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Climate Talks

Sandy puts climate change back on the US election agenda

altThe images of a paralysed New York City at the mercy of Hurricane Sandy's wall of water have forced climate change on to the political agenda in the final week of the 2012 presidential election campaign. Even before Sandy made landfall political commentators were debating whether the storm would be better for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. In any event it has brought forth statements from prominent Democrats and elected officials on climate change and spurred public debate about the neglected topic.

Campaigners said the devastating storm could turn out to be the October Surprise of the elections, exposing Republicans' failure to engage with an issue that is no longer a distant threat, but a present day danger.

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Hitachi energises future of low-carbon power in the UK

altThe future of low-carbon energy in the UK became a little clearer on Tuesday when a new player entered the nuclear race and the government published a shortlist of four potential carbon capture and storage projects that will compete for funding.

The Japanese industrial company Hitachi has agreed to buy the nuclear consortium Horizon, a former project of the German utilities RWE and E.ON, which they put up for sale when they decided to bow out of UK nuclear energy in March.

Hitachi, which faces a nuclear shutdown in its home market after the Fukushima incident last year, will pay £700m and hopes to construct up to four nuclear reactors across the country. Horizon plans new reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey, north Wales, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

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US politicians duck climate change because of cost

altOne of the world's leading naturalists has accused US politicians of ducking the issue of climate change because of the economic cost of tackling it and warned that it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to the dangers of global warming.

Speaking just days after the subject of climate change failed to get a mention in the US presidential debates for the first time in 24 years, Sir David Attenborough told the Guardian: "[It] does worry me that most powerful nation in the world, North America, denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don't know what you do about that. It's easier to deny."

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Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets

altCoal is enjoying a renaissance, with the highest consumption of the fuel since the late 1960s. The unexpected development threatens to put climate change targets out of reach – and much of the reason is the rise of a supposedly "green" fuel, natural gas.

The controversial use of shale gas in the US, where it now makes up a quarter of electricity generation, has brought down carbon emissions there – but the greenhouse gases have simply been exported elsewhere, meaning no net gain for the planet, research by the Guardian and other sources has found.

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EU to probe £1bn Welsh gas plant's environmental impact

altThe European Commission has launched an investigation into the UK government's approval of a £1bn gas-fired power station in Pembrokeshire following complaints by environmental campaigners.

RWE npower's 2GW Pembroke power station opened last month and is thought to be the largest of its type in Europe, capable of powering 3.5 million homes.

But a complaint by Friends of the Earth Cymru to Brussels has resulted in officials this week writing to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) asking it to clarify the impact of the power plant on surrounding coastal water.

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Climate change sceptic Peter Lilley joins Commons energy committee

altPeter Lilley, a climate change sceptic and oil company director, has been appointed to the House of Commons energy and climate change select committee.

Lilley was one of only three MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act in 2008. He is also vice-chairman and senior independent non-executive director of Tethys Petroleum Ltd, an oil and gas company with operations in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The 11-member committee is appointed by the Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and its associated public bodies.

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Profitable climate fixes are too tempting for rogue geoengineers to resist

altIt was only a matter of time before somebody broke the fragile social and political consensus surrounding geoengineering, and had a first crack at "experiment Earth".

The news that American businessman Russ George has dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to fertilise algal blooms that absorb carbon dioxide, was received with justified indignation and outrage by campaigners and mainstream scientists. But there have been rumblings (and rumours of shadowy trials) for many years, and the idea of being a "geoengineer" was always going to prove tempting for the likes of George (who is blacklisted at several international ports for previous algae-related misdemeanours).

Geoengineering – the possibility of using large-scale technologies to counteract the effects of climate change – has arrived. The question is, are we ready for it?

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Profitable climate fixes are too tempting for rogue geoengineers to resist

altIt was only a matter of time before somebody broke the fragile social and political consensus surrounding geoengineering, and had a first crack at "experiment Earth".

The news that American businessman Russ George has dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to fertilise algal blooms that absorb carbon dioxide, was received with justified indignation and outrage by campaigners and mainstream scientists. But there have been rumblings (and rumours of shadowy trials) for many years, and the idea of being a "geoengineer" was always going to prove tempting for the likes of George (who is blacklisted at several international ports for previous algae-related misdemeanours).

Geoengineering – the possibility of using large-scale technologies to counteract the effects of climate change – has arrived. The question is, are we ready for it?

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We must impose a carbon limit on new electricity generation here and now

altArctic ice is melting faster than expected. Five years ago authoritative predictions suggested it would take until 2065 to shrink to the size it reached last month.

Drastic action is necessary to reduce emissions from the energy sector if we are to slow the rate of global warming.

Earlier this year, the UK government's independent climate adviser, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), called for the carbon footprint of UK electricity to be 50g/kWh by 2030.

However, the government has set a standard for new electricity generators that is nine times higher. This is to allow electricity generation from natural gas. But we will not achieve the CCC target if these gas plants are built, because they typically last 30 years. The government claims this "dash for gas" will lead us out of recession.

