Carbon Capture & Sequestration

Messing with the Earth’s climate is risky business. #StopAdani #auspol 

Can we cure Climate Change? 

Scientists Debate If We Should

By Elana Glowatz
Scientists are debating if there is a way to stop Earth’s climate from changing or even help the planet cool down — and, if they can do such work, whether or not they should.
Offsetting the effect of greenhouse gas emissions is a complicated science called geoengineering. 

In ideas that have been proposed, experts would either have to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or tinker with the system so that more of the sun’s radiation reflects back into space or more heat can escape the Earth. 

But any effort to cool off the planet could have unintended consequences, assuming it is first performed accurately and effectively. 

Three separate articles just published in the journal Science focus on those concepts and concerns.

Read: When Will It Rain in the Middle East? 

Climate Study Says in 10,000 Years
Scientists from the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative warn in their article that the world will have to work together to choose a solution, rather than allowing a single person, country or small group of countries to make a choice and run with it.

 That could “further destabilize a world already going through rapid change” if something goes wrong.
But even in the case of the world’s leaders deciding upon a solution together, messing with the Earth’s climate is a risky business.
“In so doing, we may expose the world to other serious risks, known and unknown,” the authors say.
When it comes to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such work “would need to be implemented at very large scales to have the desired effect,” according to the scientists. That takes up a lot of land, which could put a squeeze on the agricultural industry, thus affecting food prices and availability. Such a method could also affect biodiversity.
Solar radiation management, the process through which scientists would change the amount of radiation reflecting back into space as opposed to reaching Earth, is no less perilous. The scientists foresee effects on the cycle through which water evaporates from the surface and returns as precipitation, changing rain patterns and doing nothing to slow down the acidification of the ocean.
earth-sun-iss


The sun shines down on Earth, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA/JSC
“The world’s most vulnerable people would likely be most affected,” they wrote.
Even if methods to decrease warming were successful, the writers also point out, Earth’s population would still need to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — the geoengineering simply would be buying us time to figure things out.
Some of those methods of buying time include changing the planet’s cloud coverage. 

In one perspective in Science, researchers investigate the pros, cons and nuances of thinning cirrus clouds to allow more heat to escape Earth. 

Those clouds specifically are not responsible for reflecting much of the sun’s radiation back into space, and serve more to trap heat coming off the surface below. 

Thinning out those clouds, therefore, could have a cooling effect. 

But it may negatively impact tropical climates.
“For the time being, cirrus cloud thinning should be viewed as a thought experiment that is helping to understand cirrus cloud–formation mechanisms,” the article says.
Read: Did Ocean Volcanoes Keep Carbon Dioxide High In Last Ice Age?
Another journal piece focuses on the details and implications of mimicking intense volcanic eruptions as a method to cool off Earth. Injecting aerosol particles of sulfur into the atmosphere would increase a protective layer that prevents heat from the sun from reaching the surface, instead reflecting it back into space.
“The effect is analogous to the observed lowering of temperatures after large volcanic eruptions,” the article says. 

And the process “could be seen as a last-resort option to reduce the severity of climate change effects such as heat waves, floods, droughts, and sea level rise.”
At the same time, however, it would reduce evaporation from the Earth’s surface, which would also reduce the amount of rainfall and could affect water availability.
No matter what option the world chooses — or doesn’t choose — the writers all call on leaders to start the discussion.
“The world is heading to an increasingly risky future and is unprepared to address the institutional and governance challenges posed by these technologies,” the scientists from the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative say. “Geoengineering has planet-wide consequences and must therefore be discussed by national governments within intergovernmental institutions, including the United Nations.”

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

To avoid extreme #ClimateChange start removing CO2 #StopAdani #auspol

Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to avoid extreme climate change, say scientists
The Independent 

Ian Johnston

The Independent July 19, 2017

Humans must start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soon as possible to avoid saddling future generations with a choice between extreme climate change or spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to avoid it, according to new research.


An international team of researchers – led by Professor Jim Hansen, Nasa’s former climate science chief – said their conclusion that the world had already overshot targets to limit global warming to within acceptable levels was “sufficiently grim” to force them to urge “rapid emission reductions”.


But they warned this would not be enough and efforts would need to be made to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 12.5 per cent.
This, the scientists argued, could be mostly achieved by agricultural measures such as planting trees and improving soil fertility, a relatively low-cost way to remove carbon from the air.

Other more expensive methods, such as burning biomass in power plants fitted with carbon-capture-and-storage or devices that can remove carbon from the air directly, might also be necessary and would become increasingly needed if steps were not taken soon.
An academic paper in the journal Earth System Dynamics estimated such industrial processes could cost up to $535 trillion this century and “also have large risks and uncertain feasibility”.
“Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to either a massive, implausible clean-up or growing deleterious climate impacts or both,” said the paper.


“We conclude that the world has already overshot appropriate targets for greenhouse gas amount and global temperature, and we thus infer an urgent need for rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions [and] actions that draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“These tasks are formidable and … they are not being pursued globally.”
Cuts to emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and ozone would also be required.
The study is to be used as part of a ground-breaking lawsuit brought against the US Government by 21 children in which the plaintiffs claim their constitutional right to have a health climate in which to live in is being violated by federal policies.


If the case succeeds, environmentalists believe it could force the Trump administration to reduce greenhouse gases and take other measures to prevent global warming.
The paper pointed out that the last time temperatures were this high, during the Eemian period, global sea levels were about six to nine metres higher than they are today, suggesting significant rises are still to occur.
The paper said that the Paris Agreement, the tumbling price of renewable energy and the recent slowdown in the increase of fossil fuel emissions had led to a sense of optimism around the world.
But, speaking to The Independent, Professor Hansen said he believed this optimism was misplaced.
“The narrative that’s out there now … is that we’ve turned the corner,” he said.
“On the contrary, what we show is the rate of growth of climate forcing caused by increased methane [and other gases] is actually accelerating. 

That’s why it’s urgent.”
Asked to assess the world’s current progress in fighting climate change, he said the “s*** is hitting the fan”.
Professor Hansen, now a scientist at the Columbia University Earth Institute in the US, said he believed the court case had a chance of winning.
A court would not be able to tell the Government what to do, he admitted, but would be able to say that failing to deal with the problem was unconstitutional and require politicians to produce an effective plan.
The paper said the need for “prompt action implied by these realities [of climate change] may not be a surprise to the relevant scientific community” because of the available evidence.


