Monday, September 23, 2019

A climate of burning money


World leaders will soon arrive in New York for a climate summit likely to do little more than add to the hysteria drowning out any sober talk on climate policy. Amid warnings that we have days left to act, politicians will jostle to share the spotlight with celebrity activists such as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who came from Europe by wind-powered boat. Hurricane Dorian looms large over proceedings as a harbinger of doom.

After 30 years of failed climate policy, more of the same is not the answer. Since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, our use of renewable energy has increased by only 1.1 percentage points — from meeting 13.1 per cent of the world’s energy needs in 1992 to 14.2 per cent today. Most nations are failing to deliver on carbon cut undertakings already made — yet politicians will be feted in New York for making new, empty promises.

Enough is enough. We must confront climate change, but hyperbole and bluster do the planet no favours. This is the time we should be having a sensible discussion on cost-effective ways to reduce the worst of climate change’s damages.

Thunberg exposes the vacuous hypocrisy of the movement. She rightly points out that everybody talks big but does little. Since Bill Clinton was in the White House, a succession of global leaders has promised to cut emissions drastically. Their falling short is not because of a lack of interest, urgency or goodwill. While the US lack of climate policy is regrettable, global failure cannot simply be attributed to Donald Trump’s presence in the White House. The reason is that the main climate solution being pursued is costly and ineffective.

Alternative energy has increased so little because green energy remains incapable of meeting all of our needs met by fossil fuels. Replacing cheap and reliable fossil fuel energy with more expensive and less reliable energy alternatives weighs down the economy, leading to slightly lower growth.

This means the Paris treaty is likely to cost between $US1 trillion and $2 trillion ($1.5 trillion and $2.9 trillion) a year, making it the costliest treaty in history. Not surprisingly, research shows that it will increase poverty. Its effects are not evenly felt; increasing electricity prices hurts the poor the most.

At great cost, the Paris Agreement will reduce emissions by just 1 per cent of what politicians have promised. The UN body organising the Paris Agreement finds that if all its promises were fulfilled (which they are not on track to achieve), it would cut about 60 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents, whereas about 6000 billion tonnes are needed to get to the promised 2C target.

Yet politicians are being celebrated for going even further than the Paris treaty’s current promises, vowing to make entire economies “carbon-neutral” within decades.

It speaks volumes that few governments ever establish the costs of such promises. One of the few that has is New Zealand. A government-commissioned report found that aiming for net zero emissions by 2050 would cost more than the entire current annual national budget. There would be “yellow vest” riots worldwide if such policies were genuinely pursued.

We need to challenge the ever-more rampant talk about “catastrophic” climate change. Rhetoric has become unpinned from science.

According to the UN climate science panel’s last major report, if we do absolutely nothing to stop climate change, the impact will be the equivalent to a reduction in our incomes of between 0.2 per cent and 2 per cent five decades from now.

Work by Nobel laureate climate economist William Nordhaus based on the UN findings shows the likeliest outcome is a cost to the planet of about 3 per cent of gross domestic product in coming centuries. That should be taken seriously — but it does not equal Armageddon.

The havoc wreaked by Hurricane Dorian is tragic but it cannot be pinned on global warming, according to the UN’s climate scientists, who say “globally, there is low confidence in attribution of changes in tropical cyclone activity to human influence”. Indeed, a study shows hurricane damage currently costs 0.04 per cent of global GDP.

As we expect a global increase in prosperity and hence resilience, unchanged hurricane costs will drop fourfold to 0.01 per cent by 2100. And even though global warming will make hurricanes fewer but stronger and double total damage, the net impact still will be a smaller 0.02 per cent of GDP.

As a study from the Royal Society concluded, cutting CO2 has “extremely limited potential to reduce future losses”. Instead, adaptation can be up to 52 times more effective.

As it has become obvious the political response to global warming is not working, more focus has been given to personal actions. But this doesn’t add up, either.

Thunberg took a boat from Europe to New York. (The trip awkwardly will result in increased emissions because the crew is flying to New York to take the boat home; Thunberg is reportedly purchasing “carbon offsets”).

But if all 4.5 billion flights this year were stopped from taking off, and the same happened every year until 2100, temperatures would be reduced by only 0.03C, using mainstream climate models — equivalent to delaying climate change by less than one year by 2100.

Nor will we solve global warming by giving up meat. Going vegetarian is difficult; one US survey shows 84 per cent fail, most in less than a year. Those who succeed will reduce their personal emissions by only about 2 per cent.

And electric cars are not the answer. Globally, there are only five million fully electric cars on the road. Even if this climbs to 130 million in 11 years, the International Energy Agency finds CO2 equivalent emissions would be reduced by a mere 0.4 per cent of global emissions. Put simply, the solution to climate change cannot be found in personal changes in the homes of the middle classes of rich countries.

The Paris Agreement cannot do much — just as the Rio and Kyoto pacts before it mostly failed — because in essence this approach requires rich countries to promise future economic hardship to achieve very little. Indeed, the real problem is that most of the 21st-century emissions are not being emitted by the rich world: if every single rich country stopped all CO2 emissions today and for the rest of the century — no plane trips, no meat consumption, no petrol-powered cars, no heating or cooling with fossil fuels, no artificial fertiliser — the difference would be just 0.4C by the end of the century.

Solving climate change requires getting China, India and all the other developing countries on board to cut emissions. But of course their goal is to lift their populations out of poverty with cheap and reliable energy. How do we square that?

A carbon tax can play a limited but important role in factoring the costs of climate change into fossil fuel use. Nordhaus has shown that implementing a small but rising global carbon tax will realistically cut some of the most damaging climate impacts, at rather low costs.

This, however, will not solve most of the climate challenge. We must look at how we solved past major challenges — through innovation.

The starvation catastrophes in developing nations from the 1960s to the 80s weren’t fixed by asking people to consume less food but through the Green Revolution in which innovation developed higher-yielding varieties that produced more plentiful food.

Similarly, the climate challenge will not be solved by asking people to use less of more expensive green energy. Instead, we should dramatically ramp up spending on R&D into green energy.

The Copenhagen Consensus Centre asked 27 of the world’s top climate economists to examine policy options for responding to climate change. This analysis showed that the best investment is in green energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This would bring forward the day when green energy alternatives are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels, not just for the elite but for the entire world. ­Right now, despite all the rhetoric about the importance of global warming, we are not ramping up this spending. On the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate summit, more than 20 world leaders made a promise to double green energy research and development by 2020.

Spending has inched up from $US16bn in 2015 to only $US17bn last year. This is a broken promise that matters.

We must also focus on adaptation — this can generate a broad range of benefits at low cost and help with challenges beyond global warming. And we should remember one of the most powerful development and climate policies is to accelerate economic growth for the world’s worst-off.

The most powerful way to achieve this is through opening up trade opportunities. That is very far from the direction the world is heading in right now. Yet research shows that a successful Doha round could increase the annual income of the world’s poorest by about $US1000 a person in 2030. This is not only good in and of itself but it also would deliver much more resilience and reduce vulnerability to any climate impacts the future will bring.

Sadly, growth policies, adaptation, green R&D and an optimal CO2 tax are not what we will be hearing from the climate summit in New York.

But after 30 years of pursuing the wrong solution to climate change, we need to change the script.


Genetic Modification of Crops Is 'Rape,' Botanist Says

Last week, a Native American botanist argued that the genetic modification of crops is a form of rape. Perhaps the next step in the #MeToo movement involves returning to the low crop yields before the Green Revolution, which saved billions of lives by making food more available through genetic modification, among other things.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at SUNY-Syracuse, called corn "one of our deepest and oldest relatives." In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, she humanized corn as the "Corn Mother," saying, "Corn is sacred because she gives us her children in return for protecting us."

Kimmerer wasn't talking about the sweet corn Americans love to eat today, but rather the native corn that comes in hundreds of varieties. She contrasted this wild corn with the genetically modified corn her neighbor grows.

"There’s a word for forcible injection of unwanted genes," Kimmerer said. "Rape."

This botanist does not just humanize corn — she wishes to enlist it in the #MeToo movement.

Wisconsin Public Radio noted that the sweet corn "has been altered by agribusiness," but the article did not mention the role genetically modified corn has played in the Green Revolution, which has been credited with saving one billion lives and averting the doomsday prediction of Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb.

In the 1960s, plant disease expert Norman Borlaug spearheaded research into new farming methods that supercharged agriculture and fed the people whom Ehrlich predicted would starve. Borlaug's dwarf wheat resisted a wide spectrum of pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than traditional varieties. In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million tons in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million tons.

In 1968, Ehrlich had predicted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980." Since Ehrlich's prediction, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. India fed far more than 200 million more people. Ehrlich secretly omitted this prediction from later editions of The Population Bomb.

Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work on the Green Revolution. He has arguably saved more lives than anyone else in history, and he did it through genetic modification.

The Green Revolution combined genetic modification with new fertilizers and agro-chemicals, controlled water supply, and added new mechanical cultivation. These new methods may strike an advocate for native practices as strange or even barbaric, but they've saved more than a billion people across the world.

Those who wish to see corn as a sacred "Corn Mother" represent a return to the ancient animistic view of the world. Treating plants as sentient beings may sound hip and "progressive," but Kimmerer's rejection of genetic modification is backward, and it could be dangerous. Would she really want to reverse the Green Revolution and bring back pre-modern levels of starvation?

Does Kimmerer really mean to accuse Norman Borlaug, the man who arguably saved more human lives than anyone else in history, of rape?

In the most recent sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the woman who was supposedly the victim denied having any recollection of the assault. It seems the insentient corn Kimmerer wishes to defend from "rape" would be similarly silent in the case against Norman Borlaug.


It's Time for Climate Confessions

"Where do you fall short in preventing climate change?" NBC asks for "Climate Confessions."

Repent, for the end of the world is near! No, it’s not some disheveled dude standing on a street corner with a sandwich board. Instead, it’s the new NBC News Climate Confessions interactive. If you worship nature at the altar of the Church of Climatology, you can now confess your environmental sins in six different categories: plastics, meat, energy, transportation, paper, and food waste.

“Blast the AC? Cook a steak once a week?” NBC asks. “Where do you fall short in preventing climate change? Tell us with Climate Confessions.” Or if, like us, you merely want a good laugh, you can read the confessions of others — both real and dripping with sarcasm.

“I wish I had been born a vegan and then maybe it would be easier. I can’t seem to give up meat,” says one.

“I sleep with the air conditioner on year-round and justify it to myself by recycling,” admits another.

Worse, says another, “I commute 30 miles to work every day in a car by myself.”

And in a perfect illustration of the Left’s redistributionist mindset: “I want to install solar panels but am waiting for state / federal incentives to do so!”

We tend to prefer contributions such as, “I require at least half a roll of TP when wiping,” and, “I like my house to be 85 in the winter and 55 in the summer. Deal with it, hippies.” But to each his own.

When it comes to green theology, there are cult-like True Believers, and there are nominal adherents who kinda sorta believe climate change is a problem but aren’t exactly willing to upend their lifestyles to mitigate it. And we can be sure that the former will continue to preach until blind devotion is achieved.

How bad is the propaganda for this faux religion? “Tens of thousands of high school students in cities nationwide plan to skip classes Friday to attend Global Climate Strike marches calling for immediate action to end climate change,” reports USA Today. “They will be part of a global joint protest aimed directly at the adults who they say are ignoring the destruction of the planet.”

The story is tagged as being in San Francisco, which is rather humorous given that President Donald Trump’s EPA is set to deliver a notice of violating environmental standards to the city because of its rampant homeless problem, caused by leftist rent-control policies.


Scaring children witless

Eco-alarmists are feeding kids a daily diet of fear and doom

‘Eco-anxiety’ has become the latest fashionable malaise. Apparently it is afflicting many children. That kids as young as four and five are feeling anxious about the climate is not surprising – after all, they are fed a diet of doomsday scenarios by the new eco-alarmists. Having effectively been given permission to feel hyper-anxious about the coming Armageddon, many youngsters have wholeheartedly embraced the role of the stressed-out victim of humanity’s eco-crimes.

As usual, the media and popular culture have been at the forefront of cultivating this narrative about eco-anxious children. In a new HBO series, Euphoria, an over-the-top anxious teenager embraces what we might call the eco-doom excuse. She says there is little point in kicking her drug habit because ‘the world’s coming to an end and I haven’t even graduated high school yet’.

Another HBO series, Big Little Lies, features a scene in which the daughter of one of the main characters has a panic attack in class after being relentlessly subjected to climate scare stories. There is a wonderful moment in which the teacher asks the eight-year-olds, ‘How many gallons of water does it take to make a single pound of sausage?’. As if participating in some kind of secular ritual, the chorus of children reply in unison: ‘A thousand!’

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it has become a sign of virtue for both children and adults to make a display of the disturbing symptoms of eco-anxiety. Such symptoms show that we are aware and concerned. In turn, the idea that climate-change concern is causing mental suffering adds up to further proof of the damage caused by climate change. In recent months there have been many reports about the mental-health consequences of climate change. For climate alarmists, the discovery of this alleged new malaise of eco-anxiety is a bonus. Linking climate catastrophism to the deterioration in children’s mental health allows them to boost the eco-fear narrative. It is a good example of the concept of joined-up scaremongering.

Joined-up scaremongering usually involves taking a pre-existing danger and adding the idea that it poses a unique threat to children. Why? Because if you mention the word ‘child’, people will listen. You can raise the moral stakes by claiming a child is at risk. People won’t just listen to you – they will endorse your demand that ‘something must be done’.

For instance, campaigners against poverty know that they are far more likely to gain sympathy for their cause if they draw attention to what is now called ‘child poverty’. It is as if socio-economic injustices are not compelling enough on their own terms – no, they have to be recast as things that harm children in particular.

Or take campaigners on Third World issues. They know that mentioning ‘child labour’ or ‘child soldiers’ or ‘starving children’ is far more likely to resonate with the public than general calls for economic assistance. As an acquaintance of mine who works in the charity sector put it to me: ‘Mention the word children, and the money rolls in.’

Children, therefore, become a kind of moral resource that can be used to promote policies and causes. Which is why, time and again, discussions about supposed catastrophic threats like climate change tend to focus on ‘our children’s future’.

It is bad enough that society has become so devoted to scaring children about the future survival of the planet. What is even more corrosive is the medicalisation of children’s concern about the future, the transformation of it into a mental-health problem. The number of children supposedly suffering from a climate-change-related mental-health problem is growing all the time, we’re told. Although reports on eco-anxiety rarely specify the percentage of children suffering from it, we are assured that the number is rising.

Claims of an epidemic of eco-anxiety are typically vague. ‘No stats are available on the prevalence of eco-anxiety, but some experts have noted an increase in public anxiety around climate change’, writes one journalist. One ‘expert’, Susan Clayton, who co-authored a report titled Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, speculates: ‘We can say that a significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.’

What is really increasing is the determination by experts and activists to construct this new mental disease of ‘eco-anxiety’.
Indeed eco-anxiety sounds suspiciously like any other form of anxiety. According to one description: ‘Symptoms of eco-anxiety include anxiety, depressed mood, insomnia, and feelings of loss, fear and helplessness. Symptoms in children may also include separation anxiety and somatisation – signs suggestive of physical illness but without a physical explanation. For example, stomach aches, headaches and extreme fatigue.’ Given that most of these symptoms are already associated with a variety of other mental-health conditions, it seems likely that normal anxiety is being rebranded as a psycho-eco-illness with the simple addition of the prefix ‘eco’.

Commentators acknowledge that eco-anxiety is more of a metaphor than a scientifically informed diagnosis. They usually say that it isn’t yet ‘an official diagnosis’ and then imply that it’s only a matter of time before it will be included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As one observer says, ‘Although not yet listed in the mental-health manual… a number of professional organisations such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the American Psychological Association and the Wellcome Trust have written about it’.

Apparently, it is not enough to scare children about their future and then medicalise their fears – scaremongers are now targeting parents, too. ‘Rising numbers of children are being treated for “eco-anxiety”, experts have said, as they warn parents against “terrifying” their youngsters with talk of climate catastrophe’, says the Daily Telegraph. Yet the project of terrifying children about the climate is actively promoted at all levels of society. Pinning the blame for ‘eco-anxiety’ on parents is a little dishonest.

This goes far beyond parents. We live in a world in which scaring children has become a form of ‘raising awareness’ about the alleged impending extinction of humanity. We live in a world in which environmental catastrophists use children to educate their supposedly irresponsible elders. We live in a world in which it is apparently okay for climate activists to hide behind a 16-year-old girl and to use her youthful and innocent image to foist political views on the public. Worst of all, we live in a world in which the language of mental illness is being used to ramp up the politics of fear. And we wonder why children feel scared.



Ms Thunberg has got them talking. Four current articles below

No place in debate for climate contrarians

Consensus enforcement is a potent new force in climate science where sceptical views increasingly are being silenced as a danger to public good.

Academic website The Conversation said this week it would ban comments from those it judged to be climate deniers and lock their accounts. The Conversation editor and executive director Misha Ketchell justified the ban on sceptical comments as a defence of “quiet Australians” who “understand and respect the science”.

The Conversation’s shift to a monologue reflects a deeper push that is raising alarm worldwide.

Contrarian scientist Jennifer Marohasy is among those listed on an international table of climate sceptics whose views should not be published. Marohasy says she is “proud to be listed as part of the resistance to what will one day be recognised as postmodern science”.

“I base my arguments and conclusions on evidence, and I apply logic. Of course, science is a method. Science is never ‘settled’,” she says. “Those who appeal primarily to the authority of science and the notion of a consensus are more interested in politics. Central to the scientific method is the hypothesis that can be tested: that can potentially be falsified. We must therefore always be open-minded, tolerant and ready to be proven wrong.”

Also on the list published by University of California, Merced, were international climate scientists Judith Curry, Richard Lindzen and Richard Tol, as well as academics Bjorn Lomborg and Australia’s Ian Plimer and Maurice Newman.

The list was drawn from research published in the journal Nature, which juxtaposed 386 prominent contrarians with 386 expert scientists by tracking their digital footprints across 200,000 research publications and 100,000 English-language digital and print media articles on climate change.

In a statement accompanying the article, lead author Alex Petersen says: “It’s time to stop giving these people (contrarians) visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority.

“By tracking the digital traces of specific individuals in vast troves of publicly available media data, we developed methods to hold people and media outlets accountable for their roles in the climate change denialism movement, which has given rise to climate change misinformation at scale.”

Curry says the paper “does substantial harm to climate science … There are a spectrum of perspectives, especially at the knowledge frontiers. Trying to silence or delegitimise any of these voices is very bad for science.”

The Conversation’s ban is focused on reader feedback. But Marohasy says the online publication has long rejected her articles and comments.

“Despite my dozen or more publications in international climate science journals, editors at The Conversation have been intent for some years on excluding me,” Marohasy says. “I went to great lengths some years ago to get an article published in The Conversation based around a paper I had published in international climate science journal Atmospheric Research.”

Marohasy included charts to show the effect of how remodelling a temperature series through the process of homogenisation can significantly affect a temperature trend.

“The editor wouldn’t consider publishing my article, claiming it was nonsense,” she says. “Yet I was simply explaining what the Bureau of Meteorology actually do.” Marohasy says she has had a similar experience with comments. “Once I tried to get some comments into a thread. Everything seemed to be going well and then all my comments disappeared,” she says. “They deleted a whole afternoon of discussion I was having.”

Ketchell says he received an incredible response — “both supportive and hostile” — after he drew attention to the ban on sceptical comments. The disclosure came as The Conversation became part of a global media push by 250 outlets to raise awareness of climate change issues that was instigated by the Columbia Journalism Review. Ketchell tells Inquirer the ban was not part of the Covering Climate Now initiative.

According to the CCN website the media entities joined forces to foster urgency and action over the climate “crisis” and devote extra time to what CJR claimed was “the defining story of our time”. A briefing on the initiative rejected suggestions it was turning journalists into activists.

“This concern distorts what news-gathering is about,” CJR says. “Journalism has always been about righting wrongs, holding the powerful to account, calling out lies.”

Ketchell says handling the views of the small group hostile to climate science is a complex media-ethics question “and it’s one on which reasonable people can differ”.

In response to questions from Inquirer, Ketchell says everyone in Australia is entitled to free speech but not everyone is entitled to have their words published on The Conversation. “It is part of the role of a journalist to filter disinformation and curate a positive public discussion that is evidence-based and doesn’t distort the range of views by giving undue prominence to a noisy minority,” he says.

Ketchell says comments challenging the scientific basis of climate change will be regarded as off-topic unless the article is specifically about this subject.

“We moderate anything that is a deliberate misinformation and distortion of facts or attempts to misrepresent arguments or community members,” he says.

“We know climate sceptics are very good at derailing constructive conversations, so we’ll remove comments that attempt to hijack threads or to push an agenda or argument irrelevant to the discussion.”

Ketchell says commenters are encouraged to engage with the article they are commenting on and to back up their claims with credible research.

The website will be more careful to police the “small and vocal group of climate science contrarians whose passion overwhelms their ability to assess the evidence”, he says.

Opinion-based sceptics have ample opportunity to have their say on social media and in many media outlets.

“As long as they aren’t allowed to overwhelm the quiet Australians who understand and respect the science, I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Ketchell says.


Pollies cold on climate

Despite a global push for more action on climate change, momentum has drained away.

This month was supposed to be the one in which a global push for higher ambition on climate change took flight.

Child prophet Greta Thunberg set sail for New York by luxury yacht to save petrol, a climate emergency was declared around the world, and workers were given permission to join students in a climate strike.

Despite this, momentum behind real action by government has been steadily drained away.

In Australia, the Labor Party’s proposal to dump the targets that cost it dearly at the federal election effectively has let the Morrison government off the hook.

Few world leaders are lining up to deliver what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had in mind when he called them together for a New York conference to boost ambition. The New York meeting, scheduled for September 23, was conceived as a show of global defiance at US President Donald Trump’s decision to ditch the Paris Agreement.

Rather than a competition for more robust action, as was intended, the New York agenda looks deflated.

Key world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, will not be attending. Instead China will send a lower-ranking official, and there are mixed signals about whether the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emissions nation will offer to do more.

As things stand China, which is responsible for 26.83 per cent of global emissions, has pledged to keep increasing them until about 2030.

The EU has been unable to agree on a uniform position for 2050, with a split between the coal-dependent east and more progressive west.

A pushback is building in Germany against higher energy prices and the impact of strict new emissions regulations on a struggling car industry. Renewable energy investment across much of Europe has stalled.

The EU admits it is not on track to meet its 2030 target of a 40 per cent emissions cut on 1990 levels.

Relations with Brazil have fractured following the election of development-focused President Jair Bolsonaro and a resurgence of clearing in the Amazon.

The US, with 14 per cent of global emissions, is showing no signs of pulling back from its threat to quit the Paris Agreement next year despite achieving greenhouse gas emissions cuts from a switch from coal to gas.

In Australia there is little mood politically for greater action.

The federal opposition has all but surrendered its pre-election target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

As it takes stock of its unexpected election loss, Labor looks likely instead to focus on a 2050 target of being carbon neutral.

The backdown was first moot­ed by opposition assistant climate change spokesman Pat Conroy in The Australian last week when he said a net zero target by 2050 had to be “the overriding objective”.

Anthony Albanese said Labor “will examine our short and medium and long-term commitments on where we go on climate change but we won’t re-examine our principles. We want to work towards zero emissions by the middle of this century.”

Climate change spokesman Mark Butler could not be specific. “What medium-term targets numerically are, whether it’s 2030 or 2035, given the passage of time, is something we’ll engage over in the next couple of years,” Butler said.

Labor’s backdown followed a stinging appraisal from its green wing, the Labor Environmental Action Network, which highlighted that the party had been unable to put a price on its climate change action plan during the election.

“It couldn’t say how much it would cost, where the money was coming from or what economic dividend it would deliver or save,” LEAN said. “It is basic Australian politics — how much, who pays, what does it save? We had no answers.”

Former leader Bill Shorten told Sky News on Monday he agreed that Labor’s climate policies had cost it votes at the election in May and said he supported a review of the position.

“I do think Australians want to see action on climate change so I am confident that will be Labor’s position”, Shorten said. “But as for a specific (2030 target) number, I will allow the reviews and the reconsiderations of policies to take their course.”

Ironically, the 45 per cent target being abandoned by Labor is what Guterres has been calling for in New York from all nations.

Labor’s capitulation has given the Morrison government a free pass on what could otherwise have been an uncomfortable time. The Prime Minister will not be attending the New York climate conference despite being in Washington for a state reception with Trump.

Instead Australia will be represented by Foreign Minister Marise Payne and climate change ambassador Patrick Suckling.

Australia is not expected to speak at the conference or offer anything above the existing Paris Agreement pledge of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The federal government has yet to make a call on whether to join the growing global push to declare a target to become “carbon neutral” by 2050.

How exactly the carbon neutrality will be calculated remains a vital question for Australia which, by some measures, may have achieved the target already.

It’s hard to know.

A 2013 paper in the journal Biogeosciences found the year-to-year variation in the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by natural processes is bigger than Australia’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Research published in the journal Nature in 2014 found that record-breaking rains had triggered so much new growth across Australia that the continent turned into a giant green carbon sink to rival tropical rainforests including the Amazon.

The study found that vegetation worldwide had soaked up 4.1 billion tonnes of carbon in 2011 — the equivalent of more than 40 per cent of emissions from burning fossil fuels that year.

Almost 60 per cent of the higher than normal carbon uptake that year, or 840 million tonnes, happened in Australia.

Subsequent research has shown that much of the additional carbon store was lost in following years because of fire and drought.

But a full understanding of the carbon cycle is still in its infancy.

Pep Canadell, from the CSIRO, says there is as yet no robust information on whether Australia is a net carbon sink or emitter when all natural processes are taken into account.

Canadell is leading a big international assessment under the Global Carbon Project to investigate but says results are still a couple of years away.

He says the global experience has been that most of the benefits from the natural carbon sinks are more than offset by human emissions of non-CO2 gases, mainly methane and nitrous oxide.

Scientists, however, are only starting to understand the bigger picture. Nature is able to lock away about half of the additional carbon dioxide load from human activity and it has shown itself to be very resilient to increasing human emissions.

A paper published in April found that global land and ocean sinks had largely kept pace with rising carbon dioxide emissions since 1958 and were still absorbing about 50 per cent of atmospheric CO2.

Canadell says the results are remarkable because of their unseen, and often unacknowledged, benefits.

“The CO2 sinks are like a 50 per cent discount on climate change,” Canadell says. “If it wasn’t for the sinks, we would have double the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, and a doubling of the impacts due to global warming.”

How these sinks will be accounted nationally puts a fresh perspective on what carbon neutrality at a national level may eventually mean. It highlights also the folly of discussions being hijacked by negative extremes.

The latest, and unexpected, shot against fearmongering was issued by World Meteorological Organisation secretary-general Petteri Taalas to Finnish newspaper Talouselama.

Taalas told the paper while climate scepticism had become less of an issue, the challenge was now coming from “doomsters and extremists”. “Climate experts have been attacked by these people and they claim that we should be much more radical,” Taalas said.

He said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports had been “read in a similar way to the Bible: you try to find certain pieces or sections from which you try to justify your extreme views”. “This resembles religious extremism,” Taalas told Talouselama.

Following publication of his comments, Taalas issued a clarifying statement that he was not questioning the need for robust action.  “In my interview, I made clear that a science-based approach underpins climate action and that our best science shows the climate is changing, driven in large part by human action.

“However, I pointed out that the science-based approach is undermined when facts are taken out of context to justify extreme measures in the name of climate action,” he said. “Action should be based on a balanced view of the science available to us and not on a biased reading of reports by the Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change, of which WMO is one of the parent organisations.”

Taalas said the challenges were immense.

The lesson from Labor in Australia and the UN in New York is that the political challenges remain equally large.

The boom in renewable energy has spawned a serious unintended consequence with the release of large quantities of the world’s most potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide and is widely used to make wind turbines, solar panels and the switching gear needed to run more complex electricity systems.

Research has shown leakage of the little known gas across Europe in 2017 was the emissions equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road.

The warming potential of SF6 was identified in 2008 by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which said what had been hailed as an environmental success story could turn out to be a public relations disaster for solar.

Scripps says SF6 is difficult to break down and roughly 60 per cent of what goes into a switch’s vacuum chamber ends up in the atmosphere.

The latest research from Britain is that levels of SF6 in the atmosphere are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom.

According to the BBC, just 1kg of SF6 warms the Earth to the same extent as 24 people flying London to New York return. It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1000 years.

The increase in SF6 in the atmosphere reflects the way electricity production is changing around the world.

Mixed energy sources including wind, solar and gas have resulted in the use of many more connections to the electricity grid.

The increased number of electricity switches to prevent serious accidents has resulted in the use of more SF6 gas to stop short circuits and quench arcs, making electrical circuits safe.

Carbon copies

A loose coalition of countries has made the pledge to go “carbon-neutral” by 2050 but they do not include any of the major emissions nations and it remains unclear exactly what the term means.


Student climate strike is slacktivism

On a Friday afternoon, would you rather be stuck in school at a maths lesson or be outside at a protest with your mates?  No prizes for guessing what most children would prefer.

As a result, it’s easy to dismiss today’s climate demonstration as mere ‘slacktivism’… students giving up their Saturday morning sport to attend a protest would have been a far more powerful statement.

And besides, is it really a ‘strike’? Not going to school — which means students miss out on their own learning — isn’t even remotely comparable to not going to work as part of industrial action.

Of course, it’s great if students are interested in politics, care about global issues, and want to exercise their right to protest government policy in a liberal democracy. And yes, issues with potential long-term consequences like climate change are especially important for youth.

However, if any student really wants to improve policy in the long-term, the best way to do this is to become better educated — and learn to understand the various perspectives of every issue. Getting involved in politics should be in addition to their schooling, not ever in conflict with it.

Today’s ‘strike’ has been endorsed by education unions, among others (with shades of “How do you do, fellow kids?”). Unions are obviously free to support whatever action they want, though students shouldn’t be pressured into joining.

But do unions support the principle of all students being able to skip class to attend a protest on any issue? Or just on political issues where the union leaders happen to agree with them? Maybe unions wouldn’t be so supportive if students went on ‘strike’ to protest against inter-generational debt, advocating for budget cuts for the sake of future generations.

Students should be able to skip school occasionally, providing they have parental permission, go through the normal processes of their school, and the usual rules around attendance and truancy are still applied consistently.

Parents — not governments — are fundamentally responsible for the moral education of their children. If parents are happy for their kids to miss lessons for whatever reason, then so be it.

But in a time of growing polarisation, the last thing we need is teachers bringing political partisanship into schools.


Dozens of protesters are caught with single-use plastic bottles while marching during the Global Climate Strike

Normal Greenie hypocrisy

More than 30,000 people took to the streets of Brisbane to march in the Global Strike 4 Climate march on Friday.

Several of the protesters came under fire by the city's Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner, who labelled them as 'very disappointing' in a video shared to Twitter.

But the mayor was criticised for sharing the video, with some people calling his actions 'petty'.

'Very disappointing to see so many single-use plastics at today's environmental rally in Brisbane's CBD,' Mayor Schrinner captioned a video shared to Twitter.

The Mayor suggested people should instead stop by his mobile office where he was giving out reusable bottles. 'If only they made it to Lord Mayor's mobile office or the recent Green Heart Fair to get their own reusable drink bottles!'

The video showed a series of people walking in the march clinging onto plastic cups and bottles, all the while wearing shirts and carrying handmade signs that advocate for climate change.

Mayor Schrinner even took aim at Greens member, Michael Berkman, who carried a plastic bottle despite wearing a 'Stop Adani' shirt.

But not everyone was on board with Mr Schrinner, as many took to Twitter to slam the Mayor. 'That's the best you can come up with when the people of Brisbane turned out to have their voices heard?' one commented.

'Wow, this is the pettiest and saddest thing I've seen today,' one person tweeted.

Others said the bottles had likely been re-used because many didn't have labels.

'Because you can't refill a plastic bottle? Considering a lot don't have labels or are soft drink bottles with water I think they are being used by people with a social and environmental conscience,' another wrote.

'30,000 people take a stand and that's your petty takeaway?' a woman commented.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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