What if climate change is a big hoax, and we create a better world for nothing?

On 23/2/10 Rob High and I will be debating the science of climate change, at 7:30 pm at the Snowy Restaurant at Cooma TAFE. The debate will be proceeded by a fundraising 2 course meal. The $35 meal will raise money for a local solar panel installation on a community building in Cooma. Bookings for the dinner can be made through Antia Brademann 0429778633, or Stephanie McDonald 0408425430. Those wishing to attend only the debate can turn up at a little before 7:30pm with a gold coin donation.

This will be third debate on the science of climate change between Rob High and myself. The debate will be looking at the extent of the problem, and will focus on what the science has to say. The purpose of these debates is to encourage community participation and raise the intensity of discussion on this important issue.

The debate will last for one hour, and there will be over an hour for questions from the audience. Climate change is an important issue, no matter what your position is. If the science is correct, then it presents our region with a threat. If the science is wrong, then solutions to the problem will be expensive and complex. Whether or not climate change is real, solutions to climate change offer our region an enormous economic opportunity. That opportunity will be the subject of a second round of debates later in the year.

Neither Rob High or myself are climate scientists, but we have both been studying the science for many years. We can promise an informative evening.
Matthew Nott

A Climate Policy?

For an Australian Government to be serious about climate change, they will need to set a target of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2020. To achieve that Australia will need to look at embracing energy efficiency measures. We will need to phase out coal fired power stations as they get to the end of their working life. Coal gradually and steadily needs to be replaced with large scale renewable energy projects, supported by natural gas. We need to invest in new low emission technology, and we must cease building new coal fired power stations. Basically, we need to transform our energy sector steadily; this transformation is perfectly achievable at reasonable cost, and will drive economic opportunity, particularly in regional areas. This transformation needs a mechanism to drive it. With the release last week of the Coalitions new climate policy, let’s compare the mechanism by the two major political parties.

Labor has their policy on the table. At this stage they have a woefully inadequate emission reduction target of 5% by 2020, and an attitude that says we will do no more or less than any other country. So much for leadership!

An Emission Trading Scheme is Labor’s mechanism for reducing national emissions. Permits to pollute are issued to the big polluters, up to a cap which is currently a 5% reduction by 2020. Polluters pay for each tonne of CO2 they emit, and the revenue is returned to households and business as compensation and transitional assistance. To make the system complex, the big polluters are also compensated. Under this emissions trading scheme, polluters will be rewarded.

The good thing about the ETS is that over time permits to pollute can be reduced, making them more expensive and therefore driving investment towards low emission technology. The ETS can be a mechanism for driving greater emission reductions.

The Coalition climate policy was announced last week. The centrepiece of their policy is an incentive fund. This is a bucket of money that will come from budget savings that will be used to reward polluters if they wish to reduce their emissions. Companies and polluters will not be punished if they choose to continue with business as usual and it is unclear how a Coalition emission reduction target (currently also 5%) will be enforced.

Under the Coalition, it is unlikely that emissions will be significantly reduced. Their policy relies on the fact that carbon will be sequestered by farmers. In effect, farmers will need to plough carbon back into the ground quicker than coal miners can dig it up. That is a tall order, particularly when the Nationals are concerned about giving up productive farm land to tree planting.

The good thing about the coalition policy is that it will open up a discussion about tree planting and biochar production, which may well end up being good news for our farmers. The problem with the policy is that emissions are unlikely to fall, and will in fact probably continue to rise. The Coalition climate policy has no mechanism to drive further change, and will not reduce our dependance on coal.

Both Labor and Coalition policies are inadequate, and leave the climate problem to the next generation. The Coalition claim there policy is cheaper. I wonder if you get what you pay for.
Matthew Nott

Solar for Rural Fire Stations

The plan started over 12 months ago. Clean Energy for Eternity decided to raise money for solar panels for the Tathra Rural Fire Station. Any money made by those panels in excess of the station’s electricity bill would be donated into a pool that would contribute to more solar panels for more RFS stations.

Two things happened that made this plan a reality. The first was the introduction of a Feed in Tariff for NSW. That means that 2 kW solar panels on the roof of the Tathra RFS station will make over $1700 per year.

The second was the success of the Clean Energy for Eternity LifeSaving Energy Big Swims. We have now managed to raise enough money to get both the Tathra and Tarraganda RFS Stations set up with solar panels, which should happen in the near future. The swim series will also allow us to get solar panels for the Jindabyne Fire Station.

The recent bulk buy solar deal and its associated free community installations will see a further 4 RFS Stations set up with solar before the end of the year.

If all these stations are able to donate money from what they make from the solar panels, I can see no reason why we can’t get all 200 RFS Stations in SE NSW set up with renewable energy by 2020.

There are a few hurdles.

This project will depend on the support of local councils. Subject to a formal resolution, the Bega Valley Shire Council is very supportive and happy to see rebates from these systems go towards further installations. We have in principle support from other councils in the South East.

It will also depend on the support of Country Energy. The Feed in Tariff in NSW is new and complex. To get 200 Rural Fire Stations set up with renewable energy, we will need all the help we can get from our energy provider, Country Energy. CE have been one of the biggest supporters of the LifeSaving Energy Big Swim series so far, and preliminary discussions with them have demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Fire Station project.

I am also hopeful that the Minister for Emergency Services, Steve Whan can help us with some of the logistics of the Feed in Tariff.

Most importantly, the success of this project will depend on the ongoing enthusiasm of the volunteers of the Rural Fire Service. With the right help, 200 RFS stations set up with renewable energy by 2020 is a very achievable target.
Matthew Nott

A challenge for sceptics

At a debate on the science of climate change in Merimbula on 19/1/10, it was clear that a number of sceptics were present. Fair enough. The science is complicated and there is genuine uncertainty about how much warming we can expect with rising atmospheric CO2. Opinions are polarised.

It is a good thing to question the science and debate the topic. It is foolhardy to be paralysed by the uncertainty of climate change.

There have been many thousands of climate science articles published in journals like “Science”, “New Scientist”, and “Nature” over the last 10 years. I have a challenge for those who feel that climate change is a hoax.

I challenge anyone to find three peer reviewed articles that cast genuine doubt on the science of climate change. To make it a contest, those three articles must come from either “Science”, “New Scientist” or “Nature”. To give you a fighting chance, those three articles can be published anytime this century.

With such community debate about the science of climate change, surely this will be an easy task. Good luck.
Matthew Nott