Saturday, April 27, 2013

Carbon price funding solar PV energy for Adelaide factory puts Tony Abbott on ice

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made a frosty mistake in visiting the Adelaide Ice Service factory today, arguing the business was a victim of the carbon tax. At the same time Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and local Labor MP Mark Butler announced a grant of nearly $90,000 to the company from the carbon price funded Clean Technology Food and Foundries Program to install a 87.5 kilowatt photovoltaic solar system at its ice manufacturing plant in Regency Park.

The visit continues Abbott's attempt to beat up the carbon price as a negative, but it shows just how shallow and loose with the truth his own campaign is, especially regarding climate change policy. The carbon price hasn't brought economic ruin. Indeed, there are strong arguments by Environment Victoria that the compensation package to carbon intense energy providers is overly generous. Victoria's brown coal generators are being subsidised to continue polluting to maintain healthy profits.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Climate protest: Coal ship boarded by Greenpeace activists off the Great Barrier Reef

In a climate protest over Australian coal exports, Greenpeace activists boarded a bulk coal carrier while navigating through the Great Barrier Reef on 23 April 2013. The ship, the MV Meister, had just loaded coal from Abbot Point, located 25km north of the town of Bowen on the central Queensland coast.

Abbot Point coal loading facility is being expanded, with four new coal terminals proposed to be built, part of the development of 9 new coal terminals for the Great Barrier Reef Coast.

Related: Greenpeace petition - We stand in solidarity for action against coal | Queensland's Coal addiction - talk by Guy Pearse | Greenpeace activists say Coal ship highlights 'Reef in Danger' | Global Warming imperils coral reefs: 2 degrees warming is too hot say scientists

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

After decades of war Iraq faces water scarcity, floods, desertification and climate disruption



Iraq has suffered decades of war with much of the social and agricultural infrastructure being damaged and now poorly maintained. Climate change was already impacting the country under Saddam Hussein with desertification and reduced river flow rates. Climate impacts of desertification, water scarcity, flood damage from more intense rain when it falls, are all taking their toll on food production. The legacy of decades of war, UN sanctions and a dictatorial regime have only added and multiplied these impacts.

The fertile plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has provided the basis for agricultural production feeding Iraq's population which has tripled between 1970 and 2007 to 30 million people. Indeed, ancient Mesopotamia may have been one of the birth places for agricultural civilisation. But according to Matteo Mantovani at TEDxBaghdad "Agriculture is dying in the place where it was born." he told the audience.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coal Seam Gas fugitive emissions monitoring to be tightened

Updated: 17 April, 2013.
The Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet today unveiled proposals for better monitoring of emissions from coal seam gas (CSG) production. A discussion paper sets out proposals to introduce new CSG-specific measurement and estimation methods into Australia’s greenhouse gas reporting framework.

This comes at a time of rising widespread concern on fugitive CSG emissions of methane released during CSG extraction and production. Methane over short time periods of 20 years is 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, while for longer time periods it is about 21 times as powerful.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Antarctic Peninsula: nonlinear intensification of melt unprecedented in last 1000 years

This study analysing an Antarctic Peninsula ice core from James Ross island has determined that there has been a ten fold increase in melt intensity over the last 600 years. I reported recently that the Antarctic Peninsula summer melt season prolonged by global warming according to research from the British Antarctic Survey.

"The warming has occurred in progressive phases since about AD 1460, but intensification of melt is nonlinear, and has largely occurred since the mid-twentieth century. Summer melting is now at a level that is unprecedented over the past 1,000 years. We conclude that ice on the Antarctic Peninsula is now particularly susceptible to rapid increases in melting and loss in response to relatively small increases in mean temperature." concludes the study.

The information comes from a 364 meter ice core drilled by a joint UK and French research team on James Ross Island, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Analysis of the ice core can reveal past temperature changes as well as revealing past extent of ice melt events.

West Antarctic Ice Cores find changes at upper bound of normal

A new ice core study from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) concludes that current dramatic and unusual warming changes on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may still be in the bounds of natural decadal variability.

In other words, the warming trend signal is still not strong enough to distinguish it above the noise of peak warming periods in multi-decade long cycles involving the Tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation, sea surface temperatures and the El NiƱo (ENSO) cycle.

While acknowledging the rapid warming over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet the authors conclude that "It is unknown whether these changes are part of a longer-term trend."

Related: Global warming in Antarctica: Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers | Waking the giant: Global Warming in the Weddell Sea | Southern Ocean warming impact on Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea level | Antarctic Paradox: ocean warming melting ice shelves causing sea ice expansion

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Winter Chill: Fruit and nut trees feeling the heat of global warming

Climate change affecting safe winter chill for orchard trees.

A new study says that global warming will impact fruit and nut tree productivity in Australia and globally. Most fruit and nut trees have evolved in cool temperate climates and go through a dormant winter phase and require a certain amount of winter chill to trigger their spring growth and fruit production. But with strong trends in many regions for warming winter minimum temperatures and reduced number of 'winter chill' days, the heat is on our orchards.

Temperatures are projected to rise in most parts of the world with winter minimum temperatures projected to rise most rapidly. Our orchards have been established taking account of current climate conditions, which are now rapidly changing due to greenhouse gas pollution contributing to climate change. This will have a major impact on costs and productivity of fruit and nut orchards, an industry estimated to be worth about US$93 billion globally in 2005.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Antarctic Octopus genetics reveals past West Antarctic Ice sheet collapse

It seems the genetics of the Antarctic Octopus is showing us how fragile the West Antarctic Ice sheet (WAIS) may be with global warming. It raising questions about the ice sheet susceptibility to collapse.

The Antarctic octopus - Turquet's octopus - is a little creature that doesn't like moving house. It is a stay-at-home tending to live in one place and only moving short distances to escape predators. Yet when marine scientists looked at the genetic diversity of specimens of the octopus from the Ross Sea and compared them with specimens 10,000kms by sea away in the Weddell Sea they found there was little genetic difference.

To explain how these different populations can be so alike scientists believe there has been at least partial collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, with the last time perhaps being the previous interglacial period - the Eemian some 125,000 years ago. A partial collapse may have opened up a channel between the Weddell and Ross Seas.

Premier places coal development on agenda with Victorian public service shakeup

The new Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine today announced a major restructure of the Victorian Public service, with a new Department of State Development, Business and Innovation. The Premier highlighted that Energy and Resources portfolio would be brought into the new Department. This includes development of Victorian's notoriously dirty and carbon intensive brown coal.

Part of the restructure entails the merger of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Department of Primary Industry. Ostensibly to cut red tape, in reality it is more likely to result in greater development at the expense of environmental and conservation issues.

Hidden towards the end of the media release the Premier says, "Bringing the Energy and Resources portfolio into DSDBI will enable a sharper focus on major development opportunities such as Victoria's coal resources."

Rather than develop these dirty coal resources, we need to be shutting down existing Victorian coal mines and coal fired power stations like Hazelwood for health, climate and environmental reasons. As we phase out coal we should be encouraging wind farm development, large scale solar power, and continue with adoption of small scale solar photovoltaic systems now installed on over a million Australian households.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral - Lord Monckton revealed as bad joke



Peter Sinclair has put together another educative video gem on the decline of Arctic Sea Ice, and indeed global sea ice. The video mixes together video footage of Lord Monckton from 2009, 2011, and 2013 to show his inconsistency, with the facts and observations from climate scientists on sea ice decline.

Climate scientists interviewed include Dr Walt Meier from the National Snow and Ice Data center, Dr Ken Dunton from University of Texas, Dr Jennifer Francis from Rutgers University, Dr Jeff Masters from the WeatherUnderground, Dr Claire Parkinson from the Goddard Space Flight Center NASA,

The video covers the recent and unusually extensive ice fractures seen in the Beaufort Sea from the beginning of February through March. This highlights that most of this sea ice is seasonal or first year ice. Sea ice extent continues to track well below model predictions for the disintegration of summer sea ice. Sea Ice volume trend is even more stark with a projection of a possible ice free summer as early as 2016.

Friday, April 5, 2013

San Fransisco protests turn up heat on Keystone tar sands pipeline for Obama


Over 1000 people are reported to have turned up to keep climate change action in the spotlight and to greet President Barack Obama at a $32,500-per-person dinner in Pacific Heights, San Fransisco, to keep the pressure on for him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal which would see tar sands oil flow from Alberta Canada to the Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The protest even includied a brass band (youtube video), to provide a festival atmosphere.

Related Protest: "No XL Pipeline" Protest Near Obama Fundraiser on the Peninsula

Seattle protestors lock Canadian Consulate in Tar sands protest

Protests against the Tar Sands are escalating. In Seattle two protestors U-locked their necks to the doors of the Canadian consulate in Solidarity with Tar Sands Blockade and Idle No More and in Protest of West Coast Tar Sands Projects. The activists were arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

The activists issued a media release via Rising Tide North America. You can contribute to Rising Tide Seattle bail fund. See photos on Flickr, and a short Ustream video coverage.

Washington and Oregon residents are also resisting proposed increases in coal exports from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to Asia. See: Seattle Idle No More: Lummi people reject Cherry Point coal loader | Salem Oregon Sounded the Alarm on coal exports.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tasmania feels the autumn heat breaking March temperature records

Tasmania, that small island state of Australia that protrudes into the Southern Ocean, has recorded it's hottest March on record in over 100 years of temperature record keeping.

The mean March temperature across the state was 15.7C, breaking the 1974 record by 0.3 degrees and 2.2 °C above normal. The Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement "The state average maximum temperature was a March record of 21.0 (2.9 °C above normal and 0.9 °C above the previous record from 1974), and minimum temperatures were the 3rd-warmest for March at 10.3 °C (1.6 °C above normal)."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Antarctic Paradox: ocean warming melting ice shelves causing sea ice expansion

Antarctic sea ice extent is a complex and puzzling beast, not following a simple process of rapid Arctic sea ice diminishment. A new paper in Nature Geoscience argues that warm deep ocean currents are contributing to ice shelf melt and causing Antarctic sea ice expansion. While ice mass loss from Antarctica is presently at 250 Gigatonnes per year and accelerating, sea ice is also expanding slowly but to record levels. What a paradox!

The trend for a gradual increase in Antarctic Sea ice has puzzled scientists for some time. The expansion is at odds with general climate model results. I reported on the puzzle of Record Antarctic Sea Ice Growth in November 2012. In that article I explained that (Holland et al 2012) argued that atmospheric variability in the form of local winds was pushing the ice northwards creating space for new sea ice to form. While climate deniers claimed record Antarctic sea-ice was a refutation of climate change, in reality it showed they could not fathom that the cryosphere and the planet's climate are complex processes which we are still trying to understand, with some surprising processees not readily open to be modelled.

Kevin Trenbeth on the 2011 Sea level Bump and Australia's wettest two year period


Did you know that during 2011 sea level rise went into reverse and lost 5mm from the global oceans? No? How about that since then, much to the chagrin of climate deniers, sea level rise has accelerated from 3.18mm per year - the rate from 1993 to 2010 - to increase to 10mm per year over the last two years. This acceleration more than makes up for the pothole. The primary cause of this sea level 'speed bump' was the back to back La Nina which moved a phenomenal amount of water from the global oceans to the land. The water has since been making it's way back into the world's oceans.

The question arises, does this explain the 10mm per year increase in sea level rise over the last 2 years? Is ocean thermal expansion or ice sheet melting perhaps contributing more? This may also be the start to an exponential sea level rise which NASA climatologist James Hansen has argued is a possibility. Rob Painting on Skeptical Science says that there is no evidence yet to suggest that ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica has added to the speed bump in any significant manner. We will have to wait and see what the impact of future El Nino or La Nina's will be on sea level rise, and keep watching the rate of mass loss from the ice sheets.

I came across this lecture by climatologist Kevin Trenbeth in which he talks about this sea level speed bump as a unique occurrence in recorded history. While previously there has been slight reductions in sea level rise corresponding to La Nina years, this event is a prominent change. Trenbeth discusses this extreme event near the end of his lecture on October 15, 2012. It is well worth watching the Youtube video if you have a spare 1 hour and 5 minutes. He provides an excellent introduction to climate change and extreme weather events and he is an animated speaker with clear and informative graphical and text slides.