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Myths about Myths of the climate change debate (as made by the Sydney Morning Herald)

Posted By Joanne Nova On August 17, 2015 @ 5:01 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Looking for some mythical myths?

Sydney Morning Herald/Age serves their subscribers up a few. Apart from “Myth 1″ below, Adam Morton avoids answering the most important points skeptics are making, but offers up some secondary bit and pieces. He supplies vague wordy answers announcing definitive conclusions based on irrelevant, motherhood type reasoning, non-sequiteurs, and little research: it’s just what we’ve come to expect from a Fairfax “investigation”.

“Myth 1″: The new climate target will be difficult to meet

Adam’s has four arguments (3 irrelevant, 1 wrong) to convince us it will be easy. I’ve paraphrased the wordy stuff. His arguments are so weak, the marvel here is that our national conversation is so irrational. “Not even trying” as they say.

Lo, behold, it will be “easy” to cut our carbon emissions by 26%, because:

1. The last small target we set for 2020 of a “5%” cut was less than other countries are achieving.

Jo says: There’s a reason our target was smaller.  Australia’s population is growing faster (proportionally), our distances are larger, population density smaller, our largest export earner is “coal”, and some of our other exports have “energy” built in (so the carbon emissions occur in Australia for goods consumed elsewhere, e.g. aluminum). In any case, how does meeting a 5% target suddenly make a 25% target “easy”? We bankrupted farmers to achieve it, and most of those other countries won’t meet their targets.

2. The leap to 25% is really only a leap to 22% if you consider that the baseline years changed.

Jo says: So 25% is not much bigger than 5% (his first point), but 22% is significantly smaller than 25%?  Not only is that not worth mentioning, and contradictory, it’s probably neutralized (and then some) by population growth. Our population has grown 38% since 1990.

3.  Bernie Fraser says that we sort of committed to the 25% target in a subclause to the UN year ago, and “several analyses” reckon that clause was met.

Jo says: So an unrealistic target set yet ago which was never seriously attempted (because it depended on other countries “doing stuff” which they mostly didn’t do) could be said to have been a real target by some analysts in some circumstances, and is not much different to the new commitment. And this makes the reality of 25% “easy” how?

4. Recent evidence says it will be “easier than most people appreciate” because our emissions stopped increasing anyway, manufacturing declined, and people put lots of solar on their roofs.

Jo says: Manufacturing declined. We make less stuff to use and sell, how is that “good”?

Solar had little to do with the decline in emissions. Per capita most of our cuts in emissions came from locking up farmland and stopping land clearing. (That’s 20% of the 28% per capita fall in Australian emissions since 1990.)

5. An activist group called Climate Works says we could cut emissions by 50% by 2030 “easily” and grow the economy too.

Jo says:”Great” — so if existing technology is that good, who needs carbon markets, reduction schemes and legislation? Answer: existing technology is wildly expensive, inefficient, and high maintenance, so no one would use it if government didn’t force them to.

“Myth 2″: Australia is cutting per capita emissions faster than anyone else

His first argument is that this myth might be true, but we’d still have the highest emissions per capita anyhow. (As if we know what 2030 emissions/population will be). When is a myth a myth, and when it is it just clickbait junk journalism?

Adam says this is a myth because other countries (that didn’t meet their last promises) have higher promises for 2030. Notably, to answer his point about “per capita” emissions, for most of his column space, Adams dumps the “per capita” part and just looks at numbers per country. In any case, those other countries are promising things, but cutting their green schemes: The UK is chopping those renewable subsidies, the EU carbon market is only kept alive by government rescue packages. Germany gave up on its renewable target.

It’s all a carbon accounting game anyway.  Australia has a high per capita emissions because we export a lot of energy-intensive goods like aluminum. Those emissions get counted “here” but used overseas. If we changed the carbon accounting to reflect where the product is used, the statistics look very different. If we don’t make it, someone else will. We could lower “our” emissions by exporting these industries (e.g moving aluminum smelters to say the Philippines), but it doesn’t do the planet a whit of goods.

“Myth 3″: Australia is doing more than China [to reduce CO2]

Sure. China burns 46% of global coal production and is planning more coal fired plants than any other country. They are doing “a lot” — see it here on this map from the World Resources Institute. China increases it’s emissions by more than Australia’s total production each year. It is only planning to slow its growth rate when its population rate is also projected to slow (around 2030).
Global planned coal fired plants, China, India, Map,

China is doing a lot to cut emissions? That’s what 500,000 new MW of coal power means for carbon activists….

Notice the vertical line here and the phenomenal rise of Chinese coal use after 2001? Tell yourself that China is reducing emissions. Repeat. Stare at the orange blob. Drink Vodka.*


“Myth 4″ Electricity prices won’t go up

Finally Adam gets on the right side of reality, for a sentence. Electricity prices will rise. This is what has to happen if we are to control world temperatures through our power plants. The point skeptics make is that it isn’t worth the price.  Adam says, innumerately, that arguing purely on the grounds that “prices will rise” is like denying there is a problem. Jo says: arguing about national policy on a yes: no basis is like talking to a three year old. “How much will it cost?” Adamikins says “yes”.

Australia produces 1.3% of global human emissions. We spent $15 billion to reduce global emissions by 0.004%. We changed the global climate by 0.0C. How much will it cost to cool the world? An obscene, eye-watering, ridiculous amount. The world bank has visions of $89 Trillion, but even they won’t say how many degrees of cooling this will buy us.

“Myth 5″: Coal plants have a healthy future

There are a thousand new coal fired plants in the planning stage. Sounds healthy to me. See the answer to “Myth 3″. The only threat to coal is if they world goes nuclear. (The Greens are doing all they can to protect coal from that.)

“Myth 6″: Australian coal can lift 100 million poor Indians out of poverty

Adam has exactly zero numbers to suggest why this is not so. Instead it’s wrong, apparently, because it doesn’t take into account the “health and social costs” of coal done by groups that use broken climate models to predict fantasy trends, and also pretend (despite the evidence) that warming kills more people than cold does.  Studies on 74 million people show cold kills 20 times more people. It’s lucky cheap coal can keep houses warm so efficiently. It can not just lift Indians out of poverty, it can save their lives in winter as well.

If Co2 had much warming effect it would be a good thing.

“Myth 7″: Lowest cost is always the answer

See if you can figure out Adam’s point. He says: “…if Australia is paying for the cheapest cuts only, there will be nothing to transform the economy”. I think he is arguing that even if we cut carbon the cheapest way possible, that is “good” but not enough. He says (with God-like omniscience) we also have to “replace energy infrastructure” and “change transport and agriculture” and that “… won’t happen with a low international carbon price alone.” Right, so we must use the deeply flawed, fake free-market to make carbon reduction cheap, then, because he knows that won’t work to actually change “infrastructure” (like a real free market does every day) we need government regulation on top of the government-regulated failure of a market. The answer is always more state control.

Tell us Adam, how is funneling money to Chinese solar panel manufacturers to produce ineffective solar panels going to produce an effective, competitive, solar panel? It will only happen if the profits for the Chinese manufacturers are so large they use a tiny slice of them to spend on research. If our aim is to make a solar panel that sells without a subsidy, isn’t it about 200 times more efficient to just spend the money on research ourselves? Then we own the patents too. Cheaper, faster, better for us.

Or could it be that the real aim is not “better” panels or CO2 reduction, but really to create a large pool of people with a vested interest in the grand climate campaign? People on the solar panel gravy train will defend, lobby and vote for solar subsidies and the man-made climate crisis because they cream some money off it.

The pointlessness of “solar” discovery by funding bad versions on houses fits the second theory, not the first. But hey, what’s empirical evidence against a motherhood-feels-good idea?

“Myth 8″: There is a plan to meet Australia’s target

There are a thousand plans and there are no plans. It’s all hope and change. The Abbott government is doing the cheapest thing possible (which is still mostly a waste of money). The Labor government want to change the whole economy in a grand scheme, despite energy use being inelastic, and most of the players not changing behaviour unless the price gets exorbitant. A forced market is a fixed market. A forced payment is a tax, even if your economic ignorance is so complete you think it’s OK to call it “free”.


*Vodka? There is a Chinese type, and it’s the most consumed distilled spirit in the world according to an unreferenced line in wikipedia. :-) .

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