Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

68 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Another milestone in the marathon:
    ‘In Europe, renewables have produced more [electrical] energy than fossil fuels in the first and second quarter of 2019.”
    For some unexplained reason, the consultants responsible for this estimate expect fossil fuels to bounce back in the second half, following past experience. It’s a peculiar pattern, as the two halves of the year are pretty symmetrical climatically; excess a/c load in Q3 is balanced by excess heating load in Q1. And more new renewables become available each year in the second half as coal plants slowly close.

    I should have written “triathlon” not “marathon” as a simile for the transition. Electricity is just the swimming leg, to be followed by decarbonisation of transport, industry and heating (the bike leg) and finally massive sequestration to get us back to 350 ppm (the final run). JQ practices the right sport.

  2. Carbon pricing
    Nifty charts on the state of play in this pdf from the World Bank: *****
    The World Bank has its faults, but being a bureaucracy it has staying power. They have been steadily pushing carbon pricing for years, with more success than burnt-fingered Australians might think.

  3. UBI support + good advice from Miltin Friedman -“to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”.

    “Good New Idea
    John Lanchester makes the case for Universal Basic Income

    …”…we will need to have some different, better ideas; we will need to have some ideas about shared responsibility, shared security and shared prosperity. The left will need a new toolkit. It will need to have done its intellectual prep. That, more than anything, is what this new wave of work on UBI represents. Milton Friedman wasn’t right about everything, but he knew more than anyone in modern political economics what it takes to change an intellectual climate. He worked out how to make a new idea take shape first as something thinkable, and then as a specific policy. He said that the crucial step was to be ready:

    “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”

    The list of progressive alternatives which currently fit that description is one item long: universal basic income.”

  4. “We need to be at 270 ppm by 2013.” – Curt Kastens.

    Cleverly and humorously put Curt, but very few get that. Others seem to think we can go to 500 or 600 ppm (or more) and come back from that level. Not on this planet and there is no planet B.

  5. We don’t want to come back from 600 ppm. We want to go to 700 ppm so that if it drops suddenly it doesn’t drop past 600 ppm. We have deserts to green and a planet to save. We don’t want to dilly dally with CO2 deficiencies.

    Would it be easier to get rid of all the bare soil in South Australia with 360 ppm or with 630 ppm?

  6. If you are looking for a different risky and speculative Aussie megaproject, there’s a new contender:
    “The Northern Territory Government has granted Major Project status to Sun Cable’s proposed Australia-Singapore Power Link (ASPL). The $20 billion venture involves a 10 gigawatt solar farm with 20-30 gigawatt hours of battery storage to be built near Tennant Creek. It’s intended the energy generated by the facility will supply Darwin and Singapore; the latter via a 3,800 kilometre high voltage direct current (HVDC) cable.”
    The distance from Africa to Brazil across the Atlantic is considerably less (2,600 km). Ammonia tankers might be cheaper.

  7. Graeme Bird,
    On the last planet that I lived on water was all that a desert needed to turn green. Of course i only lived there temporarily so my perception of the importance of water could have been skewed. (It is a long story) (The best place to start the long story is on some steps going up and down a hillside behind the schoolhaus in the neighborhood of Marienberg in the German City of Übach-Palenberg. That schoolhaous has science been closed down,)

  8. Curt:
    The actual CO2 concentration in 2013 was 400 ppm, as you probably know. 270 ppm is the estimated pre-industrial concentration, good to say 1850.

    You have then three possible settings for your time machine. One is to go back to 1850, make yourself world dictator, and halt the Industrial Revolution. The other is somewhat more economical: to go back to 1750 with an AR-15 and prevent the Industrial Revolution by killing James Watt, Abraham Darby, Richard Arkwright and a hundred other inventors and capitalists who got it going on the back of coal. The third is to back only to 1980, make yourself world dictator again, and engage in a crash 33-year programme of decarbonisation. You will have to go nuclear for electricity, standardising on the then current French designs and not allowing anybody to change them. P2G was feasible then so transport will have to switch to renewable gas. The net sequestration can be done from reafforestation, always feasible. You can find the money from the huge savings in military expenditure that world dictatorship allows (***

    Do let us know how you get on.

