Thursday, December 31, 2015

Australia - A Clean Energy Future?

The following online newspaper article is worth reading, in reference to where Australia may be headed with energy sources.

While the Australian government seems still locked up with coal, many professionals do not share that vision.

The article makes that point strongly and quite clearly - Australia has an emerging future with renewable energy sources.  This is a point previously made in relation to the use of solar energy where a clear case was made that Australia could have a strong base for solar power. [ see earlier posts both recent https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=36976850#editor/target=post;postID=9105132780225795741;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=9;src=postname  and over the past 2 years]

What is your view?

http://thenewdaily.com.au/money/2015/12/29/australia-sitting-clean-energy-goldmine/

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Avoid Using Immature Compost


A recent warning is important for all users of compost - avoid immature compost as an organic amendment - it can do more harm than good according to Pam Pittaway at USQ.
Soil health specialist Dr Pam Pittaway has warned farmers of the danger of using immature compost on crops of all kinds.
Soil health specialist Dr Pam Pittaway has warned farmers of the danger of using immature compost on crops of all kinds, and advised that either curing organic compost yourself, or testing it and the soil for nutrients, is the best way to ensure organic amendments benefit crops.
Speaking at a recent symposium about soil health at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Toowoomba, Dr Pittaway said knowing the microbial stability of your amendment and its salt content were the best ways to ensure your crop got the optimum nutrients.
“If you know the salt content of your amendment, and the plant-available and total nutrient content of your amendment, you might be able to reduce the amount of NPK fertiliser you put on your crop,” Dr Pittaway said.
This could result in farmers greatly reducing their inorganic fertiliser bills, but Dr Pittaway said the age and content of the organic amendment, or fertiliser, needed to be taken into consideration, and the purchase of product of indeterminate age or properties was a risky business.
“As soon as you put on something with readily available carbon as well as nitrogen and phosphorus, you stimulate a microbial feeding frenzy which can starve your crop. If soil microbes have access to fast food, they take up luxury amounts of available N and P, out-competing plant roots,” she said.
“Adding manure or compost high in potassium can also burn plant roots, as potassium is a soluble salt,” she said. 
“And when growers continue to add fertiliser nitrogen on top of past organic amendments, they can get an uncontrolled growth flush which commits your plants to an extra load; if they can’t support that during the growth period, they can end up shedding tillers, or can lodge.”
Dr Pittaway said root disease was also a possible symptom of over-feeding crops with organic amendments.
“The best way to get root disease in a crop is nutrient imbalance.”
“My advice is if you can’t afford good cured compost, invest in more soil testing, and put immature products on your least valuable crop.”- Dr Pam Pittaway
Australian horticulture and agriculture use a vast range of organic amendments, including pig and poultry manure produced, cured and used on-farm, and commercially produced preparations, most of which incorporate straw or green waste as a source of carbon.
Dr Pittaway said the best result from using cured compost achieved organic slow release which synchronised nutrient release with plant demand, and minimised grower expenditure on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) inputs.
“My advice is if you can’t afford good cured compost, invest in more soil testing, and put immature products on your least valuable crop.”
Dr Pittaway said producers needed to be aware of the business model of some waste management businesses, which sought a fast turnaround on organic amendments.
“Some businesses need to push product out the gate to make space for more waste, and while Australian Standards say certain aspects of organic amendments must be tested, those results won’t necessarily tell you what’s best for your crop or soils.
“Instead of a six-week turnaround, which is what some waste-management businesses operate on, you want to use organic amendments that have been cured for 16-20 weeks, because immature compost could do more harm than good.”
She said farmers should also be aware of the environmental risks of over-application of organic amendments, which can put phosphorus surplus to the crop’s requirement into waterways.
Dr Pittaway has conducted studies on a number of organic amendments including cotton trash, feedlot manure, sugarcane waste, and sawdust in broadacre and horticultural applications.
“Fully cured compost costs more but immediately conditions your soil. Humus-like organic acids in cured compost are very good at holding moisture and buffering against acidification, and can make more phosphorus available. Adding humus-like, cured compost builds the stable, long-term organic fraction back into your soil.
“If it is fully cured, you can build a slow-release nitrogen bank [ in the soil] which will release nutrients in synch with the crop’s development.”
- Source: University of Southern Queensland.

 This advice applies to soil applied compost but may not be so important for use of above ground mulch, which also acts as a erosion protection and soil stability mechanism, while breaking down.  This is a factor with using green manure crops or crop residues on the surface.  If in doubt over using crop residuals or compost,  seek advice from a competent agronomist.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Law of Food Conservation

Sometimes you read an item that calls out for wider dissemination.

This link takes you to some commentary on food waste issues, and covers a few themes where there is potential for thoughtful change.

While based on US analysis I feel sure it can equally apply in many ways across other countries, with change for the better possible almost everywhere.

Read the article ............you might generate some thoughts and ideas for your community.

http://www.biocycle.net/2015/12/15/commentary-law-of-food-conservation/

Like most environment and conservation practices - it does start with you!

And I challenge you to rebuff the idea that you cannot implement some positive change to reduce food waste yourself. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thielaviopsis Trunk Rot in Palms – More Common in 2015


  One of the relatively common ailments seen in palms around Darwin is the death and damage in the stems of multi stem palms.  Think golden cane palm, some Rhapsis palms, sealing wax palms and similar plants common in many gardens.  It does seem to be more common over the past year or so, possibly as a result of less dry season irrigation to palms due to cost issues.

While there can be a few causes, with stress often related to poor irrigation management, a common problem here and also in Florida USA can be plant disease.  Unfortunately a cure is not available – except by removal of the infested plant, burning NOT composting the plant material, and removal and landfill disposal of the remnant stems out of the ground – AND then DO NOT replant a palm in the area.

Typically stress, commonly through lack of dry season water, will rapidly escalate the problem, which could be festering along, and not being noted, as afterall, palms do shed leaves quite readily!  

Water stress is not the cause of the stem dying but it does exacerbate the disease problem, and may act in concert with the disease  leading to severe and rapid escalation of the disease cases.

If you see the palm stem bending and breaking just below the crown shaft area [ the top part where new leaves emerge] , new leaves emerging and appearing brown or dying, cracks in the stem, and at times breaking near the base [ less common in multi stem palms] it might well be this disease.

All that can be done is to remove the infected leaves and dispose of into the landfill [ NOT as greenwaste] or burn them [ preferable], and removing the leftover leafbases and roots, and disposing of them in the same way.

While not highly infectious, it is common to see spread between nearby plants, and removing the source of infection is prudent. Infection via wounds on the palms - at transplanting or even cutting fronds off is seen as a common entry pathway for the disease.


In Florida, this disease and another one [ Ganoderma butt rot or canker] [ also see -http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com.au/search/label/palms ] are a common problem in newly transplanted palms in landscape development, and examples of some of the problems are seen in these reports by Prof Monica Elliott -  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pp100 on Ganoderma and https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pp143 on  Thielaviopsis.

Both diseases are present in palms around the north of Australia.

The photos below are of Thielaviopsis trunk rot photographed in Darwin in late 2015. 

General view - typical of appearance with disease - brown and damaged leaves and stems

common appearance of split palm trunk with Thielaviopsis disease

broken stem below crown shaft in golden cane palm



Commonly seen stem damage on golden cane palms
The disease and pest problem with palms is significant in Florida, with calls to diversify the plants used in landscaping.  However, like here, if in the tropics palms are expected to be seen!

Locally, we need to be aware and wary of the disease issue with palms, and minimise spread.  For example, wait for palm leaves to fall, rather than cutting them off, if possible, and take care with sanitising equipment between plants - for example an antiseptic dip or spray - always a simple, but effective biosecurity measure. 

Watch out for these two widespread palm diseases!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cattle Emissions Much Lower in Australia - New Estimates

Rs6083 margaretta fahey

Methane emissions from Australian cattle are 24% lower than previously estimated - and that is very substantial, given the overall percentage of animal methane in the total greenhouse gases in Australia, according to data based on eight years of research into ways to reduce emissions in livestock. The new method has been published in the journal Animal Production Science and resulted in an update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI).

CSIRO’s Ed Charmley said the work was conducted because of concerns about the large differential between NGGI and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methane emission figures for Australian cattle, as well as doubt surrounding the accuracy of previous calculation methodologies used for cattle — particularly northern Australian cattle,  where it was assumed pasture quality was very poor, leading to high methane emissions.  “Different methods used to calculate emissions from livestock in temperate and tropical regions were based on studies done in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly with dairy cattle,” Dr Charmley said.  “Both of these past methods were found to be likely overestimating the emissions from cattle.”

