Climate clippings 53

GLOBAL warming is unusual

A common response to AGW warmists is that climate has always changed and always will. It’s natural and humans have nothing to do with it. Now via Climate Progress we learn from a study by Svante Björck of Lund University that apart from general moves into and out of ice ages the hemispheres do not warm or cool in sync. When one hemisphere changes the other stays the same or moves in the opposite direction. For example he found that during the Little Ice Age in Europe there were no corresponding changes in the southern hemisphere.

Last week I posted this graph to show that we are giving the system a helluva jerk. In fact we need to go back 15 million years to find CO2 levels as high as today. (if you are concerned about Antarctic thawing be very afraid.)

However, the following graph shows that the hemispheres are not perfectly in sync now:

Hemispheric land-ocean temperatures

The northern hemisphere is pulling away. The reason, presumably, it has more land, and at higher latitudes.

Methane-eating microbes

Researchers have found that as permafrost warms methane-eating microbes thaw out and convert some of the methane into CO2, which is less dangerous in its greenhouse effect.

although some [microbes] began making methane that added to the emissions, others consumed it and converted it into carbon dioxide instead.

Researchers estimate that 50% of methane could be converted, but the water table will be a factor. The higher the water table the more methane released.

Nitrous oxide, an even more powerful greenhouse gas than methane, is also released and nothing is eating it.

What we have here is early results from a few samples from Alaska. More work needs to be done.

Warmer world may split Antarctica

British Antarctic Survey scientists have worked out where seaways opened up during Antarctica’s warmer past by comparing marine organisms on either side of the West Antarctica ice sheet. Probably won’t happen for 900 years, but may have happened many times in the past. The Andrill project found that the West Antarctic ice sheet has substantially melted and regrown over 60 times in the last 5 million years.

Here comes the sun

Joe Romm at Climate Progress brings us an article Here Comes the Sun by Paul Krugman inserting some of his own graphs, leading with this one:

The long term trend is revealed, taking out the distortion of the silicon shortage a few years ago.

Krugman’s conclusion is telling:

But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?

Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in.

The Republican brain

Chris Mooney at DeSmogBlog cross-posted at Climate Progress previews his forthcoming book The Republican Brain. The claim is:

conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.

If you think he’s saying it’s a case of a simple good-bad divide, think again and read the whole post. There are some useful links at the end.

Increase in weather disasters

One thing that might impress the Rebublican brain eventually is the increase in weather-related disasters if the trend continues.

For the mathematically minded, Stefan Rahmstorf unpacks how the stats work.

Q & A on the Durban climate summit

Reuters has prepared a handy Q & A on the Durban Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC. I’ll highlight just two elements.

First, the cynical note that in aviation, the one area where a global deal should be possible, we are heading to the courts rather than trying to achieve a solution.

According to Fred Pearce aviation fuel is untaxed worldwide.

Secondly, the EU is not going to recognise Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERs) earned via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in China after 2012. Heretofore the EU has been the biggest purchaser of CERs and China the biggest beneficiary.

Coal seam gas

John D linked to the an item about the Nationals’ coal seam gas (CSG) policy on the last thread. They are preparing a discussion paper, but the five core principles are contained in their media release.

This is a devilishly complex area. On water alone you have the three main aspects. Aquifers may be damaged during drilling leading to depletion, sinking levels and/or contamination, water is used in production and there is a salty brine left over after extraction.

It’s scandalous that the industry has been allowed to charge ahead when we know almost nothing about what will happen. Research is needed. Bryce Kelly says:

The research required is complex and costly (millions of dollars) and will take several years if done correctly. Installing monitoring boreholes, running chemical tests and building 3D flow simulation models are all expensive activities.

Meanwhile Tim Flannery has weighed in, and Tony Windsor has said he won’t back the government’s Mineral Resources Rent Tax unless more is done to make coal seam gas mining sustainable, but does he have it right?

Research will take years and may not be conclusive. Damage to underground aquifers may not show up for many years and may be irreparable.

Larissa Waters reckons the Nationals have been done over by the Liberals on CSG, Ferguson slams NSW Labor on their CSG backflip and I can’t find a link, but In Queensland there are predictions that Katter’s Australia Party is going to benefit big-time from frustration with the Labor and the LNP in the boondocks.

There’s more at The Conversation.

59 thoughts on “Climate clippings 53”

  1. Brian,

    The rate of decline of PV production costs is breathtaking. However, Joe Romm is not helping his credibility (with me, at least) by plotting a linear trend on a linear graph. On that trend, PV production costs will be zero around 2020, before becoming negative.

    There is a much better (MIT-sourced) graph presented later in that Joe Romm post, showing a linear trend on a log-log graph (of production cost vs cumulative production). That graph is much more compelling.

  2. It’s pretty clear that current PV panel prices are depressed because of a glut on the world market. Some manufacturing plants are running at reduced capacity and some shut down.

    http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/pv-production-capacity-expansions–dramatically-slow_100004846/

    We are going to have to wait a few years until all this shakes out to see where prices end up which may not be where very optimistic projections place them. Treating some of these projections as well established facts may make a nice political story, but as a timely guaranteed path to a low carbon future, they as yet do not cut it.

  3. Dollars per watt is a nominal notion, and is only a starting indication for where PV performance is headed. Its only value is in that it is what most people understand and gives a measure of the direction of progress.

  4. @I&C

    1. dollars per watt / capacity factor where capacity factor is in the range 0 – 1

    2. balance of plant costs

    3. financing costs

    4. storage or backup costs to deal with intermittency

  5. sg, I thought the Rahmstorf post was worth highlighting.

    I forgot to link to another conference presentation by Stott et al (seems to take forever to load) linked from another thread at RealClimate which I haven’t had time to read yet.

    I&U @ 1, not being mathematically very literate I wouldn’t make a comment on the graphs, except that the first has the virtue of showing a longer history than some lately which have shown only the last five years, and I think it’s to his credit that he stops with the present. The past is no guarantee of the future, as those who invested in the Japanese stock market in 1991 would know. Or so it seems to me.

    BTW I have in draft form a post that will look at some new technology where the claim is that electricity available at least to households will be as good as free. It’s second on my to-do list.

  6. What I don’t understand, Jess @ 10, about this and other doom-saying views that peak oil has already hit us, or if it hasn’t is only a handful of years off (sometime 2005-2020 in your referenced article), is that the IEA has energy demand being met by oil continuing to increase steadily to at least 2035, the limit of its current projections. To be precise, from 85 million barrels/day in 2008 to 97mb/d in 2035, according to its World Energy Outlook 2011: Special Report. With most of the rest of increased demand between now and then met by gas.

    See http://www.iea.org/weo/docs/weo2011/WEO2011_GoldenAgeofGasReport.pdf (fig 1.1 p19).

    When I read your link to who Tom Murphy is (“I am an associate professor in the Physics Department at UCSD and a member of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. I am working on an ultra-precise test of General Relativity using the technique of lunar laser ranging”), I have to say that my natural inclination to believe that the IEA probably knows more than he does about oil was reinforced. And that was even before I came across him quoting Mother Jones as an authority for his views.

    I will agree with Murphy though when he says “Even though energy may represent something like 10% of GDP, it’s what makes the other 90% possible. It’s not just another commodity like sneakers or widgets.” Governments fuck around with energy markets, whether it be by taxes, subsidies or regulation, at their peril, or, unfortunately and more to the point, at the peril of the voters who have to suffer these policies. But I expect that will be the one point of his remarks about which most people here disagree.

    Oh, dear, it is so difficult being one of the few voices of reason among the heathen. But never fear I will keep trying.

  7. Solar energy should be measured in terms of nominal power multiplied by the Annual Capacity Factor (about 12% on the East Coast).
    On this basis a PV generator needs to be about 8 times the size of a conventional generator. Thus to get the equivalent energy output to a coal fired generator of say 1 GW you need 8 GW of PV to get 5% of your energy from PV. It’s even worse than this because the peak output is about 1.414 times the average (11 GW) the network as it is will not even begin to cope with this.
    BOREAL FOREST (Tagia)
    The reason the North pole is always going to warm faster than the south is that that a huge forest almost completely surrounds the north polar region, there is none in the South. It is rather like a tea cosy I guess.

    Huggy

  8. Woz: What’s wrong with a good logistic curve? I would have thought as a physical chemist you’d be all over that sh!t.

    I probably linked to the wrong post for you. I don’t think he thinks that it’s really a problem to do with whether energy demand can be met in the short term (and I don’t think he really cares about whether the IEA is correct or not) – it’s what we do in the long term that is important. He’s written another post on what he calls the energy trap which you might find interesting.

    If we want to be able to switch to renewables (or any other source of energy, nuclear/thorium/whatever) we need to do it now. Since it takes energy to get energy, and lots of that energy cost needs to be invested up front, we are going to have to have some short term pain for long term gain. He suggests that we should be making these investments while we have some slack in the energy pipeline, but doesn’t see it happening in the current political climate until it’s too late (and I agree with him).

  9. Huggy: I think the ocean circulation (particularly the Southern Ocean) might have more to do with increased heating in the Northern Hemisphere compared to the south. The Southern Ocean is like a giant insulating blanket which keeps Antartica cold for us.

  10. Wozza @ 11, have you ever visited Question Everything? There’s a lot of reading, a lot of systems analysis, more wisdom than I can handle, even sometimes more reality than I can handle, but it is a challenging site that I am compelled to go back to even though I am not a scholar.
    You aren’t someone who is afraid of research so it may be less trouble for you even than for me to scan his thoughts on our society’s future.
    Forget the debate about global warming for a bit and sink your teeth into what is at the core of society’s problems.
    http://questioneverything.typepad.com/

  11. On the taxation of aviation fuel, see this paper at Resources for the Future,
    “the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which prohibits the taxation of fuel arriving (and remaining) in a plane from a different country. Even more fundamental, however, is the common provision in bilateral air service agreements prohibiting the taxation of fuel for international flights.”
    However I am pretty sure that aviation fuel in Australia is taxed at about 4 cents per litre.

  12. Nothing wrong with a good logistics curve, Jess, but is this what you define as good? I mean, for heaven’s sake, he derives it (at least in terms of his narrative; he at least needs to re-order the story if there is actually a more logical basis to it) from his view of the San Diego housing market during the sub-prime crisis.

    Look, I don’t disagree with the need for long term planning – though there is room for considerable disagreement with the likes of Murphy, at least judging from this piece, about whether governments or markets are more likely to get it right. What he doesn’t consider, and hardly anyone round here wants to consider either, since most have an ideological (there is probably a less pejorative word but I can’ think of one: well meaning but ill-founded?) preference for renewables first, second and third, is the enormous change in the long term outlook from greater knowledge of gas prospects in only the last 12 months.

    Whatever you think of the IEA they are at least trying to keep up with that.

  13. Huggy @ 12, I was talking about the northern and southern hemispheres rather than the poles. I didn’t quote the figures because i didn’t have time to verify them, and now I can’t find a source, but quoting from memory, land temperatures are rising twice as fast as ocean temperatures and polar temperature rise is multiples the rise for the tropics. The figure I had in mind was that Greenland temp rises 2.7 times the tropics, or world average, I can’t remember which.

    This article on polar amplification says

    “Permafrost melting could also accelerate during rapid Arctic sea-ice loss due to an amplification of Arctic land warming 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate trends”

    and gives reasons why.

    This article gives similar reasons, but says warming will be twice the global average. I’d incline towards the first.

  14. Wozza @ 17, it ill becomes you to lecture us on ideology.

    Going back to your IEA link @ 11, I’m doing a separate post on the IEA 2011 world outlook, but lets deal with that point. I think the IEA are trying to forecast what they think will actually happen, rather than what will save the world. Digging into the detail a bit more, in their Executive Summary they say:

    The cost of bringing oil to market rises as oil companies are forced to turn to more difficult and costly sources to replace lost capacity and meet rising demand. Production of conventional crude oil – the largest single component of oil supply – remains at current levels before declining slightly to around 68 mb/d by 2035. To compensate for declining crude oil production at existing fields, 47 mb/d of gross capacity additions are required, twice the current total oil production of all OPEC countries in the Middle East. A growing share of output comes from natural gas liquids (over 18 mb/d in 2035) and unconventional sources (10 mb/d). The largest increase in oil production comes from Iraq, followed by Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Canada. Biofuels supply triples to the equivalent of more than 4 mb/d, bolstered by $1.4 trillion in subsidies over the projection period.

