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Carbon News 29/9/14: Key challenged over climate impacts on Pacific islands Gareth Renowden Sep 29

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Memo John Key: look Pacific Island leaders in the eye

The Government is being challenged to invite the leaders of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati to come and tell Parliament what they think of New Zealand’s climate change policies. Support to help Small Island Developing States move to renewable energy is one of five measures New Zealand outlined to last week’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York. New Zealand said that it will support the Small Island Developing States Lighthouses Initiative in addition to the $100 million it is already investing in clean energy in the Pacific.

Renewables make mark on emissions figures

Increasing generation from renewables is continuing to drive a massive drop in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity in New Zealand. For the second quarter in a row, emissions from electricity in the three months to August were down on the same period last year, latest government figures show.

New York talked the talk, but we’ll have to wait and see who heard

At the end of his summit meeting on the climate crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out a list of accomplishments festooned with 46 bullet points, some of them marking concrete new pledges, others diaphanous phrases.

MIA … but it doesn’t mean China’s not interested

There were a few notable absentees among the more than 120 world leaders gathered in New York for last week’s United Nations Climate Summit — and perhaps most notable of all was the head of the world’s highest-emitting nation, China’s President Xi Jinping.

Do something, big business warns political leaders

Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities in the spotlight at climate week summit

Even as nations gathered in New York to discuss global-level action on climate change, there was strong recognition that cities, not countries, have so far played the pivotal role in the world’s fight against climate change — and will continue to do so.

Unhappy power consumers eye solar generation

Nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders would like to say goodbye to their power companies and generate their own electricity.

Have a say in energy development

New Zealanders can have a say on the type of energy development they want, thanks to a Victoria University summer project.

Kiwisavers might get to have say in green investment

Research showing how many New Zealanders want their retirement funds invested in sustainable businesses will be unveiled next month.

ON THE WEB … Obama’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home

  • Chile becomes the first South American country to tax carbon
  • UK to introduce fracking drilling law despite 99% opposition
  • US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks
  • Hawaii’s solar industry in precarious situation
  • The top 10 greenest cities in America
  • Avatar director James Cameron talks climate change

New market pact keeps Australians on the ball

Australian businesses wanting to keep up to date with the international carbon market during their country’s retreat from carbon pricing have formed a new regional agreement.

How to save the planet … bike, walk or take a bus

Here’s a way to save $100 trillion and stop 1700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere every year by 2050: cycle, walk or take public transport.

Use your phone to report water pollution

Water pollution may soon be reported by the public over a phone app and investigated by an aerial robot.

Clear skies for aviation industry, says Boeing report

The business outlook for civil aviation is bright thanks mainly to rising Asian demand for aircraft. But airlines are expected to have a harder time, with tougher competition in Europe leading to a consolidation of the sector, according to the latest industry forecast.

Win some, lose some … that’s climate change

With climate change, you win some, you lose some. New research shows that suitable new cropland could become available in the high latitudes as the world warms, but tropical regions may become less productive.

Australia seems to be overlooking bioenergy

When we think of renewable energy, it’s easy to picture spinning wind turbines or rooftop solar panels. But what about bioenergy?

Would a climate change treaty be enough?

Do we need a climate treaty, or could a simple political deal based on national pledges work just as well?

Prices likely to drift a little

Spot NZUs remain relatively quiet. OMFinancial reports…

Worth seeing — Thin Ice

New Zealand scientist Peter Barrett’s award-winning film Thin Ice will have a public screening in Hamilton next week. Barrett, a geologist, produced the documentary himself, with a view to finding out whether his fellow scientists really were involved in some sort of climate change hoax as some were alleging.

Study will reveal our use of water

The nature of domestic water demand is being measured.

Off to the tip … 33,000 polystyrene cups

Waikato University every year sends 33,000 polystyrene cups to the landfill.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Carbon News headlines 22/9/14: If the PM doesn’t worry about climate change, why should we? Gareth Renowden Sep 22

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Welcome to a new regular feature on Hot Topic: the week’s Carbon News headlines, brought to you every Monday. Carbon News is an NZ-published web newsletter covering climate and carbon news from around the world, published and edited by experienced journalist Adelia Hallett. The full articles are behind the Carbon News paywall. Click on any headline to be taken to that story on the site.

Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Scientists plead for cuts to ballooning fossil fuel emissions

Scientists are calling for rapid cuts in the use of fossil fuels in the wake of data out today showing we have almost used up our fossil-fuel credit. Greenhouse gas emissions this year will hit a new high of 40 billion tonnes in what the Global Carbon Project is calling a carbon budget blow-out.

