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Analysis and Comment (61)

A tourist train from Sheringham to Holt steams past an offshore wind farm, one of many that have sprung up along the UK coast. A tourist train from Sheringham to Holt steams past an offshore wind farm, one of many that have sprung up along the UK coast. Gerry Balding/Flickr

UK shows how Australia can cut emissions without a carbon tax

Australia’s carbon price has gone – but a UK review released this week shows that to lay the foundations for a low-carbon economy, pricing carbon is far from the whole story. Over recent months, as Australia’s…
Melt pond on the Greenland ice sheet. Melt pond on the Greenland ice sheet. NASA / Michael Studinger

What climate tipping points should we be looking out for?

The concept of a “tipping point” – a threshold beyond which a system shifts to a new state – is becoming a familiar one in discussions of the climate. Examples of tipping points are everywhere: a glass…
Australia’s Tim Cahill never loses sight of the goal – and neither should we on climate change. Australia’s Tim Cahill never loses sight of the goal – and neither should we on climate change. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Keeping our eyes on the ball is the only way to hit our climate target

Kicking goals is a whole lot easier when you’re running hard, with a clear line of vision. But amid so much backpassing and confusion on climate policy in Australia, it could be easy to lose sight of what…
The Castelao stadium in Fortaleza was the first of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums to receive green certification. The Castelao stadium in Fortaleza was the first of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums to receive green certification. Pedroichimaru/Wikimedia Commons

The real story behind Brazil’s ‘greenest World Cup’

This year’s World Cup was supposed to be the “greenest ever”, with FIFA taking measures to account for the event’s greenhouse gas emissions, including an estimated 2.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide…
Australia has a possible path to 100% renewables – if governments and business can be persuaded to take it. Australia has a possible path to 100% renewables – if governments and business can be persuaded to take it. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Renewable energy target can go all the way to 100% – if we let it

The political outlook for renewable energy is not great – and I’m not just talking about the view out of Joe Hockey’s car window. The Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to deliver 41 million megawatt-hours…
Greg Hunt says he is confident the Emissions Reduction Fund will meet its target of cutting carbon pollution by 5%. Greg Hunt says he is confident the Emissions Reduction Fund will meet its target of cutting carbon pollution by 5%. AAP Image/Daniel Munoz

Direct Action policy still leaves loopholes open for big polluters

The long-awaited White Paper on the A$2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund answers some questions about how the Abbott government’s Direct Action climate plan will work. But it looks like the policy will…
Better appliances and energy-efficiency rules saved Australians more than A$3 billion on electricity last year alone. Better appliances and energy-efficiency rules saved Australians more than A$3 billion on electricity last year alone. Shutterstock

Energy-smart appliances cut Australian power bills by billions

The latest review of Australia’s energy-saving appliance scheme has delivered a rare trifecta: a good news story for the economy, the community and the environment. According to my estimates from data…
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…
A mini power plant in a North Sydney basement. Trigeneration plants like these generate electricity, heating and cooling far more efficiently than with mains power. A mini power plant in a North Sydney basement. Trigeneration plants like these generate electricity, heating and cooling far more efficiently than with mains power. AAP/Short Communications, Girrit Fokkema

How to save business billions, without cutting renewable jobs

The debate about the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has largely focused on the issue of immediate costs to business. But if we’re thinking about Australia’s long-term economic interests…
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…
Cooling towers at Yallourn, one of Victoria’s major brown coal power generators. Cooling towers at Yallourn, one of Victoria’s major brown coal power generators. Flickr/ccdoh1

Is $15 a year really too much to pay for renewable energy?

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target looks likely to be weakened or even axed, with the Prime Minister saying the scheme needs to be reviewed because it is causing “pretty significant price pressure”. But…
Germany’s Philippsburg nuclear power plant. Is Australia preparing to follow suit? Germany’s Philippsburg nuclear power plant. Is Australia preparing to follow suit? Lothar Neumann/Wikimedia Commons

Sure, let’s debate nuclear power – just don’t call it “low-emission

Nuclear power is back on Australia’s radar. In its recent issues paper released as a preface to September’s Energy White Paper, the Abbott government reopened the debate thus: With environmental considerations…
A plane struggles to keep its course in stormy weather at Amsterdam airport last month. A plane struggles to keep its course in stormy weather at Amsterdam airport last month. EPA/OLAF KRAAK

Flying blind: global climate talks are getting us nowhere

If global aviation was a country, its emissions would be ranked about seventh in the world, between Germany and South Korea on CO2 emissions alone. Yet despite flying being a growing global contributor…
The 2011 Tesla Roadster Sports could hit 100 km/h in less than four seconds and be charged from a standard power point. The 2011 Tesla Roadster Sports could hit 100 km/h in less than four seconds and be charged from a standard power point. AAP Image/Tesla

Will electricity save the car?

Cars defined the 20th century … [They] shaped the wars that were fought, the way cities developed and how people and goods were moved around … [As] we look to alternative technologies to fuel more than…
New homes go up at a housing estate at Cecil Hills in western Sydney. New homes go up at a housing estate at Cecil Hills in western Sydney. AAP/Dean Lewins

Why energy-saving homes often use more energy

Energy efficient houses are often thought to be a promising way to reduce our environmental footprint by using less energy and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, surprisingly, if you consider…
We need a new target: is this the right one? We need a new target: is this the right one? Sean Hobson

New emissions target will test government, but it isn’t enough

Yesterday, the Climate Change Authority released its interim report on future emissions targets. The report recommends two options to replace Australia’s short term (2020) mitigation target of 5% below…
With profitability comes responsibility - will Australia’s emissions reduction policy hold LNG producers to account? With profitability comes responsibility - will Australia’s emissions reduction policy hold LNG producers to account? AAP Image/Kim Christian

Federals faff with carbon, Western Australian emissions skyrocket

The ability of a country to make its mind up says a lot about how prepared it is for the future, its resilience and its competitive standing. How a country goes about reducing its carbon is very revealing…
Once majestic low-lying rainforests, Indonesia’s peatlands now emit around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 a year. Once majestic low-lying rainforests, Indonesia’s peatlands now emit around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 a year. H Dragon/flickr

Indonesia sets a carbon time-bomb

One of the world’s major terrestrial carbon pools is rapidly deteriorating as large parts of Indonesia’s peatlands are deforested and converted to oil palm and paper plantations. No longer a carbon sink…
The secret killer. The secret killer. United Nations Photo

Thousands die early due to air pollution

A recent MIT study claims that total combustion emissions in the US account for about 200,000 premature deaths per year. This enormous figure is not unique. In the UK, roughly 29,000 premature deaths are…
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…
What percentage of the world’s fossil fuel do we have the right to burn? What percentage of the world’s fossil fuel do we have the right to burn? OzinOH/Flickr

Another budget in massive deficit

Now that the federal budget is out of the way, it’s time to look at another budget soon to be massively in deficit – Australia’s greenhouse emissions budget. Last week, atmospheric concentrations of carbon…
On the international stage, China is reluctant to cut emissions. Back home, its new emissions trading scheme will be the world’s second largest. On the international stage, China is reluctant to cut emissions. Back home, its new emissions trading scheme will be the world’s second largest. Flickr/peregrinari

Carbon trading in the Asian Century: China’s ETS on track

In the United Nation’s annual climate change conference held in Doha last December, delegates from 194 countries came together at the last minute to extend the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol is a legally…
In the short term, reducing demand could be bad for the environment, but the long-term view is brighter. In the short term, reducing demand could be bad for the environment, but the long-term view is brighter. Gustavo Durán

Reducing peak demand: lowering prices, but what about emissions?

The past year has seen several processes to reduce the price of electricity to consumers. Each has highlighted the importance of “demand management” - consumers reducing use at peak times to reduce the…
Our opportunity to keep temperature rises below two degrees may have slipped away. Our opportunity to keep temperature rises below two degrees may have slipped away. Ged Carroll

The widening gap between present emissions and the two-degree target

The 2012 global carbon emission summary released today shows an ever-widening gap between rising emissions and the steps necessary to keep global temperatures within the generally agreed - but increasingly…
Everyone seems nervous to talk about changing our diets. Everyone seems nervous to talk about changing our diets. Sumlin/Flickr

Why aren’t we talking about meat and climate change?

Reducing your carbon footprint by eating less red meat rarely gets attention. This strategy has been recommended by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, epidemiologists writing in The Lancet and…
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…
Nice when a few sandstone houses get smoking, but what are people breathing in bigger rural towns where wood stoves are common? Nice when a few sandstone houses get smoking, but what are people breathing in bigger rural towns where wood stoves are common? Flickr/welshmackem

Should we worry about winter chimney haze in rural towns?

Winter in many Australian country towns is accompanied by a pall of smoke from wood-fired heaters that lasts from late afternoon to the following morning. In larger towns and cities burning wood has been…
Behind the times: Europe already had carbon taxes in 1992 back when Vanilla Ice topped the Australian charts. Behind the times: Europe already had carbon taxes in 1992 back when Vanilla Ice topped the Australian charts. AAP/Musicbiz

Start a carbon tax? That’s so 1991. Clean innovation and partnerships is where it’s at

We price carbon. This is nothing new. The first time this explicitly happened, Vanilla Ice hit number one in Australia, and Bryan Adams was topping the global charts with “(Everything I do) I do it for…
This is carbon. The carbon you keep hearing about on the news is probably carbon dioxide. It doesn’t look like this. This is carbon. The carbon you keep hearing about on the news is probably carbon dioxide. It doesn’t look like this. Rui Costa

What is ‘carbon pollution’ and why are we trying to stop it?

You’ll doubtless have heard Australia is introducing a “carbon tax” this Sunday to reduce “carbon pollution”. What is being controlled is not just any carbon but emissions of a specific gas, carbon dioxide…
The media tends to portray Chinese achievements as lacking credibility. The media tends to portray Chinese achievements as lacking credibility. Trey Ratcliffe

Does the Chinese emissions ‘error’ matter?

Recent analyses that China’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions might be 1.2 gigatonnes or 20% higher than previously estimated have generated something of a feeding frenzy in the media; and not just the daily…
China’s emissions keep increasing, but it’s burning less fuel for every increase in GDP. China’s emissions keep increasing, but it’s burning less fuel for every increase in GDP. Bert van Dijk

IEA reveals emissions are up again, but it’s not all bad news

The numbers are just in. At a time when we need to be urgently reducing our CO₂ emissions, we are now emitting more than at any time in human history. However, it’s not too late to turn things around…
Australia is on the lookout for new ways to dig up and burn coal without blowing our emissions budget. Australia is on the lookout for new ways to dig up and burn coal without blowing our emissions budget. AAP/Wesfarmers

Coal’s burning question - how much difference can technology make to emissions?

From time to time, new technologies are proposed to help us use even more of Australia’s abundant coal. Many of these technologies are designed to reduce emissions, either by drying the coal or capturing…
We need a more intelligent discussion about how to use our finite carbon, and it needs to be about metal. We need a more intelligent discussion about how to use our finite carbon, and it needs to be about metal. AAP

Treasure your metal: why we need to respect embedded energy

The recent furore about the carbon tax in this country has not been a celebration of enlightened debate. I think much of the debate misses a vital aspect of carbon use, namely, that using carbon to make…
State governments are walking away from emissions reduction, but it’s thanks to poor policy from the ALP. State governments are walking away from emissions reduction, but it’s thanks to poor policy from the ALP. Takver/Flickr

A flawed carbon pricing scheme lets states dump climate action

In the past few days we have seen two states, Victoria and Queensland, announce cut-backs on action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They have been able to justify this by pointing out, correctly, that…
Melting Arctic Sea ice should be the warning we need about expanding coal exports. Melting Arctic Sea ice should be the warning we need about expanding coal exports. Michael Sonnabend

On Arctic Sea ice melt and coal mine canaries

Despite peak global temperatures in 2005 and 2010 (unprecedented in the instrumental record), a recent sharp plunge in volume of the Arctic Sea ice and a spate of extreme weather events, coal mining, coal…
There are limits to the amount of carbon dioxide plantations can absorb. There are limits to the amount of carbon dioxide plantations can absorb. David Clarke

How much carbon can trees absorb?

