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Don’t let figures befuddle you; you can live a low-carbon life

Recent articles on low carbon homes and life cycle measurement difficulties left carbon groupies concerned about the complexity involved in measuring our emissions. Measuring emissions isn’t as hard as…

We can compare houses and lifestyles. Mike Wilson

Recent articles on low carbon homes and life cycle measurement difficulties left carbon groupies concerned about the complexity involved in measuring our emissions.

Measuring emissions isn’t as hard as they make out

While never just a back of the envelope calculation, measuring emissions is now relatively straight forward. Integrating the national input-output tables (financial flows between all that sectors that generate GDP) with national physical and social accounts for water, landuse, greenhouse gases, employment and so on, gives intensity figures for each dollar spent. That is, we can see the kilograms of greenhouse emissions per dollar spent on air travel, restaurant meals, a motor car or a visit to the doctor.

Multiplying the financial breakdown of a building project by these physical intensities gives the full life-cycle emissions of the building and its contents. Repeating this for the spending patterns of the inhabitants quantifies their carbon lifestyle.

A comprehensive report for the Australian economy - Balancing Act - was published in 2005 under the guise of triple bottom line accounting. The structural path analysis tool used with this whole-economy accounting reveals all inputs into the production chain and thus allows the search for lower carbon alternatives.

We have the numbers to make decisions on housing. Darrin Wang

The Eora project has recently gone live to a limited set of specialists. This is a fully integrated global model revealing the carbon intensity of millions of production chains, showing each economy in detail with full adjustments made for international trade flows. So the time of “knowing nothing” or “it being too hard” is nearly over.

How does it work for houses?

The late Graham Treloar and colleagues at Deakin University used this “environmentally extended input-output analysis” to explore the physical intensity of construction types and the lifestyles lived therein.

Their work used energy units (gigajoules or GJ) to separate out the one-off or embodied cost of house building, and the recurring yearly operational costs of keeping it going. These can easily be converted to tonnes of carbon. Brown coal electricity and gas still rule in Victoria where the study was based.

The full life cycle picture of a building’s 30-year life with its occupant’s comings and goings provide messages critical to today’s carbon policy angst. For the full family energy budget of 100% over 30 years, the house build was 8% and operational energy (gas and electricity) took 22%.

Then come the interesting bits: personal belongings (2%), consumables (34%), financial services (8%), motor cars (22%) and holidays (4%).

The house build in the Treloar study was 1441 GJ embodied energy. Recurring energy was 3099 GJ over 30 years, with heating using 1440 GJ, appliances 643 GJ, hot water and cooking 613 GJ and lighting 402 GJ.

Investigate your appliance’s emissions. trekkyandy/Flickr

The 7-10 star designs now available could easily halve each recurring energy cost with solar passive design, triple glazed windows, solar hot water and plantation wood pellets for heating.

Decarbonising the electricity supply by photvoltaics or purchasing green power can help us get closer to the zero-carbon ideal. Renewable electricity does cost carbon: around 30 grams per kilowatt hour for wind and 100 gm/kWh for photovoltaics. Compare these to Victorian brown coal electricity at 1300 gms/kWh and then suburb-wide implementation gives substantial progress.

Decarbonising the embodied energy of the house build is more difficult and requires industrial processes to radically revamp. But even in Australia you can source good recycled product or aluminium made with hydropower rather than subsidized brown and black coal electricity.

An efficient house is a nice start, but you need to buy less stuff

Ministers for Climate Change run a mile from dealing with the carbon involved in consumables.

Today we churn through more stuff than in 2000, when Treloar’s study was done, so the figure of 2% for long-lived belongings may be a bit low. But the general premise if you want to lower emissions is to buy well and keep it for a long time.

A commonly purchased laptop computer has CO₂ emissions of 270 kg embodied in its manufacture and another 120 kg for the rest of its life emissions. So if fashion fads rule your life (or if, like my daughter, you drop your iPhone frequently) it all adds up.

Don’t try to own everything. pietriozzo/Flickr

Consumables at 34% (food, drinks, books, clothes and so on) are a large part of the energy inventory and thus carbon costs. But spending is what keeps the economy going, bankers happy and treasurers pontificating.

Our work shows that the more we spend the more we emit across the whole life cycle. This is clearly mapped in the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Consumption Atlas.

This atlas shows those leafy suburbs with high house prices emit on average two to three times per capita more than their poorer cousins on the city boundaries. So here a tension emerges between the hard slog of house design (where construction and materials plus operational energy equals 30% of the full 30 year life cycle) and the equivalent loading that comes from buying consumables.

The economy relies on shopping churn to keep optimism, maintain full employment, keep economic growth trundling along and our landfills overflowing. So unpalatable though it might be, the zero-carbon house requires a low-spend lifestyle to reap a double carbon dividend. Perhaps those triple glazed windows and photovoltaic panels will leave homebuilders financially stretched enough to make shopping even more painful.

Why not walk to the shops?

Motor cars are energy guzzlers and represented 22% of the household’s total lifecycle energy in this study. Each car has a manufacturing embodied energy cost of around 130 GJ and uses at least 100 GJ of fuel yearly.

Hybrids or small light cars which reduce fuel use by 50-70% are no brainers (and you should keep them going for ten years if possible). Focused life cycle analyses show that hybrids outperform conventional petrol and diesel cars across all impact categories by 50-90%, except that a hybrid’s waste streams are higher due to end of life treatment of batteries. Again a fuller decarbonisation is impossible unless the production chains for liquid fuels or electricity are themselves fully decarbonised.

Living close to public transport really helps. Ben Cumming

More recent research by Peter Newton and colleagues at Swinburne University focused on a house’s gadgets and their carbon impacts; that is, the yearly recurring carbon costs. “Walk up” medium density housing is better than apartment blocks and detached houses. It should have gas-boosted solar hot water (500 kg CO₂ per year), the basis set of appliances with a “best of breed” energy rating (3000 kg CO₂ per year), gas cooktop and oven and microwave (300 kg CO₂ per year), compact fluorescent or LED lighting (400 kg CO₂ per year) and gas heating (2000 kg CO₂ per year).

This six tonnes or so of operational emissions can be partially offset by 4000 watts or more of photovoltaic panels. But remember this is less than 30% of the household’s carbon loading, so the main job is yet to be embraced.

Five evidence-based steps to living lightly

So there are five take-home messages from using whole-economy principles for greenhouse accounting:

  1. Build the house properly to more than 7 star standards and trade off space and opulence for year-round comfort and low running costs.

  2. Populate this house with the “best of breed” appliances and change behaviours of using and consuming. Focus on high quality goods that last forever and transcend fads.

  3. Become a low-consumption and high-savings household, investing in safe buffers for your family’s future. Spend time together rather than buying stuff.

  4. Consume mostly fresh non-processed foods grown within your state and region.

  5. Live close to public transport, walk and cycle. Use the car sparingly, keep it for ten years and buy a hybrid if you have the cash.

Join the conversation

71 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Such a cheery prescription for less spending and slower economic growth. Has Foran considered what unemployment means for people? And the fact that a sluggish economy means the conservatives will be voted back in - and 'Institutes for Land, Water and Society' will get the boot?

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    1. Garry Claridge

      Systems Analyst

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, Not sure why you would think that we cannot have a slow/no growth economy and a deep prosperity????

      Also, living a low-carbon existence is not a catalyst for a slow growth economy. Just means that we are not reliant on some industries (i.e. mining) pushing the growth in GDP, hence giving a false indication of widespread economic wellbeing (i.e. deep prosperity).

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    2. Stephen Prowse

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Hamish M

      While not an economist, I presume what is meant that given the current economic model, if we consume less and spend less there will be lower demand, lower economic growth and hence lower employment which is socially and politically unacceptable.

      The development and public discussion of alternative low growth economic models or models allowing greater sustainability with the maintenance of our standard of living and our social fabric (if this is possible) is long overdue.

      While the concept of sustainability is out of fashion, it is really what is under discussion ie how can we maintain our standard of living in a sustainable manner.

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    3. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Hamish M

      Prosperity is not limited to income.. No amount of money will save your life if we do not have fresh water for example

      There is a global movement towards a sustainable future which is at least asking the right questions and doing some great work. But what happens when a large percentage of the USA is fracked? watch http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/901489 and make up your own mind

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    4. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Stephen Prowse

      "maintain our standard of living"

      We might have to think about what a good standard of living is. Is it constantly renovating our kitchens, bathrooms etc so they look like what we see on TV or in magazines? Trading up to a new model car every 3 or 4 years, buying every new gadget, eating out often?

      Our standard of living is based on the fleeting satisfaction of acquiring new things and experiences for ourselves. It's not sustainable, or deeply satisfying or ethical.

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      So you beleive poor people in poor countries have more secure access to clean fresh water than do the people in wealty countries do you?

      You think people in poor countries have a btter life than people in wealthy countires do you. Try changing the axes on this chart http://goo.gl/x6zN to show life expectancy, litteracy, health, and other UN Human Development Indices versus percapita GDP, energy consumption or electricity consumption (for example).

      This should convince any academic (who has an open mind) 'they're dreaming' if they think people should want to stop economic growth - or vote for a government that stunts economic growth.

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Stephen Prowse

      "given the current economic model, if we consume less and spend less there will be lower demand, lower economic growth and hence lower employment which is socially and politically unacceptable."

      Moving to lower household and general carbon emissions does not necessarily mean lower economic activity etc. It depends how the lower emissions/energy consumption is achieved. Lowering energy consumption by improving energy efficiency requires investment in systems that are more energy efficient, e.g. insulation, shutters, multiple glazing. This extra investment is thus an addition to the economy.

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    7. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris O'Neil,

      This is an example of befuddled thinking. It is basically nonsense, when you consider the paractiable savings and the costs involved compared with what is trequired. By continually diverting attention to high cost programs that have little effect - like renewane elergy, light bulbs and insulation - you divert attention and funding from the programs that can make a large difference.

      This will give you a feel for what can be achieved in energy efficency and the costs involved. http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/02/reality-check.html

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    8. Garry Claridge

      Systems Analyst

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, it is very naive to believe that "Economic Growth" is the only paradigm that can provide a deep prosperity. You may wish to consider even simple concepts as the decoupling from trinket consumption, to the uptake of engaging local services as a step in transitioning to a low/no growth prosperous economy.

      We know the "Economic Growth" model is not providing long-term widespread/deep prosperity. Time to get our heads out of the sand and look around!

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    9. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Garry Claridge

      Garth Claridge,

      Your idealistic beliefs are "very naieve". Just look at all the democratic governments in the World. All are trying to maximise economic growth. If they don't, they get voted out because people want a better life and they expect their governments to make it possible. No one is going to vote for your silly ideas. The looney left have been pushing this sort of nonsense fopr decades. It holds us back from getting people out of poverty. Your moral values are repugnant to most peole.

      The Left's belief that the govcernemtn should force people to adopt their looney ideaology is also repugnant.

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    10. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter,

      by your rational, we should just follow every other countries behaviour and that justifies your position? your just happy to follow the current world behaviour which is maximize mass extinctions of different species on the planet! Hurray.. Lets just keep maximizing the fishing of the oceans until there is nothing left! Hurray! Let keep following th fracking mess in the USA! Hurray!

      Peter you seem to be a follower, not a leader.. your "repugant' response is a result of the chemicals in the water that you are drinking and the people you follow.. relax and get some rest.. leave the thnking to those that want to look at the bigger picture

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    11. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Bernard,

      "by your rational, we should just follow every other countries behaviour and that justifies your position?"

      No that is definitely not what I am saying. You've either misunderstood or intentionally misrepresented what I said.

      What I argue is the we should take an economically rational approach to all decisions (that includes properly factoring in the future effects).

      What I am strongly against is the Left and Leftist governments, imposing ever more regulatiosn on society to force…

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    12. Susan McCosker

      Former school teacher

      In reply to James Jenkin

      "An efficient house is a nice start, but you need to buy less stuff"

      It's so good to hear someone say this! Too often "reducing carbon emissions" is equated with "using less electricity", at least for the individual (anything more than that is the responsibility of big business or government). However, when we ship all our minerals, wheat, cotton etc overseas for it to be made into consumer goods to be shipped back to us, so we can buy things that we don't really need, and use them a few…

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    13. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Peter Lang

      not sure what your issues with rules are, but hey we are in a universe that based on laws. Like gravity, for example. And there are other life constraints which tend to rule our lives whether we like it or not! As much as you may hate it.. you have to drink and eat every day or you die.
      As for anti nuclear protests, wonder how you would rationalise losing your home if you were fuchashima'd? would you be crying for rules? wonder if someone starting ripping up your foot path to start a…

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    14. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "By continually diverting attention to high cost programs that have little effect - like renewane elergy, light bulbs and insulation"

      No, yours is an example of befuddled thinking and nonsense with your non-sequitur. I was simply making the point that moving to lower household and general carbon emissions does not necessarily mean lower economic activity. That does not mean diverting attention or funding from anything that can make a large difference.

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  2. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    When NASA Climate Scientist James Hansen was asked what the biggest things people can do to try and prevent the worst of climate change his response was: 1) elect the right Government and 2) move toward a vegetarian lifestyle. Coming from an Iowa boy, this last is a big deal.

    It is normal in Australia for climate change "activists" to ignore food. Barney includes food miles but ignores food itself. Moving a kg of meat 300 km generates about 66 grams of CO2. Producing that kilogram may generated more like 35 KILOGRAMS. But typical of so called Australian environmentalists, Barney happily mentions local food and the transport and neglects the much bigger issue.

    The Balancing Act is a brilliant study and I know that Barney knows about the emissions associated with meat and dairy products, so the really big mystery is why he ignores them in this article? I know why Al Gore ignored them ... he owns stud cattle farms. But I'm interested in why Barney ignores them.

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I see you are still pushing your anti-animals agenda under the guise of climate change Geoff. Your flawed number quoting has been pointed out several times.

      You like to ignore the fact that all food production is energy and emission intensive. Even in highly efficient systems, crops still emit large amounts of GHGs. Efficiency is the order of the day, not some agenda driven dietary change.

      You also like to ignore the fact that energy consumption is by far the largest and easily changed emission. In fact, global warming is driven by emission of long term stored GHGs. Plant and animal life in the planet surface are actually more C neutral in scope (discounting fertiliser production for intensive crop production).

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      As it happens Tim, the IPCC, and its head Rajendra Pachauri, as well
      as James Hansen agree with me and not with you.

      I certainly don't ignore energy as a component in climate change
      and have written whole articles on energy issues over on BravenewClimate.com ... as you well know ... we even agreed on something once I recall ... which makes your current accusation, like many before, pure mendacity.

      Cattle are particularly good at, in effect, turning CO2 into CH4 ... which puts that carbon…

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,

      Are any Climate Activists not agenda driven?

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    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Light on facts? Strange, I've linked my claims to peer reviewed literature and stats in the past. I'm actually an agricultural scientist who has done nutrition research in both plants and animals. You have no background nor demonstrable knowledge of agriculture, yet seem intent on cherry picking quotes, like your cancer and vegetarian claims, without actually showing the entire study or quote. My favourite of yours was the Nature article supposedly saying we should be vege, yet it actually said we…

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,

      I wonder if you've actually been outside the concrete jungle? Most environmentalists these day seem to learn about nature from a computer screen.

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You are arrogant and mendacious in the extreme Tim. The Nature article gave data on how much extra food would be available if we didn't feed crops to livestock. It made no normative statments, and nor did I ever claim such. That red meat causes bowel cancer
      is a clear conclusion of the World Cancer Research Fund's 2007 report.

      I said data was hard to come by and your references provide claims without data. The closest I've found is in our Greenhouse Gas Inventories which report ratios of
      usages of different industries. Here's a link to 2008 ... see page 274. They
      vary from state to state:

      http://www.climatechange.gov.au/~/media/publications/greenhouse-acctg/national-inventory-report-2008-vol1.pdf

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    7. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      And you have once again dodged my points in favour of your cherry picking. This adds nothing to your need to understand how agriculture actually works.

      Please, speak with agricultural scientists, speak with farmers, speak with people in the industry. Take off your blinkers.

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    8. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I live and work in rural Australia Peter.

      I agree that most environmentalists have never been out into nature, I'd hazard a guess that Geoff is one of them. I know that I have been involved in landcare activities since my youth and have never come across any Greens, environmentalists or other groups in that time.

      It is the reason why I am so disheartened by the comments and accusations leveled at agriculture. They are often grossly uninformed or cherry picking examples. Agriculture is by no means faultless, but the anti-meat and anti-agriculture agendas do nothing to help improve the industry. If just part of the money that animal activists used every year in political and media lobbying was actually used in the industry, we would see much better outcomes for everyone.

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    9. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Also Geoff, you made the claims about fertilisers which were untrue. I have corrected this information and cited it. Crop growing is the biggest user of fertiliser inputs.

      This is only further evidence of your agenda blinding you to facts.

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    10. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      OK, Tim, but your advocacy of a belief in climate catastrophe does not fit with someone who has a realists understanding of the world.

      If you don't already read this web site http://judithcurry.com/ could I urgey you to at least have a scan down through the recent articles, and perhaps look at the last three posted (March 1, Fen 28 and Feb 27).

      She seems to have a very broad perspective. She covers climate science, seems to have broad understanding of the modelling, and covers climate policy and energy policy.

      She also seems to have an ability to be totally objective (IMO).

      I am amazed at how a person can be across so much and still do her science.

      I find it interesting to read all sides of the CAGW war.

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    11. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, while I am a proud realist and pragmatist I cannot blindly ignore evidence.

      There is massive amounts of evidence from diverse and disparate fields of science and inquiry that support global warming and climate change.

      While I dislike agenda driven political arguments invading climate science, I'm not going to ignore climate science.

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    12. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      That is the sort of distorting reply that so discredits the Alarmists. My comment clear referred to the advocacy of catastrophes. If you are choosing to only read what the catastrophists say, of course you will believe that catastrophe is imminent. However, it seems to me that view is driven by politics, ideology and huge funding, and the weheels are falling off that argument. The IPCC and the Hockey team cannot be trustefd. They have lied and exaggerated and covered up. It's been ongoing for many years and it is progressively being exposed. That is why I sent you what I consider to be one of many very balanced and objective views of the high levle pullng together of the policy relevance. I'd urge you to at least look at the last three articles listed there. There is not neeed to post comment to me. It's purely for your benefit. The catastrophe arguments are wearing very thin. The attribution to CO2-eq as the main cause is also wearing thin.

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    13. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Why do you assume that one perspective is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong?

      Judith Curry's site is the only one of which I am aware in which you can find good argument that is relatively free of patronising and 'denier' talk.

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    14. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Then you aren't looking - and I said nothing about absolutely right and wrong.

      Try actually reading SKS and their well formed (and referenced by real science) arguments

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    15. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Been there, Mark, and done that. In my judgment it is a plainly biased site, using only that 'real science' which supports the orthodoxy, and ignoring the rest.

      The problem with climate science is that so much of it is conjectural, and based on models, dodgy data and assumptions that may be more or less right but are as yet not well supported by observations.

      So, by all means advise readers to go to SS, but allow them, for goodness sake, to read some sceptical or 'lukewarmer' sites as well. We should all be making our own minds up, not just relying on 'authority'and 'consensus'.

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    16. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Laughable "using only that 'real science' which supports the orthodoxy, and ignoring the rest." - what "rest"? In "your judgment"

      It uses ALL the science - critiquing that tiny minority of dissenting scientitsts who don't accept AGW and pointing out the gaping holes in their arguments.

      They won an science award (the eureka prize) for their site.

      Their conclusions agree with the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, every single national science body of credibility and the…

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    17. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Again, Mark, you seem to be assuming that the orthodoxy is right in every particular. But as Judith Curry (an eminent scientist herself) has pointed out, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the whole domain of climate: uncertainty in the temperature data, uncertainty in the proxies, uncertainty in the sign and power of climate sensitivity, uncertainty in the models, and so on.

      Those who are uncertain, like me, keep looking for good data, good argument, and a recognition that there is a very great deal we don't know. I'm not sure that you seem to have that recognition.

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    18. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don, if you actually read and understood the science you would realise that the only area we are uncertain about is how warm how fast it will get - as the "orthodox" science of the science bodies to which I refer and the IPCC readily attest.

      Your pseudo-scepticism claiming to "keep looking for good data" betrays either a wilfull ignorance or a disguised denialism.

      We know it's warming, we know we are the cause thanks to anthroprogenic CO2 emissions and we know if we don't arrest this it will…

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    19. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      "as Judith Curry (an eminent scientist herself) has pointed out, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the whole domain of climate"

      There is, however, one aspect of climate for which Judith Curry thinks there is very little uncertainty, i.e.:

      "There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,"

      She should have stuck by her usual maxim because as mathematician Grant Foster points out, there are perfectly adequate scientific bases for saying that warming hasn't stopped: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/judith-curry-opens-mouth-inserts-foot/

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    20. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark. I said earlier that I take little interest in arguments from authority or consensus. Part of my working life has been the consideration of requests from scientists for amounts of money ranging from the considerable to the very large indeed. I approach all such tasks in a sceptical frame of mind.

      And I don't find your method of arguing at all persuasive. Your large (fourth) paragraph is a classic appeal to authority. I don't buy such appeals, and if I did governments would never have any…

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    21. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I don't think that Judith Curry needs my help! If you have followed the long debate in Climate etc. you will be better informed.

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    22. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don, I am sure you are sincere - but I do not think your logic or your claims stand scrutiny.
      I also think you exhibit typical denial out of being possibly ill-informed?
      You make a number of claims that are simply not logical or supported by the science. Nor do you offer any evidence to support your misinformed views
      1) Appeal to authority dismissal
      You said "in your judgement" but offered no evidence to support your judgment - so you are appealing to your own authority - how do you explain…

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    23. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Don hasn't changed his position since 2008: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/04/et_tu_ockhams_razor.php

      Here are some of his views from then:

      Don: "It warmed again from 1975 to 1998, and then it stopped warming again."

      No it didn't: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/04/no_global_warming_has_not_stop.php

      Don: The IPCC "went to some trouble to argue that the warming of the late 20th century had no counterpart in the last 1,000 years. ... In any case, the paper on which the IPCC's…

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    24. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Isn’t it amazing how the Climate catastrophe zealots haven’t changed their position either.

      I’d suggest that Don Aitkins’s paper “A Cool look at global warming” was excellent than and is excellent, a classic. http://onlineopinion.com.au/documents/articles/A_Cool_Look_5-4-08.pdf

      The last paragraph reveals what can happen when zealots get a religious like belief, preach it incessantly, and blatantly refuse to even read what is being done and reported outside their heard. Don Aitkins last paragraph…

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    25. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      "I don't think that Judith Curry needs my help!"

      You're right about that. When Grant Foster put a couple of questions about her assertion on her blog, Curry did what any knowledgeable climate scientist does: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/questions-for-judith-curry/

      She said that she had no idea what he was asking and couldn’t understand his “screed” of a post. She later deleted her comment.

      Yes, Judith Curry didn't need anyone's help!

      "you will be better informed"

      So you think reading statements like ‘There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,’ without response to criticism will make me better informed?

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    26. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, using words like "clmate zealots" and CAGW warmists - simply betrays your own prejudices.

      Try actually looking at the published science. If you think you can overturn it you are free to publish.

      If you think you know better than the vast majority of the worlds science bodies (and climate scientists) - who HAVE actually studied the evidence and science and drawn the conclusion that AGW is real and a problem - then you are free to publish your findings.

      In the meantime you just come across as a typical anti-AGW pseudo skeptic guilty of your own alarmism - that some how the economy will be destroyed if we take action.

      William Nordhaus (Yale economist) has comprehensively shown the costs of delayed action globally are about NPV 4 trillion. I trust his economic expertise and the expertise of the published and practicing scientists far more that I turst you or Mr Aitkin.

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  3. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    Barney- congratulations on the work that you the team have done to date. It is a pity that this information wasn't readily known when I wrote my article in TC last year (referenced above)

    Some questions and comments:

    1. Your disclosure statement says: "Currently there is no contracted research." I trust that this does not mean that your research is not ongoing. It is vital and needs wholehearted (local and global) support.

    2. Some of your links don't work and some of the references are behind…

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    1. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to John Barker

      John, thanks for the heads-up on the links. I am looking into improving those now.

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    2. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      and those are now fixed (sorry about the delay).

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  4. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    "Measuring emissions isn’t as hard as they make out"

    Twaddle!

    These are the US EPA's requirements from measuring emissions from power stations:
    http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/business/ecmps/docs/ECMPSEMRI2009Q2.pdf
    http://www.epa.gov/airmarkt/emissions/docs/plain_english_guide_par75_final_rule.pdf

    Consider how much more difficult it will be to measure emissions from all the other businesses that release emissions - like farms and fugitive emissions for example.

    We will be forced to move to at least the US EPA's level of complexity and far beyond it over time. CO2 compliance assurance will be a growth industry. The cost will be enormous. And it is entirely unproductive.

    And it is not necessary. There are other ways.

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  5. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    'carbon groupies' - a great term, and thank you for it.

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  6. Ian Donald Lowe

    Seeker of Truth

    Articles such as this and the implications of this type of thinking are the reason I have strongly opposed a carbon tax all along. The social disruption that is coming will be something to behold. I have always supported minimising consumption and promoting self sufficiency (to some degree) but there must be a balance.

    Energy efficient homes and appliances tend to have a higher built-in energy cost (as well as higher monetary costs) and such as in the case of compact fluorescent bulbs, can have environmental implications in disposal because of the substances used in their construction. It's all very well to be idealistic but every now and then it pays to take a good look at the real world and get some perspective. People in the developed world do need to lower their consumption but look at how they are sold the message to consume, consume, consume by the capitalist system and look at built-in obsolesence in manufactured goods.

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  7. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    Wow, I seem to have attracted a lot of opposition! But I think this part of the Conversation is coming to an end. I have moved to the end of the thread because the inset is now deep.

    Mark: it's difficult for me to deal with your rejoinder because you mostly repeat what you have said before, and have now added an ad hominem argument as well. I am quite uninterested in who people are, or where they come from. I am only interested in their arguments. I have gone through the 'debate' that Motl and…

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      "why are you so sure about your own position?"

      How are you so sure of this position:

      "The correlation between the increase in carbon dioxide and the increase in temperature over the past century, however, is not strong, and over the last ten years is nil."

      I have proven you wrong. I expect we will get a goal-post-shift.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Still no evidence from Mr Aitkin just claims.

      ALL the relevant temperature databases show warming - not just BEST.

      I notice he completely fails to deal with my points demolishing his claims that we cannot separate out the natural variation from the underlying driver of CO2 emissions - probably because he cannot.

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      That's standard procedure from Mr Aitkin. He made up his mind long ago so never responds to facts that demonstrate the flaws in his position. He has a standard set of talking points, e.g. the satellite-based temperature record is the only one good enough, but when you respond that that doesn't make a significant difference to what really matters (the satellite record shows 0.45 deg C warming trend in 33 years), he completely ignores you. He's only interested in the facts that support his position. A very arrogant man.

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    4. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Arrogance, when informed by intelligence, evidence and achievement is forgiveable (by all accounts Newton was very arrogant).

      But ignorance and refusal to look at the evidence and continuing to spread opinions based on such ignorance and denial of thre science is not.

      Unfortunately yhere are many of Mr Aitkins ilk who pervade the blogosphere who state their "judgment" is that AGW is not real. As is the case with Mr Aitkin, they are unable to substaniate their dismissive claims - just continually repeat them or shift the goalposts of their arguments.

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  8. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    It's a pity that once again a significant attempt to address an important issue has been sidetracked by 'skeptics', re-hashing arguments that have been dealt with to the limits of scientific method, as enumerated by Mark Herrigan.

    The important issue address by Barney Foran is the measurement of energy embodiment in our goods and services. While this emerging knowledge feeds into the climate change debate through the dominance of carbon in our present energy sources, its usefulness goes beyond…

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  9. Barney Foran

    Adjunct Research Fellow, Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University

    Thanks everyone for comments and discussion: Some replies on more factual issues. By author:
    Geoff Russell
    Yes I am aware of the meat issues as you well know but am not a one issue specialist. In this article I was casting a much wider boundary around both infrastructure and lifestyle. Your choice on meat eating fits within the 30% of household consumables.
    Ian Donald lowe
    The perspectives in this article are full life cycle ones that are corrected for international trade. Follow some of the links and dredge the detail where I spend many of my waking hours
    John Barker
    Research is active and ongoing, just not tied to funding. Not all of the content is Treloar's work. Grams per kilowatt hour come from another source and wind is 20-30, while PVs are 100 plus. My prescriptions are an overview that comes from much of my published work and those of many others. This sort of 'joining the dots' is never permitted in contracted work, especially for government.

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    1. Ian Donald Lowe

      Seeker of Truth

      In reply to Barney Foran

      Globalised trade is a major factor, consumerism driven by media and advertising is another. Neither of these are going to be altered by a carbon tax. If anything, a carbon tax will add to our imports as local manufacturers will be unable to compete. It's all very well to say that people should consume less but to ignore the truth that our consumer society is driven from the top down by international corporations and the fact that most ordinary people are captive to that system is where we diverge.

      A carbon tax will force people to consume less because they will have to. Meanwhile, the manufacturers will still be producing shoddy products with limited lifespans and the imports will continue to flood in as fast as they can be unloaded from the container vessels. Public transport, especially in rural and regional areas has been in decline for many years due to a lack of government concern. The individual is presented with limited choices in many areas and that is a fact.

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    2. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Ian Donald Lowe

      Ideally Carbon Tax should be applied to imports on the basis that they would have been Taxed here in Australia. A parity style tax which would then ensure that offshore companies and countries that which to trade with australia have an incentive to start their own carbon schemes.

      Ideally There tax should also include the carbon associated in the transport to get the goods here.. This would give local manufactures a "carbon advantage" and means that the bias is towards a more sustainable model.

      unfortunately do not know enough specifics to know what the real situation is

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  10. Mark Harrigan

    PhD Physicist

    Thanks Barney, a useful article - but I have some questions and concerns

    1) Do you have any validation for the ACF data? I am always concerned about "data" presented by environmental politcal organisations as the Green movement has a track record of twisting the science when it suits their ideology (e.g. GM crops, nuclear)

    2) Despit concern one I find their site useful - but are you aware of any published data on the uncertainties and variances? For example, rather than just a simple postcode/regional…

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    1. Garry Claridge

      Systems Analyst

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark,
      Great posts :)

      One proposal that I disagree with is that "... environmental political organisations ... record of twisting the science...". Whereas many are concerned with the "application" of the science, not the science itself. This is the case for GE (as opposed to GM) and nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

      All the best.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Garry Claridge

      It's off topic so let's not debate it here Garry - but with due respect certain elements of the Greens are on recored as distorting the facts and the science in relation to nuclear power (complete misrepresentation of waste issues and hazards, routinely conflating risk <chance of something going wrong> and hazard <impact when something does go wrong> - The Fukushima issue is a prime example - and a sresult toally dismissing it as a viable option(part of the mix) in combating AGW - despite the strong science to support it. And on GE/GM crops they ideologically lable all such efforts as "Frankenfoods" without any scientific basis.

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  11. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    To the author: I apologise for not having addressed your essay — I got sidetracked by comments, which is common on websites like this.

    I think your attack is pretty sound — if and only if one thinks that is an important way to go. I don't. I'm not a 'carbon groupie'. But as I came to the end of your essay I found that I was in general agreement with your five suggestions.

    1. 'Build the house properly to more than 7 star standards and trade off space and opulence for year-round comfort and low…

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don Aitkin,

      I agree with most of your comments, except point #1 unless it is justified on the basis of life cycle cost benefit analysis. However, two important things are missing:

      1. We need to get CO2 in proper perspective. CO2 is nowhere near as serious an issue as the carbon groupies make out. It is a low priority issue compared with the many far more important issues. When economists from all over the world are asked to rank issues, CO2 emissions is ranked a long way down the list.

      2. To talk about regulating society to make everyone build expensive houses – with no mention of through life cost benefit analysis – is just ideologically driven silliness.

      These comments are directed at the authors article, not your comment

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    2. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I don't think the author was proposing that we all build expensive houses through regulation — rather that if you as an individual have a choice, then this is his take-home message for you. I have no difficulty with that.

      As for your point, there has been a long-term increase in the number and range of regulations that govern house-building, most of them, I think for the better.

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don Aitkin,

      You'd need to provide evidence to convince me that most of the building regulations are actually to the benefit of society. Some are for sure, but I doubt most are. The compliance cost si enormous, the wealth destruction is enormous, and we remove people's self-sufficency by moving responsibilty to the government.

      I've just seen a chart that plots GDP per capita from 1950 to 2010 for Australia, NZ and Singapore. It is a measure of good governance. Australia has performend 50% better than NZ and Singapore has done three times as well as Australia.

      The more we regulate society, the more nanny state, the more we hold us back. Europe, very over-regulated and going bust, is a clear example.

      Housing regulations are just one example.

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    4. Don Aitkin

      writer, speaker and teacher

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I guess I was thinking about bringing dunnies inside, dealing with gas and electricity as they came in to common use, and the like. I agree that councils and governments tend to write laws to deal with individual cases, which seems bad practice to me.

      I like Singapore too, for a visit. But remember how the T-shirts tell you it is such a fine city — you get fined for this, and that and the other. It's not what I would call an open and free society, however high its GDP.

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don,

      We don't need the government to tell people to move their dunnies inside. One person does it and others follow because they want to "live like the Jones". Allow freedom of expression and we get faster innovation. Fads follow but its mostly for the better. And we develop faster so the inovation can be spread around the world. Australia and the democracies are falling behind Asia now, as you would know. The Enlightment has moved on from us to Asia. It is because of our ever increasing 'nanny state' trying to regulate what we can say, think, eat, do, and now, even what we can breathe :)

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  12. Bob Weis

    Film maker

    Reading through this thread has been a thoroughly dispiriting experience as one Ego after another trumpets their igrnorance and bias among the occasional salient points made by men and women of good grace and intention.

    We are not in a school yard cock fight. We are staring at a global catastrophe and whether you see this as a lifetime challenge or Left wing rubbish you will be under water in Bangladesh regardless.

    The facts have a way of trumping any nonsense so keep up the personal vitriole, piss in all the corners and crow about the size of your members but make sure you live on high ground away from a fault line or you may not have the last laugh.

    As to who is right (or Right) history will show that it didn't matter.

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