Tag Archives: food

Climate clippings 171

1. 3D solar towers

MIT researchers have developed and tested a range of 3D solar towers to achieve power output that is up to 20 times greater than traditional fixed flat solar panels with the same base area. Here is an example of two of the models tested: Continue reading Climate clippings 171

The strange case of baby formula and the Chinese

About 20 million children are born each year in China, and all but a quarter are bottle fed. Several brands of formula in Australia and New Zealand are disappearing from the shelves and being shipped to China, where they are selling for up to $100 per tin, five times the price in Australia. Continue reading The strange case of baby formula and the Chinese

CSIRO’s first Australian National Outlook report

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.

The report says we can have dynamic economic growth simultaneously with sustainable resource use and reduced environmental stress, but only if we make the right choices collectively. Policy matters. Continue reading CSIRO’s first Australian National Outlook report

Climate clippings 145

1. Is it climate change?

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.

Carbon Brief has a post suggesting that climate change attribution studies are asking the wrong questions. Continue reading Climate clippings 145

Seeking answers on GM food

It began as a comment about Vandana Shiva on Saturday salon 28/3. It continued on the thread for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – cultist, guru or con-artist?

The topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is very broad, but where we left it the focus had been on the safety of GM foods.

I’d expressed a need for someone knowledgeable who was both engaged and detached to explain the topic. Frankly I get concerned when people, however well-informed, seek to shove the truth down my throat. Reliable information from someone who is not trying to convince me one way or the other, is what I need. Continue reading Seeking answers on GM food

Saturday salon 4/4

voltaire_230

An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Birthdays!

Three birthdays to mention.

Larvatus Prodeo was born at Easter 2005, so would be 10 years old if still alive. I started blogging there about three months later.

Secondly, I turned 75 just over a week ago.

I usually don’t make a fuss over birthdays, reasoning that I’m just one day older than the day before. So every day is new. My cardiologist is very happy with me, and I can tell you that since my triple bypass in 2000 he’s the main man!

Third, Climate Plus was born a year ago tomorrow. Some 318 posts later we are still here. It has been an experience – some surprises, some disappointments.

For the foreseeable future I plan to carry on. Political posts are more than twice as popular as climate posts, but our main reason for being here is climate. My aim is to keep the lay reader abreast of important developments in a brief and digestible form.

Feedback is more than welcome.

2. Vale Betty Churcher (1931-2015)

Churcher_6361752-3x2-340x227

Betty Churcher died during the week, aged 1984. As an artist, as a teacher, as an arts administrator, and as a human being she excelled and attracted nothing but praise.

As a woman she had several firsts, most notably in 1990 she became the first woman at the helm of the National Gallery of Australia, where she was director for 7 years.

While there she earned the nickname “Betty Blockbuster” for presiding over 12 international blockbuster exhibitions, which in turn led to a corresponding growth in the gallery’s attendance numbers and revenue. She also initiated the construction of new galleries for large-scale temporary exhibitions, gave the gallery its current name after dropping “Australian National Gallery” and acquired Arthur Streeton’s Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889, for $3.5 million.

Image courtesy of the ABC.

3. Selling ugly produce at low prices

Every year Canadians waste some 40% of their food. A large part of the problem is that “ugly” food, misshapen or marked, is thrown out. Now one large retailer is selling this food at a discount in Ontario and Quebec.

Should happen here.

4. UK elections

The UK election campaign started in earnest. Here’s a prediction of the outcome.

According to that it could be a coalition of Labour, the Scottish National Party and what’s left of the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Miliband seems to have come through the leaders debate OK.

5. Jacqui Lambie starts her own party

Jacqui Lambie has applied to register The Jacqui Lambie Network as a political party.

She’s also got something else to think about.

A PUP statement released on Wednesday threatened to spend up to $3 million on legal fees in a bid to recover $2 million and $7 million from Senator Lambie and Senator Lazarus respectively.

Senator Glenn Lazarus quit the Palmer United Party earlier this year.

Senator Glenn Lazarus quit the Palmer United Party earlier this year.

PUP claims those are the amounts spent helping Senator Lazarus and Lambie get elected under the party’s banner at the 2013 election.
Advertisement

Both senators have since abandoned PUP and are now sitting as independents.

Lambie says he promised not to sue.

6. Goodnight Goodluck Jonathon

President-elect of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that he plans to aggressively fight corruption that has long plagued Nigeria and go after the root of the nation’s unrest.

