Category Archives: Climate Change

Ignorance is crippling Australia

and its wilful ignorance at that

Ignorance is crippling Australia.

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The climate change denial industry cops another blow

More and more, the climate change denial industry, and it is an industry, is becoming increasingly marginalised. Big business which is generally all about free market ideology and is usually dismissive of the science underpinning anthropogenic climate change.  Insurance companies however, do recognise the threat of human caused climate change and have started rumbling about a lack of government action. You won’t find too many insurance companies funneling money into right-wing anti-science conservative think-tanks. Now, the world’s largest PR firms are also taking a stand.

From the Guardian

World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers

Ten firms say they will not represent clients that deny man-made climate change or seek to block emisson-reducing regulations.

Some of the world’s top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming.

Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives.

Read the rest here

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If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked': Climatologist

from Brian Merchant at Motherboard

This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development,…. read the rest here.

 

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Diabolical Wind Turbine Rays

I’d like to thank Dave Clarke for directing me to his webpage in one of his comments here…and for giving me some new terminology to use…. diabolical wind turbine rays….

Please visit Dave’s page here.

 

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Qld electricity providers trying to block solar from grid, lobby group says

Following from my last post about how worthless coal has become in Queensland comes this story from Eric Tlozek at the ABC.

Australia’s peak solar power body fears Queensland’s electricity companies are trying to put people off installing new solar systems.

The Australian Solar Council has criticised moves by Ergon and Energex to encourage new customers to install smaller solar systems that do not feed electricity back into the power grid.

Ergon and Energex said the changes, which included new rules about installing systems that feed-in power, would help them manage the detrimental impact of solar on their power networks.

“These new rules will help avoid many of the costs associated with upgrading Ergon’s network to cope with increasing numbers of these systems – costs that are ultimately borne by all electricity customers,” Ergon chief executive Ian McLeod said.

“In some cases, customers have their applications to install PV (photovoltaic) systems on constrained sections of the network downsized, unless they are prepared to pay for an upgrade to the network.

“The new standards potentially give them another option of installing a PV system of their preferred size that does not export power back into the grid.”

We’re seeing a tremendous amount of people inquiring weekly that they want to get away from utilities to live on their own systems.

Solar installer Brian Cooke

 

But John Grimes from the Australian Solar Council said he believed the power companies were trying to limit solar uptake.

“There’s a very small number of instances where there are technical issues caused by solar uptake, but they are a tiny fraction of a per cent,” Mr Grimes said.

“Instead of dealing with the technical issues that arise, they’re using a sledgehammer to try and block solar from the grid altogether.”

The uptake of solar energy in Australia, particularly in Queensland, has been huge over the past five years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said solar generation output rose by 58 per cent to 2,700 gigawatt hours (GWh), equal to about 1.3 per cent of electricity consumption, in 2012-13.

Renewable energy advocates say it is now at 3.4GW – 1.1GW of which is in Queensland.

They also believe any moves by energy companies to limit the growth of solar will lead to so-called grid defections, where people install solar and batteries and disconnect from the network.

“By trying to stop people from using solar, the unintended consequence is that people are more likely to go solar and leave the grid much quicker than they otherwise would have,” Mr Grimes said.

 

Price of solar has come down, but not batteries: installer

Solar installer Brian Cooke specialises in systems that allow households to generate all their own electricity.

He said poor battery technology was limiting the ability of people to go “off the grid”.

“The price of solar has come down dramatically but the other associated cost of batteries, which is the other major cost, is not really coming down,” Mr Cooke said.

However that has not stopped the growth in people looking to become self-sufficient.

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of people inquiring weekly that they want to get away from utilities to live on their own systems,” Mr Cooke said.

“The amount of inquiries we’re getting now… more and more people would be looking at doing it.”

The ABS said only 0.2 per cent of Australian households were not connected to mains power.

One of those belongs to renewable energy advocate Doone Wyborn, who disconnected from the power grid two years ago when he and his partner moved to a rural property in northern New South Wales.

“Batteries are the biggest problem but the solar panels themselves have come down so much in price over the last few years that in many cases you’re better off having a solar system, even if you’re living in the city,” he said.

“Our solar system can easily cope with all the energy requirements of a relatively efficient house, a small one, in fact we’ve got more than we need from the system that we have.”

Original story here

 

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Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete

from Giles Parkinson at the Guardian

As early as 2018, solar could be economically viable to power big cities. By 2040 over half of all electricity may be generated in the same place it’s used. Centralised, coal-fired power is over.

Rooftop solar panels

In a solar-driven energy democracy, even free coal has no value. Photograph: AAP

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

The influx of rooftop solar has turned this model on its head. There is 1,100MW of it on more than 350,000 buildings in Queensland alone (3,400MW on 1.2m buildings across the country). It is producing electricity just at the time that coal generators used to make hay (while the sun shines).

The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar.

Tony Abbott, the prime minister, likes to say that Australia is a land of cheap energy and he’s half right. It doesn’t cost much to shovel a tonne of coal into a boiler and generate steam and put that into a turbine to generate electricity.

