Friday, April 08, 2022

Disaster prophecies that never come true

In the latest ‘now or never!’ since the ‘last now or never!’ the United Nations has warned the world that it is once again ‘now or never!’ to avoid disastrous Climate Change.

Forget Prince Charles’ warning back in July 2009 that we had just 96 months to save the planet.

Ignore former British PM Gordon Brown’s prediction, just three months later, that we had fewer than 50 days to avoid disaster.

And never mind French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who, standing beside then American Secretary of State John Kerry, told the world on May 13, 2014, that ‘we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos’.

The irony of that particular Chicken Little routine was that Fabius was scheduled to host the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change on November 30 the following year – 65 days after the world, by his reckoning, would have ended.

I was going to quip that you couldn’t make this stuff up, but it seems like they do.

Anyway, enough joking around. This is it. Seriously. They’re not even kidding this time. Honestly. Like, for real guys. ‘It’s now or never!’

Yes, I know that’s what American defence chiefs were warning back in 2004 when they predicted European cities would sink beneath rising seas, and that Britain would be plunged into ‘a Siberian climate’ by 2020.

But it wasn’t like they got everything wrong.

Their predictions of widespread rioting across the world by 2020 did come to pass. And if you overlook the fact that the rioting was caused by the death of George Floyd and the imposition of compulsory injections – rather than the complete collapse of the ecosystem – you’ll see just how prescient the defence chiefs were.

You can’t expect climate catastrophists to get it right all the time. Or any of the time. It’s not like they’re astrologers.

The important thing to worry about is that things are now a lot more worrying than the last time we were warned to worry, and so there is now good reason to be worried.

We have this week reached a tipping point that is even pointier than every other tipping point so far reached; which is to say we will soon be at a point of no return that is well past the point of no return that we were last warned there was no returning from.

The latest UN climate panic comes in the form of what media outlets called ‘a massive 3,000-page document’ published Monday.

It’s unlikely anyone will read all 3,000 pages, but no one should need to. The sheer size of the document – let me remind you, it’s ‘massive’ – tells you everything you need to know.

Things are bad.

And if the thickness of the report does not convince you that things are dire, environmentalists at the UN can make their next dossier of doom and gloom run twice that length. It’s only trees, after all.

Let me remind you just how massively bad things are.

Back in 1972, the then UN Under General Secretary Maurice Strong warned we had ‘only 10 years to stop the catastrophe’.

In 1982, which was the deadline for stopping the catastrophe, the head of the UN Environment Program Mostafa Tolba told us we had just 18 more years before we would face an environmental catastrophe ‘as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust’.

Just eight years later, he was insisting we needed to fix global warming by 1995 or we would ‘lose the struggle’.

The great climate doomsday of 1995 failed to materialise, as did the climate Armageddon of 2000. But the flurry of final warnings, last chances, and tipping points continued; every prediction more hysterical than the last.

UN Climate Panel chief Rajendra Pachauir, who was no doubt surprised to still be here in 2007, warned that ‘if there is no action before 2012, that’s too late’. He further insisted that ‘what we do in the next two to three years will determine our future’.

Our betters spent the next two or three years jetting around the globe, holding lots of conferences and summits, which must have saved our bacon since not only did we survive the predicted 2012 apocalypse, but we hung on grimly until 2019 at which point the UN informed us we had just 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change.

To emphasise just how serious things were, they invited a Swedish school girl to berate them for robbing her of her dreams, or something. These days she’s performing Rick Astley covers for adoring fans.

Now, just three years into that 11-year do-or-die period, we are being told that it’s ‘now or never’.

One could be forgiven for thinking that when the world doesn’t end as these activists predict, they simply change the date and call it science.

The UN report, the most comprehensive report since the last most comprehensive report, says emissions must be curbed by 2030 or things will be even worse than the last time we were told they couldn’t possibly be any worse.

The report says that people must change their diets and their lifestyles which, as we already know, means eating bugs and walking.

And if we fail to heed the latest hysterical shrieks from those who warn of rising sea levels while purchasing beachside mansions, we can be sure there will be even shriekier histrionics in the future.

This is it. Our final, cataclysmic warning. Until the next one. And probably the one after that.

When the UN insist that it is ‘now or never’ for climate action, what they really mean is that they want now and never-ending emergencies as a pretext for herding us around the room. First here and then there, but never to an exit.


The Green U.S. Supply-Chain Rules Set to Unspool and Rattle the Global Economy

Making a box of Cocoa Puffs is a complicated global affair. It could start with cocoa farms in Africa, corn fields in the U.S. or sugar plantations in Latin America. Then thousands of processors, transporters, packagers, distributors, office workers and retailers join the supply chain before a kid in Minnesota, where General Mills is based, pours the cereal into a bowl.

Now imagine the challenge that General Mills faces in counting the greenhouse gas emissions from all of these people, machines, vehicles, buildings and other products involved in this Cocoa Puff supply chain – then multiply that by the 100-plus brands belonging to the food giant.

Thousands of public companies may soon have such a daunting task to comply with a new set of climate rules proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hailed by prominent environmental groups as a long sought victory, the sweeping plan released in late March would force companies to grapple with the unpredictable impact of climate change by disclosing reams of new information to investors. What are your company’s climate risks, such as severe weather, and the possible financial impacts? How have the threats affected your business strategies and what’s the plan to avoid the dangers? The most consequential and controversial piece of the SEC’s proposed regulations would require corporations to calculate their total greenhouse gas footprint, including from the supply chain.

The regulations also carry political weight for Democrats in the runup to the midterms in November. The Biden administration and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are trying once again to breathe life into clean energy legislation that died earlier this year amid a feud between them. If this latest effort at compromise fails – with Manchin reportedly looking for federal support for fossil fuels as well as renewable energy – then much of President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda will be left riding on the SEC proposal.

SEC head Gary Gensler says shareholders are demanding climate risk disclosures to make smarter investment decisions and hold companies accountable for “greenwashing” their operations. The regulations will also provide investors in the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) movement more leverage in their ongoing campaigns to pressure companies to reduce their carbon footprints.

While many companies like Walmart and business groups like the Chamber of Commerce generally support the idea of required climate disclosures, they object to what they see as the SEC’s heavy-handedness in standardizing rules across the economy. The Chamber is calling for flexibility so companies can customize their climate disclosures based on what’s relevant to their businesses and investors.

The biggest beef from companies is the rule that would require them to calculate and disclose supply chain emissions, called Scope 3.

Big companies have thousands of suppliers operating in hundreds of countries, making the task of coming up with a reasonable accounting enormously complicated. First of all, many suppliers of products and services are private companies not under the control of the SEC. They may refuse to cooperate in a count because of the costs and the implications that they might have to change their business practices to reduce emissions, said Professor Gerald Patchell, who has analyzed the problems of supply chain reporting.

Another obstacle is that many smaller suppliers, like General Mills’ cocoa farmers in Africa, don’t have the capacity to measure the emissions from their own fertilizers, tractors and farming practices. So companies will have to rely on broad country or industry averages that likely don’t reflect the actual emissions created by the suppliers, according to researchers.

“The data that companies will be asked to collect from thousands of suppliers is mind-boggling and certainly unprecedented,” said Patchell, who researches environmental policy and business. “It’s an idealized concept of what can actually be done by a company.”

The upshot is that regulations meant to bring clarity to investors on climate risk may end up providing highly unreliable emissions disclosures, leaving them “worse off,” wrote SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, a Trump appointee who voted against the 500-page proposal. It “forces investors to view companies through the eyes of a vocal set of stakeholders, for whom a company's climate reputation is of equal or greater importance than a company's financial performance."



Three current reports below:

"Green" Steel to be produced in Australia

Gupta is a smart cookie. He revitalized British steel now he is re-energizing Australia's oldest major iron mining site. "Green" steel is made without using coal

GFG Alliance executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta has launched a rallying cry for Australia to place itself “at the heart of a new industrial revolution’’, based around the use of renewable energy and hydrogen to produce steel, rather than simply shipping our vast reserves of iron ore offshore.

Mr Gupta also on Thursday announced an expansion of GFG’s magnetite iron ore concentrate production at its Whyalla operations, with the first phase of a two-stage expansion project almost finished.

Mr Gupta will tell an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham) lunch in Adelaide on Thursday that GFG is aiming to increase magnetite production by more than 10 per cent to 2.5 million tonnes per year, up from about 2.2mtpa, which could lead to more exports to its European steelworks.

GFG currently produces both hematite and magnetite iron ore, with the 6.3mtpa of hematite produced each year exported, while the magnetite product is used in the Whyalla steelworks.

Mr Gupta said GFG subsidiary SIMEC Mining was about to complete the construction phase of a “two-phase debottlenecking process’’.

The expansion would also feed into GFG’s “Greensteel” ambition, which aims to produce carbon neutral steel by 2030 (CN30) with the aid of renewable energy and potentially hydrogen.

Mr Gupta said magnetite iron ore was suite for use in the Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) process, which was at the heart of the Greensteel program.

“Our purpose is to create a sustainable future for industry and society and that starts right here with magnetite - a critical enabler of our global Greensteel strategy,’’ Mr Gupta said.

“Thankfully it’s an iron ore we have in abundance right here in Whyalla.

“Combined with renewables, particularly solar from our Cultana Solar Farm, our port, a skilled workforce, and supportive community and government, we are in a unique and enviable position to create a world leading Greensteel hub and help fulfil our CN30 mission. That’s exciting!”

Mr Gupta also reiterated his call for Australia to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities, particularly in the steel sector,, saying the events of the past couple of years had thrown into sharp relief how “flimsy and fragile our supply chains really are ... and that we’ve become too dependent on others’’.

“Globalisation versus the need for self-sufficiency now requires a major rethink... At times like these...sovereign manufacturing capability moves from important to critical... Which is exactly the opposite to our thoughts and deeds for the last three decades,’’ he said.

“So, home grown is once again about to become the new mantra... at a time when so many countries have been desperate to farm out their manufacturing capabilities, to where it’s apparently cheaper, or easier... or both.

“And now, we’re worried all over again, that we’ve let too much experience and expertise simply evaporate.’’

Mr Gupta said there was a recognition now that countries needed to have their own manufacturing capabilities, and luckily, Australia had the right blend of raw materials and abundant renewable energy resources for this to be achievable in the steel sector.

“Australia exports enough iron ore to produce 500 million tonnes of steel, over a quarter of the world’s annual needs,’’ he said.

“Yet less than 1 per cent of this is processed into steel right here ... domestically. And with global steel consumption set to double in the next 30 years, could there be a better time for Australia to claim its place as a modern, efficient, low-carbon, global steel power?’’


New Coking coal mine under construction

Private equity-backed Pembroke Resources has broken ground on the construction of its Olive Downs coking coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, as global coal markets face the threat of fresh disruptions on the back of European threats to ban the import of Russian coal.

Olive Downs should begin exporting hard coking coal within two years, according to Pembroke chief executive Barry Tudor, with construction of the $900m mine to ramp up following a formal groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.

“The high-quality steelmaking coal that will be produced from our mine will contribute to national and state economies as well as much-needed infrastructure around the world, delivering economic benefits and jobs from the grassroots to a global scale,” Mr Tudor said.

Olive Downs is primarily a coking coal mine, with more than 90 per cent of its product destined for steel mills. It is likely to sell some thermal coal as a by-product of mining higher-grade coking seams, like most metallurgical coal mines in Queensland.

While few analysts see this year’s extraordinary run in coal prices as likely to be extended indefinitely, the outlook for Pembroke is far brighter than when the mine won most of its approvals in 2020, when premium coking coal prices were trading at around a quarter of their current value of around $US420 a tonne.

JPMorgans analysts recently tipped average prices of about $US281 a tonne in 2023, when Olive Downs enters the market.

The first stage of the $900m project will see it export about 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year, but Pembroke plans to eventually expand output to up to 15 million tonnes a year.

Pembroke Resources is backed by private equity investors Denham Capital, and Olive Downs’ construction was last year backed through a $175m lending facility from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

The Queensland Labor government approved a mining lease for Olive Downs just ahead of the 2020 state election.

The price of Australian premium coking coal soared to about $US670 a tonne in mid-March on the back of fears about disruptions to supply in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has since fallen to levels closer to $US400 a tonne as the speculative trading frenzy subsided.

But the market still faces the threat of major disruptions in the wake of threats by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ban the import of Russian coal into the EC in the wake of news that Russian troops had committed war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.

The EC is yet to formalise the ban, which would not take immediate effect in any case, with buyers likely to get a window to wind down deliveries under existing contracts and seek alternative sources of supply.

But Russia supplied about 45 per cent of Europe’s coal needs in 2021, including about 20 per cent of its coking coal imports.

With Russian production making up about 15 per cent of the total seaborne market last year, second only to Australia, European bans could force the second major reshaping of global trade flows in the last two years, following China’s effective bans on the import of Australian coal.

But, while a ban on Russian coal could create short-term volatility in the market, analysts expect the country’s exports to find buyers outside Europe just as Australian shipments did in the face of China’s bans.


Scarborough gas venture wins key approvals

Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for the $16 billion Scarborough gas project off the coast of Karratha.

Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for a gas project off the coast of Karratha.© Rebecca Le May/AAP PHOTOS Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for a gas project off the coast of Karratha.
The Woodside-BHP joint venture has secured the pipeline licence needed to build and operate in Commonwealth waters, Woodside announced on Wednesday.

Minister for Resources Keith Pitt said it's estimated the project will have a peak construction workforce of more than 3000, and 600 jobs when operational including around 230 in the Pilbara.

"Given the current uncertainty around the world, and an energy crisis throughout Europe, it's projects like this that build Australia's capacity to ensure long-term energy and national security," he said.

"It will also support our international neighbours to secure their own energy needs."

Approval was also granted for the Scarborough Field Development Plan that will enable Woodside to begin operations from petroleum production licences WA-61-L and WA-62-L.

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill said the pipeline licence and field development plan are among the final federal and state government approvals required to develop the liquefied natural gas (LNG) resource.

The approval milestones follow final investment decisions made in November 2021 to approve the Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 developments.

The Scarborough field, 375 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, is estimated to contain 11.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The development will include the installation of a floating production unit with eight wells drilled in the initial phase, and 13 drilled over the life of the field.

The gas will be transported to Pluto LNG through a new 430km trunk line.




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