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No way of knowing if the carbon price is lowering emissions

Last week we had good news from the Federal Government that the carbon price is already working. Many of us from across the political spectrum have wondered whether the complex new financial arrangements…

Australians may be cutting back carbon-intensive activities, but until the government is more transparent about emission cuts there’s no way to check. Adrian Tritschler

Last week we had good news from the Federal Government that the carbon price is already working. Many of us from across the political spectrum have wondered whether the complex new financial arrangements together with the compensation package and seeming myriad of exemptions will actually reduce Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions and, if so, by how much? Unfortunately, these questions remain largely unanswered.

The good news came courtesy of the Australian Energy Market Operator, which recorded a fall in CO2 emissions from electricity generation. The results seem to be significant. Victoria recorded an 8.7% drop in emissions intensity. Nationally, emissions intensity has fallen by 7.6% in the quarter since the carbon price was introduced.

However, some industry commentators have refuted the government’s conclusion. They say that in Victoria, black and brown coal power generation is being pushed out of the market due to a fall in demand and the requirements of the renewable energy target (RET), rather than by the carbon price.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change reportedly told us that “[y]ou have to read the report and it shows that Australia’s cutting carbon pollution, which is good for the environment”. But this rather off-hand response raises a number of questions starting with, how does a member of the public obtain a copy of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s report when it is not readily found on the AEMO’s website?

Also, is this the best the government can do? What about the government’s obligation to fully explain the anticipated results of such a major policy innovation as the Clean Energy Future package? What should the Minister for Climate Change be obliged to provide by way of analysis of the impact of pricing carbon and other policies on our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions abatement?

In early 2013, we can expect the first Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory after the start of the carbon price. The Quarterly Update for the March 2012 quarter, dated August 2012, shows that annual emissions increased by 0.3% compared to the year to March 2011 (emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) not included). Emissions were steadily returning to a peak observed in the year to March 2009, with the trend said to reflect increased emissions from transport and agriculture.

To date, such reports have not linked analysis of changes in emissions levels with the success or otherwise of policy choices. Whether this will be done in the future is not clear. But there is no express legislative requirement to provide this level of detail.

The Clean Energy Act 2011 obliges the Climate Change Authority to periodically review progress in achieving our medium‑ and long‑term targets for reducing net GHG emissions and progress in achieving any national carbon budget (emphasis added). The first review is to be released by 28 February 2014. However, the concept of the national carbon budget has yet to be elaborated.

This leads us back to the modelling published by Treasury before the introduction of the Clean Energy Future package. As ex-ante analysis, Treasury modelled the impact of pricing carbon on the economy at global, national, sectoral and household levels in their July 2011 report Strong growth, low pollution: modelling a carbon price. A supplementary Update was released in September 2011.

The modelling covered around two-thirds of Australia’s emissions - from stationary energy, some business transport emissions, industrial processes (other than existing synthetic gases), waste (other than legacy waste) and fugitive emissions (other than from decommissioned coal mines).

It isn’t clear to what extent complementary measures such as policies to provide investment and innovative grants for renewable energy, carbon farming and closure of emissions intensive power plants were considered. One of the scenarios was said to cover the agreement of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee “where possible”.

Treasury concluded that “[c]arbon pricing in Australia reduces emissions domestically and overseas”. However, it is essentially the growth in emissions that will be reduced by the carbon price. Actual emission levels will remain roughly the same between 2010 and 2050. Achieving our 2020 and 2050 targets will be heavily reliant on the purchase of abatement sourced from overseas.

Notably, while Treasury’s Update considered four pricing scenarios, none were applicable to a situation where the world takes action to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm CO2-e. This is the level widely recognised as being necessary to limit temperature rises to within 2 ̊ C above pre-industrial levels.

The results of a non-government modelling exercise are far more upbeat. In August 2011, ClimateWorks Australia estimated that, if the full suite of complementary measures is implemented optimally, the carbon price package could lead to a result which is double Treasury’s modelling of domestic abatement. On this basis they argue for a 2020 target of 25% reduction on GHG emissions based on 2000 levels, up from the present unambitious 5%.

Questions about the real impact of the government’s policies in terms of reduced GHG emissions need to be answered. The Federal Government needs to provide greater transparency and accountability regarding the actual abatement that will result from its climate change policies. And they need to do it sooner rather than later.

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  1. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I fear we will be congratulating ourselves on achieving or coming close to the 5% emissions reduction target 2000-2020. A more worthy target would have been 40%. Of that weak 5% reduction I would attribute most to network based electricity price rises, a generally subdued economy and thirdly to carbon tax. Note the US has achieved good CO2 reductions by switching from coal to gas fired generation. Our hypocritical coal exports exacerbate global CO2 but don't count as a black mark against us.

    As for the RET and subsidised renewables it seems now Germany may be slipping economically. Spain is already in recession having pioneered green energy. I doubt that Australia can achieve deep and sustained CO2 cuts (while preserving GDP) without a fair slice of nuclear baseload. The big coal plants may be running at lower capacity but they are not going away anytime soon. Hence emissions cuts will be largely cosmetic.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Newlands

      Base load is a problem not a necessity.

      Base load is a generator that is always on and is slow to increase or decrease power output. When most of our electricity was from coal the problem with base load was what to do with the power generated late at night - hence encouraging off-peak heating and hot water.

      In a healthy power supply base load is of no concern to users - what matters is that the power we want is available when we want it. It is the peaks and troughs that matter.

      So the essential…

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to John Newlands

      Baseload is largely a myth that assumes you rely on "one" power source.

      With a renewables approach you have a multitude of power stations that use differing locations and power generation types. Controllers then monitor conditions - like they already do - and adjust where power is coming from and going to.

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    3. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Baseload is a "myth" ! All the network engineers who ensure we have continuous electricity are using a silly concept of base load to supply reliable power when they could be reading this blog to find out how to do it from the experts here with their wide experience in power systems.
      The maths of reduced carbon emissions is pretty simple.
      If you generate a lot of emission free solar energy at a cost of 44 cents per Kwhr and force power resellers to buy it instead of paying 5 cents per Kwhr from coal powered stations then the emissions drop while the poorest in our society who don't have solar panels are screwed over paying for the lot. It is called income distribution.

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Perhaps you could tell us all why you think base load is a necessary component of a future power system. I'm an engineer, so I'm sure I'll understand any sensible explanation.

      I agree with you that the home solar energy system is not a cost effective way of reducing emissions. But reducing carbon emissions is MUCH more than just the way home solar is subsidised.

      And remember WHY we need to reduce emissions, and do so quickly. Since Stern it has been clear that the economic cost of not responding to climate change is much greater than the cost of dealing with it.

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    5. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael - Cheap and reliable power is the foundation of a modern economy and it needs to be available 24 hours a day. Renewable energy is a green invention which largely does not make sense . It is incredibly expensive and erratic. You have to build two power systems to use it. For every Gigawatt of new green power you need a gigawatt of real power for backup. You can fiddle with time of use metering to reduce peak power but that has always been supplied by the most inefficient generators which don't…

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    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil - What do you think the chances are that Stern and Garnaut ignored power generation in their economic calculations? Do you really think they ignored the costs of building new systems?

      Green power is real power. But yes, it is an important engineering challenge to be able to meet the needs of consumers at all times. Green energy is much more than just solar and wind. New ways of storing green energy will be needed as well as old ways like hydro. Also distribution systems will need to be changed…

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    7. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael- I am not a climate change denier - I am a skeptic . Did you look at the graph I provided . Check the correlation of temperature and CO2 and explain it to me. I am not a scientist but an engineer with a power system background . I have spent much of my life in precise measurement of power systems and also designed solar controllers over 30 years ago. I had no view either way until I looked at the measurements myself and saw that the graphs did not agree with the rhetoric. We have now had 16 years of no global temperature rise while CO2 has increased markedly. At what stage are we going to say the theory is wrong ?
      Green power may have a part to play in the future but not before suitable storage is invented. So the sensible thing is to research storage technology and when we have solved that problem then build green power systems that work. The current ones are a waste of money.

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    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil - if you were a skeptic then you would have done the research and discovered that all the claims by the deniers have been debunked. And you would have looked at the science and by now know why it is very unlikely that climate change is wrong.

      Your looking at measurements yourself has no scientific credibility. (If it has, quickly submit a paper to Nature, and once you are shown to be correct then I assure you I will applaud loudly when you receive your Nobel prize.)

      If I said I had looked at the data and Einstein was wrong would you believe me? Why does your claim have any credibility when the scientific consensus in EVERY country for about 20 years disagrees with you?

      As I've never seen a thread on the internet where are climate change denier has changed their mind, I see no point in continuing the discussion.

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    9. Rob Crowther

      Architectural Draftsman

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      In your intiall comment to this thread you take a dig at the ‘experts’ contained within.

      I imagine the climate research scientists within every single national scientific organization might take a similar view about others, what with their wide experience in climate research and ability to form a whole opinion on a cherry picked graph or two.

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    10. Gary Goland
      Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Rob Crowther

      The bigger picture is about a bigger everything. An increasing population, a bind to our consumer lifestyle, and a system of energy supply that is tied to historical use. Just making that bigger is very expensive. Is it the way to go? We may need to consider challenging such design to fit with the variable supply, green energy is also calling for. The greater development and application of local energy storage, and maybe not just 240volt? I ask this on the basis of so much loss energy in transmission too.

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    11. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil Gibson writes : "Renewable energy is a green invention which largely does not make sense."

      Tell that to the farmers who fed the builders of the Pyramids

      Tell that to the millers of the Netherlands

      Tell that to the captains of the sailing vessels which brought the first European settlers to Australia

      Tell that to William George Armstrong who built the first hydroelectric generator and to Thomas Edison and to Pan Jiazheng, architect of the Three Gorges Dam which is the world's largest power station of any kind.

      Of course renewable energy makes sense.

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    12. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael - did you look at the graph instead of parroting the consensus line. Obviously you haven't. Your appeal to authority doesn't change the data. You don't even need to be a trained engineer to see that the data doesn't add up. Scientists tracked a warming trend to 1995 with increasing CO2 and the whole global warming theory was born. Unfortunately since then the theory has been falsified with Co2 increasing and temperature remaining static for 16 years.

      Since you seem unable to read a graph and have not put forward any other argument you are probably right that there is no point in me discussing data with you.

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    13. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan - I don't understand your reply. We were discussing how to power a modern economy and you are talking about sailing ships and Dutch wind-mills.Hydro-electric power is useful but there are few sites in the world suitable and available.The Chinese dispossessed millions to build that dam of which you seem to approve. The political reality is that with the nitwits we have in Government it is impossible to build a dam in Australia so hydro is not a viable alternative.

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    14. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      You mentioned Einstein and you may be interested to know that the great mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson who has been called Einstein's successor is a skeptic much to the embarrassment of so-called climate scientists. I'll go with him.
      To Quote -In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets.

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    15. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Rob Crowther

      Rob- My initial comment about experts related to expertise in the power generation and distribution industries.

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    16. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      If you were a skeptic then you would have done the research to find out the 'standard' answer to the recent flat period in temperature increase. For your claim of climate change being wrong to have any credibility you need to answer the points in my reference above.

      Instead you ignore this, and change topic to the views of Dyson.

      Standard procedure of deniers - ignore any reasons why they are wrong and move on to another topic.

      By the way, if increased carbon emissions by man is not the…

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    17. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      That's a misrepresentation of Dyson's views.

      Dyson is in no way critical of the principle that adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will tend to make the planet's surface warmer, nor does he express any doubt that we are, in fact, adding greenhouse gases and that the planet is, in fact, getting warmer *as a consequence*.

      Dyson has always favoured renewable energy (solar) in the longer term and does not look on fossil fuels as a long-term solution to anything, just something convenient…

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    18. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Actually we're talking about transforming "how to power a modern economy" given constraints on the abillity of the atmosphere to absorb pollution, and also (admittedly longer) constraints on the availability of fossil fuels.

      Freeman Dyson is another person you can tell "Renewable energy is a green invention which largely does not make sense."

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    19. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Wikipedia has been made politically correct in the Warmist sense by William Connelly and his cohorts so it is not surprising that you would find that quote out of context. You obviously have not read Dyson to think that that quote represents his thinking.

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    20. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan - I said Freeman Dyson was a skeptic. How is that misrepresenting his views? He does not go along with the majority that Michael has been carrying on about. Freeman Dyson agreed to be interviewed by email by a science reporter from the independent.

      From the Independent article:From: Steve Connor

      To: Freeman Dyson

      You are one of the most famous living scientists, credited as a visionary who has reshaped scientific thinking. Some have called you the "heir to Einstein", yet you are…

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    21. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil,

      No, I have not read Dyson. But, unlike you, I did some research to find out what the other side is talking about.

      I have yet to find any post by a climate change denier (or skeptic) which casts any doubt on the big picture consensus on climate change. You have certainly failed to provide any rational argument.

      You have also still not said anything to rebut my link to the response of mainstream science to the 16 flat years issue. Nor to provide an alternative explanation for most of this centuries warming, etc.

      And it is now the fifth time I ask you to tell us why the majority of climate scientist are either completely stupid and don't know they are wrong, or how they have managed such a successful conspiracy in every country for so long.

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    22. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil - If you are a climate change denier then all is simple - just treat the above as proving the climate change is crap. Dyson is right because you like his conclusion, everyone else is wrong because you don't like what they are saying.

      If you are a skeptic then do the research to find out why the scientific consensus disagrees with Dyson. If you don't agree with these rebuttals give us a good reason why.

      And what more evidence do you need to be convinced that climate change is enough of a threat that we should take urgent action?

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    23. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Hey guys, acceptance or denial of climate change is somewhat off topic. The article was about measuring the impact of the carbon tax system and other measures.

      Even for those who are skeptical about anthropogenic warming there are lots of benefits to be had from running an economy whilst creating less waste and air pollution and making our cities and towns more pleasant to live in via improved urban design and via efficient transport facilities.

      Even if climate change was not a critical problem at some stage we will need to confront constraints on energy resources, so nothing is lost.

      And besides all that, our hip pockets are well serviced in the bargain if we run our economy with greater financial and resource efficiency.

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    24. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,
      You reinforce my argument by quoting as "experts" academics who have never worked in the power industry ,one of whom has commercial interests in alternative energy and could hardly be seemed to be impartial.

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    25. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      The link would have been sufficient, Neil. I had not read this interview and I retract my claim that Dyson is not a skeptic, since he labours the point of his skepticism.

      I find this paragraph inexplicable:

      "You ask me where the extra trapped heat has gone, but I do not agree with the models that say the extra trapped heat exists. I cannot answer your question because I disagree with your assumptions."

      Nobody was *assuming* there was trapped heat, nor were there "models that say the extra…

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    26. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "We have now had 16 years of no global temperature rise"

      You may have done some mathematics in your education but one aspect you clearly know very little about, and in which you are easily misled, is statistics. At best you could say 16 years of no "statistically significant" global temperature rise. Leaving out the "statistically significant" is a dishonest trick.

      The "not statistically significant" means that it was something short of 95% likely that warming occurred in 16 years (perhaps 93%) and something over 5% likely that cooling occurred (perhaps 7%). We can never be 100% certain that warming or cooling has occurred (but we can get pretty close eventually). Refer to http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/temperature-analysis-by-david-rose-doesnt-smell-so-sweet/

      But given your record Neil, I'll be astounded if you understand any of this.

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    27. Gary Goland
      Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Very valid point to make Chris. In the biological sciences where I worked on research projects, "probability" was always the challenge in interpretation. The other aspect related to this, was variability within the experimental groups. Staying with this theme, a key characteristic of changes that climate scientists have identified as part of the change to expect, are extremes in weather conditions. I refer readers to this review article in Science, as example; Climate Extremes: Observations…

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    28. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris,
      "Lies , damn lies and statistics".
      I do understand statistics but I have a sense of when statistics apply and when they don't. The simple fact is that in the real non-academic world the kind of arguments you are applying don't have much relevance. Try fronting a meeting of shareholders saying that you have no increase in profit in 16 years but there was a 95% chance that your profit was increasing and see how long you have a job.
      I appreciate that you are much smarter than me Chris but I think the fact that the global temperature has not changed in the last decade plus means exactly that ,no more no less ,and that if disagrees with your agenda then that is unfortunate.

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    29. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "I do understand statistics"

      Sure, if you say so.

      "The simple fact is that in the real non-academic world the kind of arguments you are applying don't have much relevance."

      Really. This is what David Rose (the person who started this deception) did. He cherry-picked part of Hadcrut4: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1997.75/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1997.75/trend starting with October 1997 when its anomaly was 0.55 deg C and then picks August 2012 when its anomaly was 0.53 deg C.

      Result, hey presto, no warming in less than 15 years (or 16 years according to Rose's arithmetic). Of course, as my cite shows, a regression line shows warming from October 1997 until August 2012. So it's a bare-faced lie to say there was no warming over "16" years.

      So Neil, you have been sucked-in by a shameless lie. It will be a test of your intellectual honesty to admit that you were sucked-in.

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    30. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      So I should find someone who isn't an expert to tell you that baseload is a myth? That doesn't make sense to me Neil.

      I think you are failing to understand that our renewable energy grid will be much more diverse, spread out and multifaceted. Thus the idea of having a power station on standby will become a thing of the past, it will be about tapping sources and utilising resources. We've already seen examples of this with wind in SA, where they knew conditions would allow higher generation of wind power, so they switched other sources off, knowing when they would need to be restarted in weeks time.

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    31. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The fact that you can change from minute warming to minute cooling by changes in the start date in a 16 year window would indicate to anyone with any common sense that there has been no warming to speak of in that period of time. However with the current el nino squibbing, time is on the skeptics side and I guess we will need Hadcrut 5 in a hurry next year as they now seem to be following the Hansen Orwellian technique of adjusting the past. There was an old joke among engineers about a man and a…

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    32. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Experience in the UK where there is a large number of windfarms is that at crucial times they go missing which means that the power grid has to be designed as if they were not there. So we need a conventional generation capacity equal to anticipated maximum load and an expensive wind power capacity so our capital investment is much more than doubled and the consumer has to pay for both grids. When the music stops and there is no sun and no wind the base load stations will be supplying the total system load- no amount of diversity calculations will change that.
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1345233/Its-use-waiting-turbines-warm-snow-returns.html

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    33. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      In fairness, the UK grid and almost all of its fossil-fuelled power stations were already built before any wind farms were, so there has been no investment in fossil electricity compelled by the addition of wind. But yes, we're all well aware that wind is intermittent. Wind farms are there to reduce greenhouse emissions and save on mounting fuel costs (given that the UK, once a major energy exporter, cannot now supply its own fossil energy needs and imports coal, oil and gas in ever-increasing…

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    34. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      "The fact that you can change from minute warming to minute cooling by changes in the start date in a 16 year window would indicate to anyone with any common sense that there has been no warming to speak of in that period of time."

      The fact that you say it's 16 years from October 1997 until August 2012 proves you're just another dishonest denialist troll. The fact that a single month is warmer than another single month 15 years later just proves that there is substantial month to month variation in temperature. Anyone who asserts that monthly variation has average climatic significance is misrepresenting the issue.

      Goodbye denialist troll.

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    35. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Note that Neil Gibson really is just a denialist troll.

      I posted a link summarising the scientific response to the claim of 16 years of no temperature increase and Neil has still not responded to this.

      I've asked Neil about 6 times for his big picture world view - are all the climate scientist complete fools (and thus don't know they are wrong), or is this some huge conspiracy involving the vast majority of climate scientists in every country for the last 20 years?

      Neil refuses to move the…

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    36. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan - Having worked in power system planning in my younger days I know what a grid is. It was a simplified way of describing the duality of generation systems. You are right in saying that only extensions to the existing grid is required although given the remote siting of some wind farms this can be considerable. The storage ideas being tried are interesting but are experimental. I hope that eventually one or more of them is successful. The green energy field is like the dotcom bubble of a…

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    37. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Fortunately people like Stern and Garnaut are very good at economics, and both have shown that the economic costs of not acting on climate change is much greater than the cost of action.

      So if you want to argue economics then you first have to respond to these two major economic reports.

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    38. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan
      No one including myself deny that CO2 causes warming. Teller was not convinced it was a problem in 1998 and with the lack of warming since then I am sure he would still be unconvinced. He was interested in a pet solution IF it became a problem.
      "It's wonderful to think that the world is so very wealthy that a single nation -- America -- can consider spending $100 billion a year on a problem that may not exist."
      http://www.evolutionquebec.com/site/archives/teller.htm

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    39. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I am now supposed to be a denialist troll paid by Big Oil because I have a different opinion from you. I would have thought better of contributors to this site but I suppose I come from a generation that values good manners as
      well as intelligent debate. For others less rude who have been following this here is an analysis of the Rose article and the Met Office response.

      http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=4237

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    40. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      There's no problem with a modest power loss in energy storage. Energy at the moment of peak demand is several times more valuable than energy when you don't want it. That means it doesn't matter if you lose 20% or even 60% of the energy you are storing, if you have overbuilt your supply. This was the case with "baseload" coal and nuclear power stations, which justified lossy pumped hydro and inefficient open-cycle gas turbine peaking stations long before intermittent generation was a significant…

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    41. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      It's not *temperatures* which are a problem, per se. It's climate.

      We know very well that humans can handle temperatures from 40 below to 40 above. The change in climate is marked by changes of six degrees at most -- which change is localised in the Arctic, where presumably people would welcome a bit of extra warmth.

      But the changes disrupt cycles which have been relatively stable to date. The one thing that really threatens humanity is the loss of rainfall where it has been relatively reliable.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-century-of-drought-418623.html

      If Teller had a geoengineering solution that could make the rains arrive on time every year in every country, it's news to me.

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    42. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil you are clearly *not* a denialist troll because you're listening (and this : "No one including myself deny that CO2 causes warming."). And nobody suggested you were paid. Paid trolls like Bob Carter don't stoop to posting in the comments sections of websites like this one.

      Manners aside, linear regressions of global averages of surface air temperatures over selected recent intervals are not the only things we have to indicate that the planet is warming up.

      Changes in ocean ice cover…

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  2. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    Yes, there's no way of knowing which of the various abatement measures are most responsible for lowering emissions.... and that's assuming that emissions will be lower. Let's just accept that all measures working together may have an impact. We need all balls in the air.

    However, we can be deluded into thinking that measuring of carbon is an exact enough science for us to provide an accurate analysis. We can't. The best we can do is apply a consistent model for measurement and watch trends and…

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  3. Philip Harrington

    Principal Consultant - Climate Change

    It's very unlikely the government will come clean as to the abatement effect of measures, as it is locked into a political mantra that carbon pricing is what drives all abatement - no power price rises though! - just abatement. In fact, energy-related emissions started falling mid- late-2008, as a clear result of the GFC, but have accelerated since Sept. quarter 2010 due to long term changes in the electricity market. In short old black coal plants, mostly in NSW, but some in SA and Qld, are simply…

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    1. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Philip Harrington

      You might say Playford and Munmorah were "life-expired" power stations that just happened to burn black coal, but you can't say that of the 28-year-old Tarong which is in perfect working order.

      The carbon price *alone* is not driving the fall in power emissions -- the RET, the network-related price rises, and mild weather are all contributing factors also -- but it would be crazy to say that the carbon price had nothing to do with it given the sudden drop since the first of July when the legislation…

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  4. Tim Scanlon

    Debunker

    Early days. We still need renewables and some better targets.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      To ensure that we don't warm the world more than 2 degrees requires very significant action which should have started a decade ago.

      So rather than being "early days" we are close to the point (if we have not already passed it) where warming over 2 degrees is almost certain.

      The consequences of 2 degree warming are so serious that it is easy to argue that this level of warming should be unacceptable. So it is already too late to prevent some pretty bad things.

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    2. Philip Harrington

      Principal Consultant - Climate Change

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Yes - I fear this is the main point. I'd turn it around however - the fact that we are seeing such a rapid drop in what is the largest 'single' source of emissions in Australia - that should be taken as evidence that if we pulled our collective finger out, we could really make some progress. A serious carbon price, with no freebies for major polluters; some serious energy efficiency measures; lift the RET target...just the in the power sector alone. So long as our level of ambition is 5% emissions…

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I was meaning early days in terms of the carbon scheme. I'm not a fan of the current scheme, but at least it is something. I completely agree that this is something that we should have done at least a decade ago, if not earlier.

      Did I mention that we've just had our 4th decile 1 and below growing season in our area for the decade? Statistically you would expect one per decade, not 4.

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  5. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    I can tell you that working commercially, the generation companies can tell you precisely. I fail to see why this is so hard. Make CO2 accounting a monthly reporting requirement. Otherwise, we have a pretty good proxy; mass of fossil fuel purchased.

    We need CO2 emissions per person, gross total CO2 emissions and energy intensity to be falling to be heading in the right direction.

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    1. Jonathan Maddox

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      Australia's greenhouse emissions are already impressively closely monitored and reported (modulo that there is minimal local reporting, as mentioned in Gary Goland's comment).

      http://www.climatechange.gov.au/en/climate-change/emissions.aspx

      The inherent uncertainties are not in the CO2 emissions from fuel burning, which as you point out are very clearly measured. Nitrous oxides produced during fuel burning are less clearly determined since they depend more on conditions and less on the quantity of fuel consumed.

      Where we are uncertain of exact emissions figures is in such areas as forestry, soil management, agriculture (including methane from cattle and rice paddies), wetlands, and "associated gas" (mostly methane but some CO2 and traces of other gases) that escapes during production of oil, coal and gas.

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    2. Philip Harrington

      Principal Consultant - Climate Change

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      The problem isn't monitoring, it's attribution, or cause and effect. As others have commented, there's a lot going on at the moment, from the weak economy, one-off weather events, mild winter, more embedded generation (including about 70 MW/month of rooftop PV), plus RET, carbon pricing, high real price rises - how you sort out what share of each of those is responsible for particular asset decisions is beyond me.

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  6. Gary Goland
    Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Researcher

    Reflecting on the complexity of what is undermining the stability of our atmosphere, ecosystems and well being, I fully agree with comments made and the article Sarah offers; to beg for definitions that have connection. I point to how Governments across our country have been able to avoid accountability in relation to all activities, power generation and beyond, which EPAs have been licensing for the last 20years. They get $10s of millions to manage environmental monitoring, yet produce nothing…

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  7. Sarah Waddell

    Sessional Lecturer Natural Resources Law, Indonesian Law at UNSW Australia

    Thanks for your comments.

    Wouldn't any monitoring of the effect of policy on GHG abatement (as opposed to simply emission levels) inevitably have to deal with the ubiquitous 'known unknowns' and be upfront about this. Surely this is the only basis on which we can debate the pros and cons of climate change policy if we are concerned with effectiveness as opposed to impact on the economy. In the political debate both are important and have to be weighed up against each other.

    It may be 'early…

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    1. Gary Goland
      Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Sarah Waddell

      Yes Sarah. Along these lines, having some attention devoted by EPA, (an administration already paid to work on evaluation), is common sense. For it to have action on design,efficiency, waste management and more timely replacement of anitquated plant, now, on licensed sites. More than 2600 licnsed sites in SA alone, does connect to the large dimension outside of power supply. This is where a lot of the the energy produced is consumed, (75%). The estimate of GHG reduction using ecomapping is 50% within 2-3 years. This belittles the effect expected with the carbon tax. It has been picked up and developed EU and parts of USA. Why can't we utilise the environmental managers that are already paid for, to assist businesses engage the better management profiles that exist?

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    2. Philip Harrington

      Principal Consultant - Climate Change

      In reply to Sarah Waddell

      Sarah - we shouldn't be surprised by Treasury officers failing to shown any interest in environmental outcomes. Disappointed, but not surprised. The prior question is - why do we think it's a good idea to allow Treasury officers to make environmental policy? They do not have the training for this work. They do not understand, nor are they interested in, the fundamentals of ecology and systems thinking. What they have is a very narrow and now very outdated model of how one bit of the word (transactions…

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    3. Gary Goland
      Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Philip Harrington

      Very supportive of your comments here Phillip. While the economics and finance are driving any justification or Government input, departments with other priorities and expertise are isolated from the development of a cohesive system of reference. To provide example of extremities I refer to the cost of ignoring the causes of deafness in our community. That is costing $Bs every year; http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/publicationsreports/getreport.php?report=71&id=81.
      I suggest there should be a place for sustainability indices that the whole of Governments refer to in justifying the allocation of economic priority. Such reference might overlook the uninformed priority and influence given by agents with strong political influence. It would add strength to well justified decisions.

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    4. Philip Harrington

      Principal Consultant - Climate Change

      In reply to Gary Goland

      That's a great idea. Words like "hegemony" are unfashionable these days, but well describe the basis upon which certain public policy issues become prioritised, and others deprioritised. What we know for sure is that the basis of prioritisation is not an attempt to rationally analyse the importance of the basket of issues in front of us. Something like probability x consequence would be a good start, with an explicit requirement that social, environmental and economic consequences are considered…

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    5. Gary Goland
      Gary Goland is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Philip Harrington

      Would you like to stand for the next election Phillip? We are in desparate need of independent voices like yours. Cheers, Gary

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  8. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Dr Waddell's article is a telling comment on the design and implementation of the emission-controlling process underway in Australia. This is all well and good, but it does not touch upon whether the goal of that process is worthwhile.

    If all our fuels were biofuels, then all the emitted carbon would have previously been extracted from the atmosphere by photosynthesis, and the net effect on atmospheric CO2 would be zero. In this case, there would be NO carbon emission problem, and no need…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Arthur

      The carbon tax is effectively a consumption tax on fossil fuels. But rather than following the use of fossil fuels all the way through the production cycle of goods and taxing the consumer directly, the tax is paid by those at the beginning of the chain.

      Of course there should be no carbon tax on non-fossil fuels. But given Labor's poor record on effective action on climate change I would not be surprised (but I would still be shocked) if some green energy was also taxed.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Thanks for that reply, Michael. I'm not sure that the carbon tax is effectively a consumption tax on fossil fuels; rather, I'd define it as a production tax on CO2 emissions.

      As it happens, the difference between these taxes is both subtle and crucial. I strongly encourage you, Dr Waddell and anyone else who gives even a fig about climate policy to download and read the June 2011 CEDA publication on this issue, "A Taxing Debate - The forgotten issues of climate policy" (http://www.ceda.com.au/media/121695/a%20taxing%20debate%20-%20the%20forgotten%20issues%20of%20climate%20policy.pdf).

      I also strongly recommend comparing and contrasting Australia's carbon emission scheme with British Columbia's carbon tax, and with the dog's breakfast of perverse outcomes (lots of money into bankers' pockets; what have bankers got to do with CO2 emissions, for goodness' sake?) that is the European Carbon Trading Scheme.

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