The problem for Australian consumers (and voters) comes in the cost of delivery of those electrons – through the transmission and distribution networks, and from retail costs and taxes.

This is the cost which is driving households to take up rooftop solar, in such proportions that the level of rooftop solar is forecast by the government’s own modellers, and by private groups such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance, to rise sixfold over the next decade. Households are tipped to spend up to $30bn on rooftop modules.

Last week, the WA Independent market Operator forecast that 75% of detached and semi detached dwellings, and 90% of commercial businesses could have rooftop solar by 2023/24.

The impact on Queensland’s markets last week is one of the reasons why utilities, generators and electricity retailers in particular want to slow down the rollout of solar.

The gyrations of wholesale power prices are rarely reflected in consumer power bills. But let’s imagine that the wholesale price of electricity fell to zero and stayed there, and that the benefits were passed on to consumers. In effect, that coal-fired energy suddenly became free. Could it then compete with rooftop solar?

The answer is no. Just the network charges and the retailer charges alone add up to more than 19c/kWh, according to estimates by the Australian energy market commissioner. According to industry estimates, solar ranges from 12c/kWh to 18c/kWh, depending on solar resources of the area, Those costs are forecast to com down even further, to around 10c/kWh and lower.

Coal, of course, will never be free. And the rapid uptake of rooftop solar – dubbed the democratisation of energy – is raising the biggest challenge to the centralised model of generation since electricity systems were established more than a century ago.

Network operators in Queensland, realising the pent up demand for rooftop solar, are now allowing customers to install as much as they want, on the condition that they don’t export surplus electricity back to the grid.

Households and businesses have little incentive to export excess power. They don’t get paid much for it anyway. Ergon Energy admits that this will likely encourage households to install battery storage.

The next step, of course, is for those households and businesses to disconnect entirely from the grid. In remote and regional areas, that might make sense, because the cost of delivery is expensive and in states such as Queensland and WA is massively cross-subsidised by city consumers.

The truly scary prospect for coal generators, however, is that this equation will become economically viable in the big cities. Investment bank UBS says this could happen as early as 2018.

The CSIRO, in its Future Grid report, says that more than half of electricity by 2040 may be generated, and stored, by “prosumers” at the point of consumption. But they warn that unless the incumbent utilities can adapt their business models to embrace this change, then 40% of consumers will quit the grid.

Even if the network operators and retailers do learn how to compete – from telecommunication companies, data and software specialists like Google and Apple, and energy management experts – it is not clear how centralised, fossil-fuel generation can adapt. In an energy democracy, even free coal has no value.

Original article here.

 

 

 

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Hydrogen breakthrough

I’m certainly not a chemist so am unsure of the voracity of this but on the surface it seems like a good thing. Is the much criticised hydrogen as a vehicle fuel about to undergo a massive improvement in cost and efficiency? I hope so. It would be a welcome input into the energy mix of the future. An energy mix that if left in its current form will result in catastrophic climate change.

Read about the latest breakthrough here.

 

 

ough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

Hydrogen breakthrough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

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global warming, climate change or something else?

I am expecting a few comments to end up in my spam folder as a result of this post spouting bullshit about scientists changing the name and at least one reference to Al Gore……blah blah blah….. don’t fucking bother.

from Alexander White writing for the Guardian.

Why is climate communication so hard?

The recent debate about “climate change” versus “global warming” highlights why climate communication is so difficult.
An ice cap melting

How people communicate about controversial topics like global warming are powerfully influenced by heuristics. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

What term works better to communicate about our warming planet, “climate change” or “global warming”?

With the release of a new Yale study, the question has been rekindled, with blogs as diverse as FiveThirtyEight and Thinkprogress looking at the study and its implications.

The study, and the various commentary about it,  is interesting, not just because it finds that “the terms global warming and climate change often mean different things to Americans—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond”, but because it highlights why climate communication is so difficult.

Just why is it so hard to talk about the climate?

Harry Enten’s FiveThirtyEight article is a good place to start, because it underscores the problem. The article explores the use by Democratic and Republican members of congress. Enten shows that despite the Yale study showing that Democratic voters responding better to the “global warming” terminology, Democrats in congress prefer to say “climate change”. In fact, Republicans were more likely to say “global warming” than Democrats, which is the opposite of what the Yale study recommends. Enten also notes that the same phenomenon is found in US television, with Democratic-leaning shows like Hardball preferring “climate change” and Republican leaning shows like Hannity preferring “global warming”.

The Yale study showed that not only did Americans use the term global warming themselves, but they heard it more in public discourse, suggesting that despite Democrats politicians and media figures saying “climate change” more, it engages them less.

Of course, there have been many studies, and the frustrating thing for climate communicators and campaigners is that they are often contradictory. For example, a study from 2011 showed that Republicans preferred “climate change” to “global warming” when endorsing the reality of the threat.

Another study by EcoAmerica from 2009 suggested “global warming” be ditched and the phrase “our deteriorating atmosphere” be deployed to better engage “soccer moms” and “environmental agnostics”. The awkward term never caught on, and neither has Joe Romm’s preferred term “hell or highwater” or “global weirding” (coined by Friedman).

Even the Australian Parliamentary Library has weighed in with a briefing paper on the topic, unhelpfully adding the UNFCCC’s use of “climate variability” to the mix.

The debate about terminology would be an interesting side note were not the issue so important. Global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is the greatest threat facing humankind this century. These seemingly innocuous phrases profoundly affect how people perceive the issues, assess the seriousness and support efforts to mitigate global warming. The complication is that although terminology is important, the manner and scale of influence is difficult to measure or understand.

Yet, commentators and communicators often firmly come down on one side or the other, with staunch views about what works and what doesn’t. (I use the terms interchangeably in this article and more generally in my articles for The Guardian.)

A significant contributor to this is the illusion of asymmetric insight, a fascinating cognitive bias that helps explain, in my view, why climate communication is so diabolically difficult.

Asymmetric insight is a phenomenon where someone believes they understand the reasons why other people do or believe things, while at the same time being skeptical that others could ever understand them.

Research by academics Pronin, Ross, Kruger and Savitsky from 2001 into this phenomenon found that not only do you believe you understand hidden states in others far better than they know in you, but when this is expanded to groups, it’s even more pronounced:

The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves.

This bias is commonplace and widespread, and definitely not confined to climate communication. During elections, we see this cognitive bias on display nightly by pundits and commentators who confidently explain that movements in polls can be explained because voters think one thing or another, or are responding to a recent event.

When you hear statements like “people support Obama’s climate change policies because…” or “Democrats prefer the term ‘global warming’ because…”, you are seeing this bias.

People, especially commentators, believe that they see the world how it really is, whereas most other people (especially those people who disagree with them) are deluded, ignorant or self-interested. The bias of asymmetric insight means that people are less likely to see others who disagree with them in nuanced or complex ways; simple things can explain complex and multifaceted changes in opinion or actions.

Tying into the difficulty of climate communications is the fact that typically the people doing research into this field – and again, the same applies to other areas – are heavily invested in the area. Climate communicators mostly care deeply about the dangers of run-away climate change. The result is that they often underestimate the extent to which most people are ambivalent or uninterested in the issue.

Because asking questions about peoples’ attitudes on an issue will generally prompt a response, the disinterest and ambivalence is hidden, and so it is easy to assume that most people have a latent interest or concern about global warming, when in fact they probably don’t. The ups and downs of climate polling in Australia for example appears to show an increase in the polarisation over the issue, but it is easy to over emphasise that when you’re asking the question compared to large swathes of the community where the issue may rarely or never come up.

The Yale study found that as many people “use neither” (35 percent) as use the term “global warming” (35 percent) and more than double that use “climate change” (15 percent). This suggests to me that as a communications challenge, regardless of the term used, the biggest barrier is disinterest, not the specific language being used.

A lot of communications is done by heuristics, but even when hard numbers, in the form of polling, is brought to the equation, there is an enormous risk that judgemental shortcuts are used to interpret those numbers. Because we believe we can understand why people believe the things they do (while at the same time not believing that others could possibly understand us), it is easy to skew or ignore the results of research like the Yale study.

As far back as 2003, Republican pollster Frank Luntz advocated Republicans use the term “climate change”, ostensibly to give the Republicans cover against the far more effective term “global warming”. The memo is worth reading even eleven years later, and the Yale study and many other studies over the last few years simply confirms much of what Luntz wrote then.

And although Luntz highlights his “words that work”, really what he does is build a context through which he can influence peoples’ attitudes. Creating this context goes beyond the “silver bullet” of a single phrase by creating shared meaning. The Yale paper again underscores this, as I noted earlier: the terms “global warming” and “climate change” mean different things to different people.

Just changing from one phrase to another without also shifting the context is unlikely to change attitudes. This would be as ineffective as the long-standing and fruitless focus on the “deficit model” of environmental communication.

The diabolical challenge for climate communications is that we often think we are gaining valuable insights from research like the Yale study, but more likely we are succumbing to the illusion of asymmetric insight.

Original article here

 

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supercritical steam production makes solar thermal as reliable as fossil fuels

A test solar thermal plant in Australia has broken records for steam production making it a serious rival for fossil fuels. However, with the most scientifically illiterate, backward, fossil fuel funded, conservative government in our history, the technology will struggle to take off. The Abbott government is dismantling all incentive schemes for renewable energy technologies as well as the renewable energy target. Read about it here.

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Why people shouldn’t read LimitedNews publications

Australians are being deliberately misled on the very real and present danger of climate change by a dominant rightwing media so that their vested interests are protected. Unfortunately ,many of my fellow Australians are too ignorant to see it. Many of those wilfully so.

http://theaimn.com/2014/05/30/the-political-economy-of-climate-change/

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