Thursday, 29 May 2008

Climate Snippets - 29 May

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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Greens lay out bottom lines on ETS.

The Green Party says farming and fuel will have to come under the emissions trading scheme (ETS) faster than the Government is proposing to win its backing. Their support is looking increasingly vital if the Government is to have any hope of passing the complex bill. But co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said the Greens would not vote for the enabling legislation unless it was "significantly improved". Ms Fitzsimons said the Greens wanted to see parts of the agriculture sector brought into the scheme before 2013 and the start date for subsidy phase outs brought forward from the proposed date of 2018. The party also wanted petrol and diesel to come under the scheme from next year, as originally proposed -- albeit with a gentler phase in.

Measures proposed by the Greens include:

* bringing petrol and diesel into the ETS next year but at a rate of 2c a litre, rather than the 6-8c initially proposed;

* bringing agricultural fertilisers under the ETS earlier than proposed;

* immediately bringing new dairy farms on converted previous non-farm land under the ETS;

* compensation for forests previously granted under Treaty settlements that will lose value under the ETS;

* recycling windfall electricity profits into initiatives to make households more energy efficient.

Energy watchdog warns.

The world's premier energy monitor is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand. The Paris-based International Energy Agency is in the middle of its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world's top 400 oil fields. Its findings won't be released until November, but the bottom line is already clear: Future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought.

Billions wasted on UN climate programme.

Billions of pounds are being wasted in paying industries in developing countries to reduce climate change emissions, according to two analyses of the UN's carbon offsetting programme. Leading academics and watchdog groups allege that the UN's main offset fund is being routinely abused by chemical, wind, gas and hydro companies who are claiming emission reduction credits for projects that should not qualify. The result is that no genuine pollution cuts are being made, undermining assurances by the UK government and others that carbon markets are dramatically reducing greenhouse gases, the researchers say.

The market for CDM credits is growing fast. At present it is worth nearly $20bn a year, but this is expected to grow to over $100bn within four years. More than 1,000 projects have so far been approved, and 2,000 more are making their way through the process. A working paper from two senior Stanford University academics examined more than 3,000 projects applying for or already granted up to $10bn of credits from the UN's CDM funds over the next four years, and concluded that the majority should not be considered for assistance. "They would be built anyway," says David Victor, law professor at the Californian university. "It looks like between one and two thirds of all the total CDM offsets do not represent actual emission cuts." A separate study published this week by US watchdog group International Rivers argues that nearly three quarters of all registered CDM projects were complete at the time of approval, suggesting that CDM money was not needed to finance them.

The UK government defended the CDM. "We completely reject any assertions that [it] is fundamentally flawed," a spokeswoman said. "We've worked consistently for and seen improvement in CDM processes over the past few years of its operation. We believe the CDM is essentially transparent and robust, though we will continue to press for the environmental integrity of projects."

New climate change projections released for NZ

The new projections represent the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about likely effects of climate change in New Zealand, including regional impacts. The new projections are based on the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC, and the global climate modelling results produced for that report. The results are broadly consistent with NIWA’s projections for the first edition of the manual in 2004, which drew on the IPCC’s 3rd Assessment Report (2001). But the new projections use more, and better, information. “The evidence of climate change continues to mount, climate models are becoming more sophisticated, and scientific knowledge of the climate is improving all the time,” says Dr David Wratt,

NIWA says evidence that New Zealand is already experiencing climate change includes:

Increasing temperatures: about 0.9 ºC over the past 100 years.

Reduced frost frequency over most of the country: Canterbury and Marlborough experience about 20 fewer frosts per year now than in the early 1970s.

Retreat of major South Island glaciers: volume of ice in the Southern Alps reduced by almost 11% in the past 30 years. Twelve of the largest glaciers are unlikely to return to their earlier lengths without extraordinary cooling of the climate.

The projections: overall picture:

Temperature is projected to increase by about 2 ºC by 2090 for a mid-range scenario and NIWA is projecting fewer frosts and more hot days..

Rainfall: NIWA says the overall picture continues to be for a drier climate in most of the east coast and north of the North Island, coastal Canterbury & coastal Marlborough, and for a wetter climate in the west and south of South Island. NIWA says heavy rainfall is likely to get heavier and/or more frequent. For a mid-range scenario, a 1-in-100 year event now could become a 1-in-50 year event by the end of the century.

Snow: Based on air temperature and precipitation projections, it is likely that average snowlines would rise as the temperature increases, but snowfall is influenced by complicated atmospheric processes.

Strong winds: A simulation using the regional climate model suggests an increase in the strongest winter winds over much of the country by 2100. The changes are fairly small for the most part (averaging out at a 2.3% increase over all land points in the model), but reach about 10% in some eastern locations.

In Brief

Agreement on 2020 emissions target eludes G8 ministers.

Keeping warm a matter of life and death: Greens.

Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Jeanette Fitzsimons, has announced that 31 projects with a combined value of $950,000 have been offered funding under the second round of a government fund to encourage smart innovations in solar water heating and heat pump water heating technologies.

Genesis Energy and environmental campaigner Greenpeace face off in the Supreme Court over a controversial gas-fired power plant north of Auckland, on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour at Rodney. Greenpeace says the case could have major implications for climate change in New Zealand.

Melting glaciers may release DDT and contaminate Antarctic environment.

Climate inaction to cost U.S. $3.8 trillion a year, study says.

The UK government should go ahead with a system of personal "carbon credits" to meet emissions targets, MPs have said.

The US Department of Transportation said figures from March show the steepest decrease in driving ever recorded.

Airlines in a tailspin.

Scientists say an abrupt dip in global temperatures in the 1940s actually reflects a change in how temperatures were measured at sea.

Monbiot: An open letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Best of the Net

Vast cracks appear in Arctic ice.

Blog: The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Blog: first carbon neutral country in the world

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