Pro-Coal, Australian Garnaut Climate Review Damns Coral, Australia & World
Prominent Australian academic Economist Professor Ross Garnaut was commissioned by the right-wing, pro-Coal, State and Federal Governments of Australia to review the economic impacts on Australia of climate change; to also examine this in an international context; and to recommend policy options.
The Garnaut Report is GOOD in that it indicates (albeit inexplicitly) a serious climate change situation; the need to act now; and a "Cap and Trade" Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to encourage uptake of clean energy options.
However the Garnaut Review is fatally BAD in that it IGNORES crucial major considerations e.g. the need to cease coal mining and export; the human cost of coal burning (coal burning pollutants kill nearly 5,000 Australians annually); the "true cost" of coal-based power that is 4-5 times the "market cost"; the latest advances in low cost solar technologies; the urgent need to IMPLEMENT clean technologies; the massive ecosystem and economic damage NOW (notably to the Arctic, Antarctic, tropical forests, ocean fisheries, tropical agriculture and the ALREADY DYING coral reefs; and the urgent need to REDUCE atmospheric CO2 from the current 387 ppm to a safe and sustainable level of no more than 350 ppm as advocated by top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen and colleagues.
Unfortunately the right-wing, pro-Coal Australian Government Terms of Reference for the Garnaut Review included the following disastrous position, quote:
However the literature cut-off for the latest (2007) IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (on which Professor Garnaut heavily relies) was 2005 and climate science is moving rapidly. Thus it has been recently reported by top coral experts in the top scientific journal Science that above about 450 ppm CO2 (26 years' time at current rates) the world's coral reefs â€“ including Australia's Great Barrier Reef â€“ will start dying because of ocean acidification as well as from bleaching due to photosynthetic symbiont expulsion from increased ocean temperature. Top coral scientists say the "tipping point" for world coral death is in the 450-500 ppm atmospheric CO2 zone (Sources: Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, Corals and crustaceans in distress, Exeter scientist warns: the carbon crisis is lethal for coral reefs and Australian Rudd Labor Government plans to kill Great Barrier Reef? ; see: also the latest 2007 IPCC Synthesis Report) .
The world temperature increase is discontinuous and so is the increase in ocean acidity. World coral species are ALREADY DYING at the world's current atmospheric CO2 concentration of 387 ppm. A 270-contributor Report on the world's coral from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service (NOAA) says that nearly half of the coral reefs in areas from the Caribbean to the Pacific "are not in good condition and are continuing steadily on a long-term decline â€¦ even remote reefs are showing signs of decline" ; a major bleaching and disease event in 2005 devastated coral reefs across the Caribbean. In the U.S. Caribbean, scientists say an average of 50 percent of the coral was lost. Some areas lost 90 percent of their coral; a 1997 report in Nature estimated that the resources and economic benefits derived from coral reefs are worth $375 billion a year; and scientists who study the medical benefits of coral reefs say there are about 20 compounds in clinical trials derived from the corals themselves or the many organisms that depend on them.
According to top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (Head, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, member of the prestigious US National Academy of Science) and 8 UK, French and US colleagues:
The Garnaut Review recognized "risks" to economies and to peoples and biodiversity:
Professor Garnaut reviewed the science, the economics and then came up with a "Cap and Trade" Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to commence in an initial form in 2010. The ETS involves selling CO2 polluters tradeable licences, thus making pollution more expensive and favouring non-polluting alternatives (geothermal and ultimately solar-dependent renewables such as solar, wind, wave and tide power). However his scheme (Cap uncertain) involves returning 50% of the licence fees to domestic consumers and 30% to business in an extraordinary subsidy of "dirty" power. The remaining 20% will be spent on Research and Development for "new" alternative technologies, notably the "coal-burning with carbon capture and storage (CCS)" favoured by Professor Garnaut.
The Garnaut Review also FAILS to take seriously the impact of factors such as from human values (altruism, responsibility, respect for the irreplaceable ecosystems and species, respect for human life) to purely selfish considerations of peak oil. Thus a 2008 CSIRO report "Fuel for Thought" says that supply/demand problems due to "peak oil" may see petrol prices increase in 10 years to $8/L from the present $1.70/L whereas even an ETS carbon price of $40-$100/tonne would only add 10-25 cents/L to the price of petrol.
The Garnaut Climate Change Review is a highly flawed Report that IGNORES major realities â€“ it does not merely ignore an Elephant in the Room, it IGNORES a HERD of Elephants in the Room. The most important reality it completely IGNORES in its prescription of CONTINUED fossil fuel-based pollution of the atmosphere is that at 387 ppm atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) the Earth has ALREADY passed "tipping points" for major ecosystem devastation, notably the complete loss of Arctic sea ice and the death of the world coral reefs that support 25% of ocean organisms and are economically worth $375 billion annually.
If the world were to follow this course then the Planet biosphere is doomed.
Well, you might say, it is all very well to criticize but would the reviewer of the Garnaut Review do?
Here is a succinct science- and needs-based Alternative Plan. The Garnaut Review (514 pages) indicates that a favoured (but long-term, expensive, undeveloped, only partially effective at best and uncertain) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology yields power at about the same price (6 c/kWh) as EXISTING wind power technology. To replace Australia's 92% fossil fuel-based, 50GW (50 billion Watt) electricity-generating capacity with wind power at $2 per Watt would cost 50 billion W x $2/W = $100 billion. However the existing "capacity factor" (reflecting ACTUAL electricity generation in practice) is about 50% (50 W capacity generating only about 250 TWH/year rather than the 500 TWh expected if there was 100% capacity) and if we assume a much lower 20% "capacity factor" for wind power then the realistic actual replacement cost would be $100 billion x 50/20 = $250 billion.
Of course that scenario is merely one "boundary condition" (one extreme in the range of the possible) and the actual "mix" and rapid uptake path could involve a combination of the following (Garnaut Review 2006 estimates of cents/kWh in parentheses): geothermal (9), wind (6) and concentrated solar (20) as alternatives to brown or black coal (3) or the uncertain, HYPOTHETICAL proposition of brown or black coal with combined Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and Carbon Capture and Storage CCS (6-7) PLUS the latest, very low cost Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic technologies already being implemented around the world.
Crucial matters (not considered in the Garnaut Review) are the human cost of fossil fuel- or coal-based power generation (5,400 and 4,900 annual deaths, respectively, at a cost at $5 million person i.e. of $27 billion and $25 billion, respectively, per annum); the morbidity costs (6 times greater); and the "true cost" of coal-based electricity (estimated to be 4-5 times the "market cost") (see: Yarra Valley Climate Action Group, Ontario Study Identifies Social Costs of Coal-Fired Power Plants and Pollutants from coal-based electricity generation kill 170,000 people annually). Further, major reductions in costs of Concentrated Solar (Solar Thermal) Compact Linear Fresnel (CLFR) technology developed by Ausra mean that this could supply 90% of the US grid and auto fleet energy needs with cost estimates competitive with the "market price" gas-fired power plants and as low as 8c/kWh (see: Ausra study: Solar Thermal Can Give Us Energy Independence, Ausra moves to mass-produce solar thermal and First U.S. Solar Thermal Power Manufacturing Plant Lands in Nevada). Other current renewable technologies already approaching the "market price" of coal-based power include US balloon-based solar collector for PV cells and the latest dye-based and CIGS non-silicon thin films (See: Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half, How the Numbers Stack Up and Ausra Building First U.S. Production Facility for Thermal Solar).
The only "non-market support" that pro-renewable energy "PURE free marketeers" need from Government is (a) legal and legislative action over fossil fuel-burners who are killing an estimated 5,400 Australians annually from the effects of fossil fuel burning pollutants i.e. recognition of the 4-5 times greater "true cost" of coal-based power generation and ( gross production feed-in tariffs for renewable producers as in Germany and Spain and recommended as "more accurate" by Professor Garnaut who concludes (p437) : "A feed-in tariff based on gross metering is thus a more accurate means of pricing these benefits [as compared to "net metering"]."
Of course those "NON-free-marketeers" who believe in use of taxes for the common good (as in hospitals, schools, emergency services etc) would like to see major Government intervention for urgent provision of low-cost, non-polluting, non-homicidal renewable energy options consonant with the prescription by top US climate scientist Dr Hansen and his colleagues of REDUCING atmospheric CO2 from a dangerous current concentration of 387 ppm to a safe level of no more than 350 ppm.
IN SUMMARY, the pro-Coal Garnaut Climate Change Review Draft Report is seriously flawed through grievous and extraordinary omissions. The Garnaut Review is fatally bad in that it IGNORES crucial major considerations e.g. the need to cease coal mining and export; the human cost of coal burning (coal burning pollutants kill nearly 5,000 Australians and 170,000 world-wide annually); the "true cost" of coal-based power that is 4-5 times the "market cost"; the latest advances in low cost solar technologies; the urgent need to IMPLEMENT clean technologies; the massive ecosystem and economic damage NOW (notably to the Arctic, Antarctic, tropical forests, ocean fisheries, tropical agriculture and the ALREADY DYING coral reefs and the urgent need to REDUCE atmospheric CO2 from the current 387 ppm to a safe and sustainable level of no more than 350 ppm as advocated by top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen and colleagues. Even the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is seriously flawed by the absence of a non-biocidal "Cap" and the use of most of the licence fees to support business and domestic use of "dirty" energy.
The realistic and economic solutions to the Climate Emergency facing the world are urgent implementation of a NON-carbon energy economy using the cheap, advanced solar, wind and geothermal technologies already being implemented worldwide â€“ and coupled with re-afforestation and biochar addition to the soil to return the atmospheric CO2 concentration to a safe and sustainable level of no more than 350 ppm.
Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has just published â€œBody Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950â€ (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com);
see also his contribution â€œAustralian complicity in Iraq mass mortalityâ€ in â€œLies, Deep Fries & Statisticsâ€ (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007). He is currently preparing a revised and updated version of his 1998 book â€œJane Austen and the Black Hole of British Historyâ€ as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a possibly 100-fold greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the "forgotten" World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others).