Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Good Beer gives back

Today I read a news story about a great new social enterprise - the beer that helps save the reef.

The brand will be "Good Beer" and it aims to taste good and do good. Half the profits from this beer will support protecting the reef, through the Australian Marina Conservation Society.

I'm not a big beer drinker, but this is one brand I hope really takes off. Why not support it by helping with the crowdfunding?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Photon finish!

The University of NSW Solar Racing Team Sunswift came fourth in the cruiser class in the World Solar Challenge.

The team is now looking to get the car registered as road-legal. Hear the interview.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Our brains are holding us back

One of the things that fascinates me about our reaction to climate change is just how many things outweigh facts and rational decision making. I've recently read a couple of articles about our psychology in this area.

One is about gender socialisation. What that means is from childhood boys are taught that masculinity means "detachment, control and mastery" while girls are taught "attachment, empathy, and care". Researchers think this is partially why more women accept the reality of climate change. Essentially they are trained to care more about the dire consequences.

The other article was about temporal discounting, which means our struggle to give up a small thing now for more later. In experiments people choose $100 now instead of $120 in a month's time. Financially it makes no sense. The extra $20 represents an interest rate of 240% and is definitely worth the wait. But our brains "discount" (or devalue) the future when we make decisions.

In experiments it might cost us 20 bucks, but in climate change it could cost us a whole lot more.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Dodgy facebook news

Have you noticed those little "trending" news stories on the side of your facebook feed? I got this one tonight.

It might be only for Australian readers, but it represents everything that's wrong about climate science reporting.

It seems to suggest that we should reconsider the findings of an international team of experts in the area of climatology - because some bloke in Perth (with no relevant qualifications) has a different opinion.

This is on par with saying that the whole cigarettes-cancer connection has been exaggerated .... according to an Architect in Adelaide.

Related video: Which is bigger? 15 or 5?

Monday, September 14, 2015

A private conversation

Generally, politicians can seem semi-decent and competent. Dressed in the expensive suits, and told what lines to say by the marketing division of their party, it's almost like the job of an actor playing a role.

But sometimes, like on Friday, you get a little look behind the scenes.

3 errors. Making a tasteless and cruel joke. Laughing at it. Not calling it out. The third politician points out the microphone. He doesn't seem shocked by the remark. It's almost like he's saying 'Guys, we're in public. Hide who we really are. Play the role of a decent human being.'

Later the politician said it was a "private conversation" and had nothing to add. Two days later he apologised - not for the remark, just for getting caught.

Obviously the joke didn't go down well with the Pacific Islands Forum, who have already warned Australia may be asked to leave the forum for refusing to make serious greenhouse emissions cuts.

The president of Kiribati has previously labelled Australia's obsession with coal mines as "selfish and unjust" and referred to the joke as vulgar. while the Fijian prime minister said Australia had been "put to the test on climate change and been found wanting".

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister has asked if Mr Dutton would be laughing if it were his own family about to lose their home because of climate change.

PS. Believe or not, all three of these men are ministers in our nation's government. I still don't get how any of them could think that people being flooded out of their country is good material for cheap laugh.

PPS. The Hungry Tide is a great documentary about Kiribati and its vulnerability to rising seas from climate change.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The sceptics

I caught a rerun of the Insight episode "The sceptics". Professor Stephen Schneider took questions from an audience of so-called 'sceptics'.

The professor did some great explaining of science. I'm not sure how much success he had with assembled audience. Most were not really sceptics in the true sense (cautious people, but willing to accept evidence) but rather people determined to reject climate science.

Still, he did manage to convince one or two of the 50, and I suspect he was even more successful with the more reasonable viewers at home. That's what a good explanation of the science does.

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Zealand beats Australia again

New Zealand will shut down it's last two coal power stations.

Prime Minister John Key, noted that coal plants "aren't the most sensible plants to have", saying renewables will go from 80 to 90 per cent and beyond.

Way to go, New Zealand.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Australia aims to be the worst

The Australian government has belatedly announced its planned greenhouse emission targets for the United Nations negotiations in December. Australia will take a take of 26 per cent by 2030 to the conference.

For comparison, the Climate Change Authority suggested 45 to 65 per cent by 2030 would be Austalia's fair share.

Of 38 comparable countries only Japan and Norway's targets are weaker, but they've done a lot of work already. Of the 15 most polluting nations Australia is the highest per capita polluter. Based on these targets, that will still be the case 15 years from now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Does Queensland really need coal?

Some governments claim we need fossil fuels if we "want decent hospitals, schools and police", implying that we couldn't have these things without fossil fuels. But is that really the case?

New Matilda looked at Queensland's budget papers, released this week. Turns out that Queensland receives 1.68 billion dollars a year in coal royalties. That sounds big, but it's just 3% of Queensland total income of 51.19 billion.

So even if we stopped digging up coal tomorrow, 97% of our income would still be there. To me that doesn't sound like we're dependent on coal.

In my opinion, the only ones dependent on coal companies are the politicians who receive campaign donations from them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The End of Coal?

ABC's Four Corners did a great episode on Australia's obsession with coal, asking whether we are putting all our eggs in one basket, and if that basket is about to break?

"The reality is: the transition is happening irrespective of what Australia does."
"The world is committing to a low-carbon future. Australia's challenge is not to be left dependent on coal if the rest of the world leaves it behind."

The report included 1960s footage of one of Australia's coal power stations when it was new. Odd to think we're still relying on that technology.

It was also stunning to see the unwavering dogmatic belief of coal executives regardless of all the economic data. With comments like "I simply don't accept that..." it's understandable that cartoonists draw the industry as ostriches with heads in the sand.

The overall message is clear. It doesn't matter how much of a resource we have. If nobody wants to buy it, then it's a waste of money to invest in digging it up. Or as one of the economist puts it:

"What happens to Australia and our national prosperity if coal becomes a less and less valuable commodity? In many ways the current Government and Australia as a whole is doubling down on coal. And we're doubling down on a technology which is 100 years old, and which is rapidly being out-competed in many parts of the world by new technologies that are cleaner and superior in many ways, that have outlook of just lower and lower costs through time."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Poetry and science are different

Just when you think we're all finally all on board to tackle climate change, there'll be someone who doesn't quite get it.

Fortunately there are comedy shows to set the record straight. The relevant part of the video starts at 1min18s.

"There's probably a good reason why the CSIRO doesn't use poetry as data"

There's also a good reason not to listen to people who use bizarre logic to attempt to shy away from addressing climate change. It's like saying "People died before drugs were invented so drugs don't kill people". It starts off with a true statement but then goes into crazy 'logic'.

PS. Sorry, the video also contains a piece on the budget. I'd hoped it was a separate clip.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I'm an investor!

SunFunder combines small amounts of money from people like us - to do meaningful solar projects in developing countries. As the project completes, we get paid back.

The current project provides 3,800 solar lamps for rural homes in Zimbabwe.

Crowd funding for solar lamps in Zimbabwe

These homes currently rely on kerosene lamps for lighting (63% of Zimbabwe doesn't have access to electricity). Switching to solar lamps helps provide cleaner air in the home, better light, and reduced energy expenses. Of course, it also reduces fossil fuel use.

It's quite exciting to think that my little investment is helping make a difference - and when it's done I can invest the same money in another project. You can invest with as little as $10. Would you like to join me?

Monday, May 18, 2015

If it's melted, it's ruined

An ice cream company is not the usual place to expect climate information. But Save Our Swirled explains why climate change is a problem and what one company (Ben and Jerry's) is doing about it.

One of the highlights is this ice cream video.

It's makes a good point. A little bit of warming and it's far less enjoyable. It's true for ice cream, and true for the planet.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How is the world's oil like a rollercoaster?

My friend Stuart is a cartoonist, and has just completed a 120-page non-fiction comic. It's about the scientist M.King Hubbert and what he discovered about the way the world uses oil.

The comic takes about 20 minutes to read - which is much shorter than watching a documentary. As far as comics go, it may not be as action packed as you Batman or Spiderman comics, but at the end you'll feel a bit smarter and more knowledgeable about the world.

Now that we now what we've got, how will will best use it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cancel the phone book

When was the last time you used the phone book? Do you really need another 100-page tome delivered each year? It's all available online.

Cancel the yellow pages phone book

Each year millions of phone books are printed and delivered around Australia. Most of them never get used. You can help stop this waste by cancelling your delivery.

PS. Sorry international readers, this one's for Australians only, but hopefully there's an equivalent in your country.

Friday, May 08, 2015

I Want Some Action

I saw these T-shirts at a support rally for climate action. They are both clever and true.

Tshirt: I want some action - on climate change

If you're interested, find out what else was AYCC, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition does - when they're not thinking up new t-shirt designs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lunchtime Legends

This recycling game is designed mainly for kids. It looks simple at first, but as the levels go up so does the speed.

I bombed out on level 3, but I did learn that metal cutlery is recyclable, as are the takeaway coffee cups. Of course, if you're a big drinker of takeaway coffee, Keep Cups are a great idea.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Free Ice Cream

I popped by Ben and Jerry's recent Free Ice Cream Day. Apart from handing out sample cups, they were also launching their climate justice campaign - "Save our Swirled". Nice pun ;)

While we queued, there was also a chance to sign a petition to Keep Australia great, saying that "Australians deserve fresh air, clean water, sustainable jobs and a healthy environment."

I signed it on the spot - and you can do so online.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The hottest 12 months

I read yesteday that January-March this year is the hottest January March ever recorded.

Combined with last year's record heat, this makes the last year (April 2014 - March 2015) the hottest 12 month period on record. It beat the 12 months ending in February, which beat the 12 months ending in January

Coincidentally I met up with a couple of good friends last night, and one mentioned how long this summer has been.

The year to year temperature increase is probably not noticeable. But after a while it adds up, and it is noticeable when there are several 30°C days in the middle of Autumn.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Waleed Aly really cares about renewable energy

Waleed Aly, presenter of The Project, really caused a stir with his report on renewable energy in Australia. It was a great piece - check it out.

He mentions some of the 143 other countries around the world that have established renewable energy targets - such as Austria 68%, Sweden 61%, Scotland 50%, New Zealand almost 80% and Costa Rica 100% so far this year. Here's what that means for jobs in Australia. While the rest of the world employs close to a million people in renewable energy, we've lost jobs in this growing industry.

"It's the generations to come that will look back and see this for what it is - a willful disregard for the future of this nation by the people we've elected to lead us."

Waleed cares. Do we? How about we do something - like email one of those politicians.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The actual probability of disaster

I found this great animation and summary of climate science.

It's visually stimulating, but also gives a understandable summary of the science.

For me the end was also quite stunning. We really need to reduce our pollution significantly.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

I love a sun-powered country

The ACF is giving away these posters to anyone who wants to display them. Just fill in the form, and they'll post them to you. Or you can get an electronic version (solar or wind) if you want to put it on your profile.

I love a sun-powered country

For international readers, the words relate to the famous Australian poem My Country (I love a sunburnt country).

Monday, April 06, 2015

Earth Hour Highlights Video 2015

Earthhour Australia put together this video of highlights from Earth Hour 2015, here in Australia.

In Australia this year the theme was food - highlighting how climate change, and more extreme weather, hurts our farmers' ability to grow food.

Related link: Earth Hour promo video

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Earth Hour Video 2015

With Earth Hour tonight, 8.30-9.30pm in your local time zone, what better time to look at the official Earth Hour video for 2015 - featuring Pompeii by Bastille.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Australia's top 10 polluters

Who are Australia's top 10 polluters? Geoff Cousins went on Lateline to announce them - and here they are:

You may recognise them. Some of them have been very loud in the media trying to reduce the amount of renewable energy in Australia.

Read more about on the ACF website.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Super Solar

ABC's science show Catalyst this week looked at Australian solar research. A new technology converts about 40% of sunlight into electricity. That's double the efficiency of current panels.

Catalyst Super Solar Cells

It's a bit high-tech, and probably won't be suitable for home rooftops. But it could mean even more productive solar farms, which would mean even cheaper renewable energy. The episode is well worth a look.

Monday, March 09, 2015

High Speed Rail for Australia

Long-distance travel can be a tricky to do without emitting carbon. Until now.

Research group Beyond Zero Emissions have come up with a comprehensive plan for High Speed Rail in Australia.

Beyond zero emissions high speed rail report

The plan makes train travel a convenient and less expensive way to travel up and down the east coast of Australia. 60% of Australians live within reach of this high speed network, and trips to Sydney can be made in about 3 hours, from either Melbourne or Brisbane. And that time is city centre to city centre (not to an airport that takes extra time to commute to and from).

Here's a small sample of their example timetable.

High speed rail timetable from Beyond Zero Emissions high speed rail report

It's a really good report. I encourage you to download a copy.

Map of high speed rail route from Beyond Zero Emissions high speed rail report

Monday, February 16, 2015

Breaking up with fossil fuels

Over 450 events were held in 60 countries, to mark Global Divestment Day. The idea is to withdraw our business from banks that invest in fossil fuels.

Of course the weekend was also Valentine's Day, so a British group put together this witty video of people realising it was time to end their relationship.

On the day, there were a lots of people divesting, and a couple of 'remade' songs. A group in Adelaide, dressed as Tina Turner to sing "Simply Divest", while a big group in Sydney enjoyed "Stop in the name of love (before you wreck the reef)". That song made it onto SBS News (at the 3 minute mark).

Breaking up with fossil fuels

Australians, see if your bank invests in fossil fuels.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Global Divestment Day

With Global Divestment Day happening this weekend around the world, this video does some explaining, on what divestment is all about.

"Fossil fuels companies only care about one thing - money. Who can stand up against them and steer the world towards a safe future? You can."

"We'll close our accounts with banks and funds who continue to invest in climate chaos."

"Divestment is deliberately moving your money away from companies you're not happy with. It's helped to stop some of history's worst offenders including Apartheid South Africa."

"Each act of divestment takes back power from fossil fuel companies and helps create a mandate for our leaders to take real action."

Australians, see if your bank is funding fossil fuels.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Solar Scorecard 2015

This is a non-partisan blog, but near election time I do pass on some voter information. My home state of Queensland goes to the ballot box this weekend, and Solar Citizens has scored the parties on their solar-friendliness.

Solar Citizens' Election Scorecard Queensland 2015

For the full scorecard, and the detailed responses of the parties, see The sunnier the ratings, the better the policy for solar.

This information is meant as a guide. If solar energy matters to you - this scorecard allows you to assess which parties are more likely to support solar energy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2014 - Hottest Year on Record

It's Official. 2014 is the world's warmest year in recorded history - and the 38th year in a row of above average temperatures.

Bloomberg did a clever animation showing how the years just keep getting hotter and hotter.

And the New York Times had this informative graphic showing both a heat map of 2014 and a chart of all the years up to now.

record of 2014 - the hottest year ever - and all the years leading up to it

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Disbelieving Pastor

As a Christian, Anna-Jane believes that we are stewards of God's creation - and should be acting on climate change.

But it's difficult when some powerful pastors don't even acknowledge the existence of climate change. It's even harder when one of these pastors is her own dad.

Anna Jane and her dad - who refuses to accept climate change science

This is the background for Episode 4 of Years of Living Dangerously. See what happened - the episode is free online until Feb 2.

It's quite interesting to see how a person's mind works when confronted with something it doesn't want to accept - an "inconvenient truth" if you like. He demands hard indisputable evidence (despite devoting his life to God without such evidence). When such information is presented, he seems not to believe it - for reasons which aren't entirely clear.

I'd be interested to hear your impression.

Here's the trailer for the episode:

Friday, January 02, 2015

Top 5 of 2014

Here are 2014's most-read articles from Convenient Solutions:

5. Money was a big theme of 2014, particularly divestment - removing money from institutions that fund fossil fuels. My summary of the May Divestment Day, including tips for how to do it, was the most read of my divestment theme.

4. When a friend asked me who I recommend for solar panels, I put my answer on the blog. Turned that my friend was one of many who wanted the answer to that question.

3. Satire and comedy can be a big relief when times are bad. I shared the cartoon Australia's New Coat of Arms and the humour was well appreciated. (See more funnies)

Parody of the Australian coat of arms after Australian renegged on carbon pricing

2. My Good News Tuesday piece about sales of electric and hybrid cars in the USA being greater than total car sales in Australia was good news to many.

1. Humour featured again in the most popular item The Penny-Farthing of Energy. One of many great pieces by The Roast - it was a statement of great common sense, delivered in a witty and clever style.

The Roast 1 September 2014

Thanks again for reading in 2014. I've enjoyed writing for you.