Tag Archives: emissions trading

Climate clippings 115

1. Australia’s coal and gas exports are being left stranded

Just four countries account for 80% of Australia’s fossil fuel exports – China, Japan, Korea and India.

China is on the verge of “peak coal”, rebalancing the economy away from energy intensive industry and introducing a national emissions trading scheme.

Japan is on an energy efficiency drive to reduce its fuel import bill.

Korea has introduced a tax on coal of AU$18 per tonne and is finalising an emissions trading scheme.

India has doubled its tax on coal which funds renewable energy projects and has signalled its intention to stop importing coal within 2-3 years.

Official forecasts are in denial.

2. Are Australian and US climate targets the same?

Environment minister Greg Hunt, Radio National, November 17:

If you use the full Kyoto period — 1990 to 2020 — the US is minus 5% and Australia is almost exactly the same.

Joe Hockey made a similar statement that “If you compare apples with apples, the American position and our position on reductions are effectively the same.”

The comparisons are complex, because the starting and finishing dates are different, so are the population increases. Moreover Australia has forestry and tree clearing in the mix.

Malte Meinshausen and Anita Talberg make the necessary adjustments and find:

An apples-with-apples comparison shows that Australia lags far behind the United States in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its energy, transport and industrial sectors.

To match US efforts, Australia would have to increase its 2020 ambitions from the current 5% below 2000 to 21% or even 29%, depending on whether different population growth is taken into account, or not.

In short, they lie!

3. The genius of Tony Abbott’s stance on climate


At New Matilda Tom Allen comments on Tom Switzer’s claim the Abbott is a climate change genius. Switzer is a climate change denialist, so we won’t bother with that! Allen finds Abbott has proved one thing – that a carbon tax works!


will be remembered as the Prime Minister who proved that the carbon tax worked. After it was introduced, Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions fell, the economy continued to grow and the sky remained in place.

When Abbott repealed it and the country’s emissions began to rise again, using Australia as a vast laboratory, Abbott confirmed it: carbon taxes work.

4. Record growth in electricity sector emissions

Abbott’s genius is demonstrated by this graph of emissions change from electricity production:


The reductions started well before the carbon ‘tax’, but whatever the reason Abbott seems to have made a difference.


As Tom Allen said, it’s nothing personal.

The worst things about him are his policies, and his stance on climate change is worst of all.

5. Record-breaking ocean temperatures

The world’s oceans are the hottest they’ve ever been in the modern record, especially in the northern Pacific.

In July this year, ocean surfaces were 0.55 °C above the average since 1890, just beating the previous record of 0.51 °C in 1998. In the North Pacific, the temperatures were about 0.8 °C above average, which is 0.25 °C warmer than the 1998 peak.


No explanation is given as to why this pattern has emerged. However, it does seem to be disrupting the development of an El Niño. Small mercy, because the northern Pacific warming has effects similar to an El Niño:

This includes more hurricanes in the Pacific, as well as more storms curling over into mainland US. Meanwhile, there have been fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, just as happens during El Niño. Elsewhere, dry conditions have occurred across Australia, and the Indian monsoon was delayed – effects all arising from warm oceans, despite the lack of an El Nino event.

6. Turn down the heat : confronting the new climate normal

This is volume 2 of 2 of a report prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, and hence highly authoritative. The lead author was Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute.

It’s a massive 320 page report. This is from the Foreword:

There is growing evidence that warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system due to past and predicted emissions of greenhouse gases, and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable.

As the planet warms, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes which occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, and considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the “new climate normal” as we approach 4°C—a frightening world of increased risks and global instability.

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. Ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality, already difficult, will be much harder with 2°C warming, but at 4°C there is serious doubt whether these goals can be achieved at all.

That’s about as far as I could get tonight. Climate Progress has a post.

Climate mitigation costs and strategies

Val at fairgreenplanet perceived two contrasting approaches to climate mitigation at the recent Australian Climate Action Summit:

  • technology can get us there, with a bit of political will


  • we have to change the way we live, starting from the local level

In relation to the first she also cited a recent post by John Quiggin who cites four major reports, all making the same point:

decarbonizing the world economy will involve economic costs that are
(a) small; and
(b) far outweighed by the benefits

So that’s a net gain of considerable dimensions.

This is supported at the country level by a recent report in the UK:

if the UK cut its carbon emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030, as it has promised, its GDP would be 1.1 per cent bigger than if it stuck with fossil fuels, says a study by consultants at Cambridge Econometrics.

About half the gain would come from cheap running costs for fuel-efficient cars, with 190,000 new green jobs and higher wages also helping. The average household would be £565 a year better off.

The four reports cited by Quiggin are as follows:

First, there’s Pathways to Deep Decarbonization an international collaborative project under the auspices of the UN.

Second, the Better Growth Better Climate report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate

Third, this report on Green Growth from the Center for American Progress (covers the US only)

And, most strikingly, this report from staffers at the International Monetary Fund, long the guardian of fiscal rectitude has concluded that for most countries, the local side benefits of reducing pollution would be sufficient to offset the costs for carbon prices up to $50/tonne.

I find each report has limitations in its own way, so at the end I remain agnostic.

The fourth, the IMF study, looks at carbon pricing in the top 20 emitters. As far as I can make out it comes up with two propositions. First, each country can act on its own, with benefit, no-one has to wait for the world to act. Secondly, it identifies a sweet spot, which varies quite a lot from one country to the next, where net benefits accrue from carbon pricing. In Australia’s case it’s only $11.50 per tonne.

This is all very promising but is not as such a plan for climate stabilisation at safe levels.

The third, the American study, finds the aim of reducing emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2035 doable and beneficial. The problem here is in the task identification. The study assumes that the US should decarbonise at the same rate as the rest of the world. It ignores the ‘carbon budgeting approach’ whereby high per capita emitters need to decarbonise rapidly to make space for developing countries to grow their economies. See Figure 5 of this post on the IPCC report. The United States is a Group 1 country, which must decarbonise rapidly:

Figure 5: The climate budget approach
Figure 5: The climate budget approach

As we saw in this post, two thirds of increased emissions are now coming from emerging and less developed countries. In other words in reality increases from Group 2 and 3 countries are not being offset by cuts in Group 1 countries. Until we get our heads around this issue and address it we’ll stumble along on the road to perdition!

The problem facing Group 1 countries is impossible. The way around it lies in emissions trading between rich and poor countries, as per Figure 6 in that post. This would entail considerable wealth transfer, which could be mandated to be used in greening developing country economies.

Also 40% by 2035 overall is not a recipe for a safe climate, as shown below.

The first study, has two limitations. Firstly it simply does not address the issues of economic costs and social implications. Secondly, it simply accepts the stabilisation pathway for a 2°C temperature increase which sees zero worldwide emissions about 2070. In looking at the IPCC report (same as linked above), I developed this table to relate concentrations to temperature rise. RCPs are Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) which are expressed in terms of watts per square metre of radiative forcing (W m-2). Roughly, RCP2.6 represents the 2°C pathway, while RCP8.5 represents our present path.

Figure 1: RCP temperature scenarios
Figure 1: RCP temperature scenarios

Green indicates a comparatively ‘safe’ climate, orange indicates the increasingly contested zone which clearly carries some danger, and red to indicate breaching the 2°C guardrail which everyone with half a brain accepts as dangerous.

Strictly speaking the green box should be orange, because it sits on top of ‘now’ which is an 0.6°C increase, and the orange box below it should be red, for the same reason.

On the orange zone, the Climate Change Authority in its Review published this wondrous graph, showing that they were well aware of the inadequacies of a 2°C target:

Stabilisation probabilities_croppedb_580

As I said then, in terms of CO2 equivalents we are now at 480. This gives us less than 33% chance of staying below 2°C and about a 10% chance of exceeding a civilisation threatening 4°C. These odds are unacceptable. We are already in an overshoot situation.

This is old information – very old. James Hansen told us at an American Physical Union meeting in December 2007 that we needed to aim for 350ppm in the first instance and then decide where we go from there.

The RCP2.6 path involves a 33% chance of ending up with more than 2°C, odds that should be completely unacceptable.

Turning to the third report, which specifically addresses the financial implications, it too is on 2°C path. The costs numbers when taken in isolation look large (US$45 trillion will be required in 2015–2030 for key categories of energy infrastructure), but in context are trivial:

costs of this magnitude look like “background noise” when compared with the strong underlying growth that the global economy is likely to experience.

These costs will go up if mitigation is delayed:

Costs are also likely to rise sharply with delay. If global action to reduce emissions is delayed until 2030, global CO2 emissions would have to decrease by 6-7% per year between 2030 and 2050 in order to have a reasonable chance of staying on a 2°C path. Such rates of reduction are unprecedented historically and are likely to be expensive (estimates of delay suggest an average annual consumption growth loss of around 0.3% in the decade 2030 to 2040, compared to a loss of less than 0.1% over the same period if we act now).

