Climate clippings 56

Energy from biomass

A new report suggests that we should be able to feed a growing population, conserve the environment and produce 20% of world energy needs from biomass by making “the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials”.

The report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) can be downloaded from here.

I’m not sure how well they took into account the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. They did consider an IPCC report on renewable energy (large pdf) and a study by the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU). Of the latter they said:

The WGBU08 report is arguably the most comprehensive study of the implications of growing bio-energy crops considered here. The approach uses a spatially explicit yield model for terrestrial productivity (LPjmL) driven by IPCC climate models, and scenarios. (p. 35)

You would need to go back to those studies to see what changes of weather, melting glaciers, sea penetration of river deltas etc were taken into account.

Consumption-based emissions reporting

Also on the UKERC site is an item on consumption-based emissions reporting. In the UK:

territorial-based emissions showed a 19% reduction between 1990 and 2008, but consumption-based emissions showed a 20% increase during the same period.


by 2050, only 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions will be generated within its borders, with the rest coming from imported goods and services.

The suggestion is that there should be both consumption-based and production-based emissions targets.

Arctic sea ice hockey stick

Skeptical Science reports on a study which reconstructed the Arctic sea ice extent over the last 1450 years, resulting in this graph:

Kinnard_2011_Arctic sea ice

The error bars are quite large for the earlier years, but the anomalous nature of recent decades is unmistakeable.

As a matter of interest the current Arctic sea ice extent is tracking 2007 very closely.

Southern Ocean warming

The Southern Ocean is storing more heat than the rest. It occupies about 22% of the area of the total ocean, yet it absorbs about 40% of the carbon dioxide that’s stored by the ocean and about half the heat.

One implication is for the Antarctic ice sheet and sea level rise. Another is that a critical threshold in relation to the corrosion of shells may be reached by 2030 instead of 2050 as previously thought, to the detriment of the food chain.

Climate change and health

The Climate Commission has just released a report on climate change and health. Here are the projections for hot days (from the Garnaut Report):

Projected hot days

If you want to pollute your brain, read The Telegraph. Honestly, is that journalism or a partisan demolition job?

Google changes tack

The company Google is phasing out support for clean energy R&D in favour of deployment, citing the “compelling” cost reductions in solar PV. Google are actually increasing their support of renewables, contrary to some media reports.

Supersized coal exports

Here in Oz yesterday Anna Bligh was spreading the joy about the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen in North Queensland. The key metrics are an investment of $9 billion and:

Just four years ago, Abbot Point could handle 15 million tonnes of coal a year. So just four years ago it was handling 15 million tonnes – by 2017 it will be handling 385 million tonnes. This is an increase of more than 2000 per cent in the space of a decade.

That should just about be the time we should be phasing coal out
according to Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator. Not only should, but probably will.

Wu [Dacheng, vice-chairman and secretary general of the China Photovoltaic Society], told Climate Spectator in Sydney on Wednesday that solar PV is already cheaper than peaking prices in some areas of China, and will match parity with commercial and industrial supply in 2014, will reach retail parity in 2018 (households pay less for electricity in China than industrial users), and match wholesale price parity by 2021, when prices will be around 0.6 yuan/kWh.

The thought is that baseload coal will actually be in the way.


In Germany, where wind and PV capacity amounts to 45GW, Statkfraft has announced this week that it may close two gas-fired power stations, amounting to one gigawatt of capacity, because of this impact.

BTW if solar panels are imported from China do not despair. We are working on R&D, also more than half of the economic value of solar PV remains in its installation and commissioning and we still have a unique opportunity to become a solar technology hub for the Asia Pacific region. So it is said.

In another article Parkinson tells us that Germany is heading full bore down the renewable energy path. Here, mesmerised by to Big Coal, we seem to be heading for a cliff, one way or another.

China favours wind over nukes

China’s emissions should flatline from 2015. One reason is that they are upgrading the drive to wind power.

Starting in 2005, China now produces 58GW worth of wind power, contributing 128TWh to its grid, enough to power NSW and Victoria combined.

Three years ago China’s 2020 target was set at 30GW, today it’s a massive 200GW.

Last month, the National Development Reform Commission Energy Research Institute released China’s first wind development plan to 2050. A whopping 1000GW – enough to provide 17 per cent of China’s electricity needs – will be built and operating by mid-century.

Nuclear, now supplying 11GW, has had its 2020 target downgraded from 86GW to a modest 40-60GW.

How not to do policy

By contrast Australia’s policy on solar feed-in tariffs has jerked the industry around.

At the end of the article, a more measured approach in Colorado yields better results.

The world is moving to renewable energy

For the first time investment in renewable power generation has exceeded that in fossil-fuel power.

Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.

Those who say we should wait for the rest of the world are missing the boat.

The Climate Progress post links to an earlier post on the cost of externalities of oil and coal-fired power plants. Much to ponder there.

Finally, given the last few entries, for your convenience I’ve linked to the post on the IEA World Energy Outlook 2011 and the reducing demand for coal under the 450 Scenario.

107 thoughts on “Climate clippings 56”

  1. “If you want to pollute your brain, read The Telegraph. Honestly, is that journalism or a partisan demolition job?”

    Did you expect journalism?

  2. Brian,

    If you are to target consumption-based emissions, then you need some sort of carbon consumption tax to achieve the target. But if you tax consumption of domestic goods, or of imports from countries who tax carbon production, then you are double taxing, which makes no sense.

    Therefore, a consumption tax should only be levied on imports from countries that do not have carbon pricing. That is plausible, but highly complex. It would probably only be practical for goods with high amounts of embedded carbon: eg aluminium or steel.

    So, talk of consumption-based targets really means putting in place border tariffs. That might happen in the future, if rogue nations such as the US and Canada continue to refuse to implement carbon pricing.

  3. I&U: “Consumption based carbon tax” is easy to say but difficult to implement. Think about calculating the carbon footprint of thousands of products and variations of products. Will you have a different tax for things made from Icelandic aluminium than those made from Australian aluminium? Will you take account of the better practices of Chinese manufacturer X compared with Chinese manufacturer Y. How to you convince India that the thousands of Australian auditors that will be poking into their business aren’t industrial spies or fudging the figures to favour their competitors?
    In terms of imports it may be better to do something about emissions by simpler, more direct, targeted approaches such as setting emission standards or insisting that some goods be made from low greenhouse materials or…. We have led the world by insisting on light globe efficiency standards. California changed world car emission practices bu insisting on higher standards for cars sold there.
    What else can we do that is easy to administer and doesn’t require auditing in other countries?

  4. In the ClimateSpectator piece Matthew Wright claims nuclear power in China is in decline. There are 27 reactors under construction. Those plus those currently operating will alone produce the lower end of 40-60 GWe by 2020 which he claims, without providing a source, is now the 2020 target for nuclear.

    Total capacity under construction and planned is 86 GWe with a further 154 GWe proposed.

    The claim of 80% of components being imported for future Gen III plants is almost certainly nonsense. China has acquired rights to the AP1000 and as well as building AP1000s, work is proceeding on indigenous version of the design. It seems likely that the AP1000 or derivatives will become the basis of new build after the current bunch of CPR1000s.

    China has at least three Gen IV reactor projects on the boil – fast sodium cooled – operational, high temperature gas cooled – under construction and molten salt – early days yet.

    But the quote of quotes from this piece is:

    In China, and globally, wind power will stay well ahead of nuclear for decades and replace it altogether.

    Really? Globally? This just fantasy. Nuclear supplies about 13% of global electricity, wind, solar, geo etc, about 3%. In OECD countries the figures are 21% and 4%.

    Matthew Wright should focus his attention on replacing fossil fuels, especially coal long before nuclear, but it seems that is not his agenda.

  5. John,

    I agree that a consumption-based carbon tax would be very complex. It would require some sort of chain-of-custody verification, as is done currently for (say) sustainable timber products. Imported cars (say) would need to be made from “sustainable steel” (ie from steel produced in a country with carbon pricing) or would otherwise attract an import duty equivalent to the priced-value of their embedded carbon.

    I don’t disagree with efficiency standards for light bulbs and cars, but those target carbon production, not consumption, which is already covered by a domestic ETS covering electricity and petrol. What is needed to target carbon consumption is manufacturing standards: eg requiring that all imported steel is produced using a low-carbon process. But, again, you have a similar problem of auditing and verification.

    You could go further and say steel must not be used in certain products (eg where wood can be used instead) but that would unreasonably and unhelpfully discriminate against steelmakers who are using a low carbon production process.

    I don’t think that there is any straightforward way of managing domestic carbon consumption, which is why the focus of mitigation mechanisms has always been on carbon production.

