It has always intrigued me how different things look when viewed from different perspectives.
One of the different ways we can look at things is to examine them in detail or look at them holistically.
In my youth I studied economics and found out there were two major ways of coming to an understanding of economics viz we could look at economics at the enterprise level (Microeconomics) or we could look at economics at the national level (Macroeconomics). Both these points of view yielded useful insights.
Similarly in physics our traditional understanding of the physical world came from Newtonian physics. But as our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of matter increased and we could contemplate how things looked at the level of the quanta, a whole new puzzling vista emerged. On the other hand as we came to grips with the vastness of the universe in the study of cosmology new enigmas arose.
In essence we get essentially vastly different perspectives from looking out or looking in.
We face similar challenges when examining the earth’s atmosphere. We call the day to day variations weather. The longer term and broader history of the earth’s atmosphere we call climate.
To understand weather we need to be able to predict how the day to day variations in barometric pressure and the subtle variations in atmospheric moisture result in wind, rain and temperature changes around the world.
In the longer term the earth’s atmosphere is impacted by other influences like sunspot activity, variations in the earth’s orbit, volcanic activity, the earth’s capacity to absorb CO2 in its soil and oceans and so on.
One of the problems we have difficulty in dealing with climate change is that most of us work with much shorter time horizons than climate. The world has gone through many previous cooling and warming episodes but these usually occur over periods of hundreds if not thousands of years. (One of the advantages of reading geologist, Ian Plimer’s books on climate change is that he is able to draw pictures of climate change over geological time, which puts it in better perspective.)
An individual’s life experience is measured in decades and because we tend to relate things to our own lived experience we are ill-equipped to come to grips with climate which requires a holistic understanding over long periods of time. It is not surprising that when we have major flooding, abnormal fires or indeed extremesof heat or cold many are apt to call these phenomena “unprecedented” when a longer view of history shows they are not particularly abnormal at all.
Many of the climate catastrophists insist the climate variations we are currently experiencing are an existential threat to the human race. Unfortunately their unrelenting propaganda has convinced many young people this is the case and they live in fear for their futures.
As Bjorn Lomborg writes:
People are panicking about climate change in large part because the media and environmental campaigners tell us to, because politicians overhype the likely effects, and because scientific research is often communicated without crucial context.
The human race has survived many climate changes in the past. What the catastrophists ignore is our capacity to adapt. For millennia humans have adapted to their changing earth and there seems no reason why they won’t continue to do so.
The other problem we see with catastrophizing climate change is that we are diverting huge amounts of capital with little tangible benefit whilst neglecting expenditure on other issues that would yield a better return to human kind. This obsession with climate change is diverting resources from immunisation, improving nutrition, giving women in third world countries access to reliable contraception, eradicating malaria, improving education, providing sanitation and healthy drinking water and so on.
And unfortunately Australia’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions amount to little more than virtue signalling because our emissions comprise only 1% of the world’s emissions (and reducing). Even a previous Chief Scientist conceded that if Australia cut its emissions to zero it would have no discernible effect on global temperature. But in trying to do so we are incurring huge costs whilst rendering our energy supply far more expensive and less reliable.
The Europeans, who were faster off the blocks to transition from fossil fuels than Australia, are now having second thoughts about the wisdom of relying too heavily on renewable energy technologies. The Europeans made the fatal mistake of closing down their fossil fuelled generators, and latterly their nuclear plant as well. They accelerated their construction of wind and solar plant, believing they could rely on gas to provide firming capacity when the renewable generators could not meet demand. Unfortunately, having access to little gas of their own, they became dependent on Russian gas. Russia has exploited this parlous situation firstly by manipulating gas sales to Europe to the extent that its resulting profits have largely financed its war in Ukraine and secondly by curtailing sales such that energy prices have skyrocketed in Europe and real fears are held for Europe’s ability to maintain supply over the winter. It is predicted that these imposts might result in thousands of deaths because domestic households will be deprived of adequate heating.(And as I have written on previous occasions, around the globe cold accounts for more than thirty times the number of deaths than heat does.)
It is indeed ironic and certainly tragic that Europe’s ineffectual response to global warming could result in mass deaths due to inability to cope with winter cold.
In response to this unfortunate dilemma, European countries are seeking to reopen coal-fired power plants that were previously shut down and extend the life of its nuclear plant. Prior to his resignation, Boris Johnson even suggested that Britain might need to reconsider its net zero pledge that it made at last year’s UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow. I, for one, fervently believe that Australia should do the same.
Many Western countries in their scramble to affirm their global warming virtue signalling have vastly underestimated the geostrategic importance of their unseemly rush to renewables. This foolish response has handed an immense advantage to the undemocratic players like China and Russia who have no real commitment to ameliorating global warming. They are only committed to producing the least cost reliable electricity they can to foster their own economic development. We, on the other hand, are frittering away the advantage that low cost energy once provided us, with no tangible benefits except for the visceral pleasure that our climate catastrophists gain from imposing their evangelical beliefs on our society at great expense to our energy future.
The rush to renewables is justified by very dubious economics.(I only have an undergraduate degree in Economics but this folly is so obvious that even I am surprised that so many people seem unable to see through this charade.)
The renewable zealots maintain that renewable technologies are cheaper than the other generation technologies. In a very limited sense they are right. The capital cost of a kilowatt of installed renewable plant plant is low. However, because the generation from wind and solar plant is intermittent, its capacity factor is low as well. Because of the intermittent and undependable nature of such generation, the electricity system needs to incur costs to cover the shortfall when the plant can’t meet the system demand. As well if we want to take advantage of any surplus power generated at periods of low demand we need to augment the system with storage capacity (usually pumped storage hydro or batteries), the provision of which is quite expensive. Moreover, because the individual renewable projects available to the system tend to be relatively small scale (compared with gas or coal-fired plant) and it is widely distributed geographically, it imposes high costs on the transmission and distribution networks. For all these reasons the costs of renewable technologies are far higher than many of its proponents naively believe.
Now one might have thought that Australia’s position should not be as parlous as that of the Europeans because we have abundant reserves of coal and gas. But this is not the case. The exaggerated environmental concerns of the Greens, Labor and now the Teals seem destined to ensure that we will be prevented from utilizing these precious and sorely needed resources.
With all these constraints on our electricity generation capacity the Australian Energy Market Operator is warning there is the possibility of a shortfall of generation capacity within two years, which would result in load shedding and blackouts.
The only response from the Australian Government is to promise more of the same, ie increasing investment in renewable generation which neither here nor overseas has done anything other than to increase the cost of electricity and render supply more unreliable.
If we must persist in pursuing this idealistic goal to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050, it can only be done by embracing nuclear technology that the government refuses to even consider.
In conclusion then, let me summarise where we are at.
The government has committed Australia to pursuing a net zero target for CO2 emissions by 2050 to ameliorate global warming. However Australia’s emissions are so minuscule that nothing we can do will have any discernible impact on global temperature.
In the meantime our commitment to this ill-advised strategy will (just as in Europe) serve to substantially raise our electricity prices and jeopardize our long term security of supply. This will greatly impede our energy intensive industries and substantially raise our cost of living.
At the same time our competitors and potential enemies continue unfettered to increase their fossil fueled generation giving them the substantial advantage of more abundant, cheaper and more reliable electricity.
This must be the most spectacular own goal in recorded history!