Monday, December 21, 2009

Victory for Tassie old growth forests?

It's pleasing that Japanese customers are asking that Tasmanian state products now have FSC approval. The article in Age didn't say who the "Japanese customers" were. But I'm encouraged, though there was a carefully qualified comment by Michael Spencer the CEO of FSC Australia. Last year the Age reports 2110 hectares of old growth forest were logged in Tasmania.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

causes of greenhouse gas emissions

Any figures about greenhouse gas emissions are extremely rubber but there does seem to be consensus that most of it is fossil fuel emissions and most of the balance by deforestation. So some 80% or so from fossil fuel and some 20% from deforestation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

tradeabale property rights - a personal epiphany

Saving the environment - or not - is becoming about property. Anything that can be traded or incurs a profit or a loss becomes a property. A right is a property. So by creating tradeable water rights or carbon rights, the government is creating new classes of property that will hamstring any efforts to save the environment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

oil spill in the Kimberley

If the spill is so much bigger than originally thought, the responsible bureaucrats just haven't been looking - they didn't want to find out bad news that might damage the rush for development in the North-West, which is reminiscent of Exxon's strategy with Exxon Valdez. The "let's put our heads in the sand it will go away and it will all calm down in a little while" strategy The oil industry needs to treat this as an industry-wide problem - a public relations disaster for any planned developments in the Kimberley.

And who are PTTEP Australasia? They purchased the well in February 2009 so the leak may not be their responsibility, but they lack the resources to plug it quickly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is gorgon inflated?

$70 bilion or actually $32 billion. Is the $70 billion based on an inflated estimate by the government of LNG prices as Goldman Sachs JB Were suggests? In terms of its significance to the Australian economy, does it matter?

the sins of coal

Australia is the world's worst emitter of carbon dioxide - per capita. It's because of our dependence on coal to generate our electricity. With just under 20 tonnes a head we've overtaken the US. The average person in India emits 1.2 tonnes a year.

source: a risk assessment by Maplecroft

is Gorgon inflated?

$70 bilion or actually $32 billion. Is the $70 billion based on an inflated estimate by the government of LNG prices as Goldman Sachs JB Were suggests? In terms of its significance to the Australian economy, does it matter?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Using electricity means using water

Using coal to generate electricity consumes huge amounts of water. The five coal-fired power stations in the La Trobe valley use the equivalent to more than a quarter of Melbourne's annual water consumption. And clean-coal technologies (carbon capture and storage) consume even more water.

Coal is the elephant in the room for Australia's greenhouse reduction/consumption. Most of our coal is exported (some 75%) and the rest is burnt to make electricity or in the making of steel. That burning produces a little over 42% of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Coal is our largest commodity export and is worth $24 billion, and Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal.

It's a big elephant.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama's greenhouse reduction legislation

There's seems to be a change of mood in the world of greenhouse gas reduction with the passage through the House of Congress of Obama's greenhouse reduction legislation.

a couple of good websites

… which focuses on pollution in the third world.

The ten worst pollution problems in the third world are:
Industrial Mining Activities
Metals Smelters and Processing
Radioactive Waste and Uranium Mines
Untreated sewage
Urban air quality
Used Lead Acid Battery Recyclinmg
Contaminated Surface Water
Indoor Air Pollution
Artisanal Gold Mining

“The base of the food chain is being displaced by a non-digestible,

non-nutritive component which is actually out-weighing and out-

numbering the natural food. That is our core issue.”

It takes a little time to find this on the website but algalita is a highly focused organization with a great story to tell.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Victorian ALP State election promise

"immediately protect the remaining significant stands of old-growth forest in Victoria"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Devil may save the Tarkine

The Tassie Devil may save the Tarkine by becoming endangered. Garrett may over-rule the construction of the 113km road on the grounds that it will spread the devil facial tumour disease. The devil has been reduced to 30% of its population 13 years ago. 5.4k would be carved into Australia's largest temperate rainforest. The Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has joined the state liberals in opposing the road.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

is Antarctica melting?

A significant rise in sea levels depends on a good chunk of Antarctic ice melting, but the information coming from surveys isn't clear cut. This month the Wilkins ice shelf melted, and created a big media response. Wilkins is in the west.  In the east (and East Antarctica is four times bigger than West) the ice is growing and parts are cooling. The melting of sea ice doesn't affect sea levels as it is already in the sea, what does is the calving of icebergs from ice shelves. But there have been significant calvings in the West but ice shelves usually have episodic calving. And it is expected that reports will confirm that sea ice (fast and melt) has grown around the Antartica in the last 30 years. One measure of what is happening is the thickness of the sea ice - and that's at its densest in 10 years. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Key environmental pieces of legislation

Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC) - since it was introduced in 1999 by the Howard government - only 9 approvals have been refused out of 2700 referrals. It's looked at Gunns pulp mill, Port Phillip dredging. Ineffective in protecting native forest 2.5 milion hectares have been cleared for farming since the passing of the act and 16,000 saved. And there are exemptions for the foresty industry so there's been a clearing of a further 80 million hectares by the forestry industry. And there were high levels of illegal clearing of land for agriculture.

There's a forthcoming book, which I look forward to. (From Allen & Unwin I guess.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Old growth forests in Australia

8% of the original old-growth forests in Australia remain and only 4% are in national parks. I'm surprised that so much has survived outside national parks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sustainable food

I find it provoking that some high end restaurants make claims to "sustainability" of the food they serve. To quote one chef: "The area around San Francisco has some very interesting local produce and has paved the way for local, seasonal and sustainable food in the past twenty-five years." 

And I wonder if I'm just being churlish. The prices don't make eating at say Rockpool a sustainable exercise for most people, and I recall they had quite a spiel on sustainable foodstuffs. Local food is nice and saves some transport energy but a huge investment of time and energy in a small amount of high priced may be straining the notion of sustainable. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pacific Adventurer oil spill

The Pacific Adventurer, the ship that has spilt oil down the Queensland coast, is owned by Swire Shipping which is owned by The China Navigation Company which is owned by John Swire and Company.

Swire Shipping has a rather confusingly worded environment policy (who writes these things? - they should be shot for not writing in simple, clear English) while The China Navigation has no environment policy on the web but does have a OHS policy which I can't click through to on the About Us page.

Swire of course owns Cathay Pacific and interestingly owns Clyde Agriculture.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Amazon is stuffed

85% of the Amazon rainforest will be lost if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled.
even under the most optimistic climate change scenarios destruction of much of the forest is irreversible.
a rise of 2% above pre-industrial levels (widely considered the best-case scenario and the target for ambitious international plans to curb emissions) would see 20-40% of the Amazon die within a 100 years
3% rise would see 75% destroyed by drought
4% rise would kill 85%.

"Ecologically it would be a catastrophe and it would be taking a huge chance with our own climate. The tropics are drivers of the world's weather systems." Peter Cox, professor of climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter

It would change a significant carbon sink into a source.

paper submitted to "Nature Geoscience" and quoted in the Age Friday 13 Marh 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

fire and water

Three out of four of Melbourne's reservoirs have had fires in their catchments in the past ten days with two suffering significant damage. That means less water will flow into the dams as new young trees suck up more water than established trees.

Monday, February 16, 2009

water in town

Melbourne typically uses 1 billion litres of water a day. 

The Upper Yarra Reservoir is the second most important source of water for Melbourne after the Thomson Dam, and 2% has been burnt. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hybrid cars v conventional

A hybrid car may be worse for the environment than a conventional car because of the difficulty of recycling the batteries … but and if consumers don't invest in hybrids now the cars will never improve

Paper can be recycled 7 times and plastic more.

carbon footprint - electricity v gas

Every kilowatt hour used generates 1.3 kg of carbon dioxide. Using gas the same amount of energy produces a third of the amount of carbon dioxide.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ancient Tasmanian forests

In 1998 only 13% of the ancient forests remained
Less than half that 13% is protected in national parks
30% of Tasmania's forested wilderness is threatened by logging.
And that includes most of the ancient forests.
92% of the timber extracted from State forests become woodchips; 3.5% becomes sawn timber.

Source: Greenpeace

Friday, January 16, 2009


An ecological buzzword which trips me up. It means: found no where else - naturally. It therefore has a high ecological value. The opposite is a cosmopolitan species and an indigenous species is native but may be found elsewhere.

And a link.

This is really cool

Biodiversity hotspots

Old Growth Forest distribution

35% in Latin America, meaning Brazil for the most part
28% in North America (more Alaska and Canada - Boreal)
19% in North Asia (think Siberia - Boreal)
8% in Africa
7% in South Asia Pacific
3% in Europe

ecological threats to the ocean

overfishing - Science estimates that there will be no commercially harvestable seafood left by 2048.
bottom trawling - scrapes the bottom destroying coral gardens etc.
Longliniing - incidentally catches animals and birds, including turtles and albatrosses
pollution - sewage and industrial - treated as a rubbish pit
desal plants are a new threat.
Channel deepening and dredging off coasts
CO2 emissions which concentrate carbon in the water which screws up the pH - and causes ocean acidification
garbage - especially plastics which sea creatures eat and which then kills them.

200 dead spots in the ocean.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Canadian forests

Canada accounts for a 10th of the world's forests.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

cheat sheet for Gunns's pulp mill

who: Gunns
place: Bell Bay/Tamar Vallery
purpose: bleach Eucalypt woodchips and pulp them for sale to North Asia - Tasmania is closer to the North Asia market than rival pulp suppliers in South America.
envronmental issue: the release of effluent, especially dioxins, into Bass Strait. Gunns is planning to feed timber from the native forests of the north-east into the mill in the initial years of the operation (planned to be all plantation timber within five years. The Wilderness Society says it will initially be 80% native forest fed.)
alternative site: Hampshire
business issues: can Gunns raise the funds? Gunns interest payments in 07-08 were more than its earnings. Gunns has raised $500m in capital ($330m from equity raising and $170 from selling off pine plantations), concern with Gay being CEO and chairman, mill would tripled Gunns' earnings and turn it into a global player, Gunns market capitalization is $730m. Gunns needs to roll over $162m in debt in December 2009 against a debt facility of $178m
cost: $2.2 billion
status: 4 Jan 2009 Garrett said Gunns could build but could not operate till environmental model shows there is not problem with effluent outflows.
Institutional investors in Gunns who control just under 50%: Perpetual, Concord Capital, Perennial Investment Partners, Schroder Investment Management
Source: The Age and the Australian.

Note: How many old growth forests are Gunns responsible for having logged? If Gay hadn't built Gunns into the business it is today would those forests have been logged?
Note: Gunns have hired Sydney PR company Cato Counsel to turnaround years of publicity.
Note: Last pulp mill push 20 years ago was led by Robin Gray, ex-premier of Tas.
Note: Australia has a $2b deficit in wood products.

Further background:
Gunns owns all 4 export-woodchip mills in Tasmania.
It is the largest native-forest logging company in Australia as well as being the biggest hardwood-chip company in the world. (Where's the largest chip company?)
It exports more woodchips from Tasmanian than are exported from all the mainland states combined.
Gunns owns 2/3rds of the eucalypt sawmilling industry in Tasmania.
Gunns owns two major eucalypt veneer mills in Tasmanina.
Key woodchip customers: Oji, Nippon and Mitsubishi.
Source: Greenpeace

Other links:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

water anomaly

It's an anomaly for the water companies to be responsible for reducing water consumption. As consumption decreases they need to put up their prices, and the cost of water is predicted to double - and so it should.  If water is expensive then we don't consume as much - or at least most of us. For the rich it doesn't matter. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

emissions ready-reckoner by country - a beginning

Australia is a serious offender, per capita, for greenhouse emissions - due to our heavy reliance on coal.
The US emits 20% of global emissions for 5% of the population.

global consumption of oil tops 10m barrels per hour.