Carbon Tax

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Let’s Make a Deal #ClimateChange Put a price on pollution. #auspol 

Left & Right “Let’s Make a Deal” Put a price on Carbon Pollution #ClimateChange #auspol 

Earlier this month, conservative elder statesmen issued a “Let’s Make a Deal” on climate: Nix Obama-era regulations in return for a carbon tax and dividend.
So far, the idea has gained little traction from unretired Republicans who could actually make a deal. 

But if that changes, should Democrats and pro-environment independents accept it?

The proposal was issued with great fanfare by the newly formed Climate Leadership Council. 

Conservative economists Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw and former secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker III touted the plan in op-eds for the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 

The council launched its effort at the National Press Club the same day.
A carbon tax appeals to free-market conservatives by empowering markets to find the cheapest ways to cut emissions.

 By returning the money through a dividend, the tax would not grow the size of government. 

The council estimates the dividend would start at $2,000 for a family of four, and rise with the carbon tax.
However, the council isn’t offering something for nothing. 

Their proposal calls for ending President Obama’s climate regulations. 

Specifically, they would nix the Clean Power Plan, tougher fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks and additional regulations yet to be specified. 

Fortunately, the council is not seeking to weaken light-duty fuel economy standards, appliance efficiency standards or the hydrofluorocarbon deal signed in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.


Obama pledged under the Paris climate agreement that the United States would aim for 28 percent emission reductions by 2025 from 2005 levels. 

As I wrote last year, the U.S. had already cut emissions 9 percent by 2014. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that emissions fell another 2.2 percent in 2015.
The council estimates that continuation of Obama-era policies would leave the U.S. about 12 percentage points shy of its Paris pledge. 

That’s why 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed an ambitious agenda for further progress.

With President Trump and congressional Republicans calling to reverse Obama’s policies without replacement, we’d likely fall further behind.
To meet our Paris pledge, the council proposes a carbon tax starting at $40/ton and rising with time. 

Unlike weaker taxes discussed before, the new proposal would likely be more than sufficient for that goal. 

A recent Treasury Department analysis estimates that a $49/ton tax would far surpass the emission cuts needed for Paris.

Meanwhile, Resources for the Future modeled various sets of carbon taxes that could achieve the Paris pledge. 

As co-author Marc Hafstead explained via email, their modeling shows a tax rising to $38/ton (in year 2013 dollars) by 2025 would meet the target. 

The council’s proposal would exceed that level with its annual increases, and yield further benefits for decades to come.
Interestingly, Hafstead noted that their calculation of a $38/ton threshold for Paris compliance assumes the U.S. abandons efforts to control more potent greenhouse gases like methane. 

That may be the case, as the House voted this month to overturn rules on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
But if we don’t abandon progress on other pollutants, Hafstead estimates a tax of just $22/ton would be sufficient.
Ditching methane controls is a bad deal for many reasons. 

Methane is the leading source of ozone smog worldwide. 

That’s why researchers such as Jason West of the University of North Carolina and Arlene Fiore of Columbia University have shown that methane reductions can save tens of thousands of lives.

Leaking methane also means wasting a valuable fuel. 

Since methane is short-lived, it actually causes more warming near-term than traditional 100-year outlooks would suggest. 

Controlling methane while keeping the council’s $40-plus/ton tax proposal would accelerate U.S. progress toward its ultimate goal of 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.
Environmentalists have little to lose trading the Clean Power Plan for a carbon tax. 

As I wrote with Leah Parks last year, the U.S. is well ahead of schedule to meet the plan’s targets.

 That’s because cheaper natural gas and renewables are already displacing coal, even as the Clean Power Plan remains tied up in court.


The main importance of the Clean Power Plan is preventing a swing back to coal if natural gas prices rise. 

But a carbon tax averts that scenario. 

A $40/ton tax would add 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal electricity, but just 1.6 cents for natural gas combined cycle plants. 

Solar and wind would pay nothing.

With many coal plants already losing money, coal would quickly give way to cheaper and cleaner forms of electricity.

 Meanwhile, the tax on natural gas is comparable in size to existing tax credits for wind and solar. 

Even without those tax credits, wind and solar are already as cheap as new natural gas plants. 

Taxing natural gas would help renewables extend their recent dominance of new generation capacity without the need for subsidies.
For transportation, the effects of a carbon tax would be far milder. 

A $40/ton tax would add just 36 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 

That’s not going to convince many people to drive less or buy an electric car, especially since electricity prices would rise a bit too. 

However, with fuel economy standards set to tighten, electric car sales would continue to rise.

Looking beyond the 2025 Paris target, swapping regulations for a carbon tax becomes an even more attractive deal. 

The Clean Power Plan ends in 2030. 

However, a steadily rising carbon tax would continue to drive down emissions for decades to come.
Carbon taxes have traditionally been criticized as regressive, since the poor spend a greater share of their income on energy. 

However, by rebating the tax through a per-person dividend, the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would leave many low-income families better off.
So should Democrats and independents welcome this deal?
In a word, yes. 

Writers in The Nation, the The New York Times and Mother Jones have reached similar conclusions. 

I’d bargain for tougher methane regulations, but could accept waiting to restore those later.
Trouble is, conservative economists and retired Republican statesmen are in no position to seal this deal. 

RepublicEn, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Solutions Caucus are trying to rally Republican and bipartisan support for a carbon tax in Congress.
For now, such efforts have fallen on deaf ears from politicians who hear no evil on climate.

 If that changes, liberals and moderates shouldn’t shy away from nixing Obama-era policies to accept a market-based solution to climate change.
Dan Cohan is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University.

Press link for more: The Hill

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Carbon Tax a Market Based solution for #ClimateChange #auspol 

This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan
Purist objections scuttled Washington State’s market-friendly carbon tax plan in November. 

Let’s not let that happen at the national level.

By Charles Komanoff


Progressives Need to Get Over Themselves and Support This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan

Carbon-tax haters can relax. 

The proposal for a national carbon tax released on February 8 by high-level Republicans, including über-GOP consigliere James Baker, isn’t going anywhere. 

Financially and ideologically, the American right is wedded to carbon fuels. 

Trumpism runs on and reeks of them. 

Predictably, not a single Republican in Congress, and no one in the White House, has uttered a single positive word about the new carbon-tax plan.
Nevertheless, the proposal’s intended audience may not be Beltway Republicans but rather those ordinary Americans, majorities in both parties, who say they want action on climate, and who therefore might yet figure in the political equation over climate policy. 

That group includes progressives. 

We should pay attention: Carbon taxes matter.
Our long-building climate crisis is already materializing as drowned coasts, punishing droughts, vanishing glaciers—and political upheaval. 

At its root is a century-old lie: market prices for gasoline and other fossil fuels that do not factor in the damage from burning them.

A clean-energy revolution is at last underway, with wind power, solar electricity, and energy efficiency becoming not only cheaper by the day but also easier to deploy. 

Still, the clean-energy transition will be slowed until prices of coal, oil, and gas reflect their true environmental costs. 

A carbon tax could do that, if designed properly.
How carbon taxes work is simple enough, at least in theory.

 Fuel use is infinitely varied and intricately woven into society in ways that regulations such as auto-mileage standards can’t fully reach. 

Clear price signals, on the other hand, can be a nearly magic wand to help billions of invisible hands rapidly reduce and replace fossil fuels.


But with a carbon tax come difficult choices about the vast revenue it will generate. 

Carbon taxing had a test run at the ballot box last November in the state of Washington, and it ended badly.
Progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes, the policy tool with the best chance of catching fire globally.

On November 8, voters in the Evergreen State rejected by a nearly 3-to-2 margin what would have been the nation’s first statewide carbon tax.

 A win for “Initiative 732” would have given the United States a carbon-tax beachhead, like Canada’s British Columbia, which has had a small but successful carbon tax since 2008.
Remarkably, the decisive factor in defeating I-732 may not have been money from Big Carbon or even popular aversion to higher taxes, since the initiative was tailored to keep Washingtonians’ tax burden unchanged. 

What doomed I-732 was a fissure within the climate movement, with centrist economists and other policy wonks in favor of the initiative and progressive greens opposed.
Stated briefly, climate activists in Washington split over opposing answers to two key questions: 

What are carbon taxes for, and who gets to design them?
Carbon taxes can cut emissions in two ways.

 As noted above, they raise the price of carbon fuels, thereby worsening their competitive position vis-à-vis cleaner fuels. 

In addition, the tax revenues raised by a carbon tax can be invested in clean-energy infrastructure such as public transit and community solar.
The first path—the “price pull” of boosting market prices of carbon fuels—is what dazzles economists. 

The second route—the “revenue push” of investing in green infrastructure—appeals to many ordinary folks, especially on the left. 

Some progressives actively distrust policies that lean hard on price signals, partly for fear that workers in dirty industries will be penalized as investment migrates to cleaner alternatives.
The stakes are higher now than ever.

For decades, reactionary forces in the United States have been able to block seemingly every new public endeavor by labeling it “tax and spend.”

 The Washington State carbon-tax proponents believed they had an antidote:

 Don’t allow the government to spend the revenues from the carbon tax; rather, use those revenues to reduce other taxes. 

The political assumption seemed to be that going “revenue neutral,” though it might frustrate the left—bye-bye, public investment—could placate the right or at least capture the center. 

And so Carbon WA, as the advocates of I-732 called themselves, fashioned its ballot initiative around cuts to the state’s regressive sales tax.
Progressive greens recoiled. 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a state umbrella group of environmental-justice organizations and mainstream allies, blasted I-732 for starving green jobs and ignoring front-line communities. 

So did nationally prominent progressive leaders like Naomi Klein and Van Jones. 

The measure’s electoral chances, which were never good, could not withstand this split. 

On Election Day, as Hillary Clinton was besting Trump in Washington State by half-a-million votes, the carbon tax was rejected, 59 percent to 41 percent.
But progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes are the only policy tool that, by slashing demand in a rapid, predictable way, divests our economy from fossil fuels and enables governments, business, and consumers to make investments in the transition to clean energy. 

Carbon taxes also have the best chance of catching fire globally.

The carbon tax James Baker brought to the Trump White House on February 8 on behalf of the new Climate Leadership Council has a lot in common with I-732: 

The Council’s proposal is also avowedly revenue neutral.

 But rather than lowering an existing tax, it relies on a so-called tax-and-dividend model: 

As the state of Alaska does with oil revenues, revenues from the Council’s national carbon tax would be returned equally to all American households in quarterly “dividends” digitally deposited in Social Security accounts. 

The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Earmarking all of the revenue to these dividends creates the political will to raise the tax every year, since the dividends rise in tandem with the tax rate. 

Ramping up the tax by $5 a year would shrink the use of carbon fuels so drastically that, by my calculations, US carbon emissions in 2030 would be 40 percent less than they were in 2005 (a standard baseline year).
Government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance James Baker’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

Yet this progress comes with a catch. 

The council would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and would outright repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from electricity generation. 

It would also immunize fossil-fuel companies from lawsuits for damages done by their products—lawsuits such as those bound to arise from the revelations that ExxonMobil and other companies knew for decades about the climate damages their products cause, and lied about it.
But government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance the council’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

 After all, well over 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s targeted reductions for 2030 were already achieved by the end of 2016. 

Thus trading away the Clean Power Plan for a tax that could scour fossil fuels from the entire economy is like swapping an aging ballplayer for the next superstar.
Of course, some people will not see it that way, particularly traditional green groups that helped write the laws and regulations that cleaned up the nation’s air and water.

 Some will regard the council’s trade as a ploy to undo the EPA’s authority to protect not just climate—where it may be largely ineffectual anyway—but public health.
With Republicans tightly lashed to climate denial, the value of Baker’s carbon-tax proposal may be less as a gateway to legislation and more as a spur for progressives and other citizens to take a clear look at carbon pricing.

Will progressives trust the verdict of economists that a revenue-neutral carbon tax can drive the energy transition so long as the tax level is high enough? 

Or do we support carbon taxes only if the revenues are invested in the clean-energy transition? 

If so, how do we craft a spending program that reconciles the claims of competing interests? 

And what is our blueprint for building political power to enact such a carbon tax, when “tax” remains a dirty word in national politics?


Clear majorities of Americans want climate action.

 Remarkably, some polls have even found that majorities of Americans support carbon taxes like the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal. 

With the Democrats’ national defeats last November, the failure of climate activists to unite on the Washington state referendum is looking like an unforced error of cruel proportions. 

We can’t afford to repeat that mistake at the national level.

Press link for more: The Nation.com

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Climate Change One of Mankind’s Most Serious Threats. #Auspol 

Catastrophic Climate Change Makes List of Mankind’s Most Serious Threats
Extreme climate change is among the greatest threats facing mankind, says a new study released by the Global Challenges Foundation


Still politicians (Who receive huge donations from coal miners) push coal ignoring climate scientists.

Scott Morrison  Liberal Party in the Australian Parilament 
The GCF works to raise awareness of Global Catastrophic Risks, defined as events that would end the lives of roughly 10 percent or more of the global population, or do comparable damage.


The industrial landscape across the Dee Estuary at sunrise as steam rises from Deeside power station, Shotton Steelworks and other heavy industrial plants on April 13, 2016 in Flint, Wales. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The list includes “significant ongoing risks” such as nuclear war and worldwide disease outbreaks but also highlights several scenarios that are “unlikely today but will become significantly more likely in the coming decades,”such as the continued rise of artificial intelligence. 

It’s there, among the emerging risks, that the study places the threat of catastrophic climate change.

Politician addicted to coal donations

Barnaby Joyce National Party in the Australian Parliament 
Even if we succeed in limiting emissions, the study says, scientists expect significant climate change to occur, which could lead to a host of global challenges including environmental degradation, migration, and the possibility of resource conflict.

The study goes on to say that, in a worse case scenario, global warming could top 6 degrees Celsius, which would leave “large swathes of the planet dramatically less habitable.”
“The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points – thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change – remain uncertain,“ the study says, “but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature.”

The main goal of the study is to raise awareness of these potential catastrophes and encourage greater global cooperation to keep them at bay.
(MORE: Climate Change Poses Urgent Health Risk, White House Says)
“Market and political distortions mean that these risks are likely to be systematically neglected by many actors,” the study says.
The study suggests there are three main ways to reduce the risks from climate change: adaptation to climate change, abatement of emissions, and geo-engineering. Research communities should increase their focus on understanding the pathways to and the likelihood of catastrophic climate change, and possible ways to respond, the study says.
MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Before and After Shots of Rising Sea Levels

This photo illustration depicts Durban, South Africa, after a 2 degrees Celsius increase in global temperature, a threshold that, if surpassed, could usher in catastrophic global impacts from climate change. (Credit: sealevel.climatecentral.org/Nickolay Lamm) 
Press link for More: Weather.com

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Rise Up For The Climate! #auspol 

Earth Week’s climate change plea

Photo: reb gro@Flickr

The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union launched Earth Week with a panel discussion, including campaigners Asad Rehman, from Friends of the Earth, and Martin Empson, from Campaign Against Climate Change.
Asad Rehman began with an enlightening speech about the effects of climate change on developing countries, and how intertwined the cause is with that of the #NoBanNoWall campaign. 

It is estimated that roughly 70,000 people die due to climate change related issues each year, but millions more are displaced from their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. 


It is estimated that 1 person every second is displaced from their homes as a result of drought, flood, or other climate change related disasters. 

So just as you have refugees of war, you have refugees of climate change.
What makes matters worse, is it is beyond their control. 

10 per cent of the richest countries are responsible for 50 per cent of the carbon emissions.

 Asad uses the analogy, “climate change is like the Titanic, and we’ve hit the proverbial iceberg. 

But it is the richer countries that are the people getting on the boats, whilst the poor and locked in the cabin.”
It is therefore not surprising that those who are feeling the effect of climate change-induced famine or other natural disasters are seeking refuge and help from us. 

But rather than villainising them as ‘economic migrants’, they need and deserve our legal protection.
It is because of this injustice that Asad stressed that we must rebuild a system of justice, and give a face to millions that don’t have a voice. 


We have a social responsibility to support causes such as Friends of the Earth and Campaign Against Climate Change to “build bridges, not walls”.

 Although we may not see the damage we cause, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Martin Empson elaborated that the way you can help such causes is to just get involved. 

Currently protests are everywhere and are certainly making the public’s voice heard, but he stressed that you should take part in all movements to do your bit. 

Or if that, sign a petition, write to your local MP or donate to make sure something is done.
Everyone wants to protest Trump right now, but we need to ensure the environmental and migration movements work together to positively reinforce each other and make their voices louder. 

By doing this, Martin claims we can “create a positive agenda that creates hope”.

Press link for more: Manunion.com

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Coal-fired generators have no future. #auspol 

The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia

By Ian Verrender

An investment of that magnitude also requires huge amounts of project debt 
Govt may fund coal power

Treasurer Scott Morrison says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation could be used to fund new clean coal power stations.

What it found was that none of the new technologies can deliver power as cheaply as our current batch of carbon belching coal plants.
When it came to renewable energy, wind was the winner while among the new-generation fossil fuel plants, gas-fired combined cycle plants and supercritical coal-fired generation came out on top.


In a nutshell, the study explains that renewable energy has high upfront costs but is extremely cheap to run, given the fuel — wind and sun — comes at no cost. 

Gas plants are cheaper to build, but have higher running costs.
But there’s one crucial cost that weighs heavily on the minds of investors and bankers. 

And that’s carbon.
According to the CSIRO, if a carbon price was introduced, the economics of power generation shifts in favour of renewables, although a relatively high price is required. 

Wind is competitive with new-generation coal at $30 a tonne of carbon dioxide, solar at $70 a tonne.
Carbon storage, the kind of technology the Government is now looking at, can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to up to $70 a tonne.

The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia

 Barnaby Joyce holds a lump of coal in the House of Representatives

PHOTO: The debate over carbon emissions and electricity couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate time. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Maybe it’s the heat, or the unprecedented run of searing temperatures scorching the continent.
Whatever the cause, the torrid debate in Parliament over carbon emissions and electricity in recent months couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate moment.
The only problem is that every politician, state and federal, has always clung to the truism that power begets power or, perhaps the inverse; that whoever delivers blackouts gets booted out of office.
Turnbull’s turnaround

The man who lost the leadership by fighting to introduce a carbon price is now against renewable energy, Stephen Long writes.

As the finger-pointing over higher prices nationally, blackouts in South Australia and threatened disruptions across the eastern states escalates, any notion over rational debate on how best to address the nation’s long-term energy challenges has evaporated.
Put aside the irony that the recent run of misfortune on the national electricity grid is the direct result of a savage uptick in extreme weather conditions, a trend the vast bulk of climate scientists have been warning of for decades.
The simple truth is that, despite the entertaining theatre of insults in the national capital, Australia’s future power needs overwhelmingly will be provided by renewables and gas. 

Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia.
That is a trend driven by energy generators and consumers, both of which have abandoned hope of policy leadership from Parliament.
Generators jettisoned the idea of coal years ago, at least when it comes to building new power stations, because they carry too much risk.

 You’re looking at upwards of $1 billion for a large-scale coal-fired generator that would be expected to last around 50 years.
No rational businessperson is willing to commit that kind of funding over that period, in an electoral cycle that lasts just three years.

