Thursday, August 27, 2015

Writers and climate scientists on narrative and climate stories at Melbourne Writers Festival

This post was originally published at Melbourne Polytechnic.

Novelist and lecturer Dr Alice Robinson from the Melbourne Polytechnic Bachelor of Writing and Publishing course joined two climate scientists and a lecturer in journalism to discuss the different styles of writing between science and literature in motivating people on the issue of climate change.

The Melbourne Writers Festival brought together the panel to discuss stories of climate action. The featured panelists were: Monash University Journalism lecturer Deb Anderson, Monash University climate scientist Ailie Gallant, climate scientist Associate Professor Kevin Walsh from Melbourne University, and novelist and Bachelor of Writing and Publishing lecturer Alice Robinson from Melbourne Polytechnic.

The event was held at the fortyfivedownstairs Gallery on Friday 21st August, which also featured an exhibition of handwritten letters of 22 climate scientists responding to the question: "How do you feel about climate change"?

Alice Robinson's first novel was published earlier this year by Affirm Press, titled Anchor Point, and examines grief, memory, work and sense of place. The book has been described as one novel in a new genre of 'climate fiction', or 'Cli-Fi'.

As she described in a guest post at the Wheeler Centre earlier this year: Highlighting the Mistakes we are Making: On the Uses of Climate Change Fiction:

"I sat down to write my debut novel, Anchor Point, compelled by the reading I had done on climate change, which had more than confirmed my worst fears. As the writing and editing processes dragged on in a way that will be familiar to anyone who has ever published a book (but were shocking to me) I believed in the ability of literature to make change – personal, and even cultural. According to the American postmodernist J Hillis Miller, 'we see the world through the literature we read… We then act in the real world on the basis of that seeing'."

Indeed, fiction can provide a vision for scientific investigation and inquiry, sometimes leading to new technologies. The French writer Jules Verne, author of Around the World in 80 days and Twenty thousand Leagues Under the Sea, among others, provided much inspiration and influence in scientific discovery through the twentieth century. Just recently I came across an ocean renewable energy technology that Verne proposed in 1870 regarding extracting power out of the temperature differentials in the ocean. This technology is presently at pilot stage of development, now known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). (See my article: Harnessing ocean temperature differentials using Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technology)

The Marshall Islands in the Pacific have expressed interest in developing an OTEC plant to provide power and desalinated water and communicated that interest to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the lead up to the Paris 2015 climate talks.

Fiction writers can provide a vision of what society may look like given slightly different conditions, or what social and behavioural adaptations may be useful for the future. Science fiction writers have done this, mostly with technology but occasionally with examining changes in social behaviour and social structure envisioning ways we can adapt to the changing environment. We are certainly going to need to adapt on personal and societal levels, even if we do bring our greenhouse gas emissions under control.

While scientists can provide projections of what might the future hold based upon current trends and assumptions, fiction writers are able to thoroughly flesh out a realistic vision which can contain elements of both utopia and dystopia.

Creative writers can also engage us in connecting such an amorphous issue as climate change to a sense of place, where we can more readily understand and interpret the issue. This connection can provide motivation for acting on climate change, whether through taking small personal changes in behaviour, to lobbying friends and neighbours, or our elected representatives.

A Melbourne Writers Festival session I attended the following day at Footscray on climate change and place, also examined how writers can use their skills for motivating change. Whether climate change remains a distant event in time or space, or can be intimately connected to the present and locations we know and love, can make all the difference in how people perceive and act on the issue.

Alice Robinson asks similar questions in her Wheeler Centre guest post, "can these narratives work actively to prevent climate change, as I so fervently hoped when I first began writing my own novel? If our culture acts in the world on the basis of what we glean from texts, as Hillis Miller proposes, then can certain narratives lead us toward a different, better, safer way of living? Can a genre prevent us from destroying our home?"

She answers in the same essay, "Heartbreakingly, to my mind, the answer is no."

While pessimistic that climate fiction can save us, Robinson also articulates that the danger is also mercifully uncertain. She draws upon the measure of hope that parenting provides "My novel comes to an end in the last gasp prior to any definitive apocalypse, allowing for modest hopefulness, my small concession to the idea that the future may be other than what I fear it will be; that my precious children, and their children, may yet remain safe."

"There is comfort in the knowledge that while scientists might attempt to model the scale of disaster, at present only fiction can imagine what our futures might look like, how humanity might respond." says Robinson.

Kevin Walsh, Associate Professor from School of Earth Sciences at University of Melbourne, used an Ipad during the session and read aloud his letter:

"I wish that climate change were not real.

"This seems like a strange thing for a climate scientist to say, but it's true.

"If climate change were not real, we would not have to be concerned about it. We wouldn't have to worry about the future of our water resources, already strained by over population. We wouldn't have to worry about sea level rise increasing the flooding of our coastal cities and of low-lying, densely-populated areas of poor countries. Above all, we wouldn't have to worry about climate change being yet another source of conflict in an already tense world.

"Life would be so much simpler if climate change didn't exist. But as scientists, we don't have the luxury of pretending."

Alice Robinson also identified the importance of literature in capturing and preserving cultural ideas and perceptions for the future and future generations in her post at Artshub. "If nothing else, our ability to preserve cultural ideas and perceptions about our lands, futures and prospects for survival, through publication, lends us a certain power during what feels like a hopelessly powerless time."

"Writing and publishing, as well as other cultural records, like film, afford us the opportunity to send a message through the years. Even if cli-fi can’t save us from ourselves, there is a measure of comfort in the notion that future generations will read the texts we are producing now. My hope is that, in doing so, they will come to understand that the perilous realities they are grappling with were already troubling to us. A tragedy we could imagine, if not avoid, long before it came to pass." said Robinson in the Artshub article Can cli-fi save us from ourselves?

Alie Gallant commented when asked if there are any positive narratives she sees:

"I do remember something which shocked me when I read it in the media. A couple of years ago now they reached the marker of a million solar panels on roofs in Australia....I just thought 'Wow! I didn't know that that many people had solar panels on their roofs.'

"And sure enough that ticked something off in my brain. I would wander round the suburbs of Melbourne and look up and there were all these solar panels I didn't know were there.

"I think that things are actually happening. Things are changing. We won't quite realise how much things have changed until we get there. With windfarms or whatever we are talking about....I feel like there is a bit of momentum at the moment, perhaps not helped by the current Government. ... My research is in climate extremes: drought, extreme heat, things like that. There is not that many good stories about that."

Alice Robinson also answered the same question:

"I feel that my work perhaps is more situated in exploring the worst case scenario. I feel like that is something I can do as a fiction writer, and that might be a powerful contribution in the sense that it is a place I can go where these guys [climate scientists] can't go, or can only go to offer solutions, whereas I can offer up a vision."

One of the interesting recent texts, not discussed by the Climate Scientists and Robinson, but raised by journalist Michael Green at the Footscray discussion on climate change and place, was Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's 2014 book, The Collapse of Western Civilisation. This tale is written from the point of view of a Chinese historian from the Second Peoples Republic over 300 years in the future looking back and assessing and asking why we didn't act with any sense of urgency when we new the risks involved. The book details on page 33 "The human populations of Australia and Africa, of course, were wiped out." A stark reminder of one possible future for us here in Australia.

Although it is fiction, the science and historical facts it is based upon up to the present is rigorous. Both authors have backgrounds in science and are respected historians of science, that have turned to fiction to highlight the scale of the problem.

Climate scientists speak: Is this How You Feel Exhibition

The exhibition in the same space underlined the importance of communication and narrative elicited by the four panelists.

The letters in the 'Is This How You Feel?' exhibition, curated and co-ordinated by Joe Duggan, vary from person to person, but in each we see an element of personal emotion on the issue of climate change from the people who spend their lives meticulously analysing and examining the scientific data. The letters communicate a sense of the urgency and necessity for action to address climate change.

All the letters are available to view in their handwritten and plain text form online at Joe Duggan's website: Is this How You Feel?

Novelist and creative writer Dr Alice Robinson is a lecturer in the Creative Arts Department for the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing course.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflecting on Hurricane Katrina 10 years on

I wrote this in response to a facebook discussion on whether Hurricane Katrina can be attributed to climate change. It is an argument I put together with limited time and research, but still valuable to answer the question..

There is evidence and projections for increasing intensity of tropical cyclones (hurricanes. typhoons), but no change in frequency trend has been detected. There may be some small increase in frequency in some basins, but not in others. There is a trend for Cyclone tracks to be moving poleward, in both hemispheres.

In terms of Hurricane Katrina, there has been no attribution study that I have been able to find to either rule climate change in or out as a factor for Hurricane Katrina. It was an extreme weather event still in the realm of natural variability. But it occurred in a changed climate system. It was part of the systemic change and long term trend in more intense Atlantic tropical cyclones (hurricanes) making landfall.

There is increasing research saying there is a trend for more intense tropical cyclones (hurricanes) making landfall and that this trend is likely to increase to a certain saturation point with climate change.

I would suggest reading up the studies published by Kerry Emanuel from MIT on tropical cyclone intensity trends. See Google Scholar page:

Here is a link to Emmanuel's 2005 paper published in Nature: Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years (PDF).

This 2005 report gives the basic climatological details of Hurricane Katrina. A good place to start.
Graumann, A., T. Houston, J. Lawrimore, D. Levinson, N. Lott, S. McCown, S. Stephens, and D. Wuertz, 2005: Hurricane Katrina: A climatological perspective. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center Tech. Rep. 2005-01, 27 pp.

I found this 2015 paper interesting which proposes that climate change is not a substantial factor in potential intensity. The full paper is available through Researchgate:
Natural and Forced North Atlantic Hurricane Potential Intensity Change in CMIP5 Models* M Ting, SJ Camargo, C Li, Y Kushnir - Journal of Climate, 2015 -

This paper by Grinsted et al (2012) looked at data of Atlantic hurricane surge threat from 1923. They concluded in their abstract:

"We find that warm years in general were more active in all cyclone size ranges than cold years. The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923. In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years (P < 0.02)."

Grinsted A, Moore JC, Jevreva S (2012) Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923. Proc Nat Acad Sci. Published online before print October 15, 2012. doi:10.1073/

And lastly, Holland and Bruyère (2014) developed an Anthropogenic Climate Change Index (ACCI) to investigate the potential global warming contribution to current tropical cyclone activity. They found that the proportion of Cat 4-5 cyclones had increased by 40 percent for each degree Celsius of warming.

Recent intense hurricane response to global climate change. G Holland, CL Bruyère - Climate Dynamics, 2014 - Springer

Here are the conclusions of Holland and Bruyère (2014) in full:
An ACCI [Anthropogenic Climate Change Index] is developed as the difference between the global surface temperatures from ensemble means of model simulations with and without anthropogenic gases included.

From this perspective the global warming signal appeared around 1960 and has increased to a current level of *0.8 C [as has previously been implied by Meehl et al. (2004, 2007, 2012) and IPCC (2007)].

We find an observed change in the proportion of global Cat 4–5 hurricanes (relative to all hurricanes) at a rate of 40 % increase in proportion per C increase in ACCI (Figs. 4, 5, 6; Table 1) using the IBTrACS global data set.

This global trend is consistent with the observed changes in each tropical cyclone basin (Fig. 5) and the trends are significant at p\0.01 for the globe and p\0.05 for the majority of the cyclone basins. By comparison, a homogenized satellite data set and automated Dvorak analysis, together with two landfall hurricane data sets indicate trends of 20–30 % and these observed changes are consistent with a number of independent modeling studies (Table 1). We conclude that since 1975 there has been a substantial and observable regional and global increase in the proportion of Cat 4–5 hurricanes of 25–30 % per C of anthropogenic global warming.

The increasing proportion of intense hurricanes has been accompanied by a similar decrease in weaker hurricanes and the development of a distinctly bimodal distribution in the proportions of hurricanes in each Saffir–Simpson category (Fig. 8). We suggest that this arises from the capped nature of tropical cyclones to a maximum value defined by the potential intensity, which increases only slightly with global warming.

An important finding is that the proportion of intense hurricanes appears to initially increase in response to warming oceans, but then approach a saturation level after which no further increases occur. There is tentative evidence that the saturation level will differ across the tropical cyclone basins and that the global proportion of Cat 4–5 hurricanes may already be near it’s saturation level of 40–50 %. This has considerable societal implications that are being examined in a companion study.

So Hurricane Katrina was an intense extreme weather event that matched the long term trend, although still within the range of natural variability.

It provided a foretaste of other destructive Hurricanes such as superstorm Sandy more recently.

The real story is that Hurricane Katrina was a direct hit on New Orleans, a major US city. Infrastructure had not been maintained, emergency evacuation was poorly co-ordinated, and disaster response was slower than it should have been. The people that suffered the most were the poor, the elderly, and people of color.

Eli Greig writing at Melbourne Indymedia in September 2005 labelled Hurricane Katrina as social and environmental blowback at the time. It seems it's destructive power is still reverberating on it's 10th anniversary.

This recent Carbon Brief article has some interesting insight into Katrina and climate change, including comment by several scientists:

Lead image from Marty Bahamonde / FEMA Photo 15504 via Kelly Garbato/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Talking Climate Change and Place at Melbourne Writers Festival event Footscray

This post was first published at

How we communicate climate change is important.

Whether it remains a distant event in time or space, or can be intimately connected to the present and locations we know and love, can make all the difference in how people perceive and act on the issue.

Writers are coming to terms with this in different ways, in different places. The Melbourne Writers Festival in 2015 features several sessions associated with climate change, including two sessions with Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein.

I attended one at Victoria University at Footscray on 'Climate Change and Place' which proved thought provoking and interesting. The panelists for this session included Tony Birch, a writer/lecturer from Victoria University, Jacynta Fuamatu from 350 Pacific, journalist Michael Green and Vanessa O’Neill from the Malthouse Theatre.

Climate change will have a different impact depending upon the location.

For Melbourne, bayside suburbs may become swampy and more suitable as coastal wetlands as the sea level rises this century. Unless we do some major engineering to put a dyke and a shipping lock across the Heads of Port Philip Bay. This may sound expensive, but might prove cheaper than surrendering all the coastal infrastructure around Melbourne to being inundated. Such climate adaptive engineering would raise substantial environmental impact issues.

Inundation has happened in the past and is remembered. Between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago sea levels rose resulting in the loss of aboriginal hunting grounds in Port Philip. According to Wikipedia, "Oral history and creation stories from the Wada wurrung, Woiwurrung and Bun wurrung languages describe the flooding of the bay. Hobsons Bay was once a kangaroo hunting ground. Creation stories describe how Bunjil was responsible for the formation of the bay,[9] or the bay was flooded when the Yarra river was created (Yarra Creation Story.[14])"

As temperatures rise, extreme heat events and heatwaves are directly impacting the population of Melbourne, amplifying the urban heat island effect. Extreme heat is a silent killer that has killed more people in Australia than any other natural disaster combined. People need to be aware of the dangers, and the need to implement adaptation and resilience building social measures. (see my Literature review on Heatwaves, climate change and Melbourne)

The session was started by Tony Birch from Victoria University. He outlined the importance of connections we build up with the local environment, how climate may impact that local environment, as a lever to engage people on the issue.

For Pacific Island nations, rising seas and more intense cyclonic storms and the associated storm surges are of greatest concern.

Jacynta Fuamatu from 350 Pacific highlighted the intimate risk of climate change to Pacific Island nations and cultures. Freshwater is a big concern on many of these islands, with storm surge or king tides contaminating soils to grow crops and freshwater lenses where drinking water is sometimes drawn from. It requires a measure of climate adaptation already with use of more temperature and saline tolerant crop varieties, and use of raised vegetable beds to reduce extent of soil contamination.

Fuamatu told the session about the emergency procedures for Kiribati when storm surge threatens the population. The highest part of Kiribati is less than 3 metres high, so there is no high ground for the population to seek refuge. When an emergency occurs, a siren is sounded which signals that everyone should go home to their families. Each family will use a rope firmly tethered to a deep stake or a tree which each family member is then tied to. This prevents people from being washed away during storm surges.

The Pacific Climate Warriors, who visited Australia last year, highlighted the direct connection between Australian coal producing greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change that results in rising sea levels and changed weather patterns for Pacific island nations now.

Michael Green, a journalist, used Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's 2014 book, The Collapse of Western Civilisation, to highlight the risk for Australia. This tale is written from the point of view of a Chinese historian from the Second Peoples Republic over 300 years in the future looking back and assessing and asking why we didn't act with any sense of urgency. The book details on page 33 "The human populations of Australia and Africa, of course, were wiped out." Although it is fiction, the science it is based upon is rigorous. Both authors are respected historians of science.

Green recounted a couple of stories of human reckoning with the high variability of Australia's climate. The first was on the Darling River drying up with Broken Hill presently running out of water. The nearby Menindee Lakes is an environmental wetlands which stores huge amounts of water, but when precipitation levels are reduced during lengthy droughts, even this water supply can not be relied upon.

As an essentially arid and dry continent, water and it's availability and variability across years and decades, is fundamental to understanding place. Climate change is changing the patterns of precipitation, flood and drought, with the south west and south eastern Australia both showing a long term trend of drier conditions. It is a difficult reckoning to come to terms with.

Also highlighted in Green's talk was the suburb of Elwood, it's origins of being reclaimed swampland, and the likelihood that later the century with rising sea levels, much of the suburb may again become swampland. The Council is very aware of this impact and have drawn up flood overlays for much of the suburb.

Vanessa O’Neill explained how the Malthouse theatre and playwrites are working to engage particularly younger people with climate issues through theatre. The theatre has been commissioning a suitcase series of plays on the theme of climate change. The current play in this series is 'normal.suburban.planetary.meltdown' by Angus Cerini.

The theatre company has an outreach program for schools, particularly aimed at Year 9 and Year 10 students, for performances of the play, discussion of the issues, and students to respond on the same theme of climate with their own short production from either the play or their own ideas put into dramatic form.

SUITCASE SERIES - Writer Angus Cerini discusses normal.surburban.planetary.meltdown from Malthouse Theatre on Vimeo.

Many issues were raised in this Melbourne Writers Festival session about how writers can connect and communicate climate change and the urgency of addressing mitigation and adaptation issues through a sense of connectedness to place.

Climate Change and Place from Twitter

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Australia moves to 2005 baseline, releases low post 2020 climate targets half of what is needed say scientists

This article may be updated frequently through the day.

Australia's post 2020 climate targets were approved in cabinet last night ahead of a Liberal and National Party room caucus meeting today. The post 2020 climate targets were announced at a press conference (See transcript and media release) today and amount to 26 to 28 per cent emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

In comparison, the Climate Change Authority which has investigated both the science and comparative international action, called for a 40 to 60 per cent cut on 2000 levels by 2030. Other reputable organisations have also called for higher targets. The Australian Academy of Science called for emissions cuts of 30 to 40 per cent for the same period. The independent Climate Institute urged a 45 per cent cut on 2005 levels by 2025.

“The initial target offer ahead of the Paris climate negotiations in December is a core test of the government's climate and economic credibility,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute in a media statement. “This target fails tests both of scientific credibility and economic responsibility in a world increasingly focused on modernising and cleaning up energy as well as economic systems. This target is bad for the climate and bad for our international competitiveness.”

During the press conference Tony Abbott outlined that protecting the coal industry was more important than protecting the environment: "Our policy doesn't depend upon the demise of coal. In fact, the only way to protect the coal industry is to go with the sorts of policies that we have. That's why I think our policies are not only good for the environment but very good for jobs." he said.

In a recent public opinion poll 50 per cent of respondents wanted renewables favoured over coal and only 6 per cent favoured support for the coal industry over renewables.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, to a question whether Australia is still committed to keeping temperature rises below two degrees? how Australia's target fits in with that goal which we agreed to in Cancun in 2010, responded by evading and not answering the question. "The Paris meeting is about getting a global agreement where every country puts forward their targets in advance of the meeting and then there will be a discussion about the framework action that would be required in order to meet the two degree goal." she replied.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt outlined how the Government would achieve these targets without a carbon price. They will continue using the Emissions Reduction Fund with the addition of the safeguards mechanism. Other measures include developing vehicle efficiency standards, implementing ozone and fluoro carbon measures as part of the next round of the Montreal Protocol, and develeopments in technological change such as in battery storage technologies.

When asked if other abatement measures would leave room for lifting the Renewable energy target, Prime Minister Abbott responded, "It doesn’t depend upon a higher Renewable Energy Target. It assumes the target that is now in place, which is effectively a 23 per cent target."

Professor Wadhams: If we take really serious action we can survive

Professor Peter Wadhams has spent the last 40 years working on sea-ice research, polar oceanography and how the changes in Arctic and Antarctic ice are affecting climate. He has particularly warned about the impacts of the retreat and loss of Arctic sea-ice and the threat from an Arctic methane breakout to give a substantial acceleration to global warming.

In this May 2015 interview with Judy Sole, founder of the Green Party of South Africa, he outlines the reduction of Arctic sea ice, the loss of most of the multi-year ice, where he thinks more research should be devoted and what we should do for a best chance of survival for our children.

Wadhams is professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge. He is also president of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans Commission on Sea Ice and Coordinator for the International Programme for Antarctic Buoys.

He is one of the few scientists who has been prepared to publicly speak out on major climate risks associated with loss of sea-ice and the dangers in massive methane release from methane hydrates contained in the shallow continental shelves of the Arctic, and what this means for human survival. His warnings, along with those of James Hansen and Kevin Anderson should not be ignored.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Guest Post: Stopping mangrove deforestation in Indonesia could help slow climate change

Coastal wetlands are important carbon sinks, all too often ignored as important ecosystems for preserving and indeed fostering and growing, for mitigation of climate change. In January 2013 I looked at how Mangrove forests threatened by Climate Change in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India. In December 2013 I featured a guest post on Philippines steps up restoration of mangroves as defence against typhoons, tsunamis, sea level rise. Read more of my posts on blue carbon. Research has shown that Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics (Donato etal 2011).

Now a new study published in Nature Climate Change identifies the importance of preserving the extensive mangrove forests remaining in Indonesia for reducing it's greenhouse gas emissions.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Export solar not coal, a 21st century Australian infrastructure project

This article was originally published at

If our Australian political leaders had any vision they might consider a 21st century renewables energy scheme similar in scope and vision to the Snowy Mountains Hydro scheme, for northern Australia, and linking us with some of our northern neighbours.

Instead we have seen political pandering to the greed of fossil fuel companies, like the Chinese state owned company Shenhua proposing to develop the Watermark open cut coal mine on the fertile Liverpool Plains of NSW, with the dangers to groundwater, wildlife and agricultural productivity and food security.

Or the Indian conglomerate Adani that wants to develop the giant Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee basin of Queensland and hires Labor and Liberal staffers to make its case. Development of the Galilee basin coalfields by Adani and other Coal barons will enhance climate change and help drive destruction of World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Portland bridge danglers delay Shell ice-breaker leaving for Arctic oil drilling #ShellNo

Note: this article is updating with developments

Portland, Oregon: Climate protestors with Greenpeace and Rising Tide have set up a blockade to stop the Finnish ice-breaker Fennica, hired by Shell, to leave port with needed parts for their Arctic oil drilling program in the Chukchi Sea.

13 Greenpeace protestors dangled across the river below the St John's bridge with linked lines to prevent passage of the ship.

They were supported by a crew of 13 on the bridge roadway, a flotilla of kayaktivists, and people gathered in the riverside park.

The same day as the Fennica icebreaker was being blockaded in Portland, news was published that Shell is sacking 6500 workers globally due to the downturn in oil prices. Shell joined oil giants BP and Chevron in cutting costs due to a 50 per cent slump in crude prices in the past year. The company's share price rose 4.7 per cent, but the stock has still dropped 17 per cent this year, reported Bloomberg.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Labor's 50 percent renewables policy a bare minimum for staying under 2 degrees climate target

The Original of this article was published at

Labor Opposition leader Bill Shorten's advocacy of a 50 per cent renewables target at Labor's National conference in Melbourne has effectively made action on climate change a policy point of difference from the Abbott government for the next election. But the target has been assessed as the bare minimum renewables target for staying on a decarbonisation path of limiting global warming to 2 degrees as agreed by the United Nations.

On thursday Bill Shorten visited the University of New South Wales inspecting the world class solar research facilities, where several significant breakthroughs in solar technology have been made, including the first photovoltaic system to achieve over 20 per cent efficiency in 1989, and the most recent achievement of a 40 per cent solar cell efficiency for converting sunlight to electricity.

Shorten reiterated that Australia could easily reach the 50 per cent renewables target based on local innovation and research.

"We have the best solar researchers in the world ... We have so much sunlight, so much wind power in this country, we would be literally crazy not to pursue more ambitious goals for renewable energy. The rest of the world is not waiting … the rest of the world is already setting [those] ambitious goals," he said according to a University media release.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Battle of coal vs renewables in Northern Queensland

In the 2015 Australian budget $5 billion was put aside for a northern development fund. Prime Minister Tony Abbott called on Business leaders in Queensland's north to develop a plan for a power station that could be considered for funding under this new fund.

The Federal Government would like to see something like a proposal for a 800MW coal fired power station developed in the Galilee basin to provide a ready market and add impetus to the development of one of the proposed coal mines.

Detractors of the fund have labelled it a "Dirty Energy Finance Corporation".

“I’d be very surprised if we did not have, coming forward as a potential project under the Northern Australia fund, a power station,” Mr Abbott said.

“If there were to be a major new power station in North Queensland, if there were to be a more effective distribution network in North Queensland, that would be obviously a very important ­economic breakthrough, because power is one of the basic costs of doing business and basic costs of life. It’s very significant.” said Abbott in an exclusive interview with the Townsville Bulletin.

Of course this works in with Tony Abbott's 'Coal for Prosperity' which ignores the enormous health and climate costs of continued coal mine production.