Tag Archives: Emissions

Climate clippings 117

On Monday and Tuesday this week we are going to have the AFR national Energy Summit in Sydney with everyone there, including Josh, Jay, Bill, Andrew Vesey and a different Malcolm Roberts (Chief Executive, APPEA). Should be fun.

The Weekend AFR had about half a dozen articles, led off by an article by Ben Potter, Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow (no doubt pay-walled) which said our energy has become dirty, expensive and annoyingly unreliable. They reckon something has to be done, it’s just that:

the causes identified by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – or unofficial backbench energy spokesman Tony Abbott – are not the same as the causes power industry experts and regulators highlight. Continue reading Climate clippings 117

Climate clippings 201

1. Australian fund managers short Tesla and Elon Musk

When Elon Musk dramatically promised to build a grid-scale battery in South Australia, the media was enthralled. Share traders and a string of Australian fund managers smirked. They’d seen it all before, and were shorting him in the market.

In that very week he was in the market with plans to raise $US1.15 billion in equity and convertible notes. I understand also that Tesla has gone strangely quiet about SA since then. Continue reading Climate clippings 201

Climate clippings 199

1. Ballarat and Bendigo targetted for blackouts to keep lights on in NSW

It didn’t happen, but the phone call was made during the early February heatwave:

    Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio confirmed she was approached by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) with the suggestion that either Ballarat or Bendigo could potentially lose electricity for a period of time to assist NSW.

Victoria was not impressed and have demanded an explanation. Continue reading Climate clippings 199

Climate clippings 191

1. Tesla solar roof cheaper than regular roof, with electricity “a bonus”

    Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has again set tongues wagging, this time with his declaration last week that his newly launched integrated solar roof tiles could actually cost less to install than a regular roof – making the renewable electricity they produce “just a bonus”. Continue reading Climate clippings 191

Climate clippings 166

1. Temperatures could be rising faster than we thought

Using a new model, researchers from the University of Queensland and Griffith University, predict the global average temperature could rise by 1.5°C as early as 2020. The model is based on forecasts of population and economic growth combined with rising per capita energy consumption. Continue reading Climate clippings 166

Australia’s greenhouse emissions to peak after 2030

    Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions have increased for the first time in 10 years and are not expected to peak until after 2030, according to a new report.

By 2020 emissions will grow by 6%, leaving Australia 4% above 2000 levels compared with our official target of -5%. Not to worry, we will use carry-over credits under the Kyoto Protocol to formally meet our international commitments. Continue reading Australia’s greenhouse emissions to peak after 2030

Climate clippings 159

1. Greg Hunt the worst environment minister ever

I’ve just discovered this one from August, where Ben Eltham unloads on Greg Hunt, calling him our first minister for pollution:

    There are no kind words that can be said about Greg Hunt. When it comes to protecting the environment he is useless, and actually seems to revel in eviscerating the portfolio he is responsible for. Continue reading Climate clippings 159

Climate clippings 131

1. Totten Glacier

In Climate clippings 124 I mentioned concerns about Totten Glacier in East Antarctica, which is actively melting. It’s now in the news again. Dr Tas van Ommen:

“We’re realising that the East Antarctic ice sheet’s probably not the sleeping giant that we thought or at least, the giant’s starting to twitch and we’re concerned,” he said.

This article has a map showing the size of the glacier catchment, more than double Victoria:

Totten_6326094-3x2-600

Essentially with East Antarctica on the move, estimations of sea level rise this century could be underdone. We simply don’t know.

2. Great Barrier Reef ‘saved’

The Federal and Queensland Governments have together released the final version of the long-term plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan satisfies one of the key recommendations made by the United Nation’s World Heritage Committee and forms a key plank in the Governments’ bid to avoid the site being declared “in danger” by UNESCO.

The report warns climate change is the biggest long-term threat facing the reef, while the immediate pressures include water quality, which has declined due to nutrient and sediment runoff from agricultural production.

Previously, a draft version of the report was criticised by some scientists as being a plan for sustainable development rather than protecting and conserving the reef.

The Queensland Government also sought urgent changes to the draft, to include its $100 million election commitment to improve water quality.

These news items never mention ocean acidification. As I’ve repeatedly warned:

It has been shown that “preserving more than 10 per cent of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below +1.5°C (atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) range: 1.3–1.8°C) relative to pre-industrial levels”.

3. France says new rooftops must go green

According to a new French law approved on Thursday, rooftops on new buildings in commercial zones across France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

France has lagged behind other major European countries like Germany, Italy and Spain in solar power development. As of last summer, France had just over five gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity, accounting for around one percent of total energy consumption. Germany has nearly 40 GWs installed.

France has relied on nukes for 83% of its power.

4. Are the UK’s emissions really falling?

Traditional emissions accounting only considers the greenhouse gases generated within a country’s own borders. In other words, emissions produced in the UK are allocated to the UK. On this measure, UK emissions have fallen dramatically to around 25% below 1990 levels.

But when the source of emissions generated by products consumed within the UK are counted, emissions have only fallen by 7%. This is the pattern over time:

UK emissions_screen-shot-2015-03-19-at-144932_599x299

The UK’s production emissions have fallen fast (dark blue area), but imports have offset much of the gain (lighter blues, purples and grey area). Clearly things changed after the GFC in 2008.

5. Germany penalises dirty coal power

Germany plans to force operators of coal plants to curb production at their oldest and most-polluting power stations, as part of efforts to achieve its climate targets, senior government sources said yesterday. Under the measures, the government plans to allow coal plants to produce 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt of installed capacity, but any produced above that level would be subject to a fine of 18 to 20 euros per ton.

6. Australia’s top ten emitters

Planet Oz takes a look at an ACF report on Australia’s top polluting companies. From the report here they are:

Top 10 polluters_cropped_600

Seven are energy companies, three are miners.

However, if you took the emissions generated from the products they produce, a very different picture would emerge. Rio, for example comes fourth with emissions of 18 million tonnes of CO2 last year. Yet Rio’s customers burning coal produce a further 129 million tonnes.

7. Climate change ‘exacerbated’ Cyclone Pam damage

That’s according to the Climate Council, (but see Item 8 below).

“Higher surface temperatures can mean that you have higher wind speed and more damaging rainfall,” Amanda McKenzie from the Council said.

“And what we saw in Vanuatu was in the lead-up to the cyclone, sea surface temperatures were well above average.”

Ms McKenzie said rising sea levels would multiply the damaging effects of cyclone storm surges.

Cyclone Pam, a category-5 storm with wind gusts reaching 300 km/h, struck Vanuatu on 13 March 2015 leaving twenty-four people dead, 100,000 people homeless and up to 70% of the nation’s 69,000 households damaged.

8. Cyclone Pam and Climate Change

Stefan Rahmstorf at RealClimate takes a look at whether climate change had an effect on Cyclone Pam.

My take is, quite possibly, but we can’t know for sure.

The basic problem is that the satellite record only goes back to around 1980, which is not long enough, and only in the North Atlantic are cyclones surveyed by aircraft and then only if they threaten populated regions within a few days.

A study by Kossin et al (2013) looked at the satellite data record from 1982 to 2009 and found an increase of 2.5 m/s per decade for high intensity events (Pam appears to have reached an intensity of around 75 m/s).

Other factors to look out for include the amount of rain delivered, changes in genesis locations and tracks, and diameters, all of which should be affected by climate change.

Haiyan and Pam, two of the most severe tropical cyclones on record, have struck the western Pacific in the past 16 months.

Climate clippings 130

1. Manicured lawns produce more greenhouse gases than they soak up

Grass_cropped_550

Researchers found:

that a hectare of lawn in Nashville, Tennessee, produced greenhouse gases equivalent to 697 to 2,443kg of carbon dioxide a year. The higher figure is equivalent to a flight more than halfway around the world.

If you use a mulching mower, don’t fertilise, limit cutting and watering, you might tip the balance in favour of the planet. But then your lawn might not be as lush.

2. Risk of extreme climate outcomes

Across the ditch Hot Topic takes a look at a new book by economists Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman called Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet. They start with the notion that climate stabilisation forecasts regularly show that there is a 10% chance of warming reaching 6°C or more. Although not talked about much, this is standard fare and can be read off this graph I have posted multiple times:

Stabilisation probabilities_cropped_600

The 10% chance of reaching 6°C comes with greenhouse gases (CO2e) at around 580 ppm. We are currently at 480 ppm.

The whole insurance industry is predicated on probabilities of considerably less than 10%. The authors are suggesting that low probability extreme events should be taken seriously by governments. A 10% chance of climate Armageddon is not particularly low.

Weitzman was on the case back in 2008, when I did a post on him at LP, unfortunately in a gap in the archive. Peter Wood did a submission to the Garnaut Report on the subject. Garnaut, it must be said, looked the other way.

3. Arctic sea ice excitement

There has been some excitement over Arctic sea ice extent. As of now, unless there is a peak in late March, which is possible, the winter maximum is looking like a record low. This picture simplifies the story:

Sea ice Mr 15_cropped_600

It shows 2012 and 2015 ice extent against the 1981-2010 average. In the short term ice can be compacted by storms, or flushed out through Fram Strait. A cold snap can extend the ice with a thin cover. Also, as we see in 2012, winter maximums tell you nothing about summer minimums.

That’s the short story. You can read more here, here, here and here.

4. Greenland melting speeds up

As scientists upgrade their models of ice sheet decay, Greenland has a habit of exceeding their expectations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Greenland ice loss has increased a phenomenal 632 percent since 2001. (14) This increase is coming from melt, sublimation (ice evaporating directly without melting first), melt penetrating to the bottom of the ice sheet through crevasses and moulins, and from rapidly warming Arctic Ocean waters penetrating beneath floating outlet glaciers, destabilizing these glaciers and increasing their flow.

Massive gorges have been found beneath the ice where rapidly warming seawater has the chance to circulate deep beneath the ice sheet.

A large aquifer has been found under the ice above sea level.

Soot forms on the ice from as far away as Siberia. As the ice sublimates, that is evaporates directly into the air, the soot remains to further decrease reflectivity.

2015_0305greenland1_550

The knowns and the known unknowns add up to a pretty grim picture.

5. EU progress on renewables

Commendable progress is being made on renewable energy in Europe.

Renewables contribute 26% of EU electricity, 17% of heating and cooling and 5% of transport, … It’s generally thought to be easier to decarbonise the electricity sector than heating or transport, where oil and gas continue to dominate.

This chart refers to electricity:

EU_renewables-electricity-production-2013_599x393

Apart from hydro, wind (light blue) easily eclipses solar (yellow).

When heating and transport are included, renewables comprise 20% of all energy, and the composition changes dramatically:

EU_renewables-primary-production-2013_599x393

An old technology, renewable wood, easily dominates through selective forestry.

In recent times energy usage has fallen, with the EU now using as much energy as it did in 1990.

The UK is the biggest laggard in meeting individual country targets. Four countries, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, are ahead of target.

Wind has the momentum in the US with forecasts that it could supply 35% of electricity by 2050, or even as much as 41%. Within 10 years wind could be cheaper than existing coal.

6. 90% of Australian coal plants ‘at risk’ of being stranded assets

Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment has compiled a Stranded Assets Programme report.

It is food for thought for Australia, then, that the Oxford report has declared it owner of “by far” the most carbon-intensive sub-critical fleet in the world (followed by India and Indonesia), with a whopping 90 per cent of its total 29GW of coal-fired generation capacity coming from 23 subcritical plants.

From The Guardian:

Coal currently provides 40% of the world’s electricity and three-quarters of this is produced by the most-polluting, least-efficient and oldest “sub-critical” coal-fired power stations. The International Energy Agency calculates that one in four of these sub-critical plants must close within five years, if the world’s governments are to keep their pledge to limit global warming to 2C.

Help is at hand, according to a group of Queensland engineers.

The Callide Oxyfuel Project is one of just a few low-emission coal projects in the world, and demonstrates how carbon capture technology can be retrofitted to existing power stations.

The technique has been on trial at CS Energy’s Callide A coal-fired power station at Biloela, in a project worth $245 million.

They reckon they’ve done it on a 30-megawatt plant and now need to scale it up. Predictably, not everyone agrees it’s worthwhile.

7. CO2 emissions flat in 2014

Global energy-related CO2 emissions flatlined last year, according to the IEA.

Following an announcement earlier this week that China’s CO2 emissions fell 2 percent in 2014, the IEA is crediting 2014’s progress to China using more solar, wind and hydropower while burning less coal. Western Europe’s focus on sustainable growth, energy efficiency and renewables has shown that emissions from energy consumption can fall even as economies grow globally, according to the IEA.

Global CO2 emissions stalled or fell in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009, each time correlating with a faltering global economy. In 2014, the economy grew 3 percent worldwide.

The story is about energy efficiency as well as growth of renewables. Cheaper fossil fuels could lead to a resumption of fossil fuel growth in 2015, however.

Climate clippings 118

1. Growth in CO2 slows

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew 2% in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes of CO2. This was about half the average for the last 10 years and less than global GDP growth of 3.1%.

2. Aradhna Tripati gets a gong

The Center for Biological Diversity presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change.

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius and feet to metres that would make 2.7 to 5.5°C and 23 to 36 metres.

I would caution that the shape of the ocean basins may have been different, but these are alarming findings.

3. 1000-year drought history of Queensland and New South Wales

By analysing ice cores Australian scientist have found that there were eight droughts in the last millennium that lasted more than five years, with one of the so-called mega droughts lasting for almost 40 years. That was back in the 12th century.

This tends to indicate that the Millennium Drought and the Big Dry from 1997 to 2009 were not unusual.

From the official news release:

Explaining the findings, Dr Vance said the ice core analysis had significantly enhanced our understanding of a relatively poorly understood phenomenon known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).

The IPO describes a roughly 25-year cycle in the sea surface temperature, wind and other factors in the Pacific Ocean.

The IPO’s positive phase is closely linked with longer and more severe droughts in the United States and Australia. The risk of droughts occurring in Australia is higher during the IPO’s positive phase.

I’m not questioning the findings but how drought in Queensland and NSW can be derived from drilling ice cores in the Antarctic is not immediately obvious.

Where does this leaves global warming? The authors don’t say, but the clear implication is that severe droughts are part of the natural cycle. Warming is a given. The most recent analysis I recall is that drying along the southern edge of the continent has a climate change component. North of the Victorian border there is uncertainty.

4. Lifters or leaners?

Or backmarkers. UK PM David Cameron thinks Australia does not want to be a “backmarker” on climate change action. Global pressure will make us do more. Has he met our Tones?

Christian Downie thinks the real achievement of the Lima climate talks

wasn’t the goals set, but the fact that international talks like these make it increasingly hard for breakaway countries to ignore the issue.

John Kerry spells it out:

“If you are a big developed nation and you do not lead, you are part of the problem.”

Part of the problem indeed, and perhaps an active climate change vandal. Kieran Cooke reports that in Lima Australia was “lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system”.

5. Antarctic sea ice

One of the conundrums of climate science has been the question of why the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. Eric Steig at RealClimate takes a detailed look. One of the complexities is that the sea ice is expanding in some places and contracting in others. This, he says, rules out simplistic notions like an increase in westerly winds.

However, if you take into account the changes in all the wind patterns in the Antarctic you get a better match, indeed a good match.

Finally Steig says:

Not incidentally, changing winds also have a lot to do with what’s been happening to the Antarctic ice sheet (meaning the land-based glaciers, distinct from the sea ice). I’ll have another post on that later this month, or in the New Year.

Climate clippings 94

Climate clippings_175

1. CO2 concentrations passing 400 ppm

Each year the atmospheric concentrations measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii surge as spring turns into summer. We are now at the point where earlier each year they surge past 400 ppm, this year as early as March. By 2016 they will probably remain permanently above 400 ppm.

Dr Pep Canadell says crossing the 400 parts per million threshold will make it more difficult and expensive to limit climate change to two degrees.

The second part of this century we need to reduce emissions to zero and on top of it, to be removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere so that by the end of 2100, we can stay stable under two degrees.

Canadell is head of the Global Carbon Project at the CSIRO.

2. Bio-energy with Carbon Capture & Storage

Speaking of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, bio-CCS is the new buzz word (I’ve also seen BECCS). The Climate Institute has released a report by Jacobs SKM Moving Below Zero: Understanding Bio-energy with Carbon Capture & Storage . Their modelling finds that

bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or bio-CCS using food wastes, sustainable forest biomass, or crop residues, has the potential to contribute significantly to climate change efforts in Australia.

This process could remove and displace about 63 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2-e) annually by 2050, around 1.5 times current emissions from all cars in Australia. As well it would generate 12% of the country’s electricity.

Globally the process could remove up to 10 billion tonnes of pollution per year by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

The report may be downloaded from this page (scroll down). Go here for an interview with Malte Meinshausen.

3. Are coal miners responsible for greenhouse gas emissions?

No, said the Queensland Land Court in its judgement on the giant Alpha coal mine project which would dig up about 30 million tonnes of coal a year from the state’s Galilee Basin.

That’s the central fact in Graham Readfearn’s interesting story about what’s un-Australian.

Burning Alpha coal would generate 1.8 billion tonnes of CO2 over 30 years. That’s more than three times Australia’s annual emissions.

4. Abbott calls climate concerns “clutter”

In the lead up to the G20 meeting in Sydney in February, Abbott said

he didn’t want to “clutter up the G20 agenda with every worthy and important cause, because if we do, we will squander the opportunity to make a difference in the vital area of economic growth.”

The post, correctly, I think, sees Abbott as rolling back environmental and climate initiatives as hostile to economic growth, relying for economic impetus on the fossil fuel industry.

Heather Zichal, until recently President Obama’s lead climate and energy adviser, thinks otherwise:

Zichal suggests that focusing on economic productivity could be the sweet spot that Australia could use to balance climate concerns and economic growth goals. Reducing pollution and emissions from power plants and imposing strong energy efficiency measures on transport and infrastructure can boost energy productivity, save money, create jobs, and reduce emissions. “Ultimately, across all economic sectors, energy productivity is the most reliable, cleanest, and cheapest resource,” Zichal said.

Countries have to front up with their revised mitigation plans by April next year ahead of the Paris UNFCCC conference in December, hence leaving climate off the G20 agenda is simply not an option. Abbott has been told, by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and other powerful players.

One wonders what we will front up with next April. I predict nothing that would make a difference. We’ll see what others are doing and then do as little as possible.

5. Direst Action is a figleaf

Clive Palmer has spotted the figleaf and plans to pluck it away, says Ben Eltham. The Direct Action funding may be part of the budget, which Labor will not vote down. The Government needs no further legislation to enable expenditure, but Abbott can’t get rid of the dreaded carbon ‘tax’ without legislation. When he comes to negotiate that with PUP Direct Action will be on the table.

Eltham is right on the demographics:

While this [having no climate policy in place] may not unduly trouble the climate sceptics on the Coalition backbench, it also removes the chief utility of Direct Action, which is political, rather than environmental. Direct Action has always been used by the Coalition as a handy tool to deflect unwelcome scrutiny of its profoundly anti-environment attitudes. Without it, the Government will find it increasingly difficult to defend itself against charges of destroying the planet.

In the last Nielsen poll the 55+ group was the only one where Abbott had a clear lead, with LNP/Labor/Green at 49/33/10. This should be causing concern for the future of the conservative parties. For the young it was 32/36/26.

6. Direct Action is not scalable

Lenore Taylor points out that while Direct Action may or may not achieve 5% reductions in emissions by 2020, (most experts say, no) the policy is not scalable when the world gets a bit more serious about climate change mitigation.

according to the available modelling, even if Australia spent $88bn from 2014 to 2050 on Direct Action-type policies, emissions would still rise by around 45%. Most economists conclude that big emissions reductions under Direct Action are just not possible.

7. Green groups to use legal strategies

Given the above and the LNP’s farcical attitude to the Renewal Energy Target Review, green groups see lobbying as a waste of time and are increasingly planning legal challenges.

The Australian Conservation Foundation will be targeting voters in marginal electorates to encourage MPs to take climate change seriously. The aim is to change the current race to the bottom to a race to the top.

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