Tuesday, December 31, 2013

US emissions are down

Emissions in the US are down 3.7% last year, for a total of 16% reduction since 2007. Back home, South Australia has reduced it's emissions from electricity by more than a third, and Australia's reduced by 8.6% after the carbon price came in.

emissions from electricity in South Australia down by more than a third

With all these emission reductions, perhaps it's time for Australia to have a more meaningful target, instead of the paltry 5% by 2020. After all, the USA achieved nearly that in just this year alone. Our government's previous excuse was that they wouldn't do anything until the USA did. Clearly that time is now.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolution - Move Your Money

As we come up to December 31, we think about things we might do better in the new year. SBS did a news story about people withdrawing their money from banks that invest in fossil fuels.

One mum closed an account she'd had since childhood. For the sake of her kids, she decided to close it. Felix Riebl, lead singer of Cat Empire, was also one of the people choosing a more ethical place to put their money.

Check out the comparison from Market Forces to see if there's a better place you could put your money.

PS. In other news, ANZ is being sued for charging customers illegitimate fees.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ideas For Christmas

I love Christmas time. But it's sad that it can generate so much waste.

Australian Ethical have 10 tips to make less Christmas waste. Apparently the average person spend about $1000 each Christmas. It'd be great if that is creating things and memories that will stick with us - rather than items that will be landfill by the new year.

Planet Ark also have their 12 Do's of Christmas, which I wrote about last year. If you're interested, yes the last pair of those rechargeable batteries are still going. 1 camera. 8 years. Haven't had to buy a battery for it yet.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Hottest Australian Spring

2013 was the hottest spring in Australia. September was the hottest ever September, and the other two months were also well above average.

Austalia's hottest spring ever

No part of the country was colder than average, and only a tiny bit was at average temperature. Almost the entire nation experience temperature well above average. And it wasn't just the areas that had the bushfire.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Human Cost of Power

"The biggest threat to public health this century". That's how climate change has been described.

16-minute documentary Human Cost of Power looks at how coal and gas power are damaging our health. If you're short on time there's also a 5-minute and 2-minute version.

So is the fossil fuel industry worth our health? According to the documentary, more people die from air pollution than from car accidents. Mining is one of the largest causes of occupational injury and death. People who live within half a mile (800m) of a gas well have a greater risk of neurological, respiratory problems and cancer.

In America the health costs were calculated to be greater than the value of the industry to the economy. In Australia, health costs are estimated at 2.6 billion dollars per year. The federal government also provides 10 billion per year in subsidies. With mining companies 83% foreign owned, we pay the price but don't see the benefit.

It's easy to see how the health experts in the documentary reach their conclusion. "If a proper cost-benefit analysis was done on this industry - of the true cost of the waste, the cost to agriculture and to community health - it would never be allowed go ahead."

Related Posts:
Climate Change and Health
Addicted? Time to Quit
Carbon Emissions Make Us Sick
Who's Naughty and Nice

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fossil of the Year

Each year nations of the UN hold two weeks of talks to 'negotiate' on how, as a planet we should deal with climate change. A group called Climate Network awards a "Fossil of the Day" award to the country most backward in its approach, or that is doing the most to prevent global action on climate change.

Australia seems to pick up this award quite often. Here's the scoreboard part-way through the conference.

Australia leading the Fossil of the Day award tally in COP 19 in Warsaw

Here's the weird bit. In Australia, politicians like to say that their lack of action is because they are 'waiting for the rest of the world'. References are often made to the US and China.

Yet in reality, the rest of the world is doing fine. On the scoreboard of slackers, Australia is far in front. Six times as many points as China. The USA doesn't even feature.

I think when people who say we're 'waiting for the world' should have a look in the mirror, because it's this particular part of the world that is the biggest obstacle.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Economy or Ego-nomy?

A guy at work was saying "you don't get a return for the money you spend on CFL light bulbs". So I decided to join the conversation, mentioning that a single one can save you $25 dollars per year - assuming 4 hours use each night.

He said "Sure, for those ones. But what about the ones in rooms you hardly ever use?". Later I did the math. It turns out that even a room that gets used 8 minutes a night (like a toilet for instance) is still worth switching to CFL.

But here's what I found odd. People will worry about whether it's worth buying a $3 CFL to save on energy, but are happy to pay $30,000 to $100,000 more for a house with extra rooms they obviously don't need.

That night a friend commented to me that the problem is not the economy, it's the ego-nomy. Her theory is that we could easily consume less energy and material goods - and actually be better off, psychologically and economically. But ego-nomically we might struggle. It seems that society strokes our ego only when we can point to (wastefully) expensive purchases.

I hope that changes. It would be great if the admired decisions were those which are good for us, good for society and good for the planet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

100% Wind power for Denmark

On November 3 Denmark wind power produced over 100% of the nation's energy needs. The excess wind power, along with that from other energy sources, was exported to neighbours Sweden and Norway. In the future, it could be used to produce hydrogen - helping convert transport to renewable energy also.

