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Oct 24, 2013

Climate policy: when adults squib it, youth should take direct action

In the absence of action on climate change from our political class, young people are entitled to wonder whether 'direct action' of their own can end the rip-off being perpetrated on them and on future generations.



Greg Hunt is an adult sent on a youth’s errand.

It’s easy to think the opposite. With that boyish appearance, high voice and youthful enthusiasm, the Environment Minister can seem like the work experience kid mistaken for the boss. But Hunt is a seasoned political grown-up: a person who understands that you can’t be too wedded to your ideals if you’re going to make your mark in politics. People throw his master’s thesis on climate change at him as though politicians — or any vaguely intelligent individual — should for a lifetime adhere to the views they held in their early 20s. That’s unfair, and misses the point that Hunt has only done what most politicians who have any chance of actually wielding power have done, which is allow one’s positions to be dictated by political expedience. Moreover, in any event Hunt no longer relies on the ivory towers of academe for his knowledge about climate change, in preference for the greater rigour of Wikipedia.

Take Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for example. Abbott may or may not believe in anthropogenic climate change, but the point is he doesn’t care either way; his positions — and at various times he has held every possible position on climate change and what to do about it except, oddly, the one he ended up adopting as policy — have been dictated by political expediency.

Similarly with former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who insisted climate change was the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time and then offered a feeble scheme to address it, watered it down even further under pressure from lobbyists and then walked away from it entirely. For Rudd, climate change was purely a weapon with which to attack the Coalition, first under John Howard and then Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull. It worked so well that he broke the Liberals in two. The Liberals promptly turned to Abbott, who repaid the favour in spades to Rudd and then Julia Gillard. Abbott’s ridiculous scare campaign on the carbon price was no more politically amoral than Kevin Rudd’s politicisation of the issue.

So Hunt, by virtue of political expediency, now has to stand at media conferences and advocate climate change measures for which he ought to need several Botox injections in order to maintain a straight face. This week he insisted that his “Direct Action” policy could start straight away, without legislation, an entirely accurate statement insofar as the winner-picking part goes: Direct Action is in essence a giant industry handouts program that can be allocated under existing appropriations without drama.

More problematic is the baseline emissions component, under which — notionally — businesses could be fined for exceeding their baseline emissions — so long as it doesn’t inhibit business growth. Exactly how this dilemma will be resolved is a matter for a White Paper in coming months. You can bet any baseline emissions scheme will be carefully structured to ensure no one but the most egregious polluter risks being fined, but either way, it will need legislation.

“Our youth are entitled to wonder whether … they should take some direct action of their own. Action to shut down the loaders and ports that export coal.”

Direct Action will have little impact on emissions, and certainly far far less than that required to meet Australia’s minimalist bipartisan 5% reduction target, which is why Treasury costs the program much higher than the Coalition will budget for it. Moreover, Hunt’s programs have already been nibbled away at in the Coalition savings program, and will undoubtedly face heavy going in the Expenditure Review Committee between now and the next budget. Hunt’s colleagues know Direct Action is a figleaf for climate inaction, and at several billion dollars it’s a hideously expensive one to maintain.

Hunt’s best hope is that, in the absence of a carbon price, the Australian economy continues to grow below trend and we fail to address the gouging of government-owned electricity companies, whose ongoing price hikes have played a useful role in curbing electricity demand in recent years. In that context, gold-plating and over-engineering have been a longer-lasting, more effective carbon price than the real thing.

In the longer term, however, the planet will continue to warm and our summers will become more extreme. Australia’s world-beating carbon addiction will go on, the first-mover opportunities for investment in renewables will continue to be squandered and the cost of ending Australia’s carbon addiction — which will have to happen at some point in coming decades — will continue, as Treasury has explained, to grow with every delay. Most of all, Australia’s capacity to drive international agreements to stave off very dangerous levels of climate change — levels that will inflict colossal economic damage on Australia by the end of the century — will be undermined.

Climate inaction is thus a direct wealth transfer from our children and their children and subsequent generations to ourselves, in the higher costs of adaptation and reducing the emissions intensity of the Australian economy. It’s a cost we have consciously selected through politicians like Kevin Rudd — who at least had the good grace to admit his mistake — Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt. Business-as-usual politicians convinced their own personal and partisan political ends are more important than the giant rip-off they’re perpetrating on subsequent generations.

What did you do when we could still have stopped it, our grandkids might ask about climate change, to which we can only answer “we took the easy, the expedient, way out. We put mediocrities and clowns like Hunt in charge. We placed the almost negligible cost of abatement action ahead of the massive costs you’re now paying for through higher taxes, more expensive insurance, lower economic growth.”

Sorry, kids, but we squibbed it. Squibbed it when it wasn’t even a hard choice to make for anyone with a basic grasp of maths.

In a world governed by Rudds and Abbotts and Hunts, in which a functional carbon pricing scheme will actually be removed and replaced with a nonsensical scheme even the creators of which know is a joke, our youth are entitled to wonder whether, in the absence of genuine political action, they should take some direct action of their own. Action to shut down the loaders and ports that export coal. Action to shut down coal-fired power plants. Actions to shut down the electricity-greedy industries we prop up, like aluminium smelting. Such action will be expensive, and damaging, and inequitable, and dangerous, but in the absence of real policies from political adults, it’s better than a status quo that will punish our youth as future taxpayers and citizens.

Better than what we adults have been able to manage.


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73 thoughts on “Climate policy: when adults squib it, youth should take direct action

  1. Jimmy

    Very good article BK – I fear history will judge us very harshly on this issue and in time they will look back and ask “Exactly why did people vote out the ALP for Tony Abbott?

  2. mikehilliard

    Bernard I suspect you have some passion for this argument, good on you.

  3. peter@bonifacio

    Excellent article. Straight to the essence of the issue.

  4. Burt Chris

    Bush fires in Australia? Whatever next? What we do in Australia is completely irrelevent to a solution that would have the smallest impact on a global basis. The carbon tax here has proven to be unpopular and ineffective so the people have decided a different approach to be preferable. BK as per normal practice ignores their veiws and dismisses anyone who has a different view.

  5. Trevor Kerr

    :))) Bernard
    Like to venture an opinion on the mood in the Turnbull household today, after Hunt’s routine? The canvas is all yours, 70% of the outlets will be looking the other way.

  6. Roger Clifton

    Before we urge the youngsters to wreck their studies, their careers and their relationships with old friends and extended family, we oldies should remember the lessons hard-learnt during the anti-Vietnam unrest.

    Most powerfully, youngsters can use their vote. Persuading their contemporaries is the safest and most effective activity for young revolutionaries.

    Even then, as many religious groups did in the 1970s, there comes a time when the oldies must stand up and back a youngster who has got him/herself into trouble on principle.

    We oldies must face the music too. Why did we use the weasel word “reduce”, when we should have used the word “replace”? Why did we aim our armchair attacks at coal, but never at gas? Why did we fail to provide non-carbon electricity to essential industries like aluminium smelting?

  7. Hunt Ian

    Burt Chris makes some short completely wrong comments. Yes, what Australia does on it its own will not reduce global warming much. No doubt Burt Chris has tramped on many lawns reasoning that what he does to the lawn by himself will not affect it much. Burt Chris has got to grasp that what will slow global warming is concerted action by everyone, especially the bigger polluters, which includes Australia. By faking it, we undermine the confidence that every country needs to have that others will do something if we do something.

    As Brian Toohey points out in the AFR, any action must concentrate on supporting new technologies that will make demand for electricity elastic (Greg Hunt: it is inelastic only if you assume constant technology) and reduce other sources of emissions and, as he does not point out, accelerate the introduction of these new technologies by imposing the cost of permits on polluters, with the number of permits reducing over time. Done on a global scale this will prevent or temper the unfairness to future generations that BK rightly sees in the embrace of Abbott & Co and business groups. But then business rules, as Tony points out with his audit process, which will take up and recommend all the “good” work that business has already done in anticipation of the return of “their” government. Bernard is right: our younger generations need to demand that we don’t leave them with a lousy future. good luck to them.

  8. __PG__

    Australian contains a large fraction of the planet’s fossil fuels reserves. The policies Australians choose will have a significant impact on the planet’s future climate.

  9. Jimmy

    Hunt Ian – You beat me to the logic flaw form Burt Chris – it is like me saying I shouldn’t have to apy tax because my small tax amount wouldn’t effect anything.

    Burt Chris – “Bush fires in Australia? Whatever next?” How many bushfires of this scale have we had in October?
    And please see Hunt Ian’s comments.

  10. zut alors

    A good piece, Bernard.

    It’s particularly galling to hear politicians (such as Barnaby Joyce on Q&A last Monday) spouting that non-renewable forms of energy guarantee jobs. Jobs!! That four-letter magic word which they hope will shut down any intelligent debate.

    Joyce’s dumbo response assumes nobody would be employed in the renewable energy industry – apparently it would be bereft of staff and run itself. The logic is to stick with outdated 20th century mentality and practices which brought the planet to this precarious point.

  11. drmick

    Well you and your di@kead mates put that di@khead and hio mates in, so thanks a lot B Keane. According to you it will be 16 years before we get a government in that even understands the problem. Good work.

  12. __PG__

    BTW Bernard you forgot to mention that Gillard also ‘squibbed’ it and it required the Greens and Independents holding a political gun to the ALP’s head before they acted like grown-ups.

  13. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    I don’t like to rely on Andrew Bolt whom I don’t regularly read but this quote has just been sent to me from what, apparently, is a more extensive attack on the ABC’s coverage of the bushfires:

    Claim: “It’s certainly the first time bushfires of this magnitude have happened in October,” reported Lateline. Added Radio National’s Fran Kelly: “We’ve always dealt with fire, but not necessarily in October.”

    Fact: In October 1928 the Sydney Morning Herald reported Sydney was “encircled by bushfires”.

