Thursday, July 10, 2008

Seriously deficient Australian Garnaut Climate Change Review CRITICALLY REVIEWED

Seriously deficient Australian Garnaut Climate Change Review CRITICALLY REVIEWED

Prominent Australian academic Economist Professor Ross Garnaut was commissioned by the State and Federal Governments of Australia to review economic impacts on Australia of climate change, to also examine this in an international context and to recommend policy options.

The Garnaut Review (see: ) is GOOD in that it indicates (albeit inexplicitly) a serious climate change situation; the need to act now; and a “Cap and Trade” Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to encourage uptake of clean energy options.

However the Garnaut Review is fatally BAD in that it IGNORES crucial major considerations e.g. the human cost of coal burning (it kills nearly 5,000 Australians annually); the “true cost” of coal-based power that is 4-5 times the “market cost”; the latest advances in low cost solar technologies; the urgent need to IMPLEMENT clean technologies; the massive ecosystem and economic damage NOW (notably to the Arctic, Antarctic, tropical forests, ocean fisheries, tropical agriculture and the ALREADY DYING coral reefs (see: ); and the urgent need to REDUCE atmospheric CO2 from the current 387 ppm to a safe and sustainable level of no more than 350 ppm as advocated by top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen and colleagues : ; ).

Unfortunately the Australian Government Terms of Reference for the Garnaut Review included the following disastrous position, quote: “The weight of scientific opinion that developed countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050 against 2000 emission levels, if global greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are to be stabilised to between 450 and 550 ppm [effectively carbon dioxide, CO2] by mid-century”.

However the literature cut-off for the latest (2007) IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (on which Professor Garnaut heavily relies) was 2005 and climate science is moving rapidly. Thus it has been recently reported by top coral experts in the top scientific journal Science that above about 450 ppm CO2 (26 years’ time at current rates) the world’s coral reefs – including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – will start dying because of ocean acidification as well as from bleaching due to photosynthetic symbiont expulsion from increased ocean temperature. Top coral scientists say the “tipping point” for world coral death is in the 450-500 ppm atmospheric CO2 zone (see: Science 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1737 – 1742: ; ; ; ; see: also the latest 2007 IPCC Synthesis Report: and ) .

The world temperature increase is discontinuous and so is the increase in ocean acidity. World coral species are ALREADY DYING at the world’s current atmospheric CO2 concentration of 387 ppm. A 270 contributor Report on the world’s coral from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service (NOAA) says that nearly half of the coral reefs in areas from the Caribbean to the Pacific "are not in good condition and are continuing steadily on a long-term decline … even remote reefs are showing signs of decline "; a major bleaching and disease event in 2005 devastated coral reefs across the Caribbean. In the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, scientists say an average of 50 percent of the coral was lost. Some areas lost 90 percent of their coral; a 1997 report in the science journal Nature estimated that the resources and economic benefits derived from coral reefs are worth $375 billion a year - scientists who study the medical benefits of coral reefs say there are about 20 compounds in clinical trials derived from the corals themselves or the many organisms that depend on them (see : ; ).

Further, atmospheric CO2 concentration will reach 500 ppm in. 46 years’ time at current rates assuming no acceleration of CO2 accretion in the atmosphere due to “positive feedback” effects (500-385 =115 ppm; 115ppm/2.5ppm per year = 46 years). At 500 ppm there is huge damage to the ocean phytoplankton system (crucial for ocean food chains and for global temperature homeostasis (balance) by sequestering CO2 and for light-reflecting cloud formation through production of cloud-seeding dimethylsulphide) and the Greenland ice sheet melts with a huge attendant circa 7 meter sea level rise (see: James Lovelock “The Revenge of Gaia”, Penguin, London, 2006; ; ).

According to top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (Head, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, member of the prestigious US National Academy of Science) and 8 UK, French and US colleagues (my emphasis): “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3 deg-C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6 deg-C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 450 +/- 100 ppm, a level that will be exceeded within decades, barring prompt policy changes. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.” (see: ).

The Garnaut Review recognized “risks” to economies and to peoples and biodiversity: “The weight of scientific evidence tells us that Australians are facing risks of damaging climate change. The risks can be substantially reduced by strong and early action by all major economies … We will delude ourselves if we think that scientific uncertainties are cause for delay. Delaying now will eliminate attractive lower-cost options. Delaying now is not postponing a decision. To delay is to deliberately choose to avoid effective steps to reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels”.

Professor Garnaut reviewed the science, the economics and then came up with a “Cap and Trade” Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to commence in an initial form in 2010. The ETS involves selling CO2 polluters tradeable licences, thus making pollution more expensive and favouring non-polluting alternatives (geothermal and ultimately solar-dependent renewables such as solar, wind, wave and tide power). However his scheme (Cap uncertain) involves returning 50% of the licence fees to domestic consumers and 30% to business in an extraordinary subsidy of “dirty” power. The remaining 20% will be spent on Research and Development for “new” alternative technologies, notably the coal-burning with carbon capture and storage (CCS) favoured by Professor Garnaut.

The Garnaut Review leaves one with a series of paradoxes. The “Cap” is set at a CO2 level that will kill off the Great Barrier Reef at best (at 450 ppm CO2), devastate the planet at worst (550 ppm CO2) and, in between these posited extremes, kill off the phytoplankton system and hence ocean life as well as irreversibly melting the Greenland ice sheet with huge attendant sea level rise (500 ppm CO2). While Professor Garnaut follows Sir Nicholas Stern in decrying climate change as “the greatest market failure ever seen”, he insists on an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) “market mechanism” (albeit subverted with gigantic State subsidies) to fix the problem and rejects any State implementation or State subsidy of renewable energy.

The Garnaut Review also FAILS to take seriously the impact of factors such as from human values (altruism, responsibility, respect for the irreplaceable ecosystems and species, respect for human life) to purely selfish considerations of peak oil. Thus a 2008 CSIRO report “Fuel for Thought” says that supply/demand problems due to “peak oil” may see petrol prices increase in 10 years to $8/L from the present $1.70/L whereas even an ETS carbon price of $40-$100/tonne would only add 10-25 cents/L to the price of petrol (see: ).

The Garnaut Climate Change Review is a highly flawed Report that IGNORES major realities – it does not merely ignore an Elephant in the Room, it IGNORES a HERD of Elephants in the Room. The most important reality it completely IGNORES in its prescription of CONTINUED fossil fuel-based pollution of the atmosphere is that at 387 ppm atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) the Earth has ALREADY passed “tipping points” for major ecosystem devastation, notably the complete loss of Arctic sea ice (see: ) and the death of the world coral reefs that support 25% of ocean organisms and are economically worth $375 billion annually (see: ).


Here is a succinct science- and needs-based Alternative Plan. The Garnaut Review (514 pages) indicates that a favoured (but long-term, expensive, undeveloped, only partially effective at best and uncertain) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology yields power at about the same price (6 c/kWh) as EXISTING wind power technology. To replace Australia’s 92% fossil fuel-based, 50GW (50 billion Watt) electricity-generating capacity with wind power at $2 per Watt would cost 50 billion W x $2/W = $100 billion (see: ) . However the existing “capacity factor” (reflecting ACTUAL electricity generation in practice) is about 50% (50 W capacity generating only about 250 TWH/year rather than the 500 TWh expected if there was 100% capacity) and if we assume a much lower 20% “capacity factor” for wind power then the realistic actual replacement cost would be $100 billion x 50/20 = $250 billion.

Of course that scenario is merely one “boundary condition” (one extreme in the range of the possible) and the actual “mix” and rapid uptake path could involve a combination of the following (Garnaut Review 2006 estimates of cents/kWh in parentheses): geothermal (9), wind (6) and concentrated solar (20) as alternatives to brown or black coal (3) or the uncertain, HYPOTHETICAL proposition of brown or black coal with combined Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and Carbon Capture and Storage CCS (6-7) PLUS the latest, very low cost Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic technologies already being implemented around the world (see: ) .

Crucial matters (not considered in the Garnaut Review) are the human cost of fossil fuel- or coal-based power generation (5,400 and 4,900 annual deaths, respectively, at a cost at $5 million person i.e. of $27 billion and $25 billion, respectively, per annum); the morbidity costs (6 times greater); and the “true cost” of coal-based electricity (estimated to be 4-5 times the “market cost”) (see: ; and ). Further, major reductions in costs of Concentrated Solar (Solar Thermal) Compact Linear Fresnel (CLFR) technology developed by Ausra mean that this could supply 90% of the US grid and auto fleet energy needs with cost estimates competitive with the “market price” gas-fired power plants and as low as 8c/kWh (see: ; ; ). Other current renewable technologies already approaching the “market price” of coal-based power include US balloon-based solar collector for PV cells ( ; ) and CIGS non-silicon thin films ( ; ; ).

