Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dirty coal, heat waves and floods - and the last straw for Clive Hamilton

Sou | 12:15 AM Go to the first of 56 comments. Add a comment
Earlier this week, in an embarrassing childish display, some of Australia's elected representatives pushed to increase carbon emissions more quickly than we already are. This wasn't juvenile backbenchers behaving in an unseemly fashion. This was our Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce.

Coal plant-ed question

In the video below, Scott Morrison responds to the Dorothy Dixer (planted question) from his backbench colleague, Andrew Hastie, the Member for Canning in Western Australia. Morrison was keen to play the fool in Parliament. He embarrassed Australia in the eyes of the world by portraying everyone who accepts science as idiots or worse.

Our Liberal National government is arguably the worst performing, most ineffective government we've had in quite a while, and we've had some poor performers. The charade from Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce, and all the politicians on that side of the house was utterly awful, according to the critics.

The person in the bottom left behind Scott Morrison, the one who's grinning like an idiot, is the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce. He always looks like that (like an idiot), it's probably how he thinks of the farmers he's meant to represent. He wants to relate. Many Australian farmers are a lot more informed and much better educated than their Minister, I have to say. (Joyce is an accountant by training, not a agricultural expert.)

This all happened on Thursday this week. It wasn't the only thing that happened this month. Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg had a competition to see who could be the most disgusting, trying to outdo each other's prowess in sucking up to the fossil fuel companies. What they were really wanting to prove, from the look of it, was that neither of them give a damn about the welfare of Australia's agricultural sector, our native flora and fauna, biodiversity, or any of the 23 million plus people who live here. The worst of it is that these people want to use funds set aside for clean energy to build more dirty coal-fired power stations.

Which is the real Malcolm Turnbull?

As you may know, Australia's Prime Minister used to feel (or pretend to feel) very strongly about the urgency of mitigating climate change. In 2010 at the Deakin Lecture, Malcolm Turnbull talked about the critical need for action, accusing the then Prime Minister (who tried to bring in an emissions trading scheme), of "political cowardice the like I've never seen before":
We live in a continent that is uniquely challenged by climate change. We live in a dry continent that is becoming drier, and hotter, in the Southern part where most of the population lives – and we have witnessed that. We have seen the last decade, the hottest decade on record; the next hottest was the one before that, the next hottest, the one before that. Climate change is real, it is affecting us now, and it is having a particularly severe impact on Australia. And yet, right now, we have every resource available to us to meet the challenge of climate change except for one: and that is leadership.

Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice the like of which I have never seen in my lifetime before. The abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme by the Prime Minister [Kevin Rudd] surely must be one of the most remarkable political acts, self-destructive political acts, I might say – there is some justice – that we've ever seen. Here was a man who came to office with a policy that he said was the answer to the greatest moral challenge of our times. Ultimately, he could not secure the support of the Senate.
One can argue about whether or not Kevin Rudd was cowardly, but there is absolutely no argument that Malcolm Turnbull has scampered away from the issue with his tail between his legs like a gutless lily-livered wuss. Our Prime Minister, who many people had thought had some principles, forsook his morality for reasons known only to him. Was it blackmail from party members in thrall to the fossil fuel industry? Was it extortion by person or persons unknown? Or was it that he never really accepted climate science and was merely pandering to swing voters, for which action on climate change may have swung them to his party?

Burn coal, Australia, Make Australia Burn

Both our Prime Minister and his Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, are now intent upon increasing carbon emissions from Australia. We already have the highest per capita emissions of any OECD nation, and among the highest in the world. We emit more per head of population than Saudi Arabia, Canada and America.

For many Australians, it was the timing of this bizarre display that was especially grotesque. Australia is in the grip of a deadly heat wave. At the same time, there have been damaging floods in south west Western Australia.  Between midnight and 9:00 am yesterday, Perth recorded 114 mm of rain. The mean rainfall recorded at Perth Regional Office for the whole of February for the period 1876 to 1992 is only 13.3 mm. Between 1993 and 2016, the weather station 4 km away averaged only 8.5 mm for the month of February. (Yes, south west Western Australia is drying out as its climate changes.)

You've probably heard about the heat wave.  This is what happened yesterday, from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) - and it's worse today. The brown part is 42 C to 45 C. The darker part in the middle is 45 C and more.

Today's map isn't up yet, so here's the forecast image instead - from BoM (archived here):

Here's a map showing the fire situation in NSW, from the NSW Rural Fire Service (archived here):

It's been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that the conditions in NSW this weekend are the worst ever for fire danger, with some areas worse even than the conditions in Victoria on Black Saturday, when 173 people were killed.

Now how, in all seriousness, could the most senior politicians in Australia, joke and laugh about climate change at all, let alone at a time like this?

Clive Hamilton quits the Climate Change Authority

Credit: Allen & Unwin
This week was too much for Clive Hamilton, Professor of Ethics at Charles Sturt University and author of several books including Requiem for a Species. He resigned from the Climate Change Authority. I've copied the text of the letter below, because it echoes what many Australians are thinking right now.

10 February 2017

Dear Mr Frydenberg

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as a Member of the Climate Change Authority, effective immediately.

The Government's recently announced interest in supporting, and even subsidizing, the construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants can only mean that the Coalition Government has abandoned all pretence of taking global warming seriously. That the Prime Minister should make such an announcement after we'd learned that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally was perverse, to say the least.

The so-called highly efficient coal-fired power plants the Government now says it supports could reduce emissions by at best 20 per cent compared to the existing ones. Building 10 of them would be equivalent to building eight of the old ones, or building 10 old ones and retiring them after 40 years instead of 50.

If new coal-fired power plants were built, it would make the Government's already weak 2030 reduction target unattainable. Deeper cuts in the subsequent decades, essential to limit the worst impacts of warming, would be off the table.

No government remotely concerned about the impacts of a warming globe on the health, lives and wellbeing of Australians could even consider such a path. You and the Prime Minister are in effect saying to the world that Australia's share of the burden of limiting warming to 2°C must now be carried by other countries, including poor ones. This is unconscionable.

And no government that describes the dirtiest form of electricity using the deeply dishonest term 'clean coal', invented by a PR company for the coal industry, can be believed when it says it wants to reduce Australia's emissions.

Your dismissive reaction to the Climate Change Authority's 2016 report arising from its special review makes it crystal clear that the Government has no interest in sensible climate change policy. The Prime Minister's rejection of the report is all the more disturbing given that it was prepared and put to him by his own appointees.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Hamilton

You might remember that he and David Karoly spoke out against the recent Special Review of Australia's Climate Goals and Policies - put out by the Climate Change Authority (CCA). (If you read that article you'll see that I've not held the CCA in high regard, for a number of reasons, not all of them the fault of the Authority. None of them were the fault of the members of the Authority (the board) of the past. The present Authority with it's new members, is a different matter.)

Americans have Donald Trump, Australia has Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce. We also have Clive Hamilton and some others like him - just not enough of them.

Bonus tweets

For those who've made it all the way through, here's a bonus. A couple of tweets about the heat down under.

References and further reading

How Malcolm Turnbull could ignore the facts and fund the myth of 'clean' coal - article by Michael Slezak at The Guardian, 2 February 2017

Malcolm Turnbull: ‘we have to put a price on carbon’ - 2010 Deakin Lecture (read it and weep for the nation we could and should have been)

Farmer survey reveals concern, shifting attitudes on climate change - by Anna Vidot at ABC Rural, 29 November 2016

WA towns flooded, cut off as heavy rainfall hits state; more wet weather set for weekend - by Graeme Powell at the ABC, 10 February 2017

NSW fire ratings for Sunday worse than Victoria's Black Saturday - by Clare Blumer and wires at the ABC, 11 February 2017

NSW heatwave: Unprecedented fire conditions are 'as bad as it gets' - by Eryk Bagshaw, Megan Levy and Peter Hannam at The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 February 2017

Hard facts unmask the fiction behind Coalition's 'coal comeback' - by Lenore Taylor at The Guardian, 11 February 2017

Scott Morrison brings coal to question time: what fresh idiocy is this? - by Katharine Murphy at The Guardian, 9 February 2017

Australia’s carbon footprint - The Economist, 11 August 2015

OECD: Australia's worst greenhouse gas emitter per person - by Climate News Network at Independent Australia, 15 January 2014

'Capitulation': Clive Hamilton exits Climate Change Authority, blasts Turnbull - article by Peter Hannam at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 2017

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. The comments from Frydenberg and Tremble over the last few days have been discusting, atrocious, despicable, and outright abhorrent. Yes, realise that I'm being circumspect, but moderation is important...

    Both of these people (I can't bring myself to call them men) have completely misrepresented the issue of the South Australian black-outs, and especially of their causes, by completely omitting the roles played by providers not participating in the market and the incompetent manner in which the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) failed to anticipate and properly respond to the impending extreme heat and subsequent power demand. These two clowns (apologies to real clowns, even the scary ones) also failed to address the fact that there are fundamental problems with the market's provision of power in at least three other states (privatisation certainly holds some responsibility here) and that the same issues of potential blackouts was as germane in NSW - and they don't have a large reliance on renewables. In fact had Tomago Aluminium not been turned off there'd have been worse in NSW than occurred in SA.

    These clowns (again, sorry to any real clowns) certainly didn't indicate in any of their rants against renewables that being innovative and establishing a diversity of renewable and decentralised sources would in fact protect against the very conditions that manifested during the heatwave, and that they would help to mitigate against even worse temperature extremes and frequencies thereof occuring in the future, as will otherwise occur as Australia goes down the "burn, baby, burn" route of coal combustion for power.

    Frydenberg, Tremble, Morrison, Joyce, and the rest of the biocidal psychopaths in the LNP are being criminally negligent in their duty of care for the country and its current and future citizens. I suspect that having Trump in the White House only emboldens them - if the rest of the world was a little more toward Scandinavia than Nazi on the political scale we might actually have seen the LNP stand more for society than for their own profits and those of their mates.

    There are not words enough to communicate the depth of the grotesque selfishness of the political and corporate heads of this country. The only thing that matches this perversity is the extent to which the voting public somnambulates in the face of the bugggery to which they're being subjected.

    1. I meant to thank you Sou for covering this matter. It staggered me to hear the ravings of the LNP over the issue, but I wasn't surprised... after Corry Bernardi jumped the ship amid vociferous protestations about the LNP's merest hint that they might be mulling over the possibility of conceding that a minuscule amount of mitigation might be in the public interest, the LNP leadership had to reassert their denialist credentials for the rabid right wing supporters.

      A pox on all their houses.


    2. Lenore Taylor, who I sometimes think can be a bit tepid in standing up to some of the distortions of truth that the Canberra madhouse can vomit up, has finally stood up and firmly said enough:


      More surprisingly is Katharine Murphy's (still tepid) acknowledgement of the COALition's love for coal:


      Most pieces I've seen from Murphy have bordered on simpering pandering to the right, so I was mildy surprised to find that even she smelled the carcass of bad taste and policy fail that emanated from the coal stunt in parliament.

    3. Sorry Bernard, but I just can't agree with what you are saying. The blackouts in SA (there were 4 in the space of 4 months) were all caused by or at least exacerbated by an overcapacity of intermittent wind power. Sorry, but there is no other way to see this, and this will be confirmed by the official reports from AEMO. The days of optimistically talking of solar and wind successfully shutting down coal plants is over. Turnbull has quite rightly identified a problem with electricity reliability and affordability that needs to be addressed, nand will be when Alan Finkel's Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market is released.

    4. Have you heard how the numerous blackouts in Sydney, NSW, and Queensland in the past few months were also caused or exacerbated by wind turbines?

      The physics and engineering explanations of wind turbines caused all those storms, toppled high voltage power-lines, and prevented gas fired generators from starting is a bit beyond me, but I expect you have the answer.

    5. Here's an excerpt from the preliminary report of the Finkel review that Brian referred to:

      "Fortunately, solutions are available to effectively integrate variable renewable electricity generators into the electricity grid, but we will have to change the way we operate. Such solutions include intelligent wind turbine controllers, batteries and synchronous condensers, all of which can contribute to system security. But the NEM does not currently encourage their adoption. Emerging markets for ancillary services, required to maintain system security, have not kept pace with the transition. New and updated frameworks, technical standards and rules may be required."


    6. Sou:"Have you heard how the numerous blackouts in Sydney, NSW, and Queensland in the past few months were also caused or exacerbated by wind turbines?"

      Strawman argument. Simply because there were blackouts in NSW and QLD due to plant failures, does not mean that the blackout in SA were not caused by an overcapacity of wind power, with insufficient storage, and backup systems which cannot be brought online fast enough to respond to weather related events.

      The reasons for the SA blackouts will all be the subject of official AEMO reports. So too with the blackouts in NSW and QLD. I doubt the answer will be to install more wind and solar capacity. More baseload and/or dispatchable supply is required.

    7. That was sarcasm - and to underline the point that it wasn't renewables that caused the SA blackout, it was a huge storm knocking down high voltage lines, and the piddly link to Vic power.

      More baseload power isn't what's needed in heat waves and storms, it's more flexible power to deal with peaks in demand. NSW demand had Victoria put on notice for possible shutdown during the recent NSW heat wave. Rooftop solar helped the situation, more renewables (and even gas) would have helped even more. (You spoiled things there. When you claimed expertise as an engineer, albeit mechanical not electrical, you should know baseload is for base, not peaks.)

    8. "Simply because there were blackouts in NSW and QLD due to plant failures, does not mean that the blackout in SA were not caused by an overcapacity of wind power, with insufficient storage, and backup systems which cannot be brought online fast enough to respond to weather related events."

      Simply because there is a lot of wind power in South Australia does not mean that the blackouts were caused by an "overcapacity of wind power."

      "I doubt the answer will be to install more wind and solar capacity."

      Argument from incredulity is a logical fallacy.

      "More baseload and/or dispatchable supply is required."

      Given that at some point in the future fossil carbon cannot be used as a power source (whether through excessive harm to the planet or from mere inevitable depletion of the resource) the ultimate requirement is for baseload that relies on renewables and perhaps to some extent on nuclear (although that has its own sustainability issues...). This means that, in contradiction to your assertion, wind and solar will have to be increased as sources for power.

      The problem is not the sources of power. The problem is rebuilding an outdated 20th century technology distribution grid to deal with the new sources, and the vagaries of escalating human demand in an environment that has started to demonstrate the physical realities of a climate where the unaccounted-for pollution of yesterday is starting to feed back on the desires for continued power generation tomorrow.

      The problem is that Tremble Turnbull and the LNP style themselves as "innovators", and yet they can't even expedite the currently developed cutting-edge technologies that would allow for an innovative, modern, sustainable and profitable distribution grid. And why can't they? Because their mates sell coal.

      The LNP and their business buddies must be delighted that they have useful idiots and shills on the internet to spread FUD in order to dissemble and delay.

    9. More baseload power isn't what's needed in heat waves and storms.

      Well not quite correct.


      If the Northern power station (local baseload) had not been shutdown the outcome in all 4 recent blackouts would have been different. On that issue, the final report will be issued in the next few weeks.

      it wasn't renewables that caused the SA blackout, it was a huge storm knocking down high voltage lines, and the piddly link to Vic power.

      Piddly? So are you suggesting that if the link to Victorian baseload brown coal had been more robust things may have been different?

      Really Sou, it is not good form to disrespect fellow professionals - there are some matters that should be left to the engineers, even mere mechanical engineers. :)

      There is no question that Australia is moving inexorably away from coal and toward renewables, and rightly so. But recent events have illustrated that before we build more renewables we need to deploy and distribute relable and cost effective baseload, and build more flexible local storage and dispatchable supply. So COAG, which comprises of both ALP and LNP representation from the states and the commonwealth, has initiated the Finkel Review http://www.environment.gov.au/energy/national-electricity-market-review. A plan will be the result. Let us hope it is executed with full bipartisan support.

    10. Simply because there is a lot of wind power in South Australia does not mean that the blackouts were caused by an "overcapacity of wind power."

      From a purely technical perspective, that is true. However when you consider the commercial realities, the picture is not so clear. Ask yourself how it came to be that SA has the most expensive electricity in Australia, and is politically wedded to single interconnector to cheap Victorian baseload brown coal plants.

      Fossil fuels are finite. But it is somewhat inconsistent to point to resource shortages 300 years in the future, while ignoring the political, technical and commercial impediments to building innovative and profitable technology yesterday. Argument from incredulity?

      And then you speak of "useful idiots" while you angrily rail at simple pragmatism.

      Watch for the AEMO reports, they will not be concluding that we should yet be building more wind and solar power, and they will have powerful reasons to conclude that way.

    11. Brian Westlake.

      "Really Sou, it is not good form to disrespect fellow professionals.."

      Your tone-trolling is pretty transparent.

      Your conclusion about the electricity situation is your own opinion and speculation. Take your own advice, wait for the report from "professionals".

    12. "Really Sou, it is not good form to disrespect fellow professionals.."

      I'm going to pick a fight.

    13. Your tone-trolling is pretty transparent.

      It's called being polite, a rare commodity here it would seem.

      Your conclusion about the electricity situation is your own opinion and speculation.

      Actually it is based on the multiple interim reports from AEMO. They are online and you can read them for yourself.

    14. The AEMO has a vested interest in minimising it's own role in these sort of situations. Nonetheless, it's not likely to have a false narrative written, it will just use words judiciously (in its own interest).

      There are other interpretations of its reports besides that of our (tone-trolling and host-flaming) guest.

    15. I wonder if there was mass hand-wringing about the folly of using hydro power back in 1998 when a huge ice storm wiped out transmission lines all over Southern Quebec and killed power to much of Montreal for a week.

      It would make more sense than this silly stuff about how having too much distributed power caused a blackout when the transmission lines went down.

      Quebec has centralized plants 1000km from where most of the demand is. The argument would still be wrong: the lines that went down were the local ones -- the ice storm hit the major population centres. So even with big power plants near the cities, the power would have gone down almost as long. But in our case, rooftop solar wouldn't have helped much: the solar panels would have been glazed by an inch of ice, trying to catch winter sun to power resistive heat.

      On the reverse, a South Australia customer with a rooftop solar power system with the electronics to provide power during an outage is a customer who has power during a summer storm.

  2. Staggering, gobsmacked, words are not bad enough. We thought your guy might be OK when he hung up on Trump, but seems not. The bully boys do like to swagger, together or apart, don't they.

    They fail to comprehend that people like us are terrified by their ignorance and willingness to pursue power at the expense of people and their hospitable home, our planet.

    Meanwhile, in case your cup of tragedy is not full, here:
    23 minutes to kiss the planet goodbye
    Waking up in the middle of the night, the World Service was interviewing Myron Ebell.

    BBC World Service:

    and Scott Boulette ‏@AlgoScott

    This should become a new meme - Alt facts peer reviewed by politicians, what could go wrong? #AlternativeFacts #politicians

  3. That was a crystal-clear letter from Professor Hamilton that pulled no punches. Good for him.

    How can we possibly find ourselves, in 2017, with reckless AGW deniers at the wheel of three major governments (U.S., UK, Australia) in the Anglosphere? My own scientific view of AGW hasn't changed much over the years (though my understanding has deepened) but my political/ethical views are becoming harsher. What I once considered to be examples of a century-old major industry shortsightedly trying to protect its interests I now consider, in some of the worst cases, to be greed-driven crimes against humanity.

    Minor corrections for a couple of distracting typos (from pdf to text conversion, maybe):
    3rd paragraph: coal-foed instead of coal-fired
    6th para: te1m instead of term

  4. When a leader can get elected then have the rest of his cabinet along for the ride with "alternate facts" to the forefront one is not surprised that other politicians in other countries will use the same tactics.
    The blatant lying there is no other word to describe the "alternate facts" around the use of the 2 South Australian power outages to blame the other party is pandering to the ignorant and has overtones of a particular nasty kind. I need not add that no coal generator will find any bank to finance it so the only way it could get up is by a government paying for it. I expect that with the pathetic type of journalistic inquiry in the countries that this is now the new normal. Yes there are some rare exceptions to the above but all too few. A link to an article with actual facts.

  5. Sitting here in Canada at balmy -6 C I watched in both amusement and horror at the man with the coal. Is this Morrison's own idea or is he just stealing US Senator Inhofe's idea with the snowball? http://www.ecowatch.com/watch-sen-inhofe-throw-a-snowball-on-senate-floor-to-prove-climate-cha-1882013716.html

    I must admit that was one of the maddest rants I have listened to from a respectable legislature. Some of our Conservative ministers in the last government were just as objectionable and, if anything, even more stupid, but they don't rant as well as Australian politicians.

    1. I just watched the video. The Speaker needs a noise cancelling microphone switch (or maybe a screechy feedback one) for occasions when a loudmouthed dimwit pollutes a legislature like that.

      Bart vs. Australia: Mr Prime Minister!!!

  6. jrkrideau unfortunately the rant in the Federal Parliament has to be put down as a very low point for so called debate.
    Yes it does follow that other fool with huge power in the USA with the snowball.
    So far our leaders are not using Twitter to highlight "Alternate Facts", however i will hold my judgement on that as that will be the next step into the total dismal of facts and feeding the gullible false information.
    The aspect of this i find rather concerning is the last time this was used was before 1939 and in fact rather recently in this century with Weapons of Mass Destruction also with the leader of Russia.
    I think everyone should read 1984 again and also the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to understand how using Alternate Facts totally undermines democracy and can only lead to a dismal outcome.
    Will the western democracy's come to this point I hope not but some will make perhaps not exactly good decisions along the way.

  7. Edit this.
    however i will hold my judgement on that as that will be the next step into the total dismal of facts and feeding the gullible false information.
    However I will hold my judgement on that as it will be the next step into the total use of Alternate Facts feeding the gullible false information.

    1. Yes indeed.

      However the only slightly encouraging thing from the media view is that most of the US media seems to despise Trump and his crew so we, hopefully, are not going to see the complete and totally uncritical support the US media gave Shrub Bush for the Iraqi debacle. In many cases he and his staff are being ridiculed or described in less than complimentary terms.

      Still living as close to the US as I do,Trump scares the bejesus out of me.

      Just after the US election, there were so many Americans saying they were going to move to Canada that I joked we needed to start opening the refugee camps. Unfortunately with Trump's anti-immigrant rants and the travel ban we actually are getting refugees.

      Not Americans but refugees in the USA, seems mainly Muslims, are making a run for the border. We are not talking large numbers (yet) at the moment but CBC reports 24-25 new arrivals in the last 2 days.

      It looks like a lot of them are Somalis from Minneapolis. If I was a Somalis refugee with uncertain status in the USA I'd be heading North too.

      I wish you had not reminded me of 1939.

    2. 22 arrivals over the weekend was just in Manitoba, which sees lots of Somalis given the social support they can get from community in Minneapolis.

      On this side of the country, just South of Montreal we see asylum-seekers more from Syria, not quite as many but increasing fast.

      They're walking across the border and flagging police to get arrested. They'd take a bus up to the border crossing safely if we would let them, but because of cruel laws they risk their lives out in the snow.

    3. Thanks numerobis.

      I heard about that latest family coming across, I assume in the Townships, but had no idea of possible nationality. If I heard CBC correctly refugee claimant rates are 10 times greater this year than last in Qu├ębec?

      We need to drop the USA as a "safe" refuge. If we get rid of that third country designation they could hop on a bus (or the train?) and Bob's your uncle.

      I doubt if anything is likely to even be considered until the PM gets back from Washington. Still, time to crank out a letter to my MP for all the good that will do.

    4. Canada is in deep trouble if the US situation gets any worse. Taking in a hundred asylum-seekers a week is no big deal, but there's tens of millions of people Trump hates.

  8. All Australian's get a chance every 4 years to vote in the best liar, as an example click on "Who owns it" from this link http://www.larryhannigan.com/ to see who is really pulling the strings. We should take the 6 stars on the Australian flag and add them to the American flag and be done with it. If you kicked America in the butt Australia would get a blood nose.

    1. I might get in trouble for this indecency, but I have the impression the UK has the same problem:

  9. LOL, Thanks for that Susan, needed a good laugh

  10. Some correction to the article is required.

    Firstly the connections being made between weather and climate change. Please, this site is about science, we are above that, aren't we?

    The point that ScoMo and Joyce were making is that there has emerged an irrational, ideological hatred of coal - what they termed "coal-o-phobia". Can't help but notice that there was plenty of that in the article and also in the blog posts following.

    Some of Clive Hamilton's statements are incorrect - at this stage the government has not proposed any new coal plants (let alone 10 as per article above), and HELE technology (lowers emissions by up to 30%, nearly eliminates particulate pollution) is really only be proposed as a means to retrofit some east coast plants so that we do not lose our reliable baseload supply.

    I don't think it is reasonable to say that proposing the continued use of coal equates to climate change denial. Turnbull is always quick to confirm that even if HELE is introduced, his government is still committed to the deep emissions targets agreed to at Paris. (4th deepest cuts in the OECD). It is not all doom and gloom here.

    1. I don't know what you want me to change, Brian. Is it the excerpt from Malcolm Turnbull's speech or the copy of Clive Hamilton's letter? I'm not prepared to change either, since I'm not the author.

      And despite what you may think, there is a direct relationship between weather and climate change. As the climate changes so does the weather. In fact all weather today is affected by the additional CO2 we've put in the air.

      You may be right that there'll not be any new coal-fired power stations, but it will be despite, not because of the Australian government, it will be because no operator will be willing to invest in one.


      Since Australia is one of the biggest per capita emitters of CO2 in the world, we need to make deeper and faster cuts than most. We're also the canary in the coal mine for climate change. We've also got one of the best environments for solar and wind energy - and we're way behind some other countries in that regard. We've still got way too many coal-fired power stations.

    2. Well Sou, I was just pointing out inaccuracies, not demanding that you change your article. But since you mention it

      "Both our Prime Minister and his Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, are now intent upon increasing carbon emissions from Australia. " ... that simply isn't true. Emissions are going down and there is nothing in policy which cause them to increase.

      And I really don't agree with your implication that climate change caused the heatwave and a heavy rain event. Certainly there is a relationship, but not the way you imply it. No better than someone saying - it's really cold today, global warming isn't happening.

      There really are no plans by the government to build new coal plants, only a discussion about potentially retrofitting with HELE.

      I agree is good that we have committed to deep cuts. But don;t think we can afford more intermittent solar and wind without making some of the changes that Finkel is talking about. We need more storage BEFORE we build any more renewable energy.

      Also I don't agree that we are behind the rest of the world. We are #1 in rooftop solar and we have more wind than most countries, per capita. What we don't have is a lot of hydro power for backup of our solar and wind. Hence the need for pause.

    3. Brian, people have a lot more credibility if they back up their assertions with evidence.

      Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are rising and forecast to miss 2030 target

      Australia's greenhouse gas emissions rising, Government figures show

      From the report itself, while per capita emissions are falling, there doesn't look to have been any fall in total emissions since 2014, in fact there's been an increase.

      You wrote: "And I really don't agree with your implication that climate change caused the heatwave and a heavy rain event." What implication did I make that climate change caused the heat wave? Please quote the passage. I say that the increase in greenhouse gases affects all weather, and that should be obvious. I'm not in a position to determine "cause" - and that's not the right way to frame it in any case. Better questions would be along the lines of "to what extent did global warming influence this event", or "what is the likelihood of this event occurring in the absence of climate change".

      Since you are putting yourself forward as an authority on the subject of attribution, perhaps you can take it up with these scientsts, who also have a lot of expertise and for whom the topic is a research specialty: Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Andrew King and Matthew Hale - who have published papers on the subject of attribution.

      Climate change doubled the likelihood of the New South Wales heatwave

      I don't have information about those storms in particular, but there have been papers written about increased intensity of rainfall and climate change. For example, see this HotWhopper article I researched, and the references.

      BTW - Clive Hamilton didn't say or imply that the government is going to build 10 new coal plants, he gave that as an example of how little contribution even highly efficient plants would make to emissions reduction.

      As for storage - AFAIK the Federal Government is not taking any steps (and hasn't since the LNP has been in power) to make any improvements to Australia's electricity provision. Whether you are an authority in that particular area or not, I don't know. I'm not. However I do know that there needs to be a lot more happening than there is at present. What's the bet there'll be another review to review the Finkel report, when it finally comes out? We've got climate change deniers in Cabinet, Malcolm Turnbull is a captive of the far right and has done an about face. They are all talking up coal, for heaven's sake.

    4. There's more.

      Australia would have been much further ahead in renewables if we hadn't been silly enough to elect Tony Abbott's government.

      I don't know about rooftop solar, but we're not top in terms of total PV. We should be, given our climate.

      As for wind, Australia doesn't have a lot of wind turbines by comparison with many countries. I don't think we even have any offshore wind yet. There must be some parts of the coast that would suit this, and most of the population lives near the coast.

      As for wanting to open new coal plants, maybe Josh Frydenberg has given up on the idea. I don't know. He did want the Port Augusta plant reopened. Other Ministers want to use more coal, not less, going by the silly display in Parliament I wrote about.

  11. Hi Sou,

    Thanks for your considered reply. I read your articles often, and enjoy the robust science underlying your arguments. I just feel that this article was heavily politically partisan, and worthy of challenge. As someone involved in fire-fighting, and also a background in engineering, it is a personal issue.

    Regarding emissions reductions, as Australia’s population and economy grows, theoretically emissions should go up - emissions are linked with population and economic growth, and Australia’s is growing both faster than most other developed countries. As you say, our emissions per capita are decreasing, and that is a good thing.

    On attribution, I think the issue can be very misleading. When it is stated “Climate change doubled the likelihood of the New South Wales heatwave”, what they are really saying is that the chance of reaching the specific average maximum temperature has doubled. i.e. we would still have had the heatwave regardless of human activity, but the maximum temperature would have been lower. To roughly quantify, I would suggest 0.8degC lower on average since that is the average rise in global temperature over the last century. What measurable impact does this have? I am unaware of any study on that subject.

    Clive Hamilton’s speculations on what would happen if 10 new coal plants were built is highly misleading, since new plants are not proposed. Rather the plan (as I understand it) is to replace existing plants with HELE. This would see a 30% reduction in CO2 and elimination of particulate pollution. A worthy goal, don’t you agree. A goal that also includes ensuring affordable and reliable power generation which is a fundamental to our future prosperity.

