Flannery rescues the planet

Tim Flannery says A decade ago climate experts were deeply worried. Now they are terrified.

We need to perform superbly in the next 10 years, he says, but the task is doable.

Robyn Williams talked to Tim Flannery at the Planet Talks, part of Womadelaide, in April 2018. There is a transcript available at the link above.

Flannery says that we have missed the chance to get in early to solve the climate change problem:

    because the greenhouse gases that will drive that change are already in the atmosphere. We have already put them in, they will be accumulating heat close to the Earth’s surface for several decades to come, and what that means is that the 2020s will be worse than the teens, the 2030s will be worse than the 2020s. Maybe by the 2040s if we really start pulling a finger out now we can start improving things. But we will face two decades of change now, even if we do our utmost.

We have not yet seen mass systemic climate change of the scale which is almost certainly to come as we pump CO2 into the atmosphere about 100 times faster than any other period recorded in geological history. We are now, he says, entering the acute phase of the problem.

    By 2030 we will have passed through this acute phase and we will be in a phase, if we do nothing, which will really be a future where it will be very hard to alter the outcomes. If we leave it another decade, the greenhouse gas burden will have built up so much that no matter what we do it is going to be very difficult to reduce the impacts.

He says that 1.5°C is pretty much inevitable, and by 2030 2°C may also be inevitable, so we need to go beyond reducing emissions to decarbonising the atmosphere.

Flannery’s big thing for South Australia is kelp farming. He says seaweed grows 30 to 60 times faster than land-based plants, and it likes cold nutrient-rich water such as that found off the coast of SA. Then, he says, you need deep canyons where seaweed can be sequestered so that the carbon does not resurface over timescales that are meaningful in terms of climate change.

    Most of the seaweed that gets into the deep oceans seems to get there through submarine canyons. There are about 660 submarine canyons identified around the planet, and one of the largest and deepest is right here off Kangaroo Island, a 4 km deep submarine canyon, that is like a superhighway for taking seaweed, if you want, into the deep ocean and out of the system, along with all of the carbon that’s in that seaweed.

His vision is for:

    a marine permaculture system operating off Kangaroo Island, which is producing not only seaweed but high-quality marine protein for export to Asia, which is utilising some of that seaweed crop while some of it is being sequestered in the deep ocean.

He pointed out that President Trump’s first budget contained a $50 a ton tax credit for the geological sequestration of carbon, and a $35 a ton tax credit for the profitable use of sequestered carbon.

He says the potential for kelp sequestration is that by 2050 we could be doing four gigatonnes of carbon a year, which equates to 15 gigatonnes of CO2 in round figures. Current emissions amount to about 50 gigatonnes of CO2 each year, so that is about 30 per cent of current output, which is significant.

To make it work you need sunlight and nutrients in the top 300 metres of water. He cites a brand-new seaweed farm project by a group called Marine Permaculture at Woods Hole on the east coast of the USA. They have built a 100-metre array which will be deployed in the Indian Ocean over the next four months or so. It uses renewable energy (wave energy and solar) to pump nutrient-rich water from 300 metres down to the kelp farm which sits 25 metres below the surface. The farm will produce kelp and other high-quality marine resources.

With kelp you can make “amazing food, medication, paper, structural materials, lots and lots of stuff, plastics, it’s endless what has been done in Asia with this stuff.”

Flannery says the industry, now in its infancy, is currently producing $12 million tonnes world-wide.

Other ideas Flannery mentioned included:

  • Plastics – in future we will be able to use biological materials for plastics or direct air capture of CO2 for degradable plastics or plastic substitutes. Or just use banana leaves.
  • Carbon fibre. Two years ago in the USA people made carbon fibre from atmospheric CO2 directly, at a cost, they say, competitive with current production methods. When it gets cheap enough it could replace aluminium or steel for many purposes.
  • Flannery says he worked with Siemens for a number of years looking at a technology where you dissolve CO2 in water, run a weak electrical current through it and you can create the building blocks for a whole lot of materials that are useful in many industrial processes, and substitute for fossil fuels.
  • Flannery says that in Greenland as the glaciers recede there are gigatonnes of rock flour being exposed which have silicates rocks in them. The silicate, which absorbs atmospheric CO2, can be ground up and added to soil or water.
  • Another group of people are talking about capturing CO2 over the Antarctic icecap as dry ice. You chill the air a few tens of degrees, let the dry ice fall as snow and bury it in the icecap.

Flannery thinks that concentrated solar thermal technology, where you get high quality concentrated heat which is stored, such as the one being developed to grow tomatoes at Port Augusta, will be transformational.

He also gave a shout for hydrogen:

    Let’s just pick apart hydrogen. As I said, 97% of the world’s nitrogenous fertilisers are made from natural gas at the moment, but right here in South Australia you are developing a plant that is going to be making them from wind and solar electricity, amazing stuff, cost competitively. So that is a huge step. And the hydrogen that will be generated as well, you can shandy that into the gas pipelines I think on the order of 15%, without deleterious effects. So again, you are lessening the demand for gas.

Actually, while writing the post I happened upon Steel Plant in Sweden Set to Operate Entirely on Hydrogen Fuel:

    SSAB steelmaker wants to become the world’s first fossil fuel-free steel plant powered only by hydrogen.

When asked about biochar, Flannery said the difficulty with all of the terrestrial approaches is one of scale. To get five gigatonnes of carbon out of the air you need to cover an area roughly equal to North America with trees. Robyn Williams that seagrasses absorb 40 to 100 times more CO2 than tropical rainforests.

His final idea, in response to a question about changing our political system so that we move faster was to have one-term politicians and every piece of legislation would go through a citizen jury of people chosen at random.

42 thoughts on “Flannery rescues the planet”

  1. This bloke, I am sorry to admit, is an embarrassment. He has endless opportunities to spruik. He has a feeble track record in the spruiking.

    May I remind the gentle readers of his advocacy of Hot Rocks? Amply covered by ABC TV in an extended program. I expressed doubts. Brian, you too had doubts I seem to recall… but expressed more politely as is your wont.

    This bloke backed a commercial outfit devoted to energy from Hot Rocks. See bankruptcy.

    Where to start?

    It is already harvested in large quantities and used in producing ice cream, toothpaste etc.
    It’s big on King Island, Tasmania for example. Blokes with a licence drag it up from beaches, then dry it on wooden racks.

    A 100 metre set up, eh??

    There are kelp FORESTS all over the world.

  2. Oh, silly me.

    I should have guessed.

    There is a Flannery book.
    Of course there is!

    Sunlight and Seaweed, published in July 2017.

  3. Ambi, I think Flannery’s assessment of where we are with climate change mitigation is about right.

    On his talk, I like his enthusiasm. I don’t expect all his ideas to come off. It would have taken another couple of nights to research and critique them, so I decided to put them out there.

    I meant to provide the link to the article at the Conversation How farming giant seaweed can feed fish and fix the climate, which is an excerpt from his book Sunlight and Seaweed: An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World.

    I couldn’t find a decent review, just this SMH ‘review’ , which says the book is about Concentrated Solar Thermal and mid-ocean kelp farming, and it’s nice to see something positive for a change.

    There was a pay-walled review at the Oz.

    Then there was this article in the NZ Herald, which mentioned:

      Dr Von Herzen and a foundation director, Rebecca Truman, visited Northland over the past three weeks before returning to the US after travelling to Western Australia for a research project following the foundation’s win in the $3 million Australian Government Blue Economy Challenge for innovative proposals to boost aquaculture.

    Turns out that was true, there were ten winners from 220 ideas submitted.

    It’s also listed at Drawdown as a ‘coming attraction’.

    So I wouldn’t write it off completely. Dr Karl didn’t. He also ran into Brian Von Herzen, and interviewed him about using his technology to cool the Great Barrier Reef!

    I got that link from the Climate Foundation site.

    Dunno, scaling up might be a problem. I can’t see it working mid-ocean, because the nutrients would be too far down. Not sure the greening would like large-scale aquaculture, but I believe many kelp forests are in trouble with warming.

  4. It is very good to hear something positive if it is genuinely positive.

    “Carbon capture and storage” has been bruited for more than 10 years.

    “Nuclear fusion” has been bruited and seriously worked on for 60 years.

    Hope is a wonderful thing. Science and engineering are the route to realised hopes, IMO.

    OK, let me “do a Flannely” for a moment. A 2% increase in productivity of natural kelp forests would far outweigh any Flannel Cool Corporation Kelp Farm, in benefit to the health of seas, oceans and atmosphere.

    BTW I agree that deep ocean nutrients are likely out of reach to reasonable (carbon neutral) human fetching.


  5. Ambi I agree with your outrage in that without political will Flannery’s kelp idea is just another entrepreneurial idea looking for investors.

    What we have in Australia is very carefully constructed political paralysis of Climate Action perpetuated by the media who routinely give Abbott air time to push his negative agenda. The damage was done years ago and only a massive shake up will re energise the public/government commitment to change.

    So where Flannery failed was in not calling for a Royal Commission into Australia’s Response to the Threat of Climate Change, while he had the public gaze.

