Offset credit trading

Australia’s successful RET emission trading scheme is an Offset Credit Trading Scheme (OCTS) that has been quietly driving investment in utility scale renewable energy since 2001.  Best of all, it has been doing this without causing any dramatic increase in power prices or political pain.  This quiet success  means that few Australian’s have heard of the RET scheme let alone understand what offset credit trading is.

Continue reading Offset credit trading

Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials

Batteries are not the only way for a house to store energy.  This post looks at ways of storing heat and cold directly using phase change materials (PCM’s).  They can be more efficient than batteries as a result of storing energy when outside temperatures are closer to target temperatures.

Continue reading Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials

Climate clippings 96

Climate clippings_175 This edition looks at changes in the cryosphere, a major US report, the prospects for an El Niño and the problem of China burning coal.

1. Pacific Ocean hot spot

Scientists have discovered a hot spot in the Pacific Ocean which is partly responsible for global warming in the Arctic. Incredibly this hot spot is east of Papua New Guinea.

This phenomenon is attributed to natural variations rather than global warming. Therein, perhaps, lies the reason that scientists have been constantly surprised by the rapidity of the Arctic sea ice loss.

2. Southern Ocean winds strengthening and moving south

Scientists have confirmed in a study covering the last 1000 years that winds are strengthening in the Southern Ocean and moving south. They found a definite trend greater than can be explained by natural variability and attributable to the effect of increased greenhouse gases.

Hence the drying of southern Australia is expected to continue. Also the tightening of winds around Antarctica inhibits warming of the continent. Nevertheless the warming of West Antarctica is considerable.

3. Antarctic glaciers melting past point of no return

A group of melting glaciers in West Antarctica appears to have reached the point of no return according to scientists from NASA and the University of California Irvine. Even if we cut back greenhouse gas emissions savagely now the melting will continue. We are probably looking at 3 to 5 metres of sea level rise, from Antarctica alone – that is our gift to future generations. Dangerous climate change is no longer just a future possibility, it’s happening now!

The question is, how long will it take? Here there is uncertainty. It could be as short as two centuries or as long as nine. Professor Eric Rignot thinks two centuries is “not outrageous”.

4. East Antarctica more vulnerable than thought

Part of East Antarctica is more vulnerable than expected to a thaw that could trigger an unstoppable slide of ice into the ocean and raise world sea levels for thousands of years, a study showed on Sunday.

The Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, stretching more than 1,000 km (600 miles) inland, has enough ice to raise sea levels by 3 to 4 meters (10-13 feet) if it were to melt as an effect of global warming, the report said.

The Wilkes is vulnerable because it is held in place by a small rim of ice, resting on bedrock below sea level by the coast of the frozen continent. That “ice plug” might melt away in coming centuries if ocean waters warm up.

“East Antarctica’s Wilkes Basin is like a bottle on a slant. Once uncorked, it empties out,” Matthias Mengel of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change, said in a statement.

Wilkes basin could be more vulnerable than West Antarctica, but perhaps on longer time scales. Again there is concern with tipping points. James Hansen famously said, You can’t sling a rope around an ice sheet!

5. Climate change is clear and present danger, says landmark US report

Climate change is already severely impacting US economy, ecology and health, according to the the third National Climate Assessment report. Arid areas will become dryer, moist areas wetter and wildfires and storms will become more frequent and severe. For example floods have increased in frequency, mainly in the Midwest and Northeast:


From The Guardian:

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

The findings are expected to guide Obama as he rolls out the next and most ambitious phase of his climate change plan in June – a proposal to cut emissions from the current generation of power plants, America’s largest single source of carbon pollution.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress has more, while Emily Atkin looks at the impact on indigenous groups in Alaska and Pacific Islands.

6. Chances of El Niño almost 4 out of 5

The chances of an El Niño developing this year are now at almost 80% according to some estimates. This graph shows the increased temperature in El Niño years.


It could be a warm one.

Parts of the western United States suffering chronic drought could have flooding rains. In Oz where large areas are in drought, there would be even less chance of relief.

7. China, please stop using coal!

China should put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from coal by 2020, and then swiftly reduce its dependency on the fossil fuel, according to a new study. Otherwise climate change will be impossible to stop.

Of relevance, back in 2011 the IEA said that after 2017 any new fossil fuel power generation should be matched by the decommissioning of equivalent existing capacity.

Reminder: Use this thread as an open thread on climate change.

Saturday salon 17/5


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.

Shredding the fig leaf

Direct Action was always a fig leaf for a government pretending to have a climate policy. Now the climate change denialists in Abbott’s cabinet have taken the opportunity to shred the fig leaf to the complete embarrassment of Greg Hunt.

