Monday, July 26, 2010

Want global economic growth? Put a price on carbon.

Aka The Wisdom of Stiglitz

It’s not everyday you get to hear a lecture from a Nobel prize winning economist, but I got the chance to see Joseph Stiglitz at the University of Queensland yesterday and I'm glad I did.

Stiglitz's talk covered the reasons behind the GFC, the good and the bad things governments have done since then (summary: stimulus good, austerity bad and risks a return to recession) and some thoughts on how to get the global economy moving again. This presents a problem because we don't want another bubble, debt driven consumer consumption is out and monetary policy has little room to move (ie: you can't reduce interest rates below zero).
So, how to stimulate global aggregate demand and do so in a way that reduces the impact we have on the planet? What we want are policies that provide stimulus in the short term and sustainable growth in the long term.

One answer is a price on carbon.


Because, Stiglitz explained, a price on carbon will drive massive business investment in low carbon technology and products; and business investment is what we need to stimulate global demand (and I would imagine, to create jobs). Except this time we will be growing the economy by retooling for a low carbon future.

Whenever you hear that businesses are waiting for "certainty" on a carbon price before investing, this is what they are talking about. A carbon price makes investments in low carbon tech both necessary and profitable. The earth's atmosphere, as Stiglitz said, is a scarce resource, there is only so much pollution it can handle, but right now that pollution costs nothing so markets are "free" to pollute and damn the long term consequences.

To give an example of this business investment what we are all missing out on, here's an excerpt from Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times from the weekend.

Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewal energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. “If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,” said Hay.

This is from the US, but I imagine something similar would apply here and it's just one company, imagine if it was the whole economy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk against warming 2010 - Sunday the 15th of Aug

This years Walk Against Warming will be on Sunday the 15th of August at 11am, at King George Square in the CBD.

At one week before the election this is a chance for people of all political persuasions to come together and tell our politicians that we want action on climate change, instead of constant delay and buck passing.

The Walk will be calling for
  • A price on carbon pollution,
  • Investment in clean energy for a healthy future,
  • A commitment to reduce emissions in the life of the next parliament
  • Support for poor and vulnerable countries to tackle the impacts of climate change and invest in sustainable development
There is a famous quote from FDR, regarded as one of the greatest American presidents. Addressing reformers he said "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." I remain optimistic that many of our politicians do want to leave a liveable climate for future generations, it's just that we have to make them.

See you there.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Agenda for a Sustainable Australia

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released it's 2010 National Agenda for a Sustainable Australia which you can download from their website.
"It spells out a series of specific and measurable actions a federal government would take if it was serious about reducing pollution and leading the transition from energy wasting cities to cleaner, more liveable cities."
With 23 steps arranged around 5 themes:
1. Lead the transition to a clean economy and sustainable Australia
2. Take effective climate change action now
3. Transform our cities to be world leaders in efficiency and liveability
4. Rescue our life support systems and restore our ecosystems to health
5. Secure an environmentally sustainable future for Northern Australia
With an election coming up, now would be a good time to have a read of the plan and then consider which political parties are committed to creating a Sustainable Australia.

The ACF also recommends some steps you can take to make a sustainable agenda part of the national agenda.

1. Talk about the plan of action with your family, friends and work colleagues. Share the hope you have for a sustainable future by talking about the practical steps toward achieving it.

2. Help lift the ACF plan of action into your local community conversation. Send an email or letter to your local paper.

3. Help broaden community and business support for the plan of action. Phone, email or mail relevant parts of the plan of action to local businesses, chambers of commerce and community organisations asking them to publicly support the plan of action.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

TTKD July Meeting - 2nd birthday party

From Carol

Can you believe it is 2 years already!!

Yes, Transition Town: Kenmore District is 2 years old in July
and no.... we won't throw a 2 year old tantrum 'cos there is no price on carbon yet

Instead we will celebrate what we have achieved in our community!!

Come join us Wed July 21st 7:30pm
Uniting Church Hall, 982 Moggill Rd, Kenmore

for Fun & Frolic, strolling minstrels and more.......
bring a plate of celebratory supper to share!

PS: be inspired by a sneak preview of The Symposium due August 8th

See you there!

Symposium flier, (click to enlarge to a readable size)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Climate scientists vindicated (again)

"On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt."

The fifth (and final) review into "Climategate", the Muir Russell Climate Change Email Review has just been released. This "forensic" report looked into allegations made against climate scientists from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. Like the four before it, the Muir Russell report found almost every allegation to be completely baseless, although like the preceding reports it faulted the scientists and the university for an unhelpful attitude towards freedom of information requests.

Crucially, these reports have found nothing that challenges or calls into question our understanding of climate change. More findings from the report are quoted below, the report can be found here, see reaction from the media and blogosphere.

"We did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.

On the allegation of withholding temperature data, we find that CRU was not in a position to withhold access to such data or tamper with it.

On the allegations that there was subversion of the peer review or editorial process we find no evidence to substantiate this"
For those interested in whether CRU results could be independently replicated, well the inquiry did this themselves, with relative ease it seems:
"Finding: The computer code required to read and analyse the instrumental temperature data is straightforward to write based upon the published literature... Such code could be written by any research unit which is competent to reproduce or test the CRUTEM analysis. For the trial analysis of the Review Team, the code was written in less than two days and produced results similar too other independent analyses. No information was required from CRU to do this."

So how do actual climate scientists feel about this whole pseudoscandal? Judging by their comments many are extremely unhappy with how the media reported this story without questioning the veracity of many of the skeptics wild claims.

Prof Raymond Bradley:
"If there is a scandal to be reported at all, it is this: the media stoked a controversy without properly investigating the issues, choosing to inflate trivialities to the level of an international scandal, without regard for the facts or individuals affected. This was a shameful chapter in the history of news reporting, and a lesson for those who are concerned about fair and honest communication with the public."
Prof Myles Allen:
"What everyone has lost sight of is the spectacular failure of mainstream journalism to keep the whole affair in perspective. Again and again, stories are sexed up with arch hints that these "revelations" might somehow impact on the evidence for human impact on climate. Yet the only error in the actual data used for climate change detection to have emerged from this whole affair amounted to a few hundredths of a degree in the estimated global temperature of a couple of years in the late 1870s."
One can only hope that now the skeptics' claims have been shown to be without basis, journos in the future will be more "skeptical of the skeptics".

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is population the problem?

July 11 was World Population Day. World population and population growth has been quite a hot topic recently, especially with regards to how important a contributor population growth is to climate change.

Over on Grist, a US environmental website, Fred Pearce argues that population isn't the problem and has a strong message for environmentalists.

Some excerpts:

"A green myth is on the march. It wants to blame the world's overbreeding poor people for the planet's peril. It stinks. And on World Population Day, I encourage fellow environmentalists not to be seduced."

"For a start, the population bomb that I remember being scared by 40 years ago as a schoolkid is being defused fast. Back then, most women round the world had five or six children. Today's women have just half as many as their mothers -- an average of 2.6. Not just in the rich world, but almost everywhere."

"Rising consumption today is a far bigger threat to the environment than a rising head count. And most of that extra consumption is still happening in rich countries that have long since given up growing their populations.

Virtually all of the remaining population growth is in the poor world, and the poor half of the planet is only responsible for 7 percent of carbon emissions."

Pearce finishes by saying:
"The population bomb is being defused right now -- by the world's poor women. Sadly, the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. Now that would be a proper target for environmentalists."
You can read the whole article and comments here

Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

QLD Electric Vechicle roadmap - call for comments

2010 is the year electric vehicles (EVs) hit the mainstream with EV roll-outs from many of the world biggest car makers.

To this end the Queensland government has issued a discussion paper (don't worry it's really quite short) about how QLD will promote EVs to take advantage of their ability to help reduce pollution and start weaning us off oil. Next they want to know what we think.

According to Kate Jones:

"Priority areas and actions canvassed in the Roadmap include environmental impacts; recharging and electricity grid impacts; standards, planning and regulation; consumer uptake and behaviour change; industry development; and renewable energy"

"I invite all Queenslanders who have an interest in sustainable transport solutions to consider the issues and opportunities identified in this EV Roadmap and provide their comments and ideas on this exciting new technology."

If you want to comment, you can do it here until the 19th of July, the short discussion paper is here. Transition Kenmore will likely provide a comment so if you are part of TTKD feel free to send us an email so we can add your points.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And the leader in renewable energy is....?

.. not Australia I'm afraid.

The Europeans have just announced that 62% of all the new power generation installed in the EU in 2009 were from renewables, an increase from 57% in 2008. Wind energy has now been the leading energy technology for two years running with 37.1% of new capacity in 09.
Most of that non-renewable energy is in the form of gas generation (24%), but even that was almost beaten by solar PV (21%), pretty outstanding considering Australia with its far superior solar resource is nowhere near these sort of numbers.

So how is Australia doing? According to the Clean Energy Council, 2009 was a good year for renewables by Oz standards with almost 750 megawatts of moderate-to-large scale renewables added (ie: not counting the 1.5 kilowatt solar PV you might have put on your roof as these add to only about ~150 megawatts in total, not just from 2009) far more than any other year in the last decade. Like in Europe, wind was the leading renewable technology, unlike in Europe new large scale solar accounted for less than 1% of new renewable generation.

Unfortunately that's where the good news stops, because the real question is: what percentage of the total installed generation was from renewables?
Australia doesn't seem to have a yearly report as in the EU, but the federal government releases 6 monthly updates of new large scale projects. In the 6 mths to April 2010 1402 Mw was added, of which only 19% was from renewables and, to rub salt into wounds, Origin Energy actually expanded its Townsville plant that runs on oil (kerosene specifically).
But maybe that 6 months was poor, what about the 6 months before that? In that period there was ~1600 Mw of new electricity and 13.5% was new renewables.

So there we have it, a bumper year for renewables but it's still only a small minority of new generation and we've a long way to go to catch up with the Europeans. Time magazine gave Europe an A for what they've achieved, I wonder what they'd give us?

Summary of Climate Science

There's a great new article at RealClimate, summarising the science at a level accessible for those with a basic science knowledge (a little above those who can’t read an equation). It’s a good one to refer people to who have some science education and are not sure of the basics.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Want your garden permablitzed? Here's your chance

We have decided to attempt a more ordered approach to picking properties to blitz, using the ancient art of a roster.

So, if you want your backyard turned into a sustainable fruit and vege garden, send us an email at transitionkenmore'at' Just change the 'at' for an @ first.

Please let us know if you have attended any blitzes we have held to date as we will be giving preference to those that have, but even if you havn't, put your name down and soon enthusiastic gardeners will be heading your way.