Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Climate Snippets - 6 February

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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New Zealand's environment more 'khaki' than green – report.

New Zealand must tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions and worsening water quality if the nation is to live up to its 'clean green' image, an environment report said on Thursday. While New Zealand's record is still better than most, it has become more "khaki" than pure green, the Environment New Zealand 2007 report, said, prompting activists to call for the issue to top the political agenda before elections this year. One of the biggest concerns was the environmental fall-out from agriculture. The key economic sector accounts for half of all New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Climate conference ends without targets.

A meeting of delegates from the nations that emit the most pollutants ended without concrete targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, but participants praised what they saw as a new willingness by the United States to discuss possible solutions. Delegates from 16 nations, plus the European Union and the United Nations, gathered in Hawaii this week at the invitation of the U.S. to discuss what should be included in a blueprint for combating climate change. Among the topics were energy-efficient technologies, ways rich countries could help developing countries and countering deforestation.

Genesis confirms it is still seeking planning permits and resource consents for a 480MW plant between Helensville and Kaukapakapa.

Mooted 2 1/2 years ago as a way of securing electricity supply for the north of Auckland, the plant seemed to be blocked last year by Government policy turning against new plants burning fossil fuels. The New Zealand Energy Strategy which aims to encourage the proportion of the country's electricity generated from renewable resources to rise from 70 per cent to 90 per cent by 2050 and the Climate Change Bill flagged a decade-long moratorium on new thermal base-load power stations. However, yesterday Genesis Energy spokesman Richard Gordon confirmed the company's wish to take the proposal a big step further.

Previously, the company had wanted a base-load station which, like its new EP3 gas turbine plant at Huntly, ran continuously. But it had now redesigned operating and engineering plans to make it a cycling plant - one that ran only when extra capacity was required. Rodney District Council yesterday agreed to process Genesis' request for a private plan change to the district plan to create a spot zone for a 240MW station that could grow to 480MW.

Wall Street shows scepticism over coal

Three of Wall Street's biggest investment banks are set to announce today that they are imposing new environmental standards that will make it harder for companies to get financing to build coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley say they have concluded that the U.S. government will cap greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants sometime in the next few years. The banks will require utilities seeking financing for plants before then to prove the plants will be economically viable even under potentially stringent federal caps on carbon dioxide, the main man-made greenhouse gas. It also marks the latest obstacle to coal, which provides about half of U.S. electricity but emits large amounts of CO2. Citing costs, the U.S. government last week pulled support for a project called FutureGen that many utilities saw as a step toward burning coal cleanly.

Farmers to be at forefront of fight against climate change as Irish Minister Ryan announces support scheme for bioenergy.

Irish Energy Minister Eamon Ryan today announced a new renewable energy
grant scheme pledging €11 million. From today, businesses, schools and hospitals can receive grants for the installation of biomass-fuelled and anaerobic digestion Combined Heat and Power Units (CHP). This scheme is to encourage industry and commercial users to generate their own heat. By combining the heat and electricity processes, CHP saves up 25% of energy from conventional separate production. The Minister also announced a new feed-in-tariff or guaranteed price for the production of electricity from these units. Suppliers can apply to the Department to receive a guaranteed price of €120 per MegaWatt hour.

Animal welfare and fair trade are far bigger concerns to UK consumers than climate change, according to a huge new poll of UK shoppers.

Only 4% rate climate change as their top ethical priority, compared with 21% who think animal welfare is the most important issue and 14% who rate fair trade as their key concern. The findings come from a survey conducted by the Co-op grocery business that has been used to draw up a "responsible retailing" policy, designed to reflect shoppers' concerns. The Co-op claims the survey is the biggest poll of consumer ethics ever undertaken. The supermarket group analysed responses to a detailed, four-page questionnaire from more than 100,000 members and customers. It intends to use their responses to guide changes to the way it does business.

Scientists identify 'tipping points' of climate change.

A major international investigation by dozens of leading climate scientists has found that the "tipping points" for all nine scenarios – such as the melting of the Arctic sea ice or the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest – could occur within the next 100 years. The scientists warn that climate change is likely to result in sudden and dramatic changes to some of the major geophysical elements of the Earth if global average temperatures continue to rise as a result of the predicted increase in emissions of man-made greenhouse gases. "Society may be lulled into a false sense of security by smooth projections of global change. Our synthesis of present knowledge suggests that a variety of tipping elements could reach their critical point within this century under anthropogenic [man-made] climate change," they report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Irreversible changes:
  • Arctic sea ice: some scientists believe that the tipping point for the total loss of summer sea ice is imminent.
  • Greenland ice sheet: total melting could take 300 years or more but the tipping point that could see irreversible change might occur within 50 years.
  • West Antarctic ice sheet: scientists believe it could unexpectedly collapse if it slips into the sea at its warming edges.
  • Gulf Stream: few scientists believe it could be switched off completely this century but its collapse is a possibility.
  • El NiƱo: the southern Pacific current may be affected by warmer seas, resulting in far-reaching climate change.
  • Indian monsoon: relies on temperature difference between land and sea, which could be tipped off-balance by pollutants that cause localised cooling.
  • West African monsoon: in the past it has changed, causing the greening of the Sahara, but in the future it could cause droughts.
  • Amazon rainforest: a warmer world and further deforestation may cause a collapse of the rain supporting this ecosystem.
  • Boreal forests: cold-adapted trees of Siberia and Canada are dying as temperatures rise.

In Brief

CIA campus goes green.

Two NZ’ers rubbish-free year challenge.

Methanex to reopen Motunui complex.

British Ministry of Defence objects to onshore windfarms as threat to radar.

The EU should ban the sale of cars that do under 35 miles to the gallon, the ex-chairman of oil giant Shell says.

Neat peak oil resources in one place.

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