Comments on Labor’s National Platform Chapter 4 (Aug 2019)

This document was my personal contribution to a review of the climate change policies that the ALP took to the 2019 election, and where the party might go from there. Policy within the ALP is based on the national party conference, in this case in December 2018. So I took a look at how existing policy might be modified for the future. These comments represent my views as they were expressed in August, with minor editorial tweaking.

Again, it’s a long read. Some may prefer to skip down to the Recommendations section, which is a more digestible 1773 words.

The 2019 federal election could have been a climate change election. To the extent that it was Labor’s excellent policy was not well promoted or defended. The Greens attacked it as a “dogs breakfast”, saying that it was no better than the Coalition policy.

The point of attack was the use of overseas offsets in the emissions reduction policy for major emitters. It relates to Labor proposals to modify existing government policy and the so-called Safeguard Mechanisms. Warwick McKibbin AO, Australian Professor of Economics at the Australian National University, had done modelling for the Abbott government which found that to rule out the purchase of offsets, here and abroad, was simply bad policy, and insignificant in its cost effect.

Since the 250 major emitters were a large part of our emissions, tackling the issue was not optional, indeed it is unavoidable if we are serious about climate change, but to do it badly could see many jobs going offshore to countries that had less concern about emissions. John Quiggin supported McKibbin.

It was badly defended.

Other than that, actions by green groups and in particular a crusade by former Greens leader Bob Brown succeeded in turning the approval of one ordinary-sized mine into a proxy for a serious debate about climate change.

Rather than go over the entrails, this submission seeks to look forward and concentrates on climate change policy as it exists within Chapter 4 of Labor’s National Platform.

Following the science

In Para 14 (page 76) of the Labor National Platform there is a fundamental commitment to science and consultation:

    Labor accepts the science of climate change. This reflects the broadly held view of the Australian community. Australia needs constructive, inclusive debate and evidence-based policy, so Labor policy is informed by scientists, economists, environmental and climate stakeholders, farmers, business, industry, unions, community organisations and governments. We have and will continue to consult thoroughly and comprehensively on policy based on the views of the experts and the community. Labor will adopt innovative approaches to limit climate change and our collective energy challenge.

In this regard it is understandable that references were made to the IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C published in October 2018, just before the last national conference.

The first problem is that the IPCC Report is not actually offering a path that keeps us within 1.5°C of warming. As Prof Simon Lewis tells us in Sucking carbon out of the air is no magic fix for the climate emergency says:

    To have just a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5C means halving global emissions over the next decade and hitting “net zero” emissions by about 2050.

Furthermore, he says, most scenarios offered by the IPCC have more than 730bn tonnes of carbon dioxide sequestered as negative emissions this century, which he sees as basically impossible.

In another article by Prof Mike Maslin and Simon comments on a study taking a positive view of reafforestation. They agree that it is quite feasible to plant trees on 900 million hectares, an area roughly the size of the continental US, if spread all over the globe. However, they are sceptical that 205 billion tonnes of carbon can be sequestered that way (205 billion carbon equals 547 billion CO2 – multiply C by 3.67) and in any case it will take many years for the trees to grow.

Planting trees is only one solution and not one that acts with sufficient speed in the climate emergency.

Some 10 years ago Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute (PIK) developed this graph for what was called the “climate budget approach”:

Figure 3: Meinshausen’s emissions reduction options

The actual values are out of date, but the main message, which remains, is that the longer we delay the harder and deeper into negative territory we need to go.

Joëlle Gergis’s The terrible truth of climate change (originally published in The Monthly) reports that scientists are revising their models, they now find that the truth is significantly worse than they thought.

She also reminds us that 1.5°C will see the destruction of between 70 and 90 per cent of reef-building corals compared to today, and that already half the reef is dead.

The IPCC tends to leave paleoclimate information out of account. One effect of this has been to disregard ice sheet disintegration. Some models are now including ice sheet decay, but Greenland and West Antarctica have only been seriously in play for a couple of decades, an extraordinarily short time when the midpoint time for ice sheet stabilisation is around 2,000 years (James Hansen says 1 to 4 thousand). If you do the maths, forecasting on observed data of 20 years is literally like trying to forecast the year from the first five minutes of observations.

Glaciers are difficult to measure. A new study measuring just one reveals that in fact it is melting 10 to 100 times quicker than previously thought, with implications for sea-level rise. Not altogether surprising if we are forcing the climate around 10 times harder than it was forced coming out of the last ice age.

The link between CO2, temperature and sea level is well-established from the ice core record, dating back 800,000 years. We know that during the last inter-glacial, the Eemian, sea levels were 6-9 metres higher than now with just 300 ppm. We are now over 410, and the last time CO2 this high was during the Pliocene (2.6 to 5.3 million years ago) there was a forest of trees in Antarctica.

Scientists in the article sound surprised, which amazes me. Fossil remains of a birch tree from the Pliocene in the Transantarctic Mountains were known about in 1996, indeed in 1993.

Sea levels back then were estimated to have been 25 metres (midpoint) higher than now. However, because this told us nothing that would appear in a peer-reviewed journal article about what would happen this century, the IPCC left it out of calculations. They actually went further. They downplayed the relevance of ice sheet decay in the near term.

Common sense would tell us that the paleoscience information constituted a risk that should not be ignored.

James Hansen says (Climate change in a nutshell p25) that we should expect, on average, 20 metres of sea level rise for each degree of warming.

A more comprehensive critique of problems with the IPCC and indeed much of climate science is given in a report by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop What Lies Beneath: The scientific understatement of climate risks and subsequent reports. It is worth noting the foreword by Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber who was:

    professor of theoretical physics specialising in complex systems and nonlinearity, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (1992-2018) and former chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. He is a senior climate advisor to the European Union, the German Chancellor and Pope Francis.

Schellnhuber tells of the deformation professionelle (French) or German Betriebsblindheit that has beset much of climate research. The German translates as organisational blindness.

He goes on:

    Expressed in plain English, experts tend to establish a peer world-view which becomes ever more rigid and focussed. Yet the crucial insights regarding the issue in question may lurk at the fringes, as this report suggests. This is particularly true when the issue is the very survival of our civilisation, where conventional means of analysis may become useless.

He says the IPCC has laboured hard, but a trend towards “erring on the side of least drama” has emerged. He finishes by saying that although scientists may be reluctant to cry wolf, the wolf may already be in the house.

To me the most pertinent critique of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC came from Gavin Schmidt, Hansen’s successor at NASA GISS, who in a post at RealClimate addressed directly the question of Can we avoid going through 1.5ºC? He says the IPCC has used “a few circumlocutions to avoid giving a direct answer to this question (for reasonable and understandable reasons).” He was not quite so constrained, and his answer was a simple “no”. He says:

    near-term reductions in carbon emissions by ~70% are required to even stabilize CO2, and to stabilize temperature, even further (net) reductions are required. And worse still to stabilize sea level, eventual temperature drops would be required.

A blog post, however significant and authoritative, or a foreword to a report would never be picked up by the IPCC, because the IPCC deals essentially in peer-reviewed published scientific articles.

In order to reduce temperature, and thus stabilise sea levels, we will need to turn the global warming dial down by taking greenhouse gases out of the air, which probably means direct carbon capture and storage and geo-engineering. Here I’ll just mention that two firms already have the technology to capture ‘wild’ CO2. One is the Canadian Carbon Engineering, who claim they can suck CO2 out of the air for less than $US100 per tonne, and the other the Swiss Climeworks. Beyond that there could be some carbon utilisation or liquefaction and sequestration. Both would need to demonstrate scalability, but the point is that the technology appears to be there, at prices humanity could afford if the threat were recognised as existential.

“Existential” in this context does not mean the threat of extinction, only that society as presently organised would be threatened.

We are now at a stage where the Great Barrier Reef is dying before our eyes, our Pacific neighbours are in existential threat from sea level rise, the weather seems to have gone crazy all over the world, wildfires are blazing as never before, even within the Arctic circle, and in Bhutan they are under existential threat from the melting of the “third pole” the Hindu Kush with implications “for nearly two billion people downstream from catastrophic flooding that would destroy land and livelihoods.”

Just in, in July we have had the hottest month ever recorded by humans, the US defense and intelligence establishment is worried about climate change as a threat multiplier and a state destabiliser, multiple naval facilities around the world are exposed to sea level rise, plus a new IPCC climate change report calls for an urgent overhaul of food production and land management.

Hansen in Nutshell p39 says we need to turn down the global warming dial in the first instance to 350 ppm (he’s been saying that since December 2007). On page 45 he does some calculations as to what is needed. With costings in the ballpark cited above, he calls for removing 695 GtC from the air in an effort to achieve atmospheric CO2 of 350 ppm by 2100. He sees the effort at $1.3 to $3.0 trillion per year over 80 years. Of course that would be additional to reducing emissions to net zero.

Those costs are in the order of current defense spending around the globe, but far less as a proportion of GDP than was spent in World War 2.

His sense, which I think would be widely shared, is that we have already let warming go too far. As Alexis Wright says in The Guardian, We all smell the smoke, we all feel the heat. This environmental catastrophe is global. What he is aspiring to is a safe climate rather than just escaping catastrophe.

I’m not sure that Schellnhuber would regard James Hansen’s science as on the fringe. Typically Hansen’s papers have multiple authors in multiple disciplines from multiple institutions, for example the Ice melt paper of 2016 with 18 co-authors. He adopts a process of open review, where the draft is posted on his site for everyone to comment before finalising the text.

I think it is inevitable that the climate emergency will be a major issue at the next election. Certainly there is a widespread appreciation that the climate as we experience it now is challenging, and people who are young now may face difficult disruption to their lives through the physical, social and economic impacts of climate change.

Recommendations

Given the above, I have a number of recommendations for drafting the next iteration of the National Platform, chapter 4.

First, while the IPCC remains an authoritative source, the Platform should leave scope for Labor in government to take into account the latest science.

I don’t want to diss the IPCC completely. At the very least their major reports are six to nine months out of date when published, and then stand as gospel for the next seven years. Labor needs to work from the latest science.

Second, adopt prominently in the Platform two proposals included in the 2019 Election Policy:

  • Restore and reform the Climate Change Authority (CCA)
  • Undertake a triennial Australian Climate Change Assessment (ACCA)

[Update: Five years may be deemed more approriate. I have no personal preference.]

Labor’s 2019 election policy targets for reducing emissions were taken from the Climate Change Authority advice to the Abbott government in 2014 as to what our effort should be towards the then proposed Paris Agreement. The CCA still exists and in fact has a current consultation paper out to update our commitment to the Paris Agreement, which was always meant to be upgraded post 2020.

I can’t adjudicate on the science of climate change and whether Hansen’s recommendations represent the way forward. Nor should Labor as a political party. The Climate Change Authority was created to take party politics out of climate change and to access the best advice through a public process.

The CCA needs to be revamped and encouraged to make recommendations that will in fact respond in a credible way to the climate emergency, be seen so by other countries who are serious about the matter, and aspire to a safe climate.

The Australian Climate Change Assessment would be a more thorough assessment, perhaps similar in scope to the Garnaut Review undertaken by the Gillard government.

Third, following the Australian Climate Change Assessment steps should be taken to develop a comprehensive national Climate Transition Plan.

This should cover all aspects of transition to a clean economy, not just the energy sector. The idea came from the German Energiewende (literally energy change), but this would be wider than just the energy sector. It will need to address the transition out of coal and gas mining, specifying measures to be taken to effect a just transition. Experience from the car industry demise was that a third of workers made redundant got better jobs, a third got worse jobs, and a third got no jobs at all. That was with a Coalition national government. Labor must convince workers and other businesses in the community that its plans are better.

Workers in coal and gas jobs must know that sooner or later their jobs will go. Finance and insurance companies will decide the issue if governments don’t.

[Update: Climate Transition Plan is intended as a neutral descriptor. We, that is Australia, can make it and call it anything we want, including an Australian Green New Deal. I have a prefernce for descriptive terms that carry no baggage.]

Fourth, Labor should not get sucked into taking responsibility for Scope 3 emissions from mining fossil fuels.

An AFR article on BHP’s praiseworthy move to assist its customers of its mining operations in limiting emissions showed this graph from Climate Analytics:

BHP’s Scope 3 emissions, which largely occur in other parts of the world, are 40 times it’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Scope 1 relates to the direct mining activity, Scope 2 to all activity conducted by others to support the mining, and to move the ore to the customers.

Australia faces the prospect of reaching 13% of global emissions by 2030 if Scope 3 emissions are counted as ours.

The international standard is to account for emissions in the location where they are created. That should remain the case, because that is where the relevant policy decisions are made. Nevertheless in a clean world the graph needs to fall to zero. The importance of the graph is that it shows the exposure of the Australian economy to activities which must stop.

In fact Labor needs to legislate to prevent Scope 3 emissions from being counted. In March the WA EPA issued a consultation ruling which said that henceforth any mining developments would need to fully offset Scope 3 emissions. The ruling was made with a note that the WA EPA felt it had to act in the absence of a national emissions policy, which they otherwise would have been happy to follow.

The agitation from companies such as Woodside Petroleum, with $40 billion worth of gas field developments was extreme. The discomfort of the WA government was also extreme, because the EPA had been set up as an independent regulator.

There needs to be more investigation of this, I am writing from memory. Apparently a final ruling will be made in October. However, there are two conclusions to be drawn. Firstly, the deployment of Scope 3 accounting would represent an extreme case of sovereign risk, making Australia a risky place for international capital and risky also for domestic enterprise.

Secondly, since Australia only accounts for 1.4 per cent of emissions, our climate diplomacy is going to have more effect on the future of our children and grandchildren than on our domestic actions. At the same time our diplomacy will be totally ineffective if we don’t take meaningful action in our own back yard.

[Update: Scope 3 needs more work. Legislating against their use would no doubt be used by the Greens. Ethically there is a case that we should not withdraw supply from other counties’ coal burners while we supply our own. There are other possible positions, such as supplying countries which are serious about climate change mitigation.

However, any new development now should probably close before its economic life is run. Insurance companies are becoming very edgy in this space.]

Fifth, Labor should embrace the vision of Professor Andrew Blakers.

In discussions about electricity storage to support intermittent solar and wind, too often the discussion turns to batteries, which are fast (instantaneous) but expensive, more useful to provide stability to the grid than to provide actual power. Pumped hydro take 7 seconds to fire up, faster than gas.

Andrew Blakers and his team at ANU have essentially done three things. Firstly, they have used an algorithm to find potential sites for small-scale pumped hydro, looking at sites not used in agriculture, and not in national parks. They found 67,000, or a thousand times what would be needed for 100% backed up renewable energy.

Second, they looked at linking the sites over the National Electricity Market (NEM) – a million square kilometres – through high voltage direct current (HVDC). The Chinese have demonstrated that they can shoot 12GW of electricity 3,000 km with a loss of only 10%. The more you network the system, the less backup you need.

Thirdly, they have taken hourly weather records, crunched the data required for what they call “balancing” including wet weeks, and worked out the cost. This is the cost of new-build firmed wind and solar against new gas, supercritical coal and current wholesale prices:

Sorry about the screen shot. Gas is on the left, then coal, then renewables in a reasonable cost trend.

As we approach 100% renewables, the cost of firming and transmission does increase, but tops out at $25/MWh:

Blakers says that by using heat pumps for heating, coal and gas can essentially be pushed out of the energy system.

Blakers’ vision continues in two exciting ways. Firstly, he says that 100% renewable transport could be achieved by 2030 by producing 34% renewable energy, which could support batteries or hydrogen or whatever.

Secondly, he sees the whole world being connected by HVDC through intercontinental underwater cables. They have now used their algorithm to find pumped hydro sites all over the world. The future can be energy rich. Here is how much land area is required to supply Australia and the world:

I would suggest that if we were pursuing Blakers’ vision of small scale pumped hydro rather than Snowy 2.0 our future would look a whole lot brighter.

[Update: Comment has been made that Blakers and company seem to neglect concentrated solar with molten salt storage. I suspect Blakers just used wind and solar in a research exercise to exemplify possibilities because of their widespread penetration of the market, and in fact has nothing in principle against concentrated solar.]

Sixth, Labor should make quite explicit that in government it will work through the properly established organisational channels.

This is necessary because currently we have a rogue federal minister, actively generating sovereign risk and disincentives to investment.

The road to privatisation, competition and the National Electricity Market started in 1996 during the Keating government’s last months. The NEM did not get going at full steam until about 2009, which makes this graph of electricity consumer prices, published in 2017 by Ian McAuley, especially interesting:

No-one, the ACCC included, has satisfactorily explained why. The Australian Climate Change Audit mentioned above could well contemplate the wisdom of privatisation. In my humble opinion, electricity retailing and poles and wires are natural monopolies, best in public hands. I can see a role for entrepreneurship, competition and innovation in generation.

[Update: I can see an opportunity in saving consumers money by bringing electricity retailing back into public hands. The Thwaites Inquiry in Victoria found the costs incurred by retailers in acquiring and keeping customers was part of the retail charge, but exceeded the benefits of competition. There is no capital investment, so compensation should be minimal. Basically retailers contribute nothing positive, they are leaches on the system.]

As the matter stands, NEM is run by the COAG Energy Council. The Commonwealth participates as an equal among others, albeit as chair. The Energy Security Board, set up after the Finkel Review, is an organ of the COAG Energy Council. It’s role is to coordinate the operations of three bodies:

The ESB does the forward planning, the AEMC makes the rules under which the market operates, and the AER regulates.

Under the constitution, the states are responsible for the provision of electricity. The Commonwealth’s responsibility and head of power comes from its foreign relations responsibilities. Hence signing the Paris Agreement, as with the Kyoto Accord, gives it responsibility for emissions reduction.

Someone should tell Mr Taylor that it is not his job to bring electricity prices down.

Already earlier this year the Australian Energy Council, representing 23 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in competitive wholesale and retail energy markets, have said that Taylor’s policies, and lack of credible emissions reduction policies, made the generation sector essentially uninvestible.

Labor needs to restore order and confidence.

Seventh, and last, Labor should inject a note of hope into a desperate situation by aspiring to a safe climate.

Greta Thunberg was right when she said “The emissions are increasing and that is the only thing that matters.” Here they are as at Muana Loa on July 01, 2019:

The only way to offer a safe climate is to reduce emissions as soon as practicable, and to start a program of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Gavin Schmidt and his predecessor James Hansen at NASA GISS have told us broadly what we need to do.

By the term ‘practicable’ I mean socially, economically and politically as well as physically. Australia will be able to do little by itself. In UNFCCC the critical phrase is “common but differentiated responsibilities”. As one of the highest per capita emitters and a wealthy country, Australia needs to do a lot to show that we are fair dinkum about the climate emergency. As Gavin Schmidt said, it will be a marathon rather than a sprint. In a sense we need to do both.

If our leaders are brave, and believe in what they propose, we should be able to offer our children some hope of a narrow, but long path back to the ‘just right’ conditions of the Holocene. As the matter stands the highway to perdition is wide and broad.

[Update 3 November 2019: I’ve inserted updates above as a result of further reflection and attending the LEAN national workshop 25-27 October. An additional idea put to me is that if Labor occupies the treasury benches its first move should be to pass legislation which frames further action and locks in the path to be taken. I can’t at this stage be more specific, but apparently such legislation proved key to progress in Victoria. It sounds a really good idea. I have not undertaken a further review of the following section.]

Comments on text of the existing National Platform

The Labor National Platform clearly took into account the IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C. By and large it is fit for purpose, but could profit from some tweaking as indicated below.

Para 2:

    Labor will ensure Australia implements a comprehensive climate change and energy policy to reduce carbon pollution in line with the Paris Accord goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and taking efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. …

Change to:

    Labor in government will develop and implement a comprehensive Climate Transition Plan aimed at achieving a safe climate.

Comment:

I think we should avoid numbers at this point. The level of ambition would be determined by the first triennial Australian Climate Change Assessment, an expert public inquiry under the supervision of a re-vamped Climate Change Authority.

Para 5:

    Australia needs credible and effective national policy leadership to deliver a clean energy future, to mitigate dangerous climate change and to ensure Australia thrives in a low carbon global economy. This is Labor’s long-term plan to reshape and modernise our economy and to cut carbon pollution CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Para 6:

    Labor will transform Australia’s economy to reach net zero greenhouse gas pollution as soon as practicable, but at the latest by 2050. …

Comment:

The sooner the better, and we should not limit our ambition.

Para 7:

The figures will need updating when the new platform is written.

Para 15:

    Climate change requires a global response to keep global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Accords. Australia should play a leading role in global efforts against climate change: in our national economic interest;…

Change to:

    Climate change requires a global response to achieve a safe climate. Australia should play a leading role in global efforts against climate change: in our national economic interest;…

Or:

    Climate change requires a global response to achieve a safe climate. Australia should play a leading role in global efforts against climate change through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and elsewhere: in our national economic interest;…

Para 23:

    Labor is committed to the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees and will ensure Australia’s contribution to the task is fair and based on the best available independent scientific advice. Labor accepts the advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which suggests this will require advanced economies to approach net zero emissions by mid-century.

Comment:

If we keep the second sentence at all, I suggest it be changed to:

    Labor accepts that this will require advanced economies achieving net zero emissions as soon as practicable.

Comment:

The whole planet needs to achieve net zero emissions well before mid-century. Advanced economies should go harder than developing economies, which should be encouraged and assisted to bypass the fossil fuel phase by going directly to renewables.

Para 24:

Suggest the lead in be changed to:

    Labor will reconstitute the Climate Change Authority and charge it with undertaking a first triennial Australian Climate Change Assessment (ACCA) as a prelude to developing a comprehensive national Climate Transition Plan to elaborate and give shape to Labor’s aims. Meanwhile Labor will:

Change fourth dot point to:

  • Grow the renewable energy sector beyond 2020 through policies to deliver at least 50% of our electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030 as soon as practicable;

Comment:

When the new Platform is written we will be beyond 2020.

Fifth dot point:

  • Ensure all members of the Australian community, including renters, apartment dwellers, people on low incomes and people in regional and remote communities can access the benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy;

Comment:

Queensland LEAN passed a resolution at the July meeting to the effect that state institutions would consider the greenhouse implications of their operations and add solar panels where possible. That’s from memory. I support the resolution and would raise the question as to whether general building regulations should be altered to maximise sustainability of the environment, and minimise their life-cycle impact on the environment.

Ninth dot point:

  • Adopt post-2020 pollution reduction targets,including to reduce national carbon emissions by 45 percent off 2005 levels by 2030, consistent with doing Australia’s fair share in keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. Labor will base these targets on the latest advice of national and international bodies such as the independent Climate Change Authority and the IPCC;

Change to:

  • Raise Australia’s formal Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) consistent with doing Australia’s fair share. Labor will base these targets on advice from the Climate Change Authority, which will draw on the latest information from national and international science, from organisations and individuals within the Australian community;

Comment:

Labor’s current targets come in fact from the lower end of the range recommended by the Climate Change Authority advice to government in 2014 for the purpose of establishing Australia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement (2015). The CCA was set up to assess the latest science and to take the party politics out of climate change ambition. The IPCC reports, by their very process, are always out of date when published, and then linger as a de facto standard for another seven years.

Para 28 – change to:

  • Community and publicly-owned energy systems will have a critical role to play in the energy transition. Labor will support the ongoing development and deployment of community and publicly-owned energy systems through a clear, consistent and comprehensive national energy policy framework within a national Climate Transition Plan.

Para 31:

    Labor will make the North West of Tasmania a Renewable Energy Zone. The wind energy resource of North West Tasmania is truly world class. This will help deliver on Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target and signal to investors a future site for job creating projects.

Comment:

This may be an outstanding project, but I don’t believe Labor should be cherry picking individual projects in its Platform. The selection of projects should emerge from national planning with the states through the COAG Energy Council.

Para 47:

Comment:

This paragraph says that Labor will not support handing approval powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 to state and territory governments.

Labor should also commit to including climate change implications in the criteria considered in approving projects. This could also include the risk of a project becoming a stranded asset.

Somewhere in this section of the platform I believe we should mention what Andrew Blakers and colleagues have worked out, namely that we can achieve 100% renewable electricity, 100% emissions free transport by 2030 if we continue to build wind and solar at half the rate we’ve been achieving in recent years. We need to add two existing technologies. One is to build small-scale pumped hydro as we build wind and solar using 0.1% (one thousandth) of the sites his team has identified. The second is to connect the whole country using HVDC (high voltage direct current) transmission using technology demonstrated in China. This can be done for a cost which is less than the wholesale price of electricity now.

Para 66:

  • Labor will improve Australia’s preparedness to prevent and combat new invasive species and work with State and Territory governments to develop new tools and biological controls to reduce the impact of established pests and diseases.

Comment:

This is very general and as such I would support it, making two points. First, on occasion there is a need for eradication, as, for example, fire ants. We need to step up a gear in this regard.

Secondly, so-called ‘free trade’ arrangements appear to demand that a certain amount of risk is inevitable, and should be balanced against the benefits of trade. There are some organisms and diseases where to accept some risk means that infection/infestation becomes inevitable. It’s a matter of time.

Para 68:

See comment to Para 50.

Para 87:

See comment to Para 47.

Para 91:

See comment to para 47.

Para 97 ff:

Paras 97-106 come under the heading Preparing primary industries for the impacts of climate change. Climate change is already here. Mitigating the effects of climate change on primary industries may be more appropriate.

69 thoughts on “Comments on Labor’s National Platform Chapter 4 (Aug 2019)”

  1. Crikey, Brian!

    An impressive body of work indeed.
    you have a great knack for synthesis and sifting.

    On a quick scan through, I like many points you’ve made…. and your comments on science and the IPCC stand as a robust response to other things I wrote earlier today.

    Is there a possibility you might offer piece this to a print-based publication? (Or does the ALP hold copyright for now?)

  2. Hi Brian
    The IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 report does offer one pathway to keep warming below 1.5 without any other means of carbon capture removal and storage other than greening (afforestation etc).

    It requires drastic reductions in demand as well as switching to renewables and revamping the built, transport and agriculture/food sectors.

    It also offers significant co-benefits to health and health and social equity, and is the path I think we should be pursuing with the utmost energy and commitment.

    I think it’s a great risk to rely on unproven technologies for CCRS and it also creates a dangerous sense of complacency, that somehow technology will ‘save’ us, regardless of what we do. Very dangerous.

    I greatly admire your work, but I absolutely have to take issue with you on this.

  3. Val, I’m not a scientist, I’m simply quoting what others say, and working from that.

    I think we’ve got to try every which way, then cross our fingers and toes.

    However, Ambi was right on the other thread when he talked about the issue of risk.

    And I think I’m right when I say that we have to aspire to a safe climate, not just avoid the worst.

  4. My bro says you can’t go to an election saying you’ll set up a committee. The other mob will make it up and mount the mother of all scare campaigns.

    Sadly he’s right. Political tacticians have the last say.

    Whatever quantitative targets we give, they have to come from authoritative science. Then we put “at least” in front of them.

    We still need a consultative process after the election, which full resources of government, open and transparent.

  5. Hi Brian, not sure when you’ll be able to read this and hope all going well, but I definitely agree with you on the need to “aspire to a safe climate”.

    My last post came out a bit more vehement than I intended, it’s just that I’m very concerned about an attitude that I describe as ‘technology will save us’. Not suggesting you’re relying on technology alone, but I do think there’s a risk that people will believe we’re going to be able, at some point, suck all the excess greenhouse gases out of the air and dispose of them (somewhere), and that will become yet another reason for inaction (along with feeding cows seaweed, and making synthetic meat in laboratories, or just giving up and flying to Mars if it all gets too hot here ).

    Anyway as I said, I think your work is here is great and often find things here I wasn’t aware of, though what I think is probably the least of your worries at present! Hope all going well, best wishes.

  6. Well right on cue:

    Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked Environment Department officials about plans to offset greenhouse gas emissions through what was described as “technology improvements and other sources of abatement”.

    Asked to explain, departmental first assistant secretary Helen Bennett said: “It’s basically improvements in the technology.”

    Hanson-Young noted that the 92 million tonnes attributed to unspecified technologies equalled a third of planned abatement. She asked Bennett to at least name some of them.

    “We can take that on notice, I think,” Bennett said.

    “You’re not serious,” Hanson-Young responded.

    “It is a general concept of technological improvements that will happen over time,” Bennett replied.

    From Karen Middleton in the Saturday Paper today

    “unspecified technologies” will save us!

  7. Brian: Have only done a quick skim but it looks like it has some good stuff. However:

    Secondly, since Australia only accounts for 1.4 per cent of emissions,

    Last time I looked my recollection is that over 30% of world emissions came from countries that emitted less than Aus. This is why the “we only produce 1.4% of emissions is such utter bullshit supporting the “why bother” faction.
    We also had one of the highest per capita emissions in the world with only a few very small countries being worse. We need to talk about this as part of the reason for acting.
    Saw no mention of solar thermal with molten salt heat storage and back-up molten salt heating. I think it is an attractive part of the system because it doesn’t depend on the sun shining and the the wind blowing to produce power.
    Couldn’t see anything on renewable liquid hydrogen or renewable ammonia. Before the last election a bloke you may have heard about called Bill Shorten was talking about exporting liquid hydrogen. Twiggy Forrest is now talking about exporting renewable hydrogen as renewable ammonia because it avoided some of the costs of liquefying hydrogen. Allan Kohler has also been talking about it. John Davidson has been rabbiting on about renewable ammonia for years. Not 100% sure of the tech but the big advantage of all these proposals is that they can take advantage of the very low marginal cost of renewable power as well as helping to stabilize the system by ramping down during periods of peak demand and when the sun doesn’t shine. (They are better than aluminium smelting because there is no risk of cells freezing.)
    Also would like to see something about tendering to supply capacity instead of the current, high risk, high price market system .

  8. I’ve heard of that Shorten bloke, John.

    I’d like a domestic ammonia industry developed first. Very impressed by your point that ammonia production can be done “in fits and starts”; doesn’t need a continuous process like Al smelting.

    That reminds me of the old, reliable, creaking farm windmill water pumps. With adequate water storage on the farm, they could pump slowly when the wind was blowing…

  9. Ambi:

    With adequate water storage on the farm, they could pump slowly when the wind was blowing…

    In WA they talk of “wind droughts” If the wind don’t blow the cattle go thirsty.

  10. There’s that, John.
    I suppose secure storage isn’t cheap in WA where 50C temperatures evaporate water quickly.

    But the ammonia molecules won’t have the RSPCA watching out for mistreatment.

    Ambimolecular

  11. Val, that link didn’t go anywhere for me, but if people try this and you might get to the Saturday Paper which gives you a free article a week.

    The article starts about the Government paying an empathy consultant $180,000 to tell them how to talk to farmers about inland rail in senate estimates.

    You pretty much captured the Sarah Hanson-Young question which said Australia was relying on technology improvements for a third of its emission reductions.

    In the case of this government it is actually an excuse for doing nothing. That is their strategy. Pretend they are doing something when they are not.

    I think she was talking about a generalised improvement in technologies across the board, not technologies designed to remove GHGs.

    Even worse. Just words.

  12. John, I think the section you are referring to is where I raved on a bit about Blakers’ vision.

    Blakers actually only looked at wind and solar. It may have been a research design thing, where he could calculate exactly how much energy would be produced by looking at weather records. Why concentrated solar thermal was omitted, I don’t know. I can’t see why he would rule them out, and he probably didn’t. The purpose was probably to show what could happen as a possibility.

    SA is very excited about hydrogen and I’ve seen media releases about initiatives in Qld – definitely Gladstone, plus I think Townsville.

    Apparently Ross Garnaut’s book due out next month says we should fabricate metals right here for the world, rather than export the ore and the energy to others.

    We need governments with some guts, to pick winners. Even borrow money, which is what listed shareholding corporates do. The money comes from shareholders through a “public offering”, meaning offering the public the chance to put up money for a purpose.

    There’s no reason why the government could not borrow money and do it for the citizens.

    However, there are lots of ways of going about it. Ask the Asian “tigers” how they got into ship-building and stuff.

  13. Yes: mine and refine metals here, rather than export raw ores and raw energy.

    It makes sense from an energy-saving and emissions reduction viewpoint. A significant part of global transport emissions come from ocean going ships transporting goods and materials. (Folk who worry about “food miles” should also worry about all “goods miles”, si?)

    Apart from that, it would provide jobs and related economic activity here.

    Go, Garnaut.

  14. However, there are lots of ways of going about it. Ask the Asian “tigers” how they got into ship-building and stuff.

    How about extremely low wages and terrible conditions with no unions. Forced participation under threat of death. Manipulated exchange rates and data reportage. A totally controlled media. Stolen patents and technology theft.

    Just to name a few…

    Anywho, does anyone know if Ross Garnaut still has incredibly environmentally destructive gold mining interests in PNG he obtained while being a QLD public servant placed over there to arrange PNGs economy ?

  15. Ambi: States like WA insisted on ongoing processing as a condition of letting miners mine their ore. Blast furnaces, pellet plants and concentrators were built to satisfy these demands. In WA the concentrators are still going because they produce low cost salable product from contact ore. The pellet plants and blast furnace are long gone. Part of the problem with processing iron ore is that it is much more expensive to ship steel compared with ore and the coal required by blast furnaces has to be shipped from the other side of Aus.
    Having said this the subject is worth pushing again. How can we use low cost solar power to make salable products?

  16. Thanks again, John.

    Your expertise wins against my guesswork.

    Now, $1 billion extra to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for things like pumped hydro and big batteries. A “grid reliability fund”.

  17. Ambi, I think it includes an upgrade to the Qld-NSW interconnector, as Qld is sending electricity south pretty much 24/7.

    We don’t actually need a new coal-fired power station which is part of Nationals and ON dreaming. I think ScoMo has put a ‘go slow’ on the inquiry, which produced a foul-mouthed interchange with Canavan.

  18. Ambi:

    Now, $1 billion extra to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for things like pumped hydro and big batteries. A “grid reliability fund”.

    Part of the problem with managing the transition to renewables is that our system and expectations have been formed by our experience with living with a system that has been dominated by coal and the optimization of that coal based system.
    Different forms of renewable energy have different characteristic to coal fired power and other forms of renewable energy.
    We can choose to use batteries and other forms of energy storage to make the system behave like the old coal fired system. We could also choose to get more of our renewable energy from solar thermal with molten salt energy storage and backup molten salt heating to provide a power source with similar characteristics to baseload coal fired.
    However, it may make more sense to think about the characteristics of the various forms of renewable energy. Solar PV for example offers very very cheap “surplus” power that might be used to make something like renewable hydrogen competitive even though it would probably never be competitive if it depended on coal fired power. It also has the attraction of being able to be turned on and off very very quickly.
    We can also look at managing demand becoming more important than managing generation when dealing with renewable.
    How about some creative thinking?

  19. I’ve cleaned up more typos and added some updated interpolated in the text. The most important are:

    [Update: I can see an opportunity in saving consumers money by bringing electricity retailing back into public hands. The Thwaites Inquiry in Victoria found the costs incurred by retailers in acquiring and keeping customers was part of the retail charge, but exceeded the benefits of competition. There is no capital investment, so compensation should be minimal. Basically retailers contribute nothing positive, they are leaches on the system.]

    And:

    [Update 3 November 2019: I’ve inserted updates above as a result of further reflection and attending the LEAN national workshop 25-27 October. An additional idea put to me is that if Labor occupies the treasury benches its first move should be to pass legislation which frames further action and locks in the path to be taken. I can’t at this stage be more specific, but apparently such legislation proved key to progress in Victoria. It sounds a really good idea. I have not undertaken a further review of the following section.]

  20. I notice that the discussion after my comments on the risk of relying on technology to save us, is still mainly about how technology can save us!

    It’s not about ‘unspecified technologies’ saving us – clearly several people here, particularly John D, know a lot more about the technologies than I do – but it’s also not looking at demand reduction, which is an important part of any response to climate change and environmental destruction.

    I’m interested to know why you all don’t talk more about demand reduction? I’m sure you know about concepts like ecological footprint and planetary boundaries, so you must know if we continue using resources and treating the earth the way we are, other species, ecosystems and ultimately humans, are in serious trouble.

    The challenge isn’t just about switching to renewable energy, though that’s part of what we need to do. It’s also about reducing resource use and environmental degradation across the board. Does that come into your ideas, because it doesn’t seem to?

  21. It does come into it, Val.

    I recall discussion on the old blog about the “pink batts” hurry-up under PM KR. Reducing the use of electricity and gas both for heating and cooling by having a better-insulated house.

    Also I can recall discussion here about:
    designing smaller houses, reductions in energy use by appliances, food miles, designing smaller vehicles (esp. by JohnD), walking or cycling instead of driving, public transport instead of single occupant cars, etc.

    My feeling is that these ideas (and more importantly, physical changes in peoples’ lives) are more and more the currency of daily life and discussion across all social groups.

    In the control of State, Federal Govts, local councils:
    Star ratings for appliances. Star ratings for houses. Passive solar heating of houses. Shading. Insulation. Green walls. Street tree plantings. Bicycle paths. Abolition of incandescent light globes. Timers to switch off low power devices (so they are not held on standby ). Movement sensors so lights go on only when needed. Residential developers hiring environmental engineers to assist with design. Home water tanks.

    An anecdote: around ten years ago some volunteers used to “person” an enquiries table and phone line locally to advise on “sustainable practices”. Hardly any enquiries!!

    My conclusion: the knowledge was already widespread and easily available, through commercial electricians, solar installers, plumbers, the internet, publications and conversations with friends.

    It’s taking a while, but the story and practice of lowering consumption is spreading. I think. I hope.

    As an analogy for Victoria : when the “crisis” of low water storages for Melbourne arrived around 1997-8, the State Govt ran extensive TV ads asking folk to use less than 150 litres per person per day. Demand reduction. (Same Govt went ahead with a higely expensive desal plant near Wonthaggi.) Many folk took that message seriously. As I recall that gave another impetus for installing backyard water tanks.

    Cheers

  22. Yes I always use the Victorian response to the drought as an example of an effective, whole of community response, with light regulation. Such a shame Brumby was so keen to encourage people to start being profligate with water again as soon as it ended instead of building on what had been achieved.
    Also my sources tell me that the desal was not the preferred policy option from expert advisers, who thought much more could be done with water saving etc.

    It is such a shame that neoliberal ideology has taken so much hold that governments will ignore clear evidence that communities can respond effectively to challenges, in favour of believing that people’s ‘true’ motivation is always money and consumption (‘maximising their utility’ as the economists would say).

  23. Thanks Val,

    I heard also that Minister Thwaites argued against the Desal plant in Victorian Cabinet but was overruled. Premier Brumby and Minister Thwaites seemed at the time to have a fair grasp of demand reduction, both in water and energy use.

    I didn’t mean my comments above to suggest that complacency is a suitable stance. So much more to do…..

    Just one instance: we don’t yet seem to have worked out a way to give incentives to a landlord to install rooftop solar ( since the renter reaps the benefit of lower electricity bills).

    Cheers

  24. Val, on the use of power, look at the map in the Blakers section of the post. The future will be more energy rich than the past.

    Water is a problem, but again, a few nights ago I heard about a German bloke who had invented an underground irrigation system which uses 70% less water while doubling the yield. He’s tried it out in Saudi Arabia, and is setting up a demonstration farm in Italy.

    Amazingly, he’s being mentored in his startup by a 77 yr-old who lives in Ipswich and works every night, all night, because most of his clients are overseas.

    I plan to do a post on large-scale solutions to cc. I think the dangerous bits are sea level rise, floods, droughts, wildfires, state failure and people movements.

    However, the future could contain growth, economically, personally and in nature through re-wilding and such, if we acted soon, very soon, in reducing emissions as well as technological innovation, big and small. Some activities may have to be constrained, like air travel, until we can sort a technological solution.

    Emergency action is a sprint as well as a marathon, and we are going to need to use all means available. I do think there needs to be some constraint. For example, there is 500 litres of water in every T-shirt protestors use!

  25. For example, there is 500 litres of water in every T-shirt protestors use!

    If the water is recycled (either before or after use) this is much less shocking. And a small observation – if every T-shirt actually contained 500 litres of water it would weigh 500 kilograms.

  26. zoot, see my post The price of protest in fashion waste.

    The bigger issue is single use clothing. My wife and I tend to wear things until they wear out.

    It’s always a bit ironic, though, when greenies use T-shirts to protest against cotton growing, Cubbie Station et al. (Only 6% of the water in the MD system comes from Qld, and Cubbie, though humungous, is only a fleabite of that.)

    After growing the cotton, where does the water go? Mostly back into the air, I would think, or underground seepage into aquifers and the river.

  27. Brian, we are in furious agreement regarding the environmental cost of single use clothing (including protest T-shirts).

  28. Brian,

    I plan to do a post on large-scale solutions to cc

    To my mind, those solution posts are the only really important ones on cc. Obviously technologically advances, entrepreneurship and consumers value voices should feature over some sort of government fiat.
    No amount of government banning or tut tutting will do much other than make other areas worse.

  29. Val: When I am talking about managing demand I am usually talking about stabilizing the grid by reducing/increasing power consumption to smooth out overall power consumption and allow a greater % of renewable power to be used. Off-peak water heating is an example of what I am talking about.
    However, this doesn’t mean that I am not interested in reducing average demand by changing both the technology and the behaviour of people.
    Changing behaviour is critical a critical part of the mix. For example we have to reverse the growth of the human plague if we are to ever have a chance of reaching sustainability. Doing this is a real challenge. The human plague grew by over 20% since 16 yr old Greta Thunberg was born and more than tripled since I started school. Maybe a dictatorial world government may be able to do something like China did. However, it would help if individuals at least voluntarily committed to limiting their kids to 2 or preferably less.
    I am sure that I don’t need to tell you there are lots of things individuals can do to make the world more sustainable. The Brisbane water shortage story is a good example of what is needed to harness peoples efforts.

  30. I rough terms I think the Brisbane water usage had been about 350 litres pppd before the Millennial drought, even though there were restrictions. With rationing it went down to about 120. Now, with no restrictions at all it’s about 180.

    John, nearly the first person I met at the LEAN conference was a woman who had studied paleo-biology. She said that what is happening now with humans is a well-established biological pattern. We are in plague proportions, and the population will crash, she said by about 90%.

    OTOH we are rational beings, and should be able to choose our future, within limits. I heard a demographer the other day saying the UN was OTT about population growth. He said women are increasingly taking charge of their fertility in most places and the increase will be nothing like what is forecast. Sorry I’ve forgotten his guestimate.

  31. Val, I’m not sure this will satisfy you, but personally I think over-consumption is rife and is a kind of personality deficit. I see people everywhere doing and consuming things that I regard as pointless and futile in the pursuit of pleasure, meaning, self-regard or even ‘happiness’.

    However, it is not for me to tell others how they should live or what they should do.

    I think that generally we should live to promote the well-being of others, but how that is conceived is difficult and basically a matter of values.

  32. Brian, you’re expressing concerns about ‘constraint’ and ‘telling others how they should live’. You could think of it in terms of ‘sustainable futures’ and ‘how we should live’.

    From the health perspective, there are many benefits to living more sustainably, it’s not just a matter of constraint. For example, walking and riding bikes are enjoyable as well as good for us, particularly if we are in natural settings. But doing these things also includes a lot of social change, like slowing down, consuming less.

    I think a lot of it comes down to how we envisage the future. You can think of it as what we have to give up (‘oh no the government/greenies/elites is going to make me stop driving my car’) or what we are going to gain (‘how great would it be to have cities where you could safely walk, ride bikes, where there were trees everywhere, where the air was clean’)

  33. It seems that’s what’s missing in both Labor and Greens at present – a strong positive vision of what the future could be like.

    As I’ve mentioned previously, in the last two weeks of semester the students in my unit and I have been having discussions around what works best – in oversimplified terms, scaring people with the health impacts of climate change, or persuading them with the health co-benefits of acting on climate change. There’s evidence either way it seems, but the first is perhaps easier and may be the first step, as long as you don’t scare people too much, which is paralysing. However in the longer term you’ve got to have positive visions, I suggest.

    It could even be that fear of climate change is a factor driving people towards authoritarian ‘strongman’ types, which would be really unfortunate! Not consciously of course – consciously people who are attracted by authoritarian leaders probably deny or minimise climate change – but underneath they may be fearful that their way of life will change, and look for a protector who will tell them everything is ok and there’s no need to change. That certainly could be part of the appeal of Trump and Boris Johnson types.

    So I think we progressives must offer positive visions, but I feel it’s not really happening. I wonder if that’s partly because a lot of white men (who are still over represented as leaders even on the ‘progressive’ side) actually also feel a bit threatened by the way society is changing.

  34. Sorry for yet another comment but this train of thought is very interesting to me – I think white men who are ‘progressive’ party leaders, like Albanese and Di Natale (I know they’re both of Italian heritage, so not traditional Aus white ruling class, but still ‘blokes’ in many ways), or Shorten (or Sanders and Corbyn) do lack a bit legitimacy in some ways. If they’re really progressive, why aren’t they getting out of the way and giving women, Indigenous people and people of colour a go? That’s actually what I think they should do – they should say ‘white men have been running the place a long time, we’ve created these problems of climate change and environmental destruction, it’s time to give someone else a go’. They could still be in the background and be supportive, but they don’t always have to be in charge!

    As Ambi says, there endeth the (feminist) sermon (at least for now) (and except to add that the evidence shows that countries where more women are leaders are doing better on the environmental front).

  35. Val

    My role as High Annglican Vicar to the blog is very much incidental.

    I realised later that in my praise of individuals and households in Melbourne who reduced their water-use-per-person (Brian has ppd) there was also regulation: “Stage 1”, “Stage 2” etc.

    As I recall, the details of each stage were widely publicised, widely understood, and widely followed.

    Nanny State spoke, and the populace recognised there was a collective challenge that must be tackled collectively.

    In rural areas in drought, entrepreneurial “water carters” take small tankers of drinking water to homes that usually have only roof-collected rainwater. I don’t think it happened in Melbourne, but the number of signs on front fences saying “we water this garden using tank water” has certainly increased. A sense of community responsibility.

    I will leave it to Imam Jumpi al Fa’nuth to castigate the southern infidels for docilely submitting to the Diktats of Nanny.

    Rev. Ambi

  36. Val, in the LEAN conference I attended, the first and possibly best point I made is that we need to aspire to a safe climate, and tell a positive story which sees both nature and human experience improving if we stay within planetary boundaries.

    I’d have to say the group was completely on board, and probably braver than is politically possible, but we’ll see how we go.

    LEAN Victoria actually have five separate groups who are working on the Green New Deal (but not restricted to that) to see what can be adapted to the Australian situation, and looking at talking to groups in the community, asking how they see their future, and responding to that in climate/ecology terms, which is an approach which incorporates best adult education practices (start from where the learner is and their experience of the world).

    I’m establishing contact with their secretary and hope to stay in touch.

    There is an interesting article in the New Daily this morning about the 11,000 scientists calling for a climate emergency. I’ll lift what they said we should do:

    1. Energy: Implement massive conservation practices; replace fossil fuels with clean renewables; leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground; eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and impose carbon fees that are high enough to restrain the use of fossil fuels.

    2. Short–lived pollutants: Swiftly cut emissions of methane, hydrofluorocarbons, soot and other short-lived climate pollutants. The report said this would have potentially reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50 percent over the next few decades.

    3. Nature: Restrain massive land clearing. Restore and protect ecosystems such as forests, grasslands and mangroves, which would greatly contribute to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas.
    4. Food: Eat mostly plants and consume fewer animal products. This dietary shift, scientists said, would significantly reduce emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases and free up agricultural lands for growing human food rather than livestock feed. Reducing food waste is also critical – the scientists say at least one-third of all food produced ends up as garbage.

    5. Economy: Convert the economy’s reliance on carbon fuels. Shift goals away from the growth of gross domestic product and the pursuit of individual wealth. Curtail the extraction of materials and exploitation of ecosystems.

    6. Population: Stabilise global population, which is increasing by more than 200,000 people a day – but do so in a way that is socially and economically fair.

    It’s a great list, but not complete. It doesn’t mention drawdowns. When I do my post I’ll start with Paul Hawken’s list. You might recall that educating and empowering girls and women as first cab on the rank.

    I think Albo would have won the last election. Bill was too attackable, and you can’t win an election with someone who has a charisma bypass. Unfortunately I don’t think Albo will win the next.

    Plibers didn’t want to run, has school age kids. Not sure the next gen of leaders in Labor were quite ready. My son Mark thinks Claire O’Neill in your patch is one to watch, and would have been at least a better deputy than Richard Marles.

    Albo has linked climate action with jobs, and even making steel for wind blades. Sanyev Gupta is looking at hydrogen to make steel, and will be well on the way by the time Albo gets his feet under the desk, if he does. Albo should read Garnaut’s new book.

  37. Brian: There are a number of reasons why Brisbane was so successful at dealing with the water crisis.
    1. The Premier and Lord mayor worked together to get a good outcome.
    2. They did a good job of explaining the urgency of the problem and the need for strong action. As a result people did things that they didn’t have to do to help.
    3. What happened was fair. Both rich and poor were affected by the restrictions. (The usual suspects wanted to drive change by raising the price of water. This would have allowed those who could afford it to continue to water their lawns.)
    4. The action included things like subsidizing tanks and declaring that it was OK not to water your lawn. This helps explain why water consumption stayed low after the crisis had passed.
    Similar principles could apply to reducing emissions. More empathy re what is happening to coal miners would be a start.

  38. Brian: To listen to the commentary both internal and external you would think that Labor got smashed in the election.
    The reality is that Labor almost won despite a relentless kill Bill campaign, the money Palmer spent on sneaky bill adds, the blatant bias of the Murdoch press and…….(Russian interference?)
    Under these circumstances I don’t think it is smart for Labor to be trying to be a slightly nicer version of Scot Morrison. Most of the policy that Labor took to the election was good policy that is worth fighting for.

  39. I don’t at present see any woman I would support in Labor – unfortunately they have all been too complicit in what’s going on (complicit with male leadership and the general complicity of ALP with the Libs). Clare O’Neill comes across as right wing. I don’t also see anyone in the Greens, for similar reasons. The women there have been too complicit in letting strong women like Alex Bhathal get pushed out. I suspect female leadership may have to come from outside the parties.

  40. I’m not trying to rehash the previous argument, Brian, but if we seriously do all those things the scientists are recommending, we don’t have to do (technological) drawdown. It’s the same point the IPCC 1.5 report made – there is a path that doesn’t rely on technological carbon capture and storage, if we get on with it. It requires attention to fairness and international cooperation as well (peace/cooperation/social justice and sustainability are interlinked)

  41. Val: Prudence says that we should do the research that may give us choices if we take too much fossil carbon out of the ground or we reach tipping points where rising temperatures do things like drive greenhouse gases out of permafrost,

  42. The history of the last 100 years is that innovations occasionally arrive fairly unexpectedly.

    “Minitiarisation”, we old fogeys used to marvel about in the 1960s and 1970s. That trend hasn’t yet stopped (some fear nanoparticles are taking it too far); one thing is certain: miniature devices can be designed to draw much lower power than the 1950s devices.

    I cite radios containing “valves”.

  43. Val

    I agree that we should be cautious and develop plans which don’t depend on technological improvements.

    If they come in a timely fashion and assist in reducing CO2 emissions, well that’s a bonus.

    But writing them in now is like making a financial plan that hinges on winning a lottery.

    Not smart at all.

  44. I’ve now read the letter from the scientists and it seems Brian and I are both partly right and partly wrong. They do mention technological carbon capture and storage as part of the required action, but they give it much less importance than the other actions including demand reduction, reducing meat consumption and greening.

    They also quite specifically say we must stop pursuing GDP growth and affluence, and focus on sustainability and reducing inequality (the GDP part is mentioned in Brian’s extract above but there is more, including about reducing inequality, in the letter).

    I was really pleased to see that because I’m currently writing an article about why we should get rid of ‘economism’ and the bilateral fetish of GDP growth in our politics. (Probably by the time I submit it to a journal, everyone will say ‘oh that’s old hat, the 1100 scientists have already said that!)

  45. GDP is Gross Domestic Product not gross domestic consumption.
    The way it’s calculated ( most regulars will remember my talking about this measure in the past ) it encompasses services like aged care, health and education services as well as renewable energy instillations, even Uni “ educators “.

    But hey, if living in perpetual economic depressions is the answer then I’d prefer looking toward technology advances.

    ( yes, I know, I probably shouldn’t even speak give the lack of melanin in my skin plus no cervix! )

  46. Same thing Jumpy – estimated measure of goods and services bought and sold. The problem is that it is used inappropriately as a measure of how well we’re all doing, so if it gets bigger we’re all (supposedly) doing better. Whereas just measuring how much is bought and sold doesn’t tell us that. It doesn’t tell you whether you enjoy the company of your family and friends, or like walking or relaxing on the beach. It doesn’t measure whether there’s healthy plants and animals, or how clear the air is, or whether you can swim in the local river.

    Do you know that the infant mortality rate and average life expectancy rate in Cuba is slightly better than in the US, in spite of the huge difference in GDP per capita and average income? (I’ve probably mentioned that before but it’s worth repeating)

    Measures of wellbeing attempt to measure the real health and well-being of people and ecosystem, rather than assuming that measuring how much is bought and sold can tell us that.

    If you know about GDP, you will probably know that it was never intended as a measure of how well society is doing, that’s just a misuse that’s become customary.

    I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion, I’m saying why do the leaders of our major parties always have to be white men? Give someone else a go, for crying out loud.

  47. I’ve just seen an articlewhere a study has found that during the Eemian, ca 120kya, sea level rise proceeded at an average of 3.4m per century for several centuries.

    That was with 300ppm of CO2.

    We are putting vastly more pressure on the system than happened then.

    My basic schtick is that we are in deep do-does (spelling?). If you read the long climate emergency post, we passed 350ppm two months after James Hansen gave his Senate testimony in 1988. According to him we passed the tipping point where things might be out of human control around 2015.

    There has never been any burnable carbon since climate change became a public policy issue in 1988. The IPCC and UNFCCC offerings have normalised risk in what is really a big Ponzi scheme. Have a deep read of David Spratt and Ian Duncan’s stuff if you won’t believe me, and show where they are wrong.

    We need to hit it with whatever we’ve got at our disposal, as soon as humanly possible, and then hope we get lucky.

    Have a look at what Paul Gilding and Johan Randers were proposing as a climate emergency action in 2009. We are 10 years further down the track, and emissions are trending still up.

    Extinction Rebellion reckon we need zero emissions by 2015. I think their tactics are counter-productive, but their science is right.

    End of rant.

  48. Val, on political dreaming, if I put my theoretical hat on, basically I agree with Jesus about the prospects of a rich person entering the Kingdom of God. There was an interesting session today on Religion and Ethics Report, I think it was, where they were talking about Marx and Weber, and I think what they called a consumption fetish. We want stuff, and it rules us.

    They reckon Jesus was ahead of them, and they may be right.

    Around the turn of the century there was a real contest of ideas between the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre, and the mob who meet at Davos every year.

    The really smart people at Porto Alegre went to work for Lula when he became president of Brazil. That ended badly.

    Now the mega companies are untouchable (Amazon, Google, Facebook et al) because they are national champions in a contest with the Chinese.

    Getting back to our poor country, ScoMo can’t do anything for anyone, because he gave away all our money that worked for the public good. If you read Albo’s speech, (I’ve spent over half an hour looking for the link and can’t find it), he had a lot of good nation building stuff in it, focussing on the needs and aspirations of everyone.

    I think it has been unfairly dismissed as being about jobs and growth. We should also remember that it’s the first in a series.

    Meanwhile, things are rough inside the tent according to Samantha Maiden at New Daily.

  49. John, further to Albo’s speech, he latched onto the notion that
    we need steel for wind turbines and other renewable infrastructure. That’s not a lot of steel.

    Sanjeev Gupta is looking at making steel with hydrogen. You would know more about this than I do, but it wouldn’t surprise if fairly soon coking coal will not get the free pass it has been to date.

    On climate change threats overall. I didn’t expect wildfires to be as big a factor as they have become.

    Bill McKibben has suggested that parts of California are already basically uninhabitable because of fire. There seems to be a big persisting pool of warm water collecting in the Northern Pacific, which is changing their weather.

  50. Val: Yep. I remember some nasty person person pointing out that an increase in divorce lawyer activity boosts GDP but not definitely boosting Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH). It is easy to think of plenty of other examples and how much our GDP performance depends on the advertising industry to convince us that we really do need the expensive stuff they say we need.
    My mother used to say that the happiest days of her life were those when we lived in a two room home with fuel stove, outside toilet a long way down the back and an outside tub to wash the clothes. It was a good time of my life too. I had a creek, a big lake, a tin canoe my father made and wild woods stretching for miles to explore and wander in. (Confession. Moving to the 3 bedroom home we built on the farm was not without its attractions.)
    In terms of employment I would have preferred a job where I was paid by the hour and had control over how much I worked. However, the nature of the jobs that gave me the most satisfaction tended to be ones that demanded long hours with limited control over when I worked. The other problem was job security. The perception was that, all else equal, someone who wants to vary hours worked to suit themselves is more likely to be the one laid off in a recession. At the end of my career tech advances allowed me to start working shorter weeks and taking longer holidays with an agreement I would keep tag on my emails and, if really needed I would spend time on jobs that really needed my skills. After I retired from permanent work I did take on work where the employer did understand when we had holidays booked and I would not be available. (This worked because of the mining boom and my skills.)
    At the moment the state of the economy means that choosing to reduce working hours could leave you struggling on Newstart for yonks when you needed to earn some more money.
    Worksharing would help get people off the misery of unemployment right now improving the happiness of people locked into excessive hours.
    A long time ago a science fiction story I read talked about a “Loan Economy”. Basic ideas:
    1. People could borrow money from the government to live the good life.
    2. Volunteers were paid to study subjects whose skills were needed to keep the economy going.
    3. Some of the work was done by paid volunteers.
    4. When there were not enough paid volunteers the people owing the most money would be forced to do the work and/or learn skills where there was a pending shortage.
    5. Some people supported themselves by setting up businesses, selling the poetry they wrote etc. Some volunteers might work for these businesses.
    The comment made was that some borrowers limited their borrowing to the point where they never had to work. Others spent like there was no tomorrow and tried not to think of the appalling jobs in appalling places that they would end up having to do. Not as crazy as what we are doing at the moment.

  51. Val and John,

    Yes, there are plenty of examples where an increase in GDP won’t represent an advance in general wellbeing.

    I think in a book (Pelican? early 1970s?) about – and sceptical of – endless economic growth, E.J. Mishan described a nation which enjoyed rising GDP because of the growth of its rifle and handgun manufacturing: so many sectors benefitted, and all their (commercial) activities added to GDP……

    Gun manufacture & sales.
    Ammo manufacture & sales.
    Bulletproof vests.
    Practice ranges.
    Police and ambulance services.
    Surgeons, nurses, blood banks, bandages.
    Undertakers and gravediggers; florist supplies.
    Police and security wages.

    These days we would add: CCTV installations, electronic sensors, safe refuge rooms, gated residences, armoured vehicles, and so much more….

    What’s not to like?
    Both consumer and producer indices on the rise, plenty of employment. 🙁

    Imam Jumpi: I have not chosen this example to poke a stick into your nest. It was the example Mishan used. I believe you too, learned Imam, are sceptical of GDP and the tall tales that often cite it.

    Val, I reckon you’re likely correct: a technical term is grabbed by journalists then commentators then politicians, distorted then used endlessly.

    Other examples might include CPI? Richter Scale?…..,. If only the journos would learn about the Gini index and write about it.

  52. Brian: Strong coking coal is needed to support the burden in blast furnaces but there are commercial alternatives that are based on thermal coal or natural gas. Renewable hydrogen combined with electric furnaces could also be used to make steel using natural gas based tech. Keep in mind that some carbon will always be needed. Steel is about 1% carbon. This is needed to give strong steel.
    There is also talk of producing steel by electrolysis in a similar way to the way aluminium is produced. (The iron ore is dissolved in a molten salt so that it can be electrolysed.)

  53. As I understand it climate change will tend to raise GDP, since it will increase the expenditure on cleaning up after disasters such as cyclones and floods.

  54. Wiki tells me that E.J. Mishan was a Prof of economics at the London School of Economics in the 1960s. The book was The Costs of Economic Growth published in 1967.

    Wiki says his argument influenced later Green politicians. (Not his fault.)

    He died in 2014. What would he know??

  55. Val

    If you know about GDP, you will probably know that it was never intended as a measure of how well society is doing, that’s just a misuse that’s become customary.

    Yes, absolutely. You’ll not see me suggest GDP is an accurate measure of anything. In Australia, take away population growth, inflation and perpetual increased government spending ( the G in Y = C + I + G + (X − M) ) and the GDP is flat at best.

    I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion, I’m saying why do the leaders of our major parties always have to be white men? Give someone else a go, for crying out loud.

    You may be forgetting that not so long ago the highest positions in Australia ( PM, GG and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ) were female at the same time.

    [ ……I’m admittedly befuddled by this push for job gender, race ( insert infinite individual characteristics ) distribution equal thingy and how such a concept will improve anything. If you could help me out on the open thread then that’d be great…..]

  56. Jumpy:

    You may be forgetting that not so long ago the highest positions in Australia ( PM, GG and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ) were female at the same time.

    Yep, a golden age when Aus was governed much better than it has been since Abbott and his male successors got into power.
    In Qld the premier, deputy premier, leader of the opposition and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland are women.
    Do you feel threatened by this?

  57. I heard once that “proves” in that phrase means tests, Val.

    But I may have been misled.

    (Certainly in science, an exception severely tests a rule; may be sufficient to overthrow a rule.)

    A
    Eater of ‘umble pie
    Former Squire of High Falutin’ Towers

  58. Ambi: Scientific method cannot prove 100%. All it can do with 100% confidence is disprove. The rest is about confidence levels if you can work them out.

  59. John, there are a few things (quite a few) that are 100% right, surely, like the speed of light, the existence of gravity, water vapour in the air has a greenhouse effect, and so does CO2.

    Or are there exceptions?

    Ambi, Wikipedia shows you are right about “proves” and “tests”.

    It’s quite complicated, but I’d say that the one thing an exception does not do is prove a rule.

    Substitute ‘norm’ for ‘rule’ and something like ‘suggests’ or ‘indicates’ for ‘rule’ and you might be in business.

  60. John, I presume that’s a typo – NZ has set a zero emissions target by 2050.

    And I presume your saying “despite having a woman as prime minister” is ironic? (Research shows countries with more women in public office are more likely to act on climate change, as I think I’ve probably mentioned round here.)

    What with one thing and another, I found your comment a bit confusing 🙂

  61. Forget about the ALP election review. One dog on the moon nails it. Remember it is harder to swan out the door and get a job on the board of a mining or gambling company if you spend any time in parliament trying to curtail the murderous activities of capitalist. Makes more sense to sing “Lets all stuff coal down our pants and do the we love Jesus dance.”

  62. John

    I accept Karl Popper’s claim that a statement is not scientific unless it is refutable.

    I agree with you that science cannot prove B is 100% correct. The most science can do is say, “the evidence of our observations/experiments is consistent with B being correct.”

    So, in principle, a single observation or careful experiment can disprove B. Despite scientists having accepted B and worked with it and making successful deductions from B for decades, or in some cases for centuries.

    The exception tests the rule.
    The exception must be examined carefully: were the observations made in a reasonable fashion? Was the experiment conducted in a rational way, was it designed to test B? Did the apparatus behave correctly?

    There are also the social testing of results through discussion in the lab, disputes with colleagues and rivals, ethics committees, the circulation of drafts and preprints, refereeing for journals, open publication, and “retraction watch” (these days).

    Of course it’s not foolproof. And I agree with you also that scientific results are of no value unless published with accompanying confidence limits, based on (for example) sample sizes, or analysis of maximum errors in experimental readings.

    I feel that the ubiquitous successes of science and engineering, which are all around, can obscure the essentially tentative and uncertain nature of scientific hypotheses.
    None of the above has any relevance to the question of having more female humans in senior decision-making roles in Australia. Of course.

    (Sociologically, I think an “exception” can highlight a general circumstance when it’s pointed out.

    Why is “the first woman to …..” pointed out? Because hitherto it was a men’s domain. Worth pondering.)

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