Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee
Department of the Senate
Mitigation of GHG Emissions.
“Unless we change the direction we are heading, we might end up where we are going.“ – Chinese Proverb.
Whereas Emissions Trading Schemes have assumed prominence in the public eye as evidence of our determination to confront the causes of climate change, the notion that there are many other available strategies for mitigating Green House Gas emissions tends to be overshadowed, and talk of adapting to an inevitable global warming is often considered to be nothing short of heresy. However, any rational consideration of the situation must take into account multiple mitigating strategies and should even face up to the possibility that mitigation may already be too late, or too difficult – even Ross Garnaut entertains only “a chance, just a chance, that humanity will act in time and in ways that reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels” (Time to Aim High on Climate Change – Ross Gittins / Sydney Morning Herald: September 10, 2008 ). In this context, the development of both mitigation and adaptation strategies certainly makes good sense.
This edition OF WWWTools for Education offers a range of resources selected to present a broad view of the issues involved and available courses of action, with special reference to the distinctions between mitigation and adaptation, but with an emphasis on strategies for mitigation. A fuller coverage of adaptation to global warming will follow in a subsequent edition of this newsletter.
From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
In Climate Change 2007 (Working Group II, Martin Parry et al / CUP 2008 ), the IPCC defines mitigation as: “An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”
- It defines adaptation as the “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.” Appendix I of the report offers a comprehensive Glossary .
- The Summary for Policymakers includes a set of Endboxes clarifying definitions and language usage.
Useful treatments distinguishing mitigation from adaptation include:
Climate Mitigation and Adaptation (Global Warming)
Aimee Barnes’ report from the recent Poznan Climate Change Conference highlights the polarisation developing around the two terms – see Adaptation vs. Mitigation and the Perception Battle (climatebiz: December 05, 2008 )
Updates on Emissions and Climate Change.
UN Reports Rise in Greenhouse Gas Emission (Dawn: November 19, 2008 ) – emissions of 40 industrialised countries rose by 2.3 per cent between 2000 and 2006.
Going Green Fails to Stem Rise in Global Carbon Emissions (Ursula Heger / Courier Mail: September 26, 2008 )
Japan’s Emissions Hit Record High (Agence France-Presse: November 12, 2008 ) – 1.37 billion tonnes in the year to March 2008.
Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Energy Challenge of Our Lifetime (Michael T. Klare / Tomdispatch.com: November 09, 2008 ) – the excessive reliance on oil, and the problem with coal. Along similar lines, see also ‘Protecting’ the Queensland Economy? (Mike Pope / ON LINE opinion, October 29, 2008 )
Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change (European Commission, Environment DG / Science for Environment: November 12, 2008 )- a new report responds to critics of the Stern Review, calling for consideration of mitigation and adaptation strategies, risk and ethical issues in economic climate change models, and political agreement on GHG targets. These were addressed to some degree at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan (December 01 – 12)
Climate Change: Prepare for Global Temperature Rise of 4C, Warns Top Scientist (James Randerson / The Guardian: August 07, 2008 )
Global Climate Change: Resilience through Mitigation and Adaptation (Joanne Stone Wyman / Logistics Spectrum: Jan-Mar 2008 ) – overview of climate change issues, with examples of mitigation and adaptation measures. According to John Holdren, there are 3 possible responses to climate change – mitigate, adapt or suffer; or maybe all 3 at once?
It’s a common complaint that mitigation efforts are pointless without stronger Chinese, Indian and American commitment to abatement programs – see for example John Garnaut’s Light in the Fog (Sydney Morning Herald: July 19, 2008 ). Here are examples of positions around the world.
CHINA: Chinese responses demand a degree of perspective:
Is it Fair to Treat China As a Christmas Tree to Hang Everybody’s Complaints? (ZhongXiang Zhang / October 10, 2008 ) – outlines efforts towards reduced energy consumption and use of cleaner technologies.
China Says Developed Countries Should Take Lead in Cutting Carbon Emissions (Thomson Financial News: October 29, 2008 )
China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (Government of China / egovmonitor.com: October 30, 2008 )
Indian against Altering UN Convention on Climate Change (Akshaya Mukul / Times of India: December 13, 2008 )
An American white paper from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change on State-level Economic Impacts of a National Climate Change Policy (Martin Ross et al / April 2008 ) analyses Economic Implications of the Climate-Change Mitigation Policy, concluding “that economic impacts of a policy that reduces GHG emissions to around the levels seen in the year 2000 are relatively small…”
American reluctance to act is about to change – see President-elect Obama Promises “new chapter” on Climate Change
(change.gov: November 18, 2008 ) – link to a video of the address. See also The Obama-Biden Plan: Agenda – Energy and Environment
The Climate Change and Energy site covers new responses, including the Climate Change Act 2008, the Committee on Climate Change, and the establishment of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
EU Leaders Drastically Weaken Their Emission Ambition (James Kanter and Stephen Castle / IHT: December 12, 2008 ) – European leaders aim to reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Chapter 15: Adaptation and Mitigation Measures for Australia (The Garnaut Climate Change Review) – key points:
- Australians will need to adapt
- good policy will be based on good information
- the Australian Climate Change Science Program needs adequate financial resources
- we need a new Australian climate change policy research institute.
– for additional resources, see also the Notes and References
The Department of Climate Change website should keep us up-to-date with developments. It also carries a useful set of links to International Activities
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme: Australia’s Low Pollution Future (Department of Climate Change, Australia / White Paper: December 15, 2008 ) – the final design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and decisions on climate change programs. See in particular Chapter 4: National Emissions Trajectory and Target, which commits to a long-term goal of reducing emissions to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050; the medium-term aim is emission reductions of 5 – 15 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, the higher figure being contingent on a comprehensive global agreement. Though these figures are in line with the Garnaut recommendations, any policy decisions on this had to be controversial:
- Big Emission Cuts Ruled Out (Sydney Morning Herald: December 15, 2008 )
- Climate Change Experts Critical of Goals for Emissions Cuts (Paul Colgan / Courier Mail: December 15, 2008 )
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, Poznan, Poland – COP 14, 1-12 December 2008 (UNFCCC) – note decisions adopted by COP 14 and CMP 4.
Mood Mixed As Climate Summit Ends (Richard Black / BBC News: December 13, 2008 ) – widely varying views on the degree of progress. On a positive note, Adaptation Fund money will become available in 2009.
The latest Copenhagen Consensus delivered a ranked list of solutions to ten pressing challenges. See in particular its conclusions on Global Warming (Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ).
The Global Warming Challenge Paper (Gary Yohea et al / April 03, 2008 ) proposes a mixture of adaptation and mitigation approaches, and further research.
Readings in Emissions Reduction / Mitigation of Global Warming / Abatement.
Mitigation of Global Warming (Wikipedia) “involves taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks aimed at reducing the extent of global warming.”
Understanding Climate Science: 2.4 The Task of Global Mitigation (The Garnaut Climate Change Review) – “stabilising at low levels of CO2-e (around or below 450 ppm) requires ‘overshooting’ the concentration target”
Climate Change 2007: Mitigation – Working Group III Report (Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
No matter what term is used, it remains true that there’s Strong Support for Emissions Reductions (Ben Block / Worldwatch Institute, December 01, 2008 )
Strategies for Mitigation.
Canada’s Mitigation of Global Warming lists strategies for mitigation and relates A Canadian Success Story.
Low-Carbon Energy: A Roadmap (Chris Flavin / Worldwatch Institute, 2008 ) – “technologies that are available today, or are projected to become available over the next two decades, will allow a rapid shift in the mix of energy sources.” Good introduction to alternative energy technologies. Note Sidebar 1. What About Nuclear Power?
Report available for free download
Role of Technology Policies in an International Climate Agreement (Joseph Aldy, Robert Stavins / Climate Dialogue, Denmark, September 2–3 2008 ) – innovation and deployment of energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies will require substantial investment.
Green Cement May Set CO2 Fate in Concrete (Carrie Sturrock / The San Francisco Chronicle: September 02, 2008 ) – cement that can be manufactured without carbon dioxide emissions. See also Geopolymer Cement for Mitigation of Global Warming (Geopolymer Institute)
Group Developing Waste-Powered Fuel Cell for Africa (Cate Doty / IHT: November 11, 2008 ) – bacteria will produce sufficient power for a small device.
Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline (Kenneth Chang / New York Times Science: February 19, 2008 ) – works in progress.
The End of Oil? Breakthrough Turns Coal into Clean Diesel (Sean Markey / National Geographic News: April 18, 2006).
See also Coal Put Forward As Alternative Source of Diesel (ABC News: Jun 03, 2008 )
SEQUESTRATION / CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE / CCS:
Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (Paul Freund et al / IPCC Special Report) – a core document.
Carbon Capture and Storage (Wikipedia) – this overview is supplemented by Carbon Capture and Storage in Australia – a fairly pessimistic prognosis.
However, the Australian Government is determined to pursue the technology as a central plank of its mitigation policy:
Carbon Storage Gets the Green Light (Sydney Morning Herald: August 15, 2008 )- draft laws to allow companies to capture carbon dioxide emissions and bury them under the seabed.
Rudd Unveils Carbon Research Institute (Siobhain Ryan / Australian IT: September 19, 2008 ) – to act as a clearing house for research, technology and investment.
Clean Coal ‘Has 10 Years to Be in Black’ (Sydney Morning Herald: September 29, 2008 ) – feasible technology, but taking too long.
Is Coal with Carbon Capture and Storage a Core Climate Solution? (Climate Progress) – an attractive idea with 4 fundamental problems.
Coal-is-dirty.com – dedicated opposition.
Long-Term Risks and Short-Term Regulations Modeling the Transition from Enhanced Oil Recovery to Geologic Carbon Sequestration (Alexander Bandza and Shalini Vajjhala / Resources for the Future: September 2008 ) – engineering–economic models of four strategies. Concludes that regulatory design needs to anticipate the use of the potentially leakiest or “worst” sites first.
Economic Modeling of Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies (Jim McFarland et al) – explores the economics of carbon capture and sequestration technologies as applied to electric generating plants; could such modeling be skewed by factors such as the global financial crisis?
German Plant Could Point to ‘Clean Coal’ Future (Tim Colebatch / The Age: October 04, 2008 ) – world’s first pilot plant to capture and store the carbon dioxide from burning coal.
Common Rock Could Store Carbon Emissions (Timothy Gardner / Reuters: November 08, 2008 ) – peridotite + CO2 = calcite?
See also In Situ Carbonation of Peridotite for CO2 Storage (Peter B. Kelemen1 and Jürg Matter / Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA: November 2008 )
Innovation In Carbon Capture (CO2 Solution Inc) – a bio-technological platform for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and other large stationary sources.
Proposal: Suck Carbon Dioxide Out of the Air (Charles Q. Choi / LiveScience: November 20, 2007)
Garnaut Climate Change Review: Chapter 2.4.1, Understanding Climate Science (Ross Garnaut, 2008 ) – “The simplest way to remove carbon dioxide from the air is to use the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and algae.”
Garnaut Has the Answer to Climate Change (Sydney Morning Herald: September 03, 2008 ) – trees.
Climate Change, Carbon Sequestration and Tasmania (Fred Gale / ON LINE opinion: August 28, 2008 ) – with special reference to Gunns’ Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Avoiding Deforestation to Limit Climate Change ‘Cheap and Practical’ (ENS: July 23, 2008 )
Study Says Old Growth Forests Bank Carbon Dioxide (Jeff Barnard / Associated Press: September 10, 2008 ) – contrary to popular belief.
It Pays to Leave the Trees Standing (Andy Ivens / The Province: September 05, 2008 )
Promotion of Carbon-Sink Measures to Mitigate Global Warming (Forestry Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan / Annual Report on Trends in Forests and Forestry, Chapter II: 2006)
Australia has an abundant supply of uranium ore – see for example Uranium Leaps to the Rescue (Peter van Onselen / The Australian: November 22, 2008 ). Given the absence of GHG emissions in nuclear power plant operations, it’s no surprise that the option has been considered. Ziggy Switkowski puts the case in Australia ‘Must Consider’ Nuclear Power (Sydney Morning Herald: November 13, 2008 )
However, according to Daniel Botkin in The Limits of Nuclear Power (IHT: October 20, 2008 ) there’s a problem that takes the shine off the option.
RENEWABLE ENERGY – refers to sources of energy that are naturally replenished, i.e., using them does not decrease the amount available for future use; sources include sunlight, wind, waves, tides and currents, geothermal resources, and biofuels. Renewables will become more attractive as petroleum reserves dwindle – see for example, ‘Peak Oil’ Drives Urgent Energy Alternatives (Ian Dunlop / ON LINE opinion: September 01, 2008 )
- Alternative Energy Renewables (Global Warming) – a fascinating site. Well worth following the links.
- Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (Proceedings of IPCC Scoping Meeting on Renewable Energy Sources / April 2008 ) – structured outline of issues.
- Renewable Energy: The Good, the Bad, and the So-So (Regulatory Compliance Consulting : August 03, 2008 )
In practice: The Island with No Carbon Footprint (Robin McKie / Dawn: September 23, 2008 ) – Samso (Denmark) replaces fossil-fuel plants with alternative power generators.
Wind Power (Wikipedia) – comprehensive coverage.
Learning resources for children:
Examples from around the world:
New York: Wind Energy Bumps into Power Grid’s Limits (ENN: August 29, 2008 )
San Francisco: For Wind Turbine Advocates, a Rooftop Is the Place to Be (Kate Galbraith / IHT: September 04, 2008 )
Scotland: Coal Back-up for Wind Power ‘Will Cost £100bn’ (Jenny Haworth / Scotsman: August 30, 2008 )
Pakistan: 50MW Wind Farm Planned in Sindh (Dawn: September 13, 2008 )
Australia: Wind Farms Shake Up Electricity Market (Sydney Morning Herald: November 19, 2008 )
Kevin Cox presents interesting ideas on financing wind farms in his Blog (September 24, 2008 ). He recently expanded on these ideas in a Perspective broadcast entitled Old Money, New Money, No Money – listen to the audio, or read the Transcript
HYDROKINETIC ENERGY: energy resources based on water movements. See detail in How Hydrokinetic Energy Works
(Union of Concerned Scientists)
The Idaho National Laboratory is the lead laboratory for engineering and program management support for the DOE’s Hydropower Program – explore the site for links to Hydropower Facts, Research and Development, Workshop Proceedings and Presentations , and much more.
Ocean Energy (Energy Kid’s Page / Energy Information Administration) – K-12 learning resource on Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.
Examples from around the world:
Scotland: The Race Begins for Tide Power Bonanza (Jenny Haworth / The Scotsman: November 15, 2008 )
Hawaii:Buoy Turns Waves into Electricity (Gregg Kakesako / Star Bulletin: November 16, 2008 )
Australia: Tidal Power in Western Australia (Sue Graham Taylor, Peter Wood / ABC Radio: August 26, 2000) – environmental issues.
Solar Energy (Wikipedia) – covers a large range of applications.
Solar Power (Alliant Energy Kids) – learning resources for students, parents, teachers.
Research and Development:
Solar Power Reaches a Magical Milestone – 25% Efficiency (Jason Mick / Daily Tech: October 24, 2008 ) – good news from UNSW’s ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence.
Aussie Panel Could Halve Solar Cost (Cathy Alexander / AAP: September 23, 2008 ) – a solar panel at the Australian National University generates electricity and hot water simultaneously.
Polluters Back $1b Solar Power Plan (Ben Cubby / Sydney Morning Herald: August 12, 2008 )- site not yet confirmed.
NT Govt Backs Solar Farm Federal Subsidy (ABC: November 27, 2008 ) – new solar farm planned for Alice Springs.
Biogas (Wikipedia) – covers main types and associated processes, uses and issues
The Beginners Guide to Biogas (Paul Harris / University of Adelaide) – a very useful introductory learning resource.
Methane Capture Technology Offers Double Benefit for Transport and Environment (Tara Mulholland / IHT: November 13, 2007) – use as a transport fuel.
Animal Farts to Help Kyoto Targets (Steve Gray / AAP: September 16, 2008 ) – using methane emissions from piggeries.
Cow Power: the Energy and Emissions Benefits of Converting Manure to Biogas (Amanda Cu´ellar and Michael Webber / Environmental Research Letters: July 24, 2008 ) – 95 million American animals could produce biogas equivalent to about 1% of annual US energy consumption.
Sweden Turning Sewage into a Gasoline Substitute (James Kanter / IHT: May 27, 2008 )
The Commodore That Runs on Lawn Clippings (Richard Blackburn / Drive: December 05, 2008 ) – ethanol from waste vegetation.
Game-changing Day for Jet Biofuels (From Shit to Sweetie: September 27, 2008 ) – blog about alternative fuels, energy, biofuel.
Make Your Own Biodiesel (Keith Addison / Journey to Forever)
Fungus Could Be the Future of Fuel (Richard Ingham / Agence France-Presse: November 04, 2008 ) – discoverers have coined the term “myco-diesel”
What We Don’t Know about Biofuels (Chris Somerville, Energy Biosciences Institute / UC Berkeley News: September 15, 2008 ) – research directions.
Geothermal Power (Wikipedia) – “energy generated by heat stored in the earth, or the collection of absorbed heat derived from underground, in the atmosphere and oceans.” – one of the most promising but most underexploited energy resources available.
- Hot Rock Power Set to Take Off in SA ( The Sydney Morning Herald: June 04, 2007) – South Australia may be first off the rank, with commercial geothermal power from the end of 2009.
- Hot Rocks Rock! (Kevin Cox / ON LINE opinion: July 23, 2008 ) –“Australia can have zero net greenhouse emissions within ten years. The technology is available, the renewable energy resources are available and the conversion to a low carbon emissions regime will bring an increase in wealth for the whole country.”
- Geothermal Energy May Supply 5% of Australia’s Power (Update1) (Angela Macdonald-Smith / Bloomberg: August 20, 2008 )- the government’s $50 million geothermal fund is launched.
EERE’s Geothermal Technologies Program – works to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply.
Geothermal Heating and Cooling (Geothermal Education Office) – an extensive suite of educational resources.
HYDROGEN: We have access to vast pools of water, a simple combination of hydrogen and oxygen, most easily separated be electrolysis. When burned together, these gases complete the loop by yielding energy and water – there’s something poetic about the simplicity and the closure involved here, yet we are only just beginning to grasp the possibilities. However, on reading through Wikipedia’s Hydrogen Economy , maybe it’s not as simple as might appear at first blush.
Fuel Cell (Wikipedia) – an electrochemical device which produces electricity from fuel (on the anode side) and an oxidant (on the cathode side), which react in the presence of an electrolyte.
Hydrogen Fuel – news and information about hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Hydrogen Vehicle (Wikipedia)
Warm Welcome for House Powered by Hydrogen Fuel Cell (Alok Jha / The Guardian: October 10, 2008 ) – the first permanent hydrogen-powered home connected to the national grid.
Air Products to Supply Hydrogen and Infrastructure to Fuel Fleet of Fuel Cell Lift Trucks at New Illinois Grocery Distribution Center
(Market Watch: December 11, 2008 ) – over 200 fuel cell powered lift trucks will operate at Central Grocers’ distribution center in Joliet, Illinois.
Ross Garnaut’s Report (Chapter 2: Understanding Climate Science : 2.4.2 Geo-engineering ) cites the IPCC definition: “technological efforts to stabilize the climate system by direct intervention in the energy balance of the earth”, and outlines proposed strategies:
- release sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to scatter incoming sunlight
- cloud seeding
- fertilise the ocean with iron and nitrogen to increase carbon sequestration
- change land use to increase the reflectivity of the earth’s surface
Among the disadvantages is the risk of unexpected and irreversible consequences of global interventions.
Geo-Engineering: the Ultimate Sun-block (Thomas Homer-Dixon, David Keith / IHT: October 06, 2008 )
Is Iron Fertilization Good for the Sea? (LeLeng To, Goucher College) – the Geritol effect; a learning resource.
Can Smoke and Mirrors Ease Global Warming? (Alister Doyle / Dawn: October 28, 2008 )
Science In the Policy Process: Rational Decision-Making or Faustian Bargain? (Paul Higgins / American Meteorological Society: May 2008 ) – avoid geoengineering with all due diligence.
Experts Ponder the Hazards of Using Technology to Save the Planet (Cornelia Dean / IHT: August 12, 2008 )
Sea Carbon Dumps ‘no silver bullet’ (The Age: December 16, 2008 ) points of view from Australian scientists.
Obama Meets with Gore for Talks on Environment (Brian Knowlton / IHT: December 09, 2008 )
Obama Announces Energy and Environment Team (Liz Sidoti / San Francisco Chronicle: December 15, 2008 ) – this team will aim to revive the US economy by boosting renewable energy use and creating lots of jobs.
Obama Picks Tom Vilsack, Former Iowa Governor, As Agriculture Secretary (Jeff Zeleny and David M. Herszenhorn / IHT: December 17, 2008 ) – a strong proponent of renewable energy.
Prince Charles Presents Forest Plan (Agence France-Presse: November 03, 2008 ) – a scheme to determine how much funding rainforest countries need to reorientate economies toward preservation and reforestation.
California Adopts Sweeping Global Warming Plan (Associated Press: December 11, 2008 ) – utilities, refineries and large factories must cut GHG emissions.
Preparing For Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments (The Climate Impacts Group, King County, Washington, and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability / 2007) – a free download.
Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming (Laurie David and Cambria Gordon / Orchard Books, 2007)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Global Climatology and Ecodynamics: Anthropogenic Changes to Planet Earth (Arthur J. Cracknell et al / Springer: 2008 )