Climate clippings 22

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.

Gillard’s speech goes global

On 16 March 20011 Julia Gillard gave a speech to the Don Dunstan Foundation.

Climate Progress picked it up, quoted a long slab and highlighted these bits with approbation and the wish that Barack Obama would do as well:

Australians of the future will look back on [opposition leader Tony] Abbott’s campaign with pity and shame. The pity and shame posterity reserves for leaders who miss the wave of history and misjudge the big calls.…

We will cut carbon pollution. We will not leave our nation stranded by history. We will not live at the expense of future generations. We will get this call right and get this job done: For our nation. For our people. For our future.

It’s a mighty fine speech, but why did I have to find out about it from the other side of the world?

Perceptions of climate change

Hansen and Sato have a new paper out Perceptions of climate change via a post at Climate Progress.

There is a lot of detail and some predictions. A confident one that the 2010s will be the hottest decade on record, and this:

… we believe that the system is moving toward a strong El Nino starting this summer. It’s not a sure bet, but it is probable.

If that happens, our perceptions of climate are highly likely to change.

Trends in record temperatures

Sceptical Science has a neat graph showing trends in record temperature readings:

Record temperature readings

If the trend keeps going in the same manner for the next two decades I wonder whether we will still have sceptics.

Sea level rise: how much by 2100?

On a previous thread there was some discussion here and here about a paper on sea level rise linked by Graeme M.

Predictably this was taken up wrongly by the MSM. It seems that the authors found that the levels around Alaska were decelerating in their rise, cancelling out acceleration on the Pacific west coast of the US. But the sea was still rising. As explained here if the sea level is to achieve forecasts of 60-190cm (midpoint 125cm) by 2100 there needs to be a considerable acceleration from current rates.

We have to remember that sea level rise is an issue that plays out over centuries and millennia. It’s not the fundamentals of climate science in play here, just the timing of sea level rise in what must be considered the short term, where there are still great uncertainties.

Two comments. Firstly, if Alaska is lagging there may well be an isostatic rebound factor, given how much ice would have been piled up there.

Secondly, if Greenland is seriously in play, and the evidence for this is mounting, my understanding is that New York and the east coast of the US will be in the front line.

The US military takes climate change seriously

Two weeks ago I posted about the US Navy’s preparations for climate change. Now Climate Progress tells us that the US military as a whole takes the issue very seriously indeed:

as Brad Johnson points out, while the U.S. Senate is preparing to vote on a series of amendments “to cripple the federal response to climate pollution” the “military brass are working intensely to do their job of defending our nation from the very real threats of dependence on fossil fuels and their world-altering pollution.”

Canada nuclear plan gets environmental OK

Canadian regulators see no big environmental impact from a plan to expand a nuclear power station 70 km (45 miles) from Canada’s biggest city.

As to Germany, there was discussion about it on Deutsche Welle last night. They are looking at what would happen if the backup systems in the power station fail for 72 hours while the surrounding infrastructure had been destroyed for any reason. They are also looking at the possibility of terrorist strikes and plane crashes.

This masks the fact that nuclear power is becoming politically impossible in Germany. No party can expect to govern alone. The Greens are on the up and up after the recent state elections in Baden-Württemberg while the right wing FDP (Free Democrats) are faltering. Hence the ruling CDU are looking towards a coalition with the Greens in 2013.

There’s more at Climate Spectator including a 50/50 possibility that the EU will go for a 30% reduction by 2020.

Garnaut updates

Garnaut has just issued his last two updates:

I haven’t got time for a separate post right now, but here are a few links.

The Herald Sun leads with the COALition’s schtick and positive reactions like this from the Climate Institute:

“Professor Garnaut’s report highlights that an effective pollution price will transform Australia’s electricity sector away from one dependent on polluting technologies to one based on clean energy,” the institute’s deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said.

“Analysis by the Climate Institute shows this would unlock billions of dollars of new investment in clean energy and create over 30,000 new jobs, mainly in regional Australia.”

