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Category Archives: environment

“Guest post” – Clover Moore

Thought I’d share the latest from our Lord Mayor’s newsletter. For updates on Copenhagen see ABC News.**

CITIES WILL ACT ON GLOBAL WARMING

The pivotal role of cities in fighting global warming has been acknowledged in drafts, but the fair, ambitious and binding deal needed from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen is not yet assured.

I participated in the Copenhagen Mayors’ Summit this week with 80 city leaders from around the world to urge national leaders to commit to ambitious targets with the confidence that cities will deliver if supported. The deep cuts needed to avert dangerous global warming require low-carbon cities and action already underway can be accelerated.

The work needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will only get harder if we delay. Deep and fast cuts in the order of 25 to 40 per cent, as recommended by the UN IPCC, are needed to keep warming below 2 degrees. The growing scientific consensus suggests even this may be too little.

The hopes of the world rely on significant progress during the final day of COP15 negotiations. There are some signs of optimism that the 120 heads of state, the largest group gathered for these climate negotiations, may find the courage and political will to break the deadlock.

Our Mayors’ Summit communiqué, delivered on behalf of the 700 million city dwellers we represent, affirms that the battle against global warming will be won or lost in cities. Cities are home to over half the world’s population and responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

An inspiring Summit program has been provided by our host, Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen. The centrepiece was city leaders reporting on innovative and practical action to reduce emissions, and I presented on our work creating and implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030. There is extraordinary consensus on what needs to be done.

We attended the high level opening of COP 15 at the Bella Centre,hearing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and COP15 President Connie Hedegaard. We met with Sir Nicholas Stern and were presented with new research supporting cities’ role addressing climate change. Our hosts launched the "Copenhagen Wheel", a hybrid bicycle that we hope to introduce to Sydney, and I drove an electric car in a parade of new models as part of our commitment to make this sustainable option a practical choice in Sydney. The opportunity to see practical solutions in action was inspiring, such as a site visit to the Western Harbour redevelopment in the Swedish city of Malmö, with a renewable energy system, district heating and cooling, and renewable biogas facility. Jan Gehl walked me around his home town to show me the practical results of his decades of work reclaiming Copenhagen for pedestrians and cyclists.The City of Copenhagen has set up a stage and huge illuminated globe in the city centre outside the Town Hall, with public art installations focused on climate change. The city has a celebratory feel with live outdoor concerts each night. Only in Copenhagen could you see thousands dancing outdoors in below zero temperatures with their bicycles parked nearby covered in snow!

At a magic Earth Hour in the Town Hall square on Wednesday evening, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and I addressed a crowd of around 6000 people amid swirling snow, surrounded by historic buildings. Earth Hour was launched in Sydney in 2007, the idea of WWF, supported by the City and Fairfax media group. In 2009, people from 88 countries and 4400 cities turned their lights off for one hour to send a powerful message to national leaders that they want action to address global warming.

As the week progressed, Community representatives have been increasingly locked out of the COP15 centre at a time when negotiations are stalling and delegates need to hear citizen’s voices. Community consultation initiated by the Danish Board of Technology, which was conducted simultaneously in 38 different countries with 4,400 randomly selected participants in September, found that 91% of people around the world want immediate and urgent action on climate change.

Despite the mounting tension and security difficulties, the sirens and the protests, it’s been inspiring to see thousands of cyclists braving the weather and commuting to work in the dark and the snow. Families on the streets with babies in prams mingle with the climate activists who’ve flocked here, many dressed as polar bears and pandas.

As the Mayor of Seattle reported, 1016 cities across the US committed to meet Kyoto protocol targets, going further than their federal government and paving the way for the their nation to go further. With or without binding national targets, the cities of the world will continue working to reduce emissions on a major scale.

Information: * Mayor’s Summit: www.kk.dk/climatesummitformayors.aspx.

** Update 11.30 am

Tim Flannery’s response to the Copenhagen deal.

Leading Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery says he is happy with the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

World leaders failed to secure a binding agreement instead opting for a non-binding accord which relies on countries setting their own emissions targets.

Professor Flannery says while the current commitments are not enough to halt dangerous climate change, the outcome is an important first step.

"My overview would be in the absence of any shift in the American target we’re likely to be a few gigatonnes of carbon short of a satisfactory target for 2020," he said. "[It] doesn’t mean we won’t achieve it. The agreement as it looks at the moment is good, but not perfect."

The former Australian of the Year says that it will take a few days for the full implications of the accord to become apparent.

"I think that these sort of agreements in the details really only become more evident with time," he said. "Perhaps in the next few days we’ll get to see a little bit more of precisely what has been agreed, and what it means overall. [But] if I was to sum it up in a single phrase I’d say this has been a good, successful meeting. It’s only one step on the road but we are now really in the throes of tackling this very difficult problem and this meeting has been a very significant step forward. I wouldn’t like anyone to undersell what’s been achieved. I think it is very significant."

Professor Flannery said amid the commentary on whether or not the deal should have been binding, it was important not to lose sight of the gains made at the conference…

 

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“Guest post” – Tim Costello

This comes from Sojourners, where you will also find three relevant videos.

Why Climate Change Matters to the Lives of the Poor

by Tim Costello 12-16-2009

World Vision is at the Copenhagen climate change talks because this is no longer an environmental crisis alone, but a deepening humanitarian crisis. Climate change is already affecting lives and livelihoods in the countries where we work, as described in graphic ways by so many in our national offices. It amplifies a number of humanitarian disasters that we are called on to respond to. Equally, it amplifies key issues of our development efforts by intensifying malaria, diarrhea, compromised water sources, and sustainable futures for many of the communities where we work.

These leading figures in humanitarian relief — John Holmes, Josette Sheeran, and Eric Laroche — spoke passionately today about the challenge.

The chasm between developed and developing countries at this conference with four days to run has tragically widened. The UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, in urging a resolution spoke of avoiding 2 degrees warming. This was immediately denounced by more than 100 developing nations, who said 1.5 degrees warming is all they can tolerate because of their vulnerability.

The West, with historical responsibility for the greatest greenhouse gases in the current warming impacts, has not yet tabled GHG cuts that would result in containing rising temperatures to even 2 degrees. This gulf must be bridged.

Tim Costello is CEO of World Vision Australia.

 

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Carbon chicken-and-eggery?

I was interested to hear Tim Flannery on Lateline articulating what had (believe it or not) occurred to me quite independently – that the recent “cooking the books” accusations against the Australian government over the 82% rise in our emissions since 1990 are an example of chicken and egg confusion rather than dishonesty. The Times of India reported it thus:

MELBOURNE: Australia has allegedly wrongly presented its carbon emissions report by ignoring a massive rise in polluting gases from its agricultural and forestry industries, a report said on Monday.

This “misrepresentation” by the government has led to severe criticism from all quarters at the summit in Copenhagen. Australia has ignored a massive rise in polluting gases from agricultural and forestry industries, and has managed to make its overall emissions seem much lower than they actually are, the ABC said in the report.

While under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is allowed to up carbon emissions by 8% compared to the 1990 levels, figures supplied to the UN earlier this year say that between 1990 and 2007, the nation’s real carbon emissions actually rose by 82%, the report said.

This dramatic increase is a result of emissions from rural lands, caused by bushfires and drought. But those are the very same agricultural, grazing plains and grasslands that political parties hope will help offset the country’s rising industrial emissions.

Australia has led the charge on proposed land use rule changes to the new global climate deal. The changes will open the door to the bonanza of green carbon that can be stored away in the world’s rural lands, the report said.

But the move is deeply dividing the Copenhagen conference. Christine Milne, climate change spokesperson for Australian political party, the Australian Greens, said in Copenhagen that the country has been trying to “cook the books”.

“The United States has always wanted to use Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry as a mechanism for not having to do as much in its fossil fuel sector, and Australia has always been the fall guy for the US,” she said. “So I think what you are seeing is the umbrella group, chaired by Australia, including the US and Canada, trying to really cook the books in some dodgy deals on land use.”

Flannery rightly sees the additional emissions as typical RESULTS of ongoing climate change rather than causes – though there is that feedback loop going on there too, pretty much as explained by James Lovelock among others.

There is no doubt though that there is much potential for Australia in land management issues as a way round some at least of the climate change problem, but it is far from a panacea as Flannery also notes.

Jim Belshaw has been teasing out this one just lately; I commend what he says to your attention.

On the other hand in part of their book which is online Brian Dawson and Matt Spannagle (2009) have this to say:

carbon1 

 carbon2

See also: Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists for much relevant material: especially 1270 Optimising_Terrestial_Carbon PDF

  • OK, I am off to continue some therapeutic reading of Jane Austen – much needed after all this debate!
 
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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in Australia, climate change, environment

 

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Hang on a minute: what tax?

We all know Brer Abbott and The Undead are standing up for us against the dreaded

GREAT BIG TAX ON EVERYTHING!!!!

My problem is that I naively thought you could have a carbon tax, which the government has opted against, or an Emissions Trading Scheme (Cap and Trade), which the government has opted for.

Does it not follow then that while one is a tax the other is not? Sure, it may well be a cost, but a tax?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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There is a sensible discussion to be had

Former chief of the Australian Defence Force Peter Cosgrove is a good exemplar of such a discussion.

…The climate change debate is probably more rigorously based than the usual military intelligence estimate because the forward projections are based on some widely agreed formulas whereas military intelligence estimates have to try to get into the mind of the potential adversary (always very tough: think about Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction).

We are left with a preponderance of scientific opinion pointing to dire outcomes and presently a minority of climate change sceptics. So you and I have to balance what we have been told and decide if and how we will pay it forward.

I come at this from the viewpoint that while I really don’t know if all that I have been told is true, if we are at risk of quite catastrophic climate change outcomes, say during the life of grandkids who might come along for my wife and I, then I am very uneasy about dicing with their future. I am very conscious of the huge change in direction and the expense and the turmoil and the impact on jobs entailed in a radical move to non-carbon energy for Australia.

But if we don’t do it, a country with our values, a country in the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, a country depended on by millions of powerless friends and neighbours, how can we expect other nations to act and thus offset our lack of action?

So let’s not muck about any more, let’s start now to solve the problems that we own…

On the other hand there is Piers Akerman.

Since so much seems to depend on “Climategate” here are a few more resources for you:

I must say I was amused by Laurie Oakes: Liberal dose of alliens leading us to insanity.

…Nick Minchin obviously comes from another planet – one where there is no global warming caused by human activity. Eric Abetz, the hardliner’s hardliner, is a political Dalek. “Exterminate! Exterminate!”

Film buffs will recall the 1985 movie Cocoon, about elderly people revived by aliens. It is the only plausible explanation for the resurrection of Bronwyn Bishop, Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews.

Climate spokesman Greg Hunt must have been taken over by some kind of shape-shifting organism similar to The Thing From Outer Space. How else to explain how a strong believer in putting a price on carbon (he wrote his university thesis on it) can become a harsh critic of the whole idea overnight?

And then there’s National Party Senate leader Barnaby Joyce. His first few days as shadow finance minister convinced quite a few of his Liberal colleagues – those wanting to preserve the economic legacy of John Howard and Peter Costello – that he is definitely an alien life form…

There is of course a very sensible debate to be had about policy in response to climate change and I am happy to see Jim Belshaw addressing the issue, even if today he is taking a break from it.

