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Zero Carbon Australia: We can do it

Posted on 19 March 2011 by James Wight

My recent post about long-term CO2 targets was rather doom-and-gloom: I concluded that we must phase out fossil fuels to keep the climate in the range that humans have experienced. The good news is that action on this scale is not only possible but surprisingly feasible.

Last year, the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute in conjunction with Beyond Zero Emissions produced the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan. The ZCA2020 Plan outlines an ambitious and inspiring vision: to power Australia with 100% renewable energy in ten years.

The report that has been released only covers emissions from Stationary Energy (though it does refer to electrifying transport). Five future reports are planned on how to eliminate emissions from other sectors (Transport, Buildings, Land Use and Agriculture, Industrial Processes, and Replacing Fossil Fuel Export Revenue).

Why do it, and why now?

As I’ve explained here, to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” we must reduce CO2 to below 350 ppm. That necessitates a rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy.

A common approach is to define a quota of allowable future global emissions to limit warming to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels, and divide them up by nation per capita. At Australia's current rate of emissions, we will use up our share of the global budget in just five years (the same goes for the US and Canada). This gives Australia about a decade to make the transition.

Global Carbon Budget for Emissions

Figure 1: CO2 emissions budget for selected nations.

That’s why Zero Carbon Australia 2020 is not a low emissions plan but a zero emissions plan. This is a fundamentally different way of thinking about the problem. It goes straight to zero emissions technologies, without a detour through low emissions ones which would waste time and resources.

If the Plan is adopted later it could still meet a later deadline. But obviously, further delay means ever increasing risks – and the risks are already very high.

What energy sources would power Australia?

The Plan chose only technologies that can meet demand, can be implemented within ten years, are already commercially available, and (obviously) are zero-carbon, not counting emissions from construction.

60% of the grid would be powered by concentrating solar thermal (CST). The other 40% would come from wind turbines. The Plan also includes small-scale solar to reduce the grid demand during the daytime. Biomass and existing hydroelectric would be used as backups.

Of course, this is only one possible scenario. Technologies that become available in future could increase our options and reduce the cost.

Nuclear power was not considered because the implementation time is longer than a decade. Hydro and biomass are limited in scalability for unrelated environmental reasons. Wave, tidal, and geothermal are promising technologies but not yet ready. Carbon capture and storage is neither commercially available nor zero-carbon.

How would they provide continuous power?

A common misconception is that renewables can’t provide continuous (“baseload”) power. But the technology of concentrating solar thermal can. It was proven at commercial scale in the 1990s. The US Department of Energy lists several dozen solar thermal plants currently in operation.

Here’s how it works. Mirrors called “heliostats” track the Sun and focus sunlight onto a central “power tower”. This energy is stored in molten salt as heat, warming the salt to 565°C. This energy storage has an efficiency of up to 93%. To produce electricity, the hot salt is pumped into a generator, where the heat is transferred to steam which drives a turbine. Once the salt is cooled to 290°C (still warm enough to be molten), it returns to the tank to be reheated.

Solar Thermal Power Tower

Figure 2: Diagram of a concentrating solar thermal power plant.

The Sun doesn’t shine at night, but this is not a problem for a solar thermal plant because it has a store of energy ready to go at any time. CST can produce power around the clock. The ZCA2020 report describes it as “better-than-baseload” because it is more flexible. CST works well with wind power, because the stored solar energy can be used when there is not enough wind.

As the cheapest form of renewable energy, wind can provide a generous portion of our electricity. Because the wind isn’t blowing all the time, wind farms average only 30% of their capacity. At least half of the electricity produced (ie. 15% of capacity) is expected to be as reliable as “baseload”.

Finally, the Plan includes more than enough backup biomass capacity to fill the gaps created by worst-case weather. The hydro and biomass backups are required for just 2% of demand.

The report modeled the ZCA2020 grid, based on real-world insolation and wind speed. They assumed a demand 40% higher than today (accounting for increased energy efficiency and electrification of transport and heating). The modeling confirmed the proposed portfolio of solar, wind, hydro, and biomass would indeed supply demand.

How much solar and wind must be built, and where?

Proposed Power Grid for Renewable Electricity

Figure 3: Map of proposed sites. Yellow squares are solar power plants, blue squares are wind power plants, red lines are high-voltage direct current transmission, and green lines are high-voltage alternating current transmission.

The Plan proposes 12 CST sites, each with 13 major power towers, each power tower with 18,000 heliostats. Together, they would have a total capacity of 42.5 GW and be able to store enough energy to meet winter demand.  

The proposed locations are near Bourke, Broken Hill, Carnarvon, Charleville, Dubbo, Kalgoorlie, Longreach, Mildura, Moree, Port Augusta, Prairie, and Roma. These towns are far enough inland to have high sunlight throughout the year, but close enough to the populated coasts for it to be economical to build high-voltage transmission lines.

Each site would measure approximately 16 by 16 km. The total land used would be less than 3,000 km2. That’s comparable to Kangaroo Island, smaller than some large cattle stations, and 0.04% of the area of Australia.

To provide enough reliable wind power for a 40% target, we need a total capacity of 50 GW, 25 times what it is now. The best commercially available wind turbines have a capacity of 7.5 MW, so we need to build 6,400 of them. Land covered by wind turbines can still be used as farmland.

The Plan proposes 23 sites dotted around the coast. The locations are widely dispersed so the grid is not dependent on the weather in any one place. They are also chosen for high wind speeds in winter, when less solar power is available. Each site has annual average wind speeds of at least 25 km/h.

To put all this in perspective, some other nations are investing in renewables on a large scale. China already has 25 GW of wind capacity and will have 150 GW in five to ten years. Denmark has a target of 50% wind power by 2025. And Spain will have 2.5 GW of solar thermal capacity by 2013.

What is the timeline?

The CST plants would be built in two stages. The first stage would begin by constructing small power towers and gradually ramp up until 2015, when solar power costs become competitive with coal power. The majority of the power supply would come online during the second stage, with a constant rate of manufacture to 2019.

Wind would be scaled up faster because it is cheaper and there are already a number of installations in the pipeline. New projects would start every six months and take a year to complete. A three-year ramp-up should lower the cost to European levels, also followed by a constant rate of construction.

What resources are required?

The Plan involves building 23,000 km of high voltage transmission – both to connect the new power stations to the grid, and to connect the multiple existing grids to each other (so supply does not depend on the weather in one place).

At peak construction, the Plan requires 600,000 heliostats and 1,000 wind turbines per year. These could either be mass-produced in Australia or imported. In Australia it could create 30,000 jobs in manufacturing.

The plan would also create 80,000 new construction-related jobs, and 45,000 ongoing jobs in operation and maintenance, replacing an equivalent 20,000 in fossil fuels. In addition, the 30,000 manufacturing jobs could also be retained to export components to the world. Some solar jobs would even be in the same areas as lost mining jobs.

The concrete needed is a tiny fraction of Australia’s resources, and the steel a tiny fraction of our exports. A solar power plant uses merely 12% as much water as a coal power plant. However, we would need several new factories producing glass and other materials.

How much will it cost?

The total capital cost over the decade is $370 billion, or 3% of GDP per year. That’s about the amount of money spent on insurance, or the value added by the real estate sector, or the money spent on coal, gas and uranium. Most of the money is spent in the latter half of the decade, after the public has already seen some of the benefits of the initial investment.

About half of the money, $175 billion, would be spent on solar thermal plants, as well as $92 billion to upgrade the grid, $72 billion on wind turbines, $17 billion on off-grid solar, and $14 billion on biomass. However, the Plan looks at these costs as an investment. It leaves open the question of where the funding would come from, suggesting a combination of public and private sources.

The investment pays itself back by 2040 or as soon as 2022, depending on which costs you count. The Net Present Cost over the period 2011-2040 is equal to business-as-usual (BAU) if you only include direct costs. Though the capital costs of ZCA2020 are much higher than BAU, more money is saved because solar power plants do not need a constant supply of coal and gas for fuel. If you also take into account the Net Present Cost of oil and (possibly) priced emissions under BAU, ZCA2020 could potentially save $1.5 trillion.

Economic Model Comparison

Figure 4: Net present value of ZCA2020 Plan compared to business as usual.

All the above completely ignores climate and environmental costs, which obviously would heavily favor ZCA2020. The Stern Review estimated that a global effort to mitigate climate change could save 20% of GDP per year by 2050.

The effect of the transition on electricity prices depends on how it is funded. In one possible scenario, they could rise by $8 per household per week, similar to what is expected under BAU.

What will happen to the fossil fuel industry?

The report does not address this as it is a political question. However, it does point out companies were aware of the risk to their industry when they invested in their assets.

How do we convince our leaders this is a good idea?

Now I wish I knew the answer to that one. When Australia (and the world) finally wakes up to the climate crisis, Zero Carbon Australia 2020 provides a useful blueprint for decarbonising our energy sector. But we’d better wake up pretty damn quick.

