Archive for the ‘Express 185’ Category

ZERO as the new number one?

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Sarwant Singh  -  the author of New Mega Trends – in his Last Word says the signs are that  we can expect:  “zero breaches of security”, products with “zero defects”, cars that result in “zero accidents”, “zero fatalities” in industries, and “zero emission cars” and even “zero emails”!

President Obama created great hope in his State of the Union address when he said he will: “Direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy”. He also issued a new goal for America: “Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses”.

We get a tear-jerking reminder from Linda Uan that climate change is so real for the 100,000 inhabitants of Kiribati in the Pacific:  “We now know that we are being subjected to a gradual, creeping and insidious process: climate change. This directly threatens the future of our homeland – our people will be scattered, and the survival of our unique culture, lifestyle and even our language, may be lost forever.”

Then there’s news on electric vehicles for Netherlands, cars of tomorrow in Australia, the future of sea grass and how to put orange peel to good use. A cruise line gets a sustainability award and Rotary Clubs learn from an Indonesia rice farmer about microcredit. Solar power is taking the lead in Germany but not the US, while Asia’s is starting to adopt solar for its clean energy future.  We welcome more wise words from Amory Lovins and Giles Parkinson. And hear about a battle royal between scientists and media in the US. What’s new? -   Ken Hickson

Profile: Giles Parkinson

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Australian’s  Opposition leader needs to heed what the US President is saying and doing. Messages like this come every day for politicians, business leaders and people in the street. Direct. Current. Climate and energy connected. Giles Parkinson is a journalist/editor who knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to spread the word. He’s also one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders.  Read more

Obama’s new global warming push leaves Abbott in the cold

By Giles Parkinson in RenewEconomy (14 February 2013):

Barack Obama championed a cap-and-trade scheme on climate change yesterday. With a hostile Congress, he’ll struggle to achieve it. Still it leaves the Tea Party-esque Tony Abbott behind on climate policy.

Here’s a statistic that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, the former trainee Catholic seminarian who insists that no other nation is pricing carbon, might find interesting. The number of people living in countries with carbon taxes or emission trading schemes will rise to about one billion by the end of the year. There are almost as many of them in the world as there are Catholics.

Abbott may wish this fact out of existence, but if US President Barack Obama has his way — as announced in his State of the Union (SOTU) address yesterday — and the world’s biggest economy introduces a market-based system to limit carbon emissions, that global carbon headcount would jump by 300 million or so by the end of 2014.

If China goes ahead with its pilot carbon schemes in a bunch of provinces and cities, and prepares for a wider scheme, that would add another 1.4 billion. Abbott may find himself taking Australian voters to a double dissolution election — where he would seek to win what would would effectively be a referendum on climate action — by pretending the world is not acting on climate change. To paraphrase and lightly censor a remark made by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet yesterday, it’s a load of bollocks.

So what did Obama say yesterday?

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Obama was expected to focus on climate change policies in SOTU, after making it a central point of his inauguration address, but the fact that he so specifically championed cap-and-trade has taken many by surprise.

Of course, Obama has said this before. His message after his first election and in the lead-up to the UN’s Copenhagen climate conference was: the climate science was in, the world needed to act, the US could not afford China and others to get ahead on clean energy; and if a carbon price wasn’t approved by Congress, Obama would take other measures.

Here he is saying much the same thing. He didn’t invest much in climate change in his first presidency because he expended so much political capital on Obamacare — and the fear is that he might do the same on gun control.

But this time, Obama does not have to worry about seeking re-election, and this is a President very much focused on his legacy. Even in his first term, behind the scenes Obama was making good on at least some of his vows to regulate on climate; the extension of tax credits to renewable energy, an extensive loans program for new technologies, and tighter emissions and efficiency standards means that the US has, sort of, kept touch with China. It installed as much wind energy capacity as China in 2012, and about half as much solar PV.

More importantly, the US has lowered its emissions over the last four years. Some of this is the result of the shale gas boom. As David Roberts from Grist noted overnight, Obama’s policy has been to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase fossil fuel production. Whatever you think of that, the gas boom has given Obama critical room to move.

A bill on a carbon price is to be introduced into the US Senate as early as today (US time) by independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Democrat Barbara Boxer. Details are scant, but it seems likely to be a form of carbon tax that would  impose a “fee on carbon pollution emissions” and fund “historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass”. It would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.

Sounds a lot like Australia’s scheme. Of course, with the numbers in the Congress and the implacable opposition of the Tea-Party block of Republicans, it has no chance of passage. That means Obama will go back to his policy of executive, or direct action.

But there’s a big difference between the direct action that Obama envisages — tighter emission controls on coal-fired generators, ambitious energy efficiency standards in cars, a doubling of renewable energy targets, a doubling of “energy productivity”, as well as a continuation of the loans program to push through new technology innovation — than the wishy-washy “Direct Action” plan of Abbott. He remains bizarrely fixated on his 18,000-strong “green army” and working bees. Abbott wants to give handouts of taxpayers’ money to achieve the sort of efficiencies from polluters that Obama will make compulsory.

The man chosen by the Republicans to rebut Obama’s speech was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favourite dubbed the “crown prince” of the movement. Just as Abbott earlier this month wondered why the carbon price had not changed the climate after six months, Rubio dipped into the climate denier’s handbook by claiming the government cannot control the weather.

“We can pass a bunch of laws that will destroy our economy, but it isn’t going to change the weather,” said Rubio to his preferred audience on Fox News. And this is what Abbott had to say in his stump speech in January: “Isn’t it bizarre that this government thinks that somehow raising the price of electricity is going to clean up our environment, stop bushfires, stop floods, stop droughts?”

And just as Abbott has vowed to dump the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and incentives for the new technologies, Rubio railed against “wasting more taxpayer money on so-called ‘clean energy’ companies like Solyndra”. The extent to which Abbott is in lock-step with the Tea Party pin-up boy is uncanny.

Bill Becker, the executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, says Obama is very likely the “last American president who can keep us from plunging helplessly off the climate cliff. Judging by his Inaugural and State of the Union speeches, he gets that.” But Becker said the weakness of acting by executive decree is that these decisions can be rescinded by his successor, or a future Congress. This, of course, is exactly what Abbott proposes to do in Australia.

*This article was originally published at RenewEconomy



When Giles Parkinson started RenewEconomy he made it clear it was independent and there would be no holds barred:

The daily newsletter policy is set out thus:

There seems little doubt that the Australian economy – indeed the world’s – is about to go through one of the most dramatic transformations since the industrial revolution.

Like the first, the next industrial revolution will be led by changes in technology, this time driven by the need to act on climate change, energy security and resource scarcity. Much of the way the world does business – particularly in the multi-trillion dollar energy and transport sectors, but also in many other sectors – will change profoundly in the decades to come.

How this unfolds, and at what cost or benefit, is impossible to forecast. But it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

That’s the goal of this website – to discuss the ideas, analyse the trends, the new technologies and the policies that will drive this transformation.

RenewEconomy is an independent website founded by Giles Parkinson, a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Australian Financial Review, a former columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the founder and former editor of Climate Spectator.

Here’s a recent article by Giles Parkinson on how Renewables are now heading off coal and gas on price:

RenewEconomy on 7 February 2013

A new analysis from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance has concluded that electricity from unsubsidised renewable energy is already cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas-fired power stations in Australia.

The modeling from the BNEF team in Sydney found that new wind farms could supply electricity at a cost of $80/MWh –compared with $143/MWh for new build coal, and $116/MWh for new build gas-fired generation.

These figures include the cost of carbon emissions, but BNEF said even without a carbon price, wind energy remained 14 per cent cheaper than new coal and 18 per cent cheaper than new gas.

“The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date”, said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world’s best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head,” he said.

But before people, such as the conservative parties, reach for the smelling salts and wonder why renewables need support mechanisms such as the renewable energy target, BNEF said this was because new build renewables had to compete with existing plant, and the large-scale RET was essential to enable the construction of new wind and solar farms.

The study also found that Australia’s largest banks and found that lenders are unlikely to finance new coal without a substantial risk premium due to the reputational damage of emissions-intensive investments – if they are to finance coal at all.

It also said new gas-fired generation is expensive as the massive expansion of Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export market forces local prices upwards. The carbon price adds further costs to new coal- and gas-fired plant and is forecast to increase substantially over the lifetime of a new facility.

BNEF’s analysts also conclude that by 2020, large-scale solar PV will also be cheaper than coal and gas, when carbon prices are factored in.

In fact, it could be sooner than that, as we reported yesterday, companies such as Ratch Australia, which owns coal, gas and wind projects, said the cost of new build solar PV was already  around $120-$150/MWh and falling. So much so that it is considering replacing its ageing coal-fired Collinsville power station with solar PV. The solar thermal industry predicts their technologies to fall to $120/MWh by 2020 at the latest.

The Bloomberg analysis said the Australian economy is likely to be powered extensively by renewable energy in future and that investment in new fossil-fuel power generation may be limited.

“It is very unlikely that new coal-fired power stations will be built in Australia. They are just too expensive now, compared to renewables”, said Kobad Bhavnagri, head of clean energy research for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia.

“Even baseload gas may struggle to compete with renewables. Australia is unlikely to require new baseload capacity until after 2020, and by this time wind and large-scale PV should be significantly cheaper than burning expensive, export-priced gas.

“By 2020-30 we will be finding new and innovative ways to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar, so it is quite conceivable that we could leapfrog straight from coal to renewables to reduce emissions as carbon prices rise.” he added.


No More Breakthroughs Please, we have Lift-off!

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The recent call by the President of the United States for “big technological breakthroughs” to fight climate change has been answered – they already exist! Renewable resources like sun and wind are shown to be able to produce 80-90% of America’s electricity by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Coupled with energy efficiency gains, a 82-86% lower carbon emissions is possible by 2050 with no new inventions and drastically reduced fossil fuel use. This according to findings by Rocky Mountain Institute. Read more

Climate Change: No Breakthroughs Needed, Mr. President

By Amory Lovins, Co-authored with Thomas Dinwoodie in Huffington Post (9 February 2013):

In his recent New Republic interview, President Obama said we “need some big technological breakthrough” to tackle climate change. Mr. President — our nation already has the technologies to protect the climate while advancing prosperity. Here’s how.

Your National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed just last June how to produce 80 to 90 percent of America’s electricity from proven, reliable and increasingly competitive renewable sources like the sun and wind.

That confirmed the findings of Rocky Mountain Institute’s peer-reviewed study Reinventing Fire, introduced by the heads of Shell Oil and Exelon and endorsed by President Clinton. RMI showed how to run a 2.6-fold-bigger U.S. economy by 2050 with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, a $5 trillion dollar net savings, 82-86 percent lower carbon emissions, and no new inventions, with the transition led by business for growth and profit.

The U.S. is already started towards a clean energy system based on technologies cost-competitive today in many markets and, unlike traditional generation, with steadily declining costs. These new winners include energy efficiency, solar, wind, and flexible demand through a smart grid, integrated with geothermal, biomass, hydro, and others. Soon most renewables will compete almost anywhere without subsidies — especially if fossil-fuel subsidies are phased out too, as the G8 nations have agreed to do.

Let’s examine the biggest three — efficiency, solar and wind.

Energy efficiency can save 44 percent of projected 2050 electricity needs through proven building and industrial technologies that pay back far faster than any new source of supply. Wasting far less energy and getting the rest at lower and stable prices would powerfully boost jobs and growth.

In many states today, homeowners and businesses get immediate savings by letting entrepreneurs finance solar power on their roof, with no money down. Falling costs reminiscent of cellphones and DVD players have roughly doubled U.S. solar deployment every year for the past five years. While overall capacity is presently low, 100 percent of our nation’s annual electricity needs (after efficiency improvements) could be served with just seven more doublings of solar, readily achieved in the next few decades. Such is the power of exponential growth.

Windpower’s growth has been equally explosive. Iowa alone is now 20 percent wind-powered, and with only three more doublings, will receive all its electricity from wind while exporting the excess — its current goal for 2030. That’s putting millions in the pockets of Iowa farmers and county treasuries.

Conventional wisdom is wrong that solar and wind aren’t viable without a breakthrough in electricity storage. Analysis and experience prove that 60-80 percent solar and windpower — sited across a region, forecasted, and balanced by flexible supply and demand — can keep the lights on with often less storage or backup than traditional giant power stations need now. That’s how Germany, without adding storage, is already one-fourth renewable-powered, and at times last spring met over half its electric load just with solar power. A smart grid will make this even more successful and resilient.

Freeing American mobility from oil is another key to a richer, cooler, safer world. Deploying new DOE, DOD, and industry technologies could do this at an average cost of $25 per saved barrel. Ultralight, supersafe structures can make electric autos affordable by needing two-thirds fewer batteries. Over 25 varieties of electric and plug-in hybrid autos are on the market today, twice as many as two years ago. Smart charging and discharging of electric autos can even stabilize the grid and store renewable power.

These technologies scale faster than any other. No form of traditional generation — coal, gas, or nuclear — scales nearly as fast as efficiency, solar, and wind. Gigawatts of solar and wind can be added in months — not the years to decades required for traditional power plants. Cloudy Germany installed three gigawatts of solar in the month of December 2011 alone. That is 1.6 times more than was installed in the entire U.S. Germany’s scale-up has cut its solar-system costs to half of ours.

While we have these technologies, of course vibrant R & D investments are vital to keep America competitive and make clean energy even cheaper. Your Administration is wise to keep these strong.

Many climate scientists are calling for an end to fossil fuels in the next several decades to avoid severe climate change. This goal is aggressive but achievable, with competitive advantage, lower energy bills, and a stronger economy. Other countries are not waiting. China, Japan and India are tipping toward renewables; much of Europe already has. If we wait, they will own the future, our costs will rise, and so will risks to climate and global stability.

Mr. President, we have the technologies. Please lead us in removing the barriers to scaling them quickly to save our climate, protect our economy, and restore our energy security.

Amory Lovins is Chairman and Chief Scientist at Rocky Mountain Institute where Thomas Dinwoodie, former CEO of SunPower Corporation, Systems, is Lead Trustee.

“Gradual, Creeping, Insidious” Fate for Kiribati

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The idyllic lifestyle of coastal communities might soon be a thing of the past. Rising sea levels and extensive periods of drought due to climate change threatens the future of island communities like Kiribati in the Pacific, forcing them to relocate and ultimately migrate – losing their culture, lifestyle and language along the way. This also indirectly affects nations that have to manage large influx of climate refugees which can create a heavy burden on their hosts. Read more

Vanishing homeland leaves people with nowhere to go

By Linda Uan in Sydney Moring Herald (12 February 2013):

On an average day in Kiribati we can look out across our calm and peaceful lagoons and see people fishing and going about their daily business and everything is at it has been for many generations.

But this is deceptive. We now know that we are being subjected to a gradual, creeping and insidious process: climate change. This directly threatens the future of our homeland – our people will be scattered, and the survival of our unique culture, lifestyle and even our language, may be lost forever.

It was only in the 1990s our community began to hear about rising sea levels due to climate change. Back in 1999, we assumed that we would all be climbing coconut trees to escape the rising tides which would inundate our tiny islands – but we now know it is not as simple as that.

On average our islands are only two or three metres above sea level and are often less than 800 metres across at the widest point. Early advice was that we should move away from the coast, but as the President, Anote Tong, has noted: ”There is nowhere to move back to – you’ll either be in the lagoon or the ocean.”

What we experience are more frequent storms which attack our coastal defences and erode our precious land and crops. Whole communities have had to be relocated. Changing climate patterns have also brought extensive periods of drought, which threaten our scarce fresh water supply.

The fragile water lenses beneath each of our islands are very vulnerable to salt water intrusion. This happens when our coasts are eroded by storms, when rising sea levels intrude from beneath and when drought causes shrinkage of the lenses. On top of this we now have problems with overpopulation on South Tarawa and human-induced pollution of our water resource.

Without fresh water, there can be no life. This, along with sea level rise, is the major threat to our existence.

We became more intimately involved with the issue when our AusAID-supported video unit assisted the government with its presentation at the COP 15 conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

At that time our President said: ”Climate change is the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century. It calls into question the ability of our international institutions, and our compassion as human beings, to face this issue. We cannot handle this alone.”

Throughout history nations went to war when their sovereignty or survival was threatened and it was in a similar state of mind that our small platoon went, well armed, to Copenhagen. The Kiribati side event attracted a large and appreciative audience and there were many tears. We gave it our best shot.

It is therefore very difficult to describe our devastation when, in the following week, the US President, Barack Obama, and other world leaders torpedoed any chance of a binding agreement on emission levels. Their agenda was purely economic. We were left with a strong sense of anger, sadness and betrayal.

Now, more than three years later, little has changed. In the past month we have learnt that new and improved satellite technology has revealed that the oceans may be rising 60 per cent faster than the best estimates issued of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – PIK). In the meantime the international – and donor – community calls on us to ”adapt”.

Yes, we accept that we must do what we can to protect our coasts and water resources threatened by pollution but serious and sustained adaptation requires major funds and some of the world’s finest minds to point the way.

The majority of I-Kiribati have no wish to live in another country but mounting evidence suggests that we may soon have little choice. Therefore migration may become the key part of the way we are forced to ”adapt”.

But, there’s a problem. Unlike our neighbours Tuvalu (with a population of about 10,000) we have no significant or sympathetic migration relationship or policy with any country.

The Kiribati population is more than 103,000. How will the region handle a sudden influx of such large numbers of homeless people? It needs to start now. In some ways the beginning steps are under way. With significant assistance from AusAID, Austraining and Australian Volunteers International, the government has started a program of education reform. This extends into vocational education to meet Australian standards. I-Kiribati want to migrate with dignity and contribute, rather than become a burden on their new hosts.

With regard to climate change the world chose not to hear our cry. Will it be the same with our migration?

I am a woman of Kiribati and have no wish to live anywhere else. It is my home, where my ancestors lie. But I may have no choice but to leave.

Linda Uan is a Kiribati media producer.

Read more:

Germany Beating US in Solar Energy Stakes

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Both the United States and Germany are considered advanced, technologically developed, and rich nations, yet are starkly different in their energy production. Lagging far behind Germany in adopting solar energy despite the higher abundance of sunlight, the US cannot  use the excuse of the lack of solar resources. Stronger policy and financial support, with fewer barriers to adoption, will be required to bring clean and cheap energy to the people and businesses. Read more

Fox News’ solar slam-dunk: Germany is sunnier than US

By Zachary Shahan in Cleantechnica (10 February 2013):

Fox News astounds me. It’s like the Onion, except that it thinks it isn’t joking. I’ve seen a lot of crazy lines from the puppets over on Fox, but this week’s statements on solar may take the cake. On Fox & Friends this week, co-host Gretchen Carlson embarrassed herself again by claiming that the future for the fastest-growing US energy industry “looks dim.”

Reality Check: Solar just had a record-crushing year of installations and costs continue to fall fast. It has hit grid parity in Hawaii and parts of the Southwest. If subsidies for coal and natural gas were taken into account, it would surely have hit grid parity in many, many more regions by now. But even without a price on pollution and cut in fossil fuel subsidies, solar is projected to have an extremely bright future. Solar growth is expected to continue at a breakneck pace. And this is one key reason why nearly every major economy is making solar power investment a top priority — everyone wants to lead the world in this industry.

But let’s not get bogged down by reality, let’s get to the fun! Beyond the dim-witted claim by Ms Carlson, the statements by Fox Business reporter (and apparent solar expert) Shibani Joshi are what took the day. They’re also the kind of statements that make the rest of the world think the US is full of morons who don’t know anything about geography. Ms Joshi commented (and apparently not in joking way) that Germany is ”a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.” Ummm….

Going on: “The problem is it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining, you’re not gonna have it. In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast it’s just not going to work.”


The US Southwest has some of the best solar resources in the world, which Ms Joshi didn’t quite seem to know. The US, as a whole, is significantly more solar endowed than Germany. When it comes to sunshine, Germany doesn’t have anything on the US. I’ve lived in Poland for about 4.5 years. Poland, right next door to Germany, is extremely similar in respect to sunshine and climate. The hardest thing for me living here is probably how dark and grey it is. It’s a world of difference from basically the entire US (if you remove Alaska — and hey, even Alaska has a better solar profile than Germany). But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at this solar resources map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):

I could go on and on about this hilarious joke (tragic comedy, I guess, given that it wasn’t a joke and probably influenced a few million people). However, let’s get to the crux of the matter — the differences between Germany and the US when it comes to solar power and solar policy.

For some perspective, here are a few standout stats to put Germany’s solar capacity into perspective:

In 2011, Germany had over 80 times more peak solar power compared to electricity demand than the US.

Germany has over 57 times more solar power per capita than the “Sunshine State,” my home state of Florida.

Germany has over 21 times more solar power per capita than the US.

Germany has over 39 times more solar power relative to electricity production than the US.

Germany has about 24 times more solar power per GDP than the US.

Furthermore, these disparities are sure to have grown in the past year. While the US has installed a tremendous amount more solar power in the past year, Germany has installed an even greater amount… and still has less electricity demand, less electricity production, less GDP, and fewer residents.

So, let’s get back to the question Fox & Friends started with — why does Germany have so much more solar power? Luckily, this is a topic CleanTechnica has covered many times. There are a few key reasons (which are quite interrelated):

Germany installs solar power for about half the cost the US installs solar power.

Germans get much more profit out of their solar power systems than Americans.

Germans install solar systems much more quickly than Americans.

The next question, naturally, is why there are the above differences. Solar panels themselves are a global commodity, the prices are essentially the same all across the world.

The thing is, due to Germany’s better solar policies, permitting is much cheaper in Germany, and achieving a permit to install a solar system is much quicker. Also, due to the country’s feed-in tariff (a simple policy that requires utilities pay solar power producers of any size a set rate for the electricity they generate), greater financial benefits are available to the common household and more residents have seen the value in installing solar.

With greater market penetration, a much simpler government incentive, and faster installation times, customer acquisition costs are much lower than in the US, supply chain costs are much lower, labor is much cheaper, and overhead costs are much lower.

In other words, despite Germany’s much more limited solar resources, it is kicking our butts in solar power installations because it has implemented a simple policy that rewards residents and businesses for using their rooftops to improve the world. But hey, if you just came here for a quick laugh, here’s the video of Fox & Friends‘ illuminating chat:

Watch Video:


Media versus Scientists: Who’s winning the Climate Reality Shows?

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Harsher winters of recent years, including what is predicted to be the worst blizzard in the American Northeast in ages, can be an opportunity to make the connection between climate change and extreme weather.  Instead, the colder weather is used as evidence to debunk global warming by newspaper opinion writers. This bizarre practice is covered in a study published in Climatic Science, where such anomalies are used by writers to attract readership without consideration for scientific accuracy. Read more

Could Nemo Inspire More Dubious Climate Change Coverage?

A new study reveals that opinion articles on climate change are closely linked to short-term weather patterns.

By Ryan Jacobs in Mother Jones (8 February 2013):

Weather forecasts predict that Snowstorm Nemo will be highly unusual in its intensity—the worst blizzard the Northeast has seen in ages. Already, thousands of flights have been canceled and people are scrambling to stock up on emergency supplies. So it might seem like now would be the perfect opportunity for the media to sound the alarm about the connection between climate change and extreme weather. But a new study finds that exactly the opposite is true: When it gets cold out, some prominent newspaper opinion writers start hammering out their next attempt to debunk global warming.

Despite overwhelming scientific consensus about the long-term phenomenon, newspaper op-ed pages are most likely to opine about how climate change isn’t real when seasonal temperatures dip. According to a new study published in Climatic Science, annual and seasonal deviations from mean temperatures can explain attitudes (both positive and negative) expressed in 2,166 opinion pieces between 1990 and 2009 in five major newspapers, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Houston Chronicle. (It also demonstrated that national public opinion polls aligned with temperature anomalies.)

During heat waves or temperature spikes, the percentage of newspaper columns that agreed with climate change rose. But when winters were rough or temperatures fell, the percentage of disagreement ratcheted up. Lead author and University of British Columbia climate scientist Simon Donner told Mother Jones it was difficult to explain such correlations, but he and his co-author took a stab at it, this way, in the paper:

Furthermore, editors may be more likely to write about climate change or to accept a submission on the subject during or after and [sic] anomalously warm season. Therefore, the relationship between climate variability and the opinion data may arise not solely from people viewing weather or climate anomalies as proof or disproof of climate change, but from the anomalies serving as a reminder of the issue of climate change and as “hooks” for opinion articles.

The problem with writing opinion articles supporting climate change exclusively during heat waves or slamming it during cooler seasons is that it fails to consider that the phenomenon is really “a long-term average,” Donner says. “If next decade is warmer than this decade, it doesn’t mean every day in next decade is warmer than every day in this decade. There’s still going to be variability in the system.”

If the public and newspapers are going to trust that climate change is real, even when it’s cold outside, scientists and educators also have to step up and be more vocal. “We’ve got to talk about climate change not just when there’s a good ‘hook’ to talking about it, but even you know, on unusually cold days in the summer,” Donner adds.



Cars of Tomorrow in Australia & Electric Vehicles in Netherlands

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

As nations are aggressively promoting the use of electric vehicles to reduce climate changing carbon dioxide emissions, the Netherlands can be seen as the ultimate testing ground. Long steeped in environmentalism, the country is encouraging adoption of electric vehicles by expanding its network of charging stations in cities and along highways. Meanwhile, Australia is driving into the future with its “Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013″ in Melbourne next month. Read more

Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test

“There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle. It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.’  – Maarten Noom in Amsterdam, who drives an electric vehicle

By Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times (9 February 2013):

AMSTERDAM — When Patrick Langevoort’s company issued him an electric vehicle two years ago, the first months were filled with misadventure: he found himself far from Amsterdam, with only a 25 percent charge remaining, unable to find the charging point listed on a map. Though the car was supposed to travel 100 miles on a full battery, he discovered that cold weather and fast driving decreased that range.

The Netherlands is installing a rapidly expanding national grid of charging stations to encourage broader use of electric vehicles.

Patrick Langevoort charged his car at his workplace in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He found going gasless a challenge at first.

But electric vehicles have improved, the network of charging stations in the Netherlands has expanded and drivers like Mr. Langevoort are getting used to the particularities of electric driving. “I used to be a real petrol head,” said Mr. Langevoort, who works for a company that manages electricity networks. “Now, I’ve sold my petrol car.”

Although a number of European countries and a few American states are aggressively promoting the use of electric vehicles to reduce planet-warming emissions and pollution, the Netherlands provides perhaps the ultimate feasibility test. If electric vehicles catch on anywhere, it should be here: a small country — about 100 miles east to west — with gas prices of about $8.50 a gallon and a long tradition of environmental activism.

To encourage electric driving, the country is developing a rapidly expanding national grid of charging stations in cities and along highways; and Amsterdam offers owners of electric vehicles free street parking and charging. With hefty tax breaks, promotional leases and cheaper operating costs, the vehicles offer driving costs no more than those of conventional cars, some analysts say.

The number of plug-in electric vehicles in the Netherlands soared eightfold to about 7,500 last year, and charging posts dot the sidewalks. “In a few countries you’re starting to see a number of E.V.’s on the road, especially in capital cities; they’re very visible,” said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency.

And yet, experiments with the cars in the Netherlands and Denmark also underscore the challenges facing this new technology. Sales have been lower than politicians and automakers hoped, representing under 1 percent of new vehicles, even here. “It seems that the industry has not convinced consumers that they can do this,” Mr. Jensen said. “If they fail over the next few years, I think investors will pull out, and that will be a problem.”

Last year 120,000 plug-in electric vehicles were sold globally, according to a recent report by Pike Research, an industry analyst group, which predicts 40 percent annual growth between now and 2020. In 2012, 52,000 were sold in the United States, which now has 12,000 charging stations, according to the automotive consulting firm J. D. Power; but they are dispersed over a large area. Those statistics include pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which can run on gas or propane once the battery loses power.

Though many analysts had assigned electric vehicles to the second-car niche, a 2012 survey of Dutch drivers of the cars by the consulting firm Accenture found that most of them ended up being used as a family’s primary vehicle.

Drivers learned to figure out how far they could drive on a charge, overcoming what has been dubbed “range anxiety.” They started off cautiously driving straight from home to the office, knowing they could charge at one or both sites. Over time, they expanded their driving repertory, learning where to find charging points in garages and along highways — a smartphone app contains them all — much as people learn the locations of convenient A.T.M.’s. That task was made easier by the growing number of chain stores and restaurants offering parking spots with charging outlets, so that customers can refuel while they dine or shop.

Still, a layer of complexity limits acceptance. “There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle,” said Maarten Noom, an Accenture consultant who drives an electric vehicle. “It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.”

Mr. Noom, for example, charges at his office and overnight at home, but he switches to a gasoline car when his appointments are scattered around the Netherlands, since he sometimes drives hundreds of miles in a day. Charging at home uses low voltage and takes four to eight hours. New high-voltage rapid charging stations give an 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes, but they are costly to install and still rare.

Mr. Langevoort, the electricity company manager, says he now leaves for work later because his Opel Ampera’s charge goes further as the day warms.

Some electric car leasing programs here provide free or discounted gas vehicles for those who want to take a weeklong driving vacation around Europe.

Many experts say the lack of a uniform business model in the fledgling market is also a hindrance. Contracts for charging are sometimes purchased along with the car and tied to a particular charging network, much as cellphones are linked to a certain carrier. What is more, the penetration of the various networks varies depending on the region, and technology is not always interchangeable.

In Europe, the charging network run by New Motion delivers electricity from pumplike devices. One rival, Better Place, offers swap stations where drivers get a fresh battery in addition to charging points. In the United States, SAE International, an organization of scientists and vehicle engineers, recently adopted a standard charging plug nationwide so that most electric vehicles can use any charging station. But some companies, like Tesla Motors, operate closed networks of high-performance “superchargers.”

“That type of uncertainty is also unsettling to customers,” said Mike Omotoso, a senior manager of forecasting at LMC Automotive, a market research firm. “There’s a Wild West feel, with a lot of companies jumping in. But ultimately there will be a shakeout and consolidation.”

In many European countries there is a good financial case for driving electric. In Denmark, taxes on new luxury cars can be 200 percent of the sticker price, whereas electric vehicles come tax-free. In the Netherlands, gas costs about five times as much as the electricity needed for a similar journey.

While there are some tax breaks for electric vehicle purchases in the United States, the Obama administration has relied more on exhortation to make electric vehicles “as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered cars in the next 10 years.” Last month, the Energy Department announced its Workplace Charging Challenge, in which Google, Verizon, Eli Lilly, Nissan and other companies pledged to put charging infrastructure in at least one major office.

Mr. Jensen, of the European Environment Agency, said that a big infusion of money could be needed to improve infrastructure in those countries seeking to increase the use of electric vehicles.

When he looked into buying an electric car, the charging system would not fit in his garage, Mr. Jensen said, and few are willing to drive around Europe with a trunk full of adapters. “I think the companies who will win are not necessarily the ones that have the best technology, but the ones that form the best alliances,” he said. “It you have a mobile phone — and even more a car — the most important thing is that you can use it wherever you go.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 10, 2013, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test.


29th January 2012:

Driving into the future:  The Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013

March always brings exciting automotive related events to Melbourne and this year is no exception. The second “The Cars of Tomorrow” Conference forms a key part of activities during Australian Automotive Week and will be held on the 14th March at Melbourne Park Function Centre near the CBD.

Brought to you by AutoCRC, Future Climate Australia and The Society of Automotive Engineers Australasia, the conference will consider pathways to survival and success for the Australian automotive industry, as well as improvement in vehicle efficiency as an ongoing global trend.

The conference addresses four main topics: The commercial imperative – how to keep businesses viable; technology and how to integrate a low emission future for vehicles and operators; the role of public policy and the importance of low CO2 solutions for Australia; and understanding consumers and the purchasing decision-making process in an era of proliferating technologies and choice.

In order to address these complex issues a number of high profile speakers have been chosen to inform and stimulate the discussion. Among the international speakers at the Conference will be: US-based Dr Anup Bandivadekar, Passenger Vehicles Program Director at The International Council on Clean Transportation speaking about the issues that keep  global automotive executives awake at night; Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the United Kingdom’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership will speak on the topic of ‘Regulatory interventions: Successes and failures in other markets’.

Dr Tom Turrentine, Director of the California Energy Commission Plug-in Hybrid Electric & Vehicle Research Centre, University of California, Davis, will offer some fresh insights into ‘How people behave: Is there a disconnect between purchasing decisions and fuel efficiency?’. This promises to explode some myths surrounding green vehicle sales experiences.

The Cars of Tomorrow Conference will also feature key Australian speakers, including Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure & Transport (‘The importance of low carbon solutions for Australia’), Professor Simon Washington, Queensland University of Technology (‘Stimulating LEV sales in Australia’), Dr David Charles, former Chair of the Automotive Industry Innovation Council (‘The vision for low emissions R&D in Australia’), and John Mellor, Publisher GoAuto (‘Finding a future for the Australian automotive industry’).

The Cars of Tomorrow Conference will welcome attendees from all corners of the automotive industry and the marketplace; from planning, manufacturing, retailing and finance, to service, support and development industries, such as energy, environment, infrastructure, and intelligent road and traffic planning through to fleet managers and corporate decision makers.

“The Cars of Tomorrow Conference aims to deliver a comprehensive view of where the automotive industry is headed, and how it will address the critical changes it now faces,” says Henry O’Clery, Director of Future Climate Australia.

“We’re examining the issues from both international and Australian standpoints, because the Australian automotive industry will be affected by these changes.

“We hope to prompt discussion of how the local industry can position itself for a strong future in the face of a growing shift towards imported low emission vehicles, new technologies and new solutions for personal mobility.

“It is apparent that developments in the global industry are picking up pace, and Australia is lagging at the same time” he says.

“AutoCRC is delighted to be able to welcome such informed and interesting local and international automotive industry experts to The Cars of Tomorrow Conference at Melbourne Park,” says Jim Walker, CEO of AutoCRC.

“The Conference will provide vital up-to-date information and an opportunity to discuss issues and solutions with international experts for people involved in all aspects of the Australian automotive industry; not just in product development and retailing, but within the energy and environmental sphere as well as intelligent traffic management systems and urban planning,” he says. “We welcome the contributions of all these industry stakeholders in this vital event”.

For more information about the Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013, or to register, visit


Henry O’Clery                                                                    Jacqueline King

Executive Director                                                           Communications Manager

Future Climate Australia                                               AutoCRC Ltd

Tel: 0417 501 161                                                              Tel: 03 9948 0458 / 0404 045 293

Email:       Email:

Coming Clean: Sun Shines on Asia for a Solar Energy Future

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The sun doesn’t always shine through the clouds in tropical Asia or in the colder regions of North Asia, but it is clearly the sun that is going to be driving the most encouraging trends for the clean energy revolution in Asia. Coming clean is climate friendly and cost effective, and many parts of Asia are already taking bold steps down this path, says Ken Hickson in an article for the Asian Development Bank’s RTF Mirror. Solar energy, mostly through photovoltaic cells, will be the predominant renewable energy source in the future in Asia, as in much of the rest of the world, as it weans itself off fossil fuel. Read More

RTF Mirror/ADB Volume 1 | Issue 2 | January – March 2012

Solar is the renewable energy of choice in Asia

Coming clean is climate friendly and cost effective, and many parts of Asia are already taking  bold steps down this path says Ken Hickson

The sun doesn’t always shine through the clouds in tropical Asia or in the colder regions of North Asia, but it is clearly the sun that is going to be driving the most encouraging trends for the clean energy revolution in Asia.

Solar energy, mostly through photovoltaic cells, will be the predominant renewable energy source in the future in Asia, as in much of the rest of the world as it weans itself off fossil fuel.

While this cannot possibly be a comprehensive survey of all clean energy development in Asia, it does provide a quick overview to show that Asia is moving ahead with a high degree of determination to ‘come clean’ in energy production, distribution and use. It also shows that the private sector is not backward in coming forward.


In India, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced in December 2012 that it is aiming to add 6,300MW of PV and 2,700MW of concentrated solar power to the energy mix in India between April 2013 and March 2017. According to the latest numbers from Bridge to India, at the end of 2012 there were already 1,096.5MW of solar PV installed throughout India, only 5.5MW concentrated solar power – obviously a lot of room to move, but moving in the right direction.


China has taken a leadership role in the production of PV panels as well as wind turbines, but what about the mix in terms of its own energy use?

According to a survey by Goldman Sachs last year, China still has a long way to go to become clean, particularly as it surpassed the United States in 2010 to become the top world energy consumer; its energy use has increased by more than 150% during the past ten years.

China’s Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) included a target to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to 11.4% by 2015 and to 15% by 2020, from 8.3% in 2010. These goals are extremely ambitious, with some estimates indicating China would need to add 320-480GW of non-fossil fuel energy over the next decade to meet the 2020 target.

In terms of solar energy, China’s capacity is currently a small portion of the generation portfolio but the government has announced targets for installed capacity to grow nearly six-fold to reach 20GW by 2015. Similar to wind technology, grid connectivity will also be a key issue for solar expansion.


With a goal to achieve a 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2020, the Malaysian government plans to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix to 5.5% by 2015.

It has created support mechanisms and launched a feed-in-tariff (FiT) scheme, which pays a premium rate for generating electricity through renewable sources.

Renewable energy would make investments worth RM70 billion (US$23 billion) and support 50,000 jobs by 2020.

The release of a 20MW quota for small-scale photovoltaic installations in Malaysia has been postponed.

The FiT quota is for installations smaller than 500kW and was scheduled to be released on December 17th. In September 2012, the Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia (SEDA Malaysia) announced details on a ‘2,000 solar home rooftop’ programme.


The Natural Energy Development Co. Ltd. (NED), owner of the largest thin-film solar power plant in the world, is interested in sharing its expertise in solar energy with the Philippines. The Thailand-based solar firm, which operates a 224 hectare solar power plant, believes its solar technology will be viable in a country like the Philippines.

Chaiwut Saengpredekorn, plant manager of the Lopburi solar power plant, said that solar technology is sustainable. NED’s 73MW solar power plant in Thailand took 18 months to build. NED installed more than 545,000 thin-film PV panels for its solar power plant, the biggest installed in Asia.

The company is now expanding by another 11MW that would bring its solar plant to a total of 240 hectares by the first quarter of next year. According to NED, the new frameless glass-on-glass thin-film solar cells are optimal for use in a high-temperature climate as compared to crystalline solar cells.


The Philippines possesses enough renewable resources to satisfy current and future energy demand, according to the Clean Energy Solutions Center. It is one of the leading countries in Southeast Asia in the development of renewable energy resources; renewables, including hydro, accounted for around one third of the country’s 16.8GW of generation capacity in 2009.

However, developed renewable energy sources are dwarfed by the size of the Philippines’ untapped potential. Across a country made up of more than 700 islands, there is an estimated 76GW of wind capacity, 10GW of hydropower and good solar potential.

In January 2009 the Philippines enacted what was then the most comprehensive renewable energy policy package in Asia – the Renewable Energy Act. The act calls for a renewable portfolio standard, which would require power suppliers to include a percentage of energy from renewable sources.

A feed-in tariff provision would provide renewable energy generators with a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price for their power, in addition to tax credits for developers and value added tax and duty-free importation of renewable technologies.


Described as “renewable energy challenged”, Singapore does not take its imported fossil fuel dependent state lying down. It is driving energy efficiency programmes like no one else, and has set up leading-edge centres to research alternative fuels and test clean energy projects.

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) brings together leading solar researchers from around the world to look into improvements in solar technology and its applications. It even considers how solar can “partner” with energy efficiency to bring about improvements in the energy performance of buildings in the tropics, where air conditioning is the greatest energy guzzler.

Electric vehicles are on trial and Singapore is seen by many as the ideal urban environment to reduce the use of “dirty fuels” to get people around the island state, already starting to see the strains of private vehicle use on its air quality and traffic congestion.

But energy efficiency is the way Singapore has chosen to go, along with predominant use of natural gas as the cleaner option. It was also the “fuel” the International Energy Agency (IEA) decided to focus on in its 2012 World Energy Outlook (WEO) report. Not coal, or gas, or renewables, but energy efficiency – the fuel we often forget about, but where, in the opinion of IEA Chief Economist and WEO lead author Dr Fatih Birol, “the most can be achieved in the shortest time”.

Clean Energy Fund

Also announced mid 2012 was the setting up of the Armstrong South East Asia Clean Energy Fund, the first of its kind in the region, which has secured US$65 million in its first funding round. Overall, it aims to raise $150 million for small-scale power generation, including solar, in Southeast Asia. It is believed the region will become a “highly attractive” small-scale project market.

Andrew Affleck, managing partner of Armstrong Asset Management, says: “To date the team has originated a strong pipeline of potential deals and detailed negotiations are underway. We are hopeful of completing one to two key deals soon. Small-scale solar and mini-hydro are two priority sub-sectors the team is currently focused on.”

Clinton Climate Initiative

Promoting electric vehicles is essential to advancing carbon- neutral transportation technologies. C40-Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) Cities has brought together 15 of the world’s largest cities, including Hong Kong, New Delhi and Seoul, in collaboration with four leading electric vehicle manufacturers, to make major cities more electric vehicle friendly. They form the ‘C40 Electric Vehicle Network’ and collectively will address four areas of municipal action that are critical to the successful introduction of electric vehicles.

Ken Hickson is Chairman and CEO of the Singapore based consultancy, Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA) and author of the book The ABC of Carbon. He produces a fortnightly newsletter abc carbon express which is available by free subscription and can be viewed at


What to do with all those Chinese New Year oranges & mandarins

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Waste not, want not. That is the philosophy behind eco-product manufacturer Orange Power in Australia that utilises the oil from waste orange peel in its range of cosmetic and household products. Besides reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, high quality products using orange oil as a natural solvent are produced, with commercial success. Proof that going green – even with the colour orange! – makes environmental and business sense. Read more

An orange oil product that has lots of appeal

By Gayle Bryant in Sydney Morning Herald (11 February 2013):

MOST of us throw away fruit and vegetable peelings but when Iain Chaney was confronted with pallets of orange peel, he saw the potential for a new product range.

Chaney had been involved in manufacturing for several years and in 1991 on a visit to a fruit co-operative in Mildura in Victoria he noticed a large number of pallets containing oil from oranges that had been squeezed.

”We were using orange oil in hand creams we were producing instead of kerosene as it smells nice and is a natural solvent,” he says.

”When I saw this oil wasn’t going to be used, I thought we could do something with it and bought the lot, which I didn’t realise at the time but amounted to 20 tonnes worth.”

Soon, the environmental and sustainable range Orange Power was launched and within a year, Chaney and three other founders, had produced four products including a multipurpose cleaner.

Because they still had so much orange oil, they decided to bottle the oil and sell it as an air freshener.

”This is now our biggest selling product and comprises about 50 per cent of the company’s sales,” Chaney says.

”Overall that first batch of oil we bought lasted us nearly two years.”

Getting supermarket shelf space was crucial for promoting Orange Power and Chaney says looking back, the founders were quite naive about what needed to be done.

”We were lucky in that we were able to get our products into the major supermarkets,” he says. ”It would be much more difficult these days.”

At the time of its establishment, the founders, who include Chaney’s brother Andrew, wanted to focus on making environmentally sustainable products.

”We are committed to providing ethical products that also offer great performance,” Chaney says.

”We want to make it easy for consumers to be green at home without sacrificing any of the quality.”

The company decided to eliminate palm oil from its products about four years ago after it realised how much damage its production does to the environment.

”It was impossible to find ingredients that were sourced from 100 per cent certified palm oil so we now use other oils including coconut oil in our products,” Chaney says. ”It is more expensive but it means we can ensure our products are made using environmentally sustainable products.”

In 2010, the company bought the Aware Planet Ark brand, and now produces laundry products for sensitive skin. Both the Orange Power and the Aware ranges have been certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia, which audits green claims by brands.

The company also manufactures the Actizyme range of natural, enzyme-based drain cleaners and deodorisers.

”As far as I know, we’re the only company that’s performed the research [and absorbed the cost], of eliminating palm oil completely from our products,” Chaney says.

The company now comprises 18 full-time staff and about 6-8 casuals.

Chaney agrees one major challenge with being ”green” is marketing and promotion, especially as many companies are promoting themselves in the same way. ”There are a lot of greenwash products out there which just have a green sounding name but aren’t really green,” Chaney says.

”We are the only mainstream supermarket range that has had its green claims independently audited.”

Turnover is about $10 million a year and Chaney says because of its size it is difficult to compete with bigger players who do TV advertising.

”We do mainly magazine advertising and some social media but that’s something we probably need to do more of,” he says.

”But we continue to grow strongly, especially since we took on the two new product ranges.

”We are part way through a three-stage plan to set up a new factory in Dandenong [where all products are made] and are trialling new initiatives such as using gravity rather than pumps to move liquid products around the factory.”


Scientists Believe Seagrass Matters More Than Rainforests to Store Carbon

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The role played by rainforests in soaking up carbon dioxide and reducing the effects of climate change has been widely propagated and championed by environmental groups. Less prominent, though, is the contribution of seagrass. Able to store carbon 35 times faster than rainforests, this often overlooked resource is under the threat of destruction by dredging and pollution in Australia, which can cause the release of stored carbon three times its annual greenhouse gases emission. Read more

Failure to protect seagrass may cost Australia $45b

By Sunanda Creagh and Will Mumford, Editors, The Conversation (11 February 2013):

Seagrass stores carbon 35 times faster than rainforests, preventing billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases escaping every year, but its crucial role in slowing climate change has been largely overlooked, experts said today.

While rainforests lock in carbon for a century at most, seagrass does so for thousands of years. When exposed to air, the the carbon-rich sediment below the seagrass meadows begins to oxidise, releasing greenhouses gases into the atmosphere and warming the globe.

About 50% of Australia’s seagrasses have been destroyed by dredging and pollution, said seagrass expert Dr Peter Macreadie, ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“The world seems to be primarily focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industry, transport and food but there’s little attention being paid to carbon that is leaking out from underneath the ground, on land and in the ocean.”

Dr Macreadie, who is currently analysing carbon storage in seagrass sediment from Jervis Bay, estimated that seagrasses offset approximately 2% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s a huge amount that’s being offset and it’s a huge amount that’s being stored – and you can also put dollar figures on that,” said Dr Macreadie.

“If you say that carbon is worth $23 a tonne, then Australia’s seagrasses, both the plants and the carbon in the sediment, are worth about $45 billion,“ he said.

Losing the seagrass from around Australia, would be equivalent to releasing up to three times Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, Dr Macreadie said.

“When someone is cutting down a forest, it’s quite noticeable, and you can chain yourself to a tree,” he said.

“But most people don’t care or notice when seagrasses are being destroyed; they are out of sight and out of mind – a tragedy of the commons.”

Despite its role in locking in greenhouse gases, seagrass is currently not on the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, a compilation of Australia’s emissions data.

A spokesperson for the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said emissions from non-terrestrial sources are not currently included in national greenhouse accounts due to accounting rules set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

“Currently, there are provisions for inclusion of emissions from wetlands, however these are of the freshwater, inland type,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“The IPCC and UNFCCC periodically review the international accounting rules. The IPCC is currently drafting a wetlands supplement to the 2006 guidelines that may include coastal wetlands and seagrasses in the future.”

Professor Carlos Duarte, Director of the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia, said a CSIRO-funded project called the Coastal Carbon Cluster will deliver estimates on the carbon sequestration capacity of seagrasses.

“The IPCC is taking a serious look at this option,” he said.

Professor Duarte said seagrass meadows rank among the most effective carbon sinks in the biosphere.

“The key to their role relies on two key factors: their high productivity and capacity for carbon capture and their capacity to preserve carbon in their sediment for millennia,” he said.

Unlike forests, which release greenhouse gases when they burn, the carbon in the seagrass soils is protected from fire, said Professor Duarte.

“One hectare of Posidonia meadow has as much as 10 times the CO2 sequestration capacity than a pristine hectare of Amazonian forest does,” he said.

“These ecosystems also rank amongst the most threatened in the biosphere,” due to fertiliser and herbicide run-off, dredging and port development, Professor Duarte said.

Chris Riedy, Associate Professor at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, said seagrass carbon storage is an “overlooked way of reducing emissions”.