Hot Where it Matters, Cool When its Needed
Colin Maidment at London South Bank University is leading a research effort to investigate more environmentally friendly air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. One option, ironically, is to use carbon dioxide to replace the synthetic HFC refrigerants used in such systems and using the heat generated by CO2-based air-conditioning systems and fridges in supermarkets, for example, to provide hot water for nearby homes.
By Helen Knight in New Scientist (27 July 2010):
Green machine is our weekly column on the latest advances in environmental technologies
Will people’s environmental intentions wither in a heatwave? With much of the US, eastern Europe and Asia sweltering, it may be tempting to crank up the air conditioning to make homes and offices more tolerable.
That would be bad news for the planet, with aircon playing a significant role in the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by residential and commercial property – roughly 10 per cent of the world’s total emissions, says Graeme Maidment at London South Bank University.
“With global warming that will tend to increase even further, because people will use more air conditioning, while existing systems will have to work harder,” he says.
Rebirth of the cool
Maidment is leading a research effort, funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to investigate more environmentally friendly air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. One option, ironically, is to use carbon dioxide to replace the synthetic HFC refrigerants used in such systems, he says: such gases can have around 4000 times the global warming potential of CO2. Around 2 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to them, says Maidment.
In conventional vapour-compression systems used by aircon units, the refrigerant is compressed and condensed and then expanded and evaporated to cool the room. The heat generated in the compression phase is normally radiated into the air outside the building.
Compressing CO2 generates much higher temperatures than HFCs – around 150 °C compared with around 60 °C. So Maidment and colleagues are investigating the idea of using the heat generated by CO2-based air-conditioning systems and fridges in supermarkets, for example, to provide hot water for nearby homes.
Meanwhile, Matt Poese and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University in University Park are developing an HFC-free air conditioning system based on sound.
The team uses a linear motor to move a loudspeaker-type plate back and forwards, generating a sound wave in helium gas – which doesn’t add to the greenhouse effect. The sound waves create areas of compression and expansion within the gas, causing it to alternately heat up and cool down, says Poese. “It’s like a sponge – the gas sucks up heat in one location and then gets transported by the sound wave to another location where the heat gets squeezed out of the gas,” he says.
The team have previously built a fridge for ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s based on this so-called thermoacoustic technology. They say they can scale it up for use in air conditioning, and aim to build 3.5-kilowatt devices – equivalent to a basic home model – which could be dotted around buildings. Having several units could reduce the energy used by air-conditioning systems by only cooling those rooms currently in use, says Poese.
Others are also looking at refrigerants that don’t warm the atmosphere. One of these is a mixture of ammonia and water. Srinivas Garimella at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta is developing a system in which external heat is used to boil off ammonia vapour from a solution. The ammonia circulates through a condenser and then an evaporator, where it provides the cooling, before being reabsorbed by the water.
Known as absorption refrigeration, the technology was invented before today’s vapour compression systems, but it is bulky, requiring multiple heat exchangers, and so has mostly been used to cool only large buildings such as hospitals and universities.
Garimella has got around this problem by developing micro-scale heat exchangers, in which the solution flows through channels only 0.5 millimetres in diameter, taking advantage of the high heat-transfer efficiencies at this scale. His team have so far developed a book-sized prototype that generates the equivalent cooling to a 300 watts system, and plan to increase the cooling power of the device further with funding from the US Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.
Since the process is driven by heat rather than electricity, it could reduce greenhouse-gas emissions even further by using energy-efficient sources of heat. Air conditioning could be combined with solar power – which has one obvious advantage, says Maidment. “When the sun shines, you need air conditioning.”
Archive for July, 2010
Hot Where it Matters, Cool When its Needed
Sugar to Sweeten Up the Bitter Energy Supply Pill
Victoria’s “exceedingly ambitious” white paper recognises that owners of power stations must be compensated if they are forced to close early, but it’s no substitute for a trading scheme and is silent on a range of crucial issues, according to Energy Supply Association of Australia CEO Brad Page. Meanwhile, Queensland University of Technology scientist Dr Slade Lee says sugar cane production methods could hold the key to making ethanol cheaper.
CE Daily (28 July 2010)
Victoria’s “exceedingly ambitious” white paper recognises that owners of power stations must be compensated if they are forced to close early, but it’s no substitute for a trading scheme and is silent on a range of crucial issues, according to Energy Supply Association of Australia CEO Brad Page.
The paper offers no details on how much abatement each element will deliver and at what carbon price, he told CE Daily.
Reducing emissions to 20% below 2000 levels by 2020 (a 40% cut in per capita terms) “means an enormous change in our energy supply mix in Victoria,” he said.
“When 66-odd% of the electricity is still going to come from brown coal I do wonder if just the other 34% coming from gas and renewables can actually get you to the target that is being asked,” he said.
“And I can’t answer that question because I can’t see all of the contributions from all of the policies.”
State action will ‘complicate’ national efforts
Instead of individual states introducing their own policies, “national answers are the way to go, with a properly constructed national emissions trading scheme”, Page said.
“It really is not a substitute for a national carbon management plan … to have individual states starting to try to fill the void,” he said.
“Because it would be our view that in the life of the next [Federal] Parliament there will be a much clearer plan, and a plan implemented, and that getting out there too fast as a state actually complicates matters very dramatically for both investors and for policymakers alike.”
Page said individual state measures would be of limited effectiveness, given the interconnected electricity market operating in eastern and southern states.
The actions of one state alone “don’t actually change the investment climate and for that matter, because we are in a competitive, interconnected market, don’t necessarily deliver the outcomes that that state government might think it is going to get”.
Recognition for power station owners
However, there is at least one aspect of the white paper that Page views very positively – the plan to obtain four million tonnes of lowest-cost abatement from the State’s brown coal-fired sector.
“We actually would applaud the initiative on the basis that, for probably the first time since the CPRS debate commenced, we have a sovereign government in Australia that openly recognises that you cannot arbitrarily close plants early either through taxation measures, or some other intervention, without properly recompensing the owners for the lost value,” he said.
The white paper suggests a tendering process to secure the abatement, but Premier John Brumby specified it would involve a “staged closure of Hazelwood [power station]“, involving two of its generating units closing by 2014, when launching the paper on Monday.
Brumby said that, instead of the strategy increasing household energy bills, energy efficiency improvements are likely to result in cuts to energy bills for “many households”.
The feed-in tariff to support large-scale solar power plants is likely to cost the average household between $5 and $15 a year, he added.
By Jessica Mawer ABC Online (27 July 2010):
Scientists say they may have found a cheaper way to produce ethanol.
Dr Slade Lee from the Queensland University of Technology has met farmers and industry leaders in far north Queensland to discuss the region’s biofuel prospects.
Dr Lee says cane could hold the key to making ethanol production cheaper.
He says the enzymes needed to make ethanol are currently being manufactured in large, expensive processing plants but there may be a cheaper way.
“We’ve struck on a novel approach to the problem and that is to get the plants, the sugarcane plants themselves, to produce the cellulose, our idea is to actually get the plants themselves to produce those enzymes,” he said.
A Green School Made out of Bamboo in Bali
When one goes to Bali, you normally expect it to be for sun, sea and surf. But for someone as interested in arts and the environment as I am, there are much more fascinating diversions. So with the help of The Green Asia Group and its dedicated Bali organiser Carolyn Kenwrick, Ken Hickson uncovered the Green School, described as “one of the most amazing schools on earth” giving its students a relevant holistic and green education. Not only that, but the School buildings are made entirely of bamboo. Green School founder John Hardy says this:
“School chose bamboo in the spirit of plenty. With rapidly escalating world cement prices, not to mention the sheer amount of fossil fuel that cement consumes, we must look to alternative building materials. Frankly, it is hard to talk to students about sustainability while they are using the last piece of rainforest for their chair and their table.”
Green School is also becoming the home of the Bali Starling Project, helping to save one of the world’s most endangered bird species. More on that from Carolyn in a future issue.
For more on the Green School, read on.
I’ve been in Bali for a few days, by courtesy of The Green Asia Group, en route to Singapore for the National Sustainabilty Conference (29/30 July) at the Amara Hotel. And back in Brisbane in time for the Climate Change @ Work Conference at Southbank 4 August. See you in Singapore or Brisbane.
What’s the Green School in Bali all about:
Delivering a generation of global citizens who are knowledgeable about and inspired to take responsibility for the sustainability of the world
Green School Bali, one of the most amazing schools on earth, is giving its students a relevant holistic and green education.
The students come from all corners of the world, many relocating with their parents just for the experience of attending. Amongst them, fully 20% are local Balinese kids funded by scholarships from generous donors, allowing them to benefit from an international education and facilitating the magic of Balinese culture to fully permeate the education. The curriculum for younger children is influenced by the work of Rudolf Steiner, who pioneered the idea of holistic education. Older students have the opportunity to study for Cambridge IGCSE’s and a planned IB diploma/certificate course will take them to graduation. Green Studies, which focus on sustainability, and a quality Creative Arts program complement the academic curriculum.
The campus is remarkable. Green School is striving to have the lowest carbon footprint of any international school anywhere, through use of bamboo and rammed earth for its buildings, growing its own food in its gardens, and plans to generate its own power from the river. The central building, “Heart of School”, is one of the largest bamboo structures in the world and has an architectural beauty usually witnessed only in cathedrals and opera houses.
Recent studies revealed that the most important component in student education is the quality of teachers. With this in mind Green School has on staff 21 teachers, including a certified Steiner teacher and a PHD. Seven hold Masters Degrees, one an MBA, four have postgraduate teaching qualifications and 17 Bachelor Degrees. All 21 are qualified educators who are also engineers, psychologists, environmentalists, scientists, film, arts and media people, who choose Green School because they are passionate about equipping children with the skills needed to face the challenges of the future.
Green School invites families from Bali and all other corners of the world to consider giving their children the gift of a Green School education. Young people are welcome for just a term or their entire education.
Why Green School: Why Bamboo?
This section from the website, why bamboo, was contributed by John Hardy, one of the schools co-founders.
Why is Green School where it is?
Green School is located in Sibang Kaja, a village that has been largely passed over by Bali’s tourist development. In developing a “green” school, we wanted the ability to work directly from and with the land – tourist-fuelled development would stand in the way of this relationship. Moreover, the relative scarcity of tourists allows for a fresh conversation between our school community and the local villagers, enabling a more conscious interaction. We are also lucky to have great support from the village leader, A.A. Watusila. Finally, the site is more or less equidistant between Ubud, Sanur, Denpasar, Canggu and Seminyak, all major Balinese urban centres.
Why is everything made out of bamboo?
Green School chose bamboo in the spirit of plenty. With rapidly escalating world cement prices, not to mention the sheer amount of fossil fuel that cement consumes, we must look to alternative building materials. Frankly, it is hard to talk to students about sustainability while they are using the last piece of rainforest for their chair and their table. It is the painful truth that they are going to have to stretch to get enough rain forest timber to build their homes.
Bamboo is available and plenty, and when it is treated with borax salt, it is rendered immune to the bugs that like to eat it, so it becomes a permanent material. Every student at Green School will have an opportunity to plant his or her own bamboo and, eventually, four to five years down the line, will have a chance to harvest, treat and build something with that bamboo.
If you need a lot of timber in the future, don’t look for wood, look for bamboo. It fixes a huge amount of carbon in the soil and this is a good solution in the world of ever escalating problems. It is a rapid solution to some of the problems that are facing us. Plant bamboo.
Why not build out of concrete?
Cement/concrete uses about 1/3 of the world’s oil, between digging it out of the ground, heating it, moving it, and destroying it when it’s no longer appropriate. This uses a huge amount of the world’s fossil fuel and creates huge amounts of carbon for the world.
Green School does use some cement, but the cement is primarily underground. A small percentage of the classroom floors is made from cement, but in general we want Green School to be really green – which means less cement. Representing cement as modern or high class or the future is really not very green. Cement has a very limited place and we need to keep it in its place.
Why are the fences made out of sticks?
The fences are an old Balinese system called “tiang hidup” which means living post. The Balinese discovered long, long ago that if they post a stick, the termites will eat it – unless the post is living, in which case it’s immune from termites. Moreover, the leaves that grow on the post are brought to the cows and goats, providing food with much-needed nutrients for these animals. The post also fixes nitrogen in the soil, which helps the garden flourish.
Why are the blackboards made from bamboo?
Our blackboards are made from bamboo slats, sanded down beautifully, coated in black propane and set in a bamboo frame. This stands in contrast to the “standard” classroom blackboard, generally made from large pieces of slate framed in rainforest plywood – not a very “green” material. Moreover, to acquire those kinds of pieces of slate would require transport across huge distances, forcing a large ecological footprint. When we looked at having a “green” school, we needed to have a “green” blackboard, so we committed ourselves to using local materials – including, of course, bamboo, the life source of the School. One little circle on each blackboard is left unpainted, reminding everyone who uses the board that this is a board unlike others: a truly “green” blackboard.
Why are the paths made of stones?
The walking paths at Green School are made from sandstone blocks carved out of the local river valley and gravel developed from encrusted stone. The advantage of such paths is twofold: first, these natural elements have much less impact on the planet than cement or asphalt road. And second, it lets Green School operate on a principle of adaptability: as people decide to walk when they feel most comfortable, we can easily move rocks and put them where people walk. Thus, the garden can easily become a path and the path can easily become a garden.
How long does a bamboo classroom last?
The classrooms are made from bamboo because it is a sustainable material – as long as it is sheltered from the elements, bamboo lasts forever. The classrooms will last as long as the grass roof is maintained.
My classroom does not have any walls, what’s going to happen when it rains?
The classrooms don’t have walls because it is important in a tropical place like Bali to catch every breeze that comes through – the breeze, combined with fans, is our air conditioning system. Our classrooms are designed to be like ships sailing across the earth, equipped with a “rig” and sails to keep the rain out and the wind in. This creates a further connection between students and the earth.
Is it dangerous having coconut trees on the campus?
When building Green School, we wanted to preserve the local terrain as much as possible – including the coconut trees. If you look closely at the coconuts hanging from Green School trees, you will see that they are in netted bags. This means that the tree can experience its natural cycle of producing coconuts – valuable in the world as a source of both coconut oil and nutrients – while the people below are protected from any mishaps from falling coconut or branches. This is a solution that preserves the environment, maintains safety in the classroom, and also helps in the kitchen.
The bathroom is made out of earth, isn’t that dirty?
Mud was chosen for the walls of the bathroom because it is a local and easily workable material. Although it does create a little dust, its impact on the world is very, very small. Tile, concrete and bricks all take a huge amount of energy to produce.
Head in the clouds or the sand?
Election campaigns are not the most enlightening of times as Australians are discovering as the country heads towards its Federal vote on 21 August. And it is unlikely that climate change action in the form of a price on carbon – or any other realistic measure – will get the commitment it deserves from all those seeking office. More good advice for anyone who will listen from Geoff Carmody on a carbon tax, Matthew Wright on 100% renewable energy and Phil Preston for a Green Investment Bank. Sad to report that climatologist supremo Dr Stephen Schneider has suddenly departed this earth before seeing the results for his labour to get real global recognition and action on climate change. Good to see a strong push from European countries to go further and faster on emissions reductions. There’s obviously more Australia can do about storing carbon and getting cleaner results from the soil, and there’s much warranted support for the Australian Green Infrastructure Council. News that vulnerable nations are taking steps to not only stem the tide, but cut their emissions, while Graham Readfearn shows us that for every cloud there is a silver lining of sorts. ExxonMobil and BP are still in the firing line for the damage they’re doing, but British Airways has latched on to a promising, clean fuel. Now that’s rubbishy news we like to hear! – Ken Hickson
Profile: The late and great Stephen Schneider
The scientific world has lost its leading advocate for climate change action. Dr Stephen Schneider emerged in the 1970s as one of the early supporters of the theory that man-made industrial gasses were damaging the ozone layer and leading to a slow but steady rise in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere. “I’ve been on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career,” Dr. Schneider wrote in his 2007 book, “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate.” “I’m still at it, and the battle, while looking more winnable these days, is still not a done deal.” He passed away this week aged 65.
By T. Rees Shapiro in Washington Post
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Stephen H. Schneider, 65, an influential Stanford University climatologist who parlayed his expertise on the dangerous effects of greenhouse-gas emissions into a second career as a leader in the public dialogue — and debate — on climate change, died July 19 in London.
His wife, Stanford biologist Terry Root, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues that her husband had died after an apparent heart attack on an airplane en route to London from Stockholm.
Dr. Schneider wrote books and more than 400 articles on human-driven global warming and its wide-ranging effects, such as a recorded rise in ocean temperature and the increasing potency and frequency of hurricanes. He conducted research on the near-irreversible damage of greenhouse gases on the ozone layer and theorized how a nuclear war might affect the climate.
The founder and editor of the magazine Climatic Change, Dr. Schneider was part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former vice president Al Gore for international research on global warming. He advised every president from Nixon to Obama.
“No one, and I mean no one, had a broader and deeper understanding of the climate issue than Stephen,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. “More than anyone else, he helped shape the way the public and experts thought about this problem — from the basic physics of the problem, to the impact of human beings on nature’s ecosystems, to developing policy.”
One of Dr. Schneider’s strongest talents as a scientist was finding vivid ways of describing the harm of global warming. He often appeared on television as a climate expert, including the HBO program “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
He once told Maher’s viewers that humans were to blame for global warming because of our use of the atmosphere as a “sewer to dump our smokestack and our tailpipe waste.”
Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club Foundation, said Dr. Schneider “had the ability to connect the dots in a way that laypeople could understand.”
In the late 1970s, Dr. Schneider emerged as one of the early supporters of the theory that man-made industrial gasses were damaging the ozone layer and leading to a slow but steady rise in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere.
His passionate views on the climate debate occasionally attracted vitriol from extremist groups. An FBI investigation recently found he was named on a neo-Nazi “death list,” and Dr. Schneider said he received hundreds of hate e-mails a day.
“What do I do? Learn to shoot a magnum? Wear a bulletproof jacket?” Dr. Schneider said. “I have now had extra alarms fitted at my home, and my address is unlisted. I get scared that we’re now in a new Weimar Republic where people are prepared to listen to what amounts to Hitlerian lies about climate scientists.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Schneider said he believed it was important for scientists to communicate with the public and spread their understanding of climate data and findings.
“If we do not do the due diligence of letting people understand the relative credibility of claimants of truth, then all we do is have a confused public who hears claim and counterclaim,” Dr. Schneider said in a recent interview with Climate Science Watch. “When somebody says ‘I don’t believe in global warming,’ I ask, ‘Do you believe in evidence? Do you believe in a preponderance of evidence?’ ”
Stephen Henry Schneider was born Feb. 11, 1945, in New York. He was a graduate of Columbia University, where he also received a doctorate in mechanical engineering and plasma physics in 1971.
He worked as a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., for more than 20 years before joining the Stanford faculty in the mid-1990s.
Besides his wife, a complete list of survivors could not be determined.
Despite the fact that a recent study found that 97 to 98 percent of climatologists believed in global warming, Dr. Schneider acknowledged that the debate in the forum of public opinion was more divisive.
“I’ve been on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career,” Dr. Schneider wrote in his 2007 book, “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate.” “I’m still at it, and the battle, while looking more winnable these days, is still not a done deal.”
ABC News (20 July 2010):
Nobel Prize-winning climate change researcher Stephen Schneider has died at the age of 65.
The Stanford University scientist worked on the international research panel on global warming that shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with former US vice-president Al Gore.
He spent 37 years studying the forces influencing the climate, including pioneering work on the effects of aerosols.
Dr Schneider was suffering from a rare cancer but died of a heart attack overnight on a flight between Stockholm and London.
He was a South Australian thinker-in-residence on climate change policy back in 2006.
SA Premier Mike Rann says Dr Schneider’s advice resulted in South Australia becoming one of the first places in the world to introduce greenhouse gas emission reduction legislation.
“Stephen Schneider was a terrific adviser, he was incredibly constructive,” he said.
“He wanted to make a difference in the world and he saw what we were doing here in South Australia as an important opportunity to demonstrate to other places around the world what we could do in terms of tackling climate change.”
Griffith University’s Professor Jean Palutikof says Dr Schneider was recently in Australia and he will be sadly missed.
“He cared that you understood what he was trying to tell you,” she said.
“I don’t think he cared whether you were the man who was collecting the garbage or whether you were the director of the institute he worked for.
“I don’t know of anyone who can begin to take his place.”
A dedication from Ken Hickson, Editor of abc carbon express:
Stephen Schneider was an impressive figure in anyone’s terms. He held the stage, captivated an audience and had cynical – even skeptical – journalists hanging on to his every word. I first met and talked with Stephen at the Greenhouse 2007 Conference in Sydney. He was, most importantly, the leading scientific advocate of action to deal with climate change.
As an “influential climatologist”, people took notice of Stephen. Political leaders and business leaders listened to what he had to say. Many took note and many, many more should now consider the legacy of this man, who has led the charge in the US and globally for action based on full scientific understanding of climate change.
He was more than anything admired by me (and others) for he believed it was important for scientists to communicate with the public and spread their understanding of climate data and findings. Stephen was quoted (and pictured) in my book “The ABC of Carbon” and has many times rated a significant mention in abc carbon express. The last time was a mere three weeks ago when he was profiled in advance of his visit to Australia where he had a number of speaking engagement.
I saw him at the Global Climate Change Adaptation Conference on the Gold Coast, where he was willingly sharing his views with journalists and delegates. I did comment to a friend at the time that I thought the normally upright and strident Stephen was appearing a little frail, supporting himself with a walking stick.
Stephen Schneider has graciously and generously shared his time and expertise, his wisdom and scientific knowledge, with the world. It is time now for all of us to treasure his contribution, not by burying it, but my making sure it is enshrined in the laws and policies for real action on climate change, now before it is too late.
Efficient & Effective Carbon Tax Needed
Political leadership contenders in Australia talk about “direct action” on climate change, but stop short of taxes or emission trading schemes. Economist Geoff Carmody says governments often aren’t good at direct action. Note the costly insulation shambles, the green loans debacle and the failed green car scheme. “We should be upfront about getting a globally applied, predictably rising, price on emissions in place. That delivers greater investment certainly, drives changes in technology and, globally applied, cuts emissions.”
Geoff Carmody in The Australian (14 July 2010):
IN terms of effectiveness and efficiency, a price on emissions is the way to go.
THE Coalition and Labor are leery of the idea of a carbon tax, interim or otherwise. They prefer the “direct action” path, which has a more positive political ring.
This is all smoke and mirrors. It delivers lousy cost-benefit results. Consider some examples.
Solar panels are widely touted as clean energy. Their economics are poor at present. So governments subsidise their installation. This puts a high price on reducing emissions. Taxpayers pay (where governments offer installation subsidies); energy users too poor to afford solar panels pay (where feed-in tariffs are financed by a surcharge on those not using them).
These direct action measures are expensive. One way or another, consumers pay.
There’s lobbying for subsidies for geothermal energy; this is also an expensive energy source, given market conditions and different energy source costs.
There’s lots of ranting against dirty coal as an energy source. Trouble is, it’s relatively cheap at present. How could we deal with that? Some suggest we regulate against its use. To back that up, some argue for mandated proportions of energy to be produced from renewable sources. Whether or not all renewables reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regulatory direct action mandates a shift to higher-cost energy sources. Guess who’ll pay?
There are hints about more extensive and demanding regulation to improve building energy efficiency. This is probably laudable. There’s large scope to reduce energy consumption (and associated emissions). But building costs will rise, and they will be passed on.
Similar points could be made about mandating fuel consumption standards for vehicles.
On the regulatory front, Australia seemingly can’t take a trick.
We seem to be good at encouraging higher-cost means to reduce emissions and preventing exploitation of possible alternative solutions. We are prepared to sell uranium to others for generating nuclear power but don’t trust ourselves to use it for the same purpose. Bizarre, no?
France relies substantially on this source of energy. Others are increasing their reliance on it. Why is it off the agenda here?
There are many more examples. Overall, politicians tiptoe around the basic proposition that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, applied comprehensively, is what’s needed.
The political consequences of this are depressing. The economics are more so. All direct action measures put a price on carbon. They do so in an inefficient, ineffective and hidden way. Yet it seems mainstream politicians are prepared to pay a lot to purchase a hidden approach to putting a price on emissions.
As recent experiences attest, governments often aren’t good at direct action. Look at home insulation, green loans and the green car debacles. The first two were rorted or abused. The third produced a market dud. It was old-style protectionism.
All three cost a bomb and failed to produce much – if anything – of their intended outcomes.
Should we go back to the Rudd-Turnbull Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and put a price on emissions that way? Certainly not. It was a dog of a policy, with too many escape clauses. It was dishonest, inefficient and ineffective. Putting it on the back burner was a step towards good climate policy.
More generally, emissions trading schemes are scams in practice.
Trading in emissions permits – especially importing them – would have been a paper-shuffling exercise using funny bits of paper, right up there with “collateralised debt obligations” and “securitised assets”, and all the other oxymoronic-sounding instruments that lay at the heart of the global financial crisis. Indeed, during the GFC, in Europe, liquidity pressures crushed the price of EU emission permits so much that they became subprime assets.
Let’s be clear. If we want to reduce man-made greenhouse emissions, we need a clear and broadly applied price on emissions as the signal to start reducing them. We need a price on carbon.
A carbon tax, based on our national consumption of emissions, is likely to be the most efficient and effective option. This would exclude our exports and tax imports. It won’t adversely affect our international competitiveness, even if we act unilaterally. That feature makes it attractive to other countries, too. It would greatly improve chances of a global deal, which has been the target of the ineffective flailing around we’ve seen from Rio (1992) to Copenhagen (2009).
It’s cheaper than direct action and delivers superior emission abatement results.
The lever driving emissions reductions is price, however introduced. We should be upfront about getting a globally applied, predictably rising, price on emissions in place. That delivers greater investment certainly, drives changes in technology and, globally applied, cuts emissions.
This isn’t a recipe for poverty.
We’re trying to raise prices of emissions-heavy products compared with greener products.
We’re not trying to cut real incomes. Using most revenue from a carbon price to cut other distorting taxes and increase welfare payments can achieve the first effect and avoid the second.
Geoff Carmody is director, Geoff Carmody & Associates. He was a co-founder of Access Economics and, before that, a senior officer in the commonwealth Treasury.
Asia Pacific Report: Cut Emissions & Invest Sustainably
Three Asia Pacific countries, among those most threatened by rising sea levels, have vowed to cut their carbon emissions as a gesture of their commitment to fight global warming. Australian NGOs are calling on the Government to ban imports of illegal timber from Indonesia. The Asia Development Bank calls for proposals from venture capital fund and project managers to invest in climatech-related projects. National Sustainability Conference in Singapore 29 & 30 July is focusing on the latest sustainable developments in the Asia pacific region.
AFP report in Sydney Morning Herald (19 July 2010):
Three Asia Pacific Countries – Maldives, Samoa and the Marshall Islands – which are among six countries seen as most threatened by rising sea levels, have vowed to cut their carbon emissions as a gesture of their commitment to fight global warming, the Maldivian government says.
The countries, mostly low-lying nations, met at the weekend in the Maldives and pledged to drastically cut their emissions while pressing others to follow suit.
“Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands and Samoa all pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions and pursue green growth and development,” the government said in a statement.
The Maldives, which wants to be carbon-neutral by 2020, is one of the most vulnerable countries to a rise in sea levels because its low-lying islands and atolls would be submerged.
Ethiopia hopes to be carbon neutral by 2025, while the Marshall Islands has pledged to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, and Antigua and Barbuda by 25 per cent.
Costa Rica plans to go carbon neutral by 2021.
Being carbon neutral means offsetting emissions against other measures that help to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“When those with the least start doing the most, it shows that everyone’s ambitions can be raised,” Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed said in the statement after the weekend meeting.
Smaller nations are trying to hammer out a common position before a UN climate meeting in Mexico scheduled to open on November 29.
The 10-day meeting is set to revisit the issues of global warming after talks at December’s Copenhagen summit fell short of a binding international treaty.
21 July 2010
Australian and Indonesian groups call for illegal timber ban
Social justice, environment and international development organisations have echoed an Indonesian call on the Australia Government to fulfil its 2007 election promise to ban imports of illegal timber.
Key civil society organisations in Indonesia, led by the country’s peak environment group WALHI (Indonesian Environmental Forum) and including members of the Indonesian Coalition Against Forestry Mafia, have delivered a letter (attached) to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta asking PM Julia Gillard to stop allowing illegally logged timber into Australia.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has classified illegal logging as an organised crime and commissioned Indonesia’s Anti-Mafia Taskforce to tackle the problem.
“The most effective way for Australia to help stamp out illegal logging in Indonesia is by banning the import and sale of timber products that cannot be independently certified as legally and sustainably sourced,” said ACF executive director Don Henry. “Australia is lagging behind other OECD countries in acting on this issue,” he said.
In May 2008, the US instituted a ban by amending the Lacey Act. And early this month the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban illegal timber.
World Vision Australia CEO Rev Tim Costello said: “World Vision works with poor communities who are dependent on forest resources to get by. Forest degradation and illegal logging destroy livelihoods and food sources making it harder for poor families to survive,” World Vision CEO Rev Tim Costello said.
“If the Australian Government banned illegal timber imports into the country, poor communities in our region would have a better chance at establishing decent livelihoods and Australian consumers could be sure they were buying sustainable products,” Rev Costello said.
Dr Mark Zirnsak, spokesperson for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, said: “The Australian Government needs to take regulatory action to address illegal logging to send a clear signal that it is committed to the fight against corruption globally and that as a country we do not seek to profit from corruption through the lower prices it delivers to consumers.”
Every year around $452 million worth of illegal timber is imported into Australia.
Michael Kennedy of Humane Society International said: “With a federal election looming, the Government is running out of time to implement its 2007 election promise. A ban is urgently needed to help save rainforest species like the orangutan and curb deforestation, a major contributor to climate change.”
Asian Development Bank report:
To address the challenges of climate change and secure a low-carbon and sustainable energy future, accelerated and substantial investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies (“climatech”) are required. Asian Development Bank (ADB) seeks to significantly increase its investments in climatech in Asia through specialized venture capital funds .
ADB calls for proposals from venture capital fund and project managers (‘Fund Managers’) to invest in climatech-related projects and companies located within ADB’s developing member counties (DMCs).
This Call for Proposals does not constitute a commitment by ADB to provide the financial assistance described therein. Any such financial assistance will be contingent upon approval by the management and the Board of Directors of ADB, satisfactory due diligence, the no-objection of the Host Countries, prevailing market conditions and the execution of documentation in form and substance satisfactory to ADB.
Indonesia is a founding member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) since 1966 and, by the end of 2009, had received 303 loans amounting to $25.7 billion and 504 technical assistance (TA) projects amounting to $282.9 million. Measured by loan approvals, Indonesia is ADB’s largest client, and its second largest recipient of TA support
The National Sustainability Conference 2010 - Leading Singapore to a Sustainable Future
Are you interested in a sustainable Singapore?
Government, educational institutions, not for profit organisations, Business representatives and students will gather together at the 2nd National Sustainability Conference, 29th & 30th of July to discuss the latest sustainable developments in the Asia pacific region.
The theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Strategies for Singapore and the Asia Pacific Region with a focus on the sustainable workplace.
So what is Singapore doing to mitigate climate change and how is this filtering down to our major corporations and enterprises? These are some of the questions that will be answered at this year’s conference. Business Leaders and Policy Makers from both Asia and Australia will be presenting on topics such as Sustainable Leadership, Achieving Sustainable Business Practices, the Economics of Climate Change, Green jobs and the future of the Sustainable Development in the Asia Pacific Region.
Some of the major speakers include Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs and former Chair of the National Environment Agency, the country’s major agency for environmental protection as well as Dr. John Buchanan, Director of the Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney and Mr. John Person, Head of the UK Regional Climate Change Network in Southeast Asia.
The conference is being organised by The Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES), National University of Singapore and the Workplace Research Centre (WRC), University of Sydney and they are very excited about exchange of ideas that will take place on the two days. The conference organisers are very pleased to have Guest of Honour, Dr Amy Khor, Mayor, South West District, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, opening the conference on 29 July at 0915.
The National Sustainability Conference will take place in the Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088539. It will be a great insight into Singapore’s present responses to Climate Change and the emerging opportunities in the area as well as an excellent networking opportunity for anyone who is passionate about achieving a more sustainable Singapore.
ABC Carbon Director Ken Hickson, who initiated the involvement of the Workplace Research Centre in this Singapore Sustainability event, will be a speaker at the conference on the subject “Investing in a Low Carbon Economy to Create Green Jobs”. His book “The ABC of Carbon” will be launched in Singapore and a copy given to all delegates at the conference.
Europe Leads the Way: 30% Emissions Cuts By 2020?
The United Kingdom, Germany and France have launched a new push for the European Union to commit to a larger reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in a bid to aid economic recovery and shore up energy security, in a move that is likely to stir debate throughout the continent and make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. The UK Government is also committed to reforms to the Climate Change Levy to provide more certainty and support to the carbon price, as well as proposals for the creation of a Green Investment Bank to stimulate low-carbon investment.
By Selina Williams of Dow Jones Newswire (15 July 2010):
LONDON – The U.K., Germany and France Thursday launched a new push for the European Union to commit to a larger reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in a bid to aid economic recovery and shore up energy security, in a move that is likely to stir debate in the EU.
In articles published simultaneously in newspapers in the three countries, U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, Jean-Louis Borloo and Norbert Roettgen–his counterparts in France and Germany respectively–said cutting emissions 30% by 2020 instead of the targeted 20% would encourage more low-carbon investment.
Such a move would also help European companies take a lead in the sector and not lose out to other global competitors, they said.
While the U.K. has supported a unilateral increase by the EU to the 30% target, the articles show a bigger policy shift for France and Germany, which have traditionally only been in favor of the higher emissions goal for the EU as a whole if other countries commit to similar efforts.
“The current target of a 20% reduction now seems insufficient to drive the low-carbon transition. The recession by itself has cut emissions in the EU’s traded sector by 11% from the pre-crisis levels,” said the jointly written article that was published in the Financial Times.
Partly as a result of this, carbon prices are too low to stimulate significant investment, the article said. Carbon is trading at around EUR14 a metric ton on the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which is estimated to be around EUR15 to EUR20 a ton too low to stimulate the investment required for larger and more costly low-carbon projects.
“Moving to a 30% target would provide greater certainty and predictability for investors,” they said in the article.
In the U.K., companies have been struggling to see how they will be able to finance large and costly low-carbon energy projects in offshore wind, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage while the carbon price is so low.
“The ‘wait and see’ policy of sticking to 20% risks putting Europe in the global slow lane of maximizing low carbon economic opportunities,” they said.
The move by the three ministers is likely to stir the debate in the EU, with business lobbies usually opposed to more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.
“The European business community still thinks that a unilateral target increase would be counterproductive,” said Folker Franz, who is responsible for climate change policy at BusinessEurope, the European business lobby group.
“There is indeed increasing evidence that countries like China or the U.S. are becoming more competitive in “green” sectors like renewable energy, but none of these countries has a binding absolute emission target,” he said.
The European Commission–which called the move a “positive contribution” to the climate change debate–has estimated that the economic downturn would make the cost of meeting a 30% cut in 2020 EUR11 billion more than the pre-recession cost of meeting the 20% target of EUR70 billion.
The initiative is part of the U.K. government’s wider moves to encourage low-carbon investment.
In the recent budget the U.K. government announced plans to consult on reforms to the Climate Change Levy to provide more certainty and support to the carbon price in the U.K., and further reforms of the energy market to promote low-carbon energy generation will follow in the Energy Bill.
The government has also said it will put forward detailed proposals on the creation of a Green Investment Bank to stimulate low-carbon investment.
Make a Deposit in New Australian Outback Carbon Bank
Australia’s outback is a massive carbon bank ready for deposits and its fees would be cheaper than other methods of reducing carbon emissions, says research carried out for the Pew Environment Group and The Nature Conservancy. It investigated five carbon-cutting methods for the outback, which covers three-quarters of Australia, including reduced land clearance, control of feral animal populations and better fire management.
Aaron Cook in Sydney Morning Herald (14 July 2010)
Australia’s outback is a massive carbon bank ready for deposits and its fees would be cheaper than other methods of reducing carbon emissions, says a report just released.
Research carried out for the Pew Environment Group and The Nature Conservancy investigated five carbon-cutting methods for the outback, which covers three-quarters of Australia. These included reduced land clearance, control of feral animal populations and better fire management.
Most of the changes could be implemented using existing knowledge, said a Pew Environment Group representative, Patrick O’Leary, and could reduce Australia’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 40 million tonnes, or about 7 per cent of present levels, by 2030.
In most cases the changes would cost less than the estimated carbon price under the government’s shelved emissions trading scheme, the report said.
It also said the figures were approximate, but highlighted the magnitude of reductions that could be achieved.
”This report shows that the outback is an integral part of reducing Australia’s carbon emissions but it doesn’t replace the need for Australia to reduce industrial carbon pollution and the urgent need for a price on carbon,” Mr O’Leary said.
Nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s emissions in 2008 were due to land clearing, largely for the purpose of grazing cattle. Guy Fitzhardinge, a grazier who advised the study, said the wider community should see the value of using land as a carbon bank.
”People don’t clear land because they want to, they clear land because they are rewarded by doing so,” Mr Fitzhardinge said. ”The important thing is to work out the priority areas for agriculture and the priority areas for the environment.”
Charlie McElhone, the National Farmers Federation’s manager, economics and trade, said the study reinforced that there was an opportunity for farmers to be involved in climate-change policies.
Cutting emissions in the outback would also increase employment, the report says.
Indigenous communities could implement fire-management policies similar to an existing scheme in West Arnhem land in the Northern Territory, where controlled burning is conducted to prevent wildfires.
Culling feral animals would also reduce emissions and environmental damage. Australia has more than 1 million feral camels and their numbers rise 10 per cent each year.
The above measures could be introduced immediately, said the Climate Institute’s regional projects manager, Corey Watts.
”We can start investing in these things now and rewarding people now,” he said.
Shedding the Light on Photosynthesis in the Dark
Does photosynthesis stop when is no sunlight or because of dense cloud cover? Not according to Ken Bellamy (VRM & Prime Carbon) as long as there are enough photosynthetic bacteria and other organisms which can accept non-visible light, photosynthesis can go on 24 hours a day. Increased overall photosynthetic activity results in greater capture of CO2 from the air, greater sugar production and better growth all around.
Report in Farm Weekly (8 July 2010):
Does photosynthesis stop when is no sunlight or because of dense cloud cover? Not according to Ken Bellamy (VRM & Prime Carbon) as long as there are enough photosynthetic bacteria and other organisms which can accept non-visible light, photosynthesis can go on 24 hours a day.
According to Vital Resource Management (VRM) director Ken Bellamy, photosynthesis is the natural process of living things capturing light and storing it in special energy compounds.
“These special compounds – let’s call them photon packs – are used for fuel when the organism converts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars,” Mr Bellamy said.
He said plants used these photon packs when they grew but the photon pack could have been produced by the plant itself or by other organisms living nearby.
Mr Bellamy, also a director of Prime Carbon set up in 2004 to help assess and register farm-based carbon offsets, said mineral phosphorus was a key component of the photon packs and must be available in the soil for photosynthesis to happen.
Phosphorus acts as a sort of battery for the photon pack and is exchanged as the energy in the pack is used.
Photon packs are “charged up” by photons (light) and accept the charge by picking up a piece of phosphorus.
When the pack is used, phosphorus is released. These packs can accept photon energy from any type of light.
The light seen is only a small part of the total light spectrum, but even ultra violet light and infra-red light can be used for photosynthesis.
These two bands of light are not overly impacted by cloud cover.
Photon packs can even be charged at night, using reflected or re-radiated light which is not visible to the naked eye. The trick is that plants use mostly visible light while other organisms use the other bands too.
So the plant itself could slow down when visible sunlight fades but some of its neighbours can help pick up the slack.
Infra Red light can penetrate soil, so photosynthesis can be active in what we think is darkness.
Provided there are enough “phototrophic” or photosynthetic bacteria and other organisms which can accept non-visible light, photosynthesis can go on 24 hours a day.
Plants make friends with these organisms and even trade them enzymes and other substances for photon packs when there are enough of them present.
This means plants can share in a second wave of photosynthesis outsourced to soil organisms.
Increased overall photosynthetic activity results in greater capture of CO2 from the air, greater sugar production and better growth all around.
As long as the right microbes are present around a plant, sugar production can happen day or night, light or dark, just like it does on the dark and shady floor of a rainforest or deep in the ocean.
Build the microbes, share their photon packs and photosynthesis happens even in the dark.
Mr Bellamy established VRM in 1997 to offer sustainable and affordable improvements in water management and food production.