Electricity producers have a whinge at the Oz.

Don’t miss Giles Parkinson at the Climate Spectator. His penetrating posts are worth signing up for.

Holiday spots under threat from climate change

Finally, someone is producing a guide of 100 places to go before they disappear. It includes The Maldives and the Great Barrier Reef.

There’s an obvious irony in this, of course, if heaps of people head off all over the place as a result.

62 thoughts on “Climate clippings 22”

  1. Letter to the editor in the Age yesterday worth restating (paraphrasing):

    The question isn’t who will pay a price on carbon, the question is will it be us or future generations.

  2. Brian,

    I would just emphasise that the Garnaut report on transforming the electricity sector is excellent. If you want to read an accessible but accurate primer on how the electricity market works and how it will change behaviour under carbon pricing, this is it.

  3. Did anyone else see Greg Hunt’s performance on Lateline? He wants to redefine what a square kilometre is to satisfy the Coalition’s targets. We might have US Republican-style legisation of reality sooner than we think.

    P.S. Lateline vid here

  4. Brian,

    I don’t know about anybody else, but the Gillard speech web address takes me to the speech for a few seconds then sends me off to one of those fake anti virus sites that are a bugger to close the page on.

  5. Jess @3,

    Here is the transcript

    STEVE CANNANE [lateline reporter]: But when I went back to Greg Hunt today, he said he defines 100 square kilometres as a hundred by a hundred, not 10 by 10.

    GREG HUNT: When I talk about the 100 squared, that’s all about a hundred by a hundred square kilometres or a hundred kilometres by a hundred kilometres, 10,000 square kilometres, a million hectares. You can play a game, respectfully, or we can be serious about what’s the calculation here…

  6. BigBob @ 4, I’ve put a warning in the post. Don’t know what else I can do. I wonder whether there is another source for Gillard’s speech. Don’t have time to look right now.

  7. Jess @3,

    It gets better:

    Based on this altered figure, Greg Hunt believes 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide can be abated in one year over one million hectares.

    But using the CSIRO’s best estimate, you’d need a land mass of at least 75 million hectares to do this. And if you take the CSIRO’s figures at the lower end of the scale, then you’d need 500 million hectares, or 65 per cent of the land mass of Australia.

    That would be some “green army” needed to achieve that!

  8. On another note Earth Hour happened last week. I’ve noticed a lot less media about it this year. We forgot it was on.

  9. I&U,

    Just imagine trying to create a humus layer in the middle of the Simpson desert!

    Even at 75 million hectares, we are talking about 10% of the landmass turned over to this.

    Still, if Abbott can get away with increasing the thoroughly discreditted $43 billion budget savings from last election into $50 billion savings this week, I reckon this will just fly on through to the keeper.

  10. BigBob,

    like I said on another thread, I don’t think many believe that Abbott seriously intends to undertake any of his “direct action” plans, so it’s all a bit of a sideshow.

    Entertaining at times, but.

  11. It’s a mighty fine speech, but why did I have to find out about it from the other side of the world?

    Because she made it in Adelaide, and the only time the eastern-states-based, sensation-obsessed meeja ever bothers reporting anything that happens in Adelaide is when someone finds another severed head in the strawberry patch.

  12. I&U: Yep, you really have to wonder what’s going through Hunt’s head sometimes. “… [we] can be serious about what’s the calculation here”. Um, that’s what the reporter is doing…

    Not sure what he is trying to say at all – maybe that he isn’t qualified to be minister of anything?

    This is the sort of thing that smashes probes into planets.

  13. Pavlov’s Cat (& Brian),

    They did report it – it’s where she used the line about trusting science or Akerman/Bolt/Jones.

    Guess what the only part of the speech our commentariat and journo chose to cover in depth?

  14. Gillard’s speech is great, and worth citing at length. Let Garnaut’s zero tolerance for bullshit commence!

    Greenhouse gas levels are one-third higher than before the Industrial Revolution, and higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.As a result, global temperatures have risen 0.7 degrees celsius over the past century and continue to ri…se.The last decade was the world’s hottest on record, warmer than the 1990s which were in turn warmer than the 1980s.In fact, globally 2010 was the equal warmest year on record, tied with 2005 and 1998.2010 is the thirty-fourth consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th Century average.In Australia, average temperatures have risen almost one degree since 1910, and each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the one before.

    That warming is real. Its consequences are real. And it will change our lives in real and practical ways.More extreme bushfire conditions and droughts.Falling crop yields.Loss of species.Increased cyclone intensity.More days of extreme heat.Coastal flooding as sea levels rise.Bleaching of our coral reefs.And a substantial decline in alpine snow cover.Indeed, Professor Garnaut’s latest report indicates that the need to act is greater than ever.And the scientific consensus is stronger than ever.

    Given these realities, I ask who I’d rather have on my side:Alan Jones, Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt.

    Or the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science, the Bureau of Meteorology, NASA, the US National Atmospheric Administration, and every reputable climate scientist in the world.

  15. Jess,

    The sad thing is that, IIRC, Hunt was quite progressive and rational on climate change under Turnbull. He seems to be falling apart under Abbott.

    Maybe he isn’t sleeping well.

  16. Brian,

    I think you are wrong about the Gillard speech. It was certainly reported on the ABC website and I think an edited version appeared as an op-ed column in the SMH.

    If you are going to confine your MSM reading to the Murdoch papers, you are going to miss out.

  17. I imagine that the mining industry is looking forward to the death of the barrier reef as this will then leave it available for mineral exploitation.

  18. The Bureau of Meteorology said that Melbourne had the coolest March on record, however the average minimum temperatures were 2.9 degrees higher. It was also the driest March for 5 years so it looks like Melbourne’s autumn rains will fail again this year – bet its back to drought conditions again.

    Its not a case of whether our grandchildren pay for our intransigence its a matter of how much

  19. MSM here, radio, TV and press, focussed on her slurs against the Greens and the coalition, the rest of the content was lost

  20. BigBob, I suspect you may have a nasty virus, one that I had a while ago, hard to get rid of. Nothing to do with scribd,a reputable enough service.


    I don’t think I’ll be jetting off anywhere, but I do intend to get to know kakadu and parts of the GBR while they’re still largely intact.

  21. Actually,

    just had confirmation from someone else that the it is the page not my computer (although I am currently virus & spyware checking).

    Use the link to the PM’s dept I posted above.

  22. Back again.

    Bigbob, I’ve inserted the link you gave @ 7 into the post.

    PC @ 13, back in the late 1960s when I lived in Adelaide I thought Adelaide was in the loop and Brisbane definitely out of it. Then we got Joh and attending meetings interstate in the 70s and 80s I got awfully sick of the jokes about ‘north of the Tweed’.

    I&U @ 17, I think Hunt studied climate change, emissions trading systems and stuff at university. would know.

  23. Brian, google tells me he’s LLB from Melb, MA in international relationships from Yale. Was his MA involving carbon trading schemes or something?

  24. The ABC says that the treasury has released cost estimates for a carbon tax.

    Treasury documents show householders would be slugged more than $860 a year under a $30 a tonne carbon tax.

    However, the documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws do not estimate the size of the promised compensation for businesses and households.

    They show electricity would rise by $218.40 annually for the average household, gas by $114.40, petrol by $187.20 and food by $88.40.

    Adding impacts to other goods and services, the total added cost per week of a $30 carbon tax would be $16.60.

    Seems a bit low to me. I got the tax take at $567/yr per capita for base taxable emissions of 416mt/yr.
    Keep in mind that, initially all these cost increases are due to the cost of the tax and none due to any higher prices for the clean product.
    If we continue to use the existing TAX FREE MRET emissions trading scheme to drive investment in clean electricity instead of replacing it with a $30/tonne CO2 carbon tax we would get a much larger reduction in emissions for the same price increase because the price increase would not have to include the cost of the tax.

  25. Australians of the future will look back on [opposition leader Tony] Abbott’s campaign with pity and shame. The pity and shame posterity reserves for leaders who miss the wave of history and misjudge the big calls.…

    We will cut carbon pollution. We will not leave our nation stranded by history. We will not live at the expense of future generations. We will get this call right and get this job done: For our nation. For our people. For our future.


    yEH, SHE IS VERY GOOD! With Greg Hunt making some big mistakes Tony Abbott is looking dodgier by the day! He has to go….

  26. John G @ 29, looks like Natural Resources Law then. Hunt must be hoping for a change of boss sometime in the future.

  27. Please can someone correct my muddy thinking: As I understand it, Christopher Pyne says he can store 150 million tonnes of carbon in a (revised) ten thousand square kilometres. Is this 15 tonnes of carbon per square metre? Or am I insane? Nobody in the press has mentioned this. What form would the carbon be in? And how high would you have to pile it?

  28. @34, not insane, not muddy, just normal human mathematical mistake of units. It’s 15kg of carbon per m2.

    A km2 is 1000m x 1000m = 1,000,000m2. Pyne’s 10,000 square km will then contain ten billion square metres.

    150 million tonnes is 150 billion kilograms.

    Divide 150 billion kilograms by ten billion square metres and you get 15kg/m2.

  29. Err I think the maths is off here Kevin.

    1km2 = 1000*1000 m = 1*10^6m2 = 1,000,000M2

    thus …

    10,000Km2 = 10,000 * 1,000,000M2 = 1 * (10^(4+6))M2 = 10,000,000,000M2

    Distribute 150,000,000tC over 10,000,000,000M2 = 0.015tC per M2. The figures for soil carbon I saw ranged from 0.3t to 2t per Ha. 1ha = 10,000M2 so on that basis Pyne would be claiming a biosequestration rate 75 times the generous figure or 500 times the non-generous one.

    Soil carbon isn’t CO2 of course. An atom of carbon weighs a lot less than a molecule of CO2 (about 37% of it IIRC) so perhaps the above figures should be adjusted accordingly to only 27.75 to 185 times over the odds.

  30. CSIRO figures are from 10gms to 30gms per square metre per year carbon sequestration. About 500 years to 1,500 years to achieve Pyne’s 15,000 gms per square metre. Silly little poodle he is.

  31. I think, SG, that you should share that thought with Pyne’s hairesser. I’m imagining the outcome.

  32. John D @30,

    You need to bear in mind that some of the tax burden will be borne by producers rather than consumers.

    That is why they have been screaming about it.

    Some costs may also be borne by overseas consumers.

  33. I&U: A significant problem with the carbon tax is that some of the tax cost will be absorbed by producers. This creates additional uncertainty for those considering investment in clean options. For example, capital intensive industries like coal fired power will absorb quite a lot of tax before they will be willing to lose market to clean providers. Both MRET and the governments ETS system avoid this issue by requiring dirty producers to purchase permits/credits before they can sell their profit. Simple regulation and the setting up of contracts to supply clean or reduce emissions also avoid the problem.
    Exporters are unlikely to be able to pass on the tax cost to their customers so they will be screaming for either a GST style refund at the border or some other form of compensation.
    It is worth noting that MRET has been operating quietly for years without protests and calls for compensation. This is because the price increases have been too small to notice because the MRET is not a defacto tax system.

  34. John D,

    The impact on producers is exactly the same under an ETS or carbon tax if the carbon price is the same. It is just the price-setting process that is different.

    You are right about exporters, and the government is likely to compensate the worst affected of these.

  35. Here’s Hunt’s thesis, A tax to make the polluter pay. It was his honours Law thesis, he got a good mark for it. His conclusion:

    “Ultimately it is by harnessing the natural economic forces which drive society that the pollution tax offers us an opportunity to exert greater control over our environment.”

  36. I&U @45: The impact on producers is not the same for a simple carbon tax vs ETS even if the carbon price is the same. Under a carbon tax the percentage of dirty product can be retained/increased by absorbing part of the tax. (in addition to being used for competition between dirty producers. This doesn’t happen under MRET or ETS because total sales of dirty are controlled by the availability of permits/credits.

  37. John D,

    You really need to learn some economics. Maybe read about the fallacy of composition for a start. Just because agggregate emissions are limited under an ETS, does not mean that the emissions of individual producers are limited.

  38. @jumpnmcar: That’s a pretty neat gravity dataset coming out of those satellites, and it’s been a long time coming! 🙂

    In reality, it’s probably going to be more use in studying tectonic processes than anything else. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it.

  39. Jumpnmcar @ 44, I remember being taught (at the School of Military Survey, in about 1984) that the geoid was spud-shaped, but this new satellite data is really exciting. Satellite geodesy gives a much better picture than point measurements at the surface.

  40. I&U @48: Who knows whether “fallacy of composition” actually means something or is just a collection of big words to put ignorant engineers in their place. Perhaps it would have been simpler to say @47 that:

    A carbon tax does not limit total emissions because polluters always have the option of absorbing enough of the tax to make clean un-competitive. By contrast, the cap in cap and trade systems such as MRET and the proposed ETS does limit total emissions.

  41. I&U: I might add that cap and trade is not the only way of being sure that emissions will be reduced. Regulations such as Turnbull’s lighting efficiency regulations or the use of competitive tendering for the supply of cleaner electricity also give certainty re emissions reduction.

  42. A couple of weeks back, I had a prolonged exchange with Andrew Reynolds and Incurious & Unread on whether the interim fixed price period deserved to be called a tax.

    I was listening to RN Breakfast this morning in which Sheryle Bagwell interviewed Mark Lewis, Global head of carbon markets for Deutsche Bank. Sheryle, predictably, begand by unthinkingly referring to the current proposale as a “carbon tax”. Lewis, much to his credit pulled her up on it — insisting it be called a carbon price, forcing her to back down, telling her that it was not a tax but an attempt to remove a subsidy — the externality favouring fossil hydrocarbons bound up in the freedom to emit.

    Clearly, if free emission to the biosphere is a subsidy then emission is a kind of service. Lewis affirmed my case.

  43. Further to Graeme’s posting about the tide gauge paper on the Minchin junk science thread: Tamino has done a much more thorough analysis of the data:

    He’s come to the same conclusion as me about the way that they’ve fit their data – the data actually show sea level rise has accelerated significantly in the last 50 years.

  44. Also: joke’s on the Republicans, when one of only two scientists they summoned to give evidence to the congressional hearing on climate change confirms that actually the temperature record is pretty accurate. Prof Mueller heads the Berkley Land Surface Temperature Project – an independent study to determine the accuracy of the US temperature station record.

    Watts is furious, despite claiming to accept whatever Mueller testified. Funny to watch the deniers turn on one of their own as soon as he changes his mind.

    Tamino (with lots more links) here.

  45. Also, an interesting article in Physics Today on the challenges of predicting sea ice cover over the medium to long term.

    The authors suggest:

    On time scales of days to weeks, forecasting the state of the ice cover can be expected to proceed along traditional lines based mainly on meteorological methods and satellite observations. On time scales of years to decades, reliable projections face the problems of forecasting winds, cloudiness, surface albedo, and oceanic heat advection—all confounded by a plethora of climate-system feedbacks.


    Perhaps equally useful as a predictive tool for long-term behavior are simplified, low-order models of the physical processes described in this article. Those models may provide insight regarding quantitative changes one might expect on multiple time scales.

    First order models are key when you have such difficulties in obtaining reliable observational data.

  46. Fran @55,

    But did Mark Lewis call it a carbon fee or a carbon charge? If not, why not?

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