Keep searchin’ (we’ll follow the sun)

hot-topic-cover.jpg I’m still tweaking away at the new look Hot Topic: here’s today’s innovation – a Google custom search (under “recent posts” in the first sidebar), set up to look through the climate blogs in my blogroll. Want to know who’s been saying what about the Arctic? Here’s a nifty way to search through the non-crank climate blogosphere. Tip: when you get to the search results, at the top of the page (under the search box) there’s a link that says “recent4”. Clicking that will put the most recent results at the top (approximately). Please suggest sites for inclusion, and I’ll update accordingly.

Still to do: a shopping cart for the book (paperback and pdf), custom background (I’d prefer clouds to sea), comment editing restored, captions for the pix of NZ, and a few other bits and bobs. Please give me feedback!

Move on up

hot-topic-cover.jpg Sometime in the next day or so, Hot Topic will be moving to a new server and getting a spiffy new look. I’ll do my best to ensure that there’s little or no break in service, but given that my techno-competence is strictly limited there may be a hiatus – with luck only brief. There’s also the risk that some comments may get lost, especially any made after I’ve exported the blog to the new WordPress install. Tweaking the look will then take some time… so please bear with me in this, my hour of panic.

High hopes

homer.jpg If you thought the Emissions Trading Scheme was in big trouble, you were right – but for the wrong reasons. The Southland Times reports that Basil Walker, a former property developer from Queenstown, has decided that the ETS poses such a dire threat to New Zealand that he’s seeking a High Court injunction against Labour MPs to prevent the legislation being passed.

Mr Walker said he was acting in the interests of the people of New Zealand. “I’ve taken the action because someone had to. This Government is trying to force this on the people and someone had to stand up and say that there is no evidence to support it,” he said yesterday.

Not in my name, Basil. Not in my name.

The NZ C”S”C helpfully provide PDFs of his application and supporting affidavit. The latter is most amusing – a concatenation of crank arguments, from Monckton to Carter, with – according to The Southland Times – further supporting material from Muriel Newman.

Mr Walker has no legal advisers, and his chances of success are non-existent. One hopes his day in court will prove a chastening experience.

Cloud nine

NZETS.jpg National’s new energy policy [PDF], released yesterday, includes a promise that it will “introduce an emissions trading scheme within nine months of taking office that balances our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities.” Other highlights of the policy document include lifting the government’s moratorium on development of baseload thermal power generation (preferring gas over coal) but accepting the goal of 90% renewable generation by 2025, more seed money for oil and gas exploration, reform of the RMA, and a $1,000 grant for domestic solar hot water installations. Also released yesterday: the government’s proposed National Policy Statement on Renewable Energy Generation, designed to smooth the consent process for new renewable schemes. As you might expect, No Right Turn and Frogblog (one, two) are unimpressed, while David Farrar seems to think more hydro’s the answer (though his commenters are rabidly pro-nuclear).

There’s been plenty of attention paid to the end of thermal moratorium, but I’m particularly interested in how National plans to get a revised ETS ready within nine months of forming the next government. In the absence of any legislation before the election – which is looking more and more likely – the announcement suggests that National will take the framework of the existing scheme, tinker with the details, and then reintroduce it to parliament. The “tinkering” is reasonably predictable. There will be some sort of cave-in to the big emitters on “economic” grounds. This could involve bigger allocations of free credits and a longer phase out period – and there will be some sort of attempt to make the scheme line up with Australia’s. Agriculture might even be able to push for its entry to the scheme to be delayed even longer, once again on “economic” grounds.

In the absence of an ETS before the election, it is clearly good news that National has publicly committed to introducing some form of trading scheme early in its first term. Any ETS is better than none – any carbon pricing is better than none. The bad news is that the whole economy is left in limbo in the interim. What advice does National have have for the forestry sector, who are – at least theoretically – already in an existing scheme? I hope that before the election National will provide more detail on its ETS plans. This is a hugely important piece of policy with wide-reaching effects, and the electorate deserves to know more – much more – about Key & Co’s plans before deciding whether to support them.

Celia of the seals

sealhat.jpg It appears that my wish is someone’s command. Last month, blogging on the continuing break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf, I noted a reference to “seal hats” as data gathering devices and expressed a wish to see them. And here they are! Little devices glued to the heads of elephant seals that gather data as the seals as they go about their daily business. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science explains:

Here, we show that southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) equipped with oceanographic sensors can measure ocean structure and water mass changes in regions and seasons rarely observed with traditional oceanographic platforms. In particular, seals provided a 30-fold increase in hydrographic profiles from the sea-ice zone, allowing the major fronts to be mapped south of 60°S and sea-ice formation rates to be inferred from changes in upper ocean salinity. […] By measuring the high-latitude ocean during winter, elephant seals fill a ‘‘blind spot’’ in our sampling coverage, enabling the establishment of a truly global ocean-observing system.

Abstract here, full paper here[PDF]. More coverage at New Scientist, e! Science News.