Climate clippings 48

Greenland ice loss

The rate continues to accelerate, according to Skeptical Science.

It looks ugly, but see comment 24 and the correction @ 27. Doubling the rate each decade will give you 3,200 gt each year by 2050. But that’s still only a bit less than 9mm pa of sea level rise, according to my calculations. Concerning, certainly, but not yet catastrophic.

Caring for our Australian Alps Catchments

Alpine Groundsel (Senecio pectinatus) massed display

The snow-capped alps could be gone by 2050.

Here’s the media release and here’s the report.

“The report points to less precipitation, reduced snow cover, more droughts, more frequent severe fire events and more severe storms. These changes increase the challenge of managing catchments that are already under pressure.”

The implications go beyond the environment to tourism and water for the Murray Basin which sources around 30% of its flows from The Alps.

Cities exposed to coastal flooding

The OECD have done a study ranking the 136 port cities around the world that have more than one million inhabitants which are exposed to a 1 in 100 year surge-induced flood event. 38% of the cities are in Asia. Ranked by population, India, China, the US and Japan figure in the top 20, along with the usual suspects of Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand.

Go here for the Executive summary.

The total population in these cities exposed could grow to 150 million by 2070. The top 10 cities ranked by assets are Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Osaka-Kobe, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nagoya, Tampa-St Petersburg and Virginia Beach. These cities contain 60% of the total exposure, but are from only three countries: USA, Japan and the Netherlands.

Focus on phytoplankton

The tiny phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi, invisible to the naked eye, plays an outsized role in drawing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it deep in the seas.

From Science Daily a recent study shows:

how climate-driven changes in nitrogen sources and carbon dioxide levels in seawater could work together to make Emiliania huxleyi a less effective agent of carbon storage in the deep ocean, the world’s largest carbon sink.

The particular concern was the synergistic effect of acidity and a switch from nitrates to ammonium, both expected with climate change. They are now looking to build the genetic blueprint to bolster the phytoplankton’s responses.

Two films on Earth’s choking ‘carbon sponges’

The films were shown at the Pariscience film festival.

One, Tipping Point is a project of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA).

The other, Up in Smoke looks at slash and burn agriculture.

Between 250 and 300 million people throughout the world live on slash-and-burn subsistence farming. Yet, it is estimated that they account for a staggering 18% of the world’s carbon emissions.

British scientist Mike Hands

says he has a solution that can stop the environmental catastrophe while also providing food security. Known as alley cropping, it involves planting food crops between rows of inga trees, which provide firewood, fertiliser and enough shade to keep out the weeds. His problem, however, is lack of funding.

And a lack of political interest.

Organic agriculture

Meanwhile another UN talkfest in Korea was concerned with the nearly 20 million square kilometres, twice the size on Canada, of the planet’s arable land already degraded. A mere 3% of the Earth’s surface is arable, and 24% of that has already been degraded.

They were reviewing a 10-year plan and contemplating setting up an IPCCC-type body.

I wonder whether they are thinking about the potential of organic farming. A new report released by the Center for Food Safety and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Foundation) has a strong focus on organic rather than ‘industrial’ farming.

Go here to download the full report, The Wheel of Life: Food, Climate, Human Rights, and the Economy. We are told that organic farming, if practised throughout the world, could sequester about 40% of current carbon dioxide emissions. And we could feed the world too.

Based on 293 test cases, the study found that in organic farming produced yields 80 percent higher than industrial methods in developing countries.

The report suggests that gender issues need to be incorporated into planning for agriculture and climate change. Women do 80% of the farming, but are being displaced by industrial agriculture to become low paid and vulnerable migrant workers.

ActionAid report

ActionAid has warned that a triple crisis of climate change, depleted natural resources and rocketing food prices, could dwarf the world’s ability to feed everyone.

The full report (here) shows which of 28 developing countries are taking action against the climate/hunger crunch, and which are burying their heads in the sand.

The 10 countries ranked most vulnerable – DRC, Burundi, South Africa, Haiti, Bangladesh, Zambia, India, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Rwanda – account for nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Countries most ready to face the triple crisis include Brazil, Malawi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

One of the indicators studied is gender equality and a leading recommendation is to improve women’s access and control over land and other productive resources.

Genetic engineering for climate change

Genetic engineering is often touted as a solution to assist plants to adapt to climate change. Experiments undertaken by Brown University show how difficult this is. A total of 75,000 plants had to be monitored on sites from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. And they chose the Arabidopsis thaliana because its genome is simple.

More here.

Solar that glitters ready to go

Climate Spectator reports that micro-sized solar cells could halve the cost of solar panels while nearly doubling their efficiency. ready for commercialisation, Sandia National Laboratories who developed the technology, say the technology has potential applications in buildings, houses, clothing, portable electronics, vehicles, and other contoured structures.

With existing technology solar Photovoltaic prices have tumbled 30% this year.

At the end of the post, reference is made to a story in Gizmag where power for heart pacemakers and other biological implants is sourced from the airflow of breathing.

Renewables subsidy under-done

Finally, as everywhere (is China an exception?) subsidies for the development of renewables in the US have been a fraction of that provided to other technologies in their developmental stage.

103 thoughts on “Climate clippings 48”

  1. Some very good content there, Brian. I thought that this

    “Between 250 and 300 million people throughout the world live on slash-and-burn subsistence farming. Yet, it is estimated that they account for a staggering 18% of the world’s carbon emissions”

    was very significant as it places a big chunk of GW responsibility on some third world countries.

  2. Bilb: Very little of the slash and burn emissions include fossil carbon which is the real problem. This doesn’t mean that there is scope for improvement in the way slash and burn is conducted both in terms of reducing environmental impact and improving sustainable food production.

  3. What you didn’t say Brian is that the dropping price of solar panels is killing solar thermal projects. Not a problem while the quantity of solar PV is too low to make energy storage an issue but could come back to haunt us at some time in the future. At the moment the potential for improving solar PV is enormous, not so for solar thermal.

