Archive for November, 2009

Profile: Malcolm Turnbull

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Profile: Malcolm Turnbull

“Australians expect their political leaders to act responsibly, to take action on climate change, to protect and safeguard the future of our planet, the future of our children. That is the challenge for us now and I am committed to it.” The swan song for the Leader of the Opposition as he attempted this week to support the Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

Here’s the statement he gave to media this week and – among others places – it appeared on the front page of The Australian on Friday 27 November 2009:

“NOW I think we all recognise that most Australians expect their political leaders and their political parties to take effective action on climate change.

This is about the future of our planet and the future of our children and their children. It is one of the great challenges of our time. Now I know there are many people, including many people who are supporters of my own party, who have doubts about the science and grave reservations about it. I understand that and I respect it. But as Margaret Thatcher said, right back nearly 20 years ago in 1990, this is about risk management. Or as Rupert Murdoch said, we have to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Matt Franklin smiles, from The Australian. He is very pleased when I quote his boss.

 But the fact is we have to take a prudent approach to this. Saying that we are not going to do anything about climate change is irresponsible, and no credible, responsible political party can have a ‘no action on climate change’ policy. It is as simple as that.

 Now the Liberal party room meeting here, Coalition party room in fact, meeting here and, of course, the shadow cabinet asked Ian Macfarlane and I to negotiate a package with the Government, to take amendments approved by the party room to improve the Government’s emissions trading scheme. And we did that with the full, the overwhelming authority in fact, of the Coalition party room. And it was a set of amendments that were designed to make the scheme more environmentally effective and to save tens of thousands of jobs.

 We achieved enormous concessions from the Government and indeed when they were announced many of you wrote it up as an enormous win for the Coalition. Many of you were surprised that the Government made such big concessions as they did, and those concessions, those improvements will save tens of thousands of jobs and, in addition, make the scheme more environmentally effective. Then the shadow cabinet endorsed that deal, the party room endorsed that deal.

 Now this has now become a question not simply of the environmental responsibility of the Liberal Party but of its integrity. We agreed with the Government on this deal. We must retain our credibility of taking action on climate change. We cannot be seen as a party of climate sceptics, of do nothings on climate change. That is absolutely fatal. And we also must be seen as men and women of our word. We entered into a bargain. There was offer and there was acceptance.

 Now I know, and I just repeat this, this is a difficult issue for many Liberals, many Australians. But I repeat most people who doubt the science also know that it makes sense to take out insurance, to manage the risk, to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Now at the moment, as you know, some of my colleagues have found it necessary to resign from ministerial positions so they can cross the floor on the issue. That is their right and I respect it. But I believe we must maintain this course of action. It is the responsible thing to do. It is the honourable thing to do.

 Australians expect their political leaders to act responsibly, to take action on climate change, to protect and safeguard the future of our planet, the future of our children. That is the challenge for us now and I am committed to it. We must be a party committed to action on climate change. Anything else is irresponsible.”

Message from the editor (Ken Hickson):

We make no excuse for profiling Malcolm Turnbull as we fear that his days as Leader of the Opposition are extremely limited. To give him credit, he can claim responsibility for starting the process to introduce an emissions trading scheme in August 2007 when he was Minister of Environment in the Howard Government. He was successful in introducing and getting approval for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill. He was also convinced – and no doubt helped convince the then Prime Minister John Howard – that climate change was a reality. The Australian, on its front page this week, also acknowledged what John Howard said in June 2007: “I announce specifically that Australia will move towards a domestic emissions trading scheme, that’s a cap and trade system beginning no later than June 2012. Australia will continue to lead internationally on climate change, globally and in the Asia Pacific region.”

The paper also published an edited transcript of transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech delivered to a Liberal Party Conference on 3 June 2007.

You may well ask what has gone on since then and since the last election (November 2007), when the Liberal Party went into the election with a policy for an emissions trading scheme. It seems to have been led astray by the doubters, deniers and skeptics. And even the strong leadership on this issue from Malcolm Turnbull has not been enough to hold the party together and agree to support the Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, modelled on the very same emissions trading scheme its party was prepared to support and introduce when in Government.

Malcolm Turnbull might well live to see another day. Not necessarily as Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition or the Government, but he will emerge from this fiasco with some distinction and with considerable credit for having attempted to help put in place an effective emissions trading scheme. He has failed politically to achieve this, in spite of his considerable achievements in the past in law, media and business. But there will be a role he can play in the wider world to advance this cause.

To conclude this profile, we view this article which sets out how the politics played out to bring about the early demise of Malcolm Turnbull and further delay for the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme:


Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent The Australian (28 November 2009):


THE instant Malcolm Turnbull accepted the resignations of Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin on Thursday afternoon, his Liberal Party support base began to collapse.

According to angry colleagues, the Opposition Leader’s blunt rejection of a proposal for compromise by Mr Abbott was probably the beginning of the end for the former banker, or at the very least the beginning of the biggest fight of Mr Turnbull’s political career.

“This isn’t a winner-take-all business deal,” one MP told The Weekend Australian yesterday.

“When you lead a political party you have to take people with you and you have to accept compromise. That’s part of the job — not to divide and rule.”

Mr Turnbull’s style has always been leadership from the front. With professional experience covering journalism, the law and business, he is not as well-schooled as career politician predecessors like John Howard in the subtleties of political management.

After a week of bloodletting, name-calling, frontbench resignations and rampant malice, that uncompromising style has come to grief on the contentious issue of climate change.

“John Howard would never have gotten into this predicament,” another MP said. “He would have sniffed the wind, found out what was possible, cajoled and convinced and found something everyone could live with.”

If Mr Turnbull loses the leadership next week, the Thursday afternoon meeting with Mr Abbott and Liberal Senate leader Nick Minchin will be seen as a turning point.

The pair marched into his suite at about 4pm on Thursday, telling him that the parliamentary party remained bitterly divided over his support for the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — the bill that would establish a system of carbon emissions trading. Many Liberal MPs were doubtful about the science of climate change and many others, they said, simply doubted the efficacy of emissions trading and the wisdom of his political tactics.

Rather than propose rejection and embarrassment for their leader, the pair proposed the compromise position of referring the bill, complete with amendments proposed by Mr Turnbull to make it more friendly to business, to a Senate committee.

People would accept that this was reasonable, they said. Give things time to cool off, they urged.

But it was not to be.

Mr Turnbull, a former environment minister dedicated to action on climate change and contemptuous of climate change cynics, repeated his disputed claim of earlier in the week that the majority of the partyroom agreed with his position.

So Mr Turnbull sent Mr Abbott and Senator Minchin on their way.

Later, a buccaneering Mr Turnbull swept into a press conference to declare he would not be bowed. In a performance widely praised for its resolve and clarity, Mr Turnbull said his party would lack credibility if it adopted a policy of no action on climate change.

“It is as simple as that,” he said. “We all recognise that most Australians expect their political leaders and their political parties to take effective action on climate change.

“This is about the future of our planet and the future of our children and their children.

“Australians expect their political leaders to act responsibly, to take action on climate change, to protect and safeguard the future of our planet, the future of our children. That is the challenge for us now and I am committed to it.”

Sources said that when Mr Turnbull arrived at work yesterday his email inbox was filled with messages of support praising his determination to stare down climate change deniers.

The messages were coming in at one a minute, with 95 per cent supportive, one source said.

“Forget for a minute what the party is saying,” said another. “Malcolm is right when he says that people want action on climate change and he is determined to argue that case. He won’t back down. He won’t resign.

“In the next couple of days he will take his campaign to the public and he will use their support next week. Don’t assume he will lose.”

However, colleagues were not so sure.

Enemies in his own party continued to liken Mr Turnbull to Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe.

Then Mr Turnbull lost another frontbencher, with parliamentary secretary Concetta Fierravanti-Wells adding her name to the seven frontbenchers who quit on Wednesday and Thursday.

She said “the avalanche of correspondence and feedback” opposed to the decision was the most extraordinary reaction she had seen in her career, and she felt compelled to heed the concerns.

“Accordingly, I will be voting against the ETS legislation.”

Meanwhile, friends and supporters were gently urging Mr Turnbull to reconsider the compromise deal, perhaps even to resign — anything to end the bitter division.

Deputy leader Julia Bishop is understood to have discussed options with him to break the impasse and reunite the party.

Sources said that in keeping with the traditional duties of a deputy, Ms Bishop offered advice but no recommendations.

Another visitor was Sydney MP Scott Morrison, an up-and-comer widely seen to have a big future in Canberra.

Mr Morrison was in the Coalition partyroom when Mr Turnbull gave his defiant press conference, offering support for his leader’s stand.

But it is understood that yesterday Mr Morrison advised his boss that he was losing support — that his uncompromising stance had convinced many that he would be unable to unify the party.

Liberal Party powerbrokers then spent hours trying to find a way out.

Many were still saying last night that if Mr Turnbull would simply swallow his pride and accept the compromise offered by Mr Abbott and Senator Minchin, the showdown would be off.

There were also moves to install Joe Hockey as leader, possibly with Queenslander Peter Dutton as deputy.

But Mr Hockey was making it clear he would reluctantly stand only if Mr Turnbull resigned.

At one point, Mr Hockey was understood to have offered Mr Abbott the role of shadow treasurer.

As rumours continued, the idea of a Hockey leadership sparked a new backlash.

As the Turnbull camp described Mr Hockey as “Turnbull lite”, the same MPs from the Right who started the revolt against Mr Turnbull said they could not accept Mr Hockey because he was a strong backer of Mr Turnbull’s CPRS position.

All the while, Mr Turnbull was unmoved.


China & the Copenhagen Diagnosis

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

China & the Copenhagen Diagnosis

Global warming is happening faster than expected and at worst could raise sea levels by up to 2 metres by 2100, a group of scientists warn prior to next month’s Copenhagen summit, while China’s latest pledge means it would shoulder more than a quarter of the CO2 emissions cuts needed to avoid dangerous global warming.

By Alister Doyle, Reuters Environment Correspondent (24 November 2009):

OSLO (Reuters) – Global warming is happening faster than expected and at worst could raise sea levels by up to 2 meters (6-1/2 ft) by 2100, a group of scientists said in a warning to next month’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

In what they called a “Copenhagen Diagnosis,” updating findings in a broader 2007 U.N. climate report, 26 experts urged action to cap rising world greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 or 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“Climate change is accelerating beyond expectations,” a joint statement said, pointing to factors including a retreat of Arctic sea ice in summer and melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.

“Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit,” it said. Ocean levels would keep on rising after 2100 and “several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.”

Many of the authors were on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 foresaw a sea level rise of 18-59 cms (7-24 inches) by 2100 but did not take account of a possible accelerating melt of Greenland and Antarctica.

Coastal cities from Buenos Aires to New York, island states such as Tuvalu in the Pacific or coasts of Bangladesh or China would be highly vulnerable to rising seas.

“This is a final scientific call for the climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a statement.


Copenhagen will host a December 7-18 meeting meant to come up with a new U.N. plan to succeed the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. But a full legal treaty seems out of reach and talks are likely to be extended into 2010.

“Delay in action risks irreversible damage,” the researchers wrote in the 64-page report, pointing to a feared runaway thaw of ice sheets or possible abrupt disruptions to the Amazon rainforest or the West African Monsoon.

The researchers said global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were almost 40 percent higher in 2008 than in 1990.

“Carbon dioxide emissions cannot be allowed to continue to rise if humanity intends to limit the risk of unacceptable climate change,” said Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California.

In a respite, the International Energy Agency has said emissions will fall by up to 3 percent in 2009 due to recession.

The report said world temperatures had been rising by an average of 0.19 Celsius a decade over the past 25 years and that the warming trend was intact, even though the hottest year since records began in the mid-19th century was 1998.

“There have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend,” it said. A strong, natural El Nino weather event in the Pacific pushed up temperatures in 1998.


By Marlowe Hood (AFP)

PARIS — China’s pledge on greenhouse gases means it would shoulder more than a quarter of the CO2 emissions cuts needed to avoid dangerous global warming, a top economist said Thursday.

“China alone would be responsible for more than 25 percent of the reductions the world needs” to limit planetary warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“The world needs to decrease the emissions by 3.8 gigatonnes [billion tonnes of carbon dioxide], and China would cut by around one gigatonne.

“This would put China at the forefront of the fight against climate change,” he told AFP in an interview.

In a long-awaited announcement, the world’s No. 1 emitter declared on Thursday it would use 40- to 45-percent less carbon per unit of GDP by 2020 compared with 2005 levels — in essence, a massive energy-efficiency drive.

Birol also hailed Washington’s announcement the day before that the US would — relative to a 2005 benchmark — scale back carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020, 30 percent by 2025, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.

“This decision is going to change the entire mood and structure of the Copenhagen discussion,” he said of the US position.

The United States and China are the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, together accounting for 41 percent of global emissions, according to IEA figures.

With the exception of India, they are also the last major emitters to put their cards on the table ahead of the December 7-18 UN climate talks in Copenhagen tasked with hammering out a durable fix to global warming.

Together, the two announcements are “extremely important and positive,” Birol said.

China’s voluntary commitments will require 400 billion dollars in investment in the energy sector over the next decade, the IEA has calculated.

But Beijing will reap major benefits too.

“China kills three birds with this decision,” Birol said: reducing the country’s CO2 emissions; improving its energy security and energy infrastructure; and catapulting China into a “green industry” leader.

Most of the policies Beijing has said it will put in place to achieve the so-called carbon intensity aim are “mainly driven by energy security and local pollution concerns,” Birol added.

“But at the end of the day, they also help to address climate change. You know the dictum of Deng Xiaoping — ‘it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice’.”

A critical uncertainty remains on the US commitment, Birol said: “How much of this 17 percent reduction is domestic efforts, and how much is international offsets? This is not clear.”

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the cornerstone treaty of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), rich countries can write off greenhouse-gas reduction commitments by investing in “green” projects in developing countries.

Some experts question these “offsets,” saying that they do not achieve reductions in volume terms by big emitters.

“For us [the IEA], the US efforts would have to be almost entirely domestic,” Birol said.

In its Energy Outlook report released in October, the IEA calculated the carbon-cutting efforts required from each of the world’s major emitters to avoid breaching the 2.0 C (3.6 F) threshold.

The projections for 2020 and 2030 seen for Beijing and Washington were “spot on,” Birol said proudly. For China, the projection for 2020 is based on a forecast eight-percent annual growth in GDP.



Government Fiddles While Australia Burns

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Government Fiddles While Australia Burns

A leading pollster says hardline climate change sceptics within the Coalition are “out of step” with the majority of Australian voters, while the “conservative pitchfork revolt” has sent business groups scurrying for cover, but whatever they say in the bush, the city folk want politicians who lead on climate change. And David Karoly says good government requires urgent and substantial action to rapidly transform to a low-carbon, sustainable society.

Michael Stutchbury, Economics editor, The Australian (28 November 2009): 

THE Rudd-Turnbull greenhouse gas emissions deal is supposed to give business the certainty it needs to pour billions of dollars into transforming Australia into a low-carbon economy. But, like the conservative political revolt it has triggered, the course of Australia’s biggest policy upheaval in a generation is anything but certain.

As Penny Wong yesterday told the Senate, the politically constructed emissions trading market needs broad community support to provide business with confidence that it will last beyond the multi-decade horizon for expensive low-carbon investments. But this confidence will be undermined by the pitchfork revolt against the threat to Australia’s carbon-intensive resource and regional economies, the upstream source of the nation’s wealth.

Next month’s Copenhagen summit is considered unlikely to nail down a credible deal to substantially reduce global emissions, given Barack Obama does not have congressional authority to deliver much of substance. That could leave Australia in front of comparable countries such as the US, Canada and New Zealand.

As well, no one is sure what will happen when Australia pushes the button on full permit trading from mid-2012. The price of permits could swing sharply, as in Europe, potentially eroding low-carbon investment confidence. Amid rising electricity prices, any disruption to coal-fired baseload power supplies would politically shake the system.

Finally, the stain left by Rudd-Turnbull deal includes a precedent of concessions extracted by industries seeking protection from the new carbon impost. If the scheme stumbles, business lobbies will figure the government is receptive to demands for more favours.

Economist and Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin warns the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is “fundamentally unstable”, the price of permits will be “inherently volatile” and the Copenhagen agenda is in “total disarray”. “The political fallout from this is going to lead to changes,” he says.

For geographical and political reasons, Australia does not have the hydro or nuclear alternatives to replace coal-fired baseload electricity. That makes it more costly for us to cut emissions compared with the US, Europe and Japan. That increases the risk of “leakage” of our carbon-intensive industries offshore to developing economies, such as China, where emissions restrictions are less stringent.

The Rudd and Wong concessions to Turnbull and Ian Macfarlane this week aimed to shore up the CPRS against the risks of forcing a growth-oriented economy reliant on cheap coal-fired electricity to reduce its carbon emissions ahead of most of the rest of the world.

The key concession buttresses so-called emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries such as electricity-hungry aluminium smelting, cement, steel and liquefied natural gas.

It extends a “recession buffer”, which initially will hand out 94.5 per cent or 66 per cent of annual permits free to high or moderate EITE industries. And it limits the previous gradual withdrawal of this protection to 90 per cent and 60 per cent of permits if a 2014 review finds less than 70 per cent of Australia’s competitors have imposed comparable “carbon constraints”. Given that China accounts for a large proportion of global production in the relevant industries, this could protect exposed Australian industries until Beijing effectively matches Canberra’s emissions controls.

It means that nearly $42 billion worth of the $114bn of permits budgeted to be allocated until 2019-20 will be handed out free to the EITE industries, putting more of the emissions-reduction load on other industries.

LNG, the epicentre of Australia’s renewed resources boom, won “supplementary” free allocation permits worth an estimated $600million.

Food processing, including dairy, meat and malt, won a special $150m allocation to fund lower-carbon technology.

Rather than being included in the scheme from 2015, agriculture won an ongoing exemption. Moreover, farmers will be eligible for valuable “offsets”, including for storing more carbon in soil.

Mining and manufacturing businesses scored a $1.1bn “transitional” subsidy to compensate for up to 50 or 25 per cent of increased electricity costs for the first two full years of the scheme.

Coal companies got a doubling of a previous $750m subsidy for the cost of permits required for their most “gassy” coal mines. The mostly foreign-owned coal-fired generators had compensation for the loss of their asset values hiked from $3.3bn to $7.3bn, partly in return for agreeing to keep the lights on over the next decade.

The deal pays for the $7bn extra worth of handouts to threatened industries by cutting back nearly $6bn in household compensation for higher electricity prices. This was possible because a higher Australian dollar has lowered the forecast increase in the global carbon price, a sign of the rubbery budget figuring behind the CPRS.

Straddling his mining, heavy industry and service sector membership, Business Council of Australia president Graham Bradley says the Rudd-Turnbull bipartisanship would “enable Australian businesses to plan for and make the required decisions about investments to transition Australia to a low-emissions economy”.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout says the government and the Liberals “deserve praise” for forging “significant advances” for manufacturing. Aluminium smelters say they can now “better plan” their investment. The National Farmers Federation recognises the “political reality” of a carbon price and says the exclusion of agriculture gives it “some confidence”.

Oil and gas lobby APPEA’s head Belinda Robinson says the deal will reduce carbon constraints on LNG exports. “There is no doubt that this package provides the market signal necessary to see more investment in less carbon-intensive electricity generation,” she says.

But this is code for displacing coal-fired electricity with gas. Australian Coal Industry executive director Ralph Hillman expresses “profound disappointment”, complaining Australia has not followed the EU and the US in excluding the coal companies from having to buy permits for “fugitive” gas that escapes from their mines.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hook claims “Australian exporters will be saddled with the highest carbon costs in the world” if the Copenhagen summit fails. And Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson complains that the deal still does not shield small to medium-sized business from electricity price increases of up to 24 per cent.

The conservative pitchfork revolt has sent these business groups scurrying for cover. Yet the Rudd-Turnbull consensus retorts that there really is no certainty principle for the CPRS opponents. Yes, it will be costly for our economy to cut emissions. But this same economic structure makes us vulnerable to green trade retribution if we lag on cutting emissions.

And, whatever they say in the bush, the city folk want politicians who lead on climate change.


Government fiddles around the edges while Australia burns


November 27, 2009

In 1992, in response to the threat of global warming, the governments of the world agreed to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”.

Recently, the G8 nations agreed to an objective of limiting global warming to only two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. The best estimate of what is needed to have a 50:50 chance of avoiding two degrees of global warming is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere below 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases.

To do that, global emissions must peak before 2015 and fall by 50 per cent to 85 per cent by 2050.

How can global emission reductions be distributed between different countries? A fair way of distributing a limited resource among a group of people is to give everyone an equal share. Children understand that this is a fair approach, even if politicians don’t.

All governments in the world agreed in 1992 to the underlying principle that “developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change”. Per person emissions of greenhouse gases in developed countries are four times higher than in developing countries. Australia has the highest emissions of carbon dioxide per person in the world, six times higher than the average for developing countries and even higher than the US.

For Australia, a fair share of the global emissions reduction needed to stabilise long-lived greenhouse gas concentrations at about 450 ppm would be 25 per cent to 40 per cent emissions reductions by 2020 and 90 per cent to 97 per cent reductions by 2050.

The Federal Government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) is an ambitious attempt to introduce an emissions trading scheme as a market-based approach.

Such a scheme has the potential to introduce short-term and long-term targets for emissions reductions, such as 25 per cent emissions reduction by 2020 and 90 per cent emissions reduction by 2050.

However, such a scheme can only be effective if it is comprehensive in including all emission sources, such as transport and agriculture, and if there is minimal compensation for the highest emitters. The principle of “the polluter pays” seems to have been reversed in the proposed CPRS, as the biggest emitters are likely to receive the largest financial hand-outs.

The recent negotiations between the Government and the Liberal Party have led to some improvements to the CPRS. The expansion of terrestrial carbon offsets is likely to drive profound improvements to the way we farm in Australia and how we manage our land. It will put a price on carbon and create new market opportunities to protect and restore degraded land at an almost unimaginable scale. Of course, the additional compensation to the worst emitters also puts more costs on to all taxpayers.

Australian governments’ policies on population growth, encouraging immigration and an increasing birth rate, also make it more difficult to reduce emissions. This encouragement for increasing population in Australia is completely at odds with the claimed aims of tackling climate change. Every additional person in Australia is likely to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the highest per person rate in the world, making the problem much worse.

The Victorian Government’s ambitious green paper on climate change includes discussion of many important actions to respond to climate change through both adaptation and emissions reduction.

But the Government appears unwilling or unable to accept that an urgent whole-of-government approach is needed, with limits on population growth, a strategy to phase out brown coal power stations, huge investment in low-carbon energy sources and public transport, and regulations requiring dramatic improvement in energy efficiency.

The CPRS and its market-based mechanisms need to be complemented by regulations that overcome the likely market failures over the coming decade. Victoria has benefited from cheap energy from brown coal, which is the worst energy source in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy produced. The sooner that electricity production from brown coal is phased out, the better off the world will be.

If government is to deal seriously with climate change, it should separate quality of life and economic growth from growth of greenhouse gas emissions by moving rapidly to zero-carbon energy sources. There are many opportunities for new green jobs and green industries.

Australia has tremendous resources of energy from a wide range of renewable sources, with more total solar energy input received by Australia than any other country in the world, and more potential sources of wind power, wave power and geothermal power per person than any other country.

Good government requires urgent and substantial action to rapidly transform to a low-carbon, sustainable society. Delaying a decision is to make climate change worse, and more difficult and more costly to combat. History will judge our governments’ responses. So far, they have been inadequate.

David Karoly is a professor in the school of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne and played a key role in a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


By Simon Santow for The World Today on ABC:

A leading pollster says hardline climate change sceptics within the Coalition are “out of step” with the majority of Australian voters.

As the political temperature and debate over the proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) rose dramatically this week, Coalition MPs spoke of phones melting down and email inboxes being swamped by an angry public.

Within the Coalition, both ETS opponents and those in favour of the scheme claimed to have the support of the public.

But can both sides be right when both claim to represent a constituency and have public opinion behind them?

Newspoll’s Martin O’Shannessy says the most recent poll on the topic, in September this year, showed that two-thirds of those asked were still in favour of the Government’s proposed carbon reduction scheme.

That was before the amendments, which excluded agriculture, were agreed on earlier this week.

Coalition supporters did not back the scheme to the extent Labor supporters did, but there was still a clear majority in favour.

Mr O’Shannessy says the polling is very clear on whether people believe climate change is happening.

“The vast majority of the electorate, which must include some Liberal voters as well, does believe it is happening and some action’s required,” he said.

“So the hardline of complete refusal within the Liberal Party is probably a little bit out of step with the mainstream of Australian voters at the moment.”

Mr O’Shannessy says his polls show a clear majority of people backed a national emissions trading scheme, but views are mixed on whether to implement it before the world climate summit in Copenhagen.

“We’ve done a series of polls that have shown us that about three-quarters of the population, seven in 10, over the period of the last few years since 2007, see that climate change is happening, [and] that on the whole they believe that we need to act in the form of a carbon pollution reduction scheme,” he said.

“The idea of going it alone had sort of softened up. We find that at the moment about 45 per cent of voters in total feel we should wait till after Copenhagen, 41 per cent saying we should go it alone, the rest are undecided.

“So there’s a bit of a split in the population there and I think if you look at Coalition supporters, about six in 10, 58 per cent, say we should wait whereas almost the opposite – 51 per cent of Labor supporters – say we should go for it now.

“So [it's a] very interesting situation for the body politic and our political leaders where waiting seems to be favoured by Coalition supporters, but again they are in the electoral minority as well.”


ClimateGate or Skeptic Smear Campaign?

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

ClimateGate or Skeptic Smear Campaign?

Three leading scientists believe the scandal that erupted over hacked emails is nothing more than a “smear campaign” aimed at sabotaging December climate talks in Copenhagen. We hear from the University of East Anglia’s Prof Trevor Davies, as well as the New York Times, BBC News, Richard Koman and David Penberthy.

by Stacy Feldman, SolveClimate (25 November 2009):

Three leading scientists who on Tuesday released a report documenting the accelerating pace of climate change said the scandal that erupted last week over hacked emails from climate scientists is nothing more than a “smear campaign” aimed at sabotaging December climate talks in Copenhagen.

“We’re facing an effort by special interests who are trying to confuse the public,” said Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a lead author of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Dissenters see action to slow global warming as “a threat,” he said. The comments were made in a conference call for reporters.

The scientists—Somerville, Michael Mann of Penn State and Eric Steig of University of Washington—were supposed to be discussing their new report, the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a dismal update of the UN IPCC’s 2007 climate data by 26 scientists from eight nations.

Instead they spent much of the time diffusing the hacker controversy, known in the media as “Climate Gate.”

The scandal began on November 20, when an unknown hacker stole at least 169 megabytes of emails from computers at the prominent Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia and put them online for the world to see.

CRU is considered one of the world’s leading institutions concerned with human-caused global warming. The leaked emails contain private correspondence on climate science dating back to 1996.

Skeptics of global warming say these messages are filled with evidence of manipulated data from lead authors of the UN’s highly influential IPCC reports.

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma, pictured here), a climate skeptic, said he would launch an inquiry into UN climate change research in response.

In an interview with the Washington Times radio show, Inhofe explained the investigation would look into “the way cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.”

CRU Vice-Chancellor of Research Trevor Davies responded in an official statement:

“There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation.”

Michael Mann, co-author of the Copenhagen Diagnosis and lead author of the UN IPCC Third Assessment Report, blamed skeptics for taking the personal emails out of context.

“What they’ve done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world. Suddenly, all these are subject to cherry picking,” he said.

They’ve turned “something innocent into something nefarious,” Mann added.

The vital point being left out, he said, is that “regardless of how cherry-picked,” there is “absolutely nothing in any of the emails that calls into the question the deep level of consensus of climate change.”

This is a “smear campaign to distract the public,” said Mann. “Those opposed to climate action, simply don’t have the science on their side,” he added.

Professor Davies called the stolen data “the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign” designed “to distract from reasoned debate” about urgent action governments must take to reverse climate change.

According to Somerville, the comments in the emails “have nothing to do with the scientific case” for climate change.

It is “desperate” to launch this right before Copenhagen, Eric Steig, co-author of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, said on the call.

Sen. Inhofe, meanwhile, lauded the timing of the incident.

“The interesting part of this is it’s happening right before Copenhagen. And, so, the timing couldn’t be better. Whoever is on the ball in Great Britain, their timing was good,” he said.

Science Can’t Silence Skeptics, Still

The fallout from the scandal is putting some of the world’s leading climate scientists on the defensive and underlining the influence of skeptics, even as the case for human-caused warming gets stronger.

According to the Copenhagen Diagnosis report, climate change has rapidly accelerated beyond all previous predictions and humans are to blame.

The findings are a synthesis of 200 peer-reviewed papers that continued to pour in from all over the world after the UN IPCC issued its 2007 analysis. Somerville described the report as an “authoritative assessment” of the newest climate change data.

The results reveal that global warming emissions in 2008 were nearly 40 percent higher than those in 1990. Further, sea level rise is 80 percent above past IPCC predictions.

If 2 degree Celsius warming is to be avoided—the point at which catastrophic damage is predicted to occur—fossil fuel emissions must peak between 2015 and 2020, “and then decline rapidly,” the authors warn.

“There’s an urgency to this that is not politically or ideological driven,” said Somerville. This is “objective scientific reality,” he added, and we’re “running out of time,” to stop the problem.

In a statement released on Tuesday, three of the UK’s leading science organizations—the Met Office, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Royal Society—issued an unusually strong statement in advance of Copenhagen. They wrote:

“The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong. Without co-ordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts on climate and civilization could be severe.”


Richard Koman on Richard Koman, (25 November 2009):

Internet security and climate change had a surprising run-in last week, as thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit wound up on climate-skeptic web sites. The University says it is cooperating with police and launching its own investigation into how the emails wound up online.

While many universities have suffered data breaches by cybercriminals, the fact that this data was released to anti-climate change sites strongly suggests the breach was politically motivated, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at Circle Security. “There is no doubt in my mind that the break-in was a targeted attack,” Storms said.

“Cybercriminals seek assets worth value on the black market — private and personal information primarily. Large amounts of emails about climate research aren’t worth much when it comes to identity theft,” Storms said. “Further, if the attackers felt there was monetary value in this information, they would not have leaked it so readily.”


New York Times reported that:

The intruders sought to create a mock blog post there and to upload the full batch of files from Britain. That effort was thwarted, Dr. Schmidt said, and scientists immediately notified colleagues at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. The first posts that revealed details from the files appeared Thursday at The Air Vent, a Web site devoted to skeptics’ arguments.

The BBC News reported:

The e-mail system of one of the world’s leading climate research units has been breached by hackers.

E-mails reportedly from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), including personal exchanges, appeared on the internet on Thursday.

A university spokesman confirmed the email system had been hacked and that information was taken and published without permission.

An investigation was underway and the police had been informed, he added.

“We are aware that information from a server used for research information in one area of the university has been made available on public websites,” the spokesman stated.

“Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm that all of this material is genuine.

“This information has been obtained and published without our permission and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation.

“We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved the police in this enquiry.”

Researchers at CRU, one of the world’s leading research bodies on natural and human-induced climate change, played a key role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, which is considered to be the most authoritative report of its kind.

‘Inside information’

Graham Cluley, a computer security expert, suggested that December’s key climate summit in Copenhagen, which has made headlines around the world, could have increased the university’s profile as a possible target among hackers.

“There are passionate opinions on both sides of the climate debate and there will be people trying to knock down the other side,” Mr Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, told BBC News.

“If they feel that they can gather inside information on what the other side is up to, then they may feel that is ammunition for their counterargument.”

Mr Cluley added that universities were vulnerable to attacks by hackers because so many people required access to IT systems.

“You do need proper security in place; you need to be careful regarding communications and make sure your systems are secure.

“I trust that they will now be looking at the systems, and investigating how this happened and ensuring that something like this does not happen again.”



David Penberthy for The Age (27 November 2009):  

ONE thing that has always struck me as odd about the vehement opponents of childhood immunisation is how people with absolutely no scientific background can thumb their noses at mainstream scientific opinion.

Not to mention their comfort with plonking their potentially disease-carrying kids in the middle of a crowded childcare centre, populated by the offspring of families with the sense and humility to defer to those who actually hold medical degrees.

It seems a special kind of impertinence for people who have absolutely no scientific background to declare that the overwhelming body of medical knowledge, gathered over the centuries, tested and re-tested, not for commercial gain but the good of humanity, should be blithely dismissed out of hand for opinions that have no basis in science, or are embraced only on the scientific fringes.

Right now, the climate change deniers are set to overtake the anti-vaccination crowd with their conceited disregard for the scientific mainstream.

There are a number of parallels – a determination to distort the valid scientific work of anyone who does not subscribe to their theories, to suggest sinister motives (when logic suggests that none could be there) and to amplify the work of scientists on the fringes as the marginalised but heroic voices who alone have the courage to put arguments to the test.

As much as I respect colleagues such as Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt, I cannot cop their analysis of the leaked email scandal from the University of East Anglia which they and other climate change deniers are now citing as proof that the whole global warming caper is – as Liberal Senator and climate sceptic Nick Minchin might say – some sort of communist plot.

Emails from scientists seconded to the university’s climate change research unit, the Hadley Centre, have been made public after the institution’s computer systems were hacked.

The emails include a number of statements from prominent climate scientists, some of whom have been advising the United Nations, in which they question their own research methods, challenge their findings and the assumptions they have made.

One email which has been held up by climate change deniers as the most damning features an admission from American climatologist Kevin Trenberth that scientists cannot quantify the lack of global warming to date.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t . . . our observing system is inadequate,” it reads.

That statement of itself doesn’t suggest to me that this scientist or any of his colleagues are cooking the books to create some imagined climate change artifice.

Rather, it sounds like a very orthodox call for scientific rigour – a statement of frustration that more has not been done to devise a more reliable method of measuring and checking the extent of temperature increases.

Other leaked emails show the scientists agonising over the veracity of their results.

Which is what you want them to do – not to knock things into shape to suit their prejudice, but to demand they face even more scrutiny.

But in the hands of the climate change deniers it is irrefutable proof that the whole thing is a con and a sham, proof that climate change is some sort of cult or religion (ignoring the fact that climate change deniers are so evangelical about their views that they could really join the Scientologists in holding tax-free status).

The University of East Anglia beat-up does not alter the fact that almost every scientist on the face of this planet believes that the evidence of climate change is there.

Of course, agreeing with their thesis does not mean that you should automatically be locked into backing Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong on the CPRS.

There are many aspects to their handling of this issue which grate.

There are more fundamental questions which go to jobs, cost of living, the future viability of communities in places such as the Hunter and Traralgon and Gippsland and the Iron Triangle.

It’s silly for Rudd to call this the greatest moral challenge of our times.

It’s a scientific challenge, and a policy challenge, but a moral challenge it ain’t.

Also, you can spare us the computer-modelled images showing that Campbelltown could become absolute waterfront in 2030 – although if you happen to live in Micronesia it might be a more compelling graphic.

There is also still a massively important pragmatic argument surrounding the CPRS – namely, if other bigger-polluting nations don’t introduce a regime such as ours, why should we claim the (moral) high ground by clobbering our own economy when others are refusing to act?

But when it comes to the basic questions of science, forgive me for sticking with the guys in the lab coats.

The most vociferous critics of climate change on the conservative side of Australian politics are blokes whose past careers include working as policy wonks, party directors, graziers, lawyers, and one of them was a publican.

These are all noble professions – particularly the last one – but I am not sure what kind of standing they give them to posture as such confident experts on the most perplexing scientific question of the age.

Being a lowly hack, I have no scientific background either, obviously. Which is why I will listen to what most scientists say.

For all the continuing scientific arguments, there was something I heard recently on an aeroplane which triggered a much more emotional and awestruck response from the passengers, and one which the party political deniers should remember as they advocate that government stay idle on this question.

It was last Thursday, when the pilot said: “Welcome to Adelaide, where the local time is 8.40pm and the temperature is 39 degrees.”


The University of East Anglia has released a statement from Prof Trevor Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research:

The publication of a selection of the emails and data stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has led to some questioning of the climate science research published by CRU and others.

There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation.

CRU’s peer-reviewed publications are consistent with, and have contributed to, the overwhelming scientific consensus that the climate is being strongly influenced by human activity. The interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land, and ice mean that the strongly-increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do not produce a uniform year-on-year increase in global temperature.

On time-scales of 5-10 years, however, there is a broad scientific consensus that the Earth will continue to warm, with attendant changes in the climate, for the foreseeable future. It is important, for all countries, that this warming is slowed down, through substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Respected international research groups, using other data sets, have come to the same conclusion.

The publication of a selection of stolen data is the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign which may have been designed to distract from reasoned debate about the nature of the urgent action which world governments must consider to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.

We are committed to furthering this debate despite being faced with difficult circumstances related to a criminal breach of our security systems and our concern to protect colleagues from the more extreme behaviour of some who have responded in irrational and unpleasant ways to the publication of personal information.


Warming Climate: Consensus or Controversy

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Warming Climate: Consensus or Controversy

Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new NCAR research shows, while author of “The Rough Guide to Climate Change” Bob Henson gets ready for Copenhagen and David Hosansky asks “Which makes the news? Consensus or controversy”.

BOULDER—Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

This graphic shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole.

The study, by authors at NCAR, Climate Central, The Weather Channel, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor, the Department of Energy, and Climate Central.

If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. Instead, for the period from January 1, 2000, to September 30, 2009, the continental United States set 291,237 record highs and 142,420 record lows, as the country experienced unusually mild winter weather and intense summer heat waves.

A record daily high means that temperatures were warmer on a given day than on that same date throughout a weather station’s history. The authors used a quality control process to ensure the reliability of data from thousands of weather stations across the country, while looking at data over the past six decades to capture longer-term trends.

This decade’s warming was more pronounced in the western United States, where the ratio was more than two to one, than in the eastern United States, where the ratio was about one-and-a-half to one.

The study also found that the two-to-one ratio across the country as a whole could be attributed more to a comparatively small number of record lows than to a large number of record highs. This indicates that much of the nation’s warming is occurring at night, when temperatures are dipping less often to record lows. This finding is consistent with years of climate model research showing that higher overnight lows should be expected with climate change.

More records ahead

In addition to surveying actual temperatures in recent decades, Meehl and his co-authors turned to a sophisticated computer model of global climate to determine how record high and low temperatures are likely to change during the course of this century.

The modeling results indicate that if nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a “business as usual” scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100. The mid-century ratio could be much higher if emissions rose at an even greater pace, or it could be about 8-to-1 if emissions were reduced significantly, the model showed.

The authors caution that such predictions are, by their nature, inexact. Climate models are not designed to capture record daily highs and lows with precision, and it remains impossible to know future human actions that will determine the level of future greenhouse gas emissions. The model used for the study, the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model, correctly captured the trend toward warmer average temperatures and the greater warming in the West, but overstated the ratio of record highs to record lows in recent years.

However, the model results are important because they show that, in all likely scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, record daily highs should increasingly outpace record lows over time.

“If the climate weren’t changing, you would expect the number of temperature records to diminish significantly over time,” says Claudia Tebaldi, a statistician with Climate Central who is one of the paper’s co-authors. “As you measure the high and low daily temperatures each year, it normally becomes more difficult to break a record after a number of years. But as the average temperatures continue to rise this century, we will keep setting more record highs.”

An expanding ratio

The study team focused on weather stations that have been operating since 1950. They found that the ratio of record daily high to record daily low temperatures slightly exceeded one to one in the 1950s, dipped below that level in the 1960s and 1970s, and has risen since the 1980s. The results reflect changes in U.S. average temperatures, which rose in the 1950s, stabilized in the 1960s, and then began a warming trend in the late 1970s.

Even in the first nine months of this year, when the United States cooled somewhat after a string of unusually warm years, the ratio of record daily high to record daily low temperatures was more than three to two.

Despite the increasing number of record highs, there will still be occasional periods of record cold, Meehl notes.

“One of the messages of this study is that you still get cold days,” Meehl says. “Winter still comes. Even in a much warmer climate, we’re setting record low minimum temperatures on a few days each year. But the odds are shifting so there’s a much better chance of daily record highs instead of lows.”

Millions of readings from weather stations across the country

The study team analyzed several million daily high and low temperature readings taken over the span of six decades at about 1,800 weather stations across the country, thereby ensuring ample data for statistically significant results. The readings, collected at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, undergo a quality control process at the data center that looks for such potential problems as missing data as well as inconsistent readings caused by changes in thermometers, station locations, or other factors.

Meehl and his colleagues then used temperature simulations from the Community Climate System Model to compute daily record highs and lows under current and future atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Consensus and controversy: Which makes the news?

David Hosansky  (24 November 2009):  

This has been quite a banner year for climate skeptics. Even though reports continue to pour in about melting glaciers, sea ice loss, and temperatures across much of the globe remaining unusually warm, fewer and fewer Americans seem to believe the climate is warming.

In the spring of 2008, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 71% of Americans believed there was solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer. As of last month, that number had dropped to 57%. Similarly, a Gallup poll in March found that 41% of Americans felt that the seriousness of global warming was being exaggerated—the highest level of skepticism in more than a decade of Gallup polling on this subject. Similar drops in concern appear in a poll released just today by ABC and the Washington post.

Last week’s news about the hacking of some 1,000 private e-mails written by prominent climate scientists, including Kevin Trenberth here at NCAR, is likely to further embolden skeptics. Some say the e-mails paint a picture of scientists who were distorting climate change research—an allegation sharply denied by the hacking target, the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU).

The media coverage of the e-mail hacking is a discouraging reminder of how hard it is to inform Americans about climate change. In the first three days after the hacking incident was initially reported, the coverage generated about 1,500 hits on Google News. That’s an enormous level of media interest for a subject like climate change. By comparison, an NCAR news release is lucky to generate 300 to 400 media hits as measured by Google News, and then only when the research has major societal implications, such as a recent study linking climate change to lower water levels in some of the world’s major rivers.

With news organizations cutting back on their science coverage, they don’t have the resources to cover new research. They’re looking for controversies like the hacking of e-mails. So when scientists are in agreement over global warming, that doesn’t generate news because it’s not controversial. When 18 of the nation’s most prominent scientific organizations wrote to Congress last month about the broad scientific consensus over global warming, major news organizations didn’t do any stories at all.

As a former reporter, I’m not trying to make the case that the hacking of e-mails wasn’t a legitimate news story. But it would be nice if that were better balanced with stories about the scientific consensus.

There are many reasons that Americans remain uncertain about the validity of global warming, years after virtually all climate scientists considered the case proven. Temperatures in much of the United States aren’t rising as rapidly as elsewhere in the world. Heat waves don’t generate the kind of angst that a snowstorm might cause. And the economy could be making many in the public uneasy about the sacrifices that could be involved in cutting emissions.

But the coverage of the hacking at CRU reveals another reason. Mainstream news media, sadly, are simply not driven to cover the science of global warming. If the traditional motto of journalism is “just the facts,” perhaps the motto in this 24-hour, point-counterpoint news culture should be: “just the disputes over the facts.”

 Now comes the hard part

Bob Henson (18 November 2009):   

What happens in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 7 to 18 December could affect our lives for years to come. Diplomats from almost 200 countries will huddle, confer, cajole, and eventually forge the structure of a new global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

The Copenhagen meeting will take place at the city’s Bella Center, where a windmill serves as literal and symbolic evidence of Denmark’s commitment to alternative energy.

The Copenhagen meeting—technically, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—has been dubbed many things, including the last chance to save our planet. Any gathering would have trouble living up to such hype, and in fact, expectations are already getting tamped down. Leaders from the United States, China, and other Asia-Pacific nations announced on 15 November that a binding agreement on emissions would be impossible to achieve in Copenhagen. Instead, they’ll seek a “political agreement” that might lead to a binding deal in 2010.

Though widely expected, this pullback was sobering enough to prod the London Telegraph to ask its readers, “Has the battle against climate change been lost?”

The obituary may be premature: much still rides on the Copenhagen meeting. Many issues remain on the table, including how to structure carbon trading and how to help developing nations adapt to climate change already in the works.

Along with the diplomatic talks, there will be hundreds of side events involving thousands of scientists, activists, journalists, and legislators, including some 200 U.S. senators and representatives.

A handful of people from UCAR and NCAR will be in the mix as well. We’re each attending for various reasons—to present research results, share educational resources, meet international peers, and more— but all of us are keenly interested in sharing our knowledge and learning more about climate change and the tremendous challenge the world faces in responding to it.

We’ll be posting updates here on NOTES FROM COPENHAGEN as our schedules allow, beginning in earnest around 11 December and continuing through the end of the meeting. You can also follow our updates via RSS news feed, Twitter, or Facebook.


ETS Helps EU To Meet Targets

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

ETS Helps EU To Meet Targets

European Union and all member states but one are on track to meet their Kyoto commitments to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says an EU report, highlighting the importance of the ETS and stressing that governments need to focus on reducing emissions in the sectors not covered, such as transport, agriculture and households.


A report by the European Environment Agency released today shows that the European Union and all Member States but one are on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Such an accomplishment should encourage all countries to agree on much larger reductions of global emissions, sealing a global deal in Copenhagen this December.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director

Whereas the Protocol requires that the EU-15 reduce average emissions during 2008–2012 to 8 % below 1990 levels, the latest projections indicate that the EU-15 will go further, reaching a total reduction of more than 13 % below the base year.

Commenting on the findings, EEA Executive Director Professor Jacqueline McGlade said:

“It is encouraging that Europe’s climate-changing emissions are expected to continue decreasing, outperforming the objectives set by the Kyoto Protocol. Such an accomplishment should encourage all countries to agree on much larger reductions of global emissions, sealing a global deal in Copenhagen this December. Commitments to deep emission cuts are urgently needed to preserve our chances to keep planetary temperature increases below 2ºC.”

The EEA report shows that the reductions in the period 2008–2012 will be achieved through a combination of existing and additional policies, the purchase by governments of credits from emission-reducing projects outside the EU, the trading of emission allowances by participants in the EU emission trading scheme (EU ETS) and forestry activities that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

The trading scheme primarily covers large carbon-emitting industries, which represent about 40 % of EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Looking further ahead, almost three quarters of the EU’s unilateral target to cut emissions to 20 % below 1990 levels by 2020 could be achieved domestically (i.e. without purchase of credits outside the EU).

The report highlights the importance of the EU ETS in helping Member States meet their targets. It also stresses, however, that governments need to focus on reducing emissions in the sectors not covered by the ETS, such as transport, agriculture and households.

How could the EU achieve the projected reductions?

The report foresees a variety of factors contributing to the EU-15′s total reduction of more than 13 %:

Existing policies and measures for the period 2008–2012 could account for 6.9 percentage points of the total reduction.

If Member States implement additional measures as planned, the total reduction could reach 8.5 %, although this will largely depend on combined efforts in four main emitting countries (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).

The use of Kyoto’s flexible mechanisms by governments could contribute an additional 2.2 percentage points reduction.

Absorbing carbon dioxide through enhanced carbon sinks (e.g.improved forest management) will contribute with an additional 1 percentage point reduction.

Purchase of emission allowances and credits by EU ETS operators is expected to deliver a further 1.4 percentage point reduction.

Emission reductions may be furthered by economic recession

Five EU-15 Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have already reduced domestic emissions below their targets. Only Austria expects to fall short of its commitment under current conditions and will have to intensify its efforts to reduce emissions in non-ETS sectors.

All other Member States and EEA member countries with emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol anticipate that they will meet their commitments.

Member States’ projections have started to take into account the recent economic downturn but the report finds that GHG emissions may still be overestimated in the short term. As such, the recession could bring about further cuts in emissions.

 Projected gap between EU-15 GHG emissions and Kyoto units (emission rights) during the Kyoto commitment period 2008–2012 (click for larger image)

Note: EU-15 figure in absolute terms (– 217 Mt CO2-eq.) not represented due to significantly higher scale.

Countries are ranked by increasing absolute gap between their 2008–2012 projected emissions in the sectors not covered by the EU ETS and their corresponding Kyoto target.

EU Kyoto Targets: The EU-15 has a Kyoto target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 % from base-year levels (see below) by 2012. Within this overall target, each EU-15 member state has a differentiated reduction target; some should reduce emissions while others are allowed a limited increase. New Member States have individual targets except Cyprus and Malta, which have no targets. Countries can achieve these targets by various means.

Base-year emissions: Under the Kyoto Protocol the GHG emission level in the ‘base year’ is the relevant starting point for tracking progress of domestic emissions for EU-15 and all Member States which have a Kyoto target. The EU-27 does not have a Kyoto target and an aggregated base year for the EU-27 is therefore not applicable in any discussion of progress towards Kyoto targets. It is important to clarify that the base year is not a ‘year’ per se, but the emission level from which emission reductions will take place. For carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, 1990 is used as the ‘base year’ for all EU-15 Member States. But for fluorinated gases, the EU-15 Member States can choose to use the emission levels in 1995 instead. Twelve of the 15 Member States have chosen to use 1995 as their base year for fluorinated gas emissions. In practice, EU-15 base-year emissions can be considered close to 1990 emissions.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme: The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is the European Union’s main climate change policy tool, which helps industries to cut their CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way. It requires a cap on emissions for all large CO2 emission sources.

Domestic policies and measures: Domestic policies and measures take place within the national boundaries of the country (the promotion of electricity from renewable energy; improvements in energy efficiency; promotion of biofuels in transport; reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from cars; recovery of gases from landfills and reduction of fluorinated gases).

Kyoto mechanisms: The Kyoto Protocol envisages market-based mechanisms that allow industrialised countries to meet their targets by benefiting from emission reductions in other countries. Under these mechanisms, Member States can trade emissions between themselves or acquire credits from emission-cutting projects they finance abroad. These mechanisms also help the transfer of low-carbon technologies to other countries and promote sustainable development. For more information on Kyoto mechanisms, see the UNFCCC website.


Energy Efficiency & Zero Waste

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Energy Efficiency & Zero Waste

The global market for energy efficiency this year was $US164 billion and would grow to more than $US600 billion by 2020, says Paddy Manning, while next week’s Zero Waste Summit  will feature local and international speakers discussing why the development of a closed loop system in waste recovery is now vital for the future of our planet. 

Paddy Manning in Business Day/The Age (28 November 2009):

CUTTING energy waste may be the only thing we can all agree on at the fag end of a divisive debate about the best way of tackling climate change in Australia.

As it happens, that is the most productive area we could possibly focus on, environmentally and economically. One proposal that could emerge out of the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) before Parliament is the creation of a prime ministerial task group to develop a broad-based market mechanism to promote energy efficiency next year.

Ho hum, you say? No money in it? Wrong. Energy efficiency is the fastest-growing carbon abatement market, according to HSBC’s recent Climate Annual Index Review. HSBC estimated that the global market for energy efficiency this year was $US164 billion ($A178 billion) and would grow to more than $US600 billion by 2020.

Clean coal versus renewable energy versus nuclear gets all the headlines. But the International Energy Agency expects 63 per cent of the world’s emissions reductions by 2030 – needed to meet an inadequate 450 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide stabilisation target – will come from energy efficiency.

A 2007 Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics study estimated energy efficiency would directly account for 55 per cent of Australia’s carbon abatement by 2050. This is what energy experts call ”plucking the low-hanging fruit”.

Last year McKinsey & Co ranked carbon abatement strategies from cheapest to dearest, and showed many energy efficiency strategies have a negative cost – that is, they make you money. In the commercial property sector, for example, McKinsey says we can save $130 for each tonne of carbon dioxide pollution avoided.

This puts into perspective the debate about whether Australia meets its international emissions reduction obligations at home or by importing carbon credits – for example, paying to leave rainforests standing in developing countries – while continuing to burn coal here like there’s no tomorrow.

Energy efficiency strategies are the cheapest abatement of all. At the household level, this means ”50 ways to beat the new green tax”, as touted by one newspaper during this week’s parliamentary negotiations.

Too right. Let’s change our globes (didn’t we already?). Hang out our clothes. Wash the dishes by hand, or at least fill the dishwasher before turning it on.

Such steps seem obvious but are we really going to beat climate change by killing the standby switch? Rightly or wrongly, it feels trivial.

Technology won’t do the hard work for us. Mark Lister, from the Alliance to Save Energy, says in almost all cases the energy efficiency dividend from use of better technology over the years has been taken up as increased consumption. Demand continues to grow at about 2 per cent a year – higher than population growth.

Though we have more-efficient fridges than we did a decade ago, they are bigger and there’s a spare beer or wine fridge out the back. Add in air-conditioners and plasma TVs, McMansions and SUVs, and you get the idea.

Things have got worse, not better, in housing and transport. Meanwhile prodigious amounts of energy are wasted by business, which dwarf anything householders can come at.

Energy Efficiency Council chief executive Rob Murray-Leach says Australia is well behind Europe and the US. Historically, low energy prices have made us sloppy in our energy use – although it gets complicated when you start trying to put figures around sloppy.

At its lead and zinc smelter at Port Pirie, for example, Belgian company Nyrstar last year found annual savings worth $5.5 million after doing an assessment with the federal energy department.

Or take the Moomba gas plant in South Australia, where Murray-Leach says Santos found it could reduce energy use by a third – enough to power 100,000 homes.

In commercial buildings, energy efficiency retrofits routinely achieve energy savings of 40-50 per cent.

The profits, often measured in payback periods counted in years, are for real but are too small for most property investors to bother about.

Visiting International Energy Agency energy efficiency chief Nigel Jollands, who recently called our commercial building standards ”appalling”, hopefully gave a wake-up call to an industry that pats itself on the back every time it announces a new green star-rated office building but has been lax on maintaining and improving existing stock.

The potential savings in this sector are guaranteed. One Sydney-based company EP&T, which partners the likes of Westfield, Colonial, GPT, Macquarie and Investa, is launching a service in which it provides the money for retrofits, and reaps a return from the savings.

That’s not to say energy efficiency is easy. It’s the ultimate marathon, as constant technological improvement increases potential savings against ”business as usual” – itself a moveable feast. Plus, it is a marathon with obstacles.

Worst of all, our national energy market encourages participants to increase energy use.

Then there are cultural issues, information and skills deficits and pig-headedness – when people don’t behave optimally, in this case refusing to save money.

Another obstacle would be the CPRS itself. Currently structured, the CPRS would increase energy prices a little, shortening payback periods from efficiency improvements. But demand is stubbornly ”price-inelastic”.

Worse, according to energy expert Richard Dennis from The Australia Institute, the CPRS would create structural impediments to a fair allocation of the return from investment in energy efficiency.

What is needed (and could be introduced next year) is a complementary mechanism to the planned CPRS to create an economic incentive to pursue energy efficiency – particularly in the commercial and industrial sector, because the Carbon Trust is meant to promote voluntary energy reduction in the household sector.

Mark Lister says a full policy response to climate change – as proposed in the US under the Waxman-Markey emissions trading scheme – would have three strands, a ”white certificate” scheme to promote energy efficiency, alongside ”green” certificates under the renewable energy target regime and ”black” pollution permits as outlined under the CPRS.

That’s for next year.



Zero Waste Summit 30 November – 1 December:

The environmental, economic and social impact of the World’s depleting resources is now at crisis point. By 2050 the global population is set to increase by 40%. 

The onset of rapidly developing nations means our planet’s natural resources will be mined to the point of depletion – in some cases within 30 years. 

Increased material and energy consumption in the globe’s industrialized nations coupled with an inadequate and unsustainable resource (Waste) recovery system means Governments, Businesses, and Individuals now have to rapidly put into practice new measures to achieve a responsible, closed loop and sustainable solution in waste recycling.   

The Zero Waste Summit 2009 will feature local and international speakers to share useful, up-to-date and practical information discussing why the development of a closed loop system in waste recovery is now vital for the future of our planet.  Waste was once seen as a burden to our communities and industries.  However shifting attitudes on climate change now emphasise Waste is a valuable resource which demands a responsible solution in nurturing and management.  

 The Zero Waste Summit 2009, at Dockside, The Balcony Level, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Park, Sydney, will feature:

Local & International Speakers / Experts addressing key issues and challenges facing the waste and recycling industries

Educational forums / Case Studies / Panel sessions

Full exhibition area to meet and network with suppliers, industry experts and consultants

Networking opportunity to meet industry peers

With sustainability now at the forefront of importance to consumers and businesses it is now essential to be aware of changing policy and regulations, industry standards, best practices and new opportunities.  Attend the Zero Waste Summit 2009 and seek out the answers to what has changed, why it is happening and what is forecast for the future in Australia as we embark into a new era of Zero Waste management.

Topics include:

National Waste Policy update – New regulation for a new era in Waste management

Implementing a Zero Waste strategy

Mass Consumerism – A system in crisis

Advanced Waste Technology

Trends in waste management and recycling

Depletion of minable agricultural phosphate within 30 years

Organics disposal – diverting from landfill is now essential

Packaging recycling – education, policy, regulation

Sustainable Packaging design

Nutrient management NOT Waste management

Landfill gas collections – how effective is this process and at what cost?

Agricultural soil quality and it’s impact on Climate Change

New Technologies and Education enabling households to monitor eco-footprint control

Waste streams & nutrient flows

Source separation – minimising contaminant levels in organic waste

Bi-products from Waste streams

New industry = New opportunity = New jobs

Zero Waste in the workplace – How to implement a strategy in a cost efficient manner

Ethical and sustainable buying

Environmental benefits of Zero Waste for Australia / the World

Green buildings and sustainable construction

Triple bottom line in solid waste management planning

And much more…

Delegates attending the Zero Waste Summit 2009 will include:

Environmental professionals (from both public and private sectors); zero waste experts; group sustainability directors / managers; managing directors; CEO’s; COO’s; operations directors; purchasing directors; marketing directors; production directors; commercial managers; innovation managers; packaging specialists;  packaging managers; compliance and research managers; product architects; product development managers; supply chain managers; corporate responsibility managers; brand managers; communications managers; architects; real estate developers; green building contractors; federal & local government environmental staff members;  municipal environmental staff members; recycling companies; waste management companies; NGO’s; industrial manufacturers. 

Source: and

Efficient Fuel Cells To Meet Demand

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Efficient Fuel Cells To Meet Demand

The demand for electricity is going up, yet greenhouse gas emissions must come down, quickly, to avoid dangerous climate change. Ceramic Fuel Cells’ technology is ideally suited as it is able to generate electricity at close to double the efficiency of the current power grid. So says energy business supremo Jeff Harding.

Chairman Jeff Harding speaking at the Ceramic Fuel Cells annual general meeting held 24 November 2009:

Energy Market Transformation

It is now well recognised that energy supplies throughout the world require transformation.

In the developed world, energy use is rising, particularly summer peak demand for electricity. Billions of dollars are being spent to upgrade ageing power networks to cope with this demand. These costs are passed on to consumers through increased power bills.

Here in Australia we have been insulated from some of these expenses, but this is changing.

For example, earlier this year the Queensland Government reported that there were 1,000 air-conditioners being installed in South-East Queensland each week; and that each one would require an expenditure of $5,000 to reinforce and upgrade the existing power network. That adds up to $5 million per week.

These huge network costs are flowing into higher power bills for consumers. In Australia, New South Wales had a 20% increase this year in power costs. Other markets are facing similar increases. And that’s just to keep the network maintained – let alone factoring in a penalty cost for producing CO2.

All this may – and probably will – change again when the world leaders gather shortly in Copenhagen to discuss the challenges of climate change.

These pressures are also being felt in developed markets in Europe, North America and Asia.

The European Commission estimates that around €1 trillion will have to be spent on improving Europe’s electricity network and generation capacity between now and 2030 to respond to climate and security of supply challenges.

Less developed countries are facing different – but equally urgent – challenges. China, India and parts of South America and Asia, all need to build new infrastructure to deliver reliable power, and in some cases to deliver power to many people that haven’t previously had access to electricity.

The challenge of course is that all of this new electricity must come with far lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments in Australia, Europe and around the world have set targets to reduce emissions, and there will be many ways to meet these targets.

On the demand side, increasing energy efficiency is part of the answer, but it is not the whole answer.

Renewable energies such as solar, wave, wind and geothermal are also necessary but not sufficient for meeting demand.

Australian Governments are spending billions on carbon capture technology, to extend the life of coal generators. It will be many years before we know if this works, and if it is safe and economic.

Nuclear energy is also an option, but has its own challenges – long lead times for planning, approval and construction, safety and environmental issues, as well as currently being a very expensive way to generate electricity.

Role of Distributed Generation

One important part of the answer is distributed generation – generating electricity close to where it is consumed.

The move from a handful of large power stations, towards thousands of small-scale generators embedded where the power is needed, is a bit like the evolution we have seen from huge mainframe computers to personal computers and now hand-held smart phones, and from large centralised air-conditioning plants in buildings to large networks of small efficient units installed where cooling is needed.

Distributed generation using natural gas provides low emission power and heat; baseload as well as peak power; and significant energy network cost savings. It also has huge benefits for the environment,

Ceramic Fuel Cells’ technology is ideally suited for distributed generation because it has very high efficiencies – we can generate electricity at close to double the efficiency of the current power grid.

Utilities in Europe are seriously interested in its potential to save huge investments in network upgrades and new generating capacity.

Turning Technology into Products

The standout technical milestone during the year was achieving electrical efficiency of 60 percent at the power point. We believe this is the highest electrical efficiency ever achieved from any technology which converts hydrocarbon fuels into electricity.

During the year the Company continued to develop integrated power and heating products with our partners in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We successfully demonstrated semi-integrated products, and have now moved to develop and deploy fully integrated products.

Earlier this year the Company also developed and launched our BlueGen modular generator product. BlueGen provides both power and hot water, and is ideal for customers and markets – including Australia – that do not need a fully integrated product. Both products use the same core fuel cell module.

BlueGen was launched in May 2009 by the Victorian Premier John Brumby. Since the launch we have received a tremendous amount of interest from customers in many international and domestic markets. The first BlueGen demonstration unit will be installed in a VicUrban showcase site in the next few weeks.

Today we were pleased to announce our first distribution agreement for BlueGen, with the leading Australian green retailer Neco. We will hear more about Neco later in the meeting.


Energy policies in many countries have been expanded from a focus on only renewable power towards low emission power.

Germany, the United Kingdom, California, Japan and Korea, have all announced or implemented policies to help fuel cell products like ours get into the market.

We are encouraging governments in Australia to adopt similar policies. We have met with and provided submissions to State and Federal Governments. We will continue to push our case for changes that recognise the enormous benefits our technology can bring.


In the meantime we will continue to develop the sales and distribution networks for our products, especially BlueGen. We are not waiting for a Government handout, and we are confident we can sell products without any subsidies – but policies which recognise the huge carbon savings and other benefits of our technology will help us get into the mainstream market much faster.


The key achievement during the year was commissioning our volume fuel cell manufacturing plant in Heinsberg, Germany. The plant, which opened in October 2009, uses state of the art automated manufacturing equipment to make the fuel cell ‘stacks’ which are the ‘heart’ of our technology. The plant will allow the Company to scale up production to reduce the costs of each stack.

We hosted more than 100 guests at the official opening, including customers, suppliers, partners, Government and German media, and the response across the board was positive and excited. The plant is a tribute to our staff here and in Germany.

In conclusion, the world is facing enormous challenges: the demand for electricity is going up, yet greenhouse gas emissions must come down, quickly, to avoid dangerous climate change.

There are huge global markets for products that can provide solutions to this challenge.

Ceramic Fuel Cells is well placed to seize these opportunities. We have 17 years of experience and wholly-owned intellectual property. We have world-leading technology, demonstrated over many years in several countries.

We have volume manufacturing in place, and we are quickly moving to sell, install and service our products.

Like any breakthrough product there are always challenges ahead, however we are tremendously excited about the opportunities for the Company in the coming year.


Energy Innovations or Risky Investments?

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86


The qualifying round of the Progressive Automotive X Prize is over, leaving 42 teams striving to show that their market-ready, super-efficient vehicle is better than the rest to win a US$10 million award, while he US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy has committed US$150 million with one lofty aim: to transform the planet’s energy future.

By Phil McKenna in New Scientist (23 November 2009):

IF YOU had $150 million to spend on boundary-busting energy research, where would you put the cash? The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy has committed that amount this year, with one lofty aim: to transform the planet’s energy future.

But which technologies are its best bets?

US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) knows it’s taking some huge gambles: it fully expects that many of the 37 projects it picked will fail.

“Our model is to look for risky, high-potential technologies that don’t currently have a means of funding to see if they will work,” says ARPA-E’s deputy director, Shane Kosinski.

The initial announcement that funding was available resulted in a flood of over 3600 grant applications. A team of 400 leading energy researchers helped whittle down the list. The fine details of the projects chosen remain sketchy, however.

Topping the grant allocation list was drilling company Foro Energy of Littleton, Colorado. The company has been tight-lipped about how it plans to spend the $9.1 million it was allocated. However, ARPA-E has confirmed that the grant will help to develop a hybrid thermal-mechanical drill system capable of quickly cutting through ultra-hard rock formations deep underground, potentially unlocking vast new stores of geothermal energy.

For “hot rocks” to become a viable, mainstream energy source, drills that can cut through much harder material than those used in the oil and gas industries are needed.

“If you can drill down 2 to 3 kilometres you can potentially open up a vast sea of heat that you can run power plants on,” says Joseph Romm at the Center for American Progress, who headed the DoE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office in 1997.

Such drilling technology is likely to use intense temperatures to soften hard crystalline rock, allowing a mechanical drill bit to move through it with less wear. Prior attempts at thermal drilling have employed electrical heaters, pressurised steam, lasers and blowtorches as hot as 1800 °C.

The type of thermal technology Foro is pursuing remains unknown, but documents obtained by New Scientist through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the company currently has a laboratory-scale drill and plans to dig a 4.6-kilometre-deep demonstration well within three years. “We didn’t even consider this 10 years ago because we did not imagine you could drill down that far economically,” says Romm.

The second-largest grant went to chemical manufacturing giant DuPont and biofuel start-up Bio Architecture Lab of Seattle, which will split $9 million to develop technology to obtain biobutanol from algae.

The project aims to make biofuels a more viable energy source, says Nathan Danielson of DuPont. The first goal would be to produce higher yields than cellulose-based feedstocks such as maize are able to, without needing fresh water or arable land to grow. Secondly, biobutanol packs a higher energy density than existing ethanol biofuels and can be mixed with regular gasoline in higher concentrations.

“The conversion of algae into its basic sugars and subsequent treatment with a biocatalyst into biobutanol has never been done before; a significant portion of these technologies will have to be developed from scratch,” says Danielson.

If 2.5 per cent of US coastal waters were seeded with floating kelp beds, the biobutanol harvested from them could replace about 26 billion litres of petroleum-based gasoline per year, Danielson claims.

ARPA-E’s third-largest grant – one of only two for wind power – went to FloDesign of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, which is developing a new type of wind turbine that could dramatically increase energy generation. It has been working on turbines which harvest twice as much energy as a conventional turbine of the same size.

FloDesign would not reveal specific goals for its 30-month project. However, the company has previously said it planned to complete a 3.6-metre-diameter, 10-kilowatt system by early 2010 before ramping up to megawatt-rated turbines.

Rounding out the four largest grants was $7.2 million to develop low cost, megawatt-rated batteries capable of backing up and smoothing out the intermittent energy supply from wind farms and other renewable sources. Today, such power-grid-scale batteries are prohibitively expensive for most renewable energy applications.

EaglePicher Technologies of Joplin, Missouri, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, will use the funds to develop a sodium beta alumina battery that will cost no more than $200 per kilowatt of capacity, compared with about $500 today.

Sodium beta alumina batteries have been around for decades and require operating temperatures in excess of 300 °C. By reconfiguring the battery’s architecture, the group hopes to be able to operate it at higher power densities and at lower temperatures, allowing for construction using cheaper materials. The project aims to develop a modular, scalable 5-kilowatt battery within three years.

For Romm, the recent influx of funding to enable these and other ARPA-E grants is a dream come true. “I would have given anything to have had this kind of new money,” he says.

Others are less enthused. Energy analyst Daniel Kammen at the University of California, Berkeley, says the agency needs a more radical approach. “I think there are some nice projects in there, but I think we’re going to need to see a more ‘pie in the sky’ portfolio over time,” he says.

Such projects may include super-high wind turbines that tap into the jet stream, space-based solar power, and solar panels integrated into the skin of buildings, he suggests.

ARPA-E will be accepting applications for its next round of funding before the end of the year, though this cash is likely to be provided for a narrower range of technologies directed at specific problems, Kosinski says. But he insists it is still aiming high. “If it’s going to make a significant impact, ARPA-E is interested.”

ARPA-E’s other gambles

$6.9m for an all-metal power-grid-scale battery to Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$6.7m for more efficient electric car batteries to Delphi Automotive in Kokomo, Indiana

$6.0m for a novel algae-harvesting system for biofuels to Univenture of Marysville, Ohio

$5.3m for a nanotube-enhanced ultra-capacitor to FastCAP Systems of Cambridge, Massachusetts

$5.1m for a new class of metal-air batteries to Arizona State University in Tempe

$5.2m for cyanobacteria that produce fatty acids for biofuel feedstock to Arizona State University

$5.0m for sensors, software and controls to improve energy use in buildings to Stanford University



Super-efficient cars racing to win the X prize

The qualifying round of the Progressive Automotive X Prize is over, leaving 42 teams striving to show that their market-ready, super-efficient vehicle is better than the rest.

The prize? A cool US$10 million.

The challenge? To drive more than 100 kilometres using the equivalent of less than 2.35 litres of fuel (100 miles per gallon).

Last weekend, representatives of the 42 teams gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada, where officials answered questions about the competition schedule and rules. The contestants now have until 15 December to submit final designs.

In October, the field of 111 entrants was cut down to 43 whose initial designs met the qualifying criteria for safety and potential for mass production. Last week, one of the 43 dropped out for reasons of funding. Eric Cahill, director of the competition, expects that more will follow: “Not all of these teams are going to make it to the starting line,” he told New Scientist.

The remaining teams now face a series of technical hurdles. They need to show adequate progress in completing their cars while passing safety, emissions and efficiency tests. “We’ll be verifying that these are not concept cars or science projects but roadworthy vehicles,” says Cahill.

The challenge culminates in a road race next summer to determine which teams will win the $10 million prize money. Exact dates and venues will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, in January.

“It’s definitely kicked up to the next phase,” says Michael Kadie, leader of SSI Racing, a qualifying team from San Diego, California. Kadie’s entry runs on an all-electric system.

Cahill agrees. “The game is really on now,” he says.

Source: and

Turning REDD Into Green

Posted by admin on November 28, 2009
Posted under Express 86

Turning REDD Into Green

Greenpeace wants wealthy industrialized nations to pay into a REDD fund that would protect priority areas of deforestation in Indonesia, Congo and the Amazon. A US$40 billion-a-year fund could achieve zero deforestation by 2020. Time Magazine reports on how to keep the jungle alive.

Keep The Jungle Alive

By Andrew Marshall in Time Magazine (30 November 2009):

There are two important things to know about tracking wild elephants, and it’s better to learn both of them before you’re actually in the jungle, tracking wild elephants. First, elephants are fast. In thick forest — in this case, the vast Ulu Masen ecosystem in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where leeches writhe beneath your feet and white-handed gibbons hoot from the treetops — they can outpace even deer. Second, elephants can’t climb trees. This is good, because that’s precisely what you’re meant to do if one of them charges.

Or at least that’s the advice of the jungle- hardened rangers who patrol just one corner of this 1.9 million – acre (7,700 sq km) wilderness. They are trained by the London-based conservation group Fauna and Flora International (FFI) to protect Ulu Masen from illegal loggers and poachers, who greedily eye its valuable hardwoods and teeming wildlife: elephants, gibbons, tigers, leopards, bears, pythons and scaly anteaters. The rangers’ work might seem remote from the modern world, but it has implications far beyond Ulu Masen’s frontiers — from Africa and the Amazon, which along with Indonesia are home to what’s left of our rain forests, to the meeting rooms of Copenhagen, where thousands of delegates will arrive for next month’s historic climate-change conference. (See heroes of the environment 2009.)

Green plants use light to transform carbon dioxide, absorbed from the atmosphere, and water into organic compounds, with oxygen as a by-product. The process is called photosynthesis, and it enables forests like Ulu Masen to play a critical role in regulating our climate. Forests store an estimated 300 billion tons of carbon, or the equivalent of 40 times the world’s total annual greenhouse-gas emissions — emissions that cause global warming. Destroy the trees and you release that carbon into the atmosphere, putting the great challenge of our age — averting catastrophic climate change — beyond reach. Forest destruction accounts for 15% of global emissions by human activity, far outranking the total from vehicles and aircraft combined. Forests are disappearing so fast in Indonesia that, incredibly, this developing country ranks third in emissions behind industrial giants China and the U.S. Since 1950, estimates Greenpeace, more than 182 million acres (740,000 sq km) of Indonesian forests, the equivalent of more than 95 Ulu Masens, have been destroyed or degraded.

The good news is that protecting forests “is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to take a big bite out of the apple when it comes to emissions,” says Greenpeace spokesman Daniel Kessler. Ulu Masen will be one of the first forests to be protected under a pioneering U.N. program called REDD — Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries — that offers a powerful financial incentive to keep forests intact. Here’s how it works. Preserve Ulu Masen, and over the next 30 years an estimated 100 million tons of carbon are prevented from entering the earth’s atmosphere — the equivalent of 50 million flights from London to Sydney. Those savings can be converted into millions of carbon-offset credits, which are sold to rich countries and companies trying to meet their U.N. emissions-reduction targets. The revenue produced by the sale of credits is then ploughed back into protecting the forest and improving life in communities living along its edge, thereby giving people a reason to leave the trees standing. In other words, forests are better REDD than dead.

With schemes now proliferating across Indonesia and the globe, the U.N. estimates that REDD revenues could pump up to $30 billion a year into the developing world, promising much-needed revenue at a time when rich nations still haggle over how much money to give poorer countries to help them adapt to climate change. REDD will likely be part of any global climate pact negotiated in Copenhagen. “Everyone has got a lot of hope in REDD,” says Joe Heffernan, an expert in environmental markets at FFI. “It’s a big one.”

The Money Tree

Ulu Masen received a boost last year when U.S. bank Merrill Lynch pledged to invest $9 million over four years. “That gave the project a lot more certainty,” says Dorjee Sun, chairman of Sydney-based firm Carbon Conservation, which is helping Aceh’s provincial government devise the scheme. “It showed there was appetite from investment banks to buy these credits.” Merrill Lynch calls Ulu Masen “the world’s first commercially financed avoided deforestation project.” Money has been followed by political muscle: a year later, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, along with the governors of Wisconsin and Illinois, signed a deal committing the state to finding ways to incorporate forest credits within U.S. carbon-trading systems. Ulu Masen is expected to generate $26 million in carbon credits in its first five years.

Humans won’t be the only animals to benefit. Clearing land for palm-oil plantations is Indonesia’s leading cause of deforestation, says a 2007 U.N. report, with Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua the three worst-affected provinces. Thanks largely to the global appetite for palm oil, which is found in everything from chocolate bars to biofuels, the natural habitat of endangered animals such as the orangutan and Borneo rhino shrinks further each year. REDD could save them, said a recent study of Kalimantan by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia. They believe that the revenues generated by preserving a forest could not only compete with the profits of cutting it down for palm oil but also fund biodiversity projects to put the brakes on species extinction. REDD could “fundamentally change conservation [in tropical countries] and provide benefits for mammals at a scale we’ve never seen before,” writes its lead author Oscar Venter. If REDD’s champions seem almost religious in their support, it is partly because the scheme appears to contain so many holy grails. Done right, its advocates say, REDD will alleviate poverty, preserve rain forests, protect endangered species and do more to avert catastrophic climate change than grounding jets and banning coal. It also offers a rare partnership between two disparate and often conflicting worlds: capitalism and conservation. With REDD, you can save the planet and make money.

Not so, say its equally passionate critics. Conservationists agree that our remaining forests must be saved, and quickly. Where they disagree is how REDD is funded. Many are fundamentally opposed to a carbon-offset system that only safeguards forests by allowing rich nations to pollute. “We need to find ways to stop burning fossil fuels, not create massive new loopholes to allow the pollution to continue,” says Jakarta-based Chris Lang, who runs the website REDD-Monitor. “Carbon-trading does not reduce emissions.” Lang believes funding REDD schemes through offsets or other market-based mechanisms would be a “disaster.” Still, if all goes to plan, Ulu Masen could be the first REDD scheme to sell forest credits.

Into the Wild

There are several unique aspects to Aceh that have allowed the scheme’s creators to blaze a trail. First, a decades-long separatist insurgency by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) saved the province from the logging frenzy seen across the rest of Sumatra. “If you went into the forest back then there was a chance you’d get shot,” says Matthew Linkie, an FFI technical manager based in the province’s capital Banda Aceh.

GAM signed a historic peace deal with the Indonesian government in 2005, in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed about 160,000 lives in Aceh alone. Today, Aceh’s governor is a tsunami survivor and former GAM rebel called Irwandi Yusuf, whose background seems tailor-made for REDD: he was trained as a veterinarian and once worked for FFI. “He’s one of the few Indonesian politicians who gets it,” says Linkie. “He’s thinking way beyond his five-year electoral term.” In June 2007 Irwandi banned commercial logging in his province, “an unprecedented environmental act” for Indonesia, says Linkie. (See TIME’s photo essay “Recovering From the Tsunami: One Year Later.”

Named after a 7,840-ft.-high (2,390 m) mountain within its borders, Ulu Masen is only slightly smaller than Yellowstone National Park, or about 10 times the size of Singapore. It is patrolled by forest rangers employed by the provincial government and by FFI-funded community rangers, many of them once with GAM. Ulu Masen has helped solve a major challenge for postconflict Aceh: finding jobs for ex-combatants. “In theory,” says Linkie, “you’ve got a pool of well-trained forest experts with jungle skills. They make great rangers.”

I joined the rangers near the remote village of Geumpang. It is a six-hour drive from the provincial capital Banda Aceh along a semipaved mountain road winding up through dense forest. In places, a line of vehicles backs up as mechanical diggers clear rockfalls. Troupes of long-tailed macaques tumble down from the trees to beg from passing motorists.

Geumpang sits in a valley of rice fields at the heart of Ulu Masen. It is famous for its fertile soil and the gold sometimes found in its rivers. Raked by clouds, it is also famously wet: some people joke that the name Geumpang is a contraction of gerimis panjang, the Indonesian for “constant drizzle.” A no-go area during the conflict — GAM rebels passed through there on their way between Aceh’s east and west coasts — it is now a peaceful place. Children walk to school past paddy fields of ripening rice, while glistening water buffalo wallow in pools of mud.

An hour from Geumpang is an FFI camp manned by 10 so-called community rangers, all trained and salaried by FFI, all former poachers, loggers or GAM guerrillas. Keeping them company are five mahouts and their elephants, which are employed for jungle patrols. The camp was set up a year ago. Conditions are basic. The rangers live in tents near a shallow river flowing past overgrown farmland abandoned during the conflict but now slowly being recultivated by returning locals. Insects shriek from the thick jungle beyond. The rangers have discovered that they can get a weak signal — just enough to send text messages to family or friends — if they strap their cell phones to lengths of bamboo driven into the ground at certain points around the camp. So outside every tent there are phones on sticks, like tribal totems.

FFI has already trained 45 community rangers and hopes to have a total of 150 protecting Ulu Masen by the end of next year. They are paid about $160 a month. Over 10 days, the recruits are taught survival skills, navigation, climbing and search and rescue. A graduation ceremony is held in a river at night, lit by flaming torches, where they are dunked beneath the water then hugged by their trainers. “It’s like they’ve been cleansed, absolved of their pasts,” says Linkie.

The Human Touch

Kamarullah, 43, once carried an ak-47 assault rifle through this forest. Today, he grips four fireworks in one hand and a disposable lighter in the other, to scare off wild elephants. Kamarullah, who goes by a single name, is a lithe, taciturn man who spent eight years fighting for GAM; one of his five daughters was born in hiding in the jungle. How many enemy troops did he kill? “I didn’t count,” he says, grinning shyly.

A week after the 2005 peace deal was signed, Kamarullah emerged from the jungle to rejoin his family, but struggled to support them until joining the rangers. In GAM, he says, “we had an ideology and a purpose.” With the rangers, this expert navigator with an intimate knowledge of the area now feels like he is fighting for his homeland again. “I want to protect the animals,” he says. “I’m worried they’re dying out. We used to find deer near the village, but now they’re gone.” Still, the rangers are having an impact. “Before, there were maybe 40 people logging in this area,” estimates Kamarullah. “Now there are only 10.”

Wild elephants, not loggers, are the rangers’ main problem right now. Crops planted by returning farmers are proving irresistible to two local herds. At a farm nearby, elephants have trampled banana and cacao trees, toppled betel-nut palms and left jumbo-size footprints in the fishponds. There, at the forest edge, humans and animals must coexist. Each morning, the calls of gibbons compete with the calls to prayer from nearby village mosques.

Protecting crops from marauding elephants might seem peripheral to the task of preserving Ulu Masen. So might FFI’s nursery in Geumpang, where farmers can learn grafting techniques and buy fruit-tree saplings at bargain prices. But both activities are designed to improve the livelihoods of local people, who are key allies in any REDD scheme. “These communities have to benefit,” says Linkie. “That’s the whole idea. They’re getting an incentive not to cut [the forest] down.”

Few incentives are more tangible than cash. Conservationists are considering cash payments to farmers in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to stop them destroying the forest for agriculture. But with 120,000 households around Ulu Masen, even a multimillion-dollar sale of carbon credits might amount to only $100 to $200 a year per family, estimates Linkie. The money might be better pooled to build schools, bridges or other projects that would benefit the entire community. However it is distributed, a very clear message must be sent to the local communities, says Linkie: “You’re getting this [money] because you’re not cutting down the forest.”

That message is being heard across this vast archipelago and beyond. Indonesia alone has a dozen or more REDD projects. “It’s this new fad — everyone needs to have one,” says Linkie. “It’s good that governors from other provinces are [saying], ‘Must have a REDD project’ rather than ‘Let’s log it all and convert it into oil palm.’” In partnership with the Australian investment bank Macquarie Group, FFI has six other REDD schemes: three in Indonesia and others in Cambodia, Ecuador and Liberia. Last month, governors Irwandi and Schwarzenegger joined 30 other subnational leaders — including a dozen other U.S. governors and the leaders of forest-rich Brazilian states Amazonas and Mato Grosso — at a climate summit in Los Angeles, where they called upon governments to include REDD within the global framework for combating climate change. Sun of Carbon Conservation hopes one day to see “a global infrastructure of forest factories, producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide.” (See a graphic of the effects of climate change on the world by 2020.)

But REDD has its risks. The first is so-called leakage: halting deforestation in one area might simply drive loggers into another. “Permanence is a huge problem,” says Kessler of Greenpeace, citing another worry. “How do we know these areas are going to stay protected? What happens if a forest burns to the ground?” A third concern is calculating how much carbon is stored in a forest, and what emissions are actually avoided by preserving it. In September a multinational research team led by French landscape ecologist David Gaveau asserted that the Ulu Masen scheme might not significantly reduce deforestation in northern Sumatra because much of the ecosystem is upland, inaccessible and therefore unlikely to be logged anyway.

FFI rebuts this. Ulu Masen borders another protected area called Leuser, also being developed as a REDD scheme, so leakage is not an issue within Aceh province. (The rest of Sumatra is another matter.) As for permanence, FFI has a “reserve pool” of forest to replace any lost to fire or disease, and promises “robust” accounting methods and monitoring by both satellite and field team. It says the calculations in the Gaveau report are incorrect and that Ulu Masen has “substantial lowland forests at risk.”

The Politics of Climate Change

Greenpeace wants wealthy industrialized nations to pay into a U.N.-run REDD fund that would protect priority areas of deforestation in Indonesia, Congo and the Amazon. A $40 billion – a-year fund “could get us to zero deforestation by 2020 — globally,” says Kessler. But will rich nations cough up that much? The U.S., the E.U. and Japan are all “willing to put money on the table” for REDD, he adds. “Just to put it into perspective, $40 billion is about a quarter of what the U.S. gave in bailout funds to one insurance company, AIG. The money is there. It’s just a question of political will.”

Already that political will seems to be faltering. A legally binding pact will be impossible to achieve at the climate-change summit in Copenhagen, said U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders at the just-concluded APEC meeting in Singapore. Back in the U.S. — cumulatively still the world’s biggest polluter — a bill to cut, by 2020, emissions to 20% below 2005 levels faces a bruising and uncertain journey through the Senate. Washington and Copenhagen: whatever happens in the rain forests, it is in these two distinctly nontropical cities that the fate of our remaining rain forests, and our warming planet, lies.