Climate clippings 16

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.

Brits view climate change as a current or imminent threat

Fully 83% of them do, as reported at Climate Progress.

The public’s belief in global warming as a man-made danger has weathered the storm of climate controversies and cold weather intact, according to a Guardian/ICM opinion poll published today.

Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat. Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change.

So the so-called ‘climategate’ kerfuffle had no noticeable impact on public opinion.

The cost of climate mitigation

Roger Jones has a post responding to this article.

One of the problems with current economic thinking is that the economic baseline is assumed to be a world without climate change. We are still fixated on how the economy would perform if the historical climate went on forever. Forget that – future economic performance has a truckload of climate damages written into it.

The most important economic goal for climate policy is not to be as cheap as possible, or to necessarily get the biggest cuts (through that is important) – the key goal is to negotiate the transformation between seeing greenhouse gas abatement/sequestration as a cost to where it has a value. That is, the benefits of a low carbon economy are seen as so necessary, that there is a price embedded in the economy to see that happen. Competition within a market to deliver those benefits, driving innovation and development is the goal. China is adopting this type of paradigm as one of the incentives for the future development of their economy.

Food for thought. Effectively we need to internalise that climate mitigation needs to happen, there is no choice. And if it does we will be better off economically than BAU. Stern said it back in 2006.

Worse is yet to come

Especially food for thought because worse is yet to come in terms of bad weather, scientists say.

We’ll be looking at hotter maximum temperatures [by 2100], hotter minimum temperatures and droughts lasting longer, and heatwaves lasting longer than we have seen in the historical past. If you’re interested in rainfall, the thing that we are sure about is that rainfall will intensify, particularly convective rainfall.

So the sorts of rainfall that you see in monsoonal regions of northern Australia. The amount it will increase is much less clear. (Andy Pitman)

A 25% increase in rainfall, says Stella Whittaker.

Now what that means is that the large storms which we currently describe as 1 in 100 year storms, they are going to be more likely and it really means that people could see this type of event happening more than once in their lifetime.

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

The truth about why so wet?

Counterpoint, you’ll understand, is always on the lookout for the truth in relation to climate science. Now they’ve found it as expressed by hydro-climatologist Stewart Franks, who reckons that the big wet is due to natural variability. Franks reckons it’s the ENSO. He thinks we could be at the start of several decades of La Niña-dominated wet weather.

Quite possibly, but he did then he go on to say that the influence of increased CO2 is negligible and paid out on climate scientists who might tell you otherwise. But I can’t find that in the transcript. Strange!

He should get himself up to date, because…

Extreme weather is linked to climate change: study

Two Canadian scientists have found a link between intensifying extreme rain events and man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The authors of the paper published in Nature today say extreme rains and floods increased by 7 per cent in the second half of last century right across the Northern Hemisphere.

Professor Roger Stone at the University of Southern Queensland thinks the results can be extrapolated to the Southern Hemisphere and specifically Australia.

The CSIRO models have already demonstrated that to I think a good extent, certainly for a region just such as south-east Queensland that we do get increased, enhanced what’s called deep convection under a climate change scenario.

Climate Progress is on the case:

Changes in extreme precipitation projected by models, and thus the impacts of future changes in extreme precipitation, may be underestimated because models seem to underestimate the observed increase in heavy precipitation with warming.

When you allow climate change deniers inside the tent

… they set about slashing climate change programs and indulge in polluter protection. Some clowns even want to defund climate change work at NASA. Apparently it “undercuts one of NASA’s primary and most important objectives of human spaceflight.”

But they didn’t have to worry about climate change legislation as such because it wasn’t there.

More here.

You’d have to agree that Obama serving up a cap and trade scheme to these monkeys would be a waste of time, or worse.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond

Britons worry that the well-respected Committee on Climate Change will disappear in a ‘bonfire of quangos, or at least will be more timid in the interests of self-preservation.

Still in Britain businesses are being told to adapt to climate change or face the consequences.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, a cabinet minister in the last Labour government and chairman of the Environment Agency, said that while many companies were starting to take steps to reduce their emissions, few businesses had started to appreciate how rises in temperatures would impact on their operations.

“To the business world, I would say it is important to pay attention to cutting down on emissions, doing the mitigation stuff will be increasingly important. But it is equally important to see how you as a business will cope with those changes,” said Smith.

