Connect with us

Published

on

The average UK winter has become around 1C warmer and 15% wetter over the past century, new Carbon Brief analysis shows.

The analysis covers more than 100 years of data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and snow, to assess how UK winters have changed.

The data show that extremely warm and wet winters are becoming more common. Six of the 10 warmest winters on record were in the 21st century, and four of these also rank in the top 10 wettest years on record.

Despite the trend towards milder conditions, extreme cold snaps still hit the UK. The winter of 2009-10, for example, was dubbed the “Big Freeze of 2010” and clocked in as the UK’s least-windy, second-snowiest and eighth-coldest winter on record.

However, extreme cold periods are becoming less common. On average, the UK saw more than 12 snow days each winter in 1971-2000. This dropped to 9.5 snow days each winter by 1991-2020.

As the climate continues to warm, the UK can expect winters to continue getting warmer and wetter. Met Office projections suggest that, under an emissions pathway in line with current global policies, the average UK winter by 2080-99 will be 2C warmer and 11% wetter than they were in 1981-2000.

Warmer winters

The UK Met Office has been collecting meteorological data from thousands of weather stations across the UK since the 1880s. Using this data, it has produced a gridded dataset called HadUK, which provides complete coverage across the UK for a range of climate variables – including rainfall, temperature, snow days and wind speed – on a one-square-kilometre grid.

Carbon Brief has analysed the data for meteorological winters – defined as December, January and February – to determine how weather conditions have changed since records began.

The plot below shows a timeseries of annual winter average temperature (dark blue) over 1884-2021. These are shown as anomalies – that is, the difference compared to a baseline, which in this case is the average winter temperature over 1991-2020.

(Winters are shown on graphs in this article according to the year in which December falls. For example, the winter of December 2021 to February 2022 is shown as 2021.)

Average, minimum and maximum temperature over UK winter (monthly data averaged over December-February) for 1884-2021, compared to a 1991-2020 baseline.
Average, minimum and maximum temperature over UK winter (monthly data averaged over December-February) for 1884-2021, compared to a 1991-2020 baseline. 10-year rolling average shown in black. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The Met Office, in line with the World Meteorological Organisation, uses 30-year averages to assess changes in UK climate. The table below shows average absolute UK winter temperatures for overlapping 30-year time periods across the full data record.

Time period Average temperature Maximum temperature Minimum temperature
1881-1910 2.96* 5.77* 0.18*
1891-1920 3.29 6.06 0.53
1901-1930 3.50 6.21 0.80
1911-1940 3.51 6.21 0.83
1921-1950 3.41 6.12 0.73
1931-1960 3.29 6.05 0.56
1941-1970 3.09 5.84 0.35
1951-1980 3.17 5.91 0.46
1961-1990 3.22 5.94 0.51
1971-2000 3.65 6.40 0.91
1981-2010 3.75 6.58 0.94
1991-2020 4.12 6.97 1.28

Average, maximum and minimum winter temperatures for overlapping 30-year time periods, from 1881 to 2020, using the December-February average of mean monthly temperatures. An asterisk (*) indicates that a full 30 years was not available for this average.

The average UK winter in 1991-2020 was 0.9C warmer than during 1961-90. The most recent 30-year period also includes the warmest maximum, minimum and average temperatures since Met Office records began.

In addition, with an average winter temperature of 4.64C, the most-recent decade (2013-22) – not shown in the table – has seen a further temperature increase of 0.52C above the 1991-2020 average.

Warmer winters are already impacting UK wildlife. For example, Grahame Madge – senior press officer for the Met Office – told the Guardian that animals including hedgehogs, bats and butterflies are emerging from hibernation too early:

“Abnormal warm spells during winter can encourage species out of hibernation. Butterflies such as red admirals and small tortoiseshells and other insects can be particularly challenged as they can emerge largely without access to life-saving food sources like nectar. If the warm spell is followed by a return to colder conditions, the hibernating individuals will have used up valuable energy reserves without being able to replace them, possibly with disastrous consequences.”

Meanwhile, the National Trust says warmer winters have “particularly devastating impacts for trees”, as cold snaps are often not long enough to kill off harmful diseases and pests.

Looking at individual years gives a more detailed picture. The graphic below shows the warmest and coldest 10 winters in the UK since 1884. The dark blue line shows average UK winter temperature, and red and blue dots indicate the warmest and coldest individual winters, respectively. The table below shows the dates and temperatures of these winters.

Warmest and coldest 10 winters in the UK since 1884.
Warmest winters Coldest winters
Years Temperature (C) Years Temperature (C)
1 1988-99 5.76 1962-63 -0.31
2 2006-07 5.53 1894-95 0.42
3 2015-16 5.43 1946-47 0.75
4 1997-98 5.40 1978-79 1.13
5 2019-20 5.28 1939-4 1.23
6 1974-75 5.22 1916-17 1.33
7 2021-22 5.20 1928-29 1.46
8 2013-14 5.19 2009-10 1.63
9 1934-35 5.13 1885-8 1.65
10 2018-19 5.09 1940-41 1.80

Warmest and coldest 10 winters in the UK since 1884. The dark blue line shows average UK winter temperature, and red and blue dots indicate the warmest and coldest individual winters. The table beneath shows the dates and temperatures of these winters. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The graph shows that six of the 10 warmest winters on record have occurred in the 21st century. Conversely, only one of the UK’s coldest 10 winters were in the 21st century – the winter of 2009-10.

The Met Office also provides country-level data for different parts of the UK. The plot below shows 10-year rolling average winter temperature for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow).

10-year rolling average of winter temperatures for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow).
10-year rolling average of winter temperatures for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow). Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The plot shows that Scotland consistently sees the coldest winters, while England, Wales and Northern Ireland experience winter temperatures that are an average of around 1.5-2C warmer.

Snow days

As average temperatures rise across the UK, extremely cold days are becoming less common, while record-breaking warm days are becoming more frequent.

Five of the top 10 warmest days ever recorded during UK winters occurred during a single week February 2019.

Carbon Brief analysed the warmest maximum and coldest minimum temperature on record for each UK winter. The table below shows the years with the warmest (red) maximum daily temperatures and coldest (blue) minimum daily temperatures since 1960.

Warmest maximum temperatures Coldest minimum temperatures
Temperature (C) Year Temperature (C) Year
1 16.1 2018-19 -10.2 1986-87
2 14.3 1997-98 -10.1 1962-63
3 14.0 2015-16 -10.0 1981-82
4 13.8 1989-90 -9.9 1978-79
5 13.6 2003-04 -9.5 1971-72
6 13.5 1985-86 -9.3 2010-11
7 13.4 2011-12 -9.1 1995-96
8 13.3 2016-17 -8.9 1969-70
9 13.3 2021-22 -8.7 2009-10
10 13.2 1994-95 -8.7 1968-69

Years with the 10 warmest (red) maximum temperatures, and coldest (blue) minimum temperatures, based on individual winter days since 1960. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

Most of the warmest winter extremes on record were in the 21st century. Meanwhile, most of the coldest extremes were in the 20th century.

