Climate & Energy

Report by Australia economist suggests ambitious climate policy

An interim report on the economic impact of climate change on Australia — Oz’s version of the Stern Review — has been produced by economics professor Ross Garnaut. The government-commissioned Garnaut Review, which will be published in full in September, points out that Australia’s dry climate, heavy reliance on agriculture, and tight trade relationships with developing countries in Asia make it more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than other developed countries. It suggests that Australia should this year commit to reducing emissions 60 percent by 2050, and be prepared to reduce emissions even more if an effective global …

Foreign energy 'sources'

McCain’s crooked talk on nuclear power

This week John McCain has an article in the Financial Times: "America must be a good role model." It has two paragraphs on the need for leadership on greenhouse gas reductions but endorses only one low-carbon energy source: Right now safe, climate-friendly nuclear energy is a critical way both to improve the quality of our air and to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. That dependence, I am afraid, has become a vulnerability for both the US and Europe and a source of leverage for the oil and gas exporting autocracies. You can tell a politician is being wishy-washy when he or she uses the phrase "dependence on foreign energy sources." There is really only one foreign energy source Americans care much about -- oil. It comes from unstable and undemocratic regions, and our trade deficit in it now exceeds $1 billion a day. But nuclear power can't significantly reduce US oil consumption or imports -- because very, very little electricity in this country is generated by burning petroleum (only 1.6 percent of electricity in 2006 came from oil). [In the future that could change when a significant number of vehicles on the road substitute electricity for gasoline, but that is not imminent.]

Latest hot commodity: coal

As coal prices rise, U.S. coal exports boom

Environmentalists have helped scuttle more than 50 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. in the past year. That’s fantastic. But the movement to stop coal won’t help the climate unless it can globalize; for the climate, coal burned in China traps just as much warmth as coal burned in Texas. Nor will stopping more U.S. coal-fired power plants help save communities in the mining zones of Appalachia from environmental and economic devastation. That’s because U.S. coal companies are merrily exporting excess coal abroad. Check out this New York Times graphic: U.S. coal exports are up from under 40 million tons …

The Even Sterner Review

Australia’s pivotal Garnaut climate report to back 100 percent permit auctions

The bar for national climate policy just inched up again. In April of last year Australia’s State and Territory Governments commissioned a comprehensive independent study from economics professor Ross Garnaut. The Garnaut Climate Change Review is meant to be Australia’s version of the U.K.’s influential Stern Review: it will examine the economic impacts of climate change and recommend policy responses. The final report isn’t due until September — right in the heated final days of the U.S. presidential election — but a preliminary interim report [PDF] was released today, and it’s ambitious. Three aspects jump out: 100 percent auctioning of …

On thin ice

Arctic ice alarmingly scarce, say NOAA, NASA, NSIDC

Yes, I know you've all heard that we've had "record" refreezing of Arctic ice. Big shock there. We had record melting followed by a temporary cooling La Niña event. What those denier/delayer-1000 talking points don't tell you is that the refrozen ice is very thin and still at record low levels following the staggering ice loss this summer. To set the record straight, on Wednesday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA had a teleconference to show the surprising and alarming new data from NASA's ICESat satellite, which revealed over the past year "the steepest yearly decline in perennial [i.e., old, thick] ice on record" (click to enlarge):

Deep thought of the day

One can be anti-nuclear subsidy without being “anti-nuclear.”

<em>Time</em> on geo-engineering: What are they thinking? Part 1

Messing with nature more won’t fix the messes we’ve already made

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- [JR: Geo-engineering is to mitigation as chemotherapy is to diet & exercise. You can find some more specific reasons geo-engineering is unlikely to make sense at these posts: "Geo-engineering remains a bad idea" and "Geo-engineering is not the answer." I will be blogging again on this shortly. In the absence of strong mitigation efforts, geo-engineering will not stop catastrophic outcomes, like the end of most ocean life.] Time magazine has declared geo-engineering one of "10 ideas that are changing the world." "Messing with nature caused global warming," Time wrote. "Messing with it more might fix it." What are they thinking?

Early-springing spring is a climatic consequence

You may have gone to bed last night in one season and woken up in another, as spring officially began at 1:48 a.m. EDT Thursday. (Yes, apparently “they” know the exact time.) We kind of feel like its about damn time the sun came out, but in fact trees are blossoming and birds are singing earlier than ever, say biologists — and that’s not ideal. Among the consequences of a climate-change-caused early spring: a longer allergy season, longer wildfire season, and disoriented flora and fauna.

World's dumbest project: Tata Ultra Mega

How a twisted definition is setting up a monumental folly in India

Here is how the World Bank proposes to solve climate change: lend money to build a 4,000-megawatt coal plant in India that will emit 25.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. By way of comparison, that's half a million tons more than the worst carbon emitter in North America, the Scherer plant near Macon, Georgia. In a weird distortion of logic, Tata Ultra Mega is considered a Clean Development Mechanism by the organization that administers the Kyoto Protocol. This allows industrialized nations to invest in the plant as an alternative to domestic emissions reductions. The thinking is that since Tata Ultra Mega uses supercritical coal technology, it will increase the average efficiency of coal use in India. Turns out World Bank policy is to invest in "abatement of climate change impacts" through "investment focus on ... supercritical coal technology, ultra supercritical or subcritical coal technology with energy efficiency higher than [the] existing national average of the sector." Do not be deceived by fancy-sounding terms like "supercritical." We're still talking about burning coal, just at higher temperatures and pressures that notch the efficiency of the process upward from about 36 percent to maybe 43 percent. The idea that building more coal plants is a step toward "abatement of climate change impacts" could not be sillier, especially since there are baseload technologies available now for solar-rich locations that create zero emissions. In an informative critique of Tata Ultra Mega, Dr. David Wheeler, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, points out that Gujarat, the location of Tata Ultra Mega, is ideal for concentrated solar power (CSP): "India does have a scalable, economically feasible alternative to coal ... [because] the region near Mundra has a huge solar potential and is one of the most sparsely-settled areas in India. Baseload solar power with thermal storage for 24-hour operation is now technically feasible ... "

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