  4. Also BilB, those emissions form a large part of the pledges made by developing countries after Copenhagen and the rise of the international REDD scheme. Many people are nervous about leakage and hot air through those schemes but I think the developed countries (including Oz, now we have a cap&trade) need this scheme to work to keep their own costs down, so there will be a lot at stake in getting it right. Developing countries see the funds as helping their own development pathways.

    I reckon Costa Rica is the model to beat, though.

  5. John D, should your last sentence be “At the moment the potential for improving solar PV is enormous, not so for solar thermal”?

    BilB, I had a query about that 18% figure. A quick check of the magic diagram which I think might be about 5 years old, but would be in the ball park, puts the whole ‘land use change’ category as 18%. The efforts of those 300 million would only be part of that. But a lot of the rest is also from the destruction of forests in Brazil, Indonesia etc.

  6. Good point, JohnD.

    In that vein a point of discussion is a recent book featured on the ABC this morning talking of Aboriginal management of Australian lands as one Estate, over a very long time prior to European invasion. However the regular burning of forest land to produce grassland over many thousands of years would neutralise the effect from a global warming point of view. ie Aborigines, Global Warming, not guilty.

  7. An update on the ‘wedges view’ of changing carbon emissions from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Executive summary: the proverbial continues to hit the fan.

    Today, nine wedges are required to fill the stabilization triangle, instead of seven. A two-segment global carbon-dioxide emissions trajectory that starts now instead of seven years ago — flat for 50 years, then falling nearly to zero over the following 50 years — adds another 50 parts per million to the equilibrium concentration. The delayed trajectory produces nearly half a degree Celsius (three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit) of extra rise in the average surface temperature of the Earth.

    The authors conclude it’s not too late, but climate science may not be enough:

    Achieving an emissions rate in 2061 no higher than today’s is a goal that can be achieved by scaling up already deployed technologies. Given present knowledge, that goal is probably ambitious enough; pursuing tougher goals could lead us to opt for cures that are worse than the disease. And an iterative process for resetting goals is essential, in order to take into account both new science and newly revealed shortcomings of “solutions.”

    To motivate prompt action today, seven years later, our wedges paper needs supplements: insights from psychology and history about how unwelcome news is received, probing reports about the limitations of current climate science, and sober assessments of unsafe braking.

  8. Interesting comments (from a fairly stellar scientific case) to that piece I linked to earlier as well, especially this one from Robert May:

    I also think it is a bit naïve when it fails to mention the active and very professional lobbies of denial (much of whose work has explicit connections with the same professionals who ran campaigns denying that smoking causes lung cancer).

    So my first thought is that it might be a good idea if you took into account the recently published and excellent book entitled Merchants of Doubt. This makes rather clear that no matter how you went about presenting things — and I do have a lot of admiration for much of what you are suggesting — you would still be up against a very powerful and very skilled lobby of flat denial.

    I also note that Freeman Dyson is continuing with his “won’t someone think of the poor” false dichotomy to argue for inaction. A bit of a shame to see such a fantastic physicist peddle such a crap argument.

  9. Jess @7,

    I don’t want to be too unkind to the good scientists but its been known for at least fifty years that that type of solution doesn’t work as policy. The wedges are a great communication device, but a policy process they are not. This why the “rational” pathway process has been roundly criticised by social and political scientists. They seem to be realising that now though, which is good…

  10. Brian, on Agriculture and Australian farms, a few facts.

    1. Farmers occupy and manage 61% of Australia’s landmass, as such, they are at the frontline in delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the broader community.

    2. Our farmers have led Australian primary industries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 40% between 1990 and 2006. This is Australia’s leading greenhouse gas reduction contribution.

    3. Less than 1% of all agricultural land in Australia is irrigated.

    4. Despite common misconceptions, government support for Australian farms represents just 4% of farming income. By comparison, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Norway it is 61%, Korea 52%, in the European Union it is 23%, in Canada it is 17%, and in the United States it is 9%.

    In fact, Australian farmers are among the most self-sufficient in the world.

  11. Jess @8, in the pantheon of false dichotomies that’d be a whole lot falser than the “won’t someone think of our children” used to argue for action, of course, wouldn’t it?

  12. savvy, amongst other stuff your link trots out that old chestnut ‘CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere so why worry’. Methinks you’ll fill your head with junk.

  13. @Brian
    “amongst other stuff your link trots out..”

    Nothing to say about the experience or lack of experience of the lead authors for the IPCC?

  14. @Brian
    “CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere so why worry’”

    CO2 is not approx 0.04% of the atmosphere?

    What percentage is it?

  15. @Brian
    “Methinks you’ll fill your head with junk.”

    So everything in the link is junk? how so?

  16. savvy, you’ve raised three points. I didn’t say anything about the alleged lack of experience of IPCC authors, because it’s not something I know about in detail. Anecdotally I’ve heard of many very competent scientists being involved and there are bound to be some who have long experience who are not involved. A few that I know to be very competent scientists were fingered to be suss, so I’m inclined to discount the criticism.

    According to my calculator 390ppm is 0.039%. That’s not at issue. What is at issue is that such a small proportion can have an effect. My doctor has prescribed me a 1mg pill. That’s one 71 millionth of my body weight, or 0.000149%. It works.

    The effects of atmospheric trace gases is central to understanding global warming and climate change. If the source is wrong on that one, it lacks credibility as a source. It places it in the genre of denialist literature.

  17. @savvy,

    “CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere so why worry’”

    CO2 is not approx 0.04% of the atmosphere?

    What percentage is it?

    You really are a twisty piece of work. The misrepresentation being challenged is the “so why worry” portion of the statement Brian quoted and I very much doubt that you didn’t understand that.

    You just want to derail another of Brian’s threads with your questioning of absolutely everything, even stuff that’s obviously not the matter under question and/or been gone over long since in other threads.

  18. A suggestion: in future, if a commentor’s question or challenge is one of the well-known bad arguments listed in this article from Scientific American: Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense, then I suggest that the link simply be reposted and then the question/challenge be thereafter treated as answered. The rest of us can get onto actually discussing matters of interest instead of allowing the repetitions of nay-sayers to yet again dominate the thread.

  19. Thanks, Roger, all good now. I couldn’t find it from Deltoid’s front page, and it dates from 2005, so yes it could do with updating.

  20. First up, I am not saying the Thai floods are caused by AGW. In terms of risk management though, it is pertinent to note how our complex world is vulnerably exposed to natural disasters. Natural disasters disrupt global supply chain. Increase that risk at your own peril.

    A troll is only as good as their slogans and links. With just a few well placed search parameters it is possible to gauge the calibre of such. For example @13 is a Watts and/or Marohasy – bot and quite possible a creationist. Another cream puff mistaking itself as the universe and not worth to engage with.

  21. So some scientist accidentally observed a bunch of hooning teenage neutrinos doing wheelies, and now Global Warming is a fiction?

    I can’t go home tonight. There is clearly a tear in the fabric of space/time.

  22. Useful article by former deputy Premier of VIC on how poorly managed responses to rising demand for peakload power is driving electricity prices up .

    “Electricity bills are going up, but not because of the carbon price….between 2008 and 2015 retail electricity prices will rise between 110 per cent and 130 per cent. Yet the carbon price will contribute just 10 per cent of this increase. Why are we ignoring the other 120 per cent? “

  23. I’d really like to know from a representative whacky denialist: what do they imagine these scientists’ *motive* might be for “making up” the phenomenon of AGW?

    If I had this theory, that: ‘against all their training, a full 95% of scientists suddenly decide to agree on something for which there is “no evidence” ‘, surely I should put offer a theory of motive?

    Does anyone know what the whackos generally say here? I cant wait to hear it how lameass and demented it gets.

  24. As an aside, Ootz, my mum used to treat one of her collies which had a serious eczema problem with the extract from chopped blackberry leaves soaked in warm witchhazel. This she said cleared up the problem very quickly. Might be worth a try.

  25. Lefty E @30, I saw an article recently quoting some Chinese official claiming that it was all a US conspiracy to sabotage China’s efforts at economic development.

  26. “Why are we ignoring the other 120 per cent? “

    LeftyE, because Humans are ‘cognitive misers’ and make decisions within their ‘bounded rationality’ as well as it is politically expedient.

    Thanks BilB, I will slot that info away for next year. As of last week the gloves are off and fingers hitting the keyboard again! As it was a repeat episode (3-4 months) of last winter, the Doc recon it has something to do with season and my autoimmune illness. You only realise how much you rely on your hands when you can’t use them.

  27. Obviously, Ootz, you will do some research before using. I just had a look and there is plenty of material on the use of blackberry for a number of conditions.

  28. @29 and 33

    It’s a little more complicated (though I think Ootz is right: “political expediency” certainly seems to be a huge part of mainstream views about energy price issues on this blog).

    Thwaites is correct to point to the proportion of the increase in electricity prices which is coming from transmission and distribution costs, as that infrastructure has been neglected, particularly in those States where the Government still owns it. However he is dishonest in comparing this only to the direct estimated impact of the new carbon price, as if that is the only contribution to price increases that climate change policy makes.

    There is a raft of other policies at Federal and State level which have already significantly affected electricity prices and will continue to do so. MRET is the biggest, but feed in tariffs and other subsidies for renewable energy contribute too (the SA – Labor – government says feed in tariffs put 8% on SA electricity prices in 2011 alone, a notably frank admission since it is their legislated feed in tariff and they were warned of the likely result at the time).

    Don’t forget too that some of the current and more of the projected cost of upgrading distribution and transmission networks is a renewables effect – eg more, and more widely scattered, often at distances from existing wires, windfarms, and distribution network upgrades needed to cope with increased numbers of solar systems feeding into it. Even additional reporting, data and monitoring requirements (eg smart meters and smart grids) largely consequent on the climate change/renewables push, adds administrative and other costs.

    Where exactly this leaves the quantum of electricity price increases directly attributable to climate change policy is hard to say – not least because estimates do tend to have a degree of political expediency, from one side or the other, about them – but it is a safe bet that it is considerably higher than Thwaites acknowledges.

  29. I think your figures are way off beam Wozza, as is your point. When this was looked on this site here some time ago by one of your buddies the MRET contribution was less than a cent for NSW.

  30. From the AIG on energy prices (to December 2010)

    Australian retail electricity prices increased by an average of 30 per cent between 2006 and 2010, and by some estimates will have risen by at least 100 per cent from 2008 levels by 2015. These price rises have many causes. Electricity prices break down into the wholesale electricity price, charges for transmission and distribution networks, and retail costs.

    Government policy also affects prices, for instance through tightened reliability standards that require more network investment (and hence charges) to meet, or through mandates for renewable energy.
    While renewable energy-related costs have been higher than necessary, particularly those related to support for small solar PV systems, they are a relatively small part of the price rise story. The biggest role has been played by rises in network charges, which have grown to cover large investment to meet strong growth in peak demand, renew large asset bases, and meet higher reliability requirements. Wholesale prices have also been buffeted by factors including the recent drought and the run-up in resource, construction and maintenance costs. The latter, together with rising prices for internationally traded coal and gas, mean that even with conventional fossil-fuel technologies, new electricity generation will be significantly more expensive than Australia has been accustomed to.

    A switch from coal plants to efficient gas-fired plants is very likely, driven by regulation or carbon pricing, and will entail a cost premium either way. Indeed, all lower-carbon technologies, from carbon capture and storage to nuclear to renewables, are likely to remain more expensive than conventional coal, though scale and learning effects will help blunt costs over time. Compared to other industrialised countries, Australian electricity prices have been very low for both industrial and residential users; while prices are moving in other countries also, Australian price increases may move us towards the middle of the global pack.

  31. Well, you are entitled to think that BilB, but I only actually used one figure – and that a quote from Michael O’Brien announcing SA regulated prices, so blame him – precisely to avoid trading politically generated figures from different quarters at 20 paces, so I don’t see how my figures can be much of an issue. My point was the general one that, by whatever amount, the impact of climate change/renewables policy on electricity prices is more than that which simply derives from the new carbon price. Personally I think that is indisputable. Roger’s piece shows that too.

    There is a difference too between what MRET has cost to date (1c is an underestimate though I think) and what 20% renewables by 2020 will entail.

    Roger, the point about increasing international prices for traded gas/coal and its contribution to the price impact is interesting. It is rather ironic, at least in economic terms, that it is brown coal – not traded internationally – where this is not a factor that we intend to be the first the victim of phasing out via climate policy, thus maximising the fuel cost impact. Though I don’t expect irony is the word that you would use.

  32. (the SA – Labor – government says feed in tariffs put 8% on SA electricity prices in 2011 alone, a notably frank admission since it is their legislated feed in tariff and they were warned of the likely result at the time).

    This is not true. Although there was some confusion in his answer to the SA parliament on 28 September, in his answer on the 29 September Michael O’Brien makes it clear that FIT costs were responsible for 2.7% of the total price. Check the Hansard.

  33. stuart blanch on q&a had a good idea: selling renewable power to our very close northern neighbours.

  34. Wozza, the price of energy is global and becoming more so. Local wood, dung etc an exception as are subsidised supplies in fossil fuel rich economies. If the externalities of the health effects of coal use, the social cost of carbon and a risk premium is factored into the mix, what was once very cheap becomes less so. Not ironic from that point of view. That said, brown coal regions do need dedicated funds for industrial transition. People are involved.

  35. Most of the grid related price increases are required to subsidize the peak power hungry growth in air conditioning. Most of would avoid these price increases if air conditioner users were charged the real cost of their indulgence.

  36. jumpy re 42 & 43, that works too (for me anyway). power could go both ways, they have the water, we have the room.

  37. @37. Indeed energy price issues are extremely complicated, that is why it has become the focus of spin and fog production by the ‘political power at all cost’ propaganda machine. Thus it is worthwhile to go back to the core issue here, which is risk abatement of economic, social and environmental impacts arising from climate change.

    Keep in mind that electricity generation is a major contributor to rising co2 levels and also one of the sectors which does offer ‘low hanging fruits’. So I suggest, as the basis of this discussion, to look at projected emission trajectories under different scenarios as provided to treasury by ROAM Consulting. Figure 3.1 in Projections of Electricity Generation in Australia to 2050 (pdf), clearly shows that in the two modelled scenarios without any domestic carbon price will increase emission from just under 200 Mt CO2 at present to just under 350 Mt CO2 in 2050. Where as compared to a $20/t carbon price we can expect a flattening of emission till 2035, followed by gradual decrease to approx 70Mt CO2 -e in 2050. However, a $30/t carbon price would bring a gradual decrease in emission right from its introduction and level out in 2035 on about 30 Mt CO2. Please note the $20/t is in line with 550 ppm emission target, where as $30 targets 450 ppm.

    Now compare 350 Mt to 30 Mt co2 emission in 2050, then consider the risks and the costs either way! Without even considering the energy efficiency gains, why is this choice more difficult to digest than the ordure passed on by the A-bbotts.

  38. Yes, I read that ABC story about the Energy Supply Association too, Brian @46. I would be interested if anyone can make more sense of it than I can.

    I mean, in the real world when a new tax is applied to an industry, it is reflected in an upward movement of prices for the industry’s products. When a tax is removed, prices fall. Unless someone has repealed economics.

    And as for the ‘it’s all about the uncertainty” line, the fact is that anything beyond three and a half years is already uncertain, as the tax transitions to an ETS in ways yet to be fully explained, and three and a half years is not a long time horizon for investment decisions. That is a function of the Government choosing to design the scheme this way – not the Abbott promise to repeal.

    The Energy Supply Association has in fact specifically said that the design of the scheme in its prolonged transition is a problem, which will force up prices unnecessarily, not least because the Government is brazenly using it to fill its budget black hole so it can deliver on its surplus promise:

    “The Federal Government’s decision to force electricity generators to pay for emissions permits worth billions of dollars up to three years in advance of when they actually emit could increase retail prices significantly …… the Government’s proposal that generators pay for these emissions permits years in advance of when they’re actually required is designed to get cash in the door early to prop up the Commonwealth Budget.”

    The ABC regurgitating a piece of Government spin is my interpretation of the report.

  39. On my reading of the story in your second link @46, Brian, it’s actually $30 billion to be spent by 2020 on new wind farms alone, if the renewables target is to be met, on top of the ongoing funding by Governments on solar and other renewables subsidies. The report, from the Energy Users Association, also notes that 87% of the “government” subsidies, or about $11 billion so far, is effectively paid by for consumers at the end of the day in higher prices through mechanisms like feed in tariffs

    This ($30 billion on new windfarms this decade) is four times the total capital spending on generators in the previous decade.

    And some people want to argue that this sort of spending a just a minor factor, totally ignorable, in electricity price rises?

    Ootz @49, I’ll give you almost all that in principle. At the end of the day, it is indeed a question of risk management and whether the very large extra cost of energy we are imposing on ourselves is justified in terms of emissions avoided. But that is a different argument: I was merely responding to those arguing that the energy cost burden was negligible. It isn’t.

    Furthermore, and why I say “in principle”, in practice as we all know what Australia does to its emissions will effectively have no impact at all on the climate change damage it sustains. That depends on the rest of the world, and Brian’s other post doesn’t suggest that is looking promising. That good risk management requires the policy line to be drawn where this Government is drawing it is far from clearcut, even if you want to have the broader argument.

  40. @ 51 “… where this Government is drawing it policy is far from clearcut, even if you want to have the broader argument.”

    I gather you have heard of Garnaut, no? Read the report, no?

    Btw who says that higher energy prices will ‘cost’ the consumer more? Ever heard of energy efficiency savings, no?

    As it is, just received email from Vicky Darling MP, Minister for Environment, thanking me for being one of 300,000 Queensland households to receive a ClimateSmart Home Service. Apparently we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3.4 million tonnes over the life of the ClimateSmart products. This is equal to taking almost one million cars off the road for a year. There is an indisputable tangible upside to it too as I am saving ‘bucket loads’ of money after having made a modest initial investment in that regards. In the email there is a link to ‘dob in’ a friend or family member who hasn’t yet had the ClimateSmart Home Service, would you like me to add your name?

    If you read “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, you’ll find research has shown that people that have mastered the concept of ‘delayed gratification’ will generally do better in life. Now if you transpose that to the current haggling on investment into the fortune of Australia’s future energy supply and lifestyle we may make some progress in this ‘debate’.

    Finally, if you are not just about fog and spin re carbon emission abatement, then substantiate an alternative, because sitting on your backside does not get us anywhere here, just a bigger pile ordure. And you might remember my remark to John Michelmore re my skills in mucking out cow sheds. We got on well after that, and had some productive discussions with him here since.

  41. OK Ootz, it appears you have conceded the electricity price rise argument, since both your last two posts have not substantively touched on it. Since that and only that was what I have been addressing, I shall withdraw gracefully.

    However, in the unlikely event that you might consider contrary viewpoints on the other issues you have raised, three comments.

    One, you personally can engage in as much energy saving as you like, but you won’t avoid the price impact of climate policy, since everything you buy has a substantial energy component. Indeed, all the figures suggest that without government subsidy it is almost impossible to save money even on your own energy bills, and believe it or not you pay for government subsidies anyway, through your taxes.

    Two, I’m not sure what delayed gratification has got to do with anything – cancelled gratification is what Bob Brown has in mind for the man in the street – but, if we want to go into woolly sociology, there is a theory that transferred gratification is a strong element in progressive thinking. The self-assumed moral high ground, that is.

    Three, it is not up to me, as you assert, to put forward an alternative policy, and certainly not an alternative policy based on your definition of the problem. It is up to those who support what is currently on the table to defend it logically. That includes explaining their assumptions about why the policy is needed. “We’re in the shit” doesn’t qualify as a useful explanation for policy purposes

  42. dear Wozza
    “you won’t avoid the price impact of climate policy, since everything you buy has a substantial energy component.”
    good! overdue, but, substantial or not, better late than never.

    “cancelled gratification is what Bob Brown has in mind for the man in the street.”
    bullshit! gratify to your heart’s content just do it with renewable energy is brown’s mindset.

    “ ‘We’re in the shit’ doesn’t qualify as a useful explanation for policy purposes”.
    why the hell not? if you deemed us “in shit” it sure as hell would qualify then wouldn’t it?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  43. Wozza: The per capita power consumption is about 10,000 kWh/yr. This includes both industrial and domestic use. On this basis, a one cent/kWh increase in the price of power has a per capita cost of only 27 cents/day. (A $23/tonne tax adds about 2.3 cents/kWh to the price of power = 63 cents/day hardly the end of the world as we know it.)
    It is also worth noting that climate action will often save money. For example, replacing an old incandescent globe with an efficient globe of the sort required by Malcolm Turnbull’s efficient light globe regulations actually saves consumers about $200/tonne CO2 abatement (power cost 20 centskWh). At current prices the efficient globe pays for itself in 280 hrs..
    I could go on.

  44. John D – “A $23/tonne tax adds about 2.3 cents/kWh to the price of power”.

    My entire point on power prices has been that the direct impact of the tax on prices is only one component, and probably not the main one, of price increases imposed by climate change policy. You have simply ignored that and reverted to taliking about the carbon tax.

    I give up. I clearly don’t have the sort of brain that enables me to communicate in ways compatible with woolly Green thinking. A problem here, I concede, but in general I suppose I should thank God I made that way

  45. I was curious as to whether Wozza would acknowledge his error or not.

    Anyhow, on more substantive matters, I don’t think anyone denies that there is a short-term economic cost to implementing climate change abatement policies. However there are people who seem to struggle to acknolwedge that there is a high probability that a Business As Usual approach will result in even higher economic costs.

  46. Martin B,

    rounded to the nearest integer, about 100% IMO, if human welfare is the metric.
    Slightly lower if direct market costs are measured and that mainly concerns doubt as to how disfunctional markets would become under the strain.
    The possibility of a low climate sensitivity factor that would lead to higher emissions for lower temperatures is not sustained by observed radiative forcing – warming relationships.

  47. Wozza, most of the increases in power costs have nothing to do with action on climate change (except indirectly – because we haven’t done anything, thanks to people who think like you). It’s got much more to do with a lack of investment in infrastructure.

    This has already been pointed out to you ad nauseum by others, on a number of occasions, so it’s pretty clear your reading and cognitive skills are defective.

  48. Long comment
    @ 57 It is not our wooly thinking that is troubling you, the problem is closer to home. Let me illustrate that with two examples, that point to the root of your inability to communicate with us. Further, I will then explain how that relates to bounded rationality, I mentioned above @33.

    In your last comment you state

    “My entire point on power prices has been that the direct impact of the tax on prices is only one component, and probably not the main one, of price increases imposed by climate change policy.”

    Now go back to your statement @ 37

    “Where exactly this leaves the quantum of electricity price increases directly attributable to climate change policy is hard to say – not least because estimates do tend to have a degree of political expediency, from one side or the other, about them – but it is a safe bet that it is considerably higher than Thwaites acknowledges.”

    I ask you how can we argue with your safe bets. Never mind what we say or evidence we produce, you have made up your mind, you have committed yourself and parked your brain.

    Finally, and most poignantly, as it gets to the core of your reasoning and underlying cognitive functioning@54

    “That includes explaining their assumptions about why the policy is needed. “We’re in the shit” doesn’t qualify as a useful explanation for policy purposes”

    That is a pretty devastating statement on your own capacity to absorb information and perform critical analysis there of, which is crucial for tasks such as, risk assessment and problem formulation.

    This brings me to the interesting concept of bounded rationality, which put light on thinking of people such as outlined above. It is a notion that is actually used to understand behaviour of electricity consumers and pricing. However, it is late in the morning and my chooks will kill me if I am not soon attend to their needs, honestly.

  49. The possibility of a low climate sensitivity factor that would lead to higher emissions for lower temperatures is not sustained by observed radiative forcing – warming relationships.

    I don’t doubt that the uncertainties are greater in the projected impacts and the economic costs of those impacts than they are for the projections of future climate, and I also don’t doubt that all of these uncertainties multiplied together still give a very low number.

  50. Martin B, that’s true. But there are economists who maintain costs can be reined in by gradual actions that can ramp up as uncertainty reduces over time, i.e. this avoids the risk associated with getting it wrong by moving too quickly. This requires the costs being some time off in the future and relies on getting some cheap tech on the way.

    I’m struck by how often those who prefer market and technology-driven solutions rather than government regulation prefer lower values of climate sensitivity, suggesting that climate changes will be at the lower end of the range of uncertainty. This describes the environment in which such solutions would be most successful, if pursued on their own. (my view is all of the above are needed, plus behavioural change at the societal level)

    There is less agreement on the economics, for sure. Even down to how costs are framed and what is valuable. If we stopped arguing about the science, it would be a useful debate to have.

  51. Wozza, I had a thing or two to say to you on the OWS thread yesterday about your penchant for reciting talking points without researching or understanding them. In this case the answer to your posturing over renewables policy and energy price is in the article LeftyE linked to. Why don’t you just once in your life stop bothering people, and go away and try to learn something from a source other than a ranting right wing lunatic?

  52. If we stopped arguing about the science, it would be a useful debate to have.

    Indeed I’m frequently remarking on this. There are all kinds of important debates and decisions that need to be had which makes it incredibly frustrating to be constantly talking about non-debates.

  53. Hmmmmm Quokka,

    Are those the only 2 options that you can think up? Fortunately there are serious engineers with a whole raft of other working technologies.

  54. @BilB,

    They not only the only two options I can think up, they are the only two options at reasonable cost for baseload generation in the UK. Not just now, but well into the future as well. Read the UK Climate Change Committee’s Renewable Energy Review. Wind is really the only renewable that looks viable on a scale that will make any real difference. If the UK is to meet it’s supposedly legally binding commitment to 50% emissions reductions by 2027, it MUST largely decarbonize electricity supply by the end of the 2020s. It is perfectly clear that nuclear+wind is the only real chance of reaching that objective. Even in the CCC’s “high” renewables scenario, there is a large deployment of nuclear power.

    As for “serious engineers”, did they have hair dressers working on the CCS project? Delay in implementing what is known to work, and work at an economic cost in anticipation of technological marvels, yet to be revealed, is not in my view acceptable.

  55. Wozza @57: I gave you the per capita cost effect of the carbon price on power costs @56. If you wantto say: My entire point on power prices has been that the direct impact of the tax on prices is only one component, and probably not the main one, of price increases imposed by climate change policy. you need to come up with some real examples with quantified impacts that can be supported. Otherwise you are just doing an Abbott.

  56. Quokka: If the CCS really looked like a goer the coal industry would have been pouring funds into demonstration plants.

    It is worth keeping in mind too that the amount of base load currently used reflects a long history of power being produced using coal fired generators that cannot change output easily. Bilb can rattle on about smart power options that reduce the need for base power if you give him even a little bit of encouragement.

  57. Martin B @58

    If you mean my error in taking taking an ALP Minister’s first confused statement as what he meant to say, without checking whether he had later had to modify it, you are right and I acknowledge it. One should always check whether any statement from any Labor politician made more than 24 hours ago still stands. Even with the error of course this means that the feed-in tariff alone has put electricity prices up 2.7% in only one year, with more to come. Negligible by the standards of what you hope your preferred policies will achieve you mean?

    You also said however that I was wrong to suggest that the SA government was warned on the problems its proposed feed in tariff was likely to cause. On that you are wrong. I was in a position to see the papers. As, the more I see of your comments and speculate about your identity, I suspect you were.

    sg @ 64 you have lot to say, as you point out with every evidence of pride you also did on the OWS thread, about my “ranting right wing lunatic talking points”. I cannot help you if you feel that that constitutes a serious reasoned argument. As a fact-free regurgitator of turgid left wing talking points, it is no surprise. I can however at least not waste my time bothering to engage one who routinely operates at that sort of intellectual level, and I don’t intend to.

    And just for the record, that was the only reason not to respond to the fatuous stuff you purport to believe exonerates the CRA from its role in helping trigger the GFC. It did nothing of the kind, but, as you are never going to deviate from the laid down party line, further debate, as on most things with you, would be pointless.

  58. oh dear Wozza, you know full well that your opinions don’t hold up to reasoned argument, which is why you have never bothered to do anything resembling it on this blog – it’s largely just insults and sneering claims that you understand everything better than everyone else. Do you seriously think that

    cancelled gratification is what Bob Brown has in mind for the man in the street

    deserves a “serious reasoned argument” in response or that anyone who would spout such rubbish even knows what “serious reasoned argument” is?

