Climate instant reax

The Australian Science Media Centre provides responses from scientists and other experts (including me as an economist) to news releases about science-related issues, including climate. A couple of recent examples;

A very quick response to Labor’s climate policy. My take

“As an oil importing country with no domestic car manufacturing industry, Australia is well placed to make the shift to electric vehicles proposed by Labor. A crucial step towards this goal will be the restructuring of the National Electricity Market, and the design of charging infrastructure to encourage flexible recharging of electric vehicles to match peaks in the availability of renewable energy.”

and one on the very depressing Global State of the Climate Report, where I said

“Following the depressing news from the International Energy Agency that global CO2 emissions rose to a record high in 2018, the WMO report confirms that severe impacts of climate change are already being felt.  This scientific analysis only confirms what is evident to anyone who examines the evidence with an open mind: the global climate is changing in ways that are unprecedented in human experience. Sadly, many of our leaders do not have an open mind. Rather, they are committed to denying the findings of climate science at any cost, in order to defend sectional economic interests and backward-looking identity politics. Australia in particular needs urgent action to achieve substantial reductions in emissions over the next decade.”

20 thoughts on “Climate instant reax

  1. The IEA finding that emissions rose in 2018 for the second year in a row is seriously bad news. As an optimist, I had been hoping that the 2017 increase was a blip against the trend (which is stasis, not decline). The odds are now in favour of a small trend increase roughly in line with population. But I won’t give up just yet. China’s economy is slowing down, as – less markedly – is that of the USA. The largest Chinese coal producer, Shenhua, is actually predicting a fall in its sales in 2019 (***** Since renewables get despatch priority pretty much everywhere, the swing producer is coal, and if demand growth for electricity is low enough (for cyclical or structural reasons), coal burning can fall.

    Either way, market forces are acting too slowly. We need active policies to accelerate the coal phaseout. If you accept the principle, as Germany has, what’s the merit in going slow?

  2. JQ: “…and the design of charging infrastructure to encourage flexible recharging of electric vehicles to match peaks in the availability of renewable energy.” All this needs is a $10 timer and time-of-day pricing. The technical challenge is nil.

    Fully optimising EV charging to get the most benefit from flexibility does need more technology of course, with demand response contracts and grid signals to intelligent home controllers running everything, not just the EV charger. This sophistication is a precondition for V2G. But you can go a long way without it. I run the dishwasher when I go to bed, don’t other readers?

  3. Both sides of politics are blaming the Greens fir govt failure to deal with climate – which is odd as the Greens have only ever been a minor party and it was the LNP that celebrated thei victory in repealing the carbon tax.

  4. @2 My thought is that you need to have charging facilities at office car parks, shopping centres and so on, rather than getting people to recharge at home.

  5. There is a strong vested interest in the illusion that the climate ‘movement’ is left-extremist – what Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking must fight against is not it’s extremeness but it’s innate non-partisan mainstream-ness.

    That those who lean left want the climate movement to develop and maintain it’s left credentials, I think that is a mistake – the issue is about responsibility and accountability, not socialism versus capitalism; as long as we make it about left vs right we will aid the right’s efforts to portray climate activism as incompatible with free market democracy and the rule of law when it is entirely compatible with them. They want to promote the leftiness of the climate movement even more desperately than those on the left want to, and even for overlapping reasons – to prevent those who lean right from participation.

    I want the conservative-right’s constructive participation – much more than I want the pleasure of pointing out how wrong the right has been.

  6. Totally agree Ken, “I want the conservative-right’s constructive participation – much more than I want the pleasure of pointing out how wrong the right has been.”

    There is not a lot of joy in talking to my neighbours about how wrong they have been in the choice they made to go with the neo-liberal narrative that made sense to them because of years of propaganda by the Murdoch press and other sources of neo-liberal lies and misinformation as well as what was and is said around their kitchen tables all contribute to the way they just know that climate change is a leftist scam by the ‘leets (who are all leftists – Murdoch isn’t a ‘leet ) who don’t understand them and are clearly running a scam to punish them and the way they want to live.

    It is frustrating to see how hard some of my right wing neigbours work for the little money they receive and to watch as they continue to vote against their own interests and mine of course because I want these small towns to develop into good places to live.

    I was a bit reassured though when the shopkeeper of the corner shop in one of the nearby small towns was very interested in talking with me about renewables. I was surprised and thought she must have been ‘woke’ 🙂 but it turns out that no, climate change is just natural and cyclic but renewables are good sense. So that is a start to find things we have in common.

  7. “you need to have charging facilities at office car parks, shopping centres and so on, rather than getting people to recharge at home.”

    For shopping centres, you need fast DC chargers, which can charge a car in half an hour. AC chargers take much longer and unless you’re going to spend all day shopping won’t be practical in shopping centres.

    But what’s wrong with charging at home? Plug it on overnight and your car is charged.

  8. Especially if you’ve got a battery that is charged up during the day by your solar panels.

  9. Yes having the conservative rights constructive participation is or would have been nice.
    I just do not see any chance that the problems will be fixed with out a socialist economy. I see very little chance that the problems will be fixed with a socialist economy. People who have not figured out that economic growth is incompatible with human survival are really delusional. How will any society be able to maintain domestic harmony if everyone is not suffering together? NO JOKE, only sociaiists can create a society in which everyone suffers together. God help me that makes the perfect conservative campaign slogan. But the reason that it works as a conservative campaign slogan is so many of them are in denial about the scope of the problem.
    I suspect that some conservatives who are not in denial about the scope of the problem have given up hope that humanity can be saved. If they are right we will all be suffering seperately, some sooner than others. But the time seperation between the first to die and the last to die might come as a rude suprise to conservatives.
    I myself have yet to see a plan from anyone, including from the left wing of the political spectrum, that convinces me that it even has a prayer in hell of saving humanity. According to my go to person on climate change (Paul Beckwith) we have already hit 1.5° C over pre industrial temprittures and 2° is locked in. The melting of the aritic trunda is already accelerating. AND there is evidence that the methane hydrates are already being released in to the atmosphere. Scientist had previously said that these methane hydrates were stable deep under sediments. I really really do wish that these symptoms are being faked by a group of activists conspiring to get the world political community to act faster on climate change. So that humanity really does have a chance to meet the challenge to its survical that it is faced with.
    Under these circumstances the only way that conservatives can get involved is to surrender their adherence to markets, which is really one dollar one vote. Those on the left wing will have to give up something too. That is an adherence to one person one vote. The idea that uneducated, untrained, dishonest, and delusional people should have a say in what policies a society should take at this point is clearly not going to deliver an outcome in which humanity survives.
    Well just what in the hell does an educated trained honest person with discernment look like? Well such a person would be an engineer. They would have a military background in the Cuban military. They would have expirience working in a multinational project of some sort. They would be a Unitarian Universalist. These are the people that humanity needs to put their meager hopes in to.

  10. JQ: fair enough on the daytime charging. Workplace car parks, where vehicles stay a whole or a half day, are more important and practical for charging than shopping centres. With mainstream BEVs like the latest Korean models coming out with 200 mile ranges, topups are only needed on long highway trips, not shopping ones or work commutes.

    The trial that demonstrated V2G with no battery damage was at Warwick University in England, using the Leafs owned by staff and sitting in the car park. (Chademo is the only standard that supports it now, though the next iteration of CCS will join it). V2G earns money, so it can finance the infrastructure. Since work commutes only use a fraction of the battery’s daily capacity, the potential storage volumes are large.

  11. In regard to charging infrastructure, I think the gilets jaunes of France can be taken as a warning.

    My impression is that they got started on fuel prices. Perhaps that isn’t their only source of anger, but it seems to have been the spark that set them off. In rural areas, where tractors and long distances are far more important than in e.g. Los Angeles, fuel costs and availability are important.

    Consider for example the situation of a farmer who lives thirty miles from the nearest public charger. The situation doesn’t favor electric propulsion, and won’t until they get either (a) large-scale subsidies for photovoltaic/wind installations and batteries, or (b) a big buildout of the grid over a large area with few customers, accompanied by lots of public chargers doomed to serve relatively few customers. And if all goes as well as we can hope for, without some kind of help their situation will get worse, when fuel-propelled cars, trucks, tractors, combines, etc. and their infrastructure start to disappear.

    A big tractor, for example, runs at high power output as long as there’s daylight, but only at certain times of the year. And in fact many farmers have their own tanks of diesel next to the barn. An electric version will either have a very big battery or a very high-current charger, or both. Public charging stations in shopping malls aren’t really going to do that job. I don’t want to get into the weeds of local generation/storage vs. grid-delivered generation/storage: but I don’t imagine either of those helping all that much without substantial investment.

    The reason I refer to the gilets in particular is that they represent a population that isn’t happy about their circumstances and their treatment at the hands of an urban-oriented political system. Are we going to blithely force rural populations everywhere to accept more of the same?

    More generally, IMHO we need to start paying more attention to keeping people happy, as opposed to just assuming that they will do as they must and silently swallow whatever insults they are offered. In this day of Twitter, Facebook, etc. I think the old pattern is unwise; bottled unhappiness under pressure is as explosive as gasoline vapor, and social media is a fine source of sparks.

  12. Hyundai have released an SUV with a 459km capacity. It’s only a small release but orders are quickly piling up. It takes 1 hour on a fast charge or all night at home.