The only “non-market support” that pro-renewable energy “pure free marketeers” need from Government is (a) legal and legislative action over fossil fuel-burners who are killing an estimated 5,400 Australians annually from the effects of fossil fuel burning pollutants i.e. recognition of the 4-5 times greater “true cost” of coal-based power generation and (b) gross production feed-in tariffs for renewable producers as in Germany and Spain and recommended as “more accurate” by Professor Garnaut who concludes (p437) : “A feed-in tariff based on gross metering is thus a more accurate means of pricing these benefits [as compared to “net metering”].”

Of course those “NON-free-marketeers” who believe in use of taxes for the common good (as in hospitals, schools, emergency services etc) would like to see major Government intervention for urgent provision of low-cost, non-polluting, non-homicidal renewable energy options consonant with the prescription by top US climate scientist Dr Hansen and his colleagues of REDUCING atmospheric CO2 from a dangerous current concentration of 387 ppm to a safe level of no more than 350 ppm (see: ; ).

The major failures of the Garnaut Climate Change Review can be summarized as (A) incorrect premises and ignoring major realities; and (B) highly disputable assertions.

(A) Incorrect premises and ignoring major realities

1. The Review is predicated on an outcome of an atmospheric CO2 of 450-550 ppm. –however world coral dies above 450 ppm, the phytoplankton and the Greenland ice sheet go above 500 ppm and the world is devastated at 550 ppm (see ).

2. The Review admits that Australia’s world-leading coal exports represent a major component of Australian coal mining but extraordinarily IGNORES the contribution this makes to Australia’s annual per capita CO2 pollution (27 tonnes CO2 per person per year domestically but 47 tonnes CO2 per person per year including CO2 from coal exports) (see: ) .

3. The Review IGNORES the estimated huge annual deaths from coal-burning and fossil fuel-burning for electricity in Australia (4,900 and 5,400, respectively) and the World (170,000 and 283,000, respectively) (see: ).

4. The Review IGNORES the “true cost” of coal-based electricity generation which is estimated to be 4-5 times the “market cost” – a reality that makes all existing, best-practice non-carbon energy sources cheaper than fossil fuel-based power (see: ; ; ; ; ).

5. The Review ignores the huge annually added cost to Australia due to coal burning-and fossil fuel-burning-related deaths (at $5 million per person, $25 billion and $27 billion, respectively) and the 6-fold greater cost of morbidity (illness) (see: ).

6. The Review prescribes MORE CO2 pollution and IGNORES the position of top UK, US and French climate scientists from top institutions who argue that we have already reached a disastrous “tipping point” and must reduce atmospheric CO2 from the current 385 ppm to no more than 350 ppm i.e. a “negative CO2 pollution” policy that can implemented by energy efficiency, cessation of fossil fuel burning, implementation of best-practice existing non-carbon energy sources, re-afforestation, return of biochar to soils, and (if necessary) use of global dimming sulphur oxide aerosols (see: ; ).

7. The Review IGNORES the findings of top biologists and environmental economists that the total economic return from major biomes (ecological systems) studied can be typically about 50% greater when there is sustainable use and that the economic return from preserving what is left of wild nature is over 100 times the cost of so doing (see: ).

8. The Review IGNORES the enormous current rate of species extinction that is ALREADY 100-1,000 times greater than normal and which is impacted severely by climate change(see: ; ).

9. The Review asserts (following similar assertion from top UK climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern) that climate change is “the greatest market failure ever seen”, but then prescribes a “market mechanism” (an Emissions Trading Scheme”) that is grossly subverted by huge non-market taxpayer subsidies for use of “dirty energy” while rigorously denying any such non-market incentives for “clean energy”.

10. The Review IGNORES International and National Law in relation to illegitimate commercial impositions on other people (especially when mass suffering and death involved) and IGNORES the real prospect of litigation, Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs, Reparations Demands and national and international criminal prosecutions (e.g. see: ) .

11. The Review IGNORES the enormous advances made in already commercial solar energy technology, notably silicon-based photovoltaics (notably improved efficiency , sliver technology, balloon-based solar energy collection), CIGS and other non-silicon thin film photovoltaics (California, Switzerland) and Concentrated Solar Power of Solar Thermal (notably the commercial, Australian-derived Ausra Compact Linear Fresnel (CLFR) system) – all of which yield power at a cost less than the “true cost” of coal-based power and in many cases approaching the 4-5 times lower current, heavily subsidized “market cost” of coal-based power (see: ).

12. The Review has clearly IGNORED detailed, expert, well-documented, scientific representations about most of the above issues (e.g. see: ; ).

(B) Highly disputable assertions

1. Garnaut Review, Chapter 1, pp1-22, Australia’s Climate Change Challenge – according to the Review (p12): “In the discussion of climate change much is made of natural wonders – of the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu, the karri forests. We know that we value them highly, and now we will need to think about whether WE [my emphasis] are prepared to pay for their preservation” – Australian nor indeed any other species and ecosystems are NOT negotiable; further, International and National Law state that, for example, mining companies are responsible for their pollution i.e. while a highly flawed ETS scheme can increase the cost of coal-burning what is crucially needed are criminal prosecutions over the appalling, existing environmental and human impacts of coal burning (see: ).

2. Garnaut Review, Chapter 2, pp 23-46, Policy Change about Climate Change Mitigation – according to the Review (pp 25-27): “2.1, Risk and uncertainty” section weighs in on the “uncertainty” side of the risk-uncertainty spectrum (an indeed the whole Review) ignores the actual realities of 0.3 million people dying each year world-wide and the 5,400 Australians who are estimated die from the effects of pollutants from fossil fuel-based electrical power generation; the 16 million people who die avoidably each year from deprivation that is increasingly climate change impacted; the “billions” who, according to UK Chief Scientist Professor John Beddington FRS are threatened by food prices rises driven by biofuel diversion, global warming, oil price rises, globalization and speculation; and the estimate by top UK climate scientist Professor James Lovelock FRS that over 6 billion people will die this century due to unaddressed man-made climate change (see: ) .

3. Garnaut Review, Chapter 2 p29: “The amount of fossil fuel in the earth’s crust, in the forms of petroleum, natural gas, coal, tar sands and shale, is obviously finite. However the amount is so large that its limits are of no practical importance for climate change policies” – this is utterly incorrect from the perspective of top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (head , NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, member of the US National Academy of Sciences and Professor, Columbia University) who in a detailed letter to PM Rudd accompanied by a superb technical summary of the situation said the complete OPPOSITE because the largely untapped coal , tar shale, and methane hydrate reserves are vastly greater than the oil and gas reserves: “Reserves are hotly debated and may be exaggerated, but we know that enough oil and gas remain to take global warming close to, if not into, the realm of dangerous climate effects. Coal and unconventional fuels such as tar shale contain enough carbon to produce a vastly different planet, a more dangerous and desolate planet, from the one on which civilization developed, a planet without Arctic sea ice, with crumbling ice sheets that ensure sea level catastrophes for our children and grandchildren, with shifting climate zones that cause great hardship for the world’s poor and drive countless species to extinction, and with intensified hydrologic extremes that cause increase drought and wildfires but also stronger rains, floods and storms” (see: ; ).

4. Garnaut Review, Chapter 2, p29: “Concerns about the availability of fossil fuel resources was one element in the analysis and cautions of the Club of Rome, and their ill-fated prophecy about limits to growth in the early 1970s (Club of Rome, 1972)” – the Club of Rome was absolutely CORRECT in a big picture sense e.g. the atmosphere and the oceans are finite; “peak oil” has arrived; at 385 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere the Arctic sea ice may be completely gone in 5 years; data sent by NASA’s Dr Hansen to PM Rudd indicates that a substantial proportion of limited oil and gas resources have already been consumed and that the vast preponderance of major carbon fuel sources left (and which simply cannot be used because of the excess atmospheric CO2 problem) are coal, shale oil, tar sands and methane hydrates (see: ).

5. Garnaut Review, Chapter 3, pp 47-86, The Science of Climate Change – the Review in section 3.3.2, pp60-69: the sections dealing with of Fluorinated gases do not mention nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) which as 17,000 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and is used in manufacture of plasma and LCD TVs (see: ).

6. Garnaut review, Chapter 3, p82: “Captured CO2 could be stored underground or used [via photosynthesis] to produce biofuels” – the “stored underground” is hypothetical, expensive, and not ready for immediate implementation – indeed the US Department of Energy has scrapped the major $1.8 billion FurureGen Carbon Capture and Storage coal-burning power plant project (see: ) . And as for biofuels, except for those involving non-crop biomass and algae, biofuel production (e.g. from growing wheat, sugar cane, canola and palm oil on former forest land) is a major net CO2 emitter and the UK, US, and EU legislatively mandated biofuel production is a major threat to human survival through using food to drive cars and driving up food prices (see:; ; ;,25197,23336840-11949,00.html ; ; Science 29 February 2008, Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1238 – 1240: ); Science 29 February 2008, Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1235 – 1238: ).

7. Garnaut Review, Chapter 3, p82: Dr Hansen and colleagues are quoted in relation to biochar production but the Review ignores the major demand of these top US climate scientists for “negative CO2 emissions” i.e. removal of CO2 from the atmosphere to a safe level of no more than 350 ppm - a position that is completely OPPOSITE to that of the Terms of Reference of the Garnaut Review which posits continued coal exports and increasing atmospheric CO2 to a globally disastrous “target” of 450-550 ppm (see: ).

8. Garnaut Review, Chapter 3, p82: “Today, there are no large scale commercial technologies that capture carbon from the air” – yes, there are: this technology is called “forestry” (see: ).

9. Garnaut Review, Chapter 4, pp 87-110, Emissions in the Platinum Age: the rapid, recent and projected growth of greenhouse gas emissions – the Review (Fig. 4.2, p89) gives Australia’s annual per capita CO2 -e pollution in tonnes per person per year (2004) as about 26; however this figure ignores Australia’s world leading coal exports (this coal is burned to generate CO2 that pollutes the global atmosphere) which lifts this figure to a world-leading 46 as compared to China’s 5 and India’s 1 tonnes CO2 -e per person per year (see: ).

10. Garnaut Review, Chapter 4, Figure 4.12, p102: there have been huge increases in the price of carbon fuels since 1999, about 5 times for thermal coal and liquefied natural gas and about 8 times for crude oil. As Professor Garnaut correctly observes “Continued high fossil energy prices, if across the board, will cause reductions n energy consumption and a substitution towards non–fossil-fuel energy sources.” However this data certainly weakens the argument for an ETS and especially for an ETS that will direct 80% of the licence fees to huge subsidies for “dirty energy” users and of the 20% left one supposes that at least half will go towards CO2 sequestration-related research (note that the price of petrol is projected to increase a further 5-fold within the next 10 years: ).

11. Garnaut Review, Chapter 5, pp111-142, Observations and projections of global climate change – according ot the Review (p111): “much of the research literature on observed and projected has been summarised and evaluated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007). Here the Review summarizes the key observations illustrates some of the main possible changes. Where relevant the discussion makes use of research undertaken since the Fourth Assessment Report was compiled and considers alternative views.” However (a) the literature cut-off for the IPCC Report was 2005; (b) the most recent work quoted of Dr Hansen’s group at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) is a paper published in 2005; (c) the Review fails to present the “alternative views” of these outstanding US climate scientists, specifically that we must reduce atmospheric CO2 from a currently dangerous 385 ppm to a safe level of no more than 350 ppm (see Hansen et al, 2008: ).

12. Garnaut Review, Chapter 5, p134, Carbon feed-back effects - missing from the list of important feed-back effects are the ACTUAL, current feed-back effects of the “albedo flip” (the effect of replacing light-reflecting ice and snow with light-absorbing dark sea water in the Arctic and Antarctic) and the lubrication of glacier movement by melt water (see:; ; ); the major loss of ocean phytoplankton above 500 ppm CO2 (the ocean phytoplankton are crucial for temperature and CO2 homeostasis through sequestering CO2, being the initial solar-energy-driven part of the ocean food-chain including carbonaceous organisms, and also produce dimethyl sulphide crucial for cloud seeding ( see: Professor James Lovelock FRS “The Revenge of Gaia”, Penguin, London, 2006; ; ); forest burning associated with climate change, drought and misplaced biofuel perversion (see: and ). Further, the Southern Ocean has ALREADY suffered major decline as a CO2 sink due to global warming-exacerbated storms (see: ; ).

13. Garnaut Review, Chapter 5, p135: “Himalayan glaciers … are receding faster than any other glaciers around the world, and current estimates project that may disappear altogether by 2035 (WWF Nepal Program, 2005)” – this is a huge threat for the several billion people who depend on the South Asian, South East Asian and Chinese rivers flowing from the Himalaya highlands which makes the default “continue coal exports and continue CO2 pollution” position of the Review incomprehensible (one can well understand the pessimism of Professor James Lovelock FRS in asserting that over 6 billion people will perish this century due to unaddressed climate change (see: ; ; ).

14. Garnaut Review, Chapter 5, p137 - Notwithstanding the 450-550 ppm Terms of Reference position of the Garnaut Review it states: “At a carbon dioxide concentration of 450 ppm, the diversity of corals on reefs will decline under the continued affect (sic) of elevated temperature and ocean acidity. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration as low as 500 ppm will result in coral communities that no longer produce calcium carbonate or are able to maintain coral reef structures” (huge damage is already happening: ; ).

15. Garnaut Review, Chapter 5, p137 Risk of species extinction: “Risk of species extinction” - the extinction rate is ALREADY 100-1000 tmes greater than in the past, this is clearly related to human activity (and hence, quantitatively to GDP which is directly proportional to CO2 pollution) and Dr Cynthia Rosenzweig of GISS (quoted by the Garnaut Review) and her colleagues, including Austtralia’s Professor David Karoly of the University of Melbourne, show that climate change as a major contributor to physical and biological changes in global ecosystems (see: ).

16. Garnaut Review, Chapter 6, pp143-160, The Australian Context to Climate Change – this chapter has a sub-section on bushfires (p151) but fails to mention other biological consequences of man-made warming for Australia e.g. the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef above 450 ppm (even though the latest authoritative paper on the subject is quoted elsewhere in the Review: Science 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1737 – 1742: ) or the risk to human life (especially of elderly people) due to heat waves (see: ).

17. Garnaut Review, Chapter 7, pp161-198, [Health and Economic] Impacts of Climate Change on Australia - the Review (pp169-171) FAILS to mention that the rice growing has already collapsed (production down by 98%; see: ); that the Murray River fruit industries are gravely threatened already; that Mining (ignored in this chapter) will be severely affected when the World eventually bans Australian coal exports (see: ); and that Health will benefit enormously (fossil fuel-based power generation pollution kills an estimated 5,400 Australians annually at a cost of $27 billion annually; morbidity costs may be 6 times greater: ).

18. Garnaut Review, Chapter 8, Australia’s emissions and the economy, pp199-210 – the Review notes (p199) that Australia’s 2005 “annual per capita CO2-e pollution” in tonnes per person per year was 559 Mtonnes/21 million = 27 tonnes per person per. However the Review IGNORES Australia’s world-leading coal exports that in 2004 via the end-users yielded about 424 Mtonnes CO2 year, this giving a “true” estimate of 559 + 424 = 983 Mtonnes/21 million people = 47 tonnes per person per year (as compared to China’s 5 and India’s 1 tonnes CO2 -e per person per year in 2004; see: Garnaut Review, Chapter 4, Fig. 4.2, p89 i.e. on a true, per capita basis Australia is 10 times worse than China and about 40 times worse than India) (see: ).

19. Garnaut Review, Chapter 9, The Modelled Economic Consequences of Climate Change in Australia, pp213-247: extraordinarily the Review quite deliberately IGNORES the economic cost of damage to Nature and Human Health in this Chapter, notwithstanding expert advice that sustainable use of Nature is typically 50% more profitable than unsustainable use and that the economic value of preserving wild Nature is over 100 times the cost of so doing (see: ); and that an estimated 5,400 Australians die each year from the effects of pollutants from fossil fuel-based electricity generation at a cost of $27 billion, with morbidity (illness) costs being 6 times greater (see: ). INSTEAD the Review states (p214): “The modelling presented in this chapter … precludes the assessment of non-market effects, such as the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems [annual Total Economic Value of Nature is estimated at US $33 trillion: ] and some aspects of human health [coal-burning pollutants kill 170,000 people globally each year, corresponding at $5 million per person [EU valuation] to about $1 trillion per annum:] . Section 6.3 and Chapters 2 and 10 discuss the implications associated with excluding non-market effects from an economic evaluation of climate change.”

