Weekend roundup #12 & #35

Thousands of diplomats are on the road to Bali to start the negotiations for a post-Kyoto emissions reductions deal. I’ll be posting more on that as the conference progresses, but in the meantime Brian Fallow provides some useful context in the Herald, and Liz Banas at Radio NZ National produces an excellent Focus On Politics on the conference (listen live at 5-10pm Saturday, podcast available). Meanwhile, the UN turned up the pressure by issuing its latest Human Development Report [PDF], which gives us only ten years to get down to serious action.

  • To get up to speed with cap and whatever, the US-based Tomales Bay Institute has issued a concise little report , Carbon Capping – A Citizen’s Guide, which gives a good overview of how carbon trading works [PDF]. Very US-centric, and not exactly highbrow, but very clear and with a great glossary (via desmogblog).
  • Oxfam issued a briefing paper, Climate Alarm: Disasters increase as climate change bites [PDF], which concludes that climate change is already increasing the number of disasters affecting communities around the world. “The total number of natural disasters worldwide now averages 400– 500 a year, up from an average of 125 in the early 1980s. The number of climate-related disasters, particularly floods and storms, is rising far faster than the number of geological disasters, such as earthquakes.” [BBC], Independent (UK)]
  • I’ve been getting quite a few hits after TV3 featured New Plymouth’s electric car builder Gavin Shoebridge, featured here a few months ago. Apparently his YouTube pages (First Run here) have had more than 100,000 hits. A bit more than HT. It seems we’re less sexy than his Tredia…
  • On the clean energy front, the Aotearoa Wave and Tidal Energy Association reckons that tidal and wave power could be producing electricity in NZ in five years, there are discussions in Europe about building a 8,000km DC power grid to link giant windfarms scattered around the continent (so that somewhere always has wind), and The Guardian reports on research into cheap solar photovoltaics using organic polymers.
  • The whinging by big emitters about the ETS continues: Fran O’Sullivan details complaints by Solid Energy and Air NZ chair John Palmer about the “lack of debate” and the rubbishing of the NZI’s Fast Follower report (who, me?), while John Pfahlert of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand is given space by the Herald to add to the noise. More sensibly, on the other side of the world, British business lobby group the CBI (not a notably left-wing organisation) has called for fundamental change in British business, and Prince Charles has whipped up a statement signed by many of the world’s largest corporates urging the Bali conference to take serious action. From the Herald: “Contrary to the argument that mandatory pollution cuts would harm the economy, the business leaders’ petition says ambitious emissions reductions would “create significant business opportunities“. [Update: Full communiqué available here.]
  • Fonterra has commissioned a report into its carbon footprint [Herald , Scoop], AgResearch is going to analyse the lifecycle carbon footprint for sheep meat, and MAF prepared a report [PDF] for the Primary Industries 2020 Summit, held in Christchurch this week, that warns: The drivers [of change] are global warming, climate change, and extreme weather; energy cost and supply; geopolitical power shifts, and international trade and investment; ecosystem degradation, and water quality and availability; demographic shifts; and technological advances.”
  • Meridian hopes to convert Stewart Island to 100% renewable energy, starting the process in January.
  • Further south, the Andrill project has been making rapid progress on another core from the seabed in McMurdo Sound. By now they should have a 1,100m core to set alongside last year’s 1,285m core – 20 million years of climate information drilled from the seabed.

Sharpening Antarctica’s image

I like Google Earth. I like looking down on my neighbours to see what’s going on behind their shelter belts, and because I like monitoring what’s going on at the poles, I have the National Snow & Ice Data Centre’s overlay switched on most of the time. It shows current sea ice extent, snow cover and so on. But when I swoop over Antarctica, the underlying images provided by Google are rather disappointing – low resolution and distorted. I was therefore very pleased to discover that a collaboration between NASA, the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and the British Antarctic Survey has created a new map of the continent based on Landsat imagery. From NASA’s press release:

The map is a realistic, nearly cloudless satellite view of the continent at a resolution 10 times greater than ever before with images captured by the NASA-built Landsat 7 satellite. With the unprecedented ability to see features half the size of a basketball court, the mosaic offers the most geographically accurate, true-color, high-resolution views of Antarctica possible.

You can play with the map at the USGS site, but the interface is rather clunky. However, there are hints that the new map will be available for Google Earth before long. Can’t wait….

It’s not just the cows

It’s been a quiet few days chez Hot Topic, as the sun’s been shining (until today), the farm’s been calling and friends have been dining, but I can’t pass over this piece of news. A new web site called CARMA – Carbon Monitoring for Action – was launched last week [Science Daily ]. It pulls together information on carbon emissions from the 50,000 power plants around the world and the 20,000 companies that run them, and ranks countries, regions and cities on their emissions. So what happens when you have a look at New Zealand?

As you might expect, Huntly dwarfs the competition, credited with producing 7.6 million tons of CO2 per year, but if you click on the emissions intensity tab (far right) – the amount of CO2 per unit of power generated – a couple of Fonterra factories top the charts. Step forward Waitoa and Edendale – NZ’s most intense/least efficient emitters of CO2. Can’t be good for their performance on Fonterra’s internal “carbon account“. CARMA is a treasure trove of information, well worth a long look.

Chris hates Greenpeace

False balance time at the Herald. Last week they gave Greenpeace climate campaigner Susannah Bailey a chance to look at how certain sectors of the business community (Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Business Roundtable etc) are lobbying against current plans for an emissions trading scheme, this week they give NZ Climate “Science” Coalition science advisor Chris de Freitas space to express a different point of view. Bailey’s language was a deal more measured than de Freitas, who indulges in some vibrant green-bashing:

The fanatical name calling and personal attacks expose the strong ideological elements that drive global warming alarmist thinking. It’s as if the depth of passion is overcompensation for doubt and uncertainty. Why else would environmentalists squander so much effort trying to discredit individuals and organisations who disagree?

Warning: I’m about to squander some time trying to discredit de Freitas – whose grasp of the underlying science seems a little – how shall I put this – shaky for an associate professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Auckland.

Continue reading “Chris hates Greenpeace”

Last post for Lawson

Two more bits of Lawson in the media – the last, I hope. Brian Fallow gave him a free ride in the Herald, and Chris Laidlaw conducted a slightly more probing interview on his Radio NZ National Sunday morning show (podcast). In both cases he’s allowed to get away with his usual nonsense – no warming since 1998, adaptation is all that’s needed. Why neither interviewer felt able to challenge Lawson on his misrepresentation of the facts is a mystery. Due deference to an important elder statesman is one thing, allowing him to get away with telling porkies is quite another. To be fair to Laidlaw, Lawson was more than balanced later by an interesting panel discussion on climate change impacts in the Pacific.

[Update: Muriel Newman has posted Lawson’s Thursday night speech as a “guest column” on her NZ CPR web site, and used it as a springboard for her own thoughts. It is a farrago of nonsense, and she – and the Business Roundtable – should be ashamed of themselves for promoting as a sensible contribution to the policy debate.]