Climate clippings 76

?????????????????????????This week I’ve concentrated on the practical side of Climate change – mitigation and adaptation and the relevant policies.

1. China to cap emissions

According to Giles Parkinson news reports from China indicate that the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has proposed a cap on emissions from 2016, from RenewEconomy, picked up at Clean Technica.

What’s more it looks as though China will cease to be an importer of coal within a few years (please note Gina, Clive et al).

Please note also, Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt. The coalition will be phasing out the carbon price just as China is phasing it in. The LNP reckoned a price on carbon was unnecessary because the rest of the world was not going there, remember?

[Update: indigo @ 8 advises that this story is based on a passing comment from a delegate of the NDRC and that no proposal has yet gone forward.]

2. Carbon markets have to take Abbott seriously!

Two weeks ago Giles Parkinson attended a day hosted by the Carbon Market Institute looking at the future of carbon markets in Australia. It seems that the audience of bankers and such had never taken the Direct Action thing seriously, they thought was just a bit of politicking. Now they are having to face the fact that Greg Hunt, former champion debater, will almost certainly be tasked to implement whatever it turns out to be.

Antony Green’s session was the best attended. The only serious question to be resolved on September 15 is whether the LNP can get the numbers in the Senate. The final numbers, Green explained, can be a lottery, with the balance of power possibly finally held by fringe candidates no-one has heard of. Still markets have to deal with the possibilities and this is how they sit:

The forward curve of the carbon market – such as it is – is pricing odds of 60 per cent that the carbon price will no longer exist by July next year, analysts say. The market odds for it to be gone by 2016 are 80 per cent.

The forward curve for contracts in the National Electricity Market is pricing the odds around the same level. Even Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which said earlier this year that there was just a 30 per cent chance of repeal, is now reviewing that assessment and is likely to lift the odds to above 50 per cent.

And yes, there is an issue of compensation, which doesn’t figure so far in LNP budgeting.

3. No more money for adaptation research

I was intrigued to find a blogger from Knoxville, Tennessee listing five policy briefs released by Australia’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), with seven more to come by June 30 this year. On closer investigation, I found this speech by Yvette D’Ath officially launching their research portfolio, a portfolio of more than 140 peer-reviewed research projects across 33 universities around Australia. D’Ath praised the work of the scientists and appealed to them for help in countering climate denialism.

Ironic really as the NCCARF is to be wound up by the end of June as there was no more money coming from the Government. More than 100 researchers will be affected nationally.

Instead NCCARF2 will be funded at $3 million per annum for two years as a dissemination project.

The same Knoxville blogger notes the release of the EU Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation which was produced by the Directorate-General for Climate Action, which is a program, not a project, of the European Commission. Their 2013 program of work is worth €20.75 million and the employ 160 people internally and externally.

4. Quick charging buses come to Geneva

European technology giant ABB has developed a new technology that will help power the world’s first high-capacity flash charging electric bus system, where buses will receive top up charges in 15 seconds at selected bus stops. A pilot project termed TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation) is planned in conjunction with Geneva’s public transport company.

An arm connects with an electricity outlet in the roof of the bus shelter. At the end of the run three to four minutes gives a complete charge. It’s like a trolley bus without overhead wires.

I’m wondering how electric vehicles go with heart pacemakers. I’ve just learned that you can’t use electric hand tools with a pacemaker.

This link has a video showing roughly how the bus shelter connection is made.

5. ‘Black Carbon’ flows from soil to oceans

It was thought that ‘black carbon’ created by the burning of organic matter such as grass or forests stayed in the soil for millions of years.

By examining carbon in rivers it is now thought that up to 40% of such black carbon dissolves and flows into the oceans.

6. Soil carbon farming

I gather that soil carbon farming is a different issue, but seems similarly fraught. Di Martin investigated the soil carbon conundrum.

The shorter story is that some exceptional farmers have demonstrated that soil carbon can be increased dramatically. One farmer did this by ‘pasture cropping’. Native grasses were encouraged and the crop was sown directly into the pasture, rather than plowing, harrowing etc.

Another used ‘cell grazing’, which involves high intensity and high rotation grazing, with long rest periods for pasture.

There are problems in measurement, which may be resolvable with new technology. What is not resolvable, however, is the 100-year guarantee required by international protocols if the activity is deemed to benefit the planet.

Bernard Keane, following Lenore Taylor, was rather scathing about Direct Action soil magic.

