Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jun 15

Kusu Island: Marine garden in the city
wonder creation

Coral overdose on Kusu Island
wild shores of singapore

New LKCNHM eBook: Minnan (Hokkien) Animal Names Used in Singapore
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Delightful echinoderms at Changi
wonderful creation

Predawn at Changi shore
wonderful creation

Seagrassy Changi with festive Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Dawn Chorus in an urban garden
Bird Ecology Study Group

An old record of the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo
Singapore Bird Group

My Long Horned Beetle Collection (05 Jun 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Work towards systemic changes this World Environment Day
Green Future Solutions

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More visiting Lazarus Island's 'unspoilt' beach

Look Woon Wei, Miranda Yeo; My Paper AsiaOne 5 Jun 15;

Former national sailor Thomas Leow wanted the photo shoot for his son's upcoming wedding to be especially memorable.

So, two Sundays ago, the 60-year-old managing director took his son Norvin, a 28-year-old civil servant, and his future daughter-in-law to the Southern Islands on his personal yacht.

The party docked at Lazarus Island - an uninhabited islet linked to St John's Island by a narrow causeway - for a photo shoot.

"Not many Singaporeans know about this place because it is so far out, but Lazarus Island has a very lovely beach," said Mr Leow.

"There's really no need to go out of the country to take beautiful photos when you have clear waters so close to Singapore," he said.

Mr Leow is not alone in his discovery. Touted as one of Singapore's last unspoilt beach frontiers, Lazarus Island has grown in popularity with Singaporeans eager for a quiet beach hideout far from the madding crowd.

The Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), which manages the Southern Islands, estimates that visits to St John's Island and Lazarus Island have almost doubled from 26,000 in 2010 to nearly 40,000 last year.

The 47ha isle, which is about a fifth of Toa Payoh's size, was originally known as Pulau Sakijang Pelepah, literally translated as "Island of One Barking Deer and Palms". It is not clear why or when it was renamed Lazarus Island.

In the late 19th century, Lazarus Island housed several convict prison confinement sheds, only to be abandoned after a prisoner made an escape. The sheds were destroyed in a fire in 1902.

In the 1960s, the island was used as a radar base for civil aviation. However, by the 1970s, management of the Southern Islands was taken over by SDC, and Lazarus Island was earmarked for recreation development.

Although proposals to develop Lazarus Island as a beach resort were called for in 1988, these plans never materialised.

The island is listed for sports and recreation use in the Urban Redevelopment Authority Master Plan 2008. It is also listed as "Park/Open Space" in the Parks and Waterbodies Plan.

As if to accentuate its isolation from the buzz of city life, there is no direct way to get to the island.

The easiest way is to hop onto a ferry at Marina South Pier and get off at St John's Island. From there, one has to walk about 10 minutes and cross the causeway to get to Lazarus Island.

The only other way is to rent a yacht. Yacht rentals start from $590 for four hours on weekdays.

For Glenda Tan, 21, a sociology undergraduate, a trip to Lazarus Island with her boyfriend was their idea of a quiet date.

"The beach is unspoilt and the waters here are cleaner," she said.

Kalyani Basu, a 21-year-old business development analyst, also finds Lazarus a good place to unwind.

"I came here to wind down from a stressful week. It is very quiet here and I find it easy to relax."

For Shannon Lai, a 19-year-old polytechnic student, the increasing online coverage was what drew her and her friends to the island. "I read about it on the Internet, and it's really what it is; a nice, quiet beach," she said.

Theatre undergraduate Debbie Yew recently rented a yacht for her 22nd birthday and stopped over at Lazarus Island.

"Lazarus Island is a good stopover if you want to chill and get off for a while," she said.

"The water is pretty clear and it wasn't too crowded even on a Saturday," she added.

While most people agreed that the serene, unspoilt nature of the island was cause for celebration, a few hoped for more facilities on the island, which has shelters but no toilets.

"There is no showering point on the island. We have to walk over to St John's Island to use one," said Ms Basu.

"It would also be great if we could get food here," she added.

Said Ms Lai: "It's not absolutely necessary as it's not a long walk, but it will be nice to have a showering point nearby at least."

Dustbins are also few and far between. Although signs were put up around the island encouraging visitors to throw their rubbish in the bins, litter was abundant when The Straits Times visited on a Sunday last month.

Goh Soon Huat, manager of the Southern Islands at SDC, said a cleaning team cleans the beaches daily from Monday to Saturday, but the increased visitors might have caused the litter problem.

"We strongly urge visitors to hold on to their rubbish until they reach the mainland, or dispose of them at the available rubbish bins on the island," said Mr Goh.

Mr Norvin Leow said the island that provided the backdrop for his wedding photos is actually not looking its best these days.

He said: "Lazarus Island wasn't always like this. It has become dirtier and there's a lot of litter. I hope it will get better soon."

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HDB calls for largest public solar tender to date

The tender consolidates demand across multiple Government agencies and will see photovoltaic systems installed at eight Ministry of Home Affairs and PUB sites, as well as about 900 HDB blocks.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) on Friday (Jun 5) announced it is calling the largest solar tender to date, which consolidates demand across multiple Government agencies.

This is the first solar leasing tender that cuts across the different agencies, and the capacity requested - 40 MWp - is the largest in both public and private sector, the HDB and Economic Development Board (EDB) said in its joint press release.

The photovoltaic (PV) systems will be installed at eight Ministry of Home Affairs and PUB sites, as well as an estimated 900 HDB blocks.

Specifically, the solar PV systems will be installed at Tuas Checkpoint, Woodlands Checkpoint, Home Team Academy, Airport Police Division and MHA HQ at Phoenix Park, they said.

For PUB, the installation will be at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub, the press release added.

The solar leasing tender will close on Aug 14, and it is expected to be awarded in the fourth quarter of this year, with installation expected to be completed in end-2017.

The tender is called under the government-led solar lead demand programme, called
SolarNova, which is spearheaded by the EDB. This is the first tender to be launched under the programme, which aims to have solar power contribute 350 MWp to Singapore’s system by 2020. More tenders under SolarNova will be called over the next four to five years.

- CNA/kk

More buildings in public, private sectors using renewable energy
SIAU MING EN Today Online 6 Jun 15;

Since the Housing and Development Board (HDB) called for the first solar leasing tender less than four years ago, building owners in both the public and private sectors have increasingly tapped on this renewable energy source.

After 45 residential blocks in Punggol had solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on their roofs in 2011, Sakae Holdings became one of the first companies here to hop onto the solar leasing bandwagon, installing 1,400 solar panels at its Upper Paya Lebar headquarters.

Schools such as Raffles Institution have also installed 625 panels on two of the school’s blocks, while the Singapore American School in Woodlands has installed a 1MWp solar panel system that will meet 10 per cent of the school’s energy needs.

Other prominent solar-leasing projects include the one at the Sports Hub, where solar company Phoenix Solar Singapore leases 707 kilowatt-peak. Sheng Siong supermarket’s distribution centre in Mandai and the Ulu Pandan NEWater plant are also examples of buildings with PV systems on their large rooftops.

Last year, the Land Transport Authority called for a tender to place solar panels on the roofs of the Tuas and Gali Batu rail depots, which will begin operations next year.

At the start of the year, Jurong Port also announced that it would soon have the largest port-based solar panel facility in the world with its S$30 million installation that is expected to generate 10MWp of electricity at its peak capacity. SIAU MING EN

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A sustainable city needs sustainable finance

Jessica Cheam Today Online 5 Jun 15;

The world of banking and finance rarely looks to the conservation sector for advice on the direction of its industry, but a new report issued by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on the finance industry in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia may prove to be the exception to the rule.

Launched at an event organised by the Singapore International Institute of Affairs (SIIA) last month, WWF’s report Sustainable Finance In Singapore, Indonesia And Malaysia is a groundbreaking piece of research that shines the spotlight on financiers, investors and regulators in these three countries and benchmarks them against their global peers.

The report is both a much-needed critique on the sustainability of the current financial system and a constructive document on how it can be improved.

It is the first systematic review of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards of financial institutions in these three countries, which were chosen because of their role in the haze pollution and deforestation problems that has plagued South-east Asia for years.

The term ESG — often used interchangeably with sustainability — was first coined in 2004 by the United Nations Global Compact and refers to the three main indicators used by analysts to assess companies and their investments.

The report’s co-author Jeanne Stampe explains that ESG has become important to financiers and investors mainly because environmental and social issues are increasingly posing risks to economic growth and social stability across Asia.

Global banks and institutional investors are looking at their lending and investment decision-making process through an ESG lens to mitigate these risks and bolster their investments.

WWF’s report, which draws on publicly available information, finds that 18 domestic banks in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia perform poorly when it comes to ESG standards.

They significantly lag behind global players such as Westpac, HSBC, Standard Chartered and ANZ, which were selected for comparison in the report as they similarly have a significant presence in Asia-Pacific markets.

Only four out of the 18 banks analysed disclosed the use of ESG as a tool in their credit processes — three were Indonesian and one was Malaysian.

It may come as a surprise to many that Singapore banks fared the worst.

And of the 12 sovereign wealth and pension funds in the three countries, only two — Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund and pension fund Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pencen (KWAP) — disclosed the corporate governance and voting policies that they apply to their portfolio firms.

Temasek and GIC were lacking on the disclosure of these practices.

Regulators in these countries, similarly, are trailing their counterparts in Brazil, China, South Africa and Hong Kong on responsible lending and corporate sustainability disclosure. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Bank Negara Malaysia, for example, do not have banking regulations relating to ESG standards.

Indonesia last year launched a Sustainable Finance Roadmap and is due to announce regulations next year.


The report’s findings sit uncomfortably with Singapore’s efforts to be Asia’s leading banking hub and not least, a global sustainable city.

First, for a country that professes to be a premium financial services provider, its lack of leadership in this area is somewhat embarrassing.

Ms Stampe said one reason for this is perhaps the misperception that considering ESG is bad for business. However, other banks in the report have demonstrated that it is possible to finance responsible and clean businesses and still remain competitive.

There is also well-documented evidence that sustainable investing is not a financial sacrifice.

A Morgan Stanley report in March titled Sustainable Reality, for instance, showed that investing in sustainability has usually met, and often exceeded, the performance of comparable traditional investments – both on an absolute and a risk-adjusted basis, across asset classes and over time.

Second, Singapore has articulated an ambition to be a sustainable city with a flourishing green economy by 2030, as unveiled in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint last year.

A sustainable city requires a sustainable capital market that enables policymakers to plan for the long term and tackle a range of environmental and social issues such as climate change and social equity. Current financial regulations do not seem to reflect this vision.

Finally, Singapore has tried for decades to resolve the haze pollution issue, but is not looking at a possible solution in its own backyard.

It has for years tried to lobby the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to do more to tackle the rampant forest burning and deforestation involving companies that deal in forest commodities such as palm oil and pulp and paper.

It even introduced last year the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, which punishes errant companies that cause haze pollution in Singapore with fines of up to S$2 million. But as Mr Darrel Webber, chief of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — an industry association that certifies and advocates sustainable palm oil — has pointed out publicly, Singapore has the potential to exert more influence.

It is a major palm oil trading hub and many of its banks are major financiers of agricultural companies in the region. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia bourses account for 90 per cent of the total market capitalisation of grower or plantation companies listed in the world.

Despite this, not a single Singaporean bank is an RSPO member today. The finance industry is an “obvious lever” for Singapore that has largely been untouched, Ms Stampe noted.


To be fair, Singapore is cognisant of this. At the SIIA event, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that there is increasing expectation of banks and investors to be responsible.

“We expect banks and financial institutions to do a hygiene check. It is not only a matter of interest rate, but also about how the company is deriving its source of funds, and what its methods of production are … This has to become part and parcel of your standard due diligence,” he said.

Ms Stampe pointed out that perhaps local banks do follow some ESG guidelines, but just do not disclose it publicly. If this is the case, it is more constructive for them to disclose it, as it allows for external monitoring of progress and increased transparency.

She said WWF is now working with the banking sector in all three countries, including the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), to conduct ESG workshops for local banks, and that ABS might look into setting up a taskforce on ESG. This is encouraging and more than overdue.

The MAS should also step up and introduce voluntary stewardship codes to promote responsible investment practices. Its current stance that the industry should regulate itself just does not cut it.

It will only perpetuate a waiting game in which the regulator awaits the industry to get their act together, while the industry waits for the regulator to take leadership.

Beyond engagement with the industry, WWF also points to shareholders as playing a key role in accelerating change within the industry.

Investors and consumers can play a part in speaking up on their expectations of behaviour by companies and financial institutions. And this is not simply about employee tree-planting or sending e-statements — it is about ensuring that banks are changing their investment behaviour and putting money in the right places at the very start.

The benefits are manifold: Banks that have ESG strategies can strengthen credit risk management, reduce reputational risks, and create new financial products. For investors, sound ESG management at the company level is linked to better operational practices and share price performance. Furthermore, as the performance of financiers is linked to the economy, it is in their interest to address risks such as climate change that can impact entire portfolios.

Deforestation and forest degradation are important contributors to climate change, which should put these issues high on the agenda of financiers, says the report.

Dr Balakrishnan, in his speech, was right to observe that because of increased global scrutiny, “banks have also become part of the watch list”.

All eyes will now be on how well and quickly Singapore’s financial institutions respond.


Jessica Cheam is an editor of Eco-Business, an Asia-Pacific sustainable business publication.

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Crops in a concrete jungle: Singapore's rooftop farms

In Singapore, several groups hope to transform the urban jungle into productive farm land by growig crops on rooftops. USA Today's Elizabeth Weise visited one.
Elizabeth Weise, USATODAY 4 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE — Urban farmers in this island nation are hoping to transform the city's forest of buildings into food-production powerhouses by nurturing rooftop crops.

The goal is to make Singapore a little less dependent on imported produce and transform its relationship with local food.

A dense landscape of skyscrapers and apartment buildings, Singapore is home to 5.3 million people. At half the size of Los Angeles, it is a finance and tech powerhouse with little land devoted to agriculture.

Fully 90% of all Singapore's food is imported and only 8% of its vegetables are locally grown, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

Now, several groups are working to turn that around using rooftop farms, which have been popping up on dozens of buildings worldwide in recent years.

"The idea is basically using a very confined piece of land that could grow a lot of food and at the same time build a community," said Allan Lim, 42, CEO and one of the co-founders of Comcrop, an urban farming collective.

The farm is located on a 6,000-square-foot rooftop in a building on Orchard Road, a high-end shopping district sometimes called Singapore's Rodeo Drive.

"Our object is to testbed and see how much food we can seriously grow on marginalized land," Lim said.

Comcrop launched in 2011. The setup process was arduous, both to build the farm's infrastructure and to get official approval. It took nearly two years of bouncing around to "every agency in Singapore," most of which viewed the idea as alien, Lim said.

When they went to the fire department for a permit, they were asked whether the farm was flammable and how they would contain the flames if it caught fire.

"So we told them, 'You know what? We have about 200 tons of water on the rooftop at any one time,'" Lim said. The fire department relented and signed off on the project.

Plants there grow from vertical racks 15-feet high filled with rows of pipes with holes drilled in them. Water is run through a growth medium inside the pipes to minimize evaporation.

Temperatures on the roof can easily reach over 100 degrees on a hot day, common in the tropics. "It's instant suntan territory up here," Lim said.

The water comes from the tap but is first cycled through large tanks of tilapia, a heat-adapted fish. Their wastes provide nutrients for the plants. As they mature, the fish are harvested and sold, giving the farm additional income.

Comcrop produces herbs and vegetables, including basil, peppermint, spearmint, tomatoes, eggplants, lemons and tomatillos.

It is overseen by staff and a host of volunteers, including the elderly, Lim said. About 20% of the food is donated to charity. The rest is sold to bars and restaurants that clamor for fresh produce, or at a local farmers market.

Farming isn't a trade most Singapore parents dream their children will embrace, said Yuen Kang, one of Comcrop's farmers.

A Singapore native, he graduated from Vermont's Middlebury College with a degree in environmental studies before coming home and working in a government job with the elderly.

When he quit to work at Comcrop his parents were "shocked," Kang, 28, said. "Farming's not really an industry that young people go into here," he said.

Today, his parents have come to terms with his choice. "They said, 'As long as you don't ask me for money, you can go do what you want,'" he said.

Comcrop's vertical farming is part of an international trend. Last year hundreds of agronomists gathered at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom for the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture.

One of the speakers was Jack Ng, director of SkyGreens, a Singapore start-up that has created a hydroponic growing system that can be used on rooftops and in greenhouses.

Launched in 2012 with a demonstration farm that now grows 10 varieties of greens, Ng and his partners hope to make it easy to turn Singapore's skyscrapers into food production centers.

Another popular spot is Nong, a 30,000-foot rooftop farm created by Edible Gardens, which produces vegetables and greens on top of the city's People's Park Complex parking garage. Nong means "farmer" in Chinese.

Making Singapore's roofs productive would be a huge win, Lim said.

As he looked around at the neighboring buildings he pointed out spots of green here and there, then dismissed them as gardens full of expensive plantings that no one appreciates or visits.

"They're really a waste of time and resources. They don't grow anything anyone can use," he said.

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Malaysia: Long El Nino dry spell a threat

RUBEN SARIO The Star 5 Jun 15;

KOTA KINABALU: A prolonged El Nino-induced dry spell in Sabah has led to the state Forestry Department warning of potential forest fires if no preventive measures are being taken.

Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the dry spell had been observed since February.

“The conditions could lead to a situation similar to that in 1997 and 1998 when 130,000ha of forest reserves were destroyed by fire,” he said yesterday.

Those living near forest reserves should take steps to prevent fires from being intentionally started in their areas, he said.

Mannan added that illegal hunting, shifting cultivation and land development near forest reserves were among the main causes of fires.

He said preventive measures should also be taken at peat forests such as the Binsuluk Forest Reserve at Klias and Kuala Abai in the Kinabatangan district.

“Fires in peat forests are difficult to extinguish,” warned Mannan, adding that those caught starting fires in forest reserves were liable to a jail term of up to seven years and a RM100,000 fine.

In another development, he said about 3.6 million hectares or 49% of Sabah’s total land mass had been gazetted as Permanent Forest Reserves under seven classes: Class I is Protection Forests, Class II Commercial Forests, Class III Domestic Forests, Class IV Amenity Forests, Class V Mangrove Forests, Class VI Virgin Jungle Reserves, and Class VII Wildlife Reserves.

More information is contained in the department’s recently released Fact Sheets of Forest Reserves in Sabah.

Mannan said the publication includes data such as newly gazetted areas, reclassifications and excisions as at Dec 31.

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Protecting the ocean could boost economy by $900 bn, says WWF

More than $920 billion could be generated by 2050 and 180,000 jobs created by expanding the ocean's protected zones, according to a study published Thursday by conservation group WWF
AFP Yahoo News 3 Jun 15;

Lisbon (AFP) - More than $920 billion could be generated by 2050 and 180,000 jobs created by expanding the ocean's protected zones, according to a study published Thursday by conservation group WWF.

"Every dollar invested to create marine protected areas –- commonly known as MPAs –- is expected to be at least tripled in benefits returned through factors like employment, coastal protection, and fisheries," the campaign group said in a press release.

Research by Amsterdam's VU University, commissioned by the WWF, said the economic benefits of protecting more of the oceans would greatly exceed the costs, by easing the damage from overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors.

The researchers estimated that between $490 billion and $920 could be generated in the next 35 years by expanding protected marine areas, a process that could also create between 150,000 and 180,000 jobs.

The WWF report was released Thursday to coincide with an international conference in Portugal on the future of the oceans.

The WWF is pushing for 10 percent of the earth's oceans to be listed as protected by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030. At present, less than four percent of the oceans are designated for protection.

"MPAs are known to attract and sustain coastal tourism and recreation, supporting growth of employment and commerce," the group argued in its report.

"Globally, MPAs have been shown to increase fish size, density, biomass as well as species richness."

It added that coastal ecosystems play an important role in fighting climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"Existing protected areas in regions like the Mediterranean, the Coral Triangle and coastal Africa, demonstrate how people can benefit from increased ocean protection," the report said.

The WWF called on the world's governments to "include strong targets and indicators for the ocean" when they meet in September to agree on an international agenda for sustainable development.

It added that the international climate talks due in Paris at the end of the year would be another "critical opportunity" for world leaders to act to protect the oceans.

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Trouble looms as warmer oceans push marine life toward the poles

Will Dunham PlanetArk 5 Jun 15;

Rising sea temperatures attributed to global climate change could drive many marine creatures away from the equator, but their move toward the poles promises to put them in peril in habitats that are smaller and less hospitable, scientists say.

Two studies published on Thursday in the journal Science illustrate dangers researchers forecast for sea animals as diverse as corals, fish and crustaceans.

University of Washington oceanographer Curtis Deutsch said warmer ocean temperatures increase both the metabolic rates of ocean creatures and their demand for oxygen, but warm water contains less oxygen than cold, necessitating a move toward the poles to find cooler seas.

"As habitat shrinks, populations are also likely to shrink. In the extreme, it leads to extinction, as we see with habitat destruction in terrestrial ecosystems," Deutsch said.

As species migrate, they may end up in new environments with different ocean conditions, predators and prey, Deutsch added.

The study looked at species including: Atlantic rock crab, a coastal crustacean; Atlantic cod, an open-ocean fish; sharp snout seabream, a subtropical Atlantic and Mediterranean fish; and the common eelpout, a bottom-dwelling, shallow-water fish in high northern latitudes.

By 2100, they could be displaced from as much as a quarter of their current ranges as they shift toward higher latitudes, the researchers found.

Another study focused on the world's largest group of reef corals, called staghorn corals, that dominate most reefs of the Indo-Pacific region and also reside in the Caribbean but are highly susceptible to a phenomenon called coral bleaching.

In high ocean temperatures, corals expel algae living in their tissues, making the creatures turn white. This can kill them or make them more susceptible to other hazards.

The corals may have a hard time in cooler-water environments further from the equator, the study found. Because corals are dependent on sunlight, which does not penetrate the surface as well in higher latitudes especially during winter, they would be restricted to habitats in shallower waters if they migrate toward cooler waters.

Marine biologist Paul Muir of the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Australia said these corals are "facing a double jeopardy: bleaching at low latitudes with limited refuge available at higher latitudes."

"It was hoped that in response to warming oceans many groups of animals and plants would shift towards the poles, but for a large and important group of reef corals this option now appears limited," Muir said.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Global warming 'pause' didn't happen, study finds

Reassessment of historical data and methodology by US research body debunks ‘hiatus’ hypothesis used by sceptics to undermine climate science
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 4 Jun 15;

Global warming has not undergone a ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’, according to US government research that undermines one of the key arguments used by sceptics to question climate science.

The new study reassessed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (Noaa) temperature record to account for changing methods of measuring the global surface temperature over the past century.

The adjustments to the data were slight, but removed a flattening of the graph this century that has lead climate sceptics to claim the rise in global temperatures had stopped.

“There is no slowdown in warming, there is no hiatus,” said lead author Dr Tom Karl, who is the director of Noaa’s National Climatic Data Centre.

Dr Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and the director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said: “The fact that such small changes to the analysis make the difference between a hiatus or not merely underlines how fragile a concept it was in the first place.”

The results, published on Thursday in the journal Science, showed the rate of warming over the past 15 years (0.116C per decade) was almost exactly the same, in fact slightly higher, as the past five decades (0.113C per decade).

In 2013, the UN’s most comprehensive report on climate science made a tentative observation that the years since 1998 had seen a “much smaller increasing trend” than the preceding half century. The results highlighted the inadequacy of using the global mean surface temperature as the primary yardstick for climate change.

Karl said: “There’s been a lot of work done trying to understand the so-called hiatus and understand where is this missing heat.”

A series of studies have since identified a number of factors, including heat transferred into deep oceans and small volcanic eruptions, that affected the temperature at the surface of the Earth.

“Those studies are all quite valid and what they suggest is had those factors not occurred the warming rate would even be greater than what we report,” said Karl.

Dr Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the UK’s Met Office, said Noaa’s research was “robust” and mirrored an analysis the British team is conducting on its own surface temperature record.

“Their work is consistent with independent work that we’ve done. It’s within our uncertainties. Part of the robustness and reliability of these records is that there are different groups around the world doing this work,” he said.

But Stott argued that the term slowdown remained valid because the past 15 years might have been still hotter were it not for natural variations.

In the coming years the world is expected to move out of a period in which the gradient of warming has not slowed even though the temperature has been moderated. This means “we could have 10 or 15 years of very rapid rates of warming,” he said.

“Even though the observed estimate is increased, over and above that there is plenty of evidence that the rate of warming is still being depressed,” he said. “The caution is around saying that that is our underlying warming rate, because the climate models are predicting substantially higher rates than that.”

Noaa’s historical observations were thrown out by unaccounted-for differences between the measurements taken by ships using buckets and ships using thermometers in their engine in-takes, the increased use of ocean buoys and a large increase in the number of land-based monitoring stations.

“Science can only progress based on as much information as we have and what you see today is the most comprehensive assessment we can do based on all the information that’s been collected,” said Karl.

Schmidt called the new observations “state of the art” and said Nasa had been in discussions with Noaa about how to incorporate the findings into their own global temperature record.

Professor Michael Mann, whose analysis of the global temperature in the 1990s revolutionised the field, said the work underlined the conclusions of his own recent research.

“They’ve sort of just confirmed what we already knew, there is no true ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming,” he said. “To the extent that the study further drives home the fact ... that global warming continues unabated as we continue to burn fossil fuels and warm the planet, it is nonetheless a useful contribution to the literature.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at London’s Grantham Research Institute, said the news that warming had been greater than previously thought should cause governments currently meeting in Bonn to act with renewed urgency and lay foundations for a strong agreement at the pivotal climate conference in Paris this December.

“The myth of the global warming pause has been heavily promoted by climate change sceptics seeking to undermine the case for strong and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ward.

Since scientists began to report a slower than expected rate of warming during the last decade, climate sceptics have latched on to the apparent dip in order to question the validity of climate models.

Last February, US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told CNN: “The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that – that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.”

Cruz’s rival for the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush, was using the pause to argue for inaction as early as 2009.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK thinktank set up by Nigel Lawson to lobby against action on climate change and which hosts a flat-lining temperature graph on the masthead of its website, was dismissive of the study.

Dr David Whitehouse, an astrophysicist and science editor for the GWPF, said: “This is a highly speculative and slight paper that produces a statistically marginal result by cherry-picking time intervals.” He claimed the temperature graph was at odds with those of the Met Office and Nasa, despite both organisations saying the new study’s results were consistent with their data.

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