Climate clippings 67

I’ve used a random image for the featured image of this post. I was going to use the one that once was my gravatar (to the left) but the original is quite small and it came up fuzzy. Actually I haven’t seen my gravatar for a long time, and haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. In fact I’m not sure what to do. It just disappeared one day along with a percentage of all other gravatars. I don’t see tigtog’s or Kim’s, for example. There is just an empty square where they should be.

Can anyone help?

Europe goes wind and solar

Nearly 70% of new electricity capacity in Europe was solar and wind. Gas also claimed a large share.

It’s expected that renewable electricity sources will meet 34% of demand in Europe by 2020, with 25 of 27 countries to surpass their targets beforehand.

I notice that coal is still hanging in there, with 5% of new capacity.

In the comparison with 2000 wind, gas and solar are the big movers, but coal is disappointingly resilient. With wind, solar and gas prices all declining to record lows hopefully the wind-back of nuclear will not see a resurgence of coal.

Electric green taxiing for aircraft

Budget airline easyJet chalks up across the fleet 3.5 million ground-miles a year in taxiing. Now they are planning to trial electric taxiing which could save 4% of fuel.

The airline is also planning to fly lightweight “ecoJets” 25% quieter, emitting 50% less carbon dioxide and 75% less nitrous oxides.

We need to get on our bikes

The Belgians have found that a slight shift in traffic composition from cars to motorcycles significantly reduces congestion and emissions. They found that:

if 10 percent of all private cars were replaced by motorcycles in the traffic flow of the test area, total time losses for all vehicles decreased by 40 percent and total emissions reduced by 6 percent (1 percent from the different traffic composition of more emission-reduced motorcycles and 5 percent from avoided traffic congestion). A 25 percent modal shift from cars to motorcycles was found to eliminate congestion entirely.

If not motorbikes, then at least smaller cars is what we need. Or so the article says.

Wind farms to go elsewhere

Elsewhere from Victoria, that is. what a surprise!

Pacific Hydro is pulling out, no-one else is interested, up to $3 billion worth of wind energy projects may be abandoned.

Grattan Institute again

In the last post I linked to the Grattan Institute Report.

At Climate Spectator, Tony Wright of Beyond Zero Emissions, really unloaded saying the report “contains misleading comparisons, flawed analysis and glaring omissions on the vital energy issues confronting Australia.”

The authors had their eyes wide shut about the reducing cost of solar, the existence of solar baseload and new storage technologies. They were wrong about recommending the elimination of feed-in-tariffs and in unreasonable in asserting that mapping of renewable resources is the major requirement for renewable deployment. We know where the good wind and sun is, he says. The report is excessively sanguine about geothermal, CCS and nukes, and as to gas, the report reflects the fact that Tony Wood used to work for Origin and BHP Billiton which recently bought big in shale gas interests in the US and is a major funder of the Grattan Institute.

Tony Wood has responded, saying that Matthew Wright’s criticisms are either incorrect or miss the point. Inter alia he makes direct reference to Helen Morrow’s piece The right way to value solar. It’s too detailed to summarise here, but is well worth reading. He says it is highly unlikely that we can decarbonise our electricity system in less than 40 years at affordable cost with wind and solar. And don’t rule out nukes.

Indeed, the central argument is that we are faced with great uncertainty, and should neither pick the winner nor eliminate the loser.

Human evolution and climate change

One of the first significant articles I ever read on climate change asserted that the evolution of Homo sapiens as a species was sculpted by ice ages. Here the theme emerges again. New reserch from Canada’s Simon Fraser University suggests:

environmental variation significantly influenced the number and intricacy of food-gathering tools that historical hunter-gatherers made.

It’s really about the evolution of human culture rather that the evolution of our genes.

“The basic pattern is that people living in harsh, risky environments, such as the Arctic, produced and used many more complex tools than people living in less harsh and risky environments, such as tropical rainforests.”

I don’t see the last bit as a conundrum, just a fact:

The conundrum — while evolution has enabled ancestral hominins (humans) to adapt well to diverse ecological niches, modern humans are now transforming local ecosystems and the global climate at the peril of their own existence.

All species change their environments, it’s a matter of degree.

Mediaeval warming explained

It seems that the Medieval Climate Anomaly can be explained

by a simple thermodynamical response of the climate system to relatively weak changes in radiative forcing combined with a modification of the atmospheric circulation, displaying some similarities with the positive phase of the so-called Arctic Oscillation, and with northward shifts in the position of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio currents.

So there you have it!

Action on soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbons

Hilary Clinton launches a coalition of the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Ghana to curb black carbon (soot), methane and hydrofluorocarbons. The UN Environment Program will serve as the coalition’s secretariat and the US and Canada have stumped up all of $15 million to get it rolling. If successful I’m sure that’s excellent value for money.

This report sees it as the US bypassing Congress again. Apparently Obama said last month that divisions in Congress are “too deep” to tackle climate change.

Led by our noses and driven by the hip pocket nerve

That’s how public opinion shifts, according to empirical research:

A time-series analysis indicates that elite cues and structural economic factors have the largest effect on the level of public concern about climate change. While media coverage exerts an important influence, this coverage is itself largely a function of elite cues and economic factors. Weather extremes have no effect on aggregate public opinion. Promulgation of scientific information to the public on climate change has a minimal effect. The implication would seem to be that information-based science advocacy has had only a minor effect on public concern, while political mobilization by elites and advocacy groups is critical in influencing climate change concern

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21 thoughts on “Climate clippings 67”

  1. I mostly agree with Tony Wright from BZE and he should have gone in even harder against CCS .
    Where I don’t agree with him is his assertion that ” Enhanced geothermal resources such as those found in Australia are highly speculative and will likely never be proven” and “Geothermal in Australia is a sub-standard form known as ‘enhanced’ geothermal”

    Attempts at CCS in Australia have failed dismally whereas Geothermal Proof of Concept has been achieved and Geodynamics are in the advanced development stage of a 1MW pilot plant planned to produce power later this year. Petratherm is not far behind and there are 9 other Geothermal companies operating in Australia.

    Tony Wright may also be going out on a limb by stating that nuclear power will never be viable in Australia. It would not take years of training or massive changes in legislation to plonk a few of these SMR’s down here and there.
    http://www.gizmag.com/small-modular-nuclear-reactors/20860/

  2. Pacific Hydro is pulling out, no-one else is interested, up to $3 billion worth of wind energy projects may be abandoned.

    Where are the article in the VIC press, deriding Bailieu’s govt for driving away investment?

    The rest of the world is quite as bad you know – maybe the US, but definitely not the UK or Europe.

    They dont have to treat the media as one of key obstacles to change.

  3. Brian, did you see the piece in the guardian about surprisingly little melting found in the Himalayas? Interesting stuff, I thought. Does’t really amount to a hill of beans for sea levels, but from a food security perspective, at least it’s a no doubt temporary reprieve.

  4. patrickg, I’ve had my head full of coal seam gas and didn’t see that one. The Himalayas is a big place and you hear various reports, so that doesn’t surprise.

    You are right about the impact on sea levels. Outside Antarctica and Greenland I think Patagonia is the biggest, but all of those together if they melt completely are only worth about half a metre, I think.

    On food security, most of the world’s food is grown and eaten in an arc from Pakistan to northern China, so keeping the rivers running is important. Probably a big thing will be what the Chinese and Indians do to snaffle water from their neighbours.

  5. dear Brain
    venison, the one trick poney, is back with more aboot the alberta bitument sands. this report is about a new article in nature by uni of victoria modeller & ipcc lead author, andrew weaver:-

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/coal-the-true-climate-change-bad-guy-analysis-shows/article2343528/

    “One of the world’s top climate scientists has calculated that emissions from Alberta’s oil sands are unlikely to make a big difference to global warming and that the real threat to the planet comes from burning coal.”
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  6. I’m not sure why everyone in Vic is so quiet about Bailleau’s actions against windfarms. Pretty scandalous though.

    Re human evolution, I thought it was a common hypothesis (impossible to prove or disprove) that the drying savannahs led us to come down out of the trees and become bipedal.

    As for BZE versus Grattan Institute, it doesn’t really matter, it’s angels on pinheads stuff really, but overall I think Grattan is taking the points, BZE are hopelessly optimistic.

  7. A little more on electric taxiing

    http://blog.cafefoundation.org/?p=5207

    This is a must watch video on future transport. It not only has important perspectives on road congestion, it very clearly signals the rapidly advancing issue of peak oil and energy poverty

    The real elephant in the room is the issue of affluence ego. What does it take for people to step back from the precipice of energy and environmental change driven civil collapse?

  8. I wrote the following comment in response to Stephen Lacey’s piece on the breakdown of new electricity generation capacity in Europe.

    Just quoting nameplate capacity percentages tells little about effect on emissions. Number of TWh generated by each technology is the important number. According to the latest IEA monthly electricity statistics, the percentages for OECD Europe for the period Jan-Nov 2011 inclusive are:

    Combustible Fuels 52.3%
    Nuclear 25.2%
    Hydro 15.7%
    Geoth./Wind/Solar/Other 6.7%

    Capacity factor matters (a lot) and the figures quoted, in isolation, in the above article are grossly misleading.

    Taking it a bit further, that 5% new capacity for coal and 21% for wind looks a bit different if we “normalize” by capacity factor (assume 80% for coal and 25% for wind) and the projected amount of electricity generated by new wind is just a little higher than for new coal. Do the same exercise for PV and gas and the “real normalized” new capacity for renewables will be less than for new fossil fuels.

    One other poster remarked:

    Reading the article and then the comments has left me totally confused. Has Europe accomplished something worthwhile or not? Have they reduced dependence on fossil fuels?

    And the answer is? Yes, but not by much and certainly not to the degree that the article rather misleadingly suggests.

    Breathless, tabloid style reporting quoting “wow factor” numbers without clearly and simply pointing out their significance is poor. It plainly leads to confusion when better public understanding of energy is an obviously important part of the foundation for effective climate action. Not good enough.

  9. In metaclimate news, the leak of Heartland documents detailing their funding arrangements and misinformation campaigns was engineered by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute. More details and links here

  10. That cement looks really interesting, Salient. I’d love to be able to use it when I build the Doomstead, but it still looks a bit experimental.

  11. If there’s nothing nasty about that setting alkali, David, then one would think it shouldn’t take too long to get to the market. Maybe if you sent them an email they would be kind enough to give you a rough timeline.

    Interesting too that it is similar to Roman cement which has lasted 2,000 years. I read an article recently where erosion of cement from cities was adversely affecting the PH of surrounding waterways and the life in them. I know that the floor of my cutting shed which is washed daily for a few weeks of the year will be lucky to last 20 years let alone 2,000.

  12. SG the secret of roman cement was pozolanic ash, a disolvable form of calcium that seals cracks. The secret of good cement is with the water/cement ratio. Sloppy wet cement has too much water which produces a weaker more porous cement.

  13. Well BilB it seems that modern society has ‘cleverly’ crafted a cement which is not only inferior to roman cement for longevity but is far more energy and greenhouse intensive.

  14. Some interesting links, thanks folks.

    quokka @ 8, well no, it isn’t good enough. I remember we had a lengthy discussion at one point last year about what nameplate capacity etc meant. There needs to be a way of communicating that isn’t misleading to the lay reader.

    Alfred @ 5, I saw a different item on the tar sands. It took a side-swipe at James Hansen, probably misquoting him. Hansen at one end says we need to get back to 350ppm for ocean acidity reasons as well as warming. So we need to stop burning carbons ASAP.

    On the other end he says that if we burn all hydrocarbons that are available, conventional and non-conventional, then we’ll cook the planet – really cook it as in the Venus Syndrome. The article pretty much confirms that.

    In between, he can only go on the data like everyone else, and the new research clarifies some aspects.

  15. This really does need to be mentioned. Figures release by the Fukushima Prefectural Government on radiation dose to Fukushima residents in the first three months after the accident are remarkably low. Of 9,747 residents of Namie, Kawamata and Iitate (the most contaminated towns), 57.8% received less than 1 mSv, 41.4% between 1 and 10 mSv and just 78 with more than 10 mSv. Maximum dose was 23 mSv.

    By comparison, the natural average annual dose to residents of Cornwall in the UK is about 7 mSv.

    Other sources seem to be reporting the same figures as Japan Times. If these figures are truly representative, adverse health effects are likely to be in the range minimal to none, and all the talk of pumping the population full of “anti-radiation” pills are starting to look quite ridiculous.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120221a6.html

  16. More on tar sands. This one gets stuck into Hansen and McKibbin. I think I’ll wait to see what they say.

    Doesn’t alter the fact that tar sands are filthy muck and should be left in the ground. But what the headlines should be focussing on is “burning all of the world’s enormous coal resources would raise temperatures 15 degrees”. That’s more than serious!

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