Sunday, August 31, 2008

Both VEEPS declared: now the US decides.

A hard choice. Perhaps guidance from [url=]The Onion[/url] would help in making that decision. ;-)
I think the story probably sums up why I both like, and am sad for, the US on so many levels.
As for McCain's VP: I can't see how the Republicans think that this person can atract disaffected Hillary voters (ie: Democrats), with her pro-oil, anti-abortion, creationist platform. Do they really think female voters in the US will chose someone because they have the same plumbing? :-/

Monday, July 21, 2008

Things to do

  1. Read this on climate feedbacks (and understand it :-)
  2. Write a piece on skepticism, denialism (which is not in FireFox spell checker, but neither is FireFox) and inactivism;
  3. Tax time!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This is what it feels like at home too.

says it all, really.

The Travelling Garnaut Show

I was at the Brisbane City Hall presentation. The things I do on my days off to have fun.
Prof Garnaut is not a particularly powerful speaker, but the message was important.
He was asked about the importance of bipartisan support for the ETS, and what would happen if it didn’t happen. He responded that, as with most political activities, if people don’t like something they can vote for a different govt to change it and solve global warming by “hiding under their pillows” instead.
The audience was very responsive and applauded on the assertions that we are not going first, but we must go now, on the ETS. Also when a questioner tried to deny that global warming even exists, the audience was most negative. Prof Garnaut’s response was quite good, in saying that he had, in fact, spoken to many “climate change dissenters” and weighed their arguments with the much larger body of climate scientists, and came to the conclusions that he has outlined in the draft report.
A few other things:
1) In profile Prof Garnaut looks a lot like Marlon Brando.
2) After the presentation and questions, my wife and I went for lunch and for some shopping in the mall. We noticed the queues of people in front of Telstra, Optus and other phone shops with people lining up to buy iPhones. The missus and I figured that if so many people can queue up to buy an expensive phone, we can afford an ETS. We should not be that soft that we can afford luxuries that were only dreamed of 50 or 100 years ago, and complain bitterly that the world will end if some things get more expensive.
3) From my perspective, we are a rich country that is making bucket loads (shiploads?) of money from resources, and are politically stable with a generally peaceful, wealthy population. As Prof Garnaut mentioned, 300 million people in India live on less than $1.00 per day. I don’t see that sort of poverty here. So one of the reasons we should reduce emissions and carry the cost is simply because we can.
BTW: This might be of interest for those that want to know about political interference in science in the US.

Playing the Ball on Climate Change Denialism

A very short paper by Rixaeton
Abstract: There has been too much playing of the men (note that I refer to “men” in a gender non-specific way) instead of their balls. In this paper I will endeavour to show that playing the ball is not as fun as playing the man, as the balls are not well rounded, and tend to deflate on close examination.

As a relevant example of the quality of the balls to play with, I present the recent paper by Lord Monckton in the American Physical Society July 2008. Note that I have linked the actual pdf, and not the website, as the pdf is the published paper. Please go to page 6. The first thing to note about the Monckton paper is the disclaimer given by the APS:

This article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community.
The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.
This should already set the tone for how relevant the article will be. Note this is at odds with the claims that the APS is changing their opinion on AGW. Perhaps the claimants need to read the paper before supporting it.

Exercise for the reader: Please observe in the paper the points where the writer uses the word “may” which would indicate that the negative assertions are not proven, but are expected to be shown some time in the future.

First paragraph:

Globally-averaged land and sea surface absolute temperature TS has not risen since 1998 (Hadley Center; US National Climatic Data Center; University of Alabama at Huntsville; etc.). For almost seven years, TS may even have fallen (Figure 1).

The figure in question shows the temprature anomoly is still a positive number. There is a decline in the recent 7 year trend, however 7 years is too short a time to show climate change variations, due to short term feedbacks and events such as El Nino and La Nina.

The models heavily relied upon by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) had not projected this multidecadal stasis in “global warming”;
1) A 7 year graph is not “multidecadal” ie: Two or more decades.
2) The paragrah goes on to say that the IPCC modelling does not include various weather events, and the Grand Solar Maximum. (Aside, the Grand Solar Maximum is a measure of solar activity (flares, sun-spots etc) and not luminescence, or “heat”, increase). He also mentions the warming of other planets at the same time, which has been discounted as evidence of an increase in solar radiation due to the simple co-incidence that the bodies in question are at their closest orbital distance from the sun. Moving on… and this is the good bit:

An early projection of the trend in TS in response to “global warming” was that of Hansen (1988), amplifying Hansen (1984) on quantification of climate sensitivity. In 1988, Hansen showed Congress a graph projecting rapid increases in TS to 2020 through “global warming” (Fig. 2):

Monckton uses figure two to show that model prediction is not possible, and that they are wrong. I find this conclusion to be at odds with the figure, as the Hansen 1988 line (B) does, in fact, show a decline in the temprature anomoly at around 2010, and stablisation for a few years after that. Not bad for a model developed 20 years ago. He goes on to quote:

“Prediction of the sufficiently distant future is impossible by any method, unless the present conditions are known exactly. In view of the inevitable inaccuracy and incompleteness of weather observations, precise, very-long-range weather forecasting would seem to be non-existent.”.
This is a quote about weather forecasting, not climate forecasting. Forecasting the weather is difficult because of the short-term (hours) feedbacks that need to be assessed against the in-fed data of the current state of the weather. Climate models are simpler as the short-term feedbacks smooth out over time. It’s like predicting an individual coin toss, as opposed to guessing that after 100 coin tosses, about 50% will be heads.

Length is limiting my further analysis of this paper, but to quote a complete stranger:
Re 65: Wow! Monckton manages to cycle through the standard loop without skipping
a beat:
It’s not happening.
And if it is, it’s the sun doing it.
And if it isn’t the sun, it’s not CO2.
And if it is CO2, it’s not happening anyway.
And if it is happening, computer models are stupid.
And if they’re not stupid, it doesn’t matter because it’s not happening.
And if it is happening, it’s not a big deal.
And if it is a big deal, there’s nothing can be done.
And if anything can be done, it will destroy civilization.
And if it won’t destroy civilization, it still doesn’t matter.
And besides, it’s not happening.
In conclusion: The “balls” or “the assertion that there is no climate change, and humans are not doing it anyway,” are flabby and not fun to play with. There is a high correlation between these “balls” and the “men” who provide them. Therefore it can be safely assumed that, once the man is known, a cursory inspection of the balls will suffice to see if it is worth wasting time refuting whatever tin-foil-hattery or old-and-no-longer-supported claims contained therein. This is not to say that the “man” will never publish a shiny new ball to play with in a serious manner, so reading and comprehension is still important.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Diet advice for global warming

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has put a report up on diet and climate change. Very worth reading.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some more summary information

I don't actually know of a UN report on livestock that specifically states that livestock emissions outweigh all forms of transport combined. This is inferred from the data on greenhouse gas emissions by sector.

The livestock's long shadow is an excellent report that tells you most of the facts you need (Part IV, page 82) for the livestock industry sources in general.

The IPCC probably does not tie together the meat consumption with greenhouse gas directly, which is why we have to explain it to people :) The things to look for are the Agriculture sector, and the Forestry or Land Use Change sector.

The primary gas from the livestock industry is methane (CH4), which cows and sheep produce as part of their natural digestive system (the average cow produces 400 litres of methane per day). The rest comes from manure treatment and some component is the effect grazing animals have on the land itself.

In countries that import their livestock, or are primarily grain fed, the industry has less impact from land use. The IPCC states the emissions from agriculture compared to other sectors in an excellent starting point which is a document for policy makers. In section 2 page 5 of the document there is a pie graph showing the sources of CO2-e from different sector. Agriculture is listed as contributing 13.5%, transport is 13.1%. In Australia the livestock industry makes up 71% of the agriculture sector (agriculture includes plant and animal industries). The figures for Australia are from the Initial Report to the UN 2005 data (submitted last month to the UN).

This is not the full story though, as in countries like Australia and Brazil, most livestock (cattle) are fed from pastures, and not grain fed until their last 100 days. In order to produce grazing pastures, large tracts of land are cleared, which makes up about 90% of the deforestation as well (90% of 17.4% which is 15.66%). So when you add up the cost of the industry, which combines the direct from the animals, and the secondary from the land practice of land clearing, it makes up about 30% in Australia. No livestock, no land clearing.

This is why in the options for agriculture in the Garnaut submission it states there are three options. 1: do nothing (very bad) 2: stop land clearing. 3: stop it all. The stop land clearing is not very practical, as it increases demand on grain supplies, and would be unviable in Australia to do so. Land clearing is much cheaper, which is why it must be included in emissions trading - so that the cost is bourne by the industry, and it would not be cheap any more.

The specifics to Australia come from the "Tripple Bottom Line" report from the CSIRO and University of Sydney, which is referenced in the submission.

The Bruce Poon report provides a very good summary of the CSIRO report, and what it means.

BTW: The submission was written with the objective of highlighting that the agriculture sector has been ignored in discussions to date, and all of the focus has been on electricity generation and vehicle fuel. Livestock emissions are less than electricity, but more than vehicles.

In discussions with persons of importance such as a Director of Climate Change government department, it will be important to state and agree that the #1 problem is coal fired power stations. The second highest emission sector is livestock, followed by transport. Without removing coal fired power stations world wide, global warming will become catastrophic. The removal of livestock will not solve global warming, but it will certainly delay the effects for about 40 years (est to be revised.. probably often). Also, the cost of reducing emissions needs to be fairly distributed to all industries. If agriculture is excluded, then the carbon emissions allowances for electricity and transport will have to be 30% higher than they need to be. Say that it costs $100 to remove the desired portion of the CO2-e. To meet that cost, the electricity bill and fuel bill must go up $100, since 30% of the emissions (from livestock) are not included, therefore subsidised. If livestock is included, then you can choose not to eat meat, and your electricity and fuel bill only go up by $70.00. The livestock industry have stated they will join emissions trading at some time in the future ("as soon as practicable") but that sort of language can give excuses that "they are not ready yet" for a long time, delaying vital action. On a personal note, it makes me sad that my fuel bill will be subsidising the livestock industry.

To put it into perspective, James Hansen report on how much CO2 states that we should aim for 350ppm (parts per million) of CO2-e. Currently it is 385ppm. Removing the livestock industry would remove 25ppm, which would get us half way to the safe level from todays measurements. Note that the IPCC recommendation is > 400ppm, which is based on 2005-2006 data, and hopefully will be revised.

I hope this helps, sorry it is so long. Sometimes simple questions have not-so-simple answers.

A more formal 2020 Australia submission.

TOPIC 3: Population, sustainability, climate change and water

30% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock component of the agriculture sector. As an organisation whose members believe in the philosophy of 'no killing' it is our duty to point out that in order to make effective changes to emissions the livestock sector must be stated as a legitimate sector for reduction. We note that the government information campaigns and the activities of government, companies and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions already incorporate the well-known strategies of:
· Reducing energy use;
· Utilising renewable sources of energy;
· Reducing fuel use;
· Introducing a broad-based carbon trading and emission scheme to help price and regulate the unwanted production of greenhouse gases.

The key recommendations that we submit are for the performing of the following additional actions:

· The government must inform the public of the fact that the Australian consumer can take immediate action on climate change by reducing or eliminating livestock based products from their purchases;
· The government must include this fact in any information briefings on what strategies, actions or activities the general public can perform to reduce climate change, as well as being frugal, using public transport, and using renewable energy;
· There must not be a delay the inclusion of the agriculture sector from any carbon trading scheme that is introduced, for to do so would remove the quickest, simplest and most effective short-term action to reduce climate change;
· The government must assist the livestock components of the agricultural sector in their transition to either vegetable-based production farming, or in the conversion of pasture to forestry and carbon sinks, which will provide an economic benefit as a source of carbon offsets;
Assistance currently given to the livestock industry can either be transferred as assistance to change their land use, or to increase assistance to the vegetable protein based industries for manufacture and sale to domestic and international markets.

The promotion of a non-meat based diet would have the added benefits of reducing health problems, reducing land degradation, and reducing aggression. The other part of this vision for 2020 is that Australian's can be more compassionate to other people as well as animals by being aware of the consequences of the choices they make in their purchases, and what it cost. In the livestock case, it costs lives. We would prefer that Australians would consider animal life to be important, instead of just a consumable.

Livestock also consumes a disproportionate amount of water for such a dry country as this. On an ABC science program it stated that 16,000 litres of water to make one steak. We cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the full cost of our consumables like food, especially in a world that is going to get drier and more hungry.

TOPIC 4: Future directions for rural industries and rural communities

Due to predicted water and therefore food shortages, it is preferable that land use be as efficient as possible for the production of the largest quantity of food.

Meat and livestock production is a very inefficient way to produce protein, as it takes approximately 6 times as much vegetable protein to make the equivalent of meat protein. Meat and livestock also consume a considerably larger quantity of water than crop lands, which in a dry (and becoming drier) land such as this, it does not make sense to put so much strain on our depleted resources for such an optional product. Meat is not compulsory. Also, grazing lands can be converted to carbon sinks, and be profitable under the emissions trading scheme for offsetting emissions.

It would be preferable if grazing land were converted to other activities that can have a similar economic benefit without the excessive waste and cost. Reduction in meat production would require an increase in vegetable protein production (wheat gluten and soy bean), which requires less land clearing. Efficiency and the use of scarce resources can be brought about through the emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases, where the true cost of livestock (30% of Australia's emissions) can be paid for. This would have to also include a social campaign, similar to reducing the consumption of harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco. It should be OK to say no to meat, and not feel un-Australian.

It is anticipated that there will be food shortages around the world due to climate change. By converting the less efficient meat production to vegetable production, there will be a larger quantity of food to go around the world.

More and more on Grand Pland For the Future... if we have one

This is a copy of a 2020Australia thinggy that I put onto Preserved for posterity here.

The proportionate emissions from Australian industry must have a fair, proportionate response.

Few people seem to realise that 30% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock industry. These are net emissions, even including the carbon storage that agriculture has by its nature. This is not vegetarianism hobby-horsing around (even though I have not eaten meat for 15 years now, with no ill-effects). This is a valid concern that our second-largest emission economic sector is being ignored from the total problem of emissions reduction. 55% comes from stationary power generation. 30% from livestock, 16% from transport, and then some others (waste mgt etc)

A summary of the CSIRO “Balancing Act” report that is the source of this information can be found here.

Half the livestock emissions are direct methane production (about 400 litres per day per cow) the other half comes from the livestock industry practice of broad scale clearing of 1000’s of hectares of land each year.

By simply changing diet and land practices, 30% of our emissions are gone. Easy. Conversion of land clearing practices to carbon sink activities (carbon offsets from tree planting and BioChar operations) would improve this ratio, and in fact provide carbon offsets that can be used domestically or traded internationally in the future. Certainly part of the estimated $20billion that will come from the sale of emissions permits would be well spent in assisting the conversion.

Rant On
People are willing to reduce electricity consumption, people are willing to reduce fuel consumption. Why is reducing meat consumption somehow taboo? Is the livestock industry so important that in times of crisis, when emissions must be reduced, that to point it out is to evoke the reaction “oh, no, you can’t go there”

The simple economics of the problem must outweigh any argument that we can’t question the consumption of animals because we enjoy the taste, or texture, or we are too lazy to find alternatives. At $40.00 per tonne of CO2-e the livestock industry emissions cost is about $6 billion dollars. (current price is about 22 euro) ... and that is not including the cost of land clearing (double it again)

Maybe it is too politically incorrect to suggest that maybe not killing things we don’t need to is a good idea. How about it is cheaper as well as less emissions? Maybe that will work.
Rant Off

I whole heartedly agree in reducing coal emissions, increasing fuel efficiency, switching to renewable and low emissions technologies, but please, let’s not ignore the second largest emitting industry.

To do so means that the emission permits from any emissions trading scheme will have to be 30% larger for other industries to compensate.

I personally would not want an electricity bill or fuel bill that is higher than it needs to be so that I can subsidise such a wasteful, unnecessary industry.

*phew*… got a bit emotional there

Actually all I ask is that the true cost of agriculture emissions be placed into the proposed emissions trading scheme, instead of waiting too long, when it will be too late. The world has indulged our fussy eating habits long enough, and soon there will be no time left.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Where are we now, and where to go (no GPS)

Climate change has once again come to the fore of my mind... almost like there is nothing else going on.

Where are we now? At the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration there is a hand set of graphs which show the current measured CO2 levels. This will be handy later on, as we will see if any climate change strategy has an overall impact over time.

This would be where the figure of 385ppm came from as the current level. It is worrying that the IPCC is recommending above 400ppm, and talking about 450-500ppm. Given the uncertainty of the upper level needed so that we do not drastically change the world from the one we became civilised in, this seems a tad high. 350ppm is stated, but 320ppm would be safer given uncertainty, and the possiblity of a different natural phenominon taking place.

Looking a bit deeper into the whole CO2-e footprint, most online calculators do not include consumable such as food, and the CO2-e that went into them. Pity, as I would like to feel more smug than I already do for having a plant-based diet (with dairy... life without cheese is meaningless) :-)

Given that the planet has not had a warming event like this, so suddenly releasing the stored C as CO2 on a worldwide scale, the actual reactions will be hard to anticipate. With mass extinctions taking place right now, there will be new evolutionary niches for live to take hold and exploit. Expect hot-water penguins the size of a volkswagen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

To sum up

The thing that is disappointing about these articles is that power only makes up 55% of Australia's greenhouse gas. The proper accounting of livestock production which takes into account the transport and storage costs that are also involved, which results in a staggering 159.03 Mt CO2-e, (1990's and 2004 figures) which accounts for 31% of all of Australia's emissions, and is more than road transport. Now here is the good bit; with no livestock in Australia, we would reduce CO2-e by 31% (ie: a lot). Furthermore, this could be done by consumers in Australia spending less instead of more. All other strategies are about increasing the cost of items to include their CO2-e cost, but it is so hard to reduce consumption of electricity, fuel etc without significant capital cost. Vegetarian diets are cheaper than meat diets already, and with CO2-e costs included the cost difference will be even greater. So, not all greenhouse reduction strategies are about costing consumers more. Vegetarian diet will cost less.

Someone stated that the average household uses 40kWH/day. I don't know about the 40kWH/day, as I have gone back over my power bills, and I only use 6.8 kWH/day on my last bill. The previous one was 8.1kWH/day, but we bought a new fridge that has turned out to be much more energy efficient, and the proof is in the bill. Yay! The power companies are very helpful in providing this information. Then again, I have a solar hot water system, which helps a lot. A 1kW system would generate about 4.5kWH/day, so it would be about 1/2 of what I need. Batteries are not needed, as the idea is to reduce my power consumption, and put back into the grid during the day. Conventional power stations will still be needed at night, but when I buy my power back it night, it will be 1/2 the price that I was paid for it during the day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saving the World, the Painless Way

Digging around a bit more, and reading the report forwarded by Joyce has been very instructive. The thing that makes having a no-meat diet so obvious is the economics of the problem, and the solution is simple. The reporting of reducing greenhouse gases has so far been about how much it is going to cost the average consumer. The report points out that the proper accounting of livestock production needs to also take into account the transport and storage costs that are also involved, which results in a staggering 159.03 Mt CO2-e, (1990 and 2004 figures - I need to update to 2005) which accounts for 31% of all of Australia's emissions.

Taking the current price of a CO2 as about 22 euro ( this would make the current market value of the CO2-e of livestock as about $5,985,523,200 AUD( 1.7111 AUD = 1 Euro today) or about $6 billion AUD. Since the livestock council submission to the Garnaut report says they are a $6.1 billion AUD industry, it adds up to about zero. In other words, livestock taking into account greenhouse gas emissions, has no value.

Now here is the good bit; with no livestock in Australia, we would reduce CO2-e by 31%, which gets us a long way to our Kyoto objectives. Furthermore, this could be done by consumers in Australia spending less instead of more. It will save you money. All other strategies are about increasing the cost of items to include their CO2-e cost, but it is so hard to reduce consumption of electricity, fuel etc without significant lifestyle changes. Vegetarian diets are cheaper than meat diets already, and with CO2-e costs included the cost difference will be even greater.

So, not all greenhouse reduction strategies are about costing consumers more. Vegetarian diet will cost less.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Improving people's awareness

This is a possible script. For my part, it is important that the message is simple and relates to a fact that most people accept - that reducing car use is an acceptable way to reduce greenhouse gasses. The same needs to be said for vegetarian, so it is eqivalent:

[Vision: person walking around the home, installing an energy-efficient light bulb]
Voice: We all know that reducing energy consumption can reduce greenhouse gasses.

[Vision: an SUV in the driveway, which morphs into a smaller car (prefer a Prius)]
Voice: and, of course, we all know that reducing our fuel consumption is also good for reducing greenhouse gasses.

[Vision: blank white screen]
Voice: but did you also know, that livestock in Australia produces nearly as much as greenhouse gasses as all of our road transport?

[Vision: balloon representing transport emissions (text "71.056Mt CO2-e"), and inflating balloon for livestock (text "63.7Mt CO2-e") which is 90% the size of the transport balloon. Text below states source of information is from "National Inventory Report 2005 (Revised) – Volume 1The Australian Government Submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change February 2008"]

[Vision: view of steak, and pan back to show an animation of 16,000 1 litre bottles of water]
Voice:Also, livestock uses a lot of water. Each steak needed 16,000 litres of water to produce. A salad takes only 300 litres.

Voice: A vegetarian diet (or reducing meat consumption or having a non-livestock based diet), you can reduce greenhouse gasses as much as can be done by completely removing transport. In summary, it:
  • Reduces greenhouse gasses (better than a hybrid car);
  • Cheap (saves $$$);
  • Improves health;
  • Reduced Water consumption; and
  • Shows that you are compassionate.
[Vision: Be Green Go Veg, written with fruit and vegetables]Voice: For the sake of our world; Go Veg, Be Green

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Glaciers melting and the glacial efforts combatting climate change. (or: My Beef with Climate Change Action).

There is more disturbing evidence of climate change shows glacial melt rates have increased in the last four years. In the meantime, the discussions on climate change continue and continue; hoping for a resolution by the end of 2009 to bring about the post-Kyoto agreement. Although there are some countries that are lagging behind; hello USA federal govt :-) Actually that is a bit harsh, as the US government is doing things to reduce greenhouse gases, however the executive office appears beholden to certain lobbyists and industries which feel that putting a cost on CO2 is not in their best interests.

The Australian federal government has announced that it has submitted its initial report on climate change to the UN some nine months early. The purpose of the initial report is to state what greenhouse gas emission data exists for the country, and the methodology for measuring the emissions so that progress in reducing greenhouse gases can be monitored. The details of the report can be found at the Australian Office of Climate Change. The report (Initial Report) is quite readable and instructive as to where Australia's greenhouse gases come from. Note all figures quoted are from this report, which is based on 2005 data.

We have all been informed that in order to combat climate change some sacrifices will be needed, there will be costs involved, and we should expect to do our part. One particular strategy is not ever mentioned, but is quite simple really, is to have a vegetarian diet. My reasoning is based on the figures from the above report, and the more Detailed Report which contains the breakdown of sources. For details of the units and gases measured in the following discussion, see the Detailed Report, General Notes section on page five.

Note in the Initial Report mentioned above in Part 1 Table 1 (page 3) the contribution of agriculture is 87,648.17 Gg (Giga grams. One giga gram = 1,000 tonnes) or 87.64817 Mt (mega tonnes) of CO2 -e (equivalent, includes carbon dioxide as well as other gases.) As stated, this represents 16% of Australia's total emissions. Reading the Detailed Report 71% of the agriculture emissions comes from livestock. This is some 63.7Mt of CO2-e, primarily from methane. This amount of 63.7 million tonnes is pretty close to the amount emitted for road transportation (71.056Mt)

So, in a vegetarian world, you could drive your SUVs quite happily.

Better still, drive a more fuel efficient car, and be vegetarian, and you can double your effectiveness in combating climate change.