In the EU, there is an appraisal of the work of EU climate change supremo. Longer article in the NY Times who is describes as

a confident and telegenic communicator, helping dislodge the commission’s image as a haven for graying politicians who settle fights over fish quotas.

You might recall that she was the one who presided over the first part of the Copenhagen conference.

36 thoughts on “Climate clippings 16”

  1. So come on sociologists, prove your worth for once, and tell me why people in the UK have a better understanding of the science than those in Australia. It’s not a matter of education, I understand we’re about the same, it’s not a matter of News Ltd, they’re plagued by Murdoch as badly as us, it’s not about the weather, we’ve had Black Saturday etc etc. Why is it?

  2. wilful, I’m not a sociologist, but I’d hazard four factors. First, we are more dependent on fossil fuels and the greenhouse mafia have been more successful in penetrating the organs of power.

    Secondly, we have a political party where a majority of members are sceptics/denialists.

    Thirdly, the Brits have been more or less serious about climate mitigation for a considerable period of time, whereas we…

    Fourth, in The Guardian and The Independent you have at least two newspapers that regularly run responsible articles on global warming and climate change. I’m not able to assess the role of the BBC, but they wouldn’t have to try too hard to do better than the ABC. I’m not sure that anti AGW is a Murdoch thing, in fact I suspect it’s not. I think it stems from The Australian.

  3. New research has established that sophisticated new solar energy production methods make it far and away the cheapest and least hazardous energy source, certainly cheaper and safer than nuclear power…

    The cost of generating power from solar photovoltaic systems has steadily fallen over the last 10 years while the projected costs of constructing the new nuclear plants have ballooned…

    The average price of a PV module in 2010 was $1.50 per kilowatt and by midyear in 2011 that figure is expected to drop to a maximum of $1.10 per kilowatt.

    Research at Duke concluded that the costs of solar power had reached the point of “historic crossover” with the nuclear industry in North Carolina. The price of nuclear is expected to be 16-18 cents per kilowatt as compared to solar PV at 14 cents per kilowatt in 2011.

  4. The UK has examples of human behaviour affecting climate.

    The UK built a barrage on the Thames to stop London flooding at high tide during winter storms. It was designed to be in use once every 5 years and has been used multiple times each winter.

    Also London was so smog ridden that ‘000s died in the winters of 1951 and 1952 that the Clean Air Act was enacted to stop using coal fires to heat houses. The reduction in deaths was so dramatic that those who lived through told their children.

    The UK gains its wealth from its financial sector, having closed many coal mines in the 1980s. Australia is amongst the largest coal exporters and coal exports currently come close to keeping this country from being caught in the GFC like everyone else.

  5. That full report is here btw ( is down at the moment for me):

    I couldn’t help notice the caveat “Although on-site storage is not included in prices shown in this report”…which would seem to be a rather inexcusable omission.
    I’d also say that for this one report suggesting solar-PV is already cheaper than nuclear it wouldn’t be hard to find 100 coming to the opposite conclusion.

  6. silkworm, if you can’t store the energy for when you need it the comparison is meaningless.

    You’ll note that even the starry-eyed techno-optimists at Beyond Zero Emissions concentrate primarily on solar thermal with storage for that reason.

  7. On the subject of happenings on the other side of the pond, the UK is planning to implement a minimum carbon price of £20-40 in 2020, and £70 in 2030. More info is on my blog. Probably a higher price range than we will get in Australia.

  8. The UK built a barrage on the Thames to stop London flooding at high tide during winter storms. It was designed to be in use once every 5 years and has been used multiple times each winter.
    Though the reason for that is due to land subsidence, not sea level rises.

  9. Great question wilful, and interesting answers all – in addition to above:

    The UK do have their deniers, Delingpole, Monckton et al with the Daily Mail and the like as their outlet, but I think Brian’s correct in that the serious media make up for the rot.

    And Peter mentioned it – they already had various carbon prices and whilst it can be argued they’ve been weak, nontheless it’s there and the sky did yet to fall. That removes a major denier fear stick.

  10. Wilful – perhaps in part the fact that the scientifically trained Margaret Thatcher recognized the issue as critical during her term as PM has precluded to Tories following the local path…

  11. There seems to be general agreement that AGW will increase the extremity of weather events. What is not clear however, is whether the weather will be more variable. For example, are we going to have less variable weather (longer droughts) or more variable weather? (Shorter droughts due to a speeding up of the El Nino/La Nina cycle?)

  12. Thanks for the links, folks.

    John D @ 13, no-one seems to know whether the ENSO pattern will change and if so how.

    On variability, however, the story seems to be that it will increase. Munich Re told us a while ago that the incidence of say getting a third of our annual average rainfall in one day will increase.

    Basically more droughts, more floods.

  13. Thanks Brian. Looks like we should plan to live in a mobile solar and wind powered all terrain bunker that can function as a boat and fire shelter if required.

  14. Heads up on a couple of Green Functions in Sydney that some at LP might like to attend.

    1. Gasland movie — examines the problems in the US associated with Coal Seam Gas, fracking etc …

    Date/Time: 1PM Saturday 5 March 2011
    Venue: Boronia Grove, 49 Rawson St Epping (opposite Coles and adjacent to car Park)
    RSVP: or simply turn up.

    Cate Faerman, Greens MLC will be in attendance to answer questions on issues related to CSG harvest in NSW.

    2. Climate Solutions Forumexamines the problems in the US associated with Coal Seam Gas, fracking etc …

    Date/Time: 2PM Saturday 12 March 2011
    Venue: Shepherds Bay Community Centre, 3 Bay Drive, Meadowbank
    RSVP: or simply turn up.

    Speakers:Mark Diesendorf, Deputy Director Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW, David Shoebridge Greens MLC

  15. John D @17 almost there. Remove mobile, insert small footprint and flexible as well as add biotope to sustain yourself. You may also include ability for sustainable use of natural and human resources for shear audacity.

    And no, it does not entail to believe in a flat earth, smoking dope and dwelling in caves. But it may involve facing the realities of some illusionist aspects of modernity, progress and eternal cornucopia;)

  16. Ootz: I wasn’t being entirely flippant. If we a re moving to a future where the weather is more variable/extreme/unpredictable we will need to be more opportunistic and our accommodation/factories/infrastructure will need to be more robust. Hence a mobile home that can move to take advantage of opportunities and is able to keep going through floods and areas where the roads have been damaged. A mobile home that will survive fires, cyclones and floods while not depending on fuel or mains electricity.

  17. Neither was I, small footprint and flexibility does not exclude mobility. BTW have you seen container based accommodation, dwellings and in deed unit developments?

  18. Right with you, JohnD. That is why I have started building a 10 metre ferro cement version of

    for my daughters. Not that they are in to sailing, yet, but because it offers a great relocatable holiday cottage with the best views. Also it offers some flexibility in the face of fires and floods, although not without its own problems.

    To complement it I am designing the ultimate folding push bike. That design was held up for some time because I was having difficulty with the gearbox. This I resolved several weeks ago, out of the blue, with a 7 speed gear arrangement that is just 35mm wide and has a ratio seperation of up to 10 to 1, and can be made to be fully automatic (I think). So I am designing that with 2 different wheel diameters, 210mm for back packing and 300mm for car boot/boat locker/light plane hold stowage. Now I know that there are zillions of folding bikes, I have details of most of them, but what I am designing has features not on offer from any of the currently available designs from Mercedes to the Frog.

    Other than that for accomodation I think that earth sheltered, or most realistically partially earth sheltered, will be the most successful solution for the Australian building culture. This involves building a portion of dwellings partially submerged in the ground and with concrete roofing. this can be achieved in most current multi level designs with a little forethought. For flood prone dwellings a rethink of the constructional materials would reduce the periodic flood damage. Houses can be designed to tolerate submersion, but of course the contents cannot.

    It is hard to see at this stage how Australia will change under the pressures of Global Warming. I think that as the Antarctic ice slowly decays, the atmospheric moisture content increases, and the ocean temperatures increase over the next 25 years we will be getting very mixed messages as to how the fully heated globe will settle. It seems to me that the Hadley Cells are being overrun by the volume of air arriving in the upper atmosphere from the increasingly energetic low pressure systems that we are experiencing and this is leading to greater air flows arriving directly at the poles. This means that for as long as the ice sheets remain in any reasonable size we will be getting periodic relief from the increasing heat build up. But once that cooling influence declines the final state of globally warmed Australia will become apparent, and I think that it will be a place that few people will want to occupy in all but the North, the South East and Tasmania. And the North is likely to become largely inhabited by climate refugees from many countries.

    This is the gamble that our denialist governments are taking with our children’s future.

  19. BilB, that kind of building (below-ground open courtyard surrounded by hobbit-holes) used to be quite common in parts of China. I’m tempted by it myself, except that grey- and black-water dispersal would be difficult.

  20. Some words written in W.A. newspapers of late that 1.5 to 2 metres should be catered for if Perth is to bother redeveloping it’s foreshore!

  21. The Chinese have done lots of interesting building styles. I personally like the building style of Santorini

    and would happily lay down some soil and turf the roof for a little more natural a temperature moderation.

    But if you are into more elaborate constructions some of

    is very nice. Not all my taste but certainly very stimulating. But it is as you say, you are “tempted” by these ideas. It is a huge leap from tempted to compelled. It might take a little more temperature rise yet to force a leap of that gap.

    I am a life long fan of Malcolm B Wells work. Have a look at his perspectives.

  22. First link blocked at work, alas, BilB (spoilsports!), but I’ve seen the stuff at the second link. A friend recommended them as a possibility for the Doomstead, and I’ve got to say they look lovely. The proposed site is on a bit of a rise, so something like that might be possible. They’re a bit Ant Farm, whose work I liked.

    I’d not heard of Malcolm Wells, but (after a quick google), his work looks interesting.

  23. While I live in a conventional brick house I can see real advantages in “mechanical houses”. Potential advantages of variations on this theme:
    Better use of space. Ex: Bedroom that converts to day office at flick of switch.
    Adjust to weather: Adjust panels to cool, heat house. Shut windows when it rains etc.
    Allow house to bunker down in the face of cyclones or fire.
    Allow house to float up house poles during floods.

  24. Yes, JohnD, all of that is practical. Even McMansions can be built to float if the floor slab is constructed the appropriate way although services connections would be an obvious problem requiring a unique solution. Also resettling after a flood period could cause problems.

    Mechanical homes, exist in the form of the Winnebago type concept. For our Australian Winnebago company (no connection to the American company), just down the road from my factory, I designed the double bed which climbs the wall and parks in the ceiling, thereby converting a double bedroom into a lounge. So I know where you are coming from. Of course families need more space than that, and families, ideally, need more space than a boat if they are to live in one place for many years.

    I think though that the concept of “many years” will soon be viewed as foolish optimism.

    Here are some interesting figures

    1960: pop 3 billion oil consumption 21 million barrels per day
    2011: pop <7 billion oil consumption 87 million barrels per day

    2011/1960 = per capita consumption increase factor 1.8

    Global status: Climate Change accelerating ; Peak Oil passed

    Trends: coal and oil consumption increasing unabated; cycle use declining globally; per capita domestic electricity/gas consumption increasing; food availabilty fluctuating.

    It is not at all pretty.

  25. Don’t want to rain on the parade of those nodding sagely about the percipience of the UK population on things climate change in comparison to the average dumb Ocker, but I’m afraid that even the most rudimentary acquaintance with UK polls on climate change in the recent past suggests the theory is hardly, to continue the metaphor, watertight.

    It is only 12 months since a similar UK poll, by the BBC, found that “only 26% believed that climate change was happening and was now established as largely man-made”

    Unless one feels that the average Briton combines the attention span of a gnat with the flipflopping ability of Joolya (which, if true, doesn’t say much for their percipience), the enormous change in only 12 months from that to what the Guardian claims is hardly credible. The fact is that it is how the question is asked which bears heavily on answers to polls in this area. And this is not just the view of a lone dissenter in Australia – an academic study last year (in a peer-reviewed journal, no less, so I expect no quibbles please) on UK polls over a period of many years showed that “polls have been employed by “prestige” newspapers and tabloids to (a) close or keep open the public debate on the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and (b) to propagate favored responses to climate change at the policy and individual level.”

    What a surprise.

    More to the point, whenever polls actually raise the vulgar point of what those claiming to be petrified by the prospect of AGW would be prepared to pay to mitigate it, they find the answer is in most cases nothing (“More than seven in 10 voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change” – the Independent).

    People holding a belief that they are not prepared to do anything about doesn’t advance your cause very much. Indeed, it calls into question how firmly the belief is actually held.

  26. WizzaWozzaWoo,

    A heavy dose of Climate anomalies may well have an opinion galvanising effect. Did you consider that? The average Briton is most likely far more intelligent that you would like to believe, and has the ability to draw conclusions from what is going on around them, rather than gaumlessly drift to what some ideology driven editor might write.

    The fact is that Climate Change Action most likely is a credit rather than a debit. You will have trouble believing that as it does not suit your biased views, but I suspect that the penny has dropped for the British public.

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