“However, effective communication with the public of the urgency to stem human-caused climate change is hampered by the inertia of the climate system, especially the ocean and the ice sheets, which respond rather slowly to climate forcings, thus allowing future consequences to build up before broad public concern awakens,” it said.
“All amplifying feedbacks, including atmospheric water vapor, sea ice cover, soil carbon release and ice sheet melt could be reduced by rapid emissions phasedown.
“This would reduce the risk of climate change running out of humanity’s control and provide time to assess the climate response, develop relevant technologies, and consider further purposeful actions to limit and/or adapt to climate change.”
It warned that sea level rise of up to a metre “may be inevitable even if emissions decline” and would have “dire consequences”.
Sea level rise of several metres would result in “humanitarian and economic disasters”.
“Given the increasing proportion of global population living in coastal areas, there is potential for forced migrations of hundreds of millions of people, dwarfing prior refugee humanitarian crises, challenging global governance and security,” the paper said.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

Call All Tree Planters. #ClimateChange #Cairns 

Calling all TREEPLANTERS,

A great way to reduce your carbon foot print is to plant a tree.
Join us in Cairns this Sunday morning 7:30am 9th July 


This is the first activity for our new project recently funded by Qld Government’s Community Sustainability Action Grant!


We need lots of volunteers to help plant 800 native trees this Sunday morning starting at 7.30am.

First up we will be planting 400 as a follow up to our deep stem planting technique trial that we did last year. This means that we have sourced tube trees with very long stems (up to 1 meter) and we will be planting them in deep holes and preferably covering the stem with 30cm (1 foot) of soil. This method is potentially good for flood prone areas to ensure the trees are sturdy in the ground. The last time we did this the growth results were outstanding so we are repeating the trial with all the different species mapped so we can also monitor species success rate.


Then we will have 15 international students join us for planting the next 400 (about 9am), and that is always a bit of fun…followed by supplied morning tea about 10am.

Bring: Sun smart gear, covered shoes, gloves, water & shovel if you have one.

Directions: This site called, Radjirr-radjirr, is behind St. Andrews Catholic College……..On the Redlynch Connection Rd turn left at the second set of lights (opposite Coles at Redlynch Central Shopping Centre. It is a new road to the school). At the T junction, park at the school carpark on the left and follow the signs in. If you follow the power line it also takes you to our site.

When your get there you will see how well all the trees we planted in 2015 & 16 have grown….it is truly amazing. If you are an early bird we always need help placing trees especially this time for our trial (6.30am).

If you can’t make it to this one the next one is soon after…July 16… at the same place with more international students.

More info: Lisa 0435 016 906
Press link for more: Treeforce.org..au

 

If we burn all the coal we heat the planet by 8C #StopAdani

On our current trajectory, climate change is expected to intensify over the coming decades. 


If no policy actions are taken to restrict GHG emissions, expected warming would be on track for 8.1°F (4.5°C) by 2100. 

Strikingly, this amount of warming is actually less than would be expected if all currently known fossil fuel resources were consumed. 

Were this to occur, total future warming would be 14.5°F (8°C), fueled largely by the world’s vast coal resources.
The United States will not be insulated from a changing climate. 

If global emissions continue on their current path, average summer temperatures in 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia would rise above 85°F (29.4°C) by the end of the 21st century, well above the 76 to 82°F (24 to 28°C) range experienced by these same states during the 1981–2010 period (Climate Prospectus n.d.). 

Climate change will lead to increased flooding, necessitating migration away from some low-lying areas; it will also lead to drought and heat-related damages (Ackerman and Stanton 2008).
There is no question that the United States has begun to make important progress on climate change. 

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were nearly 15 percent below their 2005 peak, marking the lowest level of emissions since 1992 (EIA 2017a). 

The drop was largely driven by recent reductions in the electric power sector, where inexpensive natural gas is displacing more carbon-intensive coal-fired generation and renewables like wind and solar are slowly gaining market share.


However, large challenges remain.

 Avoiding dangerous future climate change will require reductions in GHG emissions far greater than what have already been achieved.

 Though progress in reducing emissions associated with electric power provides cause for optimism, developments in other sectors are less encouraging.

 In particular, transportation recently surpassed electric power generation as the largest source of U.S. emissions and is projected to be a more important contributor in coming years. 

Transportation CO2 emissions have increased despite strengthened fuel efficiency standards that aim to reduce emissions, suggesting that a review of this policy is warranted.


Moreover, climate change is a global problem. 

Recent gains in the United States have been offset by rising emissions elsewhere in the world. 

In past decades, most global emissions originated in the developed nations of Europe and North America. 

However, new GHG emissions are increasingly generated by China, India, and other developing economies, where economic growth and improving living standards are highly dependent on access to reliable, affordable energy. 

Today, that largely means coal. 



As economic and population growth surges in these countries, GHG emissions will rise accordingly; as a result, global emissions will continue to rise despite stabilization in Europe and the United States.
Numerous technologies—from nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration to cheaper renewables and energy storage—hold considerable promise for addressing the global climate challenge.

 Yet current economic conditions do not favor the large-scale implementation of these technologies in developed or developing countries. 

Rapidly deploying these solutions on a large scale would almost certainly require some combination of expanded research and development (R&D) investments and carbon pricing, the policy interventions recommended by economic theory.
It remains uncertain whether policy makers around the world will be successful in responding to the threat of climate change. 

The consensus view of the scientific community is that future warming should be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) (Jones, Sterman and Johnston 2016).

 Achieving that target would require much more dramatic actions than have been implemented globally, with global CO2 emissions falling to near zero by 2100.
The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago aim to support broadly shared economic growth. 

This jointly written document provides useful context for a discussion of the dangers to the economy posed by climate change and the policy tools for addressing those dangers. 

Given the immense threat that climate change represents, it is crucial that policy makers implement efficient solutions that minimize climate damages from our use of energy.

Press link for more: Brookings.edu

Coal is no longer the best option. #StopAdani 

Other forms of energy production cheaper, cleaner than coal
Coal is no longer the best option for energy creation. 

It isn’t just that coal mining has polluted our streams, sickened our communities and left a scar on the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, it’s that coal just simply is not economically viable anymore.

In his op-ed, not only did Matthew Kandrach ignore the human costs of coal mining, he got it wrong about why the coal industry is declining. 

When it comes to our environment and citizens, coal has had devastating effects. 

While promoting coal as a part of our energy mix, Kandrach didn’t account for the lives lost in coal mining, the lives ruined by black lung disease, the communities dealing with the polluted water and air from abandoned mines.

For example, acid mine runoff from abandoned coal mines can often kill all aquatic life in nearby watersheds and pollute drinking water wells for many decades. 

The clean coal technology the author cities as a means to capture greenhouse gases does not have a good track record, and it is a long way away from being a commercial success.

Four out of five plants in the U.S. and Canada testing carbon capture utilization and storage of carbon dioxide have been beset by technical problems and cost overruns and aren’t successfully producing power. 

This is in spite of $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies spent by the Department of Energy since 2009 to bring online advanced, commercial-scale clean coal projects.

 It seems that turning dirty coal into a clean fuel is a very complex problem.
All the author seems concerned about is new technologies that can help contain the greenhouse gases produced while burning coal. 

But the coal mining companies are not interested in finding new technologies to address the problems caused by extracting coal from the ground because it isn’t worth the money. 
Kandrach seems to ignore what the experts are saying: Coal plants are closing, other forms of energy are cheaper to access, coal production peaked in the late 1970s. 

The reality is, coal as an energy source is dying not because of over-regulation, but because of shifting market demand, and no amount of new technology is going to change that. 
If all the costs of coal mining are included in the equation, coal-fired power generation is not the “nation’s most affordable source of power.” 

Rules and regulations to protect the health of workers and environment are not to blame for the move away from burning coal. 

Other forms of energy production are addressing the issues regarding public health and are cheaper as well.


Yes, America needs a diversified mix of energy sources in the future, but energy production from coal has a high, hidden cost that should affect how much coal is in that energy mix.
Dana Wright is the water policy director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network.

Press link for more: Knoxnews.com

Frydenberg’s carbon capture pipe dream. #StopAdani #Auspol 

By Paul Bongiorno


Frydenberg’s carbon capture pipe dream

Back in 2008 under the perennially polluted grey skies of Beijing, then prime minister Kevin Rudd took a busload of press gallery journalists to the 800 megawatt coal-fired power station in the suburb of Gaobeidian.

 The purpose: to see a functioning pilot program in carbon capture.
On top of the smoke stacks was a device capturing 3000 tonnes of carbon and sulphur gases a year – 2 per cent of the plant’s emissions. 

“A small beginning,” Rudd conceded. 

The $4 million Australian-funded program was developed with the co-operation of the CSIRO. 

A seasoned reporter asked one of the scientists what happened to the captured pollutants. 

The media pack was taken around the corner of the plant, where there was an exhaust outlet. “We let it go,” was the answer. 

The scientist explained that working out how to store the stuff was another project.
It still is.

So it was with some bemusement that some of the old hacks who were on that trip greeted Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg’s announcement that he would remove the legislative prohibition on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to allow it to support investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS). 

The very optimistic minister said such technology could reduce emissions by up to 90 per cent.
ONE CCS PLANT VISITED BY THE ENERGY MINISTER – PETRA NOVA IN TEXAS – COST $US1 BILLION.

 IT’S TOUTED AS THE WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL OPERATION, YET IT CAPTURES ONLY ABOUT 6 PER CENT OF THE OUTPUT OF ITS ADJACENT POWER STATION.

According to its mandate, the $10 billion so-called Green Bank must lend funds to viable projects that would lead to a healthy return on investment.

 Indeed the CEFC – which the Liberals under Tony Abbott wanted to abolish – has been very successful in funding renewable energy projects that have turned a nice profit for taxpayers.
Frydenberg quite reasonably argues that excluding the Green Bank from investing in technology that would deliver clean coal as a reliable energy source is not incompatible with its original mission.

 Except the Greens insisted the Gillard government exclude anything to do with coal from the bank’s mandate. 

“Renewables are the future” was their firm conviction, then and now: taxpayers should invest in the future and leave coal to the billionaires who profit from it to pay their own way in seeking to keep it commercially feasible.
Labor’s Bill Shorten says the government’s announcement is nothing more than kite flying: “It seems like they’re trying to feed some red meat to the right wing of the Liberal Party. 

I think the government needs to explain what is a viable project they want to invest in?”

 Indeed, earlier on the day of the Frydenberg announcement the prime minister told the Coalition party room there would be no price on carbon, ruling out both an emissions trading scheme or an emissions intensity scheme, both of which he once supported and one or other of which business is urging the government to implement.

Seven years ago Malcolm Turnbull’s assessment of CCS was that it was an industrial pipedream. 

He said it was sobering that “as of today, there’s not one industrial-scale coal-fired power station using carbon capture and storage – not one”. 

Both sides of politics had reached the same conclusion about its viability.

 Labor began withdrawing funds from research and the Abbott government shut down Rudd’s $1.7 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program. 

Industry had lost interest. 

Treasurer Joe Hockey returned nearly half a billion dollars of funds allocated to it back to the budget.
This week Frydenberg pointed out that government has invested $590 million in CCS and said it is now being successfully employed in three overseas power plants. 

But a closer look shows the lessons learnt from those plants mean its use has already peaked.

 The proponents of these plants are on the record stating they won’t be investing in any more.

 Renewables entrepreneur Simon Holmes à Court told the ABC that exponential cost blowouts and disappointing results are the rule.


One plant visited by the energy minister – Petra Nova in Texas – cost $US1 billion. 

It’s touted as the world’s largest and most successful operation, yet it captures only about 6 per cent of the output of its adjacent power station. 

That’s “an incredibly low bang for buck”, concludes Holmes à Court. 

Another CCS plant targeted to cost $US2 billion will open three years late and with an incredible final bill of $US7.5 billion.
Holmes à Court agrees with Frydenberg that CCS has a role to play in cutting emissions in industrial processes such as cement or steel production. 

Carbon can be captured in these cases for about $15 to $30 a tonne.

 “So with a healthy carbon price, those projects make sense,” he says. 

And there’s the rub. 

The very government wanting to be a champion of CCS for industry is denying it any incentive to spend a cent pursuing it. It’s commercially cheaper to keep polluting. 

Industry may get away with that but finance markets are now pricing climate change into lending for major energy projects. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this year costed CCS coal at $352 a megawatt hour, compared with wind and solar at between $61 and $140 megawatts an hour.
It’s little wonder that experts can’t see private industry investing in new coal-fired power stations without substantial government input. 

But none of this seems to deter the resources and Northern Australia minister, the Nationals’ Matt Canavan. 

With an eye on the Queensland election probably later this year, he sees votes in talking up a new coal-fired power station for Townsville and in giving a leg-up to the giant Adani Carmichael coalmine in the nearby Galilee Basin. 

While Labor parts company on the power station, it has one foot on both sides of the barbed-wire fence when it comes to the Adani mine.

The politics here is excruciating. 

One Labor strategist says there are different fault lines on the Adani project. 

One running from Cairns down the coast is hostility fuelled by fears for the Great Barrier Reef and the 50,000 jobs dependent on it. 


The other fault line runs from Townsville to Gladstone and inland. 

Here support for the project is strong – its hyped promise of thousands of jobs is beguiling in a region of high unemployment. 

Then from Gladstone south all the way to Tasmania support is weak to hostile.
But no matter what voters think of the project, they are overwhelmingly against any taxpayer funds bankrolling the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. 

