Climate clippings 14

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

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

Monckton madness

John Cook at Skeptical Science has a post on two of Monckton’s oft-repeated pieces of climate change misinformation – that climate sensitivity, a measure of how much the earth warms from rising CO2, is so low that you can burn coal with impunity and that sea levels are not going to rise much in the future.

Cook has conveniently collected all his articles on Monckton Myths. Indeed this one lists 15 of them together with their antidotes. For example, Monckton claims that Arctic sea ice loss is matched by Antarctic sea ice gain, whereas in fact Arctic sea ice loss is three times greater than Antarctic sea ice gain.

Oops, said I wasn’t going to mention ice this time.

Cows show how to make biofuels

Cows have a very effective digestive system. Scientists have been exploring the bovine rumen to discover new enzymes to digest switch grass in the production of biofuel.

Temperatures of North Atlantic “are unprecedented over the past 2000 years

and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming”.

That’s as reported at Climate Progress.

The 3.5°F warming of Fram Strait water over the past century is “not just the latest in a series of natural multidecadal oscillations.”

I think that’s almost 2°C, which is quite a lot for sea water. Here is the key graph:

Temperature reconstructions of upper Atlantic Water in the eastern Fram Strait over the past ~2100 years

Looks like another hockey stick.

More Frequent Drought Likely in Eastern Africa

From ScienceDaily:

The increased frequency of drought observed in eastern Africa over the last 20 years is likely to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise, according to new research published in Climate Dynamics.

This poses increased risk to the estimated 17.5 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa who currently face potential food shortages.

The Indian Ocean has warmed especially fast, but the resulting warmer air and increased humidity produces more frequent rainfall over the ocean. The air rises, losing its moisture during rainfall, and then flows westward and descends over Africa, causing drought conditions in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Previously it had been thought that there would be more rain over the Horn of Africa, illustrating the difficulty in forecasting regional climate impacts.

Climate change implicated in the fall of civilisations

Huffington Post reports on a study which looked at 2500 Years of European climate variability and human susceptibility. And found a relationship, not only in the demise of the Roman Empire but also with other civilisations.

John D earlier posted a link to an article on this topic in the New Scientist, I think it was. From memory it was the variability of the climate from one decade to the next that did for the Romans.

The UN has declared 2011 as the ‘International Year of Forests

I don’t know much about forests and deforestation and must admit I was surprised at aspects of this article from the Hindustan Times.

Forests in India are growing at 300,000 hectares per annum, for example, China is planting 3 million hectares each year and net global deforestation has declined by 37%. But the CO2 produced is still more than the transport industry.

China is winning the green economy race

That’s according to this article from the Tehran Times.

“China is going to leave all of us in the dust,” Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum Thursday in Davos, Switzerland. “They’re committed to winning the green economy race.”

China last year boosted spending on low-carbon energy by 30 percent to $51.1 billion, “by far the largest figure for any country,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance said Jan. 11. Global accounting firm Ernst & Young said in September that China for the first time overtook the U.S. in its quarterly index of the most attractive countries for renewable energy projects.

“You can leapfrog – you don’t have to follow the model of the north,” Figueres said. “China is showing this.

Can we do it? Yes we can!

Climate Spectator looks at a new report released by the WWF and compiled with the help of European energy consultancy firm Ecofys. The report finds that the world’s energy needs can be met “cleanly, renewably and economically” within 40 years.

The 300-page global study finds that such an effort would require an extraordinary amount of investment, and the securing of significant gains through energy efficiency. The energy supply would be sourced from solar, wind, geothermal and hydro, and facilitated by the introduction of smart grids, international networks that balance renewable power sources, electrification of transport, major efficiencies in buildings, and the increased use of solar, geothermal and heat pumps for heating and cooling.

All you need to spend is 1-2 per cent of world “GP” over the next 25 years, or between $1.4 and $4.7 trillion a year. (I thought world GDP was about $60 trillion.)

In an accompanying report Climate Risk looks at the prospects for Australia. All we need is $2.5 billion per annum. By 2045 energy costs will be at or below those of fossil fuels.