    So crude oil production does peak. But as I understand it we are already discovering less new oil than we use every year.

    The tripling of biofuels is a worry and “unconventional sources” includes a fair swag of tar sands.

    Check out also Key graphs, Figure 3.17 (p5).

    Please note these figures are from their “New Policies scenario”, which will give us 650ppm and a temperature rise of 3.5C.

    Great, just great!

  15. Woz: Logistic curve modelling for resource extraction came out on the ark, and major multinationals still use it to model extraction rates.

    To claim that it’s invalid because the author of a fluffy non-technical piece decided to introduce it using a slightly unrelated concept that his readers could identify with seems more ideological than anything in his piece.

    Or is it just because he has a beard? Would you prefer a suit?

  16. The above news is one of the reasons we don’t have any solar panels yet (the other is that we are seriously short on money, which doesn’t help, and the Victorian energy companies are stuffing up the pricing/feed-in system so that people dont get the benefit): Now that I’m a bit older, the following appears to pan out for any new thing involving relatively new technology: The earlier versions are relatively expensive and buggy: The early adopters iron out the bugs, and then there is increasing takeup, then the price falls, then (possibly) people like me are able to buy a relatively modestly priced and bug free item.

    Works for IT and audio for me!

    (We have, however, been able to maintain declining electricity and gas bills through most of the noughties using the low-hanging fruit – turning off things and insulation – until the latest price rises.)

  17. Thanks Brian. I will be interested in your post on the IEA outlook. I realise that the link I posted was only one scenario (chosen partly because as the high gas scenario it couldn’t be dismissed as deliberately over-emphasising oil).

    I don’t think they count bio-fuels in their oil category – that appears to have a separate category in the tables, though I certainly agree with you that its projected growth is worrying, But I take your point about how it is growth in non-conventional oil sources, mostly from Canada, that enables oil supply to keep growing to 1935. In the context of the piece I was responding to though the only point I was trying to make was that if there are credible scenarios – and I believe the IEA is credible – in which oil consumption continues to rise significantly to, and in effect well past, 2035, then scare stories about peak oil being already upon us are just that.

    Whether those scenarios produce desirable CO2 outcomes is an entirely separate question. Anyway, I assume that the IEA will be completely rewriting all its supply-demand projections any day now. Australia has a carbon tax, and Julia has assured us all that the whole world, transfixed in wonder and awe at what we have wrought, will immediately change its energy policies to follow where she has so fearlessly led.

    Jess I don’t think that knowing whether the good professor has a beard or not would change my views on his article, though it doesn’t surprise me to learn that the BBC believes such issues are important in choosing its sources. One of the advantages of blogs is you don’t even get the chance to be distracted by your protagonists’ physical attractiveness or lack of it.

    What was actually at the front of my mind in judging the article is that he has no professional expertise in oil developments or markets; that he believes peak oil caused the subprime crisis (he did not. as you put it, merely introduce the article “using a slightly unrelated concept that his readers could identify”; he claims “ a compelling story about the financial collapse of 2008 puts this production limit at center stage”); he references Mother Jones as an authoritative source for his story; and the IEA, whose core business is in these things, contradicts him. That’s a fair number of strikes against, for me anyway.

    Hel

  18. Helen,

    When you put a system on your house think twice about having a smart meter fitted to your house. The smart meter allows your supplier to vary charge rate on an hourly basis, I believe. This may mean that your power bills bare no resemblence to what you imagine they should.

    Does anyone have any experience to report on this?

    With NSW buying power from solar at 6 cents per kwhr (as I understand it) the better solution is to fit batteries and store the energy for use during all non off peak periods. During extended low solar periods this can be used to store off peak grid power for use during peak periods for real savings. I don’t know of this being done yet but if the governemnts are going to be stupid about the whole thing then the “market” (us) needs to be self protective.

  19. Julia has assured us all that the whole world, transfixed in wonder and awe at what we have wrought, will immediately change its energy policies to follow where she has so fearlessly led.

