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Parallel universes

March 7th, 2016

Of the 20 years or so that I’ve been observing climate change policy, global developments over the past year have been the most hopeful I can remember, particularly as regards electricity generation

* The Paris Conference was a big success, at least relative to expectations
* Coal-fired power stations are shutting down around the world
* China has reduced its coal use for two years in a row
* India has increased its coal tax, and greatly expanded use of renewables

Whether emissions reductions will be big enough and fast enough remains to be seen, but at least we are going in the right direction.

As far as climate science is concerned, the string of temperature records broken recently has killed any idea that we are in a ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’. Even the favorite source of deniers, the satellite data from UAH, is now showing a new record. The only remaining issue is the second-order debate over whether there was a pause or perhaps slowdown at some point in the first decade of the 2000s.

At the same time, following the US election, I’ve been paying more attention than usual to rightwing blogs, most of which run climate denialist pieces fairly regularly. Given that nearly all the major US coal companies are now bankrupt, and that coal-fired electricity is declining rapidly, I’d have expected a lot of “wrecking ball” pieces on the supposed damage to the economy (in reality, the effects are small and mostly offset by the expansion of renewables) now that mitigation policies of various kinds are taking effect.

But I don’t see anything like that. Rather, most of the articles I’m reading are claims of victory in the debate over both science and policy. Here’s a fairly typical example, with the title “Is the Climate Crusade Stalling?

We really do live in parallel universes.

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  1. jrkrideau
    March 8th, 2016 at 04:18 | #1

    Well, I am impressed that she used an impeccable source like the Daily Mail to support her arguments.

    As far as I can see the entire US right wing and most US climate denialists are becoming more and more irrational. Not only are they in a parallel universe but the universal laws of nature are completely different in the two universes

    David Frumm, President G. W. Bush’s speach writer at the time of 9/11 described the parallel world conservatives in the USA lived in back in 2011. The universes have diverged even more since then.

    “Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

  2. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 06:23 | #2

    Is Denyocat alive or dead? Either way, the kitty litter at the bottom of the box is full of cats**t.

  3. March 8th, 2016 at 08:59 | #3

    Yes, you see this in threads at Catallaxy all the time: at the time all of the evidence is solidifying against them, they claim to be more convinced it is actually climate science that is on its last legs. I think it shows the insidious power of modern instantaneous publishing and communications (the internet and Fox News) to disseminate crank theories with greater ease and frequency than ever before. (And, of course, the power of political ideology to cloud ability to treat evidence with any sense of objectivity at all.)

  4. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 09:08 | #4

    How was Paris a big success?
    You need to adjust Chinese decline in coal by the continuing decline in GDP and for the increase in crude oil and natural gas. China Coal GDP

    Declining GDP’s will always reduce carbon emissions. Degrowth is the only way out.

  5. BilB
    March 8th, 2016 at 09:23 | #5

    It is the same universe, just a corner of it where some people will do anything at all for money. The current main stay of the denialists, having lost miserably on every other point of science is

    “The CO2 Coalition bases its main argument on the following: “CO2 is a nutrient that is essential to life. CO2 at current levels and higher enables plants, trees, and crops to grow faster and more efficiently. It is essential for life.”

    a little on Harnett-White reveals the strategy afoot


    It would be almost the better outcome for Ted Cruz to win the presidency as the end result of that would be the very rapid denigration of the entire denialist movement along with a huge loss of face for the United States. It is one thing to fight a guerrilla campaign with science, but outright war would require a rapid and concise conclusion.

    The war on science is entering its final phase.

  6. Ikonoclast
    March 8th, 2016 at 09:44 | #6

    * The Paris Conference was a big success.

    Opinions run the whole gamut. The claim it is a “big success” is a mere hopeful assertion. Hansen thinks it’s a fraud and a fake.

    “It’s a fraud really, a fake.” It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.” – James Hansen.

    “Canadian climatologist Gordon McBean, the president of the International Council for Science, told CBC News there’s a generally positive feeling about the Paris agreement in the scientific community.” So, McBean notes a “generally positive feeling”. On its own a “generally positive feeling” means little to nothing. The real physics is the only thing that counts. McBean says it’s “largely not possible” that the world will meet the 2 C target.

    * Coal-fired power stations are shutting down around the world.

    I would like to see the stats for this. Global coal consumption shot up from under 2,500 metric tons of oil equivalent in 2001 to about 3,700 metric tons of oil equivalent in 2013. After that is grew slowly and then dipped in 2015. Will the dip be sustained into a decline? It is certainly possible but it is too early to say for sure. What is clear is that is already (most likely), too little too late, especially after the massive growth of 2001-2013.

    * China has reduced its coal use for two years in a row.

    It’s called an economic slowdown. Clean air policies may also be having an effect. Again, it’s too early so say for sure what is happening.

    * India has increased its coal tax, and greatly expanded use of renewables.

    “The utility electricity sector in India had an installed capacity of 288 GW as of 31 January 2016. Renewable Power plants constituted 28% of total installed capacity and Non-Renewable Power Plants constituted the remaining 72%.” – Wikipedia.

    This look hopeful in itself. However, climate tracker shows India’s emissions growing steadily into the future with zero noticeable effect from pledges.


  7. John Quiggin
    March 8th, 2016 at 09:49 | #7

    To repeat myself repeating myself, as an economist and policy analyst, James Hansen makes a great climate scientist.

  8. Kevin O’Neill
    March 8th, 2016 at 11:15 | #8

    “We really do live in parallel universes.

    I’ve maintained for some time that there are people who simply have minds that are alien to me. I simply cannot comprehend how they ‘know’ what they know, where their certainty comes from, and how they manage to go through 20, 30, 40 or more years of adult life and be completely oblivious to simple facts and basic logic.

    I understand the motivations and actions of my dog far better than I do some of my fellow human beings.

  9. Ernestine Gross
    March 8th, 2016 at 11:25 | #9

    Global Average Warming is not the only area where ‘parallel universes’ are created. The methods of hard core propaganda seem to have been recovered in ‘communications’. The underlying belief seems to be that words can affect reality. I believe a necessary condition for the said belief to work is that those who create the ‘parallel universes’ have institutional power.

    Depending on the particulars of the case, dozends, hundreds, thousands, millions of individuals’ time is wasted by these communications experts. Without the effort of these individuals who fight the substitution of black for white, negative for positive, etc, the communications experts gain traction in institutional power.

    One more piece of evidence in support of JQ’s conclusion. One of the current PM’s first actions was to retire the previous PM’s Business Adviser, Mr Newman.

  10. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 12:33 | #10

    China’s GDP isn’t declining. Read the graph again.

  11. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 14:35 | #11

    @Tim Macknay

    You appear to have taken “parallel universes” to heart a bit much.

    GDP is usually quoted as a % growth.

    Or did you have your computer screen upside down?

  12. Troy Prideaux
    March 8th, 2016 at 14:47 | #12

    I have to agree with Tim here, you need to be more clear with the statements – GDP is GDP and GDP growth is GDP growth. The 2 are different. When you say “Declining GDP’s will always reduce carbon emissions” – I immediately don’t interpret that as meaning GDP *growth* and carbon emission *growth* without it explicitly stated. We also have to be mindful that growth is a compounding thing so an economy growing at a steady (positive) rate each period will grow by more and more each period.

  13. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 14:59 | #13

    @Tim Macknay
    I can’t tell from your very obtuse comment whether or not you read the graph again, as I suggested. So I’ll apply the principle of charity, and assume that your response was intended in good faith but you just misread the graph.

    You are correct that GDP is usually quoted as % growth, and the graph you linked to does in fact do that. The graph shows that the rate of GDP growth in China was around 7.5% per annum in 2014-15 (having slowed somewhat from a higher rate of around 12% per annum in 2000-2005). A growth rate of 7.5% per annum is not a decline.

    The graph does, however show that Chinese coal consumption in 2014-15 was declining at a rate of around 2% per annum (or if you prefer, growing at a rate of around -2% per annum), a rather precipitous change from the earlier growth rate of around 11% per annum in 2000-2005. Also, the direction of the curve suggests that the decline rate is set to increase (in contrast with the GDP curve which suggests that the GDP growth rate is stabilising.

    So, if the graph is correct in showing that Chinese GDP is growing at around 7.5% per annum, then Chinese GDP is clearly not declining. I hope this clears up the misunderstanding.

  14. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 15:04 | #14

    My last comment was intended for Ivor.

  15. derrida derider
    March 8th, 2016 at 15:12 | #15

    “GDP is usually quoted as a % growth”
    No. GDP GROWTH is usually quoted as a % growth. GDP is usually quoted in dollars or equivalent currency. You’re getting confused by sloppy use of language.

    Slower GDP growth should indeed, all else equal, mean slower coal usage growth. But John’s point is not that Chinese coal usage is growing slowly but that it is SHRINKING. That is unequivocally good news.

  16. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 15:21 | #16

    In related news (from the reality-based community), senior executives from the firm that controls China’s national electricity grid recently frightened Texan oil executives by telling them that China planned to phase out coal and oil on the grid and replacing them with renewables. A senior Chinese executive was also quoted as saying that there was no technical obstacle to doing this, further upsetting sensitive oil industry executives. Is there no end to Chinese perfidy ?!?

  17. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 16:28 | #17

    @Tim Macknay

    Declining growth can either be declining rate of growth, or a decline in amount of growth.

    If the rate of growth in one year is lower than previously – that is a decline.

    If a car slows – its speed declines – even though it is still moving forward.

  18. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 16:40 | #18


    Declining growth can either be declining rate of growth, or a decline in amount of growth.
    If the rate of growth in one year is lower than previously – that is a decline.

    But not a decline in GDP, which was the original contention.
    I must admit I’m at a bit of a loss as to why you want to keep arguing the point. If you weren’t originally talking about a decline in GDP (as opposed to a decline in the GDP growth rate), then it made no sense to raise the issue of Chinese GDP in the first place, since it doesn’t support your contention that emissions reduction requires de-growth.

  19. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 16:42 | #19

    @derrida derider

    Shrinking coal consumption is good news only if the causes of the decline will not reverse and carbon emissions from oil and gas do not increase as part of the decline.

    It is conditionally good news – not “unequivocally” good news.

  20. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 17:01 | #20

    @Tim Macknay

    Yes, degrowth – for some economies – is the only way out now.

    An association between declining CO2 emissions and declining growth does support this contention.

  21. Ikonoclast
    March 8th, 2016 at 17:15 | #21

    @John Quiggin

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. I am not sure how being an (orthodox) economist confers more climate policy skills than being a climate scientist. I am not saying it confers less, but I certainly cannot see how it confers more. Orthodox economists’ claims to have special policy skills are dubious at best given the failure of their macro.

  22. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 17:27 | #22


    An association between declining CO2 emissions and declining growth does support this contention.

    I think you’re reading far too much into the graph you linked to if you believe it provides any significant support for that contention. If it showed an actual decline in GDP accompanied by a proportionate decline in fossil fuel consumption (as a proxy for CO2 emissions) it would constitute much stronger support.

    But it shows a moderate decline in the GDP growth rate, which appears to have stabilised, and a precipitous decline in the rate of growth of coal consumption, to the extent that coal consumption is now in absolute decline. And, on eyeballing the graph, the different shapes of the GDP and coal curves suggest at best a modest relationship between the two (i.e. the decline in the GDP growth rate may account for some of the decline in coal, but clearly not all of it).

    I think as broad and sweeping a claim as the one that only de-growth can reduce GHG emissions needs somewhat more robust supporting evidence.

  23. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 17:30 | #23

    So you agree with Hansen that only nuclear can save us then.

  24. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 17:53 | #24

    @Tim Macknay

    The support is not insignificant. It is significant.

    It does not have to be proportionate.

    A modest association is an association.

    Google “degrowth”.

  25. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 18:05 | #25

    I know what degrowth is, thanks. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the significance of your China graph. I’m not terribly inclined to argue with bare assertions.

  26. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 18:18 | #26

    A decline in the Chinese growth rate to a tad below 7% is not the same thing as a recession. You need to think that Chinese statistics are political fiction to get there. The IMF for one does not share that view.

  27. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 18:28 | #27

    If you treat the INDC pledges as predictions. In China’s case, they are ridiculously cautious: peaking ” before 2030″ when the reality is “about now”. India is more difficult. They refused to pledge any cap at all and officially plan to double coal power generation. But the coal plants are not getting built and new solar is coming in at the same price, according to Piyush Goyal. The economics of new coal plants are not going to look better next year to Adani, Reliance and Tata. Modi and Xi could improve their NDCs when they sign the Paris Agreement at negligible cost.

  28. Donald Oats
    March 8th, 2016 at 18:57 | #28

    Looks like the parallel universe is growing bigger every day.

  29. Tim Macknay
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:02 | #29

    @Donald Oats
    Or noisier, at any rate.

  30. Ikonoclast
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:19 | #30

    @Tim Macknay

    No, I don’t. Where did I say I agreed with Hansen on nuclear power? I said essentially that I agreed the Paris Conference was a farce, that the climate is in serious danger (to put it colloquially) and that the fossil fuel phase out is far too slow. You cannot validly infer from those points that I agree with Hansen on nuclear power. To be honest I don’t understand why Hansen pushes that nonsense. It’s irrelevant anyway. The nuclear renaissance is dead. That is one piece of J.Q.’s analysis that is spot on. I checked it, as far as I can check such things out, and J.Q. was 100% right on that.

    However, I continue to take an opposing position to J.Q. on a couple of issues. The claim the Paris Conference was a big success strains all credulity. Basically, all the nations agreed to exactly… nothing. On the coal issue, recent developments are welcome, but it’s too early to call any real hope on that front. The real problem, once again, is the oil issue. The artificially engineered low price makes it harder for capitalism to break its oil habit. On the plus side, it could send fracking and tar sands out of business, forever one hopes. But the bottom line is we are changing far too slowly and capitalism as a system is the main reason that real, vital change is so difficult to get.

    Behind all arguments for different power mixes, we find, mainly, what are simply different camps of capitalism apologists who always frame their arguments like this. “No matter the problem, capitalism is the answer. Just use the markets this way, or regulate capitalism that way.” They’ve been saying this for 40 years. Meanwhile, the system has continued on an ever worsening and more damaging path. Now, in the 41st year (about) capitalism seems to be turning a little. Oh gee, thanks for that. What a responsive system! It only takes 40 years to make a course change of 5 degrees (when we needed a 180 two decades ago).

  31. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:28 | #31

    Stop press on Chinese emissions: Lord Stern agrees with me: China’s emissions will peak before 2025 and may already have done so. The Chinese government disagrees. Whom do you trust more? China’s leaders have a vested interest in caution, and they are under no political pressure to change their official forecasts.

  32. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:30 | #32

    @James Wimberley

    It is probably best to keep scare words such as “recession” or “depression” out of this context.

    A decline in growth is not necessarily a recession in terms of increasing unemployment and bankruptcies etc.

  33. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:46 | #33

    PS. A tidbit from the (very readable) Green/Stern paper:
    “In the first half of 2015 …. crude steel production fell by 1.3 %, and cement production fell by 5.3 %, compared with the same period in 2014.”
    They also claim that the inequality connected to the old material-intensive growth model is one of the reasons given by leaders to Stern for the policy shift. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it makes sense in Realpolitik: overmighty subjects are a traditional threat to autocracies.

  34. James Wimberley
    March 8th, 2016 at 19:49 | #34

    “Recession” isn’t a scare word but a term of art: two consecutive quarters of absolutely lower GDP than the previous peak.
    You were wrong, admit it.

  35. Ivor
    March 8th, 2016 at 20:05 | #35

    @James Wimberley

    It is probably best to keep scare words such as “recession” or “depression” out of this context.

    A decline in growth is not necessarily a recession in terms of increasing unemployment and bankruptcies etc.

    It was your choice of words not mine.

  36. John Quiggin
    March 8th, 2016 at 21:14 | #36

    Enough on Ivor’s derailment. He’s confused a declining rate of growth (what’s happened to GDP) with a declining level (what’s happening for coal consumption). That’s wrong, and no further correspondence will be entered into (any attempts to revive this subthread will be deleted).

    Ikonoklast, I’m not standing on my credentials as an “orthodox economist” vs Hansen’s as a climate scientist. You can assess my arguments right here. The problem is that you are quoting Hansen as an authority when he is no more qualified than you are. Looking at his actual arguments, he gets things wrong all the time, his support for nuclear power being typical. If you’re impressed by Hansen’s analysis, make the same case here, don’t just cite his conclusions as if they had some authority behind them.

  37. Ernestine Gross
    March 8th, 2016 at 21:42 | #37

    @Donald Oats

    You beat me to it. The smh article you linked to puts a little damper on my optimism.

  38. jrkrideau
    March 8th, 2016 at 22:26 | #38

    @Donald Oats
    I must say I like the Liberal Party’s idea. Lord Moncton up against a couple of well coached IPCC spokesmen. I want the popcorn franchise.

  39. jrkrideau
    March 8th, 2016 at 23:00 | #39

    @Kevin O’Neill
    Start with Oreskes & Conway’s Merchants of Doubt and then for some interesting reading try Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoriarians http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf . BTW it is an early attempt at self-publishing using Word. I read it with two PDF readers.

    All you need in this case is a strong religious belief in unfettered Free Marked Economics, lots of self interest, complete immorality on some peoples’ part and a bunch of willing dupes (see Altemeyer) who can believe three impossible things before breakfast and it’s easy to explain climate denial.

    It also seems that there is a subset of the human race that easily believes in conspiracy theories (some of Altemeyer’s people who also can can believe three impossible things before breakfast) and you’re away.

  40. jrkrideau
    March 8th, 2016 at 23:01 | #40

    Err that should read “Market”

  41. James Wimberley
    March 9th, 2016 at 03:59 | #41

    All the IPCC would need to do is welcome the opportunity for a debate with qualified climate scientists, understood as authors or co-authors of at least 50 peer-reviewed articles on aspects of climate change.

  42. Collin Street
    March 9th, 2016 at 05:23 | #42

    It also seems that there is a subset of the human race that easily believes in conspiracy theories (some of Altemeyer’s people who also can can believe three impossible things before breakfast) and you’re away.

    There are realistically two possibilities worthy of consideration:
    + Altermeyer — and not only Altermeyer, there’s been a lot of fairly-recent work by reasonably large numbers of people — are mistaken, and “authoritarian follower” types — are mistaken, and have not found anything real.
    + Altermeyer-et-al have found a real phenomenon, which is known to cognitive scientists under a different label. And presumably a fairly well-known one, given the numbers.

    The other possibilities can be dismissed:
    + the variability of what constitutes “political” means that “it’s a real phenomenon, but limited in its effects to ‘politics’ so the psychologists never spotted it” isn’t plausible: it also doesn’t mesh with Altermeyer’s results showing that authoritarian followership had impact in small-scale decision-making.
    + The idea that there’s a major and widespread set-of-patterns-of-behaviour-and-attitude that has some pretty significant effects on social outcomes but that was missed by psychologists until the political scientists found it is, you know, not plausible either.

    So. It strikes me that either “authoritarian follower” is no real thing at all, or it’s already better-known under the name the psychologists gave it, whatever that might be.

  43. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 06:27 | #43

    @John Quiggin

    I am slightly baffled by parts of your comment. However, I accept my arguments for my position in this thread have been, in the main, poor. I’ll put it down to a bad day. We all have those.

  44. BilB
    March 9th, 2016 at 07:58 | #44

    (I see Donald Oates picked this story up earlier)

    You need look no further than our own back yard to find Alternative Universe Nutters…


    If you go there to look my advice is don’t comment, it only encourages them, but it shows how destabilised the LNP is. How delightful that they want Abbott back. We have to hope that they get there wish.

    You have to wonder why the Libs would want to humiliate themselves in this way after Ted Cruz’s Senate “Debate” on climate science a little while ago, from which Cruz emerged looking like a total fool. But then it is not about science at all, it is about creating the impression that there is still a debate.

  45. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 08:13 | #45

    Most arguments for and against AGW, as an emerging reality requiring preventative action, are not really arguments about climate change at all. They are proxy “system justification” arguments. The AGW denialist position is very obviously a system justification position. The current system, capitalism, is morally right, beneficial to all mankind and any concerns for the environment are entirely misplaced. This is the ideological supertext of the right-wing denialist position. The real, material position is, of course, the short term self-interest of a rich minority.

    It is less obvious, but the AGW arguments of the moderate left, those we might call social democrats, liberals, Keynesians and capitalist mixed economy advocates, are still proxy “system justification” arguments. Again, these arguments function within an ideological supertext where capitalism is implicitly regarded as indispensable for solving the very problems it has created. The practical result of such arguments is merely the continued justification of capitalism and not any search for real solutions to climate change problems.

  46. tony lynch
    March 9th, 2016 at 08:17 | #46

    Great to know from JQ – yet again – that things are really on the improve. Just wish there was any evidence of this from the Keeling Curve.

  47. March 9th, 2016 at 08:33 | #47

    The US, and Australian, conservative approach to block change is just crazy. In a time of rapid social and technology change, if you try to block change in the name of protecting existing companies, you end up with yesterday’s industries. How many columnists said that we shouldn’t have a carbon price as it stuffed our core area of competitiveness ie energy (goal and gas). Well, so much for coal. Gas prices are so low its a worry. Yes, we may have done better with a carbon price done differently. A real private enterprise party (ie the Liberals) would embrace change as a way to create new business opportunities, not block change to protect current businesses.

  48. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 08:41 | #48

    @tony lynch

    How unreasonable of you to require empirical evidence in the measurable physical outcomes. 😉

    What I fear might happen is this. Industrial-information capitalism will now belatedly change. Over the next 20 years, it will appear to change quite rapidly compared to its former snail pace of change. This will be trumpeted as proof that capitalism has delivered the solutions. However, the solutions will be too late; indeed they are already too late. But the real damage will be at least 50 years down the track when all the current culprits, apologists and enablers are dead.

    At the same time, I suspect the current system will go bad well before then. I do not see how the USA is on a sustainable path socially and economically even if climate and environmental damage do not bite for another 50 years. The destruction of education in the USA now is an astonishing and frightening phenomenon. There is really no way they are going to be able to run a technologically and socially advanced society of the back their currently devolving “education” system. The implications are frightening but outside this particular tread topic.

  49. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 08:58 | #49

    As Robert Manne writes;

    “Yet, as many people now realise, something much more profound than all this (statist action) is required: a re-imagining of the relations between humans and the Earth, a re-imagining that will be centred on a recognition of the dreadful and perhaps now irreversible damage that has been wrought to our common home by the hubristic idea at the very centre of the modern world – man’s assertion of his mastery over nature.”

    IMO, the real challenge will be to develop an ecological humanism and/or an ecologically aware metaphysics without regress to mere mythicism, religionism or theocratic rule. A key issue might entail a moral elevation of impact science over production science. Our productive power is not our problem now. Our impact power on the natural and human world is our problem now.

  50. BilB
    March 9th, 2016 at 09:11 | #50

    Tony Lynch

    There is evidence from the Keeling Curve. If you look at global oil consumption this has increased some 10 million barrels per day over the last 6 years to 94 million barrels per day. At the same time the oil consumption per person has dropped as has coal consumption per person.

    So the improvement in the Keeling curve is that it has not become as steep as it otherwise would have given the global population increase which is driving the oil consumption increase.

  51. BilB
    March 9th, 2016 at 09:12 | #51

    Oh and here is a reference


    Look at the graphs.

  52. Newtownian
    March 9th, 2016 at 09:29 | #52

    On the two cultures from SMH

    Reminds me of Stephen Schneider’s book on science as a debating topic for the ignorant – see for example- Stephen H. Schneider, Tim Flannery introduction (2009) Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth’s Climate. National Geographic Society (November 3, 2009) ISBN 978-1-4262-0540-8.

    Seems to fit perfectly with cognitive dissonance which puzzles our host.

  53. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 09:35 | #53


    But BilB, that is like saying a man who can’t swim and is drowning in 3 meters of water will soon be better off because the current is carrying him to a place 4 meters deep rather than 5 meters deep. Most models indicate that we are already too late. We should have started dropping the Keeling Curve two decades ago at least. We need outright emergency action now, on the slim chance we might still save ourselves. The most benign models of climate forcing and sensitivity have just a small chance of being correct so we have still a small chance of saving ourselves. But emergency statist and international action is needed now and it must reject all “markets will do it” arguments. The markets haven’t done it in time in relation to all but the most optimistic models. The evidence is already in on that.

  54. Kevin
    March 9th, 2016 at 09:57 | #54

    @John Hine
    Back when I was an undergrad I read a book called The Rise and Decline of Nations by Mancur Olson. I can’t claim to know much about his economic or political leanings (or credibility), but it was useful for me when thinking about lobby groups and coalitions influencing economic policies (and particularly subsidies) in my, then, State of WA. They were clearly established to “block change and protect current businesses”. These coalitions would include the LNP and ALP at different times.

  55. Ivor
    March 9th, 2016 at 10:26 | #55


    Remember – each barrel of oil is around 110 kg carbon or 400 kg CO2 and the Keeling curve is rising at around 2 ppm+ per year.

    See here: Keeling Curve

    This discloses no benefit from anything China and other states have done.

    Over 90 million barrels is equal to 9.9 X 10^9 kg. ie 10 GT when all our natural sinks are occupied with natural emissions.

    Due to the failure of every inter-governmental meeting, this trend will continue well past 2020.

  56. Ivor
    March 9th, 2016 at 10:27 | #56


    Remember – each barrel of oil is around 110 kg carbon or 400 kg CO2 and the Keeling curve is rising at around 2 ppm+ per year.

    See here: Keeling Curve

    This discloses no benefit from anything China and other states have done.

    Over 90 million barrels is equal to 9.9 X 10^9 kg. ie 10 GT when all our natural sinks are occupied with natural emissions.

    Due to the failure of every inter-governmental meeting, this trend will continue well past 2020.

  57. Tim Macknay
    March 9th, 2016 at 11:57 | #57


    No, I don’t. Where did I say I agreed with Hansen on nuclear power? I said essentially that I agreed the Paris Conference was a farce, that the climate is in serious danger (to put it colloquially) and that the fossil fuel phase out is far too slow. You cannot validly infer from those points that I agree with Hansen on nuclear power.

    Indeed, and in fact I did not infer that you agreed with Hansen on nuclear power. I was trying to get a handle on why you quoted Hansen’s opinion on the Paris agreement. It seemed that you were quoting him as an authority, i.e. that his view on the Paris agreement should be taken seriously because he’s an eminent climate scientist. That struck me as odd, because Hansen’s main idee fixe when it comes climate policy (only nuclear can save us), wasn’t something I thought you’d agree with.

    You say you don’t understand why Hansen pushes the nuclear nonsense, as you put it. Perhaps it’s because, as Prof Q pointed out, Hansen is completely clueless when it comes to climate policy, notwithstanding his chops as a scientist?

    You’re quite right about the diversity of opinion on the Paris agreement of course, but you could have gone further to illustrate it. For example, both Andrew Bolt and Bjorn Lomborg are of one mind with James Hansen in believing that the Paris agreement was a fraud. Christopher Monckton, on the other hand, regards it as a grave threat to freedom and the sovereignty of the world’s peoples. 😉

  58. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2016 at 12:29 | #58

    @Tim Macknay

    I could say a lot more but I better not. I’ve already had enough rants on this thread. 😉

  59. adelady
    March 9th, 2016 at 13:42 | #59


    “Yes, degrowth – for some economies – is the only way out now.”

    I’m not so sure. Watching this bloke, Tony Seba, is a bit refreshing.

    He may be over-egging the pudding a bit, but I’m not so sure that it’s by a huge amount. That example of a mere 13 years between not being able to see the one and only car in the Easter Parade to not being able to spot the sole, single, one and only horse in the parade (or at least this photo of it) is worth bearing in mind. It’s pretty startling. But so is the steep decline in prices of solar panels over the last couple of decades.

    I might have been primed to take this guy more seriously after reading a RMI piece, an extract from Reinventing Fire – http://www.rmi.org/reinventingfire

    Just as whale-oil suppliers ran out of customers in the 1850s before they ran out of whales, oil and coal are becoming uncompetitive even at low prices before they become unavailable even at high prices.

    Try Tony Seba anyway if you’re feeling a bit down in the mouth about prospects for getting rid of coal and oil.
    1. Biofuels, hydro renewable? desirable? (+ other topics) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uApxOjZzUdU
    2. Transport (among other things) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_NmWB-D7-Y

  60. Donald Oats
    March 9th, 2016 at 15:32 | #60

    Read Stephen Schneider’s book a few years back, and enjoyed it, in spite of some of the unfortunate incidents he recounts. The early episode where he was subjected to being quoted incompletely, and out of context, is a salutary reminder of how dirty the political process is. Scientists can of course brawl in an unseemly manner with each other, and it does happen, but the political process is one where most facts are left at the door. Politics is a whole new level of grime.

    On a slightly different note: there is a third parallel world, one where politicians acknowledge that climate is changing, but are deeply sceptical of IPCC processes, because they hold the ideals of the rugged individualist (of the fictionalised wild west) and refuse to submit to the advice or whims of a global body (like the UN). In this parallel universe, if they provide “solutions” at all, they are quite ironically ones that involve large scale interference in atmosphere and oceans, iron filings, sulphur smog and particulates to cause temporary cooling, mega carbon-capture and storage from the atmosphere itself, gigantic orbiting shade cloths, etc. It seems to have passed them by that any large scale interference in climate is, by the nature of a bounded and interdependent Earth system, something that will affect nations other than just the ones utilising these technologies. You can’t just stick a big shade cloth up in the sky and not expect other countries to be a tad annoyed at being collateral damage, for example. The rugged individualism of the big fix is an imposter, a poseur, hoping to prolong the coal project and the oil project, even while claiming technology (owned by a few) will save the day anyway, should the day need saving.

    Even the science mags aren’t immune from the big fix.

  61. derrida derider
    March 9th, 2016 at 17:40 | #61

    Donald, your third parallel world is still based on this valid syllogism with an untrue premise and conclusion:
    1) If AGW is a problem it is fixable by government action
    2) There is no problem fixable by government action
    3) Therefore AGW is not a problem. QED

    All the many twists and turns of denialism follow from their subscription to premise (2).

  62. rog
    March 10th, 2016 at 04:38 | #62

    In the US parallel universes are colliding; Bernie Sanders has responded to climate change and it looks like he could be the next president.


  63. Ikonoclast
    March 10th, 2016 at 06:20 | #63


    It’s a pity Bernie Sanders uses this language. “The debate is over, and the scientific jury is in…”

    It’s not a debate, it’s a scientific investigation. The “jury” is not in, the evidence is in. Such imprecise use of language clouds what must happen. The scientific investigation occurs (and continues). The data is collected and analysed. Models are constructed and scientific predictions (with allowances for uncertainty) are made. Then the debate begins. Then we say, “Okay this is the evidence, these are the likelihoods of various outcomes. Now, what do we do about it?”

    However, since people blogging on this site love psephological analysis but dislike political economy analysis, I will make my predictions for the US presidential election.

    (1) Donald Trump will most likely win the REP nomination.
    (2) Hillary Clinton will most likely win the DEM nomination.
    (3) Hillary Clinton will most likely win the presidency.

    And now slip in a political economy prediction…

    (4) Whoever wins the US presidency, US policy will still be dictated by the plutocrats. The president (and Congress) are largely powerless except to do the bidding of the 0.01 per cent of rich people. This is the way the US system is set up. The US will continue to attack weak countries overseas, it will continue drone strikes, it will continue killing black people at home, it will continue increasing wealth inequality. It will continue privatising and wrecking its own education system. It will continue incarcerating people in world record numbers. It will continue doing all these things. This is the way the US system is set up. Nothing will change unless the people rise up and and change the system entirely. Until that day, if that day ever arrives, nothing substantive will ever change. Indeed, things will get much worse as the US slides further and further into corporate fascism.

  64. rog
    March 10th, 2016 at 06:48 | #64

    Democrat nomination determined by delegates, whoever they may be. Super delegate support of Clinton seems overwhelming- how democratic is that?

  65. John Goss
    March 10th, 2016 at 07:09 | #65

    If we don’t get three inches, man,
    Or four to break this drought,
    We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.
    The pessimistic frame writes itself. As does the optimistic frame (which I tend to follow). The truth is somewhere inbetween, and the truth is much harder to discern, because there is no one philosophical or political perspective which fully describes the truth.

  66. Ikonoclast
    March 10th, 2016 at 08:15 | #66


    The USA is not a democracy. It is set up as a republic which strongly circumscribes democratic influence on governance. It was expressly set up this way in its constitution. The idea is that the rich and influential people, or those supported by the rich, are highly favored as candidates. The primaries system and the electoral college system are expressly designed to block the popular will. The founding fathers never wanted a democracy, they wanted an oligarchy and their constitution brilliantly delivers exactly what they intended.

  67. 2 Tanners
    March 10th, 2016 at 09:57 | #67

    Returning to JQ’s original puzzlement at the lack of wrecking ball pieces, maybe (says the evergreen optimist) the inhabitants of the parallel universe have actually acknowledged that the argument has been comprehensively lost. Their dearly beloved talking points and “debate” against scientists are dead. I’m think this is shock and disbelief we’re seeing. Denial, then bargaining will be when the wrecking ball pieces are written. Roll on, acceptance.

  68. Collin Street
    March 10th, 2016 at 10:33 | #68

    > Super delegate support of Clinton seems overwhelming- how democratic is that?

    The Democratic Party is a private organisation governed by privately-determined rules; demanding “democracy” in its internal processes is inappropriate, it’s not a state organisation and not bound by the obligations of same. If the democrats want to be “democratic” in their internal processes they can, if they don’t want to be they don’t have to.

    [except, of course, that the two main parties in the US are state organs in all but name, given the degree to which they’re formally recognised and entrenched. But demanding “democracy” in an organisation that shouldn’t even exist in the shape it’s in is kind of missing the point.]

  69. sunshine
    March 10th, 2016 at 10:49 | #69

    Maybe there are enough Sanders kids and they wont sell out as they get older ,and maybe the Baby Boomers will die off and get out of the way before the planet expires ….

  70. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2016 at 11:49 | #70
  71. Ikonoclast
    March 10th, 2016 at 17:16 | #71

    @Tim Macknay

    I’d like to know their prediction method. The article is not particularly clear on that point. It seems they were simply doing an energy analysis and then assuming increased use plus much the same energy mix as now. But that is just a guess on my part.

    I also wonder, wouldn’t most of the potential rise to 2030 already be “baked in” in the sense that the current CO2 level’s forcing effect and even current absorbed heat (in oceans especially) already will be driving heating until 2030? In other words, if we raise CO2 levels more from now until 2030 (say) won’t much of that forcing be even further down the track, say 2030 to 2050?

    But a couple of things makes sense. I absolutely agree with;

    “The researchers suggested switching $500bn in subsidies for fossil fuels worldwide to renewables as a “cost neutral” way to fast-track the energy transition.”

    Also, this is a real concern;

    “Hankamer said the fact that about 80% of the world’s energy was for fuel, and only 20% for electricity, meant “we don’t have any easy solutions”.”

    Our oil dependence is much greater than our coal dependence. Getting coal out of electricity generation is the much easier task, relatively speaking. Getting oil and gas out of our economy will be tougher. Getting rid of private petrol automobiles should be a huge gain for the environment. We should also plan to have far fewer private cars overall even if they are electric.

    An Australian government with any vision would immediately announce;

    (1) A Zero Emissions stationary energy plan with full implementation by 2030.
    (2) Cessation of all fossil fuel subsidies and transfer of these to renewable energy.
    (3) A carbon tax.
    (4) Planned phase out of all coal power stations (linked to point 1).
    (5) Planned closing of all thermal coal mines.
    (6) Submarine funds diverted to create national infrastructure like the point 7.
    (7) Electric underground metros for all capital cities.
    (8) High speed electric interstate train system.
    (9) Full NBN cable roll-out.
    (10) Full Job Guarantee as envisioned by MMT policy.

    And that’s just a start. Pay for it with a carbon tax, rich tax, defence savings and no involvement in Middle East wars which are none of our business. The economy would boom, in a good way, from these sorts of infrastructure stimuli. Unemployment would be banished apart from some frictional and some voluntary to a real level of maybe 2.5%. Don’t sweat it, there will always be some people who don’t want to work. Who cares when there are machines to do the unskilled work that people don’t want?

  72. Ratee
    March 10th, 2016 at 17:21 | #72

    I like to be optimistic but the inertia in the world energy markets that feed the world economy is always being underestimated. I fear, and sooner rather than later, it will become obvious that Paris was not the turning point we hoped it would be.


  73. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2016 at 18:14 | #73


    Also, this is a real concern;

    “Hankamer said the fact that about 80% of the world’s energy was for fuel, and only 20% for electricity, meant “we don’t have any easy solutions”.

    I found that claim odd, because it doesn’t gel with most of the energy statistics I’ve seen. It’s a little ambiguous what he means by “fuel”. If he’s talking about transport fuel, then I’m quite dubious about the accuracy of the claim. Virtually all transport fuel is oil, and oil only makes up about 40% of global primary energy, according to the EIA. It’s possible his figure includes non-transport uses of fuel (e.g. heating and industrial uses), but then those kinds of fuel uses are presumably easier to replace with renewable energy than transport uses. Also the subsequent quotes do suggest he is talking about transport fuels. Strange.

  74. March 10th, 2016 at 18:30 | #74

    World coal production in 2015 was about 7.7 billion tonnes.

    World oil production, including unconventional oil, in 2015 was about 4.7 billion tonnes.

    World CO2 emissions from coal in 2015 were twice those from oil.

    Sometimes figures for coal are given in tonnes of oil equivalent, and this may result in confusion by giving the impression that the amount of coal mined was much less than it was.

  75. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2016 at 18:35 | #75

    Prediction is tricky, but Bloomberg thinks that electric cars will expand exponentially over the next decade, and cause another oil crash. They also think that this will have no substantial impact on supplies of lithium and other raw material necessary for EV manufacture.

  76. March 10th, 2016 at 20:16 | #76

    Unfortunately it is not realistic to expect electric car production to grow fast enough to offset the current depletion of existing oil fields and prevent oil prices rising again. However, once that price rise occurs it will further spur electric car adoption and then we’ll have another oil crash. And no, I can’t make you rich by telling you when oil prices will rise and fall.

    An interesting thing about the article on electric cars Tim linked to is it makes no mention of the effect of self-driving cars. If cars can drive themselves and serve as autonomous taxis, then electric vehicle production will never have to come close to that of internal combustion engine cars to wipe them out, as one electric taxi could provide the transportation services of 10 or more privately owned cars. Eliminating drivers from taxis lowers costs and frees up a seat. In addition, electric cars will have lower operating costs. This means the cost of using taxi services will be less. This means more people will use self-driving taxis resulting in their being more of them which will result in waiting times being less and so more people will use them in a virtuous circle. I’m not saying that private cars will disappear or need to disappear, but if taxis get a lot cheaper and a lot more convenient, then many families will do without a private car, or will make do with one instead of two or more.

  77. adelady
    March 10th, 2016 at 23:14 | #77

    @Ronald Brak
    Try this piece on transport, batteries and self-driving cars. Covers a lot of what you’re talking about. I’m really impressed with his ideas – though pretty doubtful about the details of the calculations – about the space we will free up from reducing the area currently occupied by highways, roads and, in particular, parking. (I suspect my doubts arise from living in a strictly suburban environment with a mere square mile of city centre rather than in a large city.)

  78. adelady
    March 10th, 2016 at 23:15 | #78

    Oh lawks. I didnt expect that to embed like that.

  79. BilB
    March 11th, 2016 at 07:05 | #79

    The parallel universe Denialist thing, which is a globally coordinated effort, is about befuddling gullible people into being a voting body for manipulation by fossil fuel elites. It really is a global conspiracy. The irony is that those who seem to be most susceptible to being manipulated in this way are Libertarian conspiracy theorists and the red necks in our society. The red necks buy the story because it is against their interests to limit fossil fuel as these are the gas guzzling, tyre burnout, gun toting angry macho types who worship waste. The Libertarians buy it because they believe that they are against big government regulation of any kind, and because they see themselves as a persecuted minority so then they easily relate to the “outcast” clutch of religious zealot climate change denying scientists.

    It is a very sick mix of vested interests manipulating the gullible. The primary weapon of such ideological corruptions is the “big lie”. In the case of the parallel universe there are a huge number of these, but the key ones are that “all scientists are money obsessed schemers”, “climate change action is a global conspiracy to bleed the public”, and “there is no global warming”.

    There will come a time when the deliberate corruption of climate science for personal gain will become a crime against humanity, at which point the proceeds of such crime will be confiscatable.

  80. BilB
    March 11th, 2016 at 07:26 | #80

    For instance, from the “GWPF” denial coordination hub via our very own science miscommunicator


  81. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2016 at 07:51 | #81

    I am surprised at how slow change is. So many pundits jabber on about how fast change is in our society. I don’t see that. I see a society really slow to change. For decades we have known we need to change. Yet we have vastly more internal combustion engines than ever before. Most of our electricity still comes from coal. Only a small minority of houses have solar panels. Our (Australia’s) national broadband rollout won’t use efficient cable to house and it will be finished when? 2100? It must the slowest rollout ever.

    There are a few spots where things are a bit different. South Australia has made real advances on the wind power front. But in the main, we have hardly changed in decades. The pace of change is glacial (wrong metaphor I know) when it needs to move like a bushfire. This system is so slow to change, so slow to adapt. It doesn’t stand a chance of making changes in time. In fact, it’s already missed the necessary change window.

    Apart from computers and a few token solar panels, I am living in the same society I lived in when I was 20. I mean with respect to energy technologies which need to be changed. We have made almost no progress on the things that matter. Technical progress there is yes but I mean real progress on the ground in terms of installed and applied infrastructure and machinery. Of the latter, there is still only a tiny amount of what we need. It’s a sclerotic system which can’t change itself nearly fast enough.

  82. Joe Blow
    March 11th, 2016 at 09:34 | #82

    Ikon said:

    We should also plan to have far fewer private cars overall even if they are electric.

    I agree. Private cars should only be allowed for ‘important people’. Like in the Soviet Union – or something.

  83. Ivor
    March 11th, 2016 at 10:05 | #83

    @Ronald Brak

    Theoretically it is entirely

    realistic to expect electric car production to grow fast enough to offset the current depletion of existing oil fields and prevent oil prices rising again.

    It just needs a government program.

    If this does not materialise – then this is a clear indicator that the government is not serious about climate change or reducing fossil fuels to the extent required.

    The required level is the amount of carbon emissions that will result in a horizontal (or downward sloping) Keeling Curve.

    Nothing else is relevant.

  84. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2016 at 10:08 | #84

    @Joe Blow

    The scenario you paint (special goods and services for the privileged) is actually more prevalent under oligarchic capitalism. Who gets all the private jets, helicopters and first class airline seats? Who gets the luxury cars while the ordinary people get the clunkers? Yes, it’s the rich people who get these privileges. Elite privilege is a problem not yet solved by any modern system; not by the oligarchic capitalism of the West and not by the state capitalism of the Soviet Union.

    There are other real possibilities. Self-driving, shared vehicles would mean that one vehicle would service the needs of say ten people on average. Then there is the possibility of much improved public transport. It’s revealing that the ultimate system to you is a system that delivers a private car. Bugger the environment and everything else eh? Who cares about that? So long as you can blow pollutants out your tailpipe, all is well with the world. Given your obsession with Soviet state capitalism and cars, I’d say your thinking remains in the 1950s.

  85. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2016 at 10:25 | #85


    Ronald’s reply epitomises the thinking of “let’s wait for the market to solve the problem”. This sort of thinking is all too prevalent on this social democratic blog. One would have expected a little more understanding here, at least, that radical political economy changes are the only way to deliver real change. This system (capitalism) will not and does not change fast enough and there are systemic reasons why it cannot deliver the radical and rapid changes necessary. The market has very demonstrably failed completely and utterly over the last four decades to deliver the renewable and sustainable changes we need IN TIME.

    Capitalism does not get the costings right. It cannot get the costings right because it values only and seeks only to increase the accumulation of capital. It seeks nothing else and it values nothing else. Other systems of decision making, like democratic decision making, are largely constrained, perverted, bought and suborned by capitalist ownership power. This system cannot make the changes necessary. It is intrinsically, systemically incapable of doing so. It cannot be placated, reformed or negotiated with.

  86. Joe Blow
    March 11th, 2016 at 10:44 | #86

    Come on Ikon, most of that rant is just plain rubbish. We are just in the process of buying a new car – a Corolla. It is almost exactly the same price in real dollars as 20 years ago and it is a far better car. Even basic cars now have luxuries that were unheard of 20 or 30 years ago. Millions of people around the world can now afford a car due to the relentless cost cutting and innovations of the free enterprise system. Your rant about private helicopters, jets and first class travel just exposes your ideology is based on envy, not love of your fellow pleb.

    Given that Capitalism is the term used for free enterprise and a market system, your use of the word for the system of the Soviet Union is also typical of the left – change the meaning of words so that people can no longer think straight and start believing that the ‘planned’ slavery you espouse is really freedom.

    The only thing I can remotely agree with you is self driving cars. These however, in case you haven’t noticed, are being designed and built by the very enterprises that you love to hate. They may well cause the partial demise of privately owned cars but not because of your much vaunted ‘planning’. It will be because it is cheaper or more convenient.

  87. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2016 at 10:50 | #87

    Footnote: The really concerning parallel universe of unreality is the one in the moderate left where they think capitalism is okay and can still save us from AGW.

  88. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2016 at 11:07 | #88

    @Joe Blow

    Cool mate. Believe what you want. 🙂

  89. Ivor
    March 11th, 2016 at 11:08 | #89

    @Joe Blow

    So could you afford a new car if workers producing it received Australian wages?

    How much carbon will you now send into the atmosphere?

    Capitalism is not the term used for free enterprise and a market system – it is the term used for expropriation of workers value by Capital.

  90. BilB
    March 11th, 2016 at 11:44 | #90

    Ivor, the cost of labour is not the issue with car prices. How many man hours does it take to build a car?

    “Article from Quality Digest : Are Union Shops More Productive? lists the average time to build a new car for the major auto makers:

    Toyota: 19.46 hours
    Honda: 20.62 hours
    GM: 23.09 hours
    Ford: 24.48 hours
    DaimlerChrysler: 25.17 hours

    The Japanese auto makers are better on average. Toyota is 23% faster than Chrysler.”

    Killing the Australian car industry was a huge mistake, and exposes the LNP for the “good economic manager” frauds that they are.

  91. Tim Macknay
  92. Tim Macknay
    March 11th, 2016 at 12:00 | #92

    @Ronald Brak

    Unfortunately it is not realistic to expect electric car production to grow fast enough to offset the current depletion of existing oil fields and prevent oil prices rising again.

    Well, Bloomberg’s analysts differ from you on that point, evidently. But, like I said, prediction is tricky. As likely as not you could both be wrong.

  93. March 11th, 2016 at 12:19 | #93

    I am confident oil prices will increase at some point from 0 seconds to 3 years from now. I expect it to happen sooner rather than later. Was the recent price increase the start of this, or just a blip? I don’t know.

    It is not realistic to expect new electric car production to reduce demand enough to offset the depletion of oil fields within zero seconds. It is also not realistic to expect it to happen within 3 years.

    Technically it is possible to produce enough electric cars to offset the depletion of oil fields and prevent oil prices from rising within 3 years. Also, it is technically possible to drive all newly produced internal combustion engine cars off a cliff. But greatly increasing electric car production within a short period of time would be very expensive on account of how current electric car production facilities are limited. Lithium-ion and other battery chemistry production facilities are limited. Expertise in building electric cars and electric car batteries and battery packs is limited. The number of electric car models currently in production are limited.

    As scarcity is a real constraint (you may have noticed this) it is extremely likely that we would be better off devoting the resources required to eliminating coal use instead. For the current $5,500 US price of a Nissan Leaf battery pack, enough wind power capacity could be built to eliminate roughly 400 tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifespan in a country like Australia. The battery pack in a vehicle is only likely to eliminate about 54 tonnes of CO2 emissions or less over its lifespan.

    But just because it makes more sense at the moment to use resources to eliminate coal use than to increase electric car production to reduce oil demand enough to offset the depletion of oil fields within zero seconds to three years, does not mean nothing should be done to promote the use of zero and low emission vehicles. If support is provided electric vehicle production could increase to a level sufficient to reduce oil demand enough to offset depletion of oil fields within a more realistic time period of 4-5 years.

    For example, I strongly suggest Australia introduce strict fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles with inefficient new vehicles taxed more than enough at the time of sale to eliminate the CO2 they are expected to emit over their lifetimes.

    I also recommend health externalities from vehicle pollution be priced into vehicle purchase prices.

    I recommend a carbon price of $50 a tonne be introduced in Australia immediately and raised $5 a year until it matches the cost of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it. At this point any petrol bought would then have the CO2 released from its use completely offset. And this could cost less than 10 cents a liter.

    Because of the potential self-driving electric cars have to rapidly eliminate internal combustion engine cars, I recommend Australia aim to have low emission self driving cars operating in at least one part of the country within one year provided there is a company that is up to it, and there is good evidence that the safety risk would be equal to or less than the use of human driven taxis.

  94. March 11th, 2016 at 12:30 | #94

    Tim, Bloomberg’s analysts quite evidently agree with me that it is not realistic to expect electric car production to grow fast enough to offset the current depletion of existing oil fields and prevent oil prices rising again. They don’t predict electric cars reducing demand enough to offset depletion in oil fields until around 2022. Six years from now. While I can’t be certain that oil prices won’t rise for 5+ years, that does not seem realistic to me.

    I think the problem here is I did not write what you think I wrote.

  95. Tim Macknay
    March 11th, 2016 at 12:44 | #95

    @Ronald Brak
    Certainly, now that you’ve clarified that you were talking about a three year time frame, it’s clear that Bloomberg doesn’t disagree with you. Your earlier comment (intentionally or otherwise) created the impression that you disagreed with the Bloomberg analysis.

  96. Troy Prideaux
    March 11th, 2016 at 13:03 | #96

    Whoever turns out being right, the time to invest in lithium mines was last September onwards 🙂

  97. Joe Blow
    March 11th, 2016 at 13:03 | #97

    Ivor, just as BilB said, wages play a small part in the cost of a car. Capitalisms’ relentless ability to reduce costs by eliminating waste ( which is a cost ) and optimising production processes is why cars and other consumer goods are safer, more reliable and more affordable than ever.

    And, no, Capitalism is not ‘expropriation of workers value by Capital’. That has been thoroughly debunked and it is kind of funny hearing the odd person still saying it. It’s like the 70’s all over again. Most people have moved on and have come to realize ( despite a bunch of die hards trying to muddy the waters by changing the meaning of words ) that the only way to prosperity is via private enterprise.

    The reduction in absolute poverty since the 1970s, has been unprecedented. This is in large part to increasingly larger parts of the world dumping the idea of the revolutionary socialism.

  98. March 11th, 2016 at 13:10 | #98

    Well, I think it was pretty clear since I specifically wrote, “…and prevent oil prices rising again.” But, humans don’t do clear very well so I am not at all perturbed by you not understanding me. I could have made my point more clearly, but I find that the more pedantic I become in an attempt to avoid being misunderstood, the more people hate me. So I generally just don’t try too hard these days except to sometimes try to clarify when confusion arises.

    However, when it seems clear to me that unconfusing someone is not a realistic possibility, I often do nothing. So if I attempt to clarify a point it’s a compliment. But I have learned that some people simply don’t pay attention to clarifications and so there is no point in trying. Sometimes I see if it is possible to get someone who has made an incorrect statement about physical reality to admit that it was wrong, and sometimes I try to get someone who has made mutually incompatible statements to reconcile them, but both those activities probably just indicate that I have sociopathic tendencies.

  99. Ivor
    March 11th, 2016 at 13:28 | #99


    As you know, if

    Toyota: 19.46 hours

    was the cost of a car – the selling price would be around $1,946 if wages were $100 per hour.

    If you had provided the source for your information people would have read the actual report which indicated that this timing was the period taken by a number of workers.

    For example your digest says:

    In fact, the most productive auto assembly plant in North America, according to The Harbour Report, is General Motors’ Oshawa (Canada) No. 1 plant, in which workers take just 15.85 hours to assemble a vehicle. The plant assembles the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Impala, and is represented by the Canadian Auto Workers.

    Cars from Canada do not cost anywhere near $1,585.

    The time is the operating time for the plant. The number of “workers” is not stated. If you did into the actual source document you will find that the data relates to “assembly plants”.

    With robots and advanced machinery I can well understand that a plant can be built that will assemble vehicles by consuming a relatively small amount of last stage labour.

    Labour costs for the car industry output as a whole are not this.

  100. Tim Macknay
    March 11th, 2016 at 13:30 | #100

    @Ronald Brak
    Seriously Ronald, I’m not that wound up about it. People misinterpret each other all the time. No biggie. 🙂

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