Denmark produces 100% of its needs from wind power

It's inspiring to see this level of action already happening. Many countries talk about renewable energy as an energy source of the future. But Denmark are already realising the potential - and benefiting from it.

1. Wind had reached 93% in October.
2. Denmark has a website of live data on its energy production.

PS: I had another look later on, and the wind production was up to 123%
123% wind power by denmark

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Every 4 minutes

It can be sad. Climate change is a huge problem, and often it seems like we (in particular government and business) aren't doing enough (or it's happening too slowly). It can be quite depressing.

So I'm starting Good News Tuesday - at least one day per week of great or inspiring action.

This week it's the USA. On average, every 4 minutes a solar system is installed somewhere in the United States. A few have probably gone as I type these words.

A new solar system is installed every 4 minutes in the United States

I'm going to try to think about that during today. As I eat breakfast, that's another 2 systems. If I wait 4 minutes for the bus, that's another system. You get the idea. It'll be nice to remember that all the time there is positive action taking place.

That's good news.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Climate Change hits the poor the hardest

Climate change hurts poor countries more than rich ones. This is doubly unfair, considering that these poor countries have done little to cause the problem. After writing about this for Journey magazine, I found this map of countries most likely to suffer the effects of climate change by 2025.

poor countries most likely to suffer from climate change

Red colouring indicates extreme risk from climate change. Clearly, with names like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti and Ethiopia in the top 10, it's the poorest nations that are most likely to suffer - and without much financial ability to recover from disaster.

Interestingly, this analysis was done before the recent Typhoon in the Phillipines. Sadly, it seems some forecasts come true very quickly.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Energy Tales

Energy company Origin recently did a promotional campaign involving fantale-style chocolates. Given their anti-renewable comments, this parody of their chocolate wrappers amused me a little.

There is an Origin Energy petition site, asking Origin to stop undermining the Renewable Energy Target.

While being a major player in gas sector, Origin barely makes the top 20 in renewable energy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why vegetarians should go for greenpower

One of my workmates is a strict vegetarian. Despite loving the taste of meat, she won't eat it. Like many people, she would feel bad about killing an animal herself. For her, it's equally bad if someone else does the killing for her.

Perhaps the only factor enabling many people to continue eating meat is that picking up a supermarket product or some fast food is so disconnected from the slaughterhouse floor.

switching to greenpower

I wondered if the same is true for electricity from fossil fuels. The acts of watching TV, running the fridge, or having a hot shower are psychologically separated from the coal and gas burnt to make the energy.

Just as many people would never want to kill an animal, I'm sure many people don't want to pollute the air and contribute to climate change. But our actions do just that, when using 'normal' electricity.

Just as vegetarians joins the dots, and switch away from meats, I hope we all join the dots on electricity, and subscribe to greenpower.

[More posts on greenpower]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to defeat your own argument

A politician here in Australia has tried to downplay the link between climate change and increased bushfire. He described fires as part of living in Australia, and not a function of climate change.

cartoonist Leunig on the bushfires and the Prime Minister's attitude

On what basis? Because we've had them before. As Graham Readfern points out, that's like saying that cigarettes don't kill people, because people still died before cigarettes were invented.

But the clincher was the list of previous fires given by the same politician. The 1850s, 1939, 1968, 1983, 1994, 2001, 2009 (and now 2013). Look at the maths - in particular the gaps between those years. 80-plus, then 29, 15, 11, 7, 8, and now 4 years. This is precisely the point that climate scientists make. These events get more and more frequent as we continue to heat the planet.

It's a compelling point. Just not one that this politician intended to make.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What keeps scientists up at night?

We hear about what the science says on climate change. But what about the scientists? What do they think? What keeps them up at night?

This video lets us hear from scientists - unscripted and talking about what matters to them. Their work and their concern for everyone.

It's refreshing to hear the personal reflections, even the emotional difficulties of working in an area studying the potential human impacts - or feeling sorry to their kids for not leaving them a better world. Thanks Climate Institute for putting this together.

[More about the video]

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Bully with a Brick

You probably already know about the tragic bushfires in New South Wales, that have already claimed 193 homes.

Meanwhile, Adam Bandt has drawn some controversy for linking the bushfires to global warming. Clearly he's right - scientists agree. But some say it's not the right time to say so. But I agree with the person who said that's "like watching a bully smack someone in the head with a brick and saying 'Please don't talk about the bully now, it's disrespectful to the poor person with the headache.'"

Bandt quotes Ronald Reagan "The first duty of a government is to protect its people", and encourages "action to protect Australians from this kind of disaster and tragedy in the future".

