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Seasonís greetings Tuvalu, and thank you Mr Kelly

By Jennifer Marohasy - posted Friday, 28 December 2018


Halfway between Hawaii and Australia lies the tiny nation of Tuvalu, which according to popular mythology is slowly disappearing into the Pacific Ocean because of rising sea levels. Except a recent article at the ABC news website correctly explained that in the four decades to 2014, Tuvalu has actually grown by 73 hectares.Add New Article

How can this be? The mainstream news media reporting something factual – even though it contradicts their catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) meme!

It all began with my favourite federal politician, Craig Kelly MP… a relentless warrior for all that is logical and reasonable.

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Craig Kelly and Jennifer Marohasy in Townsville a couple of years ago.

Mr Kelly always takes a keen interest in the detail of issues that concern his electorate in Sutherland just south of Sydney, and his objective of late has been fair electricity prices. This objective resulted in something of an obsession by Mr Kelly with the draft National Energy Guarantee legislation – the NEG. In fact, this objective, that became a concern, that developed into an obsession, brought down a Prime Minister. It also caused the ABC Fact Check team to take an interest in his speeches and recently declare him correct, at least on the issue of Tuvalu.

Let me begin this story on 13th August when then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted that a meeting of the Coalition's Energy and Environment Committee, which is chaired by Craig Kelly, be in the prime minister's cabinet room in his presence at 9pm that Monday night … rather than as usual at 8am in a standard committee room, immediately before the usual party room meeting which is at 9am on the Tuesdays that federal parliament is sitting.

The NEG legislation had been in development for over one year, but Mr Kelly had only ever been given one-page summaries. From these, early in 2018, Mr Kelly had understood that the Paris Target would be for 2030 and could be backloaded, so much of the emissions reduction could be, for example, in a decade's time after the ever-promised improvement in the reliability and price of renewable sources of energy. Further, there would be no interim target, and the cost of the intermittency of the generators would be borne by the intermittent generators themselves. This meant that those ostensibly providing electricity to the grid were obliged to provide it when called upon, or else they would pay a penalty. These points were all important provisions in the draft legislation that Mr Kelly had lobbied for.

Then, there was rumbling that there would be an interim target, and that there could even be an annual emissions reduction target … that the Prime Minister was requesting as much.

This was in perhaps June, and Mr Kelly protested. "We don't need to make Paris more onerous than it already is," he complained to his parliamentary colleagues.

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Mr Kelly became further concerned when it became apparent in July that the cost of the intermittency of generation could be borne by the large industrial users. That is, when the wind didn't blow the bigger manufacturers would need their own backup … their own diesel generators.

These were all concerns that Mr Kelly made known to Mr Turnbull. But most importantly, he wanted to see the actual legislation – the text, the detail.

The meeting of the Energy and Environment Committee that Monday night – held in the room normally reserved for the Cabinet, and most unusually attended by the Prime Minister – lasted about two hours. By the end of it, seven members said they would support the Prime Minister and the legislation. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot, now a backbencher and a new member of that committee, said he was opposed to it. Queensland Liberal-National MP Ken O'Dowd said he was undecided. That was also the position of Mr Kelly: he insisted that before he could endorse the NEG he needed to see the fine print – he needed more than a one-page summary.

Mr Kelly repeated this concern the next day in the party room, while eyeballing the Prime Minister.

That week parliament finished-up on Thursday. The next day, on Friday 17th August, soon after 6pm – soon after the journalists would have filed their stories for the weekend papers – Prime Minister Turnbull made a major announcement regarding the NEG. The emissions reduction target that was being proposed at 26 percent by 2030 would be set by regulation – not parliament.

Craig Kelly was now angry, because this meant that there could be future increases in the renewable energy target at the discretion of whoever was the Minister at the time. Labour wanted the target set at 45 percent and could achieve as much if they won the next election without so much as consulting the people or the parliament. What Mr Kelly saw as a major lever of the economy – the price and reliability of electricity – could be changed at the stroke of a Minister's pen, if Prime Minister Turnbull had his way.

Mr Kelly went into overdrive – against the NEG and the Prime Minister, and for democracy.

It was reported that Mr Kelly appeared to be on a "kamikaze mission". Further, the mainstream media reported he was going to lose preselection because he was so out of touch and being so unreasonable.

In fact, within the week it would be Prime Minister Turnbull, not Craig Kelly, who was out of his job.

Mr Kelly spent the weekend phoning colleagues. Monday it was announced that the legislation would be withdrawn. Tuesday morning at the party room meeting Mr Turnbull stood aside, declaring a spill.

Mr Kelly didn't have a plan for Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison to become Prime Minister, but he had had enough of Turnbull's NEG and his concerns were resonating.

To be clear, if Craig Kelly thought that by Australians paying more for their electricity, we could save the planet, he would have supported the NEG and a high renewable energy target. But in Mr Kelly's view arguing about a NEG of 26 or 45 percent is like arguing about how many fairies fit on a pin head – it is about chimerical wish-fantasies. Even a NEG of 100 percent would have no effect on global temperatures, but it would have a real and deleterious effect on Australian industries reliant on affordable and reliable energy and it would also negatively impact his constituents already struggling to pay their electricity bill.

And Mr Kelly's concerns go further than this, he is of the opinion that the planet does even need saving – at least not from CAGW. Typical of many so-called sceptics, Mr Kelly is not sceptical of climate change. Rather by reading in some detail about the Earth's history he realises that the climate has always changed.

Further, as John Abbot and I explain in our recent article in GeoResJ*, there is nothing unusual about the speed or magnitude of climate change over the last 100 or so years. For the last 1,000 to 2,000 years, temperatures have fluctuated within a channel of plus or minus 1 degree Celsius. It is only studies using remodelled data, suspect algorithms and cherrypicked datasets – that generate hockey-sticks. Considering the majority of published studies, in the best journals, global temperatures, including in Sweden, are about as hot now as they were 1,000 years ago.

I mention Sweden, because children in Australia that want the federal government to stop climate change have apparently been following the lead of a Swedish school girl: fifteen-year old Greta Thunberg who has been demonstrating outside the Swedish parliament to stop climate change. That was until she set off with her father in an electric car for the United Nations climate talks in Poland. There she explained that the climate crisis is "the biggest crisis that humanity has ever faced".

This fake news has been reported uncritically by the world's media. In fact, they have reported her as wise and brave … causing two fourteen-year old girls, Harriet and Milou, from Castlemaine in rural Victoria to organize the national day of school student protest in Australia.

I was in a taxi on my way to the Melbourne airport when I heard the oh-so passionate chanting on Friday 30th November. I asked the cabbie to go around the block again … I was in disbelief at the naivety of it all. Governments can, of course, be a hindrance to various things – for example, innovation. But it is hubris and nonsense to suggest they could ever stop climate change. This is what Craig Kelly has been trying to explain all year and was a key reason he was so concerned about the NEG and its negative impact on the economy, for no environmental gain.

While denied access to the text of the draft NEG legislation, Mr Kelly has been reading key technical papers on climate change. Earlier this year he read an article in the journal Natureby Paul Kench and colleagues from the University of Auckland. He repeated the conclusions from that research at a Liberal party fundraiser, attended by Get-up activists incognito. So outraged by Kelly's claims about Tuvalu, the activists sent transcripts of his blasphemy to The Guardian and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. To the ABC's credit they did a fact check, they even got back to Craig Kelly and asked him if he could substantiate his claims.

Mr Kelly sent them the article, which explains that despite sea level rise, there have been "positive sediment generation balances for these islands" from wave deposition. In fact, to quote more from the article "environmental" rather than "anthropogenic processes" are causing an "expansion of the majority of the islands … masking any incremental effects of rising sea levels, making attribution of sea level effects elusive, as these [environmental] processes can promote high frequency and larger magnitude changes in islands that can persist on the geomorphic record".

Yet at least since Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' the world media has been claiming Tuvalu was lost to CAGW.

Every attempt by so-called sceptics to correct the record – until this latest by Craig Kelly – appeared to just generate more ridicule … specifically remembering Graham Young's attempt to correct the record at Crikey.com back in 2006.

What neither the article in Nature that Mr Kelly quotes from, nor the recent few paragraphs of concession from our ABC, explain the complexity of the situation at Pacific Islands on an Earth where climate change and also volcanism will persist … yes volcanism.

Indeed, the great majority of oceanic islands, including in the Pacific, were formed by volcanic activity. While the volcanoes are active, the islands generally rise relative to the global averaged sea-level. When volcanic activity stops, the islands will cool and eventually start to sink … though as Paul Kench et al. explain in the Nature article wave process and shifts in wave regimes can result in the growth of atolls offsetting any rise in sea levels.

But what is needed in all of this, and especially in future ABC news items, is some context. It is fact that:

  1. Since the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, sea levels have risen by more than 100 metres as large ice sheets melted.
  2. Globally-averaged sea levels reached a maximum height about 2,000 years ago.
  3. Along the east coast of Australia sea levels have actually fallen by about 1.5 metres since then … to reiterate sea levels have fallen about 1.5 metres over the last 2,000 years.
  4. But over the last 100 years there has been a slight, but measurable, increase in sea levels. Considering Sydney Harbour this has added up to about a 6.5 centimetre increase over the last 100 years … based on a documented rise of 0.65 millimetres per year between 1885 and 2010: that is the official rate of sea level rise at Fort Denison (just across from the Opera House) as reported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That is less than 1 millimetre per year.

Of course, compounded, this could add up to something catastrophic – one day. But, neither sea levels, nor temperatures, rise in a monotonic way – rather they cycle.

Considering just sea levels at any one location on this planet there is the daily tidal cycle, the monthly lunar cycle, the annual cycle associated with the sun's declination that causes the four seasons, cycle associated with El Nino and La Nina events, and then there are the longer cycles including the cycles associated with ice ages and interglacial warm periods.

We need to hear more about this from the mainstream media … not just from Mr Kelly.

There is no denying that standing for reason can be difficult, especially when the numbers and slogans are against you. But just as Craig Kelly defied a Prime Minister, and won … it is incumbent on every one of us who seeks the truth to keep asking questions and concern ourselves with the detail and most importantly to not give-up on the truth never mind the short-term consequences.

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This article was first published at JenniferMarohasy.com.



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About the Author

Jennifer Marohasy is a senior fellow with the Institute for Public Affairs.

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