Climate clippings 231

1. ‘Time is Running Out’

According to Sharon Kelly at Desmog, that is a quote from a speech in 1965:

    “The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.”

The speaker was concerned that by the year 2000 the heat balance would be so modified as to possibly cause marked changes in the climate. And:

    “The report further states, and I quote: ‘… the pollution from internal combustion engines is so serious, and is growing so fast, that an alternative nonpolluting means of powering automobiles, buses, and trucks is likely to become a national necessity.’”

Believe it or not, the speaker was Frank Ikard, then president of the American Petroleum Institute (API) speaking at an oil industry conference. Back in 1965.

Since then the API has learnt how to be dishonest about climate change.

Back then from 1960 the Keeling curve of CO2 at measured at Mauna Loa had started to be measure CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. This is how we are doing:

2. The more they know the more stupid they become

That’s not exactly how David Robson put it in his New Scientist article about his book The Intelligence Trap, which is about how intelligence and expertise sometimes makes people more likely to err.

He cites a study by Dan Kahan at Yale University who looked at what Democrats and Republicans about the issue of climate change. Here’s the graph:

For the Democrats he tested, the greater their scientific literacy, the more likely they were to endorse a statement about human-made global warming. For the Republicans, those with higher science intelligence were more likely to deny climate risk.

It is said to be a case of ‘motivated reasoning’:

    which means we apply our intelligence in a one-sided manner, to build arguments that justify and rationalise our own intuitive views and demolish the arguments of others. And the smarter and more knowledgeable you are, the more convincing those arguments can seem.

    Motivated reasoning is a particular problem for charged issues like climate change, because questioning our beliefs on such subjects may erode our whole political identity.

Kahan got similar results when he asked about Obamacare:

    more knowledgeable participants were more likely to believe the fallacious claims that “death panels” would decide who was worthy of treatment – even after they had been offered information debunking the idea.

3. Pro-coal Nationals hold electorates most at risk from climate change

That’s Nicole Hasham at the SMH.

    The 20 most vulnerable electorates are expected to see an increase in average maximum temperatures of between 4.77 degrees (Groom) and 3.81 degrees (Hume).

The Australian Conservation Foundation has commissioned research by the ANU who used a model to predict how climate change is likely to affect 4000 locations around Australia including each federal electorate.

    It found that five of the six worst-hit seats were held by Nationals MPs. The most vulnerable seat, Groom, is held by Queensland Liberal MP John McVeigh.

    The 20 most vulnerable electorates are expected to see an increase in average maximum temperatures of between 4.77 degrees (Groom) and 3.81 degrees (Hume).

    Of those 20 electorates, eight were held by the Nationals, five each were held by the Liberal and Labor parties, one was held by independent Bob Katter and one was the redrawn seat of Canberra, which does not yet have a federal member.

    The seats of the two federal ministers largely responsible for Australia’s climate change response, Environment Minister Melissa Price (Durack) and Energy Minister Angus Taylor (Hume) are also on the top-20 list.

    Many Nationals seats most vulnerable to climate change are held by MPs who vocally back the coal industry including Barnaby Joyce (New England), Andrew Gee (Calare), Ken O’Dowd (Flynn), Michelle Landry (Capricornia) and Llew O’Brien (Wide Bay).

A third minister ranks in the top 20 – Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s seat of Maranoa in western Queensland is forecast to experience the second-biggest temperature rise by 2050, up 4.6°C by 2050.

The third-biggest leap is Mr McCormack’s seat of Riverina, which will increase by 4.1°C.

That’s from Andrew Tillett in the AFR.

The Land and the regional press also carried the story.

Here’s the ACF press release, which carries links to the report, and to the map where if you keep clicking you can find your electorate.

3 to 4°C may seem a lot, but remember over 70% of the globe is ocean, which will heat less than the land.

4. Essential Report on climate action

Peter Lewis who runs the Essential Report looks at what they found in the last survey. The question was:

    Do you believe that there is fairly conclusive evidence that climate change is happening and caused by human activity or do you believe that the evidence is still not in and we may just be witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate which happens from time to time?

62% agree that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity.

