2011 Science News of the Year: Environment
Science News, 1 December 2011
Why big energy wants to kill the LRET
Giles Parkinson, Climate Spectator, 16 December 2011
Ever heard of the merit order effect? Readers of this column may be familiar with it, because it is emerging as a key issue in the Australian electricity sector, and a flashpoint between the established fossil fuel generators and the new wave of renewable energy technologies, and a conflict between short term profits and long term gains.
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David Roberts, Grist, 5 December 2011
The consensus in American politics today is that there's nothing to be gained from talking about climate change.
The brutal logic of climate change mitigation
David Roberts, Grist, 8 December 2011
Over the past five years a wealth of analyses have described very different responses to what, at first sight, appears to be the same question: What emission-reduction profiles are compatible with avoiding "dangerous" climate change?
Coalmine a 'threat to global warming target'
David Wroe, SMH, December 19, 2011
The development of coal ''mega-mines'' in central Queensland such as the massive China First project will destroy the world's chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees, Greenpeace says.
NASA: Climate Change May Bring Big Ecosystem Changes
JPL/NASA, 14 December 2011
By 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of Earth's land surface and will drive the conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type - such as forest, grassland or tundra - toward another, according to a new NASA and university computer modeling study.
Carbon tax puts heat on Loy Yang
Lenore Taylor, The Age, December 20, 2011
Loy Yang Power has been forced to ask the corporate regulator for special permission to continue trading in the face of financial strain due to debt refinancing and the carbon tax.
Renewables need not cost more: EU energy chief
Barbara Lewis, Reuters, 15 December 2011
A shift to renewable energy would ultimately cost around the same as business as usual and the EU needs to make progress on setting a 2030 target for greener fuel soon, the bloc's energy commissioner said.
Closing brown coal plants would help meet target
Tom Arup, The Age, December 15, 2011
Almost half of Victoria's 20 per cent emissions reduction target could be met through a federal government program paying to shut heavy-emitting power plants, think tank ClimateWorks says.
Where is the Coalition on clean energy?
Andrew Bray, Climate Spectator, 15 December 2011
The legislation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation next year is looming as a test of how genuinely Tony Abbott and the Coalition support renewable energy.
Insight: Shale gas emissions similar to conventional gas
ERW, 12 December 2012
Several recent studies suggest that the greenhouse gas impacts of shale gas are not substantially different from those of conventional gas. Nathan Hultman and colleagues, writing in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), examine how shale gas compares to conventional gas and coal when used for electricity generation. The researchers estimate that the extraction processes for shale gas do have a small but relatively important impact on the overall lifecycle of greenhouse gas emissions.
Breakthrough could double solar energy output
Dean Kuipers, LA Times, December 16, 2011
A new discovery from a chemist at the University of Texas at Austin may allow photovoltaic solar cells to double their efficiency, thus providing loads more electrical power from regular sunlight.
Value of CSP Increases Substantially at High Solar Penetration
Stephen Lacey, Climate Progress, Dec 19, 2011
With the cost of solar photovoltaic projects declining steadily and cost reductions in concentrating solar power (CSP) projects falling at a slower pace, some are calling 2011 the year that PV killed CSP. In the last year and a half, roughly 3,000 MW of CSP projects in the U.S. have been converted to PV.
How Big Oil beat US carbon standards
Geoff Dembicki, Salon/Climate Spectator, 19 December 2011
When President Barack Obama decided in early November to delay a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline until after the next election, America’s environmental movement celebrated one of its biggest victories in recent memory. And no doubt the news came as a blow to Alberta’s tar sands industry, and to Canada’s oft-stated dream of becoming the next global energy superpower.
Analysis: A world apart
Douglas Fischer, Daily Climate, Dec. 15, 2011
In San Francisco, a massive meeting discussed climate science while in Durban, another huge gathering debated climate politics. Two roads, on opposite sides of the Earth, diverge – and send progress along at very different speedsView Demo
Misinformer Of The Year: Rupert Murdoch And News Corp.
Eric Boehlert & Jeremy Schulman, MMA, December 15, 2011
"This is the most humble day of my life." That's how Rupert Murdoch began his July 20 testimony to Parliament about the phone hacking and bribery scandal that had already resulted in the resignations and arrests of key News Corp. officials.
Wind farm opponents 'aided and abetted' by climate sceptic groups
Ben Cubby, Josephine Tovey, SMH, December 20, 2011
The anti-wind farm movement that is gaining influence in the NSW Parliament is being ''aided and abetted'' by climate sceptic groups and some mining figures.
Which Countries Fail the Most at Climate Leadership?
Arne Jungjohann, Grist/Climate Progress, 14 December 2012
Sweden, the U.K., and Germany: The European trio leads the world in fighting climate change. That’s the finding of the most recent Climate Change Performance Index [PDF], which was released this week at COP 17 in Durban. But Swedes, Brits, and Germans shouldn’t cheer just yet; even their countries are not contributing their fair share.
Plimer’s climate change book for kids underestimates science education
Ian Lowe, The Conversation, 20 December 2011
The forces of climate science denial have geared down a level. Having failed in their attempt to confuse adults and stop the parliament adopting a timid first step in response to climate change, they are now trying to get at schoolkids.
Climate sceptics might just be captive to basic emotions
Paul Biegler, The Age, December 20, 2011
Instant gratification is a powerful, but flawed, human motivator.
Possum Comitatus, Crikey blogs, December 8, 2011
“Australian Exceptionalism”…. let that phrase roll off your tongue. Now stop laughing for a moment if you can!
Durban climate summit was an almost total failure
Gwynne Dyer, Canberra Times, 16 December 2011
The Durban climate summit that ended on Sunday has been proclaimed a great success. The chair, South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told the delegates: ''We have concluded this meeting with [a plan] to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come. We have made history.'' Don't be fooled. It was an almost total failure.
New data on climate change in Himalayas: Earth’s ‘third pole’
Ecos, 12 December 2011
The most comprehensive environmental assessment to date on the impact of climate change on snow and glacier melt in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region shows that rising temperatures are disturbing the balance of snow, ice and water, threatening biodiversity and the livelihoods of the 1.3 billion people living downstream in Asia’s major river basins.
Satellite climate data at 33 years: questioning shaky claims that downplay global warming
Andrew Freedman, WP blog, 20 December 2011
An interesting press release marking the 33rd anniversary of the satellite temperature record makes questionable claims dismissive of the human role in global warming. These claims are not supported by the scientific literature.
Carbon Time Bomb in the Arctic: New York Times Print Edition Gets the Story Right
Joe Romm, Climate Progress, Dec 19, 2011
NY Times science reporter Justin Gillis has just published an excellent overview article, “As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks.” The piece makes clear we may be near a tipping point, citing University of Alaska scientist Vladimir Romanovsky.
As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks
Our Extreme Weather: Is Arctic Sea Ice Loss Partly to Blame?
Jeff Masters, Climate Progress, 17 December 2011
“The question is not whether sea ice loss is affecting the large-scale atmospheric circulation…. It’s how can it not?” That was the take-home message from Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, in her talk “Does Arctic Amplification Fuel Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes?”, presented at last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Texas drought takes cow numbers down by 600K
Betsy Blaney, Associated Press, 16 December 2011
The worst drought in Texas' history has led to the largest-ever one-year decline in the leading cattle-state's cow herd, raising the likelihood of increased beef prices as the number of animals decline and demand remains strong.
Must-See Hansen and Caldeira on Sensitivity: Paleoclimate Record Points Toward Potential Rapid Climate Changes
Joe Romm, Climate Progress, 14 December 2012
Amounts of warming previously thought to be safe may instead trigger widespread melting of the world’s ice sheets and other catastrophic impacts, scientists said…. “There’s evidence that climate sensitivity may be quite a bit higher than what the models are suggesting,” said Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science.
The next 10 years will be very unlike the last 10 years (video)