The IPCC report is pretty simple. We have to cut emissions drastically in the next ten years to maintain some kind of climate stability. We cannot have more new coal mines or gas fields, or we have to make those new fields produce zero emissions. Even then it may not be enough.

The Australian government’s response has been odd.

From the minister for emissions reduction:

  • He praises the adoption of solar by homes and business – which has mainly been encouraged by the States and people acting on their own.
  • He claims Australia is going to be “a leader in the next generation of low-emissions technologies that will make net zero emissions practically achievable.” This seems to be backed by hope, not evidence.
  • and says “We are reducing emissions in a way that transforms industries through the power of technology, not through taxes that destroy them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create.” By this he means they are supporting Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which does not work, hydrogen made from gas with CCS and increasing soil carbon which while good, will not fix the problem .

The PM started his day by blaming developing countries for the problem:

We must take action, as we indeed are, and continue to take action, as we will continue to, in developed countries, in advanced economies. But, we cannot ignore the fact that the developing world accounts for two thirds of global emissions, and those emissions are rising. That is a stark fact. It is also a clear fact that China’s emissions account for more than the OECD combined…. Unless we can get the change in the developing countries of the world, then what we’re seeing in these IPCC reports will occur.

I think that is pretty clear. The developing countries are to blame. Not us, thank goodness, even if we are among the world’s biggest gas and coal exporters.

not to say that we should be posing taxes on this, these countries.

Putting tariffs on high per capita emissions countries would affect exports from Australia, this may even affect Australian income – it may not depending on how much tax, royalties and local wages these exports pay for.

His solution to the problem is hope:

World history teaches one thing, technology changes everything. That is the game changer. Governments, political leaders can pretend to these things but, I’ll tell you what makes the difference, technology changes on the ground. And, that is why our approach is technology, not taxes, to solving this problem. It’s not enough for the technology to work with a tax in an advanced economy.

I suspect that world history, if it teaches anything, teaches that societies which fail to recognise their problems collapse. But again the immediate point, we don’t want our exports to be taxed because we are freeloading on emissions, and costs.

what’s important is that we ensure that the technology breakthroughs that are necessary to transform the world over the next 10, 20 and 30 years are realised.

I’ve said this many times but let me say it again. Just because we would like a technology that solves all our problems to exist does not mean:

  • it will come to exist
  • it will come to exist before it is too late to solve the problem
  • It will work at the scale we need
  • people will want to use it
  • It will not be too expensive to use
  • It will not have many unintended and deleterious consequences

Technology is not magic or wish fulfillment.

I could do with a couple of million dollars to move to a safer location from climate change. It does not mean it will happen – even if I tried.

The great thing about imaginary technology is that it can do anything, there are no physical boundaries or limits which cannot be overcome, and there is therefore no need to make any potentially painful changes.

the day before we spoke about COVID, and we talked about how science and technology is helping us, in fact, enabling us to ultimately beat COVID-19.

True, although vaccines are a known and largely working technology. They are not a technology we do not have yet, and as far as I can tell the vaccines we have will not enable us to “beat COVID-19”, they enable us to lessen the effect for a while. To be fair to the PM, later in the press conference he states “you can’t eliminate COVID.”

Even so, people can resist the technology, including the members of the government. Not only do some not recognise Covid is a problem, they don’t recognise climate change is a problem. If enough people don’t risk taking the vaccine, the vaccines will not work. If the vaccine roll out is too slow, or leaves vulnerable parts of the population uncovered, then it will not work well. New forms of covid will develop and people will die. I suspect we cannot wait for technologies which do not exist, before using the ones we have.

However, we will win, because:

Australia has a strong track record of performance, and we intend for that to continue to increase in the years ahead.

Actually we have a terrible record with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which is one of the Government’s chosen technologies. Like the rest of the world, we don’t have a working energy generator with CCS installed, and significantly lowering emissions. We have thrown money at the idea, masses of money, to save coal exports, but the coal industry was not interested.

Our commitments are backed up by plans, and we don’t make them lightly.

Probably more truthful to say we don’t make plans, we don’t make targets. After all, the Deputy Prime Minister has said:

Until you lay down a plan, and show us the costs, you haven’t arrived at a point of consideration. Now, show us the plan, show us the cost and we’re happy to consider it and the National Party  room will do that.

quoted by Martin. Barnaby Joyce says Nationals won’t commit to net zero carbon emissions without seeing ‘menu’. The Guardian 18 July 2021 see also an interview with Fran Kelly ABC 11 August

So presumably those plans don’t exist. We do have aspirations that we can exceed targets by boosting gas and without losing any exports of fossil fuels. Yes, we can export more gas, and burn more gas and get lower global emissions. That is fantasy. No one has the CCS to store the greenhouse gases, that the gas mining and burning is emitting. So we are increasing world emissions.

We will set out a clear plan, as we have been working to do.

Ok, the Prime Minister admits we don’t have a plan, but we might have one some time.

He then attacks protesters who peacefully wrote ‘Duty of Care’ on various walls and buildings in Canberra…

I’ll tell you what the Australian way isn’t, the Australian way is not what we have seen with the vandalism in our capital today. I don’t associate, in any way, shape or form, that foolishness with the good-hearted nature of Australians who care deeply about this issue, as I do and my Government does. I don’t associate them with this. They have no part with that foolishness today, any more than we’ve seen in other selfish protests around this country.

Sorry I’m not going to get indignant about people protesting against government policy, and I doubt anyone outside of Skynews will.

We need the technological changes that will transform the global energy economy of the world. It’s not good enough for it to just happen to Australia and the United States and in Europe. It must happen in these other countries, and they must have prosperity.

So it is the developing world’s fault again – nothing to do with the gas and coal we are selling.

Let me repeat. Just because a technological change would be nice, that does not mean it will happen.

The Minister for emissions reduction gets a speech now. He says, the IPCC report

underscores the importance of practical solutions to bring down global emissions, find those pathways that allow countries across the globe to strengthen their economy, at the same time as they’re bringing down emissions.

It might be thought that the main practical solution is to cut back on making the emissions in the first place, not increasing them through increased mining.

And the pathway to do that is technology, not taxes, not defacing buildings.

I’m glad they get so worked up about slogans on buildings. It must mean something. I guess protesters should shut up, because protest does not help.

By the way government supported technological research has to raise money from somewhere, and that somewhere is the taxpayer. At the moment, it appears that taxpayers’ money is being used to support fossil fuels, or attempts to keep fossil fuels viable.

The technology investments that we know solve hard problems, have been solving hard problems for humans for a long, long time.

How often do we have to repeat technology is not magic. CCS has been around since 1976 at least. It has not worked well enough, no matter how much we would like it to.

We have the highest rate of installed solar PV in the world. One in four houses in Australia with solar on their roofs.

True, but the government decided that emissions free technologies were now established, and taxpayers needed to support new technologies like gas pipelines and fracking. I’m not quite sure how long we have been using gas for heating, but I presume it must be more recent than solar, or perhaps they are just directing taxpayers’ money to friends, or they have a weird sense of innovation…. It all looks suspiciously like “Imaginary or established technology and taxes”.

we will lead the world on healthy soils, energy storage, Snowy 2, a huge storage project to make sure that not only can we absorb the record renewables investment in our grid

Putting carbon back in Australia’s destroyed soils is good, but how much carbon do we have to put in the soil to make a difference to emissions? Is it possible to do that? Where is the carbon coming from? Does it look like we will do that? How will Snowy 2 (pumped hydro) work if we have drought and low snow falls? What powers the pumps?

also bringing down emissions with flexible dispatchable storage.

I think everyone now knows that by ‘dispatchable’ storage the government does not mean batteries, but gas power. For example the government stopped the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility from supporting a wind power and battery development in North Queensland and favoured a gas development, because they did not consider the stored energy from wind and battery to be dispatchable and, perhaps more importantly, the development was inconsistent with their goals and policies.

A journalist bravely asks where is the modelling? We might want to know how you model non-existing technology?

The PM replies

We need more performance. We need more technology. And, no one will be matching our ambition for a technology driven solution, because I believe that’s what will work.

Yep we need more vroom. Vroom is good. Vroom is better than modeling. Vroom predicts the future.

The PM then talks about transparency of emissions. Yes that is good, but not everyone agrees that Australia is transparent, or that the government is not engaged in some pretense about figures. For example coal use has not declined very much – it is still over 60% of the energy supply, and if you take out decreased rates of land clearing then emissions have increased.

The PM also claims:

We are the only country to our knowledge, that engages in the transparency of reporting our emissions reductions, every sector, every gas, every quarter. No other country, to our knowledge, does that. 

We perhaps are living in fantasy land here. Next day Pat Conroy will ask in the House:

Is the prime minister seriously telling the House he has no idea that the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands have published quarterly greenhouse gas emissions statistics for years?

Australia Covid live news updates The Guardian 12 August: 14.34

I gather from the answer from Angus Taylor, that they either didn’t know this, or they hoped no one would notice it was wrong.

Back to the Press conference. Another journalist points out that mining magnate Andrew Forest says the report shows humans are slowly cooking themselves, but that Matt Canavan, a member of the government, says the coal assumptions in the report are overstated and therefore the numbers can’t be trusted.

As an addition it appears Mr Canavan condemned the “absolute panic merchant material that we get from the IPCC these days.” Presumably because he knows better than the people who study climate change for a living.

The PM replies

The Government’s policy is clear and the Government’s position is very clear. We need to take action to address climate change and are.

Presumably he is taking the position that if you say something often enough it must be true. He also states:

in fact, it’s everybody in this building’s job to take all Australians forward with us on this

I guess no dissent or querying is to be allowed. He does point to an important possible truth. That there are people:

who have great anxieties about these changes and what it means for them. Will they have a job? Will their kids have a job? Will their electricity prices go up?

There are also people who wonder if their houses will burn down again. If they will have enough water for their farms and families. If they can survive days of the heat that we have reached. If they can survive another ‘one in one hundred year flood’. If their houses will have high tides running through them. What will happen if another unseasonable storm blows trees and powerlines down and so on. However, these people apparently do not need to be mentioned.

Yes, there is a problem, but you can’t just look at one side of the problem and ignore the other. And you could recognise that jobs, and living without jobs, is affected by more than policies intended to deal with climate change – neoliberal economics for example.

The PM goes on to assure people that Australia will beat its low targets for 2030, and we don’t need higher targets.

We will meet and beat our targets and we will update what we expect to achieve by 2030, as we always do. And we will make that very clear about what Australia is achieving and what we intend to achieve

So targets will be achieved without targets. Certainly if you don’t have targets, you cannot fail to achieve them. Lets scrap exams, and scrap KPIs. I think that would make many people happier. It could be a good general policy, but I suspect that it will remain with climate change alone.

Australia’s old targets are for a decrease in emissions of 26% from the levels of 2005 by 2030. On the other hand G7 countries are supposed to be making cuts of between 40% and 63% by 2030. We don’t even have aspirational targets for 2050, just a preference that we achieve something, but no problems if we don’t.

The minister for Emissions reduction adds

We have an extraordinary track record of beating those projections and we’ll update them this year, as we always do.

I guess this is updating the projections rather than the targets.

The PM then adds that there will be no target for agriculture because he does not want rural Australia to carry all the burden – which I suspect is not being suggested by anyone. And if there are no targets and no benefits for soil carbon, how well will it work?

Again the solution is technological magic.

My approach is finding practical solutions to what are very practical problems. And that practical problem is ensuring that the technology that works here needs to work in other parts of the world and we’re positioning Australia to be in the forefront of that. And our hydrogen strategy, our carbon capture and storage, our soil carbon, all of these initiatives are about positioning Australia to be successful in that world. Chris.

The only incentive to be offered, seems to be taxpayer handouts to the right people, there is nothing like a carbon price which provides a financial incentive for innovation all over the place and that costs the taxpayers very little. Indeed the carbon pricing mechanism the government got rid of, used the price to subsidise ordinary people so they could make market based decisions to buy expensive polluting energy, or cheaper non-polluting energy if they wished.

focusing on political solutions won’t solve this problem. Focusing on technology solutions will.

Unfortunately technology is not separated from politics. The arguments, and ministerial powers, over the new energy market shows that. Regulations, tax breaks, subsidies and so on, can support deadly technologies, or hinder those deadly technologies. It is a matter of politics whether we protect fossil fuels, or encourage them to die out. Technology is social and is governed by rules, inclinations and fashions, and therefore by politics.

For example, it can be argued that we already have low emissions energy production, we already have low pollution transport, we already have storage. All these could be improved perhaps, but without the politics we could start to cut back polluting energy to the minimum (without pushing for even more of it) and increase the supply of renewables. Yes there are problems, but we would be working with tech that works, and if better tech came along we could use that as well. That is, if the politics did not get in the way.

It’s about technology and technology that works in countries that need it to transform their economies, provide jobs and livelihoods for people to ensure that they can prosper as we have in advanced countries like ours. I recognise that equity issue. I think it’s a very real issue. But the thing that solves it is not political commitments. It’s real technology.

Equity and climate justice demands we pollute, unless the magical tech comes along to solve not only climate problems, but economics problems and political problems like how income is distributed.

A journalist asks:

The point of the IPCC report is the cost of inaction. Will any government modelling that you’re currently undertaking to put costs in front of people also include a cost of inaction?

The PM says they recognise this, this is why they are taking action. But essentially the answer is no, in the sense that the question is not answered by other than insisting they have a plan and that the plan will be successful because of future technology


It is hard to say how much the Government is under the control of fossil fuel companies. How much it is derailed by ideas that established players in the markets should keep wining. How much it assumes Australia depends upon fossil fuel exports for jobs and income. How much it believes that fossil fuels are essential for the economic structures it supports, And, How much it is being held to ransom by a very few parliamentarians who don’t consider climate change an immediate problem, and who support fossil fuels at all costs to their own side. Essentially, the government depends for its majority on these radical MPs, and could lose power if it did not yield to them. This means that about 5-10 parliamentarians govern Australia on this issue, backed by the might of the Murdoch Empire.

The Government’s policy and evasion would possibly have been fine 50 years ago, but Australia has already experienced a 1.4 degrees temperature rise since 1910. We have longer term droughts. We have massive fish kills in rivers, and rivers are drying up. We have wild storms creeping south. We have inland temperatures which are life threatening in the suburbs of Sydney. The great Barrier Reef is dying. We have longer and fiercer bushfire seasons. And we have fossil fuel mining that threatens the water table, and water supplies. Delay is not sensible. the problem is urgent. If we (a relatively prosperous country) won’t make the effort to fix the problem, then who will?