Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Every day this government shows itself to be loathsome and vile.  

From Mr Morrison's maiden speech:

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.
Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.
So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.
From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:
... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
These are my principles.

Friday, October 24, 2014

China's coal use falls for first time this century

The amount of coal being burned by China has fallen for the first time this century, according to an analysis of official statistics.
China’s booming coal in the last decade has been the major contributor to the fast-rising carbon emissions that drive climate change, making the first fall a significant moment.
The amount of coal burned in the first three-quarters of 2014 was 1-2% lower than a year earlier, according to Greenpeace energy analysts in China. The drop contrasts sharply with the 5-10% annual growth rates seen since the early years of the century. 
“The significance is that if the coal consumption growth we have seen in China in the last 10 years went on, we would lose any hope of bringing climate change under control,” said Lauri Myllyvirta at Greenpeace East Asia. “The turnaround now gives a window of opportunity.”
Read more here and here.
Ever cheaper renewables mean that the impact on GDP growth and living standards of a switch away from coal to clean power is negligible.  China will install a record 20 GW of wind power alone this year.  It's slapped a 6% tariff on imported coal.  And it will have a carbon price from January 2016.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Renewables >50% of new US power plants

These two charts, from ILSR, show the rapid progress of solar and wind power in the US.  In 2013, the two combined formed 28% of new installed electricity generation capacity but in the first half of 2014 this doubled to 56%.   To get to 100% we will need battery costs to fall a bit further.  But already battery peak power (draws from the grid off peak, and releases it back to the grid at peak) is comparable in cost (in the US) to gas-peaking power.  Battery costs are falling precipitously.  Within 5 years it is very likely that all new installed power sources in the US will be renewables.  And as old power stations are decommissioned, they will be replaced, not by new coal-, oil- or gas-fired power stations but by renewables.

Hottest ever September

NOAA has just announced that the world has had its hottest September ever measured (click on charts to get bigger image; chart from here)

Average global monthly temperatures for September

This comes after the hottest May and June, 4th hottest July, and hottest August.  So it won't surprise you that this is also the hottest 12 months to September.  Note how obvious it is that 1998, always picked by the denialists as the starting point of their data set "showing" that the world is "no longer warming",  is a statistical outlier.

Average global temperatures, 12 months to September each year

The last 60 months have been equal warmest to the 60 months to September 2007.  Note that there is a 30 year cycle around the long term rising trend (the PDO, or Pacific Decadal Oscillation ; Into the Deep), as well as shorter cycles.  In the first of the down phases of this cycle (1880-1911) global temps fell.  Then the oscillation turned positive and temps rose for the next +-30 years, until 1945.  In the next down phase, global temps went sideways (not down).  Then a renewed up phase starting about 1980 (the 5 year moving average will lag the underlying data by 2 and a half years) and lasting until around 2005.  In the current down phase, global temps have gone on rising, only more slowly.  Just how fast will observed temperatures rise when the PDO again flips to an up phase?  At that point you will have the cycle/oscillation adding to the underlying trend. Scary.

Average global temps, 60 months to Sept each year

The only good news is that something is finally being done.  For example, China has imposed a tariff of 6% on imported coal.  This is effectively a carbon tax, because although it doesn't apply to domestic coal production, China imports most of its coal these days.  It is the world's biggest importer of coal, and not coincidentally, the world's biggest emitter of CO2.  And the tariff makes renewables relatively cheaper.  This step is in addition to a carbon trading scheme to be introduced into China's 8 largest cities in 2016 as well as other domestic programs to support renewables.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nuclear power

Every so often, someone lectures me about how nuclear power will solve the global warming crisis.   "Too cheap to meter", "cheaper than solar", etc.

This report, Last Hurrah For Nuclear, suggests the exact opposite:

The total bill for the first nuclear reactor to be built in the UK in a generation has surged more than 50 per cent, as the European Commission – on a split vote – approved subsidies that will amount for two-thirds of the extraordinary $45 billion price tag for the 3.2GW facility.
The Financial Times reported that the price tag for Hinkley C – Europe’s biggest and most controversial infrastructure project – had been lifted to  £24.5 billion, up more than 50 per cent from the £16 billion disclosed last year by EDF, the state-owned French utility running the project. The FT described the project as potentially the “last hurrah” for the nuclear industry.
The discrepancy in costs was apparently due to the fact that the original figure did not include interest payments made during construction and other pre-building costs, according to EDF. In other words, it didn’t include the cost of capital, a frequent omission from nuclear industry costings. 

Nuclear is not going to save us.  What is, is a concerted effort to replace coal-, oil-, and gas-fired electricity generation with renewables.  And because of the ongoing declines in renewables costs, we will save money and increase overall growth.

Solar levelized cost of electricity US$/MWh, Source Lazards

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Miami sea level rise goes exponential

In Miami, the sea level has risen 9 inches in 100 years.  Half of this happened within the past 16 years and a third in the past 5 years.

From 1914 through 1998, sea levels rose by an average of 0.06 inches per year — a rate that was barely noticeable to residents and city planners alike. But from 1998 to 2009 the pace increased to a more troubling 0.14 inches per year. And from 2009 to the present year the pace again jumped to a terrifying 0.67 inches per year. 

An exponential rate of sea level rise that, in the past year alone, raised Miami’s surrounding ocean waters by 0.86 inches. Should the observed sea level rise over recent years continue, Miami will be facing 6-9 feet of additional water by the end of this century and not the 3-4 feet currently predicted.

(Read more  here)

And of course, the rise won't continue at the current pace: it is likely to  accelerate.


Yet Floridians (especially, of course, Republicans) remain climate change skeptics.  What hope is there for the world?