Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Totally empty Warmist thinking

The puff below appeared in The New Daily, which aspires to be a serious newspaper.  It was headed "Why Australia is sitting on a clean energy goldmine" and was written by Rob Burgess, their  economics commentator and previously a journalist on Left-leaning newspapers.

I looked forward to hearing what particular activity or resource Australia had that would give it the great advantage claimed.  Do we have rare earth metals in abundance?  Do we make very efficient solar cells?  Do we make better wind turbines?  I knew in advance that the answers to those question would be No, so what was it that had I not thought of or what was it that did I not know?

I was disappointed entirely.  All there is below are conventional prophecies and some very airy generalities that are well known but  are in no way explicitly tied to the subject at hand.

Take this sentence:

"The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up".

That is just a pious hope with no evidence or argument offered that it is happening or will happen.

Mr Burgess clearly has nothing to say but says it at length. But Warmist thinking is generally brainless so I don't suppose I should have been surprised

Australia has for a long time become convinced that it ‘got lucky’ via the mining boom, and that the subsequent boost in national income and household wealth could not be generated any other way – a defeatist position that would make industrial nations such as Germany and Japan, or newly-industrialised Malaysia, cringe.

That’s because their growth stories are not put down to ‘luck’ but to successful deployment of financial capital, innovation, development of human capital, and transparent and stable systems of governance.

Australia’s new comparative advantage, then, will be found in acknowledging how far along the non-luck path we are.

Despite pockets of deprivation, Australia is still one of the wealthiest nations in the world and its people rank second only to the Norwegians on the United Nation’s human development index.

The USA is eighth, the UK 14th and Japan 20th, by way of comparison.

Our rule of law, and stable and well-regulated financial markets, make Australia an excellent place to invest, meaning financing our renewable energy future will be easier and cheaper than for developing nations.

And to those advantages – strong human capital and attractiveness to investors – can be added a growing recognition that services exports will form a large part of our future economic growth.

The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up.

Oh, and there’s a bit of luck too – we have excellent natural resources to develop in renewable energy areas such as solar, wind, wave, biomass and biofuels. We also have huge scope to offset future carbon emissions via carbon forestry.

In short, Australia is sitting on a carbon-free goldmine. We are smart enough, wealthy enough, export-oriented enough, well governed enough and blessed enough in natural resources to be ahead of the curve in the transition to clean energy.
The five-year challenge

At the heart of the Paris agreement is a five-yearly ‘stocktake’ of how each nation is doing with meeting its self-nominated targets.

Australia took a very modest target to Paris at the end of November, but it will now face five-yearly check-ups to see if, firstly, it has met the target, and, secondly, whether it will offer a stronger target for the next five years.

As the US, China and others strengthen their targets, they will not idly disregard laggard nations – the threat of trade measures such as ‘border tax adjustments‘, are the means by which ‘non-binding’ pledges will, in effect, be made binding.

Also, as with all 195 nations who have signed up to the Paris agreement, Australia is committed to globally binding transparency measures – that is, we can’t fake our carbon emissions.

But why would we?

The tide of history is running, strongly. The arguments put forward by the fossil-fuel lobby, the Abbott government, and a few King Canute-like backers in the media, have been lost.

Yes, Australia has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the highest carbon-intensity per unit of GDP. So we have more work to do than comparable nations to keep up with the post-COP21 pack.

But the point that must not be missed is that those reductions will be easier here than just about anywhere.

It is our new comparative advantage.

And though it’s based partly on luck, to capitalise on it we will need world-beating innovation, business acumen, policy responses and, most importantly, a voting public given the full facts of where the tide of history is flowing, rather than the unworthy fear campaigns of the past few years.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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