Brian and I have agreed to try running some posts as short conversation starters instead of the much longer posts we have both produced in the past.
This conversation post was prompted by “The climate change panic button is coming” by Allan Kohler. It looks at climate change from a financial risk perspective, in particular how the rising number and size of climate change disasters is making is making it harder and harder for the insurance industry to the point where more and more insurance will become unaffordable. Banks will not lend money to projects that cannot be insured.
This post asks you to discuss what might be done to avoid or survive a future of shrinking insurance, shrinking loans and a deteriorating environment.
It is suggested that you read the Kohler article before commenting.
To quote Kohler:
“This week it’s floods in Germany, 170 dead and terrible devastation.
A few weeks ago people were dying from the heat in Canada, which reached about 49 degrees Celsius in Lytton, British Columbia.
This is from the global warming that has already occurred, which is about 1.2 degrees above the pre-industrial age.”
Then think about bushfires and the impact of sea level rise on assets, insurance and investment.
The world is now trying to stop the temperature from going above 1.5 degrees higher than present by getting emissions down to net zero by 2050.
Even if we succeed in that, which is far from guaranteed, the extreme weather events will be significantly worse and more frequent than they are now.
But at what point will governments hit the real panic button?
Because net zero by 2050 is not it.”
Kohler goes on to point out the limitations of simply keeping the temperature below the 1.5 deg C target by 1950. 1.2 deg higher is already causing damage that is adding to the problem by pushing more greenhouses gases into the air, killing vegetation and reducing the area of snow available to reflect heat back into space.
By the time we have reached the 1.5 deg higher more greenhouse methane from melting permafrost will have got into the atmosphere. (Kohler thinks 1.5 deg by 2050 will end up driving us to 2 deg even if humans have reached net zero. (See: ‘Delay is the new denial’: Why the 2050 net-zero fight is missing the real danger.))
Kohler concludes with:
“What does the panic button look like?
I’m not sure, but here are some thoughts: Fossil fuels would be suddenly and totally banned, or made prohibitively expensive, and oil, gas and coal would instantly go bust; physical tourism would be banned and air travel confined to essentials and rich elites so the airline industry would collapse; the lithium battery and hydrogen would suddenly boom.
And so on.
Life would change more completely than it has during the pandemic.
In short, it would look like war.
So what do you think? What might we do to:
1. Slow or reverse climate change?
2. Reduce our and other species risk of extinction?
3. Live with sea level rise?
4. Look after our descendants?
5. Manage the economy and the environment?


  1. One tactic needed is to list prominent Climate Action Obstructionists prominently, repeatedly and Internationally. Put them on the permanent defensive.

    Then do as the Dutch do, litigate.

    Climate Action Obstructionism should be made a crime.

  2. If only they had acted back then !!

    A bit previous, since the Greenhouse Effect was first proposed in 1824 and Anthropogenic Climate Change only began around the end of the nineteenth century.
    What actions do you propose they should have taken?

  3. John, sorry I was in a rush this morning. Didn’t see your link.

    Jumpy, for Pete’s sake!

    The German flood has been deemed a 1 in 700 year event. Unless you’ve got your head where the sun don’t shine you know the pattern of extreme events is breaking the established Holocene pattern.

    I don’t feel the need to demonstrate this to you when I know you won’t accept it.

  4. Not to mention, Jumpy, the forty nights and forty days event that floated Noahs boat. Having the Windy App back then would have been very handy.

    Are you vying for a position on the Climate Action Obstructionists list, Jumpy?

  5. Jumpy, what you have done, again, is insert a red herring, one that smells of a denialist odour. I’ll just repeat the business end of John’s post:

      Life would change more completely than it has during the pandemic.

      In short, it would look like war.
      So what do you think? What might we do to:

      1. Slow or reverse climate change?

      2. Reduce our and other species risk of extinction?

      3. Live with sea level rise?

      4. Look after our descendants?

      5. Manage the economy and the environment?

    I’ll make two points here. First, if we accept 1.5 degrees and zero emissions by 2050 we are most likely accepting that we wipe out the Great Barrier Reef, trigger tipping points which will lead to uncontrolled heating, accept that many parts of the world will become uninhabitable, commit the planet to unavoidable sea level rise this century and for centuries to come, and quite possibly stop the AMOC (ocean circulation current) plunging Europe into a freezing climate, while the world as a whole (Europe is not very big) continues to warm.

    In the second link I gave, Will Steffen (and others) recently said we should be aiming for net zero by 2035. I think Adam Bandt is on board with this, but I haven’t checked Greens policy recently.

    Second, some are saying we need to get back to 280ppm as soon as possible in order to slow down SLR which will keep rising because of the heat already in the ocean, chewing out the large glaciers, especially in W Antarctica.

    What Kohler is saying is that the whole approach taken by governments around the world is farcical, and it is quite predictable that we’ll wake up in fright sometime not long hence, and hit the panic button.

    I agree with bilb, Climate Action Obstructionism should be made a crime.

  6. Sorry, if you happened to be reading, it took me four goes to get that comment sorted.

    Have to go to work again today. It’s dry here, also been cold and windy.

  7. Just a few sums from the Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2:
    Atmospheric CO2 June 2021=418.94ppm
    June 2020=416.60
    Annual increase=2.34ppm
    MauLoa CO2 TREND
    If nothing changes by 2050 (28 yrs time) the figure will be increased by at least 65.5 ppm to over 484.46ppm. (If you look at the graph the rate of increase is increasing.)
    So if we commit to zero emissions by 2050 and do nothing until 2050 problems caused by greenhouse emissions are going to be a lot worse than they are now and, even if we suddenly stopped emissions due to human activity there will still be carryon emissions from things like melting methane containing permafrost, bushfires etc.
    2050 is a distraction that can allow people that will be long retired by then to make promises that they know they won’t have to keep.
    It is a lot more relevant to ask politicians what they are going to do if they control the next parliament.
    They can shut things down, set up contracts and timetables.
    So what do we want to happen in the next three years?
    Actions that will reduce emissions in the next 3 yrs?
    Actions that should start in the next 3 yrs but may only reduce emissions more than 3 yrs down the track?
    R&D that may have a significant effect down the track?

  8. bilb, NOAA has a graph of methane emissions, which started rising seriously again from about 2007, and increasingly look out of control.

    Your link in good on how it works in the Arctic. It’s two years old.

    My recall is that recent methane rises come mainly from natural sources near the equator, which if true is not good news, because I think the idea was that it was coming from drying bogs, swamps and rainforest.

    A quick search threw up this UNEP report which says:

      More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35 per cent of human-caused emissions), waste (20 per cent) and agriculture (40 per cent). In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23 per cent, and coal mining accounts for 12 per cent of emissions. In the waste sector, landfills and wastewater make up about 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions. In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation represent roughly 32 per cent, and rice cultivation 8 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.

    They reckon it’s low hanging fruit to knock off 45% of these by 2030.

    We are supposed to feel good about that, which is exactly my problem.

    If we want to defeat the enemy, we have to have a plan.

    When Robert Kennedy responded to Sputnik he said, we’ll put a man on the moon by 1970. And they did, by 1969. When they began the did not have the technology to do it.

    What we are faced with is more than a moonshot.

    If you look at the second link I gave, there looks like a possibility of agreement on the left of politics of net zero by 2035, but we need to understand that we don’t stop there.

  9. bilb, I’m not saying the Arctic methane is no problem. Chances are it is, and it’s another blind spot.

    Right now I’d rather wait for the IPCC before trying to investigate further.

  10. On methane, I only realised recently that it converts into CO2 and water over a very short period, I think about 12 years.

    In the first year it is 100 times more potent than CO2. You can take the total effect and spread it over 30, 80, or 100 years, depending on your frame of reference.

    Adam Bandt said at one stage that it was 86 times moire potent than CO2, which I think is the 30-year figure. given the focus on 2050 that’s fair enough.

    It means, that we can get a good mitigation effect over the next few decades by knocking it out.

    However, it also means that methane, especially from Arctic clathrates, tundra deposits, equatorial bogs, swamps etc constitute a dangerous tipping point. The main way to mitigate in those cases is to get the atmospheric temperature down, which means net zero plus further drawdowns.

    Net zero as such won’t do it, because it only limits increases from the already bad, with increases continuing to grow while we are getting there.

  11. So what would going onto a “war footing” mean in the climate change context?
    In WWII most of the world went on a war footing. This meant that winning was considered so important and the alternative so horrifying that every effort had to be made to win even if it meant lots of people died, some economies were stuffed and the horror of nuclear war was released. Me I still think of WWII as a battle between good and evil.
    Switch to climate and what we see happening if the war is not won are things like dramatically reduced capacity to feed the worlds population, a growing rate of extinctions, collapsing eco systems and conflicts driven by desperate humans.
    Our crisis is driven by a combination of greenhouse gas driven global and localized climate change and the growing human plague.
    while we are on a war footing it is OK to”
    Unbalance the budget if this is what is required to do what is necessary.
    Quickly shut down fossil fuel producers even if it means complete loss of shareholder value or less reliable power supply.
    Refusing compensation to companies whose directors failed to see what was coming.
    Limiting the number of children women can have.
    The list could go on.
    The key thing is that the sooner the better.
    What is on your list?
    The list goes on

  12. John, that graph is hard for mere mortals, as distinct from energy nerds, as it represents change from the same quarter last year.

    Complicating matters, Yallourn flood happened about 10 June this year, and Callide Power exploded around 26 May.

    There is definitely more sun during the day. I find interesting that wind seems to have compensated for less brown coal 24/7.

    I’ve done a screenshot of what happened in the last three days from this site:

    Black coal is ramped to cover the peaks which occur at 9.30am and 6.30pm. However, stabilising the grid is still gas.

    My subjective impression is that gas has been used more since Yallourn and Callide. Your graph appears to say it is just used differently. I’ll be interested to see what happens in Q3.

    Parkinson reckons price increases have been driven by cool weather in NSW and Qld, and coal outages. I suppose he’s checked but here in SEQ it has been quite warm. On the cooler days we are down around the long-term average, or slightly lower.

    I think the demand/supply equation in coal and gas has seen the prices of power from both quite high. Certainly Qld is producing less power than usual, still often net supplies to NSW, but not so much.

    The bottom line, though, is as you say, progress is being made.

  13. Caught in the headlights” Starts with the position taken by the Barnaby Nationals on fossil energy and : “So why exactly was Barnaby Joyce elevated to the role of Australia’s blocker-in-chief? Apparently, because the National Party is now the champion of blue-collar workers in mines, in smelters, refineries and power stations, and in our oil and gas fields and liquefaction plants. As Matt Canavan, seemingly Joyce’s chief backer, went so far as to say, farmers aren’t numerous enough to be the National Party’s most important constituency.”
    However, it has a lot more to say about good financial and marketing reasons why fossil fuels will have effectively disappeared well before 2050. Part of this is because countries that have cleaned up their act will use things like carbon import taxes to disadvantage the fossil economies.
    The comment on the Chinese fossil market was also interesting:
    “When President Xi Jinping announced the country’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 last September, he wasn’t simply indicating that China would adjust its energy mix to reduce emissions, he was giving notice of the complete transformation of its economy and how it produces, transports and consumes energy. For Beijing, energy independence and decarbonisation are inseparable: by winning the clean-energy race, China can cast off the shackles of its reliance on others and dominate the resources and technologies the world needs to decarbonise. This isn’t future gazing. China is innovating, not replicating. Decisive government and private-sector efforts have put it well ahead of the game in virtually all clean-energy supply chains and technologies.

    While China consumes a lot of coal, it isn’t much of an exporter of either coal or coal technology. But it absolutely dominates the global market for solar panels, and it is an increasingly important wind-turbine supplier. It is also furiously building up its manufacturing capability in batteries and electric vehicles. With a population whose health will be greatly improved through the rollout of zero-pollution technology, a move to net zero is unequivocally in China’s own interests.”
    One thing I found interesting

  14. John, I liked the last paragraph, which I think is true:

      Barnaby Joyce is but a minor speed bump in the way of a monster truck poised to mow down Australia’s fossil fuel reliant regions unless we get our act together. At best, we have a ten-year lead time before that truck comes rolling through town in earnest. We need to reshape our energy system to repower mining and manufacturing, so that we are on board that truck rather than under its wheels.
  15. Yes, JohnD, the last paragraph is the real measure.

    If you look at the in 12:00 the black bit puts perspective to how much further China has to go.

    The future is distributed energy generation, NOT Grid generation. Grid generation is essential for city centers, some industry, interlinking, communication, a chunk of transport, etc, but distributed energy generation is how people take charge of their foot print.

  16. Bilb: Years ago someone who had done the sums said that the introduction of roof top solar removed the need for some proposed grid upgrades. My assumption is that increased energy storage in the house or local area would put grid up grades back further even though the grid reduces the need for extra generation and large scale energy storage. It is a case of do the sums.

  17. Call for change as illegal e-bikes reaching speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour.
    Part of the article is about increasing E-bike speeds but there are some interesting stats and discussion of the benefits and issues. For example:
    “Back in 2016-17, about 9,000 people bought an e-bike in Australia.
    Last financial year that figure had risen to 50,000 and it is expected to reach up to 85,000 in the year to July, 2021.”
    BIA general manager Peter Bourke said in the past, e-bikes were typically used by older riders or people with an injury, but that has rapidly changed.
    “In countries such as the Netherlands, every second bike that is sold is now an e-bike,” Mr Bourke said. ”
    In Australia regulations state the maximum continuous power of an e-bike motor is 250 watts and the maximum assisted speed is 25 kph.
    But there is a growing issue with people modifying their e-bikes to exceed those speeds, effectively making them “illegal motorbikes”.
    “We know that people do it,” Mr Bourke said.”
    I don’t own an e-bike but do own an e-scooter. (Try to talk my wife to buy an e-bike so that she could keep up with me when I go for a long ride.) I use the e-scooter as an aid to using public transport and for short rides. I think e-scooters ridden responsibly are safer than bikes because they are much easier to stop and restart at places like traffic lights or to avoid a slow pedestrian. They are safer if they skid because you don’t get entangled like you can with bikes.
    Would have bought a commute e-bike if I wasn’t retired. (One of my Green friends commutes 28 km using his e-bike. He said it is actually quicker than a car because he is not held up by congestion.

  18. Regarding the Grid, John, the government in concert with the power industry promoted the situation where all of the inverters installed in Australia are Grid Tied and not suitable for use with batteries, and ALL will eventually need to be replaced. This was to guarantee that people would need to remain dependent customers.

    Now people are starting to do exactly as I predicted and setting up local power networks which give huge cost savings and great independence. The Grid Industry scam is that power one house in a street reliably powers a house down the street or a local shopping center, business and soon vehicle charging station. They are paying 6cents per unit for this and selling it for 25 cents without providing the full 50% wheeling service that originally shipped the power from up state or interstate generators to the local area. Now all they are providing is the local connection infrastructure.

    Example: the building where I spend my days assembling the machines I developed has 100Kw solar capacity on the roof. The owner could not install more because the cables to the building could not take more power. Recently he installed a battery bank to store some of the power, so now he is expanding the solar capacity again as he can now move power into the grid through the night. He is also keen to instal a number of the thermal panels I am developing to collect even more energy through his system.

    These sorts of commercial building facilities are common here, why? Because the government promotes it with incentives. It’s cost effective, and good for the community and the world.

    The original reason was because this business has some 15 Tesla cars across Europe to power from the one building.

    The Australian Grid industry evolved under Howard and Abbott into a bunch of greedy rent seekers, acting in the short term interests of the coal and gas industries, not the long term interests of Australian consumers. (Read the Jesse Hill “Power Corrupts” article again).

  19. Bilb: I bow to your superior knowledge on grid related matters and sense a somewhat smelly number of arrangements that make it hard for renewables, particularly when talking about household scale.

  20. It’s not a competition, John, but I followed what happened back in 2007 when, at the time , in NSW we were paying 13 cents per unit. Kevin Rudd came in and announced labor’s CPRS. Along with that announcement he directed that electricity distributors should ramp up the price of electricity and he set the ramping rate for that increase so that the industry had the funds ready to pay the Carbon whatever it was that the CPRS mechanism was. Then you will recall Rudd had an agreement with Turnbull on the CPRS and all was going to plan when Abbott rolled Turnbull as the leader of the opposition and resigned on the CPRS agreement which left Rudd hanging. Meanwhile the electricity distributors were collecting ever increasing revenues but without the requirement to pay a carbon contribution. Taking advantage of Rudds failure to just go ahead and impose a carbon tax the grid industry did a quick restructuring of their cost structure and increased the cost of wheeling from one third to one half and that was desperately need to improve to the grid to cope with their anticipated increased power demand. At the time Australia’s total electricity consumption 274 billion Kilowatt hours, but because of the increased price for electricity and a new awareness of efficiency Australian electricity consumption actually fell while the distributors wasted money strengthening the wrong parts of the network as they had no interest in renewables and very specifically did not build the HVDC lines to areas where there was optimal insolation for Solar Renewables. This is where Jess Hill’s piece talks about the gold plating of the grid.

    John you know way more about the grid operations and contracts and stuff, but my interest is very specifically this structural aspect as regards optimal renewables. As regards domestic power PV is most efficient at the point of consumption for a whole basket of reasons, but the main one is that it provides scope for the one thing that is not utilized, the collection of solar thermal energy for water and space heating and cooling.

    Regarding remote power generation a new trend is solar PV mixed farming where panels are placed over crop growing operations providing shade and power for farming operations and export power for nearby communities.

    But while Australia has a sociopath for a prime minister and a donkey with an uncontrollable shlong and gutter sludge for a brain as deputy prime minister there will be no improvement on the scale required.

    It’s time to frame up the rights of future generations and how they are being jeopardized the greed of present political and commercial operators, and litigate.

  21. Bilb, you missed the Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. No-one knows what is going on inside his head.

  22. Disruptive iron-air grid-scale battery is 10% the cost of lithium
    The article says that the iron battery will be much cheaper than lithium batteries and does not depend as much on china.
    However, there is a suggestion that it is not as good as lithium when rapid changes in output are needed. The article says: ” The company says its solution will work well alongside big lithium batteries; presumably, the lithium might be better for fast discharge events like load spike smoothing, and the iron-air batteries will offer a slower-acting energy solution better suited to the times when renewable energy sources aren’t delivering enough grunt to power the grid. 100 hours, or four and a bit days, is a useful period for covering heavy storms, for example, that might take wind and solar mostly offline for long stretches.
    Another key advantage of a system like this comes at the end of its service life; the materials are highly recyclable.”

  23. That looks great, John. It will be even cheaper in Australia as all we need do is put a huge tarp over central WA, run in some big fat copper cables, give it a boot and we can power the whole country.
    Seriously though this looks good, though round trip efficiency may not be so good. I can’t see any clear information but it looks like storage efficiency is high (possibly 90%) but charge efficiency is not (possibly as low as 35%).

  24. … the iron-air batteries will offer a slower-acting energy solution better suited to the times when renewable energy sources aren’t delivering enough grunt to power the grid.

    Sounds like that “base load power” they’re always talking about 🙂

  25. Zoot: “Sounds like that “base load power” they’re always talking about” That is how it came across to me.
    Pumped hydro, solar thermal with molten salt heat storage are similar.

  26. Here is another inverter review for a system designed to work in all modes.


    Another new piece of hardware available in 2020 is the Ionia 5 450 klm range 47 Kw Hr all electric car which, in the review I watched, is set up to be able to power your house if you want and you can plug power tools into it if you are working remotely.

    The hardware is becoming available

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