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.”

Return of Adani’s big yellow grader

Adani’s chief executive Lucas Dow is yet again claiming that the company is “ready to go” with the Carmichael mine, as soon as the government approves it. As usual, we get a picture of Adani’s fleet of heavy earthmoving equipment, consisting of one big yellow grader.

Adani’s $2 billion at work

At least the journalist visiting the site shows a bit of scepticism this time, noting that Dow’s claims that he could start today, made while standing next to a 5-metre wide strip of cleared scrub, require a bit of imagination.

Just for fun, I thought I’d work out how much of Adani’s supposed $2 billion budget is being spent on this piece of theatre. From what I can see, graders like the one in the picture can be hired for $1-2000 a day, which would give a total of at most $250 000 since the latest go-ahead was announced late last year. I imagine Lucas Dow could just about finance that out of his pocket, without needing to call on Mr Adani’s much greater resources.

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The triumph of Trumpism

The recent chaos around One Nation (including Fraser Anning, reactions to the Christchurch atrocity and the Al Jazeera sting and the reactions to it, show how thoroughly Trumpism has conquered the Australian right. Most obviously, any doubts anyone might have had about Hanson and One Nation have been resolved. She and her party are racists (or in some cases, opportunities riding the racist bandwagon) trading in lunatic conspiracy theories and the rhetoric of the terrorist alt-right. Nothing really new here.

The truly revealing outcome is the reaction of the mainstream right. It’s divided into two groups: those (most notably Tony Abbott and the entire National Party) who have maintained their support for an open alliance with Hanson, and those like Morrison and (Oz columnist) Paul Kelly who have taken the line: Racists are bad, but the Greens are worse.

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How Britain kicked coal

Despite the chaos of Brexit and the difficulty of expanding renewable generation in a country where sunshine is in notoriously short supply and there is strong resistance to wind turbines, Britain has just about ended its use of coal-fired electricity. The last coal-fired power stations are set to close by 2025, but the process is almost complete already. How was this achieved?

I found a useful graph from OFGEM, the British electricity regulator showing developments since 2006, when coal (graphed in orange) supplied around 40 per cent of UK electricity. By 2018, it’s negligible. The graph at the site is interactive, so you can easily get actual numbers.

It turns out that generation from gas and nuclear plants has been virtually constant over the period since 2006. These sources displaced substantial volumes of coal-fired power during the second half of the 20th century.

The elimination of coal has come from two main sources. First, total electricity use has declined, reflecting increased efficiency. Second, wind (offshore and onshore) has expanded to the point where it is now about as a big a source as nuclear.

I have some other thoughts about the UK case, but for now I’ll leave this open for comments.

Economics in Two Lessons, in Chinese

I’ve just heard from Princeton University Press that Economics in Two Lessons will be translated into Chinese. The publisher is ¬†Ginkgo (Beijing) which has had some big successes with recent translations.

Apparently, the book was well received at the London Book Fair, which is a trade event focusing on deals like this, so there may be more translations coming.

PUP has offered me the option, when the translation is prepared, to look at a sample. If there are any readers of this blog who are also readers of Chinese (it will be in Simplified not Traditional characters), I’d welcome an informal evaluation