Climate clippings 104

This edition begins with the weather and ends with a sad tale of revenge and tribalism as the basis for climate policy.

1. June the hottest on record

When we have some cooler than normal weather people are apt to say “So much for global warming!” They should realise how small a part of the globe we are.

The warmest May on record for the planet has been followed by the warmest June:

June 2014_201406-600

In fact June was the highest departure from average for any month on record.

The last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985. The last below average June was in 1975 when Gough Whitlam was PM!

2. El Niño still favoured

The majority of models still favour a spring El Niño:

Warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean since the beginning of 2014 has primed the climate system for an El Niño in 2014, although an atmospheric response is yet to be observed. As a result, the transition towards El Niño conditions has slowed in recent weeks. While five out of eight climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest El Niño will become established by October, all have eased their strength over the past few months. Three models suggest an El Niño will not occur in 2014, while another indicates only a brief period of El Niño-like conditions.

3. Temperatures poised to rise rapidly

El Niño years are often associated with a higher than average temperature rise. However, there’s another reason temperatures may be about to rise. You may recall that around 93% of the extra global warming goes into the ocean and only 2.3% into the atmosphere:


In recent years the trade winds have speeded up causing deep mixing in the ocean, taking warm water deeper displacing cooler water which rises to the surface to be warmed. Sooner or later this will stabilise, with more heat going into the atmosphere.

The article also points out the recent correction of the Hadley Centre temperature record, adding in an estimate for the polar regions, where there are no weather stations. This correction virtually eliminates the famous ‘pause’. The heavy lines show the corrected data:


4. Onshore wind is now the cheapest form of new energy in Denmark


A new analysis from the government of Denmark found that wind power is by far the cheapest new form of electricity in the country. New onshore wind plants coming online in 2016 will provide energy for about half the price of coal and natural gas plants, according to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), and will cost around five cents per kilowatt hour.

5. Abbott bets the house on coal

Meanwhile our visionary PM bets the house on coal as the world price is collapsing and countries turn to renewables.

The price for thermal coal has plunged more than 10 per cent in the last two months as the presumed major customers – China and India – make it clear that renewable energy is offering a competitive alternative to coal and gas.

The current spot market has been below the cost of production.

China may cease to import coal in a few years. The Europeans are talking about ramping up targets for emission reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Indians are

building of “mega” capacity solar farms, off-grid solar pumps for irrigators, solar installations over canals, cuts in tariffs for solar components and a doubling of the tax on coal – has been followed by an announcement that the country will look to expand a “rent-a-roof” program from solar installations initially begun in Gujarat, the home state of new PM Narendra Modi, who has promised a “saffron revolution” of solar power.

Tata Power is providing interest free loans up to $4,000 for rooftop solar.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week predicted solar would beat coal plants on costs by 2020. Chile has announced a whole series of large scale solar plants. On and on it goes.

Here in Sydney there was concern at the Clean Energy Week conference that Abbott can cripple renewables by doing nothing. According to one speaker

even if the 41,000GWh target was retained, and long term certainty provided, the removal of the carbon price will make it difficult to obtain financing for wind and solar farms from financial institutions.

That’s because the carbon price and the RET were designed to work together. If the carbon price is removed, then there is a massive shortfall in revenue when the certificates issued under the RET expire in 2030…

John D has been calling it but here’s a dramatic graph showing how large scale investment has stopped in its tracks:


6. Tribal wars and revenge

I couldn’t find a decent review of Ian Chubb’s excellent book Power failure, which traces climate policy in Australia from before the 2007 election to the installation of the Abbott government. The link in the heading is to a revealing interview with the author by The Fifth Estate. Chubb:

“[Climate change denial] is a cultural issue for the Coalition. It’s nothing to do with rationality or reason or the future or business – it’s tribal. While this government is in power we can’t recreate the consensus.

“For this government burning coal to make electricity is the equivalent to eating red meat – if you don’t, you’re a sissy. So this government will never have sympathy for making renewable energy – only sissies do that. The government has attempted to shut down everything to do with renewable energy.”

He the goes on to talk about revenge, tribalism and well-flung mud.

He describes the current policy situation as current policy situation as a “ridiculous and expensive mess”. Two things might change it. One is leadership from the US. The other is that nasty things may have to happen from the climate itself.

My sense is that the damage to confidence wrought by this mob is such that a change of government with new policies may not be enough. We need the Tea Party to get real before confidence can be restored.

I need to say more about Chubb’s book which is clear-eyed about the strengths and weaknesses of both Rudd and Gillard. Anyone wondering why some of Rudd’s colleagues thought he had to go should read this extract in The Age.