Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 18 June 2011

More Light Than Heat - Does it Work?

For this exercise, I’m trying to examine if the application of a carbon tax will do anything to mitigate the effects of global warming.

You’ll note that I’m not getting into the debate about whether anything this country does will be pissing in the wind, given that we contribute a very small proportion of the worldwide output of the gases doing the damage.

I’ve already established in previous posts that most of the rest of the world - including the big polluters are taking action – either in a nationally coordinated fashion (like Europe) or in a relatively uncoordinated fashion (like China and the USA). Therefore there’s no point in beefing on about “going it alone”. It’s a pity a few of the more vocal pollies don’t do the basic reading.
Again, I’m not using newspaper reports, blog posts or polemic monographs as sources. When I was a student at Uof Q back in the 70s and 80s, I’d have been hauled across the coals for that. I’m not going to break a sound academic habit which has served me well in the past.
My sources are the scientific journals – boring and dense as they are. These days however, thanks to the interweb, these journals are eminently accessible, particularly if you hold a few subscriptions.

To avoid boring you to tears, I’ll use the abstracts.

The first thing I’d like to investigate is whether action such as putting a price on carbon will make any difference. The first article is called -

Energy and emission scenarios for China in the 21st century—exploration of baseline development and mitigation options

If you want the whole thing you can purchase it online for $19.95, but the abstract says it all -

In this paper, we have used the simulation model to develop a set of energy and emission scenarios for China between 1995 and 2100, based on the global baseline scenarios published by IPCC. The purpose of the study was to explore possible baseline developments and available options to mitigate emissions. The two main baseline scenarios of the study differ, among others, in the openness of the Chinese economy and in economic growth, but both indicate a rapid growth in carbon emissions (2.0% and 2.6% per year in the 2000–2050 period). The baseline scenario analysis also shows that an orientation on environmental sustainability can not only reduce other environmental pressures but also lower carbon emissions. In the mitigation analysis, a large number of options has been evaluated in terms of impacts on investments, user costs, fuel imports costs and emissions. It is found that a large potential exists to mitigate carbon emissions in China, among others in the form of energy efficiency improvement (with large co-benefits) and measures in the electricity sector. Combining all options considered, it appears to be possible to reduce emissions compared to the baseline scenarios by 50%.

This is a no-brainer in that it shows two things – that emissions in China will continue to increase, and that they can be reduced by a simple change in industry orientation. Given that China is a command economy, this is relatively cheerful news, and lines up neatly with action already being taken in China as explained in my last post. This, by the way, is possible without a price on carbon.

The title of the second article is -

Ancillary benefits of reduced air pollution in the US from moderate greenhouse gas mitigation policies in the electricity sector

The abstract –

Actions to slow atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases also would reduce conventional air pollutants yielding “ancillary” benefits that tend to accrue locally and in the near-term. Using a detailed electricity model linked to an integrated assessment framework to value changes in human health, we find a tax of $25 per metric ton of carbon emissions would yield NOx-related health benefits of about $8 per metric ton of carbon reduced in the year 2010 (1997 dollars). Additional savings of $4–$7 accrue from reduced investment in NOx and SO2 abatement in order to comply with emission caps. Total ancillary benefits of a $25 carbon tax are $12–$14, which appear to justify the costs of a $25 tax, although marginal benefits are less than marginal costs. At a tax of $75, greater total benefits are achieved but the value per ton of carbon reductions remains roughly constant at about $12.

The interesting point of this study is that (amongst other things) it shows that applying a mid-range carbon tax ($25 per tonne) can actually make money for the economy as a whole through health savings. In other words, there are long-term savings to be made through the imposition of a tax.

The third article

Climate change mitigation strategies in fast-growing countries: The benefits of early action. 

This is a fairly recent (2009) international study, although it was published by Princeton.

Abstract -

This paper builds on the assumption that OECD countries are (or will soon be) taking actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These actions, however, will not be sufficient to control global warming, unless developing countries also get involved in the cooperative effort to reduce GHG emissions. The paper investigates the best short-term strategies that emerging economies can adopt in reacting to OECD countries' mitigation effort, given the common long-term goal to prevent excessive warming without hampering economic growth. Results indicate that developing countries would incur substantial economic losses by following a myopic strategy that disregards climate in the short-run, and that their optimal investment behaviour is to anticipate the implementation of a climate policy by roughly 10 years. Investing in innovation ahead of time is also found to be advantageous. The degree of policy anticipation is shown to be important in determining the financial transfers of an international carbon market meant to provide incentives for the participation of developing countries. This is especially relevant for China, whose recent and foreseeable trends of investments in innovation are consistent with the adoption of domestic emission reduction obligations in 2030.

The interesting point about this conclusion is that it argues both for early action, and points out that China’s recent attention to investments in innovation are heading in the right direction.

Next (fourth) article

Multi-gas emission envelopes to meet greenhouse gas concentration targets: Costs versus certainty of limiting temperature increase

This 2006 Dutch study looks at a range of ways of stabilising emissions and the benefits of early action.


This paper presents a set of technically feasible multi-gas emission pathways (envelopes) for stabilising greenhouse gas concentration at 450, 550 and 650 ppm CO2-equivalent and their trade-offs between direct abatement costs and probabilities to meet temperature targets. There are different pathways within the envelope. Delayed response pathways initially follow the upper boundary of the emission envelope and reduce more by the end of the century. In contrast, early action pathways first follow the lower boundary and then the upper boundary. The latter require an early peak in the global emissions but keeps the option open for shifting to lower concentration targets in the future. Costs evaluations depend on the discount rate. Early action profiles have high costs early on, but learning-by-doing and smoother reduction rates over time lead to in most cases to lower costs across the century (net present value (NPV)). To achieve the 450 ppm CO2-equivalent, the global emissions need to peak before 2020. The NPV of costs increase from 0.2% of cumulative gross domestic product to 1.0% as the shift is made from 650 to 450 ppm (discount rate 5%). However, the chances of limiting global mean warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels are very small for peaking and stabilisation at 650 ppm (1–23%) and 550 ppm (1–48%), but increase for a peaking at 510 ppm with subsequent stabilisation 450 ppm to 14–67%.
These findings are consistent with the Princeton and Dutch studies.

The fifth article refers to India -

The Modelling of Policy Options for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in India

It looks at two models comparing systems optimization with the application of carbon taxes. It also points out that whilst these measures would mitigate, they would also cause a significant decrease in GNP in this developing country, although there is an acknowledgement of the inadequacy of the current models when applied to developing economies.

Abstract -

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in India have important implications for global climate change. Emission trajectory and mitigation policies for India are analysed using two models, a bottom-up energy systems optimization model (MARKAL) and a top-down macroeconomic model (Second Generation Model (SGM). MARKAL is used to analyse technologies, peak electricity demand, carbon taxes, and a range of different policy scenarios. Carbon taxes and emissions permits are analysed using SGM. In the reference scenario, energy use and carbon emissions increase nearly fourfold between 1995 and 2035. The analysis indicates that investment in infrastructure can substantially lower energy intensity and carbon intensity. A high carbon tax induces the substitution of natural gas and renewable energy for coal, and also causes a significant decrease in gross national product and consumption. The limitations of present models tor analysing mitigation policies for developing countries are discussed. Improvements for realistic representation of developing country dynamics and a policy agenda for GHG mitigation studies in developing countries are proposed.

So India can reduce emissions as it develops, and the application of a carbon tax is one way of doing it, at cost to GNP.

I found five other articles, but they pretty much say the same thing, which is that the application of a carbon tax will significantly reduce emissions. Is there anyone out there who can produce a set of scientific papers (not blog posts or stories written by journalists) which show the opposite?


Celtic cross

I regard myself as a Mick (a Catholic) but have never had much time for organised religion.

This disdain has been reinforced by the treatment of our local Bishop recently. It's probably a good time, in the light of this, to have a look at the values I regard as Christian, and assess how well I've been living them.

Obviously, readers of this can judge me only by what I post, so you'll have to look at the material below considering content over the years and whether my statements and opinions are consistent with this.

My definition of a Christian -

A Christian lives with joy, laughter, kindness and hard work.

A Christian reaches across colour and class lines.

A Christian risks his/her freedom in an effort to secure justice and peace for all.

A Christian loves respects and listens to children, but does not idolize them, or shelter them from truth.

A Christian challenges comfort, silence, complicity, and the easy way out.

A Christian believes in every person's potential for good, regardless of background or labels.

A Christian encourages everyone to unlearn the violence and greed we have become used to and practice peace making and reconciliation.

A Christian engages in serious study of the gospels, mining their wisdom for tools to dismantle injustice.

Christians dwell in community, living simply and sharing.

Christians struggle towards freedom and work to build a just and peaceful world.

We're frequently reminded that this is a Christian country, often in the context of criticism of other values, specifically those of Muslims. These values should therefore be Australian values.

Bill Morris is a Christian. Maybe that's the problem for the organised church.

What do you reckon?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Cows with guns

Given the current controversy, this is timely.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

More Gesture Politics

I'm writing a caption because I can...............

One of the accusations thrown at anyone who supports action on climate change is that it is “gesture politics”.

Another is that anyone driving a hybrid is “stupid”. Blot has done this more than once.

I was wandering down Margaret Street today past a taxi rank. Every single cab was a hybrid. Funny that.

They’re also ubiquitous in Cairns, Rockhampton and Townsville. Most are purchased by the cab companies through Q Fleet auctions. Many have covered half a million kilometres. Only three two Prius of all sold in Oz to date have needed new batteries.

A cabbie who picked me up in town last month bashed my ear for the whole journey about how pleased he was to be in a Prius, and what an improvement it was on the Falcon he had been driving.

So here we have all these cab companies being “stupid” and indulging in gesture politics.

Cab companies must have changed a bit since I had a fair bit do with them ten years ago supervising the contracts they had for driving kids with disabilities to my special school. Back then (before hybrids) they had a very clear take on the most efficient way to use their petrol dollar.

They must have gone soft…..

BTW - Click on the pic and have a close look at the badging on the last cab in the rank. Apparently it's turbocharged.

No Guts

MV Tampa

This article by David Day is one of the more common sensed contributions to this debate.

Day advocates a “solution” to the refugee problem that is so obvious that I’m led to wonder why no Australian pollie has had the guts to propose it.

The answer sticks out like the proverbial canine cojones, but I’ll go all naive and pretend, for a moment that I don’t understand.

He talks about an incident in 1990 when a boat with 26 Cambodian refugees landed on the Kimberley coast, and how they were welcomed. No politicians got their knickers in a knot, no shock-jocks were foaming at the mouth, and there was a push from the Broome locals to give them jobs in the tourist industry.

Compare that reaction with the crap that occurs now. There is a whole outrage industry that feeds of unauthorised arrivals. It is headed up by the sycophantic pollies (of both sides of the spectrum) and supercharged by shock jocks in the radio and blogosphere.

The result is enormous damage to the unfortunates concerned (they are banged up in sterile “detention centres” and slowly go mad), and deep wounds are cut in our national psyche. We have created detention Gulags all over the country. We have gone from the nation of the Fair Go to the nation of the Piss-Off. Paranoia is the new national characteristic. The bronzed ANZAC hides in his bedroom.

It's very sad. It makes me ashamed to call myself Australian. These are not my values - nor are they Australian values. These are the values that Stalin and Hitler applied.  I may have been a Nasho back in 1970, but the Australia I was fighting for back then is not the Australia I see now.

How did this come about?

You can draw a line from Tampa through 9/11 to the “Pacific Solution” and now the “Malaysian Solution”. The word “solution” is quite happily used. The fact that it recalls the “Jewish Solution” without apparently troubling Australians is a fair indication of how hysterical our national debate on this issue has become.

John Howard cynically exploited the 9/11 hysteria and Kim Beasley, to his eternal shame, went along with it. Since then, it’s been a chronicle of pissweak populism.

If we’re going to use the word “solution” - try this for size.

Bulldoze the detention centres.
Introduce an Australia card.
Employ Australian processing officers in Indonesia.
Set up a series of “Immigration Zones” in underpopulated regional Australia.
Set up reception centres where refugees can be processed, before being moved quickly into the regional centres.
The security checks can proceed as this happens. The new arrivals would be expected to remain in the reception zones. The Australia card would simplify the process.

This would be cheaper, more humane, and there would be a real benefit to rural Australia. We would be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

It would also eliminate the development of immigration ghettos in our metropolitan cities. Nobody who knows Australia would want to live there - these places breed intolerance, violence, and ultimately terrorism. Their existence also contributes to the national paranoia.

If you think this is pie in the sky, I suggest you take a run out to Charleville, where a community of Vietnamese on 457 visas are keeping a large local business viable at the same time as they improve the quality of local life.

Last time I had a meal at the Charleville RSL there were quite a few Viets doing the same. Their demeanour was indistinguishable from the locals. The state (and Catholic) schools in town have improved out of sight on the backs of the courteous hard-working Vietnamese kids. I’ve been visiting them since 2005, and the improvement is tangible.

You can get a top Asian meal in Charleville these days. It's advertised as a Thai resturant - but hey, who cares? The locals love the tucker.

And I bet this would “stop the boats”. It would be worth doing just to get rid of the insane sloganism which is kids' stuff - yet we fall for it over and over again.

We won’t see it until we have a pollie with guts. There seem to be very few of these around – Bob Katter maybe?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

More Light than Heat - some conclusions

I've had it up to here with the crap emanating from both sides of politics about Climate Change and a Carbon Tax.

So I've turned my ICD* up to maximum in an attempt to separate fact from opinion.

The following seems clear -

1. Most developed countries are taking some action to control carbon emissions.

2. Many countries (especially in Europe) have already introduced mitigation measures in the shape of taxes or cap in trade schemes.

3. Developing countries (especially China) have not legislated these measures, but have given lip service to planning for them within the next few years.

4. Some large emitters such as the USA and Canada have left it to state or provincial authorities to take action, and some are.

Obviously I can only post what I read, but at least I've attempted some very basic research and not simply quoted opinion from advocates for one side or another.

If any myth has been busted, it's the one we hear over and over again that Australia is Robinson Crusoe on the issue. It ain't - and the worldwide debate is about the politics - not the science.

From here, I'll try to establish the likelihood of whether or not this action, or promised action will make any damn difference.

I'll use only scientific journals, and many of these require subscriptions, so this activity might take a little while. I have a week until my next trip west, so the library at USQ may take a beating.

* Inbuilt Crap Detector

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