Climate change increases drought and conflict in Syria

The military has been warning that climate change would be increase conflict around the world.

Syria appears to be a case in point. A prolonged drought has reduced rainfall over the past five years and caused massive crop failures. As farmers and herders have become unable to feed their families, millions have moved into urban areas.  Joining refugees from Palestine and Iraq, the displaced rural dwellers have created a situation that has not been reported until recently because the Assad regime kept journalists away.

Climate Legislation in Australia

For nearly a decade, Australia suffered from a devastating drought. In 2007, Australia began requiring corporations and entities over a certain size to report their greenhouse gas emissions, energy production, and energy consumption under the  National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act (NGER)

Prime Minister Rudd tried to pass a carbon emissions trading scheme, but it stalled in 2009.

Julia Gillard challenged Rudd and was elected leader of the Labor Party. In 2011, the drought ended, with heavy rains flooding huge areas. She helped negotiate a one time tax on incomes over $50,000 to help with reconstruction after the floods,

In December of last year an agreement was reached in Parliament on a carbon pricing mechanism requiring 500 largest emitters of greenhouse gases to buy permits. This week, the pricing for the permits was modified, under an agreement with the European Union. In Australia the price will be  fixed $A23 per ton, but change to a floating price in 2015 and emitters will be allowed to purchase half their required permits on the European Union market at their price now, which is around $A10 per ton.  Europeans will also be able to buy permits from Australia in a few years.

Emitters will be able to buy offsets, under some restrictions, and for no more than half of their obligation.

Part of the revenue from the sale of permits will be returned to Australian households to buffer the rising price of energy, and part will be used to ease impacts on industries, and to boost investments in renewable power and energy efficiency.

What are the odds?

‘You cannot prove that burning fossil fuel caused this heat wave.’ says our gasman.


We can, however, find correlations and calculate the odds. Which would you rather do, walk through a field of land mines where there is a 1 in 10 chance of setting off an explosion, or where there is a 1 in 300 chance of explosion?

Well, 1 in 300 is the odds we had 35 years ago of getting these deadly, crop blistering heat waves, and now the odds are 1 in 10, according to a new NASA statistical study.

Scientists began measuring and correlating the amount of carbon dioxide released by burning oil, coal and natural gas with rising temperatures sixty years ago. Now 40 different models have been created of the evidence and causes of the changing climate, and they all agree that human activities are causing the planet to overheat, with the main offender being the burning of fossil fuels. On the NASA site you can see the changing levels of CO2, global temperature, sea level, land ice and polar ice cover.

So the relevant question is not whether any single weather event is ‘caused’ by global warming, but  how the odds have changed, and how they are likely to change in the future.

An article on this report includes a slide show of 53 things that ‘Climate Change Just Might Ruin.’

Tax credits for wind production

In the middle of a drought that has affected half the country, the worst since the 1930s, with scientists saying that the likelihood of drought is greatly increased by warming emissions from fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas, the Republican presidential candidate is supporting continued tax breaks for these fossil fuels, but opposing tax incentives to help the developing wind power industry.


It appears that some Republican Senators disagree with candidate Romney and several of them joined Democrats in a 19-5 vote in the Senate Finance Committee to renew tax credits for wind power. 81% of  installed wind power plants are in Congressional districts that are represented by Republicans, such as Iowa and South Dakota.

A one year extension of a production tax credit for wind would be a step in the right direction if Congress approves it, even though it is tentative, tiny, and late. According to testimony before a Subcommittee last December by a Congressional economic analyst,  tax incentives for wind energy has been mostly temporary, extended 7 times since 1992, and allowed to lapse three times. The uncertainty of these provisions discourages investors. There is usually a 3 to 4 year period of planning, siting and permitting before wind equipment is ordered. A tax credit that may expire before it can be used is marginally useful.    The credit should be extended for at least 5 years to allow investors and producers some consistent support as the industry scales up.

Wind energy has huge potential for growth and is growing fast, – over 31% last year, providing over a third of all new power generating facilities. Analysts believe that the US can increase the share of electric power coming from wind from 3% now to 20% in 18 years. South Dakota and Iowa are already at about 20% each. Germany now gets 25% of its electricity from renewables.

Consumers will see the cost of solar and wind technology drop as research improves them and increased production reduces prices.  Bloomberg analysts estimate that the cost drops 7% for each doubling of wind energy installation.

Oil, coal and natural gas are mature industries that have become powerful with the help of subsidies which have been permanent features of the tax code for over 50 years and have been much larger than the subsidies to renewables according to congressional testimony.  Exploration credits, depletion credits, and royalty relief reduce costs and raise profits for the petroleum industry.  The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated continued direct subsidies for oil and gas or $74 billion over the next couple years unless Congress changes these laws. $75 billion is the average yearly profit of Exxon-Mobil between 2008 and 2011.

It is time for consumers to get some government help for the development of competitive energy production without fossil fuels.