For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the opposition defeated the ruling party in democratic elections.

Buhari defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by about 2 million votes, according to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission.

The win comes after a long history of military rule, coups and botched attempts at democracy in Africa’s most populous nation.

Jonathon’s main contribution seemed to be making many billions of oil revenue due to the state magically disappear.

Scary berries: trusting the food we eat

As of Wednesday evening 14 cases of hepatitis A have been linked to frozen berries. More are expected. Schools are on the alert as the berries have been used and consumed in cooking classes. At least one preschool used the berries to make smoothies for an afternoon snack.

Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said the government was considering a review of testing on imports under Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) as more hepatitis A cases turned up. His department wrote to the Chinese government to ask for assurances on the food testing measures.

As for the government doing anything concrete Abbott has virtually ruled it out, saying that it is the responsibility of businesses ‘not to poison their customers’. A crackdown would just add to the cost of food, he says.

Meanwhile Patties, the company concerned, has cast doubt on the quality of Australian produce, angering growers.

Patties say their:

“policy was to acquire Australian fruit wherever possible,” despite the fact in the past two years it sourced berries from China, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, United States, Greece, Turkey and Serbia.

In this case:

The four recalled products – one-kilogram packs of Nanna’s Raspberries and Frozen Mixed Berries, as well as 300 gram and 500 gram packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries – were largely sourced and packed in China. (Emphasis added)

Berries_7cfba687-d52b-425e-a54c-a85487fcce83-550_550

The Conversation has an explainer.

Hepatitis A can come from the berries being grown in infected water, washed in infected water, picked or packed by people carrying the virus, getting contaminated by infected animals, such as livestock, rats, mice or bats, at some stage in the production cycle, or mixing with other ingredients contaminated with hepatitis A virus during processing.

The infection can be inside the berry itself.

About 90 per cent of China’s groundwater is polluted, 65 per cent severely so, with contaminates such as pesticides, fertilisers and petrochemicals, a report from the Centre of International Security Studies at Sydney University showed.

The real problem, however, is faeces. Human poo is used in China as fertiliser. I understand that customs don’t test for bacterial or viral pollution. I did hear that the berries were now sent to an overseas lab for testing. Are we a first world country?

A new focus has come on labelling. Consumers want it, there have been endless inquiries, and exactly nothing happens. Choice tells us we are stuck with statements like ‘Packed in Australia using imported fruit’ or ‘Made in Australia using local and imported ingredients’ which offer very little information about a product’s origin and are largely meaningless to consumers.

It looks as though Joyce wants to do something about labelling, but I think it lies in the health portfolio. At least eight governments have to agree. Without the support of the PM who seems to have made up in his mind in the negative, nothing will happen

Ironically the Chinese would rather eat our fruit than their own if they can afford it, but there is no provision to export our produce directly to China. It has to go through third countries. We are currently working on a trade deal with China. Andrew Robb, please note!

Climate clippings 123

1. Mushroom packaging

mushrooms_3128266.large

Biodegradable packaging has been made from mushrooms for use as foam, insulation and the like.

The article doesn’t say whether it is cost competitive.

2. Climate’s threat to wheat

A new study finds that wheat yields drop on average by 6% for every degree Celsius rise in temperature.

Global production of wheat was 701 million tonnes in 2012, but most of this is consumed locally. Global trade is much smaller, at 147 tonnes in 2013.

The loss of production per degree equates to 42 million tonnes, with obvious implications for shortages and prices. Year-to-year variability is likely to increase.

An obvious strategy is to develop and use heat tolerant varieties. My understanding is that there has been a reduced research capacity generally in agriculture across the world.

3. Solar has done well

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.

Solar 2013_cropped_600

From the bottom, blue is Europe, brown is Asia Pacific, purple is the Americas and orange is China.

The pdf is here.

Europe added almost 11 GW, second only to wind.

In the US alone, there are now about 174,000 jobs linked to solar energy, with 36,000 new jobs expected by the end of this year.

India’s plans to build a solar PV modules manufacturing plant over the next three years worth US$4 billion and 20,000 new jobs.

Giles Parkinson tells how the costs of solar will fall a further 40% in the next two years, reaching grid parity in 80% of global markets.

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.

No-one seems to have told Donald Sadoway, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is seeking to strike up research partnerships with Australian universities and secure funding of $50 million for a pilot manufacturing plant of the liquid flow batteries.

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.

5. Inconvenient truths hit the cutting room floor

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.

