Home > Economic policy, Environment > The debate really is over now

The debate really is over now

November 15th, 2006

The scientific debate over the reality of anthropogenic global warming has been over for some time, but as long as the opponents of science continued to dominate the political process, it was necessary to combat their claims.

But with the Howard government now supporting emissions trading, at least in principle, and with the overwhelming majority of the public convinced of the need for action, that necessity has now passed, at least in Australia. The main task now is to encourage the government to adopt the most efficient and effective strategies for mitigation and adaptation, in co-operation with other countries. That obviously includes signing Kyoto (with the latest change in position and with Bush a lame duck there’s no reason not to), but it could also include getting the (so-far merely decorative) AP6 process to do some work.

Of course, at least some of the denialists will keep on denying. But they’re in a hole and I’m happy to let them keep on digging. At this point, they’ll do less harm banging on about the hockey stick than they would if they accepted the reality of global warming and used what’s left of their credibility in an attempt to derail any positive response.

So from now on, I’m not going to bother refuting the absurdities of Bolt, the Lavoiser Group and other denialists. Rather than make all those who’ve enjoyed the stoush here go cold turkey, I may put up more open threads from time to time, but my future posts will be about the economics and politics of our response.

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  1. November 15th, 2006 at 15:24 | #1

    Interesting that you accept Howard’s position on this as being the last word.

  2. November 15th, 2006 at 15:27 | #2

    C’mon Andrew, you heard him. The debate is *really* over now, so stop discussing things and start being carbon neutral !

  3. proust
    November 15th, 2006 at 15:42 | #3

    Fearmongering and scapegoating did wonders for Hitler too. But the world eventually extricated itself from that dark period, as it will from this latest round of nonsense.

    JQ, you never did tell us what you thought of the Stern report?

  4. wilful
    November 15th, 2006 at 15:43 | #4

    Oh this thread will go well, I can see it already.

    AP6 is a sound idea, alongside Kyoto.

    What I find hard to digest is how senior Coalition politicians talk about the need for a market solution, and dismiss Kyoto. WTF? One of it’s central themes is market based instruments. It’s rather probable that briefing notes from the bureaucracy have been rewritten so many times within the Ministers offices that they don’t actually have a clue about the contents of Kyoto. Time to recall Robert Hill from New York to tell them about it, I think.

    (Uncanny that the AP6 acronym is similar to the most likely candidate for an Australian nuclear reactor, the AP1000 ( http://www.ap1000.westinghousenuclear.com/ )).

  5. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2006 at 15:44 | #5

    Howard was the last significant obstacle to Australia adopting a sensible policy, so of course he had the last word.

  6. wilful
    November 15th, 2006 at 15:48 | #6

    Can you please help continuing to refute Bolt’s other absurdities?

  7. Sinclair Davidson
    November 15th, 2006 at 16:02 | #7

    ‘Howard was the last significant obstacle to Australia adopting a sensible policy, so of course he had the last word.’

    You very optimistic here. There is no reason to believe the government will adopt ‘sensible’ policy – just look at how convoluted the WorkChoice Legislation is.

  8. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2006 at 16:10 | #8

    A Godwin’s Law violation at comment #3! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so early in a thread.

  9. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2006 at 16:14 | #9

    Sinclair, I should have clarified. The Howard government now supports a sensible general approach to the problem (emissions trading). There is, as you say, no guarantee that the detailed implementaation will be sensible, and that’s where I plan to focus from now on.

  10. November 15th, 2006 at 16:26 | #10

    I’ve always wondered why so many people who come at climate change from a passionate economic or political viewpoint spend so much energy on the science of it and so little on the politics and economics.

    Good idea, let’s move on to the real issues.

  11. Simonjm
    November 15th, 2006 at 16:47 | #11

    I wonder if Howard thinks supporting some sort of emmission trading gives him enough greenie points so he can be taken seriously on AGW and can then role out his grand plan for nuc’s?

  12. November 15th, 2006 at 16:55 | #12

    Simonjm,
    If nuclear energy can be shown to be a way to safely reduce emissions, why not? Or do we say no just because it uses the “N” word?
    Personally, I am sceptical that nuclear can be done effectively on a cost basis, but I have no philosophical objection to it.

  13. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2006 at 16:56 | #13

    AR, I agree with both parts of your last comment

  14. November 15th, 2006 at 17:03 | #14

    Personally, I am sceptical that nuclear can be done effectively on a cost basis, but I have no philosophical objection to it.

    I have some philospohical concerns relating to externalised risks and the catastrophically long term nature of any nuclear disaster. I think that the scope for leaving a negative intergenerational mess with nuclear power is considerably elevated. I don’t believe these concerns are insurmountable but they are significant.

  15. Simonjm
    November 15th, 2006 at 17:32 | #15

    Andrew I’ve no problem what so ever of having nuclear on the table, as long as all aspects of the business is included i.e. security, waste, decommissioning.

    Once they are included I don’t think it will stack up but I’m willing to lets the facts speak for themselves.

    I do hope that would include Thorium based technology, if I had to have nuclear power, one that doesn’t create weapons grade waste would be preferred.

    If the environmentalists were smart they should be more than happy to see it on the table, like Howard and emissions trading, by giving ground on at least an investigation of nuclear it will help set an atmosphere more conducive to an open debate instead of knee-jerk pronouncements.

    Still not the slightest mention about energy efficiency, why is that do you think?

  16. Simonjm
    November 15th, 2006 at 18:01 | #16

    Also I would follow the trend in Europe for the business that creates the waste to take it back, so that would include us taking back any nuclear waste produced through our exports.

    But is that fair? CO2 energy exporters aren’t penalized in a similar way only the users.

    BTW it has been pointed out that if we bury C02 we are locking up oxygen, should that matter?

  17. November 15th, 2006 at 18:02 | #17

    Unless of course the rodent has been smart enough to be backed into a corner that the only way out of is clean coal and nuclear.

