Power grids transitioning to renewable energy generates great debate, but no one is discussing the Australian government’s transition into madness, marked by bouts of delusion and dissociation from reality on any issue involving climate.
An obvious area of denial is the chaos in power grids, with wholesale electricity prices spiking and major users being paid to stay off the grid to balance supply. Yet in the midst of it all, as if nothing was happening, a minster or official will declare that the switch to renewables must be accelerated.
Another is the declaration by defence minister Richard Marles that climate change – specifically rising sea levels – is a greater threat to the Pacific than Chinese military aggression. Made during a visit to the US in mid-July the minister’s comments may have had more to do with maintaining harmony at the Pacific Island Forum then being held in Fiji and attended by Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, or cosying up to Beijing, but it was a strange statement for a defence minister to make.
As part of the forum the federal government followed the fad of declaring climate emergencies signing a joint forum declaration including the phrase. Now all they have to do is to produce an emergency, although they will probably settle for another State of the Climate report declaring that eco-systems are on the point of collapse, as they have for more than 30 years.
For island nations the declaration makes complete sense. Tuvalu, for example, sits on the peak of a submerged mountain top with poor soils, half way between Australia and Hawaii, where it is regularly visited by cyclones. So climate has always been a problem. But if the developed countries can be persuaded that the nation’s troubles are somehow their fault, they may contribute billions to a climate fund long promised during the endless series of international summits. Some of that climate money would be funnelled to the Pacific nations.
From the point of view of the minister of defence however, his declaration is madness. Satellites have tracked sea level increases world-wide for decades with the results publicly available on a site run by Columbia university. Since the early 1990s, when satellite monitoring began, sea levels have been increasing at an average rate of 3.3 millimetres a year. Such an increase, if extended over a whole century, adds up to an undramatic one third of a metre.
In addition, in a paper in the journal Nature Communications in February 2018 three New Zealand academics point out that there is growing evidence that islands are geologically dynamic, with features that adjust to changing sea level and climatic conditions. As a result, Tuvalu’s overall area has been increasing, not decreasing, although the island’s government strongly disputes that any of the additional surface area is usable land. Storms are another, obvious problem in the Pacific, but a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change in June, authored by 12 mostly Australian academics, states that the frequency of tropical cyclones has been declining due to climate change. The paper was reported straight-faced by the mainstream media without acknowledging that it contradicted decades of green propaganda.
Then there is the ongoing power crisis which has affected most Western countries. In Australia, the lack of a power capacity market, which pays generators simply to be ready to produce power, combined with relentless green propaganda against coal-fired power plants means no new plants have been built for years, there are fewer coal-fired generators capable of delivering on-demand power, and those still operating are increasingly unreliable due to age and lack of maintenance.
Those problems, combined with massive increase in energy prices, have resulted in spikes in wholesale power prices, particularly in Queensland, with advisor Energy Edge noting that wholesale power prices in the state more than doubled to an unheard-of average of $323 a megawatt-hour in the June quarter. When coal-fired power stations ruled the old state grids 20 years ago, wholesale power cost about $40 a megawatt hour. A few years ago, it was $80 a megawatt hour.
The chaos, and revelations that the government may pay some $1.7 billion to major power users who agree to stay off the grid during the crisis, has not affected the worldview of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In a recent conference in Sydney, as the crisis was unfolding, he talked of the shift to net zero and ‘the transformative role of clean energy technologies’.
Activists claim a big part of the problem is the increase in prices for gas and coal, but they bear the blame, having repeatedly attacked new coal mines and gas projects, and their financiers, using propaganda, protests and legal actions designed to deter or delay projects.
Thanks to their efforts, no one should be surprised that developed countries are dependent for energy supplies on the likes of Russia, where green activists trying to shut fossil fuel projects get into serious trouble. In 2013, for example, the Russian government charged Greenpeace activists who tried to interfere with an oil platform above the Arctic circle with piracy. The charges were dropped after two months but activists have stayed away from Russian oil platforms.
Threatening to throw activists in jail for up to 12 years is unlikely to happen in the West but any government serious about energy security must recognise that the grid will require base-load fossil fuel power for many years to come, and do more to stand up to climate trouble-makers. Along the way they could try to regain their sanity.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10