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Friday, 14 August 2015

Credo on Climate Change

With the recent release of the reduction target Australia will be taking to the Paris conference, Climate Change policies have once again taken centre stage. It has been some time since I posted on this and some comments are overdue (see earlier posts  Is Australia good for the environment?Is the world warming to climate change?,  Is Australia one of the world's worst emitters?).

Climate Change (CC) is a sea of issues and opinions with many areas complex and technical. In this post I want to summarise some of the key issues and my current position on these. I emphasise 'current', as it is very likely my position will evolve over time in line with evolving technology and CC science.
  • Most media has naively divided all CC opinions into just two camps. Those with a thorough acceptance of all facets of CC, the 'CC advocates', and those who totally disagree with the science, the predictions, and the models. These are disdainfully labelled as 'CC deniers'. However I believe the vast majority of people don't fall into these two neat categories. 
  • On a 'balance of probabilities' I believe in man-made climate change and that the world needs to take action.
  • While I believe in science, and the basic motivation of scientists to analyse and report honestly. I also believe in people's fallibility, including scientists'. I don't believe the 'science is settled'
  • I don't believe our current CC models are correct. They do not take into account many factors which influence our climate eg cloud distributions, the existence and distribution of ocean-bed heating through volcanic action, and the complex cyclical activity of the sun. We don't fully understand all the factors which influence our climate, nor the rate at which such factors interplay to generate future global temperatures or indeed climatic disruption.
  • Although the models may not be correct and the science may not be settled any reasonable society must minimise risks when such risks have been identified. Hence my acceptance of the need for action.
  • Irrespective of one's position on CC, in the long term no society will survive if it does not replenish all the resources it uses to grow and flourish. This argument alone is sufficient to validate all actions for changing from a use-it-once-and-discard-it society. Indeed sustainability should be the driver for our actions.
  • The costs of changing to renewables today is high. Moreover via increases in the price of fossil fuels these costs will be felt by the poorest communities. Similarly taxes on fossil fuels will punish the countries who can afford it least.
  • The costs associated with changing to a sustainable planet are a strongly dependent on the technologies we can employ. Technological change is rapid and investment in CC mitigation and renewables is larger than at any time in our history. There is a very high probability that within the next 20 years new transformative technologies will emerge. As a consequence the cost of changing to renewables will be dramatically lower in the future.
  •  We need to maintain and increase our investment in research targeting sustainable fuel generation technologies These include;- solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, nuclear, and clean coal/biomass/waste recycling. (The last of these is a process which can breakdown organic materials, (biomass, plastics and coal) to generate a clean Hydrogen based fuel with all carbon dioxide captured for industrial use. )
  • To be seen as fair the costs of CC action should be borne by ALL nations. The proportion of cost borne by each country must take into account their current net emission rate, the net emissions that they have contributed to date. It should also take into account the impact of carbon taxes on their economies.   
  • There are too many different measures used to rank countries with respect to their GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions. Most references are to Gross Emission or Gross Emission Per Capita. However a country is not responsible for per capita emissions but for total emissions. Moreover Gross Emissions do not take into account the absorption of GHG through existing forests, nor do they consider the GHG imported or exported via the manufacture of goods.  As a result the common measures used to rank countries with respect to GHG emissions are misleading. 
  • Australia as a net absorber of GHG helping to absorb the 'carbon pollution' produced by the rest of the world and yet is demonised for a high Per Capita emission rate.
  • All ranking of countries' performance should be uniformly based on total net emissions. Anything else is purely to push an agenda.
  • As for Australia. Australia should commit to the same proportion of GDP cost as all other countries.
  • The two degree global warming target set by the CC community is misleading, as we don't have the science to make that prediction. Nevertheless it serves the purpose of setting a benchmark which can be reviewed as CC models become more realistic.  However, while the 2 degree increase is OK for the end of the century, our target for 2030 should not try achieve it via a straight line. Since the cost of the change to renewables will be lower in the future, we should have a less ambitious target today. We can change the rate of change to renewables in 2030 when we can see what has been achieved in the next 15 years.
  • I understand and accept the tendency to push for instant and decisive action when a global problem has been identified. I also accept the tendency of advocates to exaggerate when facing an apathetic and slow moving populace. Despite this, disproportionate spending on CC action today will cause dislocation and disruption in developed countries and prevent developing countries from reaching the standard of living that developed countries enjoy

I guess many of these will require some more in depth coverage in the future.

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