  9. A man was walking his dog. It could have been any dog. But it was not any dog. The dog was a German Shepard -Siberian Husky mix that had been found under an overhang of the rubble of a West Wall bunker along the German Belgian border in the Hürtigen forest. The people who found the dog, estimated to be 12 months old at the time, brought it the Aachen Animal Shelter. The dog did not have a dog tag or an implanted chip identifing the owner so it was put up for adoption………………………………

  10. James Wimberely,
    I have developed a slightly different plan. I do not have everything worked out yet. It depends on whether I would go back in time like the Terminator did or if I would be born naturally in the 1870s.
    Going with the natural birth plan I would need to be born (naturally as a male as we have to assume that I am going back in time on this planet) in Vienna or Budapest or Prague in to a Catholic German speaking family that was high enough up the economic ladder so that I could get a university science degree. After graduation I would get a job at the Patent office in Switzerland. I would of course have to learn about the dangers burnng fossil fuels at some point and decide to make preventing the burning of large quantities of fossil fuels my lifes work.
    Now to make this long story short somehow I would have to come to the attention of about 5 or 6 people depending on what the decade is. If we are talking 1900 to 1914 it would be the leader of the USA, the UK, Germany, France, Austro-Ungarn, Russia, Japan, and Turkey. Remember Turkey controlled the territory that had all the oil at that point.
    But if we are talking after 1918 then it would be Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, Tojo, the leader of the UK and the leader of France.
    If we are talking early 20th century I think if I could have made a name for myself by being the first to use Einsteins scientific observations to propose nuclear fission and even better yet nuclear fussion power that would give me the crediblity to have doors opened in to the rooms of world leaders at that time. But even better yet I would hope that I would have learned about the potential of solar power. Manuel Garcia Jr. has pointed out that this technology was known about prior to the 20th century.
    So my sales pitch would trash fossil fuels and highlight the benifits of solar with the possibitly of fission and fussion in the future once scientists know more.
    Of course I recognize that there was also intense military compition among nations at that time. Such a short sighted mindset would of course hinder my mission. So an even earlier mission might be neccessary to change the outcome of the war of the Franco-Prussian War. I would propose that the the war end not with a German takeover of Alsace-Lorraine but with a buffer state being created between France and Germany that would cover the territory between the Rhein and the Mosel. This buffer state would not be allowed to have an army. But the French would be able to set up a line of observation posts along the Rhein that would be connected by telegraph (or telephone) back to France and the Prussians (Germans) would be able to set up a line of observation posts along the Mosel being connected by telegraph back to Germany. The education system in this new nation would be manditory and bilingual. If the residents of this new nation wanted for some strange reason to become mercinaries, they would be allowed to join either the German or French army. But no firearms other than pistols and double barrel breach loading shotguns and rifles would be allowed inside the borders of the buffer state.
    World War One happened because all of the political and military leaders of Europe thought that it not a queston of whether or not there will be another war but only When there will be another war. By creating an unaligned nuetral buffer state between France and Germany the whole way of thinking would have been altered.
    But that change creates a set of new problems itself. If the Europeans did not destroy themselves fighting among themselves thier empires could have continued on for a much longer period of time.
    That would require another secret mission going back in time to bring colonial expoitation to an end.
    I have a plan for that too. After all hind sight is 20-20, if you learn the right lessons. You learn the right lessons not only by knowing the facts but by being able to prioritize the faces.
    I kind of drifted off the subject of preventing global warming. If nothing had changed by the 1930s I think that the key to preventing catasrophe would be influencing Hitler and Stalin. I think the key to doing that would by joining a communist party at a young age and then going under cover and joining the Nazi party shortly after its formation. That way one would have the opportunity of having an influence on both Hitler and Stalin. The very speculative hope would be that if Hitler and Stalin were exposed to different ideas than they were exposed to they would have been different people. That might have prevented the second world war and started a world wide movement to reduce fossil fuel use as early as the 1930s.
    Of course I do not think that we could have prevented the use of any fossil fuels. At a minimum they would have been needed to create a large initial supply of solar panels which implies the railrays to bring together to the coal and iron and silicon at factories created by fossil fuels to make the solar panels. We must also figure that if people had done that they would see it as a temporary strategy until nuclear fission or fussion power could be brought online.
    May you have Sweet dreams of sweet corn. No I did not mispell that.

  11. I just remembered that there is something more contemporary that I wanted to bring up here on the message board. Work began in Germany today on dredging the Elbe river to create a deeper wider shipping channel to the port of Hamburg which like Portland Oregon and London is quite some distance from the Ocean.
    The report that I heard said that this was neccessary to keep Hamburg comptitive with Roterdam and Antwerp. The thing I find troubling about this is that Europeans are supposed to be thinking like Europeans and not as Germans or French or Dutch any moer. If the leaders of Germany were thinking like Europeans they would say, OK Roterdam and Antwerp have ecological advantages as a port over Hamburg. We should take full advantage of those ecological advantages. If we Germans do nothing then we will lose some business to Roterdam and Atwerp. But at some point those ports will be operating at capacity. At that point without having diverted even one cent of resources and without causing any environmental damage to the flora and fauna along and in the Elbe Hamburg will gain the overflow business back to Hamburg.
    And that is just looking at things from INSIDE of the box. If you step outside of the matrix lots of other considerations could come in to consideration.

  12. Just in case you run into Sky News or Fox…

    SOURCE: Jyrki Kauppinen, Paul Joseph Watson, Pekka Malmi, Fox News, Sky News Australia,, Zero Hedge, 11 July 2019   

    “During the last hundred years the temperature is increased about 0.1°C because of carbon dioxide. The human contribution was about 0.01°C.”


  13. James you are basing your historical CO2 levels on ice core data. You cannot rely on a single proxy to stand in for an unknown data set. You need three proxies minimum. Plus we have the measured reading for 1850. Ice core data understates CO2 levels. It understates the measured historical levels and it tends to average them as well. On the other hand from memory the middle of the 19th century was a time of low CO2 levels and hence coincided with some rather famous agricultural catastrophes.

    You are basing your current CO2 levels on a crowd who are known for rigging the data. The reality is that unstressed plant life gains from higher CO2 levels, all the way up to 600 ppm. And stressed plant life does better with higher levels and the benefits don’t start levelling off until about 1500 ppm. So really we ought to choose about 700 ppm as our ultimate goal and go about weaning off hydrocarbons in a patient and multi-generational fashion. Not in a “ho ho the market will take care of everything” glibbertarian fashion. I’m not advocating that. I’m saying lets go about it slowly, systematically, holistically, comprehensively. And lets get it right. So that we have sustainable energy coming out of our ears.

  14. Graeme Bird: Curt’s rewrite of history needs not only the time machine but the Pied Piper’s magic flute (an improved version of the beta versions Magneto sold to Trump and Johnson) to make him world dictator. It looks as if he will need to go back to the store to acquire a continent-scale nonsense suppressor.

  15. James,
    I am a big brother and the world certianly needs one at this time. The kurrent crap of world leader’s clearly need a nanny like me, or one that at least thinks like me, to place them all in straight jackets and place them on a iceberg where they can cool way way down.
    Recent elections in the Ukraine prove that my sense of humor more than qualifies me for the job.

  16. If this is the state of the climate debate then we are in complete trouble. Curt made an amusing and ironic statement about how we needed to be at 270 ppm by 2013. Now, I’m not sure if others here understand irony but he clearly meant we are in overshoot of a safe level and still heading the wrong way. However, since he made that statement, Curt has gone off on a florid and fantastical tangent.

    Meanwhile, Graeme Bird has clearly been reading denialist web sites and regales us with all kinds of anti-science and obfuscatory nonsense about the benignity of high CO2 levels for current biomes. James Wimberley (and Graeme Bird) continue to believe that climate change is a simple, linear, gradual process and that we have all the time in the world to slowly change outputs.

    Maybe people could try reading some generalist descriptions of genuine science. Would that be too much ask?

  17. Perhaps Curt is a bot with near turing test powers! Deep fake video and mow deep fake speech.

    OpenAI is self sensoring as they think it will create not fake mews but fake online identities.

    “Why didn’t OpenAI release the “Unicorn” version of its AI storytelling software?

    “GPT-2 is OpenAI’s language model that produces astonishingly lucid text responses to short text inputs. ”

    “In the video above, Rob Miles of the University of Nottingham, talks about why OpenAI made the decision not to release the full-powered version. Miles says the real risk of releasing GPT-2 is not how it makes it cheap to churn out fake news stories, instead, he says the danger is that GPT-2 has the potential to cheaply create lots of  fake users (i.e., bots) that can escape detection by the algorithms and humans that social media platforms use to detect them. ”

  18. Australian “one step from autonomous” weapons system. Just automate the little red button.

    “”The EOS Remote Weapons System (RWS) is a collection of sensors and a swivelling mount set around a small cannon, heavy machine gun or missile launcher.

