Climate clippings 112

1. Will Australia be to world climate talks what Poland is to Europe?

That’s the question asked by Giles Parkinson.

On the international stage Australia plays a similar role to Poland in Europe. The two countries have much in common: their leaders share a tenuous hold on climate science, a grim determination to extract coal and use it for electricity, don’t like carbon pricing and are trying to keep a lid on renewables.

From what he says, there does seem a difference. Poland gained free carbon permits from the EU negotiations “worth more than $1 billion and promises for funds to help it “modernize” is coal-fired plants after 2020.”

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said after the summit that the threat of veto was simply a “tool” to get the best conditions for Poland’s economy. “Nobody got compensated like we did,” she boasted after the meeting.

In other words they were out for what they could get.

On the basis of the Abbott Government’s form in the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Warsaw last December and actions since, we can expect Australia to be actively hostile to positive outcomes. Not just lead in the saddle bag, an active saboteur.

2. The prospect of a Republican US Senate

There is a 68% chance that the Republicans will control the US Senate after the mid-term elections. For the climate this could be a disaster.

Certainly they are unlikely to control the 60 votes they would need to avoid a Democrat filibuster, and the President has the power of veto over bills. So anti-climate legislation is not so much the worry.

However, the Republicans could block appropriate appointments to various agency positions and regulatory posts.

Secondly, any treaty coming out of the 2015 UNFCCC talks in Paris next year would need to be legislated. This would be impossible and could affect the tenor of the entire negotiations, with one large lame duck at the table.

Third, the US contributions to the IPCC and the UNFCCC could be pulled, making life for those bodies impossible.


a GOP majority in that house of Congress would flip several key committees into Republican hands. In particular, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is up to take over the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would head the Subcommittee on Science and Space, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is in line to take control of the Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) would head up the Budget Committee.

All except Enzi are avowed climate denialists.

Then there’s scary budget negotiations, and more.

3. Global groundwater crisis


A NASA study has found that major groundwater aquifers are being depleted faster than the rate of replenishment, threatening food supplies and security.

The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”

The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”

4. Geoff Cousins heads the ACF

You’ll probably recognise the gravel-voiced tones of Geoff Cousins from his campaign against the Gunns paper mill. He used 20,000 signatures from ANZ customers to pressure the bank to withdraw the project’s funds.

From the SMH:

His business credentials include heading the country’s largest advertising company and heading Optus Vision when it slugged it out with News Ltd over rugby league broadcasting rights. He is a director of the Telstra board.

He is now President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, so expect to hear more from him. Now he’s lashed out at the Direct Action legislation and given the BCA (Business Council of Australia) a whack around the ears for supporting the legislation which he says individual companies would have rejected.

If somebody had brought a business case to the boards of one of those public companies for this program, no responsible board would have given it the time of day.

You would have asked first of all how cost efficient it was, you would have asked what was world’s best practice in all of these areas, these sorts of questions, and none of them would have been able to be answered positively in regard to this program.

The ACF are now embarking on a public education campaign about the legislation.

5. Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance

That’s the title of a report from Oxfam, summarised at Hot Topic.

On current trends, the world will be 4–6ºC hotter by the end of the century, exceeding 2ºC within the lifetimes of most people reading this report. This could put up to 400 million people in some of the poorest countries at risk of severe food and water shortages by the middle of the century.

This paper shows how, despite some steps in the right direction to tackle climate change, a ‘toxic triangle’ of political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests is blocking the transition that is needed. To help break this, governments must commit to phase out fossil fuel emissions by early in the second half of this century, with rich countries leading the way.

In 2012 fossil fuel companies spent $674bn on exploration and development projects. The industry is supported by $1.9 trillion of subsidies public finance, incentives and tax breaks, including the costs of paying for its widespread damage.

Quite simply, most of the stuff should be left in the ground:

Fossil fuel reserves_cropped_600

In truth, that’s generous!

10 thoughts on “Climate clippings 112”

  1. Ewa Kopacz has the same terrier like look as Julie Bishop I think.

    The Aral Sea with a catchment area of 1.55 million square kilometers which is now just several small lakes was in the foreign news this week. Take a look on google earth. The earth’s under ground water reserves are likely to be looking much the same if the ground were transparent. Warragamba’s catchment by comparison is just 9000 square kilometers.

    The way the energy game is being played out is that when the oil supply finally significantly slumps below demand there will be insufficient affordable energy left for the world’s nations to transition to renewable energy systems. The sad thing is that this period will be a time of maximum profit taking for those with their fingers in the energy till, a handful of wealthy people in a world of desperately poor. Realisitically though I think that governments will move to nationalise fossil energy assets somewhere through the collapse period in the attempt to stabilise economies.

  2. Bilb: You are right. Pumping fossil carbon into the atmosphere is not the only unsustainable thing we do. However, it is worth keeping in mind that higher temperatures mean more water being pumped into the atmosphere which means more rain. The scary thing is that changing rainfall patterns may mean large populations may end up in places where rain is actually reduced. Historically this has often triggered mass invasions.
    One of the really scary things is that 3 atomic powers depend on the Himalaya weather pattern.

  3. The way I read the latest IPCC report, we look set for increases in temp between 6.5 and 8.5 C by the end of the century. I will send the page refs when I get hone

  4. Oh sorry I just realised why my emails keep going into moderation. I’ve accidentally ended up using an email which is mix up of both my accounts. Please delete all the previous three attempts and I’ll try again. Sorry (shamefaced)

  5. The figure I’m referring to is in the latest IPCC report, summary for policy makers, p 37 (it’s also in the longer report but I just put this one because it’s easier).

    It has a grey section on the far right which is called “baseline” which covers approx the area between 6.5 and 9 C. I think this is equivalent to what used to called “business as usual” and shows what they expect if we continue on our present path. Can Brian and others please look at this and tell me if I’m right?

    I just find it a bit hard to believe because I would think people should be jumping up and down about this and they don’t seem to be. If this means what I think it means, my grandson, born this year, could still be alive in this world. It’s not far off. Is this what we are leaving our grandchildren?

  6. Ok, if the goal is to have the majority of people use green energy we must have Government sell all electricity production interests and remove all subsidies.
    This will work if the following are true :-

    a) The majority of electricity production is owned by the State.
    b) The majority of renewable production is owned by private entities.
    c) The majority of electricity production is non-renewable.
    d) Privatisation of production raises price of product ( conversely State ownership keeps pieces lower )
    e) Non-renewables receive more subsidies than renewables.
    f) Consumers are free to choose.

    If the above are true, and green electricity is cheaper under those condition, no more need be done.

  7. JD @ 2:

    One of the really scary things is that 3 atomic powers depend on the Himalaya weather pattern.

    Another of the scary things is where the rivers rise and where you can build dams. From memory, Pakistan has 11 major rivers, only one of which arises within its borders.

    Val, I’m doing a separate post on the IPCC report. I’ll have a look at that later tonight.

    If you want to switch to a new email, send a nonsense comment through that I can approve and then you’ll be OK.

  8. Thanks Brian – don’t forget, p 37 of summary (or equivalent in longer doc). There was an article at The Conversation by Roger Jones, I guess you’ve seen it ( as well as several articles in the Guardian). He covers a few points but I think there is much more to be said.

    Both of my email addresses are ok here, it’s just that I somehow stupidly managed to try to use one that was a combination of both – it may have been auto-corrected, or may have been my very own mistake 🙂

  9. Val, I’m going to need at least another day to do my post, but here’s an interim comment.

    For reference the Summary for Policymakers is here.

    The greyscale “baseline” on p37 is the equivalent of ‘business as usual’. Strictly I think it means ‘without mitigation efforts’.

    However, there are no temperatures on the graph. RCP means Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) which are expressed in terms of watts per square metre of radiative forcing (W m-2). This is explained back in para 2.1 on page 7. Temperatures are indicated in footnotes to Table SPM 1 on page 23 (footnote 2), also where that table fits into the text on page 8.

    I’ve seen both the figure on page 37 and the table on page 23 before, so the information isn’t new.

    There’s a graph that relates the RCP scenarios to cumulative emissions and temperature in WG1, which came out last year. See page 26 here.

    See also pp 99, 105 and 106 of the Long Report.

    All scary enough!

  10. Thanks Brian – my mistake was I was reading the RCPs as temperature ranges.

    I checked the graph on p 26 of the WG1 report – it actually shows predicted sea level rises, but there is an explanation of predicted temperature rises on p 20, and RCP 8.5 ( which seems roughly equivalent to the baseline or business as usual scenario) is associated with an equal chance of exceeding 4C rise – bad enough as you say, though not quite as bad as I read it.

    Will check the other links later too.

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