Because some of my recent entries have leaned away from the ETS, I am today balancing that by including Ross Garnaut’s arguments in favour of it: garnaut1109 pdf

 

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So that’s where Clover is!

Sydney’s amazing Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is a very busy woman. (She is also my local representative in the NSW Parliament, and remarkably approachable, as I can testify from experience.)

Her latest email newsletter tells what she is up to now:

MAYORS CALL FOR LOW-CARBON CITIES

The deep greenhouse gas reductions needed to avert dangerous global warming will require low-carbon cities, with urban areas transformed by green technologies that will strengthen our economy, improve living standards and reduce energy costs.

This is the message that I will put to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, together with Mayors from major cities across the globe.

We will tell our national leaders that they can and must go further, forging a binding agreement for emission reductions between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020, with greater reduction likely to be needed and supported by many people.

Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and are responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is in our cities that we can make the biggest difference. Our research shows that Australia’s capital cities could achieve half (41 per cent) of the Federal Government’s guaranteed emissions reduction target if environmental strategies comparable to Sustainable Sydney 2030 were implemented, and that assessment is based only on inner urban areas!

With the right tools and support from national and state governments, cities can go even further to contribute to national target reductions for greenhouse gas emissions.

Our City is implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030 to achieve an ambitious target of 70 per cent reductions on 2006 levels. Our action is focused on the three big causes of emissions in cities:

* Buildings: We promote sustainable design excellence for all new buildings; are reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our own property portfolio by 48 per cent by 2012; and our CitySwitch program enables commercial property owners to improve the energy efficiency

* Transport: We are spending $76 million over four years on a 200km cycle network safe enough for everyone to use; making our city more walkable; expanding car share; and advocating better public transport networks.

* Energy: Former CEO of the London Climate Change Agency, Allan Jones, is working with us on our green energy infrastructure plan that will create a local network of combined cooling, heat and power (trigeneration) and renewable energy, removing our reliance on coal-fired power generation.

At a roundtable discussion at the Copenhagen City Hall next Tuesday, I will join Mayors presenting practical examples from their cities. I will focus on our work to create and implement Sustainable Sydney 2030.

See also Clover’s Copenhagen Diary.

Surry Hills: the super-green Library and Community Centre 2009

I couldn’t help noting (while tearing my hair out) the abysmal comments on the YouTube; for example: “They have been planning to create a climate crisis and push it with the media so they can set up a one world government as a solution. It’s all a massive fraud.”

On the other hand see Worldwide Views on Global Warming and note the Sydney Morning Herald series Planet Earth’s Last Chance.

I’ll leave the last word, also from the Herald, to 17-year-old Christina Ora:

…In the Solomon Islands, my homeland, communities on low-lying atolls are already being displaced by rising sea levels. Communities have lived on these atolls for generations. Moving from one province to another in the Solomon Islands is not just like moving house. Your land is your identity. It is part of your culture. It is who you are.

I am scared, and so too are the people from these atolls about what this means for our culture, our communities and our identity.

Because of climate change, I am uncertain about what is to come. How can I feel that my future is safe? How can I be sure that my home village won’t disappear in 10 years’ time? How can I be sure that my community won’t have to find a new home? How can I be sure that I will be able to raise my children in the same place that my mother and father raised me? I am not sure. I am scared and worried.

At the global negotiations, many nations, including Australia, have focused on avoiding 2 degrees of global warming. While this may not sound like much, it will threaten the survival of many small island nations.

Sea-level rise and unprecedented storm surges caused by climate change are already affecting communities across the Pacific and are expected to get significantly worse if climate change is not immediately and adequately tackled…

Solomon Islands, as a small island nation, is one of the smallest emitters of greenhouse gas in the world, and yet we are being hit the hardest and the fastest by climate change. I ask Australia, as our closest developed neighbour, to please help us: assist us financially in adapting to climate change and commit to strong mitigation targets to ensure the lowest temperature rise.

This conference has the power to transform the way the world responds to climate change, but only if all countries realise the true urgency of the problem and commit to an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement now.

For my entire life, world leaders have been negotiating a climate agreement. They cannot tell me they need more time. There is no more time. I hope world leaders realise this week that my generation’s future is in the palm of their hands.

Not quite the last word after all!

Remember John Howard? Well here’s what was really happening in his time, at least until the 2007 election and Malcolm Turnbull brought some degree of sense to bear.

The Federal Government has said it will not pursue carbon trading at this stage. It accepts that global warming is real and poses a threat to the Australian environment, but does not support mandatory targets for reducing carbon emissions.

Dr Pearman, who headed the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research for 10 years until 2002, said he was admonished by his Canberra superiors for “making public expressions of what I believed were scientific views, on the basis that they were deemed to be political views”.

“In 33 years (with CSIRO), I don’t think I had ever felt I was political in that sense. I’ve worked with ministers and prime ministers from both parties over a long period of time, and in all cases I think I’ve tried to draw a line between fearless scientific advice about issues and actual policy development, which I think is in the realm of government,” he said.

Dr Pearman is one of three leading climate experts quoted on the ABC’s Four Corners tonight who say they have been repeatedly gagged in the public debate on greenhouse gas cuts.

Dr Barrie Pittock, who was awarded a Public Service Medal for his climate work, has told Four Corners he was instructed to remove politically sensitive material from a government publication on climate change.

And Barney Foran, a 30-year CSIRO veteran, cited a case in August when CSIRO managers told him they had fielded a call from the Prime Minister’s Department suggesting he should say nothing critical about ethanol as an alternative fuel…

Here is Dr Pearman 2009:



Last of four parts. See Resilient Futures Channel.

