Climate clippings 21

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.

Mega-heatwaves in Europe

Mega-heatwaves like the one in 2003 will become five to 10 times more likely by 2050 according to a recent study, occurring at least once a decade. The 2010 heatwave was something else again.

But the 2010 heatwave was so extreme – 10C above the average for the first week of August between 1970 and 2000 – that similar events are only expected to occur once every 30 years or so.

The 2010 event caused some 50,000 deaths, reduced the Russian grain crop by 25% and cost the nation $15 billion. It should be noted that the link between that event and climate change as such has not yet been established, but the incidence of mega-droughts is expected to increase nevertheless.

Your burning questions about ice and climate answered

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre has a page Icelights to answer some of your burning questions. Of particular interest is a study by the Max Planck Institute. The article is behind the paywall, but I think they are saying that if we have atmospheric cooling then the ice cover will recover relatively quickly.

BTW, Arctic ice cover is tracking thereabouts in relation to 2006-7:

Arctic ice cover March 2011

Climate Progress says it has “tied for the lowest in the satellite record.”

The decline in ice volume continues apace.

New process cleanly extracts oil from tar sands and fouled beaches

Believe it or not.

Tar sands represent approximately two-thirds of the world’s estimated oil reserves.

An environmentally friendlier method of separating oil from tar sands has been developed by a team of researchers at Penn State. This method, which utilizes ionic liquids to separate the heavy viscous oil from sand, is also capable of cleaning oil spills from beaches and separating oil from drill cuttings, the solid particles that must be removed from drilling fluids in oil and gas wells.

The Penn State separation method uses very little energy and water, and all solvents are recycled and reused.

Flood victims are more likely to be concerned about climate change

A recent study explicitly linked rising greenhouse gases to an increase in flood risk in England and Wales.

Most people believe that areas that are vulnerable to climate change are far away…

But the latest research from Nottingham and Cardiff universities suggests direct experience of flooding can influence people’s thoughts and behaviour in relation to climate change.

Psychologist Dr Alexa Spence, at the University of Nottingham, said: “We know that many people tend to see climate change as distant, affecting other people and places.

“However, experience of extreme weather events like flooding have the potential to change the way people view climate change, by making it more real and tangible and ultimately resulting in greater intentions to act in sustainable ways.

The desert grows in central Texas

Large areas of Texas are depopulating.

One of the major reasons that there’s such a radical population shift is that central Texas is changing from arid grassland to uninhabitable desert, in part due to greenhouse pollution…

According to a 2100 study, vast areas of the US will face increased risk of climate-induced water shortage and drought by 2050.

How to change a climate sceptic’s mind

Don’t get an expert to explain, it will only make things worse.

Stands to reason that if sceptics already distrust climate scientists, getting a climate scientist to bang on won’t help. Specialists from the insurance industry, the military, or religious environmentalists are suggested.

Of interest is the contention by Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University that you can split the population into hierarchical-individualists or egalitarian-communitarians.

Religious blame climate change not sin for natural disasters

That’s according to a new study. The subgroup of white evangelical Protestants are a bit of a worry, however.

Almost six in 10 white evangelical Protestants believe God is sending a sign with natural disasters. And 53 percent believe God is judging and punishing nations.

How the world is reducing carbon emissions

Adam Morton in The Age looks at how other countries are tackling climate change. Morton outlines developments in Britain, Europe, the United States, China, India and elsewhere.

In some places the motivation is overtly economic. William Hague, the British Conservative Foreign Secretary argued in a speech in January:

that the most successful economies in the future would be built on low-carbon growth, and that Britain was showing it was possible. Between 1990 and 2005 it cut emissions by 12 per cent while expanding its economy by nearly a third.

John Gummer (Baron Deben), a socially conservative Catholic with a huge admiration for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, “has been struck by what he sees as Australians’ poor understanding of what is being done elsewhere.” He’s here to stir parliamentarians from around the world to campaign on green issues and spoke in Melbourne last night. Perhaps he could have a word with Tones and Barnaby.

