Climate clippings 35

Australian greenhouse graphs

The ABC has a graph of Australia’s greenhouse gases. I’ve extracted the pie chart here:

Australian GHG emissions 2009-10

The figures are for 2009-10 and exclude land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) which in 2005 was 6%.

Lots of GHG information can be found at the UNFCCC GHG data site, including a global map (may take a while to load).

This graph is of changes, 1990-2008 (including LULUCF), showing Australia and NZ in a bad light, but Turkey is the runaway champion. I suspect outsourcing of manufacturing from the EU.

There’s an interesting champagne glass image Jo Abess’s blog (scroll down) but I’m not sure of it’s pedigree.

Arctic ice death spiral

Climate Progress looks at what’s happening with Arctic ice.

Sea ice extent is about where it was in 2007 and 2010. The next few months will tell whether records are broken. I’ll freeze the graph from here:

Arctic sea ice 13 July 2011

Volume is a real worry.

PSC reports, “Monthly averaged ice volume for June 2011 was 15,700 km3. This value is 37% lower than the mean over this period, 47% lower than the maximum in 1979, and 2.5 standard deviations below the trend.

In November, Rear Admiral David Titley, the Oceanographer of the Navy, testified that “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower” in the last several thousand years.”

Titley expects to see four weeks of basically ice free conditions in the mid to late 2030s.

See also Tamino at Open Mind.

Worst case sea level rise

This one goes back a while but the Government has taken to referring to 1.1m as the worst case sea level rise expected by 2100. This was the metric used in the latest official supplementary report.

They must know this is wrong and David Spratt called them on it in an article in Crikey. Go to Climate Code Red, click on “blog” and look for the entry of 8 June 2011. This is how 1.1m looks against recent scientific articles:

Findings on sea level rise

At 1.1m the estimated damage to buildings and infrastructure is $266 billion. Spratt points out that with 2 metres that figure more than doubles.

Ocean carbon sink is waning

That’s according to a new study of the North Atlantic.

The scientists are now going to study other oceans to see whether the same conditions apply, as they would expect.

Food prices stay high

World food prices spiked early in 2011 and have stayed high pushing millions into extreme poverty.

Of course there are reasons other than climate change, but a link does seem evident in East Africa.

Forests and carbon credits

The question has been raised as to whether the carbon accumulated in Tasmanian forests saved from logging can generate funds as carbon credits. Towards the end Pep Canadell, CSIRO scientist and Executive Director of the Global Climate Project says:

New data is showing that forests around the world and that includes forests as vigorous as the ones in Tasmania are removing a third of the total fossil fuel emissions that are emitted every year.

So… forests and the conservation of forests are at the forefront of climate change mitigation.

But then, this!

From ABC News:

US scientists have found that the more carbon dioxide goes into soil, the more the soil releases other, more potent, greenhouse gases.

The study, published in the science journal Nature, found that plants taking up more carbon dioxide resulted in an accelerated production of nitrous oxide and methane.

Trees still have value, but 20% less than previously thought.

What are the Brits up to?

I haven’t been following closely what the Brits are doing, so I was excited when this caught my eye. £110 billion ($175 billion) worth investment in low-carbon electricity is a lot of money, especially in a busted economy. I can’t breach the paywall, so I called into The Guardian and found this:

The reality is that the government is not serious about its green agenda. In recent weeks they have scrapped the zero-carbon homes scheme, abandoned plans for a network of electric car charging stations, and now delayed the green deal. A recent survey of readers of the ConservativeHome website named the green deal as one of their most disappointing policies. Only Decc ministers within government ever talk about climate change. As we see from this turn of events, that is just hot air.

But that was a week earlier and from Meg Hillier MP, the shadow energy secretary. So I checked out The Independent and came up with this:

The ultra-free market which has been in place since electricity was privatised 20 years ago is to be drastically modified, with the Government offering generating companies long-term contracts at fixed prices to produce low-carbon power – that is, from renewable sources and nuclear installations. Going back to what is effectively a form of central planning is seen as essential to attract the huge investment – £110bn over the next decade – which is needed to replace Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure.

The Government offering generating companies long-term contracts at fixed prices, central planning seen as essential, what can they be thinking?!!

34 thoughts on “Climate clippings 35”

  1. Looks like the Glorious Revolution is about to occur in Great Britistan, Brian, what with all that Stalinist central planning.

    I must admit, I can’t see any other way of doing it. We ought to follow their lead and re-nationalise our electricity.

  2. DINR: You don’t need public ownership to set up long term contracts for the supply of clean electricity. The use of competitive tendering combined with the prospect of sales and price certainty will help keep prices down.
    Getting into the private/public argument is simply a way to defer real action for yonks.
    What is crucial to make it work is a central agency made up of competent operators to ensure that we get the right technology and geographical mix. In the case of gas fired you also need to define how long gas fired will run before it starts being replaced by renewables or…. A central agency is also needed to ensure a smooth replacement of coal fired. We may need contracts for standby.
    It is also crucial that the use of contracted power takes priority over dirty power.

  3. Brian: One of the things that concerns me about using forests to absorb GHG is that climate change may kill the trees and lead to the release of GHG as the wood rots. We could be simply spending money setting up another tipping point. I have more confidence in policies that leave fossil fuel in the ground and don’t depend on climate not changing to work.

  4. JohnD said:

    I have more confidence in policies that leave fossil fuel in the ground and don’t depend on climate not changing to work.

    Our other disagreements aside, I can at least endorse that.

  5. I was going to say that John D would be thrilled by the new British govt policy, which sounds exactly like his proposal, but no need, obviously.

  6. John D, yes, in Australia especially there is a strong possibility verging on certainty that much of what gets planted will wither from drought or go up in bushfires. Getting ‘credits’ upon planting trees is, to my mind, about equivalent to Australia continuing to build coal power on the basis that Carbon Capture and Storage will be both working and cost effective – just hand over a few more billions to the fossil fuel sector and it will be working any day now; some kind of accounting of the actual effectiveness as opposed to potential projected effectiveness (aka – politely – wishful thinking, or more bluntly – BS (or perhaps PR)) is definitely required.

    Rather ironically, wide scale tree planting has all the elements of a simplistic greenie ‘solution’ except that most Greens are more aware of it’s overall inadequacy than the mainstream parties. Such schemes are a way to avoid having to face the fact that real solutions require leaving the fossil fuels in the ground – ie these schemes are a way to cheat our way around intractable problems whilst promising a bright and prosperous future.

    Actually, successfully tackling this issue seems to require both widespread co-operation and a depth of honesty about both problem and solutions that are largely foreign to the way things are done in ‘reality’; we’re going to keep getting spin until we are spinning out of control and counter spin only adds to the instability.

  7. Fran @ 6, I just caught up with the Schellnhuber segment this morning. 21 minutes of devastating clarity.

    Seems they don’t do transcripts of that program, which is a pity.

    John D, I was going to ask how much the Brits gave you for that consultancy. 🙂

  8. Ken F @ 7, I’m not happy about depending on sequestration in trees as such, but I read something recently which said that fires are not necessarily the disaster you would imagine. If the tree stem remains a fire can be followed by vigorous growth. Others might know more about the details.

  9. Brian, the Eucalypts are indeed a fire hardy lot and, if they survive the first few years they will probably survive ‘normal’ drought and fire, but a lot of work and money can be wasted when they are impacted during that crucial period. During drought they will not be growing or sequestering anything much and effectively new planting would have to stop. Better weather prediction and better prediction for ENSO would help with establishment and management – and that means an ongoing commitment to climate science.

    Fire impacts are going to partly depend on good management and even those are impacted by climate change – the old method of a few people lighting cool weather hazard reduction fires with the expectation that cool nights with dew will self extinguish them is getting less reliable, the winter ‘window’ for safe hazard reduction fires being narrowed by climate change impacting overnight minimums more than daytime maximums. Ever more resources will need to be assigned to manage the forests and the attendant fire risks safely and, whilst those were never certain, it is becoming ever less certain.

    Given that droughts and wildfires are being predicted to be longer and stronger, relying upon vegetation growth to offset emissions – especially if the main push is offsetting growth in emissions rather than reducing emissions themselves – looks dubious. Not that there aren’t good reasons to encourage tree planting, but it’s tinkering at the edges when it comes to combating climate change.

  10. John D @2,

    It looks to me that this is primarily about getting new investment in nuclear power. We would probably need something similar here if we wanted nuclear. Fortunately, we have substantial gas and renewable resources and so don’t need to rely on nuclear.

    As for getting things to happen quickly, forget it. The (optimistic) government schedule is for the first contracts to be signed in early 2014, so that is the earliest that new construction commences. I think this is going to make a real mess of the UK industry, with no investment in the interim. If (as the UK government says), 2020 is the crunch year for security of supply, I reckon that this will make that worse.

    But I support the carbon price floor (which Australia is also adopting) and the “emission performance standard” – in combination with a carbon price – to prevent new coal-fired generation being built.

  11. Brian @ 9,

    One of the very early results into the effect of increasing CO2 levels on plant growth was that plants build bigger root systems in the presence of higher CO2 levels rather than more foliage.

    Eco-trivia for the day.

    But the general comment is correct. Europe’s recent negative emission reductions was entirely caused by the hot summer of that year which turned CO2 absorption into CO2, CH4 and H2O emission on a grand scale.

    The only real solution is to not use the Carbon in the first place. And we will get to that point far sooner than the skeptics think. I am getting strong signals from most of the major businesses with which my tiny company has dealings that alternative energy, energy efficiency, solar solutions and improved life style are very much on today’s agenda.

    One trend that never gets a mention is that towards improved product functionality. There is a huge fear that our economies are dependent on growth for survival and this means a higher level of stripping of the world’s resources. Whereas so far this has been visibly the reality, it is by no means essential to future growth. There is a very significant trend in industry to higher product functionality. ie higher level of performance enabled by a greater density of detail and superior intelectual content.

    By far the most signicant expression of this came via the mp3 players, driven by the apple ipod, and the merging of that technology into the cellular phone. Now we see people spending a huge amount of their time and mental focus through tiny devices that nest comfortably in their pocket. Not only do they spend time doing this, they spend money as well ie improved economic throughput (activity) without material consumption. When extrapolated into the future this trend is very much the indicator for how the future of industry and economies will unfold. The hidden danger is that this future vision is highly dependent on the ultra sophistication of the electronics industry, and that can very easily be brought to its knees by destructive climate change. The vision beyond, is that genetic science is successfull in developing electronic functionality that grows on trees (no joke, they are trying).

  12. #11 Incurious and Unread

    This “it’s all about nuclear” line being pushed in opinion pieces in the Guardian by anti-nuclear columnists is very dubious. It’s much more a case of “it’s all about nuclear+wind and some gas”. I can’t find the reference at the moment, but the UK government is setting a target of something like 18 GW of offshore wind by 2020. If you read the Climate Change Committee’s reports, it is absolutely clear that they very much favour a nuclear-wind based grid.

    It all looks exceptionally sane to me and the best and least expensive course for the UK to embark upon. It even looks like a 2030 target to almost completely decarbonize electricity supply in the UK is achievable. But some of the clowns at the Guardian are moaning that a floor price on carbon benefits nuclear. That’s what it’s supposed to do – provide a competitive advantage to low emission generators. Some of the Guardian stuff is just woeful.

    What looks far less sane are the changes to Germany’s electricity infrastructure which it seems are to include up to an extra 20 GW of new fossil fuel capacity including new coal. Coal without CCS, I believe will simply not be allowed for new build in the UK due to a directly regulated emissions threshold for new plants.

  13. I&U @11: I would agree that 2.5 yrs to set up a nuclear contract would be optimistic in the UK and raving optimism in Aus.
    I have been associated with numerous mineral processing plant contracts over the last 15 yrs. For wind, CCGT and solar I would expect the times to be shorter but it would still be challenging to get contracts in place before the next election. My optimistic guess would be:
    1. Set up contracting organization and issue tender documents – 12 months.
    2. Receive tenders – 3 months for companies that started doing their homework as soon as they knew contracts were going to be issued.
    3. Asses tenders and negotiate final contracts – 6 months.
    Bilb @12: Couldn’t agree more.
    Keep in mind that numerous companies are doing the homework and have experience for wind, gas and solar right now. Also keep in mind that, at this stage, there would be little need to be specific about technical and geographical mix. (Some of the conditions would get much tighter over time.)
    Converting a coal fired site to CCGT doesn’t seem all that challenging to me.
    Brian @8: The consulting fee is commercial in confidence.

  14. #14 John D.

    They are hardly starting from scratch for new nuclear build in the UK. Design certification for the EPR and AP1000 is well under way and could be complete this year and the licences issued. The sites are already selected etc etc. And it is backed by both government and opposition.

  15. JohnD, in one thread, you sought my opinion on charcoal sequestration.

    I’ll just say briefly

    a) I don’t know enough about it to form a definite opinion as to whether it can make a useful contribution to abatement in practice.
    b) It sounds plausible that it might at worst be of some use
    c) It’s not clear that the likely site and feedstock constraints wouldn’t make it pretty marginal or worse as an abatement technology
    d) It’s plausible enough to warrant further research interest with a view to establishing its viability. Subject to the usual rules for grant applications, I’d be happy seeing research generously supported by the state.
    e) even if as an abatement technology it turned out to be marginal, if it really could be used to improve soil quality in ways that had a lower footprint than conventional practice, it might be worth supporting.

  16. Further to @ 12. When I think about the last sentence it suddenly dawns on me that there is a potential sci-fi future for us in the offing.

    Future vision #2,011. ESP…Extra Sensory Projection.

    One of the most damaging and technology delaying patent legal battles of all time involved broad band radar. This was a technology that came out of nuclear weapons testing. It is a technology that is worthy of considerable research by those interested in “future” possibilities. The most easily found present day use of this technology can be found by googling “marine broadband radar”. I am not going to go into any detail on the huge range of possible uses of this technology, I am only going to point to its energy consumption. Up to the present day radar systems have required very large transmission energy consumption. So take a look at the energy consumption for broadband radar.

    0.2 of a watt.

    Now if you put together the notion of genetic electronics and broad band radar….and I point out communication via broad band transmission….., suddenly the sci-fi concept of creatures that communicate “telepathically” over distance is entirely possible in the very near future.

    So if the thought of having an aerial, similar in shape to “BullsEye” from DareDevil, imprinted on your forehead is not such a daunting thought then there just might be the possibility that in future humans may be able to communicate amoungst each other silently (and specifically), and detect the presence and movement of everything around themselves for a distance of kilometres (broadband radar has the ability to be dynamically tuned to a broad range of functions). All from an implanted genetic module that develops and infuses into the brain as the person grows. That is both scary….and entirely possible.

  17. Fran @ 17,

    Charcoal Sequestration is a process that occurs naturally in Australia as a consequence of our bushfire frequency, and subsequent erosion cycle. Sequestering carbon via charcoal is certainly able to be enhanced. The economics and volume of it, though, is entirely doubtful in the manner that the Coalition imagines possible in their “direct action” fantasy.

  18. Gilard didn’t lie on the Carbon Tax. When she made these statements it was most definately her position that there would be as little as possible action on climate change.

    The evidence speaks for itself. Gillard and Co strongly pressures Rudd (with some sort of implied threat of ructions if he went ahead with it.) to shelves the ETS. And Rudd made it as plain as he could by inference that Gillard was one of the people wanting to shelve it Permanently.

    Gillard’s subsequent citizens assembly was a typical Howard like do nothing whilst pretending to do something. The last thing required was an assembly which in effect was going back to square one again.

    It has been Gillard’s position for a long while that there be little action on CPRS CT ETS and the like. I don’t know if that is her personal position or the one of the people angling to have her replace Rudd.

    The irony of it all was that in order to be in Govt she had to do CT. Rest assured that if Gillard had a majority govt there would be no action and lots of pseudo action.

    The Greens on the other hand played out the politics with Rudd. It wasn’t in their political interest to have the ETS implemented at that time. They had to take the stronger stance with higher limits that they know if were implemented would affect the economy enough to do them in. And a higher target would never have gotten through the Senate at that time either.

    Having the balance of power and basically a main power broker the Greens have to front up, their is no excuse for nothing happening now, so they are quite happy to now go with the lower targets and friendlier package than their earlier rehtoric. To go with the previous demands would of course put too much of a cost on the economy and so forth and cost them a bunch of votes.

    So the joke is now that both Gillard and the Greens with the HOR and the Senate could go for more significant targets but find it in their political interests to do the bare minimum.

    They of course couldn’t implement the Rudd package, Gillard having been the killer of that one, and created something a little different but basically of no more significance.

  19. I also do not get this meme of Gillard being a great negotiator. I think this is mostly invention to add support for people’s ‘feelings’ toward Gillard.

    Gillard is no better a negotiator than say a Rudd or Wong. In fact the meme was in 2007 that Rudd was the supreme negotiator. But that meme had to be changed to something more negative by the MSM and the Labor insiders working to replace him.

    If anything you would have to say Gillard has the supreme tin ear both on policy and rehetoric and on public sentiment. Definately not attributes a great negotiator would have.

  20. Thanks Fran. Close to what I think about charcoal sequestration.
    TP: Give Julia credit for being able to to negotiate the national curriculum and now the carbon tax policy.
    Oakenshott, Windsor and Wilkie all speak highly of her on the basis of direct dealing. My impression is that she needs to change her presentation to something closer to a conversation with people rather than a speech or debating club performance.

  21. TP,

    Are you just making stuff up?


    “It has been Gillard’s position for a long while that there be little action on CPRS CT ETS and the like”


    “In fact the meme was in 2007 that Rudd was the supreme negotiator.”


  22. @21 – I read you with interest on Poll Bludger. What a bunch . . .

    Anyway – I agree – how is the PM giving the Greens what they want and it subsequently turning into a millstone around her neck good negotiating? (Unless you are in the “whatever it takes camp”)

  23. OBR,

    Labour’s partnership with the Greens, in my opinion, has been anything but a millstone. I am quite happy for the changes to the political landscape, and the subsequent improvement to Australia’s inclination in finally attempting to meet its environmental responsibilities.

  24. Thomas P @ 20 and 21, you are making stuff up and some of it is BS. I reported in this post about the narrative that Pamela Williams researched by talking to some of the people who were in the room at the critical meeting. It’s the best account we have.

    Gillard didn’t kill the CPRS, Rudd did by deciding not to go for a double dissolution and refusing to negotiate with The Greens.

    If Gillard was consistent about anything it was the need to have a broader consensus on which to build an ETS. Politically her instincts were good on this, but the People’s Congress was never going to work as an idea.

    I recall your visceral dislike of Gillard from last year, and it shows.

  25. Thanks Brian for more bad news! 2011 tracking to be the worst year in the dataset.

    You know it’s astonishing how we can talk for endless hours about the accent of a leader; about who said what and when; about how much of the collective economic haircut we individually will bear – but when it comes to talking about the supposed actual issue at hand, most of the time we prefer to remain ignorant.

    I think that as social animals our political organisation has been the most important factor in ensuring our survival. Up till now.

    Climate change is a problem that we are not psychologically well equipped to handle. Graphs and instrument readings. Carbon and other technical concepts. Enough to turn anybody off isn’t it!

    Still, it’d be nice surprise to wake up tomorrow and find one of your linked charts on the front page of my morning paper where they belong.

  26. …you know how snakes can dislocate their bottom jaw…so can TA, and that is, apparently what happened next. But it does not always work for him, sometimes it gets stuck. There was that time caught on camera where he tried,, and tried, and tried, but it did not work and the reporter made a lucky escape.

    Apparently TA is also multilingual. Yes…it is not just Rudd with these skills. I’ve found a useful translator for those interested. The link also includes a pretty amazing Cabinet meeting photograph.

  27. Well that did not work so well, the previous link hit the trash can. It was a neat photo of TA preparing to eat a baby for breakfast. borrowed from wbb’s site. Sorry.

  28. Carbon Capture & Storage suffers anoother setback in the US:

    Coal’s salvation may be lost. Now that American Electric Power, the biggest burner of coal-fired power in the United States, has decided to delay its critical carbon sequestration venture, the coal sector has taken a powerful blow.

    The Columbus, Ohio-based utility says that it has chosen to pull back because of the high price of the tools that would be used to capture the carbon before it would be piped and buried in geological formations. That fact, coupled with the prevailing political landscape, means that it would be unable to recover its expenses from ratepayers.

    The $668 million dollar project had been scheduled over four phases. AEP will complete the engineering phase, or part one. But it will not proceed any further, citing the current political climate and noting that carbon would have to be priced at $100 a ton to make it possible. {my emphasis}


Comments are closed.