Ross Gittins describes the CSIRO’s first Australian National Outlook report as “heroic” and “fair dinkum”. It does what the Government Intergenerational Report failed to do. It takes account of the effects of climate change and environmental sustainability.
When the first named cyclone in July appeared off the Queensland coast some asked whether this was caused by climate change. My response would be that a single event is weather. Climate is about changes in the patterns of weather over time.
Worldwide, solar energy has continued to grow even when economies were shrinking. By 2013, almost 138.9 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic (PV) had been installed globally, states the European Photovoltaic Industry Association in the report Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2014-2018.
From the bottom, blue is Europe, brown is Asia Pacific, purple is the Americas and orange is China.
4. Australia could become manufacturing hub of battery storage
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) met in Abu Dhabi last weekend, ahead of the World Energy Future Conference in the same venue. Australia thumbed its nose by sending an embassy staffer rather than a minister, as a country genuinely interested in renewables would have done.
Australia is increasingly being seen as a “no-hoper” and an “outlier” in terms of large scale renewable energy.
Sadoway thinks Australia would provide a strong home market, ideal for remoter population centres difficult to serve with a high quality grid.
The LMBs [liquid metal batteries] are being hailed as a potentially low cost option for utility-scale battery storage. That is because the nature of the technology means that they can cycle – or discharge – thousands of times without having its capacity reduced.
The batteries could last for 300 years.
No doubt the minister for industry will quietly tell him that we don’t do large scale renewables, or manufacturing, in Australia.
Inconvenient words about climate change and torture were snipped out of President Obama’s State of the Union speech when posted on the (Republican) Speaker’s official site. Words like this:
The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.
6. Republican opinion on climate change
Meanwhile the Republican-controlled US Senate has voted 98-1 to say the climate change is real and not a hoax. However, that doesn’t mean that humans are the cause. After all the Bible tells of climate change and it’s just arrogance to think humans are the cause!
A recent Yale study identifies four different kinds of Republicans – liberal, moderate, conservative and Tea Party. While overall only 44% of Republicans think global warming is happening, the sub-groups vary considerably:
Yet overall 56% think CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant, again with vast variations of opinion:
2014 heat referred to surface temperature. Since about 93% of additional heat resulting from global warming ends up in the oceans, they give a better indication of changes in the Earth’s energy system.
This edition includes important updates on Greenland and Antarctica, global food supply, CSIRO cuts, CO2 levels moving decisively past 400 ppm and CO2 compared to global temperature rise.
1. Greenland may melt faster than expected
You may recall from the post Arctic images I included an image of the underlying topography of Greenland (Figure 5). It is saucer-like with large areas inland below sea level. The glaciers tend to drain through narrow gateways in the external rim. So they tend to be narrow and fast-flowing:
The mouths of most glaciers are melting from contact with warmer seas. It was felt that as this process continued the ice would lose contact with the water, slowing the melting.
New studies of the topography have shown that many of these channels are below sea level.
Valleys underlying many of the glaciers stay below sea level and extend much farther inland than previously suggested, so warm ocean currents that have migrated northward with the changing climate could eat away at the ice for much longer than current climate models suggest. “It will take much longer for these glaciers to lose contact with the ocean,” study author Mathieu Morlighem, of the University of California, Irvine, told Climate Central.
2. Melting Antarctica could devastate global food supply
A new report is the “first to factor in the effects of the slow-motion collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet on future food security.”
About time, I’d say.
The report acknowledges recent findings that that the retreat of the Western Antarctica ice sheet was unstoppable – and could lead to sea-level rise of up to 4 metres over the coming centuries.
“That sea-level rise would take out half of Bangladesh and mostly wipe out productive rice regions in Vietnam,” Nelson told The Guardian. “It would have a major effect on Egyptian agricultural areas.”
“A sea level rise of 3 meters (10 feet) over the next 100 years is much more likely than the IPCC thought possible,” the report said.
In terms of absolute land loss, China would be at risk of losing more than 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres). Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar could lose more than 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), the report said.
The report recommends a radical increase in expenditure on agricultural research, which has been in decline everywhere over recent decades.
Dr Borgas [president of the CSIRO Staff Association] said a plan to move the Aspendale Laboratories to the organisation’s larger site in Clayton had been previously discussed but had come to nothing.
