Moody’s Economic Report On Climate Change: $100 Trillion In Economic Damage By 2100

Moody's Economic Report On Climate Change

And they are talking real dollars – not Zimbabwe dollars.

Attention, fellow capitalists!  Our god, the Moody’s rating agency, has put out a report on the economic effects of climate change and — in return for a small fee — I will tell you all about it.  Just put $50 in an envelope and mail it to me and then keep reading.  I trust you.

The report was released in June, but I’m only writing about it now because I had to do things that provided me with higher utility first.  The bad news is they estimate the economic costs of climate change by the end of this century to be:

  • $77 trillion if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees.
  • Almost $100 trillion if global warming reaches 2 degrees.

At the moment we are on track for around 2 degrees of warming, but Moody’s say if we exceed that it could:

“…result in larger and irreversible warming feedback loops such as permanent summer ice melt in the arctic ocean.”

The world will suffer economic harm from even just one degree of warming because…

“Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns will affect agricultural production and universally hurt worker health and productivity. More frequent and intense extreme weather events will increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property. And sea-level rise will threaten coastal communities and island nations.”

Climate change is expected to kill at least millions this century and the death toll is already mounting.  It hasn’t killed anyone I know so far, but now money is under threat, so this time it’s personal.

Who Is This Moody Bastard?

Moody’s Corporation is a massive financial services company with an annual turnover of around $6 billion a year.  That’s more than the GDP of some island nations.  Maybe this is why they have strongly come out against global warming.  They want to keep these little nations above water so there will be economies they are bigger than.

The corporation is mostly known for rating bonds, which is handled by Moody’s Investor Services.  They didn’t do a great job of this early in the century and, as a result, some people blame them for creating a largest global recession in history,1 but that’s not really fair.  At worst Moody’s merely shot the world economy in the foot.  If central banks and governments had been competent it would have just limped for a bit and then been okay.  But there must have been a sale at the incompetence store because every developed country — except Australia — decided they’d like a long grinding recession.  In other words, every central bank and government in the developed world were a bunch of useless wankers and deserve to be pointed and laughed at.  Please be sure to do this the next time they come over for tea.

As a result of some minor lapses of judgement where they did the financial equivalent of declaring lead to be gold if you bundled it together the right way, Moody’s was fined $1.23 billion by the US Justice Department.  That’s around 0.005% of the wealth US households lost due to their housing crash.  But, to be fair, if Moody’s hadn’t helped the bubble inflate, then US households wouldn’t have had nearly so much money to lose.  Also, on the plus side, it no doubt warms the hearts of many homeless Americans to be able to think back to the days when they lived in a nice home of their own and not a shelter, before their economy popped like a soap bubble made of greenbacks.

Moody Bastards Rate Australia

I would say Moody’s has clearly destroyed their reputation and their ratings obviously can’t be trusted, except for the fact they have given Australia their top rating — Aaa.2  So clearly getting their highest rating is very important and a great thing indeed:

Moody's rating for Australia

Oh, wait a minute…  That can’t be right!  I just found out the accursed Dutch have exactly the same rating, so it obviously it can’t be that important after all.

However, the report on the Economic Effects of Climate Change was done by Moody’s Analytics, which is not responsible for credit ratings and so we can’t blame the people who wrote the report for giving the Dutch3 a good score.

Temperatures Will Rise

Although it discusses melting icecaps and flooded coastal areas, the report is a rather dry read.  But I suppose this is what enabled me to get through it without screaming too much or curling up into a ball under the table and weeping.

From the start of the 20th century human activity has raised average global temperature by around 1 degree — mostly due to carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels — and we’re currently continuing to crank up the greenhouse gas thermostat.4

The report gives four different scenarios for future temperatures called Representative Concentration Pathways or RCPs for short.  These were developed by the IPCC5 and Moody Analytics has based their analysis on them.  The four different RCPs are shown in the graph below.  I added what the atmospheric CO2 concentrations will be in 2100 on the right:

IPCC Representative Concentration Pathways

If you’d prefer that information in a table, here you go:

IPCC RCP scenarios in 2100

Least Worst Scenario

The least worst scenario is RCP 2.6 where the global warming will be limited to around the current 1 degree increase and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere6 reaches 0.0421% or 421 PPM (Parts Per Million).

If we want to keep carbon dioxide levels to only 421 PPM it’s going to be difficult because we have already hit 412 PPM and we are increasing it by around 2.4 PPM a year, so at the current rate we are going to reach 421 PPM in 2023:

Atmospherice carbon dioxide concentrations

This is what NASA says. You can trust them. They really did put people on the moon.

If there are less than 4 years before we hit 421 PPM, you may be wondering how the hell we will avoid exceeding that amount?  Well, unfortunately, we won’t.  But there is some wriggle room given by the oceans’ considerable, but still limited, ability to absorb carbon dioxide.  Eventually, the oceans and other carbon sinks, such as vegetation, will become mostly satiated — that is, full up, stuffed, can’t take any more — but if we cut carbon dioxide emissions fast enough then they will cause a modest fall in the amount in the atmosphere and it will be possible for it to only be 421 PPM by the end of this century.7

We Are On Track For 2nd Least Worst Scenario

Much to my chagrin,8 we are not on track for only one degree of warming.

According to Moody’s Analytics the world is headed for around 2 degrees of global warming by 2100.  This is the green line on their chart above which represents 1.9 degrees of warming and where carbon dioxide reaches 538 PPM.  The reason why we are headed for around 2 degrees of warming rather than the 2.4 or 4.1 degrees represented by the red and black lines is thanks to the current low cost of renewable energy which, in part, has been the result of people like you installing solar panels on  your roofs.  So if you own a solar power system you should stop to pat yourself on the back.  Once for every panel you have.

But 2 degrees of warming is still a global disaster and Moody’s puts the economic cost at $99 trillion dollars.

Paris Agreement — 1.5 Degrees Global Warming

In 2016 in Paris 196 countries agreed by consensus to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.  There are only three countries that haven’t signed or said they want to withdraw.  Two of them are tiny and insignificant on a global scale, while the third — The United States — is becoming less significant with every passing day.

Paris climate agreement countries

Moody’s estimates that, if warming is a little under 1.5 degrees, the economic damage by 2100 will be $77 trillion.   While the world isn’t close to doing what’s required to meet the Paris Climate Accord, I’m optimistic that over the next 10 years we’ll turn things around and do what it takes to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees or less.  You can decide for yourself whether or not the fact I have been married three times so far indicates I suffer from an excess of optimism.

Causes Of Economic Losses

The report gives six areas in which global warming — or global heating, as it’s starting to be called these days9 — affects the economy.  These are:

  • Rising sea levels
  • Health effects
  • Heat reducing labor productivity
  • Agricultural productivity
  • Tourism
  • Energy Demand

Major Factors They Could Not Calculate

There were other factors that can make the economic effects of climate change far worse that were completely left out of their calculations.  These include:

  • Increased risk of natural disasters such as cyclones.
  • Extinctions, loss of natural habitats, and general loss of biodiversity.
  • Greater risk of international and civil conflict.
  • Oppression and/or murder of refugees, migrants, and marginalised groups.

It’s not they weren’t aware of these factors.  It’s just that they had no accurate way to include them in their calculations.  So what may be the greatest risks have been left out.  This means their estimates of costs are likely to be far too low, but how low it’s impossible to say with any certainty.

Sea Level Rise

As sea levels rise floods become more common and severe, coastal erosion increases, and valuable real estate is lost.10

Health

High temperatures can kill, especially when they occur in areas where people aren’t prepared.  For example:

  • Only around 15 people died in this year’s European heatwave, but in 2003 one killed around 70,000 people.
  • This year in India and Pakistan high temperatures killed over two hundred and contributed to a city of 7 million running out of water.11  In 2015 over 2,500 Indians died in a heatwave due to high temperatures.
  • In 2010, in the worst Russian heatwave ever recorded, smoke from wildfires plus heat killed over 53,000 people.

As we continue to slow cook the planet direct deaths from high temperatures will increase.  But Moody’s expects the main health effects to come from the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Reduced Labour Productivity

High temperatures reduce the amount of labour people can perform.  When under heat stress, the human body can do less physical work and blood flow to the brain is reduced making it harder to think good.  This is a serious problem in poor nations where more physical work is done and access to air conditioning can be extremely limited.

Agriculture

Increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns and humidity conditions will affect agriculture.  Large areas of the world will have declining agricultural production but in some colder countries, such as Russia, it is expected to increase.  Despite this, the negative health effects from increased temperatures are expected to outweigh any benefits to agriculture.

Tourism

Tourism is a major world industry and Moody’s expects it to decrease in hotter countries and increase in cooler ones.  This is obviously bad news for Australia, but our high air conditioner penetration and temperate regions should give us an edge over tropical countries as a low heatstroke holiday destination.

Energy Demand — Oil

A large amount of oil is used for heating and higher temperatures reduces demand for it.  This is expected to have a major negative effect on oil producers while benefiting oil importers.  I expect this decline in demand to be dwarfed by the rapid uptake of electric vehicles and I don’t think Australia’s lack of action in this area will stop it.

Cost

We are currently on track for 2 degrees of warming.  Moody’s estimate of economic damage by 2100 is $99 trillion if this occurs.  But as they haven’t estimated the cost of major risks such as increased natural disasters, extinctions, and conflict, this estimate is likely to be much too low.  The actual cost could be $150 trillion.  It could be $200 trillion.  It could be much more than that.

But if we just look at their $99 trillion figure and assume there will be 10 billion people in the world in 2100 then each one will, on average, be $10,000 poorer than they otherwise would be due to climate change.  That may not sound too bad in Australia, which is one of the richest nations in the world, but the cost of global warming is not going to be evenly and fairly spread out.  The reality is some very rich people will be a little poorer than they would be, most people will be worse off, and some poor people will be dead dead dead.

Dead, dead, and dead. The repetition is to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.

The Future Fallacy

Some people look at the estimated $10,000 dollar economic cost per person in 2100 and say:

“People will be much richer in the future, so it makes sense to leave it up to them to fix global warming.  We are, relatively speaking, so much poorer than they will be it’s only fair!”

But this idea does not stand up to scrutiny on…

  1. Economic grounds.
  2. Moral grounds, and…
  3. It’s a bloody stupid idea grounds.

I will deal with the third point first.

Let’s Get Future People To Fix Everything!

Sixty-four years ago Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio — a disease that annually crippled tens of thousands of people.  The medical trials he organized were the largest ever conducted at the time.  This man, Jonas Salk, who was adored worldwide for helping free people from the scourge of polio, was clearly an idiot because he didn’t wait for future rich people to cure it instead.  He could have saved himself so much work!  And he wouldn’t have been bothered by all those people who wanted to shake his hand, get his autograph, or give him an award.  Clearly, he was a very stupid man.

And whose brain dead idea was it to send people to the moon 50 years ago?  It would be much cheaper and easier if they had waited to do it now and used our modern technology.  But it will be even cheaper in another 50 years and cheaper still 50 years after that.  So, logically, we would never send anyone to the moon because it should always make sense to wait for future people to do it.  But if we’re always waiting for future people to do stuff because it will be easier for them, no one will actually do the hard work required to improve our technology now and make it easier for future people to do things.

And that’s what’s called a goddamned reductio ad absurdum.

Risk Must Be Accounted For

People are dying from the effects of climate change now and will continue to die.  While we can’t bring global warming to an immediate halt, by acting rapidly we can greatly reduce the number of deaths.  One estimate from the World Health Organization says we can expect around 250,000 excess deaths a year and perhaps 10 million dead by the end of the century.  If you happen to have morals you might think we have some sort of moral imperative to do something since we’ve contributed to this tragedy.

But 10 million dead is a very rough estimate.  We’ve never cooked a planet before so we don’t know there won’t be unpleasant surprises that could kill billions.  Whether it’s the collapse of agriculture, new diseases appearing, or escalating tensions leading to nuclear or biological warfare, it would be foolish not to take out insurance in the form of large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Large Cuts In Emissions Cost Nothing

Many people think cutting fossil fuel emissions will be expensive.  But this is an illusion caused by fossil fuels not paying for their externalities.  There are costs fossil fuel users push onto society and don’t pay for themselves.  They include:

  • Health costs from pollution, and…
  • Economic and security costs from global warming.

If coal power stations had to pay for the health costs of the pollution they release into the air, compensate other industries such as agriculture12 for damage caused to them, and compensate the nation for the cost of more intense heatwaves and greater bush fire danger, coal power in Australia would soon be shut down and replaced with suitably firmed renewables.13  So the problem is not that it is expensive to cut emissions, it’s that fossil fuel generation is free riding by not paying for the harm it’s causing.

The same goes for road transport.  If internal combustion engines had to pay the full amount of their health and other costs we’d see a rapid reduction in oil use as people would avoid these costs by using more fuel efficient vehicles and electric cars.

The Report Is A Rough Under Estimate

It’s not easy to predict what will happen 80 years in the future.  If you don’t believe me, check out some science fiction from the 1930s.  I’m not convinced of the soundness of Moody’s methods for estimating the costs of climate change out to 2100, but I’m glad they made the attempt and I’m sure their methods will be improved.  (Hopefully before the end of the century.)

Because they did not account for natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and conflict stemming from climate change their costs are likely to be gross underestimates.

Even though they are underestimates, it may seem unlikely people could look at predicted costs of $77 trillion or $99 trillion by the end of the century and then say this indicates we should do nothing about climate change, but trust me, it’s been done.  Just promise me if anyone tells you rich future people should fix the problem, you will — at the very least — roll your eyes.

This is the end of the article, so I’m off to eat some chocolate eclairs and let future me lose the weight.

Footnotes

  1. Largest in terms of lost economic output, but in terms of human suffering not as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  2. Aaa is a good thing.  It doesn’t stand for, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Our economy is complete rubbish!!!
  3. I sleep with a loaded gun under my pillow so if I ever wake up wearing clogs I can shoot them off.
  4. A heater thermostat is a thing people used back in the days when it got cold in winter.  While thought to have gone extinct in Queensland in 1998, one was spotted in Stanthorpe in 2012, but promptly melted.
  5. An extremely boring panel that collates data on climate change and stands between us and a fiery death.
  6. Actually this is CO2 equivalent which includes the effects of other greenhouse gases in the total.  But once all the numbers are crunched it ends up close to the figure for CO2 alone over a century, so I won’t worry about the difference for now.  Just keep in mind things are actually a little worse than they seem.
  7. We can do better this by rapidly cutting emissions and then removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it, but it’s easier to cut emissions than to suck them up, so that should be the priority.
  8. The word “chagrin” is French for “charred grin”, which is all I’ll have left after I get incinerated in a global warming induced firestorm in the Adelaide Hills.
  9. Soon to be global roasting.
  10. Fun Fact!   (Or miserable fact if you are a clearer minded thinker.):  If the Antarctic icecap melted the continent that would suffer the least sea level increase would be Antarctica.  This is because the gravitational pull of the current icecap increases nearby sea levels.
  11. What effect global warming may have had on the two years of poor monsoon rains that lead to this crisis is difficult to determine.
  12. Ground level ozone from coal power stations damages crops and reduces yields.
  13. Suitably firmed means the lights still work even if there is no sun and little wind.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. I’d say Greta Thunberg has got to Moody’s

  2. If there was actual folding money stored on the Cayman Islands I do wonder if the disgustingly wealthy might be concerned about sea level rise.

    Anyway, we will be fine. I read the other day an area in India had 300 Male births and zero Female births. I’m sure it is no coincidence nor something in the water but I don’t think they have considered the long term effects if this fad catches on.

  3. Erik Christiansen says

    A very timely article, Ron. In the last week or two, world media and agencies have come off the fence and revealed a little more of what is in store. Several sources admit that current high emission rates are pushing the world to more than 3 degrees of heating – closest quote to hand:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-29/50-degree-cities-becoming-closer-to-reality/10308350

    The lack of action, after many decades of observation and warning, is now causing the feedback effects to kick in, escalating the rush into the toaster, despite our feeble efforts thus far. Fires in the arctic reached 1.5 million Ha. last week, releasing CO2 equivalent to Sweden’s annual emissions. Yesterday the fires had spread to 3 miliion Ha. – that’s double Sweden’s annual emissions of CO2, and none of it’s in the IPCC calculations. (They also admit to not yet factoring in the increasing emissions of methane from thawing permafrost and the arctic seabed. Methane is 25 times worse than CO2 as a heat blanket.)

    It’s not just the masses of extra CO2 and the methane, though. The soot is falling on arctic ice, lowering its albedo, thus increasing its rate of melting, i.e a second feedback effect. When darker permafrost (on land) or seawater is exposed, the albedo stays low (ice reflects 85%, seawater absorbs nearly 85%, so it’s of world-changing consequence) and the feedback effect becomes permanent unless winter can put the ice back – a fast fading prospect as global heating increases each year. The story is in Danish, but there’s a film clip, and some browsers auto-detect the lingo and give you a button to translate:

    https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/udland/sibirisk-skovbrand-paa-stoerrelse-med-jylland-kan-have-klimakonsekvenser

    Incidentally, Greenland is losing 160 cubic km of ice per year now, and rising 3 cm per year – faster than sea level, so they’ll be alright. And our lost wheat sales (due to having no wheat) are being filled by Russia, which has increased exports from 6 to 24 million tonnes, at our expense. As our national population goes from the current 25 million to 40 million by 2060, that’ll probably (my guess, this one) be the year we can just feed ourselves on the reduced output – too many more mouths after that and we’ll not be the breadbowl of Asia, but the begging bowl. Yeah, solar powered desalination and drip irrigation, and all that will moderate the struggle, but myriad other adaptation and protection costs will vie for the infrastructure dollar. We may have to take some of the 180 million (minimum) who will be displaced before 2100. It is likely that unemployment will fall as the necessary work gets under way. There may be overtime. We may be drinking recycled water. It’ll be different, remarkably different – just so much more so if we wait to kick into high gear.

  4. Geoff Miell says

    Ronald Brakels,

    You state in your post:

    “At the moment we are on track for around 2 degrees of warming…”

    Who says this? The Moody’s rating agency report?

    Broadcast on TV on July 8 on the ABC’s “The Business”, was an interview between host Elysse Morgan and Ian Dunlop, former head of the Australian Coal Association. The interview included this exchange:

    From time interval 01:42 Elysse Morgan asks:

    “You’ve said that science has always underestimated… how… rapidly… ah… the situation is changing, ah… and your report shows that we’re being too timid in our goals of trying to keep ah… warming to just sort of one-and-a-half degrees um… above historical levels, um… but we also have to take into account ah… that… people live, and work, and rely on working economies. How do we do it?”

    From time interval 02:11 Ian Dunlop responds with:

    “Well, the reality is that the Paris Climate Agreement [cough] aim to keep temperatures um… below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels, and ideally toward one-and-a-half. Now, the reality is that if you look at the um… agreements that were made in Paris, if we just implement them, we’ll end up with a world which… where temperature increases about three-and-a-half degrees C. And that in the eyes of ah… some of the major national security organisations around the world, is a world which is complete social chaos. But that… it’s worse than that, in the sense that um… we haven’t yet got anywhere near implementing the Paris Climate Agreement um… objectives, and if you look at what we are currently doing ah… on a sort of business-as-usual, we’re going to end up with a world where the temperature probably increases by about four to four-and-a-half degrees. Now again, ah… the national security experts consider, that that is a world which is completely incompatible with any organised global society. In fact, that means collapse.

    So, um… yes, people want to live in a… a working, ah… effective, and sustainable economy, but what we’re currently doing… really means an existential threat to the future of ah… human civilisation. It means that you’d actually not going to have markets into which to sell your products in a business context, and err… the framework of national… nation states, and so on, will start to break down. You’ll have large numbers of people displaced because of sea level increase, or, large parts of ah… [cough] continents becoming uninhabitable, and you will end up with far bigger problems than we’ve seen for example in the recent migration crisis in Europe, where you know, climate drove people out of North Africa and the Middle East, and ended up with issues like the Brex… Brexit ah… confrontation, and so on.

    So, the reality is that unless we start to recognise that climate change is the single biggest threat the world faces, and if we don’t address it, we actually are not going to have a viable economy, or a viable society. Then um… you know, the idea that somehow ah… we will have sustainable economies just disappears.

    So, this is the first priority. You have to get that established politically, and in a corporate sense, as the real issue that has to be now confronted above all else, and act accordingly. If we do it, then we have the ability to actually set-up a genuinely sustainable economy, but we don’t have it at the moment.”
    See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/the-business/2019-07-08/extended-interview-with-ian-dunlop/11290026

    See also Policy Paper “EXISTENTIAL CLIMATE-RELATED SECURITY RISK: A scenario approach”:
    https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers

    I would suggest the warming rate is faster than 2 degrees C.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Yes, it is the Moody’s report that says we are currently headed for around 2 degrees of warming by the end of the century. And yes, at our current rate of emissions we are heading for much more than 2 degrees of warming. What the Moody’s report appears to have done is assume a great deal of generation capacity will be replaced with renewables in the not distant future.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Ronald,

        You state in your post:

        “The report gives four different scenarios for future temperatures called Representative Concentration Pathways or RCPs for short. These were developed by the IPCC[5] and Moody Analytics has based their analysis on them.”

        The Policy Paper “EXISTENTIAL CLIMATE-RELATED SECURITY RISK: A scenario approach”, on page 5 includes:

        “Climate scientists may err on the side of “least drama”, whose causes may include adherence to the scientific norms of restraint, objectivity and skepticism, and may underpredict or down-play future climate changes.[2] In
        2007, security analysts warned that, in the two previous decades, scientific predictions in the climate-change arena had consistently underestimated
        the severity of what actually transpired.[3]

        This problem persists, notably in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose Assessment Reports exhibit a one-sided
        reliance on general climate models, which incorporate important climate processes, but do not include all of the processes that can contribute to system feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes.[4]”
        See: https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers

        So it seems the Moody’s report is relying on IPCC data that “may underpredict or down-play future climate changes”.

        You say in your comment:

        “What the Moody’s report appears to have done is assume a great deal of generation capacity will be replaced with renewables in the not distant future.”

        “Assume” indeed – how’s that working out so far?

        The referred Policy Paper 2050 scenario (page 8) assumes that:

        “2020–2030: Policy-makers fail to act on evidence that the current Paris Agreement path — in which global human-caused greenhouse emissions do not peak until 2030 — will lock in at least 3°C of warming. The case for a global, climate-emergency mobilisation of labour and resources to build a zero-emission economy and carbon drawdown in order to have a realistic chance of keeping warming well below 2°C is politely ignored. As projected by Xu and Ramanathan, by 2030 carbon dioxide levels have reached 437 parts per million — which is unprecedented in the last 20 million years — and warming reaches 1.6°C.[18]”

        So the inspirational target of keeping at or below 1.5°C is apparently already fairyland stuff. Even 2°C looks almost impossible unless radical reductions in global carbon emissions begin in the early 2020s (to achieve 50% reduction by 2030). Otherwise we overshoot 2°C (perhaps as early as 2050) and head for 3°C or more (by 2100).

        And yet our governments want to open up new coal basins, new gas developments, etc. Go figure.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          1. A great deal needs to be done to limit warming to 2 degrees or less.
          2. I am optimistic that we will do what needs to be done.
          3. I may be an idiot.

          • Ian Thompson says

            Hi Ronald

            What gaulls me the most, it that the very demographic that has been the primary cause of Australia having one of the highest per capita emissions of GHG, is the same one that is now pontificating on how they know the only means for us to get out of this “Existential” mess. It is generally accepted our position has come about primarily because we don’t have much in the way of Hydro opportunities, process a lot of aluminium ore, and don’t use CO2-free nuclear – I have seen numerous articles to this effect.

            1. Who prevented the damming of the Frankland River, thereby damning us to use fossil instead of hydro for all these many, many years?
            2. Who banned nuclear many years ago – preventing us from saving lives and CO2 emissions for so long, and from now into the near future?
            3. Who is opposed to the Robbins Island Mega-wind-farm?

            Who now opposes the use of natural gas from conventional wells (lower leakage then fracking and coal seam sources), to OFFSET up to half of the CO2 emissions of using coal instead? And, yes, I do understand the “fugitive emissions” argument (methane is many times worse than CO2 as a GHG) – but the jury is out on this. https://www.wired.com/story/atmospheric-methane-levels-are-going-up-and-no-one-knows-why/
            The isotope investigation in the above link suggests the recent increase in methane in the atmosphere might be more to do with agricultural and tropical wetlands sources, than natural gas leaks. See also http://www.worldwatch.org/agriculture-and-livestock-remain-major-sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions-0
            Yet, it is understood 50% of natural gas fugitive emissions arise from 5% of the leaks – and these can be addressed for zero, or low cost.
            I note from the NEM Supply & Demand widget, that SA is able to generate 1.9 GW of gas power during wind droughts, yet only uses about 0.3-0.5GW when the wind is blowing.
            So the “experts” like Geffery say we shouldn’t us this spare 1 GW of capacity IMMEDIATELY to displace coal burning to add to our efforts to save the planet, because we might possible not get the full 50% saving in GHG effect?
            Even though we’d only do this while getting renewables and balancing into place?
            Give me a break.

          • Ian Thompson says

            Geoffrey

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson (re your comment on Aug 5 at 1:52pm),
            You rhetorically ask:

            “1. Who prevented the damming of the Frankland River, thereby damning us to use fossil instead of hydro for all these many, many years?”

            I think you’ll find that PM Bob Hawke and the new Labor federal government ultimately stopped it. IMO, the (I think you mean) Franklin Dam project wouldn’t have been blocked if not for principally Hawke’s advocacy against it.
            See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Dam_controversy

            You also rhetorically ask:

            “2. Who banned nuclear many years ago – preventing us from saving lives and CO2 emissions for so long, and from now into the near future?”

            In 1998, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 was passed into federal law that prohibits certain nuclear installations. In 1999, a clause was written into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth). “Section 140A – No approval for certain nuclear installations” reads:

            “The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of a:
            a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant;
            b) nuclear power plant;
            c) an enrichment plant;
            d) a reprocessing facility.”

            The Liberal-National Coalition federal government was led by PM John Howard (from March 1996 to November 2007), so IMO they are primarily responsible for the legislated nuclear ban. But why haven’t successive federal governments (Labor and Coalition) repealed or amended these laws? Perhaps there haven’t been compelling reasons and/or the political courage to do so?

            So, Ian, I don’t know what “demographic” you are referring to. I think the primary cause of Australia having the highest per capita GHG emissions is due to some very influential fossil fuel lobby groups (e.g. Minerals Council of Australia, Australian Petroleum Production Exploration Association, etc.), some key politicians that end up on the boards or advisory positions of fossil fuel companies and/or industry lobby groups, certain media organisations and commentators that perpetuate fossil fuel interest propaganda, well-funded political donors with fossil fuel interests, and lastly, the gullible and/or ignorant electorates that allow it to happen. Look at the new ad campaign:
            https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/coal-ad-campaign-mb1163/

            The recent rise in methane levels in the atmosphere is possibly due to methane clathrates breaking down, and the permafrost thawing due to rising temperatures in tundra regions.
            See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis
            See: https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/01/11/thawing-permafrost-matters/

            You state:

            “Yet, it is understood 50% of natural gas fugitive emissions arise from 5% of the leaks – and these can be addressed for zero, or low cost.”

            Evidence/reference(s) please, Ian – otherwise I’ll assume you just made that up.

            You also state:

            “I note from the NEM Supply & Demand widget, that SA is able to generate 1.9 GW of gas power during wind droughts, yet only uses about 0.3-0.5GW when the wind is blowing.
            So the “experts” like Geffery say we shouldn’t us this spare 1 GW of capacity IMMEDIATELY to displace coal burning to add to our efforts to save the planet, because we might possible not get the full 50% saving in GHG effect?”

            Ian, IMO you are presenting a straw man argument there. How about adding adequate ‘dispatchable’ pumped-hydro storage, or solar thermal with molten salt energy storage (or a mix of these) before 2025 and displace/retire more expensive gas-fired power altogether IN PERPETUITY? It could be done if there was the will to do it, and that’s just SA – what about the rest of Australia? It could all be done affordably by 2030, coal- and gas-fired electricity generation phased out and replaced with a mix of zero GHG emissions renewables, energy storage solutions, demand management and robust interconnectors, if governments had the will, but they don’t. (I’m not going to bother repeating providing references I’ve presented to you before because you just ignore them)

            Australia’s climate stance is inflicting criminal damage on humanity.
            See: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/03/australias-climate-stance-is-inflicting-criminal-damage-on-humanity

            From my previous exchanges with you, Ian, you apparently still have an ongoing pro-gas stance, ignoring all the compelling evidence that gas supplies will only get more expensive and scarcer in the 2020s and beyond, and it provides no benefit (or is much worse) for reducing GHG emissions compared to burning coal when fugitive emissions are included, particularly if they are at or more than 3.2%.
            See: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/3-big-myths-about-natural-gas-and-our-climate

            But that’s just electricity generation. What about transport energy security?
            See: https://www.theage.com.au/national/fuel-deal-won-t-lessen-risk-of-pumps-running-dry-20190805-p52dzd.html?btis

          • Ian Thompson says

            Yes Geoffrey – most of what you say is true – or at least I agree with you.

            But no Geoffrey, I’m not pro-natural gas at all – just anti-carbon pollution.

            My point about using SA’s excess NG capacity – when it is safely available – is that it can displace coal burning – to some degree – RIGHT NOW. We don’t have to wait untill your solutions become available – no matter what the will.

            BTW – politicians tend to support those with the loudest voices and public support.

  5. Paul Bergild says

    And all by itself the sun will over the next 600 years increase the temperature
    on earth by 3 deg as it moves closer-It has happen many times before and will continue to happens for many thousand of years to come.
    We have had many ice ages and temperaturer so hot that palm trees were growing on Antarctica

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Paul, you can read about Milankovitch cycles here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles

      While there are variations in the earth’s orbit that affect climate over the long term, none involve the earth moving closer to the sun.

      The earth is actually very slowly moving away from the sun at the rate of around 15 cm per year. This appears mainly due to tidal interactions with the sun which is why the earth and moon are slowly moving away from each other.

    • Erik Christiansen says

      Yes, Paul, once there were palm trees in Antarctica. Oddly enough, there was no ice there then – it was in the oceans, and as a consequence, sea levels were 73.32 metres higher from that ice alone. That is how much it will rise again, just from the West and East Antarctic ice sheets and the Antarctic Peninsula.

      In your cheery holiday scenario, Greenland’s ice cap has also melted in the same heat, adding another 6.55 metres. The same goes for sundry glaciers and caps, adding a further 0.45 metres – total sealevel rise: 80.32 metres

      That is an existential problem for Wall Street, Amazon, and a bit more. Holland, Bangladesh, Florida, and numerous other regions will be fisheries, and billions will be displaced centuries before Antarctica would see palm trees again.

      Your scenario is incompatible with the life we have grown accustomed to.
      It is millions of years since it happened, and a Milankovitch cycle will not bring it back.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Paul Bergild,

      Where do you get the absurd notion that “all by itself the sun will over the next 600 years increase the temperature on earth by 3 deg as it moves closer”? Did you make that one up yourself? Or would that notion have originated from a climate science denier website by any chance?

      Ronald (in his comment above at Aug 12, 7:12pm) refers to Milankovitch cycles that play out over tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years – NOT hundreds of years.

      Are you the same “P Bergild” that made other apparently baseless comments last year (Is Labor’s $2,000 Battery Subsidy A Waste Of Money? on 29 Nov 2018 at 6:26pm) that I debunked?
      See: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/labor-solar-battery-subsidy/#comment-296359

      It seems to me you have a distorted/inaccurate understanding of reality. Or is it an attempt to try to deliberately misinform and mislead others?

      Our current trajectory of carbon emissions, if we continue business-as-usual, means AVERAGE global warming would likely be at 1.6°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030 (a decade away), possibly above 2°C by 2050 (three decades away) and 4-4.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (eight decades away). See my comment (at Aug 2 at 5:39pm) above.

      Within the next twenty to thirty years there’ll likely be massive changes around the world (e.g. large numbers of people displaced due to sea level increase, large parts of continents becoming uninhabitable and a collapse in global food production) because of primarily the escalating impacts of dangerous climate, unless global carbon emissions are dramatically reduced in the 2020s (i.e. 50% reduction by 2030).
      See: http://www.climatecodered.org/2019/08/at-4c-of-warming-would-billion-people.html

      The ClimateCodeRed post includes an embedded YouTube video of an interview (reportedly a fortnight ago) between the host of BBC HARDtalk, Stephen Sackur, and Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam, which has prompted some social media responses.

      Some comments by Hallam that I think are poignant, are from time interval 15:11:

      “If grannies turn up to a meeting, are being in tears about what’s happening to their grandchildren, it’s not… it’s not what I’m doing that makes them sit down on the road. It’s the same with teenagers. Teenagers are shitting themselves about what’s happening for the future. They’ve got another fifty, sixty, seventy years to live on this planet. By that time there could only be a billion people left. I mean, that’s six billion people that have died from mass starvation or slaughtered in war. I mean, the scale of it is beyond the imagination, isn’t it? And this is… this is the biggest problem, is the elites, and the BBC, and the conventional media, has simply not grasped the enormity of what’s happening.”

      The urgent priority for humanity’s future is what we do NOW (and over the next decade); not what may (or may not) happen in hundreds of years’ time.

  6. Ver-r-y……..er…’comprehensive’. The cheque’s in the mail.
    What you’re saying,obviously, is that we’ll adapt or we’ll all die.
    Either way I don’t think the Universe gives a stuff.

  7. Interesting aside: Cockroaches have been around since 150 million years before the first dinosaurs, during which time they have survived countless environmental upheavals ~ including Mortein and the occasional nuclear strike.

    … and all with no brain to speak of. Either.

    • Des Scahill says

      Hmmm… there may well be something in your surmise Jackson, as both anecdotal and real world evidence seem to emphatically confirm that mankind’s first step on this new adaptive evolutionary path toward – ‘perfect brainlessness’ – has already begun.

  8. John Chapman says

    How did Moodys calculate 99 trillion and not 100 trillion?? Don’t their analysts realise that their estimate is probably +/- 10% at best, so why give such a precise figure?? Shame on Moodys but I support the sentiment.

  9. Peter Faber says

    Has there been any consideration of CO2 up take from our forests and peat lands. Or of their repid reduction?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Vegetation and associated animal life are a carbon sink and they take up a portion of our emissions. On the scale of a human lifespan they are the second largest sink after the oceans. But these sinks tend to stabilize over time. If CO2 emissions from human activities (apart from breathing) were immediately reduced to zero, these carbon sinks would reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere but they wouldn’t return them to pre-industrial levels or anywhere near them.

      • Ian Thompson says

        I think of forests as a carbon sink but only while they are initially growing, becoming simple carbon stores as they mature because they become steady-state with only logs rotting to produce CO2 and new growth arising in balance to counter this CO2 generation as space is made by the rotted trees.

        If trees are harvested, then CO2 is temporarily sequestered within the harvested wood, and replanting will allow more CO2 to be captured by the new growth – however, if the harvested wood is subsequently burned or allowed to rot after it’s useful life, the temporarily sequestered CO2 is again released to the atmosphere – the only exception I can see, is if that wood is turned into charcoal and buried in the topsoil.

        There is an advertisment running in WA presently, that implies forestry is a renewable and sustainable endeavour – comparable to PV and wind power – but I fail to see how this is the case? The Earth only has a finite surface area.

        • Erik Christiansen says

          In reality, forests are only a transitory carbon sink – definitely not a form of sequestration. In early July this year, the forest fires in Siberia burnt 1.5m Ha., releasing CO2 equal to Sweden’s annual national emissions. later in the month, 3 million ha. had burnt, doubling the emissions.

          How many Ha. the 72 thousand fires currently burning in the Amazon forests amount to is perhaps unknown, as is how many megatonnes of CO2 are being emitted.

          As global heating continues, dessicating forests to unprecedented levels of flammability worldwide, they become increasingly impossible to retain unburnt, and we are forced to accept that they are nothing more than a phase in the carbon cycle.

          Europe has been running numerous small power stations on forestry waste for decades. It indubitably is “renewable and sustainable”, in that a new tree can be planted as soon as the old is felled. There’s no shortage of either sunlight or CO2, so just add water. (My 2 sq. km of forest will sustainably supply my wood heater and many more indefinitely, if the population crunch occurs early enough to limit the climatic deviation to a level at which some humans survive.)

          • Ian Thompson says

            Hi Eric

            You are very lucky, perhaps even “entitled”, to have your own 2 sq. km of forrest to use for “sustainable” heating. We can’t say the same about the millions of persons who live in high-rise flats around the entire world, who have no garden or forest of any area to their name. Even suburbia, with far less than 300 sq. metres of land left for trees, what with the plot ratios utilised. What are they going to do? Doesn’t burning wood introduce more pollution into the atmosphere, than only CO2, anyway?

            Even solar panels, which reduce the earth’s albedo leading to increased thermal pollution, arguably contribute to global warming.

            Perhaps you are correct – over-population is the greatest problem, and perhaps only the entitled with their dacha’s will survive (if they are lucky).

            However, I think we will endure – technology will overcome the obstacles one way or another – perhaps SMR’s will be the way to go after all…!

          • Ian Thompson says

            Another (minor) point…

            I’d have thought in a mature forest, the trees left to rot, would provide the necessary nutrients for replacement trees to grow.
            Can trees really be planted in place of a previously harvested tree, ad infinitum, without any nutrients being added (having taken that nutrient source away to burn)? If so, then could a tree be grown on a rock, with only water added?

            I’d have thought they’d need fertiliser – so where would that come from, renewably? Certainly not from cattle manure – the methane impact would be much worse.

  10. Erik Christiansen says

    Yes, left to put especially the lignin component of wood back in the soil, trees build up water retention capacity, and over centuries build up soil at a rate of around a metre per millenium, at least in a European climate. Early civilisations, such as the Greeks, began with around 6m of forest-generated topsoil (according to a 40+ yr old article in Scientific American), and with the benefit of civilisation now have bare bedrock on many of their hills and islands.

    The <0.1% of 2 sq. km of forest that I use for firewood has negligible effect on that. Heavy firewood harvesting would reduce soil generation to the decades of dropped leaves between tree harvests, a couple of tonnes of tree crown not carted away, some bark and sawdust – so maybe only 10 cm of new soil per millenium.

    As for nutrients, the water and carbon comes from the atmosphere. The calcium, phosphorous, and any other minerals are brought up by the roots from up to 10 metres down. That's why most things grow so well on basalt country.

    All the wood ash from my heating is collected in large 20 kg birdseed bags, and spread on the farm – three or four bags per year. (I've read that if you pee on it, to add nitrogen,it is a most excellent tomato plant food.)

    Australian natives require only minimal amounts of phosphorous, due to having evolved in ancient weathered and depleted soils. Eucalypt saplings generally form a fist-like knobbly lump at ground level, and it concentrates phosphorous, according to one article I've read. A mixed forest does not require clover to provide nitrogen, as acacias (wattles, blackwoods, etc.) fix nitrogen too.

    The termites hollowing out mature trees produce methane too, and they're much harder to milk than a cow. We should perhaps harvest trees before that stage, to prevent methane emissions partially defeating the CO2 absorption. (As methane is ~ 25 times worse as a greenhouse gas.)

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