Friday, July 25, 2008

Swamps ("Wetlands") a ticking 'carbon bomb'

These guys send themselves up. After we hear what a bomblike disaster it is to destroy swamps, we read: "About 60% of wetlands worldwide have been destroyed in the past century". So how come nobody noticed the bomb going off?

The world's wetlands, threatened by development, dehydration and climate change, could release a planet-warming "carbon bomb" if they are destroyed, ecological scientists said on Sunday. Wetlands contain 771 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, one-fifth of all the carbon on Earth and about the same amount of carbon as is now in the atmosphere, the scientists said before an international conference linking wetlands and global warming.

If all the wetlands on the planet released the carbon they hold, it would contribute powerfully to the climate-warming greenhouse effect, said Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of the Pantanal Regional Environment Program in Brazil. "We could call it the carbon bomb," Teixeira said by telephone from from Cuiaba, Brazil, site of the conference. "It's a very tricky situation."

Some 700 scientists from 28 nations are meeting this week at the Intecol International Wetlands Conference at the edge of Brazil's vast Pantanal wetland to look for ways to protect these endangered areas. Wetlands are not just swamps: they also include marshes, peat bogs, river deltas, mangroves, tundra, lagoons and river flood plains. Together they account for 6 percent of Earth's land surface and store 20% of its carbon. They also produce 25% of the world's food, purify water, recharge aquifers and act as buffers against violent coastal storms.

Historically, wetlands have been regarded as an impediment to civilisation. About 60% of wetlands worldwide have been destroyed in the past century, mostly due to draining for agriculture. Pollution, dams, canals, groundwater pumping, urban development and peat extraction add to the destruction.


NASA Discovers 70% Of Global Climate Due To Pacific Ocean Oscillations - Not CO2

Well, well. Congress learned something shattering today, which will have the Church of Al Gore/IPCC running in fear of their lost credibility. It has been scientifically demonstrated that 70% of the Global Warming in the last century (and cooling in the last decade) is due to the Pacific Ocean Oscillations, not CO2:
One necessary result of low climate sensitivity is that the radiative forcing from greenhouse gas emissions in the last century is not nearly enough to explain the upward trend of 0.7 deg. C in the last 100 years. This raises the question of whether there are natural processes at work which have caused most of that warming.

On this issue, it can be shown with a simple climate model that small cloud fluctuations assumed to occur with two modes of natural climate variability - the El Nino/La Nina phenomenon (Southern Oscillation), and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation - can explain 70% of the warming trend since 1900, as well as the nature of that trend: warming until the 1940s, no warming until the 1970s, and resumed warming since then.

The gentlemen making this claim is the lead investigator one of NASA's flagship Earth Observing Observatories (H/T Ice Cap). I have the honor of working on this mission on the periphery (Aqua), it is operated out of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.

I posted on some of these effects yesterday. What this means is no matter how much you change your CO2 footprint, how much you try to be CO2 green, no matter how much liberal governments tax you - you cannot save the planet from its natural cycles. Remember, the draconian actions being proposed by the Church of Al Gore/IPCC, which will run into the tens of trillions of dollars and cripple the world economies, is only meant to reduce today's CO2 levels by a fraction.

Say they reduced the CO2 25%. Say the CO2 is the driver for the remaining 30% of Global Warming (which it cannot be, but let's just be only half as ridiculous as the IPCC), then all that effort would only impact 7.5% of the forces driving the global climate. The other 92.5% would roll on, impervious to the effort. And since CO2 is not 100% of the remaining 30% of the equation (more like 10%), a more realistic expectation is that all the suffering that would go into dropping CO2 levels by 25% would result in a less than 1% change in the forces driving our climate. In other words, you might as well light a match to all that money because it would have no effect, you would be throwing it away on a fool's errand.

Must be the week to bust myths, because this means all those efforts to drive down CO2 emissions are a scientifically proven waste of time. I see a lot of Green turning to Red here soon (from the embarrassment of being so wrong).

Update: I like this part of the testimony where the Priests from the Church of Al Gore/IPCC did not even bother to look at this results:
While other researchers need to further explore and validate my claims, I am heartened by the fact that my recent presentation of these results to an audience of approximately 40 weather and climate researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder last week (on July 17, 2008) led to no substantial objections to either the data I presented, nor to my interpretation of those data.

And, curiously, despite its importance to climate modeling activities, no one from Dr. Kevin Trenberth's facility, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), bothered to drive four miles down the road to attend my seminar, even though it was advertised at NCAR.

Now isn't that a piece of work?



When the political wind changes direction, it can leave a Prime Minister looking very silly - almost as if what mothers used to warn their children about not pulling faces was actually true.

Thus Gordon Brown's last Budget, which removed the concession of a 10p in the pound tax rate for millions of the least well paid, was thought perfectly acceptable at the time, including by the vast majority of Labour MPs, who had cheered the then Chancellor in the House of Commons. Now - as its measures are just about to come into force - it is almost universally excoriated: how could Gordon have been so insensitive?

The reason for this near-180 degree shift in sentiment is not hard to find. Food prices have risen sharply since Brown's final Budget - and so, even more, has the price of heating a home. These are items which form a very significant percentage of the domestic budgets of the least well-off, so they now feel understandably furious to be faced with a government-imposed drop in take-home pay.

This bitter atmosphere lends particular piquancy to a long-arranged meeting later this week between the Business Secretary, John Hutton, and the country's six largest suppliers of energy - the so-called "fuel poverty summit". The Government is understandably concerned about further imminent increases in electricity bills, especially against the background of consumer groups such as energywatch loudly protesting that "an increase in utility bills of 25 per cent will consign another million households to fuel poverty".

Up until now, it has been possible to blame such increases in costs on the rise in the wholesale price of the main raw materials - oil and gas. Now, however, rather as in the style of Gordon Brown's tax changes, it is the Government which is becoming an active agent in the imposition of ever-higher costs on the consumer.

As part of an EU directive designed to combat climate change, Britain is committed to generating 20 per cent of its energy by 2020 through "renewables" - a tenfold increase in the current figure. Yet even the prevailing historically high prices of oil and gas provide domestic heating at between a half and a fifth of the cost of similar amounts of energy from renewables.

By chance, I spoke about this last week to the head of E.ON UK, the British arm of Europe's biggest supplier of wind power. Paul Golby explained to me that, because it was very hard to envisage much of a contribution from renewables for energy used by transport, this means that we would need to generate about 45 per cent of our domestic electricity bills from such sources - principally wind power - in order to conform with the EU directive known as the Renewables Obligation.

According to Mr Golby, meeting such a commitment will involve an increase in electricity generating costs of about œ10bn per year; this is equivalent to almost œ400 per household - or, in the roughest terms, an increase of about 40 per cent in annual electricity bills. Try selling that to the British public; and, of course, the Government hasn't.

As Mr Golby told me, with understandably diplomatic understatement: "The politicians have not been entirely honest about the cost of our renewables commitment, and so the public don't really know what's coming their way."

I told Mr Golby that I thought he was being somewhat naive if he genuinely expected any government to volunteer to the public that it was responsible for a swingeing increase in energy bills, especially if it thought it could get away with blaming the increase on anyone else - such as Mr Golby and his colleagues.

So far, the likes of E.ON - perhaps because they also stand to make what amount to large heavily-subsidised revenues from wind-power - have been very careful not to blame the Government. I forecast that this gentlemanly conduct will not last. Soon each side will be blaming the other, in a desperate attempt to avoid the full force of the public's anger.

The British public might become even more furious when it learns that one reason for the extra cost of wind power is that its inherent variability means that we will still need to retain our entire existing network of conventional power stations as back-up. That is because it is not a good idea for us to endure what happened two months ago in Texas, America's biggest wind-power producing state: a sudden drop in wind combined with a fall in temperatures led to what was described as "an electric emergency" - customers in west Texas were deprived of power for 90 minutes.

One thing is clear; the British public does need educating about this: even one of The Independent's most intelligent commentators wrote here last week that "The mini-windmill on David Cameron's new house is an economical way for an individual household to generate electricity, even contribute to the national grid". Well, that's if you consider it economical to spend thousands of pounds on a roof-top turbine that produces - even according to its supporters - no more than 1 megawatt hour per year, worth œ40 unsubsidised on the wholesale electricity market. As a contribution to reducing CO2 emissions it's about as cost-effective and meaningful as cycling to the House of Commons while having your chauffeur-driven car follow you with your briefcase, suit and black lace-up shoes.

If a serious economic downturn does hit this country, then such extravagant gestures, far from attracting praise, might begin to seem Nero-like in their irrelevance to an economy threatened by the flames of recession. Some Ipsos-Mori polling data published last week by the Financial Times showed that over the 12 months to January 2008, the proportion of those in Britain declaring "the environment" to be their biggest concern fell from almost 20 per cent to just 8 per cent.

On a more long-term sweep, it was fascinating - though perhaps not surprising - to see that concern about the environment rose and fell in direct inverse proportion to concern about the domestic economy.

The headline on the FT's article was: "Greens fear voters will turn selfish in difficult times". That's one way of looking at it; but I don't think any mainstream politician will risk calling the electorate "selfish" if the public rise up against a state-imposed increase of up to 40 per cent in the cost of their domestic electricity bills.

In fact, after his taxing experience of the past few weeks, I imagine that Gordon Brown will be wondering just how to get out of the Government's commitment to do exactly that, as part of the EU Renewables Obligation. He'll be in company, of course - the company of every other European leader. The only uncertainty is whether they'll admit it - even to each other, in private.



Three current articles below

Conservative leader gets support on climate change policy

A COHORT of Queensland climate change sceptics will be Liberal leader Brendan Nelson's strongest allies next week. And the Coalition boss will need their help if he wants to back away from a 2012 deadline for emission trading. Senator Barnaby Joyce is the most forthright of the MPs growing increasingly hostile to an emissions trading scheme and claiming the jury is still out on the science.

National Party leader Warren Truss also appears to be siding with former Liberal Cabinet minister Kevin Andrews - a strong sceptic who is urging Dr Nelson to wait until other major polluters show their hand before settling on an ETS date.

Ron Boswell, Bruce Scott and veteran Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane have all consistently expressed reservations about climate change, while Liberals such as Andrew Laming don't want to comment on the issue until after next week's meeting.

But as federal Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey was yesterday insisting, the Coalition wouldn't be forced into declaring an ETS date, Senator Joyce was calling for rationality to return to an issue with fundamentalist religious overtones. "And Garnaut has suddenly appeared as some sort of high priest," he said of the author of a draft report on an ETS scheme, Ross Garnaut. "Those who question are immediately attacked. It's all starting to appear a little Spanish Inquisitionish."

Senator Joyce said Labor had appeared to fall for a self-indulgent conceit in committing to a 2010 deadline. "And that is that the rest of the world cares what Australia is doing on the issue," he said. "Let's be honest here, the rest of the world doesn't give a toss what we're doing. They're not walking around Washington discussing an Australian ETS."

Senator Boswell said he and many of his colleagues wanted serious scientific proof of climate change before they started altering economic fundamentals to incorporate an ETS. "We're practical - we want to know what we're getting for our money," he said. Mr Truss has said any Australian scheme should move ahead hand-in-hand with other polluters. Dr Nelson had indicated earlier this month Australia should not move until other big polluters acted. But he modified his position to the 2012 deadline, which is supported by Opposition Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull and Environment spokesman Greg Hunt. Mr Hockey said the Coalition could not be expected to commit to a specific date until the Federal Government released more information.


Huge cost of Rudd's Green dream

FOUR out of five power stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, both coal-fired power stations in South Australia and several generators in NSW and Queensland could close down under an emissions trading regime designed to meet even a modest greenhouse reduction target. New modelling for the electricity industry finds that Australia could achieve cuts of 10 or 20 per cent in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 2000 levels - but only after a massive upheaval in the energy sector. Even the lower target of a 10 per cent cut would push the price of carbon emissions to levels that would close down 15 per cent of the nation's electricity generating capacity on the east coast and require $33billion in new investment in replacement clean energy generation, such as wind, solar, combined cycle gas turbine and geothermal power.

A 10per cent reduction target would result in a carbon price rising to $45 a tonne by 2020, the modelling found, pushing domestic power bills up by 24per cent, or an average of $250 a year. A 20per cent target would take the carbon price to $55 a tonne and push power bills up by 28per cent. Under an ETS, companies and industries that could not meet emissions-reduction targets - and were not exempt - would be forced to buy permits to continue polluting. Labor wants to create an ETS by 2010 but has not yet set the emissions targets that will underpin it.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia says the modelling, which it commissioned from analysis firm ACIL Tasman, proves the need for the Government to support players in the energy sector because it asks them to finance billions of dollars in new investment at the same time as government decision-making means existing plants are closed down early. "If the Government goes down this path, then it is vital that it offers support to recognise the impact on asset values so that investors can make new investments in cleaner generating capacity with confidence," ESAA chief executive Brad Page said.

The Government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, argued against any compensation to the electricity sector under an ETS. But the Government's green paper on an ETS, released last week, acknowledged the need for "a limited amount of direct assistance to existing coal-fired electricity generators to ameliorate the risk of adversely affecting the investment environment". The green paper says it would deliver this assistance through a new fund - called the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme - but gives no indication of how much money could be set aside in it. It also promises "structural adjustment" money to help workers and communities in hard-hit regions.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd reassured the LNG industry that the ETS would not threaten billions of dollars in new investments in the sector, saying he was "confident there is a way forward".

The Government has announced a long-term target of a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2050, but it is waiting for detailed Treasury modelling before committing to an interim target for 2020. A 10 per cent cut would be at the lower end of expectations for a 2020 target, even taking into account government assurances that an ETS will be brought in gently.

The ESAA modelling confirms Victoria's Latrobe Valley will be by far the hardest hit by the new carbon price, with the Loy Yang B, Hazelwood, Yallourn and Morwell power stations likely to close and only the Loy Yang A to continue in operation. South Australia would lose both its coal-fired power stations - Playford and Northern. NSW, which is in the process of trying to privatise its electricity generation, would lose Redbank in the Hunter Valley, with Lidell under threat if the emissions-reduction target was set at 20 per cent. Queensland would lose the Collinsville station near Mackay, Callide B near Biloela and, under the 20 per cent target, also Comalco's Gladstone plant.

The modelling also shows that the wholesale price of power would rise steeply to meet the 10 per cent target, with the increased costs varying greatly between states depending on the extent to which they have to rebuild their generating capacity. In Tasmania, with its hydro generation capacity, the wholesale power price is predicted to increase by 25 per cent, but in Victoria the hikes could be up to 55 per cent, under a 10 per cent reduction. In South Australia prices would rise 35 per cent, Queensland by 50 per cent and NSW by 52 per cent.

The ESSA modelling says the federal Government will also need to invest at least $4.5billion in extra transmission lines to remote locations, where wind and geothermal power is generated, and in new gas pipelines.


Immigration must be cut to fight climate change - uni study

This is going to perplex Kevvy. He likes both immigration AND environmentaliusm

IMMIGRATION must be slashed if Australia has any chance of seriously tackling climate change, says a Monash University study. The report said Australia's high population growth would be a major driver of greenhouse emissions, and would counter tough government measures to reduce carbon output, The Herald Sun reports. But the Rudd Government and its climate adviser Ross Garnaut were ignoring the population issue at their peril, said the study, entitled Labor's Greenhouse Aspirations, by Monash's Centre for Population and Urban Research.

The nation's migrant intake is at record levels, with the Government recently announcing an increase of 37,500 places for 2008-09. Given current migration and fertility rates, the population will increase by at least 10 million to 31.6 million by 2050.

Monash researchers Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy used computer modelling to predict the effect of population and economic growth on greenhouse emissions. If no carbon trading scheme is introduced, Australian emissions will reach 797 million tonnes - or four times Labor's target - by 2050, the researchers found. Emissions would only fall to 502 million tonnes if the nation managed to cut carbon intensity levels by one per cent a year under a tough cap and trade scheme.

"The problem with radical decarbonisation proposals is the limited political feasibility of these measures," the authors said. "It is hard to understand why the population driver has been ignored in the recent debate, including the work of the Garnaut climate change review." The authors said that net migration would contribute to most of the 50 per cent increase in Australia's population over the next 40 years. "Like all Australians they'll be living at twice the standard of living of current residents if the Government's predictions for per capita economic growth are correct," they said. "Clearly, it's not possible to achieve the Government's target of 60 per cent reduction in emissions at the same time we add an extra 10 million people living at twice the current income level."

The authors called for immigration to be slashed, and the population stabilised at about 22 million by 2050. Prof Garnaut has predicted the population will reach 47 million by 2100. The Monash report, which appeares in the latest issue of university journal People and Place, will be released today.



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