20. Garnaut Review, Chapter 9, Coal mining, p239, Economic consequences for mining - the Review modelling quite extraordinarily IGNORES the compelling international demand for cessation of coal mining and consequent CO2 pollution: “The mining industries are also adversely affected by climate change …the coal industry is by far the most affected, with output projected to decline by almost 10% relative to the reference case [not climate change impacted] case by 2100. The result is mainly driven through changes in world demand, since the majority of coal produced in Australia is exported. The international modelling undertaken by the Review implies that world demand for coal falls by almost 19 percent, relative to the reference case” (NASA’s Dr Hansen has called for a moratorium on coal burning: ).

21. Garnaut Review, Chapter 9, p249, Health impacts: “The health-related impacts considered by the Review have relatively small economic effects” – however compare this assertion with the estimate that 5,400 Australians die each year from the effects of fossil fuel-burning power generation pollutants at a cost of $27 billion; the morbidity cost may be 6 times greater (see: ; the Australian GDP in 2007 was about $1 trillion: ).

22. Garnaut review, Chapter 10, The Wider costs and benefits of climate change mitigation in Australia, p255, Human health: the Review IGNORES the huge positive impact on human health from cessation of fossil fuel burning (see item #21). Thus (p255): “While a significant proportion of the total adverse impacts on health from climate change were excluded from the economic analysis in Cha9ter 9, the Review does not consider this to be significant in terms of economic consequences. Even if the modelled cost discussed in Chapter 9 were to double to reflect the excluded impacts, the net economic consequences from climate change would still not be large. While the excluded health impacts are not considered represent large economic consequences they may represent considerable non-market effects”. The review makes similar comments in section 10.3 pp264-265 - however 7 x $27 billion = $189 billion is the estimated annual mortality plus morbidity costs from fossil fuel burning power station pollutants (see: ) and corresponds to about 19% of GDP]. WHO statistics (see: ) tell us that the “total medical expenditure” in Australia was US$3,001 and 8.8% of GDP in 2005, corresponding to 21 million x $3,001 = $63 billion.

23. Garnaut Review, Chapter 11, pp269-287, The International response to climate change to date - an assessment: the review faces up to the problem (albeit inexplicitly) : “Greenhouse emissions area global public “bad”. One country’s emissions affect all countries … To ensure compatibility, unilateral and regional schemes would need to be based around common guiding principles.” The really fundamental principles would be whether you have (a) positive CO2 emissions to some “target”; (b) zero emissions; or (c) negative CO2 emissions e.g. to no more than 350 ppm as advocated by Dr Hansen of NASA’s GISS and his colleagues (see: ). Unfortunately the Review ignores (b) and (c) without explanation – notwithstanding that these propositions are advanced by some of the world’s top climate scientists.

24. Garnaut Review, Chapter 12, pp289-308, Towards agreement on national and global emissions limits - the Review FAILS to posit the fundamentals of whether you have (a) positive CO2 emissions to some “target”; (b) zero emissions; or (c) negative CO2 emissions (see comments for item #23). The Review (p292) plumps for various versions of scenario (a) that are disastrous for Australia and the Planet by yielding 450 ppm (death of coral) or 550 ppm (destruction of phytoplankton, most ocean life and the Greenland ice sheet; devastation of mega-delta regions and coastal cities): “The review models two global mitigation scenarios, one less ambitious, the other more. The strong global mitigation case is a stabilisation scenarionat which the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere approaches 550 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) and stabilizes at around that level thereafter. The ambitious global mitigation case is an overshooting scenario , which peaks at around 500 ppm CO2-e and then stabilizes at around 450 ppm CO2-e. Any lower stabilization objective, for example at 400 ppm,CO2-e would need to involve a longer period of overshooting”.

Planetary disaster aside, this Review position has to be considered in relation to the expertly-informed EU position (p290): “The European Union, for example, has argued that global mean warming should not be allowed to exceed 20C from pre-industrial levels (Council of the European Union 2007)”. Unfortunately, while the IPCC (2007) has concluded that the temperature increase from a doubling of pre-industrial 280 ppm CO2 to 560 ppm CO2 “is likely to be in the range of 2 to 4.5 degrees with a best estimate about 3 degrees”.

At our present 387 ppm CO2 the average temperature has increased by 0.80C over the pre-industrial but there is a thermal inertia component of a further + 0.60C and positive feedback effects from the Arctic “albedo flip” may yield a further +0.30C i.e. we are already committed to about +1.70C at 387 ppm with global temperature increasing at about 0.250C per decade. Hansen and Sato suggest a “long-term” climate sensitivity of +60C (involving an ice-melting “albedo flip” as in the Pleistocene era) rather than the Charney-IPCC estimate of +30C for a doubling of CO2 (see Chapter 5, “Climate Code Red. The case for emergency action” by David Spratt and Philip Sutton, Scribe, Melbourne, 2008; Hansen, Sato et al: ).

In this crucial area the Review is not only IGNORING top US climate scientists but also the proscription of the expertly-informed EU.

25. Garnaut Review, Chapter 13, pp309-335, Deepening international collaboration - the Review states that “trade in emissions rights greatly to be preferred to trade in offset credits, which should be restricted”. However, while the “emissions rights” are “political” constructs that will typically IGNORE the real quantifiable environmental and human costs (e.g. as made quite clear in the Review itself), the “offset credits” are objectively and scientifically determined in terms of “net CO2 pollution”.

This point illustrates the importance of CO2 pollution policies being determined objectively by scientists rather than by economists and politicians (thus the Review IGNORES many objectively and scientifically assessed matters and the carefully considered positions top climate scientists such as NASA’s Dr James Hansen and top UK climate scientist Professor James Lovelock FRS: ; ; “The Revenge of Gaia” by James Lovelock).

26. Garnaut Review, Chapter 14, pp337-357, Australian mitigation: overview of the policy challenge – the Review borrows from Sir Nicholas Stern’s comment thus: “The Stern Review referred to climate change as “the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen (Stern 2007)”. In section 14.2 “Addressing the greatest market failure ever seen” (pp941-942) the Review opts for a mixture of supposedly “market” and “regulatory” approaches: “The options for meeting the policy objective – reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that reflects the atmosphere’s true scarcity value – are typically categorized as being either regulatory or market based. Within these two categories, numerous policy instruments can be applied.” The Review in opting for an Emissions Trading Scheme with nearly all the licence fees being used to subsidize carbon-based power IGNORES what is done elsewhere in relation to use of scarce common resources e.g. water.

Water scarcity is dealt with (at least in the cities if not with agriculture which consumes most of the available water) by rigorous (and publicly supported) restrictions to increase water use efficiency and by pricing water appropriately – although, unfortunately, minority vested interests determine that the unique Murray-Darling ecosystems are being sacrificed to private greed and political cowardice prevents the recycling that occurs in much, much wetter countries such as the UK.

Rational risk management involves a successive process of (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis and (c) informed systemic change. In relation to man-made climate change this would mean (s) recognizing expert scientific concerns e.g. the need to rescue atmospheric CO2 to no more than 350 ppm, the cost in Australian lives of coal burning, assessment of the “true cost” of coal burning based electricity generation (4-5 times the market cost); (b) scientific analysis of how to achieve this (e.g. cessation of coal mining and exports; cessation of subsidies for carbon-burning; cost-recovery for costs from coal burning; about $250 billion to make Australian electricity 100% non-carbon; energy efficiency and renewable uptake support measures; energy use restrictions; re-afforestation, biochar enrichment of soils) and (c) implementation.

The coal burning-dedicated Review IGNORES all of these rational risk management steps in favour of policies that permit continued coal mining and exports; a subsidy-perverted Emissions Trading Scheme as a mechanism to make non-carbon power more attractive; and continued enormous subsidy of coal burning .

27. Garnaut review Chapter 15, An Australian emissions trading scheme (ETS), pp359-402 – the Review describes a “Cap and Trade” ETS that is deeply flawed. Thus the “Cap” is an atmosphere CO2 concentration that ranges from 450 ppm (above which the Great Barrier Reef and indeed all coral around the world dies and 550 ppm (3-6 0C temperature rise and planetary devastation). The Review IGNORES expert US climate science opinion for a “cap” of no more than 350 ppm (that would mean ordering carbon polluters to clean up the mess of their making) or of the current 387 ppm (zero emissions; no pollution licences issued). A rational ETS would invest the licence fees in renewable or geothermal power (remember the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the Ord, the World War 2 national manpower and resources mobilization) – however the Review hands 80% of the fees back to subsidize “dirty energy” users and of the remaining 20%, half will go for research into “cleaner carbon burning”, leaving it up to “the market” to be encouraged to invest in non-carbon power.

2 critical flaws in the Review ETS are that (a) it IGNORES the reality that the “true cost” of coal-based power is about 4-5 times the “market price” (simple honest recognition of this would mean that an honestly informed market would rapidly implement a vastly cheaper non-carbon power system); and (b) it only deals with about half of the problem – it IGNORES Australia’s world leading coal exports that give Australia a “true” “annual per capita greenhouse pollution” of 47 tonnes per person as compared to about 5 for China and 1 for India (see: ).

Insider-trading and anti-price collusion legislation prohibits deception of investors and consumers and indeed applies draconian penalties. Similar legislation would dramatically clarify the climate emergency debate in Australia which is heavily influenced by industry and politicians to the exclusion of expert climate scientists. Indeed Dr James Hansen in a recent address to the US National Press Club and a briefing to the US House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming. Congressional Committee raised the issue of criminal prosecutions: “CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried fro hugh crimes against humanity and nature” (see: ).

28. Garnaut Review, Chapter 15, p380 – the Review stipulates that polluters would be able to borrow money “to use permits from the future” but notes “Eligibility – borrowers must be credit worthy”. It is well established in International and National Law that polluters are liable for the cost of the clean-up. Inspection of the huge human cost alone of fossil fuel burning-based electricity generation (0.3 million deaths world-wide annually at a cost of $1.5 trillion, with Australia a major culprit as the world’s number 1 coal exporter) casts serious doubt on the credit worthiness of the polluters (see: ).

29. Garnaut review Chapter 16, Research, development and innovation, pp403-426 - the Review (p406) repeatedly admits to climate change being “the greatest market failure ever seen” but insists on a “dirty energy”-subsidizing quasi-market scheme that discriminates against “clean energy”: “the emissions trading scheme [involving huge, non-market Government subsidies encompassing perhaps 90% of the licence fees] will create sufficient demand-pull for new low-emissions technology, and thus there is generally no need for any additional support for innovation at the market uptake stage.”

The discrimination in favour of “dirty energy” is enormous as proposed by the Review and is enormous now: (a) the “true cost” of fossil fuel-based power is 4-5 times the “market cost” i.e. carbon-based energy is hugely subsidized here in this sense; (b) there is a further $10 billion per annum in subsidies for fossil fuels; (c) the huge human cost is simply ignored; (d) the huge Australian contribution to global pollution through its world-leading coal exports is ignored. The reality – ignored by the Review – is that with the latest technological advances and economies of scale some already developed renewable technologies (notably CIGS and dye-based thin-film non-silicon photovoltaics, balloon-based solar collection for photovoltaics and and Ausra solar thermal) are now approaching the “market cost” of coal-based electricity generation –whereas the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) favoured by the non-scientist Reviewer is expensive, location-specific, non-timely and undeveloped (see: ).

30. Garnaut Review, Chapter 17, Network infrastructure market failures, pp427-442 – the Review wants infrastructure for electricity grids and “carbon dioxide transport” for the hypothetical CCS system but departs from the “pure market” by asserting that the Government (taxpayer) “Building Australia Fund should be extended to cover energy infrastructure” i.e. not even encouragement or subsidy of non-carbon power but huge Government subsidy (in addition to the existing and proposed subsidies for “dirty power”; see #29) for more carbon burning-based power.

31. Garnaut Review, Chapter 17, p428 – the Review states; “An emissions trading scheme will make higher-emissions forms of energy generation more expensive, shifting demand towards lower-emissions sources, and towards technologies that capture and sequester emissions”. However Figure 20.2 of the Review shows that the cost in cents/kWh of EXISTING wind technology is about the same as for the HYPOTHETICAL Carbon Capture and Storage systems.

The Review DOES say something useful in relation to feed-in tariffs for domestic energy production (p433) “A feed-in tariff based on gross metering [as in Germany and Spain] is thus a more accurate means of pricing these benefits” i.e. while “dirty energy” and its hypothetical “cleaner” coal burning versions can be heavily subsidized according to the Review, the only “subsidy” advocated for “clean energy” is a gross metering-based feed-in tariff because it is “more accurate” than the net metering feed-in tariff that obtain in Victoria.

32. Garnaut Review, Chapter 18, pp443-468, Information and agency barriers - the Review states (p443) that “There are significan toportunties for low-cost reductions in emissions across the Australian economy through the deployment of existing technologies and practices. These opportunities include energy efficiency and fuel switching in homes, industry and transport … Two kinds of market failures … One relates to the externalities in the supply of information and skills.”. Unfortunately the review IGNORES the opportunity to review INFORMATION on extraordinary advances in solar technologies that are bringing some very close to the “market cost” of coal-based electricity (however, by way of marked contrast, see the Yarra Valley Climate Action Group Climate Emergency Fact Sheets:; Climate Emergency, Sustainability Emergency: ; Climate Emergency Fact Sheets: ; “Climate Code Red” by David Spratt and Philip Sutton: ).

33. Garnaut Review, Chapter 19, pp469-478 – the Review admits (p469) that “Lower-income households spend much higher proportions of their incomes than other households on emissions-intensive products” and as a consequence allocates 50% of the ETS licence fees in a non-market scheme to subsidize the more expensive domestic “dirty” electricity consumption. More sensible and just would be for Government policy to favour uptake of the cheapest power technologies – and the cheapest non-carbon technologies are all cheaper than the “true cost” of coal -based power and in some cases approaching the “market price” of coal-based power (see #34 below).

34. Garnaut Review, Chapter 20, pp481-584, The Energy Transformation – Table 20.2 is very revealing – existing technology wind power is about the same price – about 6 cents/kWh - as hypothetical CCS coal-burning power technology but the Review shies away from reviewing the remarkable developments in “clean energy” technologies in favour of hypothetical “cleaner” coal CCS technologies. Why? Table 20.2 lists only one solar technology (Concentrated Solar Thermal) at 20 cents/kWh yet the new, large-scale, commercialized, Ausra Concentrated Solar Power (Solar Thermal) Compact Linear Fresnel (CLFR) system technology is already HALF that with lower cost to come with economies of scale: “Ausra claims that It can generate electricity for 10 cents/kWh now, under 8 cents/kWh in 3 yrs. It also claims that using Ausra’s current solar technologies, all U.S. electric power, day and night, can be generated using a land area smaller than 92 by 92 miles” (see: ; ; ; ; ; ).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Biofuel famine, biofuel genocide and the global food price crisis

Biofuel famine, biofuel genocide and the global food price crisis

Dr Gideon Polya

Lecture to Agricultural Science students, Tuesday 29 April, 2008.

1. Summary

The world is facing a global food price crisis that threatens billions of people in the developing world with famine. Prices for major food commodities such as wheat, rice, corn and soybean have doubled in the last year or so. The price of rice has doubled in the last 6 months. Food prices in US$ have been driven upwards through a combination of factors, notably: (1) the immoral (and net CO2 polluting) diversion of food for biofuel (impelled by global warming considerations, peak oil, increased oil prices, economics, US, EU and UK legislation); (2) US dollar decline; (3) oil price impact on agriculture costs; (4) anthropogenic global warming (and consequent intensified droughts); (5) increased demand for food (notably meat) from the new Asian giants; (6) fear, speculation and unilateralism.

Global non-observance of basic human “entitlement” (Amartya Sen) means that millions who cannot buy food will starve to death. History ignored yields history repeated - when the price of rice doubled and then finally quadruped 6-7 million starved to death in Bengal and adjoining Indian provinces in 1943-1945 in the “forgotten” Bengali Holocaust, the man-made Bengal Famine in British-ruled India during World War 2.

The solutions in general involve rational risk management involving (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis and (c) systemic change to reduce risk. The specific solutions involve: (1) cessation of the biofuel perversion (except for environmentally and morally acceptable biomass and algal systems); (2) cessation of Biosphere-threatening CO2 pollution (indeed negative CO2 emissions are required to reduce atmospheric CO2 to a safe and sustainable 300-350 ppm from the present unacceptable 385 ppm); (3) respect for Humanity and “food entitlement” for all on Spaceship Earth; (4) cessation of the Third World Holocaust (16 million avoidable deaths annually) e.g. by “economic efficiency credits” (countries such as Bangladesh or peoples such as Indigenous Australians modestly rewarded for high efficiency and low impact on the Biosphere) and other measures to limit population and Biosphere impact.

2. Rational risk management

Rational Risk Management (RRM) successively involves (a) getting accurate data, (b) scientific analysis (science involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses) and (c) systemic change, involving setting up systems such that when Nature or fallible humans inevitably cause a dangerous situation the system is better able to minimize risk.

All too prevalent “spin” and “politicized” responses in society pervert RRM by (a) lies, slies (spin-based untruths), censorship, intimidation, self-censorship, white-washing, (b) anti-science spin involving the use of selected asserted “facts” to support a partisan position, and (c) “blame and shame”, picking convenient culprits for public punishment, thereby inhibiting reportage (war being the ultimate expression of this perverted approach).

For details of a recent course I gave on Risk Management, Science and Denial see: .

3. Avoidable mortality (excess death)

Excess death (excess mortality, avoidable mortality, avoidable death, death that should not happen) and other measures of undesirable outcome (e.g. under-5 infant mortality) can be used to measure the success or otherwise of local, national or global policies. For a country in a given period, excess death (avoidable death, avoidable mortality, excess mortality, deaths that should not have happened) is the difference between the ACTUAL deaths in a country and the deaths EXPECTED for a peaceful, decently governed country with the same demographics (see: ).

Using detailed UN Population Division demographic data I have calculated the avoidable mortality for every country in the world since 1950 in 5-year periods (pentades). The results are horrendous but have been corroborated by independent calculations of the post-1950 under-5 infant mortality for every country in the world since 1950 (see: “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: and ).

The big picture is as follows: the 1950-2005 avoidable mortality has totalled 1.3 billion for the world, 1.2 billion for the non-European world and 0.6 billion for the Muslim world – a Muslim Holocaust 100 times greater than the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (6 million victims) or the WW2 man-made Bengal Famine in British-ruled India (6-7 million victims in Bengal and adjoining provinces; 1941-1951 demographic deficit 10 million; regional deaths associated with rice price-driven famine in Bengal and adjoining states of Bihar, Orissa and Assam: 6-7 million according to Dr Sanjoy Bhattacharya of the Wellcome Institute, University College, London; essentially deleted from British history) (see: BBC transcript of “The Bengal Famine”: ; ABC transcript of “Bengali Famine”: ; “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998): ).

These horrendous figures are consonant with the post-1950 under-5 infant mortality which has totalled about 0.88 billion for the world, 0.85 billion for the non-European world and about 0.4 billion for the Muslim world (for relevant tables see the Appendix here: ).

4. Nuclear, greenhouse and poverty threats and their solutions

According to Dr John Holdren, the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the world’s biggest general scientific association) the acute threats facing the world are (a) nuclear weapons, (b) global warming and (c) poverty (see: and ).

(a) Nuclear weapons

The 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world today threaten complete annihilation of humanity and there is increased risk from conflicts arising from global warming and poverty.

However Dr Tillman Ruff (Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Melbourne) says that the technical problem of nuclear disarmament has been solved: “A large body of authoritative reports from the 1996 Canberra Commission, to the 2006 Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, describe how, through a series of binding, timebound, irreversible steps, nuclear weapons can be abolished. There are no insurmountable technical or legal obstacles. What is lacking is visionary leadership and the groundswell of irresistible pressure from mobilised citizens to make it happen.” (see “Abolishing weapons of terror”: ) .

(b) Global warming and climate change

According to the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Synthesis Report, unaddressed CO2 pollution and global warming will have a devastating effect on global malnutrition and poverty (see: and see ). According the Professor David Pimentel (2004) of Cornell University, New York, global malnutrition and poverty will be an “unimaginable” problem by 2054 (see: ), already pollution of the soil, water and air kills about 40% of the world’s population and 57% of the world’s population of 6.5 billion is already malnourished (see: ).

The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report (literature cut-off date 2005) may have under-estimated the threat. Runaway Climate Change is an acute threat NOW as perceived by Dr James Hansen (Head, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York): at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 385 ppm the world has already reached a “tipping point” for complete loss of Arctic summer ice (some scientists say in about 5 years’ time) with huge implications for polar warming, Greenland, West Antarctic and tundra melting, further “positive feedbacks” (e.g. melt water glacier lubrication; the albedo flip of black light–absorbing water replacing white, light-reflecting ice and snow; melting tundra methane and CO2 emissions; forest fires) and major sea level rises of ultimately about 20 metres (see “Climate Code Red”: ).

Even very small increases in average temperature of circa 10C above the 2000 value (already 0.80C above the pre-industrial) can damage agriculture and bioproductivity, notably in the tropical and sub-tropical zones; at 450 ppm the coral reefs will die from ocean over-acidification; according to Professor James Lovelock FRS at 500 ppm phytoplankton photosynthetic productivity in the oceans (crucial for ocean bioproductivity and for cloud formation via dimethylsulphide production) goes into crisis.

Dr James Hansen: “There is strong evidence that the Earth is within 1oC of its highest temperature in the past million years. Oxygen isotopes in the deep sea foraminifera reveal that the earth was last 2oC to 3oC warmer [relative to 2000] around 3 million years ago, with carbon dioxide levels of perhaps 350 to 450 parts per million. It was a dramatically different planet then, with no Arctic sea ice in the warm seasons and sea levels about 25 metres higher, give or take 10 metres.” (quoted in “Climate Code Red”: ).

The atmosphere is ALREADY at 385 ppm CO2 and CO2 concentration is increasing at about 2.5 ppm per year; global average temperature is about 0.8oC above the pre-industrial and increasing at about 0.3oC per decade with an in-built “thermal inertia” due to existing GHG pollution of the atmosphere of about 0.6oC and the possibility of another 0.3oC due to “positive feedback effects”. The world is currently STILL on track with the “worst case” greenhouse scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

If you plot sea level (in metres) versus global mean temperature (oC) (see Figure 2, “Climate Code Red”) there is a remarkably linear relationship as you go from the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago (sea level minus 120 metres relative to today’s sea level, global mean temperature 9.5oC), to TODAY (15oC), to the Pliocene 3 million years ago (sea level plus 20 metres, mean temperature 18oC) and the Eocene 40 million years ago (sea level plus 80 metres, mean temperature 19oC). The IPCC projection for sea level rise is less than 1 metre rise by about 18oC (clearly a big underestimate) and a temperature rise predicted to be 3oC this century on a “business as usual” scenario means a 20 metre rise in sea level.

If you accept that the catastrophic loss of Arctic summer sea ice means that 385 ppm CO2 is too much (see report of Dr Hansen’s lecture to the American Geophysical Union in December 2007: ) then what is needed is a “Negative CO2 emissions” policy of urgent cessation of GHG pollution through a rapid shift to already available renewable technologies plus mechanisms for reducing the existing CO2 in the atmosphere (re-afforestation, putting biomass-derived biochar back in the soil and further mechanisms for global cooling if necessary e.g. SO2 aerosols if need be as suggested by Dr Hansen) (for suggested solutions see: , and ).

Here are some estimates of the cost in Australian cents per kilowatt-hour (Ac/kWh) of various sources of electricity (for a detailed discussion see “Renewables: how the numbers stack up” in New Matilda: ):

3-4 — coal, Australia;

18 — the real cost of coal, taking into account the environmental and health impact; according to a conservative Canadian Ontario Ministry of Energy Report (CAN$0.164);

15 — nuclear via the UK’s newest Sizewell B plant;

7.5-8.5 — wind power, Australia;

15 — concentrated solar power or CSP;

25-45 — standard silicon-based photovoltaics (PVs).

However recent advances means we must add the following to the list:

4 – the price of solar PV is set to fall dramatically to compete directly with the current “market price” of coal due to balloon, sliver and non-silicon PV technology advances. The non-silicon organic thin film technology developed by US Nobel Laureate Alan Heeger and his South Korean colleagues will reduce the cost of installing photovoltaic (PV) capacity by a factor of 20; the Swiss ETH CIGS non-silicon thin film system may be competitive with coal within 5 years (a related US Nanosolar technology is in mass production: ); Australian sliver silicon PV technology will drop silicon solar panel costs threefold. In particular, the Californian balloon solar capture technology is predicted to make PV solar competitive with “market price” coal by 2010 (see “Solar energy & the end of war. US balloon technology to slash solar energy cost 90% by 2010”: ).

4 – Australian geothermal. According to Professor John Veevers (“The Innamincka hot fractured rock project” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics”, editor Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007; also see energy cost-related related chapters by Dr Gideon Polya “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality”, Dr Mark Diesendorf “A sustainable energy future for Australia”, and Martin Mahy “Hydrogen Minibuses”): “Modelled costs are 4 cents per kilowatt hour, plus half to 1 cent for transmission to grid. This compares with 3.5 cents for black coal, 4 cents for brown coal, 4.2 cents for gas, but all with uncosted emissions. Clean coal, the futuristic technology of coal gasification combined with CO2 sequestration or burial, yet to be demonstrated, comes in at 6.5 cents, and solar and wind power at 8 cents.”

Further, wave, tidal, biomass and biofuel energy technologies are renewable technologies competitive with the “true cost” of fossil fuels. Australia’s huge reserves of economic geothermal power are expertly assessed to have the capacity to provide most of Australia’s energy needs for the best part of a millennium and Australia is blessed with huge solar, tidal, wave and wind resources.

Nuclear is not an option –it is expensive, dangerous, can be very CO2 polluting and there are limited supplies of cheap uranium oxide.

(c) Poverty and excess death from deprivation

Avoidable mortality is fundamentally due to violence, deprivation, disease and lying (i.e. fundamental violation of rational risk management by untruth, spin and expedience instead of accurate data, scientific analysis and informed systemic change). 16 million people die avoidably each year of whom about 9.5 million are under-5 year old infants (see Appendix data).

Intolerance of dishonesty, bigotry and violence, respect for human rights, international law and our common environment and commitment to truth and a modestly decent life for everyone will end the global avoidable mortality holocaust and ensure that it will never be repeated.

In addition to modest improvements in economic wellbeing (in 2003 an annual per capita income of US $1,300 for Cuba, together with peace, high female literacy, good governance and good primary health care enabled an infant mortality of 0.17%, the same as in the US with an annual per capita income of US$38,000). In 2003 to bring all countries up to an annual per capita income of US$1,000 would have cost US$1.4 trillion or about 2.5% of the Global GDP of $55 trillion (the annual global market value then was about $1 trillion each for 5 things we do not need – arms; alcohol, tobacco; illicit drugs; unhealthy processed food). Of course highly focussed educational, infrastructure and agricultural inputs can do this even more cheaply. Modest economic security and low infant mortality coupled with female literacy has the effect of reducing population growth.

A specific suggestion related to “carbon credits” is for a system of “economic efficiency credits” with countries such as Bangladesh or peoples such as Indigenous Australians being modestly rewarded for high efficiency and low impact on the Biosphere) and other measures to limit population and Biosphere impact (see: ).

5. Biofuel crisis

The World is facing a global food price crisis and looming mass starvation in the Developing World. The price of rice has doubled in 3 months and the price of wheat has doubled in one year. The huge increases in the price of staples such as wheat and rice are being driven by legislatively-mandated US, UK and EU diversion of food for biofuel; climate change and decreased agricultural productivity due to both inundation and drought; oil price hikes and increased costs of production; and globalization which means that 4 billion impoverished and under-fed people compete in the market place for those with the money to buy food to drive their cars or for grain-fed meat (see: and ).

Already 16 million people due avoidably each year (9.5 million being under-5 year old infants) from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease on a Spaceship Earth dominated by a profligate and unresponsive First World (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ) – and this is increasingly being impacted by climate change through drought, increased temperature and mega-delta inundation by storm surges.

The worst Developed World GHG offenders are the US, Canada and Australia as can be seen from this comparison of “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution” (2004 data from the US Energy Information Administration: ) in tonnes CO2/person which is 19.2 (for Australia; 40 if you include Australia’s coal exports), 19.7 (the US), 18.4 (Canada), 9.9 (Japan), 4.2 (the World), 3.6 (China), 1.0 ( India) and 0.25 (for Bangladesh) (see “Climate Emergency, Sustainability Emergency”: ).

According to Sir Nicholas Stern as quoted by the Guardian (2007): “[for these countries annual average CO2] emissions a head are more than 20 tonnes each year, with European citizens producing 10-15 tonnes each. In China it is about five tonnes, in India about one, and in Africa less than one tonne each” (see: ).

However the problems of Third World countries are now being impacted by “peak oil” and the biofuel perversion of using food to drive cars and trucks in a starving world. Indeed in the ultimate obscenity Richard Branson’s Virgin airline has recently used biofuel to partly fuel a flight from London to Amsterdam, an act that drew critical condemnation from environmentalists (see: ). In short, diversion of agricultural land for biofuel has three major problems. Biofuel (A) drives up the world price of food in a global marketplace; (B) can be associated with a huge “carbon debt” from release of soil carbon, whether from ploughed savannah or from deforested land; and (C) is currently associated with huge ecosystem damage. Let us consider these 3 problems in succession .

(A) Biofuel perversion is driving up global food prices

The United States is currently using about 9% of its wheat, 25% of its corn and about 15% of its grain in general to produce biofuel. The United Kingdom (UK) has committed to large increases in the use of biofuels over coming decades, has recently announced subsidies for biofuel and supports the European Commission (EU) target requiring 10 per cent of petrol station fuel to be plant-derived biofuel within 12 years. However the huge and intrinsically genocidal current US diversion of 15% of its grain crop to biofuel production has had a huge impact already on soaring global food prices – the world is already facing a global food crisis with alarm being expressed by UN, FAO and other scientific experts. Simple Google searches for “global food crisis”, ”world food price crisis” and related phrases reveals massive current concerns.

The US expanded renewable fuels standard (RFS) requires 8.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2008 and progressively increases to a 36 billion gallon requirement by 2022 (see: ).

The UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington CMG, FRS (Professor of Applied Population Biology at Imperial College, London.) has described the devastating potential of food shortages as an "elephant in the room" problem commensurate with that from climate change and warns that biofuel diversion (e.g. for canola oil- or palm oil-derived biodiesel and grain- or sugar-derived ethanol) is threatening world food production and the lives of “billions” (see:,25197,23336840-11949,00.html ).

Recently Finance Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has said that it is "outrageous" that developed countries are turning food crops into biofuels while billions of people in the developing countries are living on the edge and trying to cope with escalating food prices (see: ).

Numerous Mainstream media reports are describing how we now have a global food crisis with the spectre of widespread famine due to escalating grain and food prices – in a harsh, globalized market place those that cannot afford to buy food will simply starve unless rescued. Yet the UN and FAO are finding it acutely difficult to rescue such people. These food price rises in turn are because of the huge US and indeed Western biofuel diversion, complicated by climate change (impacting on drought in Australia and Canada), weather (e.g. too much rain the US), hedging speculation and diversion for livestock production.

The New York Times has recently reported that “rising prices and a growing fear of scarcity have prompted some of the world’s largest rice producers to announce drastic limits on the amount of rice they export. The price of rice, a staple in the diets of nearly half the world’s population, has almost DOUBLED on international markets in the last three months. That has pinched the budgets of millions of poor Asians and raised fears of civil unrest” (New York Times, March 29, 2008 “High rice cost raising fears of Asia unrest”: ).

There have been food riots over food prices recently in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Rice export bans by rice-exporting nations (Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt and India) have raised world rice prices even more (see: ) .

The price of a wheat flour-based “roti” in Pakistan has doubled in the last year and food scarcity is of major concern to the UN and UN Agencies such as FAO (see “2008 – the Year of Global Food Crisis”: ) .

For an ALARMING graph of world food and wheat prices in recent years see the following report by Australian economists showing that the price of wheat in US dollars has DOUBLED in the last year: . Part of this is due to the falling value of the US dollar but the alarming message is clear.

These food price rises are fuelled by the huge US and indeed Western (UK, EU) biofuel diversion PLUS Greenhouse Gas (GHG) pollution-driven climate change (impacting on drought e.g. in Australia and Canada), weather (e.g. too much rain in the US), hedging investor speculation, oil price impacts on production costs and diversion of food for livestock production for “rich” people who can afford it (not just in the West but also in the burgeoning Asian economies of China and India).

A sad commentary is given by Dr Lester Brown (January, 2008; see: ): “Whereas previous dramatic rises in world grain prices were weather-induced, this one is policy-induced and can be dealt with by policy adjustments. The crop fuels program that currently satisfies scarcely 3 percent of U.S. gasoline needs is simply not worth the human suffering and political chaos it is causing. If the entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into ethanol, it would satisfy scarcely 18 percent of our automotive fuel needs.”

(B) Biofuel production is currently associated with huge CO2 pollution

Advocates of biofuel argued that it was “green” because the CO2 deriving from biofuel combustion is cancelled out by the CO2 sequestered by solar energy-driven photosynthesis. However this facile analysis ignores the release of carbon from the soil due to ploughing; loss of CO2 sequestration as a result of de-forestation; and other CO2-pollution inputs into biofuel production such as fertilizer manufacture, transport and mechanical agriculture.

Two major studies by US scientists and published in the prestigious US scientific journal Science have revealed the huge “carbon debt” associated with mainstream agricultural production of biofuels.

Timothy Searchinger and colleagues (“Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change”, Science 29 February 2008, Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1238 – 1240: ) have found the following:

“Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.”

Joseph Fargione and colleagues (“Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt”, Science 29 February 2008, Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1235 – 1238: ) have made even more dramatic findings:

“Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food crop–based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on degraded and abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and can offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages.”

Biofuels can be renewable if derived from biomass from waste land e.g. through gasification of biomass to carbon monoxide (CO ) and hydrogen (H2) (see: ) and then subsequent Fischer-Tropsch catalytic conversion to hydrocarbons (see: ) or from oils from growth of prokaryotic organisms (cyanobacteria or blue-green algae) or eukaryotic organisms ( green and red algae) (see: ).

However in the context of horrendous global poverty, a major decline in grain production, huge increases in grain price and increasing diversion of grain for biofuel generation (see: ), current means of biofuel production from human foods (sugar- and grain-derived ethanol, palm oil-, canola- and other oil-derived biodiesel) is a perversion and a crime against humanity, the more so when alternative cheap, efficient renewable energy options are technically already available (e.g. solar energy-based hydrogen-driven transport).

(C ) Biofuel production is devastating the biosphere

As outlined in (B) above, biofuel production is increasing CO2 pollution. The US Energy Information Administration gives a year-by-year summary of fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution for every country in the world (see: ). However greenhouse gas pollution (methane, CH4, nitrous oxide, N2O, and carbon dioxide, CO2) comes not just from burning hydrocarbons and coal but also from land use – specifically, agriculture, vegetative decomposition and animal husbandry. A 2000 list of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita provides data with and without this land use component (see: ). Land use contributes about 20% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Thus out of 185 countries my own country Australia ranked 9th worst (with land use change) and 5th (without land use change). The tonnes of “CO2 equivalent” per person per year were 25.9 (with) and 25.6 (without land use change) for Australia, indicating the preponderant importance of fossil fuel burning to Australia’s “score”. However the land use component is very large for de-foresting countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Deforestation contributes about 15-20% of annual CO2 pollution in the world. Yet according to Sir Nicholas Stern: "For $10-15bn (£4.8-7.2bn) per year, a programme could be constructed that could stop up to half the deforestation” (see: ).

In addition to playing a vital role in global temperature homeostasis, forest ecosystems are sources for invaluable pharmaceutical resources (see my recent huge reference book: Gideon Polya, “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects”, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003: ).

At an even more fundamental level, Balmford et al in the prestigious scientific journal Science (see “Economic reasons for preserving wild nature”: ) have estimated that for a variety of “biomes” (ecological systems) the total economic value (TEV) is about 50% greater when the resource is used sustainably as opposed to destructive conversion. Further, these scientists have found that the economic benefit from preserving what is left of wild nature is OVER 100 TIMES greater than the cost of preservation.

However over-riding these economic concerns is the fundamental concern over species extinction – the rate of mammal extinction is already one thousand times greater than for the fossil record (see: ). We have no right to destroy the irreplaceable biodiversity that is the common property of the world and indeed of the universe.

6. Biofuel famine (2008) versus Bengal Famine (1943-1945)

The world is already seeing the commencement of a re-run - on a possibly 100-fold greater scale - of the man-made World War 2 Bengali Holocaust in which 6-7 million people perished in Bengal and in the adjoining provinces of Assam, Bihar and Orissa under the merciless British “scorched earth policy” when the price of rice doubled and finally doubled again (see: ).

Ten years ago I published a book entitled “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: ) in which I described horrendous man-made, market-forces famines in British-ruled India from the 1769-1770 Great Bengal Famine (10 million deaths or one third of the Bengali population) to the World War 2 Bengal Famine (6-7 million deaths in the Bengal region).

These catastrophes have been deliberately erased from British history and from general public perception – leading to the acute danger of History ignored yielding History repeated. My pleas for action to prevent further such catastrophes have fallen on deaf ears. Bengal is now acutely threatened not only from biofuel-driven global food price rises but also from inundation from global-warming-driven sea level rises. I am revising my book for a 2008 second edition that in itself will be a further testament to “History ignored yields History repeated”.

In January 2008 I took part in a BBC radio broadcast about the “forgotten”, 6-7 million victim World War 2 Bengal Famine (WW2 Bengali Holocaust) that also involved 1998 Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen (Harvard, formerly Cambridge University, UK), Dr Sanjoy Bhattacharya (medical historian, Wellcome Institute, University College London) and other scholars (see: ).

Yet history ignored, the world is facing a vastly greater catastrophe.

The current catastrophic global food price rises are due to a combination of legislatively mandated biofuel diversion; global warming (and likely related drought); oil price hikes; a declining US dollar; oil price hikes and increased costs of production; globalization and increased demand for food and grain-fed meat; and market uncertainty enhanced by unilateralist cessation f food exports.

However the ultimate 4-fold increase in the market price of rice in WW2 Bengal arose from a variety of factors but before listing these it is important to note that according to Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen there WAS food available to prevent starvation but cashed up Calcutta was in a war-time boom and effectively sucked food out of a starving , rice-producing countryside.

Factors that led to the huge price rise included: loss of rice imports from Japanese-occupied Burma; greatly decreased grain imports into India; Churchill’s European city bombing policies that led to a loss of shipping in the Atlantic, followed by compensatory mandated decrease in shipping in the Indian Ocean; policy from 1941 of provincial autonomy in food supplies; local storm and fungal infestation events; heavy-handed British seizure of boats vital for food acquisition and transport; hoarding and fear.

According to General Wavell (Viceroy of India and who pleaded in vain for help) the Bengal Governor Australian R.G. Casey told him that the Argentinians had burned 2 million tons of wheat to run their railways at the time of the Bengal Famine, there being a wartime coal shortage. In 2008 Europeans are compulsorily using food as fuel while millions starve (see Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History: ) .

I made the following general methodological point at the end of the BBC program: “This isn’t simply an argument about rubbing out history. Scientists can help society through what is called rational risk management. It successively involves A, getting the accurate data. B, doing a scientific analysis. And then C, recognising this, taking action, changing the system, whether it’s a national system or a global system, to avoid a repetition.”

However Professor Amartya Sen concluded the program with the following profound point: “I think the fact that famines happen when they’re so extraordinarily easy to prevent – nothing in the world is easier to prevent – affects me. Being a Bengali I can’t say that it adds especially to that because this seems to me to be a basic human sympathy at seeing suffering all across the world which are completely needless.” All decent people around the world must speak out to prevent this mounting, NEEDLESS global famine tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.

Some references

Balmford et al. (2002), Economic Reasons for Conserving Wild Nature, Science 9 August 2002: 950; see:

Brown, L.R. (2008), Why ethanol production will drive world guel prices even higher in 2008, Earth Policy Institute; see: .

Lovelock, J. (2006), The Revenge of Gaia. Why the Earth is fighting back and we can still save humanity (Allen Lane, London).

Mason, C. (2000), A Short History of Asia (Macmillan, London)

Polya, G.M. (1998), Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History (Polya, Melbourne): .

Polya, G.M. (2003), Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects (Taylor & Francis, New York & London)

Polya, G.M. (2007), Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950 (G.M. Polya, Melbourne) (see: and ).

Reason, J. (2000), Human error: models and management, British Medical Journal, vol. 320, pp768-770

Snow, C.P. (1961), Science and Government (The New English Library, London)

Spratt, D. & Sutton, P. (2008), Climate Code Red – the case for a sustainability emergency” (Friends of the Earth, Melbourne).