    Funny, what I heard the Government saying was that a longstanding imposition upon the commons, where pollution costs (including but not limited to greenhouse gases) have been one-sidedly socialised by polluting industries, had finally been put on the path to some rectification of those costs, and that the funds collected thereby were going to invest in providing incentives for diversity in energy suppliers so that we have both future energy security and less pollution (including but not limited to greenhouse gases).

  20. BiLB
    The PV tariff in NSW was 60 cents/kWh now it has been closed and existing
    beneficiaries reduced to 40 cents/kWh. Not sure what new entrants get – probably 6 cents.
    Change of Government and the realisation that 60 cents was totally absurd.
    The price/lifetime curve of retail batteries will not cut it at present.
    Huggy

  21. Oh well Woz, there’s plenty of other references in the literature to logistic modelling of resource extraction, with no references to Mother Jones, or the subprime crisis that might be more to your liking. You don’t have to believe everything that’s written by him – you can do your own research.

    And I don’t think he thinks that peak oil caused the subprime crisis, I think he thinks that a high oil price exacerbated conditions which already existed in the market.

    I think you’re missing the point of his post:

    It is dangerous to assume that we’ll gracefully handle problems at this scale, because such assumptions amount to dismissals and concomitant inaction. Unacceptable.

    It bothers me that we don’t have a plan. It scares me that we (collectively) don’t think we even need a plan. Faith in the market to solve the problem represents a high-stakes gamble. We can and should do better.

    The frustrating thing for me is that I believe it is possible to beat this problem, but only if we aggressively alter our practices. We would never adopt the necessary radical changes without first agreeing on the potential for disaster otherwise. Yet even if I’m wrong about the problem, the shift I imagine may result in a better, more fulfilling life anyway.

  22. If that happens in my area, Helen, then that is when I make the move to the solar water heating, solar pv, and gas for cooking (reliability) investment. Everyone here has heard me go endlessly on about GenIIPV, well we are finally now buying the test elements to start to put together a proof of concept system.

    TigTog,

    Julia Gillard has proven to be most everything that we need in a prime minister. She is adaptible, consultitative, negotiable, and consistent. Most importantly she has brought Climate Change Action to reality, during one of Australia’s the most difficult of political environments. Maybe it is only a woman who could have pulled that off. And if your quote is correct then Gillard is fully cogniscent of what she has achieved, though I am sure that she is humble for immense historical importance of the achievement.

    There are many great technologies under development which to succeed need great politicians to provide the bridge from the failed technologies of the past to the totally sustainable future. Here is one of those great technologists…..

    http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/nasas-omega-scientist-dr-jonathan-trent/

  23. HuggyB,

    I think that the FiT need only have ever been equal to the local retail rate. With the far lower panel prices the home investor now needs to ensure that he is not being profiteered on by the installers selling panels at yester years prices.

  24. Peak Oil enthusiasts do shit me a bit with their ability to ascribe every social and economic problem to peak oil, and their “hide in the basement with a shotgun” view of the future. We do have coal and nuclear, kids, and the US can use trains if they really really really need to.

    But then, peak oil deniers shit me too when they start saying that we’ll just find oil from somewhere else – and when you look at the somewhere else (as Wozza and Brian are) you discover it’s some awesomely polluting clusterfrag in Canada.

  25. yeah yeah I know, Salient Green, I’m aware that it’s a real problem. I just find the fervour of the folks at the oil drum a little over the top at times.

  26. peak anything is pretty insidious. supplies continue pretty much in ample amounts until it starts running out and then it hits you pretty quick, especially in a constantly acceleratingly ‘growing’ world.

    most people don’t think about it til that point. the people making money off the supply sure won’t point it out, because, as we’ve seen, that drives demand for alternatives which means competition for the money.

    i had a quick look at the oildrum page. have to disagree with one point. no. 4; that oil is a one off gift. who knows, maybe someone will discover a way to get net energy out of seawater. in fact, i think it’s more likely than not that there IS a way to do so, just that the method(s) must be so unusual that humans can’t see, imagine, conceive it. 10,000 years ago our ancestors would’ve walked right past oil. back then it was just sticky, dirty, smelly, useless gunk. tar pits are oil based aren’t they? good example heh.

    so i don’t know if we are paying peak oil enough attention or too much, other things like AGW may destroy society b4 we actually run out of oil. but we should plan for NO oil, because it’s inevitable.

