Category Archives: Energy

‘Unburnable’ fossil fuels set to leave investors stranded (reprint)

Work still busy – article of interest. 

By James Whitmore, The Conversation

Investors are continuing to pour money into fossil fuel reserves that could end up being worthless due to efforts to combat climate change, a new report has found.

The Climate Tracker report found that investors are set to waste US$6 trillion on fossil fuel reserves in the next ten years if they fail to account for global carbon budgets.

To keep climate change under the globally agreed-upon figure of 2°C by 2050, emissions must be kept to under 900 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2, the report says.

If the budget is allocated according to how much each source (fossil fuels, housing, transport etc) contributes to emissions, investment in fossil fuels must be limited to the equivalent 125-225 Gt CO2 until 2050.

Last year companies invested US$674b in developing new fossil fuel reserves. Under the new budget scenario 60-80% of this investment in fossil fuel reserves will be wasted.

Globally 200 publicly listed companies currently invest in the equivalent of 762Gt CO2. There are further interests in undeveloped reserves which could double the size to 1,541Gt CO2.

Professor Tony Wood at University of Melbourne said there’s a disconnect between what’s necessary to avoid the worst aspects of climate change, and what’s actually happening, and “this report has put that disconnect into numbers.”

Businesses continue to invest in these “stranded” assets because of continuing uncertainty over carbon pricing, he said.
“Governments around the world have moved away from discussing climate change in a policy sense.”

Energy economist Dr. Barry Naughten at Australian National University said investors don’t believe governments will put a high enough price on CO2 emissions to cause them a problem.

“In Australia there’s a lot of confusion as to whether the carbon price will be maintained in any shape or form if there’s a change of government this year,” he said.

The new carbon budget is higher than previous assessments because it assumes efforts to reduce non-CO2 emissions from waste and agriculture, such as methane, will increase.

Professor Wood said there were signs of hope that emissions from waste and agriculture could be reduced.

The report reveals Australian companies have interests in 26Gt CO2, including 1Gt CO2 in gas, 2Gt CO2 in oil, and 23Gt CO2 in coal.

The highest investment is via the New York Stock Exchange with 215Gt CO2. The majority of this is invested in oil. Companies listed in London have interests in 113Gt CO2, with a greater proportion devoted to coal.

After 2050 carbon budgets must remain very low, with only 75Gt CO2 allowed in order to keep warming below 2°C.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

How we lost 20 years on climate change action (reprint)

A terrific article from The Conversation which sums up my own thoughts by Maria Taylor, Australian National University

Scientists have warned about the “greenhouse effect” for years. Now it is no longer a scientific nightmare; it has arrived.

Lines from Al Gore’s famous movie? No.

The Sydney Morning Herald published these words in mid-1988. The article detailed record-breaking heat and drought in North America and elsewhere, linking these weather effects with predictions for global warming and climate change (then called the greenhouse effect).

A review of the Fairfax mainstream and business press of the late 1980s and early 1990s found hundreds of articles focused on the risks posed by the greenhouse effect on topics as diverse as biodiversity and holidaying in the Maldives.

These articles all readily ascribed the cause of the greenhouse effect to industrial societies burning fossil fuels.

The science hasn’t changed, but the public story changed dramatically

I recently completed a study of climate change communication in Australia 1987-2001. I reviewed an extensive public record of news reports, government documents, early popular science books and interviews regarding the greenhouse effect.

I found there has not been a one-way road from lesser to better public knowledge of climate change science and available response in Australia in the last two decades. In fact the opposite has been the case and this is directly linked to the public narrative and framing.

The evidence shows that scientific findings – as documented by the IPCC starting in 1990 – remained basically consistent in their description of cause, risk and the need to respond throughout the 1990s.

However, communication from Australian policy makers and the media changed dramatically during the same period –– from expressing good understanding and a will to take action, to a confused and conflicted debate with clear correlations to the national response.

Almost no-one remembers the high point of good understanding that occurred in October 1990. That was when the Federal Government under Bob Hawke established an interim emission reduction target for the nation to lower greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2005.

Detailed state and national response plans were established. They canvassed every strategy known today, from efficiency measures and renewable energy to a carbon tax and emissions trading scheme.

But these plans were destined to wither under national competition policy that deregulated the national energy sector to focus on sales and profits rather than “demand management”.

When our values changed, so did the climate change story

The record shows a pivotal change occurred in social values and beliefs that set the public agenda from the mid-1990s on. Politicians and the press gallery, rather than scientists, more and more determined the daily narrative of what was “real”.

Guiding these values were:

  • the narrowed economic options of Australia’s destiny as a resource quarry
  • beliefs in the potential for a greenhouse gas techno-fix (such as clean coal)
  • beliefs in the fundamental divide between the monetary economy and the natural environment, with the latter framed as a cost.

Underlying are beliefs that humans are exceptional and outside the ecological laws governing other species. Such beliefs are widely held in western Christianity and therefore easy to target with coded language.

In the 1990s we added a panoply of beliefs about markets and their ultimate efficiency (so we could not make industry more efficient), embedded in neo-liberal, economic rationalist teachings.

Disciplinary beliefs also played a role. A notable group has been geologists, many of whom were taught that only on-ground measurement and evidence – not future modelling – is valid. This helped explain the enduring sceptic fervour that has confused the public.

Also influential was the impact of scientists communicating degrees of “scientific uncertainty” in the public arena. This is a concept that lay audiences frequently interpret as “don’t know”, and which greatly aided those who don’t want action.

The frames of climate change: from risk management, to too risky

Climate change up to the early 1990s was framed by politicians of both major parties as risk management for everyone. They focussed on Australia being an ethical global citizen responsible to future generations. Responses were framed as “win-win” for the environment and for new jobs. This reflected international response at the time.

After 1991, Paul Keating – and later John Howard – were preoccupied with the economy. Climate change action went on the back burner in the bureaucracy, eventually completing the transition to “can’t do” under Howard.

The reframed narrative became that Australia is exceptional: if climate change science is real, Australia should commit to minimal response because our economy relies on cheap energy and coal exports and we are not about to change.

Politicians became adept during this period at framing these messages with warm emotional values of nation and family –– evoking “us” against the “them” of greenies, Europeans, and the United Nations. These were portrayed as elites and outsiders trying to rob us of our jobs and businesses.

Understanding the coded language of the changed narrative, how it was done, is a lot about how people take up information, and that is another story that emerged from my study.

While the science findings have stayed consistent since at least 1990, politicians and the media re-framed their communication, and that radically changed public knowledge about climate change and the will to respond. Thanks to this change, Australia has lost 20 years of potential action on emission reduction.

Maria Taylor does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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One Degree matters: interesting program on Age TV

Dear all, no post today but a recommendation: One Degree Matters on The Age TV. It presents the real world evidence for climate change. But in addition, the producers take a group of individuals on a journey across the globe and ask them how they’d respond to the challenge:

Presenting the latest science on climate change, this is an informative and inspirational documentary which offers realistic solutions and gives the reality of global warming a human face, showcasing amazing examples of individuals and communities tackling the world’s environmental problems. One Degree traces the impact of temperatures increases, measuring the slippages of the Greenland ice cap into the Arctic Ocean.

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Japan’s renewable future: dropping nuclear, investing $500bn in renewable energy

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the horrific Tōhoku tsunami, Japan is about to begin an amazing transformation (source LA Times):

The Japanese government announced a dramatic turn in its energy policy Friday, vowing to make the densely populated island nation nuclear-free by the 2030s.

Last year’s tsunami-triggered disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power complex forced evacuation of more than 160,000 and contaminated huge swaths of territory north of Tokyo. Prior to the accident, nuclear plants provided nearly a third of Japan’s power generation and the government had planned to increase that proportion to more than half.

In unveiling the new policy, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda acknowledged that the vast majority of Japanese support the zero option on nuclear power. The new blueprint calls for investing almost $500 billion over the next two decades to expand renewable sources like wind and solar power, the NHK broadcast network reported.

The energy plan sets forward a three-pronged approach to phasing out nuclear power generation after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that inundated the Fukushima plant and set off the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 in Ukraine.

This is why the 21st century is the Asian century, as America and the West continue to fall behind. We’ve become complacent thinking the habits of the past will remain unchanged. We’ve believed the view of the “sceptics” – too timid and scared to embrace the knowledge that climate change is real – that turning away from fossil fuels would ruin our economies and way of life.

The sad thing is that it took the loss of 15,000 lives and country-wide devastation to prompt this move: but we have certain knowledge that climate change is real, and that choices are available.  

Can we end are dependence on fossil fuels and coal?

Yes we can.

Scotland the brave: clean energy future for a small country


I was forwarded this article which shows how Scotland is making the transition to a clean energy future.  The source is from a web site called, which initially gave me pause.

It is an interview with Alex Salmond,  the First Minister for Scotland and who is noted for championing renewable energy. The content of the article is well worth the read, especially about the push for renewable energy.

Good quote from Salmond here:

Scotland has a natural competitive advantage in the transition to the low carbon economy given our vast renewable energy resources and our history of technological innovation. We believe that our competitive advantage lies in being at the forefront of technological innovation: this is achievable for a small nation. We want to make Scotland the destination for international investment in low carbon, and for the development of the financial architecture for a global low carbon economy, by operating at the forefront of development of clean energy. You also have to provide investment certainty. In 2009 the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. This groundbreaking piece of legislation sets a world-leading target of at least a 42% cut in national greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. As well as having all-party support, the Scottish legislation received support from across Scottish civil society such as business organisations, trade unions and environmental groups. The aim of the Act was to provide certainty for businesses and the public about Scotland’s low carbon future. We have backed up the legislation with a comprehensive delivery framework. So business, and investors know that Scotland is serious about leading the low carbon transition and International energy companies are making Scotland their base for research and development in offshore wind and marine energy. 

Climate change campaigner and Nobel Laureate Al Gore praised Scotland’s commitment to renewables when he said: “Scotland has not only provided inspiring leadership, you are exploiting one of the greatest resources anywhere on the planet, with wind onshore and particularly offshore, all sorts of variety of windmills – and the new renewable technologies are especially important”. So clearly, major international figures think we have the framework right in Scotland.”

See also the article from, “Scotland guns for 100% renewable energy by 2020”.

Hat tip James Stafford.

Image of the day: open cut lignite coal mine, Anglesea Victoria

One of Victoria’s open cut coal mines, located in Anglesea along the states majestic Great Ocean Road. The coal feeds the Anglesea Power Station, which in turn powers the Port Henry aluminum smelter.

The power station generates around 1.21 million tones of GHGs:

 Source: Google Maps


Quote of the day: “their business model is destroying the planet”

Hat tip

Unelected and lacking accountability, the fossil fuel industry needs to be tamed. We accept an industrial civilisation is not possible without energy: but we have the ability to change the business model and alternative ways to meet those needs.

We are not against civilisation in urging the world to phase out fossil fuels: sustainable energy is a precondition to ensure its survival.

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