Giles Parkinson thinks the 2014 budget is Abbott settling old scores, and dumping clean energy in favour of the asphalt economy.

With proposals to repeal the carbon price, dismantle the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the dilution of the Renewable Energy Target already in train, these budget measures – which include the closure of ARENA, the dumping of the million solar roofs program (both contrary to election promises) and the research funding cuts at the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and elsewhere – mean that the obliteration of the Clean Energy Future package will be complete, if it can get past the Senate.

Dumping ARENA is particularly stupid, as the fund was leveraging private investment at the rate of $2.50 to one and doing much to support the off-grid activities of the mining industry.

ARENA will maintain funds of $1 billion for around 190 projects – mostly R&D – that have already been contracted since its creation in 2012, but it will have a measly budget of just $15 million over each of the next two years for new projects.

Some 150 of its 180 projects already allocated are in support of research and development, a core competency not valued by the Government.

The Emissions Reduction Fund ($2.55 billion) has been spread over 10 years, rather than four. Tristan Edis explains that $2.55 billion will be allocated over the next four years, but the scheme only pays on completion. However, this does call into question the efficacy of the scheme.

Clive Palmer wants to divert the funds to pensions and is prepared to vote it down.

The million solar roofs scheme was a featured election promise.

The million solar roofs program, once a $1 billion centrepiece of Direct Action to bring solar to lower-income earners and renters, has sunk without trace — replaced by a derisory $2.1 million program to install solar on RSLs and bowling clubs in seven electorates, many of them marginal (yes, really).

But not to worry we still have “$525 million to pay up to 15,000 under-25s to pick up litter at below-award wages under the guise of the Green Army”.

Parkinson further reports

the abrupt closure of the Energy Efficiency Opportunities, as well as rejecting calls for the revival of Low Carbon Australia, which also supported investments in energy efficiency. It has also brought an end to support for ethanol and algae fuel programs.

The Energy Efficiency Opportunities program, which was to cost $20 million to run over the next five years, had helped deliver more than $1 billion a year in savings since 2006.

Alan Pears at The Conversation has more. He says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which has already mobilised $2.5 billion of mostly private funding for low-emission energy and agriculture projects would make a profit for the government if allowed to continue. Like ARENA the CEFC will continue trading until stopped by legislation.

Pears says that leaves the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme as “the last major remaining piece of federal government policy that supports ongoing investment.” It has already led to $20 billion worth of investment, but is under review with climate sceptic Dick Warburton at the helm.

There’s more at The Guardian and at Planet Oz. There Graham Readfearn tells of the axing of a small $1.3 million program, which has been supporting more than a 150 local and state-based conservation groups across the country since 1973. Such is the depth and thoroughness of the attack on the environment.

Meanwhile global renewable energy jobs surged to almost 6.5 million in 2013. In Germany, where the government strategy was to take first mover advantage, renewable energy production reached 74% the other day.

We are striving to be last.

A crisis in trust

Politics is broken, is the shorter message of Mark’s post at The new social democrat. Mark, writing before Hockey’s budget speech predicted that the budget would be “horrible”.

He was right. There may have been a feeling that the bad news had been leaked early. In fact the true horror is being revealed in the detail coming out after the speech.The speech sounded like severe belt tightening with a raft of cuts (summary here). In the interview after the speech Sarah Ferguson nailed Hockey on at least two major points. The first is that ordinary folk will carry a bigger burden than the rich, not just proportionately, but in actual dollars. On one count $1400 for the rich and $3000 to $5000 for lower to middle income families.

In fact middle Australia, the poor, the young and the marginalised will be hammered in Hockey’s vision of an age of opportunity, rather than entitlement.

Take the young unemployed:

The Abbott government’s first budget revealed job seekers applying for Newstart or Youth Allowance, who have not been previously employed, will face a six-month waiting period of no income support before they are eligible for payments by undertaking 25 hours a week in the Work for the Dole program.

Once they have spent six months on the program, they will lose income support for another six months unless they undertake training or study.

People under 25 will not be eligible for the dole and instead will have to apply for Youth Allowance which is about $100 less a fortnight. Newstart and Youth Allowance will also be frozen for the next three years.

The hourly rate on Work for the Dole will be $10.20 for Newstart and $8.29 for Youth Allowance.

In the six months applicants for Newstart and Youth Allowance do not receive income support, they will be required to undertake government-funded job seeking programs.

