Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

A warning to the NSW State government about the potential for climate change to affect the economy of rural towns reliant on agricultural income

by David Holland (Grad. Dip Env. Mngt. B.A.S. Env. Planning)

 

I was alerted in recent news about cotton growers in Moree who have had good rains earlier in the year and were expecting a good crop of cotton this year. They were expecting 3.5 bales of cotton a hectare. To compare this with the top producers in 2012-13 this figure is well down on the 12 bales per hectare in this year and only 5 years ago at a time when the yield earned Australia in 2011 $3 billion from the trade. At the time, Australia was the 3rd largest exporter of cotton in the world and produced a high-quality product.

Due to recent hot weather in the Moree region and adjacent regions, estimates of the crop have dropped to 2 bales per hectare. This is possibly due to several factors but the hot day time temperatures would be one of the major factors in stressing the plant during the formation of the boll filling. This would often reduce the quality of the cotton and causes micronaire problems. Any temperatures above 35 degrees will shut down photosynthesis and effectively starve the plant.

During the summer of 2017 there have been a good many days above this temperature. But potentially more damaging to the cotton plant is high night time temperatures which continues the maintenance respiration of the plant through the night to keep it cool. This does not allow the plant to recover from the previous day further reduce the energy in the plant leading to underdeveloped fruit. (Holland, D, (2016) p. 12)

With a climate change scenario developing in NSW, the cotton industry which provides a large amount of Australia’s balance of trade, likely to be hard hit over the next few years, the State government should not only be aware of the issues related to the cotton industry, but start to be proactive to ensure that the industry can adapt to these new permanently changing climate conditions.

There are many rural towns that rely heavily on the profits from the cotton trade. If the cotton trade is damaged by the effects of climate change, then many of these rural towns will be financially effected. The State government and planners need to ensure that farmers and the industry finds ways to adapt so that towns reliant on this industry are not adversely affected economically by climate change in these regions.

I also heard a separate but related news item recently about the increased propensity of farmers taking out crop insurance. They are insuring against crop failures. In a climate change scenario in the cotton industry there will be a greater prevalence of farmers claiming insurance on crop failure and hoping against hope that the weather patterns will reverse and good crops will come again. This may happen for a time, but if a region is in the grip of climate change adverse to the crop in question a range of undesirable financial impacts are likely.

  1. Farmers will continue to farm as they have done and experience more failures.
  2. Farms that have no longer the right conditions for a crop will continue without considering new more viable locations to farm.
  3. Insurance premiums will continue to rise as more farmers call on the insurance to service their financial needs in the year of failed crop.
  4. At some point communities will be in a crisis where insurance is too high for the next year’s crop and crop failure is inevitable. This will potentially cause a town to decline in a fast and unexpected manner at some point.

The State government needs to consider the subject of farm insurance and the viability of the cotton industry in certain areas. If crop failure becomes the norm, then Australia will no longer have such an export bonanza through the cotton industry.

Reference:

Holland, D., (2016), The Cotton Growing Industry near Bourke NSW, A future with Climate Change, Habitat Association, WordPress web site, https://habitatassociation.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/cotton-bourke2.pdf, cited 2017.

 

Climate Change affecting the Cotton Industry in Bourke

As the effects of Climate Change intensify, more primary industries will be affected.

Cotton growing in Bourke may be on the margins but in 2016 is still viable.This paper outlines some important points about how climate change will affect established agricultural industries particularly in marginal and dryer areas on Australia.

The paper was written as part of a Master of Environmental Management study in climate change through Charles Sturt University in 2016.

To read the complete paper follow the link to:

How Climate Change will affect the Cotton Industry in Bourke

The Papers Author

David Holland, Grad Dip Environmental Management, BAS Environmental Management

Renewable Energy Policy Development in Australia from 2001 to 2017

By David Holland

This article has been adapted from assignment work from a Master of Environmental  Management. Subject Environmental Policy.