Pathetic!

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!

At least Mitt Romney thinks humans are the cause and thinks (again) that we should do something to stop it. How arrogant is that?!

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:

R-belief_600

Yet overall 56% think CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant, again with vast variations of opinion:

R-reg_as_pollutant_600

7. Ocean warming accelerating

The story about 2014 being the hottest year has upstaged a more important fact – ocean warming is off the charts:

NOAA2014heat_content2000m

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.

John Abraham at The Guardian links to a thorough review of ocean heat measurement methods.

Climate clippings 112

1. Will Australia be to world climate talks what Poland is to Europe?

That’s the question asked by Giles Parkinson.

On the international stage Australia plays a similar role to Poland in Europe. The two countries have much in common: their leaders share a tenuous hold on climate science, a grim determination to extract coal and use it for electricity, don’t like carbon pricing and are trying to keep a lid on renewables.

From what he says, there does seem a difference. Poland gained free carbon permits from the EU negotiations “worth more than $1 billion and promises for funds to help it “modernize” is coal-fired plants after 2020.”

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said after the summit that the threat of veto was simply a “tool” to get the best conditions for Poland’s economy. “Nobody got compensated like we did,” she boasted after the meeting.

In other words they were out for what they could get.

On the basis of the Abbott Government’s form in the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Warsaw last December and actions since, we can expect Australia to be actively hostile to positive outcomes. Not just lead in the saddle bag, an active saboteur.

2. The prospect of a Republican US Senate

There is a 68% chance that the Republicans will control the US Senate after the mid-term elections. For the climate this could be a disaster.

Certainly they are unlikely to control the 60 votes they would need to avoid a Democrat filibuster, and the President has the power of veto over bills. So anti-climate legislation is not so much the worry.

However, the Republicans could block appropriate appointments to various agency positions and regulatory posts.

Secondly, any treaty coming out of the 2015 UNFCCC talks in Paris next year would need to be legislated. This would be impossible and could affect the tenor of the entire negotiations, with one large lame duck at the table.

Third, the US contributions to the IPCC and the UNFCCC could be pulled, making life for those bodies impossible.

Fourth,

a GOP majority in that house of Congress would flip several key committees into Republican hands. In particular, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is up to take over the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would head the Subcommittee on Science and Space, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is in line to take control of the Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) would head up the Budget Committee.

All except Enzi are avowed climate denialists.

Then there’s scary budget negotiations, and more.

3. Global groundwater crisis

AP190188023717-256x171

A NASA study has found that major groundwater aquifers are being depleted faster than the rate of replenishment, threatening food supplies and security.

The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”

The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”

4. Geoff Cousins heads the ACF

You’ll probably recognise the gravel-voiced tones of Geoff Cousins from his campaign against the Gunns paper mill. He used 20,000 signatures from ANZ customers to pressure the bank to withdraw the project’s funds.

From the SMH:

His business credentials include heading the country’s largest advertising company and heading Optus Vision when it slugged it out with News Ltd over rugby league broadcasting rights. He is a director of the Telstra board.

He is now President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, so expect to hear more from him. Now he’s lashed out at the Direct Action legislation and given the BCA (Business Council of Australia) a whack around the ears for supporting the legislation which he says individual companies would have rejected.

If somebody had brought a business case to the boards of one of those public companies for this program, no responsible board would have given it the time of day.

You would have asked first of all how cost efficient it was, you would have asked what was world’s best practice in all of these areas, these sorts of questions, and none of them would have been able to be answered positively in regard to this program.

The ACF are now embarking on a public education campaign about the legislation.

5. Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance

That’s the title of a report from Oxfam, summarised at Hot Topic.

On current trends, the world will be 4–6ºC hotter by the end of the century, exceeding 2ºC within the lifetimes of most people reading this report. This could put up to 400 million people in some of the poorest countries at risk of severe food and water shortages by the middle of the century.

This paper shows how, despite some steps in the right direction to tackle climate change, a ‘toxic triangle’ of political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests is blocking the transition that is needed. To help break this, governments must commit to phase out fossil fuel emissions by early in the second half of this century, with rich countries leading the way.

In 2012 fossil fuel companies spent $674bn on exploration and development projects. The industry is supported by $1.9 trillion of subsidies public finance, incentives and tax breaks, including the costs of paying for its widespread damage.

Quite simply, most of the stuff should be left in the ground:

Fossil fuel reserves_cropped_600

In truth, that’s generous!