    You are heavily critical of LNP policy, primarily on renewables. Yet energy infrastructure strategy is managed via COAG Energy Policy http://www.coagenergycouncil.gov.au/ which is dominated by the states. While Australia is sunny and windy, we are also a very dry continent, and we have very little hydro (14% capacity) as an affordable dispatchable backup source to level out intermittent renewables. Adding intermittency without storage/backup has been COAG policy, and is what has caused the problems in SA – being “much further ahead in renewables” isn’t necessarily a good thing for energy reliability or affordability. Blaming the feds for failing to make battery technology materialise is a bit unfair (global investment in battery storage is tiny, contrary to popular belief), Frydenberg quite rightly speaks optimistically about technologies like pumped hydro. In NSW and QLD there are problems emerging from downward pressure on baseload supply from coal, and the rising cost of gas impacting on new gas open cycle peaking plants. None of this is the fault nor responsibility of the federal government, present nor past. With the Finkel review, it would appear the LNP wish to take charge, show some leadership. It is needed.

    1. Brian, having lived through three major fires in the past 14 years (and helped feed firefighters, and defended my own home), I can understand and empathise with you citing firefighting as a big reason to make CO2 emissions a personal issue. What type of engineering expertise do you have that's relevant - civil, mechanical, electrical, processing, computing?

      I don't have the same understanding of your sticking up for the LNP government when they've removed incentives for renewable energy, and not done anything so far to support expansion of renewables in the national energy grid. Is that a political thing?

      I was sympathetic to Turnbull, but he's obviously not got any influence in his government. Either that or he was just pretending to support mitigation efforts to win swing voters.

      Frydenberg is out of his depth and has dropped the ball. He is either not serious about mitigation or held captive by the far right of his party and the coal industry (if there's a difference).

    2. Apologies to chemical engineers, and any others I left off the list.

    3. Thanks Sou, my background is in mechanical engineering, though I am not working in the field now, and have moved into an alternative line of work which allows me more time to spend with my family.

      Fighting fires has been formative of my views on climate change and environmental policy. CO2 causes warming, but hotter heatwaves are not the biggest factor in increasing the danger of bushfires. Fuel load is far more important, and CO2 causes increased plant growth, so remediation (adaptation must include a policy to increase hazard reduction activities.

      While I am passionate advocate for progressive emissions reductions, I do not share your belief, which is very commonly held, that renewable energy is the best and only path, and that all policy should be focussed on getting more wind and solar power. Energy generation needs to be reliable, and too much intermittent wind and solar creates problems. We need more storage technologies to be implemented first, pumped hydro, compressed air, large-scale batteries, biomass harvesting. Until we have a ten-fold increase in the availability of dispatchable power, we should refrain from deploying intermittent technologies and look elsewhere for emissions cuts. In my opinion HELE coal, gas closed cycle, perhaps even nuclear (though that would be very politically difficult), all represent positive steps toward Australia doing our bit to reduce global emissions.

    4. Brian, I'm not sure where you get some of your ideas about my opinions. I don't know that I've ever said (or thought) that "renewable energy is the best and only path". It seems to be a habit of yours - confirmation bias (or is there something you can quote? Maybe it was me who was misleading.)

      Renewables are the biggest and main path at present and will most likely remain so for the future, but there are others as you point out. That's one reason I refer to it so often. The other is that this blog is mainly to counteract denialism, and if there's one thing deniers abhor, it's modernising the electricity infrastructure by shifting to renewable energy. Most of them irrationally want to stick with coal and oil, seemingly forever.

      I agree with you that storage solutions are important.

      Nuclear (despite my instinctive aversion) is part of the mix in many places too, though I'll be relieved if Australia can manage to get it's emissions to drop to the required (very) low level without having to use it.

      Any use of fossil fuels is short term at best (years or decades, not centuries), though reducing emissions from existing facilities is obviously a measure that will be very helpful.

      Storage is important but it's not the only thing that's important. So is having sufficient sources that can be turned on and off to meet demand fluctuations, and a grid capable of adjusting instantly to changes in demand. So is increasing energy efficiency - and we've made some strides in that area, too.

      Australia has a long way to go to reduce emissions to anything like an acceptable level (so are many other countries). Australia isn't nearly as advanced as it could and should be in terms of modernising it's electricity and electric vehicle networks, given its location and wealth. That's partly because of our heavy investment in coal, which in turn is because of the cheap and easy availability of coal, partly because of the tyranny of distance, and partly because of the lack of consistent policy from governments. (Business and industry prefer policy certainty for long term investments. They've not had it.) The tyranny of distance is being tackled in different ways. Not every isolated community needs to rely on the national grid.

      In Australia, opportunities for adding more conventional hydro are limited to non-existent. Not sure about pumped hydro. Sounds good but I don't know enough about it to know if it would become a significant strategy.

    5. Sou, you ask where I get my ideas about your beliefs about renewables being the best and only path, and then you confirm by saying "Renewables are the biggest and main path at present and will most likely remain so for the future". So thanks for confirming :)

      With regard to pumped hydro, see http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1526587/Opps-for-pumped-hydro-in-Australia.pdf .

    6. "Main" yes (in the case of electricity and transport), "only" no, as evidenced by my response above.

      Should I put your inclusion of only and then your deliberately ignoring it down to artistic licence? Something you didn't mean to do? Or was it imprecision, casualness, slackness, or bait, Brian?

    7. You may call it imprecision if you wish, I would suggest that you are looking too hard for fault, and taking me too literally. On a brighter note, we generally agree on the technical issues. But we will have to agree to disagree on the partisan politics - on that I am more inclined toward encouraging bipartisanship as the path to a positive policy outcome.