  6. dear Incurious & Unread
    i’m all for for slapping punative duties or whatever on imports from rouge nations; but its complicated by hypocrisy.

    europe is currently considering levying a special penalty surcharge on all oil products sourced from the dirty alberta bitument sands.

    however, britain, true to form, is working to frustrate this initiative of its european partners. this in order to protect bp’s remaining intersts in the alberta bitumen sands. yet britain is said to be among the progressive nations on climate.

    by all means, slug alberta (i’ll lay the first punch), but, at the same time, should britain not also be slugged for trying to have it both ways? for damaging the climate while at the same time striving to limit damage to the climate? for its official bare-faced hypocricy?
    yours sincerely
    alfred vension

  7. Alfred,

    Are you proposing a hypocrisy tax? That could certainly be lucrative, but would be difficult to enforce.

    Alternatively, we could levy a makeup tax on those rouge nations.

  8. quokka, I agree that the Matthew Wright article had some problems, but there is limited scope for me to comment editorially in this format. From the figures given nuclear is set to increase 3 or 4 times in China. The overall message though, is that they are going for wind big-time.

    I&U and others, a couple of years ago I did a post on the possibility of labelling carbon emissions content on consumer goods. It seemed impossible.

    Part of the problem is the multi-sourcing of components in modern manufacturing practice.

    It seems that the first priority should be to make mitigation efforts universal and to consider tariffs on rogue countries and particular products which are imported in large quantities.

  9. Brian,

    Agreed: that was my point really. We can agonise about carbon consumption (as the professor in the linked article was doing) but there is not much we can practically do about it, short of draconian measures that affect all producers, good and bad, alike.

  10. dear Incurious & Unread
    not a hypocrisy tax as such, hypocrisy’s just the “canary”. but maybe a “watching brief” on the rouge nations, on the pretext that where there’s environmental hypocrisy afoot, there may well be something, or some activity, that’s taxable. punititvely, ultimately for the sake of dissuasion, of course. in any case alberta/canada needs to be slugged over the bitumen sands, for all our sakes, and britain isn’t helping.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  11. Brian said:

    a couple of years ago I did a post on the possibility of labelling carbon emissions content on consumer goods. It seemed impossible.

    I’m not so sure. Seligman has some rough modeeling for carbon accounting — which one might want to refine — and provenance these days would be fairly easy to track, compose and account for. These days we have UPCs on most things and something like that with composite IDs added for handling, transit and packaging would be possible. Put readers on supermarket shelves and have mobile phopne apps that could do it and link to a dBase. Have a web client as well and then compare similar products. It all seems doable.

    Of course, if you are going to those lengths you could include much more than lifecycle carbon emissions. You could look at the total environmental footprint, human rights in each of the jurisdictions, ILO compliance, corporate networks and possibly one or two other things that will occur to me after I hit “Post Comment”.

  12. Fran, I can hear the business community shrieking about compliance costs already. Look how much trouble it’s been trying to get them to label food properly.

  13. DI(NR) said:

    Fran, I can hear the business community shrieking about compliance costs already. Look how much trouble it’s been trying to get them to label food properly.

    I was merely commenting on what would be technically feasible. I don’t doubt that business would be having figurative kittens if they were invited to assist consumers in making fully informed choices about their products. I’m reminded of that skitt in Monty Python, Trade Description Act

    Praline: Superintendent Parrot and I are from the hygiene squad.We want to have a word with you about your box of chocolates entitled the Whizzo Quality Assortment.
    Milton: Ah, yes.
    Praline: (producing box of chocolate) If I may begin at the beginning. First there is the Cherry Fondue. This is extremely nasty, but we can’t prosecute you for that.
    Milton: Agreed.
    Praline: Next we have number four, ‘Crunchy Frog’.
    Milton An, yes.
    Praline: Am I right in thinking there’s a real frog in here?
    Milton: Yes. A little one.
    Praline: What sort of frog?
    Milton: A dead frog.
    Praline: Is it cooked?
    Milton: No.
    Praline: What, a raw frog?
    Superintendent Parrot looks increasingly queasy.
    Milton: We use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose.
    Praline: That’s as may be, but it’s still a frog!
    Milton What else?
    Praline: Well don’t you even take the bones out?
    Milton: If we took the bones out it wouldn’t be crunchy would it?
    Praline: Superintendent Parrot ate one of those.
    Milton: Excuse me a moment. (exits hurriedly)
    Praline: Well, the Superintendent thought it was an almond whirl. People won’t expect there to be a frog in there. They’re bound to think it’s some sort of mock frog.
    Milton: (insulted) Mock frog? We use no artificial preservatives or additives of any kind!
    Praline: Nevertheless, I must warn you that in future you should delete the words ‘crunchy frog’, and replace them with the legend, ‘crunchy raw unboned real dead frog’ if you want to avoid prosecution.
    Milton: What about our sales?
    Praline: I’m not interested in your sales! I have to protect the general public! Now what about this one. (superintendent enters) It was number five, wasn’t it? (superintendent nods) Number five Ram’s Bladder Cup. (exit superintendent) What sort of confection is this?
    Milton: We use choicest juicy chunks of fresh Cornish ram’s bladder, emptied, steamed, flavoured with sesame seeds, whipped into a fondue and garnished with lark’s vomit.
    Praline: Larks vomit?
    Milton Correct.
    Praline: Well it don’t say nothing about that here.
    Milton: Oh yes it does, on the bottom of the box, after monosodium glutamate.
    Praline: (looking) Wel I hardly think this is good enough. I think it’s be more appropriate if the box bore a great red label warning lark’s vomit.
    Milton: Our sales would plummet!
    Praline: Well why don’t you move into more conventional areas of confectionary, like praline or lime cream; a very popular flavor, I’m lead to understand. (superintendent enters) I mean look at this one ‘cockroach cluster’, (superintendent exits) anthrax ripple! What’s this one: ‘spring surprise’?
    Milton: Ah – now, that’s our speciality – covered with darkest creamy chocolate. When you pop it into your mouth steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through both cheeks.
    Praline: Well where’s the pleasure in that? If people place a nice chocky in their mouth, they don’t want their cheeks pierced. In any case this is an inadequate description of the sweetmeat. I shall have to ask you to accompany me to the station.

  14. I don’t know, jumpy, probably because I was engrossed in the grossness of it all 🙂

    I did wonder why Fran was spending Friday afternoon typing all that stuff.

  15. So Flannery is running the “climate change will lead to more disease and deaths …. spread of some infectious diseases” line again. Why am I surprised? (Well, actually because I thought he had his hands full with Ray Hadley, who had Flannery’s witness in the coastal property saga on radio again, demolished Flannery’s account, and is demanding an apology. This will get interesting, but is a different issue I suppose.)

    It is well established actually that cold is worse than heat for human health. A 2004 University of London paper: “Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics, and almost all are increased by cold…… rising temperatures could reduce overall mortality rates”

    The US Department of the Interior: “From 1979 to 1997, extreme cold killed roughly twice as many Americans as heat waves”.

    As for infectious diseases, this is far more an issue of safe water supply and control of spreading agents like mosquitos than it is of temperature. Malaria wasn’t eradicated in northern Europe till the 1960s for example. If in the brave new world these sorts of diseases rise again, it will be far more to do with green activism promoting dirty rainwater tanks for all, or reduction of use of effective chemicals for mosquito control, than to do with climate change.

  16. Giles Parkinson’s view of the imminent demise of coal would be more convincing if he hadn’t immediately closed the comments thread when commenters started pointing out the problems, with a peremptory “This discussion has gone way off subject and is now closed.”

    The problems raised included his sweeping assumptions about coal technology, emerging materials shortages for renewable technologies, his ”technology taking the decision out of the hands of politicians” (ah yes, the Clive Hamilton approach to democracy lives), his misunderstanding of baseload, and his misunderstanding of costs not least the huge subsidies currently supporting renewable cost “reductions” and the astronomical cost of solar thermal with storage. None of these did he actually address. If Mr Parkinson regards these issues as “off topic” he is running an agenda not a topic.

    He would also be more convincing if he didn’t argue on the basis of statements like “ ‘People say we need baseload plans, but we don’t’ he says…… Mills has yet to release the financial modelling for his scenario”. Or “Wu told Climate Spectator that solar PV is already cheaper than peaking prices in some areas of China”. “Some” and “peaking”, eh? That’ll cover a huge amount of the total electricity generated then.

    This is a collection of mights, coulds and wannabes. To suggest that on this basis that hard-nosed investors in a $9 billion coal terminal have got it wrong, because by 2017 we will probably be phasing coal out, and Parkinson has got it right, is verging on parody.

  17. Brian asked:

    I did wonder why Fran was spending Friday afternoon typing all that stuff.

    Precisely because it was Friday afternoon after a very long week. I was struck by the whimsy of it all, and although it might have gone in the whimsy thread, it was more relevant to the flow in this one. I always enjoyed that skitt.

    Most of the text was copy and paste, though I did have to mark it up.

    Apologies all.

  18. Wozza said:

    Well, actually because I thought he had his hands full with Ray Hadley …

    Shorter: Wozza still hurts and thinks troll by proxy will ease the pain. It won’t. Moving on …

    It is well established actually that cold is worse than heat for human health.

    Classic denier reasoning. Forget about the actual threshholds … just talk about people freezing to death … and pass over the fact that bouts of weather easily cold enough to kill people will persist, the setting aside of the usual concerns for Australia over every other place — since when do deniers explicitly acknowledge that deaths in one place are as unacceptable as deaths anywhere else? — … One would laugh out loud if it weren’t for the fact that the deniersphere thinks this kind of trolling will be useful in subverting good public policy. Measuring and modelling morbidity is a tricky thing particularly when, as is in the case of temperature-related morbidity, it’s a function of public policy on matters like housing and welfare. The single-biggest contributing factor to deaths from extreme cold is inadequate access to quality housing. That’s something we can and should do something serious about, whatever we think about climate change. If we did, then lost life years from inadequate housing (including of course morbidity from the extreme cold) would plummet. It’s much harder and more expensive though to mitigate morbidity from extreme heat or even persistent above average temperatures with humidity. Changes in the patterns of movement of pathogen carrying small fauna (like mosquitoes for example) are also a consequence of milder winters and warmer summers. As I noted above too, the deniers everywhere are populists, and it’s obviously bizarre to complain that mitigation policy will drive jobs offshore while welcoming a trade in global morbidity from the jurisdictions where there will be an increase to those where they (speciously) assert a decline in morbidity. Let’s see them put those two claims expressly together and see how that works out for them. Truly, when it comes to defending the privileges of the wealthy, deniers will say anything.

    it will be far more to do with green activism promoting {…} reduction of use of effective chemicals for mosquito control, than to do with climate change.

    Ah yes … the Silent Spring troll. Truly one of the classic zombie memes. It must nearly be time for Wozza to trot out “they predicted an ice age in the 70s” and “Al Gore is fat”. Neither of those is as funny as the Monty Python clipping above.

  19. I saw Tim Flannery interviewed on Channel 7 about the Climate Commission report, and some kudos to Channel 7 for that. But the interviewer, Simon Reeve, finished off by asking Flannery what he had to say to those who thought that climate change wasn’t happening. Flannery handled it well, as he usually does, but I felt that the question was not only designed to be provocative, it was also designed to pander to the wozzas of this world. It left me with the suspicion that Reeve himself might not believe in the science of climate change.

  20. Fran @ 21: I have to say I find it difficult to translate some of your more frothing extrapolations of what I actually said (how, for example, was I trying deny housing to the under-privileged and freeze them to death by pointing out that that the Climate Commissioner was economical with his evidence?) but I can agree with some of the more restrained points.

    “Measuring and modelling morbidity is a tricky thing”, for example. It is. But that is not quite what the Climate Commissioner said, is it? He suggested that the measuring and modelling had been done and climate change will cause more deaths. No if, buts or trickys. I was merely pointing out that there are papers suggesting there are some.

    Neither do I dispute the undesirability of a “global trade in morbidity”, but then I didn’t mention one and I am not sure why you apparently think I did. Perhaps you refer to the potential increase in deaths in hot places where deaths by cold are not really a current issue. Of course that could become a concern. But I doubt that it is what the Australian Climate Commissioner, who is issuing his portentous warnings to Australians, the vast majority of whom do not live in the tropics, had in mind. He certainly didn’t say it was residents of tropical developing countries he was addressing

    Whether it is harder to address cooling people in heat waves than warming them in cold ones is more moot. Do you have a reference? And, if you read the literature “freezing to death” is not the point. The vast majority of cold related deaths are caused by common illnesses eg flu which are exacerbated in cold weather.

    I deliberately didn’t mention DDT specifically, precisely in order to avoid the sort of non-answer you have given, which gets us nowhere, but you have managed to trot it out anyway. Standard on the Deltoid talking point list I guess. Pleased that you seem to give me the dangers of pointless rainwater tanks though.

    I will regrettably be unavailable for further jousting for the rest of the weekend. Your response if any will not even have to be convincing to win. Lucky you.

  21. Oh yes, Fran, and as for “Shorter: Wozza still hurts”, if you mean “Wozza has a considerably longer attention span than the LP average; he remembers that he was banned from commenting on a certain incident involving Flannery on the grounds that our Tim is beyond reproach; and he is now deriving a wry amusement from continuing coverage outside this blog of the incident in question which, as exchanges stand at the moment, leaves the ball firmly in Flannery’s court to counter what seems like excellent evidence that he has been telling porkies, a ball which Flannery shows no signs of even approaching let alone getting successfully over the net”, then you are right.

    Not sure that that amounts to hurts, actually, but can see why you would want to shorten the unexpurgated version.

  22. Wozza, you are making sh*t up. You can’t read my mind. It’s not a matter of Tim being beyond reproach, I’m simply not interested in where he owns a house.

    I’m out for the day, but this thread had better stay civil. Just stop commenting on other commenters, please, everyone

  23. Brian: As you know I have spent a lot of time working in the hotter parts of Australia, and fair bit of that outside of air conditioned offices. My take on the death rate associated with heat waves is that the issue is “unusually hot weather” rather than the temperature as such. Part of the problem is that parts of the body (such as kidneys) adjust to higher and lower temperatures but this adjustment occurs slowly as the season changes.
    Part of the problem are building designs, work practices etc. that are not suited to what happens in unusually hot weather.
    The other problem is that people who are not used to to the unusually hot weather don’t have the strategies for dealing with this weather.
    We had an interesting experience during the heat waves in Europe that killed a lot of old people. Wrote to an elderly friend in Sweden with suggestions based on living in the Pilbara including “drink a lot of water” and, if it gets real bad “wet your clothes and sit in front of a fan or open window. Got a tart little note back which talked about the dangers of drinking too much water and “her mother told her you must stay away from drafts in wet clothing.” Fortunately the temperatures in Sweden didn’t get high enough to be a problem.
    Heat stress depends a lot on humidity. 35 deg should feel OK in SA because the very hot days are due to hot, dry northerly winds. By contrast 35 deg in Darwin would be very uncomfortable due to the much higher humidity.
    Read an article in an old New Scientist that said that, within reason, wet bulb temperature is a better guide to heat stress than dry bulb temperature. It pointed out that people are unlikely to survive a wet bulb temperature of 35 deg because sweating would no longer be able to keep the body temperature at the required level. The article also suggested that climate warming may make the wet bulb temperature high enough in some places in the world to make them truly unlivable.

  24. I&U: I do think it is important to have some rough figures on carbon consumption for comparison of countries. This highlights the hypocrisy of countries that have reduced their emissions by exporting their emission intensive industries.

  25. John D @27,

    I don’t think it is hypocrisy if a country that has chosen to introduce a carbon price “exports” its emissions-intensive industries to countries who have chosen not to. As has been noted above, the only way to prevent this happening is to institute a carbon border tariff, which is all but impractical. (Australia is attempting to prevent it happening by subsidising those emissions-intensive industries, but at some cost to the remainder of our economy.)

    The blame should surely fall squarely on the countries that are not introducing carbon pricing, and gaining a (short-term) benefit from free-riding on the goodwill of others.

  26. Wozza, your comment at 18 is just ridiculous. What does it even have to do with Flannery? Do you think he wrote the whole thing himself? And why are you comparing its findings to some study from America, when the Climate Commission report is explicitly only about Australia? Do you think cold-weather related deaths are a significant issue in Australia, that will be reduced by global warming? Because I think you’ll find the balance of temperature-related deaths in Australia is not comparable to the USA.

    You then start ranting on about mosquito control. The only infectious disease that the Climate Commission summary talks about is Dengue Fever, and they state that as temperatures warm, the population at risk of Dengue Fever could increase by a factor of 10-16. Has it occurred to you that mosquito control in Australia will be significantly more difficult if it has to be expanded 10-fold? And do you have any evidence that “green activism” is responsible for a reduction in effective pesticides? Why talk about rainwater tanks only? What about swimming pools and water features? I guess you’ll blame those on “green activism” too if it suits your propaganda purposes…

  27. sg @ 29, the report was written by Lesley Hughes and Tony McMichael. Working today, I was thinking that whenever Tim Flannery puts his head up someone wants to tip a bucket on him. The aim seems to be to destroy his reputation. I suspect that’s what Hadley’s about.

    The main report only talks about dengue fever too. The same could be said, I think, about Ross River fever and the Hendra virus. Very few people are taken by crocodiles or bitten by snakes, but I understand crocs and taipans are appearing further south.

    John D, I think I agree with most of what you said @ 26 and also read the New Scientist article.

    The report identifies groups at risk as the young, the old, people on low incomes, remote indigenous communities, physical workers, those with existing medical conditions, rural communities and tourists, including domestic tourists.

    BTW the report says that 374 more people than usual died from the heat wave associated with the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, mostly the elderly. Wikipedia says that 173 died from the actual fires.

  28. Brian: I am not saying that people don’t die in heatwaves, just that the definition of a heatwave depends on what people are used to handling.

  29. Agreed, John.

    This is not scientific, but I put it to a retired professor of veterinary science who grew up in Townsville that people who live there and know how to cope should have the same life expectancy as we do. He disagreed.

    He is a very intelligent and rational person, qualified to practice medically on all mammals except one. So I respect his opinion, but wonder what the statistics would tell us.

  30. Brian notes the massive expansion of Bowen’s coal export facilities and draws attention to the limited future of coal as a fuel. Coal export is the carbon elephant in the room that everyone still pretends is not there but this will not last much longer.
    Here is an extract of a comment by Gideon Polya to a New Matilda article
    I found his comment particularly interesting wrt the Gillard government’s commitment to our clean green future.
    Success in “tackling climate change” is surely measured in terms of GHG pollution reduction but Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution increased from 1,077 Mt CO2-e (CO2 equivalent) in 2000 to 1,415 million tonnes CO2-e in 2009 and is expected to reach about 1,799 Mt CO2-e by 2020 and 4,490b Mt CO2-e in 2050.
    However Treasury ABARE and US EIA data show the following Australian Domestic and Exported GHG pollution (in millions of tonnes of CO2-equivalent, Mt CO2-e) for Australia under the proposed Carbon Price plan:
    2000: 555 (Domestic) + 505 (coal exports) + 17 (LNG exports) = 1,077.
    2009: 600 (Domestic) + 784 (coal exports) + 31 (LNG exports) = 1,415.
    2010: 578 (Domestic) + 803 (coal exports) + 34 (LNG exports) = 1,415.
    2020: 621 (Domestic) + 1,039 (black coal exports) + 80 (LNG exports) + 59 (brown coal exports) = 1,799.
    2050: 527 (Domestic) + 2902 (coal exports) + 1,061 (LNG exports) = 4,490.
    Treasury analysis in its key July 2011 report “Strong Growth, Low Pollution – Modelling a Carbon Price” (see:… ) shows (above) that Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution was 578 Mt CO2-e in 2010 but INCREASES to 621 MT CO2-e by 2020, an INCREASE of +11.9% over the 2000 value i.e. NOT a “5% decrease of 2000 Domestic GHG pollution by 2020” as promised by Labor.

    Guy Pearse has commented on more or less the same issue:
    “Australia may well treble rather than double its coal exports by 2020. Factor in the “carbon light” CO2 from coal seam gas projects in the East (and other LNG expansion in the north and west) and you’re talking about Australia’s fossil fuel emission exports equating to TWO Saudi Arabias by 2020, not one as I’ve been saying to many disbelieving ears.
    This would mean that by 2020 the 159mtpa CO2-e saved by the Gillard CEF (with heavy reliance on imported offsets, many of which I expect to be very dodgy) would be erased more around 10 times over.”

  31. sg even by your standards @29 is ludicrously uninformed.

    sg said “What does it even have to do with Flannery?” Er, he is the chief Climate Commissioner. The Climate Commission released the scaremongering report under discussion. But he is not accountable for it in any way according to you?

    sg said “Do you think cold-weather related deaths are a significant issue in Australia, that will be reduced by global warming?” Depends what you mean by significant, but for the overwhelming majority of Australia’s population weather-related deaths as a whole will reduce with global warming for a couple of generations at least. If you care to define current cold-related deaths as not significant, then neither by that definition are heat-related deaths in that period. See eg the Garnaut report: “In Australia as a whole and across all cases, small declines in total annual temperature-related deaths are expected in the first half of the century due to decreased cold-related sickness and death”. Even after that, according to Garnaut in southern Australia the nett effect will be positive (“number of annual temperature related deaths in NSW in 2100 expected to decrease by 30% in no mitigation case.”)

    sg said “The only infectious disease that the Climate Commission summary talks about is Dengue Fever”. Crap. The report says there will be an increase in “mosquito-borne infectious diseases such as dengue fever and Ross River virus”, which is at least 100% more diseases even if your unique interpretation of the English language regards “such as” as meaning “only”. Furthermore it goes on allege that there will be an increase in a raft of food and water-borne illnesses caused by “many infectious agents (especially bacteria, viruses, and single-cell organisms)”. It even alludes to warming-related increases in tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and viral encephalitis.

    Don’t you think you should read the material before telling us what it says?

    The report certainly spends a lot more time on dengue than the others, and I wouldn’t blame you for suspecting that that is because there is very little evidence to quote for anything else. Even for dengue, though, if you made minimal efforts to inform yourself before sounding off, you would know that it was found in Wagga Wagga in the 1940s. It was eliminated by improvements in reticulated water supply. Or as I put it in the comment you pour scorn on, water-borne diseases are far more an issue of safe water supply than of climate change.

    I could say more, especially about your lofty and evidence-free dismissal of studies from outside Australia, but I have gone on for long enough. I suggest you read up a bit – at the very least, the report under discussion – next time. This report is an agenda-driven scare story worthy of the Goracle himself.

  32. Brian @ 25

    Fair enough.

    I was not the commenter who originally introduced the Flannery/Hadley incident, which passed the moderation muster when it was being used to bash Hadley and the Australian. It was only ruled off limits when doubts about Flannery’s veracity and the justification for the bashing were raised. However, I clearly drew the wrong conclusion from this and I apologise.

    Mind you I might retract that if my comment of a few minutes ago doesn’t survive the moderation axe that is currently hovering over it.

  33. John D @ 26
    Australian Climate Commission study, endorsed by health groups including the Australian Medical Association and the nurses’ federation, shows heat-related death rates could rise to between 8000 and 11,000 people per year by the end of the century, from a base figure of just under 6000 in 1990.

    These are likely to be the aged and infirm and the very young. Of course there are precautions that can be taken but many of these involve use of power. Add in increasingly likely power cuts, and watch the deaths skyrocket. In 2009 heatwave Melbourne’s morgue was over capacity.

  34. Doug and Brian: Has anyone got some hard data showing that the number of people admitted to hospital and dying in the hotter parts of Aus is higher than it is in Melbourne?

  35. John D @ 40, can’t help, sorry.

    Wozza @ 38, at this stage I’d be interested in the results of a piece of investigative journalism on the Hadley/Flannery business, but I’m not interested in a ‘he said, she said’ type stoush.

    @ 37, are you referring to Garnaut’s original review or the update? A page reference would be really helpful.

    Generally to all, it should be possible to disagree with other commenters without making derogatory remarks about them.

  36. Trouble is, Brian, it’s difficult to be civil to Wozza because he’s such a [redacted].

  37. Wozza, you quote Garnaud with approval:

    See eg the Garnaut report: “In Australia as a whole and across all cases, small declines in total annual temperature-related deaths are expected in the first half of the century due to decreased cold-related.

    [my emphasis]

    We are now 38 years from the end of the first half of the 21st century. In the long history of the world 38 years is less than the blink of an eye.

    If you agree with Garnaud’s analysis then you accept that in the lifespan of many who are reading these words the balance of mortality that in largely temperate climates such as the heavily populated parts if Australia will reverse. That is, for the first time in recorded history deaths caused by high temperatures will outnumber deaths caused by low temperatures.

    Is this prediction not both significant and disturbing, given the unprecedentedly rapid change in world climate?

  38. Re Health

    The original work is here:$File/03-A%20Three%20health%20outcomes.pdf

    I prepared the max temps. Note that no climate change, just population increase is worse than climate change projected to about 2060. After that, mitigation wins out. The delay in the turnover from cold-related to heat-related deaths allows mitigation to provide net benefits according to the model.

    However, all these assumptions are based on warming being linear. It is not. If the recent deaths with heat waves documented in the latest report are factored into non-linear warming profiles, the cushion in the linear model may be removed. Current days about 35C in Victoria are equal to those projected for 2030. More work needs to be done in this space, but it puts the stoush above into some perspective.

  39. I think that what’s behind the line taken by Wozza and others is that we are worrying unnecessarily about the effects of global warming and climate change, if it exists and is significantly contributed to by human beings.

    Leaving aside the scepticism/denialism element, actions we take or fail to take now will have implications, not just for the next 40 or 90 years, but for centuries to come. Katz is right to draw attention to the time element in the broader context.

    There is an argument that what we have done in the last 150 years has changed the geologic period from Holocene to Anthropocene. We need to be aware of our broader responsibilities as well as cope with the pluses and minuses in effects for the next few decades.

  40. Brian @ 45.

    Yes, exactly, at least in relation to the impact on health in Australia (which is after all what the Climate Commission report was addressing) that is what I am saying. While I am inclined to agree with Fran that modelling the impact of temperature on mortality and morbidity has so many uncertainties its even medium-term value is debatable, it is all we (and the Climate Commission) have to go on. And it says that the impact will be an improvement right across Australia until the second half of the century, and in the more populous southern states till 2100 (and I will eat my hat if improvements in health care and technology by that time, or even by 2050, don’t make current modelling forecasts of death numbers completely worthless).

    If climate change happens in the way most here believe it will, there are far more pressing issues to deal with than health impacts. One might query why the Climate Commission has chosen nonetheless to highlight it. Nothing to do with wanting a good scare story to help cow the voters into being less recalcitrant about the government’s climate policies and bugger the facts, though, I’m sure.

    Doug Evans @39: “Add in increasingly likely power cuts, and watch the deaths skyrocket”. Yes this (and soaring electricity prices causing people not to use heating and cooling even when power is available) is certainly a worry, which one assumes is not factored into the morbidity models. But it is mostly a consequence of precisely the silly energy policies that the Climate Commission, while weeping crocodile tears about health, is promoting. If there are serious concerns about temperature related health effects, the last thing you should be doing is cheering for abolition of the coal industry in favour of more expensive and less reliable sources of energy. Fortunately though there are not.

    As for the dishonesty of the Age – apocalyptic headlines about increasing heat related deaths, ignore of decreasing cold-related – well all I can say is who would have thunk it?

  41. Wozza, I don’t think Dengue fever is endemic to Australia. Outbreaks occur when the virus is imported from overseas. The first deaths in 100 years were recorded in 2004 after a particularly virulent outbreak. The mosquito exists in areas where virus outbreaks don’t occur, but the risk with climate change is that the size of the regions in which the virus can survive is going to increase. Outbreak strength and probability depends on minimum temperatures, which will increase in a wide area of Australia over the next 100 years. Also note that prevalence of the disease overseas may increase, leading to a greater rate of importation.

    People are already raising the possibility that dengue fever might have become endemic. If that happens in a warming world, we will then face a shift from outbreaks to a continuing epidemic.

    Your argument is that this can be handled through better vector control. We already engage in vector control, but we still get outbreaks and the 2004 outbreak was particularly bad (4 different serotypes present, which is why people died). Why do you think we will be able to maintain control of larger and more frequent virus outbreaks in the future if we can’t do it now?

    I guess you think that malaria can be contained as its range expands, as well, even though we can’t control it at present…

  42. John D @40
    “Has anyone got some hard data showing that the number of people admitted to hospital and dying in the hotter parts of Aus is higher than it is in Melbourne?”

    No-one argues with the necessity for more climatically effective buildings and the mitigating effect of acclimatization. The importance of both of these I think underlays your questioning. Whether or not data/predictions exist specifically for Australia’s hotter bits I have no idea. However what is of relevance here is surely the situation that applies to those currently temperate bits of Australia where nearly everyone lives not what applies to those already hot bits of Australia where relatively few people live.

  43. @39…

    “shows heat-related death rates could rise to between 8000 and 11,000 people per year by the end of the century, from a base figure of just under 6000 in 1990.”

    Uh-huh… so, using some nominal population growth figures, we can expect heat related deaths to drop per capita. (please refer Bunyip, who bothered to look up the numbers).

    Where’s the problem, exactly?

  44. Ok.. so I just went and had a look at the Garnaut link.

    That quote is badly simplifying the conclusions.

    The actual figures in the report are:
    * +8.5k for no climate change (population increase only)
    * +7.6k for a mitigation strategy (how’d they figure that?)
    * + *17k for the ‘we’ll all be rooned’ scenario.

    Of more interest is the ridiculous graph on pp16, where the hospitalisations due to the various scenarios are expanded. There’s no significant difference in any of the scenarios.

  45. Duncan, I think that newspaper report might be misreading the report. The report states (page 15) that

    the balance of national annual temperature-related deaths was estimated to increase from around 5,800 in 1990 to 6,400 in 2020, 7,900 in 2050 and 17,200 in 2100 (Bambrick et al., 2008)

    The associated graph (Figure 6) shows clearly that the figure in 2020 will be about the same as 1990. This is the balance of temperature-related deaths, i.e. it is consistent with the claim in the previous paragraph that death rates will drop in the middle of the first half of the century, but then increase by 2050. Note this chart and the text is not only about heat-related deaths.

    I’m not sure where the newspaper got the figure of 11,000 deaths by 2100 from. A wilful misreading of Figure 6 might get you there, if you assume that the 17000 in 2100 is entirely heat-related and the 6000 in 1990 is partly heat-related. But it would be better to just report the figures …

    The report also makes clear that the deaths are not evenly distributed, observing a 10-fold increase in Queensland compared to a slight decrease in NSW.

  46. Doug @ 48: Part of what I am saying is that the temperate parts of Aus will warm slowly and that people, buildings, clothing, work practices etc. will adapt as this happens.
    I am more concerned about the movement of weather patterns and the frequency of extreme events. For example, think about how well Brisbane would survive a cyclone Yasi given that few houses would meet cyclone area standards.

  47. It sounds good to talk about converting agricultural waste into bio fuels. After all it means we get some fuel without threatening food production doesn’t it? However, there is a catch here. In the future it may make sense to use edible insects and other arthropods as a source of protein and other nutrients. Many edible insects use far less food and water to produce protein. For example, Wikipedia says that

    The intentional cultivation of arthropods for human food, referred to as minilivestock, is now emerging in animal husbandry as an ecologically sound concept. Minilivestocking suggests that a wide variety of small animals, including arthropods, be reared as nutritious food, the major advantage being that they do not have to be fed on grains thus saving many crop species for human consumption. It is also considered to be much more ecologically friendly than traditional livestocking.[27][28]
    Insects generally have a higher food conversion efficiency than more traditional meats, measured as efficiency of conversion of ingested food, or ECI.[29] While many insects can have an energy input to protein output ratio of around 4:1, raised livestock has a ratio closer to 54:1.[30] This is partially due to the fact that feed first needs to be grown for most traditional livestock. Additionally endothermic (warm-blooded) vertebrates need to use a significantly greater amount of energy just to stay warm whereas ectothermic (cold blooded) plants or insects do not.[31] An index which can be used as a measure is the Efficiency of conversion of ingested food to body substance: for example, only 10% of ingested food is converted to body substance by beef cattle, versus 19–31% by silkworms and 44% by German cockroaches. Studies concerning the house cricket (Acheta domesticus) provide further evidence for the efficiency of insects as a food source. When reared at 30°C or more and fed a diet of equal quality to the diet used to rear conventional livestock, crickets showed a food conversion twice as efficient as pigs and broiler chicks, four times that of sheep, and six times higher than steers (oxen) when losses in carcass trim and dressing percentage are counted.[12]

    Mexican chapulines
    Insects reproduce at a faster rate than beef animals. A female cricket can lay from 1,200 to 1,500 eggs in three to four weeks, while for beef the ratio is four breeding animals for each market animal produced. This gives house crickets a true food conversion efficiency almost 20 times higher than beef.[12] For this reason and because of the essential amino acids content of insects, some people, on ecological grounds, propose the development of entomophagy to provide a major source of protein in human nutrition. Protein production for human consumption would be more effective and consume fewer resources than vertebrate protein. This makes insect meat more ecological than vertebrate meat.
    Insects have attractive qualities for food production besides their high energy efficiency. For example the spatial usage and water requirements are only a fraction of that required to produce the same mass of food with cattle farming. Production of 150g of grasshopper meat requires only very little water, while cattle requires 3290 liters to produce the same amount of beef.[32]

    The other advantage of edible insects is that many of them can be fed on the agricultural waste that some people think should be converted to biofuel. So we are back to the fuel or food argument.
    At the moment the most promising source of biofuels appear to be algae based systems that can use salt water.

  48. Aquaculture of sea weed has serious potential as a source of biofuel:

    If you compare efficiency of algae as a fuel source to other proven sources, there’s no comparison. Soy produces 40 to 50 gallons of biofuel per acre, rapeseed between 110 and 115, mustard 140, and palm oil 650. Algae, on the other hand, has the potential to produce 10,000 gallons of biofuel per acre. And most importantly, seaweed can absorb five times more carbon dioxide than land-based plants.

