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Coal: Bigger Than The Elephant In The Room

By SEEChangeIncCanberra - 1 February 2012 136

What is even bigger than the elephant in the room?  Find out next Tuesday – 7th February, 6.30 pm at the Finkel Theatre, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU.

Jeremy Tager is stepping down from his post as senior political advisor to Greenpeace Australia.  Before he leaves Canberra, SEE-Change has arranged for him to deliver a talk about our coal industry.

This talk will present the anomaly of massive government subsidies to the coal industry and Australia’s responsibility as a major coal exporter to other countries at a time when we are ostensibly committed to reducing global carbon dioxide emissions.  Questions will be taken after the talk.

To reserve your place, please vist our event page here.

What’s Your opinion?


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Coal: Bigger Than The Elephant In The Room
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Jethro 6:05 am 06 Feb 12

Skyring said :

milkman said :

Treating this as a rabid religious debate isn’t helping. We need more pragmatism and less sensationalism.

Hear, hear!

We’re not getting much beyond can’t and catchphrases from Julia Gillard. She’s bringing in this complex and controversial carbon tax, talking about a “clean energy future” and then bragging about how strong our economy is from selling coal to China. Yeah. China’s on a different planet.

Solar, wind, tidal and geothermal power aren’t really at a stage – if they ever will be – to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. I think if some new technology comes up, then whoever has the patent will make a fortune, and that will drive research and innovation. Taxing Australia’s biggest companies might make some sort of political sense for the ALP, but it’s not going to do much beyond providing employment to creative accountants and lawyers and give the Greens a nice warm feeling in their pants.

Ok.. so those are criticisms with policy responses to the science. That is fine. It is when people dispute the science because they don’t like the implications it may have to future economic or social policy.

Personally, I see the main benefit of the carbon tax is that it will provide a market incentive to invest in those alternative energies. At the moment, short-termism dictates investment policies i(e. I can continue to profit from burning coal, so why move away from it?) A price on carbon makes it more difficut for a company to externalise the cost of burning coal (ie. ignore the environmental cost of the action and pass it on to future generations). Once a company is less able to externalise the cost of burning coal it may become more prudent for them to invest in other technologies.

As you said, alternative energies aren’t there yet. A price of carbon emissions may help drive the investment needed in these areas. In this way we will be able to ease from one type of energy technology to another. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in 20 or 30 years time having to make incredibly rapid changes that end up costing more economically.

Don’t forget that peak oil also means that we have a spot not too far in the future where oil prices will become increasingly expensive. Putting in place systems now that help us reduce our reliance on this finite resource makes sense.

The cat did it 12:22 am 06 Feb 12

dungfungus @#38 So you trawled back to 1976 to find a definition that you think helps your case. I can’t speculate on what the learned academics of Latrobe were thinking, but their definition is useless in practice, because it leads to a logical inconsistency. Consider (as Julius Sumner Miller might have said)- a town has a ‘hot’ year followed by a cool year- according to the way you want to interpret the definition, the same town would thus have two distinct climates. Most definitions refer to ‘generally prevailing’ or words like that.

In their publication ‘The Science of Climate Change: questions and answers’, the Australian Academy of Science puts it this way-
‘Climate change is a change in the average pattern of weather over a long period of time Climate is a statistical description of weather conditions and their variations, including both averages and extremes. Climate change refers to a change in these conditions that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.’ (http://www.science.org.au/policy/climatechange.html)

But of course, they’re only climate change scientists- if you don’t like their conclusions and evidence, you can always put your trust in Christopher Monckton, Ian Plimer and Alan Jones.

dungfungus 10:20 pm 05 Feb 12

The cat did it said :

dungfungus- I’m not a scientist, but if i were, I’d suggest you try to understand the difference between weather and climate- weather is what we experience from day to day; climate is weather averaged over at least a decade, usually over 30 years. This and last year’s mild summer get averaged along with the stinking hot summers we had a few years ago.

Also, there are a number of weather phenomena that are cyclic over periods of several years, notably (for Australia) ENSO (el nino/la nina), but there are similar phenomena in eg the Indian Ocean and the North Atlantic. The prevailing La Nina is responsible for the current cool damp summer. These shorter period events can temporarily mask the longer term increase in global temperatures. Just because temperatures aren’t increasing steadily year-on-year doesn’t mean they’re not increasing just the same.

You can get a good idea of what is happening by looking at the chart of temperature at http://sks.to/escalator. It shows how you can select the short term decline quoted selectively by sceptics, and the increase over the longer term.

You are correct; you are not a scientist because if you were you would know that the definition of climate is “the weather conditions of a place or a region DURING A YEAR” (Source: Heinemann Australian Dictionary written and compiled in association with members of the academic staff of La Trobe University, published 1976)

Skyring 9:35 pm 05 Feb 12

milkman said :

Treating this as a rabid religious debate isn’t helping. We need more pragmatism and less sensationalism.

Hear, hear!

We’re not getting much beyond can’t and catchphrases from Julia Gillard. She’s bringing in this complex and controversial carbon tax, talking about a “clean energy future” and then bragging about how strong our economy is from selling coal to China. Yeah. China’s on a different planet.

Solar, wind, tidal and geothermal power aren’t really at a stage – if they ever will be – to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. I think if some new technology comes up, then whoever has the patent will make a fortune, and that will drive research and innovation. Taxing Australia’s biggest companies might make some sort of political sense for the ALP, but it’s not going to do much beyond providing employment to creative accountants and lawyers and give the Greens a nice warm feeling in their pants.

Jethro 9:07 pm 05 Feb 12

welkin31 said :

Jethro – in #26 you said “Natural variation is all well and good, but it simply does not and cannot explain the rate and consistency of global climate change.”

Recall that in the time of Eric the Red in the heyday of the Vikings – farms thrived in Greenland. Why did they call it “Green”land. When that sort of agriculture returns to Greenland, then I will know that Earth’s temperature is roughly on a par with what it was a millenium ago.
So – any temperature rise in the last 200 yrs is simply natural rebound from the Little Ice Age.

Localised periods of warming are not the same as global changes.

Also, Greenland has been covered under an ice-sheet for hundreds of thousands of years. There was in the middle ages, and remains so today, a very small part of Greenland not under ice. The name Greenland was a clever piece of propaganda by Viking settlers who wanted to encourage more people to join their colony. Farms didn’t thrive. All evidence points to a colony that just hung on.

While there was likely a short period of locally warm weather during the early partof the Viking colonisation it was nothing comparable to the long-term global trend of increasing temperatures.

Jethro 9:00 pm 05 Feb 12

breda said :

Jethro, your ‘vast amounts’ of CO2 being emitted by human activity represent a small part of the 0.04% of the atmosphere that is CO2. Even the most avid warmistas admit that (i) the planet would be devoid of life without carbon dioxide and (ii) human activity contributes a tiny part of the tiny part of the atmosphere that is CO2.

[
Please spare us the ‘whatever the weather does, it proves that one of our many models is correct’ schtick. It got old a long time ago. Remember the prediction that we were set for eternal drought (Tim Flannery) or that snow would be just a memory (some UK dickhead whose name I can’t be bothered looking up). Queenslanders and Poms who are respectively drowning and freezing will draw their own conclusions.

The tide is going out – best jump on one of the ‘sustainability’ or ‘biodiversity’ lifeboats before it is too late. You really don’t want to be stranded on the island of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, like a latter day Alexander Selkirk. If you have been paying attention, the smarties are already gently backing away and into new boondoggles.

The “it’s only a tiny percentage of the atmosphere argument” belies your lack of understanding of the science. 99% of the atmosphere (oxygen, nitrogen and argon) has absolutely no ability to absorb any light radiation, so in the context of the atmosphere’s impact on warming, these things basically don’t exist. We shouldn’t be counting them as part of the atmosphere that causes warming.

All of the warming properties of the atmosphere that existed before industrialisation came from the other 1% of the atmosphere. It’s how much we add to this 1% that counts, or do we argue that this 1% couldn’t work to keep the Earth warm because it is not a large enough percentage of the total atmosphere to have an impact?

In terms of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we have caused it to move from 280ppm to 400ppm – an increase of about 40% from pre-industrial levels. This is the figure you should be looking at, as it is the one that matters. The 99% of the atmosphere that doesn’t operate to trap heat doesn’t figure in calculations regarding the impact of carbon pollution. To focus on it is either dishonest or ignorant.

You are referring to Tim Flannery as prove that climate predictions are inaccurate. Flannery isn’t a climate scientist. How about you look up their predictions? The models used by climate scientists are reasonably sound, in that their predictions continue to be reflected in the changes that are occurring.

I think you will find that any reasonable person and pretty much every expert in the field sees that the evidence regarding AGW is stronger than ever. You might want to reconsider your stance on the topic lest you end up stuck in rural Kentucky looking at a museum diorama explaining that dinosaurs and humans once lived together until a giant flood washed the dinosaurs away.

welkin31 8:04 pm 05 Feb 12

Jethro – in #26 you said “Natural variation is all well and good, but it simply does not and cannot explain the rate and consistency of global climate change.”

Recall that in the time of Eric the Red in the heyday of the Vikings – farms thrived in Greenland. Why did they call it “Green”land. When that sort of agriculture returns to Greenland, then I will know that Earth’s temperature is roughly on a par with what it was a millenium ago.
So – any temperature rise in the last 200 yrs is simply natural rebound from the Little Ice Age.

milkman 7:38 pm 05 Feb 12

dungfungus said :

Jethro said :

Waiting for Godot – because Canberra is the globe and local weather reflects global climate.

As a globe, we are not cooling. Global temperatures continue to increase. The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest on record.

But I guess your ‘looking out the window’ model is more exact than the culminated efforts of thousands of scientists using collated data from around the globe.

I wish a scientist would explain to me why I have only turned the air conditioner on once this summer but I have had the electric blanket put back on my bed and it has been switched on several times.

The trouble is that we don’t have enough data to draw together an accurate prediction. We know that humans are polluting, we know that this this is impacting the environment. But we also know that climate changes anyway, and that there are times in history where it was both hotter and colder.

Treating this as a rabid religious debate isn’t helping. We need more pragmatism and less sensationalism.

Skyring 7:38 pm 05 Feb 12

Jethro said :

The ability of CO2 to capture heat radiation has been known by science since the 19th century and the impacts of emitting vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere were theorised well before they were observed. If we are to argue that adding CO2 to the atmosphere won’t lead to warming, we would need to also argue that the current CO2 in the atmosphere never worked to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere in the first place, which is clearly false. The fact you don’t freeze to death every night is proof of this.

This isn’t a religious belief in any sense. It is supported by an incredible amount of research, data and analysis. Religious belief requires faith without evidence. A non-evidence based belief in natural variation is more akin to religious faith than the belief in decades of climate research and centuries of basic scientific knowledge.

I think it’s more than CO2 that traps heat. Ask anyone who owns a double brick home. Thermal mass has very little to do with the atmosphere.

I’m just wondering how you’d explain Ötzi the Iceman. If he was covered by ice 5 300 years ago and remained buried until recently, then surely temperatures then were much the same as now.

breda 7:36 pm 05 Feb 12

Jethro, your ‘vast amounts’ of CO2 being emitted by human activity represent a small part of the 0.04% of the atmosphere that is CO2. Even the most avid warmistas admit that (i) the planet would be devoid of life without carbon dioxide and (ii) human activity contributes a tiny part of the tiny part of the atmosphere that is CO2.

Please spare us the ‘whatever the weather does, it proves that one of our many models is correct’ schtick. It got old a long time ago. Remember the prediction that we were set for eternal drought (Tim Flannery) or that snow would be just a memory (some UK dickhead whose name I can’t be bothered looking up). Queenslanders and Poms who are respectively drowning and freezing will draw their own conclusions.

The tide is going out – best jump on one of the ‘sustainability’ or ‘biodiversity’ lifeboats before it is too late. You really don’t want to be stranded on the island of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, like a latter day Alexander Selkirk. If you have been paying attention, the smarties are already gently backing away and into new boondoggles.

The cat did it 7:19 pm 05 Feb 12

dungfungus- I’m not a scientist, but if i were, I’d suggest you try to understand the difference between weather and climate- weather is what we experience from day to day; climate is weather averaged over at least a decade, usually over 30 years. This and last year’s mild summer get averaged along with the stinking hot summers we had a few years ago.

Also, there are a number of weather phenomena that are cyclic over periods of several years, notably (for Australia) ENSO (el nino/la nina), but there are similar phenomena in eg the Indian Ocean and the North Atlantic. The prevailing La Nina is responsible for the current cool damp summer. These shorter period events can temporarily mask the longer term increase in global temperatures. Just because temperatures aren’t increasing steadily year-on-year doesn’t mean they’re not increasing just the same.

You can get a good idea of what is happening by looking at the chart of temperature at http://sks.to/escalator. It shows how you can select the short term decline quoted selectively by sceptics, and the increase over the longer term.

dungfungus 6:36 pm 05 Feb 12

breda said :

No rational person disagrees with the notion the the climate changes. Where the pea and thimble trick comes in is with people who have a view based on models (which aren’t working out too well) that CO2 emitted by human activity is driving whatever changes are occurring. It’s a religious belief, in the worst sense, including the need to purchase indulgences in the form of worthless carbon credits and paying higher prices for energy.

Poor people, who pay a high proportion of their income on energy costs, are the sacrificial lambs. Now we find that the AGW crowd are having a bet each way – if the models don’t work out, it’s ‘natural variation’, and if they do, ‘we were right’. But either way, we need to keep throwing virgins into the volcano, just in case.

Even the lead perpetrators of the fraud are backing off. The next big (C02 emitting) confab in Rio, the 20th anniversary of the Virgin Birth, is focusing on ‘sustainability’. Apparently the climate thing is causing more trouble than it is worth. It is the next Trojan Horse, now that the last one is now widely recognised as the scam it is.

Agree – the same people that believe in man made climate change also believe in the tooth fairy.

dungfungus 6:27 pm 05 Feb 12

Jethro said :

Waiting for Godot – because Canberra is the globe and local weather reflects global climate.

As a globe, we are not cooling. Global temperatures continue to increase. The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest on record.

But I guess your ‘looking out the window’ model is more exact than the culminated efforts of thousands of scientists using collated data from around the globe.

I wish a scientist would explain to me why I have only turned the air conditioner on once this summer but I have had the electric blanket put back on my bed and it has been switched on several times.

p1 6:08 pm 05 Feb 12

Some of these posts make Jeff Manny seem completely sane.

Jethro 6:04 pm 05 Feb 12

breda said :

No rational person disagrees with the notion the the climate changes. Where the pea and thimble trick comes in is with people who have a view based on models (which aren’t working out too well) that CO2 emitted by human activity is driving whatever changes are occurring. It’s a religious belief, in the worst sense, including the need to purchase indulgences in the form of worthless carbon credits and paying higher prices for energy.

Poor people, who pay a high proportion of their income on energy costs, are the sacrificial lambs. Now we find that the AGW crowd are having a bet each way – if the models don’t work out, it’s ‘natural variation’, and if they do, ‘we were right’. But either way, we need to keep throwing virgins into the volcano, just in case.

Even the lead perpetrators of the fraud are backing off. The next big (C02 emitting) confab in Rio, the 20th anniversary of the Virgin Birth, is focusing on ‘sustainability’. Apparently the climate thing is causing more trouble than it is worth. It is the next Trojan Horse, now that the last one is now widely recognised as the scam it is.

Natural variation is all well and good, but it simply does not and cannot explain the rate and consistency of global climate change. Indeed, many of the things that affect natural variations in the Earth’s climate (eg. solar minimums ) would actually have lead to a decrease in global temperatures over the past decade. The continued trend upwards is happening despite these things, not because of them.

The ability of CO2 to capture heat radiation has been known by science since the 19th century and the impacts of emitting vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere were theorised well before they were observed. If we are to argue that adding CO2 to the atmosphere won’t lead to warming, we would need to also argue that the current CO2 in the atmosphere never worked to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere in the first place, which is clearly false. The fact you don’t freeze to death every night is proof of this.

This isn’t a religious belief in any sense. It is supported by an incredible amount of research, data and analysis. Religious belief requires faith without evidence. A non-evidence based belief in natural variation is more akin to religious faith than the belief in decades of climate research and centuries of basic scientific knowledge.

Climate change denialists point to failures in the models, yet no climate scientists have ever claimed they are infallible. The climate is an incredibly complex system and it would be impossible to accurately predict every singe change that will occur and when it will occur. However, this does not take away from the central premise of climate science, that pumping massive amounts of extra CO2 into the atmosphere will have dramatic changes on the Earth’s climate.

Also, the climate models have actually been better than you claim. Predictions such as the loss of arctic sea ice, sea level rises, ever increasing global average temperatures, even the cold snap you referred to in your first post (climate models that have taken into account the impacts of climate change on the flows of air currents predicted that extra masses of hot air outside of Europe would act to trap cold air systems on the continent and would lead to an increase in the number and severity of severe cold weather events in Europe), are all coming to fruition. In fact, the main problems with the climate models is that they may have actually been too conservative in their predictions.

Climate change denial boils down to people who are either simply ignorant to understand how science works, or simply unwilling to accept the political, economic and social implications of the science. In this sense climate change denial is very similar to the denial of evolution. The evidence is there, but people choose to ignore it or dispute it because they don’t like the implications. in doing so they put forward theories that are much less grounded in evidence and much more grounded in faith.

The argument has moved on from whether or not we are impacting the climate, and on to how we should deal with it. This is where you can make your criticisms of things like carbon credits or the emissions trading scheme. You’re right, in many ways carbon credits are a complete scam. The reliance of the government’s climate change policy on the purchase of overseas carbon credits is a big issue that should be discussed. You could also mount legitimate arguments about the cost effectiveness of carbon pricing versus other models of either limiting climate change or dealing with its impacts.

But to simply deny the science because you don’t like its implications is reckless ignorance.

AndrewW 3:50 pm 05 Feb 12

Waiting For Godot said :

AndrewW said :

Waiting For Godot said :

Gee, Andrew it’s great having people like you reading this board. I’m guaranteed a bite every time! Just keep reading and responding, there’s plenty more to come 🙂

There’s no use pretending you you enjoy a verbal challenge, John. If I’d posted my comment on your blog, you would’ve deleted it, disabled further comments, called the police and then boarded up your doors and windows until they arrived.

See what I mean 😉

These “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?” style responses may have worked back when you were a schoolboy, but unfortunately you’re dealing with adults these days. I know you are genuinly terrified at the thought of confrontation.

breda 3:39 pm 05 Feb 12

No rational person disagrees with the notion the the climate changes. Where the pea and thimble trick comes in is with people who have a view based on models (which aren’t working out too well) that CO2 emitted by human activity is driving whatever changes are occurring. It’s a religious belief, in the worst sense, including the need to purchase indulgences in the form of worthless carbon credits and paying higher prices for energy.

Poor people, who pay a high proportion of their income on energy costs, are the sacrificial lambs. Now we find that the AGW crowd are having a bet each way – if the models don’t work out, it’s ‘natural variation’, and if they do, ‘we were right’. But either way, we need to keep throwing virgins into the volcano, just in case.

Even the lead perpetrators of the fraud are backing off. The next big (C02 emitting) confab in Rio, the 20th anniversary of the Virgin Birth, is focusing on ‘sustainability’. Apparently the climate thing is causing more trouble than it is worth. It is the next Trojan Horse, now that the last one is now widely recognised as the scam it is.

Waiting For Godot 3:29 pm 05 Feb 12

AndrewW said :

Waiting For Godot said :

AndrewW said :

Waiting For Godot said :

Mate, you are so far out of your depth in any kind of rational debate and should stick to working your biceps and other less mentally challening activities.

Gee, Andrew it’s great having people like you reading this board. I’m guaranteed a bite every time! Just keep reading and responding, there’s plenty more to come 🙂

There’s no use pretending you you enjoy a verbal challenge, John. If I’d posted my comment on your blog, you would’ve deleted it, disabled further comments, called the police and then boarded up your doors and windows until they arrived.

See what I mean 😉

AndrewW 3:13 pm 05 Feb 12

Waiting For Godot said :

AndrewW said :

Waiting For Godot said :

Mate, you are so far out of your depth in any kind of rational debate and should stick to working your biceps and other less mentally challening activities.

Gee, Andrew it’s great having people like you reading this board. I’m guaranteed a bite every time! Just keep reading and responding, there’s plenty more to come 🙂

There’s no use pretending you you enjoy a verbal challenge, John. If I’d posted my comment on your blog, you would’ve deleted it, disabled further comments, called the police and then boarded up your doors and windows until they arrived.

Waiting For Godot 2:55 pm 05 Feb 12

AndrewW said :

Waiting For Godot said :

When I look out the window and see the rain and put on my winter clothes during an Aussie summer I can’t help thinking how badly many people were conned by the global warming brigade.

Global warming stopped in 1997, it only went for a few years and normal climatic patterns were restored. We are now cooling, in fact many are predicting we are heading towards another ice age.

You can understand why so many people fell for the great climate change con. We were in a huge drought which just went on and on, and in the middle of it all came a former US vice president – Al Gore – and a Hollywood movie which put forward the theory of global warming which was eagerly taken up by environmentalists and others in the broad left.

Now it all just seems to be a sick joke. When you have people writing to The Canberra Times saying that exercising causes climate change and we should stop all physical activity and take up reading, and when you have people calling carbon dioxide a pollutant, when in fact it is a building block of life which plants inhale, then it becomes abundantly obvious that the climate change brigade lacks credibility and intelligence and can’t be taken seriously anymore.

Slowly but surely the climate change bandwagon is falling off the rails as more and more people reject the hype and lies and see it for what it is – a massive con promoted by a compliant media in conjunction with leftists and other naive dreamers and hucksters.

I love it when buffoons like John Moulis waddle into an argument about climate change between intelligent folk and say things like “it’s cold at my house” and “carbon dioxide is just plant food”.

Mate, you are so far out of your depth in any kind of rational debate and should stick to working your biceps and other less mentally challening activities.

Gee, Andrew it’s great having people like you reading this board. I’m guaranteed a bite every time! Just keep reading and responding, there’s plenty more to come 🙂

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