Still warmin’ after all these years (Prat watch #5.6)


Courtesy of Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, a very nice graphical demonstration of why “warming” hasn’t stopped in the last decade (or two). Nielsen-Gammon took the GISS global temperature series, classified years as El Niño dominated, neutral, or La Niña, excluded the influence of the Pinatubo-cooled years in the early 90s, and then calculated the trends for each set. The graph really says it all, but his blog post provides all the analysis. The next El Niño looks as though it’s going to be interesting

[The author, composing.]

Rebutting myths and misconceptions about wind energy

I’ve been listening to a lively keynote address given to the NZ Wind Energy Conference earlier this month. The speaker was Lawrence Jones from Alstom Grid. He’s an expert on integrating variable renewable energy sources into global power grids. It was a heartening talk for anyone concerned to see renewable energy, wind in particular in this case, advance rapidly to take the primary position it must do if we are to have any hope of staving off the worst effects of global warming. All the more heartening because it was based on a major research project conducted by Alstom Grid on behalf of the US Department of Energy exploring the challenges and best practices for grid integration in many countries of the world.

I’ll offer a brief overview of the talk here, but I recommend it as worth listening to in full. There’s an audio of it on the Wind Energy Association website, and the accompanying slides are on this pdf file. Continue reading “Rebutting myths and misconceptions about wind energy”

Down by the seaside

This year’s NZ Climate Change Centre conference, to be held at Te Papa in Wellington next month, focusses on sea level rise, and how communities can adapt to the inevitable encroachment of the ocean. The organisers have laid on some excellent speakers, include Aussie oceanographer and sea level expert John Church, as well as many directly involved with the issues raised by sea level rise in New Zealand. The conference programme aims to:

  • Present the latest science of sea-level rise associated with climate change, including the role of polar ice-sheet melt
  • Present a synthesis of recent projections for sea-level rise and discuss the uncertainties associated with these projections
  • Identify anticipated impacts on New Zealand coastal environment and infrastructure resulting from climate change
  • Discuss whether adaptive risk management for adapting to sea-level rise will be adequate given the ranges projected and their uncertainties
  • Stimulate discussion of how end-users can manage present and future coastal issues and how social and bio-physical scientists, central and local government, and infrastructure operators can work together with communities to build resilient systems
  • Describe approaches that have been taken to planning coastal futures, which take into account community and resource-user needs underpinned by plausible climate change projections, adaptive approaches to manage uncertainties, and sound approaches to developing coastal policies.

Sounds like a very worthwhile couple of days. It’ll be interesting to hear what the “synthesis of recent projections for sea-level rise” suggests we’re in for, so if any HT readers are planning to attend, I’d be very happy to carry some conference reports.

For what it’s worth, in my view two numbers and one uncomfortable fact are of prime importance. We’re committed to warming, and therefore to sea level rise. The peak level of atmospheric CO2 that we reach (unless we can cut it very quickly after the peak by active carbon removal) will set the final quantum of sea level rise the planet will experience. The latest paleoclimate evidence suggests that current CO2 levels are putting us on course for an eventual 20 metres of sea level rise. Pick your final CO2 concentration, and calibrate against times past. At 300 ppm in the last interglacial, sea level was 6 metres higher than present.

The consequence of where we end up on the atmospheric carbon scale is a long term inevitable and uncomfortable commitment to continuously increasing sea level. It might be enough for some purposes to consider only a metre or two over the the next century, but if you’re planning to rebuild a city, perhaps you should look a little further ahead. Fascinating discussions are in store in Wellington, I confidently predict…

I was lucky enough to attend (and speak) at last year’s conference1, and I’m sure that this year’s effort will be just as worthwhile.


  1. The proceedings of last year’s forum are now available from the NZ CCRI. []

Helter smelter: NZ Aluminium Smelters wins the 2011 Roger Award

Simon Johnson reports that NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ have just won the 2011 Roger Award for Worst Transnational Corporation operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand, for milking the NZETS.

Every year the group Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) awards a Roger Award for bad multinational corporate behaviour. Past winners have been Warner Brothers for the Hobbit film employment law change and British American Tobacco.

Readers may recall I wrote some posts about the excessive allocation of free emissions units from the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme to NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ.

I concluded that in 2010 the Rio Tinto Alcan NZ received 135% more emissions units than it needed for its greenhouse emissions, as an undisclosed amount of units were to compensate it for undisclosed ETS-related electricity costs. In other words, Rio Tinto Alcan NZ would pay a higher ‘carbon’ price if it was exempt from the NZ ETS, as they would at least be paying some ‘carbon’ price as a ‘downstream’ electricity user.

Continue reading “Helter smelter: NZ Aluminium Smelters wins the 2011 Roger Award”

Aquaflow: next-gen biofuels a commercial reality

Positive news this week from the Nelson-based algae company Aquaflow whose fortunes we have followed on Hot Topic over the past three years. I last reported on them in August 2011, when they had signed an agreement for joint testing and evaluation with Texas-based CRI Catalyst Company (CRI). Now they have announced a full technology cooperation agreement with that company which they believe leaves them poised to make refining next generation biofuels a commercial reality in New Zealand and in overseas projects within the two to three years it takes to build a refinery.

That’s big news if it comes to fruition. Director Nick Gerritsen says: “We should be able to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuel that is equivalent to fossil fuel at a cost that is highly competitive with the current per barrel price of crude oil.” He adds that New Zealand could turn its biomass into enough carbon-neutral biofuel to meet its renewable fuels requirement within ten years.

Continue reading “Aquaflow: next-gen biofuels a commercial reality”