Climate clippings 134

1. Abbott’s energy white paper focuses on fossil fuel favourites

We should take a longer look at the Abbott government’s energy white paper, but from what Giles Parkinson says it would be a waste of time. As expected it ignores climate change and sees our future based on fossil fuels. Here’s Tones peering into our energy future:


The world will pass him by!

2. Solar news

RenewEconomy was a flood of articles about solar.

Sophie Vorrath:

A company based in the world’s largest oil exporting nation, Saudi Arabia, has become the new owner of Australia’s second-largest solar plant – the under-construction 72MW Moree PV project – after buying Spanish solar developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and its 3.8GW global development pipeline.

Abdul Latif Jameel Energy and Environmental Services – a conglomerate that also has a base in the United Arab Emirates – announced its purchase of FRV on Wednesday, describing it as a major development of its energy business, and part of its on-going strategy to be the Gulf’s largest solar power plant developer.

Giles Parkinson says the prospects for big solar in WA are bright.

James Mandel and Leia Guccione take a look at a Rocky Mountain Institute report that analyzes how grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will become cost competitive with traditional retail electric service and why it matters to financiers, regulators, utilities, and other electricity system stakeholders.

Paul McArdle reports on the benefits of tracking systems in solar PV from a seminar hosted by the UQ Energy Initiative and the Global Change Institute.

And more, as the Abbottistas fade into irrelevance, except that they are presently running (ruining?) the country.

3. Aluminium battery charges in one minute

US scientists say they have invented a cheap, long-lasting and flexible battery made of aluminium for use in smartphones that can be charged in as little as one minute.

The researchers, who detailed their discovery in the journal Nature, said the new aluminium-ion battery had the potential to replace lithium-ion batteries, used in millions of laptops and mobile phones.

Besides recharging much faster, the new aluminium battery is safer than existing lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames, they added.

While lithium-ion batteries last about 1,000 cycles, the new aluminium battery was able to continue after more than 7,500 cycles without loss of capacity. It also can be bent or folded.

Larger aluminium batteries could also be used to store renewable energy on the electrical grid, Professor Dai said.

Meanwhile the US market for energy storage management systems, that is the software suites designed to increase the operating efficiency and overall value of energy storage, will grow tenfold between 2014 and 2019.

5. French banks rule out funding Galilee basin coal project

France’s three biggest banks have ruled out funding the controversial multi-billion dollar Galilee basin coal mining, rail and port development in Queensland. Eleven major international lenders have now publically stated that they won’t finance the $16.5 billion dollar project and one analyst says more delays could see the Indian company behind the project ultimately scrap the development.

6. Rising sea levels to force the largest exodus in history

Scientists calculate that within the next three decades a substantial area along the Bay of Bengal, a region of delta approximately 200 delta islands in India and Bangladesh called the Sundarbans, will be underwater due to climate change and rising sea levels. If that happens, the millions of people living there now will be forced to abandon their homes and lands, making their displacement the largest exodus in modern history.

Estimates predict that the region will be underwater within the next 10-25 years, forcing 8 million Bangladeshis and 5 million Indians inland.

That makes 13 million displaced. Other large movements cited include 10 million during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition and 7 million African Americans move from the southern states northward during the period 1916-1970. The one he missed was the movement of Germans from Eastern Europe towards the end and after World War II. Tony Judt reckons 13 million.

7. Contrarian climate scientists

Dana Nuccitelli reviews an interview with top contrarian climate scientists Roy Spencer and John Christy. You can read his analysis of their flawed thinking and erratic statements. I’d like to pull out three points.

First, John Cook et al’s survey that established the 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature on human-caused global warming does not categorise the 3% as complete denialists. The 3% includes papers by scientists, such as Spencer and Christy, who minimise human influence on global warming. Complete denialists amongst climate scientists are rare if they exist at all.

Second, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and Yale University conducted a survey of meteorologists in relation to climate science and global warming. Only 13 percent of survey participants described climate as their field of expertise. I was surprised at how low the number is.

Third, on the cost of renewables:

Experts in these fields who have published research on the subject have found that fossil fuels are incredibly expensive, when we account for all of their costs. For example, one recent study conservatively estimated that including pollution costs, coal is about 4 times more expensive than wind and 3 times more expensive than solar energy in the USA today.