Political parties fail to get the sustainability message through

New Zealanders’ support for a shift to a sustainable economy is growing, according to new research from Colmar Brunton. The fact they didn’t vote that way in Saturday’s general election is probably more to do with campaign messages failing to get enough airtime with all the other ‘dirty politics’ noise than it is to do with interest in environmental issues, says the research company’s chief executive Jaqueline Ireland.

If the PM doesn’t worry about climate change, why should we?

New Zealanders are taking their cue on climate change from the Prime Minister, says social trends researcher Jill Caldwell. “They think that John Key is successful and smart, and that if there was really anything to worry about he’d be worried,” she told Carbon News.

Big business signs up with sustainability driver

Some of New Zealand’s largest companies and organisations have signed up to a new international movement on sustainable business.

Why Kiwibank took its business to the kids

When Kiwibank wanted to know how to move beyond the first stage of being a sustainable business, it asked a bunch of 10-year-olds.

We’re spending millions, say green-wise farmers

Manawatu-Whanganui region farmers have spent an average $110,000 each over the past five years on measures to protect the environment, according to a Federated Farmers survey.

Growth and greening now go together, says Stern study

Governments and businesses can now improve economic growth and reduce their carbon emissions together, says a major new report by a commission of global leaders.

… but critic says report fails to back up core message

A new report called Better Growth, Better Climate draws the seductive conclusion that “we can create lasting economic growth while also tackling the immense risks of climate change”.

Let’s do for climate change what we did for apartheid, says Tutu

WEB: Largest-ever climate change march rolls through NYC
* China cautious on fresh commitments ahead of climate change summit
* Will the new EU Commission assure Europe’s leadership on sustainable development?
* It’s time to teach climate change in school
* After An Inconvenient Truth: the evolution of the climate change film

Move over, Queensland, here comes the Great Sydney Reef

Welcome to tropical Sydney, where colourful surgeonfishes and parrotfishes a=
re plentiful, corals have replaced kelp forests, and underwater life seems b=

Population explosion lowers chance of managing climate change

By Tim Radford: New projections say the population of the planet will not stabilise at 9 billion sometime this century. In fact, there is an 80 percent likelihood that, by 2100, it will reach at least 9.6 billion — and maybe rise as high as 12.3 billion.

China goes up a gear but still has a lot of work to do

In the lead-up to the UN leaders’ summit on climate change, China is shifting up a gear in its drive towards national emissions trading.

How renewables can lead to prosperity and jobs

A new handbook shows how forward-looking communities around the world are already moving away from reliance on fossil fuels and generating their own power with 100 per cent renewables — while also becoming more prosperous and creating jobs.

LED street lights could be 50% cheaper

Installing LED lights in streets could halve energy consumption from street lighting, the government’s energy efficiency agency says.

Drought now could be drought forever in California

Things could soon get worse for drought-hit California. New research predicts that, by the close of the century, global warming could have reduced the flow of water from the Sierra Nevada mountains by at least a quarter.

We can make a good life for most in the doughnut

Is it possible for humans to fulfil their needs without also destroying the environment? It’s a question we need to find an answer to soon, as the world’s poorer regions demand the same perks that come with development.

Twister terror coming earlier in tornado alley

The terrifying whirlwinds that punctuate the mid-Western summer in the United States so frequently as to earn the nickname Tornado Alley for the southern plains region states such as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas, are forming up to two weeks earlier than they did 60 years ago.

And the winner is…

The winner of a copy of MiStory, Philip Temple‘s cli-fi story set in a futuristic New Zealand, is the out-going Labour MP and climate change spokesperson Moana Mackey.

Solid Energy needs extension of guarantee

Commercially troubled state coal miner Solid Energy requires an extension of a government guarantee to meet the $103 million future cost of returning mined land to its pre-mined condition in order to maintain positive equity in its balance sheet.

Pumped-up couple win energy award

The switch to a gravity-feed water system has resulted in huge cost-savings for Otago farmers David and Sarah Smith, winners of an energy excellence award in the 2014 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Focus on certainty

National’s grip on the government benches means certainty for the Emissions Trading Scheme, OMFinancial reports.

Want to recycle? just ask the garbage guru

Sydney has launched an app it hopes will drive recycling.

All material provided courtesy of Carbon News and Futura Media. Given the broad scope of the post, please treat this as an open thread.