Under the 1992 United Nations convention on climate change a global strategy was agreed to at the Kyoto meeting in 1997 on combating Climate Change. (European Commission Directorate-General for Research Information and Communication Unit 2003) As a result Australia committed to a series of targets, one of which was a target on renewable energy production. The Howard government agreed to a target of 20% renewable Energy production by 2020. In 2001 the government introduced the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target scheme (MRET). (Kent 2006)

Early on within Australia, very little concern was raised about climate change issues and as a result did not drive the policy agenda for the Australian government. Only after the introduction of the MRET and investment started to flow into this area of renewable energy did the public awareness grow. Even though environmental groups were aware of climate change, it wasn’t until after 2009 when investment became unmanaged and the Gillard government had to split the MRET into two parts, one for small-scale energy systems (Small Renewable Energy Target (SRET)) and one for large-scale projects (Large Renewable Energy Target (LRET)) that public opinions became vocal. (Holland 2010)

This complication in the RET allowed a considerable political attack to be mounted by the Liberal opposition on the mismanagement of the scheme and allowed the media and parliament to build a case for climate change not being real. This started to divert public opinion away from a concerted effort by Australia to reduce carbon omissions.

By the 2013 federal election many Australians believed that climate change was not really occurring in the face of a much quieter scientific community who had the damning data that exposed the facts of not only climate change occurring but that the climate change the world was experiencing was human induced (anthropogenic) and was poised to course damage to the earths biological system.

As indicated above, originally the Australian government was under pressure from the United Nations to participate in the Kyoto protocol, however environmental groups in Australia were agitating for inclusion and action within Australia, but the softening of policy after the 2013 election was as a result of pressure put on the government by big business through impassioned advocates for the case of climate change does not exist and latter that it is not anthropogenic climate change.

As a result, the government in 2015 took the step to reduce the LRET arguing that a reduction from 41,000GwH to 26,000 GwH was an acceptable target by 2020. Parliament finally agreed on a 33,000 GwH target adjustment for large projects.

As a result of these policy changes, renewable energy investment is at risk in 2015 within Australia, while the world trend is for more investment. (Frankfurt School-UNEP Centre/BNEF. 2015) (Uibu, Katri, 2015, ABC News).

This policy change had no direct public support, but was part of a perceived mandate by the people at the 2013 federal election when the Liberal Party gained power. This election was fort over the carbon pollution reduction scheme and putting a price on carbon (Carbon Planet). After the election the new government implemented a new scheme called the carbon emissions reduction scheme, which was regulated by the Clean Energy regulator and funded by the Emissions Reduction Fund.

The real reason the government changed the way a reduction scheme would operate from a carbon market to a emissions regulation system was because businesses were seeing the costs of producing goods rising and households were seeing power prices rising.

The government has kept a lot of the detail of the Carbon Emissions Reduction scheme out of the media and as a result people have no clue as to how much money is being spent on this scheme and even what the resultant emission reductions achieved actually are. Many would be apathetic as to the efficiency of this policy and will only be outraged when they are actually told the cost of the program. (Hannam 2015)

Still there are others that are happy that their wallets are not being hit with high power prices and have no interest in the future expenses that may occur when climate change starts to affect economic circumstances out of the control of the government. (Remeikis 2015)

So the new system has quieted the public outrage of increased power prices, but there is still concern in the environmental lobby that Australia is not doing enough and not sharing enough of the burden to reduce carbon emissions. (Sturmer, Jake 2015)

As mentioned earlier the policy of the RET was introduced by the Howard government in 2001 at 9500GWh. A review in 2003 found that by 2007 the incentive to invest in renewables would decline. As a result Victoria in 2006 started a scheme called the “Victorian Renewable Energy Target”. Due to the need to give more incentive for investment the Gillard government in 2009 increased the target to 45,000 GWh, a 20% renewable mix. Later in 2009 it was found that small renewable energy projects had devalued the price of the Renewable Energy Certificates (REC)s affecting the investment returns for large scale projects. The MRET was split in February 2010 allowing 41,000 GWh for large projects with a cap on the price of a small scale REC of $40 and an allocation of 4000GWh. (Holland 2010 pp.6) (St John 2014)

Pressure on the Liberal government in 2015 by the power companies and an argument that had arisen, and argument that the LRET is impacting the budget, a proposal was put by the Liberal government that the target should be reduced to 26,000GWh by 2020. Since the LRET costs are bourn by the consumer at about 5% of the cost of electricity, it is difficult to understand how this impacts on the budget. Due to Labor Party pressure and the cross benches, parliament only reduced the LRET to 33,000GWh. (Burge 2014)

After the Labor party agreed to the 33,000 Gwh compromise in the parliament for the LRET there was considerable negative sentiment for the decision in the Labor movement. Labor members, who are a cross-section of Australia from all areas both rural and urban, and after a survey of 365 branches across Australia voted, (in most cases unanimously), to increase the target to a massive 50% by 2030, which was well publicised as a policy change by Labor as courageous. (Wade 2015)(Kenny 2015)

As we move from 2016 into 2017, little change seems to be on the horizon to address the impending impacts of climate change into the future, even as we continue to break weather records on a monthly basis which could be the canary that indicates that we are experiencing increasing effects of climate change.