    “Still not the slightest mention about energy efficiency, why is that do you think?”
    Because clean coal and nuclear are only viable in large amounts. If we used less electricity then renewables become much more viable.

  18. November 15th, 2006 at 18:26 | #18

    Ender,

    How does that last statement make any sence. National or even state demand for electricity towers over the supply capacity of any single power plant.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  19. rog
    November 15th, 2006 at 21:23 | #19

    I think you will find that the carbon trading/nuclear debate will pave the way for the mining and export of uranium.

  20. rog
    November 15th, 2006 at 21:26 | #20

    “If we used less electricity then renewables become much more viable.”

    Therefore renewables are not viable.

  21. proust
    November 15th, 2006 at 21:28 | #21

    If the debate really is over why is it so damn cold?

  22. November 16th, 2006 at 00:24 | #22

    John,

    It is probably worth noting that some initial work has already been done on the potential design of an emissions trading scheme for Australia. There were a series of four discussion papers on this topic produced ny the Australian Greenhouse Office back in 1999. They are available online at the following website:

    http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/emissionstrading/papers/index.html .

    There is also other material on emissions trading available online (along with the discussion papers mentioned above) at the following website:

    http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/emissionstrading/ .

    Disclosure: I used to work in the Emissions Trading Team at the Australian Greenhouse Office. I was involved in the production of the following two discussion papers:

    Australian Greenhouse Office (1999), Establishing the boundaries, National Emissions Trading Discussion Paper 1, Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra; and

    Australian Greenhouse Office (1999), Issuing the permits, National Emissions Trading Discussion Paper 2, Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra.

    Regards,

    Damien.

  23. wronwright
    November 16th, 2006 at 02:47 | #23

    Well you can ignore the denialists. But what you cannot ignore is the fact that when the Kyoto Treaty went up to the US Senate for confirmation, it was sunk 0-95. That’s right, not one senator, no matter how left-leaning, voted for enacting it. There are simply too many problems with the science and the so-called solutions. Your best best is to continue denying the denialists and work for compliance by all countries other than the US. And then clasp hands and sing songs in celebration.

  24. November 16th, 2006 at 04:14 | #24

    Pretty shocking that Australia was alone on the island with the USA on Kyoto in the first place. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Bush is a complete, utter lame duck and more and more former ‘allies’ like Blair and Howard to break with him publicly…

    http://www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

  25. jquiggin
    November 16th, 2006 at 05:56 | #25

    Umm, the Kyoto treaty was never put up for confirmation to the US Senate.

    And the most recent relevant vote was on the McCain-Lieberman bill which went down 57-42. Quite a few of the “no” votes lost their seats a few weeks ago.

  26. grace pettigrew
    November 16th, 2006 at 06:19 | #26

    JQ – I come here for the latest on debunking denialists like Bolt, although a recent post on LP about the Stern Report was excellent. Keep up the good work. And would someone ask Bolt whether he knows what a “steady-state system” is, whether he understands “negative feedback”. Having lost public opinion on the line that “its not happening”, the denialists are now segueing into the line that its happening, but its a very slow process eg Peter Costello on Insiders last sunday telling us that we have 40-50 years to find a techno-fix because its only a very gradual increase in temps. These idiots seem to be wilfully blind to the fact that apparently minor but sustained disruptions to steady state systems like the global weather system (like 1-2 degrees C) can produce catastrophic changes, like wild swings in local weather, as the whole system wobbles out of balance. Icebergs floating past New Zealand, snow in November – these are small signals that something is going radically wrong (and the public knows it in their bones). Yet you will hear the denialists laughing like drains because its not getting hotter, but colder, for now.

  27. November 16th, 2006 at 07:17 | #27

    I know in my bones that another layer of government rules is like pissing on your own leg except without the warm feeling. Last time I checked I was a member of the public.

  28. wronwright
    November 16th, 2006 at 07:21 | #28

    Umm, the Kyoto treaty was never put up for confirmation to the US Senate. – Quiggins

    Cute. But you’re right. It wasn’t put up because Clinton knew it would fail. From Wikipedia:

    On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98)[37], which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”. On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations. The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Treaty

    Unless serious changes are made to the treaty and scientific research is performed that establishes to greater degree of certainty that man can do something meaningful to combat global warming, cooling, or just righting, it has no chance of being passed by the US Congress. Even one with a small Democrat advantage for the next two years. The US simply will not sacrifice bilions, perhaps trillions, of dollars of economic activity for a half-baked theory that will likely result in no discernable benefit.

    Thinking otherwise is simply engaging in academic fantasizing.

  29. November 16th, 2006 at 08:39 | #29

    Terje – “National or even state demand for electricity towers over the supply capacity of any single power plant. ”

    Not really the state peak summer demand for electricity in the South West Integrated System here in WA is about 3 GW. The total installed capacity of Australia is about 45GW
    http://www.esaa.com.au/media_releases/2005_media_releases/further_growth_in_australia's_electricity_consumption.html

    The point I am making is that to justify the enormous expense of nuclear power and/or carbon sequestration the utilities will have to sell a lot of electricity therefore energy conservation is not in their best interests. Both these systems emit large amounts of base load power which is only 30% of demand. Peak demand was 62.4% more than average demand.

    For a sustainable model with renewables, lower energy use and energy conservation are the first 2 vital steps. Fossil fuels can continue to supply a 30% baseload for as long as they last. Renewables plus storage in electric transport and distributed nodes can supply the rest. Electric transport solves the peak oil problem.

    And rog the fact that we need to conserve energy does not mean that renewables are not viable. In all things we need to reduce waste before thinking about new supplies.

  30. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 08:45 | #30

    “Icebergs floating past New Zealand, snow in November – these are small signals that something is going radically wrong (and the public knows it in their bones).”

    Don’t the denialists get it? The icebergs are fleeing the warming Antarctic! Can there be clearer evidence of glowbill whorming??

  31. Pseudonym (econwit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 09:10 | #31

    “The scientific debate over the reality of anthropogenic global warming has been over for some time”

    Professor,

    IMHO your assessment of the debate being “over” shows a clear disconnection from reality. Economics mainly deals with theory as opposed to reality; this could be a basis for misconceptions clouding your judgment on this issue.

    Rupert Murdock’s comments quoted in today’s SMH, would IMHO be a more balanced portrayal of the situation:
    “I don’t believe all the science about climate change is necessarily right. But I’ve heard enough about it to think maybe there’s a 10 or 20 per cent chance that it’s right and we owe it to the planet to take the insurance that they may just be right.”

    Paragraph 11

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/murdoch-rebukes-libs-on-tax/2006/11/15/1163266639817.html

  32. November 16th, 2006 at 09:38 | #32

    A useful piece on the no longer hidden crisis of ideological environmentalism.

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/28411.html

  33. November 16th, 2006 at 10:08 | #33

    For a sustainable model with renewables, lower energy use and energy conservation are the first 2 vital steps. Fossil fuels can continue to supply a 30% baseload for as long as they last. Renewables plus storage in electric transport and distributed nodes can supply the rest.

    Most renewables (with the exception of hydro) are not suited to peaking power or any form of despatch based supply. At best they can be aggregated to reduce the need for some output from base load sources, however they don’t necessarily relieve the need for conventional baseload capacity.

    Its fine to talk about storage however other than reverse pump hydro there are not many good large scale electricity storage options. And the small scale options (eg batteries) are very inefficient. Building more hydroelectric schemes generally faces stiff environmental opposition.

    There are a few scalable alternate energy sources on the drawing board however the inefficient use of electricity does not represent a barrier to entry.

  34. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 10:28 | #34

    “other than reverse pump hydro there are not many good large scale electricity storage options

    Building more hydroelectric schemes generally faces stiff environmental opposition.”

    That’s given me an idea. What if your reverse-pump hydro scheme used seawater? Build the renewable (say solar) power plant on top of an ocean cliff (in Australia we have no shortages of those). Put in some huge ponds (again on top of the cliff). During the day you fill up the ponds with seawater pumped up from the base of the cliff using excess electricity. At night you empty the ponds through some hydro turbines back into the ocean.

    Overnight load problem solved. No dams required.

  35. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 10:29 | #35

    Why on earth would anyone quote Rupert Murdoch as a respectable climatologist??

  36. Simonjm
    November 16th, 2006 at 10:33 | #36

    Terje Geothermal and ocean based thermal are suitable for base load plus I’ve already posted that a Sydney academic says we can meet emission cuts with renewables + gas in the short term.

    Don’t remember if that included energy efficiency but I imagine it would.

    Regarding hydro a study has just come out that they give off slightly more emissions than gas due to decomposition of organics in the dam.

    Some great topics in the last 2 Science Show

    Scienceshow
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/default.htm

    Britain considers personal carbon quotas
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1772097.htm#transcript

    Saturday 11 November 2006
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/ssw_20061111.mp3

    * 00:00: Nuclear reactors of the future – operation and security
    * 10.35: US attitudes to climate change
    * 15:18: Sunshade in space Read Transcript
    * 22:47: Global warming and economics
    * 30:30: Changing views to global warming
    * 33:46: How climate affected the rise of civilisation

  37. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 10:33 | #37

    In fact, there’s no need to situate the hydro storage scheme and the solar plant anywhere near each other: you just the solar plant and the storage scheme to be on the grid.

  38. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 10:40 | #38

    Simonjm, the results for hydro dams offgassing relate primarily to tropical dams, as I understand it. Temperate dams don’t rot at nearly the same rate. Though where a new dam could be put in Australia, and when it would be filled, are pertinent questions.

  39. pseudonym (econowit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 11:37 | #39

    Wilful said:

    “Why on earth would anyone quote Rupert Murdoch as a respectable climatologist?�

    I didn’t, I simply alluded to the fact that Murdoch’s opinion of the science as having a “10 or 20 per cent� chance of being correct as a sensible statement, especially when compared to an economists ludicrous view that the debate is over because the science is 100% correct.

  40. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 12:16 | #40

    nice try, but I don’t think anyone has ever asserted that the science is 100% correct. Although 100% of professionals in the field say that the science is essentially correct. By essentially, I would infer they mean much more than “maybe ten or twenty percent”.

  41. Pseudonym (econwit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 12:31 | #41

    That’s a cop out Wilful,

    They are either 100% correct and the debate is over or they are “essentially� (partially) correct and the debate is still on.

  42. Simonjm
    November 16th, 2006 at 12:50 | #42

    econwit which debate AGW or the cost of AGW?

  43. Pseudonym (econwit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 12:53 | #43

    “The debate really is over now” debate or

    “The scientific debate over the reality of anthropogenic global warming has been over for some time”
    debate.

  44. Pseudonym (econwit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 12:57 | #44

    I presume that would be both as one is reliant on the other.

  45. November 16th, 2006 at 13:03 | #45

    Simonjm,

    Geothermal and solar thermal and no doubt ocean thermal are all likely to be good sources of baseload power. Although scalable forms are mostly still on the drawing board. NZ has used geothermal for years but it only becomes scalable once you can make it work in a wider variety of locations.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  46. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:06 | #46

    Pseud, I presume you know enough about the scientific method to understand that we are well within confidence limits about the general theories and predictions of ACC. But science never claims to be 100% correct, there is plenty of space for discussion and refinement within the general acceptance of the existence of ACC.

    They are >95% correct (as close to 100% as would not concern a policy-maker) about the existence of ACC, they are now just cleaning up their predictive abilities. And they will never claim to be 100% correct, falsifiability and all that.

    So, the debate you are interested in having is over. The debates they need to have amongst themselves will continue for a long time to come.

    You need to move on from the science. It’s over. In reality it has been for a while. The debate you should be focusing on is the costs of mitigation and adaptation.

  47. November 16th, 2006 at 13:10 | #47

    Proust,

    On the wholesale electricity market there is a significant price differential between night and day and summer and winter. As such there is already a market for reverse pump hydro. However there are only so many places you can build suitable dams. And those that already own such a dam are making a killing.

    Electricity is a product with a shelf life measured in seconds. It is routinely arced to earth and discarded when buyers switch off because there is nowhere to store it. If you can’t accurately track demand then you end up with a highly inefficient setup.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  48. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:12 | #48

    I presume “ACC” is Anthropogenic Climate Change? I guess AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) was too close to being falsifiable, insofar as it actually makes a prediction about the sign of the temperature change. Climate Change is much better: now your theory is supported by all the evidence, regardless of what happens. Nice little sleight of hand. Look for more references to CC coming from the environazis.

  49. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:25 | #49

    proust, you presume correctly, ACC has been used as the preferred time for quite a while, as climate change is predicted, while it is anticipated that some parts of the world may actually cool (though, overall, there’s a heating of the system).

    Seeking some vast conspiracy in this is fun to watch. You may (or may have not) noticed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been called by that name since it’s formation in 1988, and it has never been called the IPGW.

    Hey what’s with your Hitler obsession, proust? Comment 3 and now this.

  50. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:29 | #50

    Hey I think I’ve just got it – you’re Andrew Bolt, aren’t you? He’s the only person I’ve ever read before who debates on this level, and seriously uses the epithet ‘environazis’.

    Professor, could we get some traceback on proust, see if they’re coming from Herald Sun servers?

  51. Simonjm
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:30 | #51

    proust by using environazis does that mean you also subscribe to the view that humans aren’t having any adverse impact on the global environment -Lomborg, Bolt, Pen & Teller etc- at all and it is all a beat up by environazis green pinko closet commie greenies scientists with their hippie friends?

    Terje thats’s what the gas is for, a transition until it can be scaled up.

    Last time I looked I think we were still surrounded by ocean ;)

  52. November 16th, 2006 at 13:37 | #52

    Simonjm,

    I was agreeing with you. Savour the moment.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  53. Cardinal Bellarmine
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:42 | #53

    “the debate is still on”

    The debate about about whether the earth revolves around the sun, or, the other way around, aint over yet either.

  54. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:44 | #54

    “Hey I think I’ve just got it – you’re Andrew Bolt, aren’t you?”

    Nope. Sorry to waste your monthly insight, wilful.

  55. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 13:47 | #55

    “it is all a beat up by environazis green pinko closet commie greenies scientists with their hippie friends?”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Simonjm.

  56. Pseudonym (econwit)
    November 16th, 2006 at 14:05 | #56

    Wilful said;
    “I presume you know enough about the scientific method to understand that we are well within confidence limits about the general theories and predictions�

    Science is a social enterprise, and scientific work tends to be accepted by the community when it has been confirmed. Crucially, experimental and theoretical results must be reproduced by others within the science community.

    Where is the >95% evidence of this occurring? They might all >95% agree (ACC/AGW) is occurring but they only surmise when asked to specifically agree or quantify the causes and effects.

  57. wilful
    November 16th, 2006 at 14:17 | #57

    I will happily admit to not being an expert on these things, but my understanding is that there are a number of models of the climate out there, all ‘open source’ for other experts to have a look at and check the assumptions and functions used, and they all basically agree that if you model the addition of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases to the model of the atmosphere, then the climate changes. They also look at all of the relevant observational data and find that this generally (with no significant deal breaking counter evidence) conforms with their model predictions. So the test of reproducibility is met, within the parameters that it can only ever be a bunch of models (unless you’ve got a spare earth hanging around?).

    So they all agree that ACC is occurring and that this is occurring within a band of probabilities. I leave it up to them to continue to refine their models and their predictive capacities, they have worked out quite conclusively (with much greater confidence than your 10 to 20 percent) that this is a problem that requires addressing.

    I think they all 100% agree and can quantify the causes. Carbon dioxide concentrations are easy enough to measure. They >95% agree in broad terms about the effects.

  58. NicM
    November 16th, 2006 at 14:18 | #58

    Proust, your comment #34 is very similar to tidal power which has the benefit of producing electricity when the tides are flowing in and out. The only drawback is that our big tidal zones, like our water, are in the north while all our people are in the south.

  59. Simonjm
    November 16th, 2006 at 14:19 | #59

    terje the moon must be blue? :) cheers

    proust I have little hair so i don’t think i can be called a hippie plus I’m not a scientist. I must just be a wanna be;)

    But seriously what is the point of saying anything proust? You ignore the science, the scientists and the evidence.

    I once compared some atheist libertarians to creationists and the more this drags on the more I think I was on the money from the start.

  60. November 16th, 2006 at 15:04 | #60

    what frustrates me is that so much emphasis is put on climate change, to the detriment of other pollution problems.

    We need pricing signals for all kinds of pollution, especially those types that are having immediate impacts on our day to day lives. Hopefully, the focus on market based solutions to climate change will lead to the realisation that a overarching pricing mechanism can be built to deal with all environmental issues, essential a change from income or corporate tax to a polution tax philosophy. Climate change protocols should be a stepping stone to that goal, not an end game in itself.

  61. November 16th, 2006 at 15:35 | #61

    Proust says “In fact, there’s no need to situate the hydro storage scheme and the solar plant anywhere near each other: you just the solar plant and the storage scheme to be on the grid.”

    In a perfect world this might be the case, but we have to deal with the cost of transmission of electricity. It is often cheap to drive the fuel source between places then to actually transmit electricity. Even at very high voltages loss of electricty transmitted over long distances is a very significant cost.

  62. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 16:33 | #62

    alphacoward – when the fuel source is Sunlight it is kinda hard to drive it around. But point taken. Even if you can split the fuel source and the storage by a couple of hundred miles you’ll still get the benefit of flexibility. My main concern is that the reverse hydro-store has to be on the coast but that may not be the best location for solar panels because the weather tends to be more variable there than further inland.

  63. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 16:41 | #63

    “But seriously what is the point of saying anything proust? You ignore the science, the scientists and the evidence.”

    I admit that I completely ignore the scientists, in the sense that it is only what they say (ie the science) that matters, not who says it. But I bet I pay more attention to the science than any regular commentator around here. As for the evidence – I play it plenty of attention but it is hardly conclusive yet.

    “I once compared some atheist libertarians to creationists and the more this drags on the more I think I was on the money from the start.”

    Well, I am an atheist libertarian. But I hate to break it to you Simonjm, Al Gore running around doing chicken little impersonations is neither science nor evidence.

  64. November 16th, 2006 at 16:43 | #64

    Actually it is often cheaper to transmit the energy as electricity rather than truck the fuel. Which is why all major coal fired power stations are built very close to coal mines and the energy is shipped out as electrons on a wire. The grid has often been extended at great cost because of the economics of moving energy.

  65. November 16th, 2006 at 16:48 | #65

    From memory the transmission and distribution loses from power station to home are typically about 10%. Which seems like a lot until you consider that the losses in converting coal energy to electricity are over 60%. Which may seem awful until you consider that converting sunlight to electricity typically involves loses of over 80%. Which may seem dreadful until your consider that it’s the comparative overall cost, not the efficiency, that really matters.

  66. November 16th, 2006 at 16:55 | #66

    Terje,
    The other option, of course, would be to have the carbon sequestration seperate from the power generation. I cannot think why they need to be together – all there needs to be is a pricing mechanism to transfer the cost.
    One possibility would be to have a sequestration plant driven by the large amounts of tidal power in the far north-east of WA. We could then burn the coal or gas is the south-west.

  67. Simonjm
    November 16th, 2006 at 17:05 | #67

    Terje heard much about developments in super conducting power cables?

    proust from what I heard those climate scientists that watched Gore’s film said he was pretty well on the money.

    OT regarding bias I’m a strong atheist who tends to think there wan’t a historical Jesus. Now that is a minority position based on heuristics and recently a guy taking that position copped exactly the same sort of flack you are getting.

    Just because you are in a minority that automatically mean you are wrong.

    But if I were to compare your stance on AGW you would be ignoring not only a historical Jesus but saying that there aren’t any other historical figures or cultures either.

    Like the creationists you can look at all the evidence you want but if your mind is set it makes no difference.

    Again if anyone is under a severe cognitive bias how is one to know? I bet its probably nearly impossible to see this bias once under it.

  68. November 16th, 2006 at 17:11 | #68

    Andrew,

    The topic seems to have drifted. I was refering to the difficulties in storing “energy” in a form that would allow alternate energy plants (such as photovoltaic plants and wind farms) to overcome their inadequacies in terms of baseload or peaking capability. I was not refering to the storage of CO2.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  69. November 16th, 2006 at 17:16 | #69

    I think a dedicated discussion thread on alternate electricity power source technology (and the technical issues) is warranted. What do you say John?

  70. November 16th, 2006 at 17:22 | #70

    Simonsj,

    I have heard very little about superconducting power cables since the breakthroughs in superconductors back a decade or more. From memory most such materials stop being superconductors when they are immerced in the magnetic flux associated with high power transmission. Not to mention the extremely low temperatures required and the energy absorbed in refrigeration.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  71. November 16th, 2006 at 17:28 | #71

    There is this:
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&articleID=00003872-159C-1498-959C83414B7F0000&pageNumber=1&catID=2

    “SuperGrid connections to these new power plants would provide both a source of hydrogen and a way to distribute it widely, through pipes that surround and cool the superconducting wires. A hydrogen-filled SuperGrid would serve not only as a conduit but also as a vast repository of energy, establishing the buffer needed to enable much more extensive use of wind, solar and other renewable power sources. And it would build the core infrastructure that is a prerequisite if rich economies are to move away from greenhouse-gas-emitting power plants and vehicles.”

    Don’t think it is truly practical and I am not a huge fan of the Hydrogen Economy however it is interesting.

  72. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 17:51 | #72

    Great – so here’s the plan: cover the Nullabor in solar panels, and build some big ponds and pumps along the cliffs at the top of the Great Australian Bight. (if you’ve never been you really should visit: it’s quite surreal standing at the top of the Bight with thousands of miles of empty desert behind you and thousands of miles of Southern ocean in front of you with nothing until you hit Antarctica. But I digress.)

    1Kl (1,000 litres) of water is 1 cubic meter and 1,000kg. If it is sitting atop a 100m cliff it has potential energy of 1,000kg * 10.0m/s/s * 100m = 1,000,000 joules which is approximately 1 / 3.6 = 0.28KWh (kilowatt hours).

    Just to get a feel for the total volume of water involved, let’s say you wanted to generate Australia’s entire 250TWh of annual electricity production with water pumped to the top of the Bight. Just to make the numbers easy, asume it’s 365 TWh (it will be one day anyway) so 1TWh = 1 billion KWh per day (or about 50GW constant consumption). Then assume perfect efficiency (the last two assumptions probably cancel each other).

    So 1 billion / 0.28 = 3.6 billion cubic meters of water stored at the top would last us one day.

    3.6B cubic meters of water would fit in a tank about 20km square and 9 meters deep. That’s a big hole, but not out of the question.

    It is interesting to compare the maximum energy from sunlight falling on the same area. Sunlight at peak is about 1KW per square meter. So a 20km square tank (= 400 million square meters) would collect 400GW at peak, which is just under 10 times Australia’s generating capacity.

    So assuming you covered the tank in 20% efficient solar cells (which would have the side benefit of reducing evaporation), you’d have just about enough energy to power the country by day, and to pump up all the water to fill the tank for the night time drain. (but not quite since you don’t get 1000W per square meter all day, all year around. But if you made the tank 5m deep and 30Km square you’d be set).

    If the calculations are in the right ballpark, that’s pretty interesting. If we could make floating solar panels as cheaply as we do glad wrap, this could be a goer.

  73. November 16th, 2006 at 19:50 | #73

    Proust,

    That last “if” in your last sentence is a very big “if”. And it is not the only if.

    Have you considered flooding Lake Ayre?

    Regards,
    Terje.

  74. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 20:17 | #74

    Terje,

    The glad-wrap PV cells are not essential. After all, you can still just use the storage component and generate the solar electricity by whatever means you like. I just thought it was interesting that the area needed for water storage for nighttime load satisfaction is the same order of magnitude as that needed for PV to power the whole country.

    Lake Eyre is a long way from the coast. I was thinking maybe some big depressions along the Nullabor somewhere. But they have to be clifftop so you can get a decent drop.

  75. November 16th, 2006 at 20:37 | #75

    I just thought it was interesting that the area needed for water storage for nighttime load satisfaction is the same order of magnitude as that needed for PV to power the whole country.

    The area is only equivalent because of the depth of the tank, and the height of the cliff that you nominated. With those two variables open to modification it is easy to ensure that the area of the PV surface and the tank are the same.

  76. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 20:48 | #76

    Right. I was surprised because I picked “reasonable guesstimates” for cliff height and tank depth and it popped out that the surface area was almost spot-on the size needed for PV. Just numerology I know, but it makes it easier to think about various tradeoffs without having to get your calculator out.

  77. November 16th, 2006 at 20:49 | #77

    For those that like to watch for weather extremes:-

    SYDNEY today recorded its lowest minimum temperature in November for more than 100 years – with the mercury dropping as low as 8C today.

    Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rob Webb said it was 8.3C about 5.45am (AEDT).

    The temperature had not been that low in November since 1905.

    The average minimum low for the month is about 15C.

    The weather was expected to get slightly warmer with a top of 15C forecast, although this is well below the average November maximum of 24C.

    “This has only happened four or five times in the past to have a maximum that low,” Mr Webb said

    “Statewide we haven’t got the records yet but there is probably a handful of records with some areas breaking 20- or 30-year records for minimum November temperatures.”

    Temperatures as low as zero were recorded in the Blue Mountains where firefighters are battling two blazes.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20767507-1702,00.html

  78. November 16th, 2006 at 20:51 | #78

    “That obviously includes signing Kyoto (with the latest change in position and with Bush a lame duck there’s no reason not to)”

    But Howard has stated over and over that signing up to Kyoto would hurt the Australian economy … so signing it would mean either that he was wrong or that he’s prepared to send us all broke. There’s an insuperable reason not to sign right there.

    That’s why we have *drumroll* KYOTO 2, which for some reason we are unveiling to a startled world in Nairobi.

    I think Howard let the truth out last week. Once all the other developed countries have negotiated an agreement to follow on from Kyoto, he’ll ‘lead the country into it’.

    Pathetic.

  79. John Quiggin
    November 16th, 2006 at 21:33 | #79

    “But I bet I pay more attention to the science than any regular commentator around here.”

    Perhaps as a relatively recent entrant to the discussion, but with a lack of historical perspective. If you’d followed the earlier ozone/CFC debate you’d know that most of those on whom you rely have a track record of making false claims for political reasons, and that most of the arguments you use are recycled from the losing side in that debate.

    And if you’d followed the GW debate for longer you would have seen the grudging retreat from claims about urban heat islands, satellite data, the absence of a definite surface trend and so on, to the current silly focus on the hockey stick.

  80. Brian Bahnisch
    November 16th, 2006 at 22:18 | #80

    Back at #30 proust said:

    “Icebergs floating past New Zealand, snow in November – these are small signals that something is going radically wrong (and the public knows it in their bones).â€?

    Don’t the denialists get it? The icebergs are fleeing the warming Antarctic! Can there be clearer evidence of glowbill whorming??

    Where do you think the icebergs came from? Looks like a big chunk fell off the Antarctic ice sheet to me.

    Re #66, Andrew I can’t see why power generation and sequestration have to be together either. But remember that a CO2 molecule is 3.67 times the mass of a carbon atom. And it’s a gas. To condense the gas to a liquid I believe you need 20% of the power you get from burning the carbon. So the mass and volume problems of transporting the stuff would seem considerable.

  81. November 16th, 2006 at 22:55 | #81

    Apparently the icebergs currently floating near New Zealand broke off six years ago. It is amazing that they got this far without melting. Apparently it hasn’t happened since the 1930s. That seems consistent with a colder ocean not a warmer one. In the mean time the recent data from the Argo project raised a few eyebrows with the data suggesting that the oceans have cooled rather dramatically in the last two years. And the currently enlarged ozone hole over Antarctica is symptomatic of cooler weather in the region. Then Sydney has to go and have it’s coldest November day in 100 years. What can it all mean?

  82. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 23:22 | #82

    Yeah Brian, it was a joke. Haha.

    Terje, it means we need to move even faster to curb CO2 emissions. Clearly they are destroying the climate more rapidly than even the scientists predicted, and in entirely the opposite direction! Lack of certainty is no excuse for inaction. We must act to save the planet now!

  83. proust
    November 16th, 2006 at 23:30 | #83

    ” If you’d followed the earlier ozone/CFC debate you’d know that most of those on whom you rely have a track record of making false claims for political reasons, and that most of the arguments you use are recycled from the losing side in that debate.”

    What a load of rot. Who do I rely on? What are “most of the arguments I use”?

    The only person I rely on for sensitivity arguments is myself and lately Annan. McIntyre I rely on for proxy reconstruction analysis. Lindzen for overall commentary on what is incontrovertible in the evidence.

    Strange as it may strike you JQ, I actually read the original papers, and rely on my own analysis. You should try it sometime. It’s an awful lot more edifying than your soap-opera approach to science.

  84. plaasmatron
    November 17th, 2006 at 00:09 | #84

    Have I missed anyone pointing out a connection between Howard’s sudden acknowledgement of the global warming threat and his recently discovered love of nuclear fission-derived energy? I can’t help but to see the connection to the obvious rift that the nuclear debate is going to drive into the Labor party. With hard-core union bosses dying to open new mines and industries on one side, pitted against the environmentally conscience socialists on the other, I fear that the dirty bugger is gonna play this ridiculously flawed debate up for all its worth. Forget Iraq, the inconvenient truth is that the opposition will self destruct on this one.

  85. jquiggin
    November 17th, 2006 at 06:16 | #85

    Well that certainly narrows the field of disagreement, assuming that you agree with the main body of the published literature other than those raised by McIntyre and Annan. From your general tone, I had a rather different impression.

    I’ve read what McIntyre and McKitrick published since they came out, and their arguments have changed radically over time, while their conclusion (that Mann et al wrong) remained unchanged and in accordance with McKitrick’s prior published views, based on such nonsense claims as the nonexistence of a global average temperature. The original piece barely mentioned things like the principal components and the bristlecone pines, and claimed to derive its results by correcting errors in the datasets. As their initial claims fell to pieces, they retreated to the latter issues. The mode is exactly what I would expect from McKitrick and his co-authors.

    In any case, as you know, the whole issue was reviewed by the NAS who concluded that Mann et al and subsequent writers were right in saying the current climate is the warmest in the last 400 years, but that, while the balance of probabilities favoured the same claim for the last 1000 years, there’s not enough evidence to be sure. And since the warming hypothesis is well-established from other sources you say you don’t challenge, the limited evidence on medieval climate is not a problem.

    Annan’s criticisms are much newer, and I haven’t yet read his stuff, but my impression is that his position is the exact opposite of Lindzen. Lindzen claims a very wide variance for sensitivity and a low mean, such that we can’t be sure there will be any significant warming as a result of a doubling of CO2. Annan, as I understand it, claims that the variance of IPCC sensitivity estimates is too high, and supports a fairly high mean sensitivity estimate.

  86. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 06:40 | #86

    “And since the warming hypothesis is well-established from other sources you say you don’t challenge, the limited evidence on medieval climate is not a problem.”

    Please, just because I don’t challenge specific papers does not mean I endorse them. I hardly have time to read it all. In fact, given the egregious errors committed in the past by the reconstruction crowd, my prior on anything they produce is that it is probably alarmist and probably distorts the record, but I leave it up to McIntyre to pull it apart.

    A far as I am aware, McIntyre’s published claims only refer to proxy reconstructions. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    The limited evidence on medieval climate is a big problem for the hockeystick alarmists. The most important error of the hockeystick crowd was not the blade but the shaft. They wiped out both the medieval warm period and the little ice age. Subsequent corrections to their work have reinstated both phenomena. Warming up after an unusually cold period is hardly surprising, and combined with the fact that things were considerably warmer in the MWP makes the significance of the current warming a lot less clear.

    I haven’t read anything from Lindzen that suggests he believes the true climate sensitivity variance is high. Certainly nothing to suggest he thinks the variance is such that there is any significant probability to be attached to the upper end of the ranges used by Stern, and on which Stern’s analysis so critically depends.

  87. November 17th, 2006 at 06:51 | #87

    Proust,

    If you have the time take a look at what it would cost to cover a 20 km x 20km square with conventional PV.

    Enviromission has talked about covering an area 4km x 4km with glass at a vastly lower cost (and quite a bit lower efficiency) than using PV. They claim that they will make power that will be price competitive with coal. They claim they can do it 24hrs per day. And they claim their design can store heat for later controlled release leading to power generation with some despatch capability.

    I think it will be viable to cut back CO2 emissions affordably in the near future. I fear that like the IMF and other grand global schemes Kyoto will outgrow its original purpose and turn into a menace.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  88. jquiggin
    November 17th, 2006 at 07:01 | #88

    Can you stop referring to McIntyre please – it’s McIntyre and McKitrick. The point is relevant given your statement that “In fact, given the egregious errors committed in the past by the reconstruction crowd, my prior on anything they produce is that it is probably alarmist and probably distorts the record”. The authors on whom you rely have committed more egregious errors between them than the whole of the reconstruction crowd combined.

    “The limited evidence on medieval climate is a big problem .”

    On the contrary, the AGW hypothesis was independently well-supported before MBH published their work. If we had no evidence at all on medieval climate, this would make only a marginal difference. As it is, I point out yet again, the NAS did not reinstate the old claims, they just said there wasn’t enough evidence to reach a final conclsion.

    I have no idea what “the true climate sensitivity variance” means – the variance here is a measure of our uncertainty, not some underlying variability in the physical sensitivity of climate. Lindzen has repeatedly said that our current knowledge isn’t enough to exclude zero sensitivity, and indicated a preferred sensitivity of less than 1 degree. Annan (whose paper I’ve now read thanks to your link) wants to tighten estimates around a mean value of 3 with a 95 per cent range of 1.7 to 4.9. In other words, Annan asserts with at least 95 per cent confidence that Lindzen is wrong. The only thing the two have in common is that they criticise the consensus.

  89. jquiggin
    November 17th, 2006 at 07:12 | #89

    And of course, Annan and Hargreaves contradict M&M even more directly. They use, among other things, the historical record of the last 1000 years to conclude that we can confidently predict substantial warming of around 3 degrees as a result of a CO2 doubling. M&M and the rest of the MWP crew are claiming that there is so much natural variation in the data that we can’t draw any conclusion of this kind.

  90. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 07:23 | #90

    “Can you stop referring to McIntyre please – it’s McIntyre and McKitrick

    The authors on whom you rely have committed more egregious errors between them than the whole of the reconstruction crowd combined.”

    By that argument every author should be judged by the worst work of any co-author they have ever published with. I say McIntyre because he is very active in the area, I have read a lot of his analysis, it is sound, and he appears to be a smart, honest broker. I know much less about McKitrick.

    But of course, if you’re a card-carrying member of the soap-opera theory of scientific analysis, it is much more important who somebody may have published with in the past than what they say today.

    “the AGW hypothesis” can mean a lot of things. To me it means: “human CO2 emissions are warming the planet”. I agree with that.

    To you it seems to mean a lot more. Given your endorsement of Stern and your declaration that the debate is over, it apparently means that humans are warming the planet and there is a significant probability that the climate sensitivity (to a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels) is at least 10C.

    “In other words, Annan asserts with at least 95 per cent confidence that Lindzen is wrong.”

    If Lindzen believes in some high but unspecified variance (as per your penultimate remark), how can you even make this statement? My point was that they both believe the variance is much lower than the alarmists would have us believe.

    But in any case, now that you have read the paper, I would suggest reading Annan’s short remarks on the Stern report.

  91. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 07:44 | #91

    By the “the true climate sensitivity variance� I meant our true uncertainty, given all the currently available evidence.

    More importantly than the two-side range, is Annan’s one-sided 95% upper bound of 4.5C, which is lowered to 4.1C if one treats as independent the Maunder minimum (sunspot) activity and climate model results. Annan’s pdfs also have none of the fat tails much loved by Stern and his acolytes:

    “The strong insight of the Stern report is that under uncertainty, rational people sum over the risk distribution, not just take the central value or – worse – say that as it’s uncertain, let’s do nothing. So he draws attention to the long upwards tails of all the models. This makes a big difference to the impact assessment.”

    [From your own link to James Wimberley]

  92. Paul Norton
    November 17th, 2006 at 09:08 | #92

    Former Treasury head and National Party Senator John Stone has rallied to the greenhouse denialist cause in this morning’s Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20770285-7583,00.html

    Stone has form on the board in relation to contrarian science. In 1987 he was a leading proponent of the campaign to make Joh Bjelke-Petersen Prime Minister of Australia, in full knowledge of Petersen’s record, whilst Premier of Queensland, of favouring the teaching of creationism in schools and promoting hilarious dud schemes such as Milan Brych’s quack “cure” for cancer and Stephen Horvath’s hydrogen fusion-powered car. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/extras/oq/book3worst.html

  93. Simonjm
    November 17th, 2006 at 13:21 | #93

    Terje worth a look

    Major breakthrough for electricity with 2G wire
    http://www.gizmag.com.au/go/5909/

  94. Simonjm
    November 17th, 2006 at 13:41 | #94

    BTW Rafe yes your Libertarian thinktanks have a huge amount of credibility when reporting on eco matters but then again environmentalsists and scientists are econazis after all.

    Bad, Bad Environmentalists
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/11/bad_bad_environ.php

  95. Terje
    November 17th, 2006 at 13:41 | #95

    Simonjm,

    Thanks for the link. On the face of it this is impressive stuff. I did not realise that things had moved along so much. Although it still seems to look like quite a leap would be required before we start using this technology for large scale long distance power transmission, although perhaps not as big a leap as I first thought. What is particularily impressive is that this technology is already in commercial use in a number of areas, including in transformers.

    Technological innovation such as this makes me very optimistic about the future.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  96. grace pettigrew
    November 17th, 2006 at 13:50 | #96

    re comment 84 from plaasmatron – looks like the coal unions are unwedging themselves, see this:

    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1789569.htm

  97. November 17th, 2006 at 13:56 | #97

    Terje,
    My confidence in humanity makes me optimistic. Technological innovation is merely further evidence that this optimism is justified.
    .
    Simonjm – there are faults and errors on all sides of the discussion. The important thing is to keep an open mind about it. For example, I used to be an AGW non-believer – I now believe it is happening and that I was wrong previously. I now want to go through the proposed remedies to see which, if any, make sense.

  98. Paul Norton
    November 17th, 2006 at 14:32 | #98

    Thanks for the link Grace.

    Despite what Matt Peacock says, the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU, and its precursor organisations such as the Miners’ Federation and the United Mine Workers, have not been the “Arch-enemy of environmentalists”. The union has a long history of social unionism including engagement with environmental issues and campaigns, and has been engaged in constructive dialogue with environmentalists ever since greenhouse became a first order issue in the late 1980s. Contrary to a misapprehension current in some circles, it has also continuously supported the Kyoto Protocol since it was agreed to in 1997. It can certainly be relied upon not to engage in the treachery displayed by the Forestry Division of the CFMEU prior to and during the 2004 Federal election.

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/01/31/labors-new-right-fifth-column-redux/

    This is not to say I agree with the union on all points. Amongst other things I would prefer to see it take a more critical stance towards some of the scaremongering engaged in by industry lobbies (notably the aluminium industry) about the economic and employment consequences of a strong greenhouse response. However these are issues that are probably best dealt with in dialogue between the union, environmentalists and governments. The other thing to remember is that the issues which need to be addressed in terms of retraining and re-employment of coal industry workers are considerably more difficult to work through than for other sectors (including forestry), so the coal union has a better excuse than most for erring on the side of defensiveness.

    On the environmental movement side, Don Henry and the ACF are right to welcome the union’s developing stance and to be keen to engage in dialogue with it. Greenpeace are, regrettably showing their usual high-handed fundamentalist form in their behaviour towards unions and workers.

  99. November 17th, 2006 at 14:48 | #99

    I’m an AGW non-believer. However that is quite different to being an AGW dis-believer. I think that AGW is a good theory with some problems that are not yet sorted.

    And as Keynes said we are all dead in the long term anyway, so lets just pump prime the economy and see what happens.
    ;-)

  100. Paul Norton
    November 17th, 2006 at 15:40 | #100

    The Mining & Energy Division of the CFMEU has also released a discussion paper on policy responses to global warming.

    http://www.cfmeu.com.au/storage//documents/CFMEU_climate_141106.pdf

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