Friday melts, weird weather and whales (it’s been a long time…) Gareth Renowden Aug 22

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It’s been a long time since my last post: apologies for that. You may blame a bad cold, an urgent need for root canal work, the peak of the truffle season (and truffle tours for culinary heroes1 ), the start of pruning and political distractions for the drop off in activity here. Normal service should resume in the near future, but meanwhile here are a few of the things that have caught my eye over the last week or two. You may therefore consider this an open thread – and given what follows, somewhat more open than usual…

The political distraction, of course, has been the response to Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics. I haven’t yet read the book — it’s queued up on the iPad — but as everyone now knows, it concerns the sordid activities of right-wing attack blogger Cameron Slater, and in particular his close ties with senior government politicians. Slater has a long record of climate denial — often lifting material from µWatts or the Daily Mail to support his ignorant bluster — but the revelation that he published paid material for PR companies masquerading as his own opinion begs a question: was there a similar motivation for his climate denial posts?

As far as I can tell, Hager’s book only mentions climate once, in a discussion of Slater’s pet hates, but it will be interesting to see if the “raw data” now being drip fed into the public domain by the hacker2 who obtained Slater’s emails and Facebook chat messages contains any hints of another motivation — if it indeed it does go beyond the knee-jerk denial so common on the far right of NZ politics. For the record, I should note that Slater once used the words “twat” and “fraud” in close conjunction with my name. It would appear that both are likely to apply rather more aptly to him.

The real world, of course, obeys the laws of physics rather than the wishful thinking of political smear merchants, and out here the signs of continued warming are unmistakable. Europe’s Cryosat has detected a big increase in ice sheet melt at both poles, for example:

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

The atmosphere is also responding to energy accumulation by delivering an astonishing sequence of heavy rainfall events and flash floods. The BBC reports that 160 people have died in floods in Nepal and northern India, while in Hiroshima 36 people have died in landslides triggered by rain falling at rates of 100mm per hour (Japan Times). In Sweden, heavy rain is causing “catastrophic” flooding, while last month northern Italy bore the brunt of torrential downpours. Flash floods also hit parts of Arizona earlier this week. Nor should we forget the heavy rains that brought damaging floods to Northland in July. For a roundup of July’s weather, check out Chris Burt’s blog at Weather Underground.

Some of these rainfall extremes may be explained by the poleward expansion of the tropics, bringing warmer wetter air into the mid latitudes, as this new paper explains. Some of that tropical air may have been tickling Britain, which apart from experiencing some flash flooding has also just recorded its warmest January to July period since records began. And as a WMO conference found this week: “rising temperatures will have a “multiplying effect on weather events as we know them”.

Finally, and in brief: Earth Overshoot Day shot past this week – earlier than ever; warming may be hiding in the Atlantic; Choiseul in the Solomon Islands becomes the first town to relocate because of sea level rise; and The Wireless is running lots of good climate material this week.

  1. See also: why.
  2. @whaledump on Twitter, see here for why whale dumps are important for climate.

People talking’ #17 Gareth Renowden Aug 01

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It being the weekend that truffle growers from all over New Zealand meet to discuss their trade and to eat the fruits of their endeavours, I will be absent from the Hot Topic helm for the next few days. Please use the occasion to discuss anything and everything climate-related, from the state of the climate to bizarre holes in Siberian tundra that may be caused by dragon breath… Keep it polite, please.

People talkin’ #16 Gareth Renowden Jun 25

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I promised an open thread, so here’s one to hold all your latest thoughts and wisdom. What’s it to be? Wind power, silly “solar models” built on notch filters and fudge factors, or the abysmal climate politics afflicting our friends across the Tasman? You decide. I only ask that you abide by the comment policy and stay roughly on the climate beat.

Something for the weekend: boy child birth on the way, will get feet wet Gareth Renowden May 09

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Odds are shortening on the imminent arrival of an El Niño, as Peter Sinclair explores in his latest video for the Yale Climate & Media Forum (see also Climate Progress), and we can expect a wild ride. Meanwhile the ice continues to melt and the oceans rise: in Wellington and Christchurch they’re planning for 1 metre by the end of the century. As Jim Salinger noted this week, we need a big picture fix for the problem — adaptation is essential, with mitigation to prevent the worst happening. And while China plans a high speed train network to span Eurasia and North America, oil investors are looking nervously at the $1.1 trillion oil companies are gambling on a high carbon future. Yes folks, it’s time for another open thread, and there is no shortage of hot topics to discuss…

Hot Topic hiatus, or paws for thought? Gareth Renowden Feb 06

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Over the next week, my posting frequency trend line is going to take a sharp dip — mainly because if we choose tomorrow and a week hence as our end points — which, as we all know, is far too short to be blogologically significant — there will be a marked absence of posts. Having got the vineyard ready for netting (which will start happening at 8-30am tomorrow), I will be heading north to Nelson, there to board a boat for six days tootling around the Abel Tasman and D’Urville Island. I will check in from time to time when communication technologies allow, but if anybody thinks I’m going to disturb a few days fishing, swimming, walking and eating (and drinking good wine) by posting on climate matters then they are going to be royally disappointed. If you’d like to know a little more about where we’re heading – try here.