    By age groups, those aged under 35 split 72%/16% and those aged 55+ split 52/39%. People with higher education were more likely to think climate change is happening and is caused by human activity – those with university degrees split 71/22%.

Respondents were asked whether the government was doing enough:

Women, The Greens, and Labor voters seem to have their heads on straight, but even a third of LNP voters know which way is up.

Here’s the link, and the current TPP is 53-47 in favour of Labor.

Shorten could make it a climate change election and Richard di Natale should make it a climate change election.

5. Climate change poses risk to Australia’s financial stability, warns RBA deputy governor

Guy Debelle, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, warned a forum hosted by the Centre for Policy Development on Tuesday that climate change created risks for Australia’s financial stability in a number of different ways. He indicated that the impact was broader than agriculture, affecting the economy generally as well as parts.

    “Companies that generate significant pollution might face reputational damage or legal liability from their activities, and changes to regulation could cause previously valuable assets to become uneconomic.

    “All of these consequences could precipitate sharp adjustments in asset prices, which would have consequences for financial stability.”

Next to that part of the text is a link to an article Morrison government has not ruled out supporting coal, energy minister says.

Former reserve bank board member, economist Warwick McKibbin, says the effect of climate change goes way beyond temporary supply shocks, as when Cyclone Yasi wiped out the banana crop. McKibbin says:

    even if little action is taken to reduce emissions in Australia, 80 per cent of the impact on the Australian economy would come from policies introduced by other countries.

Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, said it now remained for Treasury to reveal its position, to bring all four members of the Council of Financial Regulators onto the same page now that ASIC, APRA and the reserve bank have got the message.

6. The worry about Snowy 2.0

When the Morrison government are not pursuing dreams about coal, they are spruiking Snowy 2.0. They need to read Giles Parkinson – Modelling suggests Snowy 2.0 will lift prices, defend coal, kill batteries:

    The detailed modelling underpinning the investment in the massive Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme confirms the worst fears of many in the industry: it will likely cause wholesale prices to rise in the medium to long term, it will sustain the business models of coal generators, and it will put a huge dent in the battery storage industry.

Very much the opposite of what they have been telling us.

When the project was first mooted two years ago, I suggested it might be a giant red herring. Now it’s looking worse than that.

7. Renewables players downgraded by AEMO

When we turn on the lights there is no way of telling which generation plant produced that electricity. AEMO, the market operator, has the job of deciding how much is lost along the way, and how much of the electricity generators put into the system makes it through and should be paid for.

Last week Australia’s fleet of wind and solar projects – and many thermal generators for that matter – were told they will be “de-rated” in the next financial year because of severe congestion in parts of the grid.

“It’s a bloodbath” was one of the milder responses from generators, according to Giles Parkinson’s article New solar, wind projects may stall in face of network “bloodbath”:

    The MLF is a key calculation because it can make or break a power project. It reflects how much of a power plant’s output at source arrives at destination (load) and is credited for payment.

    An MLF of 1.0 means a power plant gets credited for all its output. An MLF of 1.04 means it gets a premium, probably because it is close to load. But an MLF of lower than 1.0, such as 0.9 or 0.8, means a big reduction in output credits, and revenue.

    Many solar and wind farm operators contacted by RenewEconomy say the latest downgrades – of up to 20 per cent in some instances, and more than 5 per cent in many cases – will have a major impact on the industry.

Everyone with half a brain knows that the grid needs to be reshaped to take account of decentralised generation which in many cases will come from different places than it did in the past. Also half or more of consumers power bill comes from poles and wires.

This is what a national energy minister should be thinking about. So far the only response has been to propose a future second connection from Victoria to Tasmania, in relation to mooted the ‘Battery of the Nation’ project.

It’s beyond pathetic.

8. World investors deserting coal

Mark Ludlow at the AFR reports:

    More than 100 global financial institutions over the past six years have announced they will no longer invest in thermal coal – a move that is likely to leave future coal projects as “stranded assets”, according to a new report.

The report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said:

    there was global momentum against lending to coal, with a bank or insurer turning their back on coal once every two weeks.

    The report said that since the start of 2018 there had been 34 new or updated announcements from global financial institutions divesting from coal.

Also from the AFR:

    The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will divest $8 billion worth of oil and gas holdings, which could include stakes in Australian companies such as Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Beach Energy.

    Norway’s $US1 trillion sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday evening it would seek to phase out holdings classified as exploration and production companies from the portfolio in order to “reduce the aggregate oil price risk in the Norwegian economy”.

    There are 134 companies poised for the chop, including major global energy players such as Inpex, Anadarko Petroleum and CNOOC.


    Regulators and investors controlling $US32 trillion are ratcheting up pressure on large emitters to improve their climate change risk disclosure as a first step in managing the risk.

It’s time we elected politicians who are living in the real world.

24 thoughts on “Climate clippings 231”

  1. In today’s SMH paper edition is an op-ed from Ian Dunlop, and also posted midnight on-line headlined As an ex-coal boss, I’m telling politicians: wake up to climate threat. It includes:

    Given the overwhelming evidence and repeated warnings of the dangers we face, even as a former oil, gas and coal industry executive I find it incomprehensible that proposals for new fossil fuel projects proliferate, encouraged by government and opposition alike: Adani’s Carmichael, Glencore’s Wandoan, Kepco’s Bylong, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek, Shenhua’s Watermark, along with 20 other NSW coal projects, Shell’s CSG and LNG expansion, Northern Territory and West Australian fracking, Statoil in the Great Australian Bight, HELE coal-fired power stations … the list goes on.

    These projects are crimes against humanity. Fossil fuel investment must stop, now. As the cost of three decades of climate denial mount, the incumbency becomes evermore hysterical, lying and dissembling to avoid accountability – “we will meet our climate obligations at a canter”.

    And ends with:

    To halt our suicidal rush to oblivion, the community must ensure no leader is elected or appointed in this country unless they are committed to emergency action.

    No pulling punches here – telling us what must happen or we are toast.

  2. Geoff M

    The imminent Federal Election will be the clearest indication we’ve had for several years, whether the tide has turned, whether the Sun is shining on a better future, and whether the turbines of technological progress will blow away fossils.

    Here comes a golden opportunity for we advocates for new renewable power, transport, etc. to turn the election into a national referendum on action to reduce global warming.

    Good luck!

  3. Posted midnight this morning at the SMH is an article by Peter Hannam headlined ‘Monster’ El Nino a chance later this year, pointing to extended dry times. It begins with:

    Relief for Australia’s drought-hit regions could be a long way off, with climate influences in the Pacific and Indian oceans tilting towards drier conditions and a large El Nino event a possibility by year’s end.

    Climate scientists said the conditions in the Pacific were particularly concerning given an unusual build-up of equatorial heat below the surface that could provide the fuel for a significant El Nino.

    Sydney’s water supply levels are now (Saturday, Mar 16) at 56.8% (down -0.3% from last week). Over the last few weeks I’ve observed that the decline rate has been around 0.5% per week.

    Sydney’s desalination plant has been activated, but full production is months away.

    Sydney did get a downpour on Thursday afternoon and more rain is forecast for the next few days, so there may be an arrest in the fall of water levels for awhile, but more dry weather is forecast long-term.

  4. Posted at The Guardian on Wed, Mar 13, is an article by Lenore Taylor headlined Enough scandalous time-wasting on climate change. Let’s get back to the facts.

    It’s the start of a new series focusing on the climate change emergency.

    Look familiar? It seems, at least The Guardian is starting to highlight what Ian Dunlop (and a few others) have been saying for years (decades?).

  5. Brian: The graph on blue and red thinking in the US was fascinating. (High intelligence was more likely to be associated with strong support for the party line even though the party line was very different.) Possible causes”
    1. Early on, the climate cause was taken over by the left and the issue became a left/right conflict area.
    2. Intellectuals on both sides tend to use their brains to defend the ideas of group they belong to.
    3. Educated Democrats and Republicans come from different educational or employment backgrounds and see different things in the data and/or fear/look forward to the effect of climate action on their job security.
    Me, the evidence I see for the relationship between temperature and CO2 level comes from the the 100,000 yr Vostok core graph. (The cycles are driven by cycles in the earths orbit, tilt etc. For each cycle, the graph shows a slow decline in temperature and CO2 followed by a rapid increase in both before returning to the slow decline. What this suggests to me is that the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is a slow process that will involve the tying up of carbon in peat bogs, clatherate etc. By contrast, once the heating part of the cycle starts, the carbon is released much faster. (If this effect was not taking place I would expect the temperature curve to be sinusoidal with the start of the warming phase occurring much earlier in the cycle.)

  6. Re: 8. World investors deserting coal

    Posted today in The Guardian is an article by Ben Smee & Daniel Hurst headlined Energy analysts forecast ‘the end of coal’ in Asia as Japanese investors back renewables. It includes:

    Japan is Australia’s largest export customer for thermal coal. Of the proposed pipeline of coal power projects in Japan in 2015, figures from the Global Coal Plant tracker show three-quarters are now unlikely to proceed.

    The most recent proposal likely to be shelved, a 1.3GW coal-fired power station in Akita, in Japan’s north-west coastal region, follows the cancellation of two others earlier this year. Sojitz Corporation this week announced further divestment from thermal coal, following Itochu announcing a coal exit last month, and Mitsui in November.

    NSW, Queensland and the Australian governments need to start planning for a rapid exit from thermal coal. That means looking for alternative revenues (as thermal coal royalties decline) and transitioning employment and businesses currently dependent on the thermal coal industry into alternative activities. This issue will not go away.

  7. John, if we let actual science be our guide, in the end it is inescapable that the educated left tend to follow the science, but there are enough on the right who don’t to make a difference.

    Geoff M, here in Qld I am sure the Labor government understands that the dependence on coal must go. They are actively transitioning to renewables and supporting new-economy start-ups. I think Jackie Trad (deputy premier and treasurer) knows which way is up, and I wish the Greens no success in trying to steal her seat.

    Which is problematic, because the LNP look like breaking their usual practice of putting the Greens last, just so that she can be knocked off.

    I think the other side of politics will stick with traditional industries like agriculture, tourism and education. Their leader is interested in renewables, but the coalshevics are in control.

  8. Quite a bit of the thermal coal is byproduct from met coal mines. This byproduct would be sold at any price ex washery since most of the costs would be incurred no matter what. May increase pressure to move to less emissions intensive steel production.

  9. Brian:

    John, if we let actual science be our guide, in the end it is inescapable that the educated left tend to follow the science, but there are enough on the right who don’t to make a difference.

    sounds nice but my take is that some parts of the educated left are keen to talk about supporting the science because it supports their emotional position.
    The graph may simply be demonstrating smart people are more likely to switch party when their analysis drives them to a new position on what they consider a critical issue.

  10. that some parts of the educated left are keen to talk about supporting the science because it supports their emotional position

    And provided the science is respected that’s acceptable.

    The research was done in the US where ‘the left’ is represented by Democrats. I doubt many Republicans would switch parties on the basis of science.

    But you would have to look at the research design in more detail.

  11. Brian: Had enough to do with scientists to know that they are often caught in personality conflicts, defending ideas even when the evidence seems to be pointing the other way and indulging in group think. Also understand how job insecurity and the endless quest for grants can influence what they say,
    Also had enough to do with modelling to understand just how complex climate modelling must be.
    Also had enough to do with both the left and right to understand that emotion can be just as important as hard logic.
    The graph was intriguing. Cannot quite accept that it shows intelligent Republicans are much dumber than bright Democrats. (Or maybe bright Republicans come from different professions (think finance) than Democrats?

  12. John, I think the contention is that the Republicans are not dumber, they are just more likely to misinterpret the implications of what they know. It doesn’t say that Democrats do not suffer from this problem, just that Republicans are more likely to.

    Research is meant to verify whether your subjective impressions are, in general, true of the whole group. In this case I think we have to accept it pro tem unless and until more research shows otherwise.

  13. Posted early yesterday in the AFR is an article by Ben Potter headlined Mike Cannon-Brookes tells Senate Australia can be renewable superpower. The article begins with:

    Software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has laid out the position he will campaign on during the federal election that Australia should move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035, citing the opportunity to create an export industry based on abundant solar and wind energy and the need to combat climate change.

    Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Submission (#41) is here.

  14. Brian: Yep, science is supposed to be about the disinterested search for truth. It s a theory scientists like because it make them look good and encourages the masses to shut up and do what the scientists say is right.
    Reality as I have seen it is not quite like that. Having said that I would say that scientific conflict is far more productive than scientific consensus. I don’t believe what I believe because of what the experts say. I am far too arrogant for that.

  15. John, I always have an probability rating to my acceptance of any scientific ‘fact’ and it’s seldom 100%. In the particular graph under discussion, I guess it fits with my pre-existing mindset about people on the right politically.

    That being so, I’d just note the results. It doesn’t challenge what I thought beforehand, but I’d be hesitant in relying on the support it provides.

  16. Geoff M, I had a look at Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Submission, which was brief and to the point.

    I also had a look at yours (#9). You went to a lot of trouble to provide concrete information, which was certainly relevant and of interest. So, well done!

  17. Brian (Re: MARCH 19, 2019 AT 10:55 PM)

    I also had a look at yours (#9). You went to a lot of trouble to provide concrete information, which was certainly relevant and of interest.

    The serious and urgent nature of these matters provided me with the motivation to inform the Select Committee.

    On the morning of March 7, I attended a public forum to meet the 2019 Bathurst election candidates and an opportunity to ask them questions (See Western Advocate article headlined Bathurst’s state election candidates discuss need for a third public high school).

    Of the 6 registered candidates, only 4 candidates showed up:
    Paul Toole MP – Nationals (incumbent);
    Beau Riley – Labor;
    Brenden May – Shooters, Fishers and Farmers; and
    Michael Begg – Sustainable Australia.

    Missing -in-action were:
    David Harvey – Greens; and
    Timothy Hansen – Keep Sydney Open.

    I had a couple of questions prepared but did not have the opportunity to ask these questions publicly during the forum, but I did have the opportunity to speak privately with each of the 4 candidates that were present. I put my questions to each candidate (excluding Paul Toole as I’ve had correspondence with him on these issues previously), drew their attentions to my Fair Dinkum Power Submission (#09) and left my contact details with them in case they wished to discuss the issues further.

    My questions included preambles and then asked:

    Primary question:

    With the preceding information in mind, what is your vision, or your party’s vision, for a secure, safe, reliable, affordable, long-term sustainable, zero-carbon emissions energy supply to sustain our society’s long-term prosperity?

    Alternate Question:

    With the preceding information in mind, do you think NSW citizens received a good deal from the sale of state-owned generator assets? Please explain your reasoning.

    With Liddell power station closing in 2022 (in less than 4 years), what is your vision, or your party’s vision, for affordable, reliable electricity supply to keep the lights on in the 2020s and beyond, and contribute to rapidly reducing NSW’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    Some of the candidates said words to the effect “good questions“, but IMO they appeared unable to answer them in any meaningful way.

    Later in the afternoon I received a phone call (that I was unable to take at that time) from Michael Begg, who left a voicemail message to say that he had looked at my Submission and said words to the effect that he agreed with it. That’s the only feedback I’ve received so far, but IMO there’s no firm indication from any of the candidates to date on how to deal with these challenges – do they have a plan? I don’t see them discussing it. This suggests to me a lack of awareness (or perhaps avoidance?) of these IMO ‘first order’ challenges.

    Ian Dunlop said in his op-ed in the SMH last week:

    To halt our suicidal rush to oblivion, the community must ensure no leader is elected or appointed in this country unless they are committed to emergency action.

    But I’m having a hard time to date trying to determine who to put my trust in to vote for.

    There’s a second public forum tonight. Perhaps I can gain a clearer picture then.

  18. Posted at on March 21 is an article by Simon Nicholas and Tim Buckley headlined IEEFA Australia: NSW’s transition plan for a declining coal market is still missing. It begins with:

    The pipeline of coal-fired power projects in New South Wales’ biggest coal export destination is collapsing.

    In January 2019, the 2 gigawatt (GW) Chiba coal power project in Japan was cancelled. This follows the cancellation of the 1GW Soga coal-fired power project in December 2018. The 1.3GW Akita project has reportedly been cancelled according to Japan’s Nikkei and confirmation of this may be released any day now.

    However, you can be forgiven for not being aware of what’s on the horizon by reading the New South Wales (NSW) state government’s coal export forecasts. Furthermore, the major state political parties do not have a significant transition policy for the thermal coal industry in the run-up to the state election on 23 March 2019.

    It ends with:

    The NSW government and business community must urgently and carefully plan for the progressive transition away from a reliance on thermal coal exports. Workers and communities in the coal producing Hunter Valley region of NSW rely on realistic futures, not aspirational ones.

    Yet at the Minerals Council of Australia website on coal it says:

    It has a strong future which can meet the requirements of a modern economy.

    Someone is telling porkies.

  19. Yesterday afternoon, the Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) on the Bylong Coal Project webpage published my letter to the IPCN, dated Mar 4 – see here.

    Posted yesterday morning at the SMH is an article by Peter Hannam headlined ‘Peak coal in sight’ as new power stations drop and retirements jump. It begins with:

    The global pace of new construction of power stations is slowing while retirement of ageing plants is accelerating, placing the world on track for “peak coal” capacity within a couple of years.

    The annual Boom and Bust report, compiled by researchers including Global Energy Monitor and Greenpeace, found construction starts, pre-construction activity and completions of coal-fired plants each fell in 2018 for a third year in a row. New starts are down 84 per cent since 2015.

    The Boom and Bust 2019 report can be found here. It’s an up-to-date analysis of the recently released Global Coal Plant Tracker (GCPT) data.

    Where’s Australia’s plan for a declining global thermal coal market?

  20. Comprehensive leaks in the Nine press of the Federal ALP climate policy to be announced today.

    Includes: $2000 subsidy on solar batteries for up to 100,000 households; target of 1 million batteries by 2025. Govt depts to be purchasing 50% electric vehicles for new fleet vehicles by 2025. No counting of “Kyoto credits” in reaching the 45% emission reduction target.

    Cap for heaviest emitters (as introduced by Mr Turnbull). “No carbon tax under the Govt I lead.”

  21. Four Corners tonight is Climate of Change:

    Four Corners walks you through key areas of everyday life and industrial production which fuel our carbon emissions – from the cars we drive, the animals we breed to gas we export.

    The program investigates whether Australia is on track to deliver on the targets the nation has pledged to fulfil, and what effect the policies of successive governments have had on our emissions.

    With activists on both sides of the debate pushing to make the Federal poll a climate election, this is a must watch Four Corners.

  22. Posted on Sunday, Mar 31, at The Guardian is an article by Ben Smee headlined Japan to oppose new or expanded coal-fired power plants in blow to Australian exports. It begins with:

    Japan’s environment minister has announced he will “in principle” oppose any new plans to build or expand coal-fired power stations, as further signs emerge of a dramatic energy pivot by Australia’s top export market for thermal coal.

    Further along:

    A faster-than-anticipated transition by the Japanese energy sector, which buys 39% of Australian-mined thermal coal, would affect future volumes and the viability of some new mines.

    It ends with:

    Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies for the Institute of Economics and Financial Analysis, said the next decade would be critical for those most heavily dependant on thermal coal.

    Buckley said the Australian economy, mining communities and workers would be at greater risk if governments failed to understand the changing sentiment of global financial markets, particularly Japan, and ignored the need to implement effective transition strategies.

    “We have a decade to prepare, and that’s the decade that is critically important to building the industries of the future,” Buckley said.

    Ignoring this issue is not an option.

  23. Posted less than an hour ago at RenewEconomy is an article by Giles Parkinson headlined SolarReserve abandons huge solar tower and storage plant near Port Augusta. It begins with:

    Hopes for the construction of what would have been the world’s biggest solar tower and molten salt storage plant near Port Augusta have been dashed after the company behind the project, the US-based SolarReserve, said it was unable to raise finance.

    The South Australia government made the announcement on Friday, ending a two year search by SolarReserve, which failed to find the funds despite a commitment of $110 million from the federal government, and a long-term power pricing agreement from the state government.

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