A Summer of Broken Records

On 18 January Bega hit 44.6 degrees, the hottest temperature ever recorded. On the same day the city of Sydney hit 45.7 degrees, the hottest temperature by almost half a degree.

The Bureau of Meteorology described the January heat wave as unprecedented in its extent, duration and intensity.

In the same month, Cyclone Oswald brought record rains and floods to parts of Queensland and Northern NSW.

It has been a month of extreme weather.

Can you blame the January weather on climate change?

Australia is used to extremes of weather; floods, droughts and fires. The chaotic nature of extreme weather events makes it very difficult to determine what is trend, and what is fluctuation and records are there to be broken. I don’t think you can say that the current extremes we’ve seen are due to climate change. You can however say with a high degree of certainty that the sort of weather we’ve seen this month is predicted to occur more frequently and with greater intensity as the planet warms.
Carbon Price is starting to work

New research from carbon analytics firm RepuTex (www.reputex.com) shows Australia?s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to slow during 2013, with emissions to grow by just 0.4 per cent from 2012 levels on the back of reduced output from the metals sector and an increase in renewable power generation.

Australia’s emissions are forecast to be more than 3 per cent lower than projected under a business as usual scenario without a carbon price, indicating that the government?s Carbon Price Mechanism (CPM) will play a key role in reducing Australia’s carbon footprint.

The research forecasts coal maintaining its share of Australia’s generation mix through 2016, when government assistance to brown coal generators expires. From that point the floating carbon price is expected to influence brown coal generation, leading to a real decline in power emissions from 2017-18.
RepuTex predicts black coal generation to grow by around 20 per cent through 2020, whereas brown coal is forecast to decline nearly 17 per cent over the same period. Total coal generation is set to increase 8 per cent by 2020, but with a resultant rise in emissions of only 4 per cent, reflecting increased usage of less carbon-intensive black coal.

Emissions from petroleum refining and gas processing – both of which face significant regional competition – will decline in 2013, by 3 per cent and almost 9 per cent respectively as domestic output slows.

Notably, emissions from the metals sector are forecast to drop 6 per cent over 2013, driven by a downturn in Australia?s steel and aluminium industries, with steel emissions forecast to contract over 20 per cent from 2012 levels, in line with reduced production.

Thus, the combined impact of both carbon pricing and major sectoral changes within the Australian economy are steadily shifting the country?s emissions profile.
Matthew Nott

Extreme Heat Becoming More Common

While much of the country swelters through a nasty heat wave, the official 2012 weather report has been delivered by the Bureau of Meteorology.

From hot spells to floods, extreme weather events were felt across the country, most noticeably:

Flooding in the east of the country due to “one of the most extreme multi-day rainfall events in southeast Australia?s history.”
The second hottest August-December period on record – 1.58 degrees above average across the country.
One of the most significant spring heatwaves on record across much of eastern Australia at the end of November
No rain was recorded at Alice Springs Airport in the 157 days from April 25 to September 28, the longest rainless period in the site’s 71-year history. Meanwhile the city had its equal hottest September and October days;
Record-high monthly maxima were recorded in the Kimberley and Pilbara for August, in northeastern South Australia for November, and parts of the far northern coast for December.

Heat and extreme weather was a feature of 2012.

As for what’s in store in 2013?

The Bureau suggests the hot end to last year is set to extend well into this as La Nina will not be a factor. It’s early days, but with January on track to be one of the hottest months ever, the stage is certainly set for more unwelcome records in 2013. Indeed, early forecasts suggest it may be the globe’s hottest year on record.

The hottest ever average maximum temperature ever recorded across Australia – 40.33 degrees, set on Monday – might stand for only a few days.

“The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity, and its extent – is now unprecedented in our record,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring and prediction, David Jones.

“Clearly, the climate system is responding to the background warming trend. Everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.”

As the warming trend continues over coming decades, record-breaking heat will become more common, Dr Jones said.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology
Matthew Nott

5 questions for 2013

Tristan Edis from www.climatespectator.com.au suggests that we should be asking 5 crucial questions for 2013.

1- How will the government and Coalition respond to the review of the Renewable Energy Target?
Will the government back up its rhetoric about policy stability and investor confidence by keeping the scheme largely as is?

2- Will Europe fix it’s sick and ailing carbon market?
The effectiveness of the EU ETS hangs in the balance right now – dependent on the European Parliament and European national governments agreeing to clean up a huge surplus of emission allowances. If they don’t act to address this surplus next year, we might as well give-up on the Australian carbon trading scheme. The price on carbon will be so low as to make virtually no meaningful difference to investment decisions.

3- Can solar PV maintain its stellar growth?
The Australian solar PV sector could be in for a very tough year. Feed-in tariffs and the renewable certificate multiplier are no longer. In addition network businesses are moving to change tariff structures to make it harder for customers to use PV to escape their gold plated price increases.
The commercial sector promises much, but so far it is just a shadow of the residential market and is proving a tough nut to crack.
In addition, at a global level solar PV module producers are bleeding red ink. Can they give anymore on price reductions or will we see module prices stabilise? Which companies will remain standing in what is a major battle of attrition?

4- Will the national energy efficiency target scheme continue to be ignored?
Sitting on the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s website is some highly detailed design work for a scheme that could fix Australia’s appalling energy productivity. In addition there is over 100 pages of economic analysis suggesting that the benefits of implementing such a scheme would substantially outweigh its costs. Yet neither the government nor the Coalition seem to want to acknowledge its existence.
Will the Coalition recognise this as the means to put some serious muscle on the bones of its almost spineless Direct Action skeleton?
Will the government have the courage to put in place good policy even if it runs the risk of an Abbott scare campaign?

5- Will Direct Action remain a mystery?
The Coalition’s Direct Action policy is so vaguely defined that you hate to think how it might get interpreted by the Coalition party room once they get elected.
How will they define the emission baselines applying to existing and new facilities? What will be the fine for companies exceeding their emission baselines? How exactly would they implement their tender/auctioning scheme and ensure that selected firms deliver the abatement that they promise? And who in the right mind would attempt to “clean-up” Hazelwood when it?s far easier and cheaper to shut it down and replace it with something new?
Matthew Nott