Adam Bandt talking bushfires and global warming

Bandt doesn't want "every summer (let alone every spring) to be worrying about whether we are going to see these kind of bushfires again". But this is what scientists, and firefighters, have been warning Australia to expect from global warming. If we don't get global warming under control, the forecasts are for fires like 'Black Saturday' to happen about once every two years in Victoria. And that doesn't include the rest of the country.

firefighters union wants action on climate change

Meanwhile, the government this week announced legislation to remove Australia's main policy to reduce greenhouse emissions - the carbon price. Now that's bad timing. While the government talk about the financial savings of doing that, they don't talk much about the other costs of climate change. Like losing your home in a bushfire.

[Link: Article by Adam Bandt]

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

World Solar Challenge 2013

This solar car Darwin-to-Adelaide race is held every 2 years in Australia. What excites me is that rules get tougher each time, as the cars improve. They are looking less like science experiments, and more like everyday, usable cars.

solar car form the world solar challenge

For those interested in the race, the Nuon team of the Netherlands looks like the favourite to win it. The live race map, photos and more are at worldsolarchallenge.org.

day 4 race map world solar challenge

Related post: Running on Sunshine

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What does it mean for Australia?

The latest climate change report is out, as I wrote on Monday. But what does it mean for Australia?

The hottest days will be up to 6 degrees hotter (remember Sydney was already 46°C last summer). Increased sea level rise could affect our coastal cities, and increased flood and drought will be bad news for agricultural areas.

During the release of the report, some prominent scientists had some comments about the effects for Australia:

"I am concerned about the unabated increase in upper ocean heat content reported by the IPCC. This is of particular relevance for eastern Australia where heat stored in the upper ocean has contributed to the major extreme rainfall and Queensland flood events during the summers of 2011 and 2012.

With a large population living close to the coast in Australia it is a real worry that sea level estimates have been revised upwards in the current IPCC Report – and their estimate is on the conservative side. This means we need a major rethink of how we manage, use, and develop our coastal communities and cities."
Dr Helen McGregor, University of Wollongong

"For Australia, this ratio (of more warm records, fewer cold ones) has been noted for decades."
Dr Julie Arblaster, Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)

"This is really going to be crucial to Australia's future. We're looking at impacts in Australia that are going to be at least as bad as other places because Australia sits at a range of latitudes that are expected to dry out as a result of a warmer climate. We tend to live on the coasts and sea levels are going to keep rising, and it's also a country that experiences extremes of heat."
Professor Steven Sherwood

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Yes - The Hottest September Ever

It's official. September 2013 was Australia's hottest September on record (breaking the 2005 record). That also means the last 12 months is the hottest 12-month period on record (breaking the record from earlier this year).

heat map of Australia in Septemeber 2013

On a 1-10 scale orange areas indicate a 10, and dark orange indicates hottest on record. Obviously, a number of states also set records.

Combined with our hottest summer ever (particularly in January) and a very warm winter, it looks like 2013 could also be Australia's hottest calendar year. Surely it's time to do something about this.

PS. It turns out that my colleague and I were both right.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Time after time

I had a bit of a deja vu moment while writing yesterday's piece. This cartoon by Kudelka might help explain why.

Hopefully, for our own sake, we really start listening soon.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Even more certain about climate change

One of the best summaries of the IPCC's latest climate report is 15 Things You Should Know. In short, it mentions that:

1. Climate change is happening and we're doing it. Scientists are 95-100% certain - which puts it about level with smoking causing cancer.

2. There has been no slow down in warming. The last 30 years were the warmest 30 years. The rate of warming is 10 times faster than any time in 65 million years.

3. We need to leave 90% of fossil fuels untouched, to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophe.

Perhaps it was summed up best by the headline "Jury In: Climate Change Real, Caused by Us, and a Threat We Must Deal With".

Map of global warming

Interesting trivia about the report includes that more than 2,000 scientists worked on it. 9,200 studies were analysed, which were based on over 2 million gigabytes of data. (That's 20,000 times the size of my laptop computer!).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hottest September Ever?

A work colleague heard a news report that this could be our hottest September ever (and she sounded quite stunned by this news). You might guess that I explained how it wouldn't exactly be the world's biggest surprise.

This map is the last 12 months in Australia. On a hot scale of 1 to 10, almost all of Australia has been a 10 for the past year. The dark orange is where the past 12 months has been the hottest on record. About one-third of the country has never been this hot.

We've also just had the 2nd warmest winter ever. So yes, my office buddy, I wouldn't be surprised if this also turns out to be the hottest September we've ever had. And I wouldn't be surprised if these kind of records keep tumbling.

Link: BOM Climate Summaries

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Double Exposure - Spot the Difference

Climate change destroys reefs. We've heard it plenty of times, but now we can see it, thanks to photography project Double Exposure.

This picture is of the Rhone Reef in the British Virgin Islands (in 2004 and in 2011). The difference is shocking.

For more photos, including ones worse than this one, check out the Double Exposure website, and see how climate change is already altering our world.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cyclone Andrew Bolt?

With extreme storms (Katrina, Larry, Sandy etc) becoming more frequent due to climate change, there's an idea (and a petition) to name these events after the high-profile people who reject the climate change science and obstruct meaningful action.

Will changing the name reduce the disastrous damage these events cause? No. But it might give us a reminder of what causes these tragedies to be so horrific - our inaction on climate change. Perhaps then we might stop listening to such people, and get on with the job of tackling climate change - and preventing these storms from getting even worse.

Join me in signing the petition.

Also, find out which of your friends are unlucky enough to have a cyclone or hurricane named after them.

PS. The title of this post was inspired by Gruen Planet - who mentioned this idea in last night's episode.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Are you paying more than your neighbour?

It turns out the answer to this question is the biggest motivator to save energy.

Alex Laskey, through his company opower, has enabled households to save 2TWh (2,000,000,000 kWh) of electricity this year.

That's a heap of energy. The equivalent of burning 34 wheelbarrows of coal every minute of every day, for a year.

It's inspiring stuff. I find it amazing how much we can save just by not wasting energy. He estimates that 40 billion dollars is wasted in the US alone - just to light empty rooms and air-condition empty houses. That's a lot of money to waste.

Thanks to my work colleague for sending this to me. I recommend you watch it.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Ten Bucks A Litre - Review

Even the name of this documentary focusses the mind on the fact that we simply must rethink the way we use energy.

ten bucks a litre documentary

It provides a basic summary of a number of alternate energy sources. But I felt that host Dick Smith, now almost 70, talked up his favourite options (notably ones that gave him nostalgia for the past) without even looking at viability. Conversely, he was deliberately suspicious of those he didn't like, even to the point of dismissing an expert report.

Climate Spectator (also critical of his slightly misleading presentation) points out that energy efficiency was only talked about briefly at the end. If energy efficiency is looked at first, then everything else becomes easier. Even the options Dick Smith didn't like.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sucked in by sticker price

Spotted this outside my local Kmart on the weekend. Looks cheap, doesn't it? I'm sure they sell much less if the true cost was on the sign.

inefficient bar fidge

The star rating sticker (with the disappointing 1 and a half stars) tells me this fridge consumes 250 kWh/year. At the current electricity price that's $73.50 per year. After a couple of years, the power would have almost cost more than the fridge itself.

To put it another way, over 10 years (assuming 10% price increase each year) it would cost $1170 to run this "cheap" fridge.

A classic case where paying a few bucks extra for a more efficient fridge can save you big money - as well as reducing greenhouse emissions. Everyone's a winner.

PS. Compare the costs of various fridge models at energyrating.gov.au

Monday, July 15, 2013

2 charts in 1

1. Increasing electricity prices mean that energy efficiency is better value than ever. 2. The carbon price is a very small part of home electricity.

Previously I needed two charts to make these points, but now this chart does both.

Queensland electricity prices

Clearly, there has been a significant increase over the years (and these prices don't include the 10% goods and services tax). So the savings you make by choosing the energy-efficient fridge / feezer / TV / hot water system / light bulb etc are greater than ever.

Also, the carbon price is that little grey sliver above the black bit. Yes I know - it's way smaller than you might have thought judging by all the over-inflated talk over the past couple of years.

Even though it's small in the overall price we pay for electricity, it is significant in comparison to the black section (the cost of making energy) so that encourages the electricity generating companies to use more renewables and less coal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sydney's Great Plan

The City of Sydney plans to produce 30% renewable energy by 2030, and reduce electricity-related emissions by 70% with tri-generation (producing electricity, heating and cooling from the one energy source). In the future, the trigeneration could even be powered from waste material.

Other plans include switching 6,500 park and street lights to LED lights. It's estimated that this will save $800,000 per year. Well done Sydney. Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The wind saved the farm

"Going into a cold winter with 5 months of no rain ... If it wasn't for the wind money coming in, I don't think we be here."
ABC Canberra interviewed this farming couple who've experienced the hardship of drought and the uncertainty that brings for a farming income. They found a secure livelihood with wind power - making even more productive use of their land.

While I like most ideas that help reduce carbon emissions, I particularly like the ones like this that are also good for the individual and the local economy - as well as the planet as a whole.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Solar Scorecard

An Australian election could be called any day now, so it makes sense to find out which politicians (and parties) are actively supporting renewable energy - and which aren't. To help you do this, the 100% Renewable group have developed the Solar Scorecard.

Solar scorecard logo

You can compare the parties, see where your MP ranks on the overall list, and who makes it into the Top 10 (or bottom 10).

I'm sure there'll be more of this kind of stuff (analysing where the various candidates stand) as the election draws closer, but this is a very good start. Check it out.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Birthday Carbon Price

It's one year today since Australia started having a price on carbon - and it looks like it's having the desired effect.

Graphic showing a decrease in carbon emissions and coal use and an increase in renewable energy after a carbon price was introduced

Energy efficiency and cleaner energy combined to bring down emissions by 7.4%. We now consume 13.3% less brown coal and 4.2% less black coal. Renewables were up by significantly. Or to put it simply:

The last comment refers to the naysayers last year who were saying that towns would be wiped off the map, and that a carbon price would be a 'wrecking ball' through the economy. So how has the economy done this past 12 months?