Bernard Keane does a job on Graham Kreahe of Bluescope

Bernard Keane of Crikey in the Climate Spectator finds that:

the six biggest emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries between them employ just under 60,000 workers, based on the most generous assumptions.

That’s not a lot out of 11.3 million workers. If all of the predictions of the EITE industries came true, and every job, every single one, vanished as a result of a carbon price, it would amount to just half of one per cent of the current workforce.

Keane also suggests Kraehe’s claims about a lack of consultation are bunkum as there is adequate opportunity to put their case via the government’s Climate Change Committee round tables. In Kraehe’s dictionary “consultation” means getting exactly what you want.

New Treasury boss on climate change

Martin Parkinson, the new treasury secretary, seems to have a clear idea on where we are going in relation to climate change.

Under the CPRS prices outside electricity and gas would have risen less than one per cent.

Over the long term, Dr Parkinson said that Australia’s gross national product would benefit from the introduction of a carbon price.

On positioning Australia:

He said it was important for Australia to be a “relatively fast follower” behind countries leading the charge on combating climate change.

All very careful and conservative. Very far from a reckless wrecking of the economy. The reverse, actually. Tuning it up for an appropriate and competitive future.

34 thoughts on “Climate clippings 21”

  1. Brian, have you seen this already? It would be interesting to see what excuse that deniers come up for not accepting David Titley’s account.

  2. The how to change a skeptics mind made sense to me. For most of us the science is difficult to understand so we will take more notice of people we trust as well as people who are taking a different view to what we expect. An energy company CEO supporting climate action is a lot more interesting than Bob Brown even though Dr Bob has got a sound technical education.
    But who knows what you need to convince the supporters of Tony’s Tea Party.

  3. Some good links, but I’m not sure if you’re being deliberately vague in the link re. Martin Parkinson.

    You didn’t mention that he went to Treasury straight from being the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, hence some views on climate change are to be expected.

  4. @ 1 and 2, thanks for the links. LE @ 6, I think we are going to win this one.

    John D @ 3, the bloke from BHP Billiton is on board. Also it’s interesting that the banks in the US are reluctant to lend for coal-fired power stations.

    stuart, Martin Parkinson sounds like a straight shooter. Should be good.

  5. Of interest is the contention by Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University that you can split the population into hierarchical-individualists or egalitarian-communitarians.

    One of the funnier episodes of this NSW campaign was that while out camapigning for the Greens I had the chance to talk with someone campaigning for one of the conservtaive independents.

    Aside from the stock standard conservative christian view on gay marriage, I was surprised at how enthusiastic he was for almost everything else I suggested would be better — better public transport, urban consolidation, more extensive high quality public housing, a price on CO2 emissions, an improvement using the tax transfer system in the position of people on low incomes, a more liberal policy on illicit drugs …

    Finally I suggested that all he had to do was to dump his view on gay marriage — and even here he seemed OK as long as it wasn’t called “marriage” — and he could join the Greens. “Oh no” he said “you lot are socialists”. The Liberal standing nearby was nonetheless scandalised.

  6. Fran, an interesting example of how it takes all sorts. I’m suspicious of neat categories that divide the world into two camps, but it may be more valid in the US.

  7. Flood victims are more likely to be concerned about climate change

    …latest research from Nottingham and Cardiff universities suggests direct experience of flooding can influence people’s thoughts and behaviour in relation to climate change.

    Psychologist Dr Alexa Spence, at the University of Nottingham, said: “We know that many people tend to see climate change as distant, affecting other people and places.

    “However, experience of extreme weather events like flooding have the potential to change the way people view climate change, by making it more real and tangible and ultimately resulting in greater intentions to act in sustainable ways.

    Well duh!

    The psychology is pretty much the same with religiosity and/or apocalyptic thinking. Doesn;t make it rational though.

    Amongst my cohort of friends with prottie evangelical backgrounds, almost every one of them has mentioned “end times” ,either seriously or ironically, when discussing rolling natural disasters and middle eastern rumblings. (The last time i recall this so overtly was after 9/11).

    A bunch of others, especially the younger ones will exclaim “2012” (FFS), and some of the more gentle lefties i know will explore the synergy between Earthquakes, Gaia and the Age of Aquarius. (Flannery would be proud.)

    I imagine war and disasters of any stripe feed into the latent fears of humanity as they expose our mortality, and, it is entirely normal extrapolate meaning and seek to head off future catastrophe.

    If i was being disingenuous (never!) perhaps it could be argued that had Chernobyl not spooked the west so much, we would have abandoned coal fired power much earlier and avoided the situation we now find ourselves in. Or, maybe we would have just nuked ourselves by now.

    Just throwing that out there.

  8. Doesn’t make it rational though.

    OTT, what we define as rational is highly subjective and culturally laden. 🙂

  9. cowgirl @ 14

    Although some people may be religiously motivated to accept AGW, such as those Christians who are inspired by the concept of “creation care,” at least they accept what the scientists are saying. Their stand is much more rational than most of the AGW deniers and “skeptics.”

    One may be an atheist AGW denier, but their atheism does not make them rational. It is their science denial that makes them irrational. In fact, if one is an atheist AGW denier, it’s probably because they are a libertarian.

  10. Hey Silkie ( and anyone else) – I’ve been looking into Flannery’s latest book Here on Earth. Whats your take on the ‘strong’ Gaia theory he is so enamoured with ?

    Flannery appears on a quest to substitute that universal insurance disclaimer ‘Acts of God’ with ‘Acts of Gaia’ – which oddly enough, appears not entirely incongruous with Intelligent Design, just without the fundie externalisation. ( Not that i’ve ever really looked into ID to be honest).

    I’m not setting you up with this question btw…I’m genuinely curious.

  11. I haven’t read much Flannery, but I’ve read a fair amount of Lovelock on Gaia.

    The important thing to remember is that even if Gaia equilibrium is meant to find a setpoint that favours life, there’s nothing in Gaia’s setpoints that must necessarily favour human, or even mammalian life.

    Gaia could, in theory, quite happily settle to an ecological equilibrium where there would be no living creature weighing more than 500 grams, for instance.

    So for the question of whether humans can kill off all life on the planet via accelerating climate change, the answer is almost certainly not. Doesn’t mean that we can’t kill ourselves off though.

  12. Fran@12,

    “individualists or egalitarian-communitarians”

    That would be “hunters or farmers”. You can’t suppress basic human nature.

  13. Yes indeed, we do differ fundamentally, including, as you will recall, your view on the pernicious and untrustworthy nature of women.

  14. @ 19 and 20, there is a neat review of Flannery’s Here on Earth in the New Scientist. This is the crux of the matter:

    His touchstone is to contrast the reductionist science of humanity typified by Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and Thomas Malthus with the more holistic views of James Lovelock and Darwin’s contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace. The first view leads many to conclude that our selfish genes are taking us on a one-way trip to destruction, but the second holds out the hope that as we were an integral part of the planet’s past, we could also become part of its future.

    What you need to know is that Flannery is mostly about contrasting Darwin’s and Wallace’s view of the world. He has profound respect for both. The other authors, including Lovelock are basically thrown in for seasoning.

    In the end Flannery simply has a personal preference for the holistic, pro-life, pro-nature vision. It’s really an argument in favour of the kind of world-wide co-operation that we are going to need if we are going to have a future.

    So it’s erudite urging, IMHO, rather than an argument about the way the world is.

  15. Fran,

    You took that comment completely in the wrong way, as all of the following comments pointed out. But clearly here you take the view of nurture, not nature. Everything I observe in this world proves that it is nature first, plus nurture second.

  16. It’s off topic to quote here, but there was no ambiguity in your remarks. They amounted to political animus towards women in politics as politically unreliable. You’ve never withdrawn these offensive remarks, still less apologised.

    You are entitled to your view that women should be regarded with especial suspicion when participating in politics, but others are entitled to make inferences about you as long as you persist in it.

  17. Brian,

    It is just occured to me why the Carbon Price should be applied without fear or favour. The Carbon Price could well be called the “carbon useage externalities charge”. CO2 release is an uncosted externality of the use of carbon for energy production which has never been included in the price of the fuel because until recently the full cost of the use of carbon was not quantified. Now it is, and the Carbon Price is the quantified cost of the use of this energy source.

    That is restating the, now, obvious just in a different way. That, however is the true undeniable logic of the Carbon Price in economic terms. So whereas it is about protecting the environment and preventing Global Warming, for those who do not want to believe in those realities, the unavoidable fact is that the free release of CO2 has a cost which has to be paid for, and the Carbon Price is that price. Irrespective of every other aspect.

    To not pay the Carbon Price is to want to have a free energy ride at the expense of everyone else. It would equate to Nuclear Energy companies chucking their spent fuel rods and Nuclear Waste into the next paddock, or dropping it off at the tip. Or doing what an oil company did with highly toxic oil wastes and shipping it to Africa disposing of it by spreading it all around one particular third world city. Same deal.

    The fact that we are have been freely dumping CO2 into the atmosphere up till now is irrelevent. We have matured as a community and just as we do not dump our sewerage into the street anymore, it is no longer suitable to dump CO2 into the atmosphere without taking responsibility for the consequences.

    That is about putting the argument in a way that Climate Deniers (TA) cannot reasonably avoid accepting.

  18. You did not read the comment properly, Fran, in the comment I asked a question, I did not express a personal view. I have no need to withdraw anything.

  19. BilB @28,

    That is indeed one way to define the carbon price and is the one that economists would use to set the level of a Pigovian Tax.

    There are others, as pointed out in this link

  20. Quite so, I&U.

    Unfortunate name, but that is exactly what should happen here. This is the most politically sound approach to the CP introduction as any argument against it can be demonstrated to be archaic or greed driven.

  21. Further, an “externalities carbon price” is solid economics, though unfamiliar territory. An ETS is a purpose built structure to promote certain outcomes. The 2 are different devices for different purposes.

  22. Bilb: An “externalities carbon price” may be solid economics in the eyes of the economically pure, but it is a diversion from the action that we really need to get on with. Ask yourself how much stuffing around and endless arguments would be required to set it up. Imagine how easy it would be for the Abbot’s of the worlds to link it to the end of the world as we know it.
    At the moment the big barrier to serious climate action is not doubt about the science but a real fear that climate action means loss of jobs, higher prices and general economic disruption. I put it to you that an externalities carbon price would be even worse that a carbon tax in this respect.
    Ask yourself how many Australians know that we have had an emissions trading scheme (MRET) driving investment in renewables for years. The reason they don’t know is that the MRET is not a defacto tax because it doesn’t generate revenue for the government. Because it is not a tax the price increases it generates only have to take account of the higher cost of clean electricity. As a result the average price only rises slowly as the proportion of clean electricity rises. Even if the target was increased to 50% renewables by 2020, the price would ramp up by about 0.2 cents/yr – hardly surprising that no-one is noticing it and that there are no claims for compensation.

  23. JohnD,

    The vargument received this response from Libertarian TerjeP

    “BilB – your point is fair enough. However that is not the basis on which this tax is being sold. If you want to include those health benefits then fine by me so long as the benefit of the policy in this regard is properly quantified. The point is that the public has a reasonable right to have good estimates of the cost and good estimates of the benefits for any given policy. To date the advocates for this policy have focused their argument on the costs of business as usual, but that is the wrong metric”

    Which demonstrates the strength of the argument.

    Balance that against

    http://www.theoildrum.com/pdf/theoildrum_7562.pdf

    in terms of the weakness of the argument that a carbon price will induce reduced consumption of fossil fuel.

    The externalities argument is one and the same as the Global Warming Action argument in outcome. It is just a rephrasing of the issue in terms that cannot be refuted by denialists.

    Checkmate.

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