Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Boroondara low carbon strategy

City of Boroondara passed a low carbon strategy last night. The final plan is yet to be released but the draft plan (NB .pdf file) is available on the Low Carbon Future Draft Strategy page.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A postage stamp a day

Al Gore's blog has a good way to put the costs of the American Clean Energy Security Act currently being debated in the USA. At an estimated $175 per family in 2020, that equates to a postage stamp a day. That gets you a $40 benefit for using less foreign oil and helps create green jobs. As they say in the States - you do the math!

Good News dept. - organic farming gets a boost

Organic farming has been derided as too inefficient to replace conventional agriculture, reliant on agrichemicals and biotechnology. However, a recent post in challenges this view. A report published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (NB .pdf file) finds organic agriculture competitive with the agribusiness way. Originally posted in Grist blog in the context of a piece about Nina Federoff, Hillary Clinton's chief technology adviser (who supports organic farming about as much as Peter Batchelor supports solar power).

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Copenhagen Synthesis Report

'In March the biggest climate conference of the year took place in Copenhagen: 2500 participants from 80 countries, 1400 scientific presentations. Last week, the Synthesis Report of the Copenhagen Congress was handed over to the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen in Brussels. Denmark will host the decisive round of negotiations on the new climate protection agreement this coming December.

The climate congress was organised by a "star alliance" of research universities: Copenhagen, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Tokyo, Beijing - to name a few. The Synthesis Report is the most important update of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report. [ ... ]

From a natural science perspective, nothing stops us from limiting warming to 2ÂșC. Even from an economic and technological point of view this is entirely feasible, as the report clearly shows. The ball is squarely in the field of politics, where in December in Copenhagen the crucial decisions must be taken. The synthesis report puts it like this: Inaction is inexcusable.' Read the full blog posting with links to other material at RealClimate.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

New York's Carbon Counter

click on the counter to view the live version

New Yorkers leaving Penn station and the tenor Andrea Bocelli's concert at Madison Square Garden stadium were confronted with an unusual advert yesterday – a huge sign showing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Updated in real time, using projections from monthly measurements of CO2 and other greenhouse gases by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Carbon Counter is designed to get everyone to reduce their emissions.

Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank's asset management division, which put up the 21-metre sign, said: "Carbon in the atmosphere has reached an 800,000-year high. We can't see greenhouse gases, so it is easy to forget that they are accumulating rapidly."

Yesterday the counter, which uses 40,960 low-energy LEDs and carbon-offsets its electricity usage, gave a figure of 3.64tn tonnes.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Climate Nightmare is Upon Us

This may go down as a landmark speech on the state of our planet. Not just on climate change but the bigger picture too.

Being given today at the National Press Club: http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/06/17/milne-the-climate-nightmare-is-upon-us/

Here's a video of the speech:

Senator Christine Milne - Press Club Address June 2009 from Christine Milne on Vimeo.

Significant new report on Climate Change in the US

Opening salvo in the Obama adminstration's attempts to steer a new course on climate change in said country? He's in the ship's control room, now he has to wrestle to get his hands on the helm.

Climate Change Impacts in the United States

Monday, 15 June 2009

Power Boss in Terror Threat

Green Terrorism has no place.

Fear and intimidation of individuals is abhorrent in a civilised society. The Power boss of Hazelwood does not consume all that electricity we all do. It is the fault of our government for failing to legislate higher emissions standards for power plants as Hazelwood , keeping it open when it should be shut, not the man who is providing for his family.

However desperation leads to desperate acts. Politicians are arguing amongst themselves about schemes which will make little difference whilst extinctions are happening now and our chances of rescuing the situation are diminishing with every day.

We need to demand an increase in energy prices. The Earth can no longer absorb our debt and has already exceeded her credit limit.

Climate Change Groups need to publicly state that this action is abhorred and demand it stop.

Green Terrorism has no place.

Sue King

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

How Carbon Markets Can Make Both Economic and Ecological Sense

"Preserving forests might make economic sense for governments and forest dwellers, and it could also help preserve the habitats of endangered mammals such as orangutans and elephants, according to a study released this week.
The study, published in the journal Conservation Letters, is part of a larger effort by conservation organizations to protect tropical forests from the industries that threaten them by using charismatic species to harness public support and generate money for conservation." Read the rest of this story from the New York Times' Dot Earth blog.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Values vs. Data in Environmental Care

"Some people attack the modern environmental movement for tending toward religious/values arguments these days. Is that trend, in fact, under way? Is it a bad thing?" Brief post about the role of values in environmental discourse from the Dot earth blog.

A Positive Post Carbon Society?

A bit of thinking has been going on at Lighter Footprints about how to positively visualise a "Post Carbon Society". How can people can visualise themselves living and working in a low carbon economy? How will it affect lifestyles? What will people actually be doing (rather than not doing)? What will we be taking on (not giving up)?

A book not specifically on "post carbon living" but with some linked propositions is

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2009). The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. London: Penguin Books.

Google books link here. http://www.google.com.au/books?id=qqt7OAAACAAJ&dq=the+spirit+level+why+more+equal+societies

Review link here. http://reviewsien.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/the-spirit-level/

Other more specific thinking on the Post Carbon Society can be found in journals like 'Future'.Some articles with abstracts below.

Low-mobility: The future of transport

Moriarty, Patrick; Honnery, Damon

Futures, Volume 40, Issue 10, December 2008, Pages 865-872


Nearly all researchers into the future of global passenger transport assume that both car-ownership and overall vehicular travel will continue to rise. But they also increasingly acknowledge the environmental and resource problems facing vehicular transport, particularly global climate change and oil depletion. In order to meet these challenges, researchers propose a variety of technological solutions, including greatly improved vehicular fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and propulsion systems, and carbon capture and storage. In this paper we question whether these optimistic solutions can be developed and widely deployed in the limited time frame available, and argue instead that not only are ever-rising vehicular mobility levels unlikely to occur, but that the human costs of continuing this approach are also too great. Instead we argue that because transport is a derived demand, we must first articulate a preferred vision of the future, then design an appropriate, sustainable transport system. Finally, we briefly outline what such a low-mobility future transport system would look like, using our own city, Melbourne, Australia, as a case study.

What foresight! Understanding Australia's housing future

Burke, Terry; Hulse, Kath

Futures, Volume 41, Issue 5, June 2009, Pages 325-333


Futures analysis has been little used to inform housing policy debate, despite the fact that historical precedent is becoming increasingly limited as a guide for policy direction. This paper examines the potential utility of ‘strategic foresight’ in considering possible housing futures for Australia. It examines the particular foresight methods employed, and processes used, to develop possible housing futures in the year 2025 and their policy implications. The paper concludes that foresight analysis, although not without its problems, creates the opportunity to move beyond current thinking and ‘path dependent’ policy parameters, enabling discussion of housing futures in a way that prompts critical discussion of the institutional arrangements and policies that shape housing policy in the present.

Future images of meat consumption in 2030

Vinnari, Markus; Tapio, Petri

Futures, Volume 41, Issue 5, June 2009, Pages 269-278


The issue of meat consumption has been a subject of interest that has been looked at from environmental, animal and human perspectives. This paper contributes to the discussion by clarifying the diversity of views with regard to the future of meat consumption. Two round Delphi expert interviews and a consumer survey were conducted in order to collect information. Five coherent future images were constructed: Traditional Approach, Business as Usual, Humans First, Wellness and Vegetarian Society. The discussion part of the paper presents possible ways of influencing meat consumption according to the holders of these different images of the future.

How would you like to see a "Positive Post Carbon Society"? What aspects of society are the most important to keep positive? What would your community look like? Do you have any research or readings to contribute on the topic?
Add a comment below.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How to shut down 93% of coal without building new plants or reducing power supply

In the USA, more MW are generated by gas than coal power stations. (MWh is another story.) As Sean Casten's story from Grist asks, 'When it runs, the natural gas fleet emits just 50% of the CO2 of the coal fleet, which raises a rather interesting question: what would we have to do to make it run harder? And how big a difference would that make in our national CO2 footprint?' Wonder what the gas vs coal breakdown is in Australia.

Growing biofuel without razing the rainforest

'You can't grow biofuel without cutting down trees, right? Not so, says plant scientist Marcos Buckeridge who tells Jan Rocha how Brazil can supply the world with green ethanol.' Could this work for Queensland too? Read the rest of this New Scientist article.

Green roofs compulsory in Toronto

' Roofs make up 21% of the area of Toronto, so it is logical that they should be put to good use. Now they will be green; by a stunning 36-2 vote, council approved new rules that require green roofs on residential buildings next year and on industrial buildings in two years. Like most good legislation, people at both ends don't like it; Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities says in the Globe and Mail that "We would have liked it [the Toronto bylaw] to be more aggressive,” while the real estate industry lobby group says Cost is an issue,The market is so price-sensitive now.” ' Read the rest of this post from Treehugger. Listening, Mr Doyle?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Working Sustainably Workshop

In June Boroondara Council will be presenting the final workshop in the current Community OnBoard Program.

The Working Sustainably workshop will provide the essential practical strategies and advice that will assist you to reduce the environmental footprint of your organisation, group or club.

This workshop will be led by Council’s Environment and Sustainable Living team and Swinburne University's Centre for Sustainability who have developed and presented the Living for our Future Sustaining our environment program and the annual Boroondara Living for Our Future Sustainability Expo.

The workshop will include a range of information on the following areas;
  • Introduction to environmental sustainability
    waste, water, energy and biodiversity, sustainable transport, green purchasing and green cleaning.
  • Case studies
    sustainability in action.
  • Getting started
    integrating environmental sustainability into your organisation or club’s operations and policy a whole of organisation approach.
Working Sustainably, Tuesday 16 June, 7pm – 9pm Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre, 157 Union Road, Surrey Hills.

To RSVP for this workshop or advise on your access requirements, please contact the Community Planning Department on 9278 4753 or email onboard@boroondara.vic.gov.au.

Climate change and biodiversity

Animals have been used as bioindicators since canaries were taken down into coalmines (and probably long before that.) Now there is increased concern about the impact on animal and plant species of climate change, there are numerous projects and studies focused on biodiversity.
  1. A virtual book of all life on Earth is being created by UK and US scientists.
    The online reference work will create a detailed world map of flora and fauna and track changes in biodiversity ... Over time the database will log shifts in species and other data such as changes in the density of forests and when plants first flower. The backers of the idea hope that the vast, virtual book of life will eventually be comparable to the global system used to watch for and record earthquakes.
  2. More dolphins, porpoises and whales could be at risk from the effects of climate change than was previously thought, a new study has claimed.
    An Aberdeen University scientist said rising sea temperatures could affect 88% of areas where cetaceans are found. Dr Colin MacLeod said areas of suitable habitat for many were likely to shrink, meaning fewer animals.
    And he warned a decline in habitat could be so dramatic that it could increase the extinction risk for some.
  3. A bumblebee which is extinct in the UK is to be reintroduced from New Zealand under plans being announced. The short-haired bumblebee was exported from the UK to New Zealand on the first refrigerated lamb boats in the late 19th Century to pollinate clover crops. It was last seen in the UK in 1988, but populations on the other side of the world have survived.

All these stories from the BBC Science and Environment web page (RSS feed).