Nope, don’t need a price on carbon! But with a carbon price starting at $28/tonne of C02e and rising to $158/t by 2050 the crossover point could be reached by 2030.

I expect they will tell Julia and Greg, Christine, Ross and all!

28 thoughts on “Climate clippings 14”

  1. Why am I sceptical about that WWF study? Sounds a lot like the BZE study, which, sadly, was wildly optimistic.

    China’s afforestation efforts have been remarkable. I’m not sure how much they’re monoculture plantations (lots of eucalyptus, I know) and how much is genuine reforestation. Looks like all commercial plantations if you scrutinise this World Bank slideshow.

  2. Meanwhile here in the lucky/stupid country we are madly cutting every even remotely green program in sight to pay for the effects of extreme climate ‘events’ caused by global warming.

  3. Sorry if you all read this already, if not perhaps after reading it you might have preferred not to know… I have not seen this mentioned anywhere much-certainly not in Australia’s dis -information mass media.

    For those who like to keep explanations of worsened storms simple by referring to increased energy in the global system Donald W Aitkin in ‘Gaia in Turmoil ‘(2010 MIT)P.127 has a figure of I watt/meter squared averaged over the whole Earth and Oceans. This is gradual net accumulation of excess energy over the past 150 years on the basis of 39% more co2 in environment than from natural processes. If continued unchecked for 10,OOO years,rather than 150, Earth’s temperature more than 100C and boiled oceans. This not peer reviewed journal but reputable publishing house. It can be helpful sometimes to put a single number to represent complicated phenomenon.

  4. A lot of those “Green Car” initiatives were straight out handouts by Kim Il Carr to his mates in the Victorian automotive industry and the AMWU, and shore ups to his Socialist left comrades holding some of the seats, with a Green overlay put on top of them. Because no one can be against a program called “Green” something, right?

  5. Do the figures on China’s expenditure on alternative energy sources include or exclude nuclear? Although, it doesn’t make any difference seeing as how much they are going to increase their CO2 emmissions by. It’s like fat people who drink diet drinks but still consume far too many calories.

  6. yeah Adrian, if you look closely at the green program cuts, they weren’t quite the scandal you make out, some of them were pretty stupid, others are really just renumbering to match actual expenditures.

    Though the “optics” (one of those “inside the beltway” sayings I can’t stand, though not quite as bad as “inside the beltway” itself, I mean, does Canberra even have a beltway?) weren’t good.

    Of course, remember them means testing the PV grants? Drove demand through the roof.

  7. Brian,
    thankyou for the informative post & links. Sadly, our countries live in a loopy state of ‘denial’…and I fear that it will take the loss of millions, if not billions of people, mass extinctions and loss of vast areas of habitable land & agriculture before the hold of the climate change ‘deniers’ and their fossil fool puppeteers is loosened to see the urgent action taken that is so necessary.

    I have lost all confidence in political & corporate leadership to take us down the appropriate path…and w/ the domino effect of uprisings in Arab states (understandable) and the wobbling of China (overheated in far too many sectors, inflation etc., nationalism vs dissidents) & the EU shakiness…combined w/ the market casino repeating so many previous mistakes in their renewed exeburence…steadily rising oil prices…add these ongoin’ natural disasters of epic proportion, I foresee enormous strains on our economic & social well-being in the near future.

    Unfortunately, the window of opportunity has narrowed to a slit…and one can only imagine the influential religious kooks & profiteers who will use these disasters to promote their nutty agendas…particularly as 2012 nears…and untried war criminals & other so called “sinners” across the world look for redemption &/or other opportunities to implement authoritarian capitalist regimes.

    Frankly, I think a National Disaster Relief Fund is the way to go…and sadly the NBN may have to be delayed as we prepare for possible global upheaval…and numerous natural disasters.

    Unfortunately, the seeds were sown well before Gore failed to dispute the election of 2000…electric cars were mashed…Arab/Muslim states invaded by the Bush lot…and the ETS abandoned.


  8. Yes I know, everyone from ABC reporters to News Ltd hacks crap on about the ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme as the only example of ‘dud’ green programs, but they feel compelled neverthless to now label all green programs as ‘duds’.

    The fact that anything remotely green faces the axe at the first opportunity is symptomatic of the prorities of this government, the opposition and most of the media, or is anyone seriously trying to argue that these programs are the only ‘duds’ among the government’s entire portfolio?

  9. It not an opposition to green programs. Its an opposition to these programs, which were duds – Gillard has more or less conceded as much in their haste to get rid of them. Running poorly defined programs and calling them “green” is not the way to build community commitment to environmental measures.

  10. Nasking@7 I empathise with your despair, and your fear of religious kooks and profiteers exploiting our grim destiny. But like many especially at threads like this I think you are looking for solutions in the wrong places.

    “I personally doubt that disastrous ecologic backlash can be avoided by applying to our problems more science and more technology.’ So prophetically wrote Lynn White in 1967. (The Historic Roots Of Our Ecologic Crisis). They created the problems in the first place; they remain ‘so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance towards nature that no solution can be expected from them alone.’ That non -Christian or atheistic scientists do not understand the Christian origins of their basic attitudes is irrelevant, White wrote. They remain our basic attitudes. White also raised the question whether democracy was also implicitly implicated in ecological backlash, it remains an open question. Evidence is accumulating he was right about that as well. Our problem is in origin religious – the solution, White said ,will be religious whether we call it that or not.

  11. Could not agree with you more Mystified, Tragedy of the Commons points into the same direction. In Environmental Psychology it is widely acknowledged how, as they call it, the judeo/christian outlook on environment, land or natural resources shapes our approach to it. I would say it may go further back to the civilising practice of owning land. Which reminds me of rereading ‘Civilization’ by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. He had an interesting angle on how different civilisations lived and died by their ‘approach’ to their environment.

  12. Brian,
    That video puts the position very well.
    We desperately need an action group, a very large action group. A very large global action group.
    We also need more than token CO2 abatement schemes.
    I have posted here about the total futility of the rooftop PV scheme/s. To this i must add the carbon sequestration schemes.
    Years go I would give talks on the fragility of our atmosphere. To demonstrate the scale of things I would take a apple and a standard plastic peeler. I then proceeded to peel the apple, telling the audience that I was now removing the atmosphere and all surface based life from my earth that was now scaled down to the size of an apple.
    This is part of the problem; from our vantage point on the surface, the atmosphere seems to go on forever. From space, it is a very thin and fragile thing.

  13. Thanks Brian. Particularly interested in your China reference.

    China is, in regard to climate change policy as in regard to many other things, an interesting and hard to judge definitively case study. But I do find it hard to place it so squarely in the camp of the good guys, and particularly to compare it so favourably with evil, do-nothing Australia, as some do.

    The problem is what is actually going to happen to the structure and emissions output of China’s electricity industry, as opposed to its renewables rhetoric and even research, over the next decade. Terry McCrann had a good article on this recently, based on independent (and hardly biased against China, given where its interests lie) research by the HSBC – see

    In a nutshell, China will be installing 900GW of new capacity in the next decade. Two thirds of this, which is to say about 10 times Australia’s total current installed capacity, will be coal-fired. If Australia, even proportionately, adds even a fraction – indeed, unless politics change quickly, any at all – of that sort of coal-fired generation in that time, I will eat my hat.

    So how come China is so extravagantly praised by Greens?

    It is of course putting in a lot of research dollars to renewables. Whether this is driven by climate change policy or by old-fashioned mercantalism – that is, the expectation that there is going to be an awful lot of money to be made by exporting renewables manufactures and technology in few years time, and the desirability of getting its own industry into a position to benefit – is the quaetion though. A few years ago, it increased tariffs on imports of wind turbines and toughened requirements on local partnership arrangements for overseas wind turbine manufacturers selling into China. This obviously was to give local industry a leg up. The effect though was also to give actual installation of wind turbines a leg down at least for a number of years. That looks like commercial advantage trumping actual greenhouse emissions reductions to me.

    China was hardly at the forefront of pressing for agreement at Copenhagen or Cancun either.

    For myself, I think that China is doing what it is doing on renewables for pragmatic commercial reasons, without necessarily having any more of a positive attitude to reducing greenhouse emissions per se than much maligned Australia. And that there is too much tendency in some quarters to see things in black and white – if Australia and the US are perceived as the enemy, ergo, China must be the good guy.

  14. quokka, what mystified and me where trying to say above is, scientists and politicians thought Cane Toads “could be a very important development in the medium to long term”. In other words, where will an ‘arms race’ in non-carbon energy lead us, will it save problems or create new ones?

  15. Ootz said:

    politicians thought Cane Toads “could be a very important development in the medium to long term”.

    Well it turned out they were right — just not in the way they thought. 😉

    where will an ‘arms race’ in non-carbon energy lead us, will it save problems or create new ones?

    It will almost certainly create new problems and solve old ones, but as long as the former are more manageable latter, that’s progress.

  16. Progress Fran, how do you define progress.

    I came across Walter Benjamin’s definition which I do not necessarily think is the only correct one.

    A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

  17. quokka, what mystified and me where trying to say above is, scientists and politicians thought Cane Toads “could be a very important development in the medium to long term”. In other words, where will an ‘arms race’ in non-carbon energy lead us, will it save problems or create new ones?

    I should think an arms race in non-carbon energy should be what we are seeking. In it’s absence, humans will just burn all the fossil fuel with disastrous climate change, and there won’t be any opportunity to cogitate on what problems might or might not ensue from other methods of energy production.

    Just consuming a bit less (which isn’t going to happen anyway on a global scale) hardly makes any difference. At most it just slows things up a little bit as the only thing that really matters is the total amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. It’s a race to low CO2 energy or disastrous climate change – there are no other options.

  18. Ootz @17
    “” scientists and politicians thought Cane Toads “could be a very important development in the medium to long term”. In other words, where will an ‘arms race’ in non-carbon energy lead us, will it save problems or create new ones?””

    I have similar concerns with G.M. agriculture.

  19. Brian: couldn’t find the climate and the fall of Rome link but the argument was that the damage was caused by climate changes every 10 years or so. There wasn’t enough time to adjust to one change before it was time to try and adjust to something different.
    Imagine what would happen to agriculture if we had 12 year droughts followed by a burst of floods and cyclones? Banana anyone?

  20. Ootz asked:

    Progress Fran, how do you define progress?

    People refining/converting a set of practices so that there is a sustainable net gain in utility for most of the stakeholders without prejudicing equity. The net gain meets the minimum quantity of gain required for the community as a whole.

  21. The link seems to work for me Brian, can’t say what the problem is.

    Interesting link, not sure what to take from it. Weather may well have been a agent in the so called downfall of the Roman empire. However, I tend to subscribe to the theory that as a civilisation building enterprise it just simply overextended itself generally. Hence, my cautioning of simply relying on a technofix or silver bullets re AGW. A caution voiced by non less than Albert Einsteins.

    “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

  22. This

    “The air rises, losing its moisture during rainfall, and then flows westward and descends over Africa”

    is the relationship between low pressure systems and high pressure systems which I have been at pains to highlight for some considerable time. It goes further, though. As the energy in the low pressure systems intensifies, I believe that the volume of rising air is exceeding the volume of air falling in the nearby high pressure systems and is then overflowing the Hadley Cell system in the statosphere to fuel greater air flows in the Polar systems, there by causing the Northern Hemisphere big chills that we have been seeing increasingly. The last of which affected 100 million Americans. Wow. That is one huge, huge negative economic impact.

    It is hard to know if the big chills are better from a CO2 emissions point of view as households will chew through more gas for heating on the one hand, but the number of grounded commercial aircraft will be saving very large amounts of kerosene on the other. Tough call. Regardless, very few people are at work being “productive”. Where is my NBN.

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