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:


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 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 clippings 79

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised science, observations and impacts. Comments, about science, observations impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.

1. SAM and ENSO divorce

Roger Jones at Understanding Climate Risk has a post on global warming breaking the link between SAM and ENSO, with consequences for our weather.

To help, GMT in the graph means ‘global mean temperature’.


With the global warming signal taken out (top panel), the relationship between ENSO and SAM is strong but with it in, they depart in the late 1960s (lower panel).

There’s also an article in The Age.

From Jones:

So what does this mean for Australia’s climate? It means that an overwhelmingly positive SAM is keeping the westerlies south and contributing to our drier autumn winters and delivering weather typical of the Riverina to southern Victoria according to Cai. Recovery of the ozone layer and reduction in greenhouse gas emission would stabilise this process, rather than continuing to send it south.

In summer it also allows the easterly trades greater access, bringing in more moisture from the tropics and enhancing La Niña summer rainfall. Continue reading Climate clippings 79

Climate clippings 78

????????????????????????? These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised adaptation and mitigation, essentially what we need to do to achieve a safe climate.

Comments, about science, observations, impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.

1. Mining company donations to political parties

Bernard Keane Looked at the astonishing trend in mining company donations to political parties:


Sandi Keane adds some value in her two part series on the cartelisation of the major parties. Bernard wrote:

The sheer scale of mining company generosity illustrates why Tony Abbott remains committed to repealing the carbon pricing package and the mining tax.

Sandi added:

He might also have added that if Abbott wins office on September 14, we will no longer have a democracy but an oligarchy – a government run by powerful mining and media magnates looking for a return on their investment – with George Pell as spiritual adviser. As Keane tweeted recently:

“Australians are a bunch of sheep about to hand themselves over to a pack of wolves”.

Continue reading Climate clippings 78

Climate clippings 77

Climate clippings_175

1. Antarctic ice melt studies

A recent study by Abram et al showed that the ice on the Antarctic peninsula was melting about 10 times faster than it was 600 years ago, concluding that further melting was particularly sensitive to temperature increases. The headline and the text of this story perhaps gave the impression that the whole continent was ready to go.

A more sober assessment was found at The Carbon Brief where the study was linked with another study by Steig et al that finds recent changes in the West Antarctica ice sheet “cannot be distinguished from decadal variability that originates in the tropics.”

Nevertheless Antarctica overall is losing mass (see also here). Antarctica contributed strongly to sea level rise during the Eemian and the Andrill study showed that “the West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed and regrown over 60 times in the past few million years”. Any complacency would be misplaced.

2. New review of ice sheet studies

The Carbon Brief has also posted on a new major review of the latest research on ice sheets. The last IPCC report (AR4) relied on about 10 years worth of reliable sea level data, from 1993 and 2003. Greenland and Antarctica together were found to be raising sea levels by about 0.42 mm per year. That has now doubled to about 0.82mm per year.

So while we are still dealing with short time periods, a clear acceleration is in evidence.

3. Skeptical bloopers

The Carbon Brief reckons that once about every six months David Rose runs an article saying global warming has stopped. Here’s their post of October 2012. Then they lined up six top rebuttals of the week, and a reader contributed a seventh by Tamino.

It’s a tired canard and I didn’t bother reading them all. It did introduce me to the Met Office News Blog which has, for example, a very clear post on tornadoes.

Elsewhere in case you missed it Andrew Glikson debunks the notion that CFCs are responsible for global warming.

4. Garnaut recommends 17% target

Dr Jenny Riesz of the University of NSW reports on Garnaut’s recommendation to the Climate Change Authority which is currently deliberating on the Caps and Targets Review. He favours a 17% target by 2020 to put us in line with the US, Canada and other major economies.

At the Cancun United Nations negotiations in 2010, President Obama committed the USA to an emissions reduction target of -17% by 2020 (below 2005 levels). This has been somewhat ignored in Australia’s carbon targets debate, because policy to implement a national carbon pricing scheme to achieve this target was filibustered by the US Senate.

However, the USA remains committed to this target, both in spirit, and in writing with the UNFCCC.

Canada has promised to match the USA.

He suggests that the EU has found it much easier to meet their targets than originally anticipated, which is a typical experience. This, he says, is in part why their carbon price has collapsed.

Garnaut points out that:

the biggest change of all is coming from China, in terms of quantity of emissions reduction from business as usual. They have set truly ambitious targets, and are meeting them through a wide range of activities, including substantial structural change in the Chinese economy. These actions are driven by a wide range of objectives, including environmental drivers, desire for expansion of the role of services in the economy, and desire for more equitable income distribution.

5. Carbon trading schemes

In the last CC thread Jumpy linked to a Parliamentary Library paper Countries trading greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last three years, the global carbon market has more than doubled in volume but almost halved in value. In that time a further eight countries, states or cities have adopted a carbon market as their primary means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the price for one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent has dropped by as much as 100 per cent in some markets.

That last sentence looks like an oops! A 100% drop gives you nothing!

The paper is the most recent of 25 on climate change in the past few years. In fact their blog Flagpost looks a valuable resource.

6. Floods in Central Europe

Dramatic floods have spread over central Europe.

The New Scientist reports caution about a link with climate change:

While it is premature to pin the heavy rainfall on climate change, it could be partly to blame, says Stéphane Isoard of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. But he says bad land management is just as important.

Nevertheless wetter weather is predicted by climate change, making more floods inevitable.

Deutsche Welle goes into more detail, saying that while individual events can’t necessarily be linked to climate change, they’ve had once in a century floods now in the 1990s, in 2002 and now in 2013. We’ll have to expect more and prepare accordingly.

They make reference to Stefan Rahmstorf’s blog (which is auf Deutsch), but this paper is in English. On a quick look I think he’s saying they have found a mechanism linking floods, droughts and heat waves to climate change and if they are right expect more. And, yes they need money for research of the kind expended on the Higgs boson.

7. Interest grows in the Arctic

Now that the Arctic is increasingly becoming trafficable during the summer many countries are becoming interested. The politics of who sits where at the Arctic Council is complex, but China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Italy have now been admitted as permanent observers.

According to the New Scientist China is the one to watch. They’re interested in the Arctic as a shipping route, but also in fish and oil.

“It’s fair to say China will drive development of Arctic resources,” says Malte Humpert of the Arctic Institute in Washington DC.

The Arctic is fragile so we hope they take care.

8. US and China agree to cooperate on phasing out HFCs

From the White House brief:

For the first time, the United States and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), among other forms of multilateral cooperation. A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

William S. Becker explains that China had always wanted to consider the issue in the context of the current round of climate talks, which would delay action, whereas the Montreal Protocol already exists. HFCs were introduced as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were destroying the ozone layer. Unfortunately HFCs have a greenhouse effect like CO2.

Climate Progress has more detail and the AFP places this topic in context of the whole meeting agenda.

To provide further context HFCs amount to about 2% of GHG emissions, as shown on this wondrous flowchart.

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff