Friday, July 31, 2015
Note: this article is updating with developments
Portland, Oregon: Climate protestors with Greenpeace and Rising Tide have set up a blockade to stop the Finnish ice-breaker Fennica, hired by Shell, to leave port with needed parts for their Arctic oil drilling program in the Chukchi Sea.
13 Greenpeace protestors dangled across the river below the St John's bridge with linked lines to prevent passage of the ship.
They were supported by a crew of 13 on the bridge roadway, a flotilla of kayaktivists, and people gathered in the riverside park.
The same day as the Fennica icebreaker was being blockaded in Portland, news was published that Shell is sacking 6500 workers globally due to the downturn in oil prices. Shell joined oil giants BP and Chevron in cutting costs due to a 50 per cent slump in crude prices in the past year. The company's share price rose 4.7 per cent, but the stock has still dropped 17 per cent this year, reported Bloomberg.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
The Original of this article was published at nofibs.com.au
Labor Opposition leader Bill Shorten's advocacy of a 50 per cent renewables target at Labor's National conference in Melbourne has effectively made action on climate change a policy point of difference from the Abbott government for the next election. But the target has been assessed as the bare minimum renewables target for staying on a decarbonisation path of limiting global warming to 2 degrees as agreed by the United Nations.
On thursday Bill Shorten visited the University of New South Wales inspecting the world class solar research facilities, where several significant breakthroughs in solar technology have been made, including the first photovoltaic system to achieve over 20 per cent efficiency in 1989, and the most recent achievement of a 40 per cent solar cell efficiency for converting sunlight to electricity.
Shorten reiterated that Australia could easily reach the 50 per cent renewables target based on local innovation and research.
"We have the best solar researchers in the world ... We have so much sunlight, so much wind power in this country, we would be literally crazy not to pursue more ambitious goals for renewable energy. The rest of the world is not waiting … the rest of the world is already setting [those] ambitious goals," he said according to a University media release.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
In the 2015 Australian budget $5 billion was put aside for a northern development fund. Prime Minister Tony Abbott called on Business leaders in Queensland's north to develop a plan for a power station that could be considered for funding under this new fund.
The Federal Government would like to see something like a proposal for a 800MW coal fired power station developed in the Galilee basin to provide a ready market and add impetus to the development of one of the proposed coal mines.
Detractors of the fund have labelled it a "Dirty Energy Finance Corporation".
“I’d be very surprised if we did not have, coming forward as a potential project under the Northern Australia fund, a power station,” Mr Abbott said.
“If there were to be a major new power station in North Queensland, if there were to be a more effective distribution network in North Queensland, that would be obviously a very important economic breakthrough, because power is one of the basic costs of doing business and basic costs of life. It’s very significant.” said Abbott in an exclusive interview with the Townsville Bulletin.
Of course this works in with Tony Abbott's 'Coal for Prosperity' which ignores the enormous health and climate costs of continued coal mine production.
It should come as no surprise that the Australian public enormously favours development of renewables. This is seen not only in public opinion polling on the issue, but also the rapid take up of roof top solar presently on 1.4 million Australian homes.
Recent opinion polling (21 July, 2015) by Essential Research on renewables finds that 50 per cent of Australians think that the Federal Government should prioritise support for the renewable energy industry over the coal industry. Ony 6 per cent favoured priotising coal industry, and 28 per cent thought both industries should be treated equally.
Even amoung coalition voters 39 per cent favoured renewables to 14 per cent for coal, and 28 per cent equally.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
The world is moving rapidly on withdrawing the social licence of carbon polluters. As the impacts of climate change become clearer and the urgency for rapid action impresses itself on the public psyche in the lead up to the Paris climate talks in December 2015, the major carbon polluters will increasingly find it more difficult to operate with social support.
The longer these fossil fuel companies delay making amends for the damages their businesses have already caused and will cause in the future, the more culpable they will become.
Up until relatively recently, responsibility for addressing climate change has largely been seen as the role of the Governments of nation states and the necessary multi-lateral action through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to regulate carbon pollution. But action through the UNFCCC has been extremely slow, often hindered by corporate lobbying and voting block interests.
But recent research by Heede (2014) has shown that individual investor or state owned corporations are responsible for a substantial majority of greenhouse gas pollution causing climate change. Heede's landmark paper was on Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854-2010.
Friday, July 24, 2015
One of the more interesting items in the Marshall Islands INDC announcement of climate targets in the leadup to the Paris 2015 COP21 climate conference, is the nation's interest in developing and hosting Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technology as part of it's strategy for reducing fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy.
You might ask, what the hell is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)?
It is a technology for extracting renewable energy from the ocean temperature differential between the sea surface and ocean depths of 1,000 metres or more. It works best where there is a large temperature differential of 20 degrees Celsius or more between the sea surface and ocean depths, so the technology is limited to equatorial latitudes from about 20 degrees North to 20 degrees South.
Power plants can either be land-based or floating platforms. The technology is pollution free providing baseload 24/7 power using a heat exchanger and turbine to extract power from the temperature differential between the sea surface and the deep ocean.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
The small island nation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands submitted it's climate target on 21st July 2015. It is the first small island state to set an emissions reduction target for 2025, and the first developing country to adopt the simpler and more robust absolute economy-wide target that is usually expected of industrialized countries.
The nation's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) was submitted to the United Nations as part of it's commitment to the climate summit in Paris in December 2015. It reflects a commitment to reduce emissions by 32% below 2010 levels by 2025, and a further indicative target to reduce emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. The Marshall Islands longer-term vision is to move towards net zero emissions by 2050, or earlier if possible.
Speaking to The Age newspaper, Foreign Minister Tony De Brum urged Australia to also take a leadership and set ambitious climate targets.
"It is important that Australian people understand we are not just playing footsie politics with the leaders of our big neighbour to the south," Mr de Brum said. "We are really serious about its need to contribute to our safety and future security." Brum told the Age.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Bumblebee populations in North America and in Europe are in steep decline and shrinking their ranges due to human caused climate change says new research. The study was conducted across two continents based on over 110 years of data and observations.
This has enormous implications for pollination and eco-system health, as well as for human agricultural productivity. Many trees and plants are dependant to varying extents for reproduction and fruit on pollination by insects including bumble bees.
What was thought to be just one of several factors affecting wild and domesticated bee populations, is now seen to be far more important. Factors affecting the decline of bee populations include Colony Collpase disorder, use of pesticides including neonicotinoids, habitat loss, low genetic diversity and high infection rates with the parasite pathogens, and climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge. (See my 2011 article: A dangerous sting for agriculture: climate change implicated in bee decline)
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Nobel award winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has raised the prospect of a global carbon tax lead by a 'coalition of the willing', with cross border taxes on goods from non-participating countries, as one strong measure to transition the planet to low emissions and fight climate change.
Speaking at the plenary of the Our Common Future Conference on climate science in Paris on Friday he outlined that carbon trading and the national voluntary target approach through the UNFCCC process, like we are seeing in current COP21 negotiations, have essentially failed. According to projections by Climate Action Tracker, we are still on track for 3 to 4 degrees Celsius of warming this century, overshooting the 2 degree level that was decided upon at Cancun in 2010.
Instead he argues for a global carbon price with the facility to tax or place tariffs on carbon intensive production or products at national borders as essential to discourage countries that do not have national carbon taxes or capped carbon trading or emissions reduction schemes. He thinks that such tariffs would not breach current World Trade Organisation rules on restriction of trade.
"In fact it changes the incentives, because it provides [countries] incentives to join the agreement. If they don't, effectively carbon taxes are being collected by trading partners. Their trading partners get to collect the revenue from the carbon tax and that provides them with an incentive to go on. I actually think that stronger measures should be undertaken, but this is something that can be done within the current framework." he said.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Green fields north of Rotorua and the cooling tower of Ohaaki Geothermal power station in the middle distance. Photo: John Englart
New Zealand has released it's post 2020 climate targets, but already they are being heavily criticised by civil society and scientists as far too low, even given the specific national circumstances of the high proportion of agricultural sector emissions in the nation's greenhouse gas inventory.
The New Zealand INDC (PDF) was submitted to the United Nations on Tuesday 7 July 2015. The primary post 2020 target is set at 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (which equates to 11 percent below 1990 levels).
New Zealand also has a longer term target of reducing emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. While 80 percent of it's electricity is already produced from renewables, it has pledged to increase this to 90 percent by 2025.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Preliminary climate attribution analysis done by a team of international scientists makes it clear that it is virtually certain that climate change increased the likelihood of the July 2015 European heatwave subjecting much of central Europe to elevated temperatures.
Climate scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the University of Oxford, CNRS, and MeteoSwiss examined the likely influence of global warming. The team was convened by Climate Central.
"A statistical analysis of the observations shows that the probability of observing such a heat wave has more than doubled over the past 37 years in most of the affected region. In the selected cities the increase is even stronger." says the Climate Central report.
Friday, July 3, 2015
This map shows the global temperature anomalies for July 2, 2015. You can clearly see the hotspots over the Pacific Northwest of Canada and USA, Greenland, Europe, the Central Asian republics and the Chukchi Peninsula and parts of far eastern Siberia.
There are cold spots too: parts of Alaska, the US midwest from the Great Lakes east, Russia and northern Siberia, and north eastern China and the Korean peninsula.
Averaged out, the whole globe had a +0.60C temperature anomaly.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Heatwave: hottest July day on record for Britain, Records broken in France, Red alert for Switzerland
Currently in Europe a blocking high, called an Omega Block, is situated over Western Europe due to a large bend in the jetstream causing heatwave conditions in England, Spain, Portugal, France, etc, with conditions likely to continue for at least several days.
What causes the increased waviness in the jetstream? The reduced temperature differential between the Arctic and mid latitudes. These conditions are similar to the 2003 heatwave that killed 70,000 people. People are more alert now, but there is still a high health risk, and of course an elevated fire risk. I reported on how climate change is affecting extreme weather including more intense heatwaves in Arctic amplification, the Jet stream and Extreme weather in Northern Hemisphere in March 2013.
A recent study published this year found that Seventy Five percent of heatwaves now attributed to climate change on a global level. Cities are also to get much hotter as heatwaves amplify the Urban Heat Island Effect.