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Trump and the GOP may be trying to kneecap climate research | Dana Nuccitelli

The Guardian - Wed, 2016-11-30 21:00

While Trump claims to be open-minded on climate, there are ominous signs that Republicans will try to slash climate research

Last week, Donald Trump’s space policy advisor Bob Walker made headlines by suggesting that the incoming administration might slash Nasa’s climate and earth science research to focus the agency on deep space exploration. This caused great concern in the scientific community, because Nasa does some of the best climate research in the world, and its Earth science program does much more. Walker suggested the earth science research could be shifted to other agencies, but climate scientist Michael Mann explained what would result:

It’s difficult enough for us to build and maintain the platforms that are necessary for measuring how the oceans are changing, how the atmosphere is changing, with the infrastructure that we have when we total up the contributions from all of the agencies ... we [could] lose forever the possibility of the continuous records that we need so that we can monitor this planet.

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Arctic sea-ice struggles to build volume

BBC - Wed, 2016-11-30 20:02
Data shows the volume of Arctic sea-ice is heading for a record-equalling low for the month of November.
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Politics podcast: Josh Frydenberg on climate change and the 2017 review

The Conversation - Wed, 2016-11-30 16:19

After ratifying the Paris agreement on climate change, the government is looking ahead to its 2017 review of climate change policy. Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg tells Michelle Grattan the government will have more to say about the review before Christmas.

“The key is to ensure we’re on track to meet our 2030 targets, which is a 26-28% reduction in our emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels. We did beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million and we’re on track to beat our 2020 target by 78 million tonnes. But clearly the 2030 target is a larger one and a more challenging one,” Frydenberg says.

“We’ve got some good mechanisms in place but we’ll be looking at the overall settings to ensure we meet our Paris commitments.”

With some in the Coalition rattled by the growing popularity of One Nation, Frydenberg says: “The way to deal with it is to listen and to understand people’s concerns as to why they have left some of the major parties and to take action to ensure that they understand the good things that the government is doing.”

Music credit: “Where the river run”, by Ketsa on the Free Music Archive

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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Tamar's manure canal returns to nature

The Guardian - Wed, 2016-11-30 15:30

Gunnislake, Tamar Valley Barges that carried coal, corn, manure, granite, bricks and lime had to be hauled manually upstream against the current

From the hilltop railway station, rain clouds veil sight of Dartmoor and, in nearby Stony Lane, run-off flows between shoals of sodden beech leaves. Down this sunken way towards the river, ferns, mosses and pennywort show green under the tangle of fading bramble, yellow-leafed hazel and bare sycamore; the enclosing hedge-banks frame occasional glimpses across the valley where steep woodland engulfs river-cliffs and pinnacles like Chimney Rock.

Sound of water roaring over the weir carries uphill and becomes even louder below Hatches Green, where tennis court and football pitch in King George’s Field are overlooked by the orange and dark green deciduous and coniferous woods opposite – once part of the Duke of Bedford’s estate.

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Using satellites to support Kenya's drought-hit herders – in pictures

The Guardian - Wed, 2016-11-30 15:00

In Kenya 1.3 million people are facing serious food insecurity and loss of livelihoods as a result of poor rainfall. As the next dry season approaches, one insurance scheme is using satellite data to support some of east Africa’s most vulnerable. Photographs by ILRI.

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Coal industry, Coalition take aim at household solar

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 13:37
The divide on energy policy between left and right deepens over future of coal, and as Coalition and fossil fuel lobby target rooftop solar as a source of inequality. Let’s hope they not talking about higher fixed charges or penalties such as a solar or battery storage tax.
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Sydneysiders give car sharing policy the green light

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 13:27
Backed by overwhelming community support, the City of Sydney will soon adopt a new policy to maintain the growth of car sharing.
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Ingeteam launches its new 100 kW three-phase string inverter

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 13:24
Ingeteam is finalizing the launch of its new PV string inverter, which will make it possible to achieve a power output of 100 kWAC in a single, 75 kg unit.
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Carbon war can be won, but it’s a race against time

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 13:23
Both the clean energy revolution and global warming are capable of accelerating. This is essentially the tale of a race against time.
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Will electricity review bring climate and energy policy together at last?

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:56
Before we consider how the NEM might need to change, it is important to understand how it came about.
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Argentina’s renewables boom, green bonds, China’s coal glut

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:55
Argentina has become one of the latest markets to draw investors in renewables.
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AER details extraordinary price gouging by gas generators in SA

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:54
Regulator says re-bidding by major gas players caused major South Australia power price spikes in August and September.
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No social licence, no gas fracking in South Australia

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:46
Committee finds no social licence for unconventional gas "fracking" in south-east SA – a decision based in health concerns, among others.
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Retailers score major win in battle for behind-the-meter market

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:39
AER Ring-fencing Guideline delivers retailers victory in battle over access to Australia's solar and battery storage market, effectively ruling networks out of the game.
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Contract for world’s cheapest solar power signed for Dubai mega-project

RenewEconomy - Wed, 2016-11-30 12:18
This PPA for the third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the lowest price PPA known.
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Public consultation open for National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts

Department of the Environment - Wed, 2016-11-30 10:02
The Department invites comments on the new National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts from 30 November 2016 to 10 February 2017.
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Public consultation open for National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts

Department of the Environment - Wed, 2016-11-30 10:02
The Department invites comments on the new National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts from 30 November 2016 to 10 February 2017.
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Public consultation open for National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts

Department of the Environment - Wed, 2016-11-30 10:02
The Department invites comments on the new National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts from 30 November 2016 to 10 February 2017.
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Latest Murray-Darling squabble sheds light on the plan's flaws

The Conversation - Wed, 2016-11-30 09:46
The Murray-Darling is a complex freshwater ecosystem. Murray River wetlands image from

Tempers have flared once again over the long-term plan to return water to the Murray-Darling River and improve its health.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released its report into the northern basin (in Queensland and New South Wales). The report finds that the plan, agreed in 2012, has already affected communities. It recommends that less water be returned to the river.

The plan aims to recover 2,750 gigalitres of water from human uses for the environment, but also allows for an extra 450GL to be recovered.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has signalled that returning the extra 450GL would be extremely difficult – which has outraged South Australian politicians at state and federal level. In response, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised extra monitoring.

While it may seem like a political bunfight, the current argument sheds light on serious flaws in the management of the river.

Liquid gold Murray-Darling Basin Authority, CC BY

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan originates in national water legislation developed as a response to the Millennium Drought. Since the plan was passed in 2012, rains have given breathing space for those seeking to massage the detail around rebalancing Australia’s most famous river system.

The premise of the plan and the related Water Act is shifting water away from irrigation to the river to improve long-term sustainability. Leading up to and during the Millennium Drought, ecosystem health declined.

Too much water was being taken from the river, and it seemed the states were too weak to deal with the politics of sharing water allowances.

However, Joyce’s recent comments show that federal governments are equally susceptible to backsliding on commitments to securing water for the environment.

Flaws in the plan

The plan has two main flaws.

First, the states and federal government are relying on a single planning instrument to miraculously optimise water-sharing for social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Second, the only mechanism for achieving these outcomes is by adjusting the volume of water allocated to the environment.

Various interests have exploited both of these weaknesses since the plan came into force.

First, the requirement to blend multiple policy objectives into a single plan has provided an opportunity for disaffected parties to claim all manner of fallout. This has led to governments opting for high-cost reallocation mechanisms, such as providing infrastructure to farms in return for water for the environment.

Simply buying entitlements from willing sellers would have been much more cost-effective and likely better in the long run. This remains the case. But buying back is now off the table, at least while the next round of expensive infrastructure-for-water swaps occurs.

Second, focusing solely on the volume of water returned to the river is now being exploited by those who know that the environmental needs of riverine systems are more complex than simply “add more water”. Complexity means opportunity for some, and there are two groups at play here.

One is the irrigation enthusiasts reluctant to transfer their water rights. In part, this is because they know if they hold out they can secure more benefits through subsidised on-farm infrastructure that can be capitalised into private assets. These forces are obviously more pronounced in the upstream states where irrigation is most developed – NSW and Victoria.

The second group are environmental groups with particular agendas for which they have struggled to gain support.

Turning wine into water

Collectively, these groups have been active in persuading upstream states and some at the federal level that there are alternatives to simply taking water from irrigators and returning it to the environment. These alternatives have become known as “works and measures”.

In simple terms, some infrastructure can be used to mimic environmental processes but with less water. For instance, a series of water regulators could be constructed on a riverside wetland to mimic natural flood events.

The proponents of works and measures are primarily upstream and have sought to count these interventions as equivalent to water returned to the river – meaning they count towards state targets. Similarly, there are efforts to convert programs that reduce invasive species, such as carp, into an equivalent volume of water.

In practice, the challenge of converting these programs into water is scientifically problematic.

While the Water Act and the basin plan were always flawed because of their heavy focus on water volumes, the prospect of adding alternatives has simply created opportunities for more blurry metrics.

There is also a real prospect that these measures are simply not equivalent. As an ecologist explained to me privately: “It’s like saying the environment is thirsty and offering a hamburger.”

The hamburger may be welcome for some, but ultimately it won’t do the same as a drink of water. We need both water and non-water measures and it would be foolish to think the politically expedient hamburger is a perfect substitute for the politically sensitive water, as others have noted.

The South Australian government has been keen to prevent backsliding by upstream states through these types of deals. Ideally, this would be out of concern for the status of the river system, but history shows that states, including South Australia, are equally keen to use the rivers for their own consumptive ambitions.

Nonetheless, the South Australian government does have a point, even if it has been expressed recently with zeal.

The lesson, of course, is that federal governments using the plan have found shifting water away from irrigation at least as difficult and costly as it is for the states.

The Conversation

Lin Crase receives funding from ARC; ACIAR.

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Check out some of our amazing underwater heritage

Department of the Environment - Wed, 2016-11-30 08:45
Experts from around the world have gathered in Fremantle this week for the 6th International Congress on Underwater Archaeology to explore the theme of shared heritage. ...
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