Watch this: “The Story of Cap and Trade” from the people that brought you “The Story of Stuff”. I love this animation for so many reasons, starting with the Einstein quote in the opening credits, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when [...]]]>
Watch this: “The Story of Cap and Trade” from the people that brought you “The Story of Stuff”. I love this animation for so many reasons, starting with the Einstein quote in the opening credits, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
Annie Leonard outlines that there are three major problems with cap and trade: free permits, false offsetting, and distractions from the real solutions.
Cap and trade has previously been used for sulfur dioxide to stop acid rain. Its success was limited because the permits were over allocated and “banked” by the polluters so that they could drag out their emissions. And while some reports claim that cap and trade worked, a 40% reduction in SO2 emissions is not entirely a success.
K-Rudd recently tried to bring cap and trade to Australia but his Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was opposed and now he is directly attacking the polluters with the proposed Mining Tax. This carbon tax methodology is similar to the cap and trade except that it doesn’t involve trading on the market and has the potential to be implemented fairly by the government.
Unfortunately, these solutions are essentially the same- the carbon tax is just implemented through the government while cap and trade is implemented through the market. Through the market, there are loopholes and incentives to cheat which could lead to the next bubble and stock market crash. Through the government, the same loopholes and cheating incentives exist but the bubble could crash the Australian budget rather than the carbon market. As Annie Leonard points out, a crash in the market (or budget) is too risky when our planet is the collateral. Furthermore, we haven’t really been very creative here… what happened to using a new kind of thinking as Einstein suggested?
K-Rudd couldn’t get the ETS through and now he has shifted to the Mining Tax in an attempt to save his position as Prime Minister. K-Rudd’s incentive relies on the power of the democratic voter. However, there is no monetary incentive to vote for Cap and Trade or the Carbon Tax because both of these methods will potentially lead to less money in the bank as the costs are passed on to the consumer. If there is no incentive to vote for it, then there is no incentive for K-Rudd to bring in the policy. At the moment, green energy costs more than fossil fuel energy and this needs to change. K-Rudd should give money to green energy initiatives now so that the price of green energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy. To fund this we will need to stop fossil fuel subsidies and add the carbon tax. But the only way this will work is if the voters can see that Carbon Tax + Green Energy = no extra cost to consumer. Good luck! I still think we need some more creativity in our solution to this problem.]]>
“The fact that sea snakes have made the transition from terrestrial to aquatic life, makes them the perfect model to study evolution because we can compare traits between land snakes and sea snakes and hence identify selective forces unique to those habitats,” he said.
“The shift from land to water brought with it a new set of challenges, and sea snakes evolved unique physical traits which enabled them to survive in the aquatic environment — a paddle-shaped tail for swimming, valves to close their nostrils and large lungs to provide oxygen while under water.
“Another consistent attribute of sea snakes involves coloration: most are banded rather than unicoloured, blotched or striped. Fouling by algae has also been reported in several groups of sea snakes, and we wondered if maybe a snake’s colour could influence its susceptibility to this.”
“Once we knew there was a relationship between a snake’s colour and the amount of algal fouling, the next step was to determine if a snake’s dark colour was the actual cause of the higher algal levels,” Professor Shine said.
To do this, the researchers suspended plastic snake models — in black, white and black-and-white — in mid water and scored the amount of algal colonisation over the subsequent days. The results showed that colour directly affects the amount of algal growth, with black surfaces attracting the most algae, followed by black-and-white, and white the least.
“The spores of some marine algae settle out preferentially onto dark-coloured objects, which probably explains why the darker snakes hosted higher algal cover,” he said.
The finding raises the crucial question: if snake colour influences rates of algal accumulation, what are the consequences of such accumulation?
“The most obvious such consequence is increased drag and things became really interesting when we tested to see if algal cover affected a snake’s swimming speed. Our locomotor trials revealed a 20 percent reduction in swimming speeds in snakes covered with a heavy coating of algae.”
Dr Linda Tonk and I attended a seminar on Wednesday night- actually the inaugural seminar of the “Insight Seminar Series” organized by the UQ Global Change Institute- given by Clive Hamilton about his new book, Requiem for a Species. I found myself nodding [...]]]>
Dr Linda Tonk and I attended a seminar on Wednesday night- actually the inaugural seminar of the “Insight Seminar Series” organized by the UQ Global Change Institute- given by Clive Hamilton about his new book, Requiem for a Species. I found myself nodding and sometimes laughing at his description of the exact emotions that I had felt over the last few years in dealing with climate change. I was so happy to finally understand the natural human response to “death”. Of course, it starts with denial. I went through this stage as an undergraduate student whilst writing critical essays which looked at both sides of the argument. As an amateur scientist with little climate change knowledge, it was easy to be swayed after reading a handful of peer-reviewed articles for my assignments and I always liked to argue for the sake of arguing (just ask my dad).
Towards the end of my undergraduate degree I did start to see the bigger picture and I had read quite a few more papers at this stage and so I moved to the next stage, Maladaption. Maladaption is a dangerous place to be and it is probably where most of the population sits at the moment. Depression leads to the inability to do anything so I had to pull myself out of that one. Blameshifting also gets you nowhere. Even if China is building a coal power plant every week, we can’t pretend we don’t play a part when we sell them the coal. Australians can lead by example. Up until last night, I was using a part of this Maladaption phase where I would just change the subject whenever climate change was brought up. I cannot answer every question on climate change but ask me specifically about ocean acidification and corals and I can talk all day. So now I am going to move to the final phase where you control your emotions and act. I am no longer going to change the subject in these conversations (but I’ll probably still steer the conversation to my area of expertise).
The other great part of the seminar was the description of the driving force behind the climate scientists (science) and the skeptics (power, money and not the least politics). Even if you can’t understand all the climate science enough to critically dissect the arguments, it makes it easier to pick a side if you understand their motives. Climate scientists are simply presenting their work and understanding of the forces of nature. Climate skeptics, on the other hand, are ultimately annoyed that humankind cannot conquer nature and that unrestrained capitalism does not lead to sustainable living. Linda also liked this part of the seminar:
“My main concern is the widening divergence between the actual climate science and the way it is perceived by the general public. Clive Hamilton’s lecture reminded me about this topic.
As a scientist, I also get confused about all the information and misinformation that exists on climate science. All I want is to know the truth. However, on more than one occasion, my efforts to find simple non -biased answers to my questions on the web has led me straight into the hands of climate denialists propaganda. Not knowing what I’d stumbled upon I feel confident to claim I read these documents with an open mind and I am not ashamed to admit they even had me going in the wrong direction for a few sentences. Because they are good! And this is what scares me the most. It’s all about taking advantage of situations, twisting words and even blatantly lying, but it looks very professionally done!
Of course the general public is confused. On the one hand we have the climate scientists, who by nature just aren’t the best in explaining complicated things and more importantly not prepared for the rules of the game turning dirty. On the other hand there is a seemingly well-organized and professional movement who are obviously very willing to play dirty.
Now we have to rely on media to provide us with neutral information. But how can we when it all just seems to shift towards the opinions of the people with the money and the power. This is the driving force behind climate skeptics and denialists and it IS very powerful. So during last night’s seminar I was reminded by all this and once again confronted with the difficulties of getting the truth out there for the public to understand and establish a well-informed opinion. The one question I was left wondering is who will to step up to the plate and provide the missing link.
My little moment of hope sprung from the realization that by providing clarity on the psychological issues of dealing with climate change and moreover providing insight in the driving forces behind both sides (climate science and denialists) we are a step closer to uncovering true motives and therefore a step closer to understanding the real climate science. Now all that’s left is to find papers and people that are willing to inform the public.”
Afterwards there was a great Q & A section. My favourite part from this section was discussion about the Emissions Trading Scheme and specifically the buying of carbon credits overseas (For example, by saving a rainforest in Papua New Guinea). Hamilton’s response was that this scheme has “loopholes so big that you could drive a hummer through it.” However, when looking to alternatives we need to consider the time and lobbying that will occur before a new idea reaches parliament.
There were so many important concepts brought up at this seminar. It was a great free, public event and I recommend that people attend the future seminars in this series. There is only one thing left to do now: act!]]>
Maldivians only contributed 2.4 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita in 2005 in comparison to Australia at 18.7 and the USA at 19.9 (source: World Resources Institute). Even considering their small contribution, Maldivians still aim to be a carbon neutral country in just 10 years – something our Australian politicians should consider as they play politics with our proposed Emissions Trading Scheme and Renewable Energy Target Bills that will only ratify a fraction of this effort. A rise in sea level between 18 and 59 centimeters will cause the Maldivians to look for refuge in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, India or Australia.
However, in another experiment, the scientists at the University of California at Berkeley continued to monitor the phytoplankton bloom and changes over an annual cycle with “Carbon Explorers”, floats that recorded data down to depths of 800 meters after the iron fertilisation experiment. These floats were placed both near and away from the iron induced phytoplankton blooms. Initially, these researchers discovered evidence in support of the Iron Hypothesis with a phytoplankton bloom leading to movement of carbon particles to at least 100m below the surface and this was reported in Science in April 2004.
Over the longer term the Carbon Explorers observed a different pattern which may be related to complex ecosystem processes that occurred during the following annual cycle. Despite the demise of the phytoplankton bloom the following winter, there was no carbon rain to match. In fact, there was greater particulate carbon falling at the site away from the original iron fertilisation. It turns out that the zooplankton survive the winter at depths below where the phytoplankton live due mixing of the oceans. Storms that cause this mixing create a conveyer belt of phytoplankton to the deeper dwelling zooplankton.
If the water is continually mixed to depths with low light, then the phytoplankton do recuperate and the zooplankton eventually starve. At the site away from the iron fertilisation, the ocean mixing was intermittent and the phytoplankton were able to survive at the surface. The following spring, a bloom in phytoplankton fed the hungry zooplankton and led to increased carbon rain.
It seems that creating the right conditions for increasing oceanic carbon capture is in the hands of Poseidon and not something that can be easily predicted.
(Photograph courtesy of Flickr, zoea drawings from New Quay and UCSD)]]>
Rather than compensating mining companies that are vulnerable to the new emissions trading scheme, the pledged compensation should be used to train employees of these companies with skills that will help them develop innovative designs for efficient energy usage to the commercialisation level. These high emission companies should begin investing in new technologies which could eventually be traded instead of coal to countries like China, in order to spread the improvements in carbon emissions to a global scale. Of course, this is the ten billion ton gorilla in the room that no one quite wants to recognise (at least not publicly!)
Credits to trade-exposed companies and low income households should only be considered to the extent that benefits are not initially received for their investment. Once benefits are realised, this monetary gain must be re-invested into future innovative solutions, thereby replenishing the funding for green solutions. Essentially, we need to amp up the green investment cycle. For example, in the above situation a mining company burdens the cost of training some employees and using their work hours for sustainable development avenues.
Once the company receives return on their investment, re-investment into development of sustainable technologies should occur to the extent of the original “loan” or government credit. Similarly, households given credits, for example, to install solar panels should be encouraged to re-invest the savings on their electricity bills into new innovative technologies. The establishment of this positive feedback loop should be a condition of receiving the credits in order to prevent the misuse of the credits or the undermining of carbon trading.
The missing links in the solutions to climate change are the real ideas that will drive the economy towards sustainable development. Treading softly on this issue is not an option – time is of essence. Another weak link in this much needed cycle is the fact that economic gain is our society’s key motivation and the environment is severely undervalued. The Garnaut Review states that environmental and social costs “are not amenable to conventional measurement”.
In other words, any cost-benefit analysis will not be accurate. Society’s real motivation needs to come from desire to maintain and conserve the environment for future generations. There is no adequate or accurate way to quantify this desire. And there is no way to ensure that that this desire is a top priority of world citizens. It seems that the best way to achieve this goal is to steer people’s actions economically. However, it is unlikely that the outcome will exhibit the same strength when motivated by monetary value.]]>