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57 responses to “Climate clippings 30”

  1. Ootz

    Roger Jones, hug!

  2. Adelaide Climate News

    Thanks for useful round up as ever. Shameless self-promotion – I’ve made a fun (?) bird-watcher’s guide to 25 of the “climate change movers and shakers” . It’s got all the MPCCC, the Climate Commissioners and various other folks, complete with cod Latin Linnean descriptions.

    http://adelaideclimatenews.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/twitchers-guide-to-australian-climate-megafauna/

    Also on the website is a brief interview I did with Tim Flannery on Wednesday night before the Climate Commission event.

  3. Incurious and Unread

    Brian,

    From the link on McKibbin.

    McKibbin…is an economist at the Australian National University and has his own company, McKibbin Software Group, which develops modelling for policy analysis, including a carbon pricing model…

    I[Mckibbin says] “it would be very unfortunate if the leaked announcement that came out yesterday about the employment effects of carbon taxes was used in a model that wasn’t mine.”

    Draw your own conclusions.

  4. Incurious and Unread

    Some interesting findings from the Productivity Commission review (from the Australian link):

    Australia’s average abatement cost for electricity, based on various government policies to discourage emissions, was found to be $44 for every tonne of carbon dioxide saved.

    The 12.5 million tonnes of abatement achieved by existing policies in the Australian electricity industry could have been delivered by a carbon price of $9 a tonne of carbon dioxide.

    Feed-in tariffs to promote solar photo-voltaic systems had cost between $431 and $1043 for every tonne of carbon saved.

  5. wilful

    Re hybrids, isn’t it true that diesel-electric locomotives have been hybrids all this time?

  6. Roger Jones

    Thanks Ootz,

    that really is a funny cartoon, and it’s been circulating widely :-)

    I’m following up on the threats story because it’s following a similar pattern to how climate science is being treated in the media. Hopefully will have something posted today but do have real work to do (I’ll be getting threats about that, soon).

    The Productivity Commission report is interesting. And fairly complex to track the uncertainties through to their conclusions. And there are more conclusions to be made. It’s only a snapshot though, looking at one year’s data. It strongly backs a carbon price and shows how important complementary policies are.

    Warwick McKibbin’s comments are unfortunate, too. Neither his, nor Treasury’s model is reliable at that level of detail over the long term. Swan is trotting out the results of an equilibrium model optimised to its assumptions as driven by a carbon price – what it shows is that a price can be absorbed by an economy of the current broad structure. To argue over long-term employment is pointless. There is nothing those models can say about job numbers in 2050, say, that we won’t learn with better detail on the way there. The same goes for McKibbin’s comment:

    “I think both sides of politics haven’t understood that the key to increasing investment in energy generation in this country, and it’s not about the carbon price today, it’s about the carbon price we expect to see in 10 years, 50 years, 70 years,” he said.

    He was right about Swan’s guff and bluster and the need to increase investment, but the last point will not be improved by his “better” model.

    John Quiggin’s recent back of the envelope estimates of what a price could be consistent to match avoided damages is just as informative for the long term. We know it will rise with very simple models. If that is allowed to occur, and the productivity commission report shows it is underway, then the economy will transform to one that is outside the parameters of economies described by the current crop of models. The current policy task is to initiate and facilitate that transformation.

    Models can be useful for understanding carbon price implementation and how transition from a carbon price as a cost to it being embedded in the economy as a social benefit might proceed. Long-term projections should be viewed with great scepticism.

  7. BigBob

    Willful,

    No. They don’t store power from deceleration.

  8. dexitroboper

    Not really, wilful. Hybrids have an IC engine that can be stopped and started quickly to reduce fuel consumption, a diesel/electric must run all the time. Also the power from regenerative braking can be fed back into a hybrid’s batteries, a DE has no storage except the diesel fuel.

  9. BigBob

    I did see an interesting plan for a locomotive that did use energy storage via hydraulics rather than batteries. A much lighter beast that didn’t need to have batteries replaced every 10 years or so. I don’t know whether it has made it to production.

  10. Dr_Tad

    The really ironic thing about the way the PC report is being received is that people aren’t really focused on the most important thing, which is that no country has reduced emissions on the scale needed except in periods of economic downturn (and even then the reductions fall well short). It’s hard to take the report at all seriously unless one really believes the orthodox economic fantasies it peddles about extrapolating minimal (or non-existent) abatement results to the relatively rapid society-wide restructuring we will need to avoid the disastrous ecological (and hence social) outcomes the climate science is predicting.

    @liz_beths and I addressed the issue of these kinds of unwarranted extrapolations at The Drum yesterday, as part of a more general critique of the carbon price debate. A few people in the comments savaged us for standing against a whole lot of mainstream “expert” advocacy for market solutions, but the abatement record to date strongly suggests that the mainstream approach is simply not working.

    Of course that won’t stop everyone harping on about how this report proves something very important. Even though that “thing” is not of relevance to how we’re going to achieve serious emission reductions.

  11. Dave McRae

    I know it’s only 1 paper, but initial evidence points to our emission being at a greater rate than that that triggered the PETM. Could be a worry ..
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110607121525.htm
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1179.html (paywall)

  12. jumpnmcar

    Check this out Brian!!
    Oh, and others.

    “”"A renewable energy generator for all seasons”"”
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028156.100-a-renewable-energy-generator-for-all-seasons.html

  13. Jess

    Brian, thanks for the link to RC. I’d been looking for something like that after reading Dave’s post.

    If the paper that Dave linked to says anything, it’s that oceans are critically important to an understanding of how atmospheric carbon is buffered. I find it amazing that there can be enough of a carbon increase in the atmospheric-oceanic system to get the carbon compensation depth to rise enough to have major dissolution events in sediments. Changing the chemistry of the ocean is a big event.

    It’s kind of exciting (in a perverse way), to think that we might see similar changes in the oceans soon. Imagine what the huge changes we’ll experience will tell us about climate in the deep past on Earth. Kind of like being on the inside of a building demolition.

  14. David McRae

    Brian@13 Aye – it’s not good whatever the angle it’s looked at

  15. John D

    In terms of the effect of carbon price on economic growth it is important to consider what the RBA is doing. In effect the RBA tries to control inflation by changing growth rates by changing interest rates.
    If the carbon tax slows growth, it seems reasonable to expect that the RBA will adjust interest rates to compensate. Should work if the effect is small.

  16. Roger Jones

    Jess @14,

    I’ve been doing a bit of work on that but have a bunch of stuff piling up. If the logjam can be relieved a bit, I’ll put up a post on it. Basically, the oceans are driving the atmosphere – the energy in the top 700 m is about 100 times that in the atmosphere. Kevin Trenberth has a really interesting summary paper that may be linked at RC here.

  17. Jess

    Roger,

    I think what is most interesting are the feedbacks that kick in when you have large shifts in climatic regime.

    As an example of what I’m talking about (and this is just off the top of my head), the guys in the research group I’m in at ANU (the geophysical fluid dynamics group at RSES – except for me, the lone geologist, we’re mostly oceanographers & fluid physicists) are doing are bunch of really interesting things looking at the way that wind forcing plays into driving the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

    As I understand it, changes in wind forcings (i.e. shifts poleward and changes in intensity of the sort that Brian has discussed before) have implications for the meridional overturning (the way that the oceans convect water from north to south) as the speed of transport in the ACC is what determines where and by how much deep ocean water (which stores most of our CO2 and provides the long term buffer to atmospheric CO2 IIRC) can be bought to the surface in the Southern Ocean.

    If your deep water is oversaturated in CO2, and you expose it to the atmosphere and warm it up a bit, it can degass pretty well (a bit like a coke can on a warm day). I can’t remember references but I believe that there are suggestions that this might play a part in having large shifts in climate.

    This could have some pretty big implications for how much carbon the oceans could actually store. That said, the interactions between wind forcing and how this feeds into the net transport in the ACC are still pretty poorly understood I think (I might just take the opportunity to point interested people to Andy Hogg’s page with info on eddies and the ACC – he knows a lot more than I do obviously).

    Of course there’s a lot of speculation here (although it is backed up by a fair chunk of reasoning based on well established physical oceanography), so it will be interesting to see how things actually do change as we start to shift climatic regimes over the medium to long term. That said, I’ll probably be dead before we get any conclusive results eh? :)

  18. Jess

    P.S. I’d be really interested to read whatever you get time to throw together on atmosphere-ocean interactions though.

  19. Roger Jones

    Jess,

    outgassing from the Southern Ocean now looks like it played a big part in the Antarctic-driven warming at the end of the last ice age, though more evidence is needed to be conclusive.

    I’m interested in non-linear changes in ocean heat content driving warming. The two could be related. And I wouldn’t count on waiting too long to see ‘surprises’.

  20. Jess

    Roger, will you be giving a talk at IUGG? I’m coming down for the second week (for the volcanology session) but I’d be interested in popping in to hear you speak.

  21. pablo

    I am curious as to what positive feedback will have the earliest and most obvious (ie easily measureable, biggest coverage) impact? It would seem to me that the failure of the Gulf Stream and its influence on Western European weather, particularly winter, would have to be right up there. Siberian methane clathrates, West Antarctica ice shelf, even Greenland are far away from population centres to be too easily missed or worse ignored.

  22. BilB

    Do you feel safe, as a climate scientist, exposing your movements so publically, Jess?

  23. Jess

    Pablo – It’s difficult to say with any certainty what will happen to the Gulf Stream. I don’t think enough is known about the energetics of the meridional overturning to say for sure whether it would or wouldn’t reestabish itself in a new regime and what form that might take.

    I think the biggest change in terms of ocean dynamics will be the worldwide collapse of oceanic ecosystems as we acidify the oceans, killing the smallest carbonate-based lifeforms on which the rest of the food chain depends. Although that might be difficult to spot amongst the overfishing…

  24. Jess

    Ah, BilB, I’m not really a climate scientist though (just someone with close links research-wise)! Anyway, we now have all those fancy-dancy new keycards at ANU right? That ought to keep me safe. :)

    Also, there’s going to be several thousand earth scientists descending on Melbourne for IUGG from all over the world, so even though most of us are nerds, it’d be a brave denialist who’d pick a fight.

  25. BilB

    Further, Jess, damaging life in that top 10 centimetres of the ocean also threatens 50% of our oxygen replenishment. Yet another feedback. Sadly we just do not seem to be able to add up the accumulation of negative feed backs. We tend to address them one by one as if they were the only negative feedback to be concerned about.

  26. Roger Jones

    Jess,

    I am at IUGG but haven’t checked the time. I’ll be talking about how using linear statistics to measure climate is the wrong paradigm because it overlooks what is really going on. Warming comes in bursts first, then appears as a trend later as the capacity of the ocean to absorb energy is exceeded by radiative forcing. It’s something to do with upwelling episodes mediated by climate variability, I think, but the analysis has yet to be done. I’ll be showing how to measure atmospheric warming as steps plus trend, i.e. measuring the dynamics correctly.

    Bilb, the wind will make sure that there is mixing in the top layers of the ocean. The big worry is loss of the marine carbonate cycle when shells can’t be laid down any more. Atmospheric oxygen has been increasing over the past decades by measurable but small amounts.

    Pablo, I’m hazy on the dynamics but my understanding is that the Gulf Stream is likely to continue and is not totally coupled to the North Atlantic deep over-turning, which is though more likely to slow rather than collapse. Greenland, probably the WAIS, and certainly coral reef ecosystems are much more sensitive. Permafrost methane is a wildcard with large positive feedbacks unable to be ruled out. Recent tipping point info is summarised in the climate commission report released a couple of weeks ago.

  27. John D

    Brian @17: What I was trying to say is that the RBA is a stabilizer that will tend to act in a way that minimizes the effect of a carbon price. I also think that the economic noise resulting from RBA actions is great enough to hide any carbon price related effects.
    Still think that a carbon price is a crazy way of driving climate action.

  28. Jess

    Actually, on the subject of North Atlantic deep overturning – my officemate is doing his PhD on horizontal convection in regions with sills (of which N. Atlantic overturning is an example). His research suggests that sea level change could significantly affect the thermal and salinity structure of the main Atlantic basin by changing the depth of the Atlantic over the Iceland-Greenland Ridge, which changes how deep cold water flows from the Arctic basin into the main basin and mixes with the rest of the ocean.

    It’s not really a huge tipping point (since you need sea level changes on the order of tens of meters to have an effect) but another cool one nonetheless. There’s just so much we don’t know about the oceans though. It’s getting better with better equipment, but I suspect that a poor understanding of these changes in ocean dynamics is really holding us back.

    Roger – I’ll have a look in the programme. My talks are on Monday morning in the IAVECI symposia on lava flows, so as long as we aren’t clashing I’ll have to come along and have a listen.

  29. BilB

    Thanks for the info on atmospheric oxygen, Roger. That is the opposite of what I would have expected, something must still be working properly. When the issue of the threat to life in the top 10 centimetres of the from detergents, acidification and other contaminates came up some decades ago I remember the quoted figure for oxygen replenishment as being 2/3′s from the ocean. The most recent figure that I heard just the other day was 1/2. The difference must be further research and better information.

    You guys have a good conference.

    RJ22

    That ocean heat current non linearity subject sounds fascinating as does its effect on potential outgassing. No doubt techtonic plate movements and continental placement have a significant influence as well.

  30. pablo

    Many thanks for assessments on tipping points to watch. I guess the canary in this case will be carbonate based marine micro-organisms as suggested.

  31. silkworm

    Bird gloats on his blog about abusive emails he has sent to Clive Hamilton and others.

    People are showing a bit of interest in the day that Clive was weeping about a nasty email I sent him. But I shout at these people and they start keeping a lower profile. Its hardly encouragement for me to stop.

    http://graemebird.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/phobos-hollow-and-ready-for-dyson-harrop/

    When a commenter asks him if he had sent any of the recent threats to ANU scientists, Bird denies it, saying that the last abusive email he sent was to Clive, and that he only sends email under his own name.

    He confesses:

    Hamilton was the last person I took a shot at and he’s nobodies [sic] scientist. Before that I took a shot at Monbiot. He’s no scientist either. Its [sic] possible I took a shot at Karoly. But if so that was before abusing Karoly became the latest thing…. The 5th one definitely isn’t me. The seventh one to Pittman does sound a bit like me. But I did a search for Pittman and Karoly and came up with nothing. So if any of them were me they were from a long time ago. I don’t want to be proved wrong. So I just have to say I’m not sure about it. Monbiot has been called the c-word by me more times than anyone else. This is because he lied on Australian TV by hand-balling the USGS lie on, and using it as a way to set up Ian Plimer.

  32. tigtog

    I know Bird will never actually get elected for anything, but just imagine if he had been successful the last time he stood. Question Time would become even more of a farce, as Birdy would get worked up and abusive and be ejected, they’d get on for a while, then he would return, get worked up and abusive and ejected again, and again and again. Rinse and repeat until the next election.

  33. David Irving (no relation)

    I just dipped my toe in the link silkworm provided (and regretted it – I need to boil my toe, and scrub my brain with bleach). Bird seems to be certifiably insane.

  34. BilB

    I had the same experience, DI. I could not figure out what Bird stands for. Thank goodness we do not have corner store guns in this country.

  35. BilB

    For something positive and different, here is a reasons-to-be-cheerful “bob each way” extract from Robert Rapier’s Blog

    http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2011/06/09/roundtable-on-chinas-energy-future/

    “China is one of the world’s largest producers of renewable energy, leading in categories like wind power and solar hot water. A statistic I recently read said that China’s energy production from solar hot water is equivalent to the energy output of 40 nuclear power plants.”

    and

    “China’s potential for growth is frightening. China uses about two barrels a year of oil per person. In the United States we use 23 barrels of oil per person per year. If China’s usage grew to the U.S. equivalent, it would be 85 million barrels a day, which is about the total consumption of oil for the world. However, there simply isn’t enough oil available for that to happen, so it sets up some challenges in the years ahead.”

    On a trip to Quindao (level with Seol in Korea and well into the snowline) I saw evacuated tube solar water heating elements on every roof of this city of 10 million. It snowed at least 4 inches while I was there and still the water was hot, so solar water heating is not a tropics only technology.

    Message for Tony Abbott, ………and Julia Gillard: building and fitting solar water heating for all of Australia’s buildings equals……..JOBS. And lots of them, not to mention a huge drop in Australia’s CO2 emissions.

  36. akn

    It is a case of ‘me too’ here having never before been exposed to the work of Bird. Astonishing. This is what happens to people who don’t complete their PhD’s.

  37. David Irving (no relation)

    The experiment’s been successful, Brian. It’s nice to see the scientific method in action.

  38. Fran Barlow

    Brian

    Did you forget to create a comment box for your solar PV post?

    I noted the unintentional pun:

    Parkinson says that the whole solar technology field is still fluid as scientists look at different ways of capturing and converting solar energy. In this post he describes efforts to use concentrated solar to heat compressed air rather than water,

    Was the air compressed to a liquid? ;-)

    Very best wishes are offered on your surgery. I’m not into metaphysics, but on this occasion I wish I could make an exception and contribute emotionally to your speedy recovery.

  39. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Anyone want to try and refute the latest column from Henry Ergas?

  40. David Irving (no relation)

    Probably be simple if we had a link, Razor.

  41. akn

    Brian – I’m guessing from yr comment above that your in for a hernia repair in which event when the doc’s say ‘don’t even lift a litre of of milk or press the break peddle on your car’ – post op – that’s good advice!

  42. Anon

    Ergas’ piece is about the assumptions underlying the government’s carbon price modelling. The second one is key to his piece so I’ll deal with that first. His proposed approach boils down to: let’s put more effort into reaching a global deal, without coming to the table with any concrete action ourselves. Which would be great if it worked. It would be lovely if Australia could free-ride on the rest of the world.

    Second, it argues that whatever the difficulties, action by Australia would significantly speed global agreement.
    However, even if the scheme did advance global agreement, the question is whether there are not cheaper options for achieving that goal. Spending even a tiny fraction of the policy’s cost scaling up our participation in the global process would surely be every bit as effective in advancing international agreement. And if those efforts failed, we would not be left with a costly scheme entrenched by constituencies with an interest in its perpetuation.

    Ergas is a serious economist. However, the replacement in November 2007 of a Keynesian, socially conservative mixed-economy-running Government which was working towards a market-based mechanism for carbon pollution reduction by a Keynesian, slightly less socially conservative mixed-economy-running Government which is working towards a market-based mechanism for carbon pollution reduction seems to have put him on the water skis off towards the shark.
    If you asked him to describe the Prisoner’s Dilemma, he’d castigate you for setting him a first-year economics problem. But his key point is very much:
    Prisoner: Oh no! We’re stuck in the prisoner’s dilemma!
    Ergas: Let’s plan to get out of it! You go first!
    Prisoner: No, you go first …
    Ergas: OK, my plan is: let’s plan to get out of it! You go first!
    Prisoner: Er, no, I think you should go first!
    Ergas: But I have! Here’s my ingenious plan: we should plan to get out of this dilemma! You go first!
    Prisoner: Ah, I see. OK, I’ll go first. We should plan to get out of this! You go first!
    Ergas: Now you’re getting it! I’ll go first then. I have a cunning plan which cannot fail …

  43. Anon

    As for the rest:

    First, it asserts, contrary to all evidence, that the world is on track to achieve credible, enforceable agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

    I think this is arguable either way, especially if you want to get into a debate about what “on track” means. “Contrary to all evidence” is too strong.

    The government’s fourth tack is to cast the issue as a matter of morality. Of course, appealing to our better instincts sits uncomfortably with the government’s mantra that it won’t hurt a bit.

    I think this is a good point. Carbon pricing mechanisms are designed to change behaviour, and changing behaviour involves costs. But improving energy efficiency to mitigate those costs, and receiving compensation means that “it” probably won’t hurt much. It would be much, much more disingenuous to claim that it will hurt a lot.

    Fifth, the government argues that without an ETS, other countries will impose punitive tariffs on our exports. Whether that would be legal is questionable. It overlooks the fact those countries are exempting their exports from carbon imposts, making it implausible any claim against us could succeed. Even more importantly, it makes no sense: if Germany taxed imports of our low-cost ores, its industries, not ours, would mainly suffer, losing sales to competitors that did not impose such taxes.

    It would be open for an international legal agreement to make such an impost legal. And his “Germany” argument holds in the case of an individual country imposing a tariff unilaterally, but falls apart where a large enough group of countries are involved. For example: a credible international agreement – the very thing Ergas argues we should be putting extra effort into working towards.

    Sixth and last, the government says an ETS is more economically efficient than the alternatives. True …

    Whoops, a naughty use of ellipsis there!

    True … , the wealth transfers that masquerade as climate policy are an insult to common sense.

    Ergas: ‘Direct action’ climate policies are an insult to common sense.

    But the government is not intending to eliminate those schemes: indeed, its modelling has assumed they would stay in place. And the government and Ross Garnaut propose adding new wealth transfers, compounding the waste.

    So: the modelling takes into account existing policy. Presumably if it did not, that would be a faulty assumption and the focus of criticism?

    Sorry about the length of the comments.

  44. Labor Outsider

    Mckibbin does have a point. Most economic models used to analyse the effect of mitigation policies are CGE models, which don’t allow for shocks to lead to any disequilibria in the labour market. I don’t think Warwick would claim that the forecast for employment or unemployment in his model that far out would be accurate. Just that the labour market is modelled more realistically. The 1.6 million jobs figure cited by Swan largely drops out of whatever they are assuming for population growth, the labour force participation rate and the unemployment rate over the next 9 years.

  45. Paul Norton

    I’ve just come across a non-AGW explanation for climate change that the denialists, AFAIK, have yet to try on. From p.70 of the Arrow Books (2010) edition of To Kill A Mockingbird:

    Mr. Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasons would change.

  46. jumpnmcar

    Hey Brian, there has been a few statements on the web about the amount of greenhouse gases from the Chile volcano compared to Human emissions, anywhere from 3 days worth to 60 years worth.
    Do you or anyone else have any “trusted source ” that may clarify things?

  47. silkworm

    If you look at the hockey-stick graph of global temperatures, you will see that 1991 was an unusually cool year that defied the warming trend. This is because this was the year that Mt Pinatubo erupted. Its enormous sulphurous emissions were responsible for reflecting sufficient solar radiation back into space to cause a temporary global cooling. However, each volcanic eruption has its own chemical signature, and its warming or cooling effect will vary.

  48. jumpnmcar

    Thanks silkworm.
    I was looking for a report from a volcanologist on this particular eruption.
    There may not be one yet.
    All the speculation, does frame our mitigation efforts as futile.
    I will wait for a reputable report.