Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Good Place For Solar

Last month i looked at solar strength in the USA and compared it to Germany. Now i've found a solar map of the world. Averaging data over the period 1990-2004, they came up with this map.

It seems the place with the most sunshine is Australia. Of course, as Germany demonstrates, solar power is viable even in the 'blue' areas. We can do it almost anywhere - but places like Australia should be putting up solar panels like there's no tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Smart On Climate Change

I've mentioned Oxfam's interest in tackling climate change before. Now, they've just published a new booklet Getting Smart on Climate Change to summarise the situation. As well as talking about the threat that climate change poses to Australians, our Pacific neighbours, and others around the world; it also looks at how little Australia is doing, and what we can do.

Apart from this embarrassing graph, there were also some shockers showing how little Australia invests into renewable energy - and the consqequent lack of jobs in the renewable energy industry. (China 1.12 million jobs, Germany 278,000, Spain 189,000, Australia just 10,000). Yet another example of how Australia is trailing the world rather than leading it. I recommend checking it out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Earth Hour Wrap Up

Earth Hour on Saturday night was once again the biggest ever. For stories of what happened around the globe, check out the Earth Hour blog, where there are insipiring stories and great photos.

This pic is from Mongolia, where brave locals stood outside in sub-zero temperatures. Other faves came from Scotland, Paris and Chile.
ps. there are also some "slider" before-and after pics here

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scientists and Politicians

Saw this one at the Between The Lines exhibition. I thought it summed up the situation wonderfully well.

The first two are exact opposites, but the third one is more subtle, with the scientist worried about the future, the politician worried about his future. I know which one i have more respect for.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MediaWatch - Climate Change And Cardiology

Recently, i wrote about the disparity between the science concensus and the media reports of uncertainty. This week, Mediawatch devoted an episode to talk-back radio hosts (aka 'shock jocks') and how they don't let the truth get in the way of their views. To quote one of the climate scientists, expect accuracy and rigour on commercial radio "the week after hell freezes over".

It seems that while these stations welcome geologists with unscientific theories, the rare time that an actual climate scientist gets invited on, he is treated with hostility. Professor Will Steffen (Executive Director ANU Climate Change Institute):
Many of my colleagues want to get on with their research. They are tired of being misrepresented or "beaten up" in the media. Their business is to do the science, they are paid to do research and teaching. I sense a degree of burnout in the scientific community (in relation to engaging with media like talkback radio), and this is regrettable but completely understandable. Unless commercial radio changes the way they operate, I don’t think the situation can be changed.

It’s a fruitless exercise to go in a debate with sceptics or commercial radio hosts like Alan Jones as you aren’t given the space and time to explain the science, and if you do, the shonky "science" on the other side is give equal - or more - time and weight.

And Professor Andy Pitman (Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW) about commercial radio:
I do not think they are actually interested in being informed on the science. It is very hard to calmly respond to questions that are ill-informed and misrepresent anything vaguely scientific. It would be like asking a cardiologist to respond to the well known theory that humans do not have a heart and cardiologists only claim we have a heart so they can make lots of money claiming to operate on them
I thoroughly recommend watching the episode (about 10 minutes) and/or reading the transcript.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

David Attenborough - Climate Change - Part 2

Part 2 starts with David Attenborough simplifying the scientific predictions "To put it another way, the impact of global warming will be somewhere between severe and catastrophic".

It's a stark beginning, but an accurate one, as the documentary switches between an average western family going about their energy-hungry lifestyle, and the dire consequences that result - such as the arctic which has already lost ice 5 times the size area of the UK (or twice that of Texas).

"But one thing is certain - if we do nothing we'll end up in deep water." Though most of the sea level rise will take time (for all that ice to melt) even in the next 50 years, it is expected to displace 150 million people. So it was understandable that he became a bit negative - pondering that
I think if you had to look in your grandchildren's eyes and say "I knew that it was going to happen but I didn't bother to do anything about it" - that would be a terrible thing.
but it generally had an optimistic theme of saving the future.
We still have time. There are ways to minimise these changes if we all choose now to adopt them. But the next few years will be crucial. If we miss our chance, the future may be grim indeed for life on planet earth.

[See my review of Part 1]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Free Solar (Sustainability Drive)

Origin have started up a street competition, and called it Sustainability Drive. You can nominate your street to win up to $250,000 worth of solar panels, hot water systems, etc.

Prizes also include a year's worth of free electricity (including 100% Greenpower) and 10 weekly draws - each for 5 x $200 electricity credits.

It's definitely worth signing up, and even getting your neighbours involved (to maximise the amount of free stuff you all get).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Funnies: A Bigger Bite

Saw this great cartoon at the Between the Lines exhibition.

The smaller snake is labelled "Global Financial Crisis". While struggling with it, we almost fail to notice the much larger threat of Global Warming.

Reminded me of this cartoon from a couple of year's ago.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Climate Advocacy Fund

Do you have superannuation? Then you can make a positive difference to Australia's biggest companies. It can happen through Australian Ethical, who have started up a Climate Advocacy Fund.

As individuals, we don't have much say in big companies, but here in Australia, shareholders can put a resolution to a company's Annual General Meeting - if there are 100 shareholders behind it - and they own a certain number of shares.

The Climate Advocacy Fund already has the 100 investors, but the more people that invest in it, the more companies they can buy into and improve. So far they've already had some success with getting some major companies to pick up their game.

As my friend pointed out to me - "It's great - you can help make the world a better place without actually having to do anything". Now that's a Convenient Solution!
ps. I'm not an financial expert, this is not financial advice. i'm just letting you know that this thing exists.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Addicted To Carbon

Last week i showed ACF's comparison of the enormous fossil subsidies compared to tiny climate change funding. The people at Crikey have researched the same information for each year going back to 1997. The red is pollution subsidies, the green is climate change programs.

Sadly, it's only getting worse, as the subsidies for pollution and wasting fuel increase at a rapid rate - much faster than the tiny amount of funding for programs to tackle climate change.

By the way, those amounts are in millions of dollars, so the tallest red bar is just over 12 billion dollars!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

David Attenborough - Climate Change - Part 1

27 years ago, in Life on Earth David Attenborough said:
"the fact remains that man has an unprecedented control over the world and everything in it. And so, whether he likes it or not, what happens next is very largely up to him"
At the time, he had no idea that we were unleashing forces that would change the climate of the earth. Now he does and he had made a great 2-part documentary about it.

Part 1 - "Are We Changing Planet Earth" looks at the changing climate and the evidence that humans have caused it. It covers the obvious effects - dying polar bears, melting glaciers, island nations facing submersion, and more frequent extreme weather events - but also (in typical David Attenborough fashion) includes some amazing footage, facts and science.

The 2003 European heatwave which killed tens of thousands used to be a 1-in-200-year event, now it's a 1-in-100 year event. By 2040 it will be 1-in-2 years, and by 2080 it will be the norm.

When David Attenborough was a boy carbon dioxide concentration was under 300. At the time of the documentary it was 382 - the highest in 600,000 years.

The examination of whether our pollution is the cause of global warming (spoiler alert: yes it is) included this great clip. As David sums up:
We are a flexible and innovative species and we have the ability to adapt and modify our behaviour. Now we most certianly have to do so if we are to deal with climate change. It's the biggest challenge we have yet faced.

[See my review of Part 2]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coal Kills ... Oil Too

Energy Matters reports a study comparing the deadliness of various types of energy (measured in deaths per terawatt-hour). The results are as follows:
161- Coal
36 - Oil
4 - Natural Gas
1.4 - Hydro
0.44 - Solar (rooftop)
0.15 - Wind
Looks like another good reason to ditch coal and oil. By the way, these figures don't include the indirecty deaths from climate change - or from wars fought over oil.
ps. more news from Energy Matters in the sidebar of this blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carbon Nation Movie

The Carbon Nation Movie is unique. It's described as "the climate change solutions movie that doesn't even care if you believe in climate change".

The film shows how tackling climate change "boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment." If you want to see the film, check the screening calendar. If it's not showing near you, why not arrange a screening?

Some quotes from the trailer:
"We've been doing it one way for the last 100 years. But we gotta be thinking about what's the technology for the next 100 years."

"You don't have to be concerned about climate change .. to want to drive at 10% of the cost of what you're driving at now"

"So if you don't care about the environment, do it because you're a greedy b__ and you just want cheap power."

Find out more at the Carbon Nation website.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Why Encourage Pollution?

