CSIRO

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We’re at War to save the planet! #auspol #climatechange #science 

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope.

 It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. 

It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before.

 For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.
For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. 

This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. 

Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.
Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. 

El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. 

It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.
Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. 

Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.
What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records.

 (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) 

Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. 


The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: 

“This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”
The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.
Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: 

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” 

Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. 

Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.
The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.
All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. 

Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.


Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.

 It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.
People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? 

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. 

They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.


Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.
And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.
The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax.

 Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. 

In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.
The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.
It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. 

We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. 
The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

Press link for more: The Guardian.com

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Clean Coal: Factsheet

Clean Coal: Factsheet



COAL IS ALWAYS POLLUTING

Building new fossil fuel power plants is expensive, polluting and damaging for community health.

FACT CHECK ON PRIME MINISTER

Our energy system needs overhauling.

Australia’s energy system is ageing, inefficient  and polluting. 

It is not coping with escalating extreme weather, like heatwaves and storms. 


It is not adequately adapted to 21st century, smart technology.

In addressing this major issue Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says our new energy system must achieve three objectives:

1. Be clean (low emissions) 

2. Affordable

3. Reliable

THE PROBLEM

Coal power doesn’t meet any of these criteria. 

Yet the Federal Government is misleading the public by promoting “clean coal” as the way forward.

HERE’S WHY

1. There is no such thing as “clean” coal.

When dug up and burned, coal pollutes
the environment and damages our health. 

Burning coal for electricity emits toxic and carcinogenic substances into our air, water and land, severely impacting on the health of miners, workers and communities.

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering estimated coal’s health impacts cost taxpayers $2.6 billion every year.

More efficent  coal plants labelled “ultra supercritical” (what the Federal Government calls “clean coal”) emit significant greenhouse gases. 

A new high-efficiency  coal plant run on black coal would produce about 80% of the emissions of an equivalent old plant, while renewables (eg. wind and solar) emit zero emissions. 

So-called “clean coal” does not help Australia meet its obligations to reduce its emissions 26-28% by 2030 below 2005 levels.

Press link for more: Climate Council

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Experts should speak out on #climatechange #auspol 

Experts are right to speak out on climate change threat
Tomorrow marks the eighth anniversary of the worst bushfires in Australian history – the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. This firestorm killed 173 people, injured 5000, affected 109 communities and damaged or destroyed 3500 buildings. 



For the doctors, nurses and psychologists called to respond, and who continue to deal with its aftermath, now is a time not only to reflect on lessons of the past, but to prepare for the future. 

We know climate change is making extreme weather events – bushfires, droughts and heatwaves, storms and floods – more frequent and severe.

 All of these disasters harm the health of our patients and communities. 

Bushfires are devastating, and their impacts and consequences long lasting.

 As well as causing death, the immediate health risks include radiant heat injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and trauma. 


In the aftermath, communities face serious public health issues such as sanitation and water safety, smoke pollution, food insecurity, infection control and access to basic accommodation, healthcare and community services. 

Sadly, in the longer term, people affected by bushfire disasters are also at higher risk of many ongoing physical and mental health problems. 

They also face the social and economic costs of rebuilding homes, communities and infrastructure.
Health professionals have a responsibility – to our patients and communities – to speak up on issues that threaten human health. 

It’s why leading medical organisations are describing climate change as a “public health emergency”, mirroring the experiences of doctors and nurses on the frontline.

 So, just as we advocated for tobacco control, health professionals are now mobilising to demand urgent action to mitigate climate change in order to reduce the risk of the tragedy and devastation of another Black Saturday. 
Dr Kate Charlesworth is a Public Health Physician in NSW and works with the Climate and Health Alliance. 

Press link for more: Examiner.com.au

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Western Australia leads the world in wave energy #auspol 

Wave energy possesses unique characteristics that offer an advantage over other renewables such as wind and solar energy:
Less variable and with the variability being more gradual and with notice; and

More predictable. Australia’s preeminent research organization, the CSIRO, estimates wave energy is at least three times more predictable than wind energy;

The proximity of favourable wave energy sites to ultimate end users, thereby minimising transmission issues. Notably, approximately 60% of the world’s population lives within 60 kilometres of a coast.


Carnegie’s Mauritian Wave and Microgrid Design Project is focused on the potential for high penetration renewable energy microgrids that incorporate wave energy.
The Project on Mauritius and the neighbouring island of Rodrigues will deliver three outcomes by the end 2016:
1. A renewable energy roadmap for Mauritius, including: technical, commercial and financial feasibility of high penetration renewable energy.
2. An assessment of the Mauritian wave energy resource and the identification of a preferred site for a commercial CETO wave energy project.
3. The design of a microgrid powered desalination plant on the Mauritian island of Rodrigues.
The Project is supported by $800,000 in funding from the Australian and Mauritian Governments.
Australian based Energy Made Clean (EMC), proven specialists in the delivery, construction and operation of microgrids, will assist Carnegie in the delivery of the Mauritian Wave and Microgrid Design Project. This follows the announcement by Carnegie of its Investment and Alliance Agreement with EMC in March 2016.

The CETO 6 Project, located offshore of Garden Island, Western Australia is supported by the Australian Federal Government through a $11m Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grant as well as a debt facility from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
This next generation CETO unit has a targeted 1MW capacity, representing some four times the output of the previous generation CETO 5 unit (demonstrated as part of the Perth Wave Energy Project).
The concept design is the culmination of work that commenced in 2012 and incorporates lessons learnt from the Perth Wave Energy Project, wave tank testing in Scotland, as well as internal design and modelling studies undertaken with Carnegie’s supply chain.
The CETO 6 design is the CETO product platform that will be used in commercial CETO projects.


Hayle Marine Renewable Business Park and Wave Hub sub-station looking north-west over St Ives towards the Wave Hub offshore site (Source: Cornwall Council).
CETO 6 offers a higher rated capacity and increased efficiency than previous CETO generations which, when deployed in large commercial arrays, will deliver a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) competitive with offshore wind. Longer term development will continue to push costs lower below this benchmark. It is this technology that will be utilised, developed and adapted for deployment in Cornwall.

The Project will be delivered by Carnegie’s local subsidiary, CWE UK, based at the Hayle Marine Renewable Business Park, with commercial and technical support from its Australian parent company and developer of the CETO wave energy technology, Carnegie Wave Energy. Delivery of the Project will leverage Cornwall’s, and the UK’s, exceptional wave energy resource, marine energy revenue support, maritime industrial heritage, the world class Wave Hub infrastructure, and active and innovative marine engineering and research sectors. Carnegie also expects to utilise the marine energy feed in tariff available in the UK which equates to an estimated £305/MWh for the second stage of the Project.
Deployment and operation of the CETO device will be within a defined berth, awarded to Carnegie in 2014, at Wave Hub. Wave Hub is a facility for testing of wave energy device arrays. It provides a fully grid-connected and consented wave energy site, located approximately 10 nautical miles (16km) off the north coast of Cornwall. The Wave Hub Offshore Deployment Area, which covers 8 km² of seabed, is divided into four separate berths available to lease to wave energy device developers, with a 30MVA grid connection agreement.


Wave Hub unit being deployed 16km offshore from Hayle, Cornwall. The Wave Hub test facility is the world’s largest and most technologically advanced site for the development of offshore renewable energy technology.
The Project will also include engagement with and coordination of a suitable supply chain for the construction and operational phases. The successful demonstration of this Project will present a significant opportunity to commercialise wave energy in the UK through bridging the gap between technology readiness and commercialisation.

Press link for more: Carnegie Wave

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The U.S. will become a pariah when Trump pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement #auspol #COP22

By Dr Joe Romm

The vast majority of U.S. voters and policymakers have no clue how cataclysmic it will be for this country when Trump keeps his promise to exit the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. (But then why would they, when much of the media also has no clue about the existential nature of the climate fight after a quarter century of ignoring the warnings of scientists?)

It is not “if” he keeps his promise, it is “when,” since the Trump team is already looking to quit Paris as fast as possible, perhaps within a year, according to “a source on his transition team,” Reuters reported Sunday. Another reason to take Trump seriously: He appointed fellow climate science deniers to top positions in his transition team and administration — while the media normalizes his radical words and deeds.

Since the United States was a leader in making Paris happen, when the country pulls out (and then works to kill climate action at home and abroad), it will suddenly become a global pariah. Think of the sanctions against Putin’s Russia — or, think about a massive, global boycott, like the one against apartheid South Africa, times 10.

Consider how a United States exit will look.

The world will rightly blame the United States for destroying humanity’s last, best hope to avoid catastrophic warming. We will be blamed for the multiple ever-worsening catastrophic climate impacts that befall the planet in the coming years (and decades and beyond). And why not? We’re the richest country and the biggest cumulative carbon polluter, and the pledge we made for Paris was just about the weakest we could offer. And now we aren’t even going to do that.

From the world’s perspective, U.S. voters just elected a man who actively campaigned on a plan to kill the Paris agreement, undo all U.S. climate action, boost coal and fossil fuel use, and zero out funding for all international climate-related aid, domestic climate science, and clean energy R&D. Oh, and he thinks global warming is a hoax, and he has named a well-known climate science denier to run the EPA transition (if not the EPA itself) — and another to be his top White House aide and chief strategist.

It bears repeating that on October 26, Trump promised, “I will also cancel all wasteful climate change spending from Obama-Clinton, including all global warming payments to the United Nations. These steps will save $100 billion over 8 years.”

Not only is Trump appointing hard-core climate science deniers to high level positions, but even everyday Republicans — like Trump’s newly appointed Chief of Staff Reince Priebus — are critical of climate action. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders have actively lobbied other countries against the Paris climate deal and lobbied states to disregard the EPA’s Clean Power Plan standards for electricity generation.

So there’s every reason to believe Trump will keep his climate campaign promises, making the United States a pariah nation, and potentially triggering carbon taxes and environmental tariffs.

On Sunday, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–2012) said Europe should “adopt a carbon tax at the borders of Europe, a tax of 1 to 3 percent for all products that come from the United States.” The center-right Sarkozy, who is running to get his old job back, explained, “We cannot find ourselves in a situation where our businesses have [environmental] obligations but where we continue to import products from countries that meet none of those obligations.”

If that happened, it’s not too hard to imagine the response of the president-elect — who has already threatened to put tariffs on a great many foreign countries. The United States will lose all of its so-called “soft power” as the world’s “indispensable nation” goes rogue.

That means any effort Trump makes to keep his commitment to be tough on other countries on trade will find zero support around the world. Indeed, a more plausible response would be for the world to treat us like Russia, Iran or apartheid South Africa. That would particularly be the case if, as appears entirely likely, Trump cozies up to Putin and Russia, as he did in the campaign.

Why am I laying out the worst-case scenario? Because right now, this should be considered the business-as-usual scenario — and the overwhelming majority of the so-called intelligentsia (aka the climate ignorati) simply don’t get it.

Take this Saturday article, in which “Politico asked 17 experts to game out a Trump presidency,” specifically, “What’s the worst-case scenario? The best?“

Only two of them mentioned any of the actual impacts from failing to stop catastrophic climate change (though a third did mention the climate in passing).

One of those was 350.0rg founder Bill McKibben, who noted the worst case is that Trump “succeeds in derailing the very fragile global turn towards clean energy just at the moment when it was starting to accelerate — and the result of that is measured in degrees of global temperature and meters of sea level rise stretching out over millennia.”

Apparently, outside of actual climate experts, it is hard to find “experts” who realize the future of humanity is on a knife’s edge. The one exception was economist Daniel Altman, who warns Trump “could easily cause as many deaths and inflict as much hardship [as the Iraq War] … by reversing the world’s progress to combat climate change.”

Historically, the best way to avoid the worst-case scenario is if a great many people actively work to avoid it. If humanity had taken seriously the worst case scenario on climate— which is now coming true — we would have started taking action long enough ago to avert the catastrophe we now face. And if team Clinton had taken seriously the worst case scenario for the election — which also came true — they definitely would have adopted a different strategy, which might have avoided it.

