Climate clippings 3

It’s been almost a year since Climate clippings 2. Shall I say that intentions are good now, as they always have been.

I have included a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. It doesn’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

It can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed of important climate news.

Certain certainties

What percentage of global warming is due to human causes vs. natural causes?

Pretty much all of it, according NASA scientist, Gavin Schmidt. Prior to the industrial age we were on a cooling trend.

According to commenter Mike there is an easy answer to another question:

What percent of ocean acidification is natural? 0%

Don’t mention the famous piece of sporting equipment or a swarm of locusts will appear:

NH temperature anomaly

There is another view, of course. According to Adjunct Professor Carter this CO2 stuff is not just lost in the noise in causing global warming, it’s barely a blip in the error bar.

That was in response to Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director of the Granthem Research Institute at the London School of Economics calling Carter’s article ” the worst that has ever been published about climate change”.

Michael Mann muses

Meanwhile Michael Mann muses on the lengths to which deniers will go, deniers, mind, not skeptics, in order to discredit a simple graph that tells a simple story, reminding us that other researchers have extended the graph further back in time, affirmed its shape, and that climate science relies on multiple lines of evidence. Minister for Science, Kim Carr, is more blunt:

We don’t have to accord superstition and wishful thinking the same status as science. This is much more than fairness requires and much more than reason permits.

That George Munster Award Forum is worth a listen, BTW.

Garnaut speaks out (again)

Garnaut goes for science-led action.

Action by scholars, to be precise, and not economists squabbling over minutiae and definitely not vested interests. Overall he said it was:

”unlikely that Australia will come to play its proportionate part in an adequate global effort [on climate change] unless there is a strong independent centre of our public life, that holds some ground for the public interest against the huge investments that will again be made in false information and the distortion of the political process”

But not direct action, I’m sure he would say. Gillard reaffirms her preference for a carbon price and tips buckets on Tones’ direct action approach.

Gillard won’t follow US carbon retreat

No she won’t. That’s what Michelle Grattan says.

Ms Gillard said: ”President Obama is defining a strategy to tackle climate change in the political circumstances that America finds itself in.

”We are great friends and allies of America, but we are not an American state. We are our own country – we will determine our own strategy,” she said.

It’s amazing what you find in the Queensland Country Life, owned by Fairfax.

Solar panel scheme a waste of money

ANU researchers Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson have found that

MORE than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions

They also found that “the rebates did little to generate a solar manufacturing industry in Australia, instead sending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars offshore.”

All solar panel systems installed under the program combined reduced Australia’s emissions by just 0.015 per cent, and cost up to $301 per tonne of carbon saved

Ouch!

Greenland is melting

Faster than ever, as reported by Climate Progress:

New calculations show that the amount of melted inland ice in Greenland is 25-50% higher in 2010 than normally.

That’s not new news, but it’s important. Sea level rise is emerging as an increasing concern over the 21st century as stressed by CSIRO oceanographer John Church.

Aggressive mitigation is the only real answer.

Is climate science disinformation a crime against humanity?

That’s the question asked by Donald Brown of Penn State University.

Deeply irresponsible corporate-sponsored programmes of disinformation have potentially harsh effects upon tens of millions of people

According to John Broder of the New York Times:

the fossil fuel industry has “created and lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global warming studies, paid for rallies and websites to question the science, and generated scores of economic analyses that purport to show that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy.”

And Big Oil spends $69.5m on ads to get the Congress it wants:

It’s worth a lot to the oil and coal lobbies to get the Congress they want and the investment seems to be paying off

Biofuels may be worse than fossil fuels

EU plans to produce biofuels will cover land the size of the Republic of Ireland and will generate between 81 and 167 per cent more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, according to a study by 9 NGOs. The concept of “indirect land-use change” claims that if you displace food production someone somewhere goes hungry or new land is cleared to grow the food.

The EU Commission emphasises the use of abandoned agricultural land, but the study says that actual plans by member states involve 90% food displacement.

But in Connecticut they think industrial hemp might be the answer.

Thanks to John D for the heads-up.

So far 2010 is the warmest year on record

NASA has done the sums for October. So far 2010 is the warmest year on the instrumental record. It’s shaping up as warmer than 1998 and will be line-ball with 2005. Please note:

it bears repeating that the record warmth we are seeing this year is all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,”

Also the 12-month running mean global temperature has reached a new record in 2010 — despite recent minimum of solar irradiance:

“We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”

Temperature anomalies 2010 to October

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that about a year ago I attended a lecture wherein Prof Carter showed a graph demonstrating that there had been no warming in the last 50 years.

Certain certainties.

Over to you.

57 thoughts on “Climate clippings 3”

  1. The Economist (whose website currently indicates they can’t configure Drupal properly…) had a piece on geoengineering in their latest print edition.

    Aside from the usual ideas, there’s one I hadn’t seen – directly act to stop the Greenland glaciers slipping in to the sea by direct cooling certain key points.

    As usual, better not to let it get to that, but if the pooh hits the fan contingency plans are better than, well, drowning most of the world’s coasts.

  2. The reason our climate mitigation efforts are (tragically) doomed to fail is that it is more politically acceptable to pay an equivalent carbon price of $300/tonne for solar panels on the rooftops of the wealthy (I think the costs are similar for the ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme) than it is to implement even a carbon price of $20/tonne, let along the $80-$100 we probably need.

  3. I think aprt of the problem is the failure to cinsider straight regulation as part of the picture here in AU. in the 70s, the first rounds of anti-pollution legislation, including the US Clear Air Acts – just made it illegal to emit certain things.

    Id like to see certain cuts just mandated eg non-CO2 GHGs. I think we need to revisit a fundamental question: why should we pay companies anything to stop doing something thats clearly harmful?

    eg 5% cuts coukd simply be mandated – further cuts could be subject to a market mechanism if we absolutely have to turn it into some money-spinner.

    Incidentally, the only risk Australia faces is falling behind, not going out in front. Why anyone would cite the US failure to implement their own publicly made commitments of 4% as something to followed rather than condemned is beyond me. In any case, do we really want a basket case economy like theirs? They way our dollars going we’ll own them soon anyway!

  4. Good comments, LE.

    Yaz, on cash for clunkers, Treasury found two things when they ran the ruler over it. First they found that 200,000 would apply rather than 180,000, thus pushing the costs up by about 10% to, from memory $440 million.

    Secondly, they found that 165,000 of the clunkers would have been junked anyway. That makes $440m to take 35,000 clunkers off the road, that’s about $12,700 per car.

    Worst policy evah!

    In the latest budget adjustments it’s been deferred for a year. Let’s hope they junk it soon.

  5. Brian said:

    Worst policy evah!

    Not even close. Not even if you restrict your purview to climate & energy policy. CC&S makes cash-for-clunkers look like value for money. At least with c4c 200,000 people get new cars at a discount. That’s a substantial number of people and of course there is revenue back to the states in rego and stamp duty.

    Cast the net wider to defence, or to the RPP or the Rudd govt laptop program … this doesn’t make the top 10 and probably not the top 20 stupidest things over $100million money has been spent on.

    In the latest budget adjustments it’s been deferred for a year. Let’s hope they junk it soon.

    I agree with that. This one was an absolute clunker, just not as clunky as a great many things done in the Howard-era and after.

  6. Also:

    The concept of “indirect land-use change” claims that if you displace food production someone somewhere goes hungry or new land is cleared to grow the food.

    I am not as big a fan these days of the contribuition to be made by biofuels in transitioning to clean energy as I once was, but I continue to regard this claim as at best in the doubtful and potentially misleading category.

    Land is not used particularly efficiently to grow staple foods. We’ve been all over the issue of raising protein by using land to grow fodder (such as corn) to support ruminants. Why that rather than biofuels is the fly in the ointment remains unclear, as the footprint of cattle and sheep is huge.

    Then there’s mass use of land for other discretionary non-foods — tobacco, tea, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, cosmetics some of which are also seriously unhealthy. Why are we singling out biofuels? This simply ringfences those who shouldn’t be.

    None of this says that using land that could be efficiently used to produce food staples that are in short supply ought not be used for this purpose or for any other purpose achieving greater NPV than biofuels. Using corn to produce ethanol (as distinct from the waste byproduct of corn or beets produced for actual protein rather than HFCS) is mad. We’d be far better off returning the land to the environment than doing that, but the US wants to keep out Brazilian ethanol.

    It’s hard to see that biofuels can fill much more than a niche in the market — which is the main reason for my scepticism about them, but potentially, one day, we might find a way of using algae to make biodiesel or butanol, or use anaerobic digesters to convert methane to butanol or perhaps use process heat from some source to pyrolise organic waste or panicum/miscanthus and create syngas and thence a suitable HC liquid fuel. These are going to be fairly marginal to demand though.