Fine, and perhaps not yet serious, but I’m afraid completely out of date. In 2011 the Climate Commission published this graph to illustrate the implications of delay:

Figure 4: Emissions reduction options
Figure 4: Emissions reduction options

Under the ‘climate budget approach’ the area under the line must remain constant.

That too would have been based on a 2°C target, but it illustrates that if we delay peaking emissions worldwide, even to 2020, we’ll be in completely uncharted territory.

Chapter Five of the third report gives enormous detail of the policy work that needs to be done. It may be summarised as strong leadership, consistent policy over decades, structural change and perhaps unprecedented international co-operation, even if we start now on a task that is eminently doable and inexpensive; so more than “a bit of political will” is required.

Frankly, our best hope lies in the prospect that solar technology with storage will simply become the cheapest form of new energy, and has the advantage that it doesn’t need a large grid. Nevertheless there will be residual problems – land use and agriculture, transport, ocean acidification etc. Zero emissions transport will require planning and subsidies.

One thing we should realise, however, is that further out our future will be energy rich, not energy-constrained. Saving energy is not a reason for localism and changing the way we live.

So where does that leave Val’s second option?

Firstly, concerted long-term action and international co-operation of the kind we need is not in our DNA. We are designed to co-operate in bands of up to 150 people, the number that our big brains can cope with in terms of knowing in any detail. We are told Fukuyama, Harari for example that bands were relatively egalitarian with a leader answerable to the people. Beyond that we can co-operate in amazing ways, but at the price of setting up hierarchies and privileges, coercive elites. This occurred in general with agriculture and owning stuff, even herds. These problems can be ameliorated in a modern democratic nation-state, with it’s formal mechanisms for election, administration, justice and accountability, but we are still apt to act in the self-interest of that larger entity.

What we need is an infusion of new values and ways of perceiving, thinking and feeling. While not sacrificing individualism we need to feel and act as social beings. We also need to revalue ourselves in relation to the biological and physical systems of the planet, so that we stop acting like the top rapacious predator, the one that has decimated the wild animal kingdom by 52% since 1970. Along the way, we need to challenge a Chain of Being, that sees elite mostly European males as next to the gods and women, children, other races, other social classes, slaves, asylum seekers etc in subordinate positions.

We need to live in nature, not over nature.

While localism and social participation are necessary, the required cultural and existential changes are hard work will happen over generations if at all. The planet can’t wait. That last reference tells us:

Efforts have been made to economically quantify the world’s “stock” of natural capital and the yearly “flow” of ecosystem services they provide. The latest numbers are $142.7 trillion and $48.7 trillion, respectively. By comparison, the flow of incomes through the global economy is currently about $71.8 trillion per year. The research suggests that by 2013 we were eliminating that stock of natural capital at a rate of about $7.3 trillion per year, and that the flow of ecosystem services would be $23 trillion higher if not for human practices like deforestation, burning fossil fuels, and the like.

And underneath all this, there is the point that these creatures and the ecologies they inhabitant have an intrinsic moral worth irrespective of the dollar sign that markets can place on them. “Wildlife is and should be useless in the same way art, music, poetry and even sports are useless,” author Richard Coniff recently wrote in the New York Times.

And the climate can’t wait.

We need hierarchies to get things done, a collective will not build a battleship, but we need to civilise them and render them accountable. We even need coercive powers, to counter the selfishness of states. The only supra-national entity that the major powers take notice of is the World Trade Organisation, not the UN. We need it to police international agreements, to oversee international carbon trading, and what Quiggin’s third report calls “border carbon adjustments”.

I never thought I’d say that!

The bottom line is that we must act if we want a future for our grandchildren, and cost, the only certain Armageddon is if we do nothing or not enough. We are heading into uncharted territory but indications are that there will be benefits and the net costs are unlikely to be as bad as pessimists might think. We just don’t know. And the groupie, local stuff, well there are reasons for doing that, but it won’t solve climate change as such.

Climate clippings 105

1. Atlantic Ocean important for heat storage

Most of the energy from global warming goes into the ocean as this graphic from Skeptical Science illustrates:


The linked paper stresses the role of the Atlantic in heat uptake. The following graph shows the heat uptake for the four main oceans. The black line is the sea surface temperature, the red line shows the heat below 1500 metres.


All this is considered in relation to the socalled warming ‘hiatus’. The suggestion is that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is the critical influence and it changes phase every 20 to 35 years. If so the ‘hiatus’ could last another decade or so.

Other scientists see the hiatus as multi-causal. It also depends which temperature series you are looking at. The HadCRUT temperatures always look flatter in recent years, as in this article. The Gistemp series from NASA has 1998 as about the third highest and shows a continuing upward trend, albeit slowed..

2. ‘Unprecedented’ ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica

Since 2009 the volume of ice loss has tripled in West Antarctica and more than doubled in Greenland, the highest rate of ice loss since satellite records began 20 years ago.

While it’s still early days, sea level rise this century could surprise on the upside.

3. El Niño watch

Carbon Brief also have the latest on the chances of an El Niño developing in 2014, which the Australian BOM now put at about 50%. Earlier there was talk of a super El Niño, which is still possible.

4. China gets into emissions trading

The Chinese national market will start in 2016.

The Chinese market, when fully functional, would dwarf the European emissions trading system, which is now the world’s biggest.

It would be the main carbon trading hub in Asia and the Pacific, where Kazakhstan and New Zealand already operate similar markets. South Korea will start a national market on Jan. 1, 2015, while Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are drawing up plans for markets of their own.

Looks like quite a trend. Time perhaps for Australia to join in!

5. World’s poor need grid power, not just solar panels

Small scale solar power is quite popular in Africa and supported by environmentalists. A few panels are able to run a few lights, a radio, charge the mobile phone but stop short of boiling a kettle. Critics see this as condemning the poor to a constrained future. Only 20% of Kenyans are connected to the grid.

Coal fired power is obviously not the answer. Dams take years to build, are typically over budget, inundate fertile lands or forest areas and interrupt natural stream flow.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo the mega project of the Inga 3 dam is due to start construction on the Congo River. If fully developed it will produce twice as much electricity as the world’s largest, the three Gorges in China. But will it be economically justified and what impacts will it have on the environment?

6. Emissions from energy generation jump after carbon price axed

Carbon emissions from the country’s main electricity grid have risen since the end of the carbon tax by the largest amount in nearly eight years.

Data from the National Electricity Market, which covers about 80 per cent of Australia’s population, shows that emissions from the sector rose by about 1 million tonnes, or 0.8 per cent, at an annualised rate last month compared with June.

That is the biggest two-month increase since the end of 2006, and came as a result of an increase in overall demand and a rise in the share of coal-fired power in the market, according to Pitt & Sherry’s monthly Cedex emissions index.

From what I can make of it, gas is increasingly going to export, there is some scaling back of hydro, presumably because of the weather. and large scale solar was killed off ages ago. The slack is being taken up by old coal, including brown coal.

Abbott’s strategy of saving the coal fired power industry seems to be working.

Building new more efficient coal would be his ultimate aim. This would involve investors and lenders having confidence in the future of coal. Surely they can’t be that stupid!

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

The future of emissions trading

While the Senate has not yet passed the bill to repeal the ETS the question arises as to when if ever carbon pricing will return. I’m not a psephologist but I suspect that the Palmer United Party are going to be in a similar position after the next election of having a stake in the balance of power, perhaps more so! Given that Labor appear set on retaining carbon pricing as part of their policy platform and the Greens will sign up to a reasonable scheme, the introduction of carbon pricing appears to depend on either the Liberals growing up or PUP.

Assuming PUP don’t change their mind they have said we won’t have emissions trading until India, China, the USA, Europe, Japan and South Korea do it. So the prospects of carbon pricing appear to depend on the US Tea Party losing a controlling position in the US Senate, or the Australian Tea Party turning into a mature modern party that respects the science.

The most likely to give I think is the PUP. Recall what Bernard Keane said at Crikey:

The key to understanding Palmer is that he’s always about what’s ahead. What’s in the past is irrelevant. The issue of consistency simply doesn’t arise, because Palmer eternally moves forward, toward the next announcement, the next stunt.

Palmer has said that PUP are going to be on the right side of history. The international scene is likely to be somewhat fluid leading up to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Paris in December 2015 where a legally binding post Kyoto deal will be attempted. Negotiations under the UNFCCC are almost continuous but the next big event is in September 2014 when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to a Climate Summit Catalyzing Action:

This Summit will be a different kind of Climate Summit. It is aimed at catalyzing action by governments, business, finance, industry, and civil society in areas for new commitments and substantial, scalable and replicable contributions to the Summit that will help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.

In preparation for the summit economist Jeffrey Sachs’s Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project has produced an interim report plotting specific measures for the world’s 15 largest economies “to cut their emissions quickly and deeply enough to meet an international agreed goal of limiting warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.”

The 15 economies are, in alphabetical order, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, the USA.

I’ve highlighted the ones nominated by Palmer.

The report

found that it’s technically possible for Australia to get almost all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and to offset the rest by storing carbon in soil or planting more trees.

We can do this while growing our GDP at 2.4% pa.

The importance of Australia’s role in New York in September is possibly two-fold.

Firstly, will Abbott be embarrassing? Will he be negative and disruptive or just irrelevant? It’s extremely unlikely that he will show any vision or learn anything.

I did hear that he was going to be too busy at home destroying Labor’s legacy in climate change to attend. No doubt Julie Bishop will fill in since Greg Hunt is not allowed out alone.

Secondly, and of greater importance, will Palmer as a result of what other leaders say decide that Australia should ride at the head of the peloton and show a bit of leadership without breaking away?

Palmer saves the world!

Clive Palmer Addresses National Press Club

Meanwhile here on the local scene PUP are planning to introduce their ETS on trainer wheels as an amendment to the legislation proposing the demise of the Climate Change Authority.

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

Abbott heads for the past as Labor contemplates the future

True to his word Abbott has revealed his plans to repeal the carbon ‘tax’ by releasing eight pieces of draft legislation and a consultation paper for comment.

Abbott_4918428-3x2-340x227Abbott claimed that the proposed action would save families an average of $550 per annum. The ABC fact-checked this claim when it was made at the Rooty Hill debate and found the saving to be $134 when compared to the then planned Labor early move to a trading scheme.

The legislation will be effective from 31 July 2014 even if passed later than that date.

Labor and The Greens are standing firm, so Abbott will have to try his luck with the new senate from July 2014. I believe there is a recount in progress in WA but in any case the LNP will only have 33 of the 39 votes it needs to pass the legislation. Since the Palmer United Party will control either three or four of the votes, dealing with them will be inevitable. Palmer wants to scrap the tax, but wants all the tax collected to be repaid. Then Abbott will need two or three of the other floating votes. Since repealing the tax is a high priority it would seem a perfect opportunity for the floaters to go hard.

Meanwhile Labor after Shorten announces his full team on Friday will have ample time to contemplate the future. Jungney said this last night: Continue reading Abbott heads for the past as Labor contemplates the future

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 clippings 76

?????????????????????????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.


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 clippings 43


The Scientific American reports on a paper by Andrew Dessler refuting a paper by Spencer and Braswell. Dessler’s analysis shows:

Clouds change in response to temperature changes. There is no evidence clouds can cause meaningful climate change… “Suggestions that significant revisions to mainstream climate science are required are therefore not supported,” he wrote.

In my words, the story goes Like this. Additional CO2 in the atmosphere traps additional heat from the sun, about 90% of which ends up in the ocean. The ocean is the prime driver of the world’s climate, including changes in cloud cover. There are other lesser drivers but that’s the main story.

In the alternative reality, decreased solar activity lets through more galactic cosmic rays, which increase cloud nucleation, which increase cloud cover, which changes (cools) surface temperature.

OR changes are simply due to internal variability. In any case CO2 has a minor effect and is basically irrelevant.

Skeptical Science looks at the issue here and here. In short Dessler:

found that the heating of the climate system through ocean heat transport was 20 times larger than TOA [top of the atmosphere] energy flux changes due to cloud cover over the period in question.

There’s more, with links, at Deltoid and here. Skeptical Science also has a post on denialoshere reaction and an earlier post on the net feedback from clouds. Continue reading Climate clippings 43

Climate clippings 39

Greenland ice

Predicting tipping points

Tim Lenton is now attempting to link the basic theory of climatic “tipping points” with observed early warning signals.

Problem is, these tipping points may not be sudden and dramatic but involve a steady but inevitable increase. When outbreaks of pine beetles first became obvious perhaps the eventual destruction of Canada’s boreal forests was inevitable. But Lenton is making an argument “from almost a mathematical point of view” that there are general properties of tipping points. Continue reading Climate clippings 39

Climate clippings 9

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

The disconnect between climate policy and scientific reality

There is a dangerous disconnect between climate policy and scientific reality, according to Ian Dunlop of the Policy Development Centre.

Climate change is not just another policy item on the normal agenda, it is a transformative issue which has life-and-death consequences. This is not a time to follow Bismarck’s advice that“politics is the art of the possible”, as Combet suggested. Quite the reverse; we need leaders who can see that what was politically impossible will shortly become politically inevitable.

The continual emphasis on the economy as the main game, with climate change grudgingly considered as an optional extra, ignores the fact that unless we address climate change fast, the economy will be in tatters err long.

The government and the opposition are both missing the boat, according to Dunlop, and the NGOs are no better, settling into going with the flow in order to get something started. Continue reading Climate clippings 9