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Analysis and Comment (52)

For the first time the IPCC has addressed the ethical, as well as technical, issues of reducing greenhouse emissions. For the first time the IPCC has addressed the ethical, as well as technical, issues of reducing greenhouse emissions. EPA/How Hwee Young/AAP

IPCC: emissions cuts are about ethics as well as economics

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that global greenhouse gas emissions have grown faster than ever over the last decade. Taking action to achieve the world’s goal…
Make one change, cause another - everything’s closely linked. Make one change, cause another - everything’s closely linked. Dominic Lipinski/PA

Drive to improve housing can bring unintended consequences

The UK is one of only a handful of countries that has put in place legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. How the country intends to go about…
More like a bird. More like a bird. NASA

Morphing is one way to make aircraft more efficient

It is estimated that by 2050 there will be a six-fold increase in the number of flights there are today. This is going to be an environmental problem, and it will need radical change in aircraft design…
It’s a nice view when you can see it. It’s a nice view when you can see it. Tokyohead

Development and well-being still rely on burning fossil fuels

A major justification for exploiting natural resources, including burning fossil fuels, is that it helps improve the quality of our lives. We rely on oil, coal and gas, for example, to power our cars…
Fire is one of the reasons tall trees struggle in the heat. Fire is one of the reasons tall trees struggle in the heat. Valley_Guy/Flickr

Catch-22: big trees fight climate change but suffer in the heat

Clearing forests is one of the major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions — something we’ll need to keep in check if we’re to have any hope of mitigating climate change. Recent research suggested that…
Alcoa is to close its Point Henry smelter in Geelong. Alcoa is to close its Point Henry smelter in Geelong. AAP

Australian aluminium outgunned by cheap, coal-free global rivals

Alcoa’s decision to close the Point Henry smelter, at a cost of almost 1000 jobs in Geelong and elsewhere, comes amid a perfect storm buffeting Australia’s aluminium industry. Point Henry will be the second…
Back on the road: a hydrogen-fuelled car at a US trade show. Back on the road: a hydrogen-fuelled car at a US trade show. EPA/MICHAEL NELSON/AAP

Why is hydrogen fuel making a comeback?

We hear a lot about wind, solar and nuclear energy in the fight to reduce carbon emissions, but it seems we’ve forgotten about hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen — made by splitting water — was considered energy-intensive…
From Australia to the world. Rising LNG exports threaten domestic industry and climate action. From Australia to the world. Rising LNG exports threaten domestic industry and climate action. Flickr/kenhodge13

Australia needs gas reservation to protect industries and climate

What is the future of Australia’s gas reserves? While it might be good news for the gas industry, increasing international demand could see gas prices in Australia rise, driving up the cost of electricity…
One out, one in: better high speed rail services could dampen flight demand. One out, one in: better high speed rail services could dampen flight demand. Gareth Fuller/PA

With planning, high speed rail could reduce flight demand

The expansion of UK airports could mean breaching climate targets, Climate Change Committee head David Kennedy has said. Ahead of a full report next summer that would examine the airport expansion plans…
Climate lawyers suggest a clean and healthy future could be paid for with litigation. Climate lawyers suggest a clean and healthy future could be paid for with litigation. EPA/RADEK PIETRUSZKA

We know who’s profiting from emissions - let’s bill them

Research published last month in the journal Climatic Change may provide an essential building block in proving corporate liability for current and future climate change damage. Researcher Richard Heede…
Have catalytic converters changed the cost-pollution-benefit in petrol’s favour? Have catalytic converters changed the cost-pollution-benefit in petrol’s favour? Mike Egerton/PA

Failure to test for the real world has left a polluting diesel legacy

Which is the better option for cars in cities, diesel or petrol-driven engines? As a report reveals the new fleet of green, hybrid electric-diesel buses in London produce less CO2 but more harmful pollutants…
Concerns over nuclear energy mean Japan is moving back to fossil fuels. Concerns over nuclear energy mean Japan is moving back to fossil fuels. EPA/TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Climate targets are the fallout from Japan’s nuclear disaster

Japan has announced it is significantly reducing its greenhouse gas reduction target. It now aims to achieve a 3.8% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 versus 2005 levels. The new target amounts to…
Hudson Bay Lowlands are staying greener for longer as temperatures rise. Hudson Bay Lowlands are staying greener for longer as temperatures rise. K. Rühland

Global warming finally reaches the last Arctic region

Lakes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, in northeast Canada, are showing evidence of abrupt change in one of the last Arctic regions of the world to have experienced global warming, according to Canadian research…
Bright colourful coral like this may soon disappear. Bright colourful coral like this may soon disappear. USFWS Pacific

Global warming’s evil twin: ocean acidification

Greenhouse gas emissions have warmed the oceans in regions such as the Baltic by as much as 1.3°C. It is now thought that 90% of the heat added to the climate system by humans has been absorbed in the…
Smoke, like US$2 trillion, gets in your eyes. Smoke, like US$2 trillion, gets in your eyes. Ian Barbour

$2 trillion cost to de-carbonise the world is actually a bargain

We can avoid the worst effects of climate change, say a team of Imperial College energy engineers in a recent study, and it will only cost US$2 trillion a year, at most. This sounds an unfeasibly large…
One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. Flcirk/Greens MPs

Why Victoria needs a Giant Forest National Park

The Central Highlands of Victoria are home to the world’s tallest flowering plants, the Mountain Ash, and one of Australia’s most endangered mammals, the Leadbeater’s Possum. Both are threatened by ongoing…
China’s industrialisation has followed the same path, but the rules of the game have changed. China’s industrialisation has followed the same path, but the rules of the game have changed. Jonathan Kos-Read

China’s industrial revolution is happening on a new planet

What can two periods of industrialisation nearly two centuries apart tell us about how economies change and the demands their change place on the planet? Today, China leads the wave of emerging economies…
Your footprint is bigger (and messier) than you’ve been led to believe. Your footprint is bigger (and messier) than you’ve been led to believe. KR1212

Carbon footprint is not as small as you think

The UK government has made much of claims that its climate policies have been successful in reducing carbon emissions. This claim is based on the data used to create the national inventories required under…
Global carbon emissions, by country - climate legislation helps. Global carbon emissions, by country - climate legislation helps. Distantbody

In praise of Britain’s Climate Change Act

Approved with overwhelming support from all political parties, the Climate Change Act came into force in 2008 and was hailed as a ground-breaking piece of legislation that would guide Britain’s transition…
EU states have agreed that CCS is vital, but progress is slow. EU states have agreed that CCS is vital, but progress is slow. Owen Humphreys/PA

Explainer: what is carbon capture and storage?

The Energy Technologies Institute recently reported that without carbon capture and storage (CCS), the cost of reaching the UK’s climate change targets will double from around £30 billion per year in 2050…
The Balcombe-eye-view of fracking. The Balcombe-eye-view of fracking. Tom Pugh/PA

Mad dash to frack Britain puts carbon targets in danger

Even for a relatively seasoned observer of the antics of government, the recent performance over fracking, crowned by the prime minister’s comments about fracking his backyard, has been a wonder to behold…
All heat and light: we need action on climate not rhetoric and finger-pointing. All heat and light: we need action on climate not rhetoric and finger-pointing. Owen Humphreys/PA

China can teach the West about tackling climate change

China has become a popular target of environmental ire, drawing criticism for its soaring carbon emissions and perceived intransigence during climate negotiations. Nonetheless, an easy target isn’t always…
One year on, what difference has the carbon price made? One year on, what difference has the carbon price made? AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Is carbon pricing reducing emissions?

Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism has been vilified by the Federal Opposition and certain members of the business community, but it is a key part of Australia’s response to climate change. So one year…
Fertiliser: essential for feeding the country, but you can have too much of a good thing. Fertiliser: essential for feeding the country, but you can have too much of a good thing. ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Easing China’s fertiliser habit will have global significance

A joint project between scientists in the UK and China has shown how improved methods of manufacturing nitrogen fertiliser and better use of it by farmers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds…
Civilians rescue an injured worker after the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24. Civilians rescue an injured worker after the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24. AAP

Mind the gap: company disclosure discrepancies not sustainable

The recent decision by two Australian retailers to sign an accord protecting suppliers in Bangladesh has highlighted discrepancies in company disclosure of sustainability issues and the need for clearer…
The IEA thinks we can get a lot more mitigation mileage out of energy efficient vehicles. The IEA thinks we can get a lot more mitigation mileage out of energy efficient vehicles. Shell Eco-marathon

International Energy Agency report hopeful, but is it unrealistic?

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report repeats the message we’ve heard from many sources - we’re heading for a temperature rise of much more than 2°C. But given its international reach and…
We aren’t irreversibly committed to a warmer world. We aren’t irreversibly committed to a warmer world. Moyan Brenn earthincolors.wordpress.com

Emissions cuts made now fight global warming immediately

There is a commonly held belief among both scientists and the general public that there is a delay between the CO2 emissions we put into the atmosphere, and the resulting climate change. As a consequence…
Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station: carbon markets are supposed to be effective, not just hot air. Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station: carbon markets are supposed to be effective, not just hot air. PA/David Davies

Is this the end of carbon trading, or just a hiccup?

Just as scientists almost universally agree greenhouse gases contribute to the planet’s changing climate, economists almost universally agree the problem is made worse because polluters don’t pay for the…
Not just a nice idea: zero emissions housing is affordable and possible, once some policy changes are made. Not just a nice idea: zero emissions housing is affordable and possible, once some policy changes are made. Jeff Egnaczyk

To cut emissions, the housing sector has to pull its weight

If Australia is to reduce its emissions enough to limit the impacts of climate change, all sectors are going to have to pull their weight. It’s a big job: scientists tell us we need reduce emissions by…
In the last few years, both China and the US have ramped up efforts to address climate change. In the last few years, both China and the US have ramped up efforts to address climate change. Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon

China and the US step up on climate

Ambition has awakened the global energy giants, China and the United States. Both nations have recently strengthened commitments to address climate change and announced plans to strengthen collaboration…
Every which way but forward. Are biofuels an answer to aviation emissions we can agree on? Every which way but forward. Are biofuels an answer to aviation emissions we can agree on? pearsongraphics/Flickr

Not even Nobel prize winners can fix aviation emissions

Aviation is a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. In other industries emissions are declining, or at least are better regulated. Airline emissions, however, continue to soar. How viable are laws…
Trade in emissions entitlements has struck some large practical problems. Trade in emissions entitlements has struck some large practical problems. EPA/MARK

Falling EU carbon price should inspire greater mitigation efforts

Emissions growth in the 21st century was overwhelmingly concentrated in developing countries. My own calculations on “business as usual” emissions for the Climate Change Review Update suggested that in…
Bushfires release CO2, but how much? Bushfires release CO2, but how much? AAP Image/Kim Foale

Fact check: do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

“Indeed I guess there’ll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades.” - acting Opposition leader, Warren Truss, January 9, 2013 On Wednesday, leader…
Carbon reporting regulations are controlled by a select few. Carbon reporting regulations are controlled by a select few. freefotouk/Flickr

The private world of carbon reporting

Five years ago, we really didn’t have a clue what an organisation’s carbon impact might look like, and few firms had any sort of carbon-oriented business plan. Now, the trend is to fill this gap by producing…
What’s behind Australia’s Kyoto target, and could we shift it? What’s behind Australia’s Kyoto target, and could we shift it? ##Erika**/Flickr

Australia’s Kyoto 2 target: shaking up our thinking

At the Doha climate conference, Australia has submitted a 99.5% emissions target for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Why is Australia doing it, and what does it mean? Setting a good example…
The earth’s crust might be our most valuable resource yet. The earth’s crust might be our most valuable resource yet. prawnpie/Flickr

Earth’s most valuable resource is the space between the sand

For centuries, the shallow parts of the earth’s crust have provided us with fuels to burn in our fireplaces, foundries and generators. Now, as we try to break free from our reliance on some of the dirtier…
More and more people are flying. International emissions regulation isn’t keeping up. More and more people are flying. International emissions regulation isn’t keeping up. Dave Sag

The not so friendly skies: the EU, aviation and climate change

Aviation has – and has had for some time – an emissions problem. That problem was illustrated in dramatic fashion last week when it was announced that the European Union (EU) would freeze until late next…
The American people have spoken in favour of climate change by re-electing Barack Obama to a second presidential term. The American people have spoken in favour of climate change by re-electing Barack Obama to a second presidential term. Flickr/350.org

Obama’s second term challenges must include tackling climate change

In his acceptance speech of November 6, Barack Obama at long last reaffirmed the need to address global warming. But unfortunately he also reaffirmed the spurious goal of US oil independence, which can…
Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Green MPs

Energy White Paper plans to burn, burn, burn it all

Burn it all. That is the plan in Australia’s new Energy White Paper. Released yesterday by Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, it talks about responding to climate change while planning the…
The government’s projections of future emissions don’t seem to account for a reduction in demand for energy. The government’s projections of future emissions don’t seem to account for a reduction in demand for energy. Cowboy/Dave Flickr

Australia’s emissions projections: bleak but too pessimistic

New greenhouse gas emissions projections have been released by Australia’s government. They suggest that only a minority of the task to meet Australia’s emissions target will be achieved through domestic…
Australians may be cutting back carbon-intensive activities, but until the government is more transparent about emission cuts there’s no way to check. Australians may be cutting back carbon-intensive activities, but until the government is more transparent about emission cuts there’s no way to check. Adrian Tritschler

No way of knowing if the carbon price is lowering emissions

Last week we had good news from the Federal Government that the carbon price is already working. Many of us from across the political spectrum have wondered whether the complex new financial arrangements…
Traditional burials take up space that could be used for forest or farmland. Traditional burials take up space that could be used for forest or farmland. Stuck in Customs/Flick

Dying green: environmentally friendly burials in China

How we die, as well as how we live, has profound and lasting effects on the environment. Nowhere is this more true than in China, the most populous nation on Earth. According to the National Bureau of…
In the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, Japan is phasing out nuclear power. In the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, Japan is phasing out nuclear power. EPA/Julien Warnand

Is Japan’s nuclear-free pathway an environmentally friendly choice?

