Friday, December 31, 2010

The Money 2010

Follow the money. It's a famous tradition and there's been lots of impressive 2010 announcements. These include the big picture: India's green domestic product; and, the International Energy Agency calling for the world to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. These currently stand at $312Bn in 2009 versus renewables at $57Bn

At a project scale there are substantial moves and the numbers are getting large: a  $1.3 billion finance package and loan guarantee for the world’s biggest on land wind farm in the USA. Or the world's largest solar project close to securing a loan guarantee. Overall wind power grew 25% globally this year, representing about $60 billion of investment (at USA costs).

It's not only big projects but coordinated individual action as well. For example, in Australia 100,000 rooftop solar panels were installed this year. That's more were installed in the entire previous decade.

On a company scale, GE's business case for buying (not selling) electric cars sees it predicting a half billion dollars in revenue. And a sector scale HSBC estimates energy efficiency opportunities to be a $1.2 trillion market in 2020.

Next post continues the 2010 wrap looking at Technologies Previous post Overview: The Money, The Tech The Mind

Green: The money The tech The mind

China Fast Train Photo by Occam2010 more than ever before has seen clean green solutions becoming mainstream. Here's a short sweep across the changes, from the more conventional money and technology measurements to the as important, if not driving underpinnings, individual mindsets and our local and global cultures.

The wrap: We've seen five waves of innovation since the industrial revolution and the sixth wave could be a clean revolution. But is it mainstream? Or more to the point when is it likely to be?

There are some compelling signs. These cover from big picture measurement: Bloomberg reporting India will have a Green Domestic Product by 2015 (environmental costs into GDP source press release); to, pop culture: electric cars in rap and the movies.

There's a pressing need with indicators, such as greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity impacts, continuing to head in the wrong direction. We need fast change, past just technical solutions and into society.

Hugo Spowers, founder of Riversimple, frames this opportunity well. He says the principle barriers to sustainability aren't actually technical. If you are prepared to change multiple things simultaneously you overcome so many barriers. Listen to the whole interview here: hydrogen car, new business model

This is a set of four short posts covering some of these changes. Next: The Money

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Power for Scotland: Zero carbon

2010 has seen - at least in the first half of the year - a fair bit of pessimism on climate change action, particularly government policy. But, with the US National Academy of Science saying warming is a settled fact, many governments have continued to act regardless of slow progress on a global agreement.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond is a good example. He says green energy is a pivotal turning point in human history. Scotland has committed to 80% green electricity by 2020 and reportedly 100% by 2025. Technologies include offshore wind and the world's largest tidal turbine.

The Scotland's overall emissions cut target is 42% by 2020. Recent research finds a 40% European wide cut is achievable by 2020. And the payoffs are substantial with HSBC estimating a global low carbon economic opportunity of up to USD 2.7 trillion by 2020.

Image: Visit Scotland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your sustainability business case

Most people agree a business case for sustainability is critical. However, the initial findings from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan Management Review 2010 sustainability survey finds nearly half of its responders have not yet developed one. But they are spending money on it anyway.

The full report is set to be release in January 2011. Check here for details. Early results include finding:
  • Forty-seven percent of those who are substantially outperforming their peers have developed a business case for sustainability.
  • Among lower performing companies, only thirty percent have developed a business case for sustainability.
  • Fifty percent of North American companies have yet to try to develop a business case for sustainability efforts, compared to thirty percent in the Asia-Pacific region.
At the same time potential profits are substantial. Just one example - GE has announced an expected nearly $0.5 billion of revenue in 3 years catalysed by buying (not selling) clean technology electric cars.

All of which leaves open questions. What's holding other companies back?

A clear business case needs more than the profit numbers. For effective leading sustainability change its about managing the visible objective measured change as well as viewpoints, values and cultural world-views that sit beneath this - the invisible drivers. In other words, a sustainability case that is right for the organisation.

Google to Shweeb: Clean Transit

Want to fly above traffic propelled by your own legs? That's the inspiration for Schweeb (pictured) inspired from Tokyo.

It may sound a little unlikely but Google has invested $1 million in the project. The Schweeb is one of 5 winners, out of 150,000 ideas of Google's, 10 to the power of a 100 project.

10^100 is a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's it worth? 60 billion AUD?

Valuing natural assets, like near pristine bushland and water catchments, is not always easy. Dr David Suzuki, at a recent Legacy Lecture in Adelaide, put it succinctly saying: 'in his view it was no longer acceptable to damage pristine environmental systems - there are far too few of them left'.

The Australian New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission agrees. In its Project Assessment of BHP's 60 billion dollar coal project - just outside of Sydney - it found:

"the level of impacts proposed ... for some significant natural features are no longer acceptable practice. ... The Panel is of the view that it is no longer a viable proposition for mining to cause more than negligible damage to pristine or near-pristine waterways in drinking water catchments or where these waterways are elements of significant conservation areas or significant river systems."

BHP Billiton, after previously holding the project was only viable with mining under this area of significance have now revised the project. The decision effectively puts a high value on significant natural assets. Arguably, the difference between the previous project's value and the new significantly reduced mining proposal.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tipping Point Australia

Graham F Smith Peace Trust Annual Dinner 2005
Sustainability is obviously more than numbers and measurement. We know this but sometimes decision making loses sight of our motivations. Consequently, art has a big role to play.

Next week Waking in fear and living in hope – what kind of art do we need now? the first of 3 forums in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane kicks off.

Re-imagining a global future through dialogue and action TippingPointAustralia explore ways we can adapt to and mitigate functionally, culturally and socially the effects of climate change.

There are free public events covering hope to silver linings to citizenship.

The synergy between art and sustainability is strong. The picture above is in my 2005 Graham F Smith Peace Trust dinner talk - full talk and pictures are here. And this year the integration was partly the subject of a joint USA Harvard, Australia and China Climate Change and Society colloquium here.

Or, for an environmental self portrait of America, see Chris Jordan's great site (click the pictures to zoom)! Plus check the full list of TippingPoint speakers, participants and their websites.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Global carbon prices and wind power growth

If Australia puts a price on carbon - tax or trading - we are not going it alone.

The Climate Institute commissioned Vivid Economics to look at electricity in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It compared clean energy incentives and carbon costs - the graphic illustrates 2010.

Australia has the second lowest price, which arguably results in far less innovation and support for clean technology growth. And the impact is tangible with Chinese wind power capacity now greater than the USA. Its set to expand by another nine America's in the next 10 years.

Climate institute report here, Greenpeace and Global Wind Energy Council here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

6.6 trillion USD

Hot on the heels of the Carbon Disclosure Project's 2010 report the United Nations has just released its global environmental damage assessment.

At a staggering $ 6.6 trillion - equivalent to 11% of global GDP for damage caused by human activity in 2008 - its bigger than the Global Financial Crisis.

The study projects that the monetary value - from water and air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, general waste and depleted resources - could reach $28.6 trillion in 2050.

Other study headlines include:
  • The top global 3,000 public companies were responsible for $ 2.15 trillion worth of environmental damage in 2008.
  • More than 50 percent of company earnings could be at risk from environmental costs (in an equally weighted portfolio).
  • Damage costs are generally higher than the cost of preventing or limiting pollution and resource depletion.

UN PRI and UNEP Why environmental externalities matter to institutional investors Executive Summary here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

64 trillion reasons to act

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) reports are now out. On behalf of 534 institutional investors, holding $64 trillion in assets under management, this is the 8th year CDP has reported. From just 235 organisations in 2003, 2,500 now measure and disclose greenhouse gas emissions - and what their actions are to manage or mitigate the impacts - to the CDP.

Importantly there are some interesting new entries. Like Nestlé which débuts  in CDP's leadership index for the first time.

CDP is relevant for any organisation or business. It asks 10 questions of major companies. One of these is what actions are the companies taking in the supply chain. Which means any organisation involved in delivering, or wanting to deliver, a product or service to 2,500 major corporations around the world should read the CDP.

That's most of us and there are 64 trillion reasons to do it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bloom Box Blue Gen and fuel cells

Earlier this week 60 Minutes showed Bloom Energy's Bloom Box and the topic trended #1 on google. It's quite a result - a high level of interest in new technical ways of generating electricity and power.

Fuel cells have great potential. This 3000 home power station in Korea is currently generating electricity and heat at 80% efficiency. It produces power at about AUD 0.23 per unit (roughly similar to the retail price of electricity in Australia) and 50% of this price is gas - a relatively expensive imported commodity in Korea. In Australia or other countries with gas resources the power could be a lot cheaper.

Fuel cells, in a world first from Australian company BlueGen, are also installed in houses. The units, about the size of 2 washing machines, promise to cut household power bills by about $1,100. Costs to the homeowners are still being worked on.

Picture: BlueGen Home fuel cell. It produces up to 75% less carbon dioxide emissions than Victoria’s current coal-fired generators – saving up to 18 tonnes of carbon per unit per year.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jeremy Rifkin on "the empathic civilization"

One of the most frequent concerns about environmental sustainability - going green - is that people will only act to maximise self-interest. There's a body of evidence that this is not the case (links below) and Jeremy Rifkin, in this short 10 minute video, summarises some of our collaborative drivers.

The talk covers human behaviours that can deliver a real sustainable advantage to companies acting on climate change.

For some more background see Just who collaborates in the real world? and Carbon neutral companies seeing the advantages.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Big box retail green?

Walmart is consistently mentioned for it's green sustainability initiatives. From being the first company to work with the Carbon Disclosure Project establishing an emissions strategy for its entire supply chain - over 100,000 companies - to recently with sustainable fish supplies in Brazil and 'traceability' for food products.

Traceability will see it bar code agricultural items. This lets customers quickly find out where food has come from, how it's been produced and is a gateway for transparency. If we know the background for food, it's easier to stop deforestation and other impacts of food production.

Walmart's Héctor Núñez says: Due to all the challenges in cattle raising related to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, meat is the first item in this program.  

And why take such environmental steps? Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund summed it up speaking about the supply chain initiatives: Walmart’s bold move will help companies identify steps to slash pollution and costs. Importantly, they also point out, its: good for business and good for customers!

Image: Ambalaj sustainable packaging

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Liar, liar, we're not on fire?

Just launched is this excellent summary of Climate Change from the Australian Academy of Science. It should answer everyone's doubts or opposition to taking action. Of course it won't,

So why do we have such difficulty in learning what we most need to know to mitigate our most destructive behaviours? Dorothy Rowe, Australian psychologist and emeritus associate of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, explains that we make decisions, about what to do, from the different interpretations each of us make.

As this New Scientist article about her recent book puts it:
we cannot see "reality" directly. All we can ever know are the guesses or interpretations our mind creates about what is going on. To create these guesses, we can only draw on basic human neuroanatomy and on our past experience. ...
As a result, for global issues like climate change, no matter how much evidence we accumulate our truths will always be approximations. That is lying to ourselves about uncertainty - particularly present in issues like climate change - gives us certainty! Something we desire.

What to do? Climate Change Leadership explores motivation and we shouldn't forget there's significant advantages and profits to be had for countries and businesses that act.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Climate change leadership

Climate change needs political leadership. It's an obvious requirement but a recent survey from the University of Queensland reveals some startling gaps. Out of 300 Australian federal, state and local government political leaders, 70% agreed with the statement that the planet is warming because of human activity producing greenhouse gases.

However, 17% are uncertain if they agreed or not. It raises the question of what awareness is necessary for these leaders to be informed? The survey finds that politicians say scientists are the most influential people when it comes to framing their views. Yet, less than 40% of the politicians agree with the IPCC scientists on global temperature - that a limit of 2 degrees or less of warming is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

It's a global gap. For example in Sweden politicians scored 70% answering questions on climate change. But it's more than a knowledge gap. We must hear discordant voices, multifarious human beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours says Mike Hulme investigating climate change disagreements.

In other words knowledge is necessary but not sufficient. Understanding how people interpret this information is important.

As Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions puts it climate change solutions are workable, cost-effective technologies which permit society to improve living standards... Yet scientific, engineering, and organizational solutions are not enough. Societies must be motivated and empowered to adopt the needed changes.

Picture: Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions, The Psychology of Climate Change Communication.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spills, sizes, solar and solutions

If you've watched the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the headlines - Biggest in History - you may also have wondered what it means. Just how big is big?

One comparison that resonates is, at its peak, it was the size of the US State of Kansas. This is approximately the same size as the State of Victoria in Australia, just under half the size of European France and twice South Korea's land mass.

It's also spawned a few comparisons. What if BP had spilled solar panels instead of oil calculates it would be enough clean energy to power the USA, Central and South America for 25 years. The oil, as opposed to solar, is enough energy for less than one day's power demand. The BP spilled solar panels post also calculates costs.

Clearly solar power, on its own, is not the full, comprehensive, alternative to oil. The Rocky Mountains Institute in 2007 looked at how to Win the Oil Endgame. It documents how USA (and by extension world) oil dependancy can be ended - profitably, securely and equitably - within decades. It demonstrates viable effective alternatives to oil.

Picture: BP Oil clean-up

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just who collaborates... in the real world?

People in many situations collaborate, for example companies setting carbon neutral targets for themselves.

But does this see the long term protection of resources? Resources that can be overused by individuals and groups resulting in much less for everyone? Like the world's ability to absorb carbon?

The graph illustrates a great example of this in today's world. It shows how voluntary group effort - from lobster fishing communities - has succeeded where government regulation did not.

The blue line is the catch for a degraded inshore fishery. This is in Maine, USA and the fishery is governed by legislated quotas, catch limits and, licensing etc. These rules are not credible with relatively low compliance and strong resistance to strengthening restrictions. And the fish catch, everyone’s livelihood, suffers.

Red is the Maine lobster fishery. Its governed by formal and informal groups strongly influencing state rules. The result - a lot more lobster.

The challenge is to apply this knowledge to all situations including climate change. As a signal of its importance, the joint winner of the 2009 economics Nobel Prize was Elinor Ostrom. Elinor leads much of this work. In the words of the Nobel committee she has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. ... user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins.. often see good outcomes

That is we do protect resources, voluntarily and willingly.

Graph data: Science 12-12-2003 The Struggle to Govern the Commons Thomas Dietz, Elinor Ostrom, and Paul C. Stern

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Humans have to collaborate to address climate change. It's a self-evident fact and often used as a reason for doing nothing - don't act until everyone agrees; action, by any one individual, group or country, can be negated by another.

Yet many carbon neutral companies including Google in 2007 , News Limited Internationally by 2010, PwC in 2008 and HSBC in 2005 must see an advantage. And are willing to act beyond what many would say is the immediate self-interest of the company.

These companies hold out market results, staff and stakeholder engagement, profile, publicity and, innovation on products and services as benefits. But is there also an altruistic element? Are humans wired to collaborate?

Some of evidence comes from experiments. Give people two options:
  1. to work together for the benefit of a group; or,
  2. not to work and rely on everyone else in the group.
Not surprisingly there's a tendency not to work - no benefit for anyone. But if the experiment allows individuals to punish non workers, suddenly everyone tends to work. Even when there is an individual cost for those who voluntarily sanction non workers.

Importantly, if you then allow people in a group that has no sanctions to freely shift to another group they will very quickly move into the one where there are sanctions. That is we seem to prefer just systems which is something the seemingly altruistic carbon neutral companies may also be benefiting from.

So we can cooperate for better lives and the next post's focus is groups and societies that have, historically and voluntarily, collaborated. There's many examples of this with groups answering shared resources issues similar to our greenhouse gas problems.

Details on collaboration experiment here. Picture: J. Sutliff from Henrich, Cooperation, Punishment, and the Evolution of Human Institutions, Science 7 April 2006

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Valuing the future over the present

Vividly imagine value - is there a trick to valuing the future? Humans, generally, care more about the immediate at the expense of longer term. In the field of climate change it's clear that we don't seem to value the future as much as the present.

This future orientation is clearly important. Animals, for example, can act in response to the future:
When a mouse hides before a cat enters the room it is responding to an event that has not yet happened, and its ability to do so is one of evolution's most remarkable achievements.
Humans have this ability too. But we also experience the future simulating it:
in our minds. We know... that it would be painful to go an hour without blinking... that winning the lottery would be more enjoyable than becoming paraplegic... because we can close our eyes, imagine these events... Unfortunately, the conclusions that we draw in this way aren't always right. Trysts are often better contemplated than consummated, and sweetbreads are often better the other way around.
As Daniel Gilbert puts it, it's notoriously difficult to get people to be farsighted. But you can get people to imagine the future more vividly.

Would you like to be 65 with an extra $100,000, is very different from imagine yourself at 65. Will you be living? What will you look like? How much hair will you have? Who will you be living with? With the imaginary scenario suddenly we feel like saving.

Daniel argues these techniques are marginal. But there are also many situations in which humans voluntarily collaborate to protect the future. When humans cooperate is the topic for the next short post.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clean Production and a Lean Wasteline

It is more than two decades since we started re-imagining global and local production. By the early 1990's, it was abundantly clear that we should not, nor could not, attempt to create a sustainable society by simply treating and collecting waste.

There are many inspiring examples of change since the 90's. From Natural Capitalism, which shows how we should produce our goods and services, to Factor 4. The most recent demonstrates an 80% reduction of environmental impact per unit of economic output is achievable and available to us today - it's here: Factor 5. Factor 5 covers everything from our homes and cities through to steel and cement, agriculture and transport.

But our overall society now has an even greater impact, by any of the common metrics, on the environment than it did in the 90’s. If resource use and waste avoidance makes such economic sense, as the examples demonstrate, we're entitled to ask what's gone wrong. Why are we 20 years down the track with so many easy wins still waiting to be implemented? And what can we learn from some of the standout examples of change?

This is the first in a series of short blog posts. We've set the scene, so what are some of the barriers - beyond technology - in society, mindsets and worldviews. Next blog is on valuing the future over the present.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Future

What do Australian Futures look like? Or rather how can we help shape them? The 2010 Future Summit organised by the ADC Forum tackles these questions head on.

This year marks a dramatic shift for the Forum. While the summit creates a unique and irreplaceable dynamic, by its very nature there are inherent limitations - it's in one place, for an (all too) limited time and our futures are complex, interconnected and dynamic.

To address this, in partnership with Google, the Forum is introducing a year-round digital platform. Google Wave will offer leaders in business, government, community and the arts the chance to engage fully in an ongoing national dialogue.

This kicks off at the summit with six Thought Leader Groups. GreenMode and I are very honoured to be invited to facilitate the Australian Futures group. Other groups will include Investment and Innovation, Green Economy and Global Economy, Local Impacts.

Watch this space, the Future Summit website and Michael Roux's blog for more.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Experts agree but we don't do

Scientific opinion presents facts and, for example with climate change, often a very high likelihood of sustained and significant economic, social and environmental pain. Yet, even when nearly all scientists agree we don't accept the facts, can instead frame the information in ways that suit our own contrary beliefs or, as individuals or societies are not willing to act.

Why? This perplexing and dangerous circumstance is true even when action is manifestly in our self interest - financial or otherwise. This is certainly the case for climate change. Consequently the Cultural Cognition Project's research is a very welcome addition to our knowledge.

A Cultural Cognition study suggests that, although people view scientific opinion as important, people from diverse cultural outlooks form different perceptions of what most scientists believe. That is, people draw conclusions about the risks of things like climate change that are congenial to their values.

Bottom line - it's not just about the facts. It's how people perceive and value this information and often hold significantly different worldviews. Such views influence perspectives, the ways in which we construct meaning and, priorities we place on action and inaction. See A Climate For Change for a short worldview background.

Picture: From the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Factor 5 change

Click for larger Housing Ecological Footprint imageCan you significantly reduce the energy requirements for standard homes? Yes!

A major project by Delfin Lend Lease, the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, the Centre for Design at RMIT and GreenMode, using commonly available and off-the-shelf technologies, home impacts can be cut by more than a Factor of Five without any substantial redesign of the home.

The improvements are achieved on typical homes in new South-East Queensland residential development sites. Importantly these changes are affordable. Additional capital costs are approximately paid back by savings on power use.

The project models the performance of a representative selection of 35 standard homes approved and/or constructed at Springfield Lakes near Brisbane. A set of sustainability changes - including efficient appliances, construction materials, shading and only mirror changes to orientation (flip the house on one axis) - were applied. The home's environmental impact was then re-modelled.

The results are outstanding. Affordable change, little or no redesign, and no need for extra architectural input.

Factor Five change is not only about homes although they are responsible for nearly a third of an Australian's environmental footprint. The Natural Edge's Factor Five book shows the way for our whole society beyond just homes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Post Copenhagen - what do we think?

Four months on from the Global Copenhagen climate conference and people in Australian may be feeling that climate change and carbon pricing is off the agenda. But is it?

The graph shows worldwide and Australian news reports on climate change (data from Dow Jones Factiva). After the expected peak of reporting in December 2009, during the Copenhagen conference, the media's focus on climate change this year is similar to 2009. At least in quantity.

Clearly the media is only part of the picture. Before Copenhagen, Andrew Norton at the Australian Centre for Independent Studies summarised opinion polls. The results show consistent public support, high urgency, for action on climate change. They also show a majority of people are willing to pay, although the analysis does not consider the substantial cost and carbon savings that can also be made from energy efficiency.

We would say that carbon pricing is still very much on the agenda. Google's Dan Reicher summarises this well. He said recently that carbon pricing is an "essential signal we have to get to" and "money is sitting there to make significant investments".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why aren't we convinced?

While the science of climate change is undeniable it does not mean everyone is convinced. I recently presented at an event with Ian Plimer, a leading climate sceptic, followed this week by lunch with Senator Nick Minchin. Senator Minchin led the opposition to Australia's emissions trading legislation.

So the question is why? Messrs Plimer and Minchin passionately argue against the evidence.* They equally passionately argue we shouldn't take action on climate change, even just to insure ourselves against risk.

The insurance argument is compelling. You and I insure our homes against less than a 1% chance of fire destroying the house. So why wouldn't we take out climate insurance, lower our emissions, generate profits from efficiency and be part of the next green industrial revolution? Ultimately, the direct cost of climate change action is probably 1 to 2 percent of global GDP. For Australians that's an average of $8 to $16 a week.

This makes logical sense. But as Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism, puts it in an interview with philosopher Ken Wilber, 'when something is not working we tend to argue harder on the logic'. You'll hear stories listening to a Plimer presentation. Emotive pleas to prioritise far more important issues from Minchin. And it feels so reassuring not to have to act, not to do things differently.

So what's the story of climate change action? It's partly the reason for this blog (and GreenMode). Stories of success, innovation and adaptation - the visionaries and people that are defining the future. It grows from the way it makes us feel and those around us, as much if not more as from the logic of climate science.

* Senator Minchin and Prof Plimer background includes: Four Corners and Minchin; Questions to Minchin at lunch; and, George Monbiot and Ian Plimer.

Climate warming

There's plenty of evidence linking our human activities climate change. Over the last decade we're also moving from projections about change to observation of changes.

The most recent example in Australia is the Weather Bureau and CSIRO State of the Climate report.

It finds all of Australia has experienced warming over the past 50 years.

It's a trend that continues. Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5 ºC by 2030. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2 to 5.0 ºC by 2070.

The picture shows average temperature rises from 1960 to 2009. Source: State of the Climate.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Emissions down - and it pays!

Figures released by the Climate Group show Australian emissions from energy use across four states - New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria - fell 1.6 per cent over the past three months. These three months of summer often see big jumps in power use. It's the hottest time of the year, air conditioners are running full bore and this Australian summer was hotter than average.

Cut energy use and you cut your costs. That is a lot of these sorts of changes are profitable. The big picture is if we put some of the profits into generating renewable energy, Australia could cut emissions 35% by 2030 - at no cost! For details on how see the McKinsey Greenhouse Gas cost curves.

But can you really make this change? The picture shows a recent addition at my house - a pergola shading north facing windows. The heat reflective panels (opaque) are for summer. When the sun is lower in winter is will warm the house through the clear panels on the left.

The cost? This was financed with an Australian Government Green Loan. The monthly payments on this loan for summer are approximately equal to the power we saved by not using the air conditioning. The bonus - the north facing rooms in the house are noticeably cooler and, in a couple of years, we'll be banking the savings!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Eight Convenient Climate Truths

It doesn't matter what you think about climate science and scepticism... it still makes compelling sense to cut our carbon emissions.

That's the message sitting behind Amory Lovins' Eight Convenient Climate Truths. Amory says our opinions about climate science shouldn’t change what you should do about energy.

Nor should we argue about the cost to the economy or if it's worth paying to protect the climate. Protecting the climate is not costly but profitable.

The full eight convenient truths are on the Rocky Mountains Institute website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our message: act!

Our message to government and businesses is clear. Act now, says Richard Branson.

He's featured in the forward to the UK's Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security

The credit crunch in 2008 stressed government and businesses to the extreme. Richard says The next five years will see us face another crunch - the oil crunch. This time, we do have the chance to prepare.

It's a report on the end of cheap oil. The authors urge action: We must plan for a world in which oil prices are likely to be both higher and more volatile and where oil price shocks have the potential to destabilise economic, political and social activity.

Download the full report here

Monday, January 25, 2010

Green Customers Up

In just one year, the number of Australians considering climate change when they buy doubled. Nearly half (47 percent) of people surveyed in the Ipsos-Eureka 2009 Climate Change report nominate purchasing decisions as a main behaviour undertaken to reduce emissions.

This trend is supported by some hard statistics. An Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey finds from 2007 to 2008 the number of Australian households buying green/renewable electricity increased – significantly!

The ABS records a 51 percent jump in the quantity of green power sold. The latest national figures show greenpower customers are approaching a million households in Australia.

Picture: Quote from Ipsos-Eureka Climate Change report

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A century of warming

2009 is Australia's second warmest year ever since 1910.

That's the finding from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology who say that 2009 will be remembered for extreme bushfires, dust-storms, lingering rainfall deficiencies, areas of flooding and record-breaking heatwaves.

The graph shows temperature change, averaged over 10 years, the grey bars. It's a consistent picture worldwide - watch the world warm in these NASA animations from 1880 to 2006.