Category Archives: Science

Renewable energy market share climbs despite 2013 dip in investments

7 April 2014 – Renewable energy’s share of world electricity generation continued its steady climb last year despite a 14 per cent drop in investments to US$214.4 billion, according to a new report released today.

According to Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 – produced by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance — the investment drop of $35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013.

“While some may point to the fact that overall investment in renewables fell in 2013, the drop masks the many positive signals of a dynamic market that is fast evolving and maturing,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. “This should give Governments the confidence to forge a new robust climate agreement to cut emissions at the 2015 climate change conference in Paris.”

Globally, renewables excluding large hydro accounted for 43.6 per cent of newly installed generating capacity in 2013. Were it not for renewables, world energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would have been an estimated 1.2 gigatonnes higher in 2013. This would have increased by about 12 per cent the gap between where emissions are heading and where they need to be in 2020 if the world is to have a realistic prospect of staying under a two degree Centigrade temperature rise.

“A long-term shift in investment over the next few decades towards a cleaner energy portfolio is needed to avoid dangerous climate change, with the energy sector accounting for around two thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mr. Steiner. “The fact that renewable energy is gaining a bigger share of overall generation globally is encouraging. To support this further, we must re-evaluate investment priorities, shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures.”

Ulf Moslener, Head of Research of the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, agreed that the overall decline in investment dollars had been disappointing. However, he said, “foundations for future growth in the renewable energy market fell into place in 2013.”

Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “Lower costs, a return to profitability on the part of some leading manufacturers, the phenomenon of unsubsidized market uptake in a number of countries, and a warmer attitude to renewables among public market investors, were hopeful signs after several years of painful shake-out in the renewable energy sector.”

The report points to the end of a four-and-a-half year 78 per cent decline in clean energy stocks, which bottomed out in July 2012 and then gained 54 per cent in 2013 – an improvement that took place as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress.

2013 also marked a deepening involvement of long-term investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, wealth managers and private individuals in the equity and debt of wind and solar projects. Part of their new engagement was through clean energy bond issuance, which set a new record of $3.2 billion raised last year, as well as via new types of financing vehicles including North American ‘yield companies’ and real estate investment trusts.

But the star performer among investment types in 2013 was public market equity-raising by renewable energy companies, which jumped 201 per cent to $11 billion. This was the highest since 2010, spurred on by the rally in clean energy share prices and institutional investors’ appetite for funds offering solid yields.

More information here.

 

IPCC starts meeting to finalize Working Group II report

25 March, 2014 – (IPCC release) Government representatives and scientists on Tuesday opened a five-day meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to finalize a report assessing the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems, options for adaptation, and the interactions among climate changes, other stresses on societies, and opportunities for the future.

The meeting, the culmination of four years’ work by hundreds of experts who have volunteered their time and expertise to produce a comprehensive assessment, will approve the Summary for Policymakers of the second part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, checking the text line by line. The meeting will also accept the full report, which besides the Summary for Policymakers consists of a Technical Summary and 30 chapters in two volumes.

This report, produced by the IPCC’s Working Group II, deals with impacts, adaptation, and
vulnerability. It is part two of a four-part assessment. The first part, by Working Group I, dealing with the physical science basis of climate change, was finalized in September 2013. The Working Group III contribution, assessing mitigation of climate change, will be finalized in April. The Fifth Assessment Report will be completed by a Synthesis Report in October.

“The Working Group II author team assessed thousands of papers to produce a definitive report of the state of knowledge concerning climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Many hundreds of volunteers, in and beyond the author team, approached this work with dedication and deep expertise,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II.

The meeting, hosted by the Government of Japan, runs from 25 to 29 March 2014. The Summary for Policymakers is due to be released on Monday 31 March. The draft full report will also be released at the same time, with final publication online and as a two-book series a few months later.

Volume I will cover issues sector by sector. Volume II will consider continental-scale regions.

“This report considers consequences of climate changes that have already occurred and the risks across a range of possible futures. It considers every region and many sectors, ranging from oceans to human security. The focus is as much on identifying effective responses as on understanding challenges,” said Chris Field, the other Co-Chair of Working Group II.

The report builds on the four previous assessment reports produced by the IPCC since it was
established in 1988. Compared to past Working Group II reports, the Working Group II contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report assesses a substantially larger knowledge base of relevant scientific, technical and socio-economic literature, facilitating a comprehensive assessment across a broader set of topics and sectors.

WMO Says 2013 In Tie as 6th Warmest Year on Record – No Standstill in Global Warming

wmo status of climate

24 March, 2014 – The year 2013 once again demonstrated the dramatic impact of droughts, heat waves, floods and tropical cyclones on people and property in all parts of the planet, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Annual Statement on the Status of the Climate.

The report confirmed that 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth warmest on record, continuing the long-term global warming trend. It provided a snapshot of regional and national temperatures and extreme events as well as details of ice cover, ocean warming, sea level rise and greenhouse gas concentrations – all inter-related and consistent indicators of our changing climate.

Thirteen of the 14 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, and each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one, culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record. The average global land and ocean surface temperature in 2013 was 14.5°C (58.1°F) –  0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average and 0.03°C (0.05°F) higher than the 2001–2010 decadal average. Temperatures in many parts of the southern hemisphere were especially warm, with Australia having its hottest year on record and Argentina its second hottest.

“Naturally occurring phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or El Niño and La Niña events have always contributed to frame our climate, influenced temperatures or caused disasters like droughts and floods. But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise – as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines,” said WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud.

“There is no standstill in global warming,” said Mr. Jarraud. The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 per cent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.

“Weather forecasting, including of storms and other hazards, has become much more skilful in recent years. As demonstrated in October by Cyclone Phailin, the second strongest tropical cyclone to strike India since modern records began, improved forecasting, combined with government action to build national resilience and provide shelters, greatly reduces the loss of life. We must continue strengthening preparedness and early warning systems and implementing a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk reduction,” he said.

The Status of the Climate Report contains a peer-reviewed case study into Australia’s record warmth in 2013. The study by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science University of Melbourne, Australia, used nine state-of-the-art global climate models to investigate whether changes in the probability of extreme Australian summer temperatures were due to human influences.

“Comparing climate model simulations with and without human factors shows that the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13 was about five times as likely as a result of human-induced influence on climate and that the record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change,” the study concluded.

WMO’s statement, which is an internationally recognized authoritative source of information, highlights the key climate events of 2013:

  • Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines.
  • Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
  • Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
  • Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
  • Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
  • Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
  • Major drought affected southern China.
  • Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
  • The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
  • Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
  • Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs.
  • The global oceans reached new record high sea levels.
  • The Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record daily maximum.

The statement provides in-depth analysis of regional trends as part of a WMO drive to provide more information at regional and national levels to support adaptation to climate variability and change. It was published as part of activities marking World Meteorological Day 23 March.

The global temperature assessment is based on three independent datasets that are maintained by the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (HadCRU), both in the United Kingdom; the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NCDC NOAA), based in the United States; and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), also in the United States.

Copies of both the summary report and the full report will be available on the www.wmo.int website.

WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2013

Interactive map of extremes in 2013

For more information, please contact:

Clare Nullis, Media Officer, Communications and Public Affairs, Tel: +(41 22) 730 8478; (41-79) 7091397, email: cnullis (at) wmo.int