    In October 1948, the Herald reported “the village of Termeil, 12 miles from Ulladulla, was practically destroyed” …

    In October 1951, 100 bushfires raged around Sydney in what the Herald described as “the worst in history”. NSW has in fact had more than a dozen big fires in October or earlier in the past 90 years.

  14. Pedantic, Balwyn

    An excellent article Bernard in most ways, but somewhat harsh on Rudd. If my memory serves me well there was bipartisan agreement, including under Howard, on taking action to address climate change; with Turnbull supporting Rudd’s CPR Scheme. Abbott proceeded to oppose all legislation to address climate change and came up with the Great Big Tax campaign to beat up on Rudd. Abbott surely politicised the whole matter, exploiting a natural desire to keep money firmly in our own pockets (regardless of compensation)and of course a general dislike of those smarter than ourselves, like scientists!

  15. Jimmy

    Warren – I am not saying they have never happenned but I think the critical point is “of this magnitude” – a vllage being knocked off in 1948 is hardly the same as what has happenned here.

  16. Timehhh

    It’s OK Bernard, we Gen Ys and Zs will pay for the economic impacts of climate change with the savings we make on pensions and aged care (shortly after the “compulsory euthanasia for anyone born before 1970” laws take effect).

    Seems only fair.

    I am joking, for anyone who’s missing the sarcasm detection area of the brain.

  17. Tom Stayner

    Spot on Bernard. Just one thing though: if it makes sense for “youth” to take this kind of direct action, why not “adults” as well? Plenty of civil disobedience tends to include enthusiastic participation from older generations – our elders behaving like elders, if you like – and I reckon it would only benefit from more. (See the Knitting Nannas Against Gas for a very non-threatening example from the campaign to stop CSG.)

  18. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    One example out of three which might favour your argument isn’t a great score. And it is only “might”.

    We are of course going to experience all sorts of events as bigger than ever before simply because of increases in population and in the number of houses in fire or flood prone areas and, indeed, the size of houses.

    I doubt if there were ever more than 100 people lost in an aircraft accident before the 1950s. So one could easily exaggerate the danger of commercial airlines in the late 20th and early 21st centuries by simply citing numbers of people killed in the worst airline disasters. But we all know that flying, despite the growth of traffic, is safer than ever.

  19. @chrispydog

    Renewable energy, well hydro, was a bigger percentage of our electricity production in the 1960’s than all renewables are today.

    Think about it: in 5 decades, the proportion of coal in our energy mix has risen inexorably. Coal now produces about ten times the amount of electricity it did in the 1960’s.

    More ‘wind and solar’ is doing nothing but giving some people a nice inner glow. Emissions may have dipped due to a drop in demand, but the fact is we are coal junkies.

    The Brits have just signed up for a French/Chinese funded and built 3.2GW of nuclear, which will run for 60yrs (as against 25-30yrs for offshore turbines).

    We can pretend solar and wind are making a difference, or face the facts, on their own they just enabling more fossil fuels, not replacing them.

    And that nuclear power from Hinkely Point, it’s electricity will come in under the strike price of all current renewable technologies.

    Think about it, or just keep mumbling the same mantras that have stopped us from ditching coal.

  20. @chrispydog

    Errant apostrophe…”its”

  21. Jimmy

    Warren – My original question was “How many bushfires of this scale have we had in October?” You said their had been 12 “big” fires in 90 years – I wouldn’t say that is a lot but also from the info provided by you I can’t know what “big” is in comparison to what we have experienced now – did any of those fires have a 300km front?

    What I do know (and I am sure you do too) is that Mr Blot is a master of the half truth and only arguing part of the opposition argument – he points to other fires knowing that most of his readers (if not all) won’t do the research to see if those fires were as bad as he said.

    Also in opposition to your “greater population” argument is “the greater resources/technology” argument – how many fire fighting aircraft did the 1928 fire fighters deploy? How much worse would htese fires have been if we were using 1951 technology?

  22. Jimmy

    Warren – When I googled “Sydney fire October 1951” I got an article from October 24 1951 – Which said “scores” of firemen fought 3 fires in teh southern suburbs of sydney, the most serious swept through 400 acres of scrub between loftus and Engadine and had a front “2 miles wide”.

    Another fire burnt out 60 acres.

    Not sure if this is “the worst in history” Mr BLot referred to but it doesn’t seem as bad as the onces we have now.

  23. The Hood

    Bernard you say we are led by clowns like Abbott and Hunt but I believe they are more puppets than clowns. It’s who is pulling their strings that counts, the vested interests who have been working hard to turn around public opinion since 2007. I am talking about Uncle Rupert, an asortment of other billionaires, the big energy companies and their industry associations and the numerous so called think tanks all working tirelessly to confuse voters on this issue to the point that mediocrities, like Abbott can waltz into office on a climate change policy of Direct Inaction.

  24. Percy Pigeon

    Careful Bernard, you’re starting to sound like you’re inciting ‘eco-terrorism’.

    Have you read ‘Green is the New Red’, by American journalist Will Potter?

  25. drmick

    My town and my family nearly burned down this because the same electrical poles and wires that I have been screwed for 1000% increases to my bill to replace, touched and unleashed hell.
    If these arsehats are serious, they will take my $3000+ a year and bury their fur@king rolls royce cables like most civilised countries and like they should have done in the past. What cased black sunday? Oh…. was it power lines touching? ArSeholes the lot of them; and you made abbot number one mover and shaker; well tell your mate we mountain folk are not happy

  26. Tamas Calderwood

    “In the longer term, however, the planet will continue to warm and our summers will become more extreme. ”

    There has been no global warming for 15 years.

    The world has warmed just 0.8C in the past 150 years.

    That 0.8C warming came in three roughly equal spurts: 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998, despite Co2 emission being higher in the latter periods..

    Why are these facts ignored?

  27. CML

    I agree with Pedantic #14, Bernard. You are far too harsh on Rudd and the Labor government he led, and I don’t think the facts support your argument.
    Rudd introduced an admissions trading scheme (ETS) twice into the Senate, where it was defeated both times. How about you blame the Greens for that, since they voted against it twice? Was it a perfect scheme? No. But it could have been amended along the way, and at least we would have had something.
    Should Rudd have called for a double dissolution over this issue? Perhaps, although the Senate just elected, with its collection of ‘strange’ people, would suggest that he made the correct decision not to do so. Probably would have ended up with a Senate twice as bad as this one, since the quota to be elected would have been around half! Therefore, Rudd had no choice but to drop the ETS at the time, because he couldn’t get it through the parliament, even after he had “watered it down”, as you put it. I am outraged that you lump Rudd together with Abbott and Hunt, when the latter two don’t even believe in climate change, regardless of what they say to the public. The Labor party has had a policy to deal with climate change for over twenty years, but as always, politics is the art of the possible.
    However, the remainder of your article I agree with. The sooner some of these stupid voters accept the inevitable, the better chance we have of reducing the effects of dangerous climate change, and limiting the damage for our grandchildren and their children. Selfish lot around today!

  28. Steve777

    Great article Bernard, although I take issue with you’re lumping Kevin Rudd with Tony Abbott. Kevin Rudd made a bad decision in 2010 after trying to implement the plan that he agreed with the Coalition but which the Coalition subsequently reneged on. And Kevin Rudd did go to the 2013 election with a plan for an ETS. BUT Abbott and company have withdrawn Australia from any meaningful action on Climate Change, most likely for a decade or more.

  29. The Hood


    There has been global warming over the past 15 years. The rate of INCREASE in average surface temperatures has been slower than pre 1998, that is all and the increase in temperatures in the oceans continues to rise unabated. Try and look at the big picture and not cherry pick one data set and then misinterpret the trends.

  30. Steve777

    I think everything should be on the table in weaning the country off Coal, including nuclear. Nuclear has problems but they are outweighed by the urgency of the need to ‘decarbonise’ over the next few decades. We’ve got plenty of room to store the waste, which while long lasting is small in volume. As for the dangers of nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands – I think that horse has long since bolted.

  31. AR

    Unfortunately, if we ceased using fire tomorrow, the accumulated carbon dioxide is still pushing the world towards tipover point when the Russian & Canadian permafrost regions turn soggy. When they release their stored methane it will have far more deleterious effects than CO2.
    This leaves the “Lomborg” option, plan to cope coz it ain’t goona cease just coz Tony Canute sez it’s krap.

  32. The Hood

    AR good point, this is the scary part of it all. Last week I was at a climate change workshop and an expert was pointing out that a 2 C increase in global average temperatures actually means 16 degrees increase in the arctic regions. The climate models don’t include the other greenhouse gas inputs from tipping points like permafrosts emitting megatons of methane, they only model man made inputs. All our modelling is very conservative to avoid easy shots from the denialist industry. By the way I work for a major water utility, an engineering and scientific organisation, we aren’t having a debate on climate change, we are working out how to deal with the impact.

  33. Mark Duffett

    Who are we outsourcing our aluminium smelting to, then? Will the planet thank us for it?

    “First mover advantages on renewables”? That ship sailed years ago. Try asking Germany how it worked out for them (hint: all the tech and manufacturing is headed for China).

    It’s all very well calling for 1968-esque yoof to the barricades, but a vague mention of renewables doesn’t begin to address the question of how best to replace coal. We continue to vainly await the turning of the Keane analytical mind to the issue. He could do worse than to start here: zerocarbonoptions.com

  34. Patriot

    Greenpeace just tried something along these lines. It didn’t work out for them. Nonetheless, go for it, kids. Can’t wait to see all of you bludging hippies thrown in gaol.

  35. Mike Flanagan

    Oh so right Bernard, but oh so tardy Bernard!

  36. MJPC

    Patriot; Greenpeace tried something and achieved their aims. They publicised the insanity of drilling for oil in pristine environments, we need to be reminded constantly of such folly such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.
    This time Greenpeace got free, often front page, coverage in the world media, forced politicians of those arrested as “pirates” to explain why they are not interceeding for their citizens and now the Russkies have downgraded the charges to ruffians (?). Destruction of the environment will not only affect bludging hippies, but also rampant capitalists and everyone in between.

  37. lpcf

    Well said Bernard. Rudd, like Beazley with asylum seekers, was weak when challenged by Abbott on the ETS, but Abbott and Hunt have been the drivers of the lies about Carbon Pricing.You are right, they must be fought on the streets. This is the only way some steel may be put in the spine of Labor, but under the rightwing factional leadership of Shorten, that may be a quixotic dream.

  38. Des Bellamy

    We can’t all afford to buy hybrid cars or instal solar panels. But the best way to combat climate change is simply with our knives and forks – stop eating animal flesh, drinking the breast milk and eating the eggs of other species. The ABS reports that 10% of our greenhouse gas emission is from enteric fermentation – cows and sheep belching and farting. That’s 55 million tonnes we can save just by eating healthy, vegan foods.

  39. K.D. Afford

    It is seriously time for some protest marches by the youth, they are the ultimate sufferers of our political ignorance. When the Minister needs Wikipedia to see what is happening, the same involved in disbanding the climate commission, we must concede we have an idiot at the wheel.
    Time for reaction.

  40. Patriot

    “They publicised the insanity of drilling for oil in pristine environments, we need to be reminded constantly of such folly such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.”

    Come now. I’m sure most everyone knows of these things and has an opinion already. Give the great unwashed a bit of credit. They’re not empty vessels waiting to be filled with Greenpeace’s truth

  41. MJPC

    I give the great unwashed no credit, it was them that voted in the current crop of flat earthers, one of whoms quotable source of scientific authority is wikipedia (and who populated the site- Lord Monckton?), obviously Hunt isn’t aware of the Bureau of Meteorology site which tells a different story for Australia based on fact and observations.

  42. Warren Joffe

    @ BK

    Never have you disclosed such grandiloquent fantasies of your vastly superior intelligence. You really need to justify what your readers infer from

    “Climate inaction is thus a direct wealth transfer from our children and their children and subsequent generations to ourselves, ……… It’s a cost we have consciously selected ……the giant rip-off they’re perpetrating on subsequent generations.

    What did you do when we could still have stopped it, our grandkids might ask about climate change, to which we can only answer “we took the easy, the expedient, way out. We put mediocrities and clowns like Hunt in charge. We placed the almost negligible cost of abatement action ahead of the massive costs you’re now paying for through higher taxes, more expensive insurance, lower economic growth.

    Sorry, kids, but we squibbed it. Squibbed it when it wasn’t even a hard choice to make for anyone with a basic grasp of maths.”

    The connection you completely fail to make in this lofty emission is between it being OUR (Australian) grandchildren and the policies which should be adopted. A basic grasp of maths would appear to make it at least possible that you could see the point of assessing (a) whether anything is going to prevent climate change from already unavoidable increases in emissions and continuing feedbacks; (b) whether anyone will be better off in Australia or anywhere else because we, in Australia, spend money on abatement of emissions here rather than on other measures to cope with the possible consequences of climate change [do you know what even IPCC scientists say is the realistic outcome when you blithely say “when we could still have stopped it”**?]

    We price ourselves out of any business which depends for its competitiveness on cheap power and where does it actually leave us? You and I mightn’t feel it much, or our grandchildren, but opportunity costs are logical inevitabilities so please show us some maths, albeit not as simple as you would like if you take care over the values of parameters and variables. Who bears the brunt of our moral choice to spend on feeling comfortable about our AGW stand? Could you persuade them that your choice for them was right in the long run – assuming the understand a little maths, and logic?

    **apologies for citing Bolt again [same communication as yesterday] but have you some alternative view of the fact alleged by Bolt in

    “But so what? Both Abbott’s “direct action” scheme and Labor’s carbon tax would at best cut the world’s temperature this century by 0.0038 degrees, according to IPCC author Professor Roger Jones.”

  43. AR

    In a changing world, one can always rely on PatrIdiot to go lower the a snake’s belly.

  44. kakadu

    What a great article. This is the legacy we leave for our children. A almost unliveable world. And the bufoons we have elected just keep the show going.

  45. himi

    A little more of this kind of thing /before/ the election might have been nice, and in particular a bit more argument in favour of the last government’s implemented policies. A bit more noise from people with a media supplied loudhailer might have made it a little harder for Abbott to scare everyone into putting him in charge of the next couple of years.


  46. Lubo Gregor

    I don’t know if Hunt has any kids, but something is telling me that it won’t be Rudd’s, Abbott’s and Hunt’s children and grandchildren that will be: “paying for (their fathers political games) through higher taxes, more expensive insurance, lower economic growth”…

  47. Rohan

    Warren Joffe@42.

    What you and most other psuedo-realists don’t understand is that people who actually *get* climate change (and it’s a fair bet that Bernard does) are acutely aware of the issues you raise, and have spent well over 15 years grappling with a range of possible targeted solutions.

    It’s the bloody-minded intransigence of the denialist crowd that has made, and continues to make any potential solutions impossible to implement.

    The nub of it is that policies that look stupid and naive today would have been far less controversial and painful for the economy if implemented when they were first proposed.

    Now it’s too late.

  48. Coaltopia

    Grand-kid: “So, what the f*ck happened?”
    Grand-dad: “I dunno. CBF? If inaction was greed, I didn’t see a bloody dollar out of it. I can barely afford this adaptation tax as it is. Hey – close the window, the geo-engineered sulfur’s bad today.”
    Grand-kid: “Was the sky really blue?”

  49. Harry Rogers

    Warren Joffe,

    You make very relevant points however, emotional rhetoric is the tenor of discussion on this subject these days particularly in Crikey.

    Bernard, who generally is quite considered in his arguments, now appears to have fallen prey to the “preaching to the converted lynch mob” as a solution to a problem which need to be worked through on the basis of outcomes..pretty much the way mankind has successfully survived for thousands of years.

    However people have always loved the basis of “we’ll all be ruined said Hanrahan!!”

  50. Warren Joffe

    @ Rohan

    You actually strengthen the force of the points I was making (which you may or may not have understood). Your “I wouldn’t be starting from here” line doesn’t deal with the reality that has to be faced by decision makers today, in and for Australia. For example it is a genuinely important question to answer whether it would be better to spend the marginal half billion on trying to ensure that future outer suburban developments were effectively fire proof rather than on increasing the proportion of electricity generated by wind power (when there is wind), or perhaps on storage of solar generated power and the production or purchase of the equipment needed to deal with large quantities of DC current….

  51. Roger Clifton

    @Warren Joffe : No one said anything about wind or solar, let alone any (incorrect) assertions about needing DC equipment. But we do want our leaders to ask the engineering profession: “How do we provide Australia with say, 50 GW of reliable, non-carbon power?”

  52. Mike Flanagan

    Well said Rohan. There is a lot to be admired of the recent implementation of the LA Time Editorial policy to deny people air space and time unless they, the denier fraternity, have something constructive to offer.

  53. Rohan

    Warren Joffe@49.

    If you genuinely think that the (very real) social and economic pain for Australians involved with substantially cutting our carbon intensity exceeds that associated with attempting to ‘adapt’ to even 2 additional degrees of warming down the track (let alone the absurdity of 4+), and that other countries will never under any circumstances follow our example (as the scorched Earth denialists assert) then your position is fair enough.

    But you have to acknolwedge that it’s a solution with a very limited life span. We’ll still get royally screwed by our carbon dependency.

  54. Warren Joffe

    @ Roger Clifton

    Yours is a puzzling comment. “No one said anything about wind or solar etc.” Surely you cannot be intending to imply that neither solar or wind generation of electricity have anything to do with what Bernard wrote of comments on it? No, really, you can’t mean that so what do you mean?

    My point is all about spending money in the best possible way for Australians. And that does require subsidies or regulatory regimes which favour solar or wind power to be compared with other ways of spending money because of what we fear AGW will bring about.

    Clearly you do not have an economics or investment background but maybe you know something about engineering. That I infer from your willingness to say, again rather off the point (which was only enlivening the imagination about opportunity costs), that DC equipment is not needed.

    If you do have some relevant expertise perhaps you could explain about the place of DC power if renewables are the subject matter. My understanding is that photovoltaic cells produce DC power and that, if there is storage in batteries (as opposed to pumped water for example) the electric output from them will be DC.

  55. Roger Clifton

    @Warren Joffe

    In Bernard’s article, he referred to “renewables” in the sense that accountants use it, (or Deloittes anyway) as being collectively, all non-carbon sources of electricity.

    That does include hydro, but expansion is not sustainable. The term does include wind-plus-storage, solar-plus-storage and tide-plus-storage etc, but currently the necessary revolution in storage has yet to happen. Nuclear is sustainable indefinitely, or at least far longer than the lifetime of our species.

    The costs of previous generation nuclear has been laid out by Ziggy Switkowski in the UMPNER Report – that a carbon price would make nuclear competitive. As a (apparently) economist, you would understand what global mass production would do to the costs of nuclear, hitherto one-at-a-time.

    Anyway, in a global emergency akin to a state of war, cost is no object.

  56. Warren Joffe

    @ Rohan 52

    My point is that these things need to be argued (and of course calculated as well as possible with allowances for uncertainty) and not just assumed as BK has when he doesn’t even deal with alternatives of opportunity costs, not even conceptually.

    What do you say has a “very limited life span”, how limited and on what basis do you say that?

    Are you aware of the quite respectably sourced calculations that suggest that global warming of say 2 degrees up to about the year 2080 would be beneficial, though with some losers as well as winners? If so, your implied assertion that there is no case for spending Australians money on adapting rather that preventing emissions (at least to some significant degree) shows an unusual blindness to the lessons of history and the possibilities of change in much shorter times than 67 years. But you seem to think that this approach depends on assuming that other countries won’t follow our own (emissions cutting) example and I suggest that it does not. In reality what other countries do will not be following our example, as such, though they may follow the example of the EU, USA or China, and we actually do better out of adopting an adaptation strategy if others do the heavy lifting of cutting emissions and we don’t spend our money that way. OK, so you may want to deploy a moral premise here but that’s a different argument,i.e the one which says we shouldn’t be free riders even if we can be. When you say we will get “screwed” by our “carbon dependency” that is an assertion which also needs argument. You wouldn’t, of course, be suggesting that China, which imports such a large part of our coal output, would support any kind of sanctions against us. Like France and Italy which have spent decades cheating other EU countries we wouldn’t have much of a problem getting away with being laggards. I would be interested to know how you think we might be “screwed” just because some or most of our electricity producers, and motorists, continue to choose the currently cheapest way to operate which is to burn carbon based fuels – the coals, natural gas or petroleum fractions.

  57. Warren Joffe

    re BK….”doesn’t even deal with alternatives OR opportunity costs”

  58. Warren Joffe

    @ Roger Clifton

    I’m with you on nuclear, if not entirely for the same reasons or ending up in exactly the same place.

    I’m not sure about your hopes for economies of scale. I think there are some suppliers of off-the-shelf nuclear power generating plants, possibly mostly French, but there would be, and I believe is, so much research going into improvements with respect to cost as well as security, that I doubt if the economies of scale are going to amount to much.

  59. Liamj

    I think AGW deniers should be allowed their public protestations; it’ll make it easier to i.d them when its triage time, or at least for rationing aged & health care. What to do about the weak-kneed like ‘Patriot’ who hide behind nom de plumes?

  60. Warren Joffe

    @ Liamj

    How very demeaning of you Liamj. I’m sure “Patriot” is an old fashioned educated gentleperson who is using a “nom de guerre” – not that English confection nom de plume….

    And what sort of nom is yours? BTW, if he’s on the right tram, which I haven’t checked, he’ll benefit from my triage system up to late in this century at least because his money has been put aside for looking after the elderly rather than used to kill rare birds and ruin heritage sites with wind farms….

  61. Silver Lining

    Bushfires are the least of our problems, although they make great TV. Our crops will fail as temps rise and bees become extinct. What we will we eat then? Coal?

  62. Warren Joffe

    @ Silver Lining

    If your are shooting for fame for alarmist predictions based on dubious claims to expertise you should be aware that Prof Tim Flannery is still alive and still talking. Just for warm up though in case you get on the 7.30 report what about telling us which parts of the world will suffer so much that the crops fail and what is the timing for your predictions. Maybe we’ll be inporting things grown in northern Siberia after about 2070. Are you likely to be around to pay up on a bet at that time?

  63. Hamis Hill

    I thought this was all about young people taking things into their own hands on the environment, because no one else will?
    Instead it degenerates into the usual idiot fest.

  64. Warren Joffe

    @ Hanis Hill

    Out of the mouth of babes, yes, of course. The young may be excused their strong feelings about things they have no more sound reason to believe than the stuff they were told was true by priests, pastors and other assorted gurus. After education at a good university and some time earning a living ignorance and woolly thinking is not so easily excused….

  65. Andrew Dolt

    Tamas, your “facts” are ignored because they are not facts. They are PRATTs (Points Refuted a Thousand Times). They are things you would like to believe which are not true. You have not read the IPCC Report. You are parroting rubbish from denialist blogs.

  66. Andrew Dolt

    Warren Joffe, on what basis do you assign NASA, CSIRO, the Bureau of Metereology, the National Science Academies of many different countries, the Royal Society of London, 97% of climate scientists, etc etc, the same credibility as priests, pastors and other assorted gurus? You scoff at scientists and instead rely on Andrew Bolt the Climate Dolt. I’m not seeing any legs to stand on, Warren, I’m just seeing a dick.

  67. James Wrangler

    “Action to shut down coal-fired power plants.” – If they do that how are we suppose to read the absolute dribble you and your fellow leftists write.

  68. Liamj

    @ Warren Joffe – you repeat wind farm myths in most of your posts. If you have some capital gain at risk you should chip in to the Institute for Public Affairs astroturf ‘Australian Environment Foundation’, their antiwind confusionism is available to highest bidder.

  69. Warren Joffe

    @ Andrew Dolt

    You remind me of Sheridan’s splendid jibe which included reference to relying on imagination for one’s facts. You extrapolate out of your own preconceptions far beyond anything that I said justified. I merely pointed out that insisting on sticking to the possible wisdom of babes, as HH seemed to advocate, was inherently not soundly based.

  70. Warren Joffe

    @ Liamj

    Can you elaborate on “you repeat wind farm myths in most of your posts”? I am not sure what this could be about.

