Posts Tagged ‘Carbon Budget’


Aussie coal exports 2nd biggest “carbon bomb”

24 January 2013

A new report by consultancy Ecofys for Greenpeace, called Point of No Return, details 14 proposed fossil fuel projects, dubbed “carbon bombs”, that would together effectively lock in dangerous climate change.

Carbon bombs map

If the 14 projects go ahead, they would add 6.3 Gt/year (greater than present US emissions) to global CO2 emissions in 2020, a 20% increase at a time when we urgently need to cut global emissions as fast as possible. They would add 300 Gt CO2 to the atmosphere by 2050, about a third of the carbon budget for 2010-2050 required for a 75% chance of avoiding 2°C of global warming, the level which the world’s governments have agreed to prevent. They would keep us on the business-as-usual pathway that leads to an unimaginably catastrophic 6°C by 2100. Thus it is imperative that these fossil fuels be left in the ground. Read the rest of this entry ?


Climate Change Authority board members conflicted

27 June 2012

At least two members of the recently announced board of the Climate Change Authority have conflicts of interest.

The new independent Climate Change Authority will regularly review Australia’s climate policies. Its first job will be to review the Renewable Energy Target later this year. The Authority’s most important task will be, in February 2014, to recommend five years of emissions targets, so it is critical that its recommendations are based on science, not vested interests.

The Board of the Authority will be chaired by Bernie Fraser, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The other Board members are a diverse bunch: economist Lynne Williams, former Alumina Limited CEO John Marlay, climate scientist David Karoly, former Australian Industry Group head Heather Ridout, climate change activist Clive Hamilton, Australian Super chair Elana Rubin, and economist John Quiggin. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb will be an ex-officio member. Former Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency advisor Anthea Harris will be the Climate Change Authority’s CEO.

Karoly, Chubb, and Hamilton are all good appointments. Karoly is an obvious choice, as a respected expert in the field and a good communicator. Chubb does not have specifically relevant expertise, but understands the scientific method. Hamilton, though not a scientist, is known to be strongly in favor of a science-based scale of action.

A visit to Quiggin’s blog shows him to be an intelligent person, informed on climate change, and politically left-wing. The Age has described Fraser as “an economist with a conscience”. Williams has worked for the Productivity Commission, which in my experience tends to take a narrow right-wing point of view. Harris has been working on Australian climate policy for years, and has also worked at the Productivity Commission. I was unable to find out much about Rubin, though I notice her position at Australian Super is as a Member Director appointed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The two with conflicts of interest are Ridout and Marlay. Ridout was until very recently chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, which is constantly lobbying for climate policies to be weakened or scrapped.

Marley is a former CEO of Alumina Limited. He currently holds or has formerly held senior positions at a long list of companies, many of them in emissions-intensive industries: Tomago Aluminium Company; oil company Esso Australia Limited; cement companies Boral Limited, Alesco Corporation Limited, and Hanson plc; asbestos company James Hardie Industries Limited, chemical company Incitec Pivot Limited, engineering consulting company Cardno Limited, and holding company Pioneer International Group Holdings. He was a member of the former Howard Government’s Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading.

To put executives and lobbyists on a board that will recommend policies affecting their industry is like putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.


Get ready for the carbon bubble

20 February 2012

Remember the sub-prime mortgage bubble? The next economic bubble could be caused by investing in the unsustainable fossil fuel industry. The idea might sound incredible, but it results from our failure to seriously address the science of climate change.

The science tells us we can’t burn all fossil fuels

Fossil fuels formed over millions of years from dead plants that were quickly buried, removing carbon from the atmosphere in the process. Thus fossil fuels contain carbon which has been out of circulation for up to hundreds of millions of years. Yet humans are digging up this carbon and burning it in the space of a few centuries. When carbon (C) is burned, it reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping greenhouse gas.

Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning is the main cause of anthropogenic global warming, now far outstripping natural influences on climate. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is like radioactive waste: much of it hangs around for a very long time. As long as humanity continues to burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and the Earth will continue to warm. The urgent need to prevent further warming leaves us with no choice but to phase out fossil fuels as rapidly as possible.

In the words of NASA climatologist James Hansen, saying what other scientists have generally failed to communicate, “we cannot burn and emit to the atmosphere most of the remaining fossil fuels”. If we wish to avoid unimaginable global catastrophe – or to meet the target the world’s governments have agreed to – let alone to limit global warming to a level anywhere near what scientists consider safe – we must leave the vast majority of the planet’s fossil carbon in the ground. Read the rest of this entry ?


Global Warming Contrarians Part 5: Counting Carbon

27 March 2010

This is the latest instalment in a continuing series of posts on the (mostly bad) arguments that contrarians make against global warming. A list of earlier parts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Claim: Natural CO2 emissions far outweigh our own.

Fact: This claim is true but misleading. Before the Industrial Revolution, natural emissions of 698 Gt/yr were balanced by natural absorptions of 698 Gt/yr (neglecting volcanic emissions, which make no significant difference on human timescales):

Average CO2 emissions and absorptions circa 1750. All figures are in gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2); to convert to gigatonnes of carbon (GtC), multiply by 3/11. (Simplified version of IPCC AR4 WGI Figure 7.3)

Human emissions are indeed much lower than natural emissions (for 2000-2008, 28.1 Gt/yr from fossil fuels and 5.3 Gt/yr from land use change), but they are not balanced by natural absorption, so the CO2 has been building up in the atmosphere: Read the rest of this entry ?