Would your friends believe PriceWaterhouseCooper about global warming?

Having trouble convincing your friends that we need to take global warming seriously?

Do they think that human induced climate change is some whacko left wing, eco-nut conspiracy?

Maybe they’d listen to a staid pillar of the establishment like PriceWaterhouse Cooper on the topic?

Stop banging your head against a brick wall – point them to the PWC website at:


Here’s what PwC say:

We use the carbon intensity for countries as a measure of progress towards a low carbon economy. The carbon intensity of an economy is the emissions per unit of GDP and is affected by a country’s fuel mix, energy efficiency and the composition of the economy (i.e. extent of activity in carbon-intensive sectors).

It’s time to plan for a warmer world. The annual Low Carbon Economy Index centres on one core statistic: the rate of change of global carbon intensity. This year we estimated that the required improvement in global carbon intensity to meet a 2°C warming target has risen to 5.1% a year, from now to 2050. We have passed a critical threshold – not once since World War 2 has the world achieved that rate of decarbonisation, but the task now confronting us is to achieve it for 39 consecutive years.

The 2011 rate of improvement in carbon intensity was 0.7%, giving an average rate of decarbonisation of 0.8% a year since 2000. If the world continues to decarbonise at the rate since the turn of the millennium, there will be an emissions gap of approximately 12 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) by 2020, 30 GtCO2 by 2030 and nearly 70 GtCO2 by 2050, as compared to our 2-degree scenario.

Even doubling our current rate of decarbonisation, would still lead to emissions consistent with 6 degrees of warming by the end of the century. To give ourselves a more than 50% chance of avoiding 2 degrees will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation.

In the emerging markets, where the E7 are now emitting more than the G7, improvements in carbon intensity have largely stalled, with strong GDP growth closely coupled with rapid emissions growth. Meanwhile the policy context for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear, critical technologies for low carbon energy generation, remains uncertain. Government support for renewable energy technologies is also being scaled back. As negotiators convene every year to attempt to agree a global deal, carbon emissions continue to rise in most parts of the world.

Business leaders have been asking for clarity in political ambition on climate change. Now one thing is clear: businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world – not just 2°C, but 4°C, or even 6°C.

If you need more detail you can download the pdf of PwC’s report Too Late for Two Degrees: Low carbon economy index 2012.

Resilience – the pumpkin variety

One of the key characteristics of a sustainable system is resilience.  A good working definition of resilience is ‘a built-in ability to avoid or recover from an impact or disturbance’.  In the natural world (I’m including vegetable growing as part of the natural world, bit of a stretch perhaps) resilience can be manifested at many scales, from the overall system right down to individual species.

In food production systems we should always be striving for resilience, and this becomes more significant as we begin to bear the brunt of climate change.  The fundamental weakness of agro-industrial systems of food production is that they have sacrificed resilience in the quest for greater short-term profits.

You might recall that some time ago I referred to my experiment in restricting pumpkin vines to around one square metre, after advice that they would be likely to be as productive if confined by pruning to that small area as they would  be if allowed to “free range”.  Because free range pumpkins take up such a lot of space I’m keen to prove that the “area restricted” approach works.

Unfortunately I didn’t reckon with the impact of heatwaves (or, more accurately, I didn’t respond quickly enough when we experienced a major heatwave over the last few weeks, with temperatures up to 38 degC. and quite low humidity).

Here’s what it does to a pumpkin vine:

Pumpkin Sunburn_P1040879_smallNot pretty, and not boding well for a plentiful harvest.

This vine was planted in the corner of the mulched area under a lime tree, and has been more or less restricted to one square metre (it’s probably more like 1.5×1.5m now).  Another part of the vine scrambled across the mulched area directly under the tree.  Here’s what it looked like at the time the above photo was taken:

Pumpkin_no Sunburn_P1040876_smallStrangely enough, even where it isn’t directly under the shade of the lime tree it isn’t sunburnt.  Maybe having the majority of it in shade gave the whole runner some greater resilience.

Lesson:  have structures ready for hanging shading material, so that it can be installed when there is the first hint of unusually high temperatures.  That’s another kind of resilience – being ready to respond to inclement situations so as to avoid negative impacts.

It’s not that I wasn’t aware of this kind of impact, just that we haven’t had really hot weather for four or five years, so I had taken my eye off the ball.  No excuse, I’ve been following Scarecrow’s Garden for a long time and, being in the mid-north of South Australia, she has many strategies for dealing with hot weather.

Nothing to do with sustainability, or is it?

I’m not sure exactly how this relates to sustainability, but I have a gut feeling that it does.  But the real reason I’m posting this is that it is such a simple, straightforward answer to the crap arguments made endlessly (and mindlessly) by the US gun lobby.

It’s from White Coat Underground, one of my daily fixes of common sense and sanity in an all too often crazy world.  I won’t rehash the gun lobby’s arguments – if you don’t know them already they’ll soon be coming to a TV news, newspaper, magazine, web site near you.  Over to White Coat Underground:

Guns have never played a part in the maintenance of a democracy in the US. Gun ownership in the colonies, which existed for more than a century before the revolution perhaps made it easier to form an army to oppose the Brits, but really, without the external support of France, without the distances involved, the war would have lasted much longer. The colonies were, fundamentally, un-rulable and the real question was how much blood would have to be spilled to prove it.

The civil war, in which a large number of Americans rebelled against what they saw as an unjust government killed people—lots of people. It destroyed large swaths of the country. And the war was not won because Unionists kept guns at home, but because the industrial north could manufacture sophisticated weapons in large numbers.

