Reflections on climate policy

Updated 10 December, 2020

I’m looking for a paradigm shift in the climate change goal from (a) ‘limitation of warming to 1.5°C’, thus escaping the worst of an already dangerous climate, to (b) ‘restoration of a safe climate’.

A safe climate may be described as ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries to include preservation, restoration and enhancement along with responsible economic, social and personal growth and development.

A mouthful perhaps, but the difference between hope and despair.

Looking at existing aspirations (zero net emissions for a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C) how can we say we will preserve the Great Barrier Reef when scientists tell us that 1.5°C will destroy up to 90% of it?

How can we stop our Pacific neighbours from being swamped by the ocean when we are told that current levels of total greenhouse gases (including methane and all of the ‘Kyoto six’) have an implied warming of 1.75–1.95°C (p13) and longer term equilibrium warming of~2.4°C?

That is with total greenhouse gases at ~490 ppm CO2 equivalent. Right now they are at 508 ppm.

We have been told that current levels of CO2 imply longer term sea levels 10-22 metres higher than now.

That seems obvious when during the last interglacial, the Eemian, we had sea levels 6-9 metres higher than now with 300 ppm CO2. Right now CO2 levels are about 413 ppm.

How will we cope with a fire regime worse than we have now?

I could go on, but even the 1.5°C target seems out of range. The latest UNEP Emissions Gap Report has said that countries need to increase their targets at least fivefold.

On 13 November this year, a group of climate scientists, writers and activists posted an open letter urging governments and companies to start acting, by drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time drawing down CO2 to achieve climate restoration and a safe climate.

The signatories included climate scientists Michael E Mann and James Hansen. Of course it was James Hansen, who in a special session of the American Geophysical Union annual conference way back in December 2007, answered Bill McKibben’s question on target levels for atmospheric CO2, just as newly elected minister Penny Wong was representing us at the Bali conference of the UNFCCC. As Hansen recalled in this interview:

    Bill McKibben asked me what should be the target for CO2. He was going to form this organization,, and that’s when I told him, hold on, what I’m finding is that’s actually a pretty dangerous level. So he did hold on for a while. So what should humanity aim for? It’s not any larger than 350 ppm, and it might be less. It just turns out that if you look at the paleoclimate, it’s really very sensitive.

And so was born.

350 ppm became accepted theoretically as the planetary limit for a safe climate in a paper Planetary boundaries: a safe operating space for humanity (later published in Nature) with 29 authors including Johan Rockström, Will Steffen, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, James Hansen, Tim Lenton and our Terry Hughes, a meeting of great minds.

If 350 ppm was a planetary limit, then we passed it in August 1988, just two months after James Hansen addressed the US Senate, making climate change a public policy issue.

There never was any burnable carbon for a safe climate.

However, as Hansen said, 350ppm is a direction rather than a definite end-point. See draft Chapter 40 of Sophie’s Planet – Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? where he showed this slide:

He in fact nominates a range of 300-350 ppm.

By the time we get to 350 ppm, we will know whether we have to go further, he says. The point is we need rapid decarbonisation, simultaneous drawdowns, adaptation to mitigation of the harms that will inevitably transpire, plus a vision for a better and more livable world.

Addressing current political policy platforms, the one held by the Liberal-National Coalition is easily dismissed. I outlined in March 2019 what I thought about it in the post Cheap accounting tricks and sovereign risk: the Morrison government’s climate policy.

In short, it is what you do when you want to pretend you have a policy and you don’t, or your real agenda is something else. Typical of the Morrison government. In response to the dawning of the Biden era in the US Morrison has altered the rhetoric. Katharine Murphy documents how his language shifted in Scott Morrison’s climate language has shifted – but actions speak louder than words. Probably no action will be forthcoming as a result, she thinks, only the language has changed.

She believes Morrison is The prime influencer and the pork-barreller: voters deserve better.

Everything Morrison does is choreographed for making an impression. He’s more concerned with how things look than how they are.

Turning to Labor, a speech Leadership in a New Climate on 21 February 2020 Anthony Albanese once again re-iterated Labor’s commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, in concert with many other countries, including a vision for renewable energy and new clean technologies. Will Steffen was quick to intervene with Labor’s climate policy is too little, too late. We must run faster to win the race.

The Greens leapt on his criticism with a Media release of 23 February 2020, subsequently revised their position with a Media release of 4 July 2020 Greens announce new climate targets as modelling shows higher 2030 targets needed to meet Paris goals and finally posted a new Greens climate and energy policy.

The first point to make is that if zero by 2050 is your go, then you should realise that the advanced economies were intended to get there sooner, to leave room for the developing countries to pollute their way to prosperity.

Those who made the most mess and reaped the benefits should clean it up. That’s fair.

Now Climate Tracker has found that to reach net zero by 2050 Australia should reach minus 66% by 2030. And create 76,000 new jobs in renewable energy alone.

It wasn’t Will Steffen’s best piece. He had jokers in the pack and disclaimers at the end, but it tended to support the validity of the whole IPCC 1.5°C shtick. Prof Andy Pitman said in response to the BOM-CSIRO State of the Climate 2020 report that it was no longer possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, that reaching net zero by 2050 would not be enough to stop global warming reaching two degrees, and even getting to net zero would be “hugely challenging”. He is not alone.

As I outlined in a long-read post last year Climate emergency – ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries, and a safe climate a number of proposals starting with Jorgen Randers and Paul Gilding from 2009 onwards have proposed rapid decarbonisation and drawdowns, the latest being from Tim Flannery.

In that post I cited Paul Gilding recent reflection in Climate emergency defined. He said a full-scale emergency mobilisation, which would be much more disruptive, would require in the range of 5-10% of GDP dedicated to the task, compared to WWII, for example, where the war effort required 30–50% of GDP. That wasn’t off the top of his head. He cited a couple of global commissions that had considered the matter.

So it really depends, as a politician and a policy maker, how brave you think you can be. I’m arguing for full honesty and bravery, which is politically more possible now because few things have changed in recent times.

Firstly, about 20 years ago James Hansen said that people would respond to global warming when they could look out of their widow and see it. As I write there are 100 fires burning in NSW, 40 in Queensland and on Fraser Island Kingfisher Bay Resort guests are told to leave as weather conditions worsen. That fire burnt about half the island.

The time Hansen envisaged is now.

As a country we need to think seriously about the fossil fuel industry, which I think is best done under a new Labor government through a major climate audit with public involvement. However, it is evident now, given the urgency and the timelines, that new fossil investments will involve a near certainty of becoming stranded assets. The financial system is voting with its feet. There are now some 1,200 organizations and businesses worldwide that since 2012 have publicly pledged to divest more than $14 trillion.

My other comment would be that communities that survive are likely to do so through coming together to take a hand in their own future, as much as through government support and assistance.

Secondly, the cost-benefit equation seems to have flipped. Back in the Stern Review days in 2006 he found that the cost of mitigating the climate was around 1% of GDP, compared to the cost of doing nothing, which was 2%. Since then it has been broadly assumed, I think because of the immediate impact of carbon taxes, that acting costs more than BAU.

A recent Deloitte Access Economics study found the equation radically favoured climate action.

In 2018 the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that climate action could yield a direct economic gain of US$26 trillion through to 2030 compared with business-as-usual.

Policy makers should always consider the risk of the worst happening. When society and the ecology as we know it are on the line, and with mass extinction of species well on the way, really we have no choice.

developing countries were always given space to pollute their way to prosperity in the thinking of the IPCC and the UNFCCC. This graph is from Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environmental round up, 8 November 2020

Back in the early 1990s when Swedish scientists investigated ‘dangerous anthropomorphic interference (DAI) they found one degree safe, two degrees dangerous and in between they said:

    Temperature increases beyond 1°C may elicit rapid, unpredictable, and nonlinear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.

Scientists working back then found that the only way they could provide a budget of burnable carbon was to declare two degrees as the guardrail against catastrophic climate change, and work on scenarios in the risky zone.

No-one could ever show that two degrees was safe. (See my post of 2014 The folly of two degrees.)

We have inherited the results, but developing countries can now go straight to renewables.

To get back to Will Steffen and the Greens, Steffen’s climate prescriptions were anaemic – minus 50% by 2030 zero by 2045, or 2040 if you can do it. No mention of drawdowns.

The Greens have maintained 350 ppm of CO2 equivalent of all greenhouse gases (which was what Hansen intended) or lower as an aim.

They are looking for net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 or sooner.

And yes, they want to decommission coal power and exit fossil fuel burning and mining, I’ll skip the details here.

On drawdowns, they have this:

    26. The adoption of the precautionary principle in relation to capturing carbon through geosequestration, by opposing public funding, and ensuring that companies are financially responsible for the risks and effects of greenhouse gas leakage.

    27. Preservation and promotion of natural carbon sequestration in soils, forests and marine sea grass and kelp, swamps and mangrove beds, and a funding and focus on restoring these natural carbon sinks.

Extinction Rebellion want net zero by 2025. I think that is impossible. Tim Flannery thinks we can and need to do it by 2030, starting with 8% each year.

Pro tem I’ll run with that, but it would mean that direct sequestration of airborne CO2 would have to be pursued if at all possible. (For example, Canadian firm Carbon Engineering claim they can capture CO2 directly from the air if they scaled up at less than $US100 per tonne.)

If you reach net zero by 2030, or even 2035, you don’t need a midway interim target.

In this submission I have concentrated on a limited number of issues I think important, and need emphasis.

For further information see my blog Dangerous climate change, where I have published and may update this document as Reflections on climate policy.

There is further information on drawdowns in the post Our beds are burning. See also Andrew Glikson’s Planetary Arson.

55 thoughts on “Reflections on climate policy”

  1. John D the differences between what I have proposed and the Green policy lie in whether we should go for net zero by 2030 or 2035, and the use of direct carbon geosequestration.

    I’m not really qualified to have a definitive opinion on the second. I didn’t have time to dig up what I wrote about it in the post I did on air travel.

    On the timing of net zero, I’d need to look at what Flannery is saying in detail, and others who have written stuff in that field, such as Beyond Zero Emissions.

    Overall I was impressed with the policy.

    The Labor platform will be finalised after a national Zoom meeting in March, I think. I think it’s shaping up well as a document for a party of government. The commitment to Paris is very firm, as is the commitment to following science. The latter provides a fair bit of scope for choice, but I think it’s important to take account of the sixth IPCC assessment report.

    The first two segments, science and mitigation, should be out early last year, but unfortunately the synthesis report won’t come out until 2022.

  2. BTW, I had to send the submission of as a document. I had thought I could get away with just a link.

    Unfortunately I had not proofed the text. There were some glitches, but nothing fatal. Also I could have done with another day, to sleep on it and rejig perhaps, but my bad and it is what it is.

  3. Brian: ” and the use of direct carbon geosequestration.” There was a stage when I thought sequestration was worth looking at, particularly for blast furnaces. However, coalfired power cannot compete with renewables, even more so if you have to add the cost of sequestration.

  4. John, what I’m talking about is direct air capture (DAC).

    In the post Too good to be true? Is green flying really possible? I identified a Canadian firm Carbon Engineering who reckon they can capture CO2 directly from the air if they scaled up at less than $US100 per tonne.

    The issue then is that you have to store it or use it. They reckon they could make fuel for less than $1.00/L, but you would end up with carbon back in the air.

    A big advantage is that you don’t have to transport the CO2 anywhere, you can capture it at the storage or burial site. I know it’s terrible stuff to store, but I also have a vague recollection of someone using it to replace concrete. Taiwan, I think.

    I recall at the time there were two other companies in the game, I think one in Switzerland and one in Iceland, from memory.

    I haven’t had time to research it.

  5. Direct Air Capture is an essential feature in the future of algal Oil, but initial operations will use Sewerage Treatment CO2 emissions and liquid outflows for maximum viability.

    As I’ve said many times I think the future of shipping is Nuclear using micro reactors of up to 100 megawatts.

    Aviation has huge potential for improvement as demonstrated by the new entrant into the field of the Celera 500 , go to 1:35 to see the comparative advantage. Electric aviation has huge potential to reduce emissions for trips such as the interstate 700 klm hops, and the fully developed Celera 1000 will be adding to that.

  6. Bilb: “As I’ve said many times I think the future of shipping is Nuclear using micro reactors of up to 100 megawatts.” Bit skeptical. Could take a lot of time to overcome safety concerns. In the mean time renewable ammonia, methanol or whatever could keep the fleet going.

  7. I think, John D that you have to crunch the numbers on that claim. There is a huge amount of double counting on how renewable fuels can be used. There just isn’t that much of it, nor the land area available to produce fuel for road transport, air transport, and shipping combined.

    I am happy to be proven wrong but I’ve looked at it and you can do one of those things but not two them nor even thee of them.

    For example the energy necessary to transport one person from Sydney to London is 28 megawatt hours one way on an A380. compare that to the energy cost of a shipping container from Beijing to London at around 6000 kilowatt hours on a ship containing 20,000 containers ( I included the container return trip) . So sea freight is very low energy consumption relative to air travel, but there is a huge amount of sea freight.

    I invite you to examine the safety risks of Nuclear Shipping compared to Nuclear land power generation. Please spell out what you consider those risks to be and the consequences. Recognise that the reactor required for a large container ship is around 100 megawatt mini reactor of the type that gets fuel loaded at manufacture and will run for 20 years before requiring to be reprocessed.

  8. Bevan Shields and David Crowe make an interesting claim in Nine newspapers:

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison will tell world leaders that Australia has abandoned a longstanding plan to use Kyoto carryover credits to achieve its emissions reduction targets, in a pledge that paves the way for a reset of his government’s climate change policies.

    The decision to drop the controversial Kyoto credits will be announced at a December 12 summit convened by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has asked leaders for “ambitious” new commitments as a condition of speaking at the gathering.

    Mr Johnson and United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres are seeking stronger action ahead of the UN’s major climate summit in Glasgow next year, with an agenda that seeks pledges from developed countries to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

    Mr Morrison’s promise to reach Australia’s 2030 target without using carryover credits is likely to be welcomed by other countries that have long criticised the accounting method, building goodwill for the Australian position going into the Glasgow summit.

    …. mebbe, just mebbe the days of “We’ll meet our Paris agreement targets in a canter!” are over?

  9. Ambi, I think that the next full COP conference in Glasgow in Dec 2021, there was a prospect the use of carry-over credits would be verboten.

    So Morrison is getting that one out of the way, defusing the criticism.

    However, he hasn’t said Australia will get there faster, merely that he’d like to.

    There is a teleconference this Dec (12th I think) where the UN is inviting countries to up their commitments. Scotty says he’s attending to clarify Australia’s position, which he thinks has been misunderstood. He’s offering nothing new, unless I have read the signals wrong.

  10. Ambi, there is an interesting article at The Guardian – Scott Morrison yet to be granted speaking slot at weekend climate summit:

      The countries hosting the summit wrote to national leaders in October calling on them to make ambitious new commitments to combat the climate crisis in return for a speaking slot.

      They said such slots would be given only to leaders who set stronger targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade; announced a long-term strategy to reach net zero emissions; made a new financial commitment to help developing countries; or put forward ambitious policies to adapt to locked-in climate change.

      As reported by Guardian Australia, the letter stated “we hope to see you in December with a bold new commitment” but noted there would be “no space for general statements”.

    On the whole it seems unlikely Morrison would be accorded a spot to make excuses, especially since his government:

      has said it does not plan to increase its 2030 emissions target – a 26-28% cut below 2005 levels – and stopped making contributions to the global climate fund which was set up to help developing countries respond and adapt to the crisis.

    Also last year he was in New York at the time the conference was being held there and couldn’t be *rsed attending.

  11. Brian: “Ambi, there is an interesting article at The Guardian – Scott Morrison yet to be granted speaking slot at weekend climate summit:”
    I suspect Morrison would accept the refusal of a slot as a plus in terms of Australian politics.

  12. I heard they only invited leaders who could report ambitious targets and plans for emission reductions. The British Conservatives seem to be greener than ever. Europe seems to be making progress…..

  13. Morrison is doing his “We will decide…” thing. See Scott Morrison to be pressured by Pacific leaders at climate change summit led by United Nations:

      Pacific nations want Australia to cut its emissions further, as well as help them advocate for stronger action on climate change globally.

      But Mr Morrison has indicated he will not accede to pressure, either from Pacific countries or the international community.

      “Australia’s climate and energy policy will be set here in Australia, in Australia’s national interest, not to get a speaking slot at some international summit,” he said in Parliament on Thursday.

    See also from December last year – Climate change displacing one person every two seconds, Oxfam report says.

    The article is mainly but not solely about rising seas in the Pacific.

    And Tim Flannery – It’s Not Too Late For Australia To Pivot On Climate Change.

    Flannery points out how isolated we are becoming, and how vulnerable to trade imposts. He links to an AFR article Net-zero goals cloud $76b of exports. That’s just gas and coal to South Korea, Japan and China.

    With the US on board our eight top trading partners now have 2050 targets (actually 2060 for China). EU is seen as one – our second biggest, and I think the most likely to act.

    Frank Jotzo enters the lists (also AFR) in Australia feels the heat on climate targets.

    Finally (for tonight) the AFR editorial says Net zero by 2050 will anchor better carbon policy.

  14. Morrison: ““Australia’s climate and energy policy will be set here in Australia, in Australia’s national interest, not to get a speaking slot at some international summit,” he said in Parliament on Thursday.”
    Morrison is focusing on internal politics rather than dealing with our relations with the world. The result is helping china expand it’s influence in our region.
    This includes “As the Australia-China relationship deteriorates, a $200m PNG ‘fishery’ deal raises eyebrows”
    Last month, Papua New Guinea signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $200 million “comprehensive multi-functional fishery industrial park” on Daru Island. Google Daru. There isn’t much there, including fish.
    As Jeff Wall, a long time adviser to the PNG Government, wrote in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s publication The Strategist this week, “the town of Daru is the closest PNG community to Australia. Even though it is around 200 kilometres from the Australian mainland, it is very close to the islands of the Torres Strait that are within our northern border.”
    You can hardly blame our pacific neighbours giving in on Aus and going with China,

  15. UN Defends Excluding Morrison From Climate Summit, Canberra Livid With Johnson Over Snub

    Seems Scotty was really pissed. He likes getting his own way.

    The simple story is that we ‘beat’ our Kyoto targets because we were allowed to count tree clearing, and, unlike other advanced economies, we had a target of increasing emissions by 8%. Then for Paris we chose a convenient base point of 2005. Some serious countries use 1990.

    Whatever we are doing now is because of Labor policies (RET), people putting solar on their rooves, the states, and corporates who want to join the future.

    What Scotty is doing is nothing or worse, but happy to take any credit if things go well because of what others do.

  16. Brian: “Whatever we are doing now is because of Labor policies (RET), people putting solar on their rooves, the states, and corporates who want to join the future.”
    My recollection is that it was that the RET was introduced by Turnbull during the Howard era. My take was that the RET was superior to Labor’s carbon tax because RET’s drive to a target instead of increasing the price of carbon in the hope that it wil be enough to drive change.
    Me I think that RET style systems are what we need to reduce transport emissions per km and the ACT Labor/green renewable energy auctions are what was needed to drive investment in renewable energy.

  17. The Saturday Paper (12/12/20) had a very positive article about Matt Keane, NSW minister for Energy and the Environment and the Landmark NSW energy plan he got through the NSW parliament with multipartisan backing. (The only dissent came from Mark Latham) A plan that included 12gW of new renewable energy, 2gW of storage and support for renewable hydrogen.
    Kean’s attitudes are interesting. For example: “For me” says Keane ” it was always confusing as to why there were elements in in the Liberal Party that were sort of anti environmental or anti taking action on climate action.” I mean, conservation is about conserving things that are important…..and I can’t think of anything more important than our environment.” (Sounds a bit along my line that the Greens are the true conservative party.)
    No surprise that Scott Morrison came down on him like a ton of bricks but to no avail and said that “it was not the time for such things” and suggested praying instead. However, Morrison was not able to stop it getting through the NSW parliament.
    Watch this man.

  18. John

    As I understand it, Mr Morrison sits in a different Parliament.


    D*mn States!
    A bloke goes on and on about States’ rights, then one ’em turns round and bites him on his emissions! !

  19. John, your confusion is understandable given you not knowing that in politics “ conservatism “ favours incremental change on the path to a better system.
    As opposed to the left approach of continual revolutions till a utopian path is happens.

    To say green conservative is like saying wet dust, Marxist capitalism or bright darkness.

    They don’t exist, they are an amalgamation of opposites to form a contradiction.

  20. Jumpy: “John, your confusion is understandable given you not knowing that in politics “ conservatism “ favours incremental change on the path to a better system.
    As opposed to the left approach of continual revolutions till a utopian path is happens.”
    If, for example, we want to do the conservative thing and conserve the environment we have to do radical things to achieve this. Radical things like giving up our dependence on converting fossil carbon into greenhouse gases.
    We can play with labels for yonks but I think what matters is what parties are advocating and how they plan to go about achieving their aims.

  21. John, I don’t think that it’s radical to divert all the billions of dollars sprayed at measuring, talking about and demonising global warming to finding technologies more valued by individuals.

    Government edicts pale in comparison to technological advances in human wellbeing throughout all of history.

    If I’m going to have 1/3 of my income confiscated then I’d rather it spent on 100,000 hours of research than some shiny arsed bureaucrats eating lobster thermidor at the next climate summit.

    I realise some are really big on wealth redistribution, well, if that’s inevitable then at least listen to conservatives about the alternative directions it may be best directed to solve the problems.

  22. Jumpy: “I realise some are really big on wealth redistribution, well, if that’s inevitable then at least listen to conservatives about the alternative directions it may be best directed to solve the problems.”
    I wait for you theories with interest.
    However, keep in mind that a perception of fairness as well as purchasing power is important.
    Some years ago I saw a survey on people’s satisfaction in life for Qld electorates. The two top federal electorates were Ryan (affluent leafy suburbs) and much much poorer Hervey Bay. I concluded that the thing these disparate electorates had in common was homogeneity. If you like it is best to live somewhere where everyone is about as affluent as you are.
    Don’t tell me cutting the tax rates for the rich is the answer.

  23. Jumpy, a third of your income wouldn’t come within a bull’s roar of funding 100,000 hours of research. Please confine your arguments to the real world, we’re not impressed by your fever dreams.

  24. Oh dear, Mr J.

    I hope you’re not taking up Hegelian/Marxian “dialectics “.

    Antithesis (contradiction)

    BTW I bet John understands exactly what “conservative” means; also, there are many varieties of conservatives (as there are many strands of socialist thought and policy; many strands of liberalism ).

    Looking around the globe I also see many styles of “capitalism”.

  25. John, just on the RET, I checked that out in Marian Wilkinson’s excellent tome The Carbon Club. It was introduced before Turnbull was in parliament.

    A RET was introduced @ 2% by 2010 back in 1997, when Robert Hill was minister for environment. Hill was one of the good guys. Howard wanted to look as though we were doing something when we weren’t. Importantly he did not want to be criticised as a climate denier, although he pretty much was.

    The plan was to put up a 2% RET to show our good intent while we were asking for an increase of 8% in emissions.

    That’s where it stayed until Rudd put it up to 20% by 2020. Rudd got that through with the support of the Coalition (probably the Greens too) when Turnbull was leader of the opposition. It was one of the main reasons Nick Minchin, Cory Bernadi, Andrew Robb, Tony Abbott and company were plotting to get rid of him.

    Other than that I agree with you about the RET and a carbon tax, although I suspect we’ll eventually have to have an ETS if all our main trading partners do.

    The further story, however, is that Gillard would never have concluded an agreement with the Greens had she not agreed to a price on carbon. My memory is that it was a key demand and a game-breaker for the Greens at that time.

  26. Pedantry Alert.
    Astronomy Alert.

    Mr J, an example of “bright darkness”.

    A source of electromagnetic radiation a long way away can be “dark” in visible light, while simultaneously “bright” in radiation of other quite different wavelengths. For example a “bright radio source” or a “bright Xray source”.

    An amazing discovery of the late Stephen Hawking was that a Black Hole (which by definition emits no light) can be the originator of radiation emitted from very near its boundary region.

    Here’s a more mundane example.
    A ‘sunspot ‘ is dark only because it’s visibly less bright than nearby parts of the photosphere. But a sunspot isn’t intrinsically dark. It emits light at rates which are enormous.

    Hope this helps.
    May the Spectrum (Electronagnetic) be with you.

  27. I’ve just attended via Zoom an annual strategy meeting of LEAN, which has sub-branches in Cairns, Townsville, Gold Coast, Sunny Coasts, Darling Downs, and some active members in Wide Bay and Bundaberg. There is a hole in the middle, and it’s coal country.

    Anyway it was a very encouraging meeting of some very smart, knowledgeable and able people.

    So there’s life in the old dog.

    Now I’m going for a long walk to clear my head.

  28. Alistair, I really wish you could turn your magnificent imagination toward the answers rather than buzzarding around the issue.

    I truly believe you could imagine a technological solution under capitalism that is the optimal solution, as is has been for so many other things, if you just tried a little.

    And John, you are either overthinking or under thinking the sentence of mine you quoted.
    How about I make it simple “ divert the $Billions toward solutions “, rather than change human nature.

  29. Alistair? Talking to your imaginary friend again?
    And while you’re being so condescending, have you worked out the difference between the US Senate and the Electoral College yet? You were being oh so superior to John on that thread as well.

  30. During my lifetime, Jumpy, I’ve seen some small progress towards
    * environmental protection
    * use of renewable sources of energy
    * reduction of air pollution
    * advances in cheaper, and more efficient transport

    Also I’ve seen large improvements in
    * safety at work
    * reductions in smoking rates amongst adults
    * immunisation, even on a global scale
    * more reliable, lighter, cleverer building materials and methods
    * pharmaceuticals, surgery and diagnostics

    I don’t have the technical capacity to contribute in any of these areas. (I once hoped that thermonuclear fusion through Deuterium and Tritium might give us ‘cheap power from seawater’ but don’t hold out hope there.)

    I think the major obstacles to human progress include: ignorance, credulity, greed, monopoly power, income inequality, starvation, preventable diseases, mass casualties in warfare, destruction of everyday infrastructure in warfare.

    Sadly also: the attraction of utopian programmes put forward as fig leaves over despotic impulses. For examples, see the collected works of Adolf H, Josef S, Mao, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Ho C M, Fidel C; Augusto Pinochet and dozens of military dictators in Latin America and Africa; Hirohito, Sadam H, Xi X P, …..

    Closer to home, must we add: Richard N & Henry K, Suharto, Marcos; less deadly but authoritarian: Lee K Y?

    Democracy and the tranquility of ‘ordinary, everyday life and leisure’ seem far away in such a deadly list. So I’ll finish with swimming, painting, photography, sailing, gardening, bushwalking, music and dancing, fishing; enquiring, speaking freely, imagining, praising, giving and treasuring. These pleasures can be enjoyed under capitalism; but in my view the economic system isn’t at their hearts. simply peripheral.

    I’m aware that my viewpoint is very narrow: Commos would say “bourgeois”, Christians might say “secular therefore limited”. Who cares??

    That’s a long way of replying that I can’t assist with your (apparent) project of reducing waste and improving efficiency under capitalism. But capitalist enterprises are already working on both, and have been doing so for at least 200 years.

  31. Jumpy: “I truly believe you could imagine a technological solution under capitalism that is the optimal solution, as is has been for so many other things, if you just tried a little.”
    You may have noted from time to time that capitalism has driven much of the reduction in emissions, The drivers have included the lower costs and reputational risks of renewables compared with fossil energy.
    This doesn’t mean that some government action doesn’t help. The ACT got to 100% renewable electricity using “renewable energy auctions” which is the equivalent to the competitive tendering process you and I am familiar.
    Me I think both private and public ownership can be the best option depending on the situation. I think “public is always best” is just as ridiculous as “private is best.”

  32. John, private is voluntary, public is forced.

    Kind of like consensual sex and rape, consensual sex is more popular and efficient.
    Public/private entities are just publicly sanctioned rape.

    You smart enough to see that. Zoot is not.

  33. … private is voluntary, public is forced …
    Public/private entities are just publicly sanctioned rape.

    Bullshit. Are you on the piss again?

  34. Mr Alistair,

    That’s a long way of replying that I can’t assist with your (apparent) project of reducing waste and improving efficiency under capitalism. But capitalist enterprises are already working on both, and have been doing so for at least 200 years.

    Waste in who’s eyes ? A Polish friend of my went back to his childhood hometown and noticed the mountains of metal slag were gone, turns out someone innovated a use for it. Efficiency has certainly improved because of capitalism compared to the 10, 000 years before. Extreme poverty was the norm before capitalism and now it’s the minority and ever shrinking ( not in today’s socialist countries thought[ precrash China not included])
    The evidence is overwhelming.