One way of measuring the change in extreme cold days is to count the number of “frost days” – days with a minimum temperature below 0C – recorded throughout the winter. Another way is to count the number of “snow days”, when snow can be seen on the ground at 9am.

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, which manages the UK’s climate records. He explains that to calculate snow days, an individual looks at a “representative patch of ground” at 9am in the morning, and if at least half of it is covered in snow, then it is counted as “snowy”.

These results are averaged across hundreds or thousands of observations. This means that, for example, “an average of five days of snow might mean that half of that region had 10 days and half the region had no days”, he explains.

The plot below shows the number of frost days since 1960 (red) and snow days since 1971 (blue) over winter. The black lines show the 10-year running average.

Total winter air frost days (red) and days with snow lying at 9am (blue).
Total winter air frost days (red) and days with snow lying at 9am (blue). The black lines show the 10-year running average. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The table below shows the total number of first and snow days during UK winters for four overlapping 30-year time periods.

Time period Frost days Snow days
1961-1990 38.43
1971-2000 35.07 12.29
1981-2010 35.17 11.73
1991-2020 32.75 9.54

Total number of frost and snow days for 30-year time periods, from 1931 to 2020, using the December-February average of mean monthly temperatures. An asterisk (*) indicates that a full 30 years was not available for this average.

The plot shows that air frost and snow days are closely linked. Snow will generally not form if the ground temperature is above 5C, and in the UK, the heaviest snowfalls tend to occur when the air temperature is between 0C and 2C

On average, the UK saw 12.3 snow days each winter over 1971-2000. This dropped to 9.5 snow days each winter by 1991-2020.

There is also regional variation in snow days. Over the entire 1971-2020 dataset, Scotland received 18.6 days of snow per winter on average, while the UK, Northern Ireland and Wales received between 7.2 and 8.8.

“Significant and widespread lying snow might have been considered fairly typical for a UK winter of several decades ago,” says the Met Office’s latest State of the UK climate report. However, it adds that “this type of event has become increasingly unusual in a warming climate over the last two or three decades”.

The graph below shows the UK winters with the greatest (light blue dots) and smallest (red dots) number of snow days since 1971.

Snowiest and least snowy 10 winters in the UK since 1884.
Snowiest winters Least snowy winters
Years Snow days Years Snow days
1 1978-79 35.62 2019-20 2.12
2 2009-10 30.59 1991-92 2.39
3 1981-82 26.90 2007-08 2.97
4 1985-86 23.69 1988-89 3.15
5 2010-11 23.13 2021-22 3.35
6 1984-85 21.54 1997-98 3.45
7 1976-77 20.77 2013-14 3.49
8 1977-78 18.54 2016-17 3.57
9 1995-96 18.43 2005-06 3.72
10 1990-91 18.13 1974-75 3.90

Snowiest and least snowy 10 winters in the UK since 1884. The dark blue line shows seasonal “snow days”, and red and blue dots indicate the snowiest and least snowy individual winters. The table beneath shows the dates and number of snow days of these winters. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

While the climate is becoming milder and snow is becoming less common, very cold and snowy winters can still happen. For example, the winter of 2009-10, dubbed the “Big Freeze of 2010” in parts of the UK media, was the least-windy, second-snowiest and eighth-coldest winter on record in the UK.

Severe snowfall that winter caused “very significant disruption across the UK”, according to the UK Met Office, which adds that “transport was particularly badly affected with snowfalls causing numerous road closures, and train and flight cancellations”.

On 18 December 2009, five Eurostar trains got stuck in the Channel Tunnel after cold temperatures caused electrical failures, trapping 2,000 people for 16 hours. All Eurostar services were cancelled for the next three days.

In January that winter, BBC News reported that “heavy snow and freezing temperatures has caused chaos across Scotland over the past three weeks, with hundreds of schools closed and motorists facing hazardous conditions on the roads”.

Snow covered suburban streets during uncommonly severe cold weather in the UK during the winter of 2009/2010.
Snow covered suburban streets during uncommonly severe cold weather in the UK during the winter of 2009/2010. Credit: Anthony Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo

Research from the UK Met Office indicates that the odds of the UK having a winter as cold as the one in 2009-10 will drop to less than 1% by the end of the century as global temperatures continue to rise.

Wetter winters

The total volume of rainfall recorded during UK winters is also rising. The plot below shows total winter rainfall in mm over 1836-2021 (blue) and the 10-year rolling average (black).

Total winter (Dec-Feb) rainfall in mm over 1836-2021, based on the sum of December-February monthly rainfall totals, compared to a 1991-2020 baseline.
Total winter (Dec-Feb) rainfall in mm over 1836-2021, based on the sum of December-February monthly rainfall totals, compared to a 1991-2020 baseline. 10-year rolling average shown in black. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The table below shows average UK winter rainfall totals for a series of overlapping 30-year time periods across the full data record.

30-year period Average annual winter rainfall (mm)
1831-1860 254.69*
1841-1870 276.00
1851-1880 284.28
1861-1890 287.46
1871-1900 281.51
1881-1910 279.06
1891-1920 300.55
1901-1930 311.07
1911-1940 314.51
1921-1950 305.00
1931-1960 298.76
1941-1970 290.82
1951-1980 293.23
1961-1990 301.82
1971-2000 329.22
1981-2010 330.01
1991-2020 346.98

Average winter rainfall over overlapping 30-year time periods, from 1831 to 2020, using the December-February average of mean monthly temperatures. An asterisk (*) indicates that a full 30 years was not available.

Between 1961-90 and 1990-2020, the UK winters became 15% wetter on average – increasing from around 300mm of rainfall to almost 350mm. The more recent decade of 2012-21 – not shown in the table – has seen further increases, with average winter rainfall of 380mm.

The Met Office also provides country-level rainfall data. The plot below shows 10-year rolling average winter temperature for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow).

The 10-year rolling of average total winter rainfall for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow).
The 10-year rolling of average total winter rainfall for England (dark blue), Scotland (red), Northern Ireland (light blue) and Wales (yellow). Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The graph shows that rainfall is increasing across all four regions of the UK, but remains consistently the lowest in England and the highest in Scotland and Wales.

Looking at the wettest and driest years across the UK shows that individual rainfall extremes are becoming more common. In a ranking going back to 1884, seven of the driest years were in the 19th century, while three were in the 20th. None of the driest years on record have been in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, four of the rainiest winters have been in the 21st century. The graph below shows the wettest (blue dots) and driest (red dots) winters since 1884.

Wettest and driest 10 winters in the UK since 1884.
Rainiest winters (mm) Least rainy winters (mm)
Years Winter rainfall Years Winter rainfall
1 2013-14 540.3 1963-64 121.3
2 2015-16 505.7 1890-91 141.4
3 1994-95 498.2 1844-45 164.6
4 1989-90 482.2 1933-34 170.4
5 2019-20 474.5 1846-47 171.3
6 1876-77 458.0 1962-63 171.5
7 1914-15 450.7 1857-58 176.6
8 1868-69 439.6 1840-41 179.6
9 2006-07 435.8 1937-38 186.9
10 1993-94 431.4 1854-55 189.1

Wettest and driest 10 winters in the UK since 1884. The dark blue line shows total winter rainfall, and blue and red dots indicate the driest and wettest snowy individual winters. The grey dashed lines the volume of rainfall recorded during the rainiest and least rainy winters on record. The table beneath shows the dates and total rainfall in mm of these winters. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The fact that UK winters are getting wetter makes sense, McCarthy tells Carbon Brief, because as the atmosphere heats up, it is able to hold more moisture, which can then fall as rain. According to the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, the air can generally hold around 7% more moisture for every 1C of temperature rise.

However, he adds that the observed trend in UK winter rainfall is “somewhat larger than can be explained purely through the thermodynamic process”, and explains that natural variability is also very important when discussing changes in UK winter rainfall.

“We’re in a particularly wet regime at the moment,” McCarthy explains, “so we are seeing lots of winter rainfall records and wetter winters, but it’s the combination of variability and climate change”.

For example, December 2015 topped the charts as the UK’s wettest month on record, after Storm Desmond swept across the UK, bringing very heavy rainfall and gale-force winds to much of northern England, southern Scotland and Ireland. The resulting floods left many homes inundated and at least 60,000 without power.

The winter of 2015-16 was also the third warmest on record. Preliminary analysis conducted at the time suggested that the exceptional rainfall totals were 40% more likely because of rising global temperatures.

The jet stream

The graph below shows the relationship between temperature and rainfall, where warm and wet winters are shown in the top right, while cool and dry winters are in the bottom left. Darker dots indicate more recent years.

Temperature and rainfall, where warm and wet winters are shown in the top right, while cold and dry winters are in the bottom left.
Temperature and rainfall, where warm and wet winters are shown in the top right, while cold and dry winters are in the bottom left. Labels indicate the year in which December falls – for example, 2013 refers to the winter of 2013/14. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The UK’s winter weather regime is strongly linked to the strength of the jet stream. This thin, fast flowing ribbon of air in the troposphere – the lowest layer of the earth’s atmosphere – acts to steer weather systems towards the UK.

A strong jet stream brings warm and damp winds to the UK from the west, resulting in a warm and wet winter.

For example, the winter of 2023-24 has already been dominated by a series of storms. Storm Jocelyn, which swept across the UK at the end of January 2024, was the 10th named storm of the season. “The storms have mainly been driven by a powerful jet stream,” BBC News reported.

Similarly, during the winter of 2013-14, a series of storms brought record-breaking rainfall to the UK, clocking in as the wettest and eighth-warmest winter on record in the UK. Intense rainfall led to “remarkably widespread and persistent flooding”, according to the Met Office. Around 18,700 insurance claims related to flooding were filed across the UK in the aftermath of the storms, costing an estimated £451m.

One study suggests that climate change made the sustained wet and stormy weather seen around 43% more likely, and put an extra 1,000 houses at risk of flooding along the River Thames.

The study attributes about two-thirds of the increase in likelihood to the atmosphere being able to hold more moisture because the world is warming up and the remaining third to the position of the jet stream.

Flooding in Abingdon Road area, Oxford, on 10 January 2013.
Flooding in Abingdon Road area, Oxford, on 10 January 2013. Credit: Roger Askew / Alamy Stock Photo

Conversely, a weak jet stream allows cold air from the Arctic and mainland Europe to enter from the east and north. “A slower, more buckled jet stream can cause areas of higher pressure to take charge, which typically brings less stormy weather, light winds and dry skies,” the Met Office says.

This was the case in the winter of 2009-10, which clocked in as the eighth-coldest and least-windy UK winter on record.

Sometimes, the jet stream can even get “stuck” – a phenomenon called blocking – and instead of shunting weather systems from west to east, it can allow a spell of cold, dry weather to sit over the UK for many days.

While there is a clear trend of UK winters getting warmer and wetter, the data on wind speed is less clear-cut. However, cool weather in the UK is often associated with low speeds, while warm weather is often brought by strong gusts.

The plot below shows average UK winter wind speed over 1969-2021 in knots. The darker line shows the 10-year rolling average, and the most and least windy years are shown by red and blue dots, respectively.

Windiest and least windy 10 winters in the UK since 1884.
Windiest winters Least windy winters
Years Average windspeed (knots) Years Average windspeed (knots)
1 1973-74 13.08 2009-10 7.90
2 1989-90 12.77 2010-11 8.62
3 1974-75 12.72 2005-06 8.81
4 1994-95 12.71 2008-09 9.03
5 2013-14 12.47 1984-85 9.04
6 1982-83 12.41 1976-77 9.31
7 1980-81 12.24 2018-19 9.32
8 1999-2000 12.11 2000-01 9.54
9 1988-89 12.11 1986-87 9.59
10 2019-20 12.08 2016-17 9.68

Windiest and least windy 10 winters in the UK since 1969. The dark blue line shows winter average wind speed, and red and blue dots indicate the windiest and least windy individual winters. The grey dashed lines the average wind speed during the windiest and least windy winters on record. The table beneath shows the dates and wind speeds of these winters. Credit: Chart by Carbon Brief, based on the Met Office HadUK dataset.

The table below shows average UK wind speed totals for three overlapping 30-year time periods.

30-year averages Average wind speed (knots)
1971-2000 11.06
1981-2010 10.60
1991-2020 10.55

Average winter wind speed for overlapping 30-year time periods, from 1971 to 2020, using the December-February average of mean monthly temperatures.

McCarthy tells Carbon Brief that there has been a notable decline in UK wind speed when looking at annual data, which is consistent with the trend of “stilling” – a slowdown in near surface wind speeds – measured globally. However, he says that this trend is less obvious in the winter-only data.

Meanwhile, the UK State of the Climate report 2022 states that there are no compelling trends in storminess when considering maximum gust speeds over the last four decades.

A range of other atmospheric circulation patterns can also impact UK winters.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is a large-scale atmospheric pressure see-saw in the North Atlantic region, which describes the difference in air pressure between the high pressure sitting over the Azores, to the west of Portugal, and the low pressure over Iceland.

When the NAO is “positive” and the pressure difference is stronger than usual, the jet stream shifts towards the poles, bringing mild, wet and windy weather to North American and Eurasian winters and leaving the Arctic very cold.

When it is “negative” and the pressure difference weakens, storm tracks shift towards the equator, bringing cold, dry and calm winters to Europe.

Another mechanism is the “stratospheric polar vortex”. This low-pressure weather system sits around 50km above the Arctic in the stratosphere – the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere. Its main feature is the strong west-to-east winds which encircle the north pole. These winds are known as the “polar night jet” because they only appear during the dark Arctic winter.

As with the jet stream in the troposphere, the polar night jet forms a boundary between the very cold Arctic air and the warmer air over the mid-latitudes. However, if something disrupts the stratospheric polar vortex it can weaken, reverse direction and even split into two. This can trigger a “sudden stratospheric warming” event where air collapses in over the Arctic, causing a spike in temperatures in the stratosphere – by as much as 50C in just a couple of days.

This allows the cold air the polar vortex was holding in to spill out into the mid-latitudes during the weeks that follow. This is what caused the “Beast from the East” snowstorm that hit the UK in 2018. (This is not well reflected in the UK winter data, as the brunt of the storm hit in March 2018 after the end of meteorological winter.)

In general, however, the UK has experienced a run of mild, wet winters in the most recent decade, including the very wet winters of 2013, 2015 and 2019. These are consistent with a positive phase of the NAO and strong polar vortex, according to the latest State of the UK Climate report.

Projections

As the planet continues to warm, the UK’s climate will shift “towards warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers”, the Met Office says.

The UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18) is a series of climate change projections for the UK produced by the UK Met Office, taking advantage of the latest observed data and climate models

The projections include temperature and rainfall changes – for averages and extremes – for each month and season of the year, and for different emissions scenarios and future time periods throughout this century.

The maps below show the probabilistic projections for summer average temperature (top) and winter precipitation (bottom) in the 2080s under the RCP4.5 emissions pathway, relative to a 1961-90 baseline. In this pathway, global temperatures are projected to rise by around 2.7C of warming above pre-industrial levels by 2081-2100, which is broadly in line with the trajectory under current global policies.

The three percentiles (10th, 50th and 90th) reflect the likelihood of those temperatures and rainfall anomalies occurring. The 50th percentile (middle maps) is the “central estimate” across the models, while the 10th (left) and 90th (right) percentiles reflect the lowest 10% and highest 10% of the model results.

UKCP18 projections of winter average temperature in the 2080s (top) and winter precipitation anomaly in the 2080s (bottom), relative to a 1961-90 baseline, under the RCP4.5 emissions scenario.
UKCP18 projections of winter average temperature in the 2080s (top) and winter precipitation anomaly in the 2080s (bottom), relative to a 1961-90 baseline, under the RCP4.5 emissions scenario. Results are shown at three percentiles: 10th (left), 50th (middle) and 90th (right). Source: Generated from the UKCP18 User Interface.

The table below shows UKCP18 projections for changes in average UK winter temperature and precipitation under RCP4.5, under the 10th, 50th and 90th percentile, for 2080-99, compared to a 1981-2000 baseline.

10th percentile change 50th percentile change 90th percentile change
Change in average winter temperature (C) +0.7 +2.0 +3.5
Change in average winter precipitation (%) -2.0 +11.0 +25.0

Source: UKCP18 Key results spreadsheet

As a central estimate, these projections suggest that by 2080-99, UK winters will be 2C warmer and 11% wetter than they were in 1981-2000.

However, the picture is more complex for wind speed. The Met Office explains that storms in the UK are influenced by factors including sea surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice melt and the jet stream.

It says that “under climate change some of these influences will strengthen storms and others weaken them, as well as potentially change the parts of the world that storms affect”.

It adds:

“UKCP18 projected an increase in near surface wind speeds over the UK for the second half of the 21st century for the winter season when more significant impacts of wind are experienced. However, the increase in wind speeds is modest compared to natural variability from month to month and season to season, so confidence is low.”

The post Analysis: How UK winters are getting warmer and wetter appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Analysis: How UK winters are getting warmer and wetter

Continue Reading

Greenhouse Gases

Revealed: UK ‘double counting’ £500m of aid for war-torn countries as climate finance 

Published

on

The UK government has reclassified nearly £500m of aid for war-torn and impoverished countries as “climate finance”, in a bid to meet its international commitments under the Paris Agreement.

This follows reports that the UK’s pledge to spend £11.6bn on climate aid between 2021-22 and 2025-26 is slipping out of reach, due to government cuts.

A freedom-of-information (FOI) request by Carbon Brief reveals how, after the reclassification, money for humanitarian work in nations including Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia is now being double-counted as climate finance to help the UK hit its goal.

The projects being double-counted include work to provide food and basic necessities that have no explicit link to climate action, Carbon Brief’s analysis reveals. Some of their internal reports even state clearly that they are not climate-finance projects.

This is part of a wider revision of climate-finance accounting, introduced by the government in 2023 to ensure the UK achieves its £11.6bn target. 

By redefining existing funds pegged for development banks, investment in foreign businesses and humanitarian aid as “climate finance”, the government expects to add £1.72bn to its total.

Experts tell Carbon Brief it is “problematic” and “unjust” to relabel existing funds as climate finance rather than providing new money. One says the UK could meet its target, at least in part, by “double counting development and climate finance”.

The chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at UN climate talks says the UK’s actions are a “clear deviation from the path to climate justice”.

‘Moving the goalposts’

The UK government has committed to spending £11.6bn on international climate finance (ICF) between 2021-22 and 2025-26. This is the nation’s contribution to climate action in developing countries, which it is obliged to provide under the Paris Agreement

Developed countries, such as the UK, have committed to sending “new and additional” climate finance to developing countries. This is generally interpreted as spending extra money on top of existing foreign aid.

The UK government itself has described the £11.6bn goal as “dedicated ring-fenced funding that is distinguishable from non-climate [aid]”.

However, reports began to emerge in 2023 that the government was not on track to meet its target.

Experts attributed this to the government cutting its overall foreign aid budget. In November 2020, the government suspended a target to give 0.7% of national income as overseas aid – reducing it to 0.5% as a “temporary measure”. 

The government is also spending more of the remaining funds on supporting refugees within the UK. The latest figures show that in 2023, the UK spent more of its aid budget on supporting asylum seekers and refugees in the country than on overseas projects.

In order to remain on track for the £11.6bn goal, development minister Andrew Mitchell announced in October 2023 that the government was changing the way it calculated ICF spending.

This immediately sparked concerns that the government was inflating its climate-finance figures without providing any new aid money for developing countries. Mitchell provided limited details of how the government was getting its target back on track.

More information came in a report released in February by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). It concluded that, by “moving the goalposts”, the government had reclassified £1.72bn of spending as climate finance between 2021-22 and 2025-26.

This figure includes four tranches of funding that had not previously been considered ICF:

  • £746m from assuming that a share of the “core” funding the UK gives to the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) will be assigned to climate-related projects.
  • £497m from automatically labelling 30% of the humanitarian aid spent in the 10% of countries that are most vulnerable to climate change as ICF.
  • An estimated £266m from defining more payments into British International Investment (BII), the UK’s overseas development finance institution, as ICF.
  • £215m from civil servants “scrubbing” the aid portfolio – namely, going back over existing projects and adding any climate-relevant funding they had previously missed.

The figures cited by ICAI are based on unpublished government analysis, which Carbon Brief has now obtained via FOI.

The analysis includes the annual contributions each of these sources are expected to provide over the period from 2021-22 to 2025-26, which can be seen in the coloured sections of the chart below.

The UK government has reclassified £1.7bn of development aid as climate finance
Annual UK ICF spending, £bn, by financial year for the period 2011/12 to 2025/26. The grey area indicates ICF spending under the original accounting methodology used until October 2023. Beyond 2022/23 the figures are forecasts, with the light grey area indicating the upper bound and the darker grey indicating the lower bound. The coloured areas indicate the funding newly reclassified as counting towards ICF, following methodology changes introduced in October 2023. For multilateral development bank contributions, Carbon Brief understands that the UK will pledge £495m to the World Bank in 2025/26, and the remaining contributions that make up the £746m total are spread evenly across the 2011/12-2025/26 period. Source: UK government.

As the chart indicates, even with the methodology changes, the £11.6bn target is still “backloaded”, with a significant uptick in ICF spending required beyond 2023-24 to meet it.

ICAI notes that, since the government cut its aid spending from the UN-backed benchmark of 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI), “serious concerns remain over whether the heavily backloaded spending plan can be delivered”.

Core funding

The largest tranche of redefined ICF – some £740m – comes from the government starting to assume that a share of its “core” MDB funding counts as climate finance.

This is money that the UK government already hands to these organisations to distribute according to their own priorities, primarily through loans. None of this money has previously been counted by the UK government as ICF, even though some went towards climate action.

MDBs, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and others have placed a growing emphasis on climate change in recent years. The World Bank, for example, has a target of spending 35% of its finance on climate-related projects.

Following the reclassification, the UK government will simply assume that 35% of the money it gives to the World Bank – some £495m of £1.4bn total due in 2025/26 – counts as ICF.

It will use a similar approach for its funding of other MDBs, with these changes adding a total of £740m to the amount of the UK’s aid spending that is classified as ICF.

This move will not result in the UK providing any new funds for climate action, as it was already planning on distributing this money. In fact, the government has cut its spending on MDBs in recent years, due to the overall cut in the UK’s foreign aid budget.

Humanitarian aid

The second-largest tranche of newly reclassified climate finance is from projects in climate-vulnerable countries, an additional £497m of which is being counted as ICF.

The government dataset obtained by Carbon Brief via FOI reveals the 28 humanitarian projects and five more general, country-specific funds that will contribute to this additional £497m.

The projects are based in some of the poorest and most war-torn countries in the world – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

They largely focus on essential provisions, such as food and basic infrastructure.

Prior to the recent changes, these programmes would have contributed just £47.5m to ICF, according to the government data released to Carbon Brief.

By automatically counting 30% of their spend as ICF, this figure has now multiplied more than 10 times. The chart below shows, in red, these additional ICF funds.

The UK government has reclassified £497m of humanitarian aid as climate finance
Annual UK ICF spending, £m, sourced from humanitarian aid projects for the 10% most climate-vulnerable countries, as defined by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. Blue columns indicate the ICF spending that was expected from these projects prior to the methodology change, and red columns indicate ICF spending from these projects after the change. Source: UK government.

For the 23 of the 28 projects with documentation available online, Carbon Brief assessed the relevant sections of their “business case and summary” documents for evidence that they were related to climate action.

Many of the project documents reference climate change and say they will provide climate benefits. For example, all four projects in Somalia, a nation that has faced devastating drought and floods in recent years, mention the importance of climate resilience in their work.

However, some of the projects explicitly state that they are not intended to provide climate-finance.

The summary document for the Assurance and Learning Programme (ALP) in Afghanistan, published in 2021, states: “The programme will not be eligible for ICF nor will it monitor ICF funded programmes.”

Similarly, the Congo Humanitarian, Resilience and Protection (CHRESP) Programme summary document, also published in 2021, notes “we do not anticipate that any of our programming under this programme will be eligible as ICF”.

Another project, titled Yemen: Access, Logistics, Liaison, and Accountability, will provide “few opportunities” to address climate change, according to the summary document. A further four project documents do not contain any reference to climate change. 

Despite this, following the government’s reclassification, these seven projects will collectively contribute £166.9m of UK climate finance in the coming years.

Euan Ritchie, a senior development finance policy advisor at the thinktank Development Initiatives, says blanket approaches to assigning climate finance are “problematic”. He tells Carbon Brief:

“Just because humanitarian aid is going to a country that is vulnerable to climate change doesn’t mean it addresses that vulnerability. And these projects have already been screened for their climate focus.”

He points to one of the projects, the Somalia Humanitarian and Resilience Programme, as an example. Ritchie says, based on International Aid Transparency Initiative data, that officials had already decided around 12% of this programme’s spending was ICF, and asks:

“So what rationale is there for bumping it up to 30%? Were officials wrong the first time?”

Fatuma Hussein, a programme manager at the thinktank Power Shift Africa, tells Carbon Brief such an approach is “unfair and unjust” as it “risks conflating” the “distinct needs” of climate aid and other humanitarian objectives.

In its guidance for categorising what counts as climate finance, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee recommends scoring many humanitarian projects “zero”, indicating programmes that “generally do not qualify” as climate aid.

More private investment

The third-largest tranche of reclassified development aid relates to state-backed private sector investment under British International Investment (BII).

The UK government will also now count more of its payments into BII as climate finance, amounting to around an extra £266m by 2025-26. Unlike aid spending, these are investments in the private sector and are expected to yield a financial return for the UK.

Previously, the government counted a fixed 30% of BII spending as climate finance. It now intends to include a higher percentage to reflect a growing focus on climate investments.

The new approach to BII investments assesses the share of each project that should count towards UK climate finance case-by-case, rather than using a blanket 30% share.

It will record 100% of investments in a programme covering the Philippines, Indonesia and other parts of south-east Asia as ICF, as part of the government’s “Indo-Pacific tilt”. Investments in other regions also contribute a higher share of ICF – rising as high as 46% in 2022-23.

The chart below shows the extra BII investment money (red) that now counts as ICF.

The UK government has reclassified £266m of state-backed private sector investment as climate finance
Annual UK ICF spending, £m, from British International Investment (BII) contributions. Blue columns indicate the ICF spending that was expected from BII prior to the methodology change and red columns indicate ICF spending from BII after the change. Source: UK government.

The figure above shows that the government expects private sector investment via BII to play an increasingly large role in its climate finance in the future.

Many observers have expressed concerns about the government leaning more on private investment through BII to boost its ICF spending. 

A report last year by the parliamentary international development committee criticised BII’s investment in, among other things, fossil fuels and “high-net-worth individuals”.

BII prioritises loans and projects in middle-income nations where there is money to be made, rather than the nations that are most in need of climate finance. 

ICAI highlighted this in its review of the UK’s climate finance commitments earlier this year, stating that private investment “is not always the most appropriate, realistic or preferred form of climate finance in the poorest and most fragile contexts”.

Not new, not additional

Developing countries will require trillions of dollars of investment in the coming years to meet their climate goals. 

To help achieve this, developed countries, such as the UK, are expected to provide finance under the UN climate system that is “new and additional”. Discussions around a new climate finance goal will take centre stage this year at the COP29 climate summit in Baku.

Experts tell Carbon Brief that the UK government’s changes to its ICF undermine the notion that it is providing new, “ring-fenced” funding. Regarding the “arbitrary” labelling of humanitarian funds as ICF, Ritchie says:

“If the UK is counting a fixed share of projects as ICF it can no longer claim that ICF is distinguishable from non-climate [aid].”

Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at the international development network Bond, tells Carbon Brief:

“The change of definition means they will be able to reach the target by spending less money than they would have done otherwise through double counting development and climate finance.”

Development NGOs say the best way for the UK to scale up its climate finance would be to return its foreign aid budget to 0.7% of GNI. However, with an election looming, neither the ruling Conservatives nor their Labour challengers have indicated a willingness to do this.

There will be considerable pressure on developed countries in the coming months to commit to providing plentiful, high-quality climate finance in the run up to COP29.

Evans Njewa, the chair of the LDC group, to which nearly all of the UK’s humanitarian aid ICF recipients belong, tells Carbon Brief:

“Reclassifying existing donor aid as climate finance is a clear deviation from the path to climate justice, and closing the finance gap cannot be achieved this way.”

Climate-finance reporting has been described as a “wild west”, with countries announcing figures based on vastly different definitions. This has led to nations counting money for coal, hotels and films in their totals, as there is no binding international standard to guide them.

The UK government noted last year that its changes are in line with other countries’ methods. But experts point out that the UK was previously viewed as setting a high standard for other countries to reach. 

In contrast, the new approach “risks breeding cynicism and mistrust because you are going to find programmes that have very little to do with climate change, but end up being reported in the pot as climate finance”, Rabinowitz says.

Hussein agrees, telling Carbon Brief:

“This not only highlights the disparity between western countries’ rhetoric on climate finance and their actual financial commitments to developing countries but also risks undermining trust that underpins global climate action.”

She argues that nations should agree on common definitions and accounting methodologies for climate finance to ensure that governments cannot backslide as the UK has.

Responding to Carbon Brief’s questions about the government’s methodology changes, a spokesperson from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said:

“Since 2011, UK funding has helped more than 100 million people cope with the effects of climate change, given 70 million people access to clean energy and reduced or avoided over 86m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The UK remains on track to meet the £11.6bn international climate finance commitment.”

The post Revealed: UK ‘double counting’ £500m of aid for war-torn countries as climate finance  appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Revealed: UK ‘double counting’ £500m of aid for war-torn countries as climate finance 

Continue Reading

Greenhouse Gases

Climate change ‘bait and switch’ threatens sharks and rays

Published

on

Cold-blooded sea creatures seeking refuge from warming ocean waters may find themselves at increasing risk of deadly cold shocks due to changes in ocean currents, new research warns.

Climate change is pushing species to higher latitudes in an attempt to stay within their range of comfortable temperatures, but this migration can come with unforeseen consequences.

The new study, published in Nature, documents a mass mortality event in March 2021 that saw at least 260 dead sea creatures wash up on the shores of South Africa.

Using satellite data, ocean observations and data on the movements of bull sharks, the researchers link the event to a sudden influx of cold water coming up from the deeper ocean.

They also show that such events have been increasing in frequency over the past three decades and forecast that this trend may continue into the future as the world continues to warm.

One of the study authors tells Carbon Brief that “we predict this is going to become a more regular phenomenon and could impact a lot of different species”.

Marine migration

As the Earth warms, many species that are able to do so are migrating to higher latitudes, allowing them to maintain their place within their “thermal niche” – the set of temperatures at which they can comfortably survive.

Nowhere is this effect more pronounced than in the global oceans, where there are fewer barriers to migration than there are on land. On average, highly mobile marine species have been moving polewards by nearly 60km per decade since the 1950s, according to the latest report on climate impacts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But this migration comes with its own risks.

These shifting ranges due to climate change can introduce species to new, unfamiliar stressors – such as shipping lanes or fisheries, says Dr Natalie Posdaljian, a bioacoustician at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who was not involved in the study. 

One of these risks is what the researchers describe as a temperature “bait and switch” – where creatures seeking warmer waters can instead be trapped by a sudden cold event. Posdaljian tells Carbon Brief that the new study is the first time that she’s seen evidence of this hazard.

Mass mortality

On 2 March 2021, dead sea creatures started washing up on the south-eastern shores of South Africa between Port Elizabeth and East London. In all, more than 250 individual organisms and 82 separate species were found, including large, migratory species such as manta rays and bull sharks.

In deducing what had happened, the team of researchers examined the temperature data in the days leading up to the event. Using satellite and other observational data, they found that the temperature of the surrounding ocean had dropped by up to 9.2C in less than 24 hours.

The cold event persisted for seven days and had “severe physiological consequences” for the marine organisms there, including hypothermia, malfunction and death, the paper says.

Natasha Booty on X: Giant manta rays and other rare fish are washing up on South Africa's beaches

Similar cold shocks have previously occurred in south-eastern South Africa, dating back to at least 1989 and affecting a wide array of creatures, according to the study. But this instance was “probably the biggest cold-water shock [mass mortality event]” ever recorded, Dr Ryan Daly, a marine scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, tells Carbon Brief. Daly is one of the authors of the new study.

The influx of cold water was due to a process called “upwelling”, which carries cold, nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths to its surface.

The study identifies three factors that make rapid upwelling events likely to happen: strong currents interacting with the continental shelf, strong winds blowing from the east to the west and meanders in the current. Such winds occur predominantly during the southern hemisphere’s summer, between October and April. They often act as a harbinger of temperature drops occurring in the coming 0-72 hours, the study notes. 

All three of these factors are characteristic of both the south-eastern coast of South Africa and the eastern coast of Australia, where strong currents known as the Agulhas and the East Australian Current, respectively, run up against the continental shelf.

‘Trapped’

Dr Camrin Braun, an ocean ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, finds it surprising that even large, migratory species such as rays and bull sharks were killed by the cold snap. Braun, who was not involved in the new research, tells Carbon Brief that these animals “can move really far and really fast”. 