 

References:

Holland, D.(2011), Renewable energy initiatives budgeted by the Gillard government, Habitat Association, https://habitatassociation.com.au/2011/06/11/renewable-energy-initiatives-budgeted-by-the-gillard-government/

Holland, D.,(2011), Influencing the Australian Federal Government on Renewable Energy Policy, Habitat Association, https://habitatassociation.com.au/2011/12/21/influencing-the-australian-federal-government-on-renewable-energy-policy/

Habitat centre for renewable energy,(2011), The introduction to Renewable Energy production on the Central Coast and Lower Hunter in New South Wales (NSW), https://habitatcenterforrenewableenergy.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/the-introduction-to-renewable-energy-production-on-the-central-coast-and-lower-hunter-and-new-south-walessw/

Anthea, Bill., Mitchell, William, Welters, R., A policy report, a just transition to a renewable energy in the hunter region, Australia, Report commissioned by Green Peace Australia Pacific, Centre for full employment, University of Newcastle, http://e1.newcastle.edu.au/coffee/pubs/reports/2008/CofFEE_Just_Transition/Just_transition_report_June_30_2008.pdf

Long, Stephen, (8th July 2014), Solar experts say Australian renewable energy investment being stifled by Government policy, ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-07/renewable-energy-investment-killed-by-government-policy/5575262

Clean Energy Council, Renewable Energy target, (2015), https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/policy-advocacy/renewable-energy-target.html

The Conversation, (July 22, 2015), How much would Labor’s 50% renewable energy policy cost Australian households?, https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/policy-advocacy/renewable-energy-target.html

Climate Council, The Australian Renewable Energy race – Which States are winning or losing, http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/ee2523dc632c9b01df11ecc6e3dd2184.pdf

Climate Council, about, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/about-us

Holland, D. (2010) The Renewable Energy Report Card Don’t Sell Australia Short Discussion Paper, Habitat Web site, https://gallery2020publishing.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/the-renewable-energy-report-card-identification-of-renewable-energy-sources-revision.pdf

Wikipedia, Renewable Energy in Australia, Government policy, The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Australia

European Commission Directorate-General for Research Information and Communication Unit, (2003), Renewable energy technologies and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, United Nations, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Printed in Belguim, http://www.eurosfaire.prd.fr/sustdev/documents/pdf/Renewable_Energy_kyoto-mechanisms_en.pdf

Kent, A., Mercer, D.(2006), Australia’s mandatory renewable energy target (MRET): an assessment , Journal Energy Policy, Vol. 34, Issue 9, Page 1046-1062, Research repository, RMIT, Publisher Elsevier Science, https://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:8447

Frankfurt School-UNEP Centre/BNEF.( 2015). Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015, http://www.fs-unep-centre.org (Frankfurt am Main) Copyright © Frankfurt School of Finance & Management gGmbH 2015, http://fs-unep-centre.org/sites/default/files/attachments/key_findings.pdf

Uibu, Katri, (2015), Renewable energy investment: Government ‘sabotages’ thousands of jobs as it ends wind, solar power investment, Australian Solar Council warns , ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-13/government-‘sabotages’-thousands-of-solar-energy-sector-jobs/6615778

Carbon Planet, Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, http://www.carbonplanet.com/CPRS ,

Clean Energy Regulator, About the mechanism, http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/Infohub/CPM/About-the-mechanism

Sturmer, Jake, (14 Aug 2015), Government’s ‘substantially weaker’ emission reduction targets not enough, Climate Change Authority says, , Reported by, ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-14/emission-reduction-targets-not-enough-climate-change-authority/6699034

