Climate clippings 192

1. Thunderstorm asthma attack

Monday last week saw a thunderstorm asthma attack in Melbourne of startling magnitude. Hospitals struggled to treat 8,500 people, 20 to 40% of those affected had never suffered from asthma before. Six people have died, and three more struggle for life in intensive care. (Sorry, in late news it is now eight dead, with one remaining critical.) People queued at pharmacies for Ventolin and in places supplies were exhausted. Ambulance services were overwhelmed.

The phenomenon is not common, but has happened in Australia before, though not on this scale. Reena Ghildyal of the University of Canberra says it could have been foreseen, if we had been doing pollen counts, which are not to be sneezed at.

That story says that Melbourne does have a pollen count service. Seems no-one took much notice. That story also says there was an incident of thunderstorm asthma in November 2010.

Here’s a thunderstorm asthma explainer. Is climate change involved? Probably.

2. Graham Readfearn does Marrakech

Graham Readfearn from Planet Oz has a fine series of posts summarising the UN climate talks at Marrakech, the COP 22 (22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties).

In the beginning he says that the meeting will be seen as an “action and implementation COP” because it’s seen as the chance to start acting on the promises made in Paris. He comments on Australia’s new climate ambassador Patrick Suckling, fresh from being Australia’s high commissioner in India, an advocate for coal, and for restricting the rights of those who want to protest against new mines.

In the middle it’s time to hug an American, who is likely to burst into tears at the election of Trump. Climate Analytics produced a report saying 1,082 coal power plants are being planned around the world, effectively locking in dirty energy production for at least 40 more years.

Then Benjamin Sporton of the World Coal Association tells the meeting that basically they can’t do climate change or anything else without clean coal-fired power and CCS. Most wish he’d just go away.

There are currently more than 7,000 coal plants operating worldwide, with about 700 more under construction.

By the end of the second week, the meeting was not about raising ambition, just setting the rules in place and trying to make everything transparent. Everyone knows that the ambition has to be ratcheted up in the future, and that “when the bartering starts again, political leaders are clear about the price of failure.”

3. Reporting Malcolm Roberts

Readfearn took time out to report on Malcolm Roberts, and his launch of a 42-page take-down of climate science, the CSIRO and the claimed lack of ’empirical evidence’.

Roberts himself appears to be selective in what he regards as evidence. Apparently he takes four years data on CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and concludes that it’s natural and seasonal fluctuations driving temperature, not CO2. Somehow he missed the trend in last 50 years of data:


Readfearn raises the issue of how the media should report this stuff:

    If journalists aspire to protect the public, then producing stories that allow debunked climate science denial talking points to hang in the air like a bad smell is not going to cut it.

I think it’s not so much “protecting” the public, as truth-seeking. The SMH at least reported Roberts as they found him, a zealot and a nutter who couldn’t handle the media.

Pauline Hanson and Roberts visited the Great Barrier Reef near Great Keppel Island, nearly 1000 km south of where the bleaching happened, and then declared the Reef healthy. ABC online puts the stunt in a broader context, but on TV the ABC looked like Hanson’s media department by just reporting what they saw.

4. Cleaning up after Trump

RealClimate takes a look at the cost of cleaning up after Trump.

Thing is that we are running out of time to bring emissions down for a safe climate, so we’ll end up having to take the CO2 out of the air.

The American Physical Society has calculated the cost as $600 per tonne of CO2. We can therefore calculate that cleaning up after Trump will cost about $8-10 trillion, which amounts to about 14% of US GDP over four years.

5. Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change

That’s according to ‘carbon accountant’ Richard Heede. I think one of our bigger problems in the next little while is in civilising large multi-national corporations, getting them to operate in the interests of the human race. Probably the WTO is a better bet than the UN, which operates on a consensus approach.

Thanks to Ootz for the link.

6. Food from methane

They’ve actually approved this to happen in the EU, and the US look like going for it too.

Take some methane-eating bacteria, such as Methylococcus capsulatus and feed them methane. Apparently you get CO2 and water, but you also get this high-protein stuff, which is dried and turned into pellets, which can be used for feeding fish, or domestic animals like pigs, or humans could eat it if you tarted it up appropriately.


I think that might be dead bugs and their droppings.

It’s being touted as environmentally friendly, but Carbon Trust ran the ruler over it and found:

    that when methane from a fossil source is used, several times as much CO2 is produced per tonne of feed than by almost all other ways of making feed. Only chicken blood meal has higher average CO2 emissions per tonne of feed.

There are small 100-tonne factories in England and Denmark, looking to scale up, and food giant Cargill has plans to produce 200,000 tonnes of feed a year in the US.

7. Sharing solar is the next big thing

Giles Parkinson tells us that sharing solar is the next big thing in the energy industry.

Apparently you can put a tracer into the electricity so that when electricity is consumed you can tell where it was produced. So the idea is to develop clusters of homes with the sharing technology. In order to balance the money owed and paid you use a “cryptographically secure” distributed ledger.

It’s happening in New York and Germany. Several firms are interested in Australia because of:

    the uptake of solar, the anticipated boom in battery storage, high energy costs, and the fact that the grid has not been built to be resilient.

Now in NSW we have a parliamentary secretary for renewable energy who is mad keen on solar and on peer-to-peer energy trading. He’s the 32-year-old National Party MLA Adam Marshall, who was mayor of Gunnedah at the age of 23, and represents the electorate of Northern Tablelands, which covers much of the same territory as Barnaby Joyce’s federal electorate of New England.

Wonders will never cease!

One thought on “Climate clippings 192”

  1. What worries me about things like solar sharing is that things like this often involve some company proposing I buy costly technology that will allow me to sell or buy solar power “direct”. However, there are a couple of problems:
    1. The daily householder power cost is low. A rough estimate puts my bill at $4/day if the effect of solar is ignored. For this reason a sophisticated metering system that might make sense financial sense for a major power consumer is, at best, marginal for a household.
    2. The last time I looked, grid charges were the same no matter how far the power traveled.
    3. Power production and transport is very capital intensive while running costs a low. For grid systems that have plenty of capacity this means that it actually makes very little difference how far the power actually travels . However, having local power generation can make a lot of difference when the grid is close to overload because local can avoid the need for very expensive grid upgrades.
    I suspect that power companies could come up with something similar to what the magic meters do by measuring the flow of power from and to the grid at low voltage transformers and, to some extent use this information to adjust power bills and credits.

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