The much vaunted NEG is in the news again today thanks to a Newspoll that shows voters trust Labor more than the Coalition to lower power prices and deliver reliability. Admittedly the numbers are close but if the Coalition cannot make this an election winning issue then what hope do they have of holding the line on other, more line-ball, issues such as taxation reform?
It’s time for true Conservative politicians to draw a line in the sand over CAGW.
From a recent article in The Australian by Joe Kelly:
The NEG is aimed at guaranteeing energy reliability, while lowering costs for consumers and delivering on Australia’s Paris Agreement commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 26 per cent on 2005 levels.
And therein lies the problem. If anyone thinks that the emissions reductions pledged as part of the Paris agreement, even if they were achievable globally (an extremely doubtful proposition), will put an end to the insatiable demands of the Green Blob they are seriously deluded. Because the Agreement’s goal is not couched in terms of emissions reductions but in terms of keeping global warming to less than 2C (and preferably 1.5C) above pre-industrial levels, there is endless scope for demanding greater cuts than agreed under Paris. Indeed, the ink was not even dry on the Agreement before the anguished howls went up that it was nowhere near enough.
The constraint to reduce emissions necessarily compromises affordability and reliability. If we were able to achieve cuts of 26% it would come at a price higher than that consumers, particularly businesses (as Kelly’s article highlights), are already finding intolerable. Once we got to 26%, the demand would be ramped up to 50%, as some state governments are already proposing. Every year that goes by, you can guarantee will be hotter than the last by some miniscule amount (a degree of magnitude less than the margin of error). If the thermometers don’t produce this result, NASA will. You and I might think such a small increase should be enough to discredit the whole scam but it actually plays into the narrative by postponing the day of reckoning (“well, we’ve reached 2C and it’s not so bad after all”) and allows the specious but powerful claim that “every year in the past ‘x’ years has been hotter than the last”.
One argument often advanced to justify ‘hastening slowly’ on emissions reductions is that Australia only produces 1.3% of global emissions and whatever we do will not have any appreciable effect. That is true but it is a pretty weak argument. The same logic applies to the vast majority of the roughly 200 countries that make up the international community. The “we must be seen to be doing our bit” counter argument will always prevail as long as we’ve got weak kneed or opportunistic politicians kowtowing to mindless Green activists or rent-seeking renewable energy entrepreneurs.
I am not versed enough in the intricacies of power generation to make any definitive comment on the NEG. As I understand it, the idea is that suppliers will be forced to source energy from reliable sources such as coal, gas or hydro, when the Sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. That’s all well and good but presupposes that such generators will exist. What if they don’t? How can suppliers be forced to get power from a source that doesn’t exist? If we let Liddell go, will it be replaced by a new coal or gas fired plant? AGL have said they won’t do it.
Let me quote from Jo Nova to re-inforce my point:
Apparently right now the AEMO are dealing with requests to consider adding another 20,000MW of unreliable, intermittent, subsidy-sucking energy to the Australian grid. This is the same grid that has a total peak summer demand in the order of 35,000MW. The total generation capacity of the grid is 54,000MW, which already includes more wind and solar than any nation built on a coal-gas-and-uranium quarry needs. How are any unsubsidized sensible baseload providers going to survive in this socialist market where crazy-brave squads of new entrants are still being drawn to fill gaps that aren’t there, weren’t there, and aren’t projected to open up soon?
“Business just wants certainty”. We hear that all the time. Will the NEG give businesses the certainty they need to invest in the infrastructure we need 20 years into the future? Even 10? I doubt it.
This NEG is nothing but wishful thinking on steroids.
No, the only way to guarantee affordability and reliability of power is to kill the CAGW myth stone dead. Is that possible? Maybe not. But it will only happen if enough politicians on both sides (Martin Ferguson comes to mind and, yes, I know he’s now persona non grata with Labor but there must be some others lurking in Caucus) have the guts to come out and speak some home truths.
Another mistake is to allow commentators (and almost all of them do it) to describe ‘climate change’ as an ideological issue, pitting Left against Right. There is no right and wrong answer to an ideological question eg euthanasia, same sex marriage etc. If you accept CAGW as ideological, particularly if you are inclined to the Left, you are automatically excused from applying any critical thinking. The science becomes irrelevant, it is the ‘morality’ that counts. Rudd set the ball rolling on this when he proclaimed that climate change was ‘the great moral challenge of our generation’. That provenance alone ought to be enough to have every conservative commentator running the other way. In theory at least, CAGW owes its existence to science and science is not ideology.
When I first became interested in CAGW, in about 2009, I was initially prompted by an instinctive feeling that something wasn’t right. I didn’t inherit my CAGW scepticism by virtue of my conservatism. When I expressed my misgivings to a friend, she leant me Ian Plimer’s ‘Heaven and Earth’. That started me off and I spent the next year or so intently studying the subject. For every hour I spent at Wattsupwiththat I spent an hour at Real Climate. I scoured the major websites on both sides of the question. As a result of that I became a CAGW sceptic. I remember thinking, in about 2010, by which time I was confirmed in my view and started expounding it to anyone who’d listen, ‘I’m going to look a real goose if, in say 10 year’s time, serious warming kicks in and all these promised catastrophes start to eventuate’. Well, it’s now 2018 and I don’t feel like a goose. I am more than ever convinced that CAGW is scientifically unsupportable. There must be many Coalition MPs who feel the same way.
Maybe CAGW is now already baked into the mindset of even sceptical politicians as “just the cost of doing business”. Like death, taxes and the NDIS. But I still think it’s worth a try.
It would take time and would require a phased approach. Here’s a bare bones narrative that might work.
Point One: Concede that there is a body of science that postulates that human CO2 emissions are warming the planet harmfully but point out that there is a considerable body of work rejecting that view. It won’t be enough to attempt to disprove the CAGW hypothesis. It will be necessary to point out that there is, at least, one viable alternative theory that seeks to explain recent warming i.e. the Svensmark cosmic radiation theory.
Point Two: Highlight that recent warming has been miniscule and that the CAGW theory is by no means settled science. The most cogent argument for the latter point, to my mind, is the fact that the estimate of climate sensitivity – 1C to 4.5C – has not narrowed in the more than thirty years that ‘climatology’ has been a field of study. Climate sensitivity, the degree of warming attributable to a doubling of atmospheric CO2, is the fundamental metric of CAGW. If the science were certain, climate sensitivity would be a physical law expressed as an equation. The fact that climate sensitivity is still an estimate, and still as vague as it was thirty years ago, gives the lie to the ‘settled science’ meme. Even if you conceded that what is ‘settled’ is that human CO2 emissions are causing warming there is no such certainty about it being catastrophic. At 1C of warming it would, almost certainly, be beneficial.
Point Three: Point out the astronomical cost associated with eliminating fossil fuels. Argue that such expenditure can only be justified if the benefits of such expense are large and undeniable or risks of not acting are imminent, specific and undeniable. A responsible government, with an eye to future generations, has an obligation to carefully weigh all considerations and not act precipitately.
Point Four: Argue that, warming and cooling are all part of the natural climate cycle and that weather extremes have always been with us and always will, regardless of whether or not the world stops warming at 2C above pre-industrial times. If we are going to spend huge sums of money to protect ourselves against the vagaries of climate let’s spend it first on infrastructure, such as dams that can mitigate against flooding and drought, more robust power generation and transmission and so on. Then, in the highly likely event that the world fails to rein in CO2 emissions (and how hard would it be to demonise China and Russia just at the moment?) and we do get a deterioration in the climate, we are at least better prepared than we would be had we flushed billions down the toilet of renewable energy.
Point Five: If in government, appoint a new Climate Commission tasked with evaluating all aspects of climate change, including alternative science and cost benefit analysis of alternative approaches. Ideally, Maurice Newman should head this body but he probably wouldn’t be politically acceptable. Include both sceptics and alarmists but only from the ranks of scientists and economists. No activists. (I do accept that there are practical problems with this proposal but it’s worth considering)
Point Six: Establish an independent committee to oversee BoM climatology methodology. Ideally this committee should include Dr Jennifer Marohasy, who has the requisite academic credentials and has done more than anyone to bring to light the doubtful temperature homogenization practices at the Bureau.
I concede the above is very sketchy – it would need fleshing out. Just food for thought for Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce or Craig Kelly. Guys, stop playing by the alarmist’s rules.