Category Archives: Sundries

Posts on sundry matters of life the universe and everything: Culture, Environment, Life, Politics & Government, Science, Social Science and Society, Technology etc.

Climate clippings 72

Climate clippings_275

The last Climate clippings was back in March 2012. I’ve decided to start it up again, so we’ll see how we go. What I try to do is to include up to eight entries with an average of no more than 125 words. Readers who want to keep up in a general way should be able to gain a basic understanding by reading the entries without following the links.

This time the entries blew out to an average of about 150 words.

Climate clippings also serves as an open thread to share interesting links.

1. Climate Consensus – the 97%

Announced at Skeptical Science as a new Guardian blog, John Abrahams and Dana Nuccitelli will be writing at Climate Consensus – the 97%. It does have comments, but to me is not formatted like a blog. Maybe a newspaper blog.

It really started on 24 April. So far it’s not high volume, but looks interesting. Nuccitelli blogs at Skeptical Science as dana1981. The new blog is targeted at a more general audience. It appears their output is going to include correcting the errors and myths of the climate change contrarians, which is welcome. Continue reading Climate clippings 72

European ETS

EU_0,,16746928_403,00_300

Last week when the European Parliament voted down a proposal to prop up the EU Emissions Trading System’s languishing carbon price by postponing the sale of 900 million emission allowances until the back-end of this decade the price fell to below AU$4. There are obvious concerns about the legislated linking of the Australian carbon price to the EU scheme in mid-2015. Treasury had forecast an EU price of at least $29 in 2015.

Radio National’s PM program had a roundup of political commentary. Julia Gillard on the 7.30 Report was very clear. The legislation was there, it was hard enough to get through the parliament in the first place and we’d have to work with it.

Big business, quick off the mark, was suggesting that link with the EU should occur earlier, so they could buy permits while they were cheap.

Ross Garnaut said, don’t panic, the ETS is only one measure and targets may tighten by impacting on the price: Continue reading European ETS

Lists

Lists are difficult to format with the Word Press software. This post sets out some of the options available. Authors can click on “edit” to see how the HTML tags produce the examples below.

Here is an ordered list:

  1. News
  2. Entertainment
  3. Sports
  4. Music
  5. Graphic Design
  6. Comedy

Here’s an ordered list indented:

    1. News
    2. Entertainment
    3. Sports
    4. Music
    5. Graphic Design
    6. Comedy

Here is an unordered list:

  • News
  • Entertainment
  • Sports
  • Music
  • Graphic Design
  • Comedy

Again, double-spaced:

  • News
  • Entertainment
  • Sports
  • Music
  • Graphic Design
  • Comedy

Double-spaced, ordered, indented:

    1. News

    2. Entertainment

    3. Sports

    4. Music

    5. Graphic Design

    6. Comedy

Another variation:

    1. News

    • Television
    • Radio

    2. Entertainment

    • Movies
    • Games

    3. Sports

    4. Music

    5. Graphic Design

    6. Comedy

Rio + 20

Civil society groups were scathing.

George Monbiot describes it as 283 paragraphs of fluff. The outcome document was given the title “The future we want”. You can read it in the first 59 pages of the official report. Go to the official site and look for a link in the top right hand corner or direct to the pdf document.

If you try reading the document you’ll soon get the idea. The verbs are affirm, recognise, acknowledge, stress, underscore, note, commit, strengthen etc, etc. They do this to everyone and everything, importantly the poor and the hungry, but also corporations large and small, small farmers, fisher folk, women, small island states, landlocked states, Africa, the oceans and seas and “Mother Earth”. In fact everything under the sun is included. You may think climate change is important. So it is, it gets three paragraphs (190-192), that’s one more than sustainable tourism (130-131) and mining (227-228). It looks as though every UN meeting, agreement and convention in the last 20 years gets a mention. For example we have the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions of the Strategic Approach to Intensive Chemical Management together with their regional and coordinating centres.

It’s a matter of ticking off and general urging, not actually doing anything. I tell a lie. The conference made three ‘decisions’. The third was to recommend that the UN Secretary General establish a registry of voluntary commitments (283) to record the financial contributions to doing everything mentioned but done by other parties. To explain the first two I’ll have to fill in some background.

Rio+20 got it’s head of power from a resolution of the UN General Assembly but it was an initiative of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) which is one of 10 functional commissions of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC is the UN interface point with 19 specialised agencies including the IMF, the World bank, the ILO the WMO and a number of UN agencies. The CSD was spawned by the UN general Assembly in 1992 to implement Agenda 21 arising out of the June 1992 Rio Earth Summit (more correctly, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) which also spawned the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which spawned the Kyoto Protocol and holds a Conference of Parties every year, memorably the Copenhagen conference of 2009 and the last in Durban.

For reasons not identified it does appear that the Commission on Sustainable Development has been considered insufficiently effective to the point where it needs to be replaced. So at paragraph 84 we have:

We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable development, and subsequently replacing the Commission. The high-level political forum shall follow up on the implementation of sustainable development and should avoid overlap with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner.

But “we” being the official representatives at the conference don’t do anything,

we decide to launch an intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process under the general Assembly to define the format and organisational aspects of the high-level forum.

The actual work, I gather, is done by the UN bureaucrats answering to the Secretary General, reporting to the General Assembly, with the aim of convening the first forum before the 68th meeting (September 2013).

That was the first decision taken. The second (245-251) was to establish a new set of sustainable development goals building on and carrying forward the Millenium Development Goals due to be achieved (if that’s the word) by 2015. A working group of 30 representatives of member states, drawn from the five UN regional groups will prepare a set of goals for the General Assembly meeting in September next year.

Stephen Lacey’s report at Climate Progress suggests that the high-level forum will also comprise 30 members. This may well be the the new formula to inject a bit of vigour into the process.

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) who advise Chancellor Merkel directly issued an interesting press release after the conference, beginning:

The international community is currently incapable of promoting the urgently needed transformation towards a sustainable society with the requisite speed and commitment, says the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). „We might well be moving towards the end of such mammoth meetings as these. Although they make a lot of noise, the very fact that so many problems are covered means that no single problem is tackled resolutely,“ says WBGU chairman Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. „The future of humanity is too precious to be left to this ongoing game of nation-state Mikado. What we now need are pioneers from all spheres of the world community.“

It’s up to a myriad of actors within the global community. They said:

At the G8, the EU and the USA were negotiating in different directions, and the tensions between newly industrialising and developing countries led to further blockades. The result is an international crisis of leadership and confidence, a “G-Zero World” in which no leading power effectively is taking the initiative and no coalitions capable of taking action are emerging. The EU’s attempt to form a sustainability coalition for a more meaningful final statement also failed.

Also:

The global transformation towards a low-carbon, sustainable society is already taking place, yet international policy-makers are currently showing no visible will to participate. (Emphasis added)

(BTW WBGU stands for Wissenschaftliche Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen. It was set up in 1992 to advise the German Government prior to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and remains the official advisory body on climate change.)

They said much the same in a policy paper after Copenhagen.

Closer to home at The Conversation Nick Rowley, having worked on the 2005 G8 and Copenhagen, says internationalism in this area is stuffed:

Our global response to climate change and sustainability must now be a process of progressive incrementalism through decisions made by national, state and local governments, investors, businesses and individuals.

In his second piece Rowley says pretty much the same again, pointing out that most of the heavy hitters amongst the PMs didn’t bother to stop off in Rio on their way home from the Mexico G20 meeting.

Ruben Zondervan and Steinar Andresen are more specific about what needs to be done other than peak talk-fests. Upgrading the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to a specialised UN agency like the FAO was actually proposed, and favoured also by WBGU, but it didn’t get up although the final document does call on the UN General Assembly to strengthen its membership, funding and role.

The WBGU press release commented favourably on the supporting program, which “showed that the transformation towards sustainability is already in full swing”. The conference site registered over 500 on-site side events over 10 days. In Rio+20 in numbers they suggest there were thousands if you count those off-site as well. In a sense the official summit was a side-show.

Problem is, in the official summit you can go backwards. In an earlier piece George Monbiot tells us what Barack Obama’s mob were up to:

The word “equitable”, the US insists, must be cleansed from the text. So must any mention of the right to food, water, health, the rule of law, gender equality and women’s empowerment. So must a clear target of preventing two degrees of global warming. So must a commitment to change “unsustainable consumption and production patterns”, and to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources.

Most significantly, the US delegation demands the removal of many of the foundations agreed by a Republican president in Rio in 1992. In particular, it has set out to purge all mention of the core principle of that Earth summit: common but differentiated responsibilities. This means that while all countries should strive to protect the world’s resources, those with the most money and who have done the most damage should play a greater part.

I haven’t checked every one, but my impression is that most of those suggestions failed. Definitely “common but differentiated responsibilities” survived.

After the weekend Monbiot really ripped in calling the conference the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. Governments concentrate their efforts on defending the machine – consumer capitalism – that is destroying the living Earth.

Was it too much to have asked of the world’s governments, which performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion-dollar bailouts, that they might spend a tenth of the energy and resources they devoted to these projects on defending our living planet? It seems, sadly, that it was.

Our PM attended, but she can’t save the world on her own. Our Environment Minister stayed home. He wasn’t granted a pair by HM Opposition. Domestic political games trumps saving the planet every time!

 

Climate clippings 71b

This post was written in October 2012 trialling the site. I’ve decided to leave it in time sequence and fiddle the numbering.

1. Did climate change shape human evolution?

There’s no evidence yet that it did according to Richard Leakey.

I’m not sure about his four key questions, though. Yes, bipedalism seems to be important as does using tools to make tools. But I can’t see the importance of migration out of Africa as important to our evolution. Apart from picking up some Neanderthal genes presumably in a palm grove somewhere in the Middle East, which did boost our immune system, those of us who left Africa are much the same genetically as those who stayed behind.

I’d say the development of language was important. If you want a fourth I’d suggest our patterns of social organisation – how we interact and how we co-operate within groups. But I don’t know how much of that is in our genes.

2. Aid for climate refugees

Speaking of climate and migration, displacement by extreme weather events does not qualify you as a refugee under present UN arrangements. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) hopes this will change at the annual United Nations climate change summit to be held in Qatar later this year, gaining access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other sources. It seems that 42 million people were displaced by storms, floods and droughts in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011.

3. Ocean heat content update

Skeptical Science recently posted on an update by Levitus et al on ocean heat content, which increases apace. Around 93% of additional warming goes into the ocean which is truly vast with, for example, an average depth of around 3,790 metres. This graph indicates the changing heat content within bands of the upper 2000m:

4. Southern Ocean research shows decrease in dense Antarctic bottom water

Antarctic Bottom Water is a massive current of super dense salty water which used to be which used to occupy the bottom mile of the Great Southern Ocean. Used to. Researchers are now able to report that the current is diminished by 60% compared to what it was in 1970.

Antarctic Bottom Water is colder than the normal freezing point and is a vast store of CO2. Understanding changes in this deep ocean current are crucial to understanding the likely future of global climate patterns as the planet warms. The researchers have not only been able to make direct observations, they have distributed buoys which should be able to provide data at times of the year when field work is impossible.

5. Plants flower faster than climate change models predict

For years scientists have been doing experiments to find out how much earlier plants will flower and leaf with global warming. A new study using field observations has found that plants are responding much faster than they had thought. Their research suggests that that spring flowering and leafing will continue to advance at the rate of 5 to 6 days per year for every degree celsius of warming.

What surprises me is that they thought they could model natural conditions in the lab.

It seems they will have to rethink the impacts of global warming on ecosystems and food production.

See also Science Daily.

6. Climate change experimentation goes bush

Another approach is to manipulate the environment on a large scale and monitor what happens. Researchers are using to control the amount of CO2 available to plants.

The idea is explore the role of “Australia’s large tracts of undeveloped land, known as bush” in storing carbon. They will be able to add carbon or take it away.

I’m not sure it doesn’t suffer from the same problems as experiments with plants, where only one variable was controlled, neglecting changes in precipitation patterns and cloudiness, for example.

7. Wind farms do not cause global warming

There has been a raft of articles in the MSM suggesting that wind farms cause global warming, mainly in the headlines, it seems.

In fact a study of some large wind farms in remote areas of Texas found local warming. The authors don’t know what’s going on but the suggestion is that thermal energy is being redistributed, perhaps by pulling down warmer air from higher altitudes during the nights.

For the spinning blades of wind turbines to increase the overall temperature of the planet some basic laws of physics would need to be rewritten.

Climate clippings 64

I’m currently working on another project, which is taking up much of my time. This week we had about 200mm of rain in one day. That could have been why my cable connection to the internet disappeared for 36 hours. I’m grateful to John D who sent me the links for each item in the following except the last.

Zero-emissions engine that runs on liquid air

A new zero-emissions engine capable of competing commercially with hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric systems appeared on the radar when respected British engineering consultancy Ricardo validated Dearman engine technology and its commercial potential.

The Dearman engine operates by injecting cryogenic (liquid) air into ambient heat inside the engine to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine – the exhaust emits cold air. It’s cheaper to build than battery electric or fuel cell technology, with excellent energy density, fast refuelling and no range anxiety. It just might be a third alternative.

Among the advantages are that it doesn’t catch fire or explode and doesn’t require rare materials. Continue reading Climate clippings 64

Remembering the floods

As I write we have brutal heat in Brisbane, with a dry west wind. On 11 January last year Robert Merkel put up a post, Queensland floods get worse. Later that day Mark put up a post, Brisbane flood maps and up to date flood information and slaved mightily for a time passing on information gleaned from twitter and other sources, until he went quiet. By the 12th he was a refugee at my place. His place was high and dry, but the power went off. By the 14th the Brisbane floods were in retreat.

Earlier on the 10th there had been what we used to call a ‘cloudburst’ on the Toowoomba Range, when 150mm (6 inches in the old money) fell in about half an hour. I posted some Toowoomba flood pics taken by my cousin’s brother-in-law. Yesterday I heard Anna Bligh tell the story of a year ago, how she was addressing the umpteenth, by that time, press briefing on the Queensland floods. From September 2010 there had been many cities and towns flooded across Queensland, some of them totally evacuated several times. As she fronted the media a minder handed her a sheet with breaking news. She found herself talking about swift water rescues in the main street of Toowoomba. “This can’t be right”, she thought. “It’s impossible.” It wasn’t. This is what was going on in Toowoomba:

Toowoomba flooding
Raging floods_Toowoomba

Continue reading Remembering the floods

Climate clippings 58

Methane worries

A team of Russian research scientists have been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”

I realise this has been linked to three times in the previous thread, but it’s important and not everyone reads the comments threads.

A separate study has found that the methane stored in permafrost is three times larger than earlier estimates. It could release 1.7-5.2 times more carbon than previously thought, depending how rapidly the world warms.

In a cautionary note here, James Hansen reckons we are forcing the system 20,000 times faster than commonly happened through natural caused in the past 50 million years. Continue reading Climate clippings 58

Climate clippings 52

7 billion and counting

With the world’s population passing 7 billion there have been reports and analysis all over the media.

George Monbiot, clear-headed as usual, says the real problem is consumption. He also takes a look at the UN calculations, and is not impressed, but one way or another the graph is going to go up for about four decades.

Fred Pearce is not an economist, but he may have a point in saying that ageing is the trend and with that your economy goes down the tube. Japan has become the land of the setting sun.

Those two are part of The Guardian’s Crowded Planet series. Our ABC has 7 challenges for 7 billion put together by 7 academics. Continue reading Climate clippings 52

Climate clippings 50

This is serious!

First we were told that rising temperatures would make it difficult to grow tea in
Uganda and in Kenya, then it was going to become too hot for chocolate. Now Starbucks is warning that climate change will threaten the world supply of coffee.

This story has gone viral, but I liked this neat post. Obama should indeed do something. What Al Gore said. Continue reading Climate clippings 50

Garnaut bows out

Ross Garnaut

The central task arising out of the findings of climate science,
according to Ross Garnaut, is “breaking the connection between economic growth and greenhouse emissions”.

In bowing out of his role as the Government’s climate advisor, he did take a swipe at the media which he described as irresponsible and “somewhat rabid”.

“Much of the media and public discussion of climate change policy over the past nine months has been about the crudest and most distorted discussion of a major public policy in my experience,” Prof Garnaut said.

“Facts are ignored, the rules of logic violated and it’s rare for people expressing very strong opinions on particular issues to go back and actually read the document on which they are commenting.”

Continue reading Garnaut bows out

Climate clippings 31

Hurricane Katrina

Severe weather alert: a busy hurricane season

That’s the forecast for 2011.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a 70 per cent chance of 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 of which are likely to reach hurricane force – with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometres per hour.

A normal season would have 11 named storms, six of them hurricanes. During 2005, which brought us Katrina, there were 28 named storms. Continue reading Climate clippings 31