    Evident wind farm truths – not myths – would be 1. that few indeed would be built without subsidy or regulation which gave them an advantage over coal and even natural gas because they are one way to achieve renewable targets mandated (in Australia’s case) by political requirements which are fairly obvious so I need not spell out. 2. they cannot be relied on to produce power when most needed though theoretically one might have a whole continent with different winds likely to blow at different times linked up
    by a grid which gave some, but not enough, semblance of base power provision. 3. They could, theoretically, be used to pump water for peak load hydro or even for storage in some super capacity batteries but this would already be done somewhere on a large enough scale to give credibility if there was a buck in it rather than the likelihood of loss without taxpayer subsidies which don’t apply or apply in such large measure to existing power generators. 4. They are not, in most people’s judgment aesthetically good for the environment – indeed quite the opposite when, as has happened near Beaufort in Victoria for example, they are built next to heritage sites for which landscape values are important – and capable of having an economic value put on them. This may be the least of the economic arguments. However, they all add up to a serious prima facie case against including wind farms in the mix. Tidal or wave power I have retained a sentiment for but they too, no doubt, fail the test of not making money as efficiently as coal or gas fired generators.

    In the end, apart from nuclear power which could have a very long working life ahead of it (and not inconsistent with a modern First World economy if France’s example is representative), the energy of the sun is the answer. That could be said to include wind and wave, though not tidal, but it will be efficient conversion of arriving photons into power, longevity of plant, and efficient storage which solve our problems for hundreds of years to come. (Hydrogen fuel for cars and road transport? Maybe but that probably is secondary to, and dependent on, the basic production of electricity) Yes, I can foresee the day when a third grader will hear “Can you imagine it? All that coal that we now turn into a thousand different carbon based plastics and other liquids and solids use to be burned!!!”)

    In the meantime can you defend your case on wind farms?

  71. Warren Joffe

    @ Andrew Dolt

    Just to help you with your thinking a little more. Try and consider why you would think a 19 year old Arts student (say) would exhibit more, or less, reliable understanding and judgment on scientific experts’ assertions and reasoning than those whose expertise is in theology, apologetics, Islamic Studies or whatever religious expertise has been inflicted on them?

    When those several levels above the average Crikey blogger-with-attitude (and strong opinions) like Court of Appeal judges can have their approach to a case and their reasoning overthrown by a superior court (in our case the High Court) would it not be advisable to teach the young how to think before encouraging them to organise in support of whatever opinions happen to engage their minds at a tender age?

    Even the admirable spirit of generosity which is often a large part of the cause of young people supporting causes which may well cost them, their parents, siblings or children real money does not make it compulsory to applaud anything more than their altruistic spirits.

  72. Hamis Hill

    Warren’s fears concerning young people following BK’s urgings, and taking environmental action on global warming into their own hands, can only be justified if one accepts that the young have been hopelessly and deliberately “infantilised”, as part of the conservative political tactic of “dumbing down” the populace by the their media accomplices, as warned of, all those years ago, by Jana Wendt, and so the young are thus insufficiently wise to take responsible action, even if they did take action at all.
    Though perhaps Warren has other, less ugly, arguments in mind to justify his position.
    Such as it is good for the young to be given a cotton-wool education, devoid of any political contention, lest their youthful proclivity for natural justice lead them to casting their future away on lost causes?
    Although we haven’t read those arguments yet have we, Warren?
    At what age do the young stop being silly-billy babies?
    When they wake up at age twenty five to a lifetime of job insecurity and crippling HECs debt, a debt taken on before the age of adult consent?
    Now there’s a good argument to rescind HECS debt, they were too infantilised to be responsible for the terms of the loan contract.
    Good one, Warren, those generations will applaud you for reliving them of the responsibility for their education debts.
    Hint, hint.

  73. Warren Joffe

    @ Hamis Hill

    I agree that young people are probably being encouraged to be over credentialled with useless degrees unless they are in the top 15 or 20 per cent of students and prospects of learning how to be useful enough to other people to earn a good wage, salary or fees which will disappoint them all the more for starting late.

    As for the rest I was simply, I think, just responding to the idea that BK’s completely loopy last par was worth treating as the subject of a thread. I mean

    “our youth are entitled to wonder whether, in the absence of genuine political action, they should take some direct action of their own. Action to shut down the loaders and ports that export coal. Action to shut down coal-fired power plants. Actions to shut down the electricity-greedy industries we prop up, like aluminium smelting. Such action will be expensive, and damaging, and inequitable, and dangerous, but in the absence of real policies from political adults, it’s better than a status quo that will punish our youth as future taxpayers and citizens.”

    BK obviously isn’t one of the handful in a million of Australians with authority to be so positive about anything to do with AGW or climate warming from whatever cause but for him to switch his brain off so completely as to imply that there is a case for Australia doing useless things and spending money that could be better spent in other ways for the benefit of future generations, Maldive Islanders and whoever is just ludicrous.

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