  59. sg, if you can’t see the irony in your debating someone you disagree with with accusations like “lunatic”, “ranting”, “sneering”, “insults”, “rubbish”, and then going on seamlessly to a po-faced proclamation that it is you, sg, who is making the reasoned argument, then, well, words fail me. Clearly I had seriously over-estimated your intellectual capacity, and believe me that previous estimate was not a high one.

  60. Are you saying you weren’t sneering or insulting anyone when you claimed

    I clearly don’t have the sort of brain that enables me to communicate in ways compatible with woolly Green thinking?

    I really can’t see what’s wrong with accusations of “insults” and “sneering” in light of that – do please enlighten me. And if you think making up claims about Bob Brown’s motives is not spouting “rubbish,” then you are seriously beyond help (but we knew that). Which leaves us just 2 of your 5 “accusations” to cover: “lunatic” and “ranting.” I’m happy to take back “lunatic,” but until you can actually engage with any of the criticisms of your argument that were offered here, I’m afraid “ranting” still fits.

    You do like to spout off in the face of facts calmly presented (e.g. LeftyE’s original document, which you still have failed to engage with). This is the very definition of ranting. That you can’t see it should be your problem, but sadly it becomes everyone’s when you hijack these climate threads with your silliness, preening and sneering your way through a series of compound failures to address the facts as presented.

    I also didn’t claim to be making the “reasoned argument” at 72. I said it’s not worth doing it with you. It’s sad, but these Climate Clippings threads are infested with denialists spitting out their latest talking points (or worse still, the very old ones). I do wish you would try a little harder to engage like an adult. Until you do, I don’t see the point of doing your thinking for you, which is why I suggest you go back and read LeftyE’s link, and the arguments subsequently presented, until you actually understand the issues.

  61. And so, another climate threads wends its way inexorably to “I know you are, but what am I?”…

    A fitting epitaph for homo sapiens sapiens…

  62. sorry Mercurius, I’ll desist. I just get sick of seeing these climate threads swamped with denialist talking points – it’s distracting and makes them not very worth reading when they’re constantly being trolled. But I won’t go further …

  63. @JohnD

    Quokka: If the CCS really looked like a goer the coal industry would have been pouring funds into demonstration plants.

    Quite so.

    It is worth keeping in mind too that the amount of base load currently used reflects a long history of power being produced using coal fired generators that cannot change output easily. Bilb can rattle on about smart power options that reduce the need for base power if you give him even a little bit of encouragement.

    And just maybe coal is used so widely because it quite demonstrably works very well as a reliable non-intermittent generator that can be scheduled and is, or at least has been, cheap as long as you can avoid paying the external costs – something the whole world has been remarkably successful at doing. In other words, it met requirements – it did not create those requirements.

    No doubt Bilb can rattle of a list of gadgets to facilitate “movable demand”, but without any robust estimates of the magnitude and time frame of deployment, it’s just a story. It’s all in the numbers, and without the numbers is of little immediate importance. This decade looks dubious in the extreme for new sources of movable demand to have any tangible effect. The CCC commissioned a study “ANALYSING TECHNICAL CONSTRAINTS ON RENEWABLE GENERATION TO 2050” which contains estimates of “movable demand” in the UK (Fig 29 Page 81). Notice that the amount of fixed demand does not decrease to 2050. By 2030 their estimate is 16% of demand but that is almost entirely through electrification of transport and heating, the time frame for both of which is quite uncertain. Replacing gas central heating in the UK with heat pumps will be no trivial matter.

    It seems perfectly obvious that there will be an ongoing requirement for large scale reliable baseload generation for several decades at the very least. Just rattling off lists of gadgets not withstanding.

    It comes down to how much of a game of chance do we want to play with the climate. Denial of the risk involved in spinning some goldilocks scenarios where a plethora of technologies are developed AND deployed on time frames that are just right solely to accommodate the intermittent nature of renewables does not seem at all clever to me.

  64. Quokka: When I run my mind through our house the only things that I could come up with that had to be on demand were the lights, cooking and the TV. To at least some extent, the demand for the rest could be moved. Some, like refrigeration could only be switched off for short times. Others, like dishwashers, can be quite flexible re start time but need to run with little delay once a cycle is started.
    Run your mind through your residence and work place and report back. While you are doing it think about the potential for making use of thermal inertia and other forms of heat or cold storage.
    We could focus peoples minds by charging for peak power instead of averaging. Might focus people’s minds too on the real cost of air conditioning.

  65. @John D

    Run your mind through your residence and work place and report back. While you are doing it think about the potential for making use of thermal inertia and other forms of heat or cold storage.

    So what? Where are the numbers. Just another feel good story that serves to obscure the core issues.

    What we need to do is focus peoples minds on the core issues of energy production and in particular as an absolute priority electricity generation. Without that we are lost – it’s game over.

    Domestic electricity electricity demand is not the majority of electricity demand. So what if we reschedule 10% of it?

    All you are doing is demanding that others subscribe to your narrative on faith – a narrative unsupported by numbers. When I presented the UK CCCs estimate of possible magnitude of moveable demand, you suggest I walk round my house. Oh please!

  66. dear persuaded & articulate
    you rebut the talking points crowd for the sake of correcting mistruths “uttered” in this public forum.

    you pitch to your mates/comrades, but you also play to the silent galleries – the people who drop by, more or less casually, just to catch-up/listen in.

    some, at least, of this passing crowd, are fence sitters on climate issues – causally interested, intelligent & curious, receptive but not, perhaps fully, persuaded.

    to them, your efforts show how a good reply to a standard talking point really goes.

    I was a silent gallery “participant”, since kevin 07, until i assumed a persona recently & waded in. back at that time, in addition to the discussion, i greatly appreciated the intelligent, straight-up electorate information posted by various people from around the country, often with links. and, more often than not, different from the information carried by more “traditional” sources & certain other sources of deliberate “misinformation”, and, thereby, helping foster some personal insight & much peace of mind.

    so, as it was for me, with electoral information then, so it may be now for others, with climate issues. your rebuttals of the talking points are not necessarily lost, dissipated into the aether, because their utterers remain unpersuaded by you & come back for/with more of the same.

    its not by their reaction that the measure should be taken of the effectiveness of what you write, but its just that you bear witness, in this public forum, to truth/facts, in reply to talking points, that is the true measure of your effectiveness.

    and for what its worth, they mostly warrant no more than stock haiku-like replies, with links, where possible, for the benefit of the fence-sitting “lurkers”, of course.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  67. dear alfred

    the ‘sceptic’s’ errors
    are more innumerable
    than stars in the sky

    my haiku replies
    invariably end up
    much longer than this.

    yours sincerely


  68. Also, the Berkely Earth Surface Temperature team have made preprints of their initial dataset analysis available here. Anthony Watts is spraying sour grapes everywhere:

    There’s only one problem: Not one of the BEST papers have completed peer review.

    OMG Mr Watts – didn’t you know about Arxiv? Preprints are the way initial findings get spread these days.

    Personally I think spreading preprints is a good thing because you get a wider review than just the one or two reviewers officially hired by the journal. We do it anyway before submission in the process of writing papers, so what’s the problem?

  69. I find the BEST mob infuriating with their typical johnny-come-lately physicist’s pretension to be better able to understand a complex field than its own experts do. What a shock that they’ve managed to reproduce the results that the experts had already found… and what a shock as well that Watts has refused to accept their confirmation (though he has a point that they could at least reference his paper correctly).

  70. dear Jess
    thanks for the thought. of course as many words as it takes to say it right, though even a couplet of terzettas, like yours, can carry an array of informative links within, and rebut with barbs even, while at it. the courtesy of full explanation, though, is not due some people. but the good folks in the silent galleries (if its not too much to posit them being there) bear some consideration.

    far from it for me to coach knowledgeable & articulate people in how they should respond to talking points, but if these get up yr git & you can’t help but respond, I’d recommend keeping yr replies short (for your sake) & sweet (or not) and pitch your reason & science to the galleries. talking point talkers won’t ever deviate from script, but many “lurkers” thirst for & appreciate reasonable straight-up explanations & accessible links.

    the sun is out, the sky is blue – top of the day to you!
    alfred venison

  71. sg I thought you crossed the line of the civility we look for on this blog back @ 64.

    I haven’t had time to read every comment since and have to go now. The next CC will have to wait until the weekend.

  72. Roger @63
    “There is less agreement on the economics, for sure. Even down to how costs are framed and what is valuable. If we stopped arguing about the science, it would be a useful debate to have.”

    Totally agree. Just before dirty boots soiled the thread I was about to comment on that, comparing the International Energy Agency stick with Garnaut. I have not the energy atm but here are the links.

    Garnaut pdf

    IEA pdf

  73. dear Ootz @94
    bloody html! and bloody spell checkers! but, seriously, nice one. love the accumulative alliteration artistry. and the way you wove together the alliteration in your first line, with the same alliteration (not yours) provided in the link, and then back out, to more of the same alliteration in the final line, framed, for visual variety, with quote marks. cool. and the way the alliteration is maintained, in the first line, as its carrier morphs, from word to numeral, “thee” to “@83”, is special. i didn’t see it coming until i was on it.

    and the article is neat, too, thanks; started on the bus, i’ll finish it this weekend. wow, imagine when it gets out there’s “consumer psychology” meets “voter sentiment” research happening in climate change mitigation – plenty of nutmeat cutlet for conspiracy watchers in that conjunction, eh?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  74. I reeally wish people would concentrate their efforts more on real pollution that causes real and verifiable health problems.

    It seems that it is govt. watchdogs turning a blind eye to large corporations polluting that allows this shame to continue.

    The $32 billion Sydney Water Corporation has breached its pollution licences more than 1000 times in the past five years.
    …The federal government’s National Pollutant Inventory shows Sydney Water’s North Head sewage plant dumped 24 kilograms of mercury off Manly in 2009-10, through its deep ocean outfall pipe. That dwarfs the next biggest mercury polluter, the Springvale Colliery’s 0.66 kilograms.

    Sydney Water recorded an after-tax profit of $305 million to June. It will pay a dividend of $230 million to the government this year, rising over the next four years. The pricing regulator is reviewing its proposed price rise, which could cost households an extra 15 per cent over four years.”

    Govt’s shouting about climate change and carbon taxs while hiding its shame at the same time.
    Why should we believe anything the govt says on the environment.

  75. Savvy opened with a classic denier trope:

    I really wish people would concentrate their efforts more on real pollution that causes real and verifiable health problems.

    Then went off to talk about some other pollution being ignored by the Liberals, who are also deniers on climate change action.

    Not_very_original — derivative really, off-topic in a climate clippings thread, and stupid on the face of it, since “people” who support action on climate change are also very much in favour of controlling release to the biosphere of other pollutants.

  76. dear Savvy
    you’re right in so far as sydney water has been polluting the environment for many years. not to mention the appalling sell-off of land around the catchment, years ago, in order to return a “dividend” to tax payers/owners. so now farm animals graze up to the edge of warragamba dam & we get shit carried diseases in sydney. dumb as it gets & a liberal’s idea, too, i think. but it doesn’t much much matter ’cause its stupid by any measure. the arsenic dump at sea is just one of their offenses.

    as you note sydney water returns 100s millions to the gov’t of the day (earlier labor & now liberal) and for that reason remains under-regulated & certainly protected from the being made to pay the full costs of its pollution – the impact on the gov’t’s bottom line is deemed too great. yes, i’m cynical.

    but your conclusion from this is misguided. this not an either/or situation between pollution control & carbon abatement & we don’t have to stop one to address the other. the best approach would simply be for the nsw gov’t to: (1) fine the snot out of culprits like sydney water (and frickin’ orica) to clean up their acts & (2) continue work to stop pumping co2 into the atmosphere.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

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