Wade, Felicity, (May 2015), LEAN response to CFMEU on renewable energy targets, Labor Environmental Activists Network, http://www.lean.net.au/lean_response_to_cfmeu

Hannam, Peter, (Nov 2015), Turnbull climate plan to deliver only one seventh carbon cuts: climate institute, Sydney Morning Herald,  http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-climate-plan-to-deliver-only-oneseventh-carbon-cuts-climate-institute-20151110-gkvwx6.html#ixzz42ewVwnai

Remeikis, Amy, Electricity prices likely to drop: LNP, Labor claiming credit, 30th April 2015, Brisbane Times, http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/electricity-prices-likely-to-drop-lnp-labor-claiming-credit-20150430-1mwtee.html

Noonan,  Andie , (2015), Paris climate talks: What have world leaders had to say on climate change?, , ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-30/world-leaders-on-climate-change-ahead-of-paris-talks/6847992

COAG paper, RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET SCHEME DESIGN, https://www.coag.gov.au/sites/default/files/Renewable_Energy_Target_Scheme.pdf

St John, Alexander, Dr.(2014), The Renewable Energy Target: a quick guide , Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Section, Australian Parliament, http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1314/QG/RenewableEnergy

Burge, Ben, (19 Sep 2014),The dirty dozen myths of the RET debate , The Australian Business review, http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/9/19/renewable-energy/dirty-dozen-myths-ret-debate

 

 

 

What causes climate change and how will it effect global environmental and economic systems?

By David Holland,
Grad. Dip. Environmental Management, B.A.S Env. Planning.
This article has been derived from research related to studies in the subject climate change impacts, mitigations and adaptation compiled by Professor Andrew Rawson as part of a Master of Environmental Management at CSU. 

This blog is about a scenario of a briefing note to a minister on anthropogenic climate change.

This briefing note is to a government official somewhere in the world whom is somewhat convinced of the existent of climate change and recognises that climates do change over thousands and even millions of years, but is unsure of the fact that the effects of climate change are actually caused by man-made processes and that the burning of fossil fuels has made any difference to something as fundamental as the climate. He is unconvinced that a few degrees will make any large difference to the climate in the long or short term and such changes, he would suggest, would have little effect of the national or world economies. (A. Rawson 2016)

This note below is an attempt to convince a government politician of the need for urgent action to reduce the causes of anthropogenic climate change. Climate change that will occur in the near future that will affect global natural and economic systems.

A fictitious briefing notes to a Minister on anthropogenic climate change

 From the start of the industrial revolution in the 1880’s, the world has used fossil fuel energy to power an ever increasing amount of applications for industry and the home through coal powered electricity generation and fossil fuel powered transport. The invention of the steam engine and then the coal fired steam turbine has been at the forefront of the transformation. In the early 1900’s Road transport changed from bullocks to truck and buggies to cars, both powered by the application of burning fossil fuels in the form of petrol and diesel.

Staggering amounts of oil based fuels are used every day. Coal is still used in very high quantities to power all our homes and workplaces even though many countries have small plants of more sustainable fuels to generate power. The use of this type of fuel has a cost and that cost is the by-product of the burning process which is carbon dioxide (CO2).

In pre-industrial times humanity burnt wood and then trees were replaced by natural processes or planted giving the opportunity for more wood fuels to be burnt and the cycle did not add a considerable amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, but over the last 150 years mankind has been mining fossil deposits at an ever increasing rate and burning this to produce energy. These fossil deposits are materials laid down over millions of years. These materials contain carbon that has not seen the light of day for millions of years and now millions of tons of this material is burnt and produces tons of CO2, liberating it to the global atmosphere.

As a result, the carbon cycle from plants to the atmosphere is now out of balance. This means that there is a CO2 positive contribution to our atmosphere.

But out of that positive contribution 93% of the CO2 is able to be absorbed by the ocean and other carbon sinks. So where is the problem?

The problem is that the CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as methane and nitric oxide create a warming effect in the atmosphere. This warming is created by the suns radiation being converted to heat energy when it hits the land and the heat being trapped in the atmosphere by these GHGs.

As the concentrations of these gases increase over time more heat is retained and the average global temperature increases in the atmosphere. This increase is set to change global climate.

That means that although we will still have cooler days and warmer days, overall combined the temperature will be warmer.

Increased global temperatures will also have a flow on effect where warmer atmospheres will make the oceans warmer. Warmer oceans will affect a range of weather patterns over time through changes both to evaporation patterns and the potential for oceanic currents to change. 

 Monsoon rains will move from the tropics to the temperate zones. There will be more precipitation along the coastal regions and less in the interior. There will be bigger storms creating more damage to life and property.

With warmer atmospheres and warmer oceans there will be more glacial retreat and more melting of the sea ice in the polar regions. This will affect the food supply, breeding habits and habitat of many cold region animals.

Agriculture will be affected in the inland due to less rainfall. Coastal regions will have higher storm surge events creating flooding.

With the warming of the oceans, the melting of polar ice and the melting of mountain ice caps there will be more water in the oceans and with higher temperatures there will be an expansion of the sea water, both contributing to an overall sea level rise along our coastlines.

This sea level rise increases the risk of storm flooding and will affect not only private property but sensitive eco-systems in salt marshes and freshwater wetlands. It will affect low lying agricultural land and the net result will be higher insurance premiums.

It is true that the climate has changed over the period of the earth’s existence, but present changes are much more rapid than the earth has ever seem.

 Although there have been many extinctions over the years, because of this rapid change many more organisms will be at risk simply because they will not have the capacity to move in the face of this rapid change. In past global warmings and coolings extended over thousands of years. Animal species and their food sources had time to migrate to suitable climates. But this climate change event is different and ecological systems will be severely affected.

Coral’s symbionts are sensitive to warmer water and on many occasions over the last few years coral bleaching has occurred were these symbionts have been killed off.

Polar bears are reducing in numbers due to the sea ice retreating and now in 2016 very little remains in many areas of the habitat of the polar bear.

There have been paleoclimate changes in the past. Ice ages and interglacial periods have often been driven by changes in the earth’s orbit. And as far as can be determined the earth is now in an orbital pattern that should be providing cooler climate conditions, but in opposition to this pattern the earth is heating up. (according to recorded data over the last hundred years and from ice core data going back in time over 400,000 years)

By assessing the ice core data and correlating the atmospheric temperatures when the ice was laid down and measuring the concentrations of CO2 found in tiny air bubbles in the samples, scientist can make a correlation of the temperature and the CO2 concentrations over that 400,000 year period.

Their data analysis concludes that long term temperature trends are affected by CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

But there is a large amount of CO2 mixing with the ocean waters and this is tending to acidify the oceans ever so slightly. This, over time, may have an effect on a range of marine animals not least shell accreting molluscs which may find it harder to build shells in acidic conditions.

Warming seas causing more coastal precipitation could produce fresher waters in coastal regions and saltier waters in mid oceans, potentially altering subduction patterns, which in turn could alter sensitive and important ocean currents.

Changes to these currents, in particular currents that bring nutrients from the ocean floors could affect food chains for fisheries in some regions.

It is not just about the atmosphere warming it is about changes to a range of ecological system that will affect human habitation and our life style long term.

 If we were to consider the precautionary principal, we should reduce our emissions of CO2 immediately. But it is evident that the volume of new CO2 that has been poured into the environment over the last 150 years is massive and it has to have gone somewhere.

The volumes of methane (one of the GHGs) from agriculture that goes into the air from farm practices and animal husbandry is massive let alone what emanates from land fill.

The amounts of nitrates (that produce nitric oxide another GHG) that come from agricultural fertilisers and from other source is huge and all contribute to not only global warming but a range of other effects as well.

Can the planet cope with the CO2 humanity is producing? The answer is yes it can for a period, but when the oceans become effectively saturated with the gas CO2 and conditions for the growth of phytoplankton at the bottom of the food chain in the oceans becomes too toxic for them and they die, the oceans will become hypoxic and will no longer be able to absorb the CO2. In fact, the oceans will tend to produce CO2 putting it back into the atmosphere. By then large amounts of the oceans will be unable to sustain habitats for many marine creatures.

 It is evident that man-made CO2 emissions is not just about global warming and a shift of warmer climates towards the poles, it is about fundamental changes to the way ocean currents run which effect global weather patterns. It is about fundamental and deep changes to ecologies and the very survival of mankind in the medium and long term or at least how humanity lives and what resources will be available to help create any kind of stable economy into the future.