    The system is affixed to a military vehicle or a naval vessel and fired remotely.

    ‘Deeply troubling’ connection to Yemen

    The EOS Remote Weapons System (RWS) is a collection of sensors and a swivelling mount set around a small cannon, heavy machine gun or missile launcher.

    The system is affixed to a military vehicle or a naval vessel and fired remotely.”

  19. KT 2,
    Why are you talking about me like I am not present?
    I have gone off on a targent. So what? Do you think that there is something better or bigger that I should and could be doing?

  20. And check your browser extensions too…

    “I found your data. It’s for sale.

    “As many as 4 million people have Web browser extensions that sell their every click. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    “I’ve watched you check in for a flight and seen your doctor refilling a prescription.

    “I’ve peeked inside corporate networks at reports on faulty rockets. If I wanted, I could’ve even opened a tax return you only shared with your accountant.

    “I found your data because it’s for sale online. Even more terrifying: It’s happening because of software you probably installed yourself.”…

  21. The problem for agriculture is that for-profit farming is very like insurance – it’s a high-capital (hence high debt) variable income business that relies on a statistical average of results to maintain viability (“of every five years, one very bad, one bad, two average, one very good”). Global warming shifts the averages – mostly in a bad direction (less frequent and more intense rainfall, longer droughts and so on). People hang on, with help from subsidies and off-farm income, until the weather dice roll really badly. Then they quit.

    We’ve been patching this over with larger farms, but these are even higher capital and more debt-dependent and also accelerate the environmental effects (bigger dams, less groundwater, more pumps, larger fields with greater topsoil loss, more land-clearing, more fertiliser so more algal blooms….).

    At some point we break agriculture. It wlll not be pretty, or gradual.

  22. Heat sensitive / river flow sensitive – nuclear power in france goes awol when air temperature reaches 39C and river flow around 0.5m height.

    “5 Golfech nuclear power plant
    Two reactors shut down in an effort to limit the heating of water used to keep reactors cool”

    “The French energy company EDF said it was shutting down two reactors at its Golfech nuclear power plant in the southern Tarn-et-Garonne region in order to limit the heating of water used to keep the reactors cool. ”

    The reactors …”get water from the Garonne River, only using water to compensate for evaporation; the cooling loop is closed and water is never released back into the river.” [ where does used water go? ]

    “In 2002 the plant produced nearly half of the electricity used in the area. It employs nearly 700 full-time workers.”

    I am not fluent in french yet it seems flood levels are lower last 100 yrs and river has a 650 cubic metre average discharge. With river level currently at 0.5m high I assume the current flow rate in the Garonne River is NOT providing enough flow to provide for even a closed loop cooling system. A worry. If the Pyrenees has a drought or ala MDBasin they sell water downstream, the plant will become stranded by low river flows.

    I hope they reached break even as the plant was proposed in 1967, announced in 1978, construction began in 1982 and completed 9yrs later in 1991.

    Golfech nuclear power plant Annual net output 17,992 GW·h
    California – 2018 Total System Electric Generation in Gigawatt Hours
    Solar – 27,265
    Wind – 14,078

    The comparison with California shows Golfech nuclear power plant is able to be retired. Soon.

    700 workers jobs need to be replaced as well as the reactors.

    I am unable to find figures at this time for construct / operate large scale renewable generation projects. This report has both rooftop and large scale figures together.

    “Across the period 2014-2030, over 80% of full-time employment created by 50RE is additional to the economy.”

    …”In contrast to the automotive or steel industries, the expected loss of jobs in the coal-based electricity sector will not just be compensated by jobs in renewable electricity related jobs, but additional jobs will be created.” pg39

    Witness Sundrop Farms in Whyalla. …” Sundrop Farms is using solar thermal power to both heat and cool 20 hectares of greenhouses, and to produce fresh water (from desalinated sea water) for growing 15,000 tonnes of truss-tomatoes annually. ”

    France and nuclear lovers take note.

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