Australia’s Clean Energy Future

For instructors looking to expand the ambit of their discussion of cap and trade systems beyond the EU-ETS, the centerpiece of Australia’s Clean Energy Future Package, its carbon pricing mechanism, is poised to begin operation on July 1, 2012. The legislation, passed in 2011, will establish a carbon price for approximately 60% of Australia’s emissions, including fuel use associated with electricity generation and industry, fugitive emissions from mines and waste, and household emissions via upstream liability for fuel distributors. The scheme will initially launch with a de facto carbon tax of AID $23. with a transition in three years to an emissions trading system.

The next few entries of this blog will summarize some good potential readings for students in this context, beginning with a two-page article (open access) in the most recent issue of Nature Climate Change. Among the take-aways from this article:

  1. Efforts to compensate households for price increases associated with the scheme include income-tax cuts for lower income groups, an approach that hasn’t been implemented often in carbon pricing schemes; however, the government has struggled to effectively communicate the impacts of this approach;
  2. While emissions-intensive industries will receive free permits valued at over AUD $3 billion, there’s very little evidence to justify shield trade-exposed companies from competition; there’s no real economic justification for payments to emissions-intensive coal-fired power plants These payments smack of the fruits of lobbying by industry;
  3. The Liberal opposition party has expressed a desire to repeal the carbon pricing scheme, and while this would likely prove to be a daunting political task, it could transpire after the next election in 2013.

The piece also includes a concise history of the development of the carbon pricing mechanism, as well as excellent discussion of the difficult politics in Australia that may imperil the scheme’s future.

Online climate course for elementary school instructors

Climate Instruction 101: Essential Knowledge and Teaching Strategies

Cost: You may take the course for free for no credit or take the course for recertification credit or potentially for graduate Environmental Studies credit.  Colorado teachers can receive a subsidy for credit costs.

The ICEE Climate Instruction 101 online course focuses on the Essential Principles of Climate Science and provides experience with teaching strategies such as identifying and addressing misconceptions, minimizing controversy, and teaching so that students can engage positively.

The online course will run August 25-November 18 and will meet one hour per week in a webinar format. Commitments include participation in the weekly webinar, a small group project, and discussions online as well as completion of assignments. Small groups will be formed along similar teaching goals.

The target audience is secondary science teachers. However, if sufficient interest exists from informal educators, upper elementary educators, or interdisciplinary teams we will form a small group with that interest.

Projected Increases of F-Gas Emissions

My students often ask me questions about the fluorinated gases, or “F-gases” regulated under the Kyoto Protocol (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride). While the impacts of the “big three” gases in the Kyoto basket are obviously much greater, a recent article in an excellent new journal, Greenhouse Gas Measurement & Management, suggests that their influence will increase over the course of the next forty years. Among the take-aways from the article:

  1.  Global emissions of fluorinated gases are projected to be 4 Gt CO2 equivalent in 2050 absent mitigation measures, with the greatest share of F-gas emissions coming from the commercial refrigeration sector (41%);
  2. The contribution of F-gases to warming are projected to increase from 1.3% in 2004 to 7.9% of projected global direct carbon dioxide emissions of 50 GtCO2 equivalent;
    1. The share of emissions of Kyoto F-gases in worldwide total greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 5.9% in 2050
  3. In the business as usual scenario, developing countries will account for 75% of total emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases in 2050;
  4. Due to their high global warming potential, HFCs, introduced as an alternative to HCFCs, an ozone depleting substance, will ultimately need to be phased out in favor of substances with low or zero global warming potential. Developing countries should look at alternatives that replace ozone depleting substances with substances that both reduce ozone depletion and are climate-friendly; this can include hydrocarbon, ammonia and carbon dioxide technologies used in supermarket refrigeration utilized in several European nations currently.

This is a good piece to remind students about the needs/opportunities to address F-gases in the context of climate mitigation policy; moreover, it affords instructors a good opportunity to discuss the interface of the Montreal Protocol and the UNFCCC.




UCAR Spark Webinar on Climate Modeling

UCAR Spark (formerly UCAR Education & Outreach) will be presenting a webinar (online web-based seminar) in collaboration with NSTA on Monday, June 11th. The webinar runs from 4:30-6 PM Mountain Time (6:30-8 PM Eastern). It is free, but you must register to attend. Registration and more info are available at NSTA’s site at:

The webinar is titled “Teaching Climate with Models: Breathing of the Earth”. It is the first in a series of 4 webinars; the other three will be scheduled throughout the 2012-13 academic year.

Randy Russell of UCAR Spark and Professor Scott Denning of Colorado State University will be presenting the webinar. Scott is a very dynamic and articulate speaker; if you haven’t had a chance to hear him present, we recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. The webinar covers aspects of the carbon cycle and modeling, with a special emphasis on changes to the carbon cycle caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and other human activities. The webinar includes several new animations created by Randy depicting the “carbon bathtub model”, a conceptual model that helps students understand how carbon flows into and out of the atmosphere and how carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere.

The webinar will be archived; you can view it later if you are unable to attend the live presentation. However, we recommend the “live” showing if you can make it; there will be opportunities for you to ask questions of the presenters which are not afforded in the archived version.
More information is also available on Spark’s web site at:

Exploring the Environment-Global Climate Change (ETE-GCC) project pilot testing for middle/high school teachers

The Exploring the Environment-Global Climate Change (ETE-GCC) project ( announces that five modules are ready for pilot testing: Global Temperatures, Ice Caps and Sea Levels, Human Health, Volcanoes, and Drought. We welcome the insights and recommendations from middle and high school teachers who agree to help us pilot test these problem-based learning activities. We hope pre-service teachers will also consider being part of this collaborative process as well.

The new ETE-GCC problem-based learning (PBL) modules present an updated theoretical approach to problem-based learning that builds on the legacy Exploring the Environment (Legacy ETE) problem-based learning modules (  Accompanying the modules are teacher pages that discuss improved pedagogical strategies for problem-based learning to address climate science topics and concepts. The ETE-GCC modules updates and expands existing ETE PBL modules with new material that focuses climate change indicators and data resources. Each module includes featured data that incorporate current NASA satellite images and data tools for studying global climate topics.

If you’d like to join the pilot testing process for the new modules, educators can sign up by sending an email to [email protected] or by requesting access to the site by selecting LOG IN on the ETE-GCC homepage: .