Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Take Action - Switch Off Hazelwood

On Sunday Sept 13, people from across Victoria will gather to protest the extension of life given to Australia's most greenhouse polluting power station.

More information on how to join the protest is here: http://www.switchoffhazelwood.org/

The organisers are also looking for the action to be endorsed by more goups . . . http://www.switchoffhazelwood.org/endorsements.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Slamming the climate sceptic scam

Post from Jim Hoggan's blog explaining climate change scepticism in the context of public relations. The PR practitioner's task is to move the public perception in the desired direction, i.e. one that is more favourable to the client. A couple of points he makes:
  • climate change believers include the 2,500 scientists in the IPCC, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada, and the editor-in-chief of Science magazine;
  • University of California, San Diego science historian Dr. Naomi Oreskes had published an analysis in Science in which she had combed through 928 peer-reviewed climate studies published between 1993 and 2003 and found not a single one that disagreed with the general scientific consensus.
  • the environmental movement isn't blameless either: 'You could also criticize environmentalists, whose tendency has been to stray too far in the other direction, extrapolating scientific assumptions to create scare stories so dispiriting that they create apathy rather than activism. These, in turn, have made easy targets for the energy industry's climate change deniers.'

Read the rest of this post.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Top 10 environmental policies

The top 10 environmental policies in the Clean Energy & Security bill currently before the US Congress:
Invest in Clean Energy: Invests $190 billion into clean energy like wind, solar, geothermal and advanced coal technology.
Cuts Foreign Oil: Invests $20 billion in advanced fuel efficient vehicles like plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars and trucks
Reduces Carbon Pollution: For the first time, puts a cap on the carbon pollution causing global warming—reducing carbon and other heat-trapping pollutants 83 percent by 2050.
Creates Jobs, Trains Workers: Will create millions of new clean energy jobs that can’t be sent overseas to China and India, and provides $865 million in job training assistance for America’s new clean energy workers.
Builds a Smarter Grid: Encourages a Smart Grid that uses E-Chips—electricity computer chips—and other technologies in appliances, homes and businesses that will empower consumers to save money and energy using Internet and other telecommunications technologies.
Efficiency Savings: Saves consumers $69 billion annually by 2030 by making our buildings, homes, appliances, and lights use less energy. New buildings and homes will be 50 percent more efficient by 2016, and old buildings will be retrofitted with energy-saving technology.
Saves Families Money: Provides hundreds of dollars in energy rebates annually to low-income families and helps all families reduce their electricity bills. Cumulative energy cost-savings would total more than $4,000 per household by 2030.
Price Spike Protection: Over 50 percent of the program is dedicated to protecting consumers from the price spikes typical of the old energy economy.
Funds New Technologies: Establishes a “Clean Energy Bank” to leverage $75 billion in loans to fund established clean energy technologies like wind and solar, and to breakthrough technologies that have yet to be invented.
Fiscally Responsible: The Congressional Budget Office found Waxman-Markey will not raise the federal budget deficit.
Makes the CPRS look pretty lame! I have abbreviated this list - the full one is in Ed Markey's Daily Beast blog (scroll down). Brought to my attention in Al Gore's blog.

Syndication for these blogs:

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Politics, technology and the environment

Interesting post from the Dot Earth blog on geoengineering and research funding. The former is being advocated by the American Meteorological Society, the latter by 34 American Nobel Prize winners and the Federation of American Scientists. Geoengineering has its critics, and the AMS is not advocating it as the answer, but as a backstop strategy. (I came across a good post on carbon sequestration also, by way of contrast.)

As for funding - the climate and energy bill that recently passed through the US House of Representatives did not include research dollars. Unfortunately, while the development of technologies like photovoltaics requires continuing funding, "politics is about building short-term coalitions by satisfying demands presented by influential players, from coal companies to unions". We may not be able to do it without the scientists and engineers, but we can't do it without politicians either - although some may disagree there.

350 Climate Action in China

"This past weekend, students from all over China came together for the first-ever youth organized conference on climate change and energy. This event, put together one of our closest friends, the China Youth Climate Action Network, provided youth leaders with workshops, lectures and field trips, to educate and empower. You could feel the energy in the room, as the future leaders of China found new ways to make their voice heard." Rest of the post from the 350 web site. China gets some stick for being an A grade (aggregate) polluter, but there are also groups like the Network & the Green Long March which are trying to be part of the solution.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Kevin Rudd's blog and Twitter page

Kein Rudd has started a blog, with an RSS feed. (I have put the link in the link list for future reference.) The current blog "Focus on climate change" is only open until Wednesday 22 July 2009. The link to register and post your comments is here. KR obviously wants to be PM 2.0 as he also has a Twitter page.

Meet VicForests - Victoria's biggest Wally with water . . .

The Wilderness Society aims for at least 3,000 signatures to it's latest online campaign petitioning Mr Brumby to stop the logging of our water catchments. Please add your name.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Low carbon way 'to reshape lives' in UK

Ambitious plans to generate one third of UK electricity from renewables by 2020 form the centrepiece of government plans for a low carbon future.
Financial packages for wind and wave energy and changes to planning procedures are among key components of the Low Carbon Transition Plan.
"Smart" meters are to be deployed in 26 million homes by 2020. The government says the plan will create up to 400,000 "green jobs" without a major hike in energy prices. Hope Kevin and Penny read the rest of this story from the BBC Science & Environment web site. How about some targets, guys?

And a follow-up commentary on the LCTP containing a useful overview of the plan - introduction of special interest to cyclists!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Australian Town, State Government Ban Bottled Water

An Australian town has banned bottled water, claiming to be the first in the country to revert to the tap for the sake of the environment and prompting the nation's largest state government to stop buying bottled water.

Residents of rural Bundanoon, a picturesque, tourist destination 150 kms (93 miles) southwest of Sydney, voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to rid the town of bottled water to combat the carbon footprint from bottling and transporting it.

Local businesses in the town of 2,500 people have agreed to replace all single-use bottles with reusable bottles that can be filled from water fountains and to bear the loss of sales.

"Bottled water has a role to play in various parts of Australia and many parts of the world but we don't really need it as we have a wonderful municipal water supply," local businessman Huw Kingston, who led the campaign, told Reuters.

"We're not a bunch of raving greenies but this is us showing we can work together as a community for sustainability."

Full story.

Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters.

Is a two degree rise small enough?

The G8 leaders' recent announcement setting a limit of two degrees to global warming above today's global average (and cuts in emissions by 2050) is the subject of a blog post in the NYT's Dot Earth blog. Andrew Revkin explores the pros and cons of setting targets like two degrees; 'It’s not hard to find climate scientists and policy experts who strongly feel the world needs to move rapidly to curb emissions, but who say there are no such clean lines. Some go further, saying that setting such thresholds can be counterproductive.' Quotes from various sources illustrate some of the issues with the announcement.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Greenpeace publicises 350

Check out this 3.5 minute video of Greenpeace activists abseiling down Mount Rushmore to hang a huge banner saying 'America Honors Leaders, Not Politicians: Stop Global Warming'. Tweeted to the 350 Twitter site.

Cash for clunkers program

An federal program in the USA is offering cash incentives to drivers of petrol-guzzling old cars to upgrade their car. Owners of cars built since 1984, with fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less, can pe paid up to $4,500 purchase a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Details in this Reuters story.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Preserving biodiversity helps prevent the spread of disease

'New Scientist shows us another reason why preserving biodiversity is so important: Preventing the spread of diseases from animals to humans. A new paper from scientists at Portland State University looks at the spread of the Sin Nobre Virus, otherwise known as the Hantavirus (which kills about 500 people per year in the US) and found that increased biodiversity limited the spread of the virus among deer mice. It's the droppings of the deer mice which spreads the disease among humans:

Low Diversity = High Disease
The researchers made the connection between increased mammal diversity and lower infection rates among deer mice after conducting field work in Portland's parks for the past four years. In place where mammal diversity was lowest infection levels increased dramatically.' Read the rest of this post from Treehugger. Good to have some (more) positive consequences of successfully limiting climate change to point to.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Is climate the new asbestos?

"Just hours after the United States House of Representatives passed legislation curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, business groups were talking about going to court. The US Environmental Protection Agency proposition that greenhouse gas endangers public health and contributes to global warming is expected to result in a tsunami of litigation. [ ... ] Elsewhere, climate change litigation is shaping up as an issue that will tie up the judiciary, companies and politics worldwide for years. While other sectors of the global economy are bracing for the negative impact of government legislation on climate change, the litigation industry is set to boom." Among its clients may be 'climate refugees' like Torres Strait Islanders suing for relief. Read the rest of this article by Leon Gettler on the back page of the Business Age.

Energy independence day for US community college

The Taos campus of the University of new Mexico is completely powered by a 500kw solar array. Any unused energy goes back into the grid. (Hope they get a gross feed-in tariff!) Maravilloso! The Read the full story from Tree Hugger blog.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Science at the bleeding edge

A post looking at the role of controversy in science. All right, it may not sound that rivetting, but it's really interesting. A taste:

'The vast majority of mainstream media items about science are related to new hot-off-the-press studies, often in high profile journals, that report a new breakthrough, or that purportedly overturn previous ideas. However, while these are exciting news items, this preponderance of coverage given to these state-of-the-art studies compared to assessments such as from the National Academies, can give a misleading impression about the state of a scientific knowledge. The more mature and solid a field, the less controversy there is, and thus the fewer news stories. Ironically, this means the public is told the least about the most solid aspects of science.

One effect of this tendency is that quite often news stories are focused on claims that turn out to be wrong, or if not actually wrong, heavily reduced in importance by the time the dust settles.' Rest of the story at RealClimate blog.

Tropical zone expanding due to climate change

'Climate change is rapidly expanding the size of the world’s tropical zone, threatening to bring disease and drought to heavily populated areas, an Australian study has found.

Researchers at James Cook University concluded the tropics had widened by up to 500 kilometres (310 miles) in the past 25 years after examining 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

They looked at findings from long-term satellite measurements, weather balloon data, climate models and sea temperature studies to determine how global warming was impacting on the tropical zone.

The findings showed it now extended well beyond the traditional definition of the tropics, the equatorial band circling the Earth between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.' Read the rest of this story at Grist blog. Ironic that I'm reading about an Australian research study (James Cook University) from an American blog; they got it from Agence France-Presse.

Cement not in stone

A privately owned Melbourne company about to bring low-carbon cement into commercial production has taken issue with the government's proposed emissions trading scheme, saying it offers no incentive to the incumbent cement producers to lower emissions and might even allow them to collect windfall profits from gaming the system.

Zeobond, a company established and owned by the family of University of Melbourne professor Jannie van Deventer, has developed a product called E-crete. It claims 80 per cent less emissions are produced than conventional cement. E-crete is created by using geopolymers and a less emission-intensive chemical reaction than conventional cement, which releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide -- one tonne of carbon for every tonne of cement -- mostly when limestone is broken down using extreme temperatures. It is estimated that three tonnes of cement are produced per person, per year. It is now estimated as the third-largest human contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Professor van Deventer's concern with the proposed ETS is that the cement industry has convinced the government there are no low-emission alternatives, and because it is treated as an emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industry, it will get 94.5 per cent compensation through free permits.

Read the rest of this story from The AustralianFurther story about Zeobond from Ecos magazine (NB .pdf file). Thanks Julia for forwarding these.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Safe Climate Australia - new group with a Climate Transition Plan

A new group with a practica; mission and approach. Found by people like Ian Dunlop and suppported by Al Gore . . .

Safe Climate Australia and the Safe Climate Transition Plan will encompass an all-sector approach including stationary energy, energy efficiency, housing and commercial buildings, transport, industrial and extraction processes, land use and agriculture. The plan will be developed with the intention of protecting and enhancing the key economic, social and environmental parameters of Australian society, including the maintenance of a high standard of living, security of energy and food supply, access to mobility and comfort and well-being for all.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

ACF busts the big polluters’ climate myths

Press release from the Australian Conservation Foundation. Date: 3-Jul-2009

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) will be busting the big polluters’ myths about climate change and the economy this weekend, taking out full page advertising space in some of the country’s largest newspapers.

ACF will place ads in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier Mail and The Canberra Times tomorrow, Saturday 4 July.

“Leading scientists and economists agree that strong and immediate action on climate change will create jobs for Australians and help secure our economic prosperity,” said ACF executive director Don Henry.

“Big polluters are making mythical claims of financial disaster as a consequence of action on climate change in an attempt to weaken Australia’s response to the climate crisis.

“Big polluters are loading the problem of climate change onto the rest of us, instead of doing their fair share.

“We’re placing these ads to expose the big polluter myths and tell them it’s time to stop holding up progress and do their share,” Mr Henry said.

The advertisements follow the historic passing of climate legislation in the US House of Representatives, placing increasing pressure on the Australian Government to strengthen its climate legislation.

“Our politicians need to stand up to the plate and reduce assistance to polluters and put more money towards clean energy jobs,” Mr Henry said.

“We need investment in energy efficient production and effective climate legislation to cut greenhouse pollution, so Australia can have a credible voice at climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.”

Friday, 3 July 2009

Planetary Boundaries and the New Generation Gap

Long and thoughtful post from Worldchanging . An excerpt to give you the flavour:
'We can't simply plan to cut our own impacts down to a level that could be shared by everyone over the next four or five decades. Even if we had that long a time to reduce our impacts -- and we don't -- there is no way the rest of the word can get stable and sustainably prosperous in that time frame unless we lead the way right now. Anything less than an all-out effort now is morally inexcusable. Small steps, incremental reductions, slow plans -- unless these are tied to big, systemic and quick solutions, they will not be enough. We need a bright green future, right now.

All that is the bad news.

Here's the good news: We can build that bright green future. We have the technological prowess, the design insight and even many of the working examples we need to transform our systems and reinvent our cities. We have the money. We may even be gaining the most needed components, vision and political will.

Here's the better news: Not only can we build it, but we'll be better off when we live in it.'

How to talk to a climate change sceptic

Wish the Chief Scientist had a copy of this Grist blog post when she talked to Steve Fielding! (Although I think Steve is one of those people who look for evidence which confirms their prejudices and screen out evidence that contradicts them.) I think this piece is a useful summary of the major "But ..." statements and evidence refuting them. The author is following up with an occasional series tracking and responding to the latest misinformations.

Good news story: greening of China

China is usually seen as one of the black hats in the global warming movie, particularly when it comes to global agreements. ("We shouldn't do anything unless China does" being climate sceptic code for "we don't want to do anything".) But although China's aggregate emissions put it in the big league, the green movement in China is growing rapidly, and is in some ways ahead of the West. As this New York Times article points out, 'While the House of Representatives approved a requirement last week that American utilities generate more of their power from renewable sources of energy, [ ... ] China imposed such a requirement almost two years ago.'

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Good news story; cars, smart grid and clean tech

Encouraging post in Grist weblog about how the Obama administration has unblocked the US$25 billion in funds to the car industry that had been provided in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. To be used for supporting electric car manufacturing and increasing energy efficiency in car plants.

Why couldn't we have put aside a few billion for energy efficiency, retraining or green industry in Australia instead of giving everyone $900 to pay off their mortgage or buy a plasma screen TV! Someone please tell me I've missed an important announcement & I'm just an old whinger (OK, middle-aged).

Sea level rise estimates; too conservative?

A well-written but rather gloomy story from the New Scientist about estimated rises in sea level. The 2007 IPCC report forecast a sea level rise of between 19 and 59 centimetres by 2100, but this excluded "future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow". The Victorian Government climate change green paper (.pdf file) has assumed sea level rises in the forecast range. However, much more is now known, & it isn't looking good.