The Murray Darling Basin Plan was passed into law in November 2012, when Julia Gillard was prime minister, and Tony Burke the minister responsible. There has been a recent kerfuffle, when Barnaby Joyce said an extra 450 GL of water probably would not be forthcoming. The reaction from SA premier Jay Weatherall and his ministers, and Senator Nick Xenophon seemed to imply the South Australia would be left high and dry. Turns out that’s not really the case. Continue reading Murray Darling Basin perspective→
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
I’m currently working on another project, which is taking up much of my time. This week we had about 200mm of rain in one day. That could have been why my cable connection to the internet disappeared for 36 hours. I’m grateful to John D who sent me the links for each item in the following except the last.
Zero-emissions engine that runs on liquid air
A new zero-emissions engine capable of competing commercially with hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric systems appeared on the radar when respected British engineering consultancy Ricardo validated Dearman engine technology and its commercial potential.
The Dearman engine operates by injecting cryogenic (liquid) air into ambient heat inside the engine to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine – the exhaust emits cold air. It’s cheaper to build than battery electric or fuel cell technology, with excellent energy density, fast refuelling and no range anxiety. It just might be a third alternative.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.
“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”
I realise this has been linked to three times in the previous thread, but it’s important and not everyone reads the comments threads.
A separate study has found that the methane stored in permafrost is three times larger than earlier estimates. It could release 1.7-5.2 times more carbon than previously thought, depending how rapidly the world warms.
In a cautionary note here, James Hansen reckons we are forcing the system 20,000 times faster than commonly happened through natural caused in the past 50 million years. Continue reading Climate clippings 58→
The WMO is agnostic about the reason for the increase in methane emissions, but in this ABC story Paul Fraser from the CSIRO tells us what they are thinking and it’s not good news.He says that the increase of methane is coming from high and low attitudes, which seems to indicate that northern permafrost and tropical wetlands may be the source.
The best wind farms in the world are already competitive with coal, gas and nuclear plants. But over the next five years, continued performance improvements and cost reductions will bring the average onshore wind plant in line with cheap natural gas, even without a price on carbon.
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.
Mega-heatwaves in Europe
Mega-heatwaves like the one in 2003 will become five to 10 times more likely by 2050 according to a recent study, occurring at least once a decade. The 2010 heatwave was something else again.
But the 2010 heatwave was so extreme – 10C above the average for the first week of August between 1970 and 2000 – that similar events are only expected to occur once every 30 years or so.
The 2010 event caused some 50,000 deaths, reduced the Russian grain crop by 25% and cost the nation $15 billion. It should be noted that the link between that event and climate change as such has not yet been established, but the incidence of mega-droughts is expected to increase nevertheless. Continue reading Climate clippings 21→