Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beyond Petrol

Long-time readers know of my fondness for ABC's science progam Catalyst. Recently, Jonica Newby did a two-part story on cars. Part One was about the looming Oil Crunch (in case climate change and the price of fuel weren't enough reason to look for alternative transport).

Part Two is Beyond Petrol - looking at the amazing electric cars that will start arriving in Australia in 2012. Definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bangladesh World Record Solar

I'm a fan of renewable energy, and was heartened to see people really switching on to solar in the past year. But it seems we're being left behind by Bangladesh.

Even in the empoverished nation, the number of households with solar power has passed 1 million - the fastest expansion of solar in the world. Granted their systems are small (like the one pictured) because they have less gadgets to power, but it's still an amazing increase from just 7,000 in 2002.

According to the world bank, the solar panels "changed the face of the remote, rural areas of Bangladesh" by providing cheap, reliable electricity. They are now aiming for 2.5 million by 2014.

Well done Bangladesh - i wish my country could match that.
[news source]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Can You Say Yes?

You may already know that Australia is on the cusp of taking serious action on climate change - but it hasn't been decided yet. With politics, there's a chance that courage may be lost at the last minute.

To help prevent this, the Say Yes group is constantly talking with policians and reminding them that Australians want them to "Say Yes" to climate action. Obviously the greater the number of Australians they represent, the better it is.

So you could you do me (and the planet) a favour and sign up on the website (just under the video clip). It only takes a few seconds to let them know that you want to Say Yes to...
- a cleaner Australia
- new jobs
- funding renewable energy
- making big polluters pay
and doing something about climate change.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fossil Fuels End Date

As if climate change wasn't a good enough reason to move away from fossil fuels, GE put together this interactive animation of remaining supplies.

Of course, we should abandon fossil fuels long before supplies run out (both to avoid completely catastrophic climate change, and because dwindling supplies means skyrocketting prices). But my main point is this...

Getting energy from fossil fuels is NOT a long term solution. We clearly need to move to renewables. The sooner the better.
ps. the graphic above is based on current annual rates of uasge increase. If our usage picks up even quicker, and we don't use renewables, then the time frame is even shorter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rally With A Twist

The AYCC is one of the groups supporting the Say Yes campaign. They recently put up this video:

It's a point that's been made before, but this time in a different way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Carbon Pollution - What Australia Thinks

There's been some bizarre talk this week about a national plebiscite to determine whether Australians are in favour of a price on pollution. But it seems the Green Party are ahead of the game on finding out what Australia thinks, by comissioning an independent poll.

Turns out that 58% think taxing the big polluters is the best way to reduce pollution. 66% of people support a price on carbon (if compensation and renewable energy are funded from it), and 84% think the subsidies for fossil fuels companies should be re-directed to renewable energy.

That last result sounds very similar to the 87% that want carbon price revenue spent on renewables
(ps. Apologies to European readers. Yes, here in Australia we are still discussing initiating a price on pollution. I understand you decided this way back in 2003. Please be patient with us while we catch up.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Low Are Our Standards?

The Department of Climate Change has several reports on what other countries are doing to reduce their emissions, and dependence on fossil fuels. This graph, from the report Countries Acting Now, shows each country's standards for fuel efficiency.

Compared to other countries, the cars we get sold here are total guzzlers. Cars in Europe and Japan are about 70% better than our current standards.

Good news is that smart shoppers are checking out the fuel efficiency and refusing to buy the duds. But the government should really make car companies lift their game.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Best Investment - Solar Power

For ages, I've been saying that solar panels are the best investment going. Now the Australian Financial Review agrees.

In his article, David Hetherington goes through the numbers, and concludes that a small amount invested in solar reaps significant savings. To gain similar returns in shares, the initial investment would have to be 3 times as large.

What's more, he's talking about being totally self-sufficient (which means the added cost of batteries). Staying on the grid, and producing power from solar panels, costs even less.
[See my solar maths]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Polluters - Do Your Fair Share

This is an ad that the Greens have put together. They're hoping to get enough support to put it on tv next week.
We're doing what we can ... it's time the big polluters did their fair share.

Whether or not you're a fan of the Greens, the ad has a good message.
Put a price on pollution and make clean energy cheaper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good News - Solar 2010

To balance out the slightly depressing graph of yesterday, here is a nice optimistic piece from the report PV in Australia 2010. It shows the total amount of solar panels installed at the end of each year (from 1992 to 2010).

As you can see, by Dec 31 2010, we had 3 times as many panels as we did just one year earlier. In other words - if you add up all the solar panels Australia has ever put up in our entire history (to 2009); then double it; that's how many panels were installed during 2010.

That has to be encouraging! :)
ps. part of the reason is probably that solar is getting cheap fast.
pps. the green section is ordinary households putting panels on their roof. They have an even more amazing increase - almost 5 times more panels!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Escalating Emissions

I found this graph in a recent article "Very worried? ... You should be".

The black line is world emissions (measured in billions of tonnes). Back in 2000 the IPCC calculated some future scenarios (the coloured lines). At the moment we're tracking pretty close to the worst-case scenario, even after the GFC-dip.

The scientists reckon this will lead to around 4 degrees of warming. For the record, it is commonly accepted that anything over 2 degrees is catastrophic.

[more details in the original article]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Solar For Everyone

Caught this great ad on SBS tonight. It's not saying anything that i haven't mentioned before, but i thought it was well done.

Oh, and if you live in Australia and are thinking of getting solar, i'd really encourage you to sign up before June 30, because the government subsidy reduces from July 1.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Funnies - Abbott v Abbott

These two comedians do a weekly TV spot, where one is the interviewer and the other plays the role of a public figure - this week Tony Abbott.

Background for non-Australian readers:
Tony Abbott is a federal politician (the leader of the opposition) and has recently been most known for his strident opposition to a price on carbon. However, this week a video emerged (from 2009) where he was promoting the virtues of a carbon tax.

[Links: 2009 Video; Explanation]

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Meaning Of "Upper End"

If you were to look at these grey bars, where would you say the "upper end" is? Apparently the government think it's the red line.

The bars represent a variety of forecasts of sea level rise. Recently Climate Change Minister Greg Combet launched a report that modelled the effects of sea level rise up to 1.1m (claimed to be a worst-case scenario).

The "$226 billion dollars of coastal assets" vulnerable to a 1.1m sea level rise is (by my definition) well short of a worst-case scenario. I agree with the minister when he said this data is not trying to scare people. It seems to do exactly the opposite, by blissfully pretending that a mid-range prediction is as bad as it could ever get.

[info courtesy of David Spratt, author of Climate Code Red]

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Reverse The Effect - Queensland

Today's tip is a local one. In my home state of Queensland, drivers can reverse the effect of their vehicle's annual emissions. And what's more, the government is putting up half the money.

Granted, it's better to avoid or reduce the emissions in the first place. But the next best thing is to offset them. On the website, vehicle owners can select their type of vehicle and how many years of driving to offset, and the calculator does the rest - including billing half the cost to the state government. (Now that's convenient ;)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dirty Money - USA

I recently discovered a fantastic (though depressing) website that may explain why America is making so little progress in moving towards renewable energy, while still using taxpayer's money to subsidise oil and coal.

It's called Dirty Money, and it's where you can find your local representative, and just how much coal and oil money they've taken. I've written about Joe Barton before - so i looked up his diagram (yes it's so big it needs a diagram)

On the website you can hover over the circles to see each oil/coal company and how much cash they've swung Joe's way. But the scariest bit is when you hover over his face, and the grand total comes up. $1,882,433. And he's not even the biggest!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Beware The Unsourced Figure

It's the job of MediaWatch to expose when media outlets aren't exactly meeting the standards of competent journalism. One such example was a newspaper doing a beat-up about the impacts of a price on carbon.

As Jonathan Holmes explains, they somehow produced exact dollar amounts for a particular family - based on almost no information. As if that wasn't bad enough, these baseless figures were then treated as if they would affect the family this financial year - even though the carbon price doesn't start for another 13 months. Dodgy.

Hence the Mediawatch headline "Beware the unsourced figure". Sometimes when a carbon price sounds unbelievably high, it might (quite literally) be not believable.

[Related link: Mediawatch on Climate Change coverage]
[Related link: Expert downplays carbon tax price rises]

Friday, June 03, 2011

Is It Really Worth It?

When i read this cartoon on Wednesday in the book i reviewed, i thought it was kind of witty. But it takes on a more serious tone after watching yesterday's video on Tuvalu.

(Probably because the Tuvaluans are suffering even though they weren't the ones with the big cars and tumble dryers etc)
ps. Australians: Have fun at the Say Yes support rallies this weekend :)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Hungrybeast On Tuvalu

You probably know of Tuvalu - the low-lying country that will probably be the first to disappear due to climate change. This week Hungrybeast showed what it's like to be a Tuvaluan. It's only a few minutes long, but very interesting.

For more videos like this (showing the real human effects of climate change) see my earlier post. For previous stuff i've written about Tuvalu, click here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Save Energy & Cut Your Bills

Author Nick White identifies three things stopping us from saving energy - either we don't know how; we think it's too expensive; or we think it's too much effort. He deals with all three of these in his book, by showing how much we can save from relatively easy changes.

His ideas come in three flavours - no-cost (turning things off and eliminating standby power), low-cost (efficient light bulbs etc) and investment (insulation, solar panels) and he is proud to announce that his last electricity bill was just 15 pounds for the quarter.

For the reader in a hurry, the book has three summaries at the very start - a 1-minute, 5-minute and 10-minute version. (That's short enough to read in the aisle of book store!) Also at the end of each chapter there's a quick list of "10 Things to Remember" that sums up the contents of that chapter.

Again, this is a British publication, so possibly some of the really specific information might be different in your area. But this is still a useful book, and can help you do just what the title says - save energy and cut your bills.