** Further to Jim Belshaw’s comment below see The Greenhouse Mafia for Pearman, and John Quiggin at that time. Later in 2006 Four Corners ran What Price Global Warming? which included an interview with John Howard.

You know what? I probably won’t be around to see the outcome of all this, but many of my readers will be. When Thomas, for example, is around the age I am now just how wrong or right we have been will have become indisputable.

 

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Two videos found on the God’s Politics blog

I am a regular reader of Jim Wallis and friends, which is not to say I always agree with what I find there but it is good to see a Christian presence that is worth anyone’s reading!

  • The Burning Season is Aussie-made and was shown on ABC in October. It is excellent.
  • star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 The second video above is also excellent; I urge you to watch it. I find it quite persuasive; it is certainly a great example of plain language argument. On the other hand Dawson and Spannagle are rather more positive on the potential of cap and trade.

Update

I found two more on Maximos62.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2009 in Christianity, climate change, environment

 

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Kind of Part Two of the promised post…

I have given up on the project of reviewing the various measures, partly because this has already been done in things like our own Garnaut Report. You can even download the summary from this blog.

However, from Brian Dawson and Matt Spanagle The Complete Guide to Climate Change (2009) here are a few points.

1. Nuclear power. (pp. 293-302)

While new nuclear plant construction is expected to increase over the next decade, this needs to be balanced against the anticipated decline in nuclear-generating capacity in Europe and the United States, as many existing nuclear reactors are approaching the end of their useful operating lives. More than half of the present reactor stock is due to be retired by 2025…

Overall nuclear capacity [present and future] could plausibly contribute up to 5-10% of the greenhouse gas emissions required to stabilize global emissions by 2050, but to achieve this would require a significant shift in present energy and climate policies.

That last point refers to the need, among other things, to put a price on carbon.

2. Emissions trading. (pp. 136-145)

Overall, emissions trading offers considerable promise as a mitigation instrument and, in theory, should deliver least cost emissions abatement in many circumstances. However, it is still too early to judge whether trading will deliver a superior economic outcome relative to other policy instruments…

For emissions trading to provide a common global carbon price signal, it would require the establishment of a truly global cap encompassing all greenhouse gases and all major emissions sources. In reality, such a comprehensive global system is unlikely to eventuate in the short to medium term…

Note “mitigation” means bringing down emissions to a liveable or least damaging level over the first half of the 21st century. “Adaptation”, which also appears often in this field, means learning to live with climate change. There is something of a tension between these two ideas, but it is a realistic tension.

3. Energy efficiency. (pp. 146-155)

[Given appropriate policy settings at the national level, such as a price on carbon] … energy efficiency would provide between 45 and 53% of cost effective reductions. This dwarfs what any other mitigation options could feasibly deliver.

4. Solar. (pp. 345-353)

Overall solar power is likely to make a relatively small, but increasingly important, contribution to emissions reduction by 2050.

Crap detecting kit

I have opted for a slightly more polite term than that used yesterday by Malcolm Turnbull. 😉

As you read letters to the editor, op-ed pieces in The Australian, or listen to Tony Abbott or Nick Minchin or the Saudi Arabian government or talk-back radio, keep this kit beside you.

1. The Non-Governmental International Panel On Climate Change

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Note Scientific American on this.

The 2,500 or so scientists, economists and other experts of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) call global warming "unequivocal" and think it "very likely" that humans have contributed to the problem. The world’s governments agree with the panel, which also shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Then there’s the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). These 23 individuals from 15 countries, including a handful of scientists, disagree. Led by physicist S. Fred Singer—best known for his denial of the dangers of secondhand smoke—they argue the reverse: "Natural causes are very likely to be the dominant cause" of climate change.

The NIPCC goes on to contend: "We do not say anthropogenic greenhouse gases cannot produce some warming. Our conclusion is that the evidence shows they are not playing a significant role."

In other words, even skeptics, deniers, contrarians—pick your favorite term—agree that global warming is real, or so it appears from the recent three-day conference in New York City put together by the Heartland Institute, a bastion of free-market thinking on the perils of junk science and government economic regulation. They just disagree—even amongst themselves—whether it is man-made.

On the one side sits Patrick Michaels, the recently resigned state climatologist of Virginia who ascribes global warming to fluctuations in the sun’s energy output aided and abetted by human activity. In his conference dinner address, Michaels said: "Global warming is real and people have something to do with it."

On the other side is astrophysicist Willie Soon of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. He lays the blame on the sun for all the agreed-on warming. And meteorologist William Gray of Colorado State University in Fort Collins believes the sun will soon reverse its effect. "We should begin to see cooling coming on," he predicts. "I’m ready to make a big financial bet.

2. Bjorn Lomborg

The Australian often gives him a run, and so, I note, does the latest Australian Spectator. See Real Climate, and also So what’s wrong with Lomborg?

Well, he’s managed to present himself as being in the middle ground. Lomborg makes himself look reasonable by saying that he accepts the science, that AGW is occurring, but that it won’t be that bad. But what Lomborg really does is cherry pick and systematically misrepresent the science. You don’t have to take my word for this. See, for example, Kevin Berger’s interview with Lomborg:

You start "Cool It" by boldly stating that polar bears illustrate the exaggerated claims about global warming. You write that polar bears "may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely." Yet the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, which you use to support your thesis, concludes: "As the amount of sea ice decreases, seals, walrus, polar bears and other ice-dependent species will suffer drastically." Don’t you think that sounds like there will be dramatic declines?

I’m just saying that it will be harder for the polar bears but that they will not decline, and they’re not going to be extinct or even appear to be affected at present.

And it goes on like that — the scientific reports that Lomborg uses say the opposite of what he makes it appear they do. Read the whole thing. But hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? Well, look at Lomborg’s list of corrections for his book. Berger made it clear that there were serious errors in his treatment of polar bears, but Lomborg has corrected none of them.

3. Those emails

The link there is to Paola Tataro in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. See also The Economist.

AS POLITICIANS, policy wonks, businessmen, NGO types, hacks and hangers-on converge in Copenhagen for the forthcoming climate conference, a row over a set of e-mails from a previously obscure part of Britain’s University of East Anglia is becoming ever louder, if no more illuminating. Two weeks ago e-mails and other documents that had been leaked or hacked from the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were sent to various websites. Those with a longstanding opposition to action on climate change, from bloggers to members of the American Senate to the Saudi government, are touting the e-mails as a resource with which to derail the Copenhagen talks.

CRU’s researchers use various techniques to reconstruct the temperatures of times past. Some of the reconstructions they have been party to have long been the subject of technical criticism, sometimes in peer-reviewed literature, more frequently on blogs, notably Climate Audit, an award-winning blog by Stephen McIntyre. The critics have made many attempts to get CRU to distribute the raw data and computer codes which its scientists work on. The e-mails and other documents read as though the researchers were obstructive in dealing with some of these requests, that some of the data they used were in poor shape, that they may have indulged in spin when presenting some results and that they really did not care for their critics…

The IPCC bases its work on papers that have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In one e-mail Mr Jones talks of stopping a couple of papers that he holds in low esteem from being discussed in an IPCC report “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is”. This does not look good, though it is worth noting that at least one of those papers was, in fact, included in the report. Other e-mails talk of trying to get editors at specific journals removed.

That the e-mails and documents should be inspected in some sort of systematic way for evidence of poor practice or even chicanery is a fair next step. But it is ludicrous to think that climate science is a house of cards that will collapse if the e-mails were to discredit CRU’s work.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It warms the surface and increases the amount of water vapour that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn warms things further. How much warming you get for a given amount of carbon dioxide is hard to say, because there are feedback processes involved, such as the making of clouds, and also other factors at work. It may be that this century’s warming will be moderate, staying below 2ºC. It is quite possible, though, that unless something is done the warming will be greater, and there is a real risk that it could be a lot greater, perhaps 4ºC or more.

The inquiries into the “climategate” e-mails and files may find that some of the researchers fell short of the standards of their calling, or that some of the science in question does not stand up as well as its authors would wish. To think that all action on climate change should cease pending such inquiries, though, is foolish, cynical or both.

OK, that’s your lot! Other topics from now on — but here is a last offering: A special report on climate PDF (220kb).

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2009 in climate change, environment, Tony Abbott

 

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Some ETS YouTubes

Like most of us I do find this challenging. See if these help.

The last two are critical of the idea.

However, to anticipate the second promised post here, it does seem that while energy efficiency and alternative energies offer the best hopes for mitigating emissions, the best approach — and the most economically viable — is a combination of several approaches with putting some kind of cost or value on emissions being critical to the success of these other approaches.

There are some good articles in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. First, I find $50b bill for Abbott carbon plan very believable, even if the denials are no doubt winging through cyberspace and the media as I write**. (No doubt appropriate economic modelling will be trotted out on both sides in due course, even by those most prone to be sceptical about climate modelling.)

Second, Ross Gittins has nailed it again.

It’s strange to reject ”a big new tax” in favour of an approach that would need a huge increase in spending on subsidies and incentives.

TONY Abbott’s stated intention to have ”a strong and effective climate change policy” that doesn’t involve either an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax is rife with internal contradictions.

For a start, it’s strange for a party of the right to reject the pro-market solution to climate change in favour of a much more intrusive, regulatory approach.

For another thing, it’s strange to reject ”a big new tax” in favour of an approach that, if it were to work, would require a huge increase in government spending on subsidies and incentives. If such an approach wasn’t to involve huge deficits and debt, or cuts in other government spending, it would require huge increases in ”old” taxes…

Third and fourth: In search of the Magic Carbon Pudding (4 December) by finance writer Michael Pascoe and University tackles sceptics’ arguments.

Update 1 pm

** Yep: Abbott downplays $50b climate change bill.

But hang on! Look at Malcolm Turnbull’s blog!

So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.

To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.

Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, "bullshit." Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words, electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions.

The term you will see used for this is "least cost abatement".

It is not possible to criticise the new Coalition policy on climate change because it does not exist. Mr Abbott apparently knows what he is against, but not what he is for….

And that’s just his first point.

 

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Sunday is music day 27 — tick tick tick

 

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To think about

Emissions trading schemes by country

The following table provides a summary of the countries that have an established or proposed emissions trading scheme.

Country / Jurisdiction Scheme name Operating / In development
Australia Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme In development
Austria European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading System (EU ETS) Operating
Belgium EU ETS Operating
Bulgaria EU ETS Operating
Cyprus EU ETS Operating
Czech Republic EU ETS Operating
Denmark EU ETS Operating
Estonia EU ETS Operating
Finland EU ETS Operating
France EU ETS Operating
Germany EU ETS Operating
Greece EU ETS Operating
Hungary EU ETS Operating
Ireland EU ETS Operating
Italy EU ETS Operating
Latvia EU ETS Operating
Lithuania EU ETS Operating
Luxembourg EU ETS Operating
Malta EU ETS Operating
Netherlands EU ETS Operating
Poland EU ETS Operating
Portugal EU ETS Operating
Romania EU ETS Operating
Slovakia EU ETS Operating
Slovenia EU ETS Operating
Spain EU ETS Operating
Sweden EU ETS Operating
United Kingdom EU ETS Operating
Norway Linked to EU ETS Operating
Iceland Linked to EU ETS Operating
Liechtenstein Linked to EU ETS Operating
Switzerland Swiss Emissions Trading Scheme and CO2 Tax, planned link to ETS Operating
New Zealand New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme Operating
Canada Canadian Emissions Trading Scheme (Clean Air Act) In development
Republic of Korea Air Pollution Emissions Trading System In development
Japan Japanese Emissions Trading Scheme (has also trialled voluntary emissions trading schemes, including Japanese Voluntary Emissions Trading Scheme) In development
United States of America United States Emissions Trading Scheme (American Clean Energy and Security Act 2009 (Waxman-Markey Bill); and Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (Kerry-Boxer Bill)) In development
Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland (All USA states) Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Operating
Arizona (USA), California (USA), New Mexico (USA), Oregon(USA), Washington (USA), Utah (USA), Montana (USA), British Columbia (Can), Manitoba (Can), Ontario (Can), and Quebec (Can). Western Climate Initiative (WCI) In development
Iowa (USA), Illinois (USA), Kansas (USA), Michigan (USA), Minnesota (USA), Wisconsin (USA) and Manitoba (Can) Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGA) In development

Source Emissions trading schemes by country.

See also Global action – facts and fiction and Science – facts and fiction.

While all the above come from the Australian Department of Climate Change there is no doubt that much needs to be done to make these matters, especially those related to mitigation strategies, more accessible to the general public.

 

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The promised climate change post — Part One

 heading-towards-Copenhagen

You will perhaps be disappointed as I have little original to say, but then if I had said something original you would have been foolish to have believed me as my qualifications in this area are nada, zilch and zero. Mind you, that doesn’t stop most commentators, does it? For example, in today’s Sydney Morning Herald we have John Carroll, a professor of sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne, delivering a piece which in outline is rather like what I imagined at one stage this post might be. Professor, yes, and I’m not, but of sociology? Hardly a relevant qualification. In effect his views are no more authoritative than the vox pop I heard on News Radio this morning where one person dismissed the whole debate as analogous to the Y2K Bug. (I trust you see what is wrong with that idea.)

John Carroll makes an oft-repeated and partly true point about computer/mathematical modelling in his piece, but then Robert Hanson (not to be confused with James Hansen of NASA) points out in The Rough Guide to Climate Change (2ed 2008) that the better climate change models are tested by running them to see if their parameters would have replicated what actually happened in the 20th century, and the better ones pass that reasonable test. That in fact is rather like Kevin from Louisiana’s recent challenge, come to think of it.

Both The Rough Guide to Climate Change and the more recent The Complete Guide to Climate Change by Brian Dawson and Matt Spannagle (2009) have the advantage of being written by people with relevant qualifications. I am attracted to them too because they are resolutely unhysterical, and in the words of Dawson and Spannagle admit that “The breadth and complexity of the climate change issue makes it difficult for any single person to have an in-depth understanding of all the facets of the debate.” My second post will attempt to distil from the distillations in both books some kind of evaluation of the relative merits of the various mitigation strategies that have been proposed or are currently on the table. That means of course leaving out their arguments, but the best I can do in that regard is to urge you to get hold of the books for yourselves.

Today let’s look again at what is being called “Climategate” – the leaked emails from East Anglia. There is an Australian connection according to a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Read the story carefully; it is quite a judicious bit of reporting.

… Michael Coughlan, the head of the National Climate Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said it was difficult to comment without knowing the source of the raw data. It was unlikely to have come directly from the bureau’s centre because unchecked, raw data was rarely requested for climate analysis. The bureau had a network of more than 100 specially selected weather stations to monitor climate change, and a century of records from them had been checked.

"We’ve put an enormous effort into developing a high-quality reliable climate record for Australia and all that data is freely available," Dr Coughlan said.

But he said that if the British programmer had been using raw weather data, which is sent around the world in real time for weather forecasting, it would not be surprising that it contained errors. This raw data could have come from countries other than Australia, and would have been difficult to correct without access to information in Australia, such as the original field books.

"A computer programmer sitting in England won’t have the resources to make those corrections. I can understand their frustrations," Dr Coughlan said.

The programmer’s log is one of the most read files worldwide since the email archives were leaked. The log has been treated particularly sympathetically as it reveals his blow-by-blow frustrations, which seemed to be unfolding as his scientist colleagues, including the head of the Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, appeared to discuss via email ways to avoid freedom-of-information requests for raw data and to denigrate their critics.

Professor Jones, who has denied a conspiracy to manipulate global warming statistics as "complete rubbish", has stood down from his post while the university investigates the leaks.

The Herald attempted to contact Professor Jones and spoke to the computer programmer we believe to be the author of the file. The programmer did not deny his name but referred queries to the university’s media unit. Professor Jones has not responded.

RealClimate, a website run by climate scientists, confirms the log as the work of a specialist charged with upgrading data.

"Anyone who has ever worked on constructing a database from dozens of individual, sometimes contradictory and inconsistently formatted datasets, will share his evident frustration with how tedious that can be," it says.

See also Stolen emails do not support wild claims of scientific misconduct. It seems to me too that “climate change skeptics” should be careful what they wish for, as the data they themselves use may come to us with much the same processes, and indeed is often much the same data.

I refer you again to my friend Maximos62 noting he is more qualified than I or Professor Carroll, as he does at least practise in a relevant discipline: Thoughts on Climate Change after the CRU Hacking and Climategate Anticlimax.

Finally, much more comprehensive than my contributions is star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 Copenhagen Explained on New Matilda.

Postscript

1. Noel Pearson’s piece in today’s Australian is very interesting on the politics of all this.

… Political affiliations do not completely correspond with the left-right spectrum between belief and denial.

There are individuals who confound this typology because there are political leftists who are deniers and rightists who accept the scientific evidence for man-made global warming: for example, former British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the world’s first political leader to take climate change seriously and who was instrumental in establishing the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

It is a measure of how the once politically neutral question of whether climate change was scientifically true has mutated into an increasingly polarised ideological war that the hero of conservatives worldwide is on the wrong side. If Thatcher were climbing on to the world stage today I doubt she would be batting for Clive Hamilton and Bob Brown’s team. She’d be opening the batting with Nick Minchin, and slogging Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for sixes into the stands.

Once-mild sceptics on the centre-right are being pushed further right, recoiling from the righteousness and the moral posturing of the zealots on the left.

The believers on the left seem oblivious to the extent the religious nature of their fervour alienates potential supporters. The price being paid for the West’s progressive classes re-finding God in the environment makes many a sceptic yearn for the time people went to church for spiritual succour. Natural revelation has long provenance in Christian theology, but the Greens’ religious atheism is repellent to many.

Conversely, the fact too many on the other side are animated by a wilful obscurantism and see all things through the prism of that old chestnut, political correctness, excites their opponents on the left into paroxysms of righteous rage…

See also Lenore Taylor Emissions reduction will cost even under the Liberals.

2. See An Open Letter to Congress From US Scientists on Climate Change and Recently Stolen Emails.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2009 in Australia, climate change, environment

 

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Not quite the promised climate change post

I need to pause before I attempt the summation I promised yesterday, so below I will list some additional resources.

But first some preliminary observations.

1. While “MAGIC PUDDING POLITICS” (Rudd on Brer Abbott) is not nearly as effective a mantra as “GREAT BIG TAX ON NEARLY EVERYTHING” (Brer Abbott on Rudd) the greater truth is in the Rudd mantra. The idea of a costless response to climate change is a sick joke. I do in fact believe that nuclear power should be in the mix, siding to that extent with Brer Abbott (and James Lovelock), but that has to be seen in a context too.

THE Opposition’s desire to embrace nuclear power in the absence of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax would result in electricity price rises of between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, according to estimates by the Howard government’s nuclear energy expert, Ziggy Switkowski.

In a report for John Howard in 2006, Dr Switkowski found nuclear power would never be commercially viable unless fossil fuel-generated electricity was made more expensive using an ETS or carbon tax.

This resulted in Mr Howard embracing an emissions trading scheme as a way to reduce greenhouse gases while keeping open the nuclear option for the future.

In a dramatic departure from policy, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has abandoned support for any market-based mechanism, such as an ETS or a carbon tax, as part of the Coalition’s greenhouse strategy…

2. It is such a shame the whole issue has become politicised, but I suppose that is inevitable in a democracy. Fact is, however, that there are limits to what “debate” can actually achieve in the face of phenomena that really do not depend, in the long run, on our ideological positions or the wheelbarrows we choose to push.  Dithering is one of the less savoury outcomes of a democratic process, not that I prefer the alternative really – but a country like China is actually better placed to act decisively, for good or ill. Such a shame we are mere humans and not gods, isn’t it?

3. Given the abysmal level of much of our dithering both here and overseas, and given the importance of the issue, nothing is to be gained by censorship of the kind that apparently has happened at the CSIRO or by fudging data, as apparently happened at the East Anglia CRU. While we would all do well to forget unlikely scenarios like the movie The Day After Tomorrow and must all concede that Al Gore oversimplified in An Inconvenient Truth, we should also realise that what happened at the CSIRO or East Anglia does not invalidate the overall truth of the IPCC reports. The IPCC does not engage in research; all it does is weigh the research and gather together the implications of that research for our consideration. There was much more input to its reports than East Anglia.

Hence comments like this on the latest offering (for climate change action I hasten to add) of Sojourners, a “left evangelical” site, really are tragic.

I think it is useing a lie to push their ideas. there is no man made global warming. yes take care of the environment, being a christian this should be second nature, shouldnt need to push for eco-prophets. nature changes all the time. thats life. honesty is important and there isnt much of that in this environment "emergency" that is being pushed. The other point is that the UN has no concern for the poor. they people they have chosen to make us believe in global warming are liars. and the proposals they want to accomplish will Not help the poor but make it harder for them. If you cant see that then you have blinders on.

There are so many prejudices running through that comment one hardly knows where to start.

4. Check some recent stories in the Sydney Morning Herald.

5. Realise that there are left as well as right-wing critiques of “market strategies” like cap and trade or carbon tax.

The Same Boat

Imagine 10 rabbits lost at sea, in a boat carved out of a giant carrot.

The carrot is their only source of food, so they all keep nibbling at it. The boat is shrinking rapidly – but none of them wants to be the first to stop, because then they’ll be the first to starve. There’s no point in any of them stopping unless everyone stops – if even one rabbit carries on eating, the boat will sink.

This is the international climate crisis in a (Beatrix Potter-flavoured) nutshell: action by individual nations achieves little unless we all act together. Of course, reality is a little more complex. While it’s easy to imagine the rabbits reaching a simple agreement where they all learn to dredge for seaweed instead, our situation involves massive global inequalities, differing levels of responsibility, and a history of exploitation and broken international promises.

Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the international climate negotiations – which began in earnest in 1990 with the talks that created the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – have not yet got us a workable global solution. The best we’ve managed so far has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized nations (known as ‘Annex 1’ countries) pledged to cut their CO emissions by a completely inadequate 5.2 per cent by 2012. The US famously pulled out of the deal, and most of those who remained in are unlikely to achieve even these small cuts…

Down with Kyoto

We shouldn’t get too hung up on Copenhagen – we’re far more likely to create lasting change by building powerful national and international movements than by pouring all our energy into specific summit meetings. But it’s hard to deny that we need some sort of international framework for tackling this global issue. Despite its flaws, the UNFCCC is the only one we’ve got, and the urgency of the climate issue requires us to work with it.

However, the Kyoto Protocol has been a dismal failure. Should we demand that governments scrap it completely and start again from scratch? It’s tempting, but would be unlikely to gain the crucial support of Southern negotiators, who fear that a brand new deal would see them lose their hard-won ‘differentiated responsibility’.

A better approach might be to create space within the existing talks for alternative, fairer systems and ideas – such as GDRs, Kyoto2, community-led solutions, indigenous rights, strings-free clean development assistance, patent-free technology transfer – to get a hearing. Currently emissions trading, private financing and market-based mechanisms are seen as the only route to greenhouse gas reductions, and are crowding everything else out of the debate.

This suggests a simple, effective starting point for developing a successful – and just – global agreement: we need to get rid of carbon trading…

Confused yet? One tip though: if anyone has all their ideas on the subject from Quadrant or Ms Devine or Mr Bolt they aren’t worth taking too seriously. The entries immediately above, on the other hand, are predicated on an anti “free market” perspective. They are putting their faith in sustainables as the answer. I don’t really see either as being much practical help, though more is to be said for the New Internationalist stance than Quadrant’s.

OK, I’ll try again later on…

See also: entries here tagged “environment".

 

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Everything old is new again

A couple of days ago Jim Belshaw noted:

… In choosing Mr Abbott, the Liberal Party has taken a step into the unknown. The Coalition now presents a clear alternative position to Labor. Mr Abbott is a very intelligent man, but he has also been a polarising figure with somewhat of a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, boot and all. Dull he is not.

The reactions to Mr Abbott among the party faithful on both sides can be largely predicted. What is less clear is just how he might appeal to the people in the middle.

From performance thus far I doubt very much that Tony Abbott will win over people in the middle. Rather what we are seeing is a rush towards what I  regard as the worst excesses of the post-Fraser Liberal Party. It certainly isn’t the Liberal Party I at one time long ago used to support.

Though they all do it, Tony Abbott has already displayed the mind-numbing NLP propaganda technique so loved by some politicians. He is good at it and, sadly, it can often work. Let this BNP person explain:

DEVELOPING RAPPORT: According to this theory of communication, even the most fundamental truth will have little effect unless it is presented in a manner which, by developing a substantial amount of natural rapport with the targeted audience, is capable of achieving effective persuasion. Such persuasion, moreover, is ultimately dependent upon the extent to which a sophisticated tactical flexibility is employed by the communicator to enable him to establish the necessary ‘agreement frame’ with the particular audience he wants to persuade.

How to produce this ‘agreement frame’ most effectively forms the underlying basis of the NLP philosophy. The proposed method has been aptly described by Anthony Robbins, author of Unlimited Power, as ‘Aikido politics’, whereby the communicator seeks to produce the least possible resistance in his targeted audience. The idea behind this theory is that, rather than pushing aggressively or trying to bludgeon an acceptance of an argument, a successful communication is best achieved through gently ‘aligning’ an opposing viewpoint with that of your own by finding points of agreement, and then gradually ‘leading’ the other viewpoint around to your position. By this method, it is argued, an ‘avenue of redirection’ can be created which can often adroitly sidestep any possible or expected hostile response.

By disingenuously linking the snarl-words “BIG NEW TAX ON EVERYTHING” to emissions trading and/or carbon taxes Abbott short-circuits our brains and achieves his ‘agreement frame’. He knows exactly what he is doing, even if he and most of his party actually agreed with emissions trading in some form or other just last week, and had done for several years.

Such a shame, but not surprising, that the 9-12 Liberals who would have voted FOR the emissions trading scheme in the Senate reduced in the event to TWO brave principled souls.

troethcomposite

Sydney Morning Herald – linked to story

One of them had this to say on the 7.30 Report last night:

KERRY O’BRIEN: Now, initially there were up to 12 of you in the Senate who believed very strongly – in the way that you have – but only two of you in the end crossed the floor. Why do you think the others waivered?
JUDITH TROETH: Well, up til yesterday Kerry, this was of course, or the day that we changed the leader from Malcolm Turnbull to Tony Abbott, this was of course Coalition policy that we supported the Government’s legislation. And there were other senators in my party who didn’t agree with that, and so they would have been the ones crossing the floor, as I believe many intended to do. But having taken the decision to back the legislation, I saw no reason to change my mind. If it was good enough to do it one day, in my view it was good enough to do it the next day.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Now once upon a time, you were not a believer in climate change science. Why are you now so convinced about the climate change science?
JUDITH TROETH: I have read widely and I have made my own conclusions. I lived in the country for a long time, as you know, and saw many long droughts. And by, probably about two years ago, having observed what was a very long drought, and noticed other things happening and reading widely, I decided that climate change was happening and that we should factor it into any government action…

KERRY O’BRIEN: Do you think it is too simplistic to simply summarise the whole ETS package as nothing more than a great big tax?
JUDITH TROETH: That’s a very simplistic way of putting it and it is also obviously designed to scare people. And that’s largely what the anti -campaign has been, a scare campaign.
When you think of the business investment decisions that have to be made if this legislation goes through, when you think of the way in which people need to look at climate change, we’re all going to have to pay for climate change in some way or another and this will be a feature of the future world that we look at. So we had better get used to it…

Truth-tellers are rare in politics, even if there were unusual moments of candour in the last week. Now the Libs have a virtual unity – whether real or not time will tell.

Meantime we have the “new” – Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop…

Pardon me while I get up off the floor!

Tomorrow I will do a rundown, based on my recent reading, of the probable effectiveness of climate change mitigation strategies. The only thing I have in common with Mr A is that (unlike Labor at the moment or the Greens) I would factor in nuclear energy.