    Without the political will all of the good intentions and the efforts of the many people readying themselves to become part of a revitalised and Sustainable Australian Decarbonised Economy are of little consequence.

    Until there is a committed and determined Australian government Flannery is as you say, however, once there is political will to act decisively on Climate Action then Tim Flannery will be the man of the day as his words and efforts will become action, not just words lost to the wind.

  6. If you get the nutrients up from the depths there will be a plankton/sea-life bloom anyway with some of the carbon captured raining back to the depths. My understanding is that this doesn’t have to come from the deep deeps. This understanding comes from reading that the disappearance of large fish and whales reduced the natural churning caused by large fish etc. diving deeply and churning nutrient rich material up into the photosynthesizing levels.
    My guess is that by the time someone does the calcs that the area required for the kelp salvation will render the whole idea impractical at the required scale.

  7. What the world economy (and the planet) needs is to go onto a world war scale effort to save the planet. My fear for the kelp solution is that it will simply help the ruling nut cases claim that we can continue building coal fired power stations.

  8. Ambigulous (Re: MAY 17, 2018 AT 7:54 AM):

    It is very good to hear something positive if it is genuinely positive.

    I agree. Unfortunately, there seems to be many “brightside” schemes being put forward with little technical analysis to determine whether these schemes actually comply with the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, economics, etc.

    As you’ve indicated:

    “Carbon capture and storage” has been bruited for more than 10 years.

    CCS has only been successful with enhanced oil recovery projects – to produce more GHG emissions.

    “Nuclear fusion” has been bruited and seriously worked on for 60 years.

    We may get there sometime, but it’s not available anytime soon. Humanity needs to work with what is available now for rapid scaled-up deployment, to mitigate GHG emissions and transition to avoid resource depletion issues.

  9. Thanks BilB, John and Geoff M.

    I agree that humanity needs to use current tools and techniques, urgently.

    Innovators are always welcome to test new designs, plan for the longer term etc.

    John, with whale populations on the rise, perhaps algal life cycles will assist with our hopes for atmospheric CO2 reductions; possibly they are already making positive contributions?? The oceans and seas are vast.

    Mare incognita
    still, in many ways….

    (Thinking of continental drift, deep ocean hot vents, underwater volcanic activity, thousands of species as yet undiscovered…. But keep a close eye on algae, the foundation of the whole food chain; and the original oxygenators of our blue planet, so I’m told. Cyanobacteria, you are our friends!!)

  10. Tim Flannery has been raising the right questions for a long time.

    not so sure about some of his answers…..


  11. BilB (Re: MAY 17, 2018 AT 9:49 AM):

    What we have in Australia is very carefully constructed political paralysis of Climate Action perpetuated by the media who routinely give Abbott air time to push his negative agenda. The damage was done years ago and only a massive shake up will re energise the public/government commitment to change.

    I draw your attention to the Australian Senate Inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security, link to webpage here. The Committee has sought an extension to the reporting date to 17 May 2018 to enable it to conclude its deliberations.

    Check out some of the Submissions:
    Sherri Goodman (#0008),
    Climate Change Research Centre (#0010),
    BZE (#0017),
    Climate Council of Australia (#0018),
    Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration (#0020),
    Ian Dunlop (#0036),
    are a few names I recognize.

    The voices are getting louder and louder for action.

  12. 17 May. Very soon.

    information brought to you by Gippsland Pedantry Consultants*

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  13. Further to my comment (at MAY 17, 2018 AT 1:12 PM), the Australian Senate Inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security has released its Final Report, link here.

    There are 11 recommendations.

  14. Tim Flannery has done more damage to the credibility of “ climate experts “ in this Country than all the skeptics bloggers put together.

    The vast sums of money that have been thrown around, with zero return, at things he’s advocated is bad enough but.

    Why actual Climate Scientists haven’t told him to piss off is beyond comprehension.
    Not to mention Economists, Biologists, Engineers, Volcanologists, Oceanographers etc, etc, etc…..

  15. Tim Flannery has done more damage to the credibility of “ climate experts “ in this Country than all the skeptics bloggers put together.


    The vast sums of money that have been thrown around, with zero return, at things he’s advocated is bad enough but.

    That would be hot rocks and desal plants?

    [Disclaimer: without Perth’s desal plants I’d be dessicated.]

  16. Ditto zoot.

    Rubbish Jumpy

    The worst that one can say about Tim Flannery is that he is a reasonable rational thinking scientist.

  17. Desal plants are a bl**dy good idea. But you have to build them before they’re needed.

    Water security is as vital as energy security.

    I’m an antidessicationist, at least in regard to *zoot*.

