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.

13 thoughts on “Climate clippings 104”

  1. Brian: Killer graph on renewable investment.

    Don’t agree with:

    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…

    The Howard government’s RET scheme worked well for years without the carbon tax and could keep working without it now if the RET still had bipartisan support. The problem is that bipartisan support has gone.
    We need to focus our attention on schemes that don’t scare off investors just because the opposition doesn’t support it. Cracked record: Contract based systems like the ACT Solar Auction Scheme give investors the protection they need against the sovereign risks associated with changes in governments.

  2. Oh dear: According to REnewEconomy

    So, this is the full renewable energy catastrophe for Australia.

    After painting the worst possible scenario, and factoring in the most gloomy technology cost estimates, the most virulent anti-green business forces in Australia have come to the conclusion that the renewable energy target is having such a devastating impact that it is costing the average household …… wait for it …. drum roll …… less than $1 a week.

    And that’s without counting its benefits.

    For this, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Minerals Council of Australia, would dearly love the Abbott government to risk its remaining political capital and scrap the RET completely, at the cost of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of clean energy investment.

    If Abbott wants to retain any credibility he should be increasing the target. And Kicking the fossils for setting him up.

  3. Cowtan’s results are challenged by Judith Curry citing issues with the appropriateness of the polar temperature data. The outcome of which can only affect the gradient of his slow down. It certainly does not discredit his work. The fact is that the poles are warming up even if not absolutely uniformly only the most deluded of denialists say otherwise. But the Land and Ocean Temperature Percentiles depiction is the most indicative of the degree and direction of change. Curry’s position appears to one of degree. How much change, how fast and how much action to take. She seems to have bought into the view that by taking strong action on CO2 emissions will automatically reduce jobs and affect economic performance. To my thinking Curry has very little understanding of how the other billions of people on the planet make use of an opportunity, the opportunity that rethinking our energy platform presents.

    What amazes me is how the tribalism of anti renewable energy can focus so heavily on the notion that a very small number of jobs will lost way off in the future from the closure of coal power stations, and yet in our country our ex national phone company can export jobs over seas whole sale without even the faintest whisper of discontent from this group. The level of prejudice and ignorance of the real issues displayed here is staggering.

    El Nini ? I keep a regular google check on “bom enso graph archive” and there is no sign of the index diving away into El Nino territory. I am imagining that the amount of Antarctic melt water now coming regularly off the ice is stalling the formation of the system in the Eastern Pacific. Time will tell. As to the “pause” in warming I personally believe that this is the product of increased atmospheric moisture The thing is that humidity dampens temperature variation, and this is the cause of the supposed pause. The energy in the atmosphere is increasing but this increase is now in the form of moisture vapour rather than temperature. As atmospheric energy continues to rise and the temperature duration extends further into the morning the daytime temperature rise will reestablish in the stepped fashion that Roger Jones suggested.

    The wild card in the Global Warming temperature rise is Arctic methane release for which here is a suitable alarmist article

  4. I’m annoyed that so much attention is being paid, in Australia, to all the financial jiggery-pokery and so little is being paid to technical solutions to all the greenhouse gas emissions and pollution troubles we have here.

    Having chased the only serious manufacturer of wind turbine blades out of Australia and now scraping around to find ways to stop householders feeding rooftop generated electricity into the grid, do you think the Greedy Grubs are going to permit the Gujerati Rent-A-Roof program to break out here? Come on, these trogs have form.

    The Chinese will continue to import coal. Not for industrial use, of course, they are already far too advanced technically for that – but so as to build up easily utilized strategic stockpiles for military purposes and so as to free up their own coal miners for different and much more necessary work in their economy.

  5. Off-topic but interesting (IMHO). ABC-TV-1 ‘Catalyst”, first item, tonight, was about the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and it focused on radiation on the loose in the environment. Citizen science for monitoring this radiation was shown; their main tool was a lightweight Geiger counter with in-built GPS and data recorder; this was presumably mass-produced and relatively cheap
    It would be nice if several thousand such devices were in the hands of proactive citizens here.

    Unfortunately, for some, increasing concern about climate change has meant decreasing interest in other serious problems (Present company excepted, of course). The ready availability of such easy-to-use devises might resurrect interest in monitoring environmental radiation in Australia.

    ‘Catalyst’ will be rebroadcast on Saturday at 11:30am AEST.

  6. while throwing ideas around with some “friends” over at catallaxy considering the possibility of a pending ice age, I came across this is the home web site

    excellent body of climate information.

    I found the global average temperature over solar activity correlation graph particularly interesting as it gives me a narrative to understand the so called hiatus in temperature rise. The information appears to be saying that average solar irradiance has lost nearly a watt per square meter due to reduced solar flare activity over the last few cycles with the greatest loss occurring in the current 24th cycle with a projectable further loss in the 25th cycle. the influence of the rising CO2 levels is clearly evident in the graph as is the reduction in the rate of temperature increase. But the buildup of CO2 is also increasing as is now the rapid injection of methane into the system. So how will this all play out. I would expect another flat global temperature rise for the next 15 years followed by a dramatic increase in global temperatures after that as the solar energy intensity returns towards previous levels.

    The so called temperature hiatus is in fact our last fudge space in which to do something serious about CO2 emissions. After that we will have a loaded climate system ready to develop into full on hell on Earth. This years record global oil production coupled with record oil demand is a pointer towards our future failures.

  7. The so called temperature hiatus is in fact our last fudge space in which to do something serious about CO2 emissions.

    Unfortunately it is being used as a climate action holiday. There is nothing like a long drought to convince the voters that we need to do something fast.
    It will see what effect the dry conditions in Qld have on the next Qld state election. Newman’s virulent anti solar/pro coal stance may come back to haunt him.

  8. Sorry about the lateness of this news but better late than never.

    Tonight’s ABC-TV Four Corners will be about dredging and its effect on the Great Barrier Reef. The program will be rebroadcast late tomorrow night, again on ABC News 24 (?Saturday? best check) and probably on iView.

    Happy turbidity, everyone 🙁

  9. Graham
    Here is the 4 corners show you speak of.
    Please view the video of the full Greg Hunt interview ( 3rd click under what looks like a photo of a hand full of heavy sand [ not sediment ] dropped on coral ) to get a somewhat balance to an obviously biased production produced to elicit only one emotional response.

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