7. Renewable energy in the wars

The fossil fuel incumbents are rolling out a campaign to damage the solar industry. One nasty trick being considered in Queensland is the following:

Gross metering – a proposal made in Queensland which would force households to sell all the output from their rooftop systems to the grid operators, and buy it back at a higher price

Campbell Newman keeps saying that feed-in tariffs PV solar are “just ridiculous”.

The campaign seems to be extending to the whole Coalition policy on renewables, if there is one.

There is increasing concern in the [renewables] industry that the Opposition will pave way for the Renewable Energy Target to be diluted, under pressure from state governments, utilities and generators worried about sliding profits from their coal and gas generators, and noisy anti-renewable lobbies promoted by the likes of [Alan] Jones.

Please note the note at the end of the piece:

it seems the biggest problem the [coal] industry faces is a lack of demand. We’ve noted this before, but this week, this was reinforced by reports from China that imported coal is sitting unwanted and clogging up the country’s biggest ports.

Deutsche Bank energy analysts said this was due to “weak coal demand all over China” which had been apparent since late last year. Indeed, half the coal companies in one region of Mongolia had ceased production of thermal coal because of falling prices, and most small coal mines in Shanxi Province had also closed, Deutsche Bank reported.

8. Solar panel art

Now for something lighter: solar panel art.


34 thoughts on “Climate clippings 76”

  1. I will be discussing item 7 as this is very much my interest area. Any dirty tricks campaign is ultimately good news for Rooftop Solar. Very quickly despite John Davidson’s best hopes the electricity retail sector would fragment with smaller distribution operators entering the market. By maximising the harm to solar the established distributors also maximise the incentive for new competition.

    “Greed Breeds Competition”.

    I am actively getting ready to apply Solar Energy systems to my roof. In the so doing I will not be exporting any energy to the grid. The aim will be to use on site every thing that I generate, and if anything is left over it will be running the pool pump or heating a spa (I don’t have one of those,..yet) until I can acquire an electric vehicle to absorb the remainder.
    So this is going to take some planning to get the washing machine working during the high solar period and the fridge working on the fringe to cool eutectic plates for 24 hour solar powered operation. Fran Barlow’s fridge buying need got me thinking about how to make that work fairly easily with a regular fridge.

    This is all a very interesting and exciting challenge, and the outcome is all win, win, win.

  2. The much lauded James Hansen reckons that the answer is nuclear power. This will of course be predictably pooh-poohed by noted scientific experts such as Christine Milne and Adam Bandt.

    To quote:

    In our paper, we provide an objective, long-term, quantitative analysis of the effects of nuclear power on human health (mortality) and the environment (climate).

    It demonstrates that without nuclear power, it would have been even harder to mitigate human-caused climate change and air pollution. This is fundamentally because historical energy production data reveal that if nuclear power never existed, the energy it supplied almost certainly would have been supplied by fossil fuels instead (overwhelmingly coal), which cause much higher air pollution-related mortality and GHG emissions per unit energy produced.

  3. Terry, a good rule of thumb, I think, you ask climate scientists about the science, but you don’t ask them about practical solutions. It’s really not their field, and that applies to James Hansen also.

  4. Speaking of science and practicality, Brian, did you see Sean Carrol’s “big Ideas” talk on the Higgs Field on the weekend? If you didn’t and you get the chance take the time, it is brilliant.

  5. The thing is, Terry, some people are enthusiastic about (or at least accepting of) nuclear as part of the solution (James Hansen, Barry Brookes), some, but not all, Greens are opposed to it (for a variety of reasons, some of which are certainly ideological), and some (like me) are prepared to concede that it’s safe enough but would like to see a rigorous cost-benefit analysis which includes decommissioning costs before accepting that it’s worth the effort.

  6. Interesting finding by Essential Research reported in todays Crikey:
    “And as conspiracy theorists prepare to descend on Canberra for an anti-wind farm rally on June 18, led by radio entertainer Alan Jones, there’s little evidence Australians share their concerns about the alleged array of diseases caused by wind turbines. In fact, 76% of voters want to see more wind farms built, including 71% of Liberal voters and, unsurprisingly, 89% of Greens voters.
    There is also speculation the Coalition will abandon the 20% Renewable Energy Target once in government: 40% of voters believe the target is not high enough; 11% believe it is too high, while 33% believe it is about right. Liberal voters are least enthusiastic — only 31% believe the RET should be higher, and 19% lower; 67% of Greens voters want the target to be higher.”