Saturday salon 11/4 (late edition)


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Richie Benaud passes on

The ABC puts it well:

Cricket icon Richie Benaud, who distinguished himself first as a leg-spinning all-rounder, then as a daring Australian Test captain and later as the ‘voice of cricket’ in the commentary box, has died at the age of 84.

Benaud’s skills, drive and determination took him to the top on and off the cricket field, and made him one of Australia’s most recognised people, instantly identifiable simply as Richie.

He played 63 Tests for Australia, was the first player to score 2,000 Test runs and take 200 Test wickets, and never lost a series as Australian captain.

After hanging up his Baggy Green cap, he spent more than four decades as the king of cricket commentators, a man viewed around the world as one of the best callers, watchers and analysts of the game – and perhaps its best ambassador as well.

While acknowledging his record I’d rate him as a top-flight bowler who was a handy batsman rather than a genuine all-rounder, who would be selected for his batting and his bowling absent the other. Genuine all-rounders are rare. I can think of Garfield Sobers, Keith Miller and Ian Botham, also Adam Gilchrist in a sense.

Benaud, I think, gave some respectability to the Packer circus and was apparently quite influential in giving advice.

2. Opinion polls

In Great Britain Ed Miliband overtakes David Cameron in approval ratings, as Labour pulls ahead in the polls.

Here in Oz Newspoll studied quarterly trends with a larger than usual sample. The headlines and much of the reporting was about Abbott’s poor performance in WA. You had to dig to find the national TPP poll which had Labor ahead 55-45. Also:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten leads Mr Abbott 44-34 as preferred prime minister.

He is now ranked as better prime minister in all states for the first time.

Roy Morgan now has Labor ahead 53-47 and as does the Essential Report.

If this keeps up Labor could lose the election, because they’ll give Abbott the flick and put in Julie or Malcolm.

3. We lock people up too much

Australia’s imprisonment rate at 186 per 100,000 is historically high and getting higher. Moreover:

In contrast to most other developed countries, this rate is palpably high. The rate in Canada is 118 per 100,000. The incarceration rate in Australia is nearly three times higher than in Scandinavian countries.

Standing apart from these trends is the world’s greatest incarcerator, the United States, which imprisons more than 700 people per 100,000 – an increase of more than 400% in three decades.

It’s costing us a pile of money – we spend $A80,000 per prisoner per year compared to $A30,000 in the US. This wouldn’t be so bad if it worked, but it doesn’t:

Sentencing is the area of law where there remains the biggest gap between what science tells us can be achieved through a social institution (criminal punishment) and what we actually do.

In fact

our prisons [are] where the greatest number of human rights infractions occur.

The solution?

The start and endpoint to the solution is to confine jails (almost exclusively) to those we have reason to be scared of: sexual and violent offenders.

Thanks to John D for bringing this article to my attention.

4. Keep an eye on Greece – something unusual is happening

James Galbraith has been to Greece to consult on their problems and reported in an amazing speech to the European Trade Union Institute.

So as these manoeuvres, as I call them, mature, there emerges an interesting possibility. And that is the possibility of a politically stable, anti-austerity government in Europe, led, as I think you probably have observed, by forceful personalities, and presiding over an economy which is so far down that it has no place to go but up. And that may well be, within a short period of time, on a track of some recovery, some improvement in jobs performance and stabilisation of its external debt situation.

This would be in the wake of a crisis that was brought on by the neoliberal financial policies of the early part of the 2000s. Which was then aggravated and prolonged by the austerity ideology that succeeded the crisis, by the profoundly counterproductive policies with which Europe has reacted to the crisis. And so the possibility that an anti-austerity government might lead the beginning of a recovery from the austerity regime is, I think, a present reality and it is, of course, a nightmare in certain quarters.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have faced a wall of grief and pain from a hostile media and European finance authorities. If they prevail it will be because in the end Angela Merkel is pragmatic rather than doctrinaire. The stakes are high:

It goes beyond that to the future of Europe and beyond that, to the meaning of the word democracy in our time.

If you have a spare hour, Yanis Varoufakis talks with Joe Stiglitz. I haven’t yet had time for more than the first half hour.