Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Paradox of Antarctic Sea Ice 2: Research vessel trapped by summer sea ice

I came across an article lambasting the Australian Antarctic Expedition scientists on board the MV Akademik Shokalskiy trapped by fast ice since Christmas Eve in the Commonwealth Bay region of Antarctica. Climate scientists and tourists are on board the vessel on the Spirit of Mawson voyage, retracing Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition.

The ship found itself locked in thick ice after experiencing blizzard conditions which moved and piled up ice flows.

Ships can get trapped by pack ice in polar waters very quickly during blizzards. Pack ice moves around with wind conditions, and it is not uncommon for ships to become temporarily locked in the ice even during peak summer conditions in Antarctica.

But Daniel Greenfield seems to think a ship trapped in Antarctic summer sea ice is a negation of global warming and the science involved in climate change. He is not alone...

Related: Oliver Millman: Five basic Antarctic facts for climate change sceptics | Giles Parkinson: Australia, 'hostage to climate change madness'? To say so is madness indeed

Sunday, December 29, 2013

India innovating with solar PV, poised to become a global solar leader

Yesterday I saw an image shared on my Facebook timeline. It was of solar PV panels installed over an irrigation canal in India. This has the obvious advantage of a double impact for sustainability. Low carbon power is generated by the panels feeding into the transmission grid, and the panels shade the water in the irrigation canal reducing evaporation loss thus saving a scarce resource used for drinking and agriculture.

I googled for more information and posted the image in a tweet. This has become one of my most popular tweets to date, obviously striking a responsive nerve.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Australia's coal expansion risks stranded assets

Australia's headlong expansion of coal mining for export carries substantial investment risks of stranding assets says a new report from Oxford University. Previous warnings regarding potential risks of a carbon bubble have been made by Carbon Tracker, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and International Energy Agency (IEA).

During December 2013 the Abbott Federal Government gave approval for massive coal port expansion in Queensland at Abbot Point and expansion of coal seam gas (CSG) facilities in Gladstone. It also approved the third coal mine to operate in the Galilee basin 450km from the coast. Environmental approval processes were also passed to the authority of State Governments to streamline further mining approvals, as well as Federal funding immediately cut to Environmental Defenders Offices in each state.

In the conclusion of the report on the risk of stranded assets, Ben Caldecott, James Tilbury and Yuge Ma state:

"It is clear that China’s coal demand patterns are changing as a result of environment-related factors and consequently less coal will be consumed than is currently expected by many owners and operators of coal assets. Given China’s growing role as the price setter in global and regional coal markets; falling demand will, all things being equal, reduce coal prices. This would result in coal assets under development becoming stranded, or operating mines only covering their marginal costs and subsequently failing to provide a sufficient return on investment."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dark Money - Who funds Climate Change Deniers in the United States?



A new peer reviewed study exposes the major sources of funding of climate deniers in the United States and methods developed more recently to hide this funding as 'dark money'. The study was done by Robert J Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University College of Arts and Sciences and published in Climatic Change.

The major findings of this study reveal that Conservative foundations have bank-rolled the climate change denial countermovement. Although the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil have publicly reduced funding from 2007, this occurred at the same time as a dramatic rise in funding through untraceable sources such as Donors Trust. Most funding for climate denial efforts is now publicly untraceable.

This well funded counter-movement has been successful at muddying the waters of public discourse on climate change even though there is an overhelming consensus among climate scientists and the general science community. Drawing upon conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians it has been able to block effective action by the US Federal government and Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ice Sheets and Sea level: what the past tells us is likely.



Watch this informative video By Peter Sinclair and the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media on ice sheet collapse and sea level rise and past climates.

"We are still potentially underestimating the instability of the ice sheets" informs Stefen Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the oceans from Postdam University. "The IPCC has greatly revised it's estimates of how unstable the Greenland ice sheet was"

Dr Richard Alley in a graph illuminates that on current CO2 levels we can expect sea level rise to impact 10 per cent of the Earth's population, hundreds of millions of people. He says in the video that "Greenland is very tightly tied to temperature, and if it gets too hot, it goes away".

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guest Post: Reversal of sea level rise co-ordinated planning increasing risk to Australian coastal development

Sea level rise is perhaps one of the greatest perils of climate change over the long term according to Dr Peter Ward. The rate of rise will start relatively small and accelerate over this century and the following ones. The latest IPCC report projects sea level rise at 28-98 centimeters by the year 2100, and while this is more than the previous report, there is considerable doubt that this may be still unduly conservative. We simply do not know and understand the complexities of ice sheet disintegration - a non-linear process.

A survey of scientists researching in the sea level field - Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300 - found that sea level rise is likely to be 70-120 centimeters by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions are not mitigated. A few like James Hansen think that it could be substantially higher.


The Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said in a media release:
The experts were also asked for a “high-end” estimate below which they expect sea-level to stay with 95 percent certainty until the year 2100. This high-end value is relevant for coastal planning. For unmitigated emissions, half of the experts (51%) gave 1.5 meters or more and a quarter (27%) 2 meters or more. The high-end value in the year 2300 was given as 4.0 meters or higher by the majority of experts (58%).

And yet here in Australia we see the Federal Government dropping the ball in co-ordinating coastal planning, and State Governments also withdrawing, leaving planning up to local Government which largely lacks the resources and cannot afford to carry the risk of inappropriate planning and development on our coasts. Queensland is just the latest Government to absolve itself of this planning responsibility.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Solar PV Panel installations in Fawkner exceed 5 per cent of dwellings

In my travels around the internet I found this site put together by the Australian PV Institute showing the level of installation of solar photovoltaic panel installation by postcode or Local Government area.

In Fawkner there have been about 246 solar PV installations. This amounts to approximately 5.4% of the estimated 4520 dwellings in our suburb with an installed capacity of 571kW.

This is lower than the Moreland average of 6.1%. Moreland Local Government Area (LGA) and is also below other municipal areas in Melbourne's north. Maribyrnong has 7% solar installation, Moonee Valley is on 6.5%, Darebin is on 6.9%, Banyule on 6.7%, Whittlesea on 9.7%, and Hume on 11%.

Hundreds rally to oppose brown coal allocation and export from Victoria

Hundreds rallied outside the Victorian Parliament House opposing plans for brown coal allocation and development for a coal export industry from the La Trobe Valley and Gippsland.

Currently 13 billion tonnes of brown coal is being considered for allocation by the Napthine conservative state Governmnet, despite the impact of this in carbon emissions on climate change and increasing temperatures and extreme weather. As well as the allocation of coal licences, $90 million of Federal and State subsidies are also up for grab. Does subsidising brown coal make sense when we should rapidly be transitioning to renewables?

Already 8,000 people have signed a petition against the coal allocation and coal exports, with 3,000 of those signatures being given to Labor to table in parliament later this week.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Guest Post: Philippines steps up restoration of mangroves as defence against typhoons, tsunamis, sea level rise

Coastal ecosystems are important for providing a range of services that tend to be taken for granted, even ignored as coastal development is promoted at the expense of salt-marshes, mangroves, and seagrass meadows. One of the more important roles for salt-marshes and mangroves is as a natural shield against typhoons and tsunamis, such as Typhoon Haiyan which recently devastated parts of the Philippines. Restoring mangroves helps build resilience to these communities, providing jobs and income in the short to medium term, and providing the opportunity for long term sustainability as well as being significant blue carbon sinks. Lindsay Stringer, Professor in Environment and Development and Director of Sustainability Research Institute at University of Leeds, and Steven Orchard, PhD Candidate at University of Leeds, report:

Mangroves, nature's shield against typhoons and tsunami

By Lindsay Stringer, University of Leeds and Steven Orchard, University of Leeds

Following typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines’ Department for Environment and Natural Resources has earmarked around US$8m to fund efforts to replant much of the affected coastal zone with mangrove forests. Reforesting these coasts with 19m trees, particularly the extensively damaged islands of Leyte and Samar, is a key part of bolstering the first line of defence against future storms. Reports suggest up to 80% of the money is likely to be channelled to residents to engage them in tree planting activities as part of the country’s cash-for-work programme.