On 14 September 2012, the Japanese Government considered a new policy that excited many self-proclaimed environmentalists and anti-nuclear power protestors. Following intense political wrangling, they…
We want our pets to be happy, but how much luxury do they need? We want our pets to be happy, but how much luxury do they need? nezitic[x]/flickr

What about your carbon pawprint?

People around the world are worrying about their carbon footprint. But what about their furry friends' carbon pawprints? Consider the numbers: there are currently around 1 billion pet cats and dogs worldwide…
Compensation candidate: The Yallourn power plant in the La Trobe Valley. Compensation candidate: The Yallourn power plant in the La Trobe Valley. Flickr/Dallas75

Right to compensation was folly from the start

In some respects, we should be relieved by the collapse of the Labor government’s negotiations to decommission some of the most polluting brown-coal electricity generation plants. The notion that decommissioning…
Other countries - either in the European Union or elsewhere - could be the main beneficiaries of the Australian Government’s move to link carbon pricing with Europe. Other countries - either in the European Union or elsewhere - could be the main beneficiaries of the Australian Government’s move to link carbon pricing with Europe. AAP

Do we really want to hand control of our carbon price to Europe?

Linking Australia to the European Union carbon emissions trading scheme by 2015 will undoubtedly affect the revenue gained from carbon trading. The question is, how much? One should expect up to 50% less…
Iran’s gas could make a difference to the world’s carbon-reduction efforts, if only the world was allowed to use it. Iran’s gas could make a difference to the world’s carbon-reduction efforts, if only the world was allowed to use it. EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

US–Iran normalisation could fight climate change

The problem of climate change policy at an international level is not only about reaching agreement on sharing the mitigation burden. It is also about how dysfunctional foreign policies - not directly…
While Australia fears either an environment or economic doomsday, other countries get on with making a cleaner future. While Australia fears either an environment or economic doomsday, other countries get on with making a cleaner future. Detail of Hieronymus Bosch's The Last Judgment, from Flickr/profzucker

Apocalypse Not: doomsday thinkers of Oz should get out more

I sometimes wonder what planet this country of ours is on. The environmental debate we are having seems to be in a parallel universe to the rest of the world. Having spent the last four years running one…
Tony Abbott described the carbon tax as a python that would strangle the economy, but it’s more of a lolly snake. Tony Abbott described the carbon tax as a python that would strangle the economy, but it’s more of a lolly snake. Flickr/anenomeprojectors

Why the carbon-tax ‘python’ won’t squeeze the economy

Some critics of carbon pricing have pointed out that, over time, the carbon price will increase to a much higher level and devastate the economy. Indeed, the image of a python squeezing the life out of…
Landcare get-together: reducing our toll on nature comes in part from many of us taking steps that individually are not always so big, but which accumulate. The carbon tax is one such step. Landcare get-together: reducing our toll on nature comes in part from many of us taking steps that individually are not always so big, but which accumulate. The carbon tax is one such step. Flickr/feral arts

Little by little: the benefits of Australian climate policy

A catchment threatened by salinity can’t be repaired by one or two landholders. Revegetation designed to lower watertables has its greatest ecological benefit where the plants are, but its net impact on…
Sold to the lowest bidder! The carbon price will not transform Australia’s power supply without further steps to help low-emission technologies into the market. Sold to the lowest bidder! The carbon price will not transform Australia’s power supply without further steps to help low-emission technologies into the market. Flickr/sashafatcat

Low-emission’s missing link: reverse auctions for clean power

When it comes to reducing emissions, most serious analysts agree: the market works best, but the market is not enough. The International Energy Agency, the OECD, leading British climate economist Nicholas…
The two major parties have taken different approaches to compensating households for the carbon tax. The two major parties have taken different approaches to compensating households for the carbon tax. Jonas B

The carbon tax, compensation and households: a two-party comparison

The two main political parties agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 5% below the 2000 level, or about a 20% reduction below business as usual. However, they propose very different policy…

Research and News (8)

Research Briefs (14)

Global warming range narrowed

Research from the University of Melbourne and Victoria University has generated more reliable global warming estimates at…