  7. Yes that “sporting equipment’ is the ultomate zombie. At least poor old Piltdown Man stayed buried.

    (But you are correct that the thoroughly trivail ocean acidification over the past 200 years is caused entirely by man)

  8. LeftE, it’s probably easier to regulate non-emissions based measures. Like energy efficiency, as we kinda do with major electricty consumers and star ratings on new homes. If we tightened those and focussed on removing the loopholes that exist we could gain a lot without any dramatic new legislation.
    The one I really, really want is “household energy use per occupant” rather than “per square metre”. The current standards are a joke and one of the drivers of the trend towards ever-larger houses. If builders can meet the requirements by cheaply adding to the size of the house of course they will go for bigger. FFS. Or failing that a per square metre tax to offset this stupidity would do.

  9. Yaz,
    At the last count there were 340MW of middle class welfare PV on rooftops. Much of this was 100% subsidied.
    Now the Annul Capacity Factor of PV averaged across the capital cities is about 12%.
    Thus to get the coal fired equivalent of the 340 MW you get about 43 MW of coal fired generation. In other words it is not in any way statistically significant in 40 GW of generation.
    This billion program is simply theft. Worse than that it is a handout to the narcisitic “green” middle class.
    I would jail the lot of them for being such wankers.
    Huggy

  10. Moz suggested:

    If builders can meet the requirements by cheaply adding to the size of the house of course they will go for bigger. FFS. Or failing that a per square metre tax to offset this stupidity would do.

    Youy see the difficulties that ensue when you don’t simply price carbon at combustion and allow the consequences to cascade through the value chain.

    Do that adequately about how many people are occupying each square metre of floor space and for how long and with what basic utility.

    You hand back the money collected to those who are on or below average income (people above that point get a progressively smaller rebate until it disappears entirely at around 200% of average income)and they can decide what they want to spend it on. At the bottom end of the scale you give the benefit in part as means-tested services — such as quality housing, public transport, medical and dental, a rebate card on staple foods and groceries up to a certain value each week, access to before school breakfast and care programs for kids etc).

  11. This one speaks for itself: http://caivn.org/article/2010/11/10/prop-26-could-neutralize-defeat-prop-23

    One thing about this debate: opponents of climate action rarely employ open tactics of promoting debate, prefer confusion, subterfuge, muddying waters, sneaking.

    Its suggests to me they know full well they’re in the wrong: the just hate the implications of acting more than the fear the consequences of not doing so.

    Its not a position of “good faith” in other words. Its rather a powerful defence of entrenched interests we can no longer afford to tolerate.

  12. OK – here’s the plan:

    Australia becomes the global centre of excellence in Nuclear Fuel production and waste disposal and theoretical physics research. Build eff’n heaps of new nuc power stations of all different types around Oz – Uranium and thorium. Build the mother of all colliders powered by nucs.

    Keep digging brown and black stuff out of the ground and sending over to the Chicoms, because they are morally so much better at burnong it than we are.

    Multiple problems solvered.

    Who says a benevolent dictatator is such a bad idea? Vote me? Vote once and get it over and done with.

  13. Did I mention I will be appointing Sam Kekovic as Foriegn Minister and JWH as President for Life?

    Yo know it’s right.

    I’d even be happy to call it a Republic as long as we get to keep going to the Commonwealth Games and whooping arse.

    The States are an anachonism of colonial times and will be abolished in all but name. North Perth will become a tax Free haven – excluding Northbridge.

  14. There is nothing at all to worry about.
    god has promised not to do it.
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/11/god-global-warming-congressman-energy/
    Shimkus is one of four Republicans vying to head the committee, which oversees legislation related to public health, air quality and environmental health, the supply and delivery of energy, and interstate and foreign commerce in general.”
    Not favoured to win; but what is the insanity that even allows him to put his hand up for the job?
    Huggy

  15. The Conductor of the greatest symphony orchestra in the world – the Berlin Philharmonic, reckons we will be carbon-constrained from long-distance travel in the future. He must know – Al Gore knows and he isn’t good at anything.

    I welcome my future Green overlords – especially if they are the cute euro chicks who always ask me to answer their surveys.

