These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
This edition is mostly about the doings of our new government, prospective EU targets, a statement by religious leaders and a couple of items on health implications.
1. Greg Hunt’s role diminished
Whether or not Greg Hunt gets to go to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP) in Warsaw from 11 to 22 November. Julie Bishop will henceforth be the lead negotiator in international climate talks.
The story in the AFR says Hunt has been “stripped of responsibility for global climate change negotiations”. He still gets to go and hang out at the talks. One might say that Australia’s representation has been upgraded. Suspicious minds might also think that Hunt couldn’t be trusted. He actually believes human activity causes global warming and might join the warmist urgers if not kept on a tight leash.
2. Emissions target easier to reach than thought
The main point of the article in the AFR’s was that departmental briefings have advised Hunt that the 5% target may be easier to meet than previously thought. The carbon price may have been doing some work but other things are at play. Rising electricity prices for reasons other than carbon pricing are an incentive to use less and to increase energy efficiency. Over a million homes have installed solar panels. The RET (Renewable Energy Target) of 20% is actually a number (41TWh), not a percentage. In the context of falling usage 41TWh could amount to 28%. Before the election the LNP supported that target.
Forestry activity is said to have declined.
It may just be possible with clean energy technology starting to grip that the LNP may reach the targets by doing nothing. The general stance seems to be that Abbott’s Australia will be a reluctant follower rather than a leader. As a high per capita emitter that is simply reprehensible.
We have to face the prospect, however, that those in charge of the asylum may be actively engaged in destroying the renewable energy industry, as Giles Parkinson warned back in June.
3. Dangerous thinking
Before the election Giles Parkinson warned about the new sources of advice behind the LNP’s thinking on renewable energy.
Many in the LNP look to the Institute of Public Affairs which is chock full of climate deniers.
Greg Hunt has been using the work of Bjorn Lomborg who is:
known for downplaying the dangers of climate change, for arguing that renewable energy should not be deployed until costs are reduced in research labs, and for suggesting that wacky “geo-engineering” schemes such as cloud whitening should be priorities.
Then there is their new “star” candidate Angus Taylor, the anti-wind campaigner elected in the seat of Hume in NSW. He’s been pushing a document which was put together under the banner of Port Jackson Partners, the consultancy where Taylor used to work.
The central theme of the report is that the Coalition could drop the renewable energy target entirely (and immediately), save up to $3.2 billion (or up to $300 a household) by 2020 and still meet emissions reduction targets. But it’s based around a whole series of false assumptions. It is more likely to push up costs by around $1 billion a year.
With access to all that advice clearly there is no need for the Climate Commission!
They’ve also stripped up to $500 million out of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), established in October 2011 to assist the implementation of renewable energy technologies and picked up in the Direct Action plan.
4. Europe weighing 40% emissions target by 2030
Meanwhile the Europeans are looking to the longer term according to Reuters at Climate Spectator.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source said the Commission was considering two legal targets to follow the three green energy goals that expire at the end of this decade.
They would be a 40 per cent carbon-reduction goal and a 30 per cent renewable energy use target. That compares with the 2020 targets of a 20 per cent carbon cut from 1990 levels, a 20 per cent share of renewable energy and a target to improve energy savings to 20 per cent.
There is division, however, with Poland saying the EU should not make any promises until there is a global deal, which is not expected until 2015.
5. Religious leaders make climate change an election issue
Religious leaders representing the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Catholic faith traditions entered the election campaign debate by calling on both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to wind back coal exports and recognise the moral implications of inaction on climate change.
I heard it on the radio just before the election, but the open letter, organised by The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), dates from the late June.
6. South Australia’s perfect energy mix
Cleaner, greener, cheaper, we are told.
I don’t know where we go with all this. For one thing the situation differs from state to state. SA has more utility-scale renewables, Qld has more rooftop solar. The cost of grid upgrades to meet exceptional demand are spread over reduced sales of grid electricity. I know that adequate mathematical models to produce optimal pricing don’t exist because I know people who are working on them.
The current mob in charge may decide to go down the path of Spain and the Czech Republic and tax the solar electricity you produce on your roof.
The latest electricity storage idea uses ancient steam engine technology. I doubt that would help in a week of rain, however.
7. Living with wind turbines
It’s not so bad, according to farm hosts who are deriving an income from wind farms.
Australian filmmaker Neil Barrett has made a film in which 15 hosts and some of their neighbours from the central Victorian district near the town of Waubra tell what it’s like to live surrounded by large turbines.
Hosts get $8,000 per turbine and with 10 turbines you can effectively drought-proof your farm. So money seems an effective cure for “wind turbine syndrome”. Plus resentment that the name of the town has been appropriated by a feral group of anti-wind lobbyists, none of whom live within 125km of the town.
The author goes on to discuss other evidence about this supposed phenomenon.
8. Cleaner air from tackling climate change ‘would save millions of lives’
Finally, action on climate change can be justified on grounds of health alone.
West’s team compared two futures, one in which climate change is stabilised by aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and one in which emissions are not curbed. The scientists then modelled how this affected air pollutants and the consequent effects on health.
They found that 300,000-700,000 premature deaths a year would be avoided in 2030, 800,000 – 1.8 million in 2050 and 1.4 million to 3 million in 2100.
And here’s the money equation:
A key finding was that the value of the health benefits delivered by cutting a tonne of CO2 emissions was $50-$380, greater than the projected cost of cutting carbon in the next few decades. The benefits do not accrue from reductions in CO2 per se but because of associated pollutants released from burning fossil fuels.