1. Queensland electricity day-time prices to zero six days in a row
We’ve had unwelcome dry weather this ‘winter’ in Queensland but the good news is that electricity prices have dropped to zero six days in a row:
I’m told Germans have little respect for politicians, rating them at the bottom of the pile. Generally, though, they are said to be courteous, even boring in how they conduct their politics, although it doesn’t altogether look that way from the outside.
However, this time policies are not so much to the fore, it’s really about the Merkel model of how to succeed in politics – unobtrusive, appearing ordinary and not of the elite, Continue reading “Mutti” Merkel looks a certainty
Coal India, the largest coal mining company in the world, has announced it will close 37 mines because they are no longer economically viable. That’s around 9 per cent of the state-run firm’s mines.
- The government has announced it will not build any more coal plants after 2022 and predicts renewables will generate 57 per cent of its power by 2027 – a pledge far outstripping its commitment in the Paris climate change agreement.
Before the three state elections in Germany on Sunday, March 13 many saw Angela Merkel’s CDU party in for a rough ride because of her policies towards Syrian refugees.
After the election many of the headlines were similar to this one from the NYT: Setback for Angela Merkel as Far Right Makes Gains in Germany. A closer reading presents a more complicated picture. Continue reading Is the political ground shifting in Germany?
A Deutsche Welle report I heard on NewsRadio began along these lines:
- She was pulled to the ground by her long blond hair, then a man laid down on top of her.
An extensive investigation by Der Spiegel tells us that groups of men humiliated, sexually assaulted and robbed women around the main railway station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. What happened was not new and was not limited to Cologne. What was different was the scale, the presumed predominance of men from North Africa amongst the perpetrators, and the timing in relation to the dilemmas faced by the influx of refugees from Syria. Continue reading Cologne: what happened and where to from here?
- Tony Abbott’s statement that consumers will pay A$60 billion or more for Labor’s 2030 50% renewables pledge is misleading. Continue reading Climate clippings 149
1. Totten Glacier
“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:
Essentially with East Antarctica on the move, estimations of sea level rise this century could be underdone. We simply don’t know.
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”.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
The Japanese have run an actual train with people in it at 500 km/h. The Chinese have built a train which can theoretically run at 1800 mph by encasing it in a vacuum tube.
It looks as though high speed rail could become a real alternative to air for intercity travel.
Thanks to John D for the headsup.
The world’s first power-to-liquids (PtL) demonstration production plant was opened in Dresden on 14 November. The new rig uses PtL technology to transform water and CO2 to high-purity synthetic fuels (petrol, diesel, kerosene) with the aid of renewable electricity.
The article does not say how efficient the process is, but presumably less so than using the electricity directly.
The World Bank has traditionally been one of the world’s largest funders of fossil fuel projects. Now it:
will invest heavily in clean energy and only fund coal projects in “circumstances of extreme need”…
No doubt this policy stems from the bank’s commissioned report Turning down the heat.
Hope has been injected into the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, scheduled to run from 1 to 12 December by the recent US/China agreement. The optimism stems as much from the fact that the two largest emitters in the world are finally working together as the level of ambition. The EU has also recently pledged to cut emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.
Countries will be working on the text of the draft agreement for Paris in 2015.
Countries are expected to put forward their contributions towards the 2015 agreement in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the end of March . These will then be used to craft the Paris treaty. The Lima gathering will help provide guidelines and clarity for what these INDCs must entail, especially for developing countries still reliant on fossil fuels to meet fast-growing energy demand needed to achieve developmental goals. These options could range from sector-wide emissions cuts to energy intensity goals to renewable energy targets.
We’ll be represented during the second week by Julie Bishop and Andrew Robb, a climate change denier. Seems Bishop went bananas when she found out, and Robb doesn’t want to be there anyway.
Giles Parkinson reports that we’ve sent a delegation of 14, the smallest in 20 years and probably not enough to be actively obstructive as we were in Warsaw last year.
This is how it’s shaping:
Record hot years are often El Niño years. This year is a neutral ENSO year so far.
That’s so far; there is at least a 70% chance that El Niño will be declared in the coming months, according to the BOM. Looks like a hot, dry summer.
On Sunday, Germany’s biggest utility E.ON announced plans to split into two companies and focus on renewables in a major shift that could be an indicator of broader changes to come across the utility sector. E.ON will spin off its nuclear, oil, coal, and gas operations in an effort to confront a drastically altered energy market, especially under the pressure of Germany’s Energiewende — the country’s move away from nuclear to renewables. The company told shareholders that it will place “a particular emphasis on expanding its wind business in Europe and in other selected target markets,” and that it will also “strengthen its solar business.”
E.ON will also focus on smart grids and distributed generation in an effort to improve energy efficiency and increase customer engagement and opportunity.
“With its decision, E.ON is the first company to take the necessary steps from the completely changed world of energy supply,” German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, said Monday.
The Commission and European Environment Agency’s Progress Report on climate action says:
according to latest estimates, EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 fell by 1.8% compared to 2012 and reached the lowest levels since 1990. So not only is the EU well on track to reach the 2020 target, it is also well on track to overachieve it.
Kevin Anderson is not impressed:
The consumption-based emissions (i.e. where emissions associated with imports and exports are considered) of the EU 28 were 2% higher in 2008 than in 1990. By 2013 emissions had marginally reduced to 4% lower than 1990 – but not as a consequence of judicious climate change strategies, but rather the financial fallout of the bankers’ reckless greed – egged on by complicit governments and pliant regulation.
Then he really gets stuck in:
In the quarter of a century since the first IPCC report we have achieved nothing of any significant merit relative to the scale of the climate challenge. All we have to show for our ongoing oratory is a burgeoning industry of bureaucrats, well meaning NGOs, academics and naysayers who collectively have overseen a 60+% rise in global emissions.
1. Pacific winds slow global warming
The study found that the winds were churning the Pacific like a washing machine, bringing the deeper colder water to the surface and pushing the warmer water below.
Scientists do not expect the effect to last. Matthew England of the University of New South Wales:
“The phase we’re in of accelerated trade winds particularly lasts a couple of decades,” Professor England said.
“We’re about 12 to 13 years in to the most accelerated part of the wind field.”
The heat is only at a depth of 100 to 300m, so may easily become available to the atmosphere again. Mike Mann thinks the winds and the La Niña effect may be the result of global warming.
2. Animals and plants on the move
The CSIRO have developed a fascinating map showing species on the move due to climate change. I’ve done a screenshot here, but the animated version in the link is best:
Blue areas indicate significant change and pink areas show “corridors” where animals and plants may be able to move through to more favourable conditions.
“Sink” areas, in orange, show where the movement of land-based species is likely to hit a dead end, by reaching a coastline or mountain range.
Something strange is happening in the middle of Queensland.
3. The year’s weather in 8 minutes
Gareth at Hot Topic has posted a live map of the weather for 2013 as seen from weather satellites. I recommend using the full screen button.
It’s interesting not so much for 2013, but as an overview of how the global system works.
4. Half new energy is green
Fully 44% of all generating capacity installed last year around the world was renewable, says the latest UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, despite a 14% decline in renewables investment, and in new electricity generally.
Europe has cut investment in renewables by 44%. China now leads with $56 billion invested last year.
Shares in clean energy companies rose 54% last year.
5. Germany turns to brown coal
Germany has more wind turbines and solar panels than any other industrialised country, but it also burns more brown coal (lignite) than any other.
As Germany turns off its nuclear power, gas is expensive and a third of it comes from Russia. In these circumstances Germany is turning to lignite to solve the intermittency problem. Because lignite takes 8 hours to fire up plants are run at 40% whether needed or not.
There are three options:
- storage systems, such as pumped water or hydrogen
- improving and extending electricity grids so that surpluses can be moved to areas of need
- organising tariffs to manage demand from big energy users that have intermittent demand.
None of these is being implemented so far to the extent that makes a real difference.
6. Energy use in UK and Germany
Germany generates considerably more energy than the UK, even when population is taken into account.
This graph shows the source of Germany’s power generation for the first quarter of 2014:
Nuclear, being phased out over a decade, is a considerable source. Biomass is larger than gas.
Renewable energy is expected to be the main source of electricity generation in Germany by 2030, but policy in both countries is a concern:
In the UK, the Conservative party has recently announced that it will put a cap on onshore wind expansion if it gets into power in 2015. Subsidies for solar power are also likely to be cut, according to media reports – suggesting that Conservatives are increasingly hostile to plans to expand renewables.
In Germany, the government’s putting in place a new renewables plan – possibly in response to concern about rising energy prices. The new rules mean from 2017 energy providers will no longer get guaranteed prices for their power, according to media reports. The effects are unclear, but could slow the growth of German green energy.
7. But then, in Germany at least…
…energy policy is very complex.
In Germany governments attempt to control markets, it seems.
Germany’s energy transition – the Energiewende – has largely been a bottom-up grassroots movement over the past 25 years. Citizens and energy cooperatives account for roughly half the investments. Large utilities are only just now getting on board.
Current changes in policy are aimed at tipping the balance back towards the large corporates, while keeping renewable energy development on track. Policy is also favouring offshore rather than onshore wind.
The article mentions that discussion will now turn to “capacity payments”. I suspect such payments will be necessary to provide backup capacity for intermittency problems, especially if weather forecasts are wrong. For continuity of supply the corporates may have to be paid for unused reserve capacity.
Reminder: Use this thread as an open thread on climate change.
These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
This edition is completely about implementation issues and is largely based on a number of links drawn to my attention by John D, for which gratitude and thanks. I’ve restricted the offering to six items to make it more digestible.
1. The battery storage system that could close down coal power
A German company is developing relatively large scale battery storage (up to 10MW-sized battery parks) which could “stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.”
It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes. Continue reading Climate clippings 88
These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised adaptation and mitigation, essentially what we need to do to achieve a safe climate.
Comments, about science, observations, impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.
1. Mining company donations to political parties
Bernard Keane Looked at the astonishing trend in mining company donations to political parties:
The sheer scale of mining company generosity illustrates why Tony Abbott remains committed to repealing the carbon pricing package and the mining tax.
He might also have added that if Abbott wins office on September 14, we will no longer have a democracy but an oligarchy – a government run by powerful mining and media magnates looking for a return on their investment – with George Pell as spiritual adviser. As Keane tweeted recently:
“Australians are a bunch of sheep about to hand themselves over to a pack of wolves”.