The so-called disarming of the population feared by the gun-nuts isn’t happening, and if it did (we can only hope), it wouldn’t change our form of government, wouldn’t change our ability to resist tyranny from home or abroad. If the US government really wanted to become a dictatorship (unlikely to ever happen), disarming the population wouldn’t even be necessary. The navy could simply drop a JDAM on people they didn’t like.

But we do have constitutional protections against dictatorship, and they’ve worked for centuries. We have a tripartite government with checks and balances, [and] we have a military that is forbidden from intervening domestically.

More strength to the forces for gun control in the US.

What do you say to them when ….?

It has occurred to me in the last few days that one of the aspects of trying to live as sustainable a life as possible is that one is often challenged by people along the lines of “Well, your efforts are all well and good, but what good do they really do when ….?” and cite some “statistic” or “fact” that in their mind challenges the whole point of trying to live sustainably.

Maybe one thing this blog can do is to provide answers to some of these challenges.

A good one arose in the days following the recent Tasmanian bushfires.  I’ll let the Philip Gibbons from the Australian National University tell the story as he did for The Conversation on January 10:

Fact check: do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

By Philip Gibbons, Australian National University

“Indeed I guess there’ll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades.” – acting Opposition leader, Warren Truss, January 9, 2013

On Wednesday, leader of the National Party and acting Opposition Leader, Warren Truss claimed carbon emissions from the current bushfires are equivalent to decades of carbon emissions from coal-fired power.

The current bushfires are so large that the statement by Warren Truss seems plausible.

This spurred me to do some research to find out.

Coal-fired power stations in Australia emit around 200 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This does not include emissions from our coal exports.

Around 30 tonnes of CO2 per forested hectare were emitted by the Black Saturday Fires in 2009.

Bushfires this year have so far burned around 130,000ha of forest, so have emitted nearly 4 million tonnes of CO2.

So, the bushfires this year have emitted an amount of CO2 equivalent to 2% of Australia’s annual emissions from coal-fired power.

The current bushfires must burn an area of forest greater than Tasmania to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a year of burning coal for electricity.

And the current bushfires must burn an area of forest the size of New South Wales to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a decade of burning coal for electricity.

However, the carbon emitted from bushfires is not permanent. Eucalypt forest regenerates after fire, and will quickly begin to sequester from the atmosphere the carbon that has been lost from the current bushfires.

The same cannot be said of coal-fired power stations.

Read more about the relationship between bushfires and emissions.

Philip Gibbons receives funding from the Australian Government, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory and the Australian Research Council.

This article was originally published at:

The Conversation
The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, USQ, UTAS, UWS and VU.
Read the original article.

New ideas for things to plant in the vege garden

Susan Kwong has set up a new database/wiki on perennial plants or plants that can be “perennialised” in Australia’s temperate climate zones. She takes the view that the plants we currently grow as annuals were probably originally “domesticated” by selecting for individuals which produced edible crops quickly, and which were either already annuals, or were made annual by a process of selection.  From her point of view, growing annuals as basic food crops introduces an element of uncertainty into every year – if the annual crop fails there not only isn’t any food from it, there aren’t any seeds for the next year’s crop.

Some annuals can be “perennialised” by selecting more long-lived, longer producing individuals so that, once established, they carry over their production into second and subsequent years.

So far there doesn’t seem to be much focus on the process of perennialising specific annuals, but the database is a wealth of information that isn’t just relevant to Australia’s temperate zones – a lot of the plants are grown in the sub-tropical zone (includes the Lockyer Valley) as well.

Here’s the article where she sets out the concept and the thinking behind it (someone should tell her about using shorter paragraphs for legibility and maintaining reader interest).

It turns out that a lot of the plants documented in the database so far are things that you might not have thought about as food plants at all, or might not have been aware of.  Here’s an example from the first set of plants, published in September.

Tree OnionsThe second data set is here: http://www.permaculturenews.org/2012/11/21/food-from-perennialising-plants-in-temperate-climate-australia-for-october-2012/

What I find most useful about this database is that it introduces me to new food plants, and gives me additional information about the ones I already know.

For example, a while back I was looking to identify something we’ve been growing successfully for two seasons now (in the post about wicking pots in November).  It’s the plant in the foreground.

Well, in the latest monthly issue of Susan Kwong’s perennialising database I found it listed as non-heading Chinese Cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies chinensis). Definitely the same plant, but I was a bit surprised about the common name.  Here in Australia Chinese Cabbage is usually used for wombok (Brassica rapa ssp. pekinensis) and I didn’t know there was a non-heading variety. This is a plant that I’m really familiar with as my parents used to grow this as a commercial crop on our farm at Eight Mile Plains (which at that time – early 1950s – was well outside Brisbane).  I have no idea where they marketed it, being too young at the time to take an interest in such things.

A bit of digging on the internet and I ended up with an informative article about Asian versions of Brassica rapa on Google.  In Australia chinensis is known as pak choy or pak choi, and in fact I found it in my Evernote database where I’d clipped it from the October issue of the perennialising database as Brassica chinensis (Bok Choy).

Problem solved.  It is a non-hearting Chinese Cabbage (because it is the same species as what is commonly called Chinese Cabbage), but it is a different sub-species (chinensis) and is best known in Australia as Pak Choy.

And I still have to get myself some seeds of gai laan, which is what I originally thought the pak choy was, and which looks like a very interesting vegetable – one of its other names is Chinese broccoli.