According to Business Spectator, since the carbon price was introduced:
  • Real GDP is up by 2.5% pa
  • 157,400 more people are employed
  • The stock market is up 17% ($205 billion)
  • Wages are increasing by 3% pa
Sounds like a price on carbon has been a great idea. Good on you Australia. Now China is also giving it a go. Let's hope the USA follows too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Keep The Promise Kevin

In the past day or so, Kevin Rudd has become Prime Minister of Australia. When he was previously in the job, he described Climate Change as the "greatest moral challenge of our time" and promised strong action.

Kevin Rudd's saying that climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time

350.org is now reminding him of this promise.

You can also send him this reminder / challenge.
The Australian public elected you in 2007 because of your promise to act on climate change now you have a second chance to deliver on that promise. I’ll be putting climate first at this year’s election. Can you demonstrate that you’ve got what it takes to earn my vote?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

State of Origin Score

At this time of year in Australia, there's a lot of talk about the State of Origin. But for a more important measure of which state is better, I'm putting up the State of Origin Solar Scoreboard.

I give a point for every 10,000 homes with solar panels. Between the two states, there are over half a million solar power homes. As in the traditional State of Origin, Queensland does very well for its smaller population.

Solar stats are from Every Rooftop, where homeowners can lease a solar panel system and start saving from day one.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where does all that heat go?

Now that a quarter through this decade has passed, the Climate Comission has updated it's report The Critical Decade.

Here's a stat i found interesting. Even though we focus a lot on the Arctic melting, the increase in air temperature, and the Greenland ice sheet - that's only part a small part of the story. Almost 90% of the extra heat from global warming is stored in the ocean.

So while it's shocking that we've melted half the Arctic ice - there's also 90 times that amount of heat already stored up in the oceans. It's this extra heat that makes hurricanes, cyclones and flooding more intense.

The Climate Commission also reports that 80% of the worlds fossil fuels need to remain in the ground, if we are to avoid the global target of keeping warming under 2°C.

[More graphics from the report]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Future Fund out of fossil fuels?

Should Australia's 'Future Fund' be investing in fossil fuels? Morally, with climate change, it's ironic for a 'Future' fund to be investing in making the future much worse. Financially, it risks taxpayer's money in the carbon bubble.

The Australian Greens (after their successful campaign to get the future fund to divest from tobacco) are now campaigning to get the Future Fund out of the fossil fuel business.

They're inviting you to write to the Future Fund and suggest they sell their shares in fossil fuel companies - and invest in something a little more future-oriented.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

China starts emissions trading

Today the city of Shenzen began the first of China's seven pilot emission trading schemes.

China does things on a large scale. These 'trials' will cover more than double the emissions covered under Australia's natiional carbon price. No wonder China is ranked 3rd in countries most ready for a low-carbon economy.

PS. I remember writing about this in 2010. It's great that it has now come to fruition.
PPS. According to the Climate Institute, China's emissions are 5.6 tonnes per person. The figure for Australia is 27.5 tonnes per person. Clearly we have work to do.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How the Premier doesn't understand maths

As Queensland's 2013/14 electricity prices were announced, the Premier and Energy Minister tried to shift blame from themselves. The innocent targets were renewable energy, the price on carbon, and solar households - described (falsely) as the "major cause" of the price increase.

The official figures tell a completely different story.

(Click the graphic for a larger version)

Overall, prices are going up by $268/year (for a household of average use). Of that increase, the three things the government blames are barely changing.
Carbon Price - an increase of $9/year
Renewable Energy - actually $6/year cheaper than last year
Solar Power - an increase of $32/year
In total, all these positive measures account for a mere $35 of the $268 increase. But for some reason, the government is ignoring the other $233 and focusing on the small change.

Personally, I think it's great that Australia now has 1 million homes with solar panels. If that comes at a price of about 50 cents/week, i think that's easily bearable. Particularly when these panels have saved $520 million in extra electricity infrastructure.

Graphic source: QCA Fact sheet
(QCA is the body that determines power prices in Queensland)

PS. Others suggest that the government's motive is to distract from the much larger increase in network fees. (Network operators are owned by, and deliver profit to, the state government).

Friday, June 07, 2013

"Do The Math" Movie Review

In the short documentary Do The Math, Bill McKibben looks at what the problem is - and gives a possible solution. It's based on 3 simple numbers.

2°C - All nations agree that's the most warming the earth can handle.
565 - The gigatonnes of carbon that would cause 2°C of warming.
2,765 - The gigatonnes of carbon that companies intend to burn.

It's easy to see why Bill McKibben says "These companies are outlaws. Not against the laws of the state ... but the laws of physics. If they carry out their business plan, the planet tanks."

