Friday, October 27, 2017


Lecture Last Month by Tony Abbott at London Climate Meeting:

The lesson I’ve taken from being in government, and then out of it, is simply to speak my mind. The risk, when people know where you stand, is losing their support. The certainty, when people don’t know where you stand, is losing their respect.

Of course, we’re all nostalgic for the days when governments and oppositions could agree on the big issues; but pleading for bi-partisanship won’t create it. As my government showed on border protection policy, the only way to create a new consensus is to argue the case, to make a decision, and then to let the subsequent facts speak for themselves...

Beware the pronouncement, “the science is settled”. It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages. Almost as bad is the claim that “99 per cent of scientists believe” as if scientific truth is determined by votes rather than facts... What the “science is settled” brigade want is to close down investigation by equating questioning with superstition...

Physics suggests, all other things being equal, that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would indeed warm the planet. Even so, the atmosphere is an almost infinitely complex mechanism that’s far from fully understood.

Palaeontology indicates that over millions of years there have been warmer periods and cooler periods that don’t correlate with carbon dioxide concentrations...

Prudence and respect for the planet would suggest taking care not lightly to increase carbon dioxide emissions; but the evidence suggests that other factors such as sun spot cycles and oscillations in the Earth’s orbit are at least as important for climate change as this trace gas – which, far from being pollution, is actually essential for life to exist.

Certainly, no big change has accompanied the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the past century from roughly 300 to roughly 400 parts per million or from 0.03 to 0.04 per cent.

Contrary to the breathless assertions that climate change is behind every weather event, in Australia, the floods are not bigger, the bushfires are not worse, the droughts are not deeper or longer, and the cyclones are not more severe than they were in the 1800s. Sometimes, they do more damage but that’s because there’s more to destroy, not because their intensity has increased. More than 100 years of photography at Manly Beach in my electorate does not suggest that sea levels have risen despite frequent reports from climate alarmists that this is imminent.

It may be that a tipping point will be reached soon and that the world might start to warm rapidly but so far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling. Even the high-priests of climate change now seem to concede that there was a pause in warming between the 1990s and 2014...

The growing evidence that records have been adjusted, that the impact of urban heat islands has been downplayed, and that data sets have been slanted in order to fit the theory of dangerous anthropogenic global warming does not make it false; but it should produce much caution about basing drastic action upon it.

Then there’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (which is a plant food after all) are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.

In what might be described as Ridley’s paradox, after the distinguished British commentator: at least so far, it’s climate change policy that’s doing harm; climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm.

Australia, for instance, has the world’s largest readily available supplies of coal, gas and uranium, yet thanks to a decade of policy based more on green ideology than common sense, we can’t be sure of keeping the lights on this summer; and, in the policy-induced shift from having the world’s lowest power prices to amongst the highest, our manufacturing industry has lost its one, big comparative economic advantage...

In July 2014, the Abbott government abolished the carbon tax, saving the average household about $500 a year. In early 2015, we reduced the Renewable Energy Target from 28 to 23 per cent. It wasn’t enough, but it was the best that we could get through the Senate. My cabinet always had some ministers focussed on jobs and cost of living; and others more concerned with emissions reduction, even though our contribution to global emissions was barely one per cent...

At last year’s election, the government chose not to campaign on power prices even though Labor was promising a 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target (requiring a $50 billion over-build of wind farms) and a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 (requiring a new carbon tax). After a net gain of 25 seats at the previous two elections, when we had campaigned on power prices, we had a net loss of 14 when we didn’t...

Hydro aside, renewable energy should properly be referred to as intermittent and unreliable power. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. Wind and solar power are like sailing ships; cheaper than powered boats, to be sure, but we’ve stopped using sail for transport because it couldn’t be trusted to turn up on time.
Because the weather is unpredictable, you never really know when renewable power is going to work. Its marginal cost is low but so is its reliability, so in the absence of industrial scale batteries, it always needs matching capacity from dependable coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear energy. This should always have been obvious.

Also now apparent is the system instability and the perverse economics that subsidised renewables on a large scale have injected into our power supply... Having to turn coal fired power stations up or down as the wind changes makes them much less profitable even though coal remains by far the cheapest source of reliable power..

We have got ourselves into this mess because successive federal governments have tried to reduce emissions rather than to ensure reliable and affordable power; because, rather than give farmers a fairer return, state governments have given in to green lobbyists and banned or heavily restricted gas exploration and extraction; and because shareholder activists have scared power companies out of new investment in fossil fuel power generation, even though you can’t run a modern economy without it.

In the short term, to avoid blackouts, we have to get mothballed or under-utilised gas back into the system.

In the medium term, there must be – first – no subsidies, none, for new intermittent power (and a freeze on the RET should be no problem if renewables are as economic as the boosters claim); second, given the nervousness of private investors, there must be a government-built coal-fired power station to overcome political risk; third, the gas bans must go; and fourth, the ban on nuclear power must go too in case a dry country ever needs base load power with zero emissions.

Belatedly, the government is now suggesting that there might not be a new Clean Energy Target after all. There must not be – and the government still needs to deal with what’s yet to come under the existing target..

Even if reducing emissions really is necessary to save the planet, our effort, however Herculean, is barely-better-than-futile; because Australia’s total annual emissions are exceeded by just the annual increase in China’s..

Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.

The Way I See It......the only rational choice is to put Australian jobs and Australia’s standard of living first; to get emissions down but only as far as we can without putting prices up. After two decades’ experience of the very modest reality of climate change but the increasingly dire consequences of the policy to deal with it, anything else would be a dereliction of duty as well as a political death wish.

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