  18. Jump, no-one would go out and do anything just because Flannery thought it was a good idea.

    I don’t think the people investing in hot rocks consulted Flannery at the time. Heard today it is still a thing in Korea, but they may be having second thoughts, because the last November the second most severe earthquake has now been likely found to have been caused by a geothermal project.

      The magnitude-5.5 Pohang earthquake, the second largest in the country’s modern history, struck the densely populated region on 15 November 2017, injuring 90 people and causing $52 million in damage. It crumbled walls, cracked roads, and collapsed old buildings. And, according to two studies published today in Science, it is likely the largest earthquake ever to be triggered by enhanced geothermal power.

    The previous biggest was 3.4 in Basel, Switzerland.

  19. I’m thinking with kelp farming it will probably flourish or not on the basis of what kelp can be used to make.

    More generally, though, we should be looking for technologies and processes to take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    I’m not in favour of a carbon tax in the first instance. We need a frontal assault using the technologies that work.

    The next task (we should start now) is to get GHG levels below 350 ppm CO2 equivalent.

    Seems to me that to do this and to squeeze carbon out of difficult areas of the economy we are going to need a price on carbon and carbon offsets for things like methane from ruminants. So you can eat meat if you like, but you have to pay to remove the gas from the air.

    Farming kelp and dumping it in the deep may be one way of providing offsets. We need all the help we can get.

    Then it would be really neat if we could mine the carbon in the atmosphere and use it to make graphene.

    I didn’t understand the Siemens project, which was raised by Robyn Williams. Something about enzymes like those created when we breathe out. Yet it was supposed to dissolve CO2 from the atmosphere in water, run a weak electrical current through it in order to create the building blocks for a whole lot of materials that are useful in many industrial processes, and substitute for fossil fuels.

    Neat if it works.

  20. Geoff M, thanks for the link to the Senate Inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security. Looks like plenty to chew on there.

    Unfortunately parliamentary inquiries, especially from the senate, don’t seem to be taken much notice of by governments. However, they usually form a useful resource.

  21. Senate Inquiries, Royal Commissions (held, unheld or never-to-be-held) and all the other talk-fests are fine – but none of them address the fundamental issue of arresting perilous climate change: Corruption. All of us have allowed our lives and those of future generations (if any) to be put in real danger. We are committing this unintentional suicide by being too lazy and too timid to crack down – hard – on that nano-fraction of the human race whose very short-term greed over-rides everything else. No need to kill them before they kill us – just render them less powerful than they are at present. And no, street protests, as much fun as they are, would not be the slightest bit effective. Stopping them corrupting our politicians, public servants, news media and the like is probably the workable but difficult way to go. Hit their sources of money.

    The science and technology are there to prevent this impending doom – and at great profit too. All we have to do is to hinder those who are themselves are hell bent on hindering our progress and our prosperity – and our chances of survival too.

  22. Graham

    Just a side note.
    Back in the 1980s, when nuclear war alarm bells were ringing all over Europe and North America*, someone did a calculation.

    Tot up all the people actually directly involved, from U miners to reactor technicians to bomb, missile, submarine and aero manufacturers, pilots, guards, etc.

    Total? About one million humans.
    World population?
    A couple of thousand million then.

    We could do without that industry and find other work for all of them. They were a tiny minority.

    It sounded logical to me.

    * and interested bystanders watched on, elsewhere around the world

  23. The Guardian has picked up on the Australian Senate inquiry report with an article headlined Climate change an ‘existential security risk’ to Australia, Senate inquiry says, link here.

    Over at RenewEconomy.com.au is an op-ed by David Spratt headlined Senate report recognises climate risk, but fails to draw obvious conclusions, link here.

    And there’s another article over at The Conversation, headlined Senate report: climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia’s security.

  24. Graham Bell (Re: MAY 18, 2018 AT 6:37 AM):

    The science and technology are there to prevent this impending doom – and at great profit too. All we have to do is to hinder those who are themselves are hell bent on hindering our progress and our prosperity – and our chances of survival too.

    I think it’s not about hindering, it’s about informing the public and challenging the political decision-makers.

    On Friday May 4, the Lithgow Mercury published an article in the paper edition headlined Council to lobby for coal, online link here. In response to this article I wrote a letter to the Editor of Lithgow Mercury, dated May 7, as folows:

    Lithgow City Council (LCC) has recently unanimously passed a motion to lobby politicians to build new coal-fired power generators in the area (Lithgow Mercury, May 4, “Council to lobby for coal”).