Daly says that this surprised the research team as well. But it’s possible, he says, that the onset of the cold temperatures was quick enough and large enough that the animals got “trapped” instead of being able to escape.

To underscore this, the researchers use data on bull shark movements and ocean temperatures from tags attached to sharks before, during and after the event. 

Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) at the Protea Banks dive site in Margate, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) at the Protea Banks dive site in Margate, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

They find that the sharks consistently demonstrate “attempted avoidance” of lower temperatures – moving closer to the surface while swimming through upwelling areas and only travelling at deeper depths once they reach warmer waters.

The team also observe one shark taking up residence in a sheltered bay during one upwelling event to escape the cold waters. The researchers write that these actions “probably represent behavioural strategies to avoid/survive intense temperature declines”.

On its own, the shark-movement data is “kind of limited” and does not “make a very convincing case”, Braun says. But combining it with other data “really up[s] the ante on the importance” of the research, he adds.

Climate patterns

The researchers also look at several decades’ worth of sea surface temperature and wind data to understand whether these upwelling events are changing in frequency or intensity.

They identify clear increasing trends in the proportion of winds that favour upwelling events across three sites in South Africa. (Previous research has shown a similar increase in such winds in south-eastern Australia.) 

Then, for the three South African sites and three Australian sites, they compare temperature data from three locations: “inshore”, defined as between 0-15km from the shore, “midshelf”, which is 15-30km from the shore and “offshore” – located within the warm “core” of the current. The inshore and midshelf locations fall within the upwelling zone, but the offshore ones do not.

If, as they hypothesised, upwelling events were becoming more frequent, the number of cold events inshore would increase over time, while the number of such events offshore would stay the same. Similarly, an upwards trend in the intensity of cold snaps would be revealed in the inshore and midshelf, but not the offshore, data.

The chart below shows that the proportion of upwelling-favourable winds (top left) at three sites in South Africa has been steadily increasing since the “upwelling season” – the period of upwelling-favourable winds stretching from October to April – of 1988-89.

The other three charts show increasing trends in the number of cold events (top right), the average intensity of cold events (bottom left) and the average rate of onset of such cold events (bottom right) for a single site, Port Alfred, over the same period. All three characteristics increase over time for the inshore (blue) and midshelf (pink) locations, but not the offshore (green) one, supporting the idea that the cold snaps are linked to upwelling. 

Percentage of winds favouring upwelling (top left) at three sites in South Africa
Percentage of winds favouring upwelling (top left) at three sites in South Africa: Plettenberg Bay (orange), Port Alfred (blue) and Port Elizabeth (red) over the period 1988-2021. Over the same period, the number of cold events (top right), the average intensity of cold events, in degrees Celsius (bottom left) and the average rate of onset, in degrees Celsius per day (bottom right) for inshore (blue), mid-shelf (pink) and offshore (green) locations at Port Alfred. Source: Lubitz et al. (2024)

These increases persist over long enough time periods, the authors argue, to be clear evidence of long-term trends, rather than natural variation. Furthermore, the study points to previous research – dating back more than 30 years – that shows evidence of climate change increasing upwelling intensity due in part to increasingly strong winds driven by the land warming faster than the ocean

This trend analysis is one of the most valuable contributions of the new study, Posdaljian says. She tells Carbon Brief:

“It’s often hard to be able to have that kind of concrete evidence about how something could be increasing in intensity or frequency over time.”

The idea that climate change could lead to an increase in cold snaps may seem counterintuitive. But those increased temperatures “mean more energy in the climate [system] too”, Daly says. He explains:

“This wind-driven upwelling, linked to climate change, is essentially an extreme event – just like we might have more flooding and stronger cyclones and hurricanes.

“If you think about equivalent on land, that might be fires being fuelled by more intense wind. It takes an existing natural phenomenon and basically supercharges that to become [more] intense.”

He adds:

“Going forward, we predict that this is going to become a more regular phenomenon and could impact a lot of different species.”

The researchers “did a really good job of creating this foundational understanding” of how such cold events could hit marine ecosystems in future, Posdaljian says.

Looking ahead, she adds that she would like to see more work focusing on projecting future trends in cold snaps and perhaps even being able to predict them. She tells Carbon Brief:

“A lot of these animals are not just dealing with one stressor from climate change…We can’t necessarily mitigate these [extreme events], but what we can do is maybe reduce the other stressors that we can control.”

The post Climate change ‘bait and switch’ threatens sharks and rays appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Climate change ‘bait and switch’ threatens sharks and rays

Continue Reading

Greenhouse Gases

DeBriefed 12 April 2024: ‘Historic’ European court victory; Climate migration explained; K-pop and climate change

Published

on

Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

This week

‘Historic’ court victory

FIRST-EVER RULING: The European Court of Human Rights this week ruled that insufficient action to tackle climate change is a violation of human rights, DeSmog reported. In a “historic” judgement, the court ruled that Switzerland’s inadequate action on cutting emissions breached the rights to respect for family and private life of some of its most vulnerable citizens, DeSmog said. The case was brought by a group of 2,000 older Swiss women, BBC News reported.

PORTUGUESE CASE: The same court also dismissed a climate case brought by six Portuguese young people, finding the group had not exhausted legal action through the national courts, the Financial Times reported. Gerry Liston, the lawyer for the Portuguese youths, said that, despite the judges dismissing the case, the court’s ruling on the Swiss women’s action was “a massive win for all generations”, added the outlet. 

INDIAN COURT: Also this week, India’s Supreme Court expanded the “right to life” to include “protection against adverse effects of climate change”, adding that “climate change threatens ‘constitutional guarantees of equality and health’, impacting factors such as air pollution, disease, and food security”, the Independent reported. An editorial in the Indian Express described the decision as a “call to action”, adding that the significance of the ruling “cannot be overstated”. 

Heat goes on

ROASTING MARCH: March 2024 was the “tenth straight month to be the hottest on record”, reported the Associated Press. March temperatures averaged at 14.14C – 1.68C warmer than in the late 1800s, when the fossil fuel era began, according to AP. It added that “climate scientists attribute most of the record heat to human-caused climate change from carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions produced by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas”.

HEAT-TRAPPING GASES: Atmospheric levels of the three most important heat-trapping gases – CO2, methane and nitrous oxide – reached record highs again last year, the Guardian reported. The global concentration of CO2 rose to an average of 419 parts per million (ppm) in 2023, while methane rose to an average of 1,922 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide climbed slightly to 336ppb, the outlet said.

‘RAISE VOICES’: Amid the records, UN climate chief Simon Stiell urged “ordinary people everywhere” to “raise their voices” over climate change in a speech in London, the Financial Times reported. Stiell warned that humanity has just two years left to “save the world”, adding “we still have a chance… but we need these stronger [national climate] plans, now”, reported the Associated Press

Around the world

  • EU INVESTIGATION: The EU launched an investigation to examine “whether Chinese companies participating in wind parks across Europe may have benefited from state support from Beijing”, said the Financial Times.
  • BIGGEST ICEBERG: BBC News tracked the world’s biggest iceberg – more than twice the size of Greater London – which has “begun to drift at pace once more” after a “few weeks loitering on the fringes of Antarctica”.
  • BIGGEST ECONOMIES: G20 countries and “the multilateral development banks they fund” put £112bn into overseas fossil fuel development over 2020-2022, the Guardian reported. Despite pledging in 2022 to halt such financing, oil and gas funding “has continued at a strong pace”, the outlet added.
  • UK POLITICS: Politico reported that the UK’s rightwing populist party Reform, the brainchild of Brexiteer Nigel Farage, has plans to make scrapping climate policies a central part of its campaigning in the next general election.
  • SEVERE FLOODING: Russia and Kazakhstan have ordered more than 100,000 people to evacuate after melting snow swelled rivers beyond bursting point, leading to the worst flooding in the area for at least 70 years, reported Reuters.
  • CHINA COAL: China accounted for 95% of the world’s new coal power construction activity in 2023, according to the latest annual report from Global Energy Monitor covered by Carbon Brief.

1.37m km

The total length of “ghost roads” uncovered by researchers studying deforestation in the Asian Pacific, according to Carbon Brief. 


Latest climate research

  • A new study in Nature Climate Change warned that meteorites holding potential clues to life’s origins or the prospect of alien existence are fast disappearing from Antarctica because of climate change. 
  • Geoengineering methods that change the planet’s radiative forcing – aiming to reduce the amount of energy that reaches the surface of the Earth – could increase the incidence of fires in the Arctic, when combined with very high greenhouse gas emissions, new research in Communications Earth & Environment suggested. 
  • A new study in npj Climate Action found that “Roman Catholics are less likely to believe in man-made climate change as compared to evangelical Christians”. However, the more positive a respondent’s view of Pope Francis, the more likely they are “to acknowledge the effect of human activity on global warming”, it said.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

Captured

Floods and storms are the greatest drivers of internal climate-related displacement. Climate related-displacement, millions of recorded cases. DeBriefed.

Carbon Brief has just published a two-part miniseries on the complex topic of climate migration. Carbon Brief’s explainer looked into the main drivers of why people move. Using data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Carbon Brief analysis showed that most climate-linked internal displacement is due to floods and storms (see above). The series also includes a special report on climate-driven migration in rural Thailand. Carbon Brief’s science journalist Ayesha Tandon also produced a video on her investigation into climate-driven migration in Thailand.

Spotlight

K-pop fans campaign for climate change

Dayeon Lee is a Tokyo-based South Korean student.

This week, Carbon Brief speaks to K-pop fans about their efforts to tackle climate change. 

Dayeon Lee is a Tokyo-based South Korean student, and before discovering and joining climate campaigns, she was a “guilty” K-pop fan.

“K-pop” is a term for popular music from South Korea. K-pop has witnessed an explosion in popularity since the term first appeared internationally in the 2000s.

“I think people have the stereotype of K-pop fans, thinking we are just a group of crazy girls being obsessed with boys, but we are more than that, we are also a group of young people who care about the planet,” Lee told Carbon Brief.

“Korean entertainment companies produce a lot of album covers and we as fans buy hundreds of albums to support our idols. The companies don’t care about the environmental cost and waste, but we bear the guilt.”

Looking to make a change, Lee joined the campaign group Kpop4planet in 2021. The group, which is managed by K-pop fans, launched the campaign “No K-pop on a Dead Planet”, urging the industry to “make K-pop sustainable” and produce more eco-friendly albums. 

“We had K-pop fans returning hundreds of albums to the major entertainment companies in South Korea to make sure they are aware of the issue. Although they didn’t officially respond to us, they started to introduce digital albums with purchasing code fans can scan,” said Lee.

The online campaign has in total attracted more than 100,000 people to join and they hope to inspire more.

There are an estimated 178m active K-pop fans worldwide. Kpop4planet’s campaigns cover a wide range of environmental issues, from reducing the high cost of fashion worn by K-pop singers, to protecting a beach featuring in K-pop songs and zero-emissions concerts

“Since K-pop stars are involved with so many industries…that need to become more sustainable, we want to motivate and gather the power and influence of K-pop fans and the youth… to change the companies that are heavily polluting the environment by using fossil fuels,” said Lee.

Lee told Carbon Brief that K-pop entertainment agencies have already listened to their concerns, with some of them, such as South Korean record label JYP, committing to use 100% renewable electricity to power its operation.

‘Drop coal’

Recently, Kpop4planet decided to target the Korean motor company, Hyundai, which had signed a deal with an Indonesian company to source aluminium from a coal-powered smelter in North Kalimantan, Indonesia. 

“Hyundai has a good image in Indonesia because they use the image of Korean band BTS as ‘their face’,” said Lee, adding that Kpop4planet hopes to leverage their K-pop fan stance to convince the company to “drop coal”.

Another campaigner Nural Sarifah, based in Indonesia, told Carbon Brief that the group has undertaken a “series of activities” to campaign against Hyundai’s decision, including delivering a signed petition “with a touch of K-pop dance” outside the Hyundai Motor Studio in Jakarta.

On 2 April, Reuters reported that Hyundai and its Indonesian supplier had “ended an aluminium supply agreement after calls by a climate campaigner backed by K-pop fans not to procure supplies of the metal produced using coal power”.

Hyundai announced in a statement that it had “decided to explore other opportunities independently” in Indonesia, according to the news agency. Lee told Carbon Brief:

“This move is a victory for thousands of K-pop fans who took action. We are glad that Hyundai is now exploring options to acquire transparent and sustainable sourcing materials in Indonesia.”

Lee added that their campaign will not stop there:

“Ultimately, we would like to use our collective power to [make] change. We want to secure the future that K-pop fans and the youth will inherit.”

Watch, read, listen

CHINESE SOLAR: The Financial Times published a Lex opinion piece saying “Chinese solar companies are paying a high price for victory” in a battle with European solar firms.

HAWAII’S CRISIS: CBS News released a documentary on YouTube about the water-related crisis on the Hawaiian islands.  

GREEN FUNERAL: The Anti-dread Climate Podcast explored the carbon costs of traditional burial and looked for more climate-friendly alternatives.  

Coming up

Pick of the jobs

DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to debriefed@carbonbrief.org.
This is an online version of Carbon Brief’s weekly DeBriefed email newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

The post DeBriefed 12 April 2024: ‘Historic’ European court victory; Climate migration explained; K-pop and climate change appeared first on Carbon Brief.

DeBriefed 12 April 2024: ‘Historic’ European court victory; Climate migration explained; K-pop and climate change

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2022 BreakingClimateChange.com