Feel free to treat this as another open thread. (Image nicked from John “viral kitten” Cook at The Conversation)

A year’s weather in 8 minutes (and other things) Gareth Renowden Jan 30

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From the team at EUTMETSAT: all the weather of 2013 as seen from the world’s weather-watching satellites. It’s an HD video, so a slow download on my rural NZ treacleband internet connection, but worth every second of the wait. I strongly recommend clicking the full screen button (bottom right corner), and multiple viewings. Fascinating, with an informative commentary. And, because we haven’t had an open thread for a while, please take this opportunity to wax lyrical on any climate-related topic currently in the news…

People talkin’ about science (and water) Gareth Renowden Nov 28

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To kick off a new open thread (biofarmer, that’s you I’m looking at), here’s the IPCC’s new/latest video, in which various lead authors and Working Group 1 luminaries talk about the state of our understanding of the physical science of climate. You may also wish to discuss — anything. Have at it…

Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial Gareth Renowden Oct 17

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Something of a miscellany today, coupled with an open thread, to keep you going during a brief pause in posting. First up: a study published this week in PLOS Biology looks at changes in ocean chemistry, temperature and primary productivity over the next century under two emissions scenarios, and finds that no corner of the ocean escapes untouched. From Science Daily:

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

It’s been a productive few weeks for Mora: he was lead author on a recent study1 published in Nature that estimated when climate in different parts of the world would move beyond anything experienced in the last 150 years — have a play with this interactive map to find out when your part of the world will move into the unknown. See also Climate Central, Science Daily, and a huge amount of press coverage.

Nicely complementing Mora’s oceans study, Sebastian Ostberg and others from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research looked at terrestrial ecosystems and found that “80 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is at risk of profound ecosystem transformation by 2100″. As you might expect, business as usual emissions scenarios have the biggest impact, but even strong mitigation won’t prevent significant changes. From Science Daily:

…even if the warming is limited to 2 degrees, some 20 percent of land ecosystems — particularly those at high altitudes and high latitudes — are at risk of moderate or major transformation, the team reveals.

Physics Today‘s October issue includes an excellent overview of the rapid climate change taking place in the Arctic — The Arctic shifts to a new normal. (hat tip to John at the warren). For a very clear explanation of how Arctic changes can influence northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation, see Dr Ricky Rood’s latest post at his Wunderground blog.

David Archer at RealClimate extols the virtues of the new eight week Science of Climate Change course starting soon on Coursera. It sounds like something worth exploring, even if you don’t complete the full course or only play with the visualisations. I might be bold, and suggest that attendance should be compulsory for all climate cranks, sceptics and deniers.

Oh dear, I used the “d” word. Expect lots of faux outrage from those in denial of the need to act on climate change — but as Josh Rosenau of the National Centre for Science Education points out, the roots of that usage of the word go back long before any imagined link with genocide in Germany during WW2.

While NZ’s own little coterie of cranks and deniers lick their wounds over a lost court case, one of their “science advisers” has rushed into print in the NZ Herald drawing the longest of long bows on the import of some recent research on atmospheric aerosol formation. Chris de Freitas, the Auckland University geographer (not an atmospheric physicist or chemist, note) who long ago sold his soul to the Anything But Carbon (ABC) crowd, decides to suggest that the new research means that NZ’s pastoral farmers are working to cool the planet and should get more carbon credits than foresters. Considering that CdF consistently argues we don’t know enough to act on climate change, it’s immensely hypocritical of him to oversell the relevance of an interesting, but preliminary piece of research. For a somewhat more sane discussion of the study, see RealClimate.

And finally: I’m going to be taking a break from HT for a while, because I’m going into hospital tomorrow for what the surgeon describes as a relatively minor procedure on my inner ear2. I hope to be back at my keyboard sometime next week, if all goes well. Please accept my apologies in advance if comments get stuck in moderation, or other issues arise.

  1. Full text, free!
  2. Endolymphatic sac surgery, which if all goes well should put an end to the vertigo attacks associated with Meniere’s disease in my left ear — but it does mean drilling a hole in my skull. I’ve asked for a processor and memory upgrade while he’s in there… ;-)

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