Short changed on climate

Andrew L. Urban

How to spend $3 billion of taxpayers’ money every year in the knowledge that not only are you not getting what you paid for but are creating an energy crisis? Ask Australia. Our uninformed political class – abetted by hotheaded climate alarmists – have found a way.

Renewable energy output in Australia is subsidised by almost $3 billion a year, more than 19 times the amount ($157.9 million) for energy generation from fossil fuels (Principal Economics report, 2016). It is spent with the aim of slowing global warming by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. But even (warmist) Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel has admitted to Senate Estimates that it would make no difference to atmospheric CO2 levels if we did nothing. Australia’s emissions are a miniscule portion of the minute amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and no scientist has discovered its measurable impact on warming.

That subsidy of $3 billion a year “is paid by the consumers,” says Dr Brian Fisher of BAEconomics, “who are already suffering high electricity prices so you just wonder why we are doing this.”

Why indeed. The answer lies at the heart of all our climate woes: the original sin of climate science can be blamed on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which 20 years ago mandated the IPCC to address ‘dangerous human-caused climate change’. Framing the brief in such narrow terms – pre-empting that humans caused it – was bound to cause distortions in a field of science so complex and so uncharted that one-eyed research would only add to the weakness of actionable research. Human nature kicked in and exacerbated the dangers of the lopsided brief with its self serving opportunities within scientific and academic communities.

As Dr Judith Curry has pointed out, it is “an empirical fact that the Earth’s climate has warmed overall for at least the past century. However, we do not know how much humans have contributed to this warming (about 0.8C) and there is disagreement among scientists as to whether human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases is the dominant cause of recent warming, relative to natural causes.” (extract from Dr Curry’s evidence to the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology, March 29, 2017.)

That original sin of the UNFCCC mutated and became a nasty virus, gathering strength and infecting not only the scientists whose careers became hostage to the ruling orthodoxy, but swathes of politicians, bureaucrats and academics – not to mention citizen activists. Carbon dioxide emissions became known simply as ‘carbon’ and ‘pollution’, and its threat was so reinforced by falsified hockey stick graphs (Michael Mann) and untruthful films (Al Gore) that it is now almost universally taken for granted that our horrid fossil fuel emissions are deadly to the planet and must be reduced.

There have been several highly publicised (and many discredited) carriers of this virus, not least an Australian, the otherwise unremarkable climate change communications, psychology and BSc researcher John Cook.

In a sober but stinging attack on the ethics of the Australian’s work, US research scholar Michelle Stirling writes: “Cook et al (2016) creates a false and misleading public perception that humans are solely responsible for global warming/climate change, that fossil fuel use/greenhouse gases are the sole factor, that humans can successfully stop global warming/climate change by reducing fossil fuel use, and that ‘any’ cost is acceptable to prevent a perceived danger.”

In her paper for Social Science Research Network, Stirling says “Cook et al presents a collaborative work by several consensus study authors, who claim a 97% agreement by undefined climate science experts that “humans are causing recent global warming.

“The statement illustrates the problem of trying to use a social proof of consensus in place of scientifically defined evidence. The lack of empirical parameters that specifically identify the claimed ratio of human effect versus natural influence, the timescale in question, the level of risk or benefit, and the human activity or causative factor(s) are undefined. The notion of consensus defies the fundamental principle of scientific inquiry which is not about agreement, but rather a continuous search for understanding.”

Too bad, the damage is done: carbon = pollution = warming. The one question no warmist wants you to ask, because science has not found the answer, is ‘How much of man made CO2 is responsible for how much warming?’

So Dr Finkel’s frank admission was welcome, but it came after many others in the scientific and the broader community of interested parties had said the same thing over and over in recent years.

Where does all that subsidy money go? To the companies who have seen the opportunity offered by gullible governments. “The wind farms are just a giant Ponzi scheme. The operators don’t give a rat’s about saving the planet … they’ve got their snouts in the trough for the subsidies, nothing more” noted one cynical reader of The Australian, Kara, in comments to the story ‘Wind power generators handed $600 million in federal subsidies’ (February 28, 2017). Surely not?

Not entirely …. “In aggregate, Australian electricity customers paid more than $2.1bn to subsidise large-scale power station developers and small customers with rooftop solar installations ($707 million). Looking forward, and given that the RET will progressively increase until 2020 and given high prices of renewable generation credits, these subsidies are likely to ­increase,” according to last year’s report from BAEconomics to the Minerals Council.

Employment in the renewable energy industry contracted by 15 per cent to 11,150 jobs in the 2015-16 financial year, according to the Clean Energy Council (CEC). “However, employment figures are likely to increase substantially in 2017, with over 35 large-scale projects already under construction or starting this year, adding up to more than $7.5 billion in investment and more than 4100 additional direct jobs.”

As you open your latest electricity bill, you may be surprised to learn from the CEC’s website that “Renewable energy is now the cheapest kind of new power generation that can be built today…” Goodness, imagine if it was expensive.


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