Features Australia

Climate tropes

Don’t be fooled

6 August 2022

9:00 AM

6 August 2022

9:00 AM

Last week, I wrote about the importance of language as a means of influencing people’s thinking and, indeed, decision-making. When it comes to manipulating language, turning meanings on their head and creating short-hand terms to deride opponents, the Left has won hands down.

I used examples from economics because that’s what I know best. But let’s face it, climate tropes are another outstanding case in which language is constantly used to persuade doubters to change their minds and to bolster the case for action, aka feathering the nests of green rent-seekers.

One example is renewable energy. It’s misleading because it fails to highlight the two key features, its intermittency and its low density relative to fossil fuels. But I guess weather-dependent, unreliable energy just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

It’s worth interrogating some climate tropes because they are important to understanding how well-heeled electors fall for the claims of activists – think here of the good burghers of Kooyong, Wentworth and the like. (To be sure, having lots of assets and high incomes incline these folk to hold post-material, worthy opinions even if they know in their hearts a lot of it is wishful thinking, at best, and complete hogwash, at worst.)

Let’s start with the most fundamental of all climate chestnuts – the science is settled. Any sensible person would immediately smell a rat. What the hell is ‘the science’? There is no such thing as ‘the science’. The very process of scientific discovery means nothing is truly settled. The best scientific approach is to test a refutable hypothesis but most climate science uses black-box, simplified models with untested predictions the main output. When the predictions are back-cast using data that is already in the can, the errors are there for all to see. But for climate scientists, there are always excuses.

(Some of you may have followed the recent ructions in medical science. In the case of the efficacy of antidepressants working to affect serotonin uptake, it turns out that there is no evidence and many millions of prescriptions may have been written for no benefit to patients. Fraud turns out to be the foundation for the incorrect belief – scientific belief – that the build-up of plaque in the brain is the principal cause of dementia. But, hey, the science was settled.)

Another favourite climate platitude is that renewables are cheaper than other forms of electricity generation. A very large number of current Labor ministers fall for this line. The Prime Minister is still banging on about cheaper, more reliable renewable energy and making some ludicrous suggestion that Australia can become a renewable energy superpower – another climate cliché.

Even Defence Minister Richard Marles who is no fool, has fallen into the same trap. ‘We’ve made it very clear we’re going to act on climate change in a way which gets more renewables into the electricity grid. The real thing now is that renewable power is cheap power, and then we’ll see electricity prices come down.’ Here’s the thing, Dick, the wholesale price of electricity in Australia has risen as the proportion of renewables in the grid has risen. In the middle of last decade, the wholesale price was around $70 per megawatt hour; it is now around $350, after a very substantial expansion in renewable energy installations.

Even the green activist regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator, has conceded that the recent high wholesale electricity prices and convulsions in the National Electricity Market are in part due to the lack of coal-fired generation. That’s right, not having enough coal has been causing problems. The failure to link increases in subsidised renewable energy in the grid – recently, mainly as a result of state government and corporate initiatives – to the exit and unreliability of coal-fired power is a potent reminder of how removed green dreamers are from reality. Why would any rational owner spend money maintaining or extending the life of a 24/7 coal-fired electricity plant when various governments deliberately undercut their business models and gun for their exit?

A dictum frequently used by the climate crowd and associated politicians is ‘international pariah’. Unless Australia signs up to ambitious targets; fully commits to the Paris climate agreement; contributes to the climate fund for developing countries, we risk becoming an ‘international pariah’.

But if you read international media, as I do, there is hardly ever a mention of Australia being an international pariah on climate action. Sure, egg-heads like Alok Sharma, UK parliamentarian and president of Cop 26, and John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, criticise Australia’s emissions reductions. But these men do this for their own self-serving reasons while Canada and New Zealand, whose leaders are fully-signed up climate evangelists, largely escape criticism because they make the right climate sounds even though their emissions reductions are much worse. And do you ever hear Sharma or Kerry, who regularly fly around the world in private jets, criticise China, the world’s largest emitter by far? It’s obvious to any rational person that China has been playing the West like a violin, pretending to be concerned about the climate while cashing in (and cornering the market) on the export of renewable paraphernalia.

Don’t get me on to electric vehicles. The preferred term is Zero Emitting Vehicles, to emphasise their virtue. As if? EVs involve 40 per cent more emissions before they even hit the road. And given that electricity is generated mostly by fossil fuels in almost all countries, it’s a bald-faced lie to call them zero emitting. We are being taken for fools. It’s time to fight back.

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