While this outbreak of sanity is occurring in some quarters, others are immune. For instance Australia’s Climate Council, which says aaaaagh we’re all going to etc. and demands that Canberra cut emissions by 75% over 2005 by 2030 and hit net zero by 2035. Which you’ll notice is now just 14 years away, prompting one “prominent Australian climate scientist” to object that this target isn’t nearly ambitious enough. Which an opinion piece by Nick O’Malley in The Conversation portrays as sober and reasonable. Yeah. We should do it by next Tuesday. Preferably morning.
According to O’Malley, the “National Environment and Climate Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age” whose LinkedIn profile does not list his educational attainments but gives his experience as “Investigative Reporter”, “Aim High, Go Fast, is based on new data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and echoes similar findings by the Australian Academy of Science issued last week”. So experts say apparently.
Sadly, the report is nonsense on stilts from the get-go. Namely the first of its “Key Findings” which is that “Climate change is accelerating with deadly consequences. The ecological systems that have sustained human life and societies for generations are being severely damaged by increasing heat and worsening extreme weather events.” And, even sillier, “There is no safe level of global warming.”
What? Do they not know that the planet warmed between 1850 and 1900 without presenting any danger let alone a catastrophic one? Or that warming over the 20th century accompanied the greatest increase in living standards ever experienced in history? No. Casting evidence to the howling winds, they say “Already, at a global average temperature rise of 1.1°C, we’re experiencing more powerful storms, destructive marine and land heatwaves, and a new age of megafires.” Rubbish. To which they also reduce the Great Barrier Reef before even getting to key finding 2, which includes “The lion’s share of the effort to get to net zero emissions needs to happen this decade”. Apparently their experts don't include someone with a degree in ancient literature able to tell them the “the lion’s share” is all of something. But why linger over this or any other factual detail?
The point is that Australia should mash itself into the dirt particularly vigorously out of guilt. As O’Malley says, apparently enthusiastically, “In the report the Climate Council says that in view of Australia’s historical contribution to global warming, its high emissions and its natural advantages in renewable energy generation, the government should now aim to reduce emissions by 75 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035.” And he invokes that mysterious colourless odourless gas “pressure” that causes journalists to write headlines, saying “Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to face more pressure to commit to more ambitious actions at a climate summit to be hosted by United States President Joe Biden next week”. More pressure? More pressure than what? This report?
As for those pesky practical difficulties, well they aren’t really there. The report itself speaks of “rapid progress in the availability and affordability of climate solutions, as well as wide-spread engagement of governments, community and business” while O’Malley writes that “Asked if such an abrupt reduction was possible, one of the report’s authors, executive director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute Will Steffen, cited the example of allied nations transforming their economies in five years to defeat the Axis power in World War II.”
Which suggests that someone needs to call in a historian, specifically an economic or military one, to explain that this victory was won not by scrapping the existing economy for an imaginary one but by building up the things we already did well, like mass producing things made of metal by burning huge amounts of gas and coal. Indeed, a major German strategic aim in both wars was to use U-boats to impose Net Zero on Britain and, by starving it of fossil fuels also starve it of food as well as munitions.
No worries, though. According to Steffen, who holds a PhD in Chemistry but pontificates on economics as though credentials were not important, “it’s going to be a tough decade, no doubt about it. There’ll be some disruption soon, but it’ll be an exciting decade and it’ll set us up for a much brighter future after 2030.”
Oh good. Just like that.