Archive for the ‘Express 138’ Category

A global climate agenda

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

A global climate agenda

A landmark of sorts. And a pat on the back. Self-inflicted of course!  As this issue marks the third birthday of abc carbon express. 138 issues in three years since we started on 1 March 2008. Some readers have been with us from the beginning but many more thousand added since. We know that we average 60,000 hits a month to our website – – driven largely by our e-newsletter content.Our geographic – or climatic – spread of content and readership is global, albeit with a bias to the Asia Pacific. We started in Brisbane, Australia and now we operate from Singapore, but that doesn’t mean we will ignore events and news from further afield. This issue certainly has information and announcements from Singapore and Australia, but also taps into the views of UK volcanologist Bill McGuire, prompted by last issue’s mention of the climate change connection to geological events, including earthquakes. UN Climate Change chief Christiana Figueres gets a word or two in, as do experts on green buildings from Malaysia and South Korea. Biofuels for aviation are taking off, with views and actions from the US and Australia. China renews its green agenda, while Africa is on the climate page with differing views on whether it faces more droughts or too much water. Australia struggles with its impending carbon pricing plan with support coming from unexpected sources. While Australia has its annual Clean Up Day and Singapore gets set to mark World Water Day on 20 March, the global community looks set to celebrate Earth Hour on 26 March. Turn off the lights and turn on to energy efficiency everywhere. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Bill McGuire

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Profile: Bill McGuire

Here’s the volcanologist who says there’s evidence that “supports a robust link between changing climatic conditions and a broad portfolio of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological processes”. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides are some of the catastrophes that climate change and its rising sea levels and melting glaciers could bring. Skeptics are sure to point out that volcanoes have caused climate to change in the past and humans had nothing to do with it. Bill McGuire, author of Global Catastrophes begs to differ and thinks we have to change our ways, as well as our risk assessments.

Editor’s note: Bill McGuire has been speaking up on the linkage between geological events like earthquakes and climate change for some years. Since our mention in the last edition of Bill McGuire’s views, we have come up with more information (at the request of our readers), including his biographical details (who is this man!), an article in which he was quoted in Life Science in 2007, as well as a detailed paper put together by Bill McGuire for the Royal Society last year. – Ken Hickson

Biographical details

Bill McGuire is – by inclination and training – a volcanologist, and has worked on and visited volcanoes across the world. In 1996 he occupied a post of Senior Scientist at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory at a time of escalating activity and the first explosive eruption at the Soufriere Hills volcano. He currently holds the posts of Benfield Professor of Geophysical Hazards and Director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London. The BHRC hosts over 50 core researchers and affiliates and is the largest academic hazard centre in Europe.

Bill’s principal research interests are volcano monitoring and volcanic hazards and global geophysical catastrophes and their impacts. He is also qualified to provide expert comment on a range of other natural hazards, including earthquakes, landslides, and the hazard implications of climate change. He is a staunch supporter of an anthropogenic cause for global warming and an evangelical advocate of the importance of drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate a more climatically hazardous future.

Bill has been the UK’s representative of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, Secretary of UK Panel of the International Union of Geodesy & Geophysics, and a Council Member of the Geological Society. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society and of the Royal Institution, and is a member of the Royal Institution’s Science Media Panel. Bill was also a member of the UK Government’s Natural Hazard Working Group, established by Prime Minister Tony Blair following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Bill is author of over three hundred books articles and papers. His current academic work, the World Atlas of Natural Hazards was published by Hodder Arnold in August 2004 and his new popular science books, Surviving Armageddon: Solution for a Threatened Planet, and Global Catastrophes: a Very Short Introduction, were published by OUP in – respectively – June 2005 and January 2006. Bill is a member of the Association of British Sciences Writers and a regular contributor to radio, television, and the press on hazard-related matters. He presented the BBC Radio 4 series Disasters in Waiting and Scientists Under Pressure.

Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Andrea Thompson in Life Science (30 August 2007)

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides are some of the additional catastrophes that climate change and its rising sea levels and melting glaciers could bring, a geologist says.

The impact of human-induced global warming on Earth’s ice and oceans is already noticeable: Greenland’s glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, and sea level rose by a little more than half a foot (0.17 meters) globally in the 20th century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With these trends in ice cover and sea level only expected to continue and likely worsen if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, they could alter the stresses and forces fighting for balance in the ground under our feet—changes that are well-documented in studies of past climate change, but which are just beginning to be studied as possible consequences of the current state of global warming.

“Although they’ve described it in the past, nobody’s thought about it in terms of future effects of climate change,” said Bill McGuire of the University College London’s Hazard Research Center.

McGuire’s speculations of increased geological activity have not yet been published in a journal, but he has written an article about them published in the Guardian Unlimited.

Rebounding crust

One particular feature that can change the balance of forces in Earth’s crust is ice, in the form of glaciers and ice sheets that cover much of the area around Earth’s poles plus mountains at all latitudes. The weight of ice depresses the crust on which it sits.

As the ice melts, the crust below no longer has anything sitting on top of it, and so can rebound fairly rapidly (by geological standards). (This rebounding is actually occurring now as a result of the end of the last Ice Age: The retreat of massive ice sheets from the northern United States and Canada has allowed the crust in these areas to bounce back.)

Areas of rebounding crust could change the stresses acting on earthquake faults and volcanoes in the crust.

“In places like Iceland, for example, where you have the Eyjafjallajökull ice sheet, which wouldn’t survive [global warming], and you’ve got lots of volcanoes under that, the unloading effect can trigger eruptions,” McGuire said.

With the changing dynamics in the crust, faults could also be destabilized, which could bring a whole host of other problems.

“It’s not just the volcanoes. Obviously if you load and unload active faults, then you’re liable to trigger earthquakes,” McGuire told LiveScience, noting that there is ample evidence for this association in past climate change events.

“At the end of the last Ice Age, there was a great increase in seismicity along the margins of the ice sheets in Scandinavia and places like this, and that triggered these huge submarine landsides which generated tsunamis,” McGuire said. “So you’ve got the whole range of geological hazards there that can result from if we see this big catastrophic melting.”

Roland Burgmann, a geologist at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that changes in ice cover can have significant effects on the underlying crust, but says that more research needs to be done to determine the actual scale of the threat and where the effects are most likely to occur.

Water pressure

Ice melt can have an added consequence because all that melted ice has to go somewhere—namely, the ocean.

And ice melt won’t be the only factor changing sea levels: as ocean temperatures rise, the water itself expands (a process called thermal expansion).

As all that extra water piles up, it could apply pressure to faults near coastlines.

“The added load of the water bends the crust, and that means that you tend to get tensional conditions in the upper part of the crust and compressional a bit lower down, just as if you bend a plank of wood or something,” McGuire explained.

These compressional forces could push out any magma lying around underneath a volcano, triggering an eruption. (This mechanism is actually believed to be the cause of the seasonal eruptions of Alaska’s Pavlof volcano, which erupts every winter when sea levels are higher.)

McGuire conducted a study that was published in the journal Nature in 1997 that looked at the connection between the change in the rate of sea level rise and volcanic activity in the Mediterranean for the past 80,000 years and found that when sea level rose quickly, more volcanic eruptions occurred, increasing by a whopping 300 percent.

If today’s worst-case global warming scenarios of catastrophic melting of glaciers and ice sheets come to pass, sea levels could rise rapidly, wreaking all sorts of geological havoc “comparable with the most rapid increases in sea level that we’ve seen in the last 15,000 years,” McGuire said.

Burgmann isn’t too worried about sea level rise causing more earthquakes or volcanic eruptions though, noting that catastrophic rates of sea level rise in the future are uncertain and that the current rate of rise—about 0.12 inches per year (3 millimeters per year)—isn’t enough to destabilize the crust.

“It would take a long time to add up to a significant amount,” Burgmann said—so while it’s an area of research to keep an eye on, it’s unlikely to have any disastrous consequences, at least for now.


For those wishing to read more, here is an account by Bill McGuire for the Royal Society on Climate forcing of geological and geomorphological hazards.

Bill McGuire of  the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

The 12 research papers and two summaries of conference discussion sessions contained in this Theme Issue build upon presentations and dialogue at the Third Johnston–Lavis Colloquium held at University College London in September 2009.

The meeting brought together delegates from the UK, Europe and the USA to address the issue of climate forcing of geological and geomorphological hazards, with a particular focus on examining the possibilities for a geospheric response to anthropogenic climate change. Papers included in this issue are a reflection of new research and critical reviews presented in sessions on: climates of the past and future; climate forcing of volcanism and volcanic activity; and climate as a driver of seismic, mass-movement and tsunami hazards. Two introductory papers set the scene.

In the first, McGuire summarizes evidence for periods of exceptional past climate change eliciting a dynamic response from the Earth’s crust, involving enhanced levels of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity. The response, McGuire notes, is expressed through the triggering, adjustment or modulation of a range of crustal and surface processes, which include gas-hydrate destabilization, submarine and subaerial landslides, debris flows and glacial outburst floods, and volcanic and seismic activity.

Adopting a uniformitarian approach, and acknowledging potential differences in both rate and scale from the period of post-glacial warming, McGuire goes on to examine potential influences of anthropogenic climate change in relation to an array of geological and geomorphological hazards across an assortment of environmental settings. In a second and complementary review paper, Liggins et al. evaluate climate change projections from both global and regional climate models in the context of geological and geomorphological hazards.

The authors observe that, in assessing potential for a geospheric response, it seems prudent to consider that regional levels of warming at 2°C are unavoidable, with high-end projections associated with unmitigated emissions potentially leading to a global average temperature rise in excess of 4°C, and far greater warming in some regions. Importantly, they note that significant uncertainties exist, not only in relation to climate projections, but also with regards to links between climate change and geospheric responses. Using the format adopted by McGuire, Liggins et al. focus on high-latitude regions, global oceans, non-volcanic mountainous regions and volcanic landscapes.

The sensitivity to climate change of gas hydrates, in both marine and continental settings, has long captured interest, in relation to its potential role in past episodes of rapid warming, such as in the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), and in the context of anthropogenic warming. In the first of a pair of papers on the subject, Maslin et al. review the current state of the science as it relates to gas hydrates as a potential hazard. The authors note that gas hydrates may present a serious threat as the world warms, primarily through the release of large quantities of methane into the atmosphere, thus forcing accelerated warming, but also as a consequence of their possible role in promoting submarine slope failure and consequent tsunami generation.

Maslin and colleagues also stress, however, that, while the destabilization of gas hydrates in permafrost terrains can be robustly linked to projected temperature increases at high latitudes, it remains to be determined whether or not future ocean warming will lead to significant methane release from marine hydrates. In a second paper, Dunkley Jones et al. look back to the PETM, the most prominent, transient, global warming event during the Cenozoic, in order to evaluate the effects of the rapid release of thousands of gigatonnes of greenhouse gases on the planet’s climate, ocean–atmosphere chemistry and biota, for which the PETM perhaps provides the best available analogue. Dunkley Jones et al. support the view that, while gas-hydrate release was probably not responsible for an initial, rapid, CO2-driven warming, the as yet unknown event responsible for this subsequently triggered the large-scale dissociation of gas hydrates, which contributed to further warming as a positive feedback mechanism. As the authors note, this somewhat equivocal situation ensures that the question of what role, if any, gas hydrates may play in anthropogenic warming remains to be answered.

Continuing the gas-hydrate theme, Day and Maslin summarize—at the end of this issue—a discussion session at the colloquium, on the theme of Gas hydrates: a hazard for the 21st century? While wide-ranging, discussion focused primarily on the distribution of the potential hazard and how the level of hazard might vary with climate change. The outcome of the session was a ‘wish-list’ that emphasized the need for, among other things, a better understanding of whether and how (immediately versus over a longer time-scale) 21st-century climate change will trigger hydrate release, and a more robust appreciation of the likely fate of released methane.

Looking forward, one of the potential hazards presented by gas hydrates is their possible role in the destabilization of submarine slopes. This is one theme addressed by Tappin within a broader review of submarine mass failures (SMFs) as tsunami sources that incorporates the climate dimension. Tappin highlights the importance of climate in ‘preconditioning’ sediment so as to promote instability and failure, including its influence on sediment type, deposition rate and post-depositional modification. The author also notes that climate may play a role in triggering SMFs via earthquake or cyclic loading associated with tides or storm waves. Tappin makes the important point that, in the past, climate influence on SMFs appears to have been greatest at high latitudes and associated with glaciation–deglaciation cycles, which had a significant influence on sedimentation, preconditioning and triggering. As a corollary, Tappin notes that, as the Earth warms, increased understanding of the influence of climate will help to underpin forecasting of tsunami-sourcing SMFs, in particular at high latitudes where climate change is occurring most rapidly.

The theme of slope destabilization and failure, this time in a subaerial setting, is continued in a paper by Huggel et al., which examines recent large slope failures in the context of short-term, extreme warming events. Huggel and colleagues demonstrate a link between large slope failures in Alaska, New Zealand and the European Alps, and preceding, anomalously warm episodes. The authors present evidence supporting the view that triggering of large slope failures in temperature-sensitive high mountains is primarily a function of reduced slope strength due to increased production of meltwater from snow and ice and from rapid thaw processes. Looking ahead, they expect more frequent episodes of extreme temperature to result in a rise in the number of large slope failures in elevated terrain and warn of potentially serious consequences for mountain communities.

The slope failure hazard in mountainous terrain is also addressed by Keiler et al. in a paper that examines the influence of contemporary climate change on a broad spectrum of geomorphological hazards in the eastern European Alps, including landslides, rock falls, debris flows, avalanches and floods. In the context of the pan-continental 2003 heat wave and the 2005 central European floods, the authors demonstrate how physical processes and human activity are linked in climatically sensitive alpine regions that are prone to the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Importantly, Keiler et al. note that, while the European Alps, alongside other glaciated mountain ranges, are being disproportionately impacted upon by climate change, this is further exacerbated by regional factors, including local climatology and long-term decay of glaciers and permafrost. The authors conclude that future climate changes are likely to drive rises in the incidence of mountain hazards and, consequently, increase their impact on Alpine communities.

There is strong evidence for a crustal response to the rapidly changing post-glacial climate being elicited by load changes, either as a consequence of unloading at high latitudes and high altitudes due to ice-mass wastage, or as a result of the loading of ocean basins and continental margins in response to a 100 m or more rise in global sea level. The following three papers address the influence of load changes in the context of the triggering of seismicity and volcanism. In the first, Guillas et al. present the results of a statistical study of a putative correlation between contemporary variations in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the occurrence of earthquakes on the East Pacific Rise (EPR). The authors observe a significant (95% confidence interval) positive influence of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) on seismicity, and propose that increased seismicity on the EPR arises due to the reduced sea levels in the eastern Pacific that precede El Niño events, and which can be explained in terms of the reduction in ocean-bottom pressure over the EPR by a few kilopascals. Guillas et al. note that this provides an example of how variations in the atmosphere and hydrosphere can drive very small changes in environmental conditions that are able, in turn, to trigger a response from the Earth’s crust. Most importantly, they speculate that, in a warmer world, comparable and larger changes associated with ocean loading due to global sea level rise, or unloading associated with the passage of more intense storms, may trigger more significant earthquake activity at submarine fault systems that are in a critical state.

Continuing the theme, Hampel et al. take a broader look at how faults have responded to variations in ice and water volumes as a consequence of past climate change. Using numerical models, the authors demonstrate that climate-driven changes in ice and water volume are able to affect the slip evolution of both thrust and normal faults, with—in general—both the slip rate and the seismicity of a fault increasing with unloading and decreasing with loading. Adopting a case-study approach, Hampel and colleagues provide evidence for a widespread, post-glacial, seismic response on faults located beneath decaying ice sheets or glacial lakes. Looking ahead, the authors point to the implications of their results for ice-mass loss at high latitudes, and speculate that shrinkage of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as a consequence of anthropogenic warming could result in a rise in the frequency of earthquakes in these regions.

In a similar vein, Sigmundsson et al. evaluate the influence of climate-driven ice loading and unloading on volcanism, focusing on Iceland and, in particular, on the Vatnajökull ice cap. Noting that a significant pulse of volcanism in Iceland, at the end of the last glaciation, flags a link between unloading and volcanism, the authors model the effects of contemporary ice-mass loss at Vatnajökull on future magmatic activity. Using a viscoelastic model of glacio-isostatic adjustment that incorporates melt generation in the underlying mantle, Sigmundsson and co-authors predict that ice wastage will result in additional magma generation beneath Iceland. The authors expect more frequent or more voluminous volcanic activity to be a consequence of enhanced melt generation, but also observe that it could take longer than decades or centuries for the resulting magma to reach the surface. Sigmundsson et al. also show that ice unloading is likely to drive shallow magma reservoirs progressively towards failure, although this effect will be small and therefore contribute only to modulating ‘normal’ activity.

A more general evaluation of the impact of a changing climate on glaciated volcanoes is undertaken by Tuffen, who looks ahead to how the melting of ice caps on active volcanoes may influence volcanic hazards in the 21st century. In reviewing the evidence for current melting of ice increasing the frequency or size of future eruptions, Tuffen notes that much remains to be understood in relation to ice loss and increased eruptive activity. In particular, uncertainty surrounds the sensitivity of volcanoes to small changes in ice thickness and how rapidly volcanic systems respond to deglaciation. Nonetheless, Tuffen expects an increase in explosive eruptions at glaciated volcanoes that experience significant ice thinning, and increased frequency of lateral collapse at glaciated strato-volcanoes in response to anthropogenic warming. On the positive side, deglaciation may ultimately reduce the threat from volcanic debris flows (lahars) and meltwater floods from volcanoes that currently support ice caps.

Volcano lateral collapse in response to a changing climate is explored further in the final research paper by Deeming et al., although in this case the driving force is precipitation rather than ice-mass loss. Deeming and co-workers present the results of a cosmic-ray exposure dating campaign at Mount Etna (Sicily), which constrains the timing and nature of collapse of the Valle del Bove, a major volcanic landslide scar on the eastern flank of the volcano. The authors link pluvial conditions during the early Holocene to the formation of a high-energy surface drainage system and to its truncation by a catastrophic lateral collapse event, ca7.5 ka BP, which opened the Valle del Bove. A possible mechanism is proposed, whereby magma emplacement into a water-saturated edifice caused the thermal pressurization of pore water, leading to a reduction in sliding resistance and subsequent large-scale slope failure. Deeming et al. present the mechanism as one possible driver of future lateral collapse at ice-capped volcanoes and at those located in regions predicted to experience enhanced precipitation.

Concluding the volcanoes and climate change theme, Tuffen and Betts draw together the thoughts of delegates at a second colloquium discussion session, which focused on Volcanism and climate: chicken and egg (or vice versa )? Among other outcomes of the discussion came the feeling that the title of the session was too prescriptive, with perhaps ‘Chicken and egg’ being more appropriate. This, it was broadly felt, better reflected the complexities apparent in the volcano–climate system, within which both climate forcing of volcanism and volcanic forcing of climate appear to play a part. Going further, rather than a chicken and egg debate, it was suggested that it might be more beneficial to concentrate efforts on understanding better how the volcano–climate system evolves over time, responds to different forcings, and incorporates various feedback mechanisms. Among other proposals, it was advocated that climate models should incorporate variable volcanic inputs so as to better explore how volcanic activity might affect the climate in the future.

Together, this set of papers provides a coherent whole that addresses a wide range of issues relating to how climate change may force geological and geomorphological phenomena capable of acting to increase natural hazard risk in a warmer world. They reflect a field of research that is only now becoming recognized as important in the context of the likely impacts and implications of anthropogenic climate change. We hope that this Theme Issue will provide a marker that reinforces the idea that anthropogenic climate change does not simply involve the atmosphere and hydrosphere, but can also elicit a response from the Earth’s crust and mantle. In this regard, we hope that it will encourage further research into those mechanisms by which climate change may drive potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity, and into the future ramifications for society and the economy.

One contribution of 15 to a Theme Issue ‘Climate forcing of geological and geomorphological hazards’.

© 2010 The Royal Society


Kyoto Shadow Over Climate Progress

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Kyoto Shadow Over Climate Progress

Work on implementing recent climate agreements, including a new green fund, will start next month despite wrangling over the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change secretariat, said the Green Climate Fund as well as the work agenda will be discussed at a ministerial meeting hosted by Mexico. She shrugged off the possibility that the main climate forum of all countries in Bangkok in April will be overshadowed by disagreements about Kyoto, which she says is not a new issue although governments will have to address and make “some decision” by the main year-end climate summit in Durban, South Africa.


Mar 3 2011

By Risa Maeda

TOKYO (Reuters) – Work on implementing recent climate agreements, including a new green fund, will start next month despite wrangling over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, a top U.N. official said on Thursday.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. climate change secretariat, said the Green Climate Fund as well as the work agenda for this year’s U.N. climate talks will be discussed at a ministerial meeting hosted by Mexico in March.

Uncertainty has been growing over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the first legally binding treaty to cut greenhouse gases, with Japan, Russia and Canada insisting they will not extend emission cuts.

Although most governments including developing nations support an extension, the three holdouts want all top emitters, notably China and the United States, to agree a new treaty beyond 2012, when Kyoto’s first period ends.

Figueres, in Japan for an informal meeting of climate envoys from about 30 governments, shrugged off the possibility that the main U.N. climate forum of all countries in Bangkok in April will be overshadowed by disagreements about Kyoto.

Kyoto is not a new issue although governments will have to address and make “some decision” by a year-end climate summit in Durban, South Africa, she said.

“There are many ideas that have been considered to find a middle of the way path forward … They have to come to some decision in Durban,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

Figueres also downplayed concern that a further rise in oil prices could undermine global economic recovery and provide an excuse or hurdle for governments to avoid immediate initiatives on cutting emissions.

“The fact that we have high oil prices is not for the first time in history. So it’s not such a historical issue that would affect the climate talks this year.”

Oil’s price volatility has been a compelling argument for governments to change the energy mix, she said.

Asked if the gap over Kyoto could be narrowed by reintroducing wording that would let developing countries list “voluntary commitments” to curb their emissions, Figueres said it would be hard to win support for the idea. It was rejected by developing nations in 1997 when Kyoto was agreed.

“It is absolutely the decision of the governments to decide how they want to take the Kyoto Protocol forward. But I don’t think your particular suggestion there is the one which would find a lot of support,” she said.


As for Japan’s idea of a new bilateral market mechanism with developing countries to cut emissions by encouraging its private sector’s low-carbon technology and financial support, Figueres said “voluntary” emission-cut actions are always welcome.

But she said unlike a carbon offset scheme under Kyoto, called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), they are not part of an international compliance system.

Japan has pressed ahead with plans for bilateral deals, in which it invests in energy conservation and clean energy projects in developing countries in exchange for credits, hoping this will help it meet its obligatory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home.

Japan has criticized the CDM as too rigid and inefficient to provide funds for such projects in developing countries.

“Bilateral mechanisms that have been devised here in Japan are to provide offsets for the voluntary targets of the Japanese industry, which does not have a relationship, at least for the time being, with any international target or international compliance system,” she said.

Figueres said Japan can make extensive use of the CDM’s existing methodologies and reflect its views to improve the CDM if it wants to.

The government and Japanese companies have been major buyers of carbon offsets under the CDM and other market schemes to meet Tokyo’s 2008-2012 emission cut goals.

Despite Japan’s reservations about extending Kyoto, some Japanese companies have continued trading Kyoto offsets, as an agreement by countries that met in Cancun, Mexico, in December enables Japan to use CDM and other Kyoto Protocol market schemes without joining a second period of Kyoto.


Carbon Price Makes Business Sense

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Carbon Price Makes Business Sense

Superannuation funds have thrown their weight behind the government’s plan to introduce a carbon price, saying the Opposition’s pledge to roll back an emissions trading scheme would hurt investment in cleaner energy. While business commentator Josh Dowse in Climate Spectator says the industry group leaders are misleading the public as very few of their members would be affected, as many firms who are feeling pain from rising energy costs, a carbon price is the least of their worries. But Prime Minister Julia Gillard still has a fight on her hands. 

Clancy Yeates In Sydney Morning Herald

March 4, 2011

SUPERANNUATION funds have thrown their weight behind the government’s plan to introduce a carbon price, saying the Coalition’s pledge to roll back an emissions trading scheme would hurt investment in cleaner energy.

With $1.3 trillion in assets, super funds are tipped to play a crucial role in funding the move towards a lower-carbon economy.

But amid a fierce political debate over pricing polluting, key funds have said they would be unable to invest with certainty unless there was an economy-wide carbon price.

The chief executive of construction industry fund Cbus, David Atkin, said a carbon price was ”critical” for backing cleaner investment, but that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s policy of direct action would not allow this.

”We think getting a price on carbon is critical to enable investors to allocate more capital to low-carbon assets,” he said. ”The difficulty with the direct-action policy is that it doesn’t provide an investment signal to the private sector, which is critical to the transformation required.”

The Investor Group on Climate Change, which includes private sector giants AMP, BT and Colonial and represents fund managers who control $600 billion, also backed carbon-price certainty.

The group’s chief executive, Nathan Fabian, said after pushing for a price on carbon for years, institutional investors were frustrated by the opposition’s pledge to roll back the scheme.

”Introducing doubt about the future regulatory environment undermines investor confidence,” he said. ”This is quite simple. Provide a long-term signal to investors and they will invest. Introduce significant regulatory uncertainty and they will not.”

The acting chief executive of the $8 billion VicSuper fund, Michael Geraghty, echoed other funds’ support for a carbon price, saying it would ”allow institutional investors to consider investments in climate solutions with confidence”.

The president of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, Michael O’Sullivan, estimated at least half the private capital needed to be committed to tackle climate change would come from pension funds. But he said the opposition’s roll-back pledge would introduce a ”profound sovereign risk” to the equation for institutional investors.

The comments come after a Mercer report last month advised investors to reallocate funds towards climate-friendly assets over coming decades as a hedge against the earnings risk that climate change posed to companies.

But Deutsche Bank analyst Tim Jordan said policy ambiguity was the ”great enemy” of low-carbon investments, which required the long-term certainty of a carbon price.


4 March Climate Spectator

Josh Dowse

Business Spectator

Australia’s largest businesses are more than capable of looking after themselves, financially and in policy negotiations. Always have, always will, and rightly so. So it seems a little strange when the Australian Industry Group (AiG) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) shout loud for our largest companies, to the detriment of the vast majority of their members.

First, let’s take the proposed carbon price. Despite all the noise, what is being proposed will have only the smallest effect on all but a literal handful of companies. The AiG’s own research, which I’ll get to below, shows this very clearly. In any case, the government has said that businesses will be “assisted”. Many question the wisdom of that largesse – the small potential cost is quite avoidable by most businesses and, if they do take energy-efficient action, their investments will have a financial return that most businesses would be more than happy with.

A few weeks ago, the AiG released its research report Energy shock: confronting higher prices. Though its sample size was small, it tells a great story. Firstly, most companies spend very little on electricity – two-thirds spend less than 2 per cent of sales (Figure 1). Accordingly, very few do anything to reduce that cost, and very few intend to (Figure 2). The cost of energy isn’t a big deal for most companies. If it was, business would be doing something about it.

Figure 1: What was your company’s electricity spend as a percentage of sales in 2009-10?

Source: AiG, “Energy shock: confronting higher prices”, February 2011

Figure 2: How do you expect your company’s energy efficiency to improve in the next 2 years?

Source: AiG, “Energy shock: confronting higher prices”, February 2011

A carbon price of $30 that might raise a firm’s electricity cost by a nominal 20 per cent won’t make that big a difference to most firms. That’s a nominal 0.2-0.4 per cent rise in the cost of goods sold – not really enough to send a business to the wall, despite what Tony Abbott, Heather Ridout and Peter Anderson might claim. If anything, it’s the uncertainty that is debilitating.

Why do I say ‘nominal’? Because it’s avoidable. Companies who have looked at energy efficiency find that reductions of 5 to 10 per cent per year are commonplace. There are strong government programs such as the NSW Energy Savings Credits to reduce the up-front cost. In any case, investment in energy savings has a typical return on investment of 30-50 per cent in the first year, and 15-25 per cent after that. Simple behaviour change programs greatly improve those returns. If the cost of energy or a reputation for sustainability is important, firms will act. But for most firms, it’s just not an issue. Those in the business of improving energy efficiency know that only too well.

For the many firms who are feeling pain from rising energy costs, a carbon price is the least of their worries. In NSW, IPART has confirmed that retail electricity will be 40 per cent dearer in 2012-13, without a carbon price. The AiG research confirmed why: electricity prices have been rising, and will continue to do so, due to rising generation and network costs. The resources boom has increased costs for skilled labour, building and maintenance materials, and of course thermal coal prices. It notes that “Nearly 60 per cent of Australian coal-fired generation capacity, including all of NSW’s coal plants, appears potentially exposed to these coal price movements.”

Network costs have risen by 58-93 per cent in NSW and Qld over the past five years, and the underlying causes are only getting worse: rising per capita energy use and peak demand, past under-investment in network assets, and more rigorous licensing conditions imposed by governments to avoid unpopular blackouts. There are also stronger incentives for companies to seek higher capital allowances from regulators than there is to manage demand: that is, they are rewarded for network spend, but not to reduce energy use.

As the resource boom continues, all sectors pay more for labour, materials and energy, while interest rates may rise. If the AiG and ACCI were truly acting for their members, they would be trying to dampen these impacts, pointing members to energy efficiency programs, identifying the opportunities in low-emission and energy efficiency businesses, not scaremongering on a carbon price.

Indeed, far from helping to reduce the business costs of their members in these ways, both AiG’s Heather Ridout and ACCI’s Peter Anderson this week insisted on prolonging the uncertainty over the carbon price, further increasing generation and network costs, by backing Tony Abbott’s intention to ‘roll back’ this ‘great big tax’.

The carbon price is not the only policy issue on which ACCI, at least, has supported the big boys at the expense of its larger constituency. The resource rent tax was designed by the Henry Review to restore the national share of mining proceeds to historic norms (Figure 3), but more importantly as a targeted policy lever to slow down the pace of that mining and so get better returns from it in the medium term.

Fig 3: Mineral tax and royalties as a share of mineral profits

Source: Australian Government, Australia’s Future Tax System, December 2009, chart C1-1.

The resources boom is undeniably putting upward pressure on costs and interest rates for the whole economy. Yet ACCI was happy to risk rising interest rates for its members, and indeed lose a reduction in company tax, by cheering for the short-term profitability of some mining companies rather than the short- and medium-term interests of its members.

As we’ve seen, those miners are in very healthy shape and well able to look after themselves in Canberra. As indeed are our heaviest emitters, trade-exposed or not. It’s not so clear who is looking after the other 1,100,000 businesses in Australia.


Josh Dowse is an independent consultant on sustainable business and investment:


Are Sustainable Aviation Fuels Ready For Take Off?

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Are Sustainable Aviation Fuels Ready For Take Off?

The introduction of the Gillard Government’s proposed carbon tax is likely to accelerate the move by commercial airlines to adopt sustainable fuels,  Susan Pond, United States Studies Centre adjunct professor with the Dow Sustainability Program told a three-day forum looking at alternative fuels for commercial aviation as part of this week’s Avalon International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition in Victoria. To accelerate the commercialisation of Sustainable Aviation Fuels, Qantas is working with aviation stakeholders on an Industry Roadmap study, due to be released this month, in conjunction with the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific agency.

USSC Centre (4 March 2011)

The introduction of the Gillard Government’s proposed carbon tax is likely to accelerate the move by commercial airlines to adopt sustainable fuels, says Susan Pond, Centre adjunct professor with the Dow Sustainability Program .

The US Centre hosted a three-day forum looking at alternative fuels for commercial aviation as part of this week’s Avalon International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition in Victoria.

The forum saw presentations by representatives from Virgin, Qantas and Boeing among others. In a video interview now on our website, Dr Pond says that Australia is already quite involved in the global effort to find alternatives to petroleum, but that it is important to have government supporting research and development into biofuels.

Executive director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, Richard Altman, co-led the forum with Susan Pond. In Australia as a visitor of the US Studies Centre, Mr Altman spoke to John Barron on ABC News Radio about the progress already made towards commercially viable biofuels capable of powering existing jet engines. Interview:


A full report from the conference was not available in time for this issue, neither was the presentation at the conference by Nicole Williamson, Qantas Group Manager Climate Change Strategy and Programs, Qantas Airways. But we have obtained some relevant information from the Qantas website on  Sustainable fuels for aviation.

To accelerate the commercialisation of SAF, Qantas is working with aviation stakeholders on an Industry Roadmap study in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s peak scientific agency.

The Roadmap is building on international developments, but focus on the unique advantages and challenges of our region. Specifically, it is looking at addressing barriers to a commercial and scalable SAF industry by bringing together stakeholders from aviation, scientific, traditional fuel supply, government and community groups.

The key challenges centre on scale, commercial viability, environmental sustainability and the selection of the most suitable biomass for our region’s climate and geography. Given the importance of aviation to the Australian and New Zealand economies, it is exciting to see our region leading the way in developing this Roadmap. Significantly, the Roadmap could also promote the development of new clean, ‘green’ energy businesses in regional areas.

The Roadmap report will be published in March 2011.

What is Qantas doing to help commercialise Sustainable Aviation Fuel in Australia?

Developing more sustainable jet fuels is vitally important for the global aviation industry

and for the Qantas Group. The costs and environmental impacts associated with traditional

jet fuel mean it is imperative that we push hard now for the commercialisation of alternative fuel sources.

Qantas wants to be at the forefront of this growing sector. So, we have chosen to engage

with innovative companies like Solazyme and Solena.  Over the next year, we will work

together with Solazyme, Solena as well as with important government and private sector

stakeholders to build the case for sustainable jet fuel production in Australia.  Given the

global emergence of green technologies and their potential to drive growth and create jobs,

we believe this is important for both Qantas and the overall Australian economy.

How will Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) reduce aviation’s carbon footprint?

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) will help to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon

footprint in different ways.  SAF is derived from biomass sources such as plants

and algae that actually absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air

during their natural growth cycle.  Therefore, although SAF releases carbon dioxide

when it is burned as jet fuel, the overall greenhouse gas impact over this new fuel’s

lifecycle is comparatively less than for traditional fossil-derived jet fuel.

Similarly, the use of SAF derived from organic waste streams such as municipal

waste will reduce aviation’s carbon footprint over the fuel’s lifecycle as it diverts

and transforms energy from the waste stream that would have otherwise been

destined for landfill.

Aviation is one of the few sectors with a globally coordinated approach to addressing

its carbon footprint. The aviation industry, via the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020, with a longer term aspiration of a 50 per

cent reduction in net emissions by 2050 based on 2005 levels. 


China: Clean Energy Hero or a Nation Dammed?

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
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China: Clean Energy Hero or a Nation Dammed?

Tackling environmental problems from carbon emissions to water pollution will be a key focus of a new five-year plan that China will launch during its annual parliament session starting this weekend. The plan for 2011-2015, including new directives aimed at reversing the damage done by 30 years of untrammelled growth, will also aim to give a fillip to clean and renewable energy. But the commitment to cleaning up rivers could be undermined if binding carbon targets lead to a renewed drive for large hydropower dams and reservoirs throughout China.

David Stanway for Reuters in Climate Spectator (4 March 2011):

Tackling environmental problems from carbon emissions to water pollution will be a key focus of a new five-year plan that China will launch during its annual parliament session starting this weekend.

The plan for 2011-2015 will include new directives aimed at reversing the damage done by 30 years of untrammelled growth, and it will also aim to give a fillip to clean and renewable energy.

The challenges were put in stark focus in an essay by environment minister Zhou Shengxian on Monday.

“The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development,” he wrote.

China, the world’s biggest source of climate change-inducing greenhouse gases, will put the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions at the top of its agenda.

But those same commitments could also spell bad news for China’s vulnerable river systems with hydropower capacity set to surge by 140 gigawatts by 2015. That’s nearly three times Australia’s total power generation capacity.

Beijing has already pledged to reduce carbon intensity – the amount of CO2 produced per unit of economic growth – by 40-45 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

It also aims to raise the share of renewables to 15 per cent of the country’s total energy mix.

“The targets will not be as ambitious as we hoped, because the 2020 targets aren’t that ambitious,” said Ailun Yang, China campaign manager with Greenpeace.

“I would put much more emphasis on the detailed measures, which are much more important than the targets themselves.”

Detailed targets will emerge in the coming months as individual industries issue their own five-year plans.

The government wants to clean up heavy industries such as steel and aluminum, encourage non-fossil fuels, cut nitrogen oxide emissions and improve water and air quality.


Enforcing new restrictions and targets, especially for CO2 emissions, will test the central government’s clout.

Premier Wen Jiabao said last month China would cut energy and carbon intensity by 16-17 percent over the 2011-2015 period, less of a challenge than the 17.3 percent figure suggested last year.

Experts say energy intensity — the amount used per unit of GDP — needs to fall by 20 percent to achieve an 18 percent cut in CO2 intensity, but Wen did not make the distinction.

Yang Fuqiang, director of global climate solutions at the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said cutting CO2 intensity by less than 17 percent was little more than “business as usual.”

“There is a game being played by the central and local governments, and if the central government adopts 16 percent they will lose their authority because it shows that ‘government orders don’t go beyond Zhongnanhai’,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party headquarters in Beijing.

Yang said a 16 percent cut could allow China to hit the 40 percent carbon intensity goal by 2020, while an 18 percent cut would take it toward the higher 45 percent target.

A commitment to use market mechanisms in the fight against climate change is also expected, with a number of provinces keen to launch pilot emissions trading programs. Detailed plans will emerge later this year.

Analysts have said China might consider an absolute energy consumption cap over the 2011-2015 period, and draft policies to restrict coal production to 3.6-3.8 billion tons by 2015 have also been leaked to the local press. Provinces such as Guangdong might impose their own energy caps to stimulate city-to-city emission trading, but government researchers have dismissed the idea of a national limit.

“There are no such plans,” said Zheng Shuai, researcher at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, but added some academics have proposed Beijing implement a limit on fossil fuel use without imposing an overall cap on energy use.

“This is more realistic because it will allow and encourage the use of renewable energy,” Zheng said.


China is desperate to improve its depleted, contaminated rivers, which have been blighted by a spate of burst tailings dams, untreated chemical discharges and plant explosions in the past five years.

In 2009, nearly 20 percent of the length of China’s major rivers and lakes were judged unfit even for irrigating crops, according to government figures.

Environment minister Zhou said Beijing will aim to cut 2007 levels of heavy metal discharges in key regions and industries by 15 percent in the next five years.

“We understand thousands of key heavy metal polluters will be put under tightened monitoring and this is important,” said Ma Jun of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-government organization that monitors water pollution.

“But there is a lack of transparency and we believe public scrutiny could generate the motivation to cut their emissions.”

China will also push for more water conservation, imposing stricter water consumption standards heavy industry.

“We expect to see more action on that but I still believe that the first step is pollution,” said Ma.

“The huge volume of wastewater discharge is destroying our very limited clean water resources and if we continue to allow that we cannot talk about recycling and conservation.”

But the commitment to cleaning up rivers could be undermined if binding carbon targets lead to a renewed drive for large hydropower dams and reservoirs throughout China.

The five-year energy sector plan is expected to back controversial hydropower plants on China’s Nu River, also known as the Salween. Previously untouched rivers in Tibet may be next.

“We need to realize that large hydro by itself has such a large environmental impact that it shouldn’t be considered a renewable energy,” said Ma.

“In 2004, China overtook the United States as the world’s largest hydropower capacity but the plan is to more than triple that by 2020 — that means in many of our rivers there won’t be running water.”


South Korea and Malaysia Building Up To A Green Tomorrow

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

South Korea and Malaysia Building Up To A Green Tomorrow

South Korea confirmed its position as the Asian nation most determined to attain a low carbon future before anyone else with its Green Tomorrow plan set out by leading architectural firm Samoo at the second annual Green Building Asia event in Singapore last month, while Malaysia showed that it means business with its home grown Green Building Index and the work of Serina Hijjas, along with the important role played by IEN Consultants.

At the Green Building Asia Conference in Singapore 23/24 February, three presentation stood out amongst the others. To an audience of architects, engineers, developers, as well as Government representatives – and including abc carbon express editor – the two days involved a wealth of vital information and case studies of achievements from different countries in Asia Pacific.

Confirming the leadership position of South Korea was the presentation by two architects from the leading South Korean firm SAMOO, Byung-chul Shin and Michael Park. Some glimpses of what they covered are highlighted here.

Then Malaysia had its chance, and it had an ideal representative in the form of Serina Hijjas, Director of Hijjas Kasturi, Architects, who is also a contributor to the country’s Green Building Index.  Reinforcing Malaysia’s advance in this field was Poul Kristensen, Managing Director of Ien Consultants, who have been involved in a number of green building projects in Malaysia. More on Malaysia’s work follows:

Background on South Korea’s work on sustainable buildings:

In South Korea, as reported by Sung-Woo Shin of Hanyang University in a 2008 paper entitled “Current Work & Future Trends for Sustainable Buildings in South Korea”, a significant number of policies aimed at supporting a sustainable building related system has been implemented by the South Korean government.

These policies include those aimed at reducing the amount of raw materials used, saving energy, reducing waste, and improving building and material durability. As Professor Shin adds that other systems, such as those that rate a building’s energy efficiency and certify green buildings, were also created.

Shin says that as of late in South Korea, the number of green technology applications for differing types of construction has increased, most especially in the application of energy reduction technologies like natural lighting and insulation quality improvements.

As of 2006, according to data presented by Shin, 217 buildings in South Korea have been certified as being green, from a low of only three in 2002 to a high of 163 in 2006. The bulk of successfully certified buildings are multiple-family houses (171), while 32 office buildings, seven schools and seven mixed-use residential buildings also gained certification.

UK Trade and Investment reports that the South Korean government is making a very strong push towards the establishment of sustainable housing and buildings by initiating a multibillion-dollar green-building package. New homes are scheduled to be carbon-neutral by 2016, and there are commitments to “green” 1 billion existing homes and construct an equal number of new ones. Also, repair and restoration businesses are booming, and plenty of green initiatives are being offered as well

Korea, selected as a target nation of the second commitment period for the reduction of greenhouse gases by 2013, is making efforts to reduce the production of greenhouse gases in all industrial fields.

In particular, Korea is working hard to prepare for measures on the national level to reduce energy consumption and to limit the creation of carbon dioxide in the construction industry, which is responsible for over 40% of all carbon dioxide production. In order to pursue sustainability in the construction industry, existing development-focused construction activities must be transformed via a new paradigm focusing on sustainable development through the adoption of sustainable policies by the government and the development and dissemination of sustainable construction technologies.

For such reasons, this study examined sustainable policies, research, and education recently used in Korea to identify future trends in the sustainable construction industry toward which Korea should strive in terms of governmental policy, research, education, and projects.

Green Tomorrow, located in Yongin, South Korea, was designed by Samoo Architects & Engineers.

The main concept of this project is to adopt the sustainable design techniques into a traditional Korean architecture, promoting public awareness on energy saving and proposing a prototype of a green urban housing unit that accommodates a living space best suited for Korean climate and lifestyle. The south of the corridor is designed for regularly occupied spaces, which are living room and bedroom, whereas the North of the corridor is considered for temporarily used spaces.

On the far east side of the building lies the Korean Room, which resembles a traditional Korean summer pavilion, which is normally located near a lake as an independent entity in full openness. This traditional Korean architecture attempts to provide an eco-friendly space. The gallery space of this Korean room acts as a buffer space for energy savings and, therefore, double skinned facet is installed. The interior environment of the building is designed to raise the comfort level by using the optimal amount of heat, light, and air.

Green Tomorrow

The sustainable design starts from the coexistence with the nature. Besides the direct and specific
sustainable design such as energy saving, low carbon emission and resources recycling, energy-
efficient design becomes on demand in terms of design process, construction, and maintenance.
As far as the sustainable design is concerned, appreciation on the characteristics of the land and
the climatic environment should come first. Especially, in South Korea with distinctive four seasons
and large temperature differences in the summer and winter, it is critical to utilize the passive
design in spring and autumn to minimize energy consumption. To that end, the targeted amount
should be set first, and then, the passive design be applied to minimize the excess load to create
the pleasant indoor environment as much as possible. This, in turn, leads to the utilization of the
active design and renewable energy.

Green Tomorrow has implemented the environment-friendly approaches by the passive design in
its initial schematic design. And Korea’s traditional concept has been introduced in this project.
This has resulted in the realization of the eco-friendly architecture for the first time in Korea and
raised the public awareness level on the sustainable design by acquiring the globally-
acknowledged LEED Platinum certification for the first time in Northeastern Asia.




Green Building Index

A Green building focuses on increasing the efficiency of resource use – energy, water, and materials – while reducing building impact on human health and the environment during the building’s lifecycle, through better sitting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal. Green Buildings should be designed and operated to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on its surroundings.

Ar Serina Hijjas is a senior practicing Architect and Director of Hijjas Kasturi Associates Sdn, an architectural practice based in Kuala Lumpur. Ar Serina graduated from Bartlett School of Architecture and University of Sydney followed by a three year working stint with Foster & Partners.

Ar Serina has been practicing for 20 years with an active interest in the area of Energy Efficiency and Sustainability and has received three Asean Energy Efficiency Awards for Telekom Malaysia Headquarters Building (2005), Securities Commission HQ (2003) and the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

Ar Serina was on the first SIRIM Working Committee for MS1525:2001 and is a member of the PAM Sustainability Committee.

PAM’s architects have over the years been developing and working more and more towards a more sustainable and green architecture. In 2008, the need for a localised Green Building rating tool became more evident especially in the light of increasing demand from building end-users for Green-rated buildings that would not overly and adversely contribute to the destruction of the environment. This was also inline with the objectives of many companies today where good corporate social responsibility (CSR) calls for them to only support environmentally friendly initiatives including their office premises.

In August 2008, PAM Council endorsed and approved the formation of the new Sustainability Committee who was tasked primarily to develop and set-up the Green Building Index and the accompanying Panel for certification and accreditation of Green-rated buildings.

In addition, Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd was incorporated in February 2009, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PAM and the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM), to administrate GBI accreditation and training of GBI Facilitators and Certifiers.

GBI accreditation for buildings is separated into three tiers. At the highest level is the GBI Accreditation Panel, the independent regulatory body for GBI accreditation. At the intermediate level are the GBI Certifiers, consisting of experienced professionals that conduct the assessment and accreditation of project submissions. On the front-end level are the GBI Facilitators, professionals who together with clients and design team to enhance their projects to meet or exceed GBI rating system requirements.


IEN Consultants

This is just one of IEN Consultants projects.

 The new low cost carrier terminal (LCCT), situated next to KLIA airport, is targeting to become a highly sustainable development with certification under LEED (Gold) and the Green Building Index (GBI). IEN Consultants has been engaged by the main contractor, UEM – Bina Puri J.V., to achieve the desired green building design targets under this design and build contract for the Main Terminal Building as and Satellite buildings.

Another is the building for SunPower:

The administration building for the ½ km long solar photovoltaic plant built by SunPower is targeting to achieve the first LEED Platinum certification rating in Malaysia. IEN Consultants has been engaged by the contractor, Hexagon, to ensure that the building project achieves it targeted green building certification. The building completion is early 2011.


Every Which Way But Loose (or Lose): A dry or wet future for Africa?

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Every Which Way But Loose (or Lose): A dry or wet future for Africa?

East African environmental specialists have questioned new research that concludes that that climate change will bring increased drought, rather than more rain, to the region. The new research, published in Climate Dynamics, predicts that the droughts common in eastern Africa over the past 20 years are likely to continue if global temperatures rise further. But the prediction contradicts the scenario of increased rainfall projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

East Africa: Climate Change ‘Will Bring Drought, Not Rain’


Dann Okoth for SciDev.Net, London (3 March 2011):

Nairobi — East African environmental specialists have questioned new research that concludes that that climate change will bring increased drought, rather than more rain, to the region.

The new research, published in Climate Dynamics, predicts that the droughts common in eastern Africa over the past 20 years are likely to continue if global temperatures rise further.

But the prediction contradicts the scenario of increased rainfall projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The researchers, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied temperature, wind speed and precipitation data over the last 20-30 years to determine what was driving climate variations in the tropical Indian and Pacific Ocean regions.

They found that the Indian Ocean has warmed particularly fast, increasing rainfall over the ocean and the westward movement of dry air over Eastern Africa – hence decreasing rainfall.

The severe food shortages experienced by millions of people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia will be exacerbated by increased drought in the future, said the researchers.

Their work supports efforts by the US Geological Survey and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to better target food aid by pinpointing areas of potential drought, and informing agricultural, environmental and water resources projects.

But the conclusions were dismissed by some East African climate researchers.

Richard Odingo of the University of Nairobi and former vice chair of the IPCC said the research was “half-baked” and served only US relief interests in the region.

He said it was erroneous to say the IPCC was wrong as the organisation used data going back 300 years from many different sources, as well as taking into account links between weather systems high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Benson Ochieng’, an environment lawyer with the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance agreed. “The bottom-line in arriving at a conclusive result is to rely on many facets of the weather because climate is controlled by many atmospheric facets,” he said.

But Park Williams, co-author of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said global models [such as those produced by the IPCC] have a notoriously difficult time accurately simulating rainfall patterns over tropical land masses.

“Global models are tending to forecast a global trend toward a more El Ni-o-like climate which would, for example, generally mean more rainfall for Ethiopia and Kenya during the March to June period.

“It would be unwise just to look at the [rainfall] maps produced by the IPCC and take them at face value,” he told SciDev.Net.

“We did not set out to debunk the IPCC report. Our role was to examine the data and the science behind it.”

“People put a lot of confidence in the IPCC reports but there are a lot of caveats. There is still a lot of uncertainty in their models. We are quite comfortable using other models to come to other conclusions.”


News from the World of Water: Linking the Life Cycle of Carbon & Water

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

News from the World of Water: Linking the Life Cycle  of Carbon & Water

Singapore is commemorating the World Water Day 2011 with a series of events organised by  different community groups at 10 locations where the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC Waters) programme has come alive, plus there’s Roger Jenkins special Water Wor(l)ds event at night on 20 March at the NTUC Auditorium. Meanwhile, botanists have discovered that rising CO2 levels have reduced the density of the pores (stomata) that plants use to breathe by 34%, dramatically lowering the amount of water vapour the plants release to the atmosphere.

Telling it the way it is on World Water Day

Singapore, March 4 – World Water Day and World Storytelling Day come together in Singapore on 20 March in an aptly titled and unique celebration – “Water Wor(l)ds” – devised and organised by Roger Jenkins, himself a storyteller, director, teacher and author.

Stories with a water theme will be told and acted out at two venues during the day – Sengkang Wetlands stage and Lower Seletar Reservoir – while in the evening a gala performance will be held at the NTUC Auditorium, 1 Marina Boulevard, which also provides a panoramic view of the Marina Bay Reservoir.

Traditional tales from around the world – from the mountains of Ecuador to the mouth of the Ganges – will be told by professional storytellers Roger Jenkins, Chuah Ai Lin and Dolly Chew, with Gillian Tan sharing some stories in song.

Roger Jenkins explains that the importance of water – and storytelling – is universal. “Water is a symbol for life, cleanliness, renewal and healing”. He quotes Ursala K Le Guin who said: “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there are no societies that did not tell stories”.

For the evening performance at NTUC Auditorium, commencing at 8pm, it is necessary to book in advance for a seat, but entry is by donation. Funds collected by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) will go towards a water conservation project in an ASEAN country.

Roger Jenkins says he has three main objectives in organising the World Water Day’s event:

  • To enable a wide range of people of all ages to tell and listen to stories;
  • To raise awareness of the importance of water;
  • To raise funds for a water related project in an ASEAN country.

Internationally, the organisers of World Storytelling Day – – have adopted the theme of water for the first time this year, while the international observance of World Water Day – – is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

World Wor(l)d is supported and promoted by Sustain Ability Showcase Asia and the Singapore Environment Council.

For more information and bookings go to:


From Public Utilities Board:

Taking place on 20th March, these events include a variety of land and water activities such as round-island cycling, mass walks, eco-carnivals, fun dragon boat race, photo competition, story-telling and clean-ups at our reservoirs and waterways.

The anchor venue for Singapore’s World Water Day event will be held at the Marina Barrage, a dam which has created Singapore’s 15th and first reservoir in the city. This central event with other satellite events will see over 10,000 community leaders and water ambassadors congregating to remind people to better appreciate and cherish this precious resource.
The Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme transforms Singapore’s reservoirs and waterbodies into beautiful and clean streams, rivers and lakes, creating a vibrant City of Gardens and Water. Through this programme, people are brought closer to water and reminded of their roles in conserving, valuing and enjoying our waters.

Simultaneously, partners like Sony, Coca-Cola, Aveda, National Youth Achievement Award, the Singapore Environment Council and Commonwealth Secondary School will be showcasing their efforts in helping to keep Singapore’s waters clean.

Here is a summary of activities which will be held at Marina Barrage:

• BONUS EVENT – Round island cycling from our ABC Waters sites to Marina Barrage
• Fun Dragon Boat Race
• Step-o-meter mass exercise
• Walk for Water – organized by Aveda and the Singapore Environment Council;
• Faith and Water – an inter-faith celebration of the Inter-Religious Organisation’s 62nd Anniversary
• “Water Through My Lens” Photo Competition 2011 exhibition organized by the National Youth Achievement Award
• Clean-up at Kallang Basin and Singapore River
• School Performances

Other locations include:

• Alexandra Canal
• Bedok Reservoir
• MacRitchie Reservoir
• Sengkang Floating Wetland
• Lower Seletar Reservoir
• Kolam Ayer Waterfront
• Pandan Reservoir
• Jurong Lake
• NEWater Visitor Centre

For the full Singapore programme go to:

For events around the world go to:


Science Report by Kate Melville (4 March 2011):

“Profound” plant water cycle changes add new wildcard to climate change guesstimates

Botanists from Indiana University (IU) and Utrecht University (Netherlands) have discovered that rising carbon dioxide levels over the last 150 years have reduced the density of the pores (known as stomata) that plants use to breathe by 34 percent, dramatically lowering the amount of water vapor the plants release to the atmosphere. Writing about their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers hypothesize that continually increasing CO2 levels could reduce plant transpiration (water exchange) to the point where rainfall patterns are significantly altered.

For their research, the scientists gathered data from a diversity of plant species in Florida, including living individuals as well as samples extracted from herbarium collections and peat formations 100 – 150 years old. “The increase in CO2 by about 100 parts per million has had a profound effect on the number of stomata and, to a lesser extent, the size of the stomata,” said IU’s David Dilcher. “Our analysis of that structural change shows there’s been a huge reduction in the release of water to the atmosphere.”

Most plants use stomata on the undersides of leaves to absorb CO2from the air. The CO2 is used to build sugars, which can be used by the plant as energy or for incorporation into the plants’ fibrous cell walls. Stomata also allow plants to “transpire” water, or release water to the atmosphere. Transpiration helps drive the absorption of water at the roots, and also cools the plants. Fewer stomata means gas exchange and transpiration will be limited.

Dilcher explained the significance of the findings by noting that while the carbon cycle is important, the water cycle is equally so. “If transpiration decreases, there may be more moisture in the ground at first, but if there’s less rainfall that may mean there’s less moisture in the ground eventually. This is part of the hyrdrogeologic cycle. Land plants are a crucially important part of it.”

While it is well known that long-lived plants can adjust their number of stomata each season depending on growing conditions, little is known about the long-term structural changes in stomata over periods of decades or centuries. “The hydrogeologic cycle is complex. It’s hard to predict how changing one thing will affect other aspects,” opined Dilcher. “We would have to see how these things play out. Plant adaptation to rising CO2 is currently altering the hydrological cycle and climate and will continue to do so throughout this century.”


Canberra to Singapore: Nepal to Norway. Earth Goes Global 26 March

Posted by admin on March 6, 2011
Posted under Express 138

Canberra to Singapore: Nepal to Norway. Earth Goes Global 26 March

Earth Hour organisers are calling on sustainable businesses and individuals in Australia to stop being so shy about their achievements, adding a series of Earth Hour Awards for the first time this year. Orchard Road, Singapore  will be transformed into a “sea of candles” as part of an initiative to conserve electricity and Earth Hour champion, actress Nadya Hutagalung asks fans to “join me again this year as we spend an hour reminding ourselves what we should be mindful of all year. Raise awareness to the issues of climate change and how we can start to reduce our own carbon emissions.”

By Breanna Tucker in Canberra Times (3 March 2011)

Earth Hour organisers are calling on sustainable businesses and individuals to stop being so shy about their achievements.

The campaign has introduced a series of Earth Hour Awards for the first time this year and would like to see a greater number of entries from the capital.

Canberra’s Earth Hour business ambassador, Maria Efkarpidis, said Canberra had led the nation in switching off its lights during the campaign for the past two years so should have an abundance of sustainability leaders available for nomination.

”I know there are a lot of buildings in Canberra that have achieved up to six stars with the Green Building Council so there’s proof that we have sustainable initiatives in place and that they’re performing well,” she said. ”We need to get these people recognised as leaders so that others will see the good work they are doing and be inspired to build upon those initiatives themselves.”

Ms Efkarpidis is director of the Rock Development Group and has already shown considerable leadership in researching sustainable building initiatives.

The company has installed the capital’s first electric car charging station at the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets and plans to develop a $130 million green precinct at the same site.

By 2015 it hopes to have built a further six office and retail buildings that utilise geothermal heating and cooling, installed rainwater tanks and energy-saving technologies as well as provide community rooftop gardens.

It has also funded Canberra Capitals captain Jess Bibby to drive an electric car to schools to deliver an education program on healthy eating and living.

Many Canberra businesses, like Ms Efkarpidis’s, would qualify for the Earth Hour Workplace Champions award but there are other categories for other ages and individuals.

Entries for the awards close on Sunday. Earth Hour will be on March 26. For more information, visit



Earth Hour Co-Founder and Executive Director, Andy Ridley, today announced a series of high profile and individual environmental actions, and a new dynamic online platform, to mark the global launch for Earth Hour, Beyond the Hour.

Beyond the Hour marks the start of a new phase for the Earth Hour movement. In 2010 hundreds of millions of people across the world took part in Earth Hour, but switching off the lights was only the beginning. This year Earth Hour asks people to commit to an action, big or small, that they will sustain for the future of our planet.

Jim Leape, Director General of WWF, who addressed media at the launch said: “The challenges that face our planet are immense, but never underestimate the possibility for change when we face these challenges with true common purpose. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe have given us a glimpse of what is possible. It is now time to go beyond the hour and show what can be done – by the people for the planet.”

An online platform that captures and allows individuals, governments and organisations across the globe to share their actions, will act as the tool to showcase and inspire commitments to protect the one thing we all have in common – the planet.

“The Beyond the Hour platform has been built with social media at its core,” Ridley said. “Social media will play a crucial role for Earth Hour 2011, allowing us to connect with millions of people who are committed to taking lasting action for the planet.”

The platform, created with Leo Burnett, is translated into 11 languages, and integrated with most major social networks including: Facebook, Twitter, Mixi, Myspace, Odnoklassniki, Cloob, Orkut, Qzone, RenRen, Vkontakte, Maktoob, Skyrock, Xing, and Zing. Over 1,000 actions have already been shared on the dynamic online platform.

“Everyone has the power to make change: a CEO can change an organisation, a 7-year-old can change a classroom, and a president can change a country. What we are announcing today is just the beginning,” Ridley said. “It is through the collective action of individuals and organisations that we will be able to truly make a difference, which is why we are urging people across the planet to share how they will go beyond the hour this Earth Hour.”

Actions announced at today’s global launch included the following high-profile and individual commitments.

The Government of Nepal has made a commitment to put a complete stop to tree-felling in the Churiya Range, a vital ecological and sociological forest area spanning around 6,500 sq km.

Source: and

From Channel News Asia:

SINGAPORE: Orchard Road will be transformed into a “sea of candles” as part of an initiative to conserve electricity in the annual Earth Hour event coming up this month.

Leading by example, the Orchard Road Business Association has more than 50 malls, hotels and retailers along the shopping belt participating in the initiative – twice the number as compared to last year.

“More than a hundred establishments are also participating in one way or another by setting their temperatures at 24 degree celsius, by turning off non-essential lights, and by turning off the facade lighting”, said executive director Steven Goh.

“We are going to turn Orchard Road into a sea of candles”, Mr Goh added.

Ms Amy Ho, managing director of World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore said that the focus for this year’s Earth Hour event is to set air-conditioning temperatures at 24 degrees celsius or higher.

“The issue of climate change is all about reducing our energy consumption as well as making more decisions on being more energy-efficient”, said Ms Ho.

Despite calls by the Singapore government to drive the efficient use of energy, implementing change across enterprises remains a key hurdle.

Mr Andy Ridley, co-founder of the Earth Hour global movement, says Singapore is a heavy consumer of energy, but has the potential to become a regional leader for environmental conservation.

“I believe strongly that the leadership is coming, I think it’s a bit slow, but I believe it’s happening. We just need to accelerate and the best way of doing that is for hundreds and millions of people to raise their voices at Earth Hour – in a hopeful way”, said Mr Ridley.

Earth Hour 2011 will take place at 8.30pm on Saturday, March 26, when Singaporeans are encouraged to switch off their lights for an hour.