    I can see potential problems. The quote is presumably based on very fast growing varieties such as giant kelp. The article also talks about using seaweed aquaculture to produce food so we may be back to the old food vs fuel conflict.

  49. sg the Climate Commission report (pp20-21) says:

    Dengue is currently confined to northern Queensland, where outbreaks occur almost annually (Ritchie, 2009; Russell, et al., 2009). In 2008-09, over 1,000 cases occurred in and around Cairns (Fitzsimmons et al., 2010). Outbreaks may increase because wetter conditions favour mosquito breeding and warmer temperatures speed up the maturation of viruses within the mosquitoes. These outbreaks may become more difficult to control and more geographically widespread, and have broader public health consequences such as reducing the pool of available blood donors (Bambrick et al. 2009). There is evidence that the geographic range of the disease within Queensland may have expanded in recent years (Hu et al., 2011).

    Does this make it endemic by the usual definition?

  50. Brian, it’s not endemic. The virus is brought here by international travellers and then spread by local mosquitos. Wetter conditions or higher mean minimum temperatures make outbreaks more likely, more widespread, and more virulent.

    Controlling vector-borne diseases in mosquitos is really really hard, and anything which increases their range or virulence is a bad, bad thing.

  51. @53

    JohnD, slow, gradual warming is an assumption that I do not believe is correct. There was an abrupt change in maximum temperature in SE Aust in 1997-98 that raised temps by 0.8C through to 2011 compared to 1973-1996. This means that extreme temps in Victoria are already at the 2030 level projected in the Climate Commission’s report.

    Climate models produces the same sort of shifts that we see in observations but the statistical methods to assess and attribute change used by most of climate science smooth these out. This is one area where the consensus is incorrect, and unfortunately leads to risk being under-estimated. I’m in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union meeting this week to shake the tree.

  52. From the Medical Observer

    DENGUE fever remains a public health hazard in north Queensland, despite the success of a project aimed at eradication, says a medical entomologist.

    Professor Scott Ritchie, from James Cook University in Cairns, was commenting on two studies published in Nature into the potential of a dengue ‘vaccine’ for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. They found that infecting mosquitoes with strains of the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis protects them from dengue virus.

    Some 300,000 of these dengue-resistant mosquitoes were released into the Yorkeys Knob and Gordonvale regions, near Cairns, in January this year.

    Within months, they had replaced 80-100% of the wild, non-resistant mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

    However, researchers are still unclear as to whether the approach will translate into fewer clinical cases presenting.

    “GPs still need to be on their toes looking for dengue cases,” said Professor Ritchie. “This [successful project] doesn’t mean we can ignore dengue.”

    He also pointed to the growing number of imported cases of dengue from south-east Asia, the Pacific and South America in the past two to three years.

    “We’re not all that far away from calling dengue endemic in Australia,” he added.

    Professor Ritchie said that since 2000, there have been more than 35 dengue outbreaks in Australia, comprising 2400 confirmed cases, including three fatalities.

  53. John D @40 and elsewhere
    Had a glance at the Climate Commission report. It seems at least one study finds the impact of warming on the already hot bits of Australia might be severe. I doubt this could really count as ‘hard data’, everyone seems to be talking about the need for more study etc. Anyway the report says:

    “Under a worst-case scenario, unmitigated climate change may modestly reduce temperature-related deaths in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and NSW, due to reductions in the number of cold-related deaths; but, deaths could increase markedly in Queensland and the Northern Territory (with 10 times as many deaths by the end of the century compared with no climate change) and in Western Australia (twice as many deaths) (Bambrick et al., 2008).”

    Completely agree with your other comment about the vulnerability of more southerly centres (like Brisbane) to extreme weather events like cyclones. So much to do so little time……

  54. Brian,

    The paper on consumption-based accounting of emissions that you link to @56 is very interesting. It does suggest that, due to carbon leakage, production-based caps on emissions in developed countries are not effective in mitigating growth in consumption-based emissions in those countries.

    Nevertheless, I think it is a mistake to see this as a problem with production-based mitigation. Fundamentally, the problem is that major carbon “exporters” such as China do not currently have emissions caps or associated carbon prices. Once those are in place, the carbon emissions associated with consumer products would be included in the price of those products, wherever those products were produced. Consumers, wherever they were located, would then efficiently switch to low-carbon consumption.

    I think it is also a mistake to see this situation as inequitable (other than the underlying inequity that Western consumers are far more affluent than Chinese producers). If and when there is global trading of emissions permits, Chinese producers will simply use the revenue from Western consumers to buy permits to cover the associated emissions.

    However, without global emissions trading there could be inequity, as the Chinese carbon “exports” would drive up carbon prices within China and so unfairly impact on Chinese consumers.

  55. Yes Roger @60, dengue fever becoming endemic would be a real problem. Currently outbreaks are guaranteed to be localized and may well die out on their own, or are easily controlled. Once it becomes endemic then we will have a phenomenon resembling seasonal flu, only tropical. Also, there are 4 serotypes and re-infection with a different serotype has a much higher risk of fatality. Once the disease is endemic this problem will increase in frequency, even if only one serotype is endemic.

    It seems like the main determinant of whether dengue becomes endemic is the frequency of introduction and the minimum mean temperatures in the area. Given both of these are related to AGW, it looks like the medical establishment are genuinely worried about it.

  56. @63 Yep sg. Talking to medical professionals working on climate and small island states, they worry about those several serotypes ganging up on people. It seems that dengue in Australia is on the cusp of becoming resident. The bigger issue then, is if two or more serotypes took hold.

    Mosquito breeding is the principal method of managing disease spread in the Caribbean for example. One of the biggest contributors was standing water around houses after wet ENSO events (El Nino, I think). Old tyres, water tanks, drums etc.

    Infecting mosquito populations sounds much more efficient.

  57. Roger @59: weather data for Newman 1981 to 1987 gave the following averages:
    Days/yr with max >40 deg=42
    ” ” >35 =140
    ” ” >30 =214
    (I moved from Melbourne to Newman 1982 leaving 1992 and was out in the bush most weekends .) As far as I know, no-one who died at Newman did so because of heat related issues.
    Perhaps these figures and others in the link explain why i am a bit skeptical about high temperatures as such causing deaths. Ditto a 0.8 deg C rise being big enough to require dramatic adaption.
    During summer months at Newman you are conscious of the temperature and water consumption in a way that you aren’t in the cooler parts of Aus.

  58. For those ice melters, an interesting talk I went to today at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Fran: the latest iteration of BEDMAP – the topographic map of Antarctica without the ice. Here’s the BBC link. Still a lot to do but very interesting to see all the sub-sea level valleys right across the continent.

  59. John D,

    acclimatisation is important. In the Melbourne 2009 heatwave which was associated with the rise I quoted, 374 more people died than otherwise would have (seasonally adjusted). The point is not the temperatures themselves but the associated exposure. Most of those who died were above 75. Other vulnerabilities to heat stress include heart disease, mental health problems and diabetes.

    On hot days down here everyone bails out of the public commission high rise apartments, so substandard housing is another issue. Aboriginal people living on the Darling system moved down onto the Murray system during the hot, dry weather.

    I know – let’s send all our old and infirm to Newman. They’ll obviously be fine.

  60. Jess, I’m at the AGU also but have been hiding doing a poster (hate the bloody things – so time consuming), on extreme temps amongst other things. Email me – we could catch up.

  61. It seems to me, after reading all the commentary here, that the direct health impacts of climate change are pretty trivial and easily adaptable (for Australia at least), compared to all of the other potential impacts. I think the second-hand impacts on health would be more significant – less economic growth means less money for general health, more stress on rural communities, more fatalities due to bushfires, things like that.

  62. Roger: All else equal, even the old and infirm from Melbourne might actually have a better chance of surviving a heat wave in Newman because the facilities are designed to deal with very hot weather and the staff looking after the old and infirm would know how to look after these people in very hot weather. People who have lived in Newman for a long time should have an even better chance because they know what has to be done and their bodies will have adapted.

  63. @69 Wilful, I thought the same for a long time, but have been persuaded by my health colleagues that it matters more than it seems at first glance. I now think that rolling brown-outs and substandard housing on sequences of very hot days are worse than we think. This is all fixable, of course, as are vulnerabilities in indigenous populations to a changing climate. The problem is that the institutional barriers to both are substantial.

    Ironically, population health, which is a big political driver, looks like being one of the main levers in adaptation in Victoria, now that climate change has been decreed not to exist in policyworld. I do think that managing extreme heat should be one of the main elements of urban design. Planting big aircons on roofs doesn’t cut it.

  64. Well jumpy , I stand to be corrected, but I heard it was only the lowest December maximum since 1888. It was 19C so hardly life-threatening!

  65. Wilful @69

    You’re sounding like Lomborg. As he has pointed out time after time – and never been refuted, other than with the usual series of ad homs that constitutes argument in some quarters – if one prioritises population health as an critical issue, the best way to make an impact is to put resources directly into population health, targeting the specific issues that are most easily and least expensively resolved, and that maximise improved overall outcomes. Not pissing money against the climate change wall and claiming that that is actually a population health policy, as the Climate Commission advocates. And of course was created to advocate, so it is just doing its (misconceived) job.

    Governments though – and this one is one of the worst offenders – like to suggest that their policies will lead to the best of all possible worlds. We may be advancing a policy to deal with A, but, hey look, it will benefit B, C, D etc as well. And disbenefit, well nothing that we’re going to admit to. Trade-offs don’t exist. Nor do opportunity costs.

    Well actually they do. Prioritising and targeting policies are essential to maximise impact. It may be – I don’t think so, but that is irrelevant to the point of principle – that climate change is such a high priority that the attention and dollars it is getting is justified. If so, justify it in those terms. Not in terms of health (or other things) that are peripheral at best.

    The health argument reminds me of the straight-faced assertion in the Guardian (I think) that climate change is responsible for an increasing incidence of prostitution in Bulgaria. Of course there are plenty of other silly things laid at the climate change door, but that remains my personal favourite.

  66. Glad to hear it chaps, and still maintain a sense of humour ,good for you.

    Although, I suspect, if you were going through the highest December maximum since 1888( as some predicted) , the mood would be less jovial. Some even hysterical I fear.

    I’m happy that’s not the case.( this time)

  67. Jumpy, we are having a La Nina, so you wouldn’t expect it to be excessively hot. You’d also expect it to be a bit wet, which we are finally getting. We had the driest beginning to November since 1914, or something like that, so the weather here continues to surprise, which we also expect.

  68. Jumpy: You will be comforted to know that the cold snap was preceded by some uncomfortably hot weather. So far it hasn’t started snowing on the side of Mt Coutha where I live.

  69. I agree here with Wozza:

    if one prioritises population health as an critical issue, the best way to make an impact is to put resources directly into population health, targeting the specific issues that are most easily and least expensively resolved

    except that we can do both. Also, I’m looking forward to Wozza’s advocating for a massive increase in funding for indigenous health. And development aid for health. Outside of Indigenous health, Australia is doing pretty well and has more than enough cash to throw around on mitigating future health threats.

    Where I disagree with Wozza is on the international development aspects of climate change and health. If the range of countries affected by malaria increase, that’s a lot of extra deaths. Also, we need to note that countries in Africa and South East Asia will suffer severely under increased temperatures. Cambodia, for example, is already pretty damn hot in summer, and it doesn’t have a temperate zone to offset the damage like, say, China or the USA. Not to mention the problems of water quality management in a country like Bangladesh.

    Another aspect of health policy that is often neglected in discussing the effects of climate change is nutrition. Nutrition is a central issue in modern health and development debates, and the countries currently suffering the most serious malnutrition problems are also most vulnerable to changes in food markets due to global warming. Something like 40% of children in South Asia suffer stunting. If global food markets become more vulnerable to price spikes and sustained shortages due to environmental problems, you’re looking at huge health problems.

    Australia is, of course, isolated from all this. But our farms feed a lot of vulnerable countries, and our farms are vulnerable to climate change. It’s a good thing that people like Wozza have got their eye on these kinds of issues.

  70. Fran, you actually substituted a comment with a link with a comment without a link. I’ve now reinserted the link.

    Wozza, @ 77, this is surely a no-brainer:

    if one prioritises population health as an critical issue, the best way to make an impact is to put resources directly into population health

    What we have here is the old (false) choice between adaptation and mitigation. We have to do both.

    As to the rest of the comment it amounts to a straw man. I’ve never seen an argument that health effects constitute the major reason for doing mitigating climate change. It’s always been there as part of the mix, but in a minor role.

    Although for me the importance of health has increased somewhat as part of this thread, the reason for doing something about climate change centres around such things as (not in any particular order and not exhaustive):

    1. Sea level rise, where the median prediction of about 1.1m this century could see the direct displacement of 150 million people or more.

    2. Ocean acidity. See the segment about the warming of the Southern Ocean in the segment above the one on health in the post above. There are concerns about the impact on the food chain, as well as coral reefs.

    3. Impact on species in terms of extinction or their ability to move.

    4. Changes in weather patterns and the impact of same in terms of extreme events and disrupting food production.

    5. The danger of triggering tipping points such as the frying of the Amazon and the release of methane from the Arctic tundras and tropical peat lands.

    That will do for starters.

    Health professionals would be delinquent in their duty if they didn’t try to tease out the health impacts of climate change. There’s more to be done, as Roger says, but the featured paper is a contribution.

  71. “”Save our dying planet!””
    That’s a bit dishonest, isn’t it?
    The planet will be just fine.
    Just sayin

  72. But seriously, We know that both CO2 and temp levels have been much higher in the past, yet shell forming sea life ,a very early form of life, persist.
    I have searched for ” historical ocean PH level” to compere with CO2 and temp, without luck.
    A little help please.
    Oh,and the ocean isn’t acidic, it’s basic . The headlines should be ” The Ocean is becoming less basic!!!11!”

  73. Save our dying planet is a bit rhetorical. Planets aren’t alive and so don’t die.

    On the other hand, we are kind of keen on the biosphere continuing to provide 7 going on 9 billion humans with the services that make life uniquely possible on this little blue lump of rock.

    Most people’s regard for ‘the planet’ begins and ends with that consideration. So the statement above is not so much rhetorical as an exercise in metonymy — in which the planet stands for human wellbeing.

  74. Good try Fran, but no.
    You of all people respect accuracy , (or so i thought) not ” what most people regard).

    And the planet has seen far worse.
    It’s unsustainable human population growth( as you point out) that is the major culprit leading to ” all species ” devastation , (but that argument is for a different thread, not here).

    Even if Earth had a personality, it wouldn’t give a rodents rectum.

  75. My last on this (health); it is beginning to go round in circles.

    sg I disagree with very little you have said, except what I take to be the bottom-line message for policy-makers, which (as with Brian) continues at least implicitly to be the magic pudding: we can do it all, what’s this about needing to make choices.

    Yes, water quality in developing countries, nutrition in health and development, and the other things related to development that sg raises are very important and need to be supported. But (and leaving aside for the moment that the discussion started with a critique of a Climate Commission paper which is totally about the Australian situation and nothing, repeat nothing, to do with making progress in developing countries) that is true regardless of climate change. Climate change may (or may not) change or exacerbate some of the challenges – and identifying how is an issue – but it doesn’t fundamentally alter them, and progress in improving them will be better made by targeting and resourcing nutrition etc in their own right than targeting climate change.

    It is more than a little hypocritical to claim health in the third world as a priority and then suggest that the way to deal with it is through spin offs from climate change mitigation. I know no-one is saying that those spin offs are all that should be done, but, people, there are trade offs and opportunity costs in the real world that constrain total effort and require recognising that what produces a positive outcome for one policy area can be a negative for another.

    For example, climate change policies which put energy prices up and make electricity unreliable – which they are doing; we can debate the degree – will impact on heating and cooling use, and thus health, in Australia (small example but used as it has already been raised on this thread and not disputed). And resources are limited so we can’t do everything. Billions subsidising wind and solar are billions that can’t go into health or assisting developing countries.

    To suggest, Brian, in my view, that adaptation and mitigation is a false dichotomy is creating a straw man. It is not an either/or, and I have never, at least intentionally, said it is. Both can be done, no question, but it is an issue of balance, and of the total pie going to both combined in relation to what goes to non-climate funding. Decisions on which projects to fund and what policy directions to follow are still needed. We can do both is a truism, not a helpful guide to the practical decision making, which is all about strict prioritisation to make best use of resources and minimise negative impacts from decisions in one policy area on others.

    Sorry, there is a heavy helping of the completely obvious in all that, but then there is a heavy helping of belief in the magic pudding in some of the arguments that have been made on this thread

  76. Jumpy said:

    You of all people respect accuracy , (or so i thought) not ” what most people regard).

    It’s a question of salience. The words are of human origin. Humans have a perspective. Regard for “the planet” is from a contingent and human perspective.

    And the planet has seen far worse.

    Now you are doing it — reifying a lump of rock with an attached biosphere.

    It’s unsustainable human population growth (as you point out) that is the major culprit leading to ” all species ” devastation

    I made no such point. I simply pointed to the salience of the health of the biosphere to human interest. I don’t agree that the burgeoning human population is decisive in the health of the biosphere. It’s a problem but not the key one.

    Even if Earth had a personality, it wouldn’t give a rodents rectum.

    Hypothesis contrary to fact — the Earth has no personality so we can’t say what it would prefer if it had one.

  77. Wozza, I read today that Bill Gates is going to donate / grant/ invest[1] a billion dollars to/in China, specifically focused on developing Gen IV nuclear reactors. He is also simultaneously donating large amounts of money to Polio eradication – I think he has come up with a new style of loan for Pakistan, in which he loans them 250 million dollars to eradicate polio, and if they’re successful he waives repayments.

    Bill Gates seems to be able to find money for mitigating climate change, improving development prospects in poorer countries, and solving current health problems. His ideas on the link between development and child health and population control are excellent examples of how to think about these interlinked problems. Now, you can scream “opportunity cost” but I think we can all agree that such complaints are angels-on-pins type stuff. He’s finding ways to spend his money attacking multiple problems simultaneously, and it’s really hard to present a definite, solid case that the money could have been better spent on a different suite of problems.

    So, like, hey man, take a chill pill. We can do it! We can have it all!

    fn1: small difference, I know, but I’m very tired today and can’t be bothered finding the link[2]
    fn2: even though doing so would have taken less time than writing that footnote[3]
    fn3: or that one

  78. jumpy @90,
    I met Joanie Kleypas yesterday who ran the first lab experiments on coral and raised CO2. She had a poster on coral-seagrass interactions where maybe local draw up of CO2 in adjacent algae keep coral going. Maybe reefs + seagrass can keep local areas going. The Global Change Institute at Queensland U is running big tank experiments at the community level with raised CO2 and temp to look at the effects. There’s a larger FACE sea experiment going on that you’ll find by googling “coral reef free air”. There’s a lot of work going on in this space since those first trials in the late 90s.

    Past periods that were reef free include the Early Triassic. It wasn’t a happy time on land either (hot and dry – not much fossil evidence), and follows the Permian extinction that was caused by high CO2 emissions. Maybe from impact but maybe volcanics. A later extinction pulse may have come from marine clathrate release.

    Carbonate dissolution starts in the cold water where it is more soluble. Shelly species have always survived, mainly at higher latitudes. It’s also becoming clear that CO2 in seawater is highly variable locally, leaving the possibility of refugia existing. The marine extinctions at the end of the Permian, though were the largest we know of and got rid of the largest shelly fauna the earth ever harboured – the ammonites. Reefs as we know them were absent for a long time. Bivalves were favoured by the loss of competition. Big reefs only came when the CO2 cycle settled back a bit.

    These past events are neither “bad” nor “good” but give us an idea as to what the planet might be like under various conditions. (I myself would be impressed by an ammonite 120 cm across but have to settle for the thin-shelled and relatively tiny nautilus).

  79. Wozza @ 93, I notice that Fran is ignoring you, as I think are many others. That might tell you something.

    Your argument seems to be questioning priorities in spending on both climate adaptation and mitigation in favour of directly addressing problems. I’d suggest the real problem is that the developed countries, which are responsible for most of the existing GHGs in the atmosphere, are not recognising the gravity of the situation.

    Some years ago, when I was following trade issues more closely, I was shocked to find that the US was spending more on aid to Israel than to all of Africa. Twice as much, from memory, and the amount to all of Africa was a measly $3 billion. The total spent by developed countries on aid to developing countries was less than they were spending on subsidising their cows, which was running at $1 billion a day.

    The problem is not a lack of resources, rather a recognition of the dimensions of the problem.

    Reasonable funds must be spent on adaptation. The New Scientist recently reported that a severe cyclone hit Bangladesh in 1991, causing 130,000 deaths. They spent money on such things as shelters and early warning systems. In 2007 a similar cyclone caused fewer than a tenth of the deaths.

    The proposed Green Climate Fund, on which a deal at Durban seems near, is only $100 billion each year, a bagatelle in relation to what has been spent on wars, fossil fuel subsidies etc. And, I’ll warrant, less than is still being spent on subsidising cows.

    It’s a matter of recognition of the problem rather than finessing priorities.

    On mitigation, we have a situation where we are told that we must stay below 450ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere to give ourselves a 50:50 chance of the temperature staying at 2C or below. If we go above 2C there is an unacceptable chance that tipping points will trigger a 4C rise, which puts us in the zone where civilisation as we know it is threatened. The current commitments made through the Copenhagen Accord will give us 3.5C, we are told.

    The issue is how we do it equitably, recognising the legacy issue and the legitimate aspirations for development of the poorer countries. And in what time-frame.

    The amounts to address this situation, we are told, are not large, but even if they were we really don’t have a choice. To constantly suggest that we do is tiresome, to say the least.

  80. Brian said:

    The proposed Green Climate Fund, on which a deal at Durban seems near, is only $100 billion each year

    To put this into some perspective, world GDP is sometimes quoted at about $US70trillion, making the proposed fund 1/700th of world GDP.

    As many of the things that are in the fund would be consistent (or could be made consistent with) with MDGs it seems a fairly simple thing to agree.

  81. Roger@96
    Thank you.
    Just spent a couple of hours looking through ” Free air CO2 Enrichment” google results(PDF-athon!!), very interesting,some of it over my head but enjoyable anyway.
    I am still having trouble finding “historical ocean ph level data”.
    Shirley if the claim that atmospheric higher CO2 levels cause lower ocean ph levels then a comparison of observed data is essential.
    It must be out there, i just cant find it.

  82. Goodness me Jumps, you siddled up to the good Professor smartly. In my days we had to bribe the Reference Librarian with chocolates. Profs came only good when you had your shit together.

    BTW if you use ‘paleo’ rather than ‘historical’ and not bother with ‘level data’ in your lit search, you’ll make it a long way down the fairway 😉

  83. Ootz, my understanding is that the librarian accepts only bananas as bribes. Oook!

    (The last one took mere seconds, the second last I wanted to swot up on the Triassic event anyway)

    Yeah, jumpy – you’ve got to get a bit more focused with google. No more freebies! 😉

  84. sg and Brian. We will just have to agree to disagree then. Your belief in some kind of magic pudding is now quite explicit. I would hazard a guess that neither of you has been involved in public policy making at times of budgetary constraint (which is to say practically any time these days).

    Brian your example of US aid to Israel illustrates the problem with the “the resources are there” position, not its solution. You may not agree with that spending – I am dubious about it myself – but it has been a high US priority for 60 years through administrations of all kinds. That isn’t going to change. You have to work with competing pressures for resources not just deny them. The position that everything I want done is possible, government just needs to be sensible and align its spending priorities with my views, is not a very practical one.

    Has Fran had a promotion then? Not just the grammar controller now, but the arbiter of the quality of the argument in every post?

    LOL. Though you may have a point in an inverse sort of way. I will start getting more worried about my arguments about the time when Fran starts agreeing with more of them.

  85. Wozza said:

    Brian your example of US aid to Israel illustrates the problem with the “the resources are there” position, not its solution. You may not agree with that spending – I am dubious about it myself – but it has been a high US priority for 60 years through administrations of all kinds. That isn’t going to change. You have to work with competing pressures for resources not just deny them.

    You miss the point. Those wanting to say that the resources aren’t there can’t say they aren’t there if resources of similar magnitude are being applied to some other project with lesser warrant. That’s a political choice dressed up as a resource deficiency. Brian and others are entitled to make that explicit, whether or not some agency will in practice continue to treat the questionable project as sacrosanct.

  86. Wozza, I was involved in public policy and the delivery of services for over 22 years. Through good years and lean.

    It’s not a matter of a magic pudding, it’s a matter of a proper recognition of the threat and risk. In the example of the US, Africa and Israel, it’s a perception of geopolitical strategy compared with a lack of perception that low aid to Africa is costing and blunting many lives, who aren’t perceived as a geopolitical threat. Again, the amounts were trivial in terms of the US budget. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it illustrates the notion that priorities are determined by the values and perceptions of need rather than the availability of resources.

    The biggest problem with climate policy is that we have to take, in human and political terms, a long view of decades and centuries. In those terms the threat and the risk is existential and of such import that it should trump any improvement of services such as health at the margin.

    On health, my impression is that the biggest unmet needs in Australia are in mental health and dentistry, which do have to be considered in relation to such things as hospital waiting lists, as well as unmet needs in such areas as education, defence and social services. No magic puddings there.

  87. Ootz@102 said,

    “”Goodness me Jumps, you siddled up to the good Professor smartly. “”
    My original question@ 90 was an open one, Roger volunteered an answer and I thanked him with NO follow up question( a statment of frustration,sure). I thank you for your “paleo” tip, but please don’t take that as”offering chocolates ”

    Roger said “no more freebies!”

    No problem, tell me the going rate and i’ll weigh up the value.

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