  16. While you continue to relate climate change to a single entity, that is anthropogenically released carbon you all ignore the main issue in relation to climate change; that is, the unachievable goal of climate control, and the stupid belief that climate control actually possible. Climate change is not just about anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the actual proportion of climate change that is, is still unknown.
    Yes,I agree that it is a good idea not to pillage the earths resouces and burn up all the fossil fuels, but you all still seem to dream on in relation to what actual effect reducing anthropogenic carbon release will actually achieve in relation to the climate.
    Its good to see that many now see that the cost of the green alternatives are far more expensive in producing energy. Higher costs and less choice in energy supply will in the end kill people because they can’t afford it.
    It must be remembered that our society relies on cost effective energy to maintain our standard of living. As a result while Australian Governments want a price on carbon, at the same time they do virtually nothing to replace the energy with a source that can get anywhere near the efficiency of fossil fuels. Why? I’ll leave you to think about it.
    There is no way that the Hazelwoods can be closed down without major planning in relation to a reliable replacement of these energy sources. Just introducing a carbon tax isn’t going to magically create another energy source to maintain the standard of living of those people just coping with energy prices at the moment.

  17. #22 John Michelmore

    You misleadingly refer to “the unachievable goal of climate control”. What we would like to see is the end of the reckless giant geophysical experiment that is is currently in progress.

  18. David, that’s rather revealing of a misspent youth, or maybe continuing indulgence. Not that I’m in a position to condemn. Razor has been revealing also and in the process has made some sense despite the enhancing chemicals fizzing away at his synapses.

    John Michelmore @ 22 makes a lot of sense but for him and others I am going to quote Thomas Keneally who very recently said “I hate politicians who invoke inevitability”. For me that was relevant for population growth but it can be applied anywhere for anyone.

  19. John Michelmore @ 22, no-one I know thinks they can control the climate, but we have to look at the risks associated with CO2 and other GHGs at current and projected levels.

    You might have a look at this post or the more complex version, which is beyond my mathematical understanding. The author suggests that climate sensitivity, the temperature variation associated with a doubling of CO2, is about 5C if we take into account all feedbacks, not just CO2.

    This study had a look at the early to mid-Pliocene and appears to suggest that 4.5 million years ago the temperature was 3-4C higher than pre-industrial values with CO2 between about 365 and 415?ppm.

    It should be noted that the Americas had not joined at Panama at that time, so ocean circulation was bound to be different. Not sure what difference that would have made.

    James Hansen thinks we should try for 350ppm and then see how things are shaping up, pointing out that the earth’s surface and hence the albedo is significantly different to what it was pre-industrially. In short it is likely to reflect considerably more heat in its current condition.

    I agree with him, FWIW.

  20. Fran @ 7, OK I was being a bit hyperbolic about the ‘cash for clunkers’ policy. I’d like someone to do some proper maths on it, though. Look at it this way.

    Treasury says that 165,000 clunkers would be withdrawn from the road without the policy. So $440m sees only an extra 35,000 cars replaced. You might save 30% of emissions by doing so, I don’t know.

    But some of those 35,000 would have been withdrawn in the next year without the policy, more in the following year, and so on.

    I think I remember a number in the thousands given as the dollars spent to save each tonne of emissions, but I can’t be sure and I’d really like to know. In those terms it may well be the most expensive policy ever.

  21. John Michelmore, naysayer, it is not just a dream that collective action can influence our environment, it is demonstably factual. For starters it is very clearly evidenced that humans have collectively increased the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. It is now universally accepted (99% is acceptably universal) that this increase is changing the Earths climate. It should be noted that the bulk of this CO2 increase has occured in the last 60 years, and not surprisingly, the climatic change is now accelerating. More proof. Now consider the Ozone Hole danger and the collective action taken to arrest its expansion. Success. Collective action works. It is safe to say that global action to reduce CFC releases has arrested the growth in the Ozone Hole, and that this has been a timely trial run for global atmospere management.

    Now to go the final stage and say that global human action will arrest the secondary consequence of global warming, climate change, is not so certain as the mechanisms are slightly more complex. The secondary runaway responses that are potentially more damaging than the original CO2 releases, these being global warming induced methane releases now underway throughout the worlds forests and in the Russian Steppes, have the potential to trivialise the atmosperic effects of the triggering CO2 emissions as methane as a 20 fold influence on atmosperic heat retention in the short term. Unfortunately the rate at which this is happening is observably faster than our ability to study and quantify it, so once the sudies are complete they will become something of a bibliographical explanatory note to to what we are experiencing all around us.

    So what is the point?

    Simply, pretty well everyone has their “causes and effects”, “actions and consequences”, along with their “reasoning” horribly jumbled. The short form is that although concentrated carbon deposits in the form of fossil “fuels” were available for humans to “harvest” we should not have used them as their formation history was the basis of our present day atmosperic reality. We should have learnt to live sustainably from the beginning. To see the consequences of the failure to understand sustainability one must study the history of Haiti where religion induced overpopulation in conjunction with incompetent government has led to complete envrironmental stripping onleading to vulnerability in the face of natural and climatic effects now playing out, to this very minute as Cholera takes hold. Ignoring the sustainability message is to guarantee an Haitian outcome for the entire human race over a longer period of time.

    We have been handed a last chance opportunity to learn how to live sustainably and to make the adaption before economic access to fossil fuels run out. Climate change is simply the devastaing reason to act decisively.

    NATURE DOES NOT CARE HOW WE LIVE, WHETHER WE SURVIVE OR NOT, ONLY WE DO.

  22. I wonder how provocative Brian is trying to be with this post?
    The evidence points to a serious and significant problem but the reported attempt politicians have made to start something to amielorate the GHG effects is a financially mismanged disaster.
    After watching the futile attempts by the G20 to try and co-operate with each other so as to not destroy the global financial system how much hope that any plans for ‘globally co-ordinated ‘ action can we sustain?
    Not much …..
    The beggar my neighbour attitude encouraging protectionism may crimp various countries economies for a few more years.This may reduce consumption which may slow GHG discharges but with China charging into the future with a “build it and they will come” attitude and the US throwing up trade barriers to satisfy domestic voters concerns I don’t think we should anticipate any useful mitigation work in the next 1-2 decades.

  23. murph I’m not sure what you mean about provocative, but yes, I was trying to reflect a situation where mainstream science and the position of sceptics/denialists/contrarians are poles apart and irreconcilable. There is no basic respect in most cases.

    Certainly this polarisation is reflected in the national politics of places like the US, Canada and Australia, but not in most countries.

    The UN operates under the principle of consensus, meaning one recalcitrant can blow any deal. Right now this precludes any binding deals in Cancun or anywhere else for a while. How long depends, I think, on when unprecedented climate disasters reach a point that can’t be ignored by the main power centres. Floods in Pakistan and concerns about island states don’t seem to cut it.

    There is a group based around Bolivia who are arguing for an aim to keep temperature increase to 1C to avoid dangerous climate change. They have no respect for capitalism, so are not likely to agree to what they see as a disastrous approach brokered to accommodate the main capitalist powers.

    I hope to post on a conference they had shortly.

    But the link provided by LE @ 1 provides some hope, as does the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”.

    Not enough, but it’s about all we’ve got.

  24. Speaking of capitalism, it could be argued that the entire success of capitalism is founded upon the extraction of low cost energy from oil.
    This single factor has massively increased the productivity of workers, given us plastics, fertiliser and a host of chemical products at very low cost.
    The Capitalists know this and are in fear/denial because they know that there is no easy substitute.
    Hence the foot dragging.
    Huggy

  25. I’ve just finished viewing a couple of “Slow TV” videos by an engineer and entrepreneur called Saul Griffith.

    Mr Griffith is described in the following terms at the site these videos appear:

    Saul Griffith has multiple degrees in materials science and mechanical engineering and completed his PhD in Programmable Assembly and Self Replicating machines at MIT. He is the co-founder of several companies including Low Cost Eyeglasses, Squid Labs, Potenco, Instructables.com, HowToons and Makani Power.

    I would encourage regular visitors to this site to view these videos not because I unreservedly endorse them but because they offer an enrormous amont of accessible data expressed in everyday terms. Those who advocate renewables as the key answer to confronting the post-industrial climate anomaly should especially look at thse clips (and particularly the second).

    Mr Griffiths appears to be a man of intelligence, intellectual rigour, ethical compass and above all honesty. He is also involved in the business of renewables and favours wind — so he is certainly not any kind of advocate of nuclear power — though significantly, his most negative observations about nuclear power are that it probably wouldn’t last much beyond 1000 years in extremis and that many concerned about climate change aren’t that keen on it.

    Yet Mr Griffiths throughout his talk in the second of the links does not hide the scale of the challenge (though finally I think he understates its magnitude as he assumes, for ease of inference, that the current energy usage of the world stays as it is, which by implication condemns the world’s poor to about what they have now). Yet even on this scale he makes plain that the kind of building program we would need to construct these facilities and the footprint of that effort is almost unthinkable, unless, he notes obliquely towards the end the second part of the talk, we want to look at nuclear power.

    Unlike many who are sympathetic to renewables then, he works through the calculations as an engineer. One suspects he’s close to Trainer in denying the capacity of renewables to do the job we’d need them to do, when we’d need them to do it.

    http://tinyurl.com/saulG1 (approx 30mins)

    http://tinyurl.com/saulG2 (approx 34mins)

  26. Fran, you’re making a stretched argument to say on the strength of one man’s, albeit one very clever man’s, imaginings that renewables cannot deliver. For starters Saul’s approach to wind energy is a little blinkered. This is a problem with many high energy performers. That aside he is innovative in many fields. The assumption that you are making is that one high energy innovative person can be considered as a fair arbiter of all things energy. False.

    GenIIPV was conceived after my business partner had studied at length domestic scale wind power, finally coming to the conclusion that there was totally insufficient energy available in wind near ground level collectable by architechturally and aesthetically acceptable devices. It was only at that point that he started considering other possibilities. And within minutes of two of us working together the GenIIPV system was conceived. That is how innovation all too often works.

    We, my partner and I, had a free thinking examination of the main part of our, now, shared product on Friday and again within a short time we had completely redifined the construction of the working end of the product to make it easier to build and with an increased customer base.

    Applaud Saul Griffith for his energy and achievements, but do not use him as a lever argument for universal nuclear power, despite his own feelings on the matter (to date), because if that is what he is leading to he is completely wrong. The path to fossil fuel energy was not a rapid one. The path to comprehensive renewable energy will also not be an instantaneous event, but it will not take anywhere near as long as it took innovators to efficiently extract the full potential of fossil fuels.

    Having said all of that Saul Griffith’s work is exciting and well worth a look.

    http://www.saulgriffith.com/

  27. BilB

    I don’t believe Saul Griffith was making an argument for nuclear power — at least in his own mind. If he was making an argument for anything it was pace Trainer, for a radically trimmed lifestyle — which is not, as you know, my policy view.

    What is telling about your response is that you don’t challenge any of Griffith’s numbers. You simply assert, as you have on many occasions in the past, that renewables can do the job.

    I do note this from you though:

    The path to fossil fuel energy was not a rapid one. The path to comprehensive renewable energy will also not be an instantaneous event, but it will not take anywhere near as long as it took innovators to efficiently extract the full potential of fossil fuels.

    For all practical purposes Scott, the time is now up. We have optimistically perhaps 10-20 years to implement at the scale required the technologies needed to reduce emissions to zero. Even if you were right in the above claim — and there is no basis at all for making that inference — you’d be wrong as a matter of schedule feasibility. Unless you have something right now that could be built in that time window, replacing fossil fuels entirely as it went, you have nothing at all. That you acknowledge that you don’t have such a thing damns your case entirely.

    If one looks at the problem and asks, of all the needfed components of a solution, which is in the greatest scarcity? the answer is obvious. It is time. Given enough time, (by which I mean the temporal space to prevent things from becoming worse while we get our act together and design both solutions and the political framework needed to implement them) we could do it.

    We can’t manufacture more time, obviously, so we have to find some other way of preventing the post-industrial climate anomaly from continuing to develop, subverting ecosystem services to humans in ways that are not in practice reversible. We cannot allow the tipping point to manifest.

    For mine, the most obvious short-term solution is in passive, and if necessary, active geonegineering, along the lines suggested by those such as Paul Crutzen and Gwynne Dyer. This would not be without its risks, and we should do some serious R&D first to determine technical, schedule and environmental feasibility, but we need to get on with it now. Basically we need to introduce a range of negative forcings into the system, so that we can hold the line while we do what our grandparents should have done.

    If you really believe in renewables, you ought to support this too, because realistically, successful renewables are a lot further off than the nuclear capacity we could install while we explore that question.

  28. Actually, Fran, I do not agree with his figures. It is a good illustration which conveys only one picture. There are a lot of incorrect assumptions, on the one hand, and some of his key aggregate figures do not agree with other studies. I’ve got to go to a dinner so will comment more latter.

  29. LE, I saw Josh Fox being interviewed on the 7.30 Report. It’s about the coal seam gas industry where over $30 billion worth of investments have just been approved for the Surat Basin.