    Re Nuclear energy, I am not against it, but (and I’ll say it until I am blue in the face) The recent Fukushima incident has once again highlighted that:
    1. There is no adequate regulatory power to ensure appropriate safety checks, measures and controls are adhered to and enforced. The IAEA is a toothless paper tiger, national Governments act in short term self interest and contractors primarily focus on return on investment. Which leaves more then enough room for cascading catastrophic failures to reoccur in that industry.

    2. The nuclear industry has no credibility what soever until it finds and implements an effective long term solution for their waste and decommissioned plants. Storing spent MOX fuel on top of critically exposed reactors and assorted dumping grounds with leaking drums is not a solution.

  7. The economist John Quiggin has canvassed the economics of nuclear power recently and thinks that given the time involved in implementation in Australia the economics of it are not going to be a relevant option given the current trajectory of cost reductions in solar and wind. Check his blog for recent discussions on this topic.

  8. The reports on China implementing a carbon cap are premature, based on a passing comment from a delegate to the National Development and Reform Commission. But no formal proposal has gone forward. The reduction in coal usage is a different issue, however.

  9. I think it would be great if this thread didn’t get into a stoush on nuclear, but I’ll put in my 2 yen worth anyway … I basically agree with Doug (and thus I guess JQ) that by the time nuclear gets off the ground in most nations renewable energy will already have become so cheap that it’s irrelevant. It could still have a role as baseload in countries with high industrial output (Japan, Germany, China, USA) but not somewhere like Australia, and not in time to make a meaningful difference to AGW.

    As some of you know, I’m doing research on radiation exposure in Fukushima. I am quite convinced that it is possible to live in areas of high radiation exposure (like Minamisoma) without suffering elevated health risks due to radiation. The primary exposure risks are from food, and easily controlled. There are issues connected with non-communicable diseases (possibly due to lifestyle changes and stress) but we haven’t teased them out yet. But there is not really much identifiable ill health as a result of radiation exposure (i.e. not really any).

    This isn’t to say that more can’t be done to improve management of nuclear, but if you look at the global burden of disease results for China, outdoor air pollution has increased as a cause of death and is now ranked as the number 4 risk factor for disability-adjusted life years lost. Almost all of that is due to fossil fuels. Nuclear is a good bet for China, even in a poor regulatory framework with occasional disasters. Coal and diesel between them are really, really bad for human health, and now that the epidemiological community is beginning to be able to quantify their effects on a global scale we are seeing just how terrible they are.

    But a good mixture of renewables and a robust grid is probably much better.

  10. Doug, I think the Quiggin post you refer to is his comment on the AEMO report on 100% renewables which we looked at here. His bottom line is:

    Given that very few current-generation nuclear plants have been built, cost estimates for nuclear are speculative. The obvious inference for Australia is that we should push along with renewables, and take a “wait and see” position on nuclear, observing developments in the UK, US, France and China. If they can deliver nuclear safely and at low cost, we can add it to the mix (say, after 2030).

    Quiggin thinks the AEMO report should put to bed the intermittency concern about renewables. I don’t think Hansen is up to speed on that.

  11. Quiggin also has this handy advive to Abbott if he is serious about his Direct Action plan:

    Finally, if we take Tony Abbott at his word in wanting direct action to deal with climate change, this report provides him with a blueprint. If we want to, we can eliminate the great majority of domestic CO2 emissions simply by mandating renewable technology and electric vehicles. The cost would be substantial in dollar terms ($250 billion for the electricity component). But, over a couple of decades, it would be a barely detectable deduction from growth in national income.

  12. indigo @ 8, I’ve changed the wording in the post at #1 to reflect exactly what Giles Parkinson said and added your information as an update. On inspection the word “announces” appears only in the title of the Clean Technica post.

  13. Thanks Faust@9 for the reminder that it’s not only nuclear that kills people. I’m not even slightly in favour of nukes for Australia or NZ, but for places like China they make a lot of sense. And I’m reminded of the “other” pollution every morning when I ride to work – it’s quite confronting riding out of Rookwood Cemetery onto the side of a multilane road that’s choked with traffic – the smell alone is eye-watering some days.

    I’m worried that electricity/renewable price wars are going to be savagely regressive. Those who own their home can look at the numbers and put PV on their roof, even if it means battling through their strata committee, but for renters it’s not an option. As the connection fees go up they’re going to really cop it. “They” meaning me.

    The renting crossover will come when you start seeing plug-in panels on apartment balconies, I think. They’re still pricey and marginally legal, but as a way of driving the power bill down they’re one of the few things renters can do.

    BTW, is worth a look if you are renting (they’re in Melbun). There are things you can do to make a rented place less awful.

  14. In Campbell Newman right?

    “The solar tariff feed-in situation is one that sees those with the financial means to pay for panels win at the expense of poorer households and disadvantaged people,” he said.

    “I’m just making the point today.

    “I’m not saying we have anything in particular in mind, but I’m saying firstly I want people to understand why we have high power prices.”

    If he is correct then solar panels are a regressive form of middle class welfare.

    ps. whatever happened to your brother, Mark? Hope he’s alright.

  15. GG, my brothers are OK, but Mark’s not my brother, he’s my son. I’m hoping he’s OK. He’s been working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and today he flew to London, thence to Brno and Prague. They’ve had a bit of rain, so I hope it all works out!

  16. GG on Newman and power prices, Paul Syvret had an interesting comment.

    Of the $268 average increase, $9 is attributable to the carbon ‘tax’ and only $32 to PV solar.

    This piece indicates that retailers get a full 44c from Energex when they purchase power from solar households. The proposal now is to reimburse them the difference between 44c and the wholesale price, which seems fair enough on the face of it.

    But there are mysteries because of the equalised retail price and unknown (to us) variations in the wholesale price that retailers are presumably paying. Prices should vary considerably during the day depending on demand and the so-called ‘merit order effect’.

    I don’t think anyone on the inside has yet been fair dinkum in explaining to us what’s actually going on.

  17. GG, Campbell Newman rarely appears to be right.
    In this case, somebody answered this accusation on another thread. Solar panel subsidies aren’t supposed to be a poverty mitigation policy, they’re supposed to be a migrating-away-from-fossil-fuels policy.
    But I think that in the long term, poorer people will benefit anyway:
    1) Because tech is usually purchased first by early adopters with money, or the will to buy, then the bugs are ironed out and the tech gets cheaper and more stable. Look at sound systems, personal computers, just about everything really.
    2) Climate mitigation policy will benefit poorer people because they are the ones that bear the brunt of climate change.

  18. Helen, it seems that much of the solar PV installed recently in Qld has been in suburbs that are not wealthy. Campbell Newman leads a government lousy with climate deniers.

  19. Here’s a rebuttal of the paper ascribing the cause of global warming to CFCs.

    This paper has predictably enough led the denialists to bark vindication, with the silliest example being a letter in today’s OO that states ‘That recent climate history can be well explained by “CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays” is significant’ yet goes on on the next paragraph to state that ‘Whether the CFCs explanation proves to be correct is largely irrelevant’.

  20. The EU has imposed tariffs on Chinese solar PV. Seems France and a few small countries are behind the move.

    Germany opposes the move because it will suffer if the Chinese retaliate. But it can’t rustle up enough votes to reverse the decision.

  21. [Comment content deleted (also further comments from same nym). Morphing/sockpuppeting is a breach of our comments policy. ~ mods]

  22. Came across the following comment on the businessspectator post on McKibben two days ago and confirmed it. Still not sure wether to laugh or cry?

    The Australian Parliament recently debated Rob Oakeshott’s motion “That this House expresses full confidence in the work of Australia’s science community and confirms that it believes that man-made climate change is not a conspiracy or a con, but a real and serious threat to Australia if left unaddressed”.

    It was passed unanimously.

    As Oakeshott then said– “positions the deniers and the conspiracy theorists where they should be – on the fringe,”

  23. There has to be three converging lines of evidence minimum, and this to be matched up with an excellent a-priory case

    You don’t know anything do you, Chodorov?

    Can we bin the bird?

  24. Ootz, it will be interesting to see whether that vote becomes a feature of the debate after the election. It suggests that the business council presser today saying that we should reconsider our 80% cut by 2050 in light of slow global reductions comes from realising that the other coalition is unlikely to resile from the commitment. Which is good news.

    FWIW, I agree wholeheartedly with the business council on this – global emissions are rising far too fast and if other countries will not act Australia needs to step to and cut faster to compensate.

  25. Brian
    I stumbled across an article about a new Parliamentary Library paper about
    Countries trading greenhouse gas emissions” you may not have seen.
    It’s fairly condensed and summarises each scheme.
    Nothing in it you wouldn’t already know, but more of an ” easy reference ” kind of thing.
    ( link to the full paper in 2nd para )

  26. BilB, driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back on less than three gallons of fuel, or 100 km per litre is attractive! It sounds squelchy in acceleration, but I suppose you can’t have everything!

    Jumpy, thanks!

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