All posts by Brian

Brian Bahnisch, a survivor from Larvatus Prodeo, founded Climate Plus as a congenial space to continue coverage of climate change and sundry other topics. As a grandfather of more than three score years and ten, Brian is concerned about the future of the planet, and still looking for the meaning of everything.

Weekly salon 12/1

1. 2021 in graphs

Peter Martin has assembled 10 graphs from articles he has edited in 2021.

Each tells a powerful story. For example, it is clear that sooner or later something will have to be done about JobSeeker when it is forecast to become a mere fraction of the old age pension, which is miserly by international standards. Remember around a third of pensioners already live in poverty. Continue reading Weekly salon 12/1

Weekly salon 7/1: 2022 new year edition

1. Sawatdi bpi mai kap!

That is a Thai new year’s greeting which means means:

    May you find compassion, loving kindness and equanimity along your paths over the next year!

On a personal level that would help. I think most people feel well rid of 2021, and hope for better in 2022.

2. Will humanity survive?

Andrew Leigh, they say, is always the smartest man in the room, and one of the nicest. Since entering parliament in 2008 he has now launched his 8th book. This Saturday Paper article (no doubt pay-walled) is an interview with Andrew Leigh on humanity’s one-in-six chance of ending. Continue reading Weekly salon 7/1: 2022 new year edition

Seasons Greetings 2021

I love this image of our fair city, so I’m reprising it from last year.

Last year I said 2020 was dominated by the four “C’s” – Coronavirus, climate change, China, and corruption in politics.

This year was much the same, and again I found myself overwhelmed in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Luckily others were better organised, so a good time was had by all. Continue reading Seasons Greetings 2021

Cleaning out coal

When Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen stated at the Press Council that no jobs would be lost in coal or gas through Labor’s policy he received a strong challenge from Mike Foley of the SMH and The Age (from about 40:00 on the tape) who pointed out that the Government’s modelling showed coal-fired power reducing from 25GW to 14GW, which was more than can be accounted for by stated station closure timelines. Labor is going harder on renewables and claims that 82% of power generation will be renewables by 2030. Surely this means early closure of coal.

Bowen said stations may close, the market will decide, but there was no causal relationship with the policy, and the small percentage is explained by the fact that if we follow the call to ‘electrify everything’, especially heating and transport, much more power will be needed.

Coincidentally AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) has just produced it’s 2022 Draft ISP Consultation plan which show coal disappearing, evaporating before our eyes. Continue reading Cleaning out coal

COP26: Aspiring to failure

A theme of the Glasgow Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’ knowing that they would fail. This is where the new pledges would take us by 2100 according to Climate Action Tracker:

My point, however, is that in choosing the goal of 1.5°C the UNFCCC is choosing failure. Back in 1994 the UNFCC was set up to prevent dangerous climate change. This is a simple ‘burning embers’ chart produce by the IPCC in 2018:

Any child can see that for a safe climate 0.5°C is plenty far enough.

Kevin Anderson in a recent YouTube talking about Britain’s responsibility points out that the latest IPCC report says that for a 67% chance of remaining below 1.5°C is only 400Gt of CO2.

He says that the UK’s share in the energy sector would go in the next four years. He also says that the UK’s effort to date, reckoned to be one of the best in the world, is only worth half a cracker. The claim is that the UK has reduced emissions by 51% since 1990. However, when calculated properly, including shipping and air travel associated with Britain’s way of life, plus the emissions avoided by moving dirty industries offshore, the Brit’s have only achieved 15% or 0.5% pa.

There is more wrong with the IPCC statement.

Firstly, 67% means lousy odds, given the importance limiting warming. I’d reckon it should be 99.9999% (I think that is one in a million!)

Secondly,
all scenarios from the IPCC now involve overshooting and negative emissions, or drawdown that goes on long after net zero in 2050. This slide comes from his January 2020 talk to Extinction Rebellion, Can meaningful hope spring from revealing the depth of our climate failure?:

Somewhere he says 6-10Gt pa, starting ASAP and continuing indefinitely. If you want to improve the odds, you have to suck more out.

Then if you want to aspire to reducing CO2 to 350ppm, for a safe climate, you need even more.

So, what are the chances of keeping the temperature under 1.5°C? Infinitesimal.

Can we draw hope? Anderson is full of ideas about what we can do, so if you get busy you may also hope.

Personally, much as I hate their methods, Extinction Rebellion is one of the few organisations that is clear-eyed about what our realistic prospects are.

Here’s Roger Hallam in How to fix climate in a few years:

The climate ball is about to go over a cliff.

More to come. I have to go bush for a few days, unexpectedly early. I want to say a bit more about tipping points, and the problem of climate justice, but there is a fair bit in the above for starters.

Morrison goes to Glasgow: what’s new?

PM Morrison: AAP/Dan Himbrechts, from The Conversation

Last week our PM, one Scott (“Scotty from Marketing”) Morrison, scrambled to wrest control of our borders from a disruptive new Premier of NSW, one Dominic Perrottet, who effectively sidelined the PM, while announcing that he will indeed go to Glasgow to spruik our newly minted policy on climate change, that is, if his recalcitrant coalition partners, the Nationals, agree to have one.

Laura Tingle’s AFR opinion piece The most abject failure of leadership in living memory (published under a less pungent title at the ABC) asks “Who is in charge now?” since the states and the Nationals seem to be running the show. Continue reading Morrison goes to Glasgow: what’s new?

Gladys goes. What does that mean for us?

Michael McGowan and Anne Davies had the story on Friday 1 Oct 2021 NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian resigns after ICAC announces investigation:

(Image from Michelle Grattan’s story at The Conversation.)

I think her greater misdemeanor lies elsewhere. However her demise has further trashed politicians and politics in the public mind, opening opportunities for independents, and minor parties in so far as they present as people who are not politicians.

This is not good for democracy. Continue reading Gladys goes. What does that mean for us?

Australia must leave 95 per cent of coal in the ground

In March this year UN chief Antonio Guterres said he wanted:

    all OECD countries to commit to phasing out coal by 2030, and for non-OECD countries to do so by 2040. Science tells us this is essential to meet the Paris Agreement goals and protect future generations.

He wants the main emitters and coal users to announce their phase-out plans well before the Glasgow UNFCCC COP26 conference in November this year. Continue reading Australia must leave 95 per cent of coal in the ground

Just transition in the Hunter Valley region

At a LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) Zoom meeting recently I was privileged to witness a presentation from Tim Lang, an environmental activist in Newcastle, active through the NSW branch of LEAN and a co-founder of the Hunter Jobs Alliance. This post of 03 November, 2020 on the National LEAN site recorded the Hunter Jobs Alliance Launch: Continue reading Just transition in the Hunter Valley region

Weekly salon 23/8

1. The cost of pests

I recall we had some discussion about feral pigs, which rate fifth in a research study by Corey J. A. Bradshaw of Flinders University and Andrew Hoskins of the CSIRO in Pest plants and animals cost Australia around $25 billion a year – and it will get worse:

Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. And the number one threat to our species is invasive or “alien” plants and animals.

But invasive species don’t just cause extinctions and biodiversity loss – they also create a serious economic burden. Our research, published today, reveals invasive species have cost the Australian economy at least A$390 billion in the last 60 years alone.

Our paper – the most detailed assessment of its type ever published in this country – also reveals feral cats are the worst invasive species in terms of total costs, followed by rabbits and fire ants.

Here is how they stack up:

It depends where you are:

Red imported fire ants are the costliest species in Queensland, and ragwort is the economic bane of Tasmania.

The common heliotrope is the costliest species in both South Australia and Victoria, and annual ryegrass tops the list in WA.

In the Northern Territory, the dothideomycete fungus that causes banana freckle disease brings the greatest economic burden, whereas cats and foxes are the costliest species in the ACT and NSW.

2. Humans are the biggest pest

I remember on our trip down the Rhine in 2008 a tour guide explaining that in Europe ‘nature’ had been mostly pushed into the mountains. Last week Gigi Forster and Peter Martin in the ABC RN program The Economists talk about Valuing nature, which economists mostly don’t. They tell us that humans and their domestic animals make up 96% of mammals on earth, with natural mammals squeezing into just 4%. Apparently domestic fowls make up 70% of the bird population. In the program:

A landmark report has urged the world’s governments to come up with a better form of national accounting from GDP, to reflect the value and depletion of nature. Plus, an update on carbon markets and the emerging field of biodiversity offsets.

Here’s the The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Full Report.

See also:

Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

This is what we amount to;

This is what we have done:

We will have to learn to live respectfully in nature, or we’ll destroy our nest. It won’t be easy. There was to be a UN biodiversity summit in 2020 in Kunming, China. This has now been delayed for third time due to the pandemic.

Can we stop the Sixth mass extinction event, the Holocene extinction, found to be accelerating?

Our future depends on what we do in the next little while.

3. Insects in trouble too

Dr Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate at the University of Sydney, undertook the first global review of studies of insect decline across the world and the reasons for it. See Insect population and species decline a ‘wake-up call’, scientists say:

“What we found is that 41 per cent on average of all insect species that we know are declining,” said Dr Sanchez-Bayo.

“Among those, a third of all the species are going into extinction. They’re in danger right now. The rate of extinction in insects is about eight times higher than the rate of extinction of vertebrates.”

Most of the studies surveyed were form the US and Western Europe:

One study, in Germany, saw a 75 per cent decline in insect biomass over 27 years. Another study in Puerto Rico reported losses of between 78 and 98 per cent over 36 years.

The rates of decline are so dramatic — up to 2.5 per cent a year — that Dr Sanchez-Bayo claims that at current rates there may be no insects in those regions within 10 years.

4. There is another story beneath our feet

For a long time now farmers and landholders have been told that storing carbon in soil was not only a good thing to do, it was something they could make money from by selling carbon credits.

Problem is that there is no solid science to back this up. Gabriel Popkin tells the story in A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change:

One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more bacteria, fungi and other microbes than there are humans on Earth. Those hungry organisms can make soil a difficult place to store carbon over long periods of time.

It’s a long article, but the short story is that the assumption that carbon molecules stored in soil cam remain there for long periods of time. What we know now is that no such molecules can be found. Everything can be munched, although some do stick around.

Climate modellers apparently ‘simplified’ the issue by leaving microbial activity out. Some scientists are :

pushing to replace the old dichotomy of stable and unstable carbon with a “soil continuum model” of carbon in progressive stages of decomposition. But this model and others like it are far from complete, and at this point, more conceptual than mathematically predictive.

Researchers agree that soil science is in the midst of a classic paradigm shift. What nobody knows is exactly where the field will land — what will be written in the next edition of the textbook.

In short, they are in a muddle.

5. Pests found inside a hill in Canberra

Here it is:

Every week Federal parliament is sitting Tony Burke, leader for the opposition in the house, sends around to party members on his mailing list some pithy comments. Last week he told of one of his constituents, a woman who is 102 and lives in:

Western Sydney, which is the epicentre of the current COVID outbreak. She’s been on the pension for 40 years – and yet the government sent her a letter saying she’d be cut off unless she left the house in the middle of the lockdown zone to present proof of age documents she doesn’t actually have.

Luckily Burke’s office was able to get the matter fixed by Stuart Robert’s office. However, it continues the narrative that there is no blunder beyond the capability of this government. Their fiercest critic however is possibly Dennis Atkins, now retired and liberated from writing for the Courier Mail. He is particularly eloquent about their leader:

Where would this man be without pollsters dictating his every utterance?

A good question. Michael Pascoe this morning asks another in a must read piece if you want to understand what is going on with COVID messaging and posturing:

The COVID political ground is shifting – is an election moving it?

Here are some other recent Atkins pieces:

Scott Morrison will weaponise climate crisis in pursuit of re-election

As Scott Morrison tries to ‘get out of Dodge’, Australia needs a political reckoning

Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?

The IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is planning to release the first of four reports in its 6th Assessment Report (6AR) on Monday, 9 August, 2021.

I believe the largest question will be whether the IPCC, this time, adequately accounts for risk. Continue reading Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?