Societies have shown that they can be mobilized by ambitious visions. When J.F.K. proposed landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s, it seemed incredible. Yet the goal was accomplished twice before the deadline.

So far Australia has not shown leadership on clean energy, preferring to see itself as a mining nation. Renewable energy entrepreneurs are going overseas because there is no market in Australia. Yet we have vast untapped renewable resources.

Global warming is a very real and urgent threat. As an extremely high per capita emitter Australia has an imperative to take drastic mitigating action. ZCA2020 shows powering Australia with renewable energy is feasible using commercially available technology. Solar thermal can provide better-than-baseload power. The transition would stimulate the economy, save up to $1.5 trillion by 2040, create jobs, and make Australia a leader in clean energy. So what are we waiting for?

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Comments 101 to 119 out of 119:

  1. #98: "wind induced low frequency sound effects are real enough for those affected." That's an interesting turn of phrase. Are the effects of this sound real to all? Or real only to those affected? A study of the so-called wind turbine effect: There is no credible scientific evidence that low levels of wind turbine sound at 1 to 2Hz will directly affect the vestibular system. In fact, it is likely that the sound will be lost in the natural infrasonic background sound of the body. ... The body is a noisy system at low frequencies. In addition to the beating heart at a frequency of 1 to 2Hz, the body emits sounds from blood circulation, bowels, stomach, muscle contraction, and other internal sources. ... “Wind turbine syndrome” is not a recognized medical diagnosis, is essentially reflective symptoms associated with noise annoyance and is an unnecessary and confusing addition to the vocabulary on noise. This syndrome is not a recognized diagnosis in the medical community. There are no unique symptoms or combinations of symptoms that would lead to a specific pattern of this hypothesized disorder. The collective symptoms in some people exposed to wind turbines are more likely associated with annoyance to low sound levels. But of course, there's a wind turbine syndrome website, so it has to be real.
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  2. Just to add a comment - I have a colleague who has quite a number of years' experience dealing with noise from wind farms. He has a *very* low opinion of the folks pushing "wind turbine syndrome". I think it's much more likely that it's an annoyance issue, rather than a direct physiological effect - although annoyance can lead to stress & the associated physiological impacts that has on the body, and then there are psychosomatic issues as well. However, these are not *directly* caused by the noise from the wind turbines. The fact that everyone who has a financial interest in the turbines is devoid of symptoms also suggests this is the case.
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  3. Marcus #100 So black coal is only the cheapest because Governments heavily subsidize it. And that is why it is still the main power source for central generation thoughout the world. So please explain the economics of selling subsidized cheap coal to China and India and Taiwan and Japan? If we were subsidizing it, there would be a net cost to the Australian economy - not a main source of foreign exchange! Is your assertion 'Voodoo' economics Marcus?? Wind farms need to be covered by base load reserve for the situations where light or no winds occur over a wide area. Without base load coverage - storage systems would need to cover at least a couple of day's supply to meet these weather events. As far as human health effects of Wind turbine noise, there are individuals who are more sensitive than others to low frequency noise. I would agree that those not being paid might be more inclined to imagine symtoms, in the same way that RSI infected the Public Service while it was lucrative - and is hardly heard of now with jobs less secure.
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  4. Ken Lambert at 23:55 PM, just to add a point about the use of coal globally. In Asia more and more electricity is being produced by IPP's (independent power producers) who compete to supply power generally to the government authority for distribution. They are totally commercial profit making operations. Those that use coal have to pay world prices for it even if it is being mined in country, so there are no subsidies there, especially now with the global demand for coal. Ah, yes, the RSI outbreak, an interesting study of human behavior I thought. As an aside, what was the plant you were involved in the commissioning of?
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  5. Ken L RSI .... now with jobs less secure. Not exactly. It's almost the same issue as centralised power generation using fossil materials. The reason for the decline was firstly, H&S rules outlawing ridiculous demands (like a minimum 13000 keystrokes a day) in centralised data processing areas. Secondly, getting rid of centralised data processing areas by distributed use of computers throughout organisations. Works a whole heap better when just about everyone does part of it than when a few do all of it. A bit like wind all over the place, solar all over the place, tidal where there are tides, run of river where rivers run rather than centralised units requiring lots of work to constantly supply raw materials =and= concentrated effort to produce something better and more easily done where resources are available for no effort in the first place. It's not a wonderful analogy but it is an analogy.
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  6. adelady at 07:52 AM, actually that is quite a useful analogy. In a climate sense the centralised data processing area is that area where various systems converge periodically, such as, I'll mention yet again, the coinciding of a La-Nina and the -ve IOD bringing it's own version of RSI, and need for compensation.
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  7. Ken, are you *really* trying to claim that the mining industry doesn't receive the lions share of the diesel fuel rebate, which is paid for by the tax-payer? I wonder how much more expensive coal would be if the cost of mining & transporting the stuff fell 100% on the shoulders of the companies doing the mining. Rail & Port infrastructure were also built & maintained at tax-payers expense-another bill the coal mining industry doesn't have to foot. So yes, even in the export industry, the cheapness of the product relies at least in part on the subsidies enjoyed by the industry-though sheer volume also plays its part. Of course, as a commodity industry, Australia receives much less per tonne than...say, if it were to ship wind turbines or PV cells instead. Of course, Australia has been very good, this last 25 years, at getting itself into the red in terms of balance of trade. That's what comes of sending raw goods offshore for bargain basement prices, then buying finished goods back at 3-4 times what we got for the original raw materials.
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  8. "Wind farms need to be covered by base load reserve for the situations where light or no winds occur over a wide area. Without base load coverage - storage systems would need to cover at least a couple of day's supply to meet these weather events." ....and again, Ken, you deliberately *ignore* the existence of storage technologies more than capable of meeting 2-3 days of *zero* wind or sun. Of course the odds of the two things being *totally* absent for that length of time are incredibly slim. Also, given the large numbers of landfill & sewerage treatment plants across the Country, I'm certain that sufficient bio-gas power stations could be established to provide *emergency* base-load in those very, very rare instances when neither Wind, solar or stored power will suffice....and that's even before we consider run-of-river hydro, large-scale hydro-power & tidal stream power. Face it Ken, Coal is yesterday's news, & its only dinosaurs who desperately seek for excuses to abandon it.
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  9. Ken "So please explain the economics of selling subsidized cheap coal to China and India and Taiwan and Japan? If we were subsidizing it, there would be a net cost to the Australian economy - not a main source of foreign exchange!" That particular economic strategy is called selling the family silver. Australia and its various resources is in much the same position as a family inheriting a large art collection and associated furniture, silver, china and valuable sculptures and manuscripts and the like as well as land and other income producing assets. Do they put in the effort to enhance their assets and earn income that way? Not a chance. Far easier to sell great-grandpa's astutely purchased paintings and granny's carefully selected Waterford crystal. Even if it costs money for valuers and auctioneers and removalists, it's so much easier to sell than to think about the best use of the wonderful resources you've been given for use and for enjoyment. And so our society, through its governments, subsidises ports, railways, transport fuel and anything else promoters of easy foreign exchange can persuade them into. And the money just rolls in. It's easy short term gains leading to long term decline when markets no longer need certain items - wool for example, or prefer valuable items we've not bothered to learn to produce or failed to take advantage of inventing - Xerox, solar thermal for examples.
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  10. Marcus & Adelady As johnd again correctly points out - there is a world price for coal because it is a traded commodity produced in many nations. Demand has been increasing rapidly - so the price is at high levels and our dastardly miners are making big profits. Remember Rudd's 'Mining Super Profis Tax' - it was designed to cash-in on the boom. So our miners are just 'giving' our heavily subsidized coal to the Chinese like a fire sale of the family silver?? Well in that case all the other world producers must be 'heavily subsidized' by their governments too - so they can compete with us! Hello?? Sounds like Pauline Hansen Economics 1.01 to me. Have you ever heard of State Royalties which act as a straight turnover tax and Company Tax which taxes profit just like any other company? Marcus: Time for you to put some numbers on your assertions. How about the cost of Wind generation including the storage technologies (molten salt, compressed air or pumped hydro - or whatever). Cents per kWhr will do. And all those landfills across the country just happen to be able to back-up Wind generators when they don't generate. Let us know the cost of this too in cents per kWhr. One free service dinosaurs like me perform, is to point out that our main competitive advantage in this real cruel world is our relatively cheap and abundant fossil fuel (black coal and gas). Input energy from Wind, Solar or other renewables to our industries and domestic economy at 2-10 times the current cost and see what happens to our standard of living. I am all for energy saving and efficiency measures such as building insulation, smart storage of heat, light bulbs, 6 star ratings etc - but these must all make economic sense with the current cost (and projected future cost) of energy.
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  11. Ken Lambert at 00:13 AM, the point you make about where what competitive advantage we still have comes from is all too true, but something many seem oblivious of. We have seen our manufacturing industries virtually all move offshore because labour, and the skills they might have had, are not finite resources that we could continue to monopolise like we once could, instead the world supply is rapidly heading to oversupply. Thus, as apparently only dinosaurs are able to appreciate, we are left with little option but to exploit what finite resources we very fortunately do have. Sooner or later a major readjustment is going to be required to allow our standard of living to reflect our true rung on the world ladders of productivity and prosperity. One way or another we are going to have to learn to live with the equivalent of about half the income we currently enjoy. Even if renewable power eventually can be cheaper than FF,it is already too late for us here.
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  12. Unfortunately this is not a proposal that will be taken up by Australia, which is currently engaged in maximising extraction and export of fossil fuels - a boom that goes unopposed. Australia is struggling to get even it's ageed to minimal 5% reduction of domestic emissions by 2020 through the political process. The politicking is ugly with opponents building on a strong basis of mis- and dis- information with plenty of big media support. I believe that it's both possible and essential that the kind of remake of energy infrastructure and energy usage patterns this proposal represents occur, however I am in a minority. And it's a minority that simply cannot compete with the influence of an Australian fossil fuel lobby that has successfully prevented any political will to limit the continuing growth of their industry. Any serious attempts to do so are politically impossible within our fossil fuel dependent nation.
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  13. My previous comment @112 may have crossed the line into political commentary but I think the real point is that without the political will to act it's a hypothetical proposal. Would it work to reduce emissions if taken up? Surely it would but energy costs, dependent on reliability of supply, would be highly variable and clearly higher than fossil fuels without a carbon price (which is being strongly opposed); current style of energy intensive industry practices would need to change (isn't that the point?). A making hay (or aluminium) when the sun shines approach and/or industry taking responsibility for it's own uninteruptable power storage would probably be inherent in a renewables only approach. It could be very expensive but still not as expensive as failure to act will be. Large scale storage remains an area I think is vital to acceptance, investment and deep deployment of solar and wind that can replace fossil fuels (rather than be as well as FF's), yet has not received an appropriate level of R&D attention.
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  14. KeninOz@113. You must have a fly on the wall reporting to you from my household. We recently had a discussion about aluminium. If I had a smelter in Oz I'd be drawing lines on a map to see how easy it would be to connect to the geothermal projects. Getting in first with some investment tied to a guaranteed future supply with some price guarantees sounds like a very good idea. A bit of extra cash flow from claiming a share of the income from the power delivered to others from the lines installed to connect to the plant would be pretty tasty, too. But that's just me.
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  15. Adelady, geothermal does appear to have a lot of potential however, like large scale energy storage it hasn't gotten serious attention. The reality is that Australia is still investing in coal fired power plants and, at best, the Carbon Tax looks intended to encourage a longer term shift to investment in Gas powered plants - which may be able to reach the early, low, easy to reach emissions targets but can't deliver the longer term reductions. Presumably the claim that it can be backup to renewables will justify ongoing construction but when built, operators will probably (on the basis of 'fair competition', jobs and profitablity), resist the kind of intermittent operation that would entail. Carbon Capture and Sequestration has got the lion's share of R&D funding in Australia and has provided a way to justify the ongoing government support for fossil fuels; current projections of future emissions reductions are almost entirely based on optimistic predictions of low cost CCS being taken up widely. Anyone looking to Australia for solutions and inspiration is going to be disappointed.
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  16. I am a former geothermal supporter (even invested $5000 in Geodynamics), but i don't think it has much potential in australia. Hot-springs type geothermal is excellent overseas where active volcanism is ongoing. Places such as Iceland, New Zealand and Indonesia have a lot of oportunities. In Australia our only geothermal option is from hot rocks, and involves drilling lots of very deep, large diameter holes. These holes are ludicrously expensive, in the range of tens of millions each. From memory, geodynamics had a plan to drill around a hundred of these holes for their planned comercial scale electricity plant. The other problem is that even hot rocks plants cant be build just anywhere. You need a location which has highly radiactive granites under a cover of at least 3km of sediment to insulate the heat. This is why geodynamics built their demonstration facility in the middle of the desert, somewhere out from the town of Innamincka, SA.
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  17. I understand the requirement of reducing CO2 emissions globally. But why is the CO2 quota budget "per capita"? Why should a country be rewarded with a higher CO2 budget because they allowed and continue to allow their population to grow uncontrollably?
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  18. JMykos that's an interesting point you make. My understanding is that while China implemented an official one child policy, western cultures such as Australia haven't ever attempted an official birth control policy of any kind. Are you suggesting that China should be rewarded with more of the carbon pie than Australia, as a reward for their population control policy?
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  19. Sapient. I wouldn't consider Cinas population small. China implemented a one child policy in the cites not rural areas. China recognized their population was going to exceed the resources of their land and did something quite controversial about it. A two child policy from the outset might have been more palatable. Quite the contrary, if china didn't have the one child policy, today under the per capita basis they would be entitled to more of the CO2 budget, they would have been rewarded for their population growth. Shouldn't all countries manage their population level to the food and water and other resources their land can provide? By the same thinking the amount of land would factor into the CO2 budget. Not merely the population number.
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  20. dissembly claims elsewhere to have a plan to tackle global warming, which in some elements resembles the plan discussed above. Therefore I consider this a more appropriate place to discuss his plan. Of course, when I say discuss his plan, I really mean discuss the elements of the plan above which resemble his plan, for he has yet to detail his plan in discussion, or link to a location where it is detailed. In what follows I shall be discussing the costs of a particular plan for reducing GHG emissions. They are large, and IMO worth it. However, there are much lower cost methods of tackling the problem of global warming. So anybody reading this post should not be dissuaded from tackling climate change. The first thing to discuss about the above plan is the cost, given at 3% of GDP per annum over 10 years. Because, for practical purposes, all government income comes from taxation, any contribution by government to this cost must be obtained by taxation, and while governments can tax governments, the money required to pay those taxes must come from further taxes so that, eventually the entire impost must fall on the private sector of the economy. As it happens, in Australia, private expenditure represents 64.3% of GDP. To fund an project requiring 3% of GDP per annum, therefore, the government would need to apply a 5% tax on private expenditure. The most convenient way to do this would be to increase the GST from 10 to 15%, and to apply a 5% export tariff on all exports. Such a large increase in tax and tariffs would have a significant impact on the Australian economy. Indeed, at its simplest it would decrease economic growth by 3% of GDP per annum. As economic growth is typically between 2 and 3%, the plan commits Australia to very low or negative growth for 10 years. That is, it represents a plan for a 10 year depression. If Australia was doing this while the rest of the world continued to drag its feet on climate change, the cost would be greater as businesses relocated overseas to avoid the impost. Regardless of that, I would still favour this plan. Although the cost is substantial, it is less than the prospective cost of climate change. However, even that cost is not sufficient to tackle climate change by this means. First, this plan only deals with stationary energy. It does not include emissions from transport, agriculture, and land use change. dissembly needs to detail how he will reduce emissions in those areas. This will involve additional, probably comparable costs. More importantly, this plan if implemented immediately following the next election, ie, circa 2014, will reduce to zero emissions to late. It is a ten year plan, so if implemented in 2014, it would achieve zero emissions for stationary energy by 224. However, if Australia is not going to free load on climate change, ie, demand a larger per capita emissions target than other nations receive, it must reach zero emissions by (according to figure 1 above) 2020. (In fact, that chart is inaccurate for Australia, which has per capita CO2 equivalent emissions of 28 tonnes per annum, thereby requiring a cessation of emissions by 2015 if we are not to be freeloaders.) dissembly may think he can implement the plan in 6 years, or less, but the most important fact here is that the quicker you eliminate GHG emissions, the greater the economic cost of doing so. That is partly because construction costs of rapid builds are higher. It is also partly because a rapid transition does not allow the time for prices of technologies to decrease as they mature. It is also partly because transitions over a long period can defray costs by replacing infrastructure as it becomes obsolete. Finally, it is partly because rapid transitions create disruptions in the economy, which become noticeable as unemployment and/or inflation. So, while it may be possible to implement the above plan faster, it can only be done at substantially greater cost. The upshot of all this is that the only way Australia can pull its weight in tackling global warming is by allowing an international system of tradible carbon emission credits. In that way Australia can pay for its excess per capita emissions by buying credits from nations who will not consume their full quota. That or pretend we are pulling our wait by insisting on an international agreement requiring equal percentage reductions in emissions for all nations, regardless of per capita emissions. This later option has the same effect as demanding a free transfer of emissions credits from poor nations to wealthy nations. That is, it demands that poor nations subsidize wealthy nations on the basis that the wealthy nations are wealthy, and the primary causes of the problem. (This is currently the western worlds basic negotiating position, and unsurprisingly the third world can see through the self serving nature of that position.)
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