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Can the Isle of Wight start a power revolution?

altEnergy minister John Hayes gets on the internet, clicks a mouse and instantly turns off the electricity being used to charge up an electric car 15 miles away. At the same time, he can shut down a fridge and a water heater in a house three miles away. History may record his activation this week of a rudimentary smart grid of two buildings on the Isle of Wight as the start of a power revolution which its advocates hope will spread across Britain and vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and electricity consumption.

If the final pieces of a complex financial jigsaw can be put in place, then within 10 years the island can expect to have not only a smart grid to manage the energy used in tens of thousands of homes and businesses, but it could also be self-sufficient in renewable energy generated from waste, wind, solar and marine sources.

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US businessman defends controversial geoengineering experiment

altThe American businessman who dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean has become a lone defender of his project, after a storm of criticism from indigenous peoples, the Canadian government and a UN biodiversity meeting in India.

Russ George, who told the Globe and Mail that he is the world's leading "champion" of geoengineering, says he has been under a "dark cloud of vilification" since the Guardian broke news of an ocean fertilisation scheme, funded by an indigenous village on the Haida Gwaii islands, that aimed to make money in offset markets by sequestering carbon through artificial plankton blooms.

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Scientists have 'limited knowledge' of how climate change causes extinction

altA major review into the impact of climate change on plants and animals has found that scientists have almost no idea how it drives various species to extinction.

Though some organisms struggle to cope physiologically with rising temperatures – a simple and direct result of climate change – there was scarce evidence this was the main climate-related threat to many species whose numbers were already falling.

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Antarctic Sea Ice Hits Record ... High?

altDespite frequent headlines about a warming planet, melting sea ice, and rising oceans, climate analysts pointed to a seeming bright spot this week: During Southern Hemisphere winters, sea ice in the Antarctic, the floating chunks of frozen ocean water, is actually increasing.

In fact, in late September, satellite data indicated that Antarctica was surrounded by the greatest area of sea ice ever recorded in the region: 7.51 million square miles (19.44 million square kilometers), the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Thursday. Even so, it's a slow rate of growth—about one percent over last year—not nearly enough to offset melting in the Arctic, which broke records just weeks ago.

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College helps to save tropical rainforest

altSouth Staffordshire College is playing a key role in helping save one of the world’s tropical rainforests.

Students from the College’s Rodbaston Campus have been collecting cans for Cans for Corridors, a project designed to help save the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil and for every 50 cans recycled through the scheme, one tree is planted in the Atlantic Rainforest.

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Activist object to dirty air with clean graffiti on the Royal Courts of Justice

Environment UK clean airFifteen members of the eco-activist group Climate Rush, dressed in brightly coloured cleaning attire including feather dusters, headscarves, pinnies and marigolds, cleaned a message on the floor outside the Royal Courts of Justice with the words ‘We object to dirty air’ on Wednesday. The action marks the first day of a hearing in the Court of Appeal where the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)'s action on air pollution will be scrutinised.

Law firm ClientEarth brought a case to the High Court in December, which resulted in DEFRA admitting to breaching European Union laws on air quality. However, the judge did not force DEFRA to adapt plans to improve air quality in the UK to address this breach of EU law. Today the Court of Appeal will re-examine the case.

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Residents Say No To Burning Coal Under Swansea Bay

Environment UK Swansea says noResidents from Swansea teamed up with activist group Frack Off this morning to protest against Underground Coal Gasification outside an industry conference in central London .

Swansea Bay has been chosen by extraction company Clean Coal Ltd as a test site for Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), the controversial method of gasifying un-minable coal by part burning it underground.

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University of East Anglia spent £112,870 on 'climategate' PR

Environment UK University of East AngliaA University has been forced to reveal how much it paid the Outside Organisation in wake of hacked emails furore.

Public relations is an uncertain science. There are some widely agreed ground rules – be on top of the facts, be proactive, etc – but each event or crisis also demands a uniquely tailored response.

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Climate change is a 'feminist' issue, claims MEP

Environment UK climateA committee of EU politicians is attempting to argue that climate change is a feminist issue.

Members of the European Parliament will vote today on a report by a French Green party MEP who claims global warming “is not gender neutral”.

Nicole Kiil-Nielsen said women “consume more sustainably than men and show greater willingness to act to preserve the environment” as they tend to organise household consumption and childcare.

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More damaging stormy weather for Europe

Environment UK lightningEurope is likely to be hit by more violent winter storms in the future. Now a new study into the effects of climate change has found out why.

A weakening of the warm North Atlantic ocean current, the Meridional Overturning Circulation, during the next century has already been predicted by climate scientists, with suggestions it could lead to colder sea temperatures and reduced warming in Britain.

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Death threats, intimidation and abuse: climate change scientist Michael E. Mann counts the cost of honesty

Environment UK US physicist and climatolResearch by Michael E. Mann confirmed the reality of global warming. Little did he know that it would also expose him to a vicious hate campaign

The scientist who has borne the full brunt of attacks by climate change deniers, including death threats and accusations of misappropriating funds, is set to hit back.

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MSPs in 'world first' climate event

Environment UK climate changeMSPs have held what was said to be the world's first parliamentary debate on climate justice.

The concept of climate justice highlights the unequal impact that rising carbon emissions and associated climate change has on poorer countries.

During the debate, Environment and Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson announced the launch of a "climate justice fund" this spring in response to the impact of climate change on the world's poorest communities.

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