  27. A TOTALLY TRUE STORY about the time when the NSW feed in tariff was 60 cents.
    A certain family in NSW installed about 6 kW of PV in the family farm.
    Unfortunately they found that due to the mandatory conformance with AS4777 the inverters were tripping off on over voltage.
    Solution: go to the local Bunnings and buy 6 kW of really cheap heaters.
    The feed in meter gave them 60 cents/kWh and they paid about 12 cents/kWh for the energy used by the heaters. Thus they got 48 cents/kWH instead of zero but actually fed nothing at all into the network.
    Noice.
    Huggy

  28. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has determined that, along with Brazil and Indonesia, Australia is one of the worst destroyers of forest in the world.

    From 2005 to 2010, Australia lost an average of 924,000 ha of forest per year. Forest cover declined from 153.9 to 149.3 million ha, an anual decline of 0.6%.

    Large areas of bushland in western Qld were cleared by farmers using bulldozers dragging chains.

    The previous 5 years averaged only about 200,000 ha loss per year.

    I can’t help but feel a bit of a chump being so concerned about rainforest destruction overseas, orangutans and palm oil etc while this shit has been going on under our noses.

  29. HuggyB,

    Totally true story.

    I know of someone who, when his house was built bypassed the meters and fed his water heaters with free electricity for 50 years.

    If either of the solar faudsters or the water heater fraudsters are found out they will have to pay the money back. That is the law.

    Both stories are a reflection on the ethics of the people, not a reflection on the value of the energy systems.

  30. I&U: The Romm graph is useful because it shows that, to some extent, the drop in solar PV cost over the last few years represents a recovery from a silicon shortage. It is a general reminder that we need to understand what is driving change rather than blindly quoting graphs – particularly that cover only a few years.
    You are right of course. A logarithmic graph would be more appropriate if we want to look at what will happen in the future.

  31. BiLB
    Oh my story is better, the suggestion for the heaters came from inside the relevant power utility.
    Completely legal and unassailable.
    Huggy

  32. The message for CSG is that it has to be considered on a case by case basis. Items that need to be include where the CSG is to be used as well as the impact on aquifers and agricultural land. In some cases it will be environmentally smarter to leave the CSG in the ground and use coal instead.

  33. Salient Green @ 37, according to DERM in 2009 Queensland has 81 million hectares of forests and woodlands. Vegetation management has long been a lively political issue between green groups the Labor Government and primary producers.

    In the 2004 election a great victory was won by the green groups, as documented in a paper by Whelan and Lyons. From memory, this was effected in amendments to the Vegetation Management Act in 2005. There was a further development as a result of the 2009 election, after which clearing of “high value regrowth” was further restricted.

    The laws have been vigorously policed using satellite technology.

    You didn’t give any link, but I’d be surprised if anything terribly untoward was going on in Queensland since 2005. Regrowth is quite vigorous in most parts, as I’ve just observed in a 380km trip NW of Brisbane this weekend to visit my sister. It is quite conceivable to me that our share of the 924,000 hectares of clearing was regrowth.

  34. @43, thanks Brian. The information was from AG vol 103 p 102, an article by professor William Laurance, plus a follow up in response to a letter published in AG vol 105 p 13. The follow up made the point that the FAO describes forest broadly including vegetation with 10% tree cover which is how clearing of large areas of bushland in drier areas was indicated/discovered.

    The good professor included no link in the original article or the follow up but a map of the lost forest in Australia would have been fairly important to the article I would have thought.

    Jumpy, please note the distinction between ‘forest’ and ‘rainforest’ in reference to #37.

  35. SG @ 44, 10% is a very low level of coverage to be used as a base. Establishing what level of coverage you should use as a base is one of the areas of difficulty. It should be against what is ‘natural’ but discovering that in pre-settlement terms is pretty much impossible. These landscapes were always dynamic. There is a standard methodology for going about this, but I understand that it will often yield a coverage which is higher than pre-European settlement.

