Thursday, 18 September 2008

Climate Snippets - 19 September

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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Kaukapakapa a test for National.

Hearings starting next week for a proposed new gas-fired power station in National Leader John Key’s electorate of Helensville are a major test for Mr Key and his party on climate change issues, Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman says. “Genesis Energy’s plan to build a 480 megawatt station at Kaukapakapa amounts to empire building by the company because it doesn’t make economic or environmental sense,” Dr Norman says. John Key either needs to change National’s policy so it makes more sense or tell residents he is 100 percent for Think Big at Kaukapakapa.”

Green crude oil world first, says company.

A New Zealand company says it has produced the first samples of green crude oil at a commercially competitive price. The biodiesel, made from wild algae grown on human sewage, was a world first, Marlborough-based company Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation said. Aquaflow launched a $5 million capital raising for further research and development of its wild algae-based fuel in January last year. The company refined the processes it had developed to create a next-generation fuel it calls "green crude", The Marlborough Express reported. Company director Barrie Leay said green crude was a manufactured form of crude oil different from earlier generations of biodiesel. Additional food crops or agricultural land were not needed and the end product was not just a fuel but could be used in products in the same way as crude oil can. "This is an exciting development because we can separate fuels such as diesel and aviation fuels, as well as a range of high-value chemicals, from green-crude," Mr Leay said.

Beat the retreat.

New Zealand’s glaciers lost 2.5 km3 (2.2 billion tonnes) of permanent ice from April 2007 to March 2008, leaving 44.9 km3 of ice in the Southern Alps - the lowest amount since NIWA began regular surveys 32 years ago. The picture (credit: “Mr Ice” Trevor Chinn, click for larger image) shows the Marion Glacier in the Arawata Valley in South Westland which has recently retreated above its proglacial lake. The annual survey uses a fixed wing aircraft to record the height of the snowline at the end of summer (and Trevor gets to take the pix). Jim Salinger, NIWA’s principal scientist, says that the survey shows that the glaciers had lost a lot more ice than they had gained over the preceding winter.

Roll back time to safeguard climate, expert warns.

Professor John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told the Guardian that only a return to pre-industrial levels of CO2 would be enough to guarantee a safe future for the planet. He said that current political targets to slow the growth in emissions and stabilise carbon levels were insufficient, and that ways may have to be found to actively remove CO2 from the air. Schellnhuber said: "We have to start pondering that it might not be enough to stabilise carbon levels. We should not rule out that it might be necessary to bring them down again."

Old growth forests are valuable carbon sinks.

Contrary to 40 years of conventional wisdom, a new analysis published in the journal Nature suggests that old growth forests are usually "carbon sinks" - they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries. However, these old growth forests around the world are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national "carbon budgets" as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. That perspective was largely based on findings of a single study from the late 1960s which had become accepted theory, and scientists now say it needs to be changed.

Kevin Rudd's $100m clean coal plan.

Kevin Rudd has summoned mining and industry chief executives, environmentalists and union leaders to Canberra this week to unveil a $100 million clean coal research institute aimed at making Australia the world hub for the climate-change-fighting technology. The launch is the start of a major diplomatic effort to win international support and funding for the plan, aimed at realising the goal set by the G8 at its recent meeting in Hokkaido of having 20 carbon-sequestering coal-fired power plants up and running by 2020. The Australian understands the Prime Minister will make the project the centrepiece of his efforts next week when he attends the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

NASA Undertakes peak oil impact study.

The burning of fossil fuels - notably coal, oil and gas - has accounted for about 80 percent of the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial era. Now, NASA researchers have identified feasible emission scenarios that could keep carbon dioxide below levels that some scientists have called dangerous for climate. When and how global oil production will peak has been debated, making it difficult to anticipate emissions from the burning of fuel and to precisely estimate its impact on climate. To better understand how emissions might change in the future, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York considered a wide range of fossil fuel consumption scenarios. The research, published Aug. 5 in the American Geophysical Union's Global Biogeochemical Cycles, shows that the rise in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels can be kept below harmful levels as long as emissions from coal are phased out globally within the next few decades. "This is the first paper in the scientific literature that explicitly melds the two vital issues of global peak oil production and human-induced climate change," Kharecha said. "We're illustrating the types of action needed to get to target carbon dioxide levels."

In Brief

Poll reveals support for ETS but wide knowledge gap.

The National Party has been forced to reveal they are being funded by the roading lobby as a result of the ‘rolling disclosure’ provisions the Greens insisted were placed in the Electoral Finance Act.

Bunny McDiarmid: Creating a serious climate for change.

Owen Hembry: Farms fenced by climate change law.

Ozone hole bigger this year than last.

New cow diet reduces methane emissions.

Compost could meet 10% of UK transport fuel needs.

Plants are unlikely to soak up more carbon dioxide from the air as the planet warms, research suggests.

Leaked papers show Britain trying to weaken plan for EU carbon cuts.

Correction: In last weeks Snippets I quoted the National Business Review which incorrectly stated the National party supported the Public Transport Management Bill, they didn’t.

Best of the Net

Video: MTV ad attacks 'greenwash' firms.

Video: Airsick: Industrial devolution.

Video: Crazy Hummer ad.

Petition: North shore cycling.

Greenpeace releases guide to greener electronics.

Video: Shane Meadows' ad for Defra to encourage people to switch off electrical appliances.

Video: Ice expert, Dr Richard B Alley, giving a (ahem) creditable rendering of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary, with a message about coal and climate.

Video: We's new ad on U.S. coal and oil lobby.

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