This has to be one of the simplest infographics i've seen. It compares the subsidies available to fossil fuels alongside the investment in programs to tackle the climate change that fossil fuels cause.

The analysis was done by the ACF, and shows fossil fuel subsidies cost the taxpayer 12 times more than the climate change programs. Or in ACF's words "$11 billion more on encouraging pollution that cleaning it up".

Even in recent years, the $500 million increase in climate change programs is just one-third of the $1.5 billion increase for fossil fuels.

How is it so, that we can spend so much money subsidising pollution, and encouraging fuel to be wasted. As the head ACF, Don Henry, puts it:
There has been a lot of good talk about addressing climate change, but unfortunately the numbers tell a different story.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

e2 Transport

Similar to e2 Design and e2 Energy, this series of 6 episodes, narrated by Brad Pitt, looks at the way we get around. The examples show how designing with the environment in mind increases quality of life.

In London, charging a congestion tax on vehicles entering the city centre provided funding for public transport and reduced road congestion.

The Paris bike-share scheme helps people get around the city centre without clogging up the roads with cars - and has increased the popularity of bicycles. Seoul replaced some road with a park and a stream without increasing traffic congestion.

Portland revived the city - making it more liveable, more environmental, and improved the economy, by doing "a hundred little things that implement common sense policy". They insist there's nothing unique about Portland, other than taking the initiative, and they say to other cities "We tried this a bit earlier. It seems to be working. Why don't you try it too?"

Monday, March 07, 2011

South Korea To Price Pollution

South Korea, Asia's 4th largest economy, has announced it will start carbon emission trading in 2015. This is in addition to South Korea’s $27.8 billion clean energy stimulus package, and their five-year plan to spend $36 billion developing renewable energy as its next economic growth engine.

All in all, it's yet another reason to be comfortable about pricing pollution. It's not as if we're the only country doing this - despite what some low-integrity politicians might say.

Friday, March 04, 2011

What Your Car Really Costs

I was reading Green Is Good, and came across this stat. The cost of running a Hyundai Getz, for 5 years, is $27,518 - not counting purchase price. It seemed a lot (and it is, at $106/week) until i saw the Landcruiser figure at $85,000 ($327/week). Yikes! The info comes from a 2004 study by the NRMA.

Now the NRMA has an online calculator, for you to calculate these costs before making the purchase. In case you're wondering, the Suzuki Alto turns out to be the most economical car to run. Obviously small cars are going to have an advantage over larger ones, but NRMA say that even within the same class of vehicle, runnings costs vary by up to $185/week.

Overall, this is a handy tool to save you money, and also to realise the financial benefits of choosing a more fuel-efficient car. (The Green Vehicle Guide is another). However, for me it just re-emphasised the financial benefits of being car-free, and choosing even greener options of riding a bike, walking and catching public transport.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Clean Energy Jobs

There's been a bit of talk recently about jobs - especially in relation to climate change policy. Now, the Climate Institute has done an analysis, and calculated the number of jobs that would be created by strong action on pollution and climate change.

This interactive map of Australia lays out where almost 32,000 new clean energy jobs would be created. You can go through, state by state, region by region and see how many jobs, and how much activity would be generated by strong climate change action.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

$150 Solar Power Deposit - Origin

Previously I've mentioned Origin's 1.5kW panels for just $2990 - and how much money you can save by having solar power. As if that wasn't good enough, they now offer an interest-free payment plan.

You pay just $150 up-front, and then 12 monthly installments. The payments don't start for 3 months after the purchase, and there's no interest charged.

I think this is a great initiative because the up-front cost can be a psychological barrier sometimes. This way, by the time any serious payments are due, the savings have already started kicking in.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Green Is Good

Rebecca Blackburn's book Green is Good is a very easy read. It's a small book, divided into 4 sections - Eat Green, Move Green, Live Green, Grow Green.

Apart from having lots of short, sharp tips (with some 'fun facts') there are also a whole bunch of websites at the end of each section if you want to look deeper into a particular topic.

One of the more amazing stats i read was in relation to transport and the huge amount of money you can save by taking a greener option. So stay tuned, i'll write about that another day.

Oh, and i loved the front-cover quote: "A great book for those who fear that reducing their environmental impact will be too hard. In reality it can mean a healthier, simpler and happier life"