Australia’s agriculture and forestry - land-based abatement - can make a valuable contribution to lowering Australia’s greenhouse emissions. The scale of contribution has been widely discussed. But the…
Emissions spiked, thanks to more intensive energy use. Emissions spiked, thanks to more intensive energy use. Louis Vest

The emissions rebound after the GFC: why greenhouse gases went up in 2010

Recessions are not the way to permanently cut greenhouse gas emissions. Global emissions surged during 2010, cancelling out the reductions from the global financial crisis (GFC). Emissions took off in…
Looking at how other jurisdictions, such as Germany, are reducing emissions can help guide Australian policy. Looking at how other jurisdictions, such as Germany, are reducing emissions can help guide Australian policy. AAP

What Australia can learn from the world’s best de-carbonisation policies

Around the world an increasing number of detailed policy road maps are demonstrating the possibility, necessity and urgency of a rapid transition to a just and sustainable post carbon future. The key barriers…
Set the controls for the heart of the sun: recycled, programmable timber shutters on the City of Melbourne’s CH2 building. Set the controls for the heart of the sun: recycled, programmable timber shutters on the City of Melbourne’s CH2 building. City of Melbourne

Intelligent design: time to wise up and build for the climate

There may be no belching smoke stacks to be seen, but every time we thoughtlessly put up a poorly designed structure or resort to energy-intensive solutions to cool, heat, and operate an inefficient building…
Modern motorists have a pile of engine choices. Modern motorists have a pile of engine choices. Flickr/ Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

The rise of diesel: but how cheap and clean is it?

Like many countries, Australia is seeing a growth in the number of diesel vehicles on our roads. Since 2006 the number of registered diesel vehicles has increased by a remarkable 40%; diesel passenger…
Some jurisdictions are pushing for aviation emissions controls, but an international agreement seems far away. Some jurisdictions are pushing for aviation emissions controls, but an international agreement seems far away. Cardiff Friends of the Earth

See you in court: solving aviation emissions is an international mess

Aviation is a growing source of emissions. Emissions from aviation are increasing against a background of decreasing emissions from many other industry sectors. Airlines - with their international reach…
Times have changed; the car industry needs to catch up. Times have changed; the car industry needs to catch up. aussiefordadverts/Flickr

Australian car industry needs lower emissions, not handouts

The Australian Government has been bailing out automotive manufacturers since 1985. Both that year’s Button Plan and the 2008 Bracks Report recommended restructure and additional funding. But unless the…
An ice-free world isn’t impossible – even though it seems the stuff of science fiction. An ice-free world isn’t impossible – even though it seems the stuff of science fiction. Alistair Knock

As emissions rise, we may be heading for an ice-free planet

Last December’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union featured three of the world’s leading climate scientists: James Hansen (NASA’s chief climate scientist), Elco Rohling (National Oceanography Centre…
It’s time to slice through the chit-chat and reach an agreement on aviation emissions. It’s time to slice through the chit-chat and reach an agreement on aviation emissions. donbuciak

Is anyone tough enough to push through an aviation emissions agreement?

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: Whatever fruits ripen out of the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Durban, a global aviation emissions agreement is unlikely to be among them. Thus far, Durban…
Is Australia going down the East Asian high-rise route? Is Australia going down the East Asian high-rise route? eugene

The carbon devil in the detail on urban density

How dense could we be? Very, if you follow much of the commentary in Australian debates about the way we should plan our cities. High-rise residential developments have been springing up in all Australia’s…
CO₂ has the longest residence time, but reducing other GHGs can help us achieve our targets. CO₂ has the longest residence time, but reducing other GHGs can help us achieve our targets. AAP

When it comes to greenhouse gases carbon dioxide isn’t the only culprit

Most of the discussion about slowing the impact of climate change has focussed on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas. Methane, halocarbons and nitric oxide…
Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Enzofloyd/flickr

Explainer: why ocean acidification is the ‘evil twin’ of climate change

Ocean acidification is often referred to as the “evil twin” of climate change. Greenhouse gasses are doing more than just warming the globe. Increasing C0₂ levels are also changing the chemical make-up…
Car ownership is tightly regulated in Chinese cities such as Shanghai. Car ownership is tightly regulated in Chinese cities such as Shanghai. Dr Matthew Burke

Don’t be Shanghaied! China has started down the carbon cutting highway

How often do we hear the argument that Australia’s moves to limit carbon emissions will achieve nothing unless China finally takes some action? This fails to recognise that China’s city mayors, the government…
Our weather systems are changing as the world warms. Our weather systems are changing as the world warms. Satoru Kikuchi/flickr

The Faustian bargain – while we debate the numbers, the planet suffers

Speaking on the ABC, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate science advisor of the German Government, made a point even the least-informed should be able to understand. “Our body temperature…
She’s got the book, but did she read it? Ross Garnaut explains the advice he gave. She’s got the book, but did she read it? Ross Garnaut explains the advice he gave. AAP

Ross Garnaut discusses the economics behind the carbon tax

Top Conversation author Professor Stephan Lewandowsky and former Western Australian Premier Carmen Lawrence were part of a group that sat down with Ross Garnaut during his recent visit to UWA. During the…
Believe it or not, sulphur emissions are keeping us cooler. Believe it or not, sulphur emissions are keeping us cooler. lillicomanche/flickr

Beyond two degrees celsius: sulphur won’t save us for long

The Earth energy balance – the difference between energy/heat absorbed by the Earth from solar radiation and the energy/heat emitted back to space – is currently offset by the cooling effect of sulphur…
Sound the alarm. It’s a scientist’s job to alert the public to the threats of climate change. Sound the alarm. It’s a scientist’s job to alert the public to the threats of climate change. AAP

Speaking science to climate policy

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: CSIRO’s James Risbey explains why it’s not “alarmist” to describe the threat of climate change to the public and how the climate system will respond to half measures. With…
An oil extraction project in Canada – a country absent from the Productivity Commission’s carbon report. An oil extraction project in Canada – a country absent from the Productivity Commission’s carbon report. AAP

An emissions reduction policy beyond comparison?

One of the most basic questions to ask in any analysis of Australia’s carbon policy has always been: what is the rest of the world doing? Last week, the Productivity Commission (PC) published a partial…
The decade ending 2010 was the warmest on record for Australia. The decade ending 2010 was the warmest on record for Australia. AAP

The greenhouse effect is real: here’s why

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Bureau of Meteorology scientist Karl Braganza explains why we know the climate is changing, and what’s causing it. In public discussions of climate change, the full range…
Europe is leading the world in renewable technology. Europe is leading the world in renewable technology. AAP

Bleak emissions outlook points to a renewable future

This week, unpublished estimates from the International Energy Institute showed that 2010 was the most carbon-intensive year in human history. Chief Economist of the IEA Dr Fatih Birol responded to the…
There is a compelling business case to reduce emissions, both here and globally. There is a compelling business case to reduce emissions, both here and globally. AAP

The business case for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

A combination of science and economics provide compelling reasons for policy initiatives and decisions by businesses and households to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The arguments are strongest…
The move away from nuclear energy may be counterproductive. The move away from nuclear energy may be counterproductive. Greenpeace Finland

We can’t abandon nuclear now

It won’t surprise many people that world carbon emissions have failed to slow down, but the fact we’re now at risk of surpassing targets set for nine years hence, intended to limit the global rise in temperature…
Being paid to drive is becoming a thing of the past. Being paid to drive is becoming a thing of the past. Daniel Dionne/flickr

Federal Budget 2011: Honk your horn, the fringe benefits tax is changing

After 25 years, one of the craziest taxation rules in Australia is about to be fixed. The federal government is expected to announce a revamp of fringe benefits tax rules for company cars in Tuesday’s…

Research and News (5)

Research Briefs (27)

Carbon released at highest ever rates

The rate of release of carbon into the atmosphere is nearly ten times as fast as during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum…