Monday, June 24, 2013

Four Hiroshimas Every Second

The heat contributed to the atmosphere over the past 15 years due to rising CO2 levels is equivalent to four Hiroshima atomic bombs per second. So said John Cook at the Climate Action Summit in Sydney this weekend.

That puts it in context, doesn't it?

It doesn't leave me feeling relaxed and comfortable. Not at all. Most of this added heat has gone into the oceans rather than into the atmosphere, land, glaciers, ice sheets or sea ice.

Ocean temperatures affect world weather patterns because they drive ocean currents.  It's one big planetary system, and we're pumping an extra four Hiroshimas of heat into it, every second.

There's no time for complacency, no time to be relaxed and comfortable. You're not sitting on the sidelines. You're right in the middle of this big planetary system. It's time to tell policy-makers that we want strong action to cut back from four Hiroshimas every second to zero.

Send your elected representative a letter today telling her/him that you care. If YOU don't speak up, they'll never know you care. Instead, they'll only hear the loud and persistent voices of oil, coal and gas businesses telling them that this isn't happening and people don't care anyway.


News from the Transformation tab.   

Coal India, the largest coal mining company in the world, will invest in solar power in order to reduce energy bills and to diversify. Unlike ExxonMobil, Coal India is preparing a succession plan for the post-carbon world.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cheap as Chips Renewables

“Three years ago, we thought wind and solar would be cheap as chips, and they’ve even gone below that,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The plummeting price of renewable energy has bankrupted more than two dozen wind and solar manufacturers, but BNEF analysts say these lower prices could lead to a tripling of investment in the sector over the next 17 years. The collapse of companies appears to be little more than natural attrition in a fast-evolving industry with an extremely bright future.

This is comparable with the car industry where just a handful of major players emerged from the hundreds of small companies that started up from the 1880s onwards.

While suppliers are suffering from falling prices, those lower prices are making more projects profitable to develop and advancing the day when renewables can rival coal and oil on cost. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that renewables will account for half of all generation capacity by 2030. They predict that much of the future market growth will be driven by low-cost attractiveness rather than by the government subsidies that have supported renewables markets so far. As costs fall, countries are paring back subsidies.


News from the Transformation tab.  

Carbon trading in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), involving nine states in the U.S. Northeast, has produced $1.6 billion in economic value added to the region. They have been so successful at reducing emissions that they plan to tighten the cap. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Now you see it, now you don't

When the stage magician makes the bird appear the audience gasps because he has conjured a bird where there was no bird before.

In the same way, a new carbon tax evokes gasps of shock as opponents complain that it is a new expense that didn't exist before.

Nonsense, of course. The magician's bird existed all along but was hidden from sight. In the same way, the cost of carbon pollution existed all along but was hidden from sight. The costs include threats to food production and water supplies; damage caused by heatwaves that are more extreme and more frequent; droughts that come more often and last longer; more severe storms and flooding; loss of habitats, plants and animals; and worsening ocean acidification.

Carbon taxes don't magically add new costs, they reveal the costs that already exist. With these costs out in the light, there's a better chance that they'll be contained so we can avoid the worst damage from dangerous climate change.


News from the Transformation tab.  

Consumer goods manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble is now sending zero waste to landfill at 45 of its sites across the globe. Procter & Gamble says less than 1% of its waste currently goes to landfill worldwide. The company has reduced the amount of waste it produces by 68% since 2008. It aims to achieve zero waste at all sites.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do what you can

Listen to this wonderful storyteller showing that every action counts.  No action is too small.

Now get out there and do it! Feet on the ground are tipping the balance right now!


News from the Transformation tab.  

Germany installed 7.6 GW of photovoltaic power plants in 2012, a new record.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Much Ado about Nothing

When people set their minds against something, they'll use any excuse to pull it down. Even the smallest molehill is blown out of proportion to become a mountain. In "Much Ado about Nothing" Shakespeare poked fun at protagonists who duelled over a verbal insult. They were ready to risk their lives for something Shakespeare saw as little more than nothing.

Similarly today, climate change deniers make a big fuss about little more than nothing. They exaggerate the importance of small differences to deny the broad consensus that exists among climate scientists.

This NASA graph shows global temperature anomalies 1880-2012 according to four main agencies (click to enlarge).

The agencies are NASA GISS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. All four institutions tally temperature data from stations around the world and make independent judgments about whether the year was warm or cool compared to other years.

Though there are minor variations from year to year, all four records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the last decade as the warmest.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) say 2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The ten warmest years in the 132-year record have all occurred since 1998. The last year that was cooler than average was 1976.

Contrarians and deniers who have their minds set against climate change pretend that the overall pattern isn't real, instead they make much ado about minor differences.

No wonder they are regarded as figures of fun who can't be taken seriously.


News from the Transformation tab.  

Australian carbon emissions fell 8.6% in the first six months after the introduction of a carbon price in July 2012. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Discount for up-front payment

You need a new washing machine and you need it now! Who is offering the better deal - the guy who says you can pay the full price on delivery, or the girl who offers a 20% discount for cash payment upfront?

If you don't have the cash, you might think that you have no option but to pay the full price on delivery. Or you might figure that you could borrow the money, pay cash, collect the 20% discount, then repay what you borrowed, and still be ahead. If you actually have the cash on you -  it's a no brainer!

When ExxonMobil boss, Rex Tillerson, acknowledged man-made global warming but said society will adapt, he was selling the line that paying for goods after they are delivered is a good idea.  This is a line that benefits ExxonMobile because it lets them keep making money selling fossil fuel while the cost of dealing with the consequences is borne by society.

The costs of paying for the consequences of climate change became more apparent this year as we counted the cost of recovering from drought,  storms and flooding.  For example, Superstorm Sandy  caused an estimated $50 billion worth of damage to the New York region.

Economists say that whatever happens we can't escape the costs of damage caused by rising CO2 emissions. The stark benefit of paying upfront is that this is the only way to avoid the worst extremes of climate change. If we don't pay upfront, we risk average temperature increases of 4-7C by the end of the century. The World Bank warns -
A global temperature increase of about 7 degrees will lead to “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems, ecosystems and associated services.”
So, how much is the upfront payment option? About 0.1% of GDP over 40 years, according to Treasury modelling for Australia's carbon price legislation.

Worldwide, the IPCC (2007) report said keeping greenhouse gas concentrations low would cost less than 3 percent of world gross domestic product by 2030.

That sounds like a deal you'd want to snap up.


News from the Transformation tab.  

Abu Dhabi: The largest single-unit solar power plant in the world is expected to be completed by the end of 2012 and officially open in the first quarter of 2013.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ducks in a row for retrofits

When you get all your ducks in a row things go swimmingly. You can hit the sweet spot.  That is exactly what is happening in Victoria where the State government is retrofitting government buildings to improve their energy efficiency.

Under the program, taxpayers will save around $1 billion in energy and water bills for their public buildings over the next 25 years. The government has invested $100 million so far and expects to invest $400 million in total.

Why has this project gone swimmingly when so many other programs have gone belly up? The reason is that it got all its ducks in a row. The ducks were the client (the government), the project parameters, and the contractors who carry out the work.

Both the client and the contractors (through their industry body the Energy Efficiency Council) researched programs in other countries and identified four best-practice principles for retrofits.
  • Financial model. The program requires service providers to design and install energy and water saving solutions, and to guarantee annual cost savings. Winning contracts are those that guarantee the highest level of savings in a seven-year pay back period.
  • Whole of government. The administrator gives individual government departments the tools and templates for managing projects.
  • Project administration. A central project facilitation group sets mandates for agencies to achieve retrofit targets, and guides tenders to a panel of pre-qualified service providers.
  • Targets were set as a percentage of energy consumption. Victoria’s target required each department to retrofit sites accounting for 20% of energy consumption by 2012, which was achieved, and 90% by 2018. Energy savings were anticipated to be 25 per cent but some buildings have doubled that outcome and the average is 42 per cent.

The central administration of projects across all government departments means that projects have been tendered in stages to avoid boom and bust cycles, ensuring a steady stream of work. Contractors know there is a stream of work stretching out to 2018, and they have been able to build a skilled workforce to meet the demand. This enhanced capacity will, in turn, multipy benefits across the whole property sector.

The program might be called the Greener Government Building program, but it is not run by the Environment agency, it is run by the bean counters in Treasury. In a curious reversal, this is the opposite of greenwashing, where products and programs try to look greener than they are. In this case, the environmental benefits are underplayed and the program is run mainly as a cost-saving exercise. What do you call that? Dollarwashing?

The Victorian program is a shining success and other State governments are following suit. They are working to get their ducks lined up so they can reap the benefits of energy efficiency retrofits.


News from the Transformation tab.   

China plans to build 3GW of solar thermal power stations by 2020. By the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), China’s installed capacity of solar thermal power will exceed that of photovoltaic generation. The 2000-MW in Shaanxi by Shandong Penglai Dianli and eSolar is the biggest project on the drawing board.  Source: CleanTechnica.