  35. Not an argument or rebuttal, fuck off troll.

    No, it’s argument by assertion, your SOP.
    I’m surprised you didn’t recognise it.

  36. Jumpy, you’ve got that completely around the wrong way. Nearly all rape happens in private. When did you last see a public raping? Oh I know! In the four years of the Trump Presidency.

    Public is when the community agrees on common participation and action ie consensual. Cognitions.

  37. Jumpy: “John, private is voluntary, public is forced.”
    Private is forced when there is no public alternative.
    I think the private/public choice is a pragmatic one that needs to be done on a case by case basis. Unfortunately you and your LNP mates see it as an ideological one.

  38. “Federal Government guarantees Alcoa’s Portland aluminum smelter income during peak power-usage periods:”
    For a long time Aluminum smelting was given low power prices because it fitted in with a power supply system with lots of coal fired baseload power. Some of you may recall that I have been rabbiting on about using aluminum smelters to help stabilize the grid which is more and more dominated by renewable power. While it is not possible to suddenly shut down Al smelters for long without freezing the potline it is possible to reduce power consumption or even shut down for very short periods. (It takes yonks to restart a potline that has frozen.)
    The government is doing the sensible thing.

  39. Yes Jumpy

    I have heard of reusing, repairing, repurposing, recycling. One generation’s rubbish is used by a later generation.

    Opp shops and tip recycling on a local scale. Recycled paper, cardboard, metals on an industrial scale, repurposed garden “waste” (mulch, compost) on a local but industrisl scale.

    Much of these done by private businesses. Always aiming to reduce their use of fuels, electricity (and labour? ) to do so.

    But look at the regulations that improve these. Reduction of air pollution, prohibition of heavy metal discharge (Minimata etc), regulations on hygiene and workers’ safety.

    I agree with John, Brian and millions minded persons: a mixture of private business and regulatory supervision seems to work well. Sometimes govt enterprises or govt incentives are optimal.

    Your ‘rape’ remark is ridiculous and unnecessary in this discussion. An equivalent would be “robber barons”.

  40. John, what is happening with Portland is the right thing, and it’s good if the Feds supply the money. However, this worries me:

      The funding scheme is due to end in 2025, when the Federal Government plans to have a new energy market in place to support key industrial players like Alcoa.

    What is this plan that the Federal government has?

    AEMO has put out an Integrated System Plan which “provides an actionable roadmap for eastern Australia’s power system.”

    It includes the shape of the system of generation and transmission, taking into account the development of renewable energy zones. And yes it takes into account continuity of electricity supply, including the use of demand management.

    AEMO has no view on who should make the necessary investments. It could be reverse tendering by state governments, or private energy players, who would of course need state government approval. AEMO also puts out regular Statement of Opportunity documents, to let the players know what is needed in the next little while.

    Angus Taylor has a different plan, based on modelling he won’t reveal. It’s one that specifies that Liddell must be replaced by a fossil generator of 1000MW capacity, and if concrete plans are not provided by March next year, he is going to commission Snowy Hydro, wholly owned by the Feds, to do it.

    There’s been stuff on this in RenewEconomy and the AFR about this. There is an article today in the AFR by Angela Macdonald-Smith Power investors baulk amid lower prices, intervention.

    The focus of that article is that private players are not investing, because they don’t know where government is going to intervene next. The main worry is the Feds, starting with Snowy 2.0. However, now:

      The findings come after the Morrison government in September issued an ultimatum for private companies to commit to 1000 megawatts of new dispatchable generation in NSW by April or it would order government-owned Snowy Hydro to build gas-fired power stations.

    AEMO says only 150 MW is needed, and in this article PM’s gas plan ‘overkill’ for market:

      EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna noted the recent Statement of Opportunities report by the Australia Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which said the NSW market needed about 150MW “to reduce the risk of load shedding and meet standards of reliability once Liddell closes”.

      She said two of her company’s planned projects would deliver that.

    Matt Kean has also done his modelling, and my bet is that it built on AEMO’s work, because they seem to be in the same headspace.

    See also:

    Matt Kean takes on Angus Taylor: “I’m not on the side of vested interests”

    Transparency lost as Taylor seizes control of now “secret” energy minister forums

    I think I need to do a post, because I don’t think the state energy ministers have got their head around what is really going on.

  41. John, I’m even more worried now. RenewEconomy is close to the real story in Taylor intervenes in RERT scheme to pay smelter to act like giant battery

    RERT is Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT). It’s a package of special measures AEMO uses every summer to cope with storms and heatwaves.

    Audrey Zibelman had to fight tooth and nail to put it together as a regular reserve service, rather than something that had to be reinvented every time there was an emergency.

    The intervention from Taylor is arbitrary and gross. We haven’t been told the real reason.