Research by the advocacy group GetUp! 

in marginal seats in Queensland and elsewhere has found resolute opposition to any government loan. 

Paul Oosting from GetUp! says opposition ranges from 70 to 86 per cent depending on the seat. 

He has mobilised dozens of his 350,000 members to make 50,000 scripted phone calls into marginal seats in Queensland and around the nation.


It sort of worked with the Palaszczuk Labor government.

 Much to the delight of Adani, the premier organised a royalties pause. 

The miner will be given 60 years to pay the tax, although he will attract an interest charge for any delay. 

That puts all the risk on taxpayers if the project fails to perform as promised or Adani’s labyrinthine company structure for the mine collapses. 

With some companies registered in the Cayman Islands the existence of a lucrative escape hatch for Adani cannot be ruled out.
Ominously, Indian newspapers are reporting Adani is under pressure to sell its Australian assets. 

The Reserve Bank of India is worried about a looming debt crisis and is pressuring banks to demand repayment of loans worth billions of dollars. 

The influential Hindu newspaper noted that the Standard Chartered Bank recalled loans of $2.5 billion from Adani and that “global lenders have backed out from funding the $US10 billion coalmine development project.

 State Bank of India also declined to offer a loan despite signing an MoU [memorandum of understanding] to fund the group with $1 billion”. 

What all of this means for Adani’s bid to get a concessional billion-dollar loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is not yet known. 

It should make it highly unlikely, but given the zealotry of Canavan and his leader Barnaby Joyce for the project such concerns are a mere bagatelle.

Federal Labor’s stand is in line with the GetUp! research, maintaining that no taxpayer dollars should be thrown at the Carmichael mine. 

In that Shorten has the support of Adani’s commercial rivals such as BHP, the Hunter Valley miners and the huge coal port of Newcastle. 

They all say the project should stand or fall on its merits and that it’s not the role of government to use public money to undercut them.
Again we have seen Turnbull’s need for pragmatic appeasement of the conservatives in his ranks undermine his brand on the environment and climate change. 

It probably goes a long way to explain why again in this week’s opinion polls he is still deep in negative territory for approval of his performance and Labor’s lead looks entrenched.
The resignation of Dr Peter Hendy from the inner sanctum of the prime minister’s offices is being read by some in the Liberal Party as a sign the government’s days are numbered. 

The economist, long-time Liberal apparatchik and former MP is planning to hang up his shingle as a consultant.

 “He wants to cash in on his contacts while they are still in power,” was one explanation. Another was: “Peter’s been around a long time and knows when a vote is cemented in.”
On that view Hendy is not waiting to see if the handful of pro-Adani seats in Queensland will be enough to save the federal government. 

Its chances are up in smoke and out the chimney – like the Beijing carbon capture pilot project.

Press link for more: The Saturday Paper

Trump is more honest about climate inaction than Turnbull #StopAdani #auspol

Donald Trump is more honest about climate inaction than Malcolm Turnbull

There is a depressing honesty about Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. 

It stands in stark contrast to the hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull’s big talk on climate change, which is accompanied by a $1 billion subsidy for the enormous new Adani coal mine. 

At least Trump is doing what he said he would do.

Trump shows his contempt for the world’s problems by withdrawing from a global agreement on the basis that he doesn’t think it’s in his nation’s interest, while Turnbull shows his contempt by remaining in that same agreement while funding the construction of a new coal mine that will still operate in 2080. 

Which is worse?
Trump’s climate call
US President Donald Trump has withdrawn America from the Paris climate change agreement, but Australia will not follow according to the energy minister.
The “business case” for Turnbull’s coal line from the Adani mine to the Great Barrier Reef is that five other major coal mines will also be built in the Galilee basin.

 In the words of Resources Minister Matt Canavan, “what I’d expect to see, with the federal government wanting to open the Galilee basin, is that the rail line’s open access that other mines can use it and that we can, by building, connecting up a new coal basin in our country, create wealth, not just in one individual project but right across the board, that’s what we’d like to see”. 

Combined with the Adani mine, the other mines Canavan referred to would together produce 300 million tonnes of coal a year.


To put Turnbull’s coal expansion plans into context, Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter. 

At 388 million tonnes in 2015-16, we have a larger share of the traded coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market. 

And the Australian government hopes to facilitate a doubling of our coal exports.
Think about that. 

Australia is a signatory to an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in 33 years’ time.

 And Turnbull wants to subsidise the opening-up of a new coal basin in the hope that it will export an extra 300 million tonnes of coal a year. 

I’d take Trump’s denial over Turnbull’s deception any day.

The Coalition clearly takes the adage that, if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one quite seriously. 

Having decided to adopt a bizarre “pro-coal, pro-climate” public position, it has set out to abuse language, policy and taxpayers’ money to design a bridge between the multiple sandcastles it is building in the air. 

Take this week’s announcement that more taxpayers’ money will potentially be invested in “carbon capture and storage”.

Like cold fusion, and healthy cigarettes, coal-fired power stations that can capture their pollution and pump it safely underground have promised big and delivering nothing for decades. 

But such fantasies are central to the political strategy of those who want to defend the status quo while promising change. How can Australia double its coal exports and support climate action? 

Easy! We’ll invent “clean coal”. 

The fact that taxpayers fund the coal industry cover story is just icing on the cake.

Speaking of defending that status quo, on the domestic front, the Coalition’s direct action plan is reaching its use-by date and the Turnbull government is faced with the impending arrival of a new report by Chief Scientist Professor Alan Finkel. 

It’s the latest in a string of government reviews of the need for a long-term climate policy that can actually put some pressure on polluters to reduce their emissions rather than put putting pressure on the budget to buy emission reductions.
Donald Trump announces the US will withdraw from the Paris climate change accord.


Donald Trump announces the US will withdraw from the Paris climate change accord.

The Chief Scientist’s problem is not the scientific or economic challenges of building a new electricity grid based on new generation and storage technologies. 

Those problems are easy compared to the linguistic and political “barriers” to bringing our energy system into the 21st century.
Obstacle No. 1 is that the Coalition can’t possibly introduce a simple and effective carbon tax. The idea that a government would introduce a tax to discourage a harmful activity has become anathema to the “good economic managers” in the Coalition, even if it is economics 101. And even if Tony Abbott increased tobacco taxes to discourage smoking.


Climate protesters 

Obstacle No. 2 is the Coalition’s inability to introduce anything that “looks like a carbon tax”. 

This apparently rules out any notion of emissions trading, in which a government sells a limited number of tradable permits to polluters. 

Needless to say, the Coalition has never described the tradable free-to-air TV licences it sells as a “television tax” although, hey, who knows, maybe that’s coming next.
Obstacle No. 3: you can’t propose a scheme like an emissions intensity scheme (or EIS) in which the government never raises a cent. 

Under an EIS, the government sets a target level of “emission intensity” and any electricity generators whose emissions intensity (tonnes of CO2 per unit of electricity produced) is above the target must buy “credits” from generators whose intensity is below the target. 

Needless to say, the notion you can’t slug some industry participants who misbehave is odd coming from a government that just introduced a “bank levy” on the big banks.
Australia has a larger share of the traded coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market.
So what might Finkel advise? 

If we start from the assumption that, these days, “independent reviews” take the arbitrary and self-imposed political constraints of governments seriously, it’s unlikely he’ll strongly recommend any of the simple and effective options described above.
A fourth option is a low emissions target (or LET) to augment, or replace, the effective renewable energy target (RET). The RET, first introduced by John Howard, requires electricity retailers to source a fixed amount of electricity from renewables. It helped drive down the cost of renewable energy and, according to modelling commissioned by Tony Abbott, lowered electricity costs, too. The only “problem” with the RET is that, in setting aside a minimum market share for renewables, it sets a maximum market share for fossil-fuel generators. While the Nationals like to lead the charge against the “distortionary” RET, they are the driving force behind the NSW laws that force drivers to buy petrol blended with a fixed proportion of ethanol.

 

While the RET specifies that electricity retailers must buy energy from wind and solar, a LET could potentially require electricity generators to source their “low emission” electricity from gas or nuclear as well. 

While including gas and nuclear on the list of eligible sources of “clean” fuels is an obsession for some who think that climate policy should be “technology neutral”, the reality is the high cost of gas and nuclear energy probably means that a LET and a RET are similar policy beasts. 

Needless to say, many of those who say renewables should need to compete without subsidies on a “level playing field” are strategically silent about the Commonwealth subsidies required to open up the Galilee coal basin.
The fact is the acronym by which our climate policy is known is far less significant than the ambition, and legislative detail, on which it is based. 

Put simply, there is more room for variation within the possible climate policies than there is between them.
Trump’s clear repudiation of the US’s commitment to tackle climate change and Turnbull’s cynical pretence of support for climate action both point to the same obvious conclusion. 

Until the world stops building new coal mines and stops building new coal-fired power stations, the world’s emissions will continue to grow. 

Everything else is just a cover story for our failure to act.

Richard Denniss is The Australia Institute’s chief economist. Twitter: @RDNS_TAI

Press link for more: Canberra Times

The Adani mine will kill Millions! #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

This is not rhetoric: approving the Adani coal mine will kill people.
Rarely have politicians demonstrated better their ignorance of the risks and opportunities confronting Australia than with Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan and other ministers’ recent utterances on Adani and Galilee Basin coal, along with their petulant foot-stamping over Westpac’s decision to restrict funding to new coal projects.

 Likewise, Bill Shorten sees no problem in supporting Adani.
The media are no better; discussion instantly defaults to important but secondary issues, such as Adani’s concessional government loan, the project’s importance to the economy, creating jobs for north Queenslanders and so on.
The Adani mine by itself will push global temperatures above the threshold increase of 2 degrees.


The Adani mine by itself will push global temperatures above the threshold increase of 2 degrees. Photo: Robert Rough

Nowhere in the debate is the critical issue even raised: the existential risk of climate change, which such development now implies. 

Existential means a risk posing large negative consequences to humanity that can never be undone.

 One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate life, or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

This is the risk to which we are now exposed unless we rapidly reduce global carbon emissions.
In Paris in December 2015, the world, Australia included, agreed to hold global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees”, albeit the emission reduction commitments Australia tabled were laughable in comparison with our peers and with the size of the challenge.

Dangerous climate change, which the Paris agreement and its forerunners seek to avoid, is happening at the 1.2-degree increase already experienced as extreme weather events, and their economic costs, escalate.

 A 1.6-degree increase is already locked in as the full effect of our historic emissions unfolds.
Our current path commits us to a 4 to 5-degree temperature increase.


 This would create a totally disorganised world with a substantial reduction in population, possibly to less than one billion people from 7.5 billion today.
The voluntary emission reduction commitments made in Paris, if implemented, would still result in a 3-degree increase, accelerating social chaos in many parts of the world with rising levels of deprivation, displacement and conflict.
Adani Group founder Gautam Adani with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Adani Group founder Gautam Adani with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

It is already impossible to stay below the 1.5-degree Paris aspiration.

 To have a realistic chance of staying below even 2 degrees means that no new fossil-fuel projects can be built globally – coal, oil or gas – and that existing operations, particularly coal, must be rapidly replaced with low-carbon alternatives. 

Further, carbon-capture technologies that do not currently exist must be rapidly deployed at scale.
Climate change has moved out of the twilight period of much talk and limited action. 

It is now turning nasty.

 Some regions, often the poorest, have already seen major disasters, as has Australia.


 How long will it take, and how much economic damage must we suffer, particularly in Queensland, before our leaders accept that events like Cyclone Debbie and the collapse of much of the Great Barrier Reef are being intensified by man-made climate change? 

Of that there is no doubt, nor has there been for decades. 


The uncertainties, regularly thrown up as reasons for inaction, relate not to the basic science but to the speed and extent of climate impact, both of which have been badly underestimated.
The most dangerous aspect is that the impact of fossil-fuel investments made today do not manifest themselves for decades to come. 

If we wait for catastrophe to happen, as we are doing, it will be too late to act. 

Time is the most important commodity; to avoid catastrophic outcomes requires emergency action to force the pace of change. 

Australia, along with the Asian regions to our north, is now considered to be “disaster alley”; we are already experiencing the most extreme impacts globally.


In these circumstances, opening up a major new coal province is nothing less than a crime against humanity. 

The Adani mine by itself will push temperatures above 2 degrees; the rest of the Galilee Basin development would ensure global temperatures went way above 3 degrees. 

None of the supporting political arguments, such as poverty alleviation, the inevitability of continued coal use, the superior quality of our coal, or the benefits of opening up northern Australia, have the slightest shred of credibility. 

Such irresponsibility is only possible if you do not accept that man-made climate change is happening, which is the real position of both goverment and opposition.

Nowhere in the debate is the critical issue even raised: the existential risk of climate change.
Likewise with business.

 At the recent Santos annual general meeting, chairman Peter Coates asserted that a 4-degree world was “sensible” to assume for planning purposes, thereby totally abrogating in one word his responsibility as a director to understand and act on the risks of climate change. 

Westpac’s new climate policy is a step forward, but fails to accept that no new coal projects should be financed, high-quality coal or not. 

The noose is tightening around the necks of company directors. 

Personal liability for ignoring climate risk is now real.

Yet politicians assume they can act with impunity. 

As rumours of Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris agreement intensify, right on cue Zed Seselja and Craig Kelly insist we should do likewise, without having the slightest idea of the implications.

The first priority of government, we are told, is to ensure the security of the citizens. 

Having got elected, this seems to be the last item on the politician’s agenda, as climate change is treated as just another issue to be compromised and pork-barrelled, rather than an existential threat.

We deserve better leaders.


 If the incumbency is not prepared to act, the community need to take matters into their own hands.


Ian Dunlop was an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chairman of the Australian Coal Association and chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

He is a member of the Club of Rome.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

Bloomberg calls “bullshit” on clean coal #auspol 

Michael Bloomberg an outspoken environmentalist and former New York City mayor, had some harsh words for carbon capture and storage, the unproven technology that proponents say will turn fossil fuels into “clean” energy sources.
“Carbon capture is total bullshit” and “a figment of the imagination,” Bloomberg said on Monday, addressing a crowd at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit in New York.
Carbon capture involves taking the emissions from coal and natural gas-burning power plants and industrial facilities, then burying the carbon deep underground or repurposing it for fertilizers and chemicals. The idea is that by trapping emissions before they enter the atmosphere, we can limit their contribution to human-caused climate change.
Climate experts say it will be next to impossible to eliminate the world’s emissions without carbon capture systems. The International Energy Agency has called the technology “essential,” given that countries are likely to keep burning coal, oil, and natural gas for decades to come.
 Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, former NYC mayor, prominent environmentalist and major coal critic.

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, former NYC mayor, prominent environmentalist and major coal critic.
Image: joe raedle/Getty Images
But to Bloomberg and other critics, that’s precisely the problem. By investing billions of dollars into carbon capture, countries can effectively delay the inevitable — the end of fossil fuels — and postpone investments in genuinely cleaner energy, such as wind and solar power.
So far, only a handful of carbon capture projects even exist around the world, and many of them have faced steep cost overruns and delays. The Kemper Project in Mississippi — billed as America’s “flagship” carbon capture project — is more than $4 billion over budget and still not operational.
Yet President Donald Trump and many coal industry leaders talk about carbon capture as if it’s already solved the nation’s energy challenges. If we have “clean coal,” why invest in alternatives?
Bloomberg has also used aggressive language to express disdain for the coal industry.
“I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies,” he wrote in his new book, Climate of Hope, which he co-authored with former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.
“But for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business,” Bloomberg said.

 Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks with coal miners in Pennsylvania.
Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks with coal miners in Pennsylvania.
Image: ustin Merriman/Getty Images
The billionaire media mogul has donated some $80 million to the Sierra Club to help the environmental group shut down coal-fired power plants as part of its Beyond Coal campaign.
More than 250 U.S. coal plants have shut down or committed to retire since the campaign began in 2011. Many of those closures came as natural gas prices plummeted, prompting utilities to ditch coal, and as federal clean air and water rules made it too costly to upgrade aging coal plants.
Of the nation’s more than 500 coal plants, only 273 now remain open, and Bloomberg’s philanthropy arm and the Sierra Club are working to shutter those, too.
The former mayor also recently announced a new coal-related donation. Bloomberg told the Associated Press that he plans to donate $3 million to organizations that help unemployed coal miners and their communities find new economic opportunities.
Bloomberg Philanthropies highlighted the struggles of miners in a new film, From the Ashes, to be featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this week.
Coal miners “have paid a terrible price,” he told the AP.

Press link for more: Mashable.com

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

by Mark White
Illustrations by Bren Luke 
Earth’s climate has been edging towards a scene usually reserved for a post-apocalyptic movie.

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

 Others say the risks are too high and its proponents mad. 

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

If you visit a block of land near the West Australian dairy town of Harvey in a few years’ time, you will see a few pipes sticking out of the ground, a solar panel and an aerial for communications devices. 

There may be a hut and some room for parking.
These will be the only visible signs of the South West Hub project, designed to test the feasibility of pumping megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the vast Wonnerup sandstone layer, a kilometre-and-a-half deep beneath the Jarrah-Marri trees on the surface.
The gas will be liquefied in a nearby compressor building – an anonymous farm shed – and transported to the injection site via underground pipes.
Wonnerup is an example of carbon capture and storage, one of a suite of technologies known as geoengineering, or climate engineering.
Geoengineering is a mixed bag, but the idea involves large-scale interventions at the level of the whole planet, with the goal of fixing the climate.

 It’s tricky, dangerous, and largely considered “fringe science”.
The proposals come in two main flavours. 

One is carbon dioxide removal, which strips the gas from the atmosphere and slowly restores atmospheric balance.

 A mix of techniques would be needed: hundreds of factories like Wonnerup, billions of new trees and plants, plus contentious technologies such as artificially encouraging the growth of plankton.
The second is solar radiation management, intended to cool the Earth by stopping the sun’s heat from reaching the planet’s surface. 

That can be achieved by pumping minute particles into the atmosphere, but carries the risk of killing billions of people.
Right now, we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to deploy these fixes. 

But some prominent climate scientists argue that as carbon emissions continue to rise, geoengineering will have to be employed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
 

Last December’s meeting of world leaders in Paris produced a voluntary agreement to try to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels, and to not exceed 2C – the widely agreed level of devastating heat increase.

 But agreement and actual efforts didn’t seem to go hand in hand.

“The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris,” a team of 11 climate scientists wrote in a January letter to The Independent, “and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. 

The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse.”
University of Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams says: “Other things being equal, I’m not a great fan of geoengineering, but I think it absolutely necessary given the situation we’re in. 

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

But you need it, because looking at the world, nobody’s instantly changing their pattern of life.”
Since then, temperatures have been soaring month after month, we’ve learned that the Great Barrier Reef is in extremely poor health and bleaching rapidly, while new quests continue to unearth more fossil fuels.
As we’re failing to keep the planet pleasant and habitable for future generations, could we instead fix the climate with technology? 
With geoengineering?
Debate about geoengineering in Australia is “almost being avoided”, according to Professor David Karoly, a noted atmospheric scientist at the University of Melbourne.

 He is a member of the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government, and was involved in preparing the 2007 IPCC report on global warming.
“There’s very little discussion on it in terms of government circles, there’s very little research on it, there’s very little discussion of it in what might be called mainstream science,” Professor Karoly says.

Policymakers are including geoengineering in their plans, but many technologies are still unproven and potentially dangerous.
“You’ll generally find among climate scientists that almost all are opposed to geoengineering,” says Professor Jim Falk, of the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. 

“They’re already pretty concerned about what we’ve done to the climate and don’t want to start stuffing around doing other things we only half-understand on a grand scale.”
When the US National Academy of Science launched a report last year analysing geoengineering options, committee head Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was asked if any should be deployed. 

She replied “Gosh, I hope not”.
The report considered carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management so risky it used the term “climate intervention” instead of geoengineering, arguing the term “engineering” implied a level of control that doesn’t exist.
But the IPCC has considered scenarios where such engineering would be necessary: its 2014 assessment report mentions bio-energy carbon capture and storage (known as BECCS), where plant fuel is burned and the resulting carbon dioxide buried.
And the Paris Agreement noted there would be need for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in 2050-2100.
“A few years ago, these exotic Dr Strangelove options were discussed only as last-ditch contingencies,” wrote Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, of the Paris talks in Nature magazine.
“Now they are Plan A.”
 

The term “geoengineering” raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions.
Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year.
Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term “Third Way technologies”, based on the Earth’s natural processes.
Flannery says those which work at the gigatonne scale – the only ones which will dent the problem – may take decades to be developed.
“The only way you can get to a Paris-like outcome is by slamming hard on emissions,” he says, “reducing them as fast as humanly possible as well as investing now in these technologies that’ll give you these gigatonne gains in 20 or 30 years time.”
”The question for most of these technologies is – we don’t know if they work. But we need them to work.”
Flannery says solar-radiation management approaches should be treated with great caution, as they mask the problem: they will reduce the temperature, but not affect rising CO2 levels, leaving the oceans ever more acidic. That could see a catastrophic loss of reefs and oceanic life, devastating the aquatic food chain.
Ironically, one of the reasons the atmosphere isn’t already at a 2C warming mark, says Professor Karoly, is due to the aerosols already in the atmosphere – an unintentional form of solar radiation management.
He says the current best estimate of stabilising the temperature at that level, with a 50 per cent likelihood, is for a carbon equivalent reading of 420-480ppm. The current figure is 481ppm, and rising at 3ppm per year.
Solar radiation management – deliberate and large scale – might buy time in an emergency, says Flannery. “There’s a broad highway to hell that’s easy to go down and it’s really cheap, relatively. It’s instantly effective, nations can do it unilaterally and it gives you a lower temperature.
“But there’s a narrow, crooked, winding path to heaven which is the carbon reduction stuff. It’s at a very early stage, but that actually does solve the problem.”

Once we capture carbon, it can actually be used productively. American researchers have produced carbon nanofibres from atmospheric carbon dioxide – initially only 10g per hour, but they are convinced it could scale.
There could be vast baths of molten chemicals across large swathes of the Sahara Desert, powered by solar radiation, forming layers of a valuable building material on submerged electrodes.
A research project at a California university has gone further, manufacturing a building material dubbed CO2NCRETE from captured carbon dioxide. A pilot plant at Australia’s University of Newcastle is investigating whether a similar process, combining excess CO2 from an Orica plant with minerals to form building materials, has commercial potential.
Flannery is interested in desktop studies on carbon-sucking seaweed and algae, as well as research reporting that carbon dioxide can be made to fall as snow over the Antarctic.

Picture this: the temperature plummeting well below freezing until a blizzard of dry ice cascades onto the barren plains below, each cuboctahedral flake representing a miniscule improvement in carbon levels, to be stored safely – somehow – from warming into a gas and re-entering the air.
“We’re at very, very early days,” Flannery warns. “Various approaches have different favourable aspects to them, but I don’t think any of them are anything like a silver bullet.”
Flannery’s championing of unorthodox technologies – even as avenues for research – isn’t shared by many high-profile climate change campaigners. David Karoly calls Flannery’s interest “surprising”. He deems ideas such as dry ice snowfall in Antarctica as “rather technofix solutions”.
“How do you get sufficient CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it?” asks Professor Karoly. “It’s probably the most inhospitable environment in the world and he’s talking about – if you work out what this equates to, it’s a mountain higher than Everest, the size of a soccer field every year.”
The Paris target of a 1.5C rise is “virtually impossible” without new technologies, he says, which “have not been proved either commercially viable or without major harm”.
“My concern is, the cure might be substantially worse than the disease.”
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, who wrote about geoengineering in his 2013 book Earthmasters, is more blunt.
“The schemes [Flannery] proposes are real pie-in-the-sky stuff, way out there,” he says. “He seems to have been sucked in by a kind of strange techno-promise that’ll get us out of this.”

Australian geoengineering research lags far behind the world leaders in the US, UK and Germany. It’s limited to a handful of scientists in Sydney and Hobart, and our major achievement is helping to halt commercial oceanic geoengineering.
The federal government, via its Direct Action policy, focuses on carbon sequestration without the crazy technofix label. Instead it backs land-use practices such as planting new forests, and prioritises soil enhancement, mangrove protection and rainforest recovery.
“There was an enormous groundswell of support for these activities in Paris,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment says. “Other actions [in the geoengineering field] would have an enormously high safety bar to cross and are a long way from proof.”
Meanwhile, CSIRO looks set to embark on an expansion of its geoengineering research program, both at land and sea. In a recent memo to staff announcing 350 job cuts at the organisation, CSIRO head Larry Marshall nominated “climate interventions (geo-engineering)” as one area in which it would seek a “step change” in knowledge.
“CSIRO is currently working through the detail of our future climate adaptation and mitigation research, and will include research relevant aspects of onshore and offshore geo-engineering. The scale and scope of this research is still to be determined,” a CSIRO spokesperson told SBS.

 
Jim Falk categorises geoengineering proposals along various lines, including how big a project needs to be for credible deployment, how big an impact it would have, whether it is reversible, what governance is required, how much it would cost, and the risks involved.
“Then you can say different proposals have different footprints,” Falk says, “and depending on the footprint you can suggest what sort of barriers you would want for their regulations before you would allow an experiment to take place.”
Unlike attempts to reduce global carbon emissions – where everyone must do their part for action to be effective – what scares scientists about solar radiation management is the relative ease of one person launching a planet-wide experiment.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere from aircraft or balloons is known to reduce temperatures. It mimics what happens when volcanic ash blankets the atmosphere.
There would be spectacular sunsets as solar rays interact with the particles, with brilliant red eddies splashing the evening sky, similar to those in Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
And it has been costed at just $US10 billion a year.
One test in August 2008 was conducted on land 500km southeast of Moscow by Yuri Izrael, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s science advisor. He and his team rigged aerosol sprays on a helicopter and car chassis, measuring how solar radiation was retarded at heights up to 200 metres.
“China might decide to pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and not tell anyone about it,” says Rosemary Rayfuse, a Law professor at UNSW and a global authority on regulating geoengineering. “Or Australia could do it. Anybody could. That’s the other problem – it’s so easy to do.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson could step forward, says Anita Talberg, a PhD student in the governance of climate engineering at the University of Melbourne. Both support geoengineering and have funded research.
“They could just decide suddenly, ‘I could do enough benefit for the poor and vulnerable in the world, I could just do it and save them from the climate crisis.’”
Such a move could be catastrophic, most immediately due to the risk of drought in the tropics, devastating the food security of billions of people. Those colourful sunsets are projected to see lower rainfall.
The sky will bleach white during the day, while ozone depletes in the tropics – where most of the world’s population live. As the temperature falls, levels of UV radiation will rise, leading to an upsurge in skin cancers.

Professor Andy Pitman, of the Climate Change Research Centre in Sydney, is a member of the World Climate Research Program.
The only role he sees for sulphate injection is alongside steep cuts in carbon emissions. “If people are talking about it as a substitute for that, the technical term you’d use is ‘cloud cuckoo land’.”
But he hopes it’s never necessary.
“God, I hope not. We have a well-studied problem called global warming – we’re not sure of every detail – that would breach every ethics experiment on the planet if you proposed it as an experiment.
“All those problems relate to solar radiation management and I’d suggest any country that tried it at any significant level would find itself in every court in the world.”
There are smaller-scale approaches, he says, without the “ethical problems”. One is painting roofs white to reflect sun, a backyard approach anyone can try, and which would help cool interiors during hot summer days.
Another is genetically modified crops with a higher reflectivity, with variations as simple as leaves that are hairier or have a waxier coating.
Harvard University’s Professor David Keith is leading more research into solar radiation management, arguing in a 2015 paper that the technique could be used in a “temporary, moderate and responsive scenario”.
“Even if we make deep emissions cuts, it might be that the benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the risks,” he tells SBS. “Or maybe not. To know, we have to decide to learn more.”
 

The belief in a technical solution – that because we have to find something, we will – has psychological roots in an effect known as ‘optimism bias’, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Susie Burke, who has expertise on issues relating to the environment, climate change and natural disasters.
“It’s intrinsic to humans to be optimistically biased,” she says, “and it’s great because it gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us a healthy motivation. But with respect to climate change, it means we end up minimising our personal risk and even risks that pertain to us – and believing the worst problems will happen to other people, somewhere else or into the future.”
She adds, “With the general population who are struggling to make significant changes to their lifestyle, deep down there is a belief that someone, somewhere will come up with something to solve the problem.”
Even talking about geoengineering carries the risk of “moral hazard”, that a solution to rocketing carbon emissions means they can continue unabated. That scenario troubles many.
“There’s a moral hazard in not discussing these things as well,” says Tim Flannery, “because we know we’re going to need them.”
The worst-case scenario – international agreements fail to stop emissions from rising – would force the use of extreme measures. Clive Hamilton thinks sulphate injection is the most likely use of geoengineering, though not yet.
“If we have a series of years where there are catastrophic droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes which cause massive impacts in several countries – also tipping points, so permafrost is now irreversibly melting – what kind of political and geostrategic environment are we going to be facing?” he asks.
“I think in that kind of scenario – which is not just possible but fairly likely – certain scientists promising they can rapidly reduce the earth’s temperature within a year or two are going to start looking increasingly attractive to some nations.”
Andy Pitman says that could lead to war: “You can imagine a situation – and it’s not too far-fetched – where country X starts a major campaign around sulphur injections into the atmosphere, country Y’s rainfall dramatically declines and is going into serious long-term famine, and that instigated a military response.”
And if carbon emissions continued to rise, the sulphate injection would have to be continuous. Otherwise, the particles would drop out of the atmosphere, leading to a sudden, highly disruptive jump in temperature.
If a war, say, or a pandemic was responsible for the break in sulphate injection, the compounding effects could be existential. 

Talking of human extinction in such a scenario is not too far-fetched.

 
The possibilities are less apocalyptic for some form of carbon capture and storage. 

Clive Hamilton identifies land being used by the likes of BECCS – bio-energy carbon capture and storage – to capture carbon as one of the main changes in geoengineering in the last few years.
Plants and trees would be grown for fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions from power generation would be stored away. There’s an example of this in Illinois at an ethanol production plant.
But there are questions over BECCS, not least that “no such economic process [is] available at this point and there may never be”, says Jim Falk.
The sheer amount of land needed is staggering, too. 

In a February 2016 paper in Nature,environmental scientist Philip Williamson estimated that one-third of the world’s arable land (430-580 million hectares of crops) would need planting for BECCS use to limit the temperature rise to 2C by 2100.

This would accelerate deforestation and, given “not unrealistic” assumptions, see carbon emissions actually increase.
Oliver Munnion, of the UK-based BioFuelwatch website, argues that BECCS is more dangerous than solar radiation management.

 “It’s the most outrageous,” he says. “It’s also the favoured approach amongst policy-makers, scientists and industry.
“The idea that we’d harm proven carbon sinks – forests and soils – to create an unproven and untested carbon sink underground is the antithesis of what climate policy should be geared towards.”
The problem facing geoengineering advocates is that most dangerous schemes are possible, but need to be used as a last resort, while the most promising schemes aren’t possible at scale. 

Even if they were, the numbers quickly turn ugly.
In the Nature article, Philip Williamson estimated that growing seaweed as a carbon pool would use nine per cent of the world’s oceans, with unknown environmental impacts.
Utilising the simple solar-radiation management tool of laying a reflective rock on the ground to reduce carbon levels by 12 per cent would need 1-5 kg/sqm of rock to be applied to 15-45 per cent of the earth’s surface, at a total cost of US$60-600 trillion.

That means an area of land at least the size of the old Soviet Union would have to be set aside and the global economy bankrupted.
The further you look, the more improbable geoengineering concepts become. A presentation to the 2016 American Meteorological Conference on Atmospheric Science called for lasers in the sky to microwave and neutralise methane clouds (another greenhouse gas).
UNSW Law professor Rosemary Rayfuse recalls one UK project looking at increasing the reflectivity of the oceans by making white foam, which had to persist for at least three months: “They were proposing to cover the oceans in meringue, which I thought was rather funny!”
David Karoly calls the idea of hanging mirrors in space to reflect sunlight “just stupid”, calculating the need for one million square kilometres of alfoil. Flannery agrees: “Anything that masks the problem, and lets people think they’ve solved it, is a danger.”
Cutting carbon emissions drastically, and now, would start to solve the problem. But that isn’t happening. Campaigners such as Tim Flannery are crossing their fingers that carbon-scrubbing technology we need to take us on “the narrow winding path to heaven” is developed in time.
If neither happens, we’ll be heading down the “broad highway to hell” of having to rely on solar radiation management, where the devil we don’t know is better than a climate gone rogue.
The effects of pumping simulated volcanic fallout into the atmosphere could dwarf the biggest eruptions in history. Start preparing for vivid red sunsets – and an uncertain future

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU