Climate clippings 40

German electric vehicle goes 1,014 miles (1,631.5 kilometres) on a charge

That’s the Schluckspecht E developed at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with Frauenhofter Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems.

The electric vehicle sports extremely aerodynamic bodywork, two hub-mounted electric motors and an optimized battery management system that evenly divides the load among 14 individual lithium-cobalt battery packs.

More vapourware from Germany? Perhaps, but something good will surely come from it.

Arctic sea ice passes de facto tipping point

Climate Progress reports that the Arctic is all but certain to be virtually ice free within two decades (barring extreme volcanic activity) and:

we have passed a de facto tipping point, “the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.”

Here’s the monthly average ice volume with exponential trend:

Arctic ice volume monthly average

Also a new MIT study finds that the Arctic ice is thinning four times faster than predicted.

BTW the NW passage is now open (thankyou John D).

Focus on Greenland

This longish feature article carried by The Durango Herald (it’s in Colorado) has two main messages – we don’t know enough about how fast Greenland is melting and we aren’t putting enough resources towards finding out.

Increased tropical forest growth could release carbon from the soil

A new study shows that as climate change enhances tree growth in tropical forests, the resulting increase in litterfall could stimulate soil micro-organisms leading to a release of stored soil carbon.

It is unclear what effect this has on the carbon cycle, but it can’t be good.

Consumer and Taxpayers’ Association’s (CATA) No Carbon Tax rally

Adam Brereton attended the CATA No Carbon Tax rally. Having attended one in March he thinks that:

following Wednesday’s rally there should be no doubt that Australian political discourse on the right has hit the event horizon. Not only were there quantifiably more attendees there — at least twice the number present at the first rally — and a lot more crazies, but it’s clear now that the lunatics are well and truly running the asylum.

Tony Abbott continues to appear at CATA rallies, but moderate Liberals should be terrified of Tea Party style politics here.

Say Yes Australia

Earlier this week we had a single page spiel about why we needed a carbon price from “Fiona” who lives down the street dropped in our letterbox. It turned out to be a printed missive from Say Yes Australia designed so that it could be personalised. The organisations involved include the evil Getup! that CATA crazies were frothing at the mouth about.

I’d say it did no harm, but probably not much good.

Ann Pettifor speaking tour 2011

Search Foundation has announced that UK economist and campaigner Ann Pettifor will visit Australia in September for a speaking tour that forms their major contribution to the climate change debate this year.

Renewables update

The world’s largest planned concentrated solar plant is switching the first 500MW to solar PV on the grounds of cost.

Solar thermal technology developed by US-based BrightSource Energy features tall towers (137 metres), large scale (500MW) and just six hours of salt storage which would more than double the amount of output from the same plant (from 1,900 hours a year to more than 4,000 hours) and deliver a huge cost advantage.

They are interested in our sun, obviously, but more to the point our policy settings and possible finance through the proposed Clean Energy Finance Corp.

The opposite political signals are being sent by conservative state governments in NSW, Victoria and WA as well as Tony (“climate change is absolute crap”) Abbott.

The Solar Energy Society estimates that more than 400 jobs have been lost and one quarter of the solar installations businesses in the state closed since the NSW government shut down the solar bonus scheme.

NSW AMWU Secretary Tim Ayres:

“It seems like the politics have taken over… there is a relentless hostility to anything that looks like a green scheme from some of the media, and the politics just follows.”

Barry O’Farrell has said he doesn’t want any more wind farms built; the Victorian government is yet to establish a policy on wind farms. Decisions on baseload gas generation are being deferred until our political future is clarified.

I have a really bad feeling about all this.

Inventing artificial photosynthesis may be closer than you think, and could bring power to the masses. Already there is a a cobalt and phosphate-coated silicon device the size of a playing card that separates hydrogen and oxygen when you throw it in water. There is a small engineering problem to be solved as to how you collect the gases. This and similar technologies are being discussed in a conference at Lord Howe Island this week.


This space is meant to also serve as an open thread on climate change.

50 thoughts on “Climate clippings 40”

  1. Let me kick off the comments by saying that Lord Howe Island is a most beautiful place. I want to go…too.

  2. Ok, I’m almost 99% sure that the previous link has got to be a ‘Yes Men’ stunt. Hilarious.

  3. The Peabody coal thing is just plain sick, Jess. It is pretty clear that in order to become a senior executive one must have a lobotomy of the frontal lobes that govern ones attitutudes for caring and sharing. I suspect that Toxic Tony has a natural deficiency in that area.

    Tell me, Jess, what is the SOI graph suggesting to you about this summer’s weather?

  4. Bill: Yeah, and the funny thing was that the link was from some american trying to tell me that coal profits get used for good sometimes. 🙂

    What in particular were you interested in with the SOI index? We’re heading back into a neutral period, so things should be pretty normal around the country. Might mean a hotter summer this year than last in Canberra.

  5. Classic. Reminds of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “They call it pollution, we call it life” campaign, except that wasn’t satire.

  6. Can anyone explain to me why that sea ice volume exponential decay doesn’t appear to be reflected in the (global) sea ice area since 1979?

    Is it all in the thickness.. or is something going on between the hemispheres? This certainly shows that the same ice area decay is not seen in the Antarctic, in fact it’s gone up 1% per decade since ’79.

    Oh.. and why is it that academics on nano technology are going to LHI for a conference and not Dubbo? What a lurk!

  7. I promised you all I would never sully LP with my disgusting presence again, but since the Guardian has just published the most ludicrous claim ever about the perils of global warming, and you have conveniently started yet another of the endless series of climate threads of doom, I can’t resist.

    Rapid reduction of greenhouse emissions is required to – wait for it – “save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack”.

    Your job is done Brian. I admire your persistence and research skills in so regularly scouting out all most cataclysmic climate speculations out there, however loosely related to reality, but you will never beat the Guardian. It lifts my spirits in the same way that Yes Men lifts Fran’s.

  8. Wozza, here’s the actual quote from the report:

    In light of the Sustainability Solution to the Fermi paradox, perhaps ETI believe that rapid expansion is threatening on a galactic scale. Rapidly (maximally) expansive civilizations may have a tendency to destroy other civilizations in the process, just as humanity has already destroyed many species on Earth. ETI that place intrinsic value on civilizations may ideally wish that our civilization changes its ways, so we can survive along with all the other civilizations. But if ETI doubt that our course can be changed, then they may seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us. A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering
    the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth.

    Not quite what you’re claiming, is it?

  9. duncan @ 9, it’s a totally different story in Antarctica. Skeptical Science in large part addresses the issue you raise. What matters most is the land ice, and that is melting in net terms in Antarctica.

  10. sg, even so, the claim sounds a bit ridiculous – there’s far more likely ways ETs would detect the state of our technological progress (e.g. monitoring radio-waves) than by somehow being able to detect a small change in atmospheric conditions from light years away.

  11. Wozza, ffs! The Guardian report takes a one-liner from a pretty good scenario analysis of extra-terrestrial contact. Not a bad strategy if humanity wants to avoid repeating Mars Attacks if ETI contact is established.

    Calling the report a warning about climate change (as sg’s quote shows) would be like calling you a life support system for a genital wart.

  12. Any smart ETI’s who feel threatened by humanity might look for smarter ways of destroying our civilization that invading. One obvious strategy would be to stand back and let global warming do it for them. all they would need to do is put a few resources into discouraging us to do something about global warming.
    Have another look at a photo of Monckton. Or wondered why the House of Lords is saying he is not what he claims to be?

  13. New Scientist reports that

    Walrus herds pack Alaskan shoreline: “Looking more like a crowded summer beach than a frosty Alaskan coastline, walruses cram the sand in this recent shot from Point Lay in the northwest corner of the state. A contractor spotted a total of 8,000 walruses in two sections of beach during an aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea Wednesday.

    While female walruses and their young usually camp out on sea ice each summer, warmer waters forced the families into becoming beach bums. As the animals’ icy home receded to deeper waters, food from the ocean floor was put out of reach. The walruses have packed the shores in four of the last five summers in what has become a seasonal display of climate change. Last year they came in record numbers with as many as 20,000 walruses jamming the shores of Point Lay. The dense conditions increase the risk for deadly stampedes.”

  14. Bait and switch sg, and a pretty transparent one. The passage you have quoted is not from the Guardian article. It may be from the original research but that is not my point which in fact you reinforce – that the Guardian has chosen to emphasise in headline and elsewhere a particular angle, in the interests of maximising scary stories about AGW.

    Still, it was a good enough attempt to take in Roger, I suppose. Mind you I understand he’s a climate scientist so you didn’t necessarily set the analytical skills bar very high.

    Look, if you guys want to fool yourselves that Guardian-like exaggeration to this ludicrous degree in clear pursuit of an agenda is not damaging public acceptance of your cause, fine by me. But it is, and kneejerk defences of such efforts only make things worse.

  15. “Tipping Points”
    We should all ask ourselves the question. Why has this planet been so conducive to our type of life-form for the last 10 million years or whatever?
    The answer is not that some God or Gaia looks after us but that we live on a planet that has a huge number of biological feedback loops that have tended to stabilise the place. We humans have of course been adapted to survive and prosper in such an environment, even though there have been a few bad years such as the “little ice age” etc.
    We were too few and too poor to have a real impact upon the biological systems, although some would argue that our presence can be traced in weather patterns.

    Be that as it may for the past 100 years we have been injecting CO2 in quantities way beyond the capacity of natural systems to cope. This mechanism of global warming caused by excess CO2 has been understood since the 19th century by any scientifically literate person.

    The “tipping point” is the place where feedback systems which were opposing change turn positive. For example there is a vast amount of methane sequestered in the deep ocean under conditions of pressure and temperature that are critical. Lift the temperature just a little and the clathrates or hydrates that previously took the methane out of the system will release it.

    This is only one example of a previously stabilising feedback (Negative) that has been transformed into a positive feedback that re-inforces the trend.

    This is not a “tipping point” it is a total transformation of the forces that drive the system.


  16. Wozza,

    “in the interests of maximising scary stories about AGW”

    …that is your interpretation of a perfectly proper science scoping article from a planetary scientist.

    [Second para redacted – Brian]

  17. Wozza, it’s a garden variety story in The Guardian, with a hook highlighting the scary bit. AGW is incidental. The lead in paragraph mentions “rising greenhouse emissions”.

    Are you suggesting that greenhouse emissions are not rising?

  18. Huggy @ 19, yes, we do need to be concerned about methane hydrates. It’s one of a number of tipping points identified by Lenton et al.

    In our present form (homo sapiens) we have been mostly creatures of the last couple of ice ages. Our primate development was also mostly in a period of whipsawing in and out of ice ages, at the coolish end of a 55 million year cooling trend.

    But the Holocene has been especially kind to us, so that a rational extraterrestrial might get the impression that we have broken out into plague proportions.

  19. Savvy, the interchange between you and BilB on the last thread was not within the bounds of civility required by the comments policy. I’d ask you both not to repeat the performance here. I’ve removed your comment.

  20. @Brian
    “I’ve removed your comment.”

    I see.
    You have removed my comment which shines light on the vitriolic abuse , yet left the post that is blatantly abusive.

    No surprise.

  21. Savvy, BilB’s comment @ 20 is problematic. Yours was pure name-calling and completely off topic. So just leave it, please.

  22. It is worth emphasising that the Schluckspecht E was powered for it’s test by a….23 kilowatt hour……battery for its 1600 kilometre run. That is the energy equivalent of about 3 litres of petrol. That is one massive performance for a vehicle not unlike the VW L1.

    Brian please feel free to remove @20.

  23. BilB, I’ve deleted the second paragraph @ 20.

    Ootz, thankyou for the link. To make it clear:

    This isn’t a “NASA report.” It’s not work funded by NASA, nor is it work supported by NASA in other ways. It was just a fun paper written by a few friends, one of whom happens to have a NASA affiliation.

  24. @ Brian
    “Yours was pure name-calling and completely off topic.”

    You mean in the vein of posts like this up the page?

    “calling you a life support system for a genital wart.”

    Reading these type of posts I assumed name calling to be fair game on this forum.
    I guess it depends what side of the fence we sit on eh?

  25. savvy, the comment you refer to was robust, but had meaning in terms of the topic at hand, and was in response to a comment that was basically vexatious.

    Please refer to the note above the comments box:

    Our blog, our publishing discretion.

    That’s my last word on the matter.

  26. Brian: In recent history many civilizations have fallen because changing weather patterns reduced the population support capacity of the civilizations area or because the civilization was invaded by people trying to escape the effects of climate change elsewhere. Civilizations have also failed because humans have done things like used all the fuel, boat building materials, irrigated in a way that caused salination etc.
    Civilizations are more vulnerable if they are living close to their limits and there are high levels of interdependence.
    If we look at the current world civilization there is a high level of interdependence, there is not much spare fertile space that people could move into if the climate changes and the civilization is highly unsustainable in the sense that there will need to be significant changes and innovation to prevent negative impacts from the depletion of key resources such as oil.
    Which is a long way of saying that humans appear to have had a good run in the Holecene partly because the populations has been small enough for most of this period for easy adaption and partly because we are not seeing the groups who got wiped out as a result of climate changes or the effects of human activity.
    I keep getting worried about the number of people/nuclear powers that depend on the Himalayan weather patterns.

  27. In addition savvy there is a procedure for challenging moderator decisions and it doesn’t involve resort to public posts. You are supposed to take it off-line.

    This is a thread on climate clippings rather than your concerns about the usages attending moderation.

  28. Brian @21

    No of course I am not saying that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are not rising. I am not even quibbling with the “research report” on which the Guardian article was based.

    But that research report had 33 pages broadly synthesising possible outcomes of contact with ETI, with, properly, only a passing mention of greenhouse gases. The Guardian converted this into 2 pages, with a screaming headline directly relating a “Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists” claim to rising greenhouse emissions, followed this up in the first paras of the text, and then returned to the charge again later (“Green aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet”),

    This is a complete distortion of the original – certainly more than a “hook”. I can see little explanation other than a deliberate attempt to use a report disingenuously to pursue a different agenda, which it sees as in urgent need of fillip as it has virtually run its course. You may be able to come up with one. I note though that since it was originally published the article has been amended at NASA’s request to remove the implication that NASA endorsed it. One suspects that NASA shares the view about the Guardian’s approach and its distortions.

    Incidentally (@30), as the person who earlier in the thread had his genital warts mocked – mocked, I tell you – allow me to say that I have no problem at all with your leaving that comment in, or even with the mods being on occasion a little more protective in dealing with name-calling aimed at other more delicate commenters. We RWDBs are not as precious as some of the big girls blouses on the left about the use of robust language in debate. I think it is something to do with the left having running for nanny as a cornerstone of their world-view.

  29. Wozza, I first heard about the story on Radio National in much the same terms as the Guardian article. It’s just a filler item put in for our interest and entertainment IMHO. You’re over-cooking it, I think.

  30. Brian: Understanding what has happened in the past can help avoid problems in the future.
    Our current world civilization is getting less and less robust. Think for example how countries like England and Germany functioned despite the attacks during WWII and ask yourself how well these countries would survive the same level of attack now. We have become more vulnerable because of the much higher levels of interdependence and the use of “efficiency” strategies such as just in time that mean it all comes to a halt so much faster.

  31. JohnD.
    I think you are correct. “Globalisation” has basically ended nation based manufacturing (the US military sources weapons components from China, for example).
    If Australia was cut off from world supplies by some event such as a Tsunami that caused a critical factory in Fukishima to curtail production we could face delays of 12 months for critical electronic componnents. (exactly what has happened recently).
    Consider the consequences if the – so called – Gulf stream stops.
    Consider the consequences of even a 1 m sea level rise.
    Of course it will not concern some people, they will be safe in their mountain enclave with their little green nuke; in their dreams.

  32. Huggy: I find it reassuring that the US depends on parts from China for its defense (As long as the converse is true.) What scares me is things like the WTO rules that block a country having sufficient self sufficiency for key items.
    Internally there are other things that are a worry. For example, I read somewhere that the average city has about three days worth of food on hand.
    We also have a conflict between what makes a business more competitive and what makes strategic sense for the country. Think JIT inefficiencies and commercial decisions re where in a process surge capacity. (Cheaper to store wheat near the farm rather than close to the ultimate customer – Cheaper to store early in the process rather than completed goods, cheaper to produce all your bananas at one cyclone prone site etc.)

  33. Brian – “I think you would enjoy Ronald Wright’s A short history of progress.

    I second that book suggestion, I have a copy.
    Also he gave the 2004 Massey lecture series on the same thesis, which seems unavailable online now (via ABC or CanadianBC). Except as a torrent.

  34. Quoll, I think the ABC couldn’t put the Massey Lectures online because of CBC copyright.

    Actually, Quoll, the Massey lectures and A short history of progress are one and the same. Dave Pollard did an interesting review.

    I don’t recall it as being as dark in relation to human nature as Pollard makes out, but Wright certainly sees hierarchical societies controlled by exploitative elites out of touch with the conditions on which their civilisation is based as a concern. I recall him saying that we have the advantage of history. That is, we know why other civilisations failed, so we can learn from that.

  35. Yes, great book and lectures I thought at the time. Brilliant really for such a small book as the reviewer mentions re Collapse.
    Have to read it again.
    I found those lectures are available as a torrent. Which CBC may not like, but that’s the net.

    Seems it was Aldous Huxley who said

    That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.

    Also put in many other forms by others

    Maybe some do learn the lesson, but how many in what positions don’t?
    Or are even content to play wilful ignorance as long everything in their immediate circumstance seems ‘fine’, or close enough to argue.

  36. I believe an Upton Sinclair quote would be appropriate Quoll:

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it

  37. Actually, Brian, I thought these were threads about climate?

    Quoll has posted a link about weather. That it is dressed up with the word “climate” does not change that.

    The Conversation of course doesn’t know its arse from its elbow on any subject – it merely knows its ideology back to front – so misleading or downright wrong headlines are par for its course. I expected better on your threads though.

  38. Wozza, if that’s the level of your contribution, frankly we don’t need it. Blair is a climate scientist and in the article asks the question Is it climate change?

  39. Actually Brian if it weren’t for Wozza’s silly comment I probably wouldn’t have bothered reading it, but I’m glad I did 🙂

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