Right now, the worst-case scenario is a two-term Trump presidency where he does exactly what he has said he will. In that scenario, Trump sets us back on a path towards 7°F warming or more — in which case war like those in Iraq and Syria become the norm.

Press link for more: Think Progress

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Australia can go green and have economic growth – #Auspol #EarthtoParis #COP21

Negative emissions, as well as economic growth and improved biodiversity: Australia could have it all.
According to a huge modelling study, Australia can continue to grow its economy by relying heavily on agriculture and mining, while also slashing emissions and improving the natural environment. But smart government policies will be key.
In the first of what will be a regular series of Australian National Outlook reports, researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s government scientific research agency, combined nine different economic and environmental models to examine 20 possible paths to 2050.

They found that strong international action on climate change would benefit the Australian economy, even ignoring the accompanying benefits of reduced climate impacts. Australia’s economic future looked brightest in scenarios where stronger climate action was taken, and the financial benefits could even kick in before 2050.
Although such decisive action would weaken demand for its coal, the country would enjoy increased demand for its gas, uranium and agricultural produce – all things Australia can export in spades.
Trees are key

Even in scenarios where Australia achieved negative emissions as early as 2040, GDP still grows strongly in the models.
Planting forests turns out to be crucial for Australia to reduce its emissions, accounting for up to 40 per cent of reductions. This could be encouraged simply by introducing a market mechanism, such as carbon pricing, that would pay farmers about $50 for each tonne of CO2 sequestered by planting new trees. Because much of that can be done using native plants, such a measure would also improve biodiversity.
“Overall it is a very positive message that we can have growth and a sustainable environment at the same time,” says Alex Wonhas from CSIRO, who led the report. “But it’s not necessarily given. There will be choices,” he says. Investment will have to be made in water resources and agricultural efficiency, and incentives would have to be created for emissions reductions and energy efficiency.
Best case scenario

“Australia has seen rapid expansion in mining and agriculture, with tremendous pressure on its ecological systems and sky-high greenhouse gas emissions,” says Frank Jotzo at the Australian National University in Canberra. If Australia sees rapid economic growth in coming decades while also easing this environmental pressure, the same could be true for many other countries, he says.
The most positive scenarios for Australia’s growth and climate are ones where carbon capture and storage (CSS) becomes commercially viable. Australia is one of the world’s biggest producers of coal and CCS would allow coal use to increase, while decreasing emissions. Should coal be phased out, CCS could be used in combination with biofuels, to create negative emissions, reducing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
“This is a landmark study,” says Jotzo. “Their findings should give Australia’s politicians resolve to face up to the big questions of environmental sustainability,” he says.
Journal Reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature16065

Press link for more: newscientist.com

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The most pessimistic climate change scientist has had a sudden change of heart. #Auspol

The world has a better chance of saving itself from catastrophic global warming now than at any time over the past two decades, according to the scientist behind some of the most alarming predictions ever made for the planet’s future.
Johan Rockström shocked environmentalists in 2009 when he identified nine categories of Nature that were essential for life as we know it, and warned that we had already crossed into dangerous territory on three of them – including climate change.
Rockström, an environmental science professor at Stockholm University and executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, has since transferred a fourth category, deforestation, to his list of “planetary boundaries” in the danger zone, which threaten irreversible, devastating consequences to the planet.
But he has had a dramatic change of heart over global warming, and is more optimistic that the worst of the threat can be contained than he has been since 1992.

The nine threats
In the danger zone
Biodiversity loss: the fewer species in an ecosystem, the less healthy it is

Deforestation

Climate change

Eutrophication: Nitrate/phosphate build-up in water (from fertiliser) 

Other risks to life
Ocean acidification

Freshwater consumption

Chemical pollution, such as plastic 

Aerosol pollution

Stratospheric ozone depletion

His optimism is founded on the breakneck speed of innovation in wind and solar power in the past two to three years, which means that renewable energy is being deployed on a massive scale and, crucially, at a cost roughly comparable to fossil fuels. Only last week new figures showed that the cost of electricity produced by onshore windfarms in the UK has fallen so much that for the first time it is now cheaper than fossil-fuel energy. 

