November 8 News: Australia’s Landmark Carbon Price Becomes “Law of the Land”

Other stories below: Permafrost May Unleash Greenhouse-Gas Spewing Microbes; Russia Sees New Urgency on Climate Deal

Australia Passes Landmark Carbon Price Laws

Australia passed landmark laws on Tuesday to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade and injecting new impetus into December’s global climate talks in South Africa.

Tuesday’s vote in the upper house Senate made Australia the second major economy behind the European Union to pass carbon-limiting legislation. Tiny New Zealand has a similar scheme.


Its impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners and liquefied natural gas LNG.L producers to airlines and steel makers, and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation towards gas and renewables.

The vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her political future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe, despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition.

“Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division,” Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

Russia sees need for more urgency on climate deal: EU

Russia recognizes that concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions need to be agreed at climate talks in South Africa next month before a globally binding climate deal can emerge by 2015, EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on Thursday.

Negotiators from around the world are due to meet in Durban at the end of this month to try to work on a new deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Expectations are low that a binding deal will emerge, as rifts between countries have stifled progress.

A group of small island states accused countries such as Russia and Japan on Thursday of trying to delay a new international agreement until 2018 or 2020.

“Russia shares our view that we should go for a roadmap and have timetables in it,” Hedegaard told reporters.

The “roadmap” would include a set of standardized actions toward a global deal, perhaps similar to a proposal by Australia and Norway last month, Hedegaard said.

Permafrost-Dwelling Microbes Could Spew Greenhouse Gases

The US Department of Energy has assembled a team of researchers to examine greenhouse gases that are currently trapped in permafrost but could be released as global temperatures rise.

The frozen territories around the North Pole and Arctic Ocean contain an estimated 1,672 billion metric tons of carbon — around 250 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released by the United States in 2009. As global temperatures rise, so do concerns about the potential impact of the released greenhouse gases.

As permafrost thaws, trapped frozen organic matter becomes accessible for microbes to degrade, releasing greenhouse gases as a byproduct. Understanding what sorts of microbes are in the ice is key to predicting the impact of the melting of permafrost soils.

The US Department of Energy has teamed up with the Joint Genome Institute, the Earth Sciences Division of Berkeley Lab and the US Geological Survey to understand how microbes found in the permafrost might respond to a warming environment.

The team is using a technique known as metagenomics to study communities of microbial organisms directly in their natural environments — assembling microbes based on samples found in the frigid soil. The technique makes it possible to understand the genetic make-up of communities of microorganisms without the need to isolate them and grow them in the lab.

Climate talks: China calls on developing countries to “step up”

Developing countries must step up with concrete plans to cut carbon emissions to break the deadlock in beleaguered UN climate talks, China’s top climate change official has told the Guardian.

With four weeks to go until the next round of long-running international talks in Durban, the move highlights China’s attempt to take on a new leadership role by bridging the gulf between rich and poor countries.

But Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the Chinese government’s National Development and Reform Commission, also told the Guardian that the best chance of progress was for developed countries to draw up a “Kyoto 2”, a second phase of the Kyoto protocol, the first agreement between nations to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Its first commitment phase is due to expire next year.

In the past, this approach has been seen by rich countries as simply continuing the stalemate that has afflicted the long-running talks, and several nations – including the US and Japan – have rejected a “Kyoto 2” because it would not require binding legal commitments from emerging economies to limit their emissions.

19 Responses to November 8 News: Australia’s Landmark Carbon Price Becomes “Law of the Land”

  1. dan allen says:

    ha ha…at least we’ll know the identity of those positive-feedback-responding, permafrost-oxidizing microbes.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. Who f***ing CARES what species they are?!

    What a monumental waste of time and brainpower.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    So China, instead of canceling its $80 billion coal delivery contract with Australia, wants to talk about talking.

    Meanwhile, here in the US, scientists are identifying microbes, while almost half the country doubts whether burning fossil fuels is affecting our climate, and the 40% of the Senate rule means that this view prevails.

    China and the US desperately need to get off their butts. The recent pipeline demonstration was a good start, but pressure on both countries may have to come from outside. Next time, this pressure will take a different form than talking and pleading.

  3. Leif says:

    It makes a huge difference dan. Different species metabolize at different rates and that dictates the response time available to humanity. Know your “enemy” is the first thing required in any fight. This is a fight for survival of humanity in case you have not noticed.

  4. dick smith says:

    RE: “frozen territories…contain 1.672 gigatons of carbon–around 250 times US GHG emissions in 2009.”

    Is this another case of mixing apples (carbon in the ground) with oranges (CO2 emissions which are 3.67 more)?

    Dividing 1,672 x 250 = about 6.7–which is clearly CO2 emissions, not the carbon vaporized (carbon “in the ground”). The carbon vaporized figure would be 3.67 x less, or about 1.825 GtC.

    Dividing 1,672 GtC of carbon in the ground by about 1.825 GtC of carbon burned in the U.S. in 2009 means that carbon in the ground is about 916 times more than the carbon the U.S. burned in 2009 (not 250 times more).

  5. Gee China I wonder which developing nation most needs to “step up”? Hmmm. Would it be:

    a) the one that has per-capita emissions higher than France, Italy, Switzerland or Sweden?
    b) the one that has total emissions greater than any continent?
    c) the one increasing emissions 10% a year?
    d) all of the above?

    China has lost all moral authority on climate and is now just another of the ruthless “carbon bombers”

  6. Australia’s carbon tax is a brave step by Gillard.

    For a nation at the top of the per-capita emissions table it is still far too little. And that doesn’t even count profiteering from a gigantic climate pollution export economy.

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    “A tally of lost lives and health care expenditures arising from just six recent weather-related or epidemiological events suggests that the economic toll of future climate change is likely to be even more staggering than previously thought, according to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.”

    Whats the cost of the collapse of civilization?

  8. Paul Magnus says:

    Most previous estimates have only looked at costs associated with property losses, damage to infrastructure and other resource forfeitures.

    “This is a problem with a human face,” said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist in the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the lead author of the study. “Our prior notions about climate change damage without these costs included have been vastly underestimated.”

    The researchers examined morbidity and mortality data — including expenditures for hospitalization, visits to the emergency room and other medical services….

    estimated costs totaling more than $14 billion.

    The highest health costs were associated with ozone pollution, which tallied $6.5 billion, and the California heat wave, which came in at $5.4 billion.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    “This will be one of the most severe Bering Sea storms on record,” the NWS wrote today.

    The storm is predicted to deepen at an incredible rate, with its central pressure crashing from 973 mb this morning to 945-950 mb tonight.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Barry, every well educated Aussie will agree with you that it is too little, too late. Christine Milne at the Green’s press conference talked about the ’emergency’ and described the legislation as a ‘platform’ for further action.

    Give us a break mate. This has cost a fortune, socially as well as politically. We have had big national stouches before, plenty of them, and we always play them rough and tough. But this one has been seriously divisive with an edge of viciousness and violence that I have never seen before. A nasty and very disturbing turn for a country with a sense of humour and a cohesive social fabric. The fact that this was socially engineered doesn’t change the fact that a lot of social damage has been done and must now be repaired.

    Re China, countries in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I am glad that she realizes the urgent need for an agreement and now feels strong enough to try and bring the parties together, ME

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    DA –
    Just off the top of my head ……
    The production of methane by microbes in a digestor has the ability to power many farm operations. If the genetic study of these microbes lets us create a family of microbes that say produce 10% more methane at a lower temperatures than is now possible, the cost of this study will be well worth the investment.

  12. quokka says:

    Full marks to the Gillard government for establishing a price on carbon pollution. This is something that any future government will find it difficult to reverse.

    It is however some distance from where we need to be. Government modelling indicates that by 2030 over half the resulting abatement of carbon emissions will be “sourced from overseas” ie by buying foreign carbon offsets.

    Meanwhile the dash for gas (and coal) continues unabated. Most recently some very serious questions are being raised about the expansion of export port facilities in Queensland and consequent increased shipping and their detrimental effects on the Great Barrier Reef.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to Colorado Bob’s item, NBC gets today’s “Connecting the Dots” gold star:

    “Posing an additional threat is the lack of sea ice off northwestern Alaska, Brown said. The last time a storm of a similar magnitude was sent in the same northward direction was 1974, but the sea surface was much more frozen then, he said.
    “History tells that the sea ice helps subdue the storm surge,” Brown said “With no sea ice there, we could see the full brunt of that 6- to 9-foot storm surge.”
    Arctic sea ice this year reached the second-lowest coverage since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
    Scientists there on Tuesday were watching the Alaska storm and anticipating its impacts.
    “Forty years ago, a big storm like this would come through and the sea ice would act as sort of a buffer,” said Mark Serreze, director of the Snow and Ice Data Center. “The Bering Sea has and always will have these strong storms. What is different now is their potential destructiveness as you lose the sea ice cover.”

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    PHOENIX, Nov 08, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — During a summer that included the hottest monsoon season on record and a 61 percent increase in the number of transmission poles replaced due to storm activity, APS continued to provide its 1.1 million Arizona customers with a high level of reliability.

    According to the National Weather Service, the 2011 monsoon season, which extends from June 15 to Sept. 30, was the hottest on record in Phoenix, where approximately 80 percent of APS’s customers reside. The season included a new record average temperature of 95 degrees, exceeding the previous record of 94.5 degrees set in 2007. It also established a new average maximum temperature of 106.7 degrees, passing the previous average high of 106.4 degrees established in 1989.

    In August alone, the Valley recorded six record high days.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Australia –
    Fishing in the World Heritage-listed waters off the coast of Gladstone is a business for many and a popular pastime for locals, but ever since the outbreak of disease in marine life, the industry there has been in panic mode.

    An unprecedented number of fish with red spots, lesions and parasites, as well as dead dugongs and turtles, have been found this year.

    Fishermen and conservationists blame the state of the marine life on dredging to widen Gladstone Harbour to accommodate carrier ships servicing the booming liquefied natural gas and coal seam gas industries.

    But the Gladstone Port Corporation does not believe the dredging is causing the disease in fish, and authorities say last year’s wet summer may be a factor in the poor health of the harbour.

    Water testing shows a number of sites within the harbour exceeded national guidelines for aluminium, copper and chromium. Experts say the levels pose a minimal risk to marine life; however, the Queensland Government has appointed an independent scientific panel to conduct more research.

    View a gallery of photos of diseased marine life found in Gladstone waters, interspersed with quotes from local fishermen and stakeholders.