Is Australia near the fiscal tipping points of Europe?

Although in Australia the current economic situation may seem bad, it is nothing like as dire are Europe.

There is a new issue. After a long period of surpluses in 2009 the government created significant deficits. These do not seem justified by the small slowdown in economic growth. Any ideas?

Using World Bank Data, many of the Eurozone countries have been running large, structural deficits for years. Australia only went into deficit in 2009.

As a result, Australia’s national debt is small relative to GDP compared with the European nations.

The relative problem can be seen from the growth rates. Australia has yet to go into a full year of recession. That is growth of less than zero.

Neither has growth dipped much below the average for 1998 to 2007.

AR5 First Order Draft Summary for Policymakers – a few notes on pages 1 to 8

Alec Rawls has taken the brave step of releasing the first order draft of the UNIPCC AR5 Report. Anthony Watts has republished at Wattsupwiththat.

Although Alec Rawls published in breach of signed undertakings, I comment and quote the report in the public interest. There is more than a single, unequivocal, interpretation of the data. To claim otherwise is dogma. This dogma is being used to justify policies that promote net harm to western economies, particularly the poorer and more vulnerable sections of society. In the name of this dogma, impartiality is being annulled and dissenters called nutters.

I have started with some initial observations on the first eight pages on the Summary for Policymakers – the only bit that people ever read. Like utterings from the Kremlin on the 1970s and 1980s, the coded language says as much or more than the actual words.

Major points

  1. No admission of lack of recent rise in the surface temperature record.
  2. But the lack of recent rise is accounted for by a step change in the warming in the Southern Oceans.
  3. AR4 got it wrong on decreasing precipitation in the tropics (which underlay Africagate), and they got it wrong on increasing hurricanes.
  4. Sea level rise is not accelerating. In fact the recent rise since 1993 is similar to the 1930-1950 period.
  5. Global glacier melt is not accelerating. Himalayas do not even get a mention.
  6. Medieval Warm Period gains more recognition than the AR4. However, recent studies will render AR5 out of date before it even published.

Page 3 Lines 21-25.
On temperatures there is a cover-up of the recent lack of warming. They cannot admit that global average temperatures have not changed for 15 years.

Page 3 Lines 38-40. Precipitation in the tropics likely increased over the last decade, reversing a previous trend from mid-70s to mid-90s. The AR4 prediction of some African countries experiencing up to a 50% reduction in crop yields by 2020 (Africagate) was based upon a belief increasing extreme drought.

Page 3 Lines 46-48

Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed, but the level of confidence in these changes varies widely depending on type of extreme and regions considered. Overall the most robust global changes are seen in measures of temperature {FAQ 2.2, 2.6} (see Table SPM.1).

Translation – Saying that an extreme weather events are evidence of global warming has no scientific validity. Best measures are of global temperature, which we can’t admit have been failing to rise.

Page 4 Line 14. An admission that previous IPCC reports got it wrong on tropical cyclones getting more extreme.

Page 4. Lot of stuff on Trenberth’s missing heat being in the oceans. Oceans have been warming since 1971. The lack of warming of air temperatures since the mid-90s could be accounted for by this comment on lines 36-37

It is very likely that the Southern Ocean has warmed throughout the full ocean depth since the 1990s, at a rate of about 0.03°C per decade.

The lack temperature rise is explained by the heating up of the oceans. Global warming is now confined to the Southern Ocean. It is imperceptible, so on the Southern perimeter it is not sufficient to have stopped the increase in Antarctic sea ice from extending slightly.

Then this

Warming of the ocean accounts for more than 90% of the extra energy stored by the Earth between 1971 and 2010. Upper ocean (0–700 m) heat content very likely increased at a rate between 74 [43 to 105] × 1012 W and 137 [120 to 154] × 1012 W for the relatively well-sampled 40 year period from 1971 to 2010. Warming has also been observed globally below 4000 m and below 1000 m in the Southern Ocean, in spite of sparse sampling (see Figure SPM.1). {3.2, Box 3.1, Figure 3.2, Figure 3.3}

The very likely heating of the Southern Ocean, is based on sparse sampling?

Page 4. Line 46. Seas have very likely become saltier. That is has become less alkaline. On Page 6 lines 30-31, Ph decline is 0.015 to 0.024 per decade over last 3 decades. Call becoming less alkaline “acidification”, which is inaccurate. Oceans are heading towards Ph neutrality.

Page 5. Glaciers are globally still shrinking. No mention of Himalayas, and no mention of global acceleration. Range is “210 [145 to 275] Gt yr–1 to 371 [321 to 421] Gt yr–1“. Omit to convert these to sea level rise. 210 Gt = 0.64mm. 421 Gt = 1.29mm (Oceans = 326.2m km2 & 1 Gt water = 1 km3). In old money, glaciers are contributing 2.5 to 5.1 inches per century.

Page 5 Lines 47-49. Sea levels

It is virtually certain that over the 20th century the mean rate of increase was between 1.4 to 2.0 mm yr-1, and between 2.7 and 3.7 mm yr-1 since 1993. It is likely that rates of increase were similar to the latter between 1930 and 1950.

Translation. Sea levels are rising but not accelerating. If sea levels are a lagged response to rising surface temperatures, then (using the HADCRUT3 surface temperature data) we would expect the rise in sea levels to level off in the next few years, unless there is continued warming in the oceans.

Pages 6 to 7 Long-Term Perspective from Paleoclimatic Records

There was a medieval warm period, despite what Micheal Mann and others said in 1998 and 1999. But the MWP is less than the temperatures at the end of the twentieth century. However, due to time schedules for acceptance into AR5, they ignore Christiansen and Ljungqvist April 2012 and Ljungqvist et al 2012. The later, despite including discredited proxies such as Briffa’s notorious Yamal data, quite clearly shows rom 120 proxies that the 10th century had higher temperatures than at the end of the 20th century.

Similarly the Esper et. al 2012 of summer temperatures in Northern Scandinavia will render this part of the report out-of-date prior to it being published.

In 2006 the UNIPCC could bring themselves to bend the rules to allow in a corrupt scientific paper that suited their purposes, but this time they ignore two strong cases that undermine their case. If there is an AR6 around 2020, the UNIPCC will have to face the scientific evidence.

Page 8 The last IPCC report overestimated the impact of aerosols. The net impact of greenhouse gases and aerosols rises from 1.72 W m-2 to 2.40 W m-2. Negative forcings dramatically fall. The positive forcing impact falls, despite the major contributor, CO2 rising from 1.66 W m-2 to 1.82 W m-2. The net impact of CO2 reduces from 100% to around 75% of warming impact. It is no longer possible to talk of “rising CO2” as a shorthand for anthropogenically-caused rising greenhouse gases.

NB – the SPM file I refer to can be accessed below. Please compare my comments with the file.


Kevin Marshall

Lewandowsky on Radio 4 – missing out basic human psychology

Mike Haseler comments upon the appearance of Prof Stephan Lewandowsky on Radio 4 this week.

Lewandowski is a nasty piece of work who set out to fabricate data using bogus questions by which he attempted to prove sceptics are conspiracy theorists. All he managed to prove is that he is incapable of admitting the poor quality of his work. So, imagine my disgust tonight when I heard the BBC were broadcasting some of his material:

“Why do we continue to believe information even when we are told it’s wrong? Claudia Hammond discovers how the brain stores facts and why we don’t erase erroneous explanations.” (all in the mind)

That section of the program wasn’t very interesting (I fell asleep listening) but having had the misfortune to read the scenario before, the gist of it was that sometimes people will use ideas that they have been explicitly told are wrong showing that most people do not trust academics like Lewandowski.

Obviously that’s not what he intended the result to be.