    They claim that fracking isn’t used as much here, but that may be small comfort. See my earlier post. As explained there the main process of extracting gas is not by injecting water under pressure to fracture the rocks and the coal seams but by extracting water from the coal seam. This is salty and has other nasties. It is pooled above ground and meant to evaporate.

    The basic problem seems to be this. The coal seam was laid down from 360mya. The sandstone layers that carry the Great Artesian Basin were laid down 225-65mya and hence sit on top of the coal seams. There are alluvial aquifers in some places that sit on top of that again.

    So you punch multiple holes down through the water-bearing layers to the coal seam and then take water out of the coal seam. Then you sit a pool of rubbish water right on top of it all. With all the drilling and pressure changes it is possible, apparently, to fracture the layers, and in many places there is not much between the GAB and the coal seam. In any case gravity is not your friend.

    The feds and the states have put up to 1500 environmental conditions on the companies, but the farmers are worried. Drew Hutton under the Friends of the Earth banner has been organising resistance and I believe has an office in Warra, near Dalby. The latest is that farmers are refusing entry to the farms, which the companies are obliged to negotiate. They plan to clog up the courts.

    I should do a post, but don’t have enough decent links.

  30. Obviously there is a problem with contamination of water, but the bigger problem is probably that the good underground water ends up in the coal seam and the bore dries up. 22 out of 23 towns in the area rely on bore water.

  31. The problem I have with

    “The feds and the states have put up to 1500 environmental conditions on the companies”

    is that a company can go ahead believing that they are meeting requirements, it all goes wrong, the company goes bust, the damage is done to the rock structure, and there is no way of fixing a mess which leaves those communities with a permanently damaged water system. All in the interests of extracting fossil fuel that we should not be using at all.

    It is my perception that Australian mining companies have a bad track record when it comes to handling toxic liquids. There have been a lot of spills. If it involves scraping material up off the ground to dump material in rail wagons, they can cope with that, but properly managing tailings dams on the surface where the 1 in 300 year rainfall is certain to happen at the wrong time.

  32. BilB, the companies are mostly giant multinationals. It takes a lot of capital to build a 500 km pipeline underground to Gladstone, and there build a plant compressing gas into LNG.

    Still, if things really go pear-shaped they can bugger off out of the country.

    A big worry is failing bore pressures. Companies are required to “make good” any damage they do, but this is unrealistic when the damage involves fracturing geological layers hundreds of meters underground. I believe companies will be required to have detailed plans on how they will approach the whole water thing, but what’s happening here is a world first and no-one knows what the effects will be. What happened in the US is significantly different, and happened because Bush removed a whole raft of environmental conditions. The 7.30 Report actually showed a man lighting the water that flowed out of his tap.

  33. Hat tip to all interested in the onshore natural gas issue:

    The movie Gasland is currently showing in Sydney (and you can see it on the web obviously).

    I haven’t seen it yet buyt am planning to get along. The trailer looks interesting.

    http://tinyurl.com/247ndw7

  34. One effect of the CSG industry that never seems to get mentioned is the effect it will have on domestic gas prices in Qld. The moment the first tanker load of liquefied gas leaves the port of Gladstone, Queensland is part of the global gas market, and domestic consumers will have to pay the world spot market price: I understand it’s a multiple of current domestic prices. Both domestic consumers and industry will be adversely affected. Jobs will disappear in domestic industries, particularly those where gas represents a significant cost of production. The gas to be burnt in the new gas-fired power stations will of course also be subject to the increased prices. This has long been recognised in the business pages (e.g. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/gas-price-under-pressure/story-e6frg6pf-1111116783694), but seemingly never gets discussed in the political pages of the papers.

    The overall impact of this will be to close down small Queensland enterprises such as laundries and food processing businesses, and increase the costs of living for everybody, to be offset by new jobs in Gladstone and the Darling Downs arising from the new investment.

  35. Bilb @ 29.
    The comparison of CFC versus Anthropogenic Climate change is not a valid comparision. CFC’s are a group of single chemicals, easy to control, by just controlling their use and production.
    What ever the exact level of anthropogenic climate change, reducing the carbon dioxide is only one facet of multidimensional different climate forcings. To compare the two is plain silly. In additon me you anybody can generate greenhose gases, we can’t create CFC’s only specific industries can (easy to control)
    While those items that influence climate (total aerosol effects), that are not well understood remain mis understood then controlling carbon based GHG’s may have little to no effect on the worlds climate.
    Bilb if we have to act decicively as you say. Why are we not building nuclear power stations now? Introducing a tax at minimum and then gradually ramping it up to create change wouldn’t appear fast enough for you.

    Brian @ 27,
    How James Hansen can conclude that the earth is more reflective now than in the past is really beyond me!!
    He is good to be able to determine how much cloud existed pre industrially. Basically that statement cannot be substantiated.
    Incidentally the cloud albedo effect could be as big negatively as anthropogenic forcing is positive (IPCC, 2007a).

    Quokka @ 24
    Mans impact on the globe can hardly be considered an experiment. It’s the impact of uncontrolled population growth, greed and not having a clue about our impact.
    What is the experiment is the attempt to control the climate by attempting to control carbon compounds, while conveniently ignoring the need for cheap energy to maintain our current existance; and conveniently ignoring the other potential climate forcing factors we know diddly squat about.

  36. Thanks Fran,
    I agree climate science, including cloud albedo, is very very complex. That’s why focusing on carbon obsessively may not achieve the desired experimental result.

  37. John Michelmore said:

    That’s why focusing on carbon del>obsessively {as an experimental hypothesis} may not achieve the desired experimental result {my correction to remove unsupported claim}

    Apart of course from measurements of the Earth’s energy budget through ERBE, IRIS etc which provide compelling experimental validation for such a focus, and the lack of any other variable that maps to the data remotely as well as atmospheric CO2.

    That a system is complex doesn’t change in any significant way what one should examine within it.

  38. Here’s a fun video from the wonderful Climate Corsk of the Week series by SInclair.

    This one deals with the trolling claim that anthropogenic climate change was something invented by scientists in the last few years.

    http://tinyurl.com/fransclips-CC1956

    Here, in this video of a 1956 radio program it is referred to by Plass as Climatic Change, but the basic science is instantly recognisable to those familiar with the Assessment Reports of the IPCC.

    My apologies are due to Tim Macknay. In a recent discussion elsewhere, I’d put the earliest use of “Climatic Change” as mid-1970s but it seems that even this date was about 20 years late.

  39. John M,

    CO2 is a single chemical, even easier to control by not burning fossil fuels. The Ozone hole is an example of human ability to affect the atmosphere and subsequently climate to some degree, not a comparison. We are not building Nuclear Reactors Because that would be tacking one environment problem with another, and because Australians want to solve their energy problem with the most abundant energy source Australia has, Solar energy. As to the other questions, you need to address those to Julia Gillard.

  40. Damn I loved Sam Kekovich, I miss his humour prior to the lamb ads. (a small sample of dead set classics here http://www.mediaman.com.au/profiles/kekovich.html). I do hope we get another Australian Stephen Colbert, for the same reasons they need theirs.

    I love also how right wingers don’t get the satire and think the satirists as one of them. Parody is unfathomable to them. It helps me make sense of them – if one is deficient in humour then other mental faculties are probably dysfunctional as well.

    Ta for the giggle Razor.

  41. Great piece by Gittens: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/other-countries-are-doing-far-more-than-us-to-cut-emissions-20101116-17vr7.html

    “Far from being the country that’s leading the way and making sacrifices while others hang back and marvel at our naivety, Australia – a country with more to lose than most – is dragging the chain.”

    A study sponsored by Australia’s Climate Institute has sought to measure the implicit carbon price in various countries. It’s $29 a tonne in Britain because its participation in the European trading scheme is backed up by various domestic measures.

    It’s $14 a tonne in China thanks to the measures I’ve mentioned and it’s even $5 a tonne in the US because of federal subsidies to clean energy sources and state renewable energy targets.

    And what do our bits and pieces add up to? A princely $1.70 a tonne.”

  42. LE, thanks for that. I think the notion of an implicit price on carbon is important.

    A couple of days ago Greg Combet said they were reviewing the state of play in other countries as part of their c’tee work. He was clearly aware that the world wasn’t standing still.

    The meeja have been taking up the COALition’s cue in asking what Julia’s government stands for. It seems she has put sorting out climate change action up in lights with a few other things as signature programs.

    Westpac has been on board for some time. In yesterday’s AFR they are saying that they won’t lend to dirty industries.

    Garnaut is updating his report at the request of government.

    It’s all good as far as it goes.

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