantive elements of the Doha Climate Summit away from the UN framework and into the Major Economies Forum (MEF), a platform of the world's largest CO2 emitters, EurActiv has learned.

Since 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has provided an umbrella for talks to curb global greenhouse gas emissions, and on 26 November, will host the COP18 Climate Summit in Qatar.

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Polling day shambles for coalition over climate change policy

altThe coalition's green policy is in disarray after an undercover film revealed George Osborne's father-in-law claiming that the chancellor is behind a Tory campaign to oppose commitments against climate change.

Lord Howell of Guildford, a former minister in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet who stood down as a foreign office minister in September, said the chancellor was "putting pressure" on David Cameron over "absurd" climate change targets.

The comments by Howell were disclosed in Greenpeace undercover filming as coalition tensions on climate change were exposed further when the Tory energy minister at the heart of the row over windfarms and green policy pulled out of a scheduled joint appearance before a select committee of MPs with his Liberal Democrat boss.

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US governors cross party lines in support of windfarm subsidies

altRepublicans and Democrats called a momentary truce in the energy and climate wars on Tuesday, teaming up in support of windfarms and even the introduction of a carbon tax.

In a first sign of a possible shift in the landscape after Barack Obama's re-election, governors from both parties urged Congress to extend subsidies for windfarms.

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Giant pandas threatened by climate change

altGiant pandas could be left hungry and struggling to survive by global warming, scientists have warned. A new study predicts that climate change is set to wipe out much of the bamboo on which the bears rely for food.

Prime panda habitat in China could be completely lost by the end of the century, say the researchers.

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Kyoto won't save us from climate change – but a carbon tax could

altIt is a stark and frightening fact that, despite more than two decades of international effort — including enormous time and energy expended on the Kyoto Protocol — and significant economic costs, carbon emissions are now rising even faster than they were in 1990. Back then they were going up by about 1.5 parts per million (ppm) per year. Now it is 2 ppm. The critical 400 ppm global threshold will shortly be crossed, and there is little reason to believe that this trend is likely to be halted any time soon.

This raises two obvious questions. How could so much effort lead to so little result, and how could so much political capital and economic cost be expended to so little effect? The second follows from the first: Given that current approaches have so lamentably failed, what new directions do we need to take if climate change is to be cracked?

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Why we should name hurricanes after fossil fuel corporations

altAs gutsy New Yorkers begin the task of drying out the city, here's one thought that occurred to me last night watching the horrifying pictures from a distance. It's obviously not crucial right now – but in the long run it might make a difference. Why don't we stop naming these storms for people, and start naming them after oil companies?

Global warming didn't "cause" the hurricane, of course – hurricanes are caused when a tropical wave washes off the coast of Africa and begins to spin in the far Atlantic. But this storm rode ocean waters five degrees warmer than normal, so it's no great shock that it turned into a monster. By the time it hit land, it had smashed every record for the lowest barometric pressure and the largest wind field.

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World on track for 6C warming without carbon cuts, study shows

altNew research by consultancy giant PwC finds an unprecedented 5.1 per cent annual cut in global emissions per unit of GDP, known as carbon intensity, is needed through to 2050 if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change and meet an internationally agreed target of limiting average temperature increases to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Such deep reductions in carbon intensity would be over six times greater than the 0.8 per cent average annual cuts achieved since 2000.

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The day Obama chose a strategy of silence on climate change

altThe invitation to the White House in the spring of 2009 struck Barack Obama's allies in the environmental movement as a big moment: a clear sign that climate change was on his radar and that the president was eager to get to work.

The event was indeed a turning point, but not the one campaigners expected. Instead, it marked a strategic decision by the White House to downplay climate change – avoiding the very word – a decision some campaigners on the guestlist say produced the strange absence of climate change from the 2012 campaign, until hurricane Sandy blew it right back on the political agenda.

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