    8. Really. It's I who's been looking to fault? Do us all a favour and re-read your comments here, Brian - starting with your first, where you called for me to correct, as it turned out, something you didn't like about what Clive Hamilton wrote (and then denied you wanted me to correct it). As well as being an apologist for the fossilised coal promoters in Parliament. Then made all sorts of inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims. (Including one about how our politicians aren't calling for new coal plants, when some of them are.)

      As for bipartisanship, if you mean you wish there had been bipartisanship when Gillard brought in the carbon price as a precursor to an ETS, which have both been supported by people on both sides of the house, including Malcolm Turnbull, John Howard, and Greg Hunt - then I agree. It's such a shame that any bipartisanship was totally destroyed by Tony Abbott, and now by whoever is holding Malcolm Turnbull to ransom.

      Other countries can have a much more bipartisan approach, why can't our supposed leaders in Australia work something out?

      Also -
      what BernardJ said

      If you think I'm being too hard on you, take off your blinkers and re-read what I wrote. Then what you wrote. Then do some research of your own. I have little patience for anyone who thinks coal is an answer to Australia's problems, and lets our climate suffer. Nor do I have much patience for an apologist for the current government's appalling lack of action to mitigate climate change, preventing us meeting our international obligations and hastening worse and more extreme weather.

    9. I would suggest that you are looking too hard for fault



    10. Sou, yes I think you are being hard on me. And I took off my blinkers and re-read above as you suggested:

      I said "some corrections to this article are required", I did not mean that I wanted you to change the article - and I tried to correct this misunderstanding, it was not a denial but rather a clarification. I only wished to call out what I felt were inaccuracies, as a discussion point. Obviously I did not want to change a verbatim quote from Clive Hamilton. Apologies if that was misunderstood.

      Yes I said "only", and "you may call it imprecision if you wish". Again apologies.

      I said there are no plans for new coal plants, and there aren't. That is a fact. I made no reference at all to what politicians are saying (they are all liars anyway), I am only talking about facts.

      You say "Both our Prime Minister and his Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, are now intent upon increasing carbon emissions" That simply isn't true. Emissions are going down PER CAPITA, and there are no policies which will see that change. That is a fact, regardless of what you think politicians are saying.

      You call me an apologist, and that is unfair and untrue, I have no love for the LNP nor any other party. I am merely pointing out that our deployment of renewables and current policy of shutting down as many coal plants as possible is causing reliability issues in the power network, and we need to fix that before we continue to build more renewables. Australia without a reliable power network is stuffed, I mean really stuffed, and very quickly we will no longer have the wealth and prosperity to engage in technology research, infrastructure building and modernising etc., all the things we need to do to meet our international obligations for emissions reductions.

      Finally, I have no argument with you or BernardJ on the need for emissions reductions, as fast as possible. But stuffing up the country is not a good way to do it. I am sure that is not what you support. And if that is the case, then we are on the same page.

    11. Who has a current policy of "shutting down as many coal plants as possible"? I wish there was such a policy somewhere.

      It was I who told you that per capita is dropping, so that's not news to me. It's not because of any policies of Turnbull and the LNP, it's despite their lack of policies. Overall our carbon emissions have risen the last couple of years.

      I'm all for finding points of agreement, not disagreement - but you're advocating more coal burning, and arrived in fighting mode so I responded in kind.

    12. Who has a current policy of "shutting down as many coal plants as possible"? It is the policy of COAG, represented by both LNP and ALP governments (state and federal), on the back of the requirements to meet emissions targets set by the LNP in Paris. It is executed through the joint mechanisms of the RET, and government subsidies on renewable energy which skews the market making coal generation uneconomical. The policy has resulted in 8 pnats closing: https://theconversation.com/factcheck-have-eight-of-australias-12-most-emission-intensive-power-stations-closed-in-the-last-five-years-65036

      Now I am in favour of deep emissions cuts, and I agree that ultimately coal plants should and will be shutdown and replaced. The point of contention is the apparent incompetence of COAG and certain state governments in shutting down baseload supply BEFORE implementing suitable dispatchable peaking solutions (gas open cycle or other storage). More renewables now is NOT the answer, let alone the "main pathway" to emissions reduction.

      I am not advocating coal burning, I am advocating better planning - an end to politicing and division, we need bipartisan supported policies - a plan. And yes, I am pretty passionate about it, if you felt I was attacking you I apologise, I am just here to discuss.

    13. Sou...Your mistake--like Kellyanne noted in the case of Trump--is that you listen to the words he actually says, not the feelings in his heart

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. A sense of entitlement? How dare she not reply quickly enough for you!

    2. I think Brian was probably referring to the delay in publishing his comment, which was stuck in the spam folder.

      I apologise for the delay. I fished the comment out as soon as I saw it there. (I'm not on the computer 24/7).

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Here is the retrofit project I am referring to. It is the only HELE type project that is real (and it is tiny). There are no others projects for new or retrofitting coal plants in Australia at the moment. http://www.globalccsinstitute.com/sites/www.globalccsinstitute.com/files/content/page/122975/files/Callide%20Oxyfuel%20Project.pdf


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