July 1st 2017


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COVER STORY 'Safe Schools' and every school's duty of care

CANBERRA OBSERVED Catholic education: not gone but Gonski'd

EDITORIAL Oh dear, Prime Minister, Brexit is harder now

ELECTRICITY Blueprint author did not ask about the weather

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Call for referendum after Taiwan court backs same-sex marriage

EUTHANASIA Death-dealing bills break out like hydras' heads

GENDER POLITICS New breed of young women takes on the United Nations

CULTURE AND HISTORY The past is a foreign country

LITERATURE The Road to Wigan Pier and the roads beyond

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY The 'Brisbane line' and other scandals

MUSIC Carla Bley: sophisticated lady

CINEMA Churchill: The regrets of a Lear

BOOK REVIEW Charting 15 years of changing emphases

LETTERS

GENDER POLITICS The Pied Pipers of gender dysphoria

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ELECTRICITY
Blueprint author did not ask about the weather


by William Kininmonth

News Weekly, July 1, 2017

Blueprint for the Future, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s report into the future security of the National Electricity Market, claims four key outcomes: increased security; future reliability; rewarding consumers; and lower emissions.

The central theme is Australia’s continuing commitment to the Paris Accord. This commitment requires a cut in greenhouse gas emissions (that is, carbon dioxide) of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Surprisingly, and without policy direction, Dr Finkel extends the target to zero emissions by the second half of the century.

The blueprint does not deal with the appropriateness of the Paris Accord as a policy objective (too hard? politically incorrect?). There is no acknowledgment that global temperatures have failed to match the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario of anthropogenic global warming and that scientists don’t know why.

The need for the blueprint is that the electricity market is becoming increasingly distorted as governments pursue policies aimed at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions. The distortion is manifested as a reduction in security and reliability of the infrastructure, and higher prices.

Previously, Australia’s electricity generation and distribution systems were world class. They were based on readily available and cheap fossil fuels. The systems employed best available technology to minimise atmospheric pollution, were reliable, and provided relatively cheap energy for industry and the community. Australia was internationally competitive.

It should be noted that France also has a reliable, efficient electricity system but based on nuclear fuels. French generated electricity is exported throughout Europe and is available to back up other systems.

There is general agreement with the proposition that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will raise Earth’s temperature. The contentious questions are: by how much and will it be dangerous?

The Paris Accord relies on the UN’s IPCC as its authority. The IPCC claims that anthropogenic emissions will raise Earth’s temperature to dangerous levels unless constrained. Other alarmist claims are that Earth might reach a “tipping point leading to runaway global warming”. These latter assertions have no basis in science.

The IPCC warming scenarios rely on projections of computer models that have consistently indicated a temperature increase (or sensitivity) of between 2 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius for a doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration, with a best estimate of about 3 degrees.

However, real-world observations over the period of satellite monitoring (since 1980) do not support these projections. The IPCC scenario is for warming of between 0.7 degrees Celsius and 1.6 degrees. The actual warming over the 3½ decades of satellite monitoring has been barely 0.3 degrees, or half the lower model estimate.

Recent climate history suggests that models exaggerate sensitivity to carbon dioxide and that concerns over anthropogenic emissions are misplaced.

Alternative methodologies for estimating climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide also exist. These latter are underpinned either by physics of surface energy exchanges or correlation of historical data. Mostly these alternative methods suggest that the real sensitivity is less than 1 degree Celsius for a doubling of concentration. The IPCC and proponents of the dangerous anthropogenic climate change hypothesis ignore these alternative methodologies.

A sensitivity of less than 1 degree makes attempts to regulate climate through atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations fraught, even futile. The real challenge for society is to manage within a naturally varying climate. A total of 70 per cent of natural disasters involve weather and climate extremes. Regulating carbon-dioxide concentration (indeed, if this is even possible) will not ameliorate these.

Also, the climate system is ever changing. Global temperature varies by almost 1 degree in the shift between El Niño and La Niña conditions (linked to variations in sea surface temperature over the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean).

There is evidence of major global climate oscillation on the 1000-year time scale, with the present equable climate a reflection of recovery from the Little Ice Age that reached its extreme during the 17th century. Less than 20,000 years ago Earth was in the grip of the last glacial maximum. Deep ice sheets then covered much of North America and northwestern Europe; sea level was 130 metres lower than today. Our present relative warmth is a blessing.

It is unfortunate that the Chief Scientist did not conduct an independent review of the science underpinning the contentious hypothesis of dangerous anthropogenic climate change before embarking on a blueprint for the national electricity market.

A misplaced objective of emissions reduction at the expense of affordable and reliable electricity services will unnecessarily impoverish Australians. A shift to renewable sources will be burdensome on Australian industry because it will result in even higher prices for all Australian electricity consumers. Energy intensive industries and the associated jobs will shift to those countries with no obligations under the Paris Accord.

William Kininmonth is a former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre, Australian delegate to the WMO Commission for Climatology, and consultant to the WMO World Climate Program. He is author of Climate Change: A Natural Hazard, and contributor to Taxing Air. This article first appeared in The Australian on June 12, 2017.




























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