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Do you think this page is 'over the top'? What greater crime can there be than to dishonestly support coal and disparage renewables at the cost of severe damage to the planet?

Greatest crime in the history of humanity

This page presents evidence that dishonestly supporting the retention of the fossil fuel industry and opposing the introduction of renewable energy has to be the greatest crime in the history of humanity.

Those in positions of power who commit this crime would have to be the greatest criminals in the history of humanity.

This page written 2017/02/12, modified 2017/02/28 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke)
 
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Old polluting power and new clean power
Dirty and clean energy
The now closed coal-fired Port Augusta Northern Power Station on the left and the new innovative solar power-tower of Sundrop Farms on the right
 
Hornsdale Wind Farm
Wind turbines
Wind power has been important in forcing the closure of the last coal-fired power station in South Australia
 
Red stringybark trees defoliated by an exceptionally hot and dry summer and autumn, 2007/08
Red stringybark
Photo in Spring Gully Conservation Park, near Clare, SA, 2008/05/11.
This is an isolated community of red stringybark, the only such area in SA. Higher temperatures, with global warming, will probably cause their local extinction.
More information on another page on this site.
I will show that: It follows that:
  • To support the burning of fossil fuels and oppose the introduction of renewable energy is unjustifiable and unethical;
  • To not only support fossil fuels, but also to use lies and misleading information in that support is even worse, and should rightly be called a crime;
  • For a person in a position of power and authority to dishonestly support fossil fuels and disparage renewables has to be about the limit in unethical behaviour – a crime against, not only humanity, but all living things on Earth.


The burning of fossil fuels is a huge environmental disaster

 
It would be pointless for me to go into detail about the evidence in support of the statements in this section; it has been thoroughly covered by specialists. See the links below in support of these statements.

Climate change

No well informed, open minded, person can doubt that the burning of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of climate change.

Climate change is not just going to harm the planet at some time in the distant future, it is harming the planet at the present. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate Report, 2016 lists effects that are happening here and now (they are also listed under Links: effects of climate change, below).

Three of the photos that I have used on this page were taken within a very few kilometres of my home and show ill-effects that, while they cannot definitely be attributed to climate change, are quite probably connected, and relate to types of harm that can certainly be expected to happen more often in the future. (Defoliation of red stringybark, Bangor fire erosion, Exceptional storms)

Ocean acidification

Less well known than climate change, but equally supported by undeniable evidence, is the fact that the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing our oceans to become more acidic.

Air pollution

The burning of coal in particular, but also petroleum, produces air pollution that kills millions of people each year.

More intense/violent weather events, increased fire hazard

Climate scientists have long warned that heat waves and storms will become more severe with global warming, increasing the severity and frequency of floods, that fire-danger seasons will be longer and days of catastrophic fire danger will become more common.
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Rising sea levels

Rising sea levels will displace millions of people from low-lying fertile areas such as the deltas of the Nile, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Red and Mekong rivers. Low-lying areas in the First World will not be immune; New York and a large part of Florida are very susceptible to flooding from sea level rise.

Extinctions

Climate change, ocean acidification and air pollution affect most of life on Earth. The rate of species extinction has been estimated to be as high as a thousand times as high as has been typical during the history of the planet. We are living in a period of mass extinction comparable to only a half dozen or so in the history of life on Earth.

The damage is very long-term

The air pollution will end when the burning of fossil fuels ends, but the climate change and ocean acidification will take decades or even centuries to stabilise.

 
Sediment in Crystal Brook following the Bangor fire
Ash in creek
The Bangor fire was finally extinguished by 60 mm of rain. At Crystal Brook, where this photo was taken, many kilometres downstream of the burned land, the ash and silt (grey in this photo) was conspicuous. See text for the Bangor fire.

Combined ill-effects

Some of the ill-effects from the burning of fossil fuels combine to make even more damage. I will list only a few of these:
  • Higher temperatures, increased frequencies of violent thunder storms and longer fire danger seasons combine to cause more frequent, hotter and much more destructive bushfires.

  • More frequent and hotter fires combined with more intense storm rains will greatly increase the amount of erosion damage. Vegetation of all kinds from soil biocrusts to lichens to ground-covers to shrubs and trees protect the soil from erosion. The bare soil left by a fire, especially a particularly hot fire – as will be increasingly common due to climate change, will be highly susceptible to the heavy rains that are also becoming more common due to climate change.

    For example, the Bangor fire in South Australia burned through largely inaccessible country for a month, 2014/01/14 to 2014/02/14. It was finally extinguished by exceptionally heavy rains, around 60 mm fell in less than a day. The combination of soil bared by the fire and the heavy rain resulted in a great loss of top-soil.

    This combination will be particularly damaging to Australia's thin and fragile soils.

  • Warmer ocean temperatures combined with increasing acidification is particularly damaging to much sea-life, including corals.
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Reducing fossil fuel consumption is possible and economically viable

 
King Island power supply: 2017/02/12:15.30 SA daylight savings time.
King Island Live
Link: King Island Renewable Energy
 
Again, rather than going into detail here, refer to links below for detailed evidence.
The state in which I live, South Australia, had practically no renewable electricity in early 2003; by the time of writing, early 2017, more than 40% of the state's power was generated by wind and solar power. See growth of the SA wind industry.

SA's renewable energy has, by competition, made the last remaining coal-fired power station in the state economically uncompetitive. It has closed down.

 

Lies

Contrary to statements made by opponents of renewable energy, 'spikes' in wholesale electricity prices in SA in 2016 and early 2017 were no more frequent and were lower than those in Queensland, which has practically no wind power. Also contrary to statements by supporters of fossil fuels, problems with the electrical supply in SA around that time were due to unprecedented storms and poor decisions made by the operator of the day-to-day power supply and not due to the state's renewable energy.

More lies are discussed below and this section give more detail on SA's power outages.

King Island, between Tasmania and the Australian mainland, has a largely renewable power supply, combining wind power, solar power, batteries and a flywheel; see graphic on the right.

Coober Pedy was transitioning from almost 100% diesel-powered electricity generation to around 50% renewables in a few months, February 2017.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has a 100% renewable energy by 2020 target. The ACT government has contracted to buy most of the needed electricity from wind farms in South Australia, NSW and Victoria. At the time of writing (February 2017) most of the needed contracts had been agreed. (Some information on the contracts is on my page Wind Power in Australia.)

The ACT has the cheapest retail power prices in the nation.

If South Australia, Coober Pedy, King Island and the ACT can do this much, there can be no doubt that the remainder of Australia can do far more than is being done toward replacing fossil fuels with renewables.

100% renewable energy?

The South Australian experience has shown that changing to 40% renewable energy is not difficult. The ACT experience shows that changing to 100% renewables in a small part of a power grid is quite possible, indeed easy. The King Island and Coober Pedy experiences shows that isolated micro-grids can quickly change from a high proportion of fossil fuels to a high proportion of renewable energy.

Few people would say that changing an entire national grid to 100% renewables will be easy. Getting to 60% will not be difficult; getting to 80% will be considerably more difficult, getting the whole 100% will be very difficult indeed.

However, just because changing to 100% renewables is going to be hard is no reason for not taking steps along the way. It can be done by degrees.

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What constitutes a crime?

 
Climate change is impacting Australia now; higher flood flows.
Dam fix
Kangaroo Creek dam, South Australia
The wall was raised by four metres and the spillway was being widened by 40 metres due to increasingly heavy flood flows in the Torrens River.
Those who are supporting fossil fuels and opposing renewable energy are ultimately responsible for costs such as this.
Photo 2017/02/25
A crime can be defined as "an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government; especially: a gross violation of law." Another definition is "a grave offence especially against morality."

Considering the harm done by the burning of fossil fuels and the relative ease of replacing a substantial amount of fossil fuel burning with renewable energy, the knowingly dishonest support of fossil fuels and denigration of renewable energy by people in positions of power and/or responsibility is rightly a crime because it is certainly a grave offence against morality.

What makes one crime more serious than another?

The number of human deaths? The amount of environmental damage? On either of these criteria this crime has to be one of the most serious of all possible crimes.
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Lies told by those who support coal and oppose renewable power

Those who try to justify exporting coal to India use as justification the claim that it lifts many people out of "energy poverty". As far as it goes this may be true, but it is a lie of omission.

The air pollution from the burning of coal kills 1.1 million Indians each year.

Perhaps the coal-export proponents would tell us that this is just a price that has to be paid to escape energy poverty.

This would also be false. We'd be doing the Indian people a much bigger favour if we were to help them develop non-polluting renewable wind and solar power to lift them out of energy poverty. You can't much enjoy having electric lights if you are dead.

South Australia, renewables and electricity costs

 
Electricity costs
Table credit: Household Energy Costs in Australia 2006 to 2016, Ben Phillips, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, February 2017.
Australian media (particularly the Murdoch-owned media), Liberal and National party politicians and other supporters of the fossil fuel industries have claimed that increases in retail electricity costs in South Australia have been due to that states high level of renewable energy.

The table on the right shows that electricity expenditure in the period from 2006 to 2016 has increased more in the predominently coal-powered states of Victoria, NSW and Queensland than they have in SA. (Most of SA's renewable energy was built in this period.)

The Australian Capital Territory is transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2020 and also has some of the cheapest retail electricity prices in the nation. As can be seen in the table, the ACT's growth in electricity costs is also among the lowest in the nation.

It seems that any honest person would put down the electricity price rises to causes other than renewables.

A matter of proportion

We sometimes hear supporters of fossil fuels making statements such as:
"Australia could stop producing greenhouse gasses tomorrow and it would make practically no difference to the world – we are too small to make a difference."
Of course this is quite false, everyone on Earth could say something like:
"My village, my town, my city, my state/province, my coal mine, is too small to make a difference. It doesn't matter how much greenhouse gas emissions I am responsible for, I am too small to make a difference."
Plainly, we all share in emitting greenhouse gasses, we all share in responsibility to reduce emissions; those who produce more than 'their share' have a higher responsibility to take effective action.

Australia ranks 53rd in the world in population, but sixth in the world in the CO2 produced by its electricity industry; it has 0.3% of the world's population, but produces 1.2% of the world's greenhouse gasses; it is well up among the worst greenhouse polluters on the planet. This gives Australians an ethical responsibility to reduce the harm we are doing to the planet.

Links to more lies

Outstanding lies told by opponents of wind power

Exposing the dishonesty of those who oppose wind power

My page on the Turnbull government exposes a number of lies about fossil fuels and renewable energy.

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Links

 
These photos provide a sample of what we have to loose if we do not get climate change under control.
Yacka
A view from the old track up St Marys Peak, Flinders Ranges
 
Acacia
Acacia blossom, near my place at Armagh, South Australia
 
Acacia
Jacobs Range Road, near my place at Armagh, South Australia

Links: The burning of fossil fuels is an environmental (and economic) disaster

Links: The effects of climate change

NASA:
  • Change will continue through this century and beyond;
  • Temperatures will continue to rise;
  • Frost-free season(and growing season) will lengthen;
  • There will be changes in precipitation patterns;
  • There will be more drouhts and heat waves;
  • Hurricanes will become stronger and more intense;
  • Sea level will rise 1-4 feet [0.9 to 1.2m] by 2100;
  • Arctic likely to become ice-free.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology; State of the Climate, 2016;
Key Points; Australia:
  • Australia's climate has warmed in both mean surface air temperature and surrounding sea surface temperature by around 1°C since 1910.
  • The duration, frequency and intensity of extreme heat events have increased across large parts of Australia.
  • There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia since the 1970s.
  • May–July rainfall has reduced by around 19 per cent since 1970 in the southwest of Australia.
  • There has been a decline of around 11 per cent since the mid-1990s in the April–October growing season rainfall in the continental southeast.
  • Rainfall has increased across parts of northern Australia since the 1970s.
  • Oceans around Australia have warmed and ocean acidity levels have increased.
  • Sea levels have risen around Australia. The rise in mean sea level amplifies the effects of high tides and storm surges.
Australian BoM; Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef;

Australian BoM; Climate change and variability;

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); Climate change information for Australia;

Australian Academy of Science: changes we are already seeing will continue and intensify, coral reefs and alpine ecosystem particularly vulnerable, fire danger will greatly increase in intensity and length of the fire-danger season.
"Heatwaves are among the highest-impact climate events in terms of human health in Australia. In very hot conditions, people can suffer from heat stress, especially vulnerable individuals such as the sick and elderly. Warmer temperatures in future will lead to increased occurrences of heatwaves."
The Conversation: Extreme heat poses a billion-dollar threat to Australia's economy, 2015/05/05; Kerstin Zander, Elspeth Oppermann, Stephen Garnett. A quote:
"In a paper published today in Nature Climate Change, we and colleagues show that heat stress probably cost the Australian economy nearly A$7 billion in 2013-2014 through productivity losses..."


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Links: The effects of climate change: Extinctions

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: How does climate change cause extinction? 2012/10/17;
"Climate change is now recognized as a major threat to global biodiversity, and one that is already causing widespread local extinctions."


Wikipedia: Extinction risk from global warming, lists many links, and has a quote from the International Panel for Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report:
"Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change."

"There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5°C (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe."




Links: Replacing fossil fuels with renewables

The Guardian, Power plan maps out route to follow for 100% renewable energy future, by Michael Slezak.



The Conversation, 2016/05/02, Phasing out fossil fuels for renewables may not be a straightforward swap, by Anthony James, National Centre for Sustainability, Swinburne University of Technology.



Finkel Report, Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market; Preliminary Report; December 2016
By Dr Alan Finkel AO, Chief Scientist, Chair of the Expert Panel, Ms Karen Moses FAICD, Ms Chloe Munro, Mr Terry Effeney, Professor Mary O'Kane AC.

"Seven key themes are identified, each supported by specific questions to be raised with the community.

  1. Technology is transforming the electricity sector
  2. Consumers are driving change
  3. The transition to a low emissions economy is underway
  4. Variable renewable electricity generators, such as wind and solar PV, can be effectively integrated into the system
  5. Market design can support security and reliability
  6. Prices have risen substantially in the last five years
  7. Energy market governance is critical"




CSIRO Renewable Energy Integration Facility. "As the demand and use of renewable energy technologies in both commercial and residential environments increases, understanding how electricity generated by these sources can be integrated into future grid designs is critical."


The Conversation, 2017/02/22, How South Australia can function reliably while moving to 100% renewable power, Mark Diesendorf, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environment Studies, University of NSW; February 22, 2017


Pumped Hydro storage can secure 100% renewable electricity; by Andrew Blakers, Matt Stocks and Bin Lu, Australian National University, 2017/02/20.




Links: general

Doctors for the Environment, Australia;
"The burning of coal emits hazardous air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, mercury and arsenic.

Australia has one of the most carbon intensive and polluting electricity supplies in the world, with around 80% of electricity generation coming from coal. By investing in renewable energy sources and rapidly transitioning from fossil fuels, we can save lives and improve health immediately due to improved local environments, prevent unmanageable climate change with its associated devastating health consequences, and make sound economic investments in Australia's future."
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The facts on SA's power outages and what moved me to write this page

 
Power pylons downed by the storm of September 2016
Downed pylons
Within a few kilometres of my place at Armagh.
Other pylons had been downed on other transmission lines.
Many more trees were knocked down by the storm winds of December 28, but while many distribution lines were downed, apparently no high-voltage transmission lines were damaged.

What moved me to write this page?

I have been writing on the urgent need to act to reduce emissions to slow climate change for years. In addition to writing these pages I've taken part in two long walks, the first from Port Augusta to Adelaide in 2012 in support of a solar thermal power station for Port Augusta; the second from Melbourne to Canberra to carry a petition to the Australian Parliament asking for stronger action on climate change.

I've tried to raise awareness of the irresponsibility of greenhouse emissions by comparing the dumping of waste gasses into the atmosphere to dumping rubbish on roadsides.

The lies told by those who oppose wind power moved me to write my pages on wind power in Australia.

The trigger that caused me to write this page was the dishonest, shameful and criminal blaming of the South Australian power outages of September and December 2016, wholesale price spikes, and the load-shedding of February 2017 on renewable energy.

South Australia's power outages

Over a period of 13 years South Australia has gone from very little renewable energy to more than 40%. Supporters of coal and opponents of renewable energy have blaimed power outages, clearly caused by unprecedented storms, on the state's renewable energy.

Climate scientists have told us for years that storms will become more violent with climate change. It would be more honest to blame the power outages on climate change than on renewable energy.

The Conversation, 2016/09/29: What caused South Australia's state-wide blackout?; by Andrew King, Dylan McConnell, Hugh Saddler, Nicky Ison and Roger Dargaville.

Why did energy regulators deliberately turn out the lights in South Australia?, 2017/02/10; by Hugh Saddler.

The SA power-outage of 2017/02/09 was due to bad management, not renewables; another page on this site; relating to the Turnbull Government.

Price spikes

 
Price spikes
Graph credit RenewEconomy
South Australia's renewable energy, most of which comes from wind farms, has been blamed for recent wholesale 'price spikes'. This, as reported in The Guardian, "sparked calls for a national inquiry into renewable energy and led the federal Coalition to call for a halt to state-based renewable energy targets."

Yet Queensland, with only one big solar power station and no large wind farms at all, had far more price spikes than South Australia, as shown in the graph from RenewEconomy reproduced on the right.

This again is blatant and criminal dishonesty from those supporting fossil fuels and opposing renewable energy.






Index

Burning fossil fuels an environmental disaster
Combined ill-effects of climate change
Facts on SA's power outages and what moved me to write this page
Higher flood flows
How to judge the seriousness of a crime?
Lies
    More lies
Links
Links: environmental disaster
Links; effects of climate change
Links; general
Links: replacing fossil fuels with renewables
Photo: defoliation of red stringybark
Photo: Bangor fire erosion sediment
Photo: transmission lines downed by exceptional storm
Price spikes
Reducing fossil fuel consumption is possible and viable
South Australia, renewables and electricity costs
What constitutes a crime?
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