Wednesday, January 28, 2015
While climate science has been a prominent concern of many university based researchers, these same venerable education institutions have failed to walk the talk in regard to applying climate change science to climate risk investment of their financial assets. A new global survey of universities has found that the overwhelming majority are financially exposed to the risk of stranded assets and physical impacts of climate change.
The global survey by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project was sent to 278 universities during the first half of 2014. Just six universities chose to formally respond to the survey. Research analysts then analysed public information on each university's climate risk investment policies and scored all universities according to policies and performance on: transparency, risk management, low-carbon investment, active ownership, and investment chain alignment.
"This is the first survey in the world to look holistically at universities' endeavours to manage the systemic risks posed to their portfolios," said Dr John Hewson, Chair of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project.
"It is shocking that universities - thought to be at the cutting edge of innovation and problem-solving - cannot grasp the simple mathematics of wasted capital and the need for more transparency in investing, not less," said Dr Hewson.
The report found that 98% of universities are doing little to nothing about climate change risk in their investment portfolios, receiving a D or X grade. Over 75% of universities had no publicly available information on their websites regarding their climate risk management earning an X grade. D Grade is where climate change risk management is rated as poor, and X grade is where no information could be found to rate climate change risk processes at all.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Washington for a series of meetings on security and terrorism. But equating Climate Change as a security threat? That is a question to be evaded and instead put out some untruthful spin on the Government's climate change 'good story'.
Bishop was invited to attend President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address by House of Representatives speaker John Boehner.
In his 6th State of the Union Speech to the Republican controlled Congress, Obama continued his strong stance on tackling climate change. This is the excerpt on climate change from the full transcript of the prepared speech available from CNN.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Arctic sea ice has been on a long downwards trend and this is projected to continue.
There are various ways to measure sea ice.
Sea Ice extent gives you the area of ice that varies between Summer and winter peaks. It is on a long downward trend. It is relatively easy to measure by satellite remote sensing.
Ice volume is a much better measure of sea ice, but it is notoriously difficult to estimate with accuracy, involving people doing actual thickness measurements which involves travel by helicopter or submarine and then estimation.
The relative age of sea ice in the Arctic, and the extent of different aged sea ice, provides an intermediary method for gauging the state of sea ice. This can be done through remote sensing, although it is not without it's own measurement problems and level of inaccuracy.
NASA has now produced this 1 minute video showing that old ice is now exceedingly rare. This affects the thickness of ice and the susceptibility to melting with summer. The animation tracks the various levels of different aged ice from 1987 to November 2014.
Each winter most of the Arctic sea freezes over and forms new ice. As winter recedes, sea ice melts and some gets pushed through the Fram Strait. This ice loss used to be replaced by new sea ice formed in the Beaufort Gyre, northeast of Alaska. But this century with warmer waters near Alaska less ice has been able to form to replace that lost through the Fram Strait. Old ice 9 years or more is now exceedingly rare.
"While perennial ice increased between 2013 and 2014, the long-term trend continues to be downward, the Report Card authors stated. In 1980s, the oldest ice (fourth-year ice and older) comprised 26 percent of the ice pack; as of March 2014, it was 10%. And as the animation above shows, very old ice (say, 7-8 years or older) has become even more rare." says the NASA article.
Jellyfish and #climate change: Abbott's CSIRO budget cuts halt Queensland marine stinger forecasting research
Jellyfish, jellyfish. I hope you love jellyfish! We are creating just the right conditions in our oceans for more jellyfish, including the deadly species of Box jellyfish and Irukandji. We are changing our marine environment giving an advantage to jellyfish over the fish we love to catch and eat, and also giving jellyfish a chance to roam further with warming sea surface temperatures due to climate change.
Some of those jellyfish are also very venomous and can deliver lethal stings requiring emergency treatment and hospitalisation that cost our health system and the reputation of our tourism industry. Australian marine scientists have developed a proto-type method for Northern Queensland for forecasting peak times for marine stingers, especially the deadly Irukandji species. But the Abbott Government budget cuts to CSIRO funding in 2014 have brought this research to a stand-still. The reduced funding and employment in marine science comes just as these venomous jellyfish are also spreading their range with warming seas creating a wider Australian, and indeed global health problem.
Jellyfish population blooms are trending upwards (Brotz et al 2012), an indicator of marine ecosystems out of balance due to oceans changing much more rapidly due to human influences over the last century.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
A new study published in Nature argues that 80 per cent of global fossil fuel reserves needs to remain un-burned if we are to limit global warming temperature rise to 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century. This has implications for new coal developments in Queensland including the Galilee basin coal mines being proposed and the recently approved (19 December 2014) Acland Phase 3 coal mine on the Darling Downs.
The commitment to limit climate change to this level was made by heads of state at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, one of the few positive agreements to come out of those talks.
Lead author Dr Christophe McGlade, Research Associate at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources said: “We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2°C temperature limit. Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2°C goal. If they go ahead with developing their own resources, they must be asked which reserves elsewhere should remain unburnt in order for the carbon budget not to be exceeded.”
The table above shows how much reserves from each region need to stay in the ground. The authors include two sets of figures: one where Carbon capture and storage commercial technology is developed by 2025 for widespread implementation, and one without carbon capture and storage. I have highlighted the OECD Pacific region.
I think the painfully slow development of CCS shows that it is an uneconomic technology that will be made irrelevant by the advances in solar panel efficiencies and rollout of wind power. But that also limits the amount of fossil fuels we can burn and still meet the 2 degree target.
Without CCS being implemented, Australia must keep 95 per cent of coal reserves in the ground, unexploited, un-burned. That means the proposed coal mines planned for Queensland's Galilee basin need to remain undeveloped no matter the economics of the projects.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Photo: Adelaide bushfires, as seen from the airport. Copyright: eosdude/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
This article originally appeared at Nofibs.com.au
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has visited the bushfire stricken communities in the Adelaide Hills outlining disaster recovery and short-term income assistance payments to bushfire victims, but refusing to be drawn on whether climate change has influenced bushfires. I investigate some of the recent science into the links between bushfire and climate Change for South Australia and the climate of denial being put forward by the Abbott government.
You can read a report of Abbott's visit to the fire ravaged area by Shalailah Medhora at the Guardian: Adelaide bushfires: PM announces cash payments for people left homeless.
The Adelaide Hills Sampson Flat bushfire has burnt more than 12,000 hectares, with up to 38 houses and numerous sheds, livestock, including destroying the Tea Tree Gully Kennels and Cattery with the loss of life of many family pets.
One of the longest continuous instrumental temperature records dating back to 1659, the Central England temperature record shows 2014 was the warmest year on record with a mean temperature of 10.93 °C, narrowly ahead of the previous record of 10.87 °C set in 2006.
Averaged across the UK it was also the warmest year on record with the annual mean temperature at 9.9 °C, which was 1.1 °C above the long-term (1981-2010) average and beat the previous record of 9.7 °C set in 2006. Eight of the top ten warmest years for the UK have occurred since 2002.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
California Governor Jerry Brown announced at his inauguration that Climate Change action would be prominent for his next 4 years of his administration. But all is not well in California with large public opposition to shale oil fracking championed by Governor Brown, and the state still being in the worst drought in 1,200 years exacerbated by high temperatures due to climate change. Fracking Opposition groups have adopted the slogan "Governor Brown: Climate Leaders Don't Frack"
Already California is on track to meet it's target of a third of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Brown announced that this should increase to 50 per cent of electricity generation by 2030, plus a 50 per cent reduction in petroleum use in cars and trucks, and to double the efficiency of existing buildings, and use cleaner heating fuels.
"And we must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon." said Governor Brown.
He emphasised the enormous need for collaboration between scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs businesses and officials, "I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles. How we achieve these goals and at what pace will take great thought and imagination mixed with pragmatic caution. It will require enormous innovation, research and investment."
But under Jerry Brown fracking by Big Oil will continue in California. In fact, new reguulations for fracking in California have already been written, six months before the mandated scientific studies have been completed, according to environmental journalist Dan Bacher in this San Fransisco Bay Area Indymedia story. “California has essentially reversed the regulatory process when it comes to fracking,” said Jackie Pomeroy, spokesperson for CAFrackFacts. “State regulators have finalized California's fracking rules a full six months before any of the mandated scientific studies have been completed."
Fracking is just a glimpse into the dark side of Brown's poor environmental record revealed by Dan Bacher. See his June 2013 article in CounterPunch: Jerry Brown: Worse Than Schwarzenegger on Environment?, and his September 2014 article: Big Oil’s Favorite Governor: Jerry Brown.
Australia experienced its third warmest year on record in 2014 with an Australian annual national mean 0.91 °C above the average. Autumn was also the third warmest on record and Spring set a new national record for average temperature.
It was also the warmest year on record for New South Wales (0.04 °C above the previous record set in 2009), the second-warmest for Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, equal-third-warmest for Queensland and fourth-warmest for Western Australia.
Maximum temperatures were 1.16 °C above average, and minimum temperatures 0.66 °C above average.
The annual mean temperature was the second-highest on record with an anomaly of +1.28 °C, behind +1.29 °C recorded in 2013.
Peter Hannam in the Sydney Morning Herald notes that Sydney had a record warm year with few cold spells. "Last year was the city's equal warmest for overnight temperatures and its second-warmest for means and maximums in 156 years of record keeping at Observatory Hill."
Natasha Boddy, writing in the Canberra Times, says that Canberra sweltered through third-warmest year in 2014