Climate Change

Obama’s announcement that the EPA will act to reduce by 30% by 2030 the use of coal in producing electricity in the US has inspired (if that is the right word) comment about the likely implications for forthcoming conferences which are seeking to lay the groundwork for concluding an international treaty on limiting CO2 emissions in Paris in December 2015. Goodness knows how attendees at such pre-treaty conferences, a 10 day one of which is apparently scheduled for next Wednesday in Germany, will be able to survive the interminable discussions on the same subject.

That aside, the Obama move has produced speculation about what China might do and a report in today’s Age even carries a suggestion by an ANU “believer” that there have been “talks behind the scenes” between the US and China. The Age report, headed “Chinese hint at carbon emissions”, also says that at a workshop in Beijing a leading adviser to the Chinese government indicated that China would impose a cap on total emissions.

Quick as a wink, my favourite analyser of the alleged climate problem, Ross Garnaut, has also succeeded in obtaining coverage in the Financial Review for a forthcoming journal article that predicts a 10 per cent reduction by China in coal usage by 2020 (see below). He is also reported as claiming that, for Australian-based coal producers, “little of the incremental investment since 2011 will return the cost of capital to shareholders…”.  This  Labor-appointed climate review expert, who has something of a record in questionable gloomy predictions about climate change, claims that his predicted fall in Chinese coal consumption “is a turnaround of historic dimension and global importance”.

By contrast, the same AFR report includes a prediction by the Australian Bureau of Resources and Energy that China’s thermal coal imports  will increase by 2.1% pa to 2019 and that our total of such exports will increase by 6% pa to that year.

Also relevant is a report in an American news service, Vox, which offers a more realistic perspective on what the Chinese adviser said. Of particular interest is his  prediction that Chinese emissions would not peak until 2030. None of the Australian media reported that. Nor that the failure of global average temperatures to increase over the past 17 years makes it very unlikely that any substantive international agreement on emissions reductions will be reached next year or in the foreseeable future.

Meantime, in a separate article today’s Age also reports that Abbott has in effect indicated that climate change will not be on the agenda for the G20 meeting in November. This indication is presumably in response to predictions in the Fairfax press and ABC that there could be a clash with Obama when Abbott meets him.