For those thrown out of work Newstart will be limited. With some exceptions:

Newstart applicants will receive one month of income support for every year they worked before applying for the dole and exceptions to the six months…

I don’t think we can talk in terms of a general safety net any longer. We have instead active harassment in the name of stimulating greater personal responsibility. We are leaving a system where all are looked after in favour of a system where only the deserving are supportis severely conditional and incomplete.

Family payments will save a whopping $7 billion, but hardest hit will be:

Sole parents, single parents and parents of disabled children will be hardest hit under changes to family tax benefits, designed to save money and get primary carers back to work.

More harassment.

The second point coming out of the Ferguson/Hockey interview was that the Abbott government is intent on forcing the states to increase the GST by cutting the funding for schools and hospitals by $80 billion over the next 10 years. Hockey’s response was “States runs schools and states run the hospitals” and “All the GST goes to the states so it is up to them.”

That’s clear enough, but not what voters expected or were told to expect.

Mark quotes EMC research:

this week’s Essential Report suggests voters are expecting to take the fall for a budget emergency that is really just a false alarm.

Without believing the central premise of the budget, voters are left with a sick feeling they’ll pay for a budget that doesn’t fix the economy but rather punishes ordinary people in favour of the wealthy.

Mark says (read the whole post!):

The most important thing about this Budget is that it symbolises the brokenness of Australian politics. It’s a tipping point, a crisis moment for the political class.

Everything they [the Government] think they learnt in politics school is wrong, and the focus groups must be feeding this back. We can see this reflected through the inconsistent and panicked messaging from the government.

Confected austerity economics will not work in a crisis of trust. Nor will “let’s all pull together” work in an age of upper middle class entitlement, generously fostered by John Howard’s electoral/fiscal calculus.

I still have some faith in Chris Bowen, who seems to me principled, articulate and genuine. I’d rather he gave the budget reply speech, but there is some hope for Shorten. He sounds less like a politician than many and that may eventually play in his favour.

Abbott has calibrated his message to mask his detailed promises about no cuts “full stop”. For example, he promised no cuts the the ABC and SBS, Instead $43.5 million is being taken out of their budget over the forward estimates. That’s 1% of general funding, plus cancellation of the Australia Network contract one year in, halving its budget. The ABC used the Australia Network funding to enhance its threadbare foreign coverage for the network generally.

Abbott is a silver tongued politician, master of slogans, but is sounding more and more like a salesman, inherently untrustworthy.

You don’t build a stronger Australia by shredding safety nets and increasing inequality.

Update: I thought I’d add here from this post the ABC FactCheck verdict showing how Hockey has added $68 billion to the deficit and essentially confected a budget ‘crisis’, as shown in this table:


See also Hockey’s morality play.

Also see Mark on Hockey’s social dystopia and John Quiggin on the mess of contradictions, meanness, trickiness and tribalism that is the Abbott-Hockey Government’s first budget.

Budget explainer

ABC Online has put together a neat budget explainer, telling us what is already on the record, what to watch out for and what might happen tonight.

Yesterday we heard that a further 36 government bodies will go in addition to the 40 already axed, at least on paper. Amongst them Ivor Frischknecht (literally ‘fresh servant’) had a lot to say about the expected demise of ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The audit commission recommended that ARENA be dissolved and its activities rolled into the Department of Industry.

Frischknecht seems to be taking the view that ARENA is legally obliged to keep operating until its governing legislation is changed. That will depend on the Senate.

The Government seems to be taking the view that decision-making and service delivery will be cleaner, more streamlined and more accountable if the Government does less. In my humble opinion burying the activities of separate, identifiable, dedicated agencies in the bowels of government departments will have the reverse effect.

Meanwhile Abbott gave backbenchers and newbies ‘love and reassurance’, but they still have to go out and sell the crock Hockey and co have cobbled together. They should sound about as convincing as sales people and be held in similar regard.

Adding to the muddle? The IPCC climate change mitigation report

Gareth at Hot Topic has a neat summary of the key points of the IPCC Working Party 3 report: Climate change mitigation report, which I’ve numbered:

    1. Annual greenhouse gas emissions have risen 10 GtCO2eq between 2000 and 2010, and half of all emissions since 1750 have occurred in the last 40 years
    2. If no further actions are taken to reduce emissions global mean surface temperature in 2100 will increase by 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels
    3. To have a reasonable chance of staying under 2ºC of warming in 2100 means restricting greenhouse gases to 450 ppm CO2eq
    4. Hitting 450 ppm CO2eq will mean “substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use”
    5. Typical 450 ppm CO2eq scenarios include overshooting the target and then removal of CO2 by bionenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), though “carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees, associated with challenges and risks”
    6. The Cancun pledges are not consistent with cost-effective efforts to hit 2ºC, and are more likely to commit the world to 3ºC of warming
    7. The sooner we act, the cheaper overall mitigation will be – as little as 0.06% of annual GDP growth to hit 450 ppm CO2eq.

The “substantial cuts” in point 4 are in fact 41 to 72% by 2050.

In point 5 the cuts required by 2100 are 78 to 118%. That is, the upper bound requires greenhouse gases to be removed from the atmosphere. This will give a “likely” chance of staying below a 2°C increase in temperature over pre-industrial. In IPCC parlance, likely means a 67% or better chance.

This is not “reasonable” as suggested in point 3, it’s reckless.

I’m surprised at the lack of urgency in the report and the modesty of the targets. A 67% or better chance, considering the risks associated with a 2°C increase, amounts to miserable odds. Moreover, as the CSIRO/BOM State of the Climate 2014 report indicated, we are already at 480 CO2eq ppm:


To make matters worse, the chances of staying under 3°C and 4°C are also only rated in the report as “likely”.

Our current situation demands the ambition and urgency called for by Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne:

He concludes that we need more ambition and urgency, both at the national and international levels. The achievement of emission reductions at the necessary scale and speed will require transformational rather than incremental change.

Wiseman goes for a three-phase emissions reduction target regime.

First, a 50% reduction target by 2020.

Second, zero net emissions by 2040.

Third, a carbon draw-down phase to get concentrations below 350 CO2e ppm.

Again, my view:

I applaud his ambition, but, personally, would change the date of the second to 2030 and put a date of 2050 on the third. That is, we should aim for 350 CO2e ppm by 2050.

Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University and the Tyndall Centre thinks policy makers are in a muddle about the 2°C target. I’m not sure this IPCC mitigation report helps all that much. Furthermore, I think it misleads rather than promoting a safe climate.

The WG1 science report identified the remaining carbon budget we have to work with to stay below 2°C. Rather than elaborate the carbon budget approach, which I described in the second part of this post, the mitigation report lays out a range of scenarios which involve both overshooting and the use of carbon dioxide reduction (CDR) technologies.

In my view policy makers who concentrate on a less than 95% chance of remaining under the 2°C threshold (I’d prefer 1.5°C) should be immediately sacked and replaced by others more fit to purpose. Scientists writing this report have left the real challenge to the politicians, but by normalising scenarios that lack urgency I fear policy makers will descend into a bigger muddle than ever.

This graph from Malte Meinshausen displayed in the Climate Change Authority report on targets is salutary, considering we are at 480 CO2e ppm:

Stabilisation probabilities_cropped_600

For a safe climate, the line on the graph should be drawn where 2°C intersects with 95%. That would call for greenhouse gas concentrtions of less than 350 ppm. Back in 2008 David Spratt and Philip Sutton in the book Climate Code Red nominated 320 ppm as the target for a safe climate. They called the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC “dangerously conservative”. Not much has changed.

Remember James Hansen nominated 350 ppm not as an end target, rather as an interim goal, whereupon we could decide the next necessary move.

The sad fact is that scientists are not looking at scenarios of 430 ppm or below by 2100. There are too few in existence for the IPCC to summarise.

In describing stabilisation pathways the IPCC collated 900 individual scenarios with target CO2 concentrations (for 2100) of 430 to 720 ppm. They then summarised the scenarios in seven categories (see table SPM1 on page 13 of the Summary for Policy Makers). It’s too large to reproduce here.

The first category, the best we are offered, has the following story line.

To achieve CO2e concentrations of 450 ppm (range 430-480) cumulative emissions from 2011 to 2050 must be in the range of 550 to 1300 GtCO2. By 2100 cumulative emissions must be in the range of 630 to 1180 GTCO2. Please note that the upper bound for 2100 is less than for 2050. This will require a reduction of emissions compared to 2011 of 41 to 72% by 2050 and 78 to 118% by 2100. The resulting temperature change will be 1.5 to 1.7 (1.0 to 2.8) relative to pre-industrial. This will give only a 50% plus chance of staying below 1.5°C and a better than 66% chance of staying below 2°C. There is up to a 33% chance that the temperature will go above 3°C and indeed 4°C.

The temperatures in brackets indicate the uncertainties of how the models relate to reality. In fact at section in the main report we are told that the report’s “probabilistic temperature statements should be regarded as indicative.”

The second category uses a target of 500 ppm (480-530), which only yields a “more likely than not” chance of staying below 2°C, that is >50%. Each category summarises a proportion of the 900 scenarios modelled. Each individual scenario is different depending on whether cuts in emissions are made early or late.

From there it obviously gets worse.

Scientists may be dealing with expected reality, but they have left the real challenge of dealing with the climate to the politicians. Moreover, the action required for a safe climate, as outlined by Wiseman, lies outside the frame of the stabilisation pathways outlined in this report. Approaches such as the International Energy Association’s (IEA) World energy Outlook 2011 highlighting an energy crunch for fossil fuel power generation by 2017 probably has more effect.

Key posts

These are the key earlier posts linked above:

Additional reading

Here I’d highlight the article at The Conversation by David Stern on concerns that the IPCC report was censored. This is a misunderstanding of the process. The main report includes a Technical Summary which is prepared by scientists. The Summary for Policy Makers is about a third the length and results from a political filter applied at the end. The material left out, according to Stern, relates to sensitivities and bargaining positions in the current round of UNFCCC talks aimed at striking an international agreement in December 2015 in Paris.

There’s more on the report at Climate Institute, at at Climate Central, at The New Scientist here and here, and at the BBC.

Carbon Brief went wild, producing a dozen posts which I’ve listed here for the record. I’d recommend the first two by Robin Webster for a quick overview, but Ros Donald on fracking and Mat Hope on acronyms may be of particular interest.

13/4 What’s mitigation? A short and straightforward summary of the IPCC’s latest report Carbon Brief staff

13/4 Not just another climate report: main messages from the UN report on tackling emissions Robin Webster

13/4 The what, when and where of global greenhouse gas emissions: A visual summary of the IPCC’s climate mitigation report Mat Hope

13/4 From RCP to WG3: A climate change acronym cheat sheet Mat Hope

14/4 Does the IPCC endorse fracking? Ros Donald

14/4 Climate fixes and Plan Bs: The IPCC’s guide to staying below two degrees of global warming Roz Pidcock

14/4 Media reaction: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s big climate mitigation report Ros Donald

Daily Briefing | IPCC: There’s still time to take climate action, if countries cooperate
Carbon Brief staff

15/5 Degrees of change: the IPCC’s projections for future temperature rise Robin Webster

16/4 Tackling global warming could slow global growth – by 0.06 per cent, IPCC predicts Mat Hope

17/4 IPCC review of farming and forests leaves key questions about effect on climate change “unresolved” Robin Webster

17/4 Climate change is a political animal Paul Tobin

Independent Australia also looks at fracking and gas.

Developing countries are unhappy.

Please contribute other useful links in comments.

Saturday Salon 10/5


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.

On a mission to upset everyone

Having upset the rich with their ‘debt levy’, and with 72% of people thinking it a broken promise, Abbott and Hockey are on a mission to upset the rest of us by re-indexing the fuel excise.

Richard Denniss told the 7.30 Report that the tax was good policy.

Sinclair Davidson told Waleed Aly that if you must tax, then taxing consumption is better than taxing production. The fuel excise taxes consumption. He forgets that sole traders (like me) driving a ute or a van would pay the tax. Nevertheless the LNP backbencher Ken O’Dowd in the linked article appears to be wrong:

A Federal Government MP has spoken out against plans to raise the fuel excise, warning it will force up the cost of everyday groceries.

Farmers and miners don’t pay fuel excise. That tax concession is worth some $13 billion, which the Greens would like to abolish.

Davidson also pointed out that fuel excise was a regressive tax, it disadvantages the poor. Those with time to ring up are letting Mr O’Dowd know:

“The phones haven’t stopped, especially with our older folk. We got off on the wrong leg, talking about increasing the pension age, I don’t think it was explained too good. It really concerned a lot of old people that they were going to lose their rights.”

It hardly matters now what the budget detail turns out to be – the damage has been done.

Meanwhile company directors are losing faith. Only 30% of company directors expected the new administration to have a positive impact on their business decision making, down from 70% when the LNP took over. Furthermore:

This loss of confidence has also translated into a fall in the proportion of directors who believe the Federal Government understands business – from 55 per cent last year to 48 per cent now.

Fully 80% say that achieving a budget surplus in the next three years is not a priority.

Wayne Swan says he left the budget in good shape. Chris Bowen has been saying that Joe Hockey has doubled the deficit by changes to Government spending and changes to Government assumptions. The ABC FactCheck verdict:

Since the election, the official forecast deficit has doubled. The economic assumptions are different from those used before the election, and spending decisions have been made that were not in the previous forecasts. Mr Bowen’s claim checks out.

Here’s the table that tells the story:


The PEFO of August 2013, prepared independently by Treasury and Finance, shows a surplus for 2016-17. Leaving aside Hockey’s moral austerity crusade, it does appear that he has confected the crisis.

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff