Sunday, January 29, 2006

Global warming tipping point preached

The Wahington Post reckons the central debate around climate change has shifted from whether humans are causing global warming to whether its too late to do anything about it.

There has been quite the line up of highly respected climate scientists to broach the "tipping point" scenario recently. James Lovelock, developer of the Gaia hypothesis, claims in his new book The Revenge of Gaia that global warming is now irreversible. Sir Crispin Tickell, the man who convinced Margaret Thatcher that global warming was real, predicts that the human population will drop from 6 billion in 2006 to 2.3 billion people in 2206. James E. Hansen, longtime director of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and leading authority on the earth's climate system has been trying to say his piece but is being methodically silenced by the Bush Administration who are intent on controlling the message the US public gets to hear.
The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

So what should we expect to happen in the forseeable future, if we waste the next ten years and assuming it is not already too late to do something?
There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.
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Bush tries to silence top NASA climate scientist.

It's nice to know that NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet", and a shame that the US Commander-in-Chief has no such plans:
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.


"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, is a leading authority on the earth's climate system. He directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable
byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

Isn't this the same Bush who said that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside the Theory of Evolution in science classes as a competing theory?

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Earth to Bush: I'm melting!

Whatever happened to the Pentagon telling George Bush that the other GW, global warming GW, is an even bigger threat to the planet than terrism?:

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

· Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
· Britain will be 'Siberian' in less than 20 years
· Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in New York
Sunday February 22, 2004
The Observer

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

Maybe he just didn't believe the Pentagon. Well, we have had the world's hottest year on record and Hurricane Katrina since then and we can see from the US's inability to stop Iran and North Korea from steadily becoming nuclear powers that the Pentagon prediction about the emergence of rogue nuclear states is not completely improbable.

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Green electricity affordable if you try.

The Australian head of state's representative in Australia really isn't a bad old bloke. Whatever foreign royal Governor-General Michael Jeffery represents he does have his head in the right place with his Australia Day call for Australians to recognise global warming as one of the greatest threats to our future.

But when loyal subject E. Suchet of St Ives, Sydney decided to heed the Queen's man and do something about minimising global warming his enthusiasm was short lived:

Green at a premium

Our Governor-General warns us of the cost of global warming ("Our golden soil is in danger, Jeffery warns", January 27). I took him at his word, and phoned my energy company to find out the cost of getting "green" energy. I was told "20 per cent extra". So much for that idea.

Surely our governments should be encouraging the use of safer energy, and subsidising to a greater extent solar panels on roofs and water storage from gutters. Makes sense to me. When will it make sense to politicians?

E. Suchet St Ives

SMH Letters to the Editor January 28, 2006

Mr Suchet, if you conserve 20 per cent of your electricity output and buy green electricity at a 20 percent premium, then you break even, the evironment wins and you leave a better legacy for your children and grandchildren. Plus you make green energy more economical and this has a positive multiplier effect throughout society whereas exactly the opposite happens when you purchase coal generated electricity.

Don't believe you can save 20 per cent on your electricity bills? 15 percent of EnergyAustralia's customers billed by time of day are achieving exactly that under a scheme designed to stop the conservers of electricity subsidising the people with air conditioners.

A survey of 3000 EnergyAustralia customers being billed under the new time-of-use system found the average saving was about 10 per cent, compared with a flat tariff.

Almost 15 per cent of customers were saving 20 per cent or more on their bills.

But customers with higher bills used at least 50 per cent more peak-time energy than the average customer, EnergyAustralia said.

Under time-of-use pricing, the peak period is between 2pm and 8pm on weekdays, when the cost of electricity is higher than the traditional flat tariff.

For the rest of the week, the price of electricity is lower than that paid by customers under a flat tariff.

Of the 3000 surveyed, the average residential customer consumed only 21 per cent of their electricity during the peak period, compared with about 25 per cent for customers on a flat tariff.

"The feedback we have had from customers is they have been able to save money with small changes to their electricity use by simply using appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and pool pumps when power is cheaper," Mr Maltabarow said. "I don't make any apologies for mandating time-of-use across the system."

EnergyAustralia is installing "smart" electricty meters in 200,000 Sydney homes and is now able to bill heavy users, such as people with air conditioners, for their drain on the system by charging peak, shoulder and off-peak pricing periods as opposed to a flat tariff.
EnergyAustralia is also experimenting with other pricing arrangements, and hopes the move away from a flat tariff will eventually cut its ballooning capital works program, with the savings passed on to customers.

Air-conditioners are responsible for more than half the growth in peak electricity demand in NSW.

That growth is soaking up a large part of the capital spent by firms such as EnergyAustralia to deliver electricity.

The reason why is that the network has to be engineered to accommodate electricity peaks.

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Human race to drop 60% over 200 years.

When James Lovelock said last week that global warming was now irreversible, I hoped he was just pushing his new book. Now the man who convinced Margaret Thatcher that global warming was real, Sir Crispin Tickell, predicts that, in 200 years, there could be as few as 2.3 billion people because rising sea levels and temperatures will make some areas uninhabitable and, coupled with social factors, depress birth rates.
ONE of Britain's leading environmentalists will today sound a doomsday warning to the world: humanity's very existence is under threat from climate change and, even if we survive, the population will crash to about a third of its current level ...

But he also says our survival is "not guaranteed" and that the presence of humans on the planet could be "no more than a somewhat messy episode
in the history of the Earth"
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Friday, January 27, 2006

Ethanol debate: plenty more mileage left.

Alexander Farrell at the University of California Berkeley looked at six studies used to argue for and against the development of ethanol as an energy source to conclude that the current ethanol manufacture from grain is expensive and contributes to pollution and greenhouse gases but better 'cellulosic' technology will make ethanol 'a really good fuel for the United States'.
"At the moment, cellulosic technology is just too expensive. If that changes - and the technology is developing rapidly - then we might see cellulosic technology enter the commercial market within five years."
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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Greens need a heart.

The green political movement is fast finding its place as the third political force in Australia, and around the world, and realising the need to define itself into a field long dominated by a left vs. right, labour vs. capital debate. The thrust of an article by writer Hilary Burden in today's SMH is that the conservation vs. development debate is 30 years old and both sides have dug in, erected idiological walls and taken intractable positions where differences seem irreconcilable. And that the greens need to re-invent themselves to move to a more influential center much like Ariel Sharon abandoning Likud to form a new party at the center or the IRA disbanding to take an active role in democratic politics.

In a simplistic way, both greens and business alike may benefit from an intellectual de-clutter. The old wardrobe of thought edited, shaped to suit a fresh, more mature way of living in your skin; one that has the capacity to attract new, fresh responses.

What seems in the air more than ever now is that people like less being labelled green or right wing. Often their concerns meet over the fence, making the old labels seem wrong, or at least not completely right.

This strikes a cord with me as I dislike being labled either left or right wing because I can identify with aspects of both. I don't mind the green label but it would be more accurate to call me green-tinged; of course the economy is important but it exists within the environment. I am pro-business, yet abhor the corporate practice of externalising costs.

Hillary Burden argues for breaking out of old and inhibiting paridigms to see the way forward:

People need to be free to earn a living, and make money. These people may also be concerned about the environment. They are not two different breeds of people, though historically they are. All business people are not sharks, and all greens are not tree dwellers.

The debate may yet be won by people from both sides who can meet in the middle and make sense of it without calling each other names. Or using them. Start fresh and unvested.

Also in today's SMH, David McKnight makes a similar point:
But the Greens are not a rebirth of the left. In spite of their tough criticism of corporate power, they do not propose the abolition of capitalism. The clash between labour and capital is not fundamental to world view. Rather, it is about humanity's relationship with nature.

According to the Greens leader and author Drew Hutton, green politics are about "changing the nature of human relationships with the planet and other species on the planet".

The economic battle is not to redistribute wealth or abolish the market but to make the economy sustainable. Some greens have seized on the market mechanism as one way of allocating scarce resources, by attributing a much higher value to water, coal, oil and other finite resources. In its own way this is the direction of the Kyoto agreement.
He claims that the central idea of the Greens is a conservatism of a new kind, arguing that modern economics brings radical changes and political support for the Greens is the instinctive conservative reaction to this change.
An ever-expanding capitalism runs up against the environmental limits of the world and the freer play of markets and globalisation has the effect of making communal life less traditional. The security associated with regular jobs, stable community and family life and social solidarity is undermined by the spread of markets beyond the economy.

As a result of this radicalism, he argues, "what might be called philosophic conservatism - a philosophy of protection, conservation and solidarity - acquires a new relevance for political radicalism today".

The old paradigm of right, meaning conservative, and left, meaning radical, is eroding. A conservative frame of mind does not necessarily rely on the old verities of race, church and nation.
He develops his arguements well, to finish with a message to the Greens.
If the Greens are to consolidate their gains and expand, they need to recognise that part of their message is a conservative one. It is deeply attractive to certain conservative instincts and this should not be a matter for embarrassment but for celebration.

The image of green politics as left-wing and radical not only drives away potential supporters, it more importantly straitjackets new politics into old categories.
Coinciding with these articles is a release of the Australian Bureau of Statistcs (ABS) 2006 Year Book report that suggests the Greens might might find fertile ground from re-inventing, reinvigorating and re-engaging with what is the biggest block of voters:

Australians are becoming greener, older and stay married longer.

A snapshot of the nation, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006 Year Book released today, shows as the population ages, Aussies are also thinking more about the environment.

Almost three-quarters of Australians have installed dual-flush toilets, just under half of all households have water-saving showers and 16 per cent are recycling or reusing water.

Recycling has almost become universal with 98 per cent of people throwing bottles, tins and milk cartons in their coloured-lidded wheelie bins regularly.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Extreme climate change now irreversible.

Global warming has reached the point of no return and our planet can only keep heating up according to the leading scientist Sir James Lovelock who developed the theory that the Earth is like a living organism in totality. Known as the Gaia hypothesis it was first broached in 1975 and introduced the concept of the earth's biomass having homeostasis, or self-regulating feedback systems, to a non technical audience. These regulatory feedback loops maintain the conditions to sustain life on the planet.

While Gaia hypothesis has had it's critics it was a model that helped facilitate my understanding of complex interactions like the carbon cycle, so it is with interest that I note of Lovelock's predictions in his new book The Revenge of Gaia. Predictions based on his assertion that the feedback mechanisms that are used to cool the earth are now working to amplify anthropogenic warming from our CO2 emissions:
  • by 2100 Europe and southern Australia would be 8 degrees hotter than they are today
  • he cannot see the United States or the economies of China and India cutting back in time and they are the main source of CO 2 emissions
  • he predicts efforts to slow it may already be doomed
  • billions would die by the end of the century, and civilisation as it is known would be unlikely to survive
  • the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic, where the climate remains tolerable
These climate change preditions make for a gloomy outlook and I'm the glass half full type, so how much weight should The Revenge of Gaia be approached with?
Professor Lovelock is a controversial but respected scientist who gave a briefing on global warming in 1989 to the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Two years ago he caused a furore in the environment movement by urging greens to embrace nuclear power to reduce global warming gases.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

AP6 climate talks raises temperatures

The people are not fooled by the recent Sydney AP6 industry-friendly climate smokescreen as the Letters to the Editor of the SMH demonstrate:

Hot air does little to cool the greenhouse.

Along with the world's, my temperature was rising when reading the results of the government climate change junket ("Greenhouse battle handed to industry", January 13). What on earth did the government representatives actually do? The only outcome I see is that they have now officially rubber- stamped further destruction of the world's climate by the world's biggest polluting companies and countries.

My temperature finally boiled over when I read a quote from the US representative that nuclear energy would be "discussed by the renewable energy group because many people consider it a renewable source". How do you renew uranium? Is Kakadu renewable? I would laugh if I could stop crying in despair.

Damien Quinnell Menai

John Howard has just pledged to spend $1 a person a year for the next five years to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe he should spend $2.50 a person, as he did with his industrial reforms campaign, to explain why his el cheapo solution will work.

Stephen Wong Castlecrag

How could you possibly expect industry leaders to look after the health of the planet when the best they can do is to reward themselves with the highest possible salaries while their fellow workers, who are deemed lower on the status ladder, can earn up to 250 times less. Can those who think so highly of themselves be truly trusted to think of others?

Richard Nohra Hurlstone Park

Why does John Howard speak at these conferences? It would be much simpler if he rose after an American and just said "ditto".

Jim Ruxton Pymble

One hundred million dollars from our guys? That's about two Liberal government ad campaigns. And $69 million from the United States? That's about $10 million less than what they spent investigating Bill Clinton's fib and a semen stain.

Ross Sharp Toowong (Qld)

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

The office doesn't recycle? Take it to the union.

The BBC explores what roles trade unions can play in building a greener planet:
The trade union movement has a critical role to play in building a cleaner and more just planet, argues the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) in our new series of opinion pieces on the BBC News website entitled The Green Room.
It is a way for unions, who are under threat by an idiological pro-business, anti-environment government in Australia, to stay relevant in the face of their disempowerment.

In 2006 I don't need a union to negotiate my pay and conditions, but I would join a union if it meant they could put some pressure on my company and industry to conduct their business in a more environmentally friendly way. Work has no more claim on the environment than I do just because they pay me, and a union kind evens up the bargaining power.

At the recent AP6 climate talks the onus was put on companies to voluntarily do something about global warming. I can't see how this would work in the real word .... unless, of course, union were to hold business to account for their environmental impact.

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Why so damn cool about global warming?

For the life of me I can't understand why people at large are not more concerned with global warming. So I started the poll posted to the right to find answers. So far:

Quick question ...Which is your biggest fear?

Global warming



Global pandemic



Global terror



total votes: 6

powered by blogpoll

Six responses isn't going to yield much information. So, please, if you have got this far then tell me what your greatest fear is and come back after answering the poll.

So my market researcher friend doesn't point out my poll is going to show bias towards GW by virtue of the self-selecting audience of Global Warming Watch, I considered tagging this post across a broad spectrum of unrelated subjects, but reconsidered when I realised that this is spam by another name.

If you have a blog and are interested in exploring this line of enquiry then please link my post. The more respondents, the more accurate this (admittedly unscientific) survey will be. If results are promising I will ask further questions to try to understand what it is that is stopping voters worldwide from taking the effective action we need to to minimise climate change.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

AP6 a whole lot of hot air

The inaugral Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) has come up with a rather unimpressive resolve to invent new technologies to make fossil fuels 'cleaner'. To this end it is pledging $A170 million over 5 years.

Too little, too late, wrong focus. Global warming was flagged as a problem to the world by the revelations of the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990, which pointed to strong and growing evidence of temperature rise, sea level rise and other changes resulting from rising emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

That report stressed the need for a 60 to 80 percent cut in CO2 emissions just to stabilise rising atmospheric concentrations of this greenhouse gas. Australia's government responds 16 years later by pledging $A25 million for the next 5 years - their way to avoid the only real effective course of action, and that is to set an effective target for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

$A2.6 trill will suck carbon out air not ground.

'$A2.6 trillion pledged towards fighting global warming', would be a great storyline. Instead the headline is Iraq war bill could top $2.6 trillion.

Welcome to the real world but, momentarily, my reverie revived me, and I glimpsed a time when global public pressure dislodges the corporate logjam that is stopping the universal acknowledgement that we have to do something very real about combatting very real global warming.

It's not like the money could not be found, the bill has to be paid, it's just a question of priorities; saving the planet for the future or getting the oil for the now, planting trees or pushing torture, algal photosynthetic bloomings or aerial phosphorous bombing.

Ok, I know that the science of seeding oceans with iron filings to create CO2 sucking algal blooms to effect global cooling has been debunked, but the point is that this the direction this inventive, survivalistic species should be heading in.

Because even when we are wrong sometimes, we can't be as wrong spending $2.6 trillion to find out we were wrong in Iraq.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Ian Plimer cool on global warming

Professor of geology at the University of Adelaide, Ian Plimer, says since we will all be coal in a million years (ok, so I'm paraphrasing), why worry about global warming?

Does it matter if sea level rises a few metres or global temperatures rise a few degrees? No. Sea level changes by up to 400m, atmospheric temperatures by about 20C, carbon dioxide can vary from 20 per cent to 0.03 per cent, and our dynamic planet just keeps evolving.


The planet's best friend is human resourcefulness with a supportive, strong economy and reduced release of toxins. The greenhouse gases - nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane - have been recycled for billions of years without the intervention of human politics.

Ian Plimer also makes his living selling this line through the auspices of the Institute of Public Affairs, an Australian right-wing think tank.

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RealClimate, keepin' it real for 12 months

Happy birthday to a much needed climate scientists forum who are doing a great job demystifying the global warming news making it into the mainstream media every day:

RealClimate has been online for just over a year, and so this is probably a good time to review the stories we've covered and assess how well the whole project is working out.

Over the last 12 months, we've tackled a 100+ scientific topics that range from water vapour feedbacks, the carbon cycle, climate sensitivity, satellite/surface temperature records, glacier retreat, climate modellinghurricanes. We've had guest postings that span questions of Martian climate change to Arctic ozone depletion and solar forcing. We've crossed virtual swords with Michael Crichton, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, George Will, Nigel Lawson, Fox News and assorted documentary makers (though only one person ever threatened to sue us). Hopefully our contributions have interested, intrigued and occasionally amused (at least a few of you...).

Keep on keepin' it real.

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Kyoto alternative just one big emission.

A day before the inaugral Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate begins, a leader in the Australian power industry identifies that it is logically flawed.

Australia's long-awaited answer to refusing to sign and ratify the Kyoto Agreement is to be the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate where ministers from Australia, the US, China, India, Japan and South Korea will meet to blue-sky technologies that aim to capture and bury the carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels.

But this geosequestration of co2 could be a long way away. And expensive:
It could be 10 to 40 years before carbon capture and storage technologies are commercially viable and well entrenched in industry, and they could double the cost of fossil fuel power.
And, as Tony Woods of Origin Energy points out that unless we set a price on carbon, "There is absolutely no incentive for business to adopt" [such technologies], we will waste all that R&D. And time.
"You would have to put a value or a penalty on greenhouse gas emissions. You need a level playing field in terms of carbon value so the market can decide what is the lowest-cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

A research analyst at AMP Capital Investors, Dr Ian Woods, agreed, saying developing new technologies was only half the story. "The other half is the cost at which a technology can compete in the market.

"Currently there is no driver to do clean coal technology."

We've heard it all before.

Since 1990 there has been a sustained effort from beneficiaries of the status quo to undermine climate change action. The claims are documented in a 2002 Greenpeace report entitled Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobil's Corruption of the Debate on Global Warming which singles out ExxonMobil as the key corporation creating the logjam stopping progress on global warming. ExxonMobil, a.k.a. Exxon, Mobil, Esso and Imperial Oil, gave more money to the Republicans during the 2000 election cycle than any other oil company, more than $US1 million. Of its total political donations for that year, 89 percent went to Republicans. They were rewarded when Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol on 11 April 2001 and they quickly suggested:
"the U.S. should move quickly to chart a path forward that will avoid the Kyoto protocol's unrealistic targets, timetables and lack of developing country participation."
On 25 January 2002 an ExxonMobil funded lobby group Global Climate Coalition dissolved with this last public statement:
"The Global Climate Coalition has been deactivated.
The industry voice on climate change has served its
purpose by contributing to a new national approach
to global warming.

The Bush administration will soon announce a
climate policy that is expected to rely on the
development of new technologies to reduce
greenhouse emissions, a concept strongly
supported by the GCC."
Three weeks later, President Bush announced his climate policy. Believe it or not, it is the same as Australia's climate policy; we are to wait for some hitherto not-yet-invented technology to save the planet from climate change (which polluters are going to voluntarily adopt), and in the meantime reductions in emissions are to be voluntary and there will be no participation in market-based carbon trading mechanisms.

The Kyoto alternative was initially scheduled for November, 2005, then postponed, and now that Ariel Sharon is critically ill it looks like the drawcard, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has pulled out. While Sharon's health problem could not have been anticipated, shouldn't the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate at least try to keep pace with that of global warming in order to keep stretching the credulity of the public and non-scientifically informed industry leaders?

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Plan B 2.0 - Saving Civilisation - in Web 2.0

Lester Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute wants an international "Earth restoration budget" of $US161 billion ($A216 billion) a year and to fundamentally restructure the global economy to produce enough energy, food and other resources to meet the growing demands of China on the world's natural resources.
Per capita income in China would equal that of the US by 2031 if the Chinese economy continues to grow at its current pace, he said. With a projected population of about 1.4 billion at that time, a China as prosperous as the US would:
  • Burn 99 million barrels of oil a day, 18 per cent more than is now produced globally.
  • Consume two-thirds of the world's current grain harvest.
  • Use twice as much paper as the world currently produces.
  • Drive 1.1 billion cars, more than the world's 2005 fleet of 800 million - forcing it to pave roads and car parks equal to the area it now plants in rice.
"There go the world's forests," said Dr Brown, an honoured researcher who in 1974 founded the Worldwatch Institute, the first centre to focus on global environmental issues.

In a new book, Plan B 2.0, Dr Brown argues that economic growth in China and India will cause the world economy to collapse unless world leaders rapidly shift to renewable energy, resource
recycling and efficient transportation. He says the present global economic trend (Plan A) is not sustainable.

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Declaration of World Energy Independence

Greenpeace is sooo last millenium - no use saving whales if you don't have a planet to keep 'em - in 2006 CleanPeace is the buzz save-the-world organisation. Actually it is an initiative by the American Hydrogen Association to achieve energy independence, peace and a clean environment.

CleanPeace is a non-profit corporation dedicated to social action for rapid replacement of depletable fossil and radioactive fuels with clean burning, Undepletable Hydrogen (Hydrogen produced from Undepletable Resources) for:

  1. Reducing international tensions and the potential for end-less wars arising from competition for diminishing fossil and radioactive fuels;
  2. Cleaning the air, water and soil, reversing greenhouse gas accumulation and global warming, and mitigating, if not eliminating, the potentially disastrous impact of Peak Oil.
  3. Stopping proliferation of nuclear facilities that produce radioactive wastes and threaten security by sourcing materials for potential dirty bombs;
  4. Promulgating achievement of sustainable prosperity throughout the world.
  5. Reversing the petrolium driven international power shifts from the world Democracies to oil-rich dictators and multi-national syndicates that exploit peak profits from the choas of peak oil.
And they have made a Declaration of World Energy Independence, Energy Security and Sustainability which they invite you to read and sign.

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link added: RealClimate

The climate science community making science accessible to the world in real-time media cycles:
RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nature's climate change canary cooks

Pika's are related to rabbits and are considered our most sensitive climate change early warming detector
The only way is up for the American Pika as it seeks to adjust to global warming. Very sensitive to hot temperatures, their 1,200 years migration from the great American plains has found them in alpine terrain, the windswept no-man's-land above tree line, in search of their ideal cooler temperatures. This from National Wildlife Magazine entitled "No Room at the Top".

But biologists like [Chris] Ray now fear that these hearty creatures may not survive global warming. Unlike many wildlife species that are shifting their ranges north or to higher altitudes in response to changing climate, pikas and other alpine animals have nowhere else to go. In some locations, entire pika populations already have disappeared. Scientists say the animal's decline, like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, may presage problems for other species, from butterflies and birds to large mammals.

The extinction of the pika will be another harbinger of global warming.
In the Great Basin, the arid region between the Rocky Mountains and California's Sierra Nevada, pikas already are disappearing. According to National Park Service biologist Erik Beever, the mammals have recently disappeared from 8 of 25 mountainous locations where they were documented in the early 1900s. Beever, who published his discovery in the Journal of Mammalogy, says the die-off indicates that suitable habitat is shrinking. Notably, the most recent pika losses occurred at the warmer, southern end of the animals' range. "This is what you would expect from rising temperatures, a loss at the margins of their distribution," says Beever. The finding represents "one of the first contemporary examples of a North American mammal exhibiting a rapid shift in distribution due to climate."

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You need a good fisking, Minister

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology released climate figures for 2005 today forcing the Government on the back foot over it's refusal to sign up to Kyoto. I am going to fisk the response of the Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell:

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell says he recognises climate change is the biggest modern-day environmental challenge.

"I think that climate change is alarming," he told ABC radio.

"I regard climate change as the number one environmental challenge.

Ahh yes, but what premium do you put on the environment?

"The government's spending hundreds of millions of dollars through the Natural Heritage Trust, for example, on trying to maintain Australia's biodiversity, fix our rivers, maintain our forest cover.

"All of these programs will become worthless if we don't as a globe address climate change.

"It is a huge and serious challenge.

What - all your pork-barreling will have been to no avail? Naaaaaah?

"These figures add to the weight of evidence that climate change is real and it's a problem that the world needs to work together to seek to solve."

Well then, lets start with the developed world .... who make up the bulk of the emitters. It's called ratifying the Kyoto Agreement.

Australia and the United States are the only developed nations to have refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which calls on countries to cut greenhouse emissions by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Instead, the federal government has joined Australia up to a regional partnership designed to address global warming with better technology.

Er ... like what exactly? Are you talking to Bill Gates?
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which includes the US, Japan, China, India and South Korea, is due to meet for the first time in Sydney later this month.

It has been roundly criticised by environmentalists as a smokescreen to cover up a lack of real action.

But Senator Campbell said technological change was essential.

"If we don't bring forward the technologies that allow us to produce energy, but do so with much much lower greenhouse gas emissions then we won't solve the problem."

This guy is a genius.
The government argues Kyoto will not work because it does not commit developing nations to reducing emissions.

"Kyoto excludes most of the emissions in the world. It only covers just over a third of the countries of the world and ... we need something that includes all countries of the world," he said.

Sorry Ian, but if you have a good look at the map you will see Kyoto covers well 'over a third of the countries of the world' and see that of the world's largest emitters, only Australia and the US are absent from the agreement. Don't forget the US is responsible for 20% of the worlds emissions alone, and we are up there in the per capita stakes. By the way, have you seen how we have been performing in our GHG emissions relative to Kyoto targets?

Meanwhile the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) climate summary shows Australia's average temperature in 2005 was 22.89, 1.09 degrees Celsius above the international standard.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

2005 Aussie Climate Change Awards

Nobody wins the 2005 Australian, NSW & Sydney Weather Championships where that many records fell it became obvious to all spectators that the troposphere is on steroids.

Reproduced in full from the Sydney Morning Herald:


  • Australia has recorded its warmest year on record with the 2005 annual mean temperature at 1.09°C above the standard average, making it the warmest year since reliable records began in 1910.
There you go .. in October it was looking to be a runner up to 1998, by November 2005 it was neck and neck, and now we have a new winner!
  • A 1°C increase in mean temperatures is equivalent to many southern Australian towns shifting northward by about 100km
  • April had the largest Australian mean monthly temperature anomaly ever recorded, with a monthly anomaly of +2.58°C breaking the previous record of +2.32°C set in June 1996
  • The January-May period was the 2nd driest on record
  • Preliminary data indicate average total rainfall throughout Australia for 2005 was about 399mm, compared with a long-term average of 472mm


  • NSW experienced its warmest year since 1914 with an annual mean temperature 0.98 ºC above average
  • April was a record warm month for the state with maximum temperatures west of the ranges more than 3 degrees above the historic average
  • Rainfall for 2005 was average or close to average across most of the state, an average of 494mm fell across the state compared to the normal 566mm


  • In 2005 Sydney experienced its equal warmest year since records commenced in 1859
  • The annual mean temperature for the year was 19.1°C or 1°C above the historic average, and the same as 2004
  • Eight out of the top 10 warmest years have now occurred since 1988
  • Day-time maximum temperatures for the year were also the equal warmest on record with an average maximum temperature of 23.4°C or 1.3°C above the historic average and the same as 2004
  • There were 48 days during the year when the temperature did not drop below 20°C overnight (the historic average is 25 days)
  • Sydney recording its warmest April on record with an average mean temperatureof 20.9°C, or nearly 2°C above the historic average
  • For the first time in 147 years of record, the average maximum temperature for April (25.1°C) was higher than March (24.3°C)
  • The highest temperature recorded during the year in Sydney was 39.0°C on December 7 while the coldest night was 5.1°C on August 13
  • The annual rainfall for Sydney of 816mm was well below the historic annual average of 1219mm and ranked 15th driest in 146 years of record
  • Half the total rainfall was recorded in just 3 months, February, March and November with all other months recording well below average rainfall
  • One of Sydney's longest dry spells was recorded from 17 July to 31 August with only 1.6mm recorded in the 46 days
  • December 2005 was the sunniest month ever recorded in Sydney averaging 10.4 hours of sunshine per day (records since 1931)

    Annual mean temperature: average of the daily maximum and minimum temperatures
    Sydney temperatures: those taken at Observatory Hill

    These facts about the weather condition in Australia, NSW amd Sydney have been taken from the official Bureau of Meteorology site.

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How Sydney felt the heat

Letters to the Editor of the SMH give a good idea of the response of the people to last Sunday's ridiculously high temperatures:

Maureen King Lane Cove

The hottest decade, the second-hottest year, the hottest
December and the hottest New Year's Day on record. I don't suppose
anyone seriously doubts global warming anymore.

Graham Parton Junee

If the Prime Minister did not enjoy Sydney's heatwave, he might
get serious about tackling global warming. For starters, he could
support an increase in the mandatory renewable energy target and
increase funding for solar energy research. He could also live in
the Lodge and ride a bike to work.

Dan Buchler Waramanga (ACT)

With air-conditioning installed in Kirribilli House, the Lodge
and aboard the RAAF-VIP fleet and Commonwealth cars, why should
John Howard pay attention to the problems of global warming?

Michael Toohey Bronte

It was so hot I did the ironing to cool down.

Warwick Orme Annandale

Why aren't we harnessing solar power to fuel our
air-conditioners in a heatwave?

Catherine Walsh Ashfield

I am pleased to say that Catherine Walsh of Ashfield got her answer in today's Letters to the Editor:

Solar's feelgood factor

In response to Catherine Walsh's question (Letters, January 3), I
had solar panels installed at our house just before Christmas in
anticipation of a long, hot summer. These panels power the heavy
use of our air-conditioner (among other appliances) and I must say
how impressed I am by the way they harness the sun's energy. They
look cool, too.

Of course, this cost us $11,000 (minus rebate), the same price
as our kitchen and bathroom renovation, but for the long-term
feelgood factor, nothing beats solar power.

Marie dela Rama Lidcombe

In other local news - Sydney is measured as the sunniest city of the South Pacific with tomorrow expected to be even sunnier as the Earth reaches perihelion - the closest point to the sun - it is about 3% closer than winter and thus the Earth receives about 9 percent more sunshine currently:

Last month was not just very hot and dry. It was also Sydney's
sunniest on record. The city was bathed in a daily average of 10.4
hours of cloud-free sunshine during December, 2.5 hours a day more than
the historic average.

Figures released by the Bureau of Meteorology yesterday show December easily outshone September 1980, the previous sunniest month, when there were 10.1 hours of daily sunshine.

Last month was also Sydney's second hottest December, surpassed only by
December 1990. Afternoon humidity was the lowest on record for December.

Here are my reactions during and after the heatwave.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Coalition of the Unwilling goes nuclear

US Senator John McCain met with John Howard in Sydney today to discuss Iraq and Climate Change.
The senior Republican's visit precedes next week's important inaugural meeting in Sydney of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate - the US-led alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. The US and Australia have refused to sign the United Nations-backed protocol.

It also comes amid a growing domestic debate on the future of nuclear power in Australia as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Several Howard Government ministers have advocated the use of nuclear energy as one way to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
My understanding of nuclear power is that it does not come cheaply and that the issue of getting rid of the radioactive waste has not been solved.

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Life in a greenhouse is boring: witness

Day one of 2006 and Sydney learns what life as an incarcerated tomato is like. You can't move when the heat is 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) for six hours because movement makes you even hotter. Going out in the direct sun when the UV index is 12 feels suicidal and you start to appreciate that the sun is a giant nuclear reactor. In two minutes you can feel the sun's rays start to sting. It takes an eternity to cool down once back inside. I've practiced some Bikram Yoga in the last few years - 90 minutes of fast paced yoga in a room warmed to 38 degrees C and with humidity pumped up to 80% sometimes - but it's a 'cakewalk' compared to getting through yesterday. They say the body likes to maintain it's core temperature at 37 degrees C but when it is 44 outside you can't even consider getting into a hot car and driving over to the pool you have been invited to - and with the UV so high the beach is out unless you go swimming in a burka. No airflow in the darkened house allowed; that is dragon's breath coming through. All you can do is stare at your struggling fan - and go and lie in a cold bath, as motionless as a tomato when it all becomes too unbearable.

Cautious about being alarmist I fought the natural tendancy to consider that the heat is a consquence of global warming but the now the CSIRO say to expect more extremely hot weather like this as the globe warms.
According to CSIRO projections, it will not just get hotter in Sydney. There will be less rain, but winds will be stronger and extreme weather events such as floods and hailstorms will be more frequent. And if hot days fall during the working week rather than at weekends or on public holidays the city's electrical infrastructure will face greater difficulties than those experienced on the weekend.
On the bright side, if January 1, 2006 really is a harbinger of things to come then maybe Sydney will be moved (during the cool spells) to do more now to address the extremes of global warming later.

I found another Sydney blogger who reports her horror heat story on Jan 1:

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006 Green Resolution: Plant a few trees

All the energy I will use getting through 2006, coal and oil basically, leaves a carbon footprint that one can calculate. To absorb that carbon back from the atmosphere I can plant some trees or get Greenfleets Australia to plant them for me. Their tree planting is planned restorative planting that will also help to tackle salinity, improve water quality and provide essential habitat for native species. They have planted more than 2 million trees on behalf of Australian motorists and fleets since 1997, mixed native species with up to 12 varieties that will grow to maturation leaving a positive legacy for our children.

That and the change to ethanol blended fuel will help me minimise my ecological footprint.

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2006 starts with record temperature high

It's 10:40am on the first day for 2006, and it feels like it is going to be a hot one. The hottest one since records started being kept at Observatory Hill in 1858 according to the Bureau of Meteorology who yesterday predicted Sydney would reach a maximum temperature of 41 degrees.

I am five minutes walk from Bondi Beach and one minute from Sydney Harbour so temperatures here will be moderated (if that term still applies) by the ocean and harbour, but inland, in Liverpool, Penrith and Richmond, the mercury is expected to rise to 43 degrees celsius.

"It will be extreme," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Bob Moore predicted.

"Looking back at the records, there haven't been that many days over 30 degrees [on New Year's Day], only five or six in all the years recorded, so it does stand out a bit."

The hottest New Year's Day ever recorded was in 1928 when the maximum temperature soared to 38.1 degrees while the second hottest day was in 1977, when 36.9 degrees was reached.

I am made doubly conscious of the heat writing a blog called Global Warming Watch, so as a citizen environmentalist I ask whether today is a harbinger of global warming? Maybe that of a warmed up globe, but there is no evidence that today's expected record will be a result of anthropomorphic warming. Not unless GW is causing the winds to fail:

Records were expected to be smashed because the cool sea breezes that usually keep temperatures down in Sydney would disappear today, Mr Moore said.

Inland winds from the north and the west would gust up to 20 knots. Relief was not expected until midnight tonight when a classic southerly buster with winds of up to 30 knots would chase back the heat.

Going outside for 30 seconds you can feel the sun's rays going straight through your body, like you would imagine an x-ray does. There is no alternative but surrender to the heat. Memories of long summers at Airlie Beach, Queensland when the only job that made sense was that of the windsurfing instructor.

Humidity is going to increase the risk of severe bushfires and I quickly take my sunhat off to our 4000 volunteer firefighters who are prepositioned around the state.
Increasing the fire risk was an expected halving in the humidity from just under 70 per cent yesterday to a mere 35 per cent today.
Between Rural Fire Service and the Australian Surf Lifesaving Association is due a lot of gratitude over the summer months. Iconic symbols of community mindedness volunteering their all in some cases, so the rest of us can continue to enjoy our iconic lifestyles. I have no doubt these types of volunteer organisations will become of vital importance down the track as climate change starts to take hold.

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