He said it was unclear whether the relocation would reduce the research performed by the 130 staff, which includes ice core analysis, air quality and pollution research and climate and atmospheric modelling.
Most countries planning for a future increase their scientific research funding.
4. CO2 levels decisively pass 400 ppm
During April all 12 World Meteorological Organisation northern hemisphere monitoring stations passed the 400 ppm mark, the first time ever. This is how such a level compares to the 800,000 year ice core record:
“This was a time when global temperatures were substantially warmer than today, and there was very little ice around anywhere on the planet. And so sea level was considerably higher — around 100 feet [30 metres] higher — than it is today,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, in an email conversation. “It is for this reason that some climate scientists, like James Hansen, have argued that even current-day CO2 levels are too high. There is the possibility that we’ve already breached the threshold of truly dangerous human influence on our climate and planet.”
I have a draft post in the bin, which I’ll publish after Easter. Labor are likely to adopt the enhanced targets it recommends, whereas the LNP have confirmed they won’t go beyond 5% by 2020.
Second, I’m working on a post on the IPCC’s second report in the current series, released on 31 March Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. To get a head start you can follow the links from the report website.
I should be able to finalise the post for the week after Easter.
According to new research at MIT the event may have been caused by microbes.
The team’s research indicates that the catastrophic event was in fact triggered by the tiniest of organisms, a methane-releasing microbe called Methanosarcina. New evidence suggests that at the time of the extinction, the microbes appeared in massive numbers across the world’s oceans, spreading vast clouds of the carbon-heavy gas methane into the atmosphere. This had the effect of altering the planet’s climate in a way that made it inhospitable to most other forms of life inhabiting Earth at that time.
5. Land clearing returns to Qld
According to The Wilderness Society the Queensland Government has approved the clearing of 30,000 hectares at Strathmore Station in the Gilbert River catchment in the Gulf country, which will add the equivalent of 4.2-6.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the same as running up to another 2.6 million cars on our roads.
Strathmore wants to clear another 70,000 hectares. Together with another proposed Gilbert River project, IFED’s so-called Etheridge mega farm, the two schemes would clear and flood 200,000 hectares of land.
That would be like bulldozing a 10km wide strip for 200km.
6. Instruments of persuasion
Dr Rod Lamberts of the Australian Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the ANU says it’s time to dump science and facts as instruments of persuasion in favour of advertising and marketing. He says we need to appeal to people’s emotions, which will
have a stronger effect than trying to appeal to their brains via some kind of, you know, fact channel.
But please note, the facts are needed to support the campaign:
If the goal is to affect change, then I believe we need to step more into the realms of advertising and marketing and so on, in terms of delivering messages that are supported by what the science is telling us, but don’t have the science in those messages. (Emphasis added)
Jane Caro agrees on the need for a different approach:
Facts have never changed anyone’s mind about anything, sadly. It’s very hard for scientists to understand this, because they’re highly rational people, but in actual fact, no-one has ever been rationalised out of a belief.
There are only two things that change people’s attitudes and behaviour, particularly their behaviour, and they’re two emotions, and they’re hope and fear.
Again, facts and the science are surely needed to rationalise a changed belief. Beliefs need reason to support them.
Who mounts and pays for an advertising and marketing campaign? We look to governments, but in Australia they are the actual problem.
7. Direct Action less popular than the price on carbon
Meanwhile Essential Media Communications have done a survey of opinion that shows Direct Action distinctly less popular than the price on carbon. In terms of age, there is a tipping point beyond which the doubters predominate and it’s age 55. Abbott’s climate policy may come back to bite.
as the flat-earthers take control of the Federal Government, more Australians than ever have come to the conclusion that the Earth is in fact round.
Changing our policymakers seems the best way home but then Labor needs to offer more than tokenism. In my opinion Labor politicians should be the prime target group. The current mob won’t change without a spell in opposition and transformational ideological renewal.
This is a continuation of the Climate clippings series familiar to readers of Larvatus Prodeo
While this edition was finished about a week ago I actually started writing stuff from about mid-February and have several others queued in the draft bin. They’ll be fed in periodically at the rate of perhaps more than one a week until I catch up with myself.
Since 1998 there have been six La Niña years warmer than any El Niño years prior to 1998.
At Mashable Andrew Freedman quotes the same people but found at least one scientist who thinks there’s perhaps a 40% chance there will be no El Niño at all.
Worth watching. Could be spectacular.
2. Wave and tidal energy
Climate Progress reports on wave energy projects at Morro Bay in California and elsewhere.
A 2012 report prepared by RE Vision Consulting for the Department of Energy found that the theoretical ocean wave energy resource potential in the U.S. is more than 50 percent of the annual domestic demand of the entire country. The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts — 2 million megawatts or double current world electricity production — could be produced from the oceans via wave power.
Apparently CO2 concentrations are not uniform around the world and the tropical Pacific is getting more than its fair share. Hence the ocean in that area is acidifying faster than elsewhere.
4. Oxfam on food futures
From Huff Post, Oxfam has just completed a report (downloadable here) which suggests that climate change could delay the fight against world hunger for decades. Global food prices could double by 2030, with half the increase attributable to climate change. In the next 35 years there could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of five than there would otherwise be.
Oxfam analyzed ten gaps that measured how prepared – or unprepared – 40 food-insecure countries are to tackle climate change impacts.
We assess ten key factors that influence a country’s ability to feed its people in a warming world – these include the quality of weather monitoring systems, social safety nets, agricultural research and adaptation finance.
As expected, the poorer countries will be most affected.
5. Will we still be able to have a decent cup of tea?
At the foot of the Huff Post Oxfam link above is a graphic showing the top “endangered” crops listing in order chocolate, coffee, beer (at least in Germany), peanuts, durum wheat to make pasta in Italy, maple syrup, honey, wine (at least in France). It must be said that I couldn’t find that list in the Oxford report which is mainly about staples such as rice and vegetables.
Now it seems that Assam tea is being affected by hotter, drier weather with more erratic rainfall. Indeed tea growing all over the world is becoming more difficult.
A separate study found that from 2030 onwards, the world’s crop yields will be more and more impacted by climate change.
The study found that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia showed significant yield reductions for the second half of the century, while regions of the world with temperate climates, such as Europe and most of North America, could withstand a couple of degrees of warming without a noticeable effect on harvests, or possibly even benefit from a bumper crop.
One of the most important findings of this study is that adaptation may not be as effective for rice and maize as it is for wheat.
7. On the other hand
If you need a more cheerful story, here’s one about peasant farmer Vu Thi Ngoc who has adapted to crazy weather in the uplands of northern Vietnam by growing a different range of crops and changing farming practices.
It shows adaptability at work, this time with the help of CARE and Vietnam’s Agriculture and Forestry Research and Development Centre for the Northern Mountainous Region.
These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread.
But as ever, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
Terry at Saturday Salonhas raised the issue of Treaurer Hockey’s decision to disallow the US company Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) A$3.4 billion 100% takeover bid for the Australian company GrainCorp. As Terry said, Judith Sloan went ballistic, Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer were scathing at Crikey, as was Geoff Kitney at the AFR.
For a straightforward account of what happened, try Michelle Grattan at The Conversation. She does call GrainCorp an agri-giant, although it’s not a large company in Australian terms, may just rate as a ‘mid-cap’. In American terms it’s a tiddler. Nevertheless it would have been ADM’s biggest acquisition to date. ADM is worth about $US27 billion. Graincorp after the post-bid price fall in now worth about $A2 billion.
There are at least three reasons why the bid was rejected.
First, there is a lack of competition in the eastern seaboard grain handling market. Graincorp owns 7 out of 10 terminals and handles some 85% of the grain. From Grattan:
“Many industry participants, particularly growers in eastern Australia, have expressed concern that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition and impede growers’ ability to access the grain storage, logistics and distribution network,” he [Hockey] said
Given the transition to a more competitive network was still emerging, “now is not the right time for a 100% foreign acquisition of this key Australian business.”
A “further significant consideration” was that the proposal had attracted a high level of concern from stakeholders and the broader community.
Allowing the bid to proceed “could risk undermining public support for the foreign investment regime and ongoing foreign investment more generally”.
Thirdly, and down-pedalled somewhat, there were issues about ADM’s motivation and longer-term priorities and its record of providing service in its home market, in other words, questions of character. The sweetener of $200 million for additional investment and promised price caps for handling fees was too late to be persuasive. In any case there was no guarantee that farmers would not pay in the long run. Continue reading Hockey’s Graincorp decision→