Monday, February 8, 2016

Climate science CSIRO job cuts labelled as science vandalism

The announced staff cuts and restructure announced by CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall have been labelled as science vandalism and an abandonment of Australia's scientific commitments under the Paris Agreement signed by Australia less than 2 months ago.

Australian climate science is essential for collecting data and provide good modelling and projections for Australia's variable but warming climate for agricultural, economic and health impacts. It is also vital for studying the southern hemisphere impacts of a changing Antarctica and Southern Ocean on the global climate. Our climate research from the southern hemisphere is highly important to global research programs and climate models.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government cut $112 million from CSIRO's budget in 2014. Turnbull promised $90 million in December 2015 to support innovation and increased commercialisation of research. A further $28 million was allocated to marketing the Government innovation policy.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Interview: Paris and COP21 on Environmentality - North West FM Community radio

Friday morning I was up bright and early to do a studio interview with Jaime and Georgina on Environmentality, the environment radio program on my local community FM station, North West FM 98.9.

I was an accredited NGO delegate to COP21 in Paris and provided reports during the conference via citizen journalist site and this blog. I was the guest for Friday morning's program. You can read the blog at Environmentality about the interview and also listen to the podcast.

I was sent a series of questions by Georgina, but with Jaime running late, the program launched and did not really follow the script. So enjoy the audio broadcast which parallels but is also different to the script.

I had prepared notes to Georgina's questions anyway. This article is based on those notes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

With rising emissions Australia applies Kyoto credits to meet 2020 climate target

The latest analysis from Reputex energy consultancy shows that Australia will not meet our 2020 emissions reduction target, except by using carry over credits from the Kyoto Protocol first commitment period (2008-2012).

Reputex highlights that the Government's own figures indicate Australia will continue on a new upward emissions trajectory, with forecast growth of 6 per cent to 2020, despite current climate policy. The market report by Reputex estimates emissions growing to 4 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020 and that trend continuing with Australian emissions unlikely to peak before 2030.

The growth of our emissions is the opposite to most developed economies.

RepuTex executive director Hugh Grossman said the government was relying on "carry over" carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet it's 2020 target, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Meeting Australia's abatement task is largely just a victory in accounting terms," Mr Grossman said. "We have met our target, but we used a credit to get there, so it's not a sign of any progress to reduce emissions."

Percentage change in Australian emissions 2005/06 to 2014/15

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised in Paris that Australia would meet and exceed it's low 2020 carbon emissions target of minus 5 per cent on 2000 levels. His speech was eloquent but contained little of substance.

Yet our latest annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory report which was released on Christmas Eve shows our total Greenhouse Gas emissions rising by 1.3 per cent to June 2015, and our electricity sector emissions rising by 3 per cent.

Australia met and exceeded the Kyoto Protocol first commitment period target because Australia was allowed an exceedingly generous target of plus 8 per cent emissions on 1990 levels. We were allowed that target due to threats to block consensus and wreck the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Just before COP21 the Guardian journalist Lenore Taylor explained some of the history and detail of 'How can it be possible for national emissions to rise over 30 years while a country “meets and beats” successive promises to reduce them?'. It is worth getting your head around some of this history.

Clive Hamilton summarises at the Conversation:

Compared to the base year of 1990, Europe promised to reduce its emissions by 8% in the five-year “commitment period”, 2008-12. The United States agreed to cut emissions by 7%, and Japan and Canada by 6%. Australia dug its heels in and got its way; its Kyoto target would be 8% above 1990 levels.

And then there was the addition of the "Australia clause" in the Kyoto Protocol inserted during final hours, which allowed Australia to include landuse emissions for it's carbon accounting.

Sounds fair? Except we had a massive amount of land use change emissions in 1990 so our emission reduction target was from a very high base year. Emissions had already reduced significantly from this sector by 1997, which made the plus 8 per cent target so much easier to meet.

This artificially high base year allowed Australia’s emissions from all sources except land-use change and forestry to grow, and grow significantly. All up our emissions from all sectors except land use grew by 28 per cent from 1997 to 2012.

While most developed nations were actually putting in the hard yards in actual emission reduction in their economies under the first commitment phase, under John Howard's Liberal Party Government (1996-2007) in Australia we pretty much carried on with business as usual and did not start the process of economic transition to any large degree.

Country comparison emissions projections to 2020

Even though Australia was given substantial concessions under the Kyoto Protocol, we refused to sign up to ratify this international treaty for several years, following in the wake of the US Bush administration. We finally ratified the Kyoto Protocol after the Rudd Labor Government came to power in 2007.

As a result, Australia had 128m tonnes of carry-over credits from our Kyoto Protocol 2008 - 2012 reporting period.

So Environment Minister Greg Hunt applied to use these credits from commitment period one to apply to our targets in commitment period 2. Australia's submission to carry over these credits was submitted after the Paris climate conference on 22 December 2015, in advance of the UN deadline of 2 January 2016.

Excerpt from Kyoto carryover credits submission

Nothing wrong with that is there?

Well, during the Paris conference five developed countries stood up and announced they would not be applying these credits to their new targets, but cancelling them.

According to the Guardian report, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain all announced they will cancel 634.6m tonnes of emission reduction credits they were technically able to count towards their targets for the second Kyoto period. These credits have been described as a giant “hot air” loophole.

These countries actually had much more significant emission reduction targets than Australia in the first commitment period.

The UNFCCC final decision of COP21 actually calls for parties not to utilise these credits, as an enhanced pre-2020 action.

107. Encourages Parties to promote the voluntary cancellation by Party and non-Party stakeholders, without double counting of units issued under the Kyoto Protocol, including certified emission reductions that are valid for the second commitment period;

Australia, along with 194 other nations, agreed to this paragraph as part of the final COP decision which includes the Paris Agreement, yet we have proceeded to apply Kyoto carry-over credits to our own low 2020 target anyway.

Greg Hunt's move to use the Kyoto carryover credits are out of step with both the UNFCCC and other developed nations.

So while Australia belatedly joined the Coalition of high ambition for the 1.5 degree target and an ambition mechanism, it has effectively thumbed it's nose at the UNFCCC and international community by use of Kyoto carry-over credits to meet our low 2020 target.

On an international political level, our actions, rather than our words, continue to be miserly and against the spirit of international cooperation on climate change action and emissions reduction.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Make it Hot - a rap argument for a global carbon tax by Baba Brinkman

When a global carbon tax is promoted in a rap song, isn't it time to listen?

"Baba" Brinkman is a Canadian rapper and playwright best known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theatre, and science. He draws upon literature and science for his inspiration.

Brinkman's latest series of Rap songs focus on the science, politics and economics of climate change are part of his latest hip-hop theatre show, "Rap Guide to Climate Chaos", which premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Coal on the skids - China, India, USA, Great Britain, and Australia

Coal production and the seaborne coal market are all suffering as renewables ramp up and coal-fired power is reassessed due to pollution, health and greenhouse gas emission concerns.

Coal prices for Newcastle thermal coal is just above US$56 per metric ton. Major coal markets in India and China are drying up. Vietnam has just announced a review of coal power citing the need to implement all international commitments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There is increasing closure of coal power stations driven by health impacts from pollution as well as growing concern to reduce emissions after the historic UN climate conference Paris Agreement.

Coal is in structural decline. And it needs to be.

A study by Ekin and McGlade published January 2015 into fossil fuel resources and the 2 degree limit found that, without any Carbon Capture and Storage, 88 per cent of coal needs to stay in the ground, unburnt.

So here is a list of recent heartening news on the coal front.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Vietnam reviews coal expansion in wake of Paris Agreement on climate change

In the wake of the Paris agreement, Vietnam has announced a review of all it's new coal plants in the planning pipeline and under construction. Vietnam is currently the third largest builder of coal plants in the world.

In a statement (vn) released on 19th January, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung stated the government’s intention to “review development plans of all new coal plants and halt any new coal power development”.

In addition, the Premier stated that Vietnam needs to “responsibly implement all international commitments in cutting down greenhouse gas emissions; and to accelerate investment in renewable energy.” an implied reference to the Paris Agreement from the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UK: Plane Stupid Climate activists convicted, face prison for Heathrow runway occupation

Guilty verdicts have been handed down against 13 climate activists protesting against the expansion of Heathrow airport in the UK. The Heathrow13 were on trial for climate change direct action civil disobedience occupying a runway of Heathrow airport in July 2015.

On the same day in France a judge of the Supreme Court in Nantes handed down an eviction notice to farmers and inhabitants of Notre-Dame-Des-Landes (NDDL) north of Nantes. These farmers and new occupants are resisting the construction of a new airport.

Civil aviation is one sector where carbon emissions are rapidly growing contributing to climate change, with little being done to constrain or reduce greenhouse gas pollution from this and the associated shipping industry. Currently 5 per cent of global emissions, more than the UK and Germany combined, come from shipping and aviation. The UN climate conference in Paris considered this sector in the draft versions of the agreement, but any mention of this sector was dropped from the final agreement.

France: Judge orders farmer evictions, but without fines against #NDDL airport opponents

On Monday a judge of the Supreme Court in Nantes announced the verdict to evict the historical inhabitants of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL) area where a new airport is slated to be built by the French State. This new airport would be located 30km north of Nantes and constructed by multinational Vinci.

Eight of the eleven families were granted a two-month period to leave, until March 26. "In fact the protection granted to housing also protects the farms," ​​said Defence lawyer Mr. Le Moigne. The three other families affected by the evictions have no more time on the Zad and must leave immediately.

On the same day in London climate activists from Plane Stupid were convicted for their occupation of a Heathrow airport runway in July 2015 over plans to extend the airport by the Cameron conservative government, breaking an election promise.

Civil aviation is one sector where carbon emissions are rapidly growing contributing to climate change, with little being done to constrain or reduce greenhouse gas pollution from this and the associated shipping industry. Currently 5 per cent of global emissions, more than the UK and Germany combined, come from shipping and aviation. The UN climate conference in Paris considered this sector in the draft versions of the agreement, but any mention of this sector was dropped from the final agreement.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Regional impact of global 2 Degrees C actually means far higher temperatures

Here is a good reason why we should be aspiring to meet the lower end of the Paris Agreement temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7F).

In Paris diplomats adopted a temperature goal of "well below 2 degrees" of global warming and aspire to reach 1.5 degrees. This was a laudatory effort to bring climate policy into line with the climate science, which argues that beyond the 2 degree barrier we are likely to experience abrupt climate tipping points and enhanced climate feedbacks.

But 2 degrees Celsius average global temperature rise is a little misleading. "This climate target is abstract and invites misunderstanding,” says Sonia Seneviratne, Professor of Land-Climate Dynamics at ETH Zurich.

Seneviratne says that many people are likely to interpret two degrees globally as two degrees of warming in their region. They may then not push as hard for reducing CO2 emissions in their countries.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rapid Indian Ocean warming affecting marine plankton, fish stocks

The ocean heat uptake has doubled since 1997 resulting in warmer surface layers of the oceans, as well as increasing ocean warming at greater depths. One of the symptoms of this can be seen in the rapid warming of the Indian Ocean. This ocean has the largest warming trend in sea surface temperatures in the tropics over the past century. This has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in primary plankton productivity for the period 1998 to 2013, contributing to reduced fish stocks and adding a threat to food security.