Wednesday, May 27, 2015
India swelters through deadly heatwave while awaiting monsoon arrival. With heat wave temperatures continuing to hit 46C and 47C across parts of India, heat related deaths are quickly rising. The death toll as of Friday 29 May stands at over 1800 official heat-related deaths and rising, most from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. While India awaits arrival of the monsoon, the lack of thunder storms and clear skies has allowed temperatures to rise, with UV radiation reaching dangerously extreme levels, as the heat blows in from Pakistan. With rising temperatures associated with climate change, extreme heatwaves are expected to start earlier in the pre-monsoon season, last longer and be more intense.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Green roofs can substantially improve attention response and productivity of nearby people, according to new research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
The study, conducted by University of Melbourne researchers, assessed the impact of a 40 second micro-break comparing a city green rooftop vista with one of city concrete rooftop structures. Subjects who viewed the green rooftop vista performed tasks with significantly less errors than those who viewed the concrete rooftop vista.
Study lead researcher Dr Kate Lee, of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Science, outlined in a media statement that just a moment of seeing some green nature can provide a boost for tired workers.
"We know that green roofs are great for the environment, but now we can say that they boost attention too. Imagine the impact that has for thousands of employees working in nearby offices," Dr Lee said. "This study showed us that looking at an image of nature for less than a minute was all it took to help people perform better on our task."
Thursday, May 21, 2015
While we ponder whether we will overshoot the already dangerous level of 2 Degrees Celsius of warming on the way to 4C or 5C degrees warming by the end of the century, scientists have assessed whether it is still possible to restrict global warming to just 1.5C degrees. The short answer? Yes, it is technologically possible, but requires substantial and immediate emissions reductions with no room for further delay or obstruction.
Related commentary: Carbon Brief | RTCC | Climate News Network
The new study by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) was published in Nature Climate Change examines scenarios for the energy, economy, and environment that are consistent with limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and compares them to scenarios for limiting climate change to 2 degrees Celsius.
“Actions for returning global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 are in many ways similar to those limiting warming to below 2 degrees Celsius,” says IIASA researcher Joeri Rogelj, one of the lead authors of the study. “However, the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius goal leaves no space to further delay global mitigation action and emission reductions need to scale up swiftly in the next decades.”
More than 100 nations support the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C degrees - that is over two thirds of UNFCCC nation signatories. Understandably, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) are particularly vocal for this limit. Many of the small low lying island nations will not survive the impacts of sea level rise with the higher target. They are supported by the Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) block.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
An analysis published 11 May 2015 by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated the target that Japan, Canada and Australia needed to meet to achieve the same level of ambition as Europe or USA. We know these countries still aren't doing enough to achieve 2C target, yet they still set a benchmark for other industrial countries to also match. The EU committed to a 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030 and the US a 26-28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025.
Applying the Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) model to match the present US target PricewaterhouseCoopers results came up with:
- Japan: 6% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025
- Canada: 19% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025
- Australia: 24% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025
"Our LCEI report in 2014 showed that global carbon intensity is falling by around 1% per year, but that this needs to be 6% per year on average to stay within the 2 degrees carbon budget. All these targets fall well short of the 2 degrees goal." reports PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Read more on their analysis here: What would Japan, Canada and Australia’s targets be if they are as ambitious as the EU or US?
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Over the last week Royal Dutch Shell has faced stiff public opposition in Seattle to it's Arctic oil exploration program with the arrival of the Noble Explorer and Polar Pioneer drill rigs for maintenance and provisioning in Seattle.
Related: Shell Polar Pioneer Arctic drilling rig blockaded at Port Terminal 5 in Seattle | 2013: Grounding of Shell drilling platform highlights dangers of Arctic Oil Drilling ShellNO.org | Rising Tide Seattle
The Noble Discoverer arrived in the Port of Everett last Tuesday (12 May). It was met by half a dozen kayaktivists with a sign that said "Shell No".
Last week protesters at the Port of Seattle setup a tripod at Terminal 5 to voice their opposition to the Polar Pioneer drill ship, which had been parked at Port Angeles but arrived in Seattle on Thursday. A handful of kayaktivists met the Polar Pioneer on the waters of Elliot Bay on Thursday when it arrived.
On May 12 Rising Tide Seattle said in a tweet that "This morning work stopped at Shell's Seattle Operations for nearly 3 hours - more coming this week!" A tripod was setup at the main entrance during the morning and a statement read out. Watch on Youtube
Shell wants to use the Port of Seattle as it's base to refuel, re-provision and carry out maintenance on it's Arctic drill rigs. But even the Seattle City Council has declared it's opposition to Shell's plans.
On Monday 18 May 2015, over five hundred people blockaded Port of Seattle Terminal 5 where Royal Dutch Shell's Polar Pioneer oil rig is docked.
Shell is planning to do exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic off the Alaska coast despite climate scientists saying we cannot afford to drill for oil in the Arctic for a safe climate and the environmental risks dangers if a major oil spill were to occurr in the Arctic.
In December 2012 it's oil drilling rig Kulluk ran aground off Kodiak Island while it was being moved from Alaska to Washington State to avoid paying $6 million in taxes.
Protestors started gathering before 7am before marching to blockade the terminal front gate. Here is how the day unfolded. There is a great live ustream video report from KPFA community powered radio from Berkeley California.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
A new study has found that the record high Central England temperatures can be attributed to anthropogenic influences with 90 per cent confidence. The syudy highlighted that the chances of record warm years in Central England has increased by at least 13-fold.
"This study points to a large influence of human activities on extreme warm years despite the small region of study and the variable climate of Central England. Our analysis shows that climate change is clearly visible on the local-scale in this case." said the study abstract.
The researchers used two methodologies: one based on climate model simulation, and another based on the observational record. They found agreement in the results between the two methodologies strong, "A substantial increase in the likelihood of warm years due to anthropogenic influences is found using both methods with very high confidence. This conclusion is robust especially when we consider that the two methods are primarily based on different datasets, one model simulations and the other observations."
The study is a growing body of scientific work in Fractional Attribution of Risk (FAR), whereby climate events are assessed as to their probability of being influenced by anthropogenic climate change.
Published as an original article at Nofibs.com.au
While renewables are being encouraged by the Andrews Government with the proposal for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target, the first domino in Victoria's brown coal fired power industry has succumbed.
Alcoa announced this week it would be closing it's 50MW high sulphur dioxide polluting coal fired power station and mine at Anglesea at the end of August, 2015. Since the Alcoa Port Henry Aluminium Smelter closed in 2014, which used all the power generated and more, this power station has been targeted for closure by the local community in particular the Surf Coast Air Action group, saying the social licence and justification has ended.
SCAA spokesperson Andrew Laird said in a media release, "This is a great outcome for the Anglesea community and for clean air in Australia. It also shows that coal impacted communities can achieve big things when they work together. While we are delighted that the redundant facility will finally close we are also very mindful about the remaining workers and call upon Alcoa to make sure that those who don't wish to take a redundancy package are deployed onto the massive rehabilitation task.”
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Victorian Renewable Energy Target proposed as Minister challenges Federal Government to get out of the way
Published as an original article at Nofibs.com.au
On Thursday Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio told the Federal Government that Victoria wants to establish it's own Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) and to get out of the way and clear the federal legislative path to do so.
In 2009 the States and Territories negotiated the closure of their own state based RET schemes on the condition of the adoption of the present federal scheme of 41,000GWh of renewable energy. The Federal Government negotiating a much lower target of 33,000GWh of power is an abrogation of the deal done by the States and Territories with the Rudd Federal Government in 2009.
Victoria can't just proceed with a new VRET scheme as the Federal Government needs to remove section 7c from the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (Cth), which prevents State Governments from having their own schemes similar to the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
“The Federal Government must move out of Victoria’s way and change the law. Our state needs a proper renewable energy target, to support the industry and reduce pollution.” said Lily D'Ambrosio.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Leadbeater's Possum, also known as Victoria's fairy possum, is one of those species fighting for survival against the odds and against the juggernaut that is human industrial society.
Finally last month, on the recommendation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) was upgraded to being listed as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. The announcement was made by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt on April 22, 2015.
"The challenges facing this iconic species are significant. It has undergone very severe population declines in recent decades with numbers having decreased by more than 80 per cent since the mid 1980s." said Hunt. "That is why we will be working closely with the Victorian Government to find a solution which will help save the possum for future generations."
Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville told the Age on May 3, 2015 (Minister flags new national park within this term to save the possum) that a Great Forest National Park could become a reality during the current Government's term "Yes, I think so. I'm hoping that's the case, but I also think that will come with a commitment and a plan around the protection of jobs and workers and their families."
But with Vic Forests continuing to log old growth forest coupes in the Central Highlands, the question becomes one of will a new National Park come too late to save Leadbeater's possum species, and it's associated forest ecosystem, from extinction?
world's most carbon dense in terms of carbon sequestration, and yet this is seldom included when assessing their economic value for forestry and logging exploitation. Logging of mountain ash forests also increases bushfire risk and the risk of megafires, and creates the potential for a landscape trap that could change the ecosystem permanently.
As a result of the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 around 43-45 per cent of the Leadbeater's possum population was decimated due to the loss of much of the old growth mountain ash forest. To conserve habitat remaining old growth forest should have been reserved, instead the rate of logging of these forests has continued apace. A study by Burns et al (2014) (Full PDF) concluded there is a 92% chance the Leadbeater’s ecosystem in the Victoria central highlands will collapse within 50 years.
"Our overall ranking of risk of collapse for the ecosystem was Critically Endangered. We are confident that this risk category is appropriate because all 39 scenarios modelled indicated a ≥92% chance of ecosystem collapse by 2067. Our findings highlight the important need for timely policy reform to facilitate improved management of the mountain ash ecosystem in Victoria. In particular, there needs to be greater protection of remaining areas of unburned forest, and restoration activities in parts of the forest estate. Implementation of these strategies will require a significant reduction in logging pressure on the mountain ash ecosystem." concluded the study.
Leadbeater's possum is not a very big creature, weighing in at about 150 grams, but it's small size makes it very photogenic and appealing when one is captured or displayed at Healsville sanctuary, run by Zoos Victoria. In the wild they are seldom seen as they are mostly nocturnal creatures foraging during the night with their big eyes, and resting in their nests in tree hollows during the day.
The possum flits from tree to tree like a fairy in the canopy at night, using its prehensile tail to carry twigs back to its nest. This creature has already come back from extinction once. For more than half the twentieth century traces of the creature were not seen in Gippsland where the last traces where previously found, and it was feared the species was already extinct. Then, in March 1961 it was re-discovered living in the Central Highlands by Eric Wilkinson, a junior officer in the Victorian Museum.
In 1968 it was made one of the faunal emblems of Victoria. You would think that being a symbol of Victoria would hold your species in good stead to have your habitat and ecosystem preserved. But, succeeding state government's have only paid the merest lip service to taking the necessary conservation steps to protect this species by protecting it's ecosystem. Logging the old growth forests has continued under the control of government body VicForests under both Liberal and Labor governments. Logging contracts and employment, including to make Reflex paper, have trumped conservation action at every turn, it seems.
In 2013 two distinguished environmental scientists accused the Victorian Government of forestry policies knowingly designed to drive Leadbeater's Possum to extinction. There was a concerted campaign by conservationists in the 2014 state election for the creation of a Great Forest National Park covering much of the Central Highlands. But the Labor policy when released was non-committal stating the need for discussions between all stakeholders. Labor support for a new national park was dropped seemingly at the behest of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) due to concerns over employment loss, according to the Age report.
A new National Park would add 355,000 hectares to existing national parks and reserves stretching from Kinglake across the Yarra Ranges to Mt Baw Baw and north up to Lake Eildon, and protect forests around the tourism hubs of Healesville and Warburton. In 2014 over 30 national and state environmental organisations endorsed a statement for creation of a new national park, along with international conservation luminaries Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.
David Attenborough supports creation of the Great Forest National Park, to save Leadbeater's Possum. #GFNP #VoteGFNP pic.twitter.com/7pksaVT0Uv
— Mark Whalan (@MWhalan) November 11, 2014
Professor David Lindenmayer is the acknowledged world expert in the montane forests of Central Victoria, the ecosystem of Leadbeater's possum. Shortly after the species was listed as critically endangered he wrote an article at the Conversation where he clearly states what needs to be done to save the ecoystem and species.
"The answer is that the processes that threaten the persistence of the species must be removed. This is basic conservation science. In the case of Leadbeater’s Possum, the key process threatening the species is industrial clearfelling." wrote Professor Lindenmayer.
But it seems Federal Department of Environment can't even calculate the impacts of climate change on regional forest agreements, with the Victorian Forests Agreement Review still hidden after 5 years. Logging continues in the Central Highlands despite estimates that the carbon sequestration value is far greater as reported by Greg Arup in the Age (Highlands logging halt would earn Victoria $30m a year in emissions reductions: report).
Meanwhile, the logging and burning continues, although the Mt St Leonard Rusty coupe was given a last minute reprieve at the end of April by Environment Minister Lisa Neville:
JUST IN: Good day for #Gliders and other wildlife. #Rusty logging burn cancelled. Thank-you @LisanevilleMP
— Wilderness Victoria (@WildernessVIC) April 30, 2015
If you log your water catchment, you're a bloody idiot #VicBudget #logging #debts #desal #candobetter #springst pic.twitter.com/4ijLIcviAo
— MyEnvironment Inc (@My_Environment) May 5, 2015
Monday, May 4, 2015
Catholic church statements on climate change are undermining the moral authority of catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government's poor record on climate action and support for fossil fuels and expansion of coal.
Tony Abbott's 'coal for prosperity' statement is looking more ridiculous and out of step with every passing moment.
Our Prime Minister was closely asociated with Cardinal Pell, a strong climate denier in the Australian Catholic Church. (See Graham Readfearn: Cardinal Pell’s mine of climate misinformation) Unfortunately Pell's climate ideas are not widely held in the upper echelon of the Catholic church.
With the Paris climate talks approaching in December, 2015, Pope Francis has indicated that a papal encyclical on the environment and climate change is being prepared for issue. This will lay the moral ground and support for progress at the UN climate talks, according to Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University, writing in The Age in Januray, 2015.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
In a remarkable 20 minute presentation on Thursday night, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Paypal and Tesla Motors, launched a scalable battery storage system aimed at multiple markets: from personal home use, small business to utility scale electricity storage.
It is the missing jigsaw piece to the solar and renewables revolution already under way in replacing fossil fuel power generation. Elon Musk outlined the critical problem of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from an ageing fossil fuel infrastructure, explained how it can be addressed, and launched an innovative product that could plausibly make a substantial contribution as a solution.
One of the traditional arguments against a high level of renewables in our electricity grid has been the need for constant baseload power that needs to be provided by coal, gas peaking turbines, or nuclear. This argument was always false, as several reports have shown (Rocky Mountains Institute at Clean Technica, Mark Diesendorf at The Conversation, Dr David Mills at ABC Science), but nevertheless it provided a powerful, if faulty argument for maintaining our aging fossil fuel generation capacity.
Our energy grid is built upon generating power constantly to meet the demand at any particular point in time. Variable sources of energy such as wind and solar have been steadily growing as a proportion of grid supply, but studies have shown that network demand has a lot of natural variability anyway. Both wind and solar generation are able to be forecast over short day-length or so periods, and thus managed as part of the normal regulation of grid demand and response. Relatively cheap energy storage will enable some fine network adjustment to power output, while aiding in decentralisation of power generation and storage. It adds a missing piece of the puzzle which aids in transitioning to a 100 per cent renewables energy system.
Friday, May 1, 2015
Awesome news from California: Governor Brown announced a major greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 per cent reduction on 1990 levels by 2030. This matches Europe's commitment.
California is the largest economy in North America and the 7th largest economy globally. It is a significant announcemewnt and goes much deeper than President Obama's national target of a 26-28% emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2025.
"With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it's one that must be reached - for this generation and generations to come," said Governor Brown.
The long term target is reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.
The order also includes instructions for maintaining and updating the state's climate adaptation strategy, Safeguarding California, and ensure that its provisions are fully implemented. Climate change impacts and predictions will also feature in State Agency planning and investment decisions and full life-cycle cost accounting, and Infrastructure planning.
In January 2015 at his inauguration Governor Jerry Brown announced that Climate Change action would be prominent for his next 4 years of his administration. With California already on track to meet it's target of a third of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Brown announced that this should increase to 50 per cent of electricity generation by 2030, plus a 50 per cent reduction in petroleum use in cars and trucks, and to double the efficiency of existing buildings, and use cleaner heating fuels.
But it is not all smooth sailing as his administration has come in for criticism over support for fracking, and the continued allocation of water during the 4 year long drought for fracking.
"Gov. Jerry Brown deserves credit for this important step toward fighting global warming, but the governor continues to undermine his own plans by backing fracking,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute media release. “Fracking pollution threatens to blow a huge hole in California’s target for reducing planet-warming emissions. No plan to prevent climate disruption can succeed if it doesn’t include a rapid transition away from fracking and other dangerous oil and gas production."