As if this weren't bad enough, Exxon alone is spending $100 million a day looking for more carbon to burn. Clearly this is the first thing that should stop. "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging".
"We're no longer at the point of trying to stop global warming. Too late for that. We're at the point of trying to keep it from becoming a complete and utter calamity."

While this movie is about 3 simple numbers, a bunch of other numbers also grabbed my attention:

$137 billion - one year of profit for the top 5 oil companies
$375 million - daily profit of the top 5 oil companies
$6.6 million/day in federal tax breaks
$440,000/day lobbying the US congress
$100,000 - daily salary of the Exxon CEO

It's easy to see what would motivate these companies to do what they're doing, despite the consequences for humanity.

So what's the solution? If fossil fuel companies only care about money, then that's the tool for change. One option is 'divestment' - pulling out of investments in fossil fuels and asking organisations to do likewise. "Take that money away from the problem makers - give it to the problem solvers".

"There is nothing radical about what we're talking about. All we are asking for is a planet that works the way it did when we were born."

Even though this may also have the financial benefit of avoiding the carbon bubble, the movie focussed mainly on the ethical and moral motivation. As Bill McKibben is fond of saying "If it's wrong to wreck the climate, it's wrong to profit from that wreckage".

"..the epic struggle of this century, and we're going to meet it. If we don't, we won't have a 22nd century."

Here's the full movie:

From an Australian perspective, it was also interesting to see America realising that pricing carbon would make a lot of sense. Ordinary citizens can't just litter. Small businesses have to pay to have their garbage removed. It just makes sense that fossil fuel companies should pay for the pollution they create.
"Nobody should be allowed pollute for free. If you get a $25 fine for littering, you'll pay more than all of the fossil fuel companies have ever paid for 150 years."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Bottom of the Class

I enjoyed seeing a cartoon about Bill McKibben today. It seems he's getting noticed - including an article in The Monthly.

Cartoon of Bill McKibben explaining the maths of carbon emissions

The cartoonist drew the Queensland Premier as the schoolkid not grasping the concept - but it could equally have been a fossil fuel CEO. It's like the old saying,
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it"

Or in Bill's words, "stuck in a bizarre state of denial, the kind where you acknowledge that you have a problem, but not that you need to do anything about it."

In an interview with The Conversation, he talked about his campaign for divestment of fossil fuel shares. It's based on moral grounds (fossil fuels are predicted to claim 100 million lives by 2030), but it also makes financial sense to get out of the carbon bubble before it bursts.

Asked about the chances of Australia divesting from coal, Bill responded:
My sense is that Australians overestimate the amount of their economy based on coal. Because it generates outsize returns for a few people, they are able to use it to their political ends.

But I am pretty sure that a country as blessed with the resources of sun and wind and 21st century fuels doesn’t need to stay completely wedded to 18th century technology. A country as affluent and educated as Australia could figure out something else to do with its people rather than just keep digging up black rocks and burning them.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Think. Eat. Save.

It's World Environment Day and this year's focus is on Food Waste. What better time to show this animation on Food Waste in Australia?

Around the world, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. Meanwhile, a billion people go to bed hungry each night, and 20,000 children die of hunger each day.

Aside from humanitarian side, and the financial cost of all that wasted food, there's also the greenhouse emissions. Globally 30% of greenhouse emissions are from food production. If we waste less, we could also pollute less.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Faith vs Fossil Fuels

While re-watching Bill McKibben's Do the Math movie online, one of youtube's 'related videos' was Bill McKibben's address to faith communities.

A religious man himself, Bill McKibben observes that
Faith communities are the place we go to think about ourselves as a people. To think about eternity in some sense. To think about all those who will come after.

He encourages faith communities to do as the NSW Uniting Church has done, and divest from fossil fuel companies. He describes this as
A strong swift way to register our discontent with those forces, those powers and principalities, that are doing everything they can to undermine everything good on this sweet earth

For the polluting of the atmosphere, and "subverting our democracy" to prevent anyone from stopping them, Bill McKibben describes the fossil fuel industry as the planetary equivalent of tobacco industry. As such, faith communities should withdraw on moral grounds.
I can't promise you that this will work, but even if I could promise you that it won't work - you should still participate in this. If it's wrong to wreck the climate, it's wrong to profit from that wreckage.

It is not ok to pay the pastor's retirement account or to fund the building project for the church by investing in companies that are running Genesis backward.

PS. For more of Bill McKibben on faith matters, see his article regarding the bizarre theology that it would hurt God's feelings if we didn't open his 'gift' of fossil fuels. (Yes there are actually people saying that kind of stuff!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Australia's Biggest Wind Farm

Recently Victoria's Macarthur 140-turbine wind farm was officially opened. Providing enough power for 220,000 homes that means each turbine makes enough power for a town of 1500 homes (around 4000 people).

Though it's a lot of area, the land can still be used for sheep and cattle grazing as before - and the farmers receive payment for the use of their land (about $5,000 per MW). By my maths, that would mean farmers of this region would be receiving about $2.1 million each year, from the 420 MW wind farm.

