Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cyclone frequency declining while intensity increasing across Australia: CSIRO

New research by CSIRO scientists is showing a trend for fewer tropical cyclones forming off the Western Australian coast, but those that do form may become more intense and potentially destructive. The results apply across the Australian region according to CSIRO in an interview with Dr Debbie Abbs from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research published on December 21, 2011.

Dr Debbie Abbs said there could be a 50 percent reduction in the number of storms in the second half of this century – from 2051-2090 – compared to the period from 1971-2000. The climate model developed by Dr Abbs' team also indicates a distinct shift towards more destructive storms. "Despite a decrease in the number of tropical cyclones, there is a greater risk that a tropical cyclone that forms will be more severe in future," Dr Abbs said. "Even a small increase in cyclone intensity is concerning because of the threat to life, property, industry and agriculture,” said Dr Abbs in a CSIRO media release.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NSW set to hinder wind energy with onerous planning regulations

The NSW Draft planning regulations on wind farms was released on Friday December 23: on the very last working day before Christmas. You don't need to be a cynic to understand the Barrie O'Farrell conservative Government wants to bury news coverage of these draft planning regulations which impose strict limits on wind farm development which are very similar in scope to the draconian Victorian wind farm planning regultions.

"The new wind guidelines introduced today place more rigourous requirements on wind projects than on any other project development in the state." said Lindsay Soutar, national coordinator of the community 100% Renewable campaign. "While coal and coal seam gas get the red carpet, wind power just gets more red tape."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous - a frank presentation by Professor Kevin Anderson

Listen to this 55 minute webinar (voice presentation with slideshow) by Professor Kevin Anderson, on Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous. Professor Anderson is Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and holds a chair in Energy and Climate Change at Manchester University, and is an advisor to the British Government on climate change (see Wikipedia).

Kevin Anderson explains in simple language what we are facing in our climate future - a four degree world perhaps as soon as 2060 and a 6 to 8 degree world by the end of the century. He is brutally honest and straight forward in his assessments of where we are at with mitigation and the options open for humanity. Climate negotiations have dithered since 1992, and have left no easy options for us. The longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to respond to climate change.
It is only through knowing the dire extent of the situation that we can take the actions necessary to possibly avoid the worst climate impacts.


We Don't Want Coal For Christmas! We want a safe climate.

Eight days ago shoppers in Melbourne CBD were treated to Santa on a seven seater bike and elves asking people to sign a petition for Julia Gillard not to fund the HRL coal gasification power station.

"I’m confused", Santa told onlookers. "I thought nobody wanted coal for Christmas. But then why would Victoria have plans the new coal fired power station HRL? Not to mention a new coal mine in Bacchus Marsh?"

We Don't Want Coal For Christmas! from Quit Coal on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Extreme Weather: Flash flooding kills over 1000, displaces 100,000 in the Philippines

Heavy rain and flash flooding on Friday night and Saturday in the Philippines associated with tropical cyclone Washi, known locally as Sendong, has killed 521 people, with many still missing and unaccounted for, and displaced over 100,000 people. The cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were particularly hard hit.

Tropical Storm Washi dumped on the island of Mindanao more than a month of average rains in just 12 hours. According to weather forecaster Leny Ruiz the records show that storms that follow Washi's track come only once in about 12 years. Officials claim it was one of the most destructive calamities in southern Philippines in recent years and struck areas not used to severe flooding. River flooding was worsened by the high tide.

Update 23 Dec 2011 - Latest report from AFP say that more than 1,000 people dead and another 1,000 missing, with about half a million people affected and 50,000 in evacuation centres.
Update 29 Dec 2011 - media release Climate Justice Activists Demand Justice for the Victims of Sendong

Wildfires in Canada approaching threshold point due to climate change

The climate is changing in Canada. New research indicates that large areas of Canada are approaching a threshold value where they may experience a rapid increase in the size of wildfires. Both the area burnt down annually and the average size of the fires would increase, write the researchers of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Michigan who undertook the research.

Wildfire is expected to increase as a result of climate change in Canada with the majority of wildfires occurring in non-fragmented coniferous forests. Recovery from fire usually takes 20 years. If fires or logging occurrs on a frequent basis, this can cause landscape traps in which the ecology becomes permanently changed. (See example: mountain ash forest landscape trap of Victoria, Australia)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Climate sensitivity - paleoclimate record points towards potential rapid climate change

"The paleoclimate record reveals a more sensitive climate than thought, even as of a few years ago. Limiting human-caused warming to 2 degrees is not sufficient," said NASA climatologist James Hansen at the American Geophysical Union meeting on December 6 2011, "It would be a prescription for disaster."

In a press conference at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting 2011 in San Fransisco climate scientists James Hansen, Ken Caldeira and Eelco Rohling explained that the climate sensitivity may be greater than previously thought. This has implications particularly for action on climate change mitigation and adaptation with major impacts on sea level rise, ocean acidification and many other areas. The latest proposals and pledges from Durban put the world on the path of 4.3°C of warming by the end of the century.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is it possible to decouple economic wealth from carbon dioxide emission rates?

Is it possible to decouple economic wealth from carbon dioxide emission rates? Dr Tim Garrett applies basic thermodynamic physics principles to the economics of wealth, carbon emission rates and civilization and comes up with some very disturbing results.

I came across this randomly chasing youtube links. This talk captured in a 3 part video was given at the Pacific Institute for Climate Studies Seminar May 31st, 2010, University of Victoria in Canada, but only recently uploaded to youtube in December 2011. Dr. Tim Garrett is an Associate Professor of Physics in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, whose main academic work is in cloud physics.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Xstrata Ulan coal mine expansion required to offset greenhouse gas emissions

In a landmark judgement concerning climate change, a judge in the NSW Land and Environment Court has given approval for the expansion of the Xstrata Ulan coal mine near Mudgee in Central western New South Wales, but conditional on the mine offsetting all of its greenhouse gas emissions generated in mining the coal.


The Hunter Environmental Lobby brought an appeal against the $1.2 Billion Ulan West project based upon it's long term impact of exacerbating global anthropogenic climate change, as well as damage to groundwater systems and clearing of critically endangered vegetation communities. The mine expansion proposal includes a 239 hectare open cut mine and approximately 25 square kilometres of additional longwall mining. The environment group were represented by The Environment Defenders Office. (See June 2011 article - Legal Challenge to Xstrata Ulan Coal mine expansion)

In delivering her judgement on the landmark case on Thursday 24 November, Justice Nicola Pain invited the NSW Minister for Planning, Ulan Coal and Hunter Environment Lobby to come to agreement on several environment conditions in the Ulan West project. The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has welcomed the decision saying that this is a landmark legal precedent for coal mines required to offset greenhouse pollution.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Locking in native forest logging: say goodbye to Victorian forest carbon sinks

The Victorian Coalition Government have given a green light to their logging mates by announcing the expansion of native forest logging and locking in to place much longer native forest logging contracts.

In a statement yesterday Agriculture and Food Security Minister National Party MP Peter Walsh released the Timber Industry Action Plan. Under the plan Vicforests would be able to harvest and sell timber through supply agreements of up to 20 years, instead of the current maximum five year period. VicForests will also be given the right to sell timber in a variety of ways, including both timber auctions and other sales arrangements. And contract clauses will be written in to provide compensation if there happens to be a change of government policy in the future (as sometimes happens in a democracy).


Saturday, December 10, 2011

OccupyCOP: Hundreds Protest inside UN climate venue in Durban as talks draw to a close

People's march inside ICCThe Durban UN climate talks - COP17 - are drawing to a close. Ministers and heads of state met through Friday night to thrash out some meaning from these talks.

The sticking point is that developed countries are not taking the lead in initiating the deep emissions cuts of 25-40% as stated in the Bali road map in 2007 and the Kyoto Protocol. Europe, The US, Canada and Australia are responsible for most of the historical emissions in the atmosphere that has caused global warming. The 1% in developed countries are attempting to exploit the 99% of people in developed and developing countries.

At the plenary in the morning on Friday - the last scheduled day - a youth speaker representing civil society, Anjali Appadurai, challenged the conference by calling for deep emissions cuts from developed countries to meet their commitments under the Bali roadmap of the Kyoto Protocol, a flash mob occupyCOP protest occurred in the convention centre foyer which pulled hundreds of people together in solidarity with Africa and small island states; and protesters setup an occupyCOP vigil outside the centre through the long night.

Related: One climate Live Coverage | Adopt a negotiator Flickr photostream | Occupy COP17 video report

Tonga and climate change: Sione Taulo Fulivai "Our people are on the line, our cultures are going to disappear"

One World TV interviewed Sione Taulo Fulivai from the small Pacific Island state of Tonga on the last day of the UN climate negotiations at COP17 in Durban. Small Island states face rising atmospheric and sea surface temperatures, rising sea levels spoiling freshwater reservoirs and agriculture and threatening to innundate their land, and changing rainfall pattens. They are on the frontline of global warming.

Tonga is a nation of 100,000 people with a GDP per capita of US$3711. Tonga and Vanuatu are at the top of a UN list of countries most vulnerable to natural disasters in the Pacific.


Related: Pacific climate change: temperatures rise, sea levels increase, rainfall changing

Friday, December 9, 2011

Youth challenges climate delegates at COP17 followed by mic check

Anjali Appadurai, a youth from College of the Atlantic in the US, gives perhaps the most power speech at COP17 meeting in Durban, South Africa. Following the high level intervention statement on Friday, December 9th, 2011, Anjali and Audience members proceeded to mic check the UN.



Read the full speech below:

Renewable energy in Australia approaching 10 per cent

The Clean Energy Council of Australia announced at the climate negotiations in Durban that 9.6% of Australia's power now came from renewable sources: solar photovoltaic, wind, and large scale hydro-electric. More than half a million household solar power systems were now installed on Australian rooftops – around 35 times the amount just three years ago at the end of 2008.

Clean Energy Council Director Kane Thornton said Australia was on target for sourcing 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

Time to choose Solar

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wave Energy pilot project for Port Fairy receives Victorian Government funding

Efficient energy capture and conversion from Click2it on Vimeo.

Surf coast residents in Victoria may be drawing some of their electricity from the ocean waves that comes crashing into the beaches in the not too distant future. The Victorian state Government has awarded Ocean energy company, BioPower Systems (BPS) $5 million of funding under the Sustainable Energy Pilot Demonstration Program to establish a $14 million pilot demonstration of the company’s 250kW bioWAVE ocean wave energy system at a grid-connected site near Port Fairy, Victoria.

"In developing the bioWAVE technology we set out to address the many issues that have bedeviled most wave energy technologies," said CEO, Dr Timothy Finnigan. The undersea generator is designed to mimic the motion of large sea plants such as kelp under wave action. The critical components have just finished full scale testing at the companies Mascot factory in Sydney and the company is hoping to have the pilot project operational by 2013.

Alcoa Anglesea Coal Mine 50 year lease extension approved by Victorian Government

Anglesea residents presented a petition containing 850 signatures to State parliament on November 23, 2011 calling for an independent study into health impacts of the Alcoa coal mine and power plant, according to a report in the Geelong Advertiser.

In stark contrast to the Government's draconian wind power planning regulations allowing residents a veto if they live within 2km of a proposed wind turbine, approval was granted by the Baillieu Government in late October 2011 to extend the lease for 50 years on the Alcoa Anglesea coal mine which supplies coal to the Anglesea power station for the Alcoa smelter at Port Henry. Residents were shocked by Baillieu coal mine renewal, with Friends of the Earth declaring the decision Ted Baillieu’s worst environmental decision yet. Friends of the Earth claim there are abundant renewable energy options for the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula. Indeed, on November 30 conditional funding of $5million was announced from the Victorian Government to BioPower Systems (BPS) to build a 250kW bioWAVE ocean wave energy demonstration system at a grid-connected site near Port Fairy, Victoria.

Future wind power development in Victoria stifled by draconian planning regulations


The Baillieu Government in Victoria has put in place draconian planning regulations for new wind farms which will stifle rural development and slow shift to clean energy according to Friends of the Earth. These regulations include residents within a 2km distance of a planned wind turbine able to veto the development, and no development within 5km of any town, plus numerous No Go Zones.

In late November the changes to planning regulations were ridiculed by Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Danish company Vestas which builds and operates commercial wind farms in Australia and around the world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ocean acidification warning to climate negotiators to act on reducing CO2 emissions


Climate negotiators in Durban were urged to consider ocean acidification and changes taking place in the southern ocean due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and ocean researchers released important briefings on ocean acidification and changes taking place in the southern ocean on November 29, 2011.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Durban climate talks the IUCN and Ocean Acidification Reference User Group urged that Ocean acidification should no longer remain on the periphery of the international debates on climate change and the environment and should be addressed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other global environmental conventions. At the same time ocean researchers in Australia also released a position analysis paper that the southern ocean was undergoing major changes in becoming warmer, even at great depths; more acidic; and freshening with a drop in salinity levels.

Related: Oceans at high risk of unprecedented Marine extinction scientists warn | IUCN - The acid truth about our oceans: experts urge action to limit ocean acidification | ACE CRC - Research shows that Southern Ocean is warming and freshening

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coastal ecosystems suffer 100 fold decrease in capacity to store carbon mitigating climate change

The carbon sink capacity of urbanized river estuary and coastal environments to mitigate climate change has reduced by 100 fold according to scientists from the University of Technology Sydney. The Scientists used core samples from Botany Bay in Sydney to reconstruct the sedimentation changes in the past 6000 years, highlighting the changes in the ecology. The plant samples in the sedimentation changed as rapid industrialisation occurred around Botany Bay during the 1950s.

"We have effectively gone back in time and monitored carbon capture and storage by coastal ecosystems, finding a 100-fold weakening in the ability of coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon since the time of European settlement. This severely hampered the ability of nature to reset the planet's thermostat." said Dr. Peter Macreadie, University of Technology, Sydney Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow.