Archive for November, 2015

Getting out the real message

We are now four weeks from the opening of the much-anticipated, much-hyped 21st UN summit on climate change policy in Paris and, try as I may, I can’t find an Australian media report that picks up the body’s “climate chief,” Christiana Figueres, saying in recent days that the abatement pledges 154 of the participating nations are bringing to a converted aircraft hangar on the road from the French capital to the Somme will make “a significant dent” in global emissions even if it is not a clear pathway to achieving only a two degree temperature rise by 2100.

In the same vein, no-one in the media locally saw the need to report the International Energy Agency saying late in October that the pledges, if met, will “slow growth in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions to a relative crawl in 2030.”

A critical part of this pathway will be global energy intensity (ie energy use per unit of economic output) improving over the next 15 years at treble the rate seen since 2000.

The big achievement, adds the IEA, will be breaking the link between rising power demand and rising related emissions.

However, it is only too obvious that this is not the sort of positive news the environmental movement’s “we want it now” brigade want to see reaching the community at large – and the mainstream media seemingly is willing to play along, so we don’t see our political leaders talking this stuff up either.

The Fairfax media, for example, are pushing a message this weekend that the pledges “lock in” higher than two degrees warming – which their writers then link to current weather that has seen some high temperatures in parts of Africa. (The message: “be afraid, be very afraid.”)

It is noteworthy, at least to me, that our new Prime Minister, our Foreign Minister and the Environment Minister, all of whom plan to be at the Paris summit at various stages, are not relaying the “significant dent” message to the Australian community over the heads of mainstream media bent on covering Paris to the theme of “Copenhagen revisited,” sooled on by radical environmentalists who want instant change.

This situation, in my book, is worse than sad.

I think that, in terms of the overall best interests of Australia as a whole, it is actually dangerous.

My reading of the masses of material lying around on the Web is that what Figueres and the UN hierarchy will consider a success at the Paris meeting, based on what they have been saying, will be an agreement by the nations to a long-term goal and a mechanism to push them to review and increase their pledges in the years ahead. And yes, what the UN also says is that the pledges are still not sufficient to halt the upward trend of global emissions by 2025 or 2030, which can hardly be a surprise to anyone following the current and proposed development of new power generation, notably in Asia.

In this context, the International Energy Agency this weekend is running an “energy snapshot of the week” illustrating how, even as global electricity demand rises 40 per cent between now and 2030, emissions from the power sector can remain “broadly flat” though the implementation of the national pledges being made to the UN.

The “snapshot” also highlights that achieving this will require $US13 trillion in investment in energy efficiency and low carbon technologies in 15 years – or 40 per cent of total foreshadowed energy sector investment over this period.

One only has to look at these numbers to appreciate the immensity of the challenge being taken up – and how economically daft it would be to pursue the immediate green revolution the radicals urge on us.

In its review of the pledges earlier this year, the IEA also highlighted the fact that some of the key technology or policy options needed to pursue a greater energy transformation over the longer term – such as, it says, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage and alternative fuel vehicles – still get barely mentioned.

Meanwhile, asked by a leading German publication last week if the Paris meeting is “really the last hope to save the world from catastrophic climate change,” Figueres replied that it is “the last opportunity to do so in a cost-effective manner,” an assertion readily open to challenge I suggest; surely progress made in Paris could be taken further in Morocco in 2016 and wherever else the circus pitches its tent in the rent of the decade?

The tendency to press the “CoP” alarm button each year, something again now being pushed for all its worth by both radical campaigners plus both social and much of mainstream media, seems to me to have actually gone a long way towards creating a “MEGO” – “my eyes glaze over” – effect in many developed world communities.

In Australia, for example, as reflected in the Essential Report poll, just 32 per cent of respondents think climate change is the most important environmental problem facing the country today. (An earlier poll had 22 per cent of Essential Report respondents saying they don’t know which actions on climate change they would support and 12 per cent saying “no action is required.”)

Overall, one would like to see Australian political leaders taking up the challenge of better explaining to our community that Paris is potentially a useful step in developing a transition roadmap for global abatement, that this country is moving in the right direction but can achieve a lot more while not torpedoing the economy and that, to quote the IEA, a critical step is the deployment of low-carbon technologies here and in our region.

Not least, this would help to reinforce the message that deep decarbonization is the work of decades and that quick fixes are not a serious option and starve the green revolutionaries (and some politicians on the make) of at least part of the free oxygen on which they are currently thriving.