31 July 2011

100% (??) Ugly New Zealand

I am very tired of the use of "100% Pure" branding when New Zealand's water quality is declining.

However I have the antidote!

It is this article in the Sunday Star Times by Grant Smithies. Smithies points refreshingly to this collection of photos titled Ugly New Zealand.

Smithies writes;
Site founder Ralf Hebecker moved from Germany to Dunedin in 2006 to work as a design tutor at Otago University. He was disappointed to discover New Zealand had been misrepresented as a blemish-free natural wonderland, and set about collecting photos of the less agreeable sides of the place to add balance to the "postcard perfect" national myth.

With admirable teutonic bluntness, Hebecker's blog acknowledges that New Zealand's built environment frequently appalls the eye. His site celebrates the mundane, the shabby, the poorly designed, the cheap and loveless, and revels in the fact that a picture speaks a thousand words.

Brilliant and a must-read!

What can I do but attempt to display my own visual twisted love letters to the country I love?

Sign advising dog owners of responsible dog effluent rules, Lambton Quay, Wellington, 11 May 2011.

The banality of street signs, Allington Road, Karori Wellington, 13 June 2011.

25 July 2011

Ruahine Range 23 to 24 July

I went tramping to the Ruahine Range in the weekend. Here are some pictures.

This is entering the Ruahine Forest Park from the farmland at the end of Mangakukeke Road, about 30 km from Mangaweka.

Pahautea Libocedrus bidwillii on the bushline at the old hut site.

Purity Hut, a new (2006) DOC 6-bunk hut.

Hut inhabitant. Do not feed.

19 July 2011

Bjorn Lomborg 101

Tom Bennion the non-flying lawyer wrote a good post a few weeks ago on Bjorn Lomborg writing in Newsweek.

Tom's comment was that Lomborg had claimed that London had cleaned up its 1950s air pollution with technology.

Tom pointed out that ten minutes of internet search would tell you that air quality regulations cleaned up London's smog.

If you have ever wondered who Bjorn Lomborg is and where he is coming from in terms of climate change, I have just read a very good analysis which I thoroughly recommend. It is:

A Critical Review of Bjorn Lomborg’s Cool It and of Media ‘Complicity’ in Climate Contrarianism. By Michael Svoboda, 12 May 2011.

As an engaging and charismatic communicator, Bjorn Lomborg has few peers addressing climate change. But an analysis of his Cool It documentary, now available on dvd, documents long-standing shortcomings reporters should consider so stories of personal courage and conviction don’t displace sound science journalism.

Michael Svoboda reaches this conclusion on Lomborg, a warning to journalists.

This record of persistent and consistent misrepresentation points to a challenge the media face in covering a strategic communicator, of reporting on someone who systematically spins a complex topic that is rife with uncertainty — in part by accusing everyone else of “alarmism.”

12 July 2011

Securing a Clean Energy Future - how comprehensive?

I have to admit I did rush to conclude that the Australian carbon pricing scheme would be a "leapfrog" ahead of the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. Okay, I admit I generally think the NZ ETS is worse than nothing as a policy to reduce GHG emissions. So of course the Australian scheme must be more effective!

Now I have actually read Julia Gillard's carbon pricing proposal and I can offer a slightly more considered opinion. The carbon price scheme has a name which we should be using; Securing a Clean Energy Future. The full document is Securing a Clean Energy Future, The Australian Government's Climate Change Plan, Commonwealth of Australia 2011, ISBN 978-0-642-74723-5.

First of all, the 'Clean Energy Future' is not a carbon tax. It is a cap and trade emissions trading scheme with a safety valve. Page 25 says "Large polluters will report on their emissions and buy and surrender to the Government a carbon permit for every tonne of carbon pollution they produce." That's very much an emissions trading approach, but with a fixed carbon price for three years.

The price is $AU23 per tonne from 1 July 2012, then $AU24.15 in 2013-14 and $AU25.40 2014-15 (p 26). From 1 July 2015, the carbon price will float within and upper and lower ceiling with the Government setting an overall 'Cap' or limit on GHGs (p 27).

The GHGs covered are; carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbon emissions from the aluminium sector (p 28).

There will be 500 sources of emissions, which will be companies or sites with direct greenhouse gas emissions of 25,000 tonnes of CO2-e a year or more. Sectors covered will be; stationary energy, waste, rail, domestic aviation and shipping, industrial processes and fugitive emissions (p 27). But not farming or land transport fuels.

So how comprehensive is 'Clean Energy Future'? To me, the comprehensiveness of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme is a good metric of likely effectiveness. And its a metric to use to make comparisons between policies.

Lets say the comprehensiveness is the proportion of total GHGs emitted that is either taxed or included in an emissions trading scheme. 'Clean Energy Future' claims half to two-thirds. The report states that more than half of Australia's GHG emissions will be directly covered by the scheme, and almost two-thirds of GHGs will be included when other measures are included.

'Clean Energy Future' includes an appendix of forecast revenues. In the year to 30 June 2013, the 'Clean Energy Future' scheme will earn $AU 7.74 billion (Appendix C, p 131). At the fixed price of $AU 23 per tonne, that gives 337 million tonnes of GHG (by CO2-e) that is taxed or priced. That's 60% of Australia's 2009 GHG emissions (565 million tonnes) priced in 2013.

That seems not a bad start, given that Geoff Bertram and Simon Terry have calculated that the NZ ETS, after free allocation, delayed start dates, only prices 3%, (12 million tonnes out of 378 million tonnes) of New Zealand's GHG emissions between 2008 and 2012 (Bertram and Terry 2010, The Carbon Challenge, p 111).

But is there any free allocation of carbon permits to emitters in the 'Clean Energy Future' scheme? Yes, if you look carefully there is.

The revenue forecast in Appendix C lists costs of $AU 2.85 billion for "Jobs and competitiveness program" and $AU 1 billion for "Energy security". Table 15 on page 114 notes that "Jobs and competitiveness" involves the free "allocation of permits ...to new and existing entities undertaking an eligible emissions-intensive trade-exposed (EITE) activity". Table 16 Energy Security p 116 indicates that "Energy security" involves "allocation of permits and cash estimated at $5.5 billion over six years to assist highly emissions-intensive coal-fired generators" and "payments for the closure of around 2,000 megawatts of very highly emissions-intensive coal-fired generation capacity by 2020".

So of the $AU 7.7 billion collected from the 500 emitters in 2012-2013, possibly some $AU 3.85 billion will be rebated to the dirtiest and most carbon-intense emitters, as long as they are trade-exposed. The definition of emissions-intensive-trade-exposed isn't exactly tied down and has a number of parts. One is being imports or exports as greater than 10% of production. Also, rather like the NZ ETS, any assistance to emitters will phase out at a very gradual 1.3% a year (Table 15, p 114).

Lets assume that 100% of these two categories is spent on free allocation of permits or is just given as a subsidy to some of the 500 emitters. If we have 337 million tonnes of GHG emissions (by CO2-e) that is priced, and subtract 167 million tonnes for the gifting and assistance ( $AU 3.85 billion divided by $23AU = 167 mt) we get 169 million net tonnes of GHG emissions priced in 2013 under the 'Clean Energy Future' scheme. That's 30% of 2009 GHG emissions of 565 million tonnes.

Okay, I am comparing 2013 for the 'Clean Energy Future' scheme with 2008-2012 for the NZ ETS, but 30% coverage of GHG emissions beats 3% of GHG emissions hands down. The 'Clean Energy Future' scheme is more comprehensive than the NZ ETS by a factor of 10, 30% of GHG emissions priced vs 3% priced. That certainly is a big "leap frog" ahead by our trans-tasman cousins, I would say.

11 July 2011

Global mean land temperature chart NASA GISS Land

This is my version of the well-known chart of NASA's temperature data from land instruments showing global warming since 1880. Yes, the temperature series researched and prepared by James Hansen. I got the data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. Its just as easy to download the data from NASA as well.

The chart does not show absolute temperature on the vertical axis, it shows the difference (or the 'anomaly') from the mean temperature recorded for the period from 1951 to 1980. In other words, Wellington's actual temperature on any day will be very different from that of a place near the equator. However, the use of the anomaly or difference from the average temperature for 1951-1980, standardises the data to a common scale. Also, absolute temperature varies a lot over short distances, but annual temperature anomalies are strongly correlated out to distances of a 1000 km.

I made the chart with the R programme.

Here's the code, assuming you have downloaded the data file "gl_land.txt" to your R working directory.