    It looks like a direct handout to keep Portland in business, disguised as managing electricity.

    If Portland shuts down, Victaoria needs less power, and maybe Yallourn shuts down.

    The bloke from Tomago will be there with his hand out as well.

    Not sure what it does to our free trade obligations, as it’s a disguised subsidy. No doubt the Chinese have taken note.

  42. As you might surmise, Portland is in Dan Tehan’s electorate of Wannon. Tehan has a media release Securing Victoria’s energy system in which he says it’s being done for the benefit of all Victorians, and:

      The Commonwealth is working productively with the Victorian Government to ensure assistance is provided, as it did back in 2017.

    I’ve checked the media sites of Dan Andrews and Lily D’Ambrosio, the responsible minister. No media releases there. I’m betting it was a surprise to them too.

  43. The Portland aluminium smelter has been a “special case” in the Royal State for decades. It was always known that the operators were receiving discounts on their power charges. I think a special transmission line “spur ” was built to the smelter. Always emphasised publicly was the huge cost if ever they had to turn off and cool the pots of boiling whatever-it-is there.

    The State doesn’t have much in the way of heavy industry or metallurgy.

  44. Ambi, I believe the pots go solid, and essentially have to be replaced, though this technology is beyond my pay grade.

    Without checking if memory served Portland gummed up a few years ago when there was an electricity outage. I think three hours will do it, and it may become problematic after an hour and a half. Even then restarting them means workers working individually on each pot, who can be working in 50C heat.

    Here we are:

    Alcoa’s Portland smelter rebuilding after unprecedented power failure

    $240 million rescue package to get going again.

    Alcoa’s Portland smelter saved from near fatal power outage as workers roll up their sleeves

    That was November last year.

    Portland smelter hit with second outage in three months as storm cell tears down towers

    That was February this year. Problem is there are only two high voltage transmission lines in.

    I know that AEMO and the Victorian government have been working on developing more generation near Portland and securing the grid in that area. The problem is that as designed it was a bit foolhardy to put such a facility in an area where the grid was not a dense web.

    Portland now struggles to make a profit at the best of times. I’m not against government support in principle. It’s just that Taylor’s latest move is not done with any collegiate planning and worsens the investment environment for private operators.

  45. “the grid was not a dense web” is the key; I agree, Brian.

    What a job: 50C and physically tough.

    Like sheep shearing, outdoors in a mine, hay baling, road labouring etc in this sunny land…

    (Or gardening, trimming, mowing??)

  46. Ambi, I can usually find some jobs in the shade if it’s really hot in the places I work. They are also eastern facing.


  47. South Australia Liberal government aims for more than 500 pct renewables in new climate plan (Yes 500Pct, by 2030 at the latest):
    South Australia’s Liberal state government predicts the state could boast more than 500 per cent renewable energy by 2050 as it becomes a national and international exporter of clean energy.
    South Australia has sourced a world-leading 60 per cent of its local grid demand from wind and solar over the past 12 months and aims to reach “net 100 per cent renewables” by 2030 – a target that even federal energy minister Angus Taylor admits could be largely achieved by 2025.
    Is anyone bothering to listen to SCOMO?

  48. Bluewaters WA coal-fired power station written off as worthless as renewables rise.
    The owners of Australia’s newest coal-fired power station have written down the value of the asset to zero, wiping out a $1.2 billion investment in the face of an onslaught of renewable energy.”
    I can’t see anyone being keen to invest in gas even though it is a better complement to renewables than coal. Gas is better at responding to variable demand than coal. However, given the rate of change I have seen since retiring I wouldn’t be putting my money into new gas.

    Key points:
    The Bluewaters coal-fired plant in Collie is barely ten years old
    Its Japanese owners have written it off as worthless
    The move is being pinned on the rise of renewable energy
    In what a financial market analyst said was a “classic example” of changes predicted in the energy industry, Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo has written off its $250 million equity stake in the Bluewaters power plant in Western Australia’s south-west.
    The decision was booked in Sumitomo’s September accounts, in which the company acknowledged the facility was worthless despite being barely 10 years old.

  49. Yes, this tells the story:

      Earlier this year, a syndicate of Australian and overseas banks including Westpac and ANZ apparently refused to refinance $370 million in debt owed by Bluewaters amid concerns about the facility’s coal supply security and investing in the fossil fuel.

      Instead, the banks sold their debt stakes at a discount to distressed debt specialists — so-called vulture funds — including Oaktree Capital and Elliot Management.

      At the same time, Bluewaters and other coal-fired power stations in WA have been dealing with tougher trading conditions as renewable energy led by solar increasingly hollows out the market.

      The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank funded by environmental philanthropists, said Sumitomo had been left with little choice other than to write off its investment in Bluewaters.

  50. So after ten years of operation the outfit still owed $370 million?

    Them’s big numbers!!

    It’s looking like the French company Engie was a bit ahead of the pack, closing fown brown-coal Hazelwood a few years ago.

Comments are closed.