    My younger brother is a retired agronomist specialising in pastures in what was Gatton Agricultural College. He knows southern inland Qld well, having led many student field trips there over the decades. He has strong personal green values. When I asked him about the regrowth capacity of the drier areas, he said that if you flattened everything and came back 20 or 30 years later under normal farm management the chances are that there would be more trees there than before you started.

    On our trip after the recent wet it was obvious that the main roads people were having to poison regrowth on the road verges right up to the edge of the bitumen, with regrowth up to 2 metres tall.

  36. Pre- settlement, fire stick farming was used to maximize grassland. It is anybodies guess what the forest area would have been with no human intervention at all.

  37. dear all
    us state dept last week postponed its decision whether or not to approve the keystone pipeline proposal pending a review of alternative routes by the national energy board which will begin hearings in early 2013.

    former canadian ambassador to washington, who lobbied assiduously for it, calls the review “catastrophic” & predicts the delay will kill the project. canadian finance minster says it could hasten development of alternative contracts with asia.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/11/11/keystone-flaherty.html

    industry is “disappointed” & alberta premier hopes the decision to review was ” based on science and evidence and not rhetoric and hyperbole from very well-organized interest groups”:-
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/11/10/keyston-pipeline-route.html

    and, from the gift that keeps giving, steve harper, too, is “disappointed”:-
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/11/13/keystone-joe-oliver.html?cmp=rss
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  38. I think the FAO should have just said “land clearance”. It’s rather unorthodox to describe 10% cover as forest. Forest isn’t all that helpful a term in describe the majority of the Australian landscape. Some of the most endangered landscapes in Australia are grasslands and grassy woodlands, but it doesn’t aid an understanding of the issues relating to those landscapes to evoke the idea that “forest” clearing is the over-riding concern.

    I see no problem with the government definition of a forest. It’s not like they are placing a value on it based on the % or cover and they acknowledge the vagueness of the term. To me the aim is to describe the % of canopy in a landscape, that’s more relevant and useful than the descriptor of “forest”.

    “Significantly intact strata” is referred to in South Australian legislation and, in practice, I think it’s quite a useful descriptor. Sure, it’s kinda dry lawyer speak and it doesn’t evoke a romantic notion of a treed landscape, but that’s why it’s useful – our swamps and springs, and grasslands, where there are few or no trees, are under greater threat than what passes for forest in this part of the world.

  39. Thanks SG, one mans scrub is another mans forest i spose.

    I presume the reforestation that occurs due to the last big wet and the (predicted) next one will put a smile on your face. One like this 🙂 .

    Hey Jess, if ya out there, have you heard of anything that has come from that eco-design competition a while back(*) your brother took part in?
    Some fantastic concepts that should have much commercial interest.
    Carn, inside goss, give it up.

    (*)The Giant Red Crab thread, I think.

  40. dear Brian
    thanks for that; i look forward to reading it at length later. the globe & mail is running today with alberta premier is hopeful it’ll resume after the review:-
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/11/14/keystone-redford-washington.html
    cbc edmonton is going with the same line:-
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/despite-setback-alberta-premier-confident-keystone-will-win-us-approval/article2235706/
    and the edmonotn journal finally has an article on it:-
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/09/26/pol-keystone-mcdiarmid.html
    the comments are fascinating. . .
    i’m surprised how quickly people have concluded that the project is dead, like with a wooden stake. be that as it may the bitumen sands are still hot and seem to many to be still on course to be developed regardless of this outcome.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/09/26/pol-keystone-mcdiarmid.html
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  41. Hey jumpy – haven’t had a chance to chat to my brother yet since he got back from the States last week. He’s spent the time since the competition checking out NY and the East Coast. So no inside goss sorry. 🙁

    That said, AFAIK most of the basic design elements used in the houses come from things that are already commercially available for the most part. The trick is developing a building where they all work nicely together. Most companies were more than happy to help build the buildings because it’s such a fantastic marketing opportunity for them.

    If you find something you like then the link to the company which produces that stuff will probably be listed as a sponsor somewhere on the team’s website (at least that’s the case for the New Zealand team, who list their sponsors here).

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