Rapid improvements in energy efficiency are also key, along with a drive to reduce waste and increase the volume of recycled materials used in manufacturing, he says.
These developments have effectively removed the last major impediment to dramatically reducing greenhouse gases, raising the prospect that even though the planetary boundary has been crossed on global warming, the world may be able to cross back again.
“We have a paradox unique to our era. On a scientific basis there is more reason to be nervous than ever before. But at the same time there has never before been so much reason for hope,” Professor Rockström told The Independent on Sunday. “The last time I was as optimistic was in 1992, with the Rio conference …. Then we lost 20 years. Now we’re back on a much more hopeful path,” he said.

Each year, 192 officials from around the world attend such a summit, often with disappointing results. This year’s event in Paris in December is billed as the most important ever, because world leaders have pledged to agree emissions cuts and other actions that will put the world on a pathway that will eventually limit global warming to 2C. In advance, countries have said how much they are prepared to cut emissions by 2030. While these cuts in themselves fall short of what is needed, the professor is hopeful a more comprehensive deal, involving further cuts beyond 2030, can be struck in Paris – meaning the summit will achieve its goal.
He says the situation regarding climate change is similar to that facing the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, towards the end of last century. This was being so badly depleted by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in fridges and aerosols that the world had crossed “planetary boundaries”, threatening to dramatically increase cases of skin cancer. Then a cheaper alternative to CFCs was invented, the 1987 Montreal Protocol banned CFC use and the ozone layer recovered.
But Professor Rockström warns:“The negatives remain. The world’s coral reefs are so worryingly close to collapse, while the Arctic and Antarctic are deteriorating so rapidly they could hit tipping points that are irreversible … it’s now or never towards tipping the world to a very costly, very devastating future, versus tipping ourselves towards a sustainable future. 
“I take a sober, optimistic view.”

Press link for more: Tom Bawden | Tom Bawden | independent.co.uk

A giant excavator operates at an open pit lignite mine, also known as brown coal, operated by RWE AG in Hambach, Germany, on Monday, Sept. 2015. German utilities including RWE, unions and the states, successfully fended off a plan by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government this summer to fast-track lignite power plant closures to help Germany meet its climate goals. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Old King Coal Is A Desperate Old Soul. #CanningVotes #Auspol #ClimateChange

The coal industry’s latest PR escapade paints coal as an amazing, versatile commodity with almost limitless possibilities, providing seemingly endless energy and employment.
In case you missed it: the #coalismazing video simulates a fly-through of magnified valleys and landscapes from the surface of a lump of coal along with accompanying purring female voice-over, recasting this old, dirty, sooty rock as something futuristic, alluring and a panacea for pretty much every global ill.
I expect most will be familiar with the ‘shell game’, the one where a pea is hidden under one of three shells. Sleight of hand allows the conjurer to draw your attention whilst distracting you from the obvious.
This coal version might also be a mildly amusing ploy were the consequences not so disastrously unhealthy.
The deception occurs by linking energy generation generally, with its clear societal benefits, to the out-dated combustion of coal whilst ignoring the significant downsides or costs from pollution as well as the arrival of new and alternative technologies that are effectively pollution free.
It is a clever psychological trick to disguise the very real limits of coal due to its burgeoning costs into a story where the implied narrative is “there are no limits”.
But burning coal to generate energy results in far larger emissions of both toxic pollutants and greenhouse gasses than any other form of energy generation.
Coal combustion is a public health disaster, contributing to the more than three million world deaths from outdoor air pollution each year. And these are not limited to developing nations. Studies in the US estimate the hidden costs, or ‘externalities’, from coal amounted to up to US $500 billion per annum, mostly related to air pollution.
In Australia, coal related air pollution costs around $2.6 billion annually and in the US the industry has been shown to be of little overall value to society.
Widespread release of airborne pollutants is akin to mandatory smoking for much of the world’s population, indiscriminately affecting the most vulnerable in society: children, the elderly and those with existing heart and lung conditions.
The silent and mostly invisible coal product includes microscopic particles of hydrocarbons and toxic residues, carried on the wind, inhaled and then deposited deep into your lungs. The inflammatory and toxic response in lung tissue results in asthma and chronic bronchitis and now recognised as being a cause of lung cancer just as effectively as tobacco smoking.
Large-scale clinical US studies in the 1990’s not only confirmed the confirmed that long-term exposure resulted in lung disease, but there was an even bigger toll in heart disease.
Air pollution doesn’t stop at the lungs; it gets into the blood stream causing inflammation within blood vessels and cardiac arrhythmia.
Even before the medical science was understood, there was plenty of damning evidence directly linking coal burning to ill health. The banning of coal sales in Dublin in 1990 saw a dramatic reduction in particulate air pollution and over 350 fewer deaths related to heart and ling disease each year thereafter.
It is not an isolated example. Reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory illness and deaths are in fact consistently observed following improvements in air quality when regulation to reduce coal burning is introduced. And the benefits are apparent even where ambient air pollution is already at low levels
Coal is also the source of many other harmful environmental pollutants including heavy metals such as mercury, where it is now the dominant source of new contamination.
If that weren’t enough, coal dominated stationary power generation is the single biggest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change has been described in the world’s leading medical journals as the greatest threat to our health this century. Increasing global heatwaves, extreme weather events result in direct injury, loss and mental health impacts, but the more insidious and far greater health impacts result from changing biological and physical systems leading to food and water insecurity and changing patterns of infectious diseases.
Our climate scientists are telling us that to keep global temperature increase to a ‘safe’ 2oC limit, we must leave over 80 percent of coal reserves in the ground, where they have been safely sequestered and stored for millions of years.
So the coal industry has a point; coal really is amazing, it can make millions of people sick even from thousands of miles away, it can change the whole climate of a planet. Why, as Dr Tim Senior tweeted, it can even make whole countries disappear.

Press link for more: Dr George Crisp : huffingtonpost.com

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How Cheap Will Solar Get? #Auspol

If current rates of improvement hold, solar power will be incredibly cheap by the time it’s a substantial fraction of the world’s electricity supply, writes famous author and thinker Ramez Naam. According to Naam, electricity cost is from now on coupled to the ever-decreasing price of technology. That is profoundly deflationary and disruptive.
It’s now fairly common knowledge that the cost of solar modules is dropping exponentially. I helped publicize that fact in a 2011 Scientific American blog post asking “Does Moore’s Law Apply to Solar Cells?” The answer is that something like Moore’s law, an exponential learning curve (albeit slower than in computing) applies. (For those that think Moore’s Law is a terrible analogy, here’s my post on why Moore’s Law is an excellent analogy for solar.

 Solar electricity cost, not solar module cost, is key
But module prices now make up less than half of the price of complete solar deployments at the utility scale. The bulk of the price of solar is so-called “soft costs” – the DC->AC inverter, the labor to install the panels, the glass and aluminum used to cover and prop them up, the interconnection to the grid, etc. Solar module costs are now just one component in a more important question: What’s the trend in cost reduction of solar electricity? And what does that predict for the future?
Let’s look at some data. Here are cost of solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) signed in the US over the last several years. PPAs are contracts to sell electricity, in this case from solar photovoltaic plants, at a pre-determined price. Most utility-scale solar installations happen with a PPA.
In the US, the price embedded in solar PPAs has dropped over the last 7-8 years from around $200 / MWh (or 20 cents / kwh) to a low of around $40 / MWh (or 4 cents per kwh).

  
prices – if trends hold
The most important, question, for solar, is what will future prices be? Any projection here has to be seen as just that – a projection. Not reality. History is filled with trends that reached their natural limits and stalled. Learning rates are a crude way to model the complexities involved in lowering costs. Things could deviate substantially from this trendline.
That said, if the trend in solar pricing holds, here’s what it shows for future solar prices, without subsidies, as a function of scale.

Again, these are unsubsidized prices, ranging from solar in extremely sunny areas (the gold line) to solar in more typical locations in the US, China, India, and Southern Europe (the green line).
What this graph shows is that, if solar electricity continues its current learning rate, by the time solar capacity triples to 600GW (by 2020 or 2021, as a rough estimate), we should see unsubsidized solar prices of roughly 4.5 c / kwh for very sunny places (the US southwest, the Middle East, Australia, parts of India, parts of Latin America), ranging up to 6.5 c / kwh for more moderately sunny areas (almost all of India, large swaths of the US and China, southern and central Europe, almost all of Latin America).
And beyond that, by the time solar scale has doubled 4 more times, to the equivalent of 16% of today’s electricity demand (and somewhat less of future demand), we should see solar at 3 cents per kwh in the sunniest areas, and 4.5 cents per kwh in moderately sunny areas.
If this holds, solar will cost less than half what new coal or natural gas electricity cost, even without factoring in the cost of air pollution and carbon pollution emitted by fossil fuel power plants.
As crazy as this projection sounds, it’s not unique. The IEA (International Energy Agency), in one of its scenarios, projects 4 cent per kwh solar by mid century.
Fraunhofer ISE, the German research institute, goes farther, predicting solar as cheap as 2 euro cents per kwh in the sunniest parts of Europe by 2050.

Press link for more: Ramez Naam | reneweconomy.com.au

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The biggest scientific challenge of the 21st century.  #Auspol #Science 

THE GLOBAL APOLLO PROGRAMME

So what scale of research programme would be justified? 

A possible starting point for the discussion is the original Apollo Programme (which was mainly concentrated in the 10 years 1960-69). That Programme cost about $150 billion in today’s dollars if we update the original cost by the increased cost of goods and services. But if we update the cost by the price of scientists it comes to considerably more.

So we consider $15 billion a minimum acceptable scale for the Programme in its early years, rising thereafter in line with GDP growth.

This would amount to 0.02% of world GDP. It would be only 4% of overall RD&D – surely a minimum spend on the world’s greatest technological problem.
The proposed programme will operate as follows.

1. Target. The programme will have a clear target, just as the original Apollo Programme had. The target will be that new-build base-load energy from renewable sources becomes cheaper than new-build coal in sunny parts of the world by 2020, and worldwide from 2025.

2. Scale. Any government joining the Programme consortium will pledge to spend an annual average of 0.02% of GDP as public expenditure on the Programme from 2016 to 2025. The money will be spent according to the country’s own discretion but the Programme would proceed even if not all countries joined. We hope all major countries will join. This is an enhanced, expanded and international version of many national programmes.

3. Roadmap Committee. The Programme will generate year by year a clear roadmap of the scientific breakthroughs required at each stage to maintain the pace of cost reduction, along the lines of Moore’s Law. 

Such an arrangement has worked extremely well in the semi-conductor field, where since the 1990s the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) has identified the scientific bottlenecks to further cost reduction and has spelt out the advances needed at the pre-competitive stages of RD&D. That Roadmap has been constructed through a consortium of major players in the industry in many countries, guided by a committee of 2-4 representatives of each main region. The RD&D needed has then been financed by governments and the private sector.

The Global Apollo Programme will follow this model. 

There will be a Commission consisting of one representative of each member country and, under it, a Roadmap Committee of some 20 senior technologists and businessmen who will construct and revise the roadmap year by year. It will be co-located with the International Energy Agency in Paris, but will of course include very many countries not belonging to the IEA. 

All results discovered through the programme will be made publicly available, though patentable intellectual property will be protected and will remain with those who made the discoveries.

The whole world faces a massive challenge, which only science and technology can solve. We urge the Heads of Government to agree on a Global Apollo Programme by the Paris meeting in 2015. The Programme should begin immediately after that. 

By harnessing the power of the sun and wind in time, we have a good chance of preserving life on earth as we know it. Unlike fossil fuel, they produce no pollution, and no miners get killed. Unlike nuclear fission, they produce no radioactive waste.

We are talking about a crisis more serious than most major wars. 

This is the biggest scientific challenge of the 21st century. Let us show we have the collective intelligence to understand and overcome the danger that faces us.

Press link for more: Global Apollo Programme