Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013

The summer melt of the Arctic appears to have reached it’s limit with the sea ice extent at 5.1 million km2 (cf. the 3.41 million km2 record in 2012) as shown on this graph from the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis site:

2013_cropped_580

The black line is the 1981-2010 average, plus and minus two standard deviations. The blue is 2007 and the dotted line represents the 2012 record. This year is the sixth lowest on record as this graph from Skeptical Science shows: Continue reading Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013

Abbott’s direct action on climate

On Thursday the Abbott government took four actions on climate change. First, Greg Hunt phoned Tim Flannery, letter to follow, that the Climate Commission was to cease operation. We can take for granted that money was not the problem. Five million over four years in a $400 billion pa budget is not even small change.

Abbott told us on Wednesday that his governments actions would be based on values rather than ideology.

“We will be a problem-solving government based on values, not ideology,” the new Prime Minister added.

So what problem were they solving? Too much information on climate change? Is information from independent scientific sources too inconvenient? We are told that the information we need will be prepared by the public service in the future, where there will no longer be a dedicated department for climate change.

Lenore Taylor thinks the sacking of senior public servants smacks of ideology, not values. She says two of them, Martin Parkinson and Blair Comley, appear to have been punished because of their roles in implementing the former government’s policy on climate change.

The Climate Commission site is still there, for now. I wonder for how much longer.

The other three actions require legislation – getting rid of the ‘carbon tax’, shutting down the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. So all the Government can do now is commence preparing legislation. Continue reading Abbott’s direct action on climate

Climate clippings 83

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition contains items, exclusively, I think, in climate science and impacts. The thread is meant to function also as a roundtable to share information and ideas.

1. Climate change picked the crops we eat today

The New Scientist carries a story about how some cereals we know today were changed by the climate as we came out of the last ice age. Researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK took seeds of precursors of modern wheat and barley found with human remains in a 23,000-year-old archaeological site in Israel. They grew these together with four wild grass species that aren’t eaten today, but were also known to grow in the region at that time, and grew them under conditions replicating levels of CO2 then and also the higher levels when farming first arose 10,000 years ago.

All the plants grew larger under the higher levels of CO2, but the relatives of wheat and barley grew twice as large and produced double the seeds. This suggests the species are especially sensitive to high levels of CO2, making them the best choice for cultivation after the last ice age.

The team plan to look at whether other food staples around the world are similarly affected by elevated CO2 levels, for example millet grown in Asia and maize in North America. They also plan to compare the effects of CO2 on legumes such as peas. Continue reading Climate clippings 83

Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Last week on the 7.30 Report we were treated to a debate between Mark Butler, the climate change minister and his Opposition counterpart, Greg Hunt, that just did not work. Leigh Sales tried a hard-edged questioning style, but unfortunately did not come close to being familiar with the topic. So large parts of the LNP agenda were unaddressed, such as their dismantling of the institutional framework of the the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the incorporation of the Climate Department into the broader environment department and the dismantling of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

One issue canvassed was the sequestration of carbon in soil, which comprises a large part of the LNP’s mitigation strategy.

Mark Butler said the cost of such abatement was higher than previously thought, the potential for sequestration less and given the problems and uncertainties there “may be some opportunity to abate carbon pollution through soil carbon initiatives in the future, but it is grossly irresponsible to make it the centrepiece of a nationwide carbon pollution policy.”

Hunt dismissed those concerns, quoting the CSIRO but when he was pressed on whether he was talking about just soil carbon he said he meant the full range of green carbon initiatives – mallee and mulga revegetation, reforestation, avoided deforestation, soil carbon.

A recent article in Nature (paywalled) came to the conclusion that:

considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed. The capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to store carbon is finite and the current sequestration potential primarily reflects depletion due to past land use. Avoiding emissions from land carbon stocks and refilling depleted stocks reduces atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the maximum amount of this reduction is equivalent to only a small fraction of potential fossil fuel emissions.

Continue reading Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Direct action examined and found wanting

Yesterday The Climate Institute released a policy brief Coalition Climate Policy and the National Climate Interest which not to mince words is a complete crock, will increase emissions and ruin our reputation on climate matters in the world. The report, based on modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz-MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies, was then declared by Greg Hunt to be “one of the silliest reports” he has ever seen prepared by “a clear partisan political organisation” which backs the ALP.

Giles Parkinson’s article The black hole in Tony Abbott’s frat party climate policy gives a comprehensive account and I commend it to readers.

Abbott in response to Rudd’s bringing forward of the ETS gave his memorable opinion on such trading schemes:

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Sara Phillips finds this curious since

the financial markets do a lot of trading in non-deliveries of invisible substances to no one. Water-front mansions in Abbott’s electorate of Warringah have been built on the profits of those trades.

Continue reading Direct action examined and found wanting

Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Back on 3 September 2010, 12 days after the election, Laura Tingle wrote:

There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.

One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually, there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.

But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern.

Then this:

But what is more extraordinary is that now, having been caught out, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are continuing to try to bluff their way through, suggesting there is nothing more than a gentlemanly difference of opinion between them and the bureaucracy.

The brazenness of the three men only becomes really clear when they claim the bureaucrats’ document actually proves the budget would be $7 billion better off under the Coalition.

There is no other term for any of this except “complete bullshit”, to use one of Abbott’s favourite terms.

Ever since those three brazen bullshit artists have been rubbishing the institutions that called them on their incompetence and/or perfidy.

On Tuesday this week Treasury and Finance issued the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) in which the charter of budget of honesty requires them to identify “all other circumstances that may have a material effect on the fiscal and economic outlook”. Laura Tingle explains how Treasury and Finance have used the modelling at their disposal to project receipts and payments over the next ten years. The results are inconvenient to the common view that we are headed down the crapper. You see they found that receipts are going to pick up in the out years, so that in ten years time net debt will be restored to around zero. Continue reading Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Climate clippings 82

I’m not planning to do posts on the upcoming election apart from link posts if I see anything interesting and/or important. The post on the Murdoch’s intervention started out as a link post, but then I warmed to the task. While this space is open I’d like to explore a theme that came from a comment in reaction to the LNP ‘solution’ to the asylum seeker ‘problem’. I can’t find it now, but someone asked, “What have we become?”

Moreover, what will we become? We have a choice, and in our response to the stranger in need who has chosen us, we either grow or diminish ourselves.

The task is ambitious and I’m not academically equipped for it. I’m not speaking as a philosopher or a sociologist, just “someone who is trying to sort out his ideas”, so the results may be modest. Some of the posts may not appear to be directly on the topic, but I hope all will fit together in the long run.

Climate clippings_175Meanwhile I’ll try to keep some information flowing on climate change. Both these projects may be of more use than any contribution I can make to an election here in Oz. This time CC will be free flow rather than numbered items, to save time. I’ll use bold to identify the topics.

Arctic ice is losing its reflective sheen. We all know that ice reflects more incoming radiation from the sun than does open water. Now by analysing 30 years of satellite data scientists have found that albedo of the ice itself at the end of the summer is about 15% weaker today than it was 30 years ago.

The cause of the darkening is

partly due to thinning ice and the formation of open water fissures, and partly because in the warmer air, ponds of liquid water form on the surface of the ice. The shallow ponds on the ice can dramatically reduce reflectivity and increase the amount of solar radiation that the ice absorbs.

Continue reading Climate clippings 82

Pine Island Glacier spawns a giant iceberg

As David Spratt posted at Climate Code Red a giant crack has opened across the full width of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) ice shelf, spawning a new iceberg about 720 square kilometres in area, roughly eight times the size of Manhattan Island in New York. This is about the best photo I can find:

Pine Island Glacier_dn23847-1_450

We’ll get some orientation first and then look at the implications. This image locates the PIG on the continent of Antarctica:

AntarcMapPelto-300x255

This image from the LiveScience photo gallery outlines the PIG basin:

Pine Island Gl;acier_pi-3-PIG_map_Bodentopograpfie_beschriftet_w

This basin together with the Thwaites Basin just to the south drains 40% of West Antarctica. These two glaciers alone could lead to sea level rise of half a metre by 2100 according to material cited by Spratt. Continue reading Pine Island Glacier spawns a giant iceberg

Climate clippings 81

?????????????????????????These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition contains items, exclusively, I think, in the broad mitigation category.

1. Nationwide EV fast charging networks

Estonia with around 1.3 million people achieved the first Nationwide EV fast charging network. Now the Netherlands with about 16.8 million souls has established a contract to build the world’s largest. No citizen will be more than 50 km away from a charging station.

That’s impressive, but given the range of EVs still fairly thin on the ground. Will the charges include the cost of the capital required to roll out the plan? Also if they are going to be “user friendly”, will they sell you coffee while you wait the 15-30 minutes it takes to charge the batteries? Continue reading Climate clippings 81

Climate change begins to bite

Irukandji_A000043bgt Recently my wife and I saw an item on the TV about the Irukandji jellyfish, which was said to be moving south as waters warm. I thought it was the 7.30 Report, but can’t find it. Googling reveals that the same tale was being told in 2010.

Here’s the distribution map from Australian Venom Research Unit:

irukandji_map

You won’t have much chance of seeing these things coming. This photo from the Courier Mail gives some idea of the size, but the bell can be up to 2cm and the tentacles up to a metre:

irukandji-jellyfish_CM_450

This article tells us the Irukandji is thought to be the most venomous creature on earth, 100 times more potent than a cobra and 1000 times more potent than a tarantula. Not as quick to kill you, though, as the larger box jellyfish which has a similar distribution. So far:

Australia has only had two confirmed deaths from irukandji and though the real figure could be higher, there have been 71 cases of death from box jellyfish sting.

Continue reading Climate change begins to bite

Climate clippings 80

Climate clippings_175In these posts the aim is to include eight segments averaging 125 words long with sufficient detail so that casual readers can get the sense of the featured article without following the links, which are there for those interested in more detail. Lately I have been alternating week by week collections of science/observations/predictions and practical matters associated with adaptation and mitigation.

During the last week of political distractions I have had about half my usual time at the computer. Moreover some segments just won’t fit within the 125 word constraint. Next cab off the rank, I hope, will be President Obama’s climate initiative, which demands extended treatment.

So for the next little while I’ll attempt to post whatever I have to hand every Tuesday until things settle down a bit.

As usual these posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. And again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

1. Climate change measuring instruments are on life support

That’s the story from John Abraham at Climate Consensus – the 97%. He is warning that many measuring systems, especially the satellite platforms, are headed for declines in coverage, which will lead to an information deficit. His worry is that straightened budgets will not allow replacement and hence continuity of information may be broken.

In a specific example, the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array, which consists of 55 oceanic moorings is involved in the detection, understanding and prediction of El Niño and La Niña, is only operating at 50%. Continue reading Climate clippings 80

What should Kevin Rudd do about climate change policy before the election?

No-one should doubt the political potency of the climate change issue. Malcolm Turnbull’s demise came as a direct result of the bi-partisan agreement on an ETS negotiated between Ian Macfarlane and Penny Wong in 2009. In a three-way contest Joe Hockey was expected to win in a landslide, but he was eliminated in the first round of voting.

So what went wrong for Joe?

Yesterday, Mr Hockey was demanding a free vote to decide Coalition policy on climate change early next year, if he were to agree to take on the leadership.

That angered right-wing Liberal powerbrokers and prompted Mr Abbott to stay in the race for the top job.

It’s worth noting, as I did in the post Political thuggery and climate change that it was Abbott and Nick Minchin who told Turnbull he could only keep his job if he changed his stance on the CPRS. Also that Andrew Robb’s actions were described by Hockey as “the worst act of political treachery I have seen in twenty years of politics” and by Turnbull as “an act of almost inconceivable treachery and dishonesty”.

Rudd’s dumping of the CPRS in April 2010 was followed by a sharp fall in Rudd’s approval rating and party voting intentions. As I pointed out in Rudd, Gillard, the CPRS and public opinion the notion that Rudd was talked out of doing something about climate change by Gillard and Swan does not hold up. Rudd was dithering and unapproachable on the issue. When he called a meeting to discuss the issue his view was to leave an ETS until broad international agreement was achieved. Gillard wanted to wait for a return of bipartisanship with the LNP. Rudd decided to do it his way.

Climate change was nominated by Gillard as one of three policy areas where the Government had lost its way. Continue reading What should Kevin Rudd do about climate change policy before the election?

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff