Welcome to the the Green Tea Coalition

Traditionally, doubting climate science has been an article of faith for the US Tea Party.  Imagine my surprise at seeing this New Yorker  report that sections of the Tea Party are now actively supporting rooftop solar and teaming up with the Sierra Club to form the “Green Tea Coalition.  Coalition action includes:

helping defeat an effort by Georgia Power to impose heavy fees on customers with rooftop solar systems.”

So what is going on and are there implications for climate action in Australia?

The Tea party leader behind these moves is Debbie Dooley.  Debbie is definitely not someone from the Tea party fringe. She is

one of the twenty-two organizers of the first nationwide Tea Party protest, in 2009…. a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, on the board of directors of the national Tea Party Patriots, and, since 2012, has been a fierce solar-power advocate.

In addition, much of what she says in support of solar is pure Tea Party:

“I thought that the regulated (utility) monopoly in Georgia had far too much power…” Solar, …. promised to give people energy autonomy. “The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbors if they wish.”

She also talks about:

solar energy, the free market, consumer choice, and national security. “Rooftop solar makes it harder for terrorists to render a devastating blow to our power grid,” she said. “There’s nothing more centralized in our nation. If terrorists were able to take down nine key substations, it would cause a blackout coast to coast.”….

and actions such as leading

a major ballot initiative that would amend that state’s (Florida) constitution to allow individuals and businesses with solar panels to sell the power that they generate directly to their tenants or neighbors. (Current law permits only utility companies to sell electricity.)

The key things here are a growing aversion to big business trying to limit the freedom of individuals in addition in addition to the traditional Tea Party aversion to big government.  There is no suggestion that the Tea party side of the coalition has suddenly decided to become climate change believers.

So what are the lessons for Australia given that the Tea party is an artifact of US culture?   For me there a few key reminders:

  1. You don’t have to believe in climate science to do things that help slow climate change.
  2. In some cases ideological things like individualism. aversion to big business/government will help with things like rooftop solar, household recycling, urban farming etc.
  3. In other cases the fracking companies are helping build the case against fossil gas while helping to build the regional Greens vote.
  4. Then there is finance.  The thing that is most likely to kill thermal coal projects and fossil power stations these days is the banks perception that these have become very risky investments.
  5. Then there is the economy.   What the world economy needs right now is a big drive against Greenhouse emissions – You don’t need to believe in climate science – Just sensible economics.

No, I haven’t gone over to the Tea party but it is worth reading the rest of the New Yorker article on the fights that Dooley has fought and won against the likes of the Koch Bros and more.

If you want to find out even more, admire the picture, imagine Abbott stewing in the Tea Cup and go to:  Green Tea Coalition

Green Tea Coalition

Bi-partisan Coalition of Environmentalists and tea party activists seeking common ground on common sense energy solutions for a stronger American economy.

ABC’s Sarah Ferguson accused of bias


In a commissioned review Fairfax’s Colleen Ryan found that Ferguson’s opening question to Joe Hockey on the 2014 budget was “emotive” and would lead to the average viewer thinking the treasurer “was not treated with sufficient respect by the interviewer”.

Ferguson’s opening gambit to Hockey was: “It’s a budget with a new tax, with levies, with co-payments. Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?”

Ferguson, who pressed an uncomfortable-looking Hockey on the fairness of the budget and its reversal of pre-election promises, homed in on the deficit levy and Medicare co-payment, which Hockey referred to as “tax adjustments”.

“They’re still taxes,” Ferguson said. “I don’t need to teach you, treasurer, what a tax is. You know that a co-payment, a levy and a tax are all taxes by any other name. Am I correct?”

Apparently she treated Chris Bowen in a similar manner.

I thought she treated everyone like a headmistress sorting out naughty miscreants. Because she was generally well-informed and incisive I rather enjoyed her style.

The ABC has defended her:

“As a political interviewer, Ms Ferguson is tough but demonstrates a consistently civil and objective approach,” said Kate Torney, director of ABC News.

“She is insistent that those she interviews do not evade important questions and often focuses on contradictions either within policy positions or in the responses of interviewees.

“The fact that this may make interviewees ‘uncomfortable’ does not necessarily mean that the interviewer is either aggressive or is failing to demonstrate due impartiality.”

Torney said the ABC “does not believe Ms Ferguson’s questions were hostile or unbalanced; rather they were astute and prescient”.

Generally speaking though, I think aggressive interviewing is unproductive, especially when coming from an ill-informed base, which unfortunately is what we get all too often.

The whole affair has become problematic for the ABC because it has been reported in a biased way. Note that The Guardian report linked above speaks of what the average viewer might think. It hasn’t reported a finding of bias as such. But elsewhere we have:

Alan Sunderland as Head of Editorial Policy tells the real story:

Colleen produced an excellent and comprehensive report. Her overall judgement was that our coverage complied with all of our policies and guidelines and the overall quality was “excellent”. At significant length, the report discusses all aspects of the coverage and provides a series of observations on ways it might have been improved, expanded or extended.

When it came to the detail, the report analysed 76 different pieces of content over several days, and in all of that it singled out only three items for particular mention. One of them was the Sarah Ferguson interview.

While stressing that the issue was subjective and her view related only to a “potential perception”, Colleen Ryan suggested that some questions were asked in a way that might raise perceptions of bias because of tone and phrasing. While acknowledging that all the questions were accurate and appropriate, and that Sarah Ferguson had a reputation as an interviewer who asked equally tough questions of all sides, she nonetheless wondered whether enough respect was shown to this interviewee.

He says it was a worthwhile question to ask, and the whole point of seeking outside views is to raise honest questions.

Thankfully the ABC will continue to monitor its performance with such external reviews and publish the results in a transparent way. It’s critics in the MSM should do likewise.

Climate clippings 127

1. Queensland’s minister for the reef

Premier Palaszczuk’s new ministry contained some surprises, including the appointment of Steven Miles as Minister for the Great Barrier Reef. His full handle is Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef.

According to the WWF, Minister Miles will be responsible for delivering ALP environmental commitments including: a ban on dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area; an 80 per cent reduction in pollution run-off into the Reef by 2025; and the reinstatement of key legal safeguards.

2. Japan now has more EV chargers than petrol stations

The number of EV charging points in Japan, including fast-chargers and those installed in homes, has reached 40,000, surpassing the nation’s 34,000 gas stations, a new report has found.

The surprising figures were reported last week by Japanese auto giant Nissan, whose fully electric car, the Leaf, has been one of the world’s big EV success stories, selling 160,000 cars globally since its 2011 launch date.

Mainly in Japan, the US and Europe.

It should be noted that some of the charging stations are in private homes. Also petrol stations have multiple pumps, not reflected in the figures.

Tesla has its own network of (solar powered) charging stations in the US – and has plans to build versions of this supercharge network in China, Europe and Australia.

In Australia, local fast-charge tech company, Tritium, installed its first public Veefil EV charger in Brisbane at a BMW dealership in Fortitude Valley – the first of a planned “electric super highway” of fast chargers along the east coast.

3. Temperature records vs trends

Gavin Schmidt, who has succeeded James Hansen as head of NASA GISS, has some Thoughts on 2014 and ongoing temperature trends. The shorter Schmidt is that while individual records grab the headlines, they don’t matter nearly as much as the underlying trend. This graph shows the overall trend in relation to El Niño and La Niña and years:


The blue bars represent La Niña years, the orange El Niño and the grey neutral years. 2014 is bang on trend, but only marginally higher than 2005 and 2010. Yet it is grey to their orange.

Schmidt doesn’t mention this, but while 2014 was neutral it did feature anomalous warming in the northern Pacific, rather than the eastern equatorial Pacific warming associated with El Niños. This warming is said to have some of the same climatic effects as El Niño. Perhaps we need a new category with a fancy name.

4. Climate sensitivity conundrums

The term is “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS). It represents “the global surface temperature change anticipated as a result of doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.” John Fasullo has done a post on the current challenges and constraints in relation to the concept. It’s technical and I find it a bit boring, but ECS is an absolutely central concept to climate change discourse.

The basic problem is that the IPCC broadened the uncertainty range at the lower end from 2-4.5°C in IPCC4 to 1.5-4.5°C in IPCC5. The likely midpoint is still 3°C.

Fasullo has a lot of complex argument about the constraints arising from observations and models. What I think it comes down to is this.

The cut-off date for published papers for IPCC5 was July 2012. Prior to that date there had been several papers suggesting uncertainty at the lower end. Now the literature has swung back the other way. There was also the ‘warming pause’, which for a while back there was deemed by some to be real.

Fasullo makes it clear that the calculations are based largely on short-term effects. In Climate clippings 125 I referred to a David Spratt article which refers to the work of Hansen, Tripati and others which put longer term ECS at 4.5°C or more. And part of the point of the Michael Mann article was that we are starting to get into the longer term feedback zone.

I think they should all go back and read Hansen et al Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications (2011, I think) pages 4-18. The table on p17 gives ECS at 8°C or more, depending on certain definitions and circumstances.

5. Origin Energy to build Australia’s biggest rooftop solar array

Origin Energy and Zen Energy Systems are to build a 3MW solar system on the rooftop of the old Mitsubishi factory in Tonsley, Adelaide, in what will be the largest rooftop solar array in the country.

The awarding of the contracts was announced by the South Australian government this week. The intention to build the array was first announced late last year.

Origin Energy will own the rooftop array and sell the output to the tenants of the Tonsley high tech centre…, under a power purchase agreement that it is looking at replicating elsewhere in the country.

Here’s an artist’s impression of the site:


6. Origin shifts retail focus to rooftop solar and battery storage

Origin Energy has provided further details of its impending major push into the domestic solar market, saying that it expects rooftop solar to grow five-fold over the next 15 years, and battery storage will also emerge.

The Tonsley centre initiative is one example of this company reorientation. Seems AGL is looking to follow suit.