For me this sounds like such a great story. Producing sizeable amounts of renewable energy and providing a second source of income for the farming community. In fact, sometimes, during tough farming years, windpower can save the farm.

PS. While this is the biggest wind farm in Australia (hopefully a record that is soon beaten) the world's biggest is much larger - 1064 MW in India.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is an extreme documentary, by a guy who decided to photograph climate change as it happens. In unbelievable locations, he sets up cameras to do time-lapse photography as the landscapes disappear.

In the trailer, he remarks that this landscape may never be seen again in human civilisation, but that it's captured "here" (as he holds up his camera memory card).

Even if the movie never makes it to Australia, the trailer alone has some stunning scenes.

See the Chasing Ice website for details on screenings and releases.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Most Ridiculous Thing At Work

We've all seen ridiculous things at work. One of them is energy wastage. It's funny when we see other things being as obviously wasted as energy is.

This ad is the sequel to the Most Ridiculous Thing (home version) in the Powersmart campaign in Canada. I love the tag line:

The most ridiculous thing about wasting power is that for some reason we don't think it is ridiculous.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Low-price Energy Meters at Aldi

One step to saving energy at home is to know where your electricity is going. From Saturday (while stocks last) Aldi have these energy meters for $14.99.

Energy meter available at Aldi

To me that sounds like a good price, I got mine for $30 a few years ago, and (from the picture) this one looks to have much the same functions.

If you get one, here's how to convert the reading (in Watts) into a more meaningful number, like financial cost.

Dollars per year = Watts x hours of use per week x 0.052 x 0.25378

The last number is the price of electricity in dollars, which may differ depending on where you live.

PS. The Aldi sale appears to be an energy theme - there are also LED bulbs available again.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Do The Math movie launches internationally

Tonight is the official international launch of the new documentary movie Do the Math. It will screen at a variety of venues around town. Find a screening near you. Here's the trailer for the film.

Next month, the star of the film, Bill KcKibben will be on tour in Australia.

UPDATE: The screenings are over, but the movie is still available online.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What 400 means

This is probably a more concise explanation (than my earlier one) of the effects of carbon dioxide levels reaching 400.

Thanks, Climate Reality Project.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Big Fuel Discount! (not for you)

You might be happy with the 4-cents-off-petrol voucher you get from the supermarket. But that's nothing compared to the discount mining companies get. While you pay full price for your fuel, mining companies can claim back 32 cents per litre from the government!

ACF graphic illustrating the taxpayer-funded fuel discount given to mining companies

Mining companies use a lot of fuel. That creates a lot of greenhouse emissions - and there's little incentive for them to be more efficient, because their fuel is so heavily subsidised.

To make things worse, the taxes on us have to be higher - to make up for the fuel tax not paid for by the mining companies.

This photo was going around facebook, as part of a campaign to get this perverse subsidy removed in this year's federal budget (announced tonight).

publicity photo demonstrating the 32 cent taxpayer funded subsidy for mining companies

Related Posts: 2 Billion Dollars - Why you pay more

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Sad First for Humanity.

This week the level of carbon dioxide in the air reached 400. [Check out the live charts]

How significant is that? Well it's never been this high in all of human history. In fact, it's only been in the last 50 years that it has got much above 300.

50 years of carbon dioxide levels

What does all this mean? What can we compare it to?

270-280 was the level before the industrialised age.

299 is the highest archeological (ice core) reading - this occured about 330,000 years ago. (Again, before humans)

350 is the upper limit of what is considered at all safe. (And the reason 350.org chose that name)

400 is where we are now, and that is predicted to be 450 by 2037.

So how bad is 400?

As I mentioned earlier, levels have been around 400 before. More than 3 million years ago. That world was 3-4°C warmer (almost 10 degrees warmer near the poles) and sea level was 5-40 metres higher than now.

I think it's time we got serious about eliminating carbon emissions.

[Related link: 400 vs 350 in one picture]

Thursday, May 02, 2013

How to Insulate Your Home

With winter coming on in Australia, many people are thinking about keeping warm and saving money. So the ATA has put together this webinar on insulation.

Sustainable building specialist Tony Isaacs discusses the different types of insulation, and give recommendations for different climates and house types. The ATA also has other webinars, such as lighting and energy efficiency.

The ATA also run an event called Speed Date a Sustainable Designer. It's for people building or renovating a home, and provides the chances to have some 15 minutes "dates" with some of Australia’s best green designers.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Most Ridiculous Thing

The Canadians have this great ad. I like the tag line:
The most ridiculous thing about wasting power is that for some reason we don't think it is ridiculous.

It's part of the campaing for Powersmart, and it's one of those ads that's funny because it's true. We wouldn't waste other things the way we waste energy.

For instance, old-style lightbulbs use 5 times the energy of CFL spiral-style bulbs. It's hard to think of anything else where we would buy 5 times as many as we need.

UPDATE: See the sequel ad - the workplace version.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Christian Climate Change Action Kit

For people and churches looking to put their faith into action, there is the Christian Climate Change Action Kit. Its a practical and spiritual guide for Christians taking action on climate change.

Christian Climate Change Action Kit

The kit has been designed to help people understand the connection between the faith and action on climate change - and to take steps in church life, personal life and community life, to reduce our negative impact on creation.

The guide also explains the science, and morality of acting on climate change - and gives plenty of spiritual resources (including prayers and sermon ideas) as well as practical ones.

You can download the kit now.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Earn $100 by helping a friend

Part of what makes Every Rooftop a social venture is the word-of-mouth spreading of the idea (as opposed to annoying ads on tv). As an incentive, if you refer a friend to the program, you'll get $100.

Refer a friend to every rooftop and get $100

It seems similar to the tupperware model - where the host of the party is rewarded if the guests spend a certain amount of money. Except in this case your friends end up with lower electricity bills, and can create solar energy. Now that's a win-win situation :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Do the Math" Movie

If you can't make it to a Do the Math live event in Australia, the next best thing is to see the movie. Here's the trailer.

It's pretty clear what it's about. "If it's wrong to wreck the climate, it's wrong to profit from that wreckage." Our continuing support of fossil fuels is the moral catastrophe. The climate catastrophe occurs if we continue to burn all the fossil fuel there is - or even a half of it. The vast majority needs to be left in the ground.

Understand what needs to happen. See the movie and Do the Math.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Weathergirl loses it

What if a weather presenter actually told us how it is? Instead of the polite banter with the news host ("It's a hot one tomorrow, Bob") they explained why the weather is changing permanently. That's the basis for this skit.

The premise seems to be that after years of ignoring important issues to present shallow meaningless news, one presenter finally bursts out with the real story. It's amusing to watch the other guy's reaction. I also liked the ending. That kind of stuff is what keeps important stuff out of the news.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Church pulls out of fossil fuels

The Uniting Church has put its money where its mouth is. The NSW meeting of the church voted unanimously to end investments in fossil fuel companies - effectively blacklisting the industry. The motion was suggested by Justin Whelan of Paddington Uniting Church.

Justin Whelan of Paddington uniting church says this is the church taking direct action showing that it's not willing to profit from destroying the earth

The move is in line with the church's ethical policy of not investing in industries that do harm - and the "climate change emergency" is harm on a massive scale.
"The priority for the Uniting Church was to get its own house in order, and to practice what it preaches about environmental responsibility,"

Justin Whelan also called on other states to follow.

[Related Links: ABC report - Detailed church rationale - Fossil free campaign]

PS. If this action of the church inspires you, why not move your own superannuation investment to a sustainable option (if your company has one). If they don't, perhaps move to someone like Australian Ethical.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

$900 million dollars a year

Last week i mentioned that Australia passed the milestone of 1 million homes with solar power. After that announcement, one solar company crunched the numbers on what that means.

in 5 years Australia went from 20,000 to 1 million homes with solar power

$900 million dollars worth of electricity can be generated in the year by these solar panels. Of course more panels will be installed during the year, so we could easily see over a billion dollars of electricity generated by Australian households.

Like the above photo, it's something that excites me as a fan of renewable energy. It's also see individuals taking positive actions that together make such a great difference.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Climate change fuelling wilder weather

I'm really appreciating how well the Climate Commission present climate change science without making it too technical. Their recent video Climate change fuelling wilder weather is a good example.

In just 2 minutes, it summarises the situation - including explaining why increasing temperatures cause flooding and sea level rise - as well as drought and heatwaves.

[Related links: The Angry Summer - Climate Change and Health]

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Earth Hour Prayers

This year for Earth Hour, I experienced a church Earth Hour. It was great to see a church that recognises caring for creation (both the planet and the people on it) as part of their mission.

Also the church building (an old traditional one) looked sensational with all its candles. Far better than the picture captures.

church during earth hour

The short sermon (the best type there is ;) was about respecting, and caring for, the planet as something made by God - and entrusted to us.

The opening of the service include this poem/prayer:
Giver of life,
in the midst of a plundered world,
in the midst of poisoned waters,
in the midst of polluted air,
in the midst of mountains of waste,
in the midst of a beautiful but broken world
we groan with creation.
And the night ended with this prayer:
Eternal God, Creator of the universe. Great and wonderful are your works. Thank you for the many splendored variety of your creation. Thank you for the many ways we affirm your presence and purpose. Forgive our violation of your creation...
I hope the future sees more churches embracing creation and celebrating Earth Hour with the community.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Do the Maths - Australian Tour

Bill McKibben's Do the Maths tour is coming to Australia. It's rare that a magazine article is the basis for a world tour, but this is serious.

The tour dates include Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane. Check the Do the Maths website for more information.

UPDATE: The tour has completed now, but you can see the movie online.