 And that’s just the equity side.
An investment of that magnitude also requires huge amounts of project debt and, faced with the prospect of stranded assets and non-performing loans, financiers have wiped their hands of the idea of coal-fired electricity.
Consumers, meanwhile, have plunged into renewables, with Australians among the world’s fastest adopters of rooftop solar.
Renewables v coal
Sadly, much of the debate about our future power generation has become mired in political point-scoring and simplistic arguments designed to inflame and outrage; where ignorance dominates academic research. 

The recent power outages in South Australia are a prime example.
While it has become fashionable to denigrate scientists, particularly when related to climate or energy, it’s worth reading through the CSIRO’s 2015 report into Australia’s future energy needs.
“Electricity grids are complex systems and the largest machines ever developed by humans,” it notes.

With that in mind, it attempted to compare the costs of various forms of power generation, from traditional fossil fuel plants to the renewable technologies and everything in between.
Govt may fund coal power

Treasurer Scott Morrison says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation could be used to fund new clean coal power stations.

What it found was that none of the new technologies can deliver power as cheaply as our current batch of carbon belching coal plants.
When it came to renewable energy, wind was the winner while among the new-generation fossil fuel plants, gas-fired combined cycle plants and supercritical coal-fired generation came out on top.
In a nutshell, the study explains that renewable energy has high upfront costs but is extremely cheap to run, given the fuel — wind and sun — comes at no cost. Gas plants are cheaper to build, but have higher running costs.
But there’s one crucial cost that weighs heavily on the minds of investors and bankers. And that’s carbon.
According to the CSIRO, if a carbon price was introduced, the economics of power generation shifts in favour of renewables, although a relatively high price is required. Wind is competitive with new-generation coal at $30 a tonne of carbon dioxide, solar at $70 a tonne.
Carbon storage, the kind of technology the Government is now looking at, can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to up to $70 a tonne.

 Scott Morrison holds a lump of coal in Parliament

PHOTO: “On this side of the house you will not find a fear of coal,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Carbon pricing is inevitable
Although early attempts at pricing carbon emissions have failed, no-one in the power industry, or those that finance it, is under any illusion that emissions will be free forever.
It is the same in mining. 

Every major corporation views carbon pricing as inevitable and includes a range of prices when determining the economics of long term projects.
Why is everyone talking about a carbon tax?

These are the five things you need to know about the debate over carbon pricing.

Given the significant costs levied on those putting waste into landfill and the prohibition on disposing of noxious materials into our waterways, it’s remarkable that to this day, the atmosphere is freely used as a garbage dump at no cost.
Last week, a study commissioned by the Minerals Council claimed that renewable energy in Australia was the beneficiary of huge subsidies.
Large-scale renewable projects, it claimed, were on the receiving end of $1.8 billion in direct subsidies last year alone. That’s a claim rejected as simplistic and incorrect by those in the renewables industry.
Whatever the number, there is no doubt that renewable energy has been on the receiving end of vast subsidy handouts both for large scale and home generation here and around the globe.
But it’s equally true that, in the absence of a carbon price, high-polluting industries have been getting a free ride, not only by avoiding the cost of damage to the environment and the planet, as the science overwhelmingly points to, but through the damage to the health of countless millions of people.
It’s also worth noting that every Australian coal-fired power plant was built with taxpayer money. As were the electricity distribution systems.

 And while many since have been sold to private interests, the sales processes have thrown up some interesting numbers.
When the NSW government sold its electricity generation assets for $1.5 billion, the deal was hailed a breakthrough.

 But the Tamberlin Inquiry in 2011 discovered about $4 billion worth of taxpayer subsidies to the generators in the form of cheap long-term coal contracts.
Coal-fired generators also use huge amounts of water, much of which — unlike farmers — is gifted to them.

 Then, of course, there are the would-be new coal miners up in the Carmichael Basin — most notably the Adani family — with their hands out for about $1 billion in taxpayer-funded infrastructure.
What’s the solution?
From an economic perspective, it would be far more efficient to eliminate subsidies altogether and to put a price on carbon that reflected its true cost.

 Private investors then would be able to choose which technology was most efficient.
One of the great drawbacks of renewables has been the intermittent nature of its generation. As a famous politician once noted wryly:
“If the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, there is no power being generated.”

That’s true. 

But energy storage, particularly batteries, is the game changer that could rectify that shortcoming.
Just as the cost of solar panels has plummeted in recent years, as production technology has improved and the huge demand from households and business has improved economies of scale, the same can be expected from energy storage technology systems.
That will create a new set of technical headaches and cost challenges on how best to maintain a national power network, for which we appear to be entirely unprepared.

Press link for more: ABC.net.au

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Reliance on fossil fuel particularly coal is unsustainable! #auspol 

Memo to federal politicians: get on with renewable energy plan

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis 

There is a consensus that reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable electricity is crucial to the wellbeing of our growing population, and to the economy as a key factor of production.

There is widespread agreement that the historic reliance on fossil fuels, particularly coal, is unsustainable, as it is a major cause of dangerous global warming, and thus that there should be a transition to renewable energy sources.
There is, too, agreement that such a transition requires business investment, which in turn depends on confidence government policy will not unduly chop and change, as it has here in the past decade. 

The electricity industry itself has long been calling for a price on carbon emissions as a pivotal part of creating certainty, as well as a market incentive to expedite the shift to renewables, a journey being made cheaper and easier by rapid progress in storage technology.
So, there is an evident and urgent commonality of interests across our society and throughout the world that energy policy be well managed. 

Providing fresh and compelling evidence of this commonality is a group letter released by organisations representing electricity suppliers and consumers, big and small business, environmental advocates, researchers and the union movement.

On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see such a well co-ordinated and community-wide clarion call to lawmakers to put aside petty politics and broker a bipartisan approach to energy policy. 

On the other, though, it is dispiriting we are in this situation as long as a decade after then prime minister John Howard took a market-focused carbon price to the 2007 election, as did the victor of that encounter, ALP leader Kevin Rudd.
The letter exhorts all politicians to “stop partisan antics and work together to reform Australia’s energy systems and markets”.

 It says politicking has made energy investments “impossibly risky”, which has squeezed supply, shoving prices up and shackling change.

 “The result is enduring dysfunction in the electricity sector.”
Yet the government argues that price hikes and recent supply crises, particularly in South Australia, primarily reflect a failure of renewable energy. 

In recent days it has run the line with vehemence, dubiously seeking to besmirch the federal ALP for events that are clearly well beyond its control.
The government’s misappropriation and distortion of the South Australian situation looks particularly flimsy in light of a revelation by Fairfax Media that it is ignoring advice from its own independent advisors that blackouts are not being caused by that state’s relatively high renewable energy target, but by failures in the network, and damage caused by extreme weather.
Coal-dependent states are having supply woes, too, after all. 

The government has so far failed to make a convincing case for its renewed enthusiasm for coal. 

We believe it will be unable to do so, and should capitalise on the opportunity to help lead a bipartisan plan to advance the transition to renewable energy.
Historically, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been an unambiguous supporter of using a price on carbon as we transition to renewable energy. 

In 2010, he said Australia “cannot cost-effectively achieve a substantial cut in emissions without putting a price on carbon”.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, too, supports pricing carbon.

 Most policy thinkers support it in principle.

 The power industry supports it. Community support is widespread.
It is hard to think of a core issue on which there is more agreement, yet less policy progress.

 And, like the reliance on fossil fuels, it’s unsustainable and fraught.

Press link for more: The Age

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The long arm of #ClimateChange #auspol 

Snow may have fallen in Ras Al Khaimah over the weekend but the Arctic is unusually warm. 

With temperatures almost 30°C above normal in some areas, sea-ice cover has fallen to record low levels. 


Dark seas instead of white ice absorb more sunlight, driving further global warming. 

Last year was already the hottest year on record worldwide. 

And human emissions of greenhouse gases are almost certainly responsible.

Meanwhile, progress on some of the main elements of climate policy is far short of what is needed. 

These include a binding global agreement to reduce emissions; sharp reductions in emissions; and dealing with the backlog of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.
April’s acclaimed Paris climate agreement, signed by 194 states including the UAE, is non-binding. 

Signatories are not committed to any consistent plan of action, but only those they themselves propose – and there is no enforcement mechanism. 

The US seems set to withdraw, or at best not to implement its commitments.

Even if all countries fulfil their Paris plans, the world will warm by 2.5°C to 3.1°C by 2100, better than the 4°C without climate policies but above the still-dangerous 2°C limit that Paris was meant to achieve.
On emissions cuts, there is much justifiable celebration in the renewables industry over recent progress in solar and wind power. 

These are now more competitive than coal or gas power generation in many areas, although backup remains a concern. Companies such as Tesla are also confident that electric cars, so far numbering just 1 million out of more than a billion vehicles globally, are about to take off.

Electricity generation creates one quarter of global emissions, with transport – which also includes planes and ships – contributing 14 per cent.
Industry, agriculture and forestry and the energy industry’s own consumption are the other big polluting sectors; they require other approaches beyond renewable energy and more efficiency.

 Industries could partly switch to clean electricity. 

But making cement, chemicals and steel unavoidably produces carbon dioxide.

 Capturing this at source and storing it underground or using it to make useful products or solid minerals is the only apparent solution. 

But many environmentalists oppose carbon capture and storage, and it receives just a fraction of the support that has gone to solar, wind and electric cars.
Even if emissions are cut sharply from now, the accumulated atmospheric legacy, and the momentum from continuing economic growth, mean temperatures will keep rising. 

So actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is essential, both to tackle this backlog and to mop up continuing emissions that are too dispersed to capture. 

Carbon dioxide can be removed by reforestation, by burning plant material in carbon capture-equipped power plants or by “artificial trees” that absorb the gas from the air.
Given this dangerous climatic picture, Gulf countries need to reduce their own emissions.

 Dubai and Abu Dhabi are making encouraging steps in removing wasteful energy subsidies and introducing solar power. Intelligent investment into research and deployment of new energy technologies can help to build a clean and diverse future economy.
GCC states can play a unique role in carbon capture given their favourable combination of geology and industry.

 The Adnoc-Masdar joint venture Al Reyadah is a pioneer. But from 21 large-scale carbon capture plants operating or in construction worldwide today, we need thousands by mid-century. 

Both of these, and actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, are essential to preserve the region’s fossil fuel endowment in the global energy mix.
The Gulf states need to prepare for nasty climate surprises – heatwaves, floods or droughts in their neighbours – whipping up the storm of turbulent regional politics. 

The Arctic may be far from the UAE, but the arm of climate change has grown long.
Robin Mills is the chief executive of Qamar Energy and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis.

Press link for more: The National

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Military split on #climatechange #auspol #science 

President Trump, Military Split on Climate Change
By Steve Baragona

NORFOLK, VA — 

A nondescript metal box at the end of an unremarkable pier in Norfolk, Va. is one key to why the U.S. Navy is concerned about climate change.
For nine decades, the Sewells Point tide gauge or its ancestors have been recording the sea level off Pier 6 at Naval Station Norfolk.
The story it tells is clear.

 Between naturally sinking land and global warming driven sea level rise, the water is a half-meter higher than it was at the beginning of the last century.
That’s creating problems at the world’s largest naval base.


In rough weather, damaging surf slams against electrical, water and steam lines under the piers where the Navy docks its Atlantic fleet. 

High waves can keep sailors from getting to the ships. 

Even getting on base is getting harder as “nuisance flooding” becomes a regular problem, cutting off roads around the city of Norfolk.
“It’s not going to stop us from accomplishing our mission. We’re the military. We’ll figure it out,” said Capt. Dean VanderLey, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command for the Mid-Atlantic region. “But it just makes things more difficult.”
“The higher the sea level gets, the more we’re going to have to deal with that,” he adds. “I don’t think we fully understand the scope of the problem. And we definitely don’t fully understand the solution.”

Hoax vs. threat multiplier
The commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, has called global warming a hoax, although he now says there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
The Pentagon, on the other hand, takes the risks of climate change seriously.
Rising seas threaten coastal installations. Severe storms can cut off supply routes. Extreme heat limits training.

“The military has seen climate change as a problem since 2003, if not earlier,” says retired Army Gen. Gerry Galloway, now with the Center for Climate and Security.
National security threats from climate change are included in eight defense and intelligence documents published before President Obama took office, according to the center.
“Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world,” a group of high-ranking former military officials wrote in a landmark 2007 report.
“Economic and environmental conditions in already fragile areas will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce, and large populations move in search of resources,” the report continued.

These conditions “foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies.”
Planning for the impacts accelerated under the Obama administration. In 2014, DOD published a “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” outlining risks and responses.
While the new president is a climate skeptic, his pick for secretary of defense acknowledges the threat.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis led the U.S. Joint Forces Command. The 2010 Joint Operating Environment report that he signed described climate change as “one of the 10 trends most likely to impact the Joint Force.”
It notes the melting of the Arctic and the competition for newly available resources “is but one example of potential security challenges that did not exist in the past.”

Eye to the future
Trump supports a strong military, and “I personally don’t believe that the administration is going to do anything that’s going to interfere with the military being prepared,” Galloway says.
“Now, there will be fights over dollars,” he adds, and who gets the resources will depend on the president’s defense priorities.
At Naval Station Norfolk, they already are adapting to the realities they see coming. Newer piers are built higher, with the utility lines under a protected concrete deck.
“When we do construct facilities, we’re doing that with an eye toward the future, as we always do,” Capt. VanderLey says. “One of those things we see in the future is, potentially, sea level rise.”
VanderLey stays away from the politics of climate change and how the new administration might affect adaptation plans.
“We’re just trying to be good, smart engineers,” he says. “And I can’t imagine anyone’s going to decide to stop being good, smart engineers.
Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

Press link for more: VOA News

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Denial is not dead. #ClimateChange #auspol

Climate change denial is not dead

By Professor Michael E. Mann

The era of climate change denial is over.

 Rejection of the unequivocal scientific evidence that carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are warming the planet and changing our climate is no longer socially acceptable. 

Only the most fringe of politicians now disputes the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused, and they are largely ignored.
So why dignify the notion of climate change denial by writing about it?
Such was the criticism I received from many well-meaning fellow climate scientists last fall after I published my latest book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy,” co-authored with Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.

I wish the critics had been right. But of course, they weren’t.

Our book couldn’t seem any more prophetic now. For we are firmly back in the madhouse. Climate change denial is once again in vogue in Washington, D.C. As of Jan. 20, it is now the official policy of our executive branch.
Our new president, Donald Trump, has, of course, infamously dismissed global warming as a Chinese hoax and “a big scam for a lot of people a lot of money.” He has vowed to cancel U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement and has threatened to block the Clean Power Plan, a measure to reduce carbon emissions in the power sector. Among his key advisers are some of the most notorious climate change deniers. One has suggested cutting NASA’s entire climate research program dismissing it, with no apparent sense of irony as, “heavily politicized.”


Trump is in the process of putting together a climate change denial dream team to run his administration. His nominee for Energy secretary, Rick Perry — who would readily eliminate the department if he could remember its name, wrote in his 2010 book that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend” — in reality, 2016 was the third consecutive warmest year on record.
Trump’s nominee for Interior secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), plays down climate change as “not proven science” (there is in fact widespread agreement among the world’s scientists that climate change is real and human-caused), and his nominee for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is the chief executive of ExxonMobil, a company that is notorious for the disinformation campaign it has waged against the science of human-caused climate change.
Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, asserted earlier this year in National Review that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” once again ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. He is one of a group of Republican state attorneys general who have sued the EPA over the plan.
Add to all this the Trump team’s disturbing demand a month ago that the Energy Department identify employees and contractors who have been involved in climate meetings during the Obama administration. Trump and his team backed off on this “enemy’s list” approach to climate policy as negative publicity continued to mount, but its chilling effect continues to be felt. The fear that the incoming Trump administration might slash government-funded climate laboratories, decommission key weather satellites and cancel key programs prompted a massive effort to archive government climate data before the incoming Trump administration can engage in any mischief.
Since then, Trump has now barred the EPA from publishing studies or data prior to review by political appointees and has told them to remove mention of climate change from their website. The White House’s own climate webpage has been disappeared for good measure. And he has now appointed a climate change denier from the execrable Heartland Institute — an industry front group funded by the Koch brothers and others — to oversee the transition at NOAA.
It is difficult to keep up with this dizzying ongoing assault on science. 
Indeed, that assault was enough to motivate my fellow climate scientists and me to participate in a rally at the annual meeting of the largest Earth Science organization in the country, the American Geophysical Union, last December. And now there is a much larger plan afoot for a scientists’ march on Washington next month.

We scientists are, in general, a reticent lot who would much rather spend our time in the lab, out in the field, teaching and doing research. It is only the most unusual of circumstances that gets us marching in the streets. Trump’s assault on science is just such a circumstance. And we are seeing a rebellion continue to mount.
Trump’s demand last week that the National Park Service freeze its Twitter account — an ironic demand indeed from a president whose preferred means of communication is that very medium — met with a remarkable act of resistance and defiance. The Badlands National Park Twitter account not only continued to tweet, it did so issuing inconvenient (for the Trump administration) facts about the reality and threat of climate change. The tweets were later deleted, but within a matter of days, more than a dozen rogue unofficial agency Twitter accounts emerged, posting key climate change facts.
Trump and his fossil fuel-soaked administration cannot hold back the tide of history. The transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy is, as my friend Bill Nye says, unstoppable.”
The rest of the world is moving ahead in meeting its obligations under the Paris climate accord, and countries like China have indicated they are more than willing to fill the void in leadership if Trump reneges on our Paris obligations. California Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that the state will accelerate its transition toward clean energy, regardless of what Trump does, and that it will even take up any slack that results from Trump’s attempts to cut funding for basic climate research, exclaiming that “California will launch it’s own damn satellite!”
We may have to withstand a vacuum in climate leadership at the national level for the next several years, given the stranglehold that fossil fuel interests currently have on the presidency and the Republican congressional leadership. Yet any continued delays in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions might well commit us to more than six feet of sea level rise and massive coastal flooding, more devastating storms, historic deluges and crippling summer heat and drought.
That makes it all the more important that we make headway when it comes to action at the individual, municipal, state and international level. There is progress to be made on those fronts as we await a change, which will inevitably come, in the prevailing U.S. political winds.


Michael E. Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at The Pennsylvania State University, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, and author of three books, including “The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars,” “Dire Predictions” and “The Madhouse Effect.”
Press link for more: The Hill.com

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Economist Sounds the Alarm on #ClimateChange #auspol 

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm
Some people who study climate change believe that addressing it later — when economic growth has made humanity wealthier — would be better than taking drastic measures immediately. Now, though, one of this group’s most influential members appears to have changed his mind.

In the early 1990s, Yale’s William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. 

The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.


Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term.

 Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. 

This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. 

Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.


Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what’s politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.
Nordhaus deserves credit for changing his mind as the results of his analyses have changed, and for focusing on the implications of current policies rather than making rosy assumptions about the ability of new technologies to achieve emission reductions in the future. 

Many other analyses — including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — don’t demand such realism.

Nonetheless, the shift in his assessment is stark. For two decades, the advice has been to do a little but mostly hold off. Now, suddenly, the message is that it’s too late, that we should have been doing a lot more and there’s almost no way to avoid disaster.
Perhaps the main lesson is that we shouldn’t put too much trust in cost-benefit calculations, the standard economic recipe for making policy decisions. 

In the case of climate change, they are inherently biased toward inaction: It’s easy to see the costs of immediate emissions reductions, and much harder to quantify the benefits of avoiding a disaster likely to materialize much farther in the future. By the time the nature and impact of that disaster become clear, it may be too late to act.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com