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Riduna

 

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Australia - Moving to Renewable Energy

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Riduna &

Solar and Wind­

Australia’s six States and two Territories have always had primary responsibility for implementing policies on the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables as an energy source.  As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of solar and wind farm applications which have been approved.  Indeed, it is predicted that if the rate of those approvals were sustained, it could see Australia generate over 50% of its national electricity needs from renewables sources by 2025, making it a world leader in this field.  

Meanwhile, the Federal Government – a coalition of the National Party (mostly climate change deniers), and Liberal Party, (with a deeply conservative right wing) are torn between a fervent desire to see domestic use of coal fired generation expanded, meeting their commitments under the Paris Accord to reduce emissions and maintaining electricity delivery to consumers at reduced cost.  How they expect to achieve reduced cost when new coal-fired electricity is far more expensive than renewable energy is not explained.  Nor is the fact that Australia’s emissions are expected to rise despite Federal payments to emitters costing taxpayers $2.3 billion aimed at reducing them.

For their part, State Governments have been approving proposals of investors in solar and wind power so as to ensure a smooth transition from aging coal fired power generators to new, clean, solar and wind farm generators.  The level of investment in grid-scale renewable generators in 2017 reached $1.385 billion spent on completion and commissioning 20 projects comprising 6 wind and 7 solar farms, 1 hybrid, 1 hydro and 4 bioenergy schemes - and the world's largest grid scale battery.  Combined, these projects have capacity to generate 1,013 MW and created an estimated 1,500 jobs during construction.

State Governments have approved 36 additional renewable energy projects on which construction is scheduled to complete in 2018.  These projects, involving investment of $5.664 billion are expected to have created an estimated 4,900 jobs during construction, mostly in rural areas where employment opportunities are often low. When commissioned, these projects will have capacity to generate about 2,742 MW and providing increased competition among renewable energy generators.

Fig. 1 Distribution of projects completed and commissioned in 2017 and 2018.  Note the surge of activity in 2018 completions in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.  Source: Data published by the Clean Energy Council and other sources.

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24 comments


China's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted on 31 October 2018 by Riduna &

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses so we should be particularly interested in the level of its emissions, as well as the success of the practices and policies it pursues to reduce them. After all, China’s emissions are likely to have the greatest influence on future global warming and our ability to keep average global temperature rise to less than 2°C above those of the pre-industrial era.

However, CO2 emissions in 2017 for China are not known with any accuracy, even by the Chinese government.  Some estimates suggest 9.8 gigatonnes (Gt.), while others claim it to be 11.7 Gt.  Clearly both can not be right and it is possible that both estimates could be wrong.

CFC-11 Emissions

The 1987 Montreal Protocol has been signed by China and 197 other countries.  The Protocol commits all countries to abolish production and use of ozone depleting halocarbon gasses to zero by 2010 because they destroy the ozone layer which protects the earths surface from harmful ultra violet radiation.  Halocarbons are also very powerful greenhouse gasses, particularly CFC-11 which has a lifetime in the atmosphere of 45 years or more

The Kigali Amendment (2016) further requires phase-down of all hydrofluorocarbon gasses which have a greenhouse effect, some of which can be used as a substitute for halocarbons.

If all countries had complied with the Montreal Protocol, it should have been expected that global CFC-11 emissions would have fallen sharply after 1995 when developed countries were required to reduce their production and use and to zero by 2010 when all other countries ceased production.  However, as show in Fig. 1, this is not what has happened.

Fig. 1.  Decline in CFC-11 emissions predicted by the 1987 Montreal Protocol compared with actual emissions recorded by NOAA.   Source:  Montzka et al., 2018.

On the basis of air samples taken in South Korea, NOAA’s Dr Montzka concluded that the likely source of CFC-11 emissions was in east Asia, even though all countries in that region reported to the UN administering authority that they remained in compliance with the Montreal Protocol.

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6 comments


There Will Be Consequences

Posted on 6 March 2018 by Riduna &

Emissions

It snows in Antarctica and has done so every day for millions of years. As it snows, air is trapped among the snowflakes. As snowflakes accumulate their combined weight increases, compressing lower layers into ice. Air trapped among the snowflakes become air bubbles in the ice and the deeper the ice, the older the air bubbles.

Drilling down through the ice has recovered ice cores containing air bubbles over 800,000 years old. Placing ice from these cores in a vacuum tube, then allowing it to melt releases ancient air. This is then analysed to find out what gases are present in the recovered air sample, an exercise which has been repeated again and again from air samples stretching back over millennia.

This air is analyzed, revealing the changing composition of Earth's atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in this 800,000 year record (fig 1).

 

Fig 1. minimum and maximum volume of CO2 correspond to the coldest period of ice ages and thermal maxima during interglacial periods.

The record shows that during the coldest periods – ice ages – the average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been found to be 175 ppm. By contrast, during thermal maxima, concentration rises to around 285 ppm. By mid 2017, CO2 concentration had reached an unprecedented 406.5 ppm, or 40% above normal.

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17 comments


The Key To Slowing Global Warming

Posted on 10 January 2018 by Riduna &

We all know that global warming is causing climate change characterised by increasingly severe weather events which damage property, destroy food crops and is likely to have catastrophic effects with multi metre sea level rise later this century. Strong winds and floods, forest fires and droughts are more common and cause damage which, each year, is more expensive to repair and may eventually be beyond repair.

We also know that the prime cause of global warming is human activity involving the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – to meet our energy needs for transport propulsion and electricity generation. At the same time, we are actively engaged in destruction of carbon sinks – forests and woodlands, warming oceans - in order to meet the needs of a burgeoning population, while also increasing the number of methane producing animals and crops such as cattle, chickens and rice.

Most of us realise that if we are to avoid catastrophic events in the future – or indeed survive as a species on this planet – we must, at the very least, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What has to be done?  It’s simple. Reduce and eventually stop burning fossil fuels, the major source of greenhouse gasses, and do so as rapidly as possible. We recognize the need to plant trees to replace those cut down and to modify our diet by replacing meat with other similar tasting nutritious products enabling reduction of animal herds and their emissions. Yet action taken globally is just the opposite of these measures.

There are two approaches to curbing use of fossil fuels: (a) make them more expensive by imposing a carbon tax on them and (b) provide an alternative renewable energy source which is cheaper, cleaner and more readily available.

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58 comments


Australia's Transition to Renewable Energy

Posted on 19 September 2017 by Riduna &

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull rightly points to the need for reliable, affordable electricity supply. He knows that 75% of Australia’s existing coal-fired power stations have passed their design date, increasingly pollute the atmosphere and operate inefficiently. In early 2017 he argued that since Australia is the worlds largest coal exporter, they should be replaced with ultra-supercritical coal fired generators. Recognising that ultra-supercritical generators are very expensive to build, he hinted that the cost of their construction might be subsidised by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a government agency funded to promote clean energy rather than coal use.

The Energy Minister, Josh Frydenburg went further, claiming that ultra-supercritical generators would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40% and with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, carbon emissions could be reduced by about 90%. He went on to repeat his assertion that uncertainty of supply and high cost of electricity in South Australia, was the product of a too rapid transition to renewable power generation.

More recently, AEMO warned that S.A. and Victoria could experience black-outs over the next 2 years and that closure of Liddell Power Station in 2022 could result in a potential shortfall of electricity supply in NSW.   The response from Turnbull was to repeat criticism of Labor State Governments for over-rapid transition to renewable energy, their failure to provide adequate storage back-up and to call for Liddell to be refurbished and kept open for 5 years beyond its intended closure date.

Critique

The first comment to make on these observations is to deplore that the imperative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions should made a political football. It is high time that Australia’s major political parties got together to formulate an effective science-based national policy on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The need for this transition, worldwide, needs to be both rapid and orderly since it is very likely to mediate our ability to survive on this planet.

 

Fig 1. One of 22 electricity pylons in the North Midlands of S.A., destroyed by an extreme wind event in September, 2016, causing a state-wide blackout. Photo: ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch.

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9 comments


Problems For Oil

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Riduna &

The importance of oil should not be underestimated as an energy source – and a pollutant. Almost every form of transport is dependent on it and its refined products and the present economy would not have been created without it. Most of it is burned by vehicles propelled by the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), enabling transport of people and goods world-wide. As the number of vehicles increases, so does demand for oil and its derivatives. Little wonder then that oil companies should regard their product as having a long, profitable and relatively secure future.

When it comes to talking about Peak Oil, we often think of it in terms of the point at which the yield from recoverable oil deposits begins to decline. With thawing in the Arctic, new oil deposits are likely to become available, giving the oil industry additional confidence that it will be able to sustain production for at least the next 50 years. Were the industry to think of Peak Oil in terms of the point at which demand for oil begins to decline, then its confidence in being able to sustain production for the next 50 years would seem misplaced for some, if not all kinds of oil.

 

Table 1. Showing difference in characteristics of the 5 groups of oil produced. Source: Data derived from the Carnegie Oil Climate Index covering 25% of global production in 2014.

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11 comments


Why Coal Is Not Our Future

Posted on 15 December 2016 by Riduna &

Coal Problems

Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has repeatedly asserted that coal will remain in use for electricity generation for ‘many, many decades to come’. He argues that moving to renewable energy would reduce production and use of coal resulting in unacceptable loss of mining and transport jobs, particularly in rural areas. However, the threat of larger job losses did not stop his predecessor from withdrawing subsidies for the car industry, resulting in its closure nationwide - action supported by the present Prime Minister.

Recently, Energy Minister Friedenberg asked Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel, to prepare a Discussion Paper on electricity security during the transition to renewable energy. The Paper, presented to the Prime Minister and Premiers on 9 December, 2016 recommended that an energy intensity scheme be applied to the electricity generating sector. This would see the highest emitters leave electricity generation and promote orderly replacement of coal by gas and, increasingly, renewable energy generators.

The Paper reported that existing policies lacked clarity and certainty for investors and would not achieve Australia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, given under the Paris Agreement. Even before recipients of the paper had time to consider it, the Prime Minister rejected its main conclusions.

In declaring coal Australia’s present and future energy source, Turnbull has chosen to ignore the dangers of coal production and use to public health or, more accurately, public death. Clear evidence shows that coal mining in Australia not only causes respiratory problems through inhalation of airborne particles but that this results in the incurable ‘black lung disease resulting in a slow and painful death. Its combustion in power stations results in emissions which increase the incidence and severity of health problems among populations living up to 100 km away.

As the Prime Minister knows, coal has to compete with renewable clean energy sources, particularly solar and wind. It’s a no brainer of course. Coal has to be purchased at a price which sustains production, while sunlight and wind are free. At present coal can compete because neither solar or wind can do what coal does – reliably produce electricity 24/7. What clean energy sources can do and are increasingly doing, is make inroads into the amount of electricity generated by coal or other fossil fuels, thus reducing the amount of coal burned for this purpose.

The operative words are “at present”. At present, coal relies on the fact that electricity can only be stored to provide for a few hours demand, or at most a day or so. Given the location of wind and solar farms, it is quite possible that neither wind nor sunshine is continuously available to keep them operating 24/7 and when this occurs, coal fired power stations must be available to provide any shortfall. But will this always be the case for the ‘decades to come’ which Malcolm Turnbull assures us is the time span for on-going use of coal? Well, no.

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22 comments


Mitigation in Australia

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Riduna &

Need to Curb Emissions

If we continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions at the current rate average global temperature could rise 1.5°C above the pre-industrial within a decade and 2°C by 2040. A rise of 2°C is likely to produce an increasingly dangerous climate which could make some parts of the world uninhabitable, accelerate ice melt and sea level rise and threaten our ability to feed a growing global population. And now, some climate scientists are debating the possibility of a 3°C rise before 2100. That would prove catastrophic.

If we wish to avoid scenarios where populations are driven from their homes by flood or starve because of drought or deluge producing crop failures, it is imperative that we avoid a rise of 2°C this century. The chances of our achieving this by replacing combustion of fossil fuels with clean energy source – and achieving this in a timely manner – are rapidly diminishing, given that average global temperature is already 1.3°C above the pre-industrial.

The current level of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and the rate at which they continue to rise makes it imperative that they be reduced. To this end, technologies have been developed by the more advanced economies which can reduce demand for energy, significantly speeding up the rate at which we can reduce fossil fuel use. These ‘mitigating’ technologies are continually being improved and in the European Union and North America have been deployed to great effect. Yet in Australia, their use is at best disorganized, lacks uniformity at National or State level and at a local level is at best tokenistic or does not occur at all.

Fig. 1.   Comparison between atmospheric concentration of CH4 and CO2 over the last 400,000 years and their effects on average global temperature to 2013. Source: R.Morrison, Wikipedia.

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13 comments


Will Fossil Fuel Prices Fully Recover?

Posted on 4 March 2016 by Riduna &

World market prices for coal have slumped and for months languished at around US$ 45/tonne, compared to US$95/tonne in February, 2014.  Over the last 2 years, coal prices have more than halved and fallen almost every month.

For weeks, crude oil prices have been around US$ 30-33/barrel, sometimes falling as low as $26/barrel. Some forecasters (Goldman Sachs) predict that oil prices could stay low and do so for longer than predicted. 

Some question if fossil fuel prices will ever recover given the emergence of disruptive technologies making electricity generation from renewable sources increasingly competitive with fossil fuels, even at their present depressed prices.  Others point to agreement by OPEC to reduce production in order to stimulate price.  However, that agreement has only been reached by 3 OPEC members (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela) and Russia - then only when confronted by Iranian production coming on to the world market, following the lifting of international sanctions. It is seen by some as an ineffectual move to restore oil prices, since the agreement is not to exceed record high January pumping levels.

Far more certain is that the present price malaise is a taste of the state of things to come for those who have invested in the shares of fossil fuel producers.  Without sustained price recovery, the value of shares in some fossil fuel companies will decline and could eventually wind-up as stranded assets of little or no value.  Evidence of this is seen in closure of coal mines and the unsustainable position of oil and gas producers using older technology where cost of pumping oil and gas is close to or below its market value.

The Future of Oil

Fig 1.  IEA Estimates of global supply (green) and demand (yellow) for crude oil with surplus production (Rt hand scale) held in store (blue).  Estimates assume effective OPEC action to limit supply, yet be evidenced, which could see oil price recover to around $105/bbl.  Source: IEA

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16 comments


G R A P H E N E

Posted on 10 November 2015 by Riduna &

Have you heard of Sir Andre Geim?

You should have heard of him. In 2004 he, together with his research colleague Sir Konstantin Novoselov, made what is likely to prove the most momentous achievement of the 21st century. They isolated the 2 dimensional material graphene, identified many of its extraordinary properties and subsequently described other 2 dimensional materials. Their work is of such importance that both were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, knighted by the Queen and by the King of the Netherlands and over the past decade have been showered with numerous honours and awards.

Properties

Graphene does not occur naturally. It is produced from pure graphite by stripping away layers of the material until left with a single layer – a feat initially achieved using adhesive tape. It comprises atoms of carbon linked together in a hexagonal pattern forming a sheet one atom (0.35 nm) thick. 1 gram of graphene is sufficient to cover an area of 2,630 square metres and one square metre weighs 0.77 milligrams.

Fig. 1 Atomic structure of graphene. Each atom in the hexagon lattice is only 0.14 nm apart, preventing passage of any molecule.  Source: Wikipedia.

It is a very stable, chemically inert material which has x200 the strength of steel yet is malleable - its surface area can be stretched by 20%. It can be folded and crumpled, vastly increasing its surface area within the confines of a very small space. Graphene is an excellent thermal conductor and in its pure form is 97.7% transparent.

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32 comments


Who is Paying for Global Warming?

Posted on 8 May 2013 by Riduna &

Yang and Cui (2012) have written a carefully researched Paper detailing the funding and increased use of coal likely over the next decade.  They show that growing demand for and use of coal seems assured by availability of funding, much of it on concessional terms, to build 1,199 new coal burning power plants.  None of these new plants includes carbon capture and sequestration in their design because present technology is prohibitively expensive to use.  Consequently all will emit carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, accelerating growth in its concentration and global warming.

It is not known how many of these power plants (some may) include flue scrubbers able to effectively prevent aerosol emissions but it seems likely that their operation could significantly increase aerosol pollution.  Of concern is that aerosol emissions could result in soot deposits on ice and frozen land surfaces, increasing absorption of solar energy and speeding up melting.  This would result in speedier loss of albedo and carbon emissions from degrading permafrost and rise in average global sea level.

Public Funding

Table 1.  New coal fired power stations proposed for construction in 59 countries. Details available at Source.

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12 comments


Food Security - What Security?

Posted on 5 April 2013 by Riduna &

Over the next 50 years, global population is expected to rise by over 40%, from 7 billion at present to about 10 billion by 2065.  If we pursue a “business as usual” approach to CO2 emissions, can we to feed such a massive increase in population?  The answer appears to be an emphatic “No”.  Even if anthropogenic CO2 emissions were reduced to zero by 2050 (unlikely) the only peaceful alternative to extensive malnutrition, starvation and food wars is to curb CO2 and population growth.

Ongoing anthropogenic emissions have increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from ~280 ppm in 1750 to almost 396 ppm now and increased the volume absorbed by seawater.  The rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere is producing global warming which in turn is causing climate change characterised by increasingly severe and frequent weather events.  All of these developments have an effect on our ability to produce, store and distribute food.  Some of those effects are beneficial - most are not.

Carbon Dioxide

Continued increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is having two significant effects on food production.  It results in:

Ocean acidification:  CO2 entering the atmosphere is largely absorbed by seawater where it forms carbonic acid, reducing the natural alkalinity of the oceans.   The rate at which ocean pH is now falling is estimated to be greater than at any time since the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

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30 comments


Global Warming - A Health Warning

Posted on 19 August 2012 by Riduna &

Let there be no doubt, global warming is a killer. It is likely to contribute to or be the direct cause of premature death because of the way in which it causes:

  • Loss of human habitat
  • Greater incidence of disease and
  • Increased ozone production

Loss of human habitat:

Most humans can only live in a habitat where very limited climate conditions prevail, where for most of the time it is not too cold (above 0ºC) and not too hot (below 35ºC).  Habitat that is wet enough to cultivate food yet dry enough to avoid prolonged high humidity.  Outside these conditions, we struggle to survive and do not live for very long.  Loss of habitat due to the effects of global warming poses serious threats to our survival.

Humans and, no less importantly the animal and plant species they depend on for food, can only cope with anything outside these parameters for a relatively short period.  The effects of global warming and the increasing speed with which it is happening is of immediate and longer term importance to humans.

Global warming produces climate extremes resulting in longer, more frequent periods of severe heat, drought, high winds, precipitation, tidal surges and flooding.  Such conditions pose a threat to our health and wellbeing, as evidenced by the 2010 heatwave which struck central Russia, destroying over 20% of the national grain crop and causing the premature death of some 50,000 people.  It is nearly certain this event would not have occurred in the absence of global warming.

Heatwave conditions result in a greater incidence of bushfires, accompanied by very dry conditions and high winds.  These contribute to contraction of human habitat since they limit reliable food production and water supply needed to sustain a population of any size, particularly very large urban populations.  The latter then become dependent on food imported from more distant areas where it can be produced and on water saved and stored from recycling, less frequent rainfall and desalination.

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96 comments


Not so Permanent Permafrost

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Riduna &

Introduction

Permanently frozen ground or permafrost occurs and persists where the mean temperature above ground is 0°C or less, resulting in soil, rock and their content being frozen and remaining frozen for at least 2 consecutive years. Permafrost is most common in higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere where it occurs over 24% of the landmass. It commonly has a depth of 0.6 to 150 metres, though depths of 1,500 metres are known.  Soil temperature below 5 metres tend to remain stable even though surface temperature may seasonally thaw the active zone where limited plant growth is possible.

The content of soil affected by permafrost often includes water, accumulated organic matter (biota) and methane produced from biota decay when temperatures were warmer.  The presence of permafrost prevents such decay and methane emission.  Water contained in the soil is present in the form of ice which binds composite material together.  The presence of ice, often close to the surface, prevents water flow so land affected by permafrost tends to be poorly drained and to be swampy or peatland when the active layer thaws briefly in summer.  Thawing usually occurs from the surface downwards and in the Arctic seldom penetrates more than 1 metre.

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41 comments


CO2 – Some facts, figures and outcomes

Posted on 3 June 2011 by Riduna &

The largest source of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere since 1850 is from the burning of fossil fuels and vegetation, arising from human activity.  These emissions pose a threat to the survivability of all on the planet.  The following invites attention to the sources of CO2 emissions, some of their effects and measures which might be taken to enforce their reduction.

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30 comments


Why 450 ppm is not a safe target

Posted on 4 May 2011 by Riduna &

Introduction

A target of 450 parts per million (ppm) CO2 in the atmosphere is widely regarded as synonymous with keeping mean global temperature by 2100 to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  This is very misleading and dangerous.  For reasons set out below, achievement of that target, probably by 2030, is likely to result in mean global temperatures dangerously in excess of the predicted 2°C. 

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48 comments


Wakening the Kraken

Posted on 23 April 2011 by Riduna & Daniel Bailey

Methane (CH4) is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, 20-30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) on a century timescale.  Fortunately it normally occurs in very low concentration in the atmosphere – about 0.3 to 0.4ppm during glacial periods and 0.6 to 0.7ppm during warmer periods.

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49 comments



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