Open Thread

Open Thread 1

This is a general discussion thread where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

I’ll start a new thread once this one drops off the bottom of the front page, which by past experience will be about every 2 months.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

137 replies on “Open Thread 1”

John Newlands #38737,

Is this post tongue-in-cheek or are you being serious?

In case you are being serious, I’d suggest that if the cost of electricity increases, it will take far longer for the world to reduce carbon emissions. The reasons are because 1) the poor countries cannot afford higher cost electrcity so it will take longer for them to adopt clean electricity, and 2) in the rich countires we will take longer to convert from gas to electricity for heat and from oil to electricity for land transport. (Electricity for land transport means either electric vehicels or vehicles running on synthetic fuels made from electricity sush as mentanol or hydrogen).

So what we do not need is higher cost clean energy. What we need is low cost clean energy. We could do that with nuclear. They main reason nuclear costs so much as we’ve gone absolutely crazy with raising the costs of it. I expect nuclear could be about 10% of what it is actually costing us. That is where our effort should be. And the problems that need to be fixed are political and public understanding of wehat we are demanding and what are the costs.

The best thing the west could do to help the poor would be to develop low-cost, clean electricity.


Rightio. Change is possible see: I used to be a mad keen anti-nuclear-leftist. I still have friends who go to all sorts of protests and get themselves arrested (it’s a status thing).

I don’t mind being wrong and adjusting my position when I learn.

Does anyone know the filtration efficiency of the Port Stanvac desalination plant.

I’ve heard reverse osmosis can be as good as 3.6:1 all the way down to 10:1. Does that work out to 27% saltier and 10% saltier respectively for the waste water?



Is the ‘logical’ extension of the premise of ‘lowest cost electricity’, to go nuclear globally?

I’m no economist, but I can tell you that the reason a higher carbon cost is required is to motivate & stimulate development of low carbon energy. Coal fired power is pretty dirt cheap right now without any carbon cost applied.

Its not my area, but I believe that there are mechanisms such as the Kyoto Protocols CDM (clean development mechanism) & recently proposed global funds to help mitigate climate change costs in poorer countries. Is it enough? I doubt it.

I’d be interested if there were economists out there with proposals paralleling yours. Tony Abbot might be interested too, he’s having trouble with the big, new tax – big, new tax, tax, tax big new tax – did everybody get that?


Hi everyone:

I’m hoping someone has a quick answer to this question. Did anyone see Thomas Friedman’s recent column that discusses the hacking incident briefly?

in it, he expresses disappointment that climate scientists would “massage data,” using a “trick” to “hide the decline.”

Isn’t this all wrong? I want to write a letter to the local paper indicating that “trick” has nothing to do with deceit but refers to a statistical shortcut used in this case to eliminate interannual variability in a trend line precisely because such variability obscures the trend. Second, the “hide the decline” comment referred to something else altogether: to public peer reviewed essays where a particular set of tree ring data (not all tree ring data) was removed from a proxy study due to its unreliability (it clashed with multiple independent lines of evidence). I suppose one could have shown the trend lines with and without the anomaly.

anyway, the point is to correct Friedman, so any ideas on how best to do this would be appreciated. I don ‘t think I have things quite right.


I just viewed the “smacking the hack attack” video which seems to answer my question.

so the “hide the decline” is connected to the “trick,” but Friedman’s reading of this is all wrong.


@Peter Lang it’s OK to suggest that we should move to low cost low carbon energy but without tough incentives I don’t see it happening. That incentive must be to raise the cost of fossil fuelled energy so alternatives can compete. The developed world should take the lead then help the undeveloped world with those technologies.

The idea that a command or decree could force the adoption of a particular technology has major problems. Market based mechanisms like a tradeable CO2 cap in theory get everyone working to a common goal. Decrees like renewable energy targets are clearly not working since the incentives aren’t there. If it were commanded that 50% of Australia’s baseload has to be nuclear there would be howls of protest about the unnecessary costs. Better to steadily force up the price of CO2. That way the nuclear choice looks more appealing rather than having been forced onto the public.

As for the cost to battlers the CO2 permit revenue will pay for insulation, smart meters, solar water heaters and so on so using less should be relatively painless. However I don’t discount the possibility of a cheaper-than-coal technology emerging or natural coal price escalation. Since we can’t count on that happening we need imposed carbon pricing.


Robert Smart, on December 10th, 2009 at 12.50 — That is a good question! In effect, the biiomethane competes head-on with natgas. I estimate that the algae farm just breaks even with natgas at close to US$5 per MMBTU. Just now the spot price in the US for natgas is US$4.3+. So it might (or might not) currently compete, but as a form of farming, might receive some incentives or tax breaks to enable continued operation.

Incidently, the closed cycle operation would produce about 5 million liters of hot, fresh water per year, which ought to be worth something, even if not much.

What I propose is building a pilot algae farm, on say 500 hectares of arid land, not far from the ocean but with a nearby point source of CO2. CSIRO has speced out on possiblity (emphasizing biodiesel, not my plan); follow
There is also a report from Auburn Univeristy.


David B
I see the advantages of the desert coast as
1) large heat gradients
2) distance from nimbies.
If as a result of new transmission other energy developments become economic then that is a bonus.

On heat gradients along the Nullarbour coast while air temperatures on land may be over 40C subsurface sea temperatures close to shore may be consistently close to 20C. It just so happens that there are several major industries near that area, headed by the expanded Olympic Dam. On nimbies that also includes open sea fishermen who want shallow bays undisturbed for fish breeding areas.


re Peter Lang’s comment:
You said
“I’d suggest that if the cost of electricity increases…”
“The best thing the west could do to help the poor would be to develop low-cost, clean electricity.”
Perhaps the problem is the the absence/presence of the adjective “clean”.
I guess you mean we can’t get to clean without going through fossil.
Does the Hansen plan minimise the time this takes?


John Newlands, on December 11th, 2009 at 13.28 — I had in mind quite a bit west of Spencer Bay, but yoou certainly know the area better than I.

It would help considerably to have some local enthusiasm for just a pilot project…


David B I live in Tasmania now but I used to visit relatives in four different towns out that way. My reading is that people out that way want big things to happen but they want it done right. That area is the nearest coastline to the world’s largest low grade uranium deposits. Nearby was where the Brits detonated A bombs just after WW2. It would be bizarre to produce electricity and fresh water mainly using the fossil fuel powered grid which is already under severe strain not to mention the slight problem of carbon cuts. Yet that is what the politicians want.


El Niño stills winter winds across the southern Canadian Prairies

Analysis of long-term terrestrial wind speed (u) records demonstrates that interannual variability is a major component of near-surface wind dynamics in the southern Canadian Prairies (SCP). Since the early 1950s, there have been several periods when negative anomalies in regional u persisted for 8 to 13 consecutive months, with anomalies for individual months exceeding −1 m s−1. Calm conditions on the SCP usually coincided with negative u anomalies across much of western Canada, and nearly all low-wind events occurred during a ‘moderate’ or ‘stronger’ El Niño. Wind energy facilities in the SCP have been built during a period of relatively stable wind conditions, and the next El Niño may test their ability to maintain expected energy outputs. El Niño may affect u in other parts of the North American wind corridor and be useful for predicting seasonal or interannual changes in regional wind energy production.

Citation: St. George, S., and S. A. Wolfe (2009), El Niño stills winter winds across the southern Canadian Prairies, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23806, doi:10.1029/2009GL041282.


‘We’re hot stuff on climate change – Rann’ says the SA Premier speaking from Copenhagen. Some factoids on South Australia
– desalinated water will cost nearly $3 per 1000L
– in heatwaves wind power generates ~10% of capacity
– the State’s coal and gas reserves are well past their prime
– the State may have up to a third of the world’s easily mined uranium.

So I guess SA and Denmark have a lot in common; they talk a lot about renewable energy but in practice are heavily dependent on fossil fuels and electricity imports.


Must read this:

The Temperature of Science
James Hansen

My experience with global temperature data over 30 years provides insight about how the science and its public perception have changed. In the late 1970s I became curious about well known analyses of global temperature change published by climatologist J. Murray Mitchell: why were his estimates for large-scale temperature change restricted to northern latitudes? As a planetary scientist, it seemed to me there were enough data points in the Southern Hemisphere to allow useful estimates both for that hemisphere and for the global average. So I requested a tape of meteorological station data from Roy Jenne of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who obtained the data from records of the World Meteorological Organization, and I made my own analysis.

Fast forward to December 2009, when I gave a talk at the Progressive Forum in Houston Texas. The organizers there felt it necessary that I have a police escort between my hotel and the forum where I spoke. Days earlier bloggers reported that I was probably the hacker who broke into East Anglia computers and stole e-mails. Their rationale: I was not implicated in any of the pirated e-mails, so I must have eliminated incriminating messages before releasing the hacked emails.

The next day another popular blog concluded that I deserved capital punishment. Web chatter on this topic, including indignation that I was coming to Texas, led to a police escort. How did we devolve to this state? Any useful lessons? Is there still interesting science in analyses of surface temperature change? Why spend time on it, if other groups are also doing it? First I describe the current monthly updates of global surface temperature at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Then I show graphs illustrating…

Read the whole piece here:

Click to access 20091216_TemperatureOfScience.pdf


Barry: It’s interesting that James hints that Solar activity may have been the cause of the LIA:

Indeed, it is likely that the sun is an important factor in climate variability. Figure 4
shows data on solar irradiance for the period of satellite measurements. We are presently in the
deepest most prolonged solar minimum in the period of satellite data. It is uncertain whether the
solar irradiance will rebound soon into a more-or-less normal solar cycle – or whether it might
remain at a low level for decades, analogous to the Maunder Minimum, a period of few sunspots
that may have been a principal cause of the Little Ice Age.

This suggests to me that at least in James’ mind, the science isn’t settled.


I recently read a statement to the effect that a combined cycle gas turbine costs up to US$200 million. GE’s H frame is rated at 400 MW. Can I really buy one, installed, for as little as the claimed price?


According to a recent report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

Page 83, section 50 states: [Nationally appropriate mitigation actions shall not include technologies that have adverse impacts on the environment, including, inter alia, nuclear power and large-scale hydro-electric power.]

Click to access inf02.pdf

No wonder China doesn’t want to play!


Yes, exactly Gordon, that clause is utterly insane and intellectually bereft. Who are they to say what is “nationally appropriate”. Strewth, it’s no wonder the whole process was a schmemozzle.


This seems the most appropriate thread to wish Barry and everyone on the blog a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Enjoy yourselves with friends and family or in happy solitude- eat, drink (but not too much) and above all be merry and forget about AGW for a few days.
It has been great, this year,interacting with (almost) all of you and learning so much, from so many interesting and knowledgeable people. Thankyou!


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