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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.

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?????????????????????????This week I’ve concentrated on the practical side of Climate change – mitigation and adaptation and the relevant policies.

1. China to cap emissions

According to Giles Parkinson news reports from China indicate that the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has proposed a cap on emissions from 2016, from RenewEconomy, picked up at Clean Technica.

What’s more it looks as though China will cease to be an importer of coal within a few years (please note Gina, Clive et al).

Please note also, Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt. The coalition will be phasing out the carbon price just as China is phasing it in. The LNP reckoned a price on carbon was unnecessary because the rest of the world was not going there, remember?

[Update: indigo @ 8 advises that this story is based on a passing comment from a delegate of the NDRC and that no proposal has yet gone forward.]

2. Carbon markets have to take Abbott seriously!

Two weeks ago Giles Parkinson attended a day hosted by the Carbon Market Institute looking at the future of carbon markets in Australia. It seems that the audience of bankers and such had never taken the Direct Action thing seriously, they thought was just a bit of politicking. Now they are having to face the fact that Greg Hunt, former champion debater, will almost certainly be tasked to implement whatever it turns out to be.

Antony Green’s session was the best attended. The only serious question to be resolved on September 15 is whether the LNP can get the numbers in the Senate. The final numbers, Green explained, can be a lottery, with the balance of power possibly finally held by fringe candidates no-one has heard of. Still markets have to deal with the possibilities and this is how they sit:

The forward curve of the carbon market – such as it is – is pricing odds of 60 per cent that the carbon price will no longer exist by July next year, analysts say. The market odds for it to be gone by 2016 are 80 per cent.

The forward curve for contracts in the National Electricity Market is pricing the odds around the same level. Even Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which said earlier this year that there was just a 30 per cent chance of repeal, is now reviewing that assessment and is likely to lift the odds to above 50 per cent.

And yes, there is an issue of compensation, which doesn’t figure so far in LNP budgeting.

3. No more money for adaptation research

I was intrigued to find a blogger from Knoxville, Tennessee listing five policy briefs released by Australia’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), with seven more to come by June 30 this year. On closer investigation, I found this speech by Yvette D’Ath officially launching their research portfolio, a portfolio of more than 140 peer-reviewed research projects across 33 universities around Australia. D’Ath praised the work of the scientists and appealed to them for help in countering climate denialism.

Ironic really as the NCCARF is to be wound up by the end of June as there was no more money coming from the Government. More than 100 researchers will be affected nationally.

Instead NCCARF2 will be funded at $3 million per annum for two years as a dissemination project.

The same Knoxville blogger notes the release of the EU Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation which was produced by the Directorate-General for Climate Action, which is a program, not a project, of the European Commission. Their 2013 program of work is worth €20.75 million and the employ 160 people internally and externally.

4. Quick charging buses come to Geneva

European technology giant ABB has developed a new technology that will help power the world’s first high-capacity flash charging electric bus system, where buses will receive top up charges in 15 seconds at selected bus stops. A pilot project termed TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation) is planned in conjunction with Geneva’s public transport company.

An arm connects with an electricity outlet in the roof of the bus shelter. At the end of the run three to four minutes gives a complete charge. It’s like a trolley bus without overhead wires.

I’m wondering how electric vehicles go with heart pacemakers. I’ve just learned that you can’t use electric hand tools with a pacemaker.

This link has a video showing roughly how the bus shelter connection is made.

5. ‘Black Carbon’ flows from soil to oceans

It was thought that ‘black carbon’ created by the burning of organic matter such as grass or forests stayed in the soil for millions of years.

By examining carbon in rivers it is now thought that up to 40% of such black carbon dissolves and flows into the oceans.

6. Soil carbon farming

I gather that soil carbon farming is a different issue, but seems similarly fraught. Di Martin investigated the soil carbon conundrum.

The shorter story is that some exceptional farmers have demonstrated that soil carbon can be increased dramatically. One farmer did this by ‘pasture cropping’. Native grasses were encouraged and the crop was sown directly into the pasture, rather than plowing, harrowing etc.

Another used ‘cell grazing’, which involves high intensity and high rotation grazing, with long rest periods for pasture.

There are problems in measurement, which may be resolvable with new technology. What is not resolvable, however, is the 100-year guarantee required by international protocols if the activity is deemed to benefit the planet.

Bernard Keane, following Lenore Taylor, was rather scathing about Direct Action soil magic.

7. Renewable energy in the wars

The fossil fuel incumbents are rolling out a campaign to damage the solar industry. One nasty trick being considered in Queensland is the following:

Gross metering – a proposal made in Queensland which would force households to sell all the output from their rooftop systems to the grid operators, and buy it back at a higher price

Campbell Newman keeps saying that feed-in tariffs PV solar are “just ridiculous”.

The campaign seems to be extending to the whole Coalition policy on renewables, if there is one.

There is increasing concern in the [renewables] industry that the Opposition will pave way for the Renewable Energy Target to be diluted, under pressure from state governments, utilities and generators worried about sliding profits from their coal and gas generators, and noisy anti-renewable lobbies promoted by the likes of [Alan] Jones.

Please note the note at the end of the piece:

it seems the biggest problem the [coal] industry faces is a lack of demand. We’ve noted this before, but this week, this was reinforced by reports from China that imported coal is sitting unwanted and clogging up the country’s biggest ports.

Deutsche Bank energy analysts said this was due to “weak coal demand all over China” which had been apparent since late last year. Indeed, half the coal companies in one region of Mongolia had ceased production of thermal coal because of falling prices, and most small coal mines in Shanxi Province had also closed, Deutsche Bank reported.

8. Solar panel art

Now for something lighter: solar panel art.


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1. The scientific consensus remains solid

Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian has the story. A study led by John Cook of Skeptical Science fame considered the work of some 29,000 scientists published in 11,994 academic papers between 1991 and 2011.

Of the 4,000-plus papers that took a position on the causes of climate change only 0.7% or 83 of those thousands of academic articles, disputed the scientific consensus that climate change is the result of human activity, with the view of the remaining 2.2% unclear.

The survey found that the consensus has grown slowly over time, and reached about 98% in 2011.

The study authors tell their story at Skeptical Science and the Guardian’s new blog.

Of the papers which specifically examine the contributors to global warming, they virtually all conclude that humans are the dominant cause over the past 50 to 100 years.

Continue reading Climate clippings 75

Oklahoma tornado and climate change

Tornado damage_cropped_300

The Courier Mail had quite a good piece. If you want pics the BBC has a gallery or enter Oklahoma tornado at Google images. There are some videos collected here. The Courier Mail has a large photo gallery.

Climate Progress revisits tornadoes, extreme weather and climate change. The bottom line is that the jury is out.

In the US tornado alley warm moist air flows north from the Gulf of Mexico in the lower atmosphere and becomes unstable. Dry, cold air comes from the west over the Rockies in the upper atmosphere, with a shear effect to create the top of the column. The warm air becomes unstable and lifts. The shear effect of the upper wind spins the rising column. More air is sucked in by the spinning, rising column. That’s simplistic but those are the basic elements as I understand them.

With climate change the lower atmosphere warm air flow and instability are likely to be enhanced, but there could actually be less wind shear. We don’t know what the result of those factors will be over time, but the suggestion is that if anything there have been fewer severe tornadoes over recent decades. Continue reading Oklahoma tornado and climate change

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The weekend was a bit ordinary for me, but as supercoach Wayne Bennett says, if you can’t say anything nice say nothing. That’s how he addressed his troops after the thrashing they got in the previous week. This week they creamed the opposition!

This CC concentrates on climate mitigation, the practical stuff, rather than science, observations and future predictions. What I’m stepping around at the moment is politics, policy, opinion etc.

1. Renewables in surprising places

This image at Clean Technica indicates the potential of renewable energy. Please note that the amounts for coal etc are total reserves, whereas the renewables are annual.


I’m not sure the natural gas is accurate as there is a lot of unconventional gas around. Continue reading Climate clippings 74

Greenland melt

You may have seen images like this before, demonstrating the progressive summer melting of the Greenland ice sheet:


Then in July 2012 this happened:


The image on the left represents melting on 8 July. By 12 July some 97% of the ice sheet surface was melting. The Carbon Brief (a quality blog) has the story. Continue reading Greenland melt

CO2 hits 400 ppm

On May 9 CO2 reached 400 ppm at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) monitoring centre at Muana Loa and at at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. This is what’s been happening over the last 130 years in broad terms:


It seems many news organisations, for example the BBC, and some scientists are stressing that the last time concentrations were so high was 3 to 5 million years ago. In the linked article Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State gives a different view:

Mann said the last time scientists are confident that CO2 was sustained at the current levels was more than 10 million years ago, during the middle of the Miocene Period. Continue reading CO2 hits 400 ppm

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In this edition I’ve stuck to scientific articles, and, incidentally have used a couple (items 3 and 4) from stuff I gathered around this time last year when I thought I might be launching a new blog. For reasons we won’t go into it didn’t happen at that time.

1. Arctic ice watch

While we were on sabbatical last year the northern cryosphere had an exciting time. There was a giant storm in the Arctic ocean, Greenland surface melt covered virtually the whole ice sheet and all sorts of records were broken in the Arctic summer sea ice melt. I’m hoping to do an update to catch us up, but follow this link to see a dramatic animation of Arctic sea ice volume loss since 1979. I’ve posted this image to show how far we’ve come:


You can monitor Arctic sea ice extent on the NSIDC site. This image is a screenshot from the interactive graph on that page showing the way summer sea ice is sagging:

Sea ice extent_cropped_580 Continue reading Climate clippings 73

NSW coal generation under pressure

Well it is if the country stays on its present policy trajectory.

Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy comments on the latest pitt&sherry electricity emissions update (April data). Back in 1998 coal used to supply 90% of NSW’s National Electricity Market (NEM) electricity. Now this has fallen to less than 75%. One factor is that demand is falling more in NSW than in other states, as shown in these graphs:

Figure 1: Channges in electricity demand by state
Changes_electricity by state_cropped_580 Continue reading NSW coal generation under pressure

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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

Global heating update

Little ice age_130421152401-270

Last month we had a look at the Bigger, better, new hockey stick from a study by Marcott et al. Since then Skeptical Science has a post on the phoney skeptical/denialist critique of the study. We now have a new study, Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia, by 78 scientists from 24 nations analyzing climate data from tree rings, pollen, cave formations, ice cores, lake and ocean sediments, and historical records from around the world published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The study found:

There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between ad 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century.

The real interest was in the regional variations on a continental scale. Temperatures were identified for the Arctic, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Antarctic. There was insufficient data for Africa. Continue reading Global heating update

European ETS


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

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff