Saturday, March 30, 2013

Guest Post: Deep Ocean warming Confirms Global Warming Has Accelerated

New Research Confirms Global Warming Has Accelerated (via Skeptical Science)

Posted on 25 March 2013 by dana1981 A new study of ocean warming has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013). There are several important conclusions which can be drawn from this paper. Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth,…

Renewable energy: breakthrough in chemical storage technology

Researchers at the University of Calgary have made a breakthrough in cheap and efficient catalysts for converting electricity into chemical storage through electrolysis. This could have a major impact in efficient use and regulation of power from renewable energy sources like wind farms and large scale solar energy power stations.

"This breakthrough offers a relatively cheaper method of storing and reusing electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels," says Curtis Berlinguette, one of the study authors and associate professor of chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Energy Conversion.

Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel from the University of Calgary Chemistry Department turned their attention to simpler and cheaper catalyst electrodes. They conducted laboratory tests using abundant metal compounds or oxides (including iron oxide or 'rust') to create mixed metal oxide catalysts having a disordered or amorphous, structure. The new catalysts they devised perform as well or better than expensive catalysts now on the market, yet theirs cost 1,000 times less.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Antarctic Peninsula summer melt season prolonged by global warming

The melt season on the Antarctic Peninsula has been getting much longer over the last 60 years, at some locations doubling in length according to the research lead by Dr Nick Barrand of the British Antarctic Survey.

Increased melting season increases the melting stress of ice shelves which hold back significant glacier discharge and sea level rise.

The Antarctic Peninsula is a mountainous region that extends north from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet towards South America. The area is warming much faster than the rest of Antarctica at around 3 times the global average, although the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) also appears to be rapidly warming according to measurements at Byrd polar station. Temperatures have risen by up to 3 oC since the 1950s. The warming has been linked to a strengthening of local westerly winds, causing warmer air from the sea to be pushed up and over the peninsula.

Related: Real Climate - Antarctic Peninsula warming: natural variability or "global warming"?

Biofuel from atmospheric CO2 via a 'Rushing Fireball'

Making a more efficient biofuel may be part of the solution to tackling climate change. Biofuels are essentially carbon neutral, first capturing carbon dioxide through the plant photosynthesis process which is then released when the fuel is burnt. But processing the plant biomass sugars to a fuel that can be used is an inefficient process that can perhaps be improved upon.

Michael Adams, a Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Georgia, is researching micro organisms that live near deep ocean volcanic vents, in particular Pyrococcus furiosus, or "rushing fireball," This little single celled anaerobic critter feeds on carbohydrates in the super-heated ocean waters near geothermal vents at temperatures around 100C. It has proven adept at carrying out many basic chemical processes with it's enzymes stable at the high temperatures of it's environment.

Pyrococcus furiosus is a member of the hyperthermophilic Archaea family of creatures and was only discovered relatively recently by Karl Stetter in 1986 in deep sea vents and volcanic marine mud off the coast of Italy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fossil Fuel subsidies more than double the spend on Government schools



It seems that we value mining companies making profits to be mostly exported overseas more than investing in public education. According to Environment Victoria fossil fuel subsidies and handouts in Australia amount to more than $10 billion per year, while government schools receive only $4.1 billion each year.

The other issue is that subsidies to the fossil fuel and mining industries distorts the 'free market forces'. New coal mines and other mining ventures would not be developed so rapidly without these subsidies.

Cutting the subsidies would also enable funding for the Gonski education reforms. This would be an investment in the education of our children, a valuable investment in our future.

So join Environment Victoria's campaign and sign their petition by May 14, 2013.

Renewable Electricity flows from Mackay Sugar cogeneration plant

The Carbon Price at work. Mackay Sugar has officially brought online it's new biomass cogeneration power station which has received funding from the Queensland Government and the Federal Government's Clean Technology Investment Program funded by the Carbon Tax. The plant is expected to produce about 38 megawatts of power: 11 megawatts to supply the Racecourse sugar mill and refinery and another 27 megawatts into the State Electricity grid, enough to supply about a third of Mackay's electricity requirements.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, Yvette D’Ath, opened the $120 million cogeneration electricity plant at Mackay Sugar in Queensland today, 27 March 2013.

Using bargasse, a biomass waste product from sugar cane refining, the new Racecourse Cogeneration Plant will produce enough power for the companies operations plus 30% of the residential power requirements of the town of Mackay, displacing power from coal fired power stations.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Seattle Idle No More: Lummi people reject Cherry Point coal loader

Last Thursday Native Americans from the Lummi nation and their supporters rallied and marched in Seattle to stop the Pacific Gateway coal terminal being built at Cherry Point. In the Pacific Northwest there is much concern over the mining of Powder River Basin coal in Montana and Wyoming and the export of this coal by train the 1300 miles across Idaho to the coastal ports in Oregon and Washington for export to Asia.

Opposition to coal export from the US Pacific Northwest is growing with a number of Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Meetings being held late last year with citizens making an active stand against coal export and climate change. Last week 425 residents of Salem Oregon Sounded the Alarm on coal exports.

The march last Thursday gathered at Westlake Center in Seattle at 3pm before undertaking the 3.8 mile walk from downtown to the SSA Marine Office/Terminal. There were drums and rattles, banners and signs for the long walk to the port area. The march was escorted by police. At one stage they were delayed by a train, which provided an opportunity to dance while waiting.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interfaith religous activists arrested in Climate civil disobedience outside the Whitehouse

Day 6 of the Tar Sands Blockade continues with 20 civil disobedience arrests in Washington DC according to the Tar Sands Blockade website. Outside the Whitehouse on Thursday March 21 a gathering of concerned citizens from various American religous traditions - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Native North American - called on President Obama to take bold and courageous actions on climate change, including rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The call was underlined by a 'moral act of loving nonviolent civil disobedience' with 15 choosing to be arrested. View photos on Flickr by AnonMedia: 15 NoKXL Protesters Arrested at the White House .

The action was organized by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) respresenting a wide variety of religious tradtions. They gathered in Lafayette Park at noon carrying three sacred symbols: palm fronds symbolic of greeting Jesus entry into Jerusalem; The Matzoh, unleavened bread that began as the food of the poor and afflicted but became the bread of life and freedom; and the Globe representing the planet we share, God's creation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Campbelltown rally hears how Sydney's water catchments under threat from CSG

On Sunday around 300 residents rallied in Campbelltown in western Sydney and called on the NSW state government and Federal Government to protect drinking water and drinking water catchments, and for local communities to protect their farmland and water resources from Coal seam gas (CSG) development. Jess Moore from Stop CSG Illawarra spoke passionately and outlined the campaign to stop coal seam gas mining in Sydney's water catchments and the threat it poses to the millions of people who live in greater Sydney area. Here is her speech with transcription.

The meeting also heard from several other speakers, including Campbelltown City councillor Fred Borg who said "If it is not safe, it's not safe. We say here today stop coal seam gas. If it is not safe in Campbelltown or Macarthur, it's not safe anywhere else. In NSW, nor for that matter in Australia." Watch on youtube.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oregon residents Sound the Alarm on coal dust, coal export and climate change

Oregonians rallied on the steps of the State Capital in Salem on Wednesday 13 March to protest Australian company Ambre Energy's Morrow Pacific coal export project which would transport 8 million metric tonnes of coal annually by rail and barge down the Columbia river destined to be burnt in China, with the pollution returning by prevailing winds to the US and Canada.

Columbia Riverkeeper reported on their facebook page that 425 people attended the midweek rally in Salem to stop coal export. See pictures of the rally on Demotix. You can read more about the fight to stop coal export from the Pacific Northwest at Power Past Coal.

The fight against coal export is an international one. Newcastle residents in New South Wales, Australia are fighting against the T4 coal loader being built to expand coal export from the world's biggest coal port. It is the same fight to stop King Coal in Australia and in the United States. One of the three companies keen to export coal from the Powder River basin is Ambre Energy, a Queensland based company.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coal dust and climate change: Newcastle residents march against proposed T4 coal loader

Up to 1500 people attended a rally in Newcastle today in opposition to a fourth coal loading terminal being built. Gathering at Customs house at 10am, people marched to Civic Park, chanting 'our water, our health, more precious than your wealth' and 'one two three four, no to T4'. Protestors are concerned with the impact of coal mining on agriculture and water resources, coal dust pollution risks to public health, environmental concerns, and contribution to global climate change.

Related: Photos on Flickr

My favourite photo from the protest is a placard saying "The reason you want another coal terminal is that you are fucking Greedy" which perhaps states the obvious...but sometimes the obvious needs to be put in such blunt terms. Already China is indicating it wants to cap it's coal consumption to 4 billion tonnes per year, not much higher than it's current consumption. Much of the recent coal expansion in NSW and Queensland, and the development of other unconventional fossil fuels like CSG, has been driven by the increasing prospect of restrictions placed on fossil fuel extraction due to carbon emissions and the threat of global warming. These companies want to rip as much as they can out to make their profits before community outrage forces them to stop.

The decision by Metgasco to stop exploratory drilling in the Northern Rivers region last week was a massive victory and came after strong community outrage with protests, blockading and numerous arrests during civil disobedience by community members. Much of the community resistance has been co-ordinated by the Lock the Gate Alliance. Another victory was had when the Federal Government announced a water trigger to the EPBC Act as a reform to coal and gas mining and development

And so this Newcastle rally was organised by the Coal Terminal Action Group, an alliance of 17 community groups in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

Speakers at the rally at the end of the march included former farmer John Kaye, Brett Holmes from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Associate Professor Nick Higginbotham, Bev Smiles from the Upper Hunter community,

John Kaye said that communities must come before coal and that sustainable planning should look to the long term, not the short term, to preserve arable land and water resources in the Hunter Valley for agriculture rather than allowing massive coal mining development.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Greens propose boost to funding for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Marine Research


Hobart as an important scientific hub and gateway for Antarctic and Southern Ocean marine research, not only for Australia but for other national scientific expeditions. That is the vision of a new policy initiative launched by the Greens today to boost the research and logistics capacity of Australian Antarctic, climate and marine scientists based in Hobart.

Tasmania presently hosts the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research centre (ACE CRC) , the Australian Antarctic Division, along with CSIRO's Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research. But funding for the ACE CRC will come to an end in the next year. The University of Tasmania, CSIRO and ACE CRC are currently working on a proposal for a new Antarctic research organisation.

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean influence the regional and global climate and in this period of climate change understanding the mechanisms and changes taking place will provide valuable information for climate adaptation. Temperatures are increasing at 3 times the global average on West Antarctica, ice streams are accelerating ice mass loss with the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet a real possibility in the decades and centuries ahead. The Southern ocean is warming and freshening at a much faster rate than the global ocean. The food web in the southern ocean is changing with Penguin numbers suffering with krill decline due to Global Warming

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Melbourne heatwave a sizzling autumn end to an angry summer

Melbourne is setting another temperature record: the longest number of days of any month where the maximum temperature exceeds 30 degrees Celsius.

Monday was the 8th consecutive day of above 30C heat with a forecast of at least two more days of temperatures in the mid 30s. That will make 10 continuous days before a cool change is expected late on Wednesday brings down temperatures to a milder high 20s.

The previous record for any month was 8 continuous days set in February 1961. For the month of March, seven consecutive days above 30C is the record set in 1995.

The average temperature in Melbourne during March is 23.9C. The hottest March on record was 1940 with an average of 28.9C which we may well be on track to exceed this year.

And if you were tossing and turning in bed due to the heat, here is the reason: Melbourne experienced it's warmest March night on record on Tuesday night (12/3) according to a news report. Temperatures fell to a minimum of 26.5 degrees. The previous record was a minimum of 26.3 degrees set back in 1927.

Yes - the long term trend just keeps getting hotter. But we have had autumn heat waves before, they just weren't as long.

Related: The Bureau of Meteorology have issued a special climate statement on the Autumn heatwave: A prolonged autumn heatwave for southeast Australia (PDF) The statement was issued 15th of March 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Whitehaven Tarrawonga coal mine disrupted by protest

Frontline Action on Coal in the Leard State Forest claimed today that production at Whitehaven's Tarrawonga coal mine was disrupted due to a protester sitting on a tree platform with ropes attached to the front gate. Another twenty people supported the protestor.

The person up the tree was Jonathon Moylan who issued the ANZ hoax letter in January to garner attention on ANZ Bank financing to the tune of $1.2billion the Maule Creek coal mine.

The group claimed in a media release that all coal output and worker access to Whitehaven's Tarrawonga Mine this morning has been stopped. According to a report in the Herald a spokesperson for Whitehaven said that haulage of coal to the company's coal preparation plant had been stopped but production inside the mine had continued normally.

Front Line Action on Coal is one of the many community groups backing the "Call to Country" campaign by the Lock the Gate Alliance, calling for a federal moratorium on new coal and coal-seam gas projects and a Royal Commission into state government coal mine approval processes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

South American Lizards facing extinction due to climate change

Lizards are again in the news as being under threat from climate change. No, not those two footed political lizards we call politicians, who we elect again and again and who continue to support the corporate greed and short-sightedness of ripping the heart out of mother earth, destroying the environment and climate through subsidizing increasingly expensive fossil fuel extraction. We should be definitely trying to make them extinct. I am talking about four footed reptilian lizards who have evolved live birth as an evolutionary adaptation to living in cold climates. These are South American lizards who have successful adapted to a wide range of ecosystems.

I reported in May 2010 on the challenges facing lizards with climate change in "Why don't the people get rid of the lizards?". We are doing a very good job of driving the four footed reptilian lizards to extinction. Scientists estimate that "by 2080 local extinctions are projected to reach 39% worldwide, and species extinctions may reach 20%.". The 2010 scientific paper - Erosion of Lizard Diversity by Climate Change and Altered Thermal Niches - came to the conclusion that "lizards have already crossed a threshold for extinctions caused by climate change."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Reversing Victoria's anti-Wind Farm regulation could boost regional development

Victoria has a new Premier with Ted Baillieu falling on his own sword, with Denis Napthine, the member for South West Coast, being appointed into the role of Premier of Victoria. Just in time as new economic statistics show that the Victorian economy is in recession. Restoring sanity to planning regulations for wind farm development could boost regional development and the Government's very low environmental credentials as it faces re-election in 2014.

Related: Petition - Let's get Victoria back on track: clean energy, protect our farms

Update 14 March 2013: Sadly, Denis Napthine in conversation with Jon Faine on ABC Radio 774 Melbourne on 14 March scotched the prospect of reversing the anti-wind farm planning regulations as breaking a promise from last election in 2010. I don't know what that has to do with it, as the coalition Government has already broken several environmental policy promises as well as policies on maintaining TAFE and increasing salaries of teachers.

Friends of the Earth have highlighted one small policy change that could make a substantial difference in Victoria's regional economy and employment and also provide substantial climate emissions reduction. We are talking about reversing Baillieu's drastic planning law VC82 for wind turbines whereby anybody within a 2 kiloneter radius of a proposed wind turbine can veto the development.

"There is no doubt that Ted Baillieu was ideologically committed to opposing wind energy" said Friends of the Earth renewables spokesperson Leigh Ewbank. "The new Premier, Denis Napthine, does not have the same ideological baggage."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Coastal Wetlands under threat from Sea Level Rise says World Bank

Climate change induced sea level rise of one metre is likely to destroy 60 per cent of the developing world's wetlands says a new World Bank research working paper. The economic loss of these wetlands is estimated at approximately $630 million US dollars per year.

The World Bank study looked at the risk to coastal wetlands in 76 countries at a sea level rise of one metre. Because there are so many uncertainties with the rate of sea level rise, the one metre level was chosen to study the likely impact. This sea level may be achieved this century, with sea level rising 60% faster than IPCC projections. Sea level rise is unstoppable, but it can be slowed through emissions reduction and give us humans and ecosystems a chance to adapt. Sea levels will continue to rise for several centuries.

The study found that about 99% of the coastal wetlands at elevations of one meter or less in the Middle East and North Africa could disappear, as well as 77% in sub-Saharan Africa, 66% in East Asia and 39% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Places like the iconic Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India, a major home and refuge to the Bengal tiger, are under threat.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Water stress critical factor in reduced crop yield due to Global Warming

High temperatures over several days or more for a crop such as corn (maize) can reduce the crop yield substantially. But new crop research reveals that it is not so much the heat and heat stress that impacts the plants, but water stress caused by increased evapo-transpiration through vapour pressure deficit (VPD) - the plants version of human sweating to cool down.


The new understanding comes from research and modelling by one of Australia's leading crop scientists, Professor Graeme Hammer, from the University of Queensland. Graeme has spent much of the last decade as professor in crop science at UQ's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) developing increasingly sophisticated computer models to predict the growth and yield of agricultural crops. Lead author for the study was David Lobell, an Assistant Professor in Environmental Earth System Science and Associate Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Repost: China Takes a Leading Role in Solving Climate Change

China Takes a Leading Role in Solving Climate Change (via Skeptical Science)

Posted on 4 March 2013 by dana1981 A few months ago we looked at some hopeful climate news, including Mexico passing comprehensive climate legislation nearly unanimously, and many other efforts from a variety of countries to reduce their carbon emissions. Ultimately the biggest emitters need to get…

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moderate Volcanic activity slowing global warming by 25% suggests study

Atmospheric warming has slowed over the last decade, and scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder believe the cause of this may be all the small to medium volcanic eruptions spewing sulphur dioxide high into the atmosphere where it changes the reflectivity of the top of the atmosphere.

It is well established that major volcanic eruptions like Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 emit millions of tons of sulphur dioxide that effectively cool the earth slightly for several years. It has also been theorised that the stagnation in global warming in the mid twentieth century was caused by the atmospheric nuclear testing carried out between 1945 and 1980. It seems that nuclear winter actually occurred, although on just a small scale. A small nuclear war would also likely cause global cooling through the amount of particulate matter thrown up into the stratosphere. But really this is not something to even contemplate happening due to the amount of death and devastation involved.

Scientists have theorised that other reasons for the slowing in the rate of atmospheric global warming over the last decade is that a greater proportion of heat is being taken up by the world's oceans; and secondly that Asia, particularly India and China, have increased their sulphur dioxide emissions from coal fired power by 60% between 2000 and 2010 which has increased the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere changing the reflectivity.

East Africa drought in 2011 partially attributed to climate change

Scientists from the UK's Met Office have researched the causes of the 2011 East African drought and found human caused climate change was a significant contribution. The drought was a humanitarian disaster that killed an estimated 50,000 people, with 13 million in need of assistance in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Almost 30,000 children under the age of five were believed to have died of malnutrition in Somalia.

The drought had two components - the 'short rains' of October - November rainy season in 2010 which failed to appear, and then the absence of the 'long rains' from March - June of 2011 which really created the humanitarian crisis. The UN declared a famine on 20 July in southern Somalia, the first famine declared globally in 30 years. It was categorised as the worst drought in the region for 60 years.

Climate scientist Simon Mason from Columbia University said that East Africa has experienced a strong drying trend over the last 10 years. It is thought that rising sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean create conditions that pull moisture away from East Africa.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Permafrost climate tipping point threshold at 1.5 degrees - Siberian caves reveal



At what point might we trigger a permafrost tipping point? New research from the caves of Siberia points to a threshold temperature of just 1.5 degrees celsius. At that temperature we could see large swathes of permafrost across Siberia melting resulting in the release of more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon and methane. This would be a substantial climate feedback resulting in even greater global warming. There would also be substantial damage to natural and human environments and structures.

And we are already halfway there to warming the world by 1.5C, with an estimated global temperature rise since the Nineteenth century of between 0.7 and 0.8 degrees C. There is already enough inertia in the climate system to carry us over this threshold. Which makes every attempt to reduce carbon emissions, and the use of fossil fuels, as worthwhile to limit the permafrost thaw.

Related: Methane and CO2 in thawing Arctic permafrost a climate tipping point | "We do have an emergency" - Arctic Methane Feedback amplifying warming | Arctic Permafrost thawing raising CO2 levels

Arctic amplification, the Jet stream and Extreme weather in Northern Hemisphere

A series of major extreme weather events in the Northern hemisphere including the heatwave in the United States in 2011, the Russian heatwave of 2010, the Pakistani floods of 2010 have now been attributed to a common physical cause. The scientists suggest in a new scientific study that man-made climate change repeatedly disturbs the patterns of atmospheric flow - the atmospheric Rossby waves of the jet stream - around the globe's Northern hemisphere through a subtle resonance mechanism.

"An important part of the global air motion in the mid-latitudes of the Earth normally takes the form of waves wandering around the planet, oscillating between the tropical and the Arctic regions. So when they swing up, these waves suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US, and when they swing down, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic," explains lead author Vladimir Petoukhov.

"What we found is that during several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays. In fact, we observe a strong amplification of the usually weak, slowly moving component of these waves," says Petoukhov.