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 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!)