    Speaking at the 2018 Future Thinking conference, Dr Kerry Schott, chair of Australia’s Energy Security Board, and one of the chief architects of the federal government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee, was reported to have said:

    “I can assure you that, unless there’s a change of technology, there would be absolutely no way that anybody would be financing a new coal-fired generation plant.”

    On August 14, 2017, at the Innovating Energy Summit at Parliament House, Canberra, Australian National University Professor Steven Blakers said:

    “In other words, it is game over, and PV and wind, together with pumped[-hydro]-storage and batteries and demand management, and high voltage interconnectors, are going to compete very successfully against anything.”

    The South Australian government has contracted US company SolarReserve to build a $650 million, 150 MW capacity concentrated solar thermal “power tower” with 8 hours molten salt thermal storage electricity generator facility near Port Augusta, known as project Aurora, beginning construction this year, to be operational by 2020, and deliver electricity at no more than $78/MWh over the 20-year energy supply contract period – cheaper than SA gas-fired power – even when the sun isn’t shining.

    Per Dr Finkel’s Independent Review, published 9 June 2017, new ultra-supercritical coal-fired generators’ average Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for 2020 and 2030 is shown at $81/MWh. Clearly, new coal-fired electricity generation is no cheaper than SA’s Aurora project. As solar thermal technology develops further, with larger outputs and storage capacities, it’s likely to win convincingly against fossil-fuelled generators.

    Springvale mine, extracting coal at 5.5 Mt/y, will likely be fully exhausted by around 2024. Airly mine, at 1.8 Mt/y, will be exhausted by no later than 2035. Invincible mine has only 2.7 Mt coal total, until the end of 2025. Clarence mine’s development consent expires at the end of 2026, and ‘mothballed’ Angus Place mine’s consent expires on 18 August 2024. It seems the Lithgow area doesn’t have adequate local coal sources remaining to sustain Mt Piper power station’s engineered operational life to 2043 , so I think it’s undeniably futile for LCC to be lobbying for more/new coal-fired generators.

    New renewable energy generation technologies are surpassing both new (and existing) gas and coal generators, on speed of equipment deployment, energy supply costs, emissions, long-term sustainability, and reliability of energy supply. LCC should recognise it is game over for coal, and has a fiduciary duty to redirect its efforts towards promoting long-term sustainable employment and business opportunities for the Lithgow area.

    My letter included 15 footnotes for sources of information. My letter was published in the Lithgow Mercury paper edition on May 11 (with a few typos, some reformatting of paragraphs, and excluding the footnotes).

    I’ve forwarded copies of the Lithgow Mercury article, my original letter to the LM Editor, and as it appeared published in last Friday’s LM, to several politicians, both state and federal. One state politician phoned me directly to have a brief chat – which suggests to me there is something in my letter that grabbed his attention.

    If you see something seriously wrong, you should have the courage to highlight it.

  25. Brian: I get tired of hearing the same old criticism of the natural ruminant methane cycle as an argument for stopping the consumption of ruminant meat but not apparently converting all ruminants to extinct species.
    The focus should be on keeping fossil carbon in the ground and returning some of the atmospheric carbon to durable storage.
    We are making serious progress in replacing fossil energy to renewable energy. Can any of the credit for this go to a carbon price.

  26. Geoff M, thanks for the links on the Australian Senate inquiry report on security risk. The RenewEconomy Spratt link does not work, but it’s likely to be a reprint of his Climate Code Red article.

    I’ve included his reaction as Item 3 of Climate clippings 223. If you find any more links I’d prefer they be posted there.

    I’ve been a bit slack with CC, but they are meant to serve as open threads on climate change also.

  27. John D:

    Brian: I get tired of hearing the same old criticism of the natural ruminant methane cycle as an argument for stopping the consumption of ruminant meat but not apparently converting all ruminants to extinct species.

    I’d forgotten you held that view about the natural ruminant methane cycle. I think you are about the only sensible person I know of that holds it. So you may need to get tired a few times more. Pep Canadell and Hanqin Tian in Global food production threatens to overwhelm efforts to combat climate change say:

    Methane is produced by ruminants (livestock), rice cultivation, landfills and manure, among others.

    That article was addressing the problem of emissions in agriculture, which in fact is what I was concerned about. Food production is not optional and it accounts for about 16% of emissions in Australia, a little less for the world. We may not be able to eliminate agricultural emissions by cheaper technologies, or regulating clean technologies, so there may be a need for offsets at a price.

    On ruminants, I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that cow tucker gets turned into energy, cow, cowpats and enteric fermentation. I understand cowpats also give off methane.

    Methane is rated usually at around 25 times CO2 as a GHG. In fact it is 100 times in the first year and about 25 times after 100 years, but settles at about 20 times after that. It should be rated higher than x25.

    Are you saying that if the cow tucker was eaten by marsupials rather than methane boosters like cows, the GHGs would be as high?

    Or in Queensland if the land was let be it would thicken, become a carbon sink and a beautiful habitat for wild pigs.

    Sorry to test your patience, but I didn’t understand last time. It’s possible you are right and actual climate scientists like Canadell are wrong.

    PS. I wrote this comment last night, and find I neglected to post it.

  28. Brian: Wikapedia includes the following as ruminants.

    Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions. The process, which takes place in the front part of the digestion system and therefore is called foregut fermentation, typically requires the fermented ingesta (known as cud) to be regurgitated and chewed again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called rumination.[1][2] The word “ruminant” comes from the Latin ruminare, which means “to chew over again”.

    The roughly 200 species of living ruminants include both domestic and wild species. Ruminating mammals include cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, yaks, deer, antelope, and some macropods (kangaroos). It has also been suggested that notoungulates also relied on rumination, as opposed to other atlantogenates that rely on the more typical hindgut fermentation, though this is not entirely certain.

    Extinctifying 200 often much beloved ruminant species may run into a bit of opposition.
    Unlike the the coal eating LNP, no ruminants eat fossil carbon so they don’t contribute to a net flow of fossil carbon into the atmosphere. The ruminant methane cycle starts with methane generated during digestion being added to the atmosphere. This methane converts to CO2 over time with the CO2 ending up in vegetable matter which the ruminant eats to restart the cycle. Atmospheric methane would be reduced if ruminants did not produce methane. However, while I have seen lots of broad statements about ruminants and methane I have seen no figures re what difference having some carbon eaten by ruminants diverted to methane makes to CO2 equivalent.
    Wetlands also produce methane as do rice paddies. One wonders what would be left once the methane police have eliminated all the ruminants, wetlands, rice paddies and any other living thing they find that is a source of methane?

  29. yep
    wetlands, swamps, stagnant water (see streams, rivers, creeks; puddles containing vegetable matter, billabongs), bogs; rice paddies, other agricultural set-ups… I haven’t checked, but am guessing silage heaps…..

    A list of cute, cuddly, loveable ruminants would clinch your case, John. Mind you, I personally think cows and calves are very cute.

    OK there’s a cycle.
    Steady methane transfer if ruminant emissions are steady… but can they be rising or falling in a secular manner?

  30. Any number of articles about methane emissions from silage and cattle.

    But here’s a broader perspective on an aspect of the methane cycle. In a short article by Edward Topp and Elizabeth Pattey from Canada (1997), the
    Abstract includes this:

    Methane is produced in soils as the end product of the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. In the absence of oxygen, methane is very stable, but under aerobic conditions it is mineralized to carbon dioxide by methanotrophic bacteria. Soil methane emissions, primarily from natural wetlands, landfills and rice paddies, are estimated to represent about half of the annual global methane production. Oxidation of atmospheric methane by well-drained soils accounts
    for about 10% of the global methane sink. Whether a soil is a net source or sink for methane depends on the relative rates of methanogenic and methanotrophic activity.

    A number of factors including pH, Eh, temperature and moisture content influence methane transforming bacterial populations and soil fluxes. Several techniques are available for measuring methane fluxes. Flux estimation is complicated by spatial and temporal variability. Soil management can impact methane transformations. For example, landfilling of organic matter can result in significant methane emissions, whereas some cultural practices such as nitrogen fertilization inhibit methane oxidation by agricultural soils.

    Quite complicated and varying with location, soil, agricultural practices.

  31. Ambi, deviishly complicated, as you say. If you allowed grass to grow and rot you would probably end up with carbon converting to methane. If cattle graze the grass grows more, so more carbon is taken down and then boosted.

    Methane is roughly 16% of emissions. I argue it is undercounted to blazes.

    I’ll have another go when I get time, but this article gives some interesting figures.

    Enteric fermentation is about 28% of global methane emissions and 50% of farm emissions.

    Man-made methane is around 63% of total. Agriculture is 41% of man-made.

    There’s more, but it shows enteric fermentation of farm animals is not insignificant.

    I’m not suggesting we drain wetlands or stop eating meat. Chickens make up a large portion of meat eaten, but beef is getting more popular. The price of beef animals doubled in Australia around 2015, bit has tapered now as more supply comes into the global supply.

    My basic point is still that if we want to eat and save the planet carbon offsets will almost certainly be necessary, because food production is one of the hardest areas to clean up.

  32. Brian: If we want to save the planet the key thing is that we reduce the flow of fossil carbon into the atmosphere/sea and preferably reverse this flow by fossilizing some of the atmospheric and sea CO2. If you look at your charts the really bad methane and CO2 is that which comes from coal and natural gas. Bad because it is not part of a natural cycle and is moving fossil carbon into the sea/atmosphere. (Sea is bad because of acidification.)
    Also keep in mind that CO2 from the natural CO2 cycle is part of the total CO2 in the atmosphere.
    It is also worth noting that some beef and most chicken meat comes from grain fed animals while some of the est comes from grazing and natural foraging.
    It might also be worth comparing CO2 equivalents for meat produced by ruminants vs other animals. Ditto for rices vs other grains.
    We could get lost in this projects. In the meantime I think of a world where the methane police have killed off the mass migrations of wildebeest and caribou and Santa Clause has lost his reindeer. Yep, we will still have Zebra after the methane police have finished but most of the grazers of Africa will be gone because they are ruminants.

  33. Right now, easier and quicker to reduce greenhouse gas warming by strongly lowering the burning of oil and coal. (In which quest agricultural industry has its part to play too.)

    Before the industrial revolution, that oil and coal carbon was fossil, much of it deep underground, and thoroughly sequestered by massive, natural rock and sea barriers. Well and truly removed from the global carbon cycle.

    Then, along came the smart guys….

    It falls to this generation to clean up ASAP.

    Thanks Brian and John.

  34. Yesterday, Senator Pauline Hanson was reported reiterating her call for a new coal-fired power station in northern Queensland, see AFR article headlined Pauline Hanson backflips again on company tax. Is it time to panic? link here. The article includes (bold text my emphasis):

    She has also put back on the table her complaint about the banks getting a tax cut, wants a new-coal fired power station and also complains the company tax cuts are being rolled out too slowly to have a meaningful effect on jobs. At the same time, she says debt is too high, yet rolling out the tax cuts in one go would blow out debt drastically.

    In the Daily Mercury, an article headlined One Nation reveals $1.5b plan for NQ coal power station, dated 10 Nov 2017, link here, which included:

    ONE Nation has announced it wants to build its much-spruiked coal-fired power station north of Mackay.

    Speaking in Bowen, Senator Hanson said she would commit $1.5 billion to the project, which she wants built in Collinsville.

    It would be dependent, however, on the Federal Government also contributing $1.5 billion and the scrapping of the Queensland Government’s Cross River Rail project.

    For those people living in Queensland, perhaps you could email to Senator Pauline Hanson the links to:

    1. Professor Blakers’ YouTube.com video The Energy Innovators: Andrew Blakers Talk, presented on 14 August 2017;

    2. Boom and Bust 2018, by CoalSwarm, Greenpeace and The Sierra Club, dated March 2018, including a quote from the Executive Summary:

    With declining deployment and high levels of retirement, coal power capacity is now caught in a squeeze: if current trends continue, by 2022 yearly retirements will exceed new capacity and the global coal fleet will begin to shrink.

    3. Australian Financial Review article headlined BlackRock says coal is dead as it eyes renewable power splurge, dated 26 May 2017.

    And ask her the questions:
    Is coal still a long-term safe bet? Should governments have a transition plan to end Australia’s dependency on coal?

    I think it would be interesting to see if a response is forthcoming.

  35. Yes Geoff M

    But I’m hopeful Ms Hanson will never be Qld Premier, or Federal PM, or Minister for Energy in any govt that has access to $1.5 billion AUD to build such.

    Has Qld Labor responded to her proposal?

  36. John, on ruminants, I recall a study by the Qld Environment Department in 2007, I think, that found the Qld beef industry was carbon neutral when they took into account all emissions, not just from ruminants, and balanced it against vegetation thickening from growth of trees etc. Qld produces half Australia’s beef.

    I guess my big point is that we need zero net emissions ASAP and certainly by 2030, so if kelp farming helps, let’s use it.

  37. Geoff Miell:
    Thanks a lot for getting your letter into the Lithgow Mercury. That’s just the sort of thing I had in mind. You, as an individual, do not have the power to save the world. But, you as an individual, do have the power to do something that will contribute to the task. Now, all we need is for the other 24 million Australians to get off their backsides and do something positive towards our survival – and that can happen; although the likelihood is vanishingly small, that’s no excuse for not trying. Good on you, Geoff.

    John Davidson:
    I’m going to file this discussion as “Methane Cycle”. Thanks.

    Just heard a rebroadcast of ABC RN’s Life Matters, where overmedication of residents of nursing homes because of the universal shortage of staff was mentioned. I have the perfect re-employment opportunities for that tiny weeny fraction of the population whose ultra-greed is sending us all to extinction: untrained labour in nursing homes. Why not? They could do all the little things, such as fetching-&-carrying, keeping an eye on someone, assisting with feeding, etc., etc. that would give trained staff the time to carry out their own duties to the standard they all would like to do them. Just the thing for an international merchant banker or a major shareholder in a hazardous gas producing industry; who knows, they might even begin to learn a bit of compassion, humility and responsibility while they bare on the job too. Your mention of the re-employment of uranium industry workers was inspiring. 🙂

  38. Graham Bell (Re: MAY 24, 2018 AT 5:56 AM):

    Now, all we need is for the other 24 million Australians to get off their backsides and do something positive towards our survival – and that can happen; although the likelihood is vanishingly small, that’s no excuse for not trying.

    Thank you. Indeed.

    Perhaps a first step contribution is to get more eyeballs and ears, particularly politician’s and decision-makers’ eyeballs and ears, onto Professor Blakers’ YouTube.com video The Energy Innovators: Andrew Blakers Talk, presented on 14 August 2017. It’s only 10 minutes and 19 seconds long. Last Friday only 50 views were logged – it’s now up to 72 views. Tell you friends about it, but more importantly tell your federal and state parliamentary members about it.

  39. Geoff

    I think letters in local, regional papers may be more influential in some cases than letters in capital city papers.

    Local papers are often read very thoroughly; and many are free.

    Metropolitan dailies are notoriously losing readers.

    That’s a good and noble suggestion.

    I can think of a few talents that would be readily transferable.

    1. Pulling the wool over a resident’s eyes: if their warm beanie had slipped.
    2. Spoon feeding a frail person, just like they used to spoon feed journalists and politicians.
    3. Sweeping up after others, like concealing badly executed heists.
    4. Telling stories.
    5. Grooming house pets (companion animals, rodent catching cats), see politicians above.
    6. Leading community singing, as in election-time political advertising.
    7. Helping the chef, see “cooking the books”.
    8. Exterior maintenance, as in whitewashing.
    9. Accompanying residents on outdoor strolls, leading them up the garden path.

    A Clever Country could manage this.

  40. Ambigulous (Re: MAY 24, 2018 AT 7:23 PM):

    I think letters in local, regional papers may be more influential in some cases than letters in capital city and national papers.

    I think you are probably correct. Local and regional papers provide an important information conduit on what is happening locally, that would not generally be covered by the major capital city and national press. I think many people are interested in what’s happening locally around them.

    Plus I note that major papers usually won’t publish letters with a word count of more than about 200 – most letters published are less than about 100 words. Not much can be said within this restriction, and you are competing with a wide range of other issues/subjects and writers. Regional and local papers will publish longer letters, if the message is relevant, local and important enough.

  41. Ambigulous:

    Your re-employment suggestions are excellent. Why let all that obvious talent and experience go to waste. Shall let the Human resources and Employment contractors know in time for their next visit to the Tanami Desert Re-education And Reform Camp No.4. (Well, if the culprits aren’t in there yet, they damned well should be). Clever Country? Yeah, right.

    Geoff Miell:

    Thanks a lot for letting us know about Prof. Andrew Blakers’ talk on the ARENA site.

    “Dangerous ideas (??)” Implications galore.

    The coal wasters will see him as a threat to their entrenched Magic Pudding.

    Property speculators and their accomplices will hate him because his ideas are a serious threat to their Bottomless Pit Of Pelf. Why bother centralizing everything in a few big cities? Industries – and the people involved with them – can be put anywhere at all where there are hills, sufficient water to run the PHEV and the industrial processes and its people, and “free” natural energy. Australia could become as decentralized as was the U.S. or as is Germany. I’m including universities, hospitals, recreational or tourist ventures in my definition of industry. Once the ball got rolling, big city property values would crash through the floor – and those who believe that the world owes them a living would be forced to find honest work.

    PHEV can be done on any scale and it is affordable by fairly well-off primary producers, local government authorities or even local clubs of the despised “mum-&-dad” investors. Traditional banks and finance firms will not like that at all.

    Geoff. I shall tell my friends about it – but, contrary to your suggestion, I shall not say a word about it to any politicians at all. That’s not really so strange: nowadays, most chair-polishers in our parliaments are the best that money can buy; most would be obedient to their owners and if called on to do so, would put up all sorts of legislative barriers; (for example, look at how small operators are being squeezed out of NDIS for the benefit of major corporations.

    Blakers’ ideas certainly are a road-map for our overall prosperity – but that’s not what the greedy-grubs want to see happen.

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