I recently had yet another…interesting, shall we say, lesson in the value of talking to people with whom you disagree.
Now, Tasmania is a funny place, where hippy-greenie enclaves live cheek-by-jowl with deeply conservative farming and logging communities. I have friends on both sides of this cultural divide. It just so happened that last week I was hanging out with a bunch of hippy types. Lovely people, but their politics…well, I spent much of the time biting my tongue till it bled.
In the end, though, I could bite no longer. The topic particularly firing their imaginations was the Morrison government’s alleged complicity in Australia’s current bushfire disaster, and the almost-universal opinion (sole exception: me) that “the gummint should do somefin’”.
All right, I interjected: Just what do you think the government should do? And what difference will it make?
The answers were truly enlightening.
“Lower Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions!” Okay – but, the government claims that it is already doing that. So what they really mean is that the government should lower them more. Well, that’s a reasonable argument, except:
What difference will it make? Cue dumbfounded muttering. Finally, someone piped up that “Australia should lead by example”.
Fair enough – but I’m never very convinced by the “lead by example” argument. History is littered with the wreckage of leading by example. In the 1980s, Australia “led by example”, lowering tariffs that protected the motor vehicle manufacturing and textile industries. Both industries have vanished from Australia’s shores.
So, leaving aside “leading by example”, what practical difference would reducing Australia’s emissions make to global temperatures?
This is where things got interesting. What quickly emerged was not only just how little the fervent “climate emergency” believers actually knew, but how much nearly everything they did know was wrong. This was not just a matter of differing opinions, this was a matter of verifiable facts – almost all of which they had completely, utterly wrong.
They couldn’t even get something as basic as the scale of global warming right. They insisted that temperatures had risen by 1.5°C from the “baseline”. This is nearly twice the true figure, 0.8°C, as I pointed out to scoffing derision.
So, I said, even cutting Australia’s 1% of global emissions to zero would, at best, lower temperatures by just less than one-hundredth of a degree. Meanwhile, I said, China exceeds Australia’s total emissions every 20 days – and rising.
Oh, boy: was that red rag to a tide of bullshit.
No, no, no, they insisted. China is reducing its emissions. China has stopped building coal-fired stations. Anyway, all the coal burned by India and China is imported from Australia, so those emissions are really our fault.
Every single one of those claims is wrong.
China’s growth in emissions has faltered very, very slightly in recent years, mostly as a result of its economic downturn (for instance, the GFC significantly slowed the United States’ emissions, too). But its emissions growth is already revving up again, and is expected to increase significantly over coming decades.
This is because China is building coal-fired stations. Lots of them. Despite fanciful claims by environmental groups, evidence shows that China is in fact ramping up its coal-fired fleet exponentially. “The increase in China’s coal-fired capacity across the 18-month period was equal to about eight times Australia’s total electricity capacity.” China is well on the way to exceeding even the United States in coal-fired generation.
India’s emissions, meanwhile, have increased without let. There is no reason to suppose that they are about to stop soon.
Nor is “all their coal imported from Australia”. China has the third-largest known coal deposits in the world (behind the US and Russia). India is fifth. China is only the third-largest coal importer. China imports the most coal from Indonesia (45%). Australia is a distant second (15%). Meanwhile, Chinese imports from Kyrgyzstan (up 940%), Malaysia (up 260%), and Mongolia (up 198%) are surging.
Likewise, the vast bulk of India’s coal imports are from Indonesia (56%). Australia’s contribution is less than half of that (26%).
Even buying the fallacious argument that Australia is responsible for emissions from other countries burning its coal, if Australia cut its exports, the net effect would be zero. India and China would simply import coal from elsewhere or ramp up domestic production.
What is immediately clear from this exchange is exactly what kind of fantasy world these climate alarmists live in. They are blind to facts, even from their own “side”. When I emphasised that China is accelerating its coal use, the retort was, “What papers did you read that in”. Well, both the BBC and the Guardian reported it.
For all their sneering about “denialists”, it’s clear just who the real deniers of plain facts are.