The scenario given was that subjects were told there was a fire in a barn. They were told oil paints were stored in the barn. They were then told they were not stored in the barn (at which point is anyone going to believe the researcher?). Then they are asked why the fire had thick smoke. Lewandowski is trying to prove “false memories” or some such junk, by showing people still use the information that there was oil paints which they have been told is false. The reality is that what he proves is that very often people don’t believe the information the academics force down their throat and they come up with quite plausible explanations (the smoke was caused by the oil paints the researcher told them wasn’t present) which don’t agree with the “truth” ordained to them by academics like Lewandowski. What this clearly shows is that the general public is more inclined to trust their own ideas of what happened rather than rely on academics like Lewandowski when they are so untrustworthy they can’t make up their mind whether there is or is not paint in the barn.

My comment was

Your point about not believing somebody who has fed you false information is an enormously important part of human psychology. In close relationships, such as with one’s partner or a close friend we trust the other implicitly. If that trust is betrayed – such as a wife finding out after many years of marriage that the husband has a mistress – then it is not easily regained. A lot of distrust in climate science is that when the science gets it wrong, or is found giving false certainties (such as Glaciergate and Climategate), the reaction has not been to confess to error, but to sweep the issue under the carpet, or blame others.

Another aspect is that people tend to trust new information from people that they trust and respect, rather than people that they are prejudiced against. However hard we try to be neutral, people tend to more easily accept the words of the politicians that have their world view, than those of the opposite party. A life-long Tory from Haslemere has similar prejudices to a Labour supporter from Middlesbrough. They would far sooner trust a politician from their party than from the other side.

The problem with Lewandowsky is he fails to understand the problems of regaining trust when it has been breached, but instead tries to create prejudice against those who question his dogmatic views.

Wonthaggi Desal plant – Mothball to save Money and the Environment

Jo Nova has posted on the flagrant waste of money involved in the new Desalination Plant to serve the people of Melbourne. Here is my comment

Remember Topher, with his excellent “Forbidden History” video? Well, his earlier videos were on the problems of water shortage in Melbourne, and the Labour Government’s attempts to solve this problem. In his “Unpopular View #3” made in 2010, he looks at a magic solution. Rather than build a 150GL desalination plant, the Victorian Government could have spent $2.6bn on a pipeline from Tasmania producing 350GL of water. Topher further argues it would have helped Tasmanians. Why? the water is currently used for Hydro. Sold as water to the Victorians, the Tasmanians would make loads more money than they get from the electricity. This in turn could
Yet, in a huge report published, the authorities ignored this win-win solution, despite having four submissions that mentioned it.
Spend 15 minutes, and check it out for yourself.

Now for a bit of beancounting.

On these projects, the more you dig, the worse it gets.

Comparing Topher’s costs of the Tasmanian pipe-line (TPL) with your Shiny Desalination Plant (SDP).

Capital Cost – TPL $2.6bn, SDP $3.5bn (+$1.0bn?)

Annual costs – TPL $0.11bn (+up to $0.04bn running/maint costs?), SDP ($1.0bn)

Increase in Victorian Water Bills – TPL <5% (my estimate), SDP 34% (Herald Sun).

But it does not end there. The Tasmanian Pipeline would have nil power to deliver 350GL of water down a 2.5m pipe, as it would be gravity fed. The SDP requires massive amounts of power. The capital cost of wind generators to meet that power (as the project is committed to do) is estimated at $1.2bn. However, to be properly carbon neutral in operation, like the TPL, the desalination plant would require an estimated investment of approximately $6.0bn (See appendix)

Even though there is already at least $3.5bn already spent, there is a serious economic case for mothballing the desalination plant – and still building the Tasmanian Pipe-Line. In finance, one should only look forward, and let bygones-be-bygones. In politics, it is different. There are five possible scenarios.

  1. Mothball the desalination plant, and build the Tasmanian Pipe-line. Additional investment and damages might be $10bn, but is carbon neutral. Over 24 years it will pay around $2.5bn to Tasmania (paying for additional water infrastructure and/or protecting the wilderness), but with huge economic benefits for Victorian farmers with plentiful water supplies. Would require first voting out the Victorian Labor administration. Could recover $1m or so by suing the Labor administration of Victoria for gross negligence. (Financially not worthwhile, but would prevent others from doing similar mad schemes for a generation)
  2. Go ahead with the desalination plant and make it properly carbon neutral. Additional investment, and damages might be $7bn, but with around $10-$24bn of running costs, this “Green and honest” policy is expensive and electoral suicide.
  3. Go ahead with the desalination plant and pretend to carbon neutral by using actual capacity of wind farms. Additional investment, and damages might be $2.2bn, but with around $10-$24bn of running costs, this “Green and pretending to be honest” policy is expensive and would enough votes to guarantee an election would be lost.
  4. Go ahead with the desalination plant and pretend to carbon neutral by using nameplate capacity of wind farms. Additional investment for 100MW is $240m, and damages might be $1.0bn, but with around $10-$24bn of running costs, this “proclaiming to be honest” policy is expensive, but would lose votes for throwing money away.
  5. Go ahead with the desalination plant and forget about the green commitments. Additional investment is nil, and damages might be $1.0bn, but with around $10-$24bn of running costs, and this “ducking the issue” policy is expensive, but would lose less votes than being honest. However, the carbon tax at $10MWH, equates to $360,000 per annum if 150GL is produced. That is a trivial amount on the water bills and when it rises year-on-year, will hardly be noticed in the much bigger costs of the desalination plant.

So, in the interests of Melbourne and Tasmanian citizens, the best policy is to vote out the Labor Administration both nationally and locally. What will actually happen is the worst of options. Politicians will duck the issue, lumbering the Melbourne population with huge extra costs for a generation, going against national Labor policy on the environment, and failing to provide income to Tasmania, that could help Tasmanian farmers and finance the protection of the Tasmanian wilderness.

Appendix – Carbon Offsetting the Desalination Plant

The SDP will require 90-120MW to operate. Further, says Wikipedia, “additional energy will be required to pump the desalinated water from Wonthaggi to Cardinia Reservoir in Melbourne” To make the SDP carbon neutral, I will assume usage of wind power, as it is most popular type of renewable at present. To make the numbers easy I will assume 100MW is required (see below). The most popular type of renewable is wind power at present. Two such recent plants in the State of Victoria are the 192MW Waubra Wind Farm, which cost $600m, and 195MW Portland Wind Farm, projected to cost $330m. So that is $3.1m or $1.7m per megawatt plate capacity. That averages at $2.4m Wind turbines only have, however, an output of around 20% of nameplate. So to produce the average of 100MW, requires 500MW of capacity. However, if you want to be properly carbon neutral in Victoria, you need to allow for the coal-fired power stations running as back-up. True abatement levels are around 4% of nameplate. So for the SDP to be properly carbon neutral in Victoria, to offset the 100MW will require 2500MW of nameplate capacity wind farms To produce the required electricity from wind farms will mean investing $2.4m times 500 = $1.2bn. To be properly carbon neutral means investing $2.4m times 2500 = $6.0bn

Note – Power Requirements.

The figure of 100MW is calculated as follows. To produce 150GL of water assumes the plant is operating at 410 megalites per day 365 days a year. This gives the 90MW usage in normal operation. The extended capacity of 550 megalites per day is extended operation needs 120MW, which will be needed to allow some maintenance downtime. Let us assume 30 days normal downtime. So to produce 150GL in 335 days requires running the plant at 90MW for 224 days and 120MW for 91 days. Assume pumping adds around 10% to this gives and annual requirement of 36168 MWH, or a load of 99MW. Rounded is 100MW. 

Kevin Marshall