    I remember when the Prius first hit the market it was met with derision but pretty soon a substantial number of cabs in NYC and Paris were Prius. One cabbie told me that they are cost effective as their maintenance is minimal, even brake pads last a lot longer.

  13. I do not see why a person should get all excited about a 100% electric family car fleet in the first place.
    Yes it is a neccessary step towards zero immissions. Yet to reach zero immissions not only is the driving of the vehicle going to have to realease zero CO2 but the manufacture of the vehicles is going to have to release zero CO2 as well. That means the heavy equipment that is used in mining the metals that go in to making the vehicles all have to be electric. That means that the smelting of all of these metals all have to be done with renewable electric energy. Of course the number of solar panels (and or wind turbines) that is manufactured is going to have to be so large that this source of power can not only replace are current electricity grid but even power all of the vehicles that do not use electricity. The way that things are gong now by the time this could be done humans will have pushed the CO2 level to 650 ppm and that is not even acounting for feedback loops.
    Perhaps this would explain why those who are making the decsions have set humanity on a course of certian death. They want to get it over as quickly as possible. The only realistic alternative at this point is for the entire planet to surrender to the will of Cuban engineers and take the risks that at this point there is a 99% chance we will all die anyways. But take the risk on Cuban engineers knowing that there is a 1% chance that we can be saved. And with a somewhat larger chance that the starvation of BILLIONS of people can be pushed down the road years or maybe even decades furher.
    Of course the rich and powerful people in charge are not going to surrender to the will of the Cubans because that would means that they would have to give up their status before they die. That is not going to happen.
    The only way for the Cubans to have a chance is if those who have been supporting those currently in charge can organize to change the plan, and the story. If humanity offers the proper burnt sacrifice to Zeus, Helena, Posideon, Odin, Thor, and all of the rest of the legitimate Gods humanity might be able to count on some kind of intervention that will make our futures more palitable.

  14. David Knapp: Open a charger map of any French region at Just where is it possible to live 30 miles away from a charger? 15 miles? This is not why the gilets jaunes of cosseted rural France are rioting.

  15. James Wimberley,

    Rural France is cosseted? Well then, we are going to need an even stronger word for the urban elites.

  16. If the CAP isn’t cosseting, I don’t know what woukd count. Plus systematic over-representation through the Senate. The equality of public services like education arises from centralisation not discrimination, but it’s a very significant counterweight to market bias.

  17. On car charging: What we really need, and what we we really should have now in some areas, is a way for people in suburbs to pay 0-1 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity when it benefits the grid. This is because with our current local distribution it is tricky to move surplus residential solar production out of the suburbs to where it might be needed.

    Over half of Australia’s private cars are parked at home for most of the day so there is plenty of potential for local charging of electric cars. There’s a weird belief that nearly all our cars are driven to work every day, but we have far too many cars for that to be true. And many of the cars that are used for commutes never leave the suburbs because they are left in train station parking lots.

    So provided market forces to operate in a sensible way, electric cars, home battery storage, and business battery storage, can support the operation of the grid.

    If self driving car technology means we end up with one tenth the number of cars we have now, if they have an average battery size of 40 kilowatt-hours that’s still 80 gigawatt-hours of storage or about 3 kilowatt-hours for every Australian. Throw in home and business battery storage and even just our existing pumped hydro capacity and it adds up to quite a lot.

  18. James Wimberley,

    My mistake, I wasn’t clear enough.

    By urban elites I meant urban ELITES (like Macron and his buddies in European Banking) not average city dwellers.

    Speaking of CAP, I do remember a show from TV many years ago which showed a Bavarian extended family of about 8 people living in a village in a very large beautiful home with all the mod cons plus nice big sedans of a good German brand to drive around in. They ran a small farm outside the village. They literally had 1 cow, 6 pigs and a few geese. But this was how they lived. Nobody in the family had any other job. It as quite astonishing. The subsidies must have been astronomical.

  19. Actually, I am astonished by near-current figures:


    “Last year the average farm made £2,100 from agriculture and £28,300 from subsidies. The typical cereal farmer actually lost £9,500 by farming cereals.” – The Times, 4 August 2016


    “The basic point is correct: on average, farmers across the UK make far more money from subsidies than they do from agriculture. Cereal farmers lose money. The exact figures depend on what you class as a subsidy.

    On average, English farms made a £39,000 profit last year from their farming business.

    Only £2,100 of this came from agriculture, which is what springs to many people’s mind when they think of farming. If we look at cereal farms alone, they lost £9,500 on agriculture in 2014/15.

    On the other hand, the average English farm received £24,900 in subsidies last year. Once you deduct the costs involved in making use of the subsidies, like employing labour and machinery, the benefit is closer to £22,400.” – – FullFact Org UK.

    Good grief! What an astonishing system! I mean I’m an armchair welfarist and all but surely there are limits?

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