The revised method is based on improved ways of estimating ruminant methane emissions from forage-fed beef and dairy cattle, and has been tested against international defaults provided by the IPCC. The method has also brought the NGGI in line with the estimates of the IPCC, much to the delight of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

“This revelation clearly shows livestock-based emissions are nowhere near what they were thought to be and will help improve the accuracy of Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions estimates,” said MLA General Manager, On-farm Innovation Dr Matthew McDonagh.  “This is positive news for the Australian livestock sector as it seeks to continually improve its production efficiencies and demonstrate its environmental credentials.”

MLA Manager, Sustainable Feedbase Tom Davison added that the latest research findings from the National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP) show there are a number of simple management measures producers can implement to substantially reduce methane emissions while increasing productivity.  “Some of these are as simple as integrating leucaena into grazing systems, improving growth rates or herd reproductive performance, while other future techniques may include feeding red-algae to livestock and have been prioritised for further research,” Dr Davison said.  “We look forward to continuing to make further gains in this field for the mutual benefit of both our livestock industries and environmental sustainability.”

Generally if higher quality leguminous feeds are a larger part of the diet, then methane emissions per beast falls.  Over the past 20 years or so, grass fed pasture diets have replaced the push to improve forage with legumes, more common in the 1970s - 1980s.  A swing back to a higher legume % based diets in the paddocks is emerging and methane emissions may continue to fall, as well as the higher quality feed also helping with animal productivity generally.

Image credit: Margaretta Fahey.

partially sourced from CSIRO press releases and Sustainability Matters online

Monday, December 14, 2015

Zenith Zoysia - New 2015 Sowing at Bundaberg Queensland

Zenith Zoysia was used for a new turf area sowing recently at Bundaberg, Queensland.

As a slightly alternative option, sugar mill "mud"was used as a cover and nutrient source and also to adjust pH closer to neutral [ it is alkaline].

Photo one month after sowing in early November.  There was some wash from a storm, hence a few bare areas, but the client is absolutely delighted with the outcome so far.

Sedges were controlled with halosulfuron [ a few different trade names available], and broadleaved weeds with MCPA/dicamba mix [ common trade name is Kamba - M].

Outstandingly, the seedlings are quickly developing strong lateral runners, which will help provide that all important ground cover to protect the surface as there will surely be more storms over the next few months.  Lateral growth is stronger in less dense areas, a great help to soil cover wher eit is most needed.

The area has not been mown but will be in the next couple of weeks and once that happens, expect a further surge in lateral growth.

Zenith zoysia at Bundeaberg, Qld approx 4 weeks from sowing in November 2015.  Copyright - B Cobb and used with permission

Saturday, December 05, 2015

High-tech Manufacturing “booming” in Australia

The depreciation in the Australian dollar has seen manufacturing exports up sharply, led by high-value companies selling into global supply chains.
The Australian Financial Review reports recently that transport equipment exports and machinery & equipment categories have seen exports grow by 9.9 and 11 per cent in the last year.
"Perhaps traditional manufacturing is not doing so well, but high-tech, high-value manufacturing is booming,” the Australian Industry Group’s John O’Callaghan told The AFR, adding that the highest-value global supply chain was in defence and aerospace.
Companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Thales valued Australian SMEs as suppliers for their innovation, engineering and other sets of expertise, as well as the political stability of the market and its nearness to Asia. He cited suppliers to Thales for its Bushmaster, Quickstep and Marand Precision Engineering.
"These are Australian companies, building the most complex pieces of machinery in the world today. They employ hundreds of people and build skills capacity in this country," said O’Gallaghan.

To this one could also add Austal – now a major shipbuilder for the US military as well as some other countries with its specialised mostly aluminium vessels, made in Australia as well as overseas sites in the US and The Philippines.  There has also been some reports that Incat in Tasmania now has stronger overseas ship building orders also.


Maybe mass scale manufacturing is unwell, but there are some very smart smaller companies moving to fill the gap, many operating in highly competitive niche areas of hi tech manufacturing outside the defence and aerospace areas where they are thriving, albeit from a small base.  They tend to operate below the radar of the general public, but they really are very smart operators, even in areas such as agriculture and solar cells [Dyesol].  One could also add the computer software company Atlassian – but does it truly manufacture?  

Friday, December 04, 2015

USA - "Call To Action" To Reduce Food Waste

The USA held an important summit recently to address the announcements a few months back from the US Government on reducing food waste in the US.

U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator  Mathy Stanislaus announced a "Call To Action" to help meet the U.S. EPA's and U.S. Department of Agriculture's goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Stanislaus issued the Call To Action during the Closing Plenary of the Food Recovery Summit, held November 16-18 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. "We want to announce an Action Plan to meet the goal on Earth Day 2016," he stated. "What has to be done to meet this goal? What has to change? We are seeking a diverse plan made by representatives of all sectors of the food life cycle."

Stanislaus and other EPA officials participated in sessions and roundtables throughout the summit. They emphasized that EPA is open to new and "disruptive" ideas and strategies to prevent wasted food, increase food recovery, and assist in development of processing infrastructure for nonedible food. "We are pushing all of you to help develop a concrete plan that you can sign on to and commit your resources [to implement]," concluded Stanislaus.

There has also been some acknowledgment in Australia that we also need to also primarily reduce food waste in our country, and to better address  - successfully  - how to deal with the food waste generated.  Technologies are reasonably readily available, only requiring suitable adaptation and scheme specific design.

One can think of concepts such as anaerobic digestion, composting and co-composting of food and other organic wastes [ at home and commercially], even waste to energy schemes as all playing some part in better utilising the wasted foods.  Individual circumstances will drive the options.

It is better to reduce the initial waste where possible and even better management of unused foods in conjunction with food bank groups does help in reducing food wastes.

There has not been the serious and concerted push as seen in the US here in Australia so far to reduce food waste, with most western countries having greater food waste in the post production sector rather than during production. 


We can all do more though, to reduce food wastage, especially now with the festive season approaching and a trend to excess food being available.  Of major importance is the front end of the cycle – the reduction of actually avoiding the proliferation of food available that most people know may often go to waste.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Short Answers to Hard Questions on Climate Change

Photo
Credit James Yang for The New York Times
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisks.
We get it.
And so, as the Paris climate talks get underway, we’ve provided quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. You can submit your own questions here.

How much is the planet heating up?
  1. 1.7 degrees is actually a significant amount.
    As of this October, the Earth had warmed by about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, when tracking began at a global scale. That figure includes the surface of the ocean. The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.
    The number may sound low, but as an average over the surface of an entire planet, it is actually high, which explains why much of the land ice on the planet is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace. The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.
    Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.

  2. How much trouble are we in?
    For future generations, big trouble.
    The risks are much greater over the long run than over the next few decades, but the emissions that create those risks are happening now. Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to resemble that of today, although gradually getting warmer. Rainfall will be heavier in many parts of the world, but the periods between rains will most likely grow hotter and therefore drier. The number of hurricanes and typhoons may actually fall, but the ones that do occur will draw energy from a hotter ocean surface, and therefore may be more intense, on average, than those of the past. Coastal flooding will grow more frequent and damaging.
    Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
    All of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out, conceivably providing a cushion of time for civilization to adjust, but experts cannot rule out abrupt changes, such as a collapse of agriculture, that would throw society into chaos much sooner. Bolder efforts to limit emissions would reduce these risks, or at least slow the effects, but it is already too late to eliminate the risks entirely.

  3. Is there anything I can do?
    Fly less, drive less, waste less.
    There are lots of simple ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and most of them will save you money. You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food, and eat less meat.
    Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined. If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.
    If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights, and after some scandals in the early days, they started to scrutinize the projects closely, so the offsets can now be bought in good conscience. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass in San Francisco that follow strict rules set up by the state of California; some people even give these as holiday gifts. Yet another way: In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, with the money going into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.
    In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.

  4. In the best case that scientists can imagine, several things happen: Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than currently believed; plants and animals manage to adapt to the changes that have already become inevitable; human society develops much greater political will to bring emissions under control; and major technological breakthroughs occur that help society both to limit emissions and to adjust to climate change.
    The two human-influenced variables are not entirely independent, of course: Technological breakthroughs that make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels would also make it easier to develop the political will for rapid action.
    Scientists say the odds of all these things breaking our way are not very high, unfortunately. The Earth could just as easily turn out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than less. Global warming seems to be causing chaos in parts of the natural world already, and that seems likely to get worse, not better. So in the view of the experts, simply banking on a rosy scenario without any real plan would be dangerous. They believe the only way to limit the risks is to limit emissions.

    What’s the worst-case scenario? 
  5. There are many.
  6. That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of any worst-case scenario coming to pass. Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation. Even with runaway emissions growth, it is unclear how likely this would be, as farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques, to a degree, to adapt to climatic changes. Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the world’s great cities and would lead to the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property and other assets. Scientists also worry about other wild-card scenarios like the predictable cycles of Asian monsoons’ becoming less reliable. Billions of people depend on monsoons to provide water for crops, so any disruptions would be catastrophic.

  7. 6. ​Will a tech breakthrough help us?
    Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.
    As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen.

  8. 7. How much will the seas rise?
    The real question is not how high, but how fast.
    The ocean is rising at a rate of about a foot per century. That causes severe effects on coastlines, forcing governments and property owners to spend tens of billions of dollars fighting erosion. But if that rate continued, it would probably be manageable, experts say.
    The risk is that the rate will accelerate markedly. If emissions continue unchecked, then the temperature at the earth’s surface could soon resemble a past epoch called the Pliocene, when a great deal of ice melted and the ocean rose something like 80 feet compared to today. A recent study found that burning all the fossil fuels in the ground would fully melt the polar ice sheets, raising the sea level by more than 160 feet over an unknown period.
    With all of that said, the crucial issue is probably not how much the oceans are going to rise, but how fast. And on that point, scientists are pretty much flying blind. Their best information comes from studying Earth’s history, and it suggests that the rate can on occasion hit a foot per decade, which can probably be thought of as the worst-case scenario. A rate even half that would force rapid retreat from the coasts and, some experts think, throw human society into crisis. Even if the rise is much slower, many of the world’s great cities will flood eventually. Studies suggest that big cuts in emissions could slow the rise, buying crucial time for society to adapt to an altered coastline.


  9. 8. Are the predictions reliable?
    They’re not perfect, but they’re grounded in solid science.
    The idea that Earth is sensitive to greenhouse gases is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence. For instance, the basic physics suggesting that an increase of carbon dioxide traps more heat was discovered in the 19th century, and has been verified in thousands of laboratory experiments.
    Climate science does contain uncertainties, of course. The biggest is the degree to which global warming sets off feedback loops, such as a melting of sea ice that will darken the surface and cause more heat to be absorbed, melting more ice, and so forth. It is not clear exactly how much the feedbacks will intensify the warming; some of them could even partially offset it. This uncertainty means that computer forecasts can give only a range of future climate possibilities, not absolute predictions.
    But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts, and the ocean rises. A hundred miles inland from today’s East Coast, seashells can be dug from ancient beaches that are three million years old. These past conditions are not a perfect guide to the future, either, because humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever done.

  10. 9. Why do people question climate change?
    Hint: ideology.
    Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
    This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
    The most extreme version of climate denialism is to claim that scientists are engaged in a worldwide hoax to fool the public so that the government can gain greater control over people’s lives. As the arguments have become more strained, many oil and coal companies have begun to distance themselves publicly from climate denialism, but some are still helping to finance the campaigns of politicians who espouse such views.

  11. 10. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?
    In some cases, yes.
    Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions. Global warming has intensified droughts in regions like the Middle East, and it may have strengthened the drought in California.
    In many other cases, though, the linkage to global warming for particular trends is uncertain or disputed. That is partly from a lack of good historical weather data, but it is also scientifically unclear how certain types of events may be influenced by the changing climate.
    Another factor: While the climate is changing, people’s perceptions may be changing faster. The Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant places. On social media, people have a tendency to attribute virtually any disaster to climate change, but in many cases there is no scientific support for doing so.11. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

  12. In certain ways, yes.
    Countries with huge, frozen hinterlands, including Canada and Russia, could see some economic benefits as global warming makes agriculture, mining and the like more possible in those places. It is perhaps no accident that the Russians have always been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments, and President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly questioned the science of climate change.
    However, both of those countries could suffer enormous damage to their natural resources; escalating fires in Russia are already killing millions of acres of forests per year. Moreover, some experts believe countries that view themselves as likely winners from global warming will come to see the matter differently once they are swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate lands.

  13. 12. Is there any reason for hope?
    If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.
    Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
    But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal that is likely to be reached in Paris in December will commit nearly every country to some kind of action. Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.
    What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it. 
-----------------------------------------
This is from the NY Times of 28 November as a lead into the Paris Climate meetings, primarily directed at US citizens.

A good short 12 Q and A summary.......


And......sorry about the paragraph numbering - it is a bit crazy, and it was not easily fixed..

Thursday, November 26, 2015

139 Countries Could Be Totally Powered by Renewables

139 Countries Could Get All of their Power from Renewable Sources

Energy from wind, water and sun would eliminate nuclear and fossil fuels



Courtesy of The Solutions Project
Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi have done it again. This time they’ve spelled out how 139 countries can each generate all the energy needed for homes, businesses, industry, transportation, agriculture—everything—from wind, solar and water power technologies, by 2050. Their national blueprints, released Nov. 18, follow similar plans they have published in the past few years to run each of the 50 U.S. states on renewables, as well as the entire world. (Have a look for yourself, at your country, using the interactive map below.)

The plans, which list exact numbers of wind turbines, solar farms, hydroelectric dams and such, have been heralded as transformational, and criticized as starry eyed or even nutty.

Determined, Jacobson will take his case to leaders of the 195 nations that will meet at the U.N. climate talks, known as COP 21, which begin in Paris on Nov. 29. His point to them: Although international agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are worthwhile, they would not even be needed if countries switched wholesale to renewable energy, ending the combustion of coal, natural gas and oil that creates the vast majority of those emissions, and without any nuclear power. “The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,” says Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University and director of the school’s Atmosphere and Energy Program. He is already scheduled to speak twice at the meeting, and will spend the rest of his time trying to talk one on one with national leaders and their aids.


Jacobson thinks the 139 national plans will get traction not only because they offer a path to lower emissions, but because in total, they would create 24 million construction jobs and 26.5 million operational jobs, all spanning 35 years, offsetting 28.4 million jobs lost in the fossil fuel industries. That would leave a net gain of about 22 million jobs. Going 100 percent renewable would also prevent 3.3 to 4.6 million premature deaths a year through 2050 that would have happened because of air pollution from those fossil fuels. “These numbers are what gets people’s attention,” Jacobson says.

Jacobson and Delucchi, a research scientist at the University of California at Davis,  presented their “100 percent renewables” construct to the public for the first time in a 2009 feature article in Scientific American. It explained how the world could derive all of its power, including for transportation, from 1.7 billion rooftop solar systems, 40,000 photovoltaic power plants, 3.8 million wind turbines, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines and so on. “The whole idea originated with the Scientific American article,” Jacobson says. “Now there are five or six nonprofit organizations that use ‘100 percent’ in their name. Walmart, Google and Starbucks have said they want to go to 100 percent renewable energy. So have a number of cities. The goal of our plans for U.S. states and the 139 countries is to have places set their own ‘100 percent’ goals.”

Energy demand across the 139 nations by 2050 would be met with a broad set of wind, water and solar technologies: 19.4 percent onshore wind farms, 12.9 percent offshore wind farms, 42.2 percent utility-scale photovoltaic arrays, 5.6 percent rooftop solar panels, 6.0 percent commercial rooftop solar panels, 7.7 percent concentrated solar power arrays, 4.8 percent hydroelectricity, and 1.47 percent geothermal, wave and tidal power. Jacobson, Delucchi and more than a dozen colleagues from around the world have posted the details, country by country, in a self-published paper they released online. Hoping to make it available for COP, they have yet to publish it in a journal, but they intend to, Jacobson says. The previous plans have all been published.

The big knock against renewables such as wind and solar is that they are intermittent; the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. That means large amounts of energy storage are needed to save up excess power generated when these technologies are going full bore, which can then be tapped when they are low. Storage adds substantial cost and complexity to a renewable energy system.  

But Jacobson has an answer. By using a smart mix of technologies that complement one another during different parts of the day and different weather conditions, storage can be kept to a minimum. He, Delucchi and two colleagues explain how this can work across the U.S. in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that will be published Nov. 23.

The engineering detail in all these papers and plans is staggering. The document released for the 139 countries provides an itemized mix of technologies and costs for every nation, as well as how much land and rooftop area would be required. Since 2009 the two researchers, working with many others, have honed the numbers again and again. Now what is needed most, Jacobson says, is exposure. “We have talked to hundreds of expert and politicians. Now we need to reach hundreds of millions of people,” in hopes that they will see the possibilities and begin to call for them. 

That's why Jacobson and several high-profile businesspeople and entertainers started the Solutions Project to educate the public, business owners and policy makers about the roadmaps. Support comes from the Elon Musk Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and others. “We are tying to find a way to combine business and culture and science to get the information out—to engage, to tell stories,” Jacobson says. 

He himself scored a spot on David Letterman’s Late Night show in 2013. He says DiCaprio is planning to visit COP 21 while he is there. “We want to translate the benefits of the plans for people everywhere,” Jacobson says. “That's when good things will happen.”

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This was published online by Scientific American on 26 November 2015.

It is not pie in the sky stuff but well thought out engineering proposals.  Lets see if it gains some traction over the next few weeks in Paris.

Do your bit.........circulate it.




Friday, November 20, 2015

Bees Decline and Insecticides - Missing Link Discovered?

Bees and pesticides 'missing link' found



BeeImage copyright PA
Image caption Some scientific studies show that pesticides harm bees

Scientists say they have found the "missing link" in the debate over the risk of pesticides to bees.

French researchers say neonicotinoid pesticides harm individual honeybees, but whole colonies are able to recover in the wild.

This accounts for discrepancies between lab and field studies, they report in Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

A Europe-wide ban on neonicotinoid use on flowering crops is due to be reviewed at the end of the year.  It was introduced two years ago.
The debate over the use of neonics has centred on discrepancies between toxicity assessments in the laboratory, where bees are dosed artificially with insecticide, and the findings of field trials in the countryside.

The big unanswered question is whether harmful effects seen in lab studies occur in real-life conditions and cause population declines.

The new research provides an explanation for the "missing link", say French researchers.

Their monitoring of tagged honeybees in the wild suggests bees foraging around treated crops die off at a faster rate than normal.  However, colonies are able to make up for those dying off by boosting the number of worker bees in the hive.

Lead researcher Dr Mickael Henry of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA, in Avignon, said the average life expectancy for an individual honeybee foraging on crops treated with neonics is lower than expected.

He told BBC News: "We could find evidence of troubles at the individual scale in the field but these troubles were compensated for by the colonies.  "The population inside the hive was able to compensate for the increased loss of worker honeybees by increasing brood production."


A field study found harmful effects on the solitary beeImage copyright Morgan Boch
Image caption A field study found harmful effects on the solitary bee
dead beesImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The decline of bees around the world has increased focus on neonicotinoid chemicals
Dr Scott Hayward of the University of Birmingham, who was not connected with the study, said the work "re-ignites arguments to ban neonics", and similar studies are now needed on other pollinator species.

His comments were echoed by Dr Christopher Connolly of the University of Dundee.  "It is important to remember that all other insect pollinators do not possess the enormous buffering capacity of honeybees and are therefore more acutely at risk to the impact of pesticides," he said.

Dr Peter Campbell of the pesticide manufacturer Syngenta said while the study raised unanswered questions "reassuringly... there were still no effects reported at the colony level".
And Dr Alan Dewar of Dewar Crop Protection Ltd, added: "The conclusions from this work, which are very simple in contrast to the study itself, show that bees, or at least honey bees, can compensate for adverse effects of pesticides in their environment."

Emergency lifting

Bees are in decline in Europe and North America due to a number of factors, including pesticides, habitat loss and diseases.

Neonicotinoids contain synthetic chemicals similar to nicotine, which as a plant toxin is damaging to insects.  In the UK, the government has temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in parts of England.  Two neonicotinoid pesticides can be used in four counties on oilseed rape crops following an emergency application by the National Farmers Union.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the EU Commission had introduced precautionary restrictions on neonicotinoids from December 2013, which the UK had fully implemented.

A spokesman added: "The Government makes decisions on pesticides based on the recommendations of senior scientists and independent experts who have looked at the best available scientific evidence.  "The Commission has now begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, and the UK will contribute fully to this review."
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This work has certainly shed some real science on how these chemicals interact with bees, but the issue with other pollinators still remains.

I have seen nothing from Australian sources.  Those comments will place some local context on this important issue of bee health.

[ partially sourced from BBC sources on 20 November 2015.]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

UN World Toilet Day

The 19th of November marks the third annual UN World Toilet Day, an important opportunity to promote global efforts to achieve universal access to sanitation by 2030. 

This year, World Toilet Day is focusing on the link between sanitation and nutrition, drawing the world’s attention to the importance of toilets in supporting better nutrition and improved health. 

Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition.

It is okay if in the developed world.........we take toilets for granted.  They are not so ubiquitous in the developing world, but vital, especially more so for women and children.

Toilets have a significant effect on children’s health and nutrition; access to toilets can help children reach their full physical and mental potential. The inverse, however, is also true and the absence of a toilet can have profound implications. 

Consider the life of a child who lives in a village with poor sanitation. They go outside; they play in the same field where people defecate; they put their fingers in their mouths. They might not be aware of what contaminants are on their fingers.

Considering such things is not the job of a young child but it is important for his/her family, village, governments and the development community. 


We have a growing body of knowledge of the multi-generational and cyclical effects of what happens when a child’s environment is contaminated with feces. 

The UN estimates that 2.4 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities, nearly 1 billion of which practice open defecation......think........toilets - are vital.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Smarter Irrigation

turf irrigation
With Australia set to face a severe El NiƱo summer, with predicted droughts and bushfires across the country, and the north to have a later monsoon season start, Reece Irrigation has declared November 2015 to be the inaugural ‘Smart Irrigation Month’. 

The initiative aims to create awareness about water waste outdoors and encourage Australians to practise efficient water use by making small adjustments when watering gardens or lawns.

According to Reece Irrigation Business Development Manager Eric Barsky, “While most people understand how to save water inside, we still have a long way to go in educating people on saving water outside.” 

With this in mind, Reece has come up with a few simple tips to avoid overwatering, save money and protect our national water supply:
  1. Water early [ or late], and don’t bother when it’s windy. Watering the garden and lawn in the morning reduces water loss to evaporation. Watering when it’s windy is a waste of time.
  2. Choose the right plants for the Australian climate. Select plants that are drought tolerant and tropically adapted over plants that are thirsty, resulting in less watering and a healthy garden all year round.
  3. Group plants with similar moisture needs in the same area, making it easier to ensure they get the water they need without overwatering.
  4. Install a smart irrigation system. Smart irrigation systems minimise overwatering by adjusting to account for rain and cooler days. They will also reduce evaporation, run-off and weed growth especially pesky sedges - a sure sign of overwatering, thus promoting overall plant health.
  5. Maintain and upgrade automated irrigation systems to ensure they are working. Did you know a leaky sprinkler can waste up to 24,000 litres of water per month? Get an irrigation specialist in to check your watering systems for clogged or broken sprinkler heads.
  6. Use water efficient sprinkler heads where ever possible, and even if you do not have an automated system, efficient sprinkler heads improve water use efficiency.
These are sound ideas and with November weather here in the Top End - hot, windy and dry - all are worth implementing.

If you do not have automated "rain stop systems", most irrigation controllers have a switch - known as a rain stop switch.  Use it - especially after a decent storm.  You might not need to restart irrigation for 4-7 days after a good storm.  That can save a lot of water.

Save water and save money.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Orange Poinciana - Full Flowering

Red poinciana trees are absolutely a characteristic of Darwin at this time of year.  They are a standout sight in open space areas as well as in yards.

The red display while flowering is magnificent.

There is a hidden treasure though, in my opinion, that is even more spectacular........the much less common, orange form of the poinciana [Delonix regia].

While there are / were some small insignificant specimens at the edge of Tiger Brennan Drive and the intersection with Gothenburg Crescent close to the CBD, they seem to struggle to grow in that location.

Not so near the overpass on Trower Road in Rapid Creek.  The tree is a fantastic, well grown specimen and now in November is in full flower.  Definitely it is worth a look.

There are a few others around the city but I think this one is the prize specimen.


orange poinciana near Rapid Creek in full flower, November.

Orange poinciana  - near Rapid Creek

Closer view of flowers - orange form of  Poinciana

Flower display - orange Poinciana near Rapid Creek

The display of flowering of poincianas is a characteristic in a number of cities around Australia, with Brisbane in November - December also having many red flowered trees in flower.  Cairns is also known for the same flowering display of poincianas, and I am aware of at least one orange flowered tree there as well.  But the hot weather and mostly dry conditions help with the magnificent displays seen around Darwin in November each year. 

Red poinciana in Brisbane, late November 2014