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April 24th 2017 print

Tony Thomas

Warmists Fight Their Own Nuclear War

Forget North Korea's  threat to make Australia a lake of irradiated glass because such an attack would be as nothing in comparison with the civil war amongst tax-supported catastropharians. What set them off? One side's footnoted paper that renewables can't hold an organic candle to atomic power

green men fightFights within the climate-alarm community are vibrant entertainment for sceptics. There’s  the fun factor as rival climate alarmists  kick shins and yank each others’ hair. And they deride each other’s extreme and foolish arguments, which saves sceptics some work. Moreover, the unedifying fights reduce the credibility of so-called climate “science” in the eyes of important onlookers like politicians.

A splendid fight-in-the-family broke out this month with the publication of a paper by four advocates of the nuclear-power route to emissions reduction. Their paper,Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems,” is published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,  (edited by Lawrence Kazmerski, who visited Australia in 2010 and played a small, proud part in forcing up electricity prices to their current obscene levels).

The study mercilessly exposes the nonsense of the wind and solar advocates, who imagine a world of 100% electricity from renewables by 2050. These fantasists have induced Australian state and federal governments to set unrealistic renewable energy targets, much as mad dogs infect bystanders with rabies. (The Victorian government, for example, last February passed its Climate Change Act with a net zero emissions target by 2050).

There is the added piquancy that all four authors exposing the technical impossibility of wind/solar regimes established their academic profiles in South Australia, where blackouts have made the state a global cautionary tale against moving to 50% renewables (let alone any  higher percent).

The lead author is Ben Heard, PhD candidate at Adelaide University, the co-authors being Professors Barry Brook (U.Tas), Tom Wigley of National Center for Atmospheric Research at Boulder, Colorado, and Corey Bradshaw (Flinders U.) All are nuclear-power advocates, which enrages their wind/solar-loving peers.

Here’s the gist of the  Heard paper:

“Our sobering results show that  100% renewable electricity supply would, at the very least, demand a reinvention of the entire electricity supply-and-demand system to enable renewable supplies to approach the reliability of current systems.  This would move humanity away from known, understood and operationally successful systems into uncertain futures with many dependencies for success and unanswered challenges in basic feasibility.”

They reviewed 24 scenario studies supporting 100% renewables as the way ahead and found not one passed the technical-feasibility test – let alone any commercial tests. On the Heard scale for technical feasibility, with a top score of 7 , they found only one study that even achieved a score of 4.

Four studies scored zero – these included, of course, the propaganda screeds presented as practial plans by WWF and Greenpeace. Another seven studies scraped up scores of just 1. Among those scoring a mere one out of seven  was a scenario co-authored by the Climateworks (Monash University/Myer Foundation) crowd, headed by Labor’s  John Thwaites, who was once Victoria’s deputy-premier. The Australian Academy of Science relied on that half-baked Climateworks exercise in its 2015 submission to the federal government endorsing the magic zero emissions solution to global warming by 2050.

The Heard paper notes the folly of such targets, remarking that

  • The  100% renewables scenarios depend on vast consumptions of biomass.  “The British scenario is a typical example; even with the assumption of a 54% reduction in primary energy consumption, biomass requires 4.1 million [hectares] of land to be committed to the growing of grasses, short-rotation forestry and coppice crops (17% of UK land area).”  (My emphasis)
  • A WWF scenario demands up to 250 million ha for biomass production for energy, along with another 4.5 billion cubic metres of biomass from existing production forests to meet a scenario of an absolute reduction in primary energy from today.
  • “To meet a target of 80% renewables in Europe by 2050 would demand an additional 228,000 km of transmission grid extensions, a +76% addition compared to the base network.”
  • Long-distance interconnector capacities may need to be 5.7 times larger than current capacities. [i]

 The authors said,

The realization of 100% renewable electricity (and energy more broadly) appears diametrically opposed to other critical sustainability issues such as eradication of poverty, land conservation and reduced ecological footprints, reduction in air pollution, preservation of biodiversity, and social justice for indigenous people.”

The Heard paper stuck it but good to the wind/solar mob, but it has its own foibles. It cites 151 footnotes, including, to my  utter surprise, Footnote 30 — a 2010 article from Green Left Weekly about then-garden variety MP Malcolm Turnbull and former NSW Premier Bob Carr  helping to launch a “Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan”. Green Left Weekly reported “the technology required to move Australia to a 100 per cent renewable energy future within ten years [i.e. by 2020] is already commercially available…and the cost is not prohibitive.”  That our current and for-the-moment Prime Minister should have associated himself with this Melbourne University-led insanity is a worry, quite apart from academics’ reliance on Green Left Weekly in their peer-reviewed publications.

That’s not the only oddity about the Heard paper. It opens with resounding claims, “The recent warming of the earth’s climate is unequivocal (1, 2)…with 2016 confirmed as the warmest year on record.” Heard certifies his “unequivocal” warming[ii]  (Footnote 1 of 151)  partially on the strength of  the notoriously-flawed John Cook “97% consensus” paper, comprehensively rebutted by a peer reviewed paper which found that, on the authors’ own analysis, the true consensus was well below 1%.

As for 2016 being a “record” warm year, sorry, Ben: the increase over 2015 was within the margin of error of the data.

Heard’s co-author Corey Bradshaw exemplifies academic life in the Green-Left cocoon. On his blog he refers to Tony Abbott “seizing power in the 2013 Australian election”, as if voters had wanted someone else. Bradshaw advises fellow-scientists to promote international diversity in their labs:

 “Let the right-wing populist xenophobes2 vomit their racist bile all they want while you quietly get on with the job of making the world a smarter, more innovative, multicultural, understanding and collaborative place.”

frog with thing that grew on its bottomBradshaw’s potty-mouthed Footnote 2 here refers incoherently to “2Agent Orange, Marine le Pue, Pauline Han-cock, Nigel Fukstick, …” (I assume “Nigel Fukstick” refers to Brexit’s Nigel Farage). This is, perhaps, what can be expected of a senior academic who wears a frog for a hat.

Bradshaw’s screed on the Flinders University website says, “I joined Flinders University as the new Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology. I am also a Chief Investigator in the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage.” Perhaps Flinders U could get him to run a new Centre of Excellence for Obscenity and Political Derangement.

Bradshaw’s latest book, with the catchy title Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie: Australia, America and the Environment is co-authored with none other than the world’s greatest living wrongologist Paul Ehrlich, the only environmentalist on the planet who has surpassed Tim Flannery in wildly wrong predictions. For example, Ehrlich in The Population Bomb (1968) said that the battle to feed humanity had been lost and 65 million Americans  would starve to death between 1980-89. By 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million, he predicted. He said in 1971, “If I were a gambler, I would take even-money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Fortunately for Ehrlich he is not a bookmaker.

Co-author of Heard and Bradshaw, Tom Wigley, was director of the  Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia until 1993. The Climategate emails reveal him adopting a novel approach to data analysis. He wrote to a later director Phil Jones (27/9/2009) about a problem with sea surface temperatures,

“So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean – but we’d still have to explain the land blip.”

Another email (24/4/2003) also revealed him organising to stop sceptic scientists from having their work published.

“One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word ‘perceived’ here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about—it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.”

However, a number of the Climategate emails show Wigley adopting a more ethical stance than the climate cabal led by Phil Jones. Mind you, Wigley remains an enthusiast for spending truly vast amounts of other people’s money on his obsessions.

“What we need is (sic) policies that put a large amount of money into developing appropriate, carbon-neutral technologies, be it renewable energy, methods for storing carbon dioxide in the ground and so on… We need to be putting, you know, ten to 100 times more money into developing appropriate technologies to reduce the magnitude of global warming.” (My emphasis).

These criticisms of mine about the paper’s authors seem rather mild compared to what Heard’s fellow-warmists dish  out.

Economist John Quiggin (Qld University ) was until last month a member of the federals’ Climate Change Authority. He ripped into the Heard paper on his blog, without even having read it – the   abstract alone enough to make his head explode. Heard wrote to him, sarcastically, “Given how easy it is to reach me, I am amazed that anyone would write a review of a paper without actually reading it.
John, would you like a copy?”

Warmist fans of Quiggin’s blog posted this sort of stuff about the Heard team:

  • They make the three stooges look like three highly skilled experts.
  • I  really wonder at the “green” credentials of the “greens” pushing this. Honestly, I reckon they have been infiltrated by an alt-right 5th column pushing their spurious nonsense.
  • Pro-nuclear advocacy is sliding into the territory of Velikovsky[iii] and the anti-vaxxers.
  • Your [Heard’s] paper is a poor quality opinion piece masquerading as science. I repeat that I am amazed it got through peer review.
  • I think it’s kind of sad. They really really really want a nuclear playset for xmas. Poor things.

The parties on both sides of the fracas give respectful mentions to dark-green spruiker Ted Trainer, 76, Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor in Social Work at UNSW.

Trainer gets three citations in the Heard paper and, indeed, it was Trainer who alerted Quiggin to Heard’s publication. Trainer is an advocate for 90% cuts in Western living standards to help save the planet:

“(P)resent rich world levels of consumption are grossly unsustainable and we will probably have to reduce them by something like 90% if we are to achieve a sustainable and just world. Most people concerned about the state of the planet don’t seem to realise how huge the changes would have to be.”

According to Wikipedia, Trainer lives in a makeshift house at a swampy Pigface Point settlement near Sydney, where he engages in barter and a subsistence lifestyle and his house uses 98% less than average electricity.

That’s great for Ted, who I’m sure won’t starve on his academic super, but he seems somewhat dubious company for anyone trying to solve our electricity problems.

Summing up, the Heard paper provides a searing critique of the wind/solar propaganda, notwithstanding its naivete on ancilliary issues. Sadly, Heard doesn’t  check what difference any reduction in Australian emissions  – even to zero – would make to planetary temperatures. The answer: effectively zero.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, That’s Debatable, is available here.


[i] A similar leap – not mentioned in the Heard paper – would be required for wind turbine installations. To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of under 2degC warming, Texas A&M researchers have calculated that, just for wind power, an annual global installation of 485,000 5MW wind turbines would be needed by 2028, compared with an equivalent of 13,000 in 2015.

[ii] Warming in fact started in the 19th century in a rebound from the Little Ice Age, long before any CO2 anomalies

[iii]Velikovsky wrote a best seller in arguing that Earth suffered catastrophic close contacts with other planets (principally Venus and Mars) in ancient times. He became a by-word for pseudoscience.


Comments [16]

  1. en passant says:

    Any moment now our resident muppet trollster will appear and (using hydrocarbon produced electricity) will launch into you by repeating that you are in the pay of ‘Big Whatever’, that the sea levels are swamping us with an annual rise of 3mm (+ or – 3mm) and will soon be lapping at his NW NSW door, that +2C will turn us into a Venusian inferno and …. and … and …
    He cannot (or will not answer any rational questions, including the most obvious one: if you want to reduce CO2 emissions, then why not go nuclear?

    How is Malcolm the Magnificent’s desire for 100% unreliable North Korean power standards by 2020 going ? You stated “Malcolm Turnbull and former NSW Premier Bob Carr helping to launch a “Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan”. Green Left Weekly reported “the technology required to move Australia to a 100 per cent renewable energy future within ten years [i.e. by 2020] is already commercially available … and the cost is not prohibitive.” They are falling a tad short, methinks – and going further into the tunnel with the plans to build new hydrocarbon power stations to replace the ones recently vandalised and pump water uphill. Time for new thought-bubble.

    I often drive past the Capital Wind Farm at Lake George on my way to Canberra and have to say that I can rarely remember seeing the blades turning. Maybe I am just exceptionally unlucky: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_Wind_Farm
    “… the wind farm became fully operational in October 2009. It is a 140.7 megawatt wind farm with 67 turbines at a cost estimated between A$220 million and A$370 million.” What is a difference of $150M of borrowed money when we are sacrificing our economic survival to save the planet? A small price for my grand children to pay, but I suspect the wretches will not thank me.

    I cannot find any statistics on its actual output, but a comment from a local resident appears realistic – and in line with the output of other places. A research task for the trollster to prove the following comment wrong. https://glasscentralcanberra.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/wind-farm-lake-george/ (scroll down to FOEHN)
    “The windfarm will not make any contribution to reducing greenhouse emissions. This is because baseload generators, namely fossil-fuel generators, will have to keep generating for the times when the unpredictable wind is not blowing, or blowing too hard, or it is too hot or too cold. Since we cannot command the wind to blow at the ideal speed, the intermittent nature of the wind resource puts undue stress on the network. The average output of a wind farm is about 10-15% of installed capacity, less in hot weather when they do not operate. Did you know that the only reason that wind farm was built is because the NSW government has signed an agreement to buy the green credits to offset the emissions from the Desalination Plant in Sydney?”

    At a generous average of 14% of nameplate production, the real cost is multiplied x7, making this useless eyesore a $1.5 BILLION (with a ‘B’) – $2.6 BILLION (with a ‘B’) white elephant.

    Less than 3-weeks until I return to the land of endless, cheap, hydrocarbon power and doing my bit to counter the zero emissions greenfools.

    • PeterPetrum says:

      Right at this moment (6;20pm on 25th) the lake George boondoggle is producing 94% of nameplate. If I had checked it yesterday, it wold have been lucky to have been producing 5%, but the s/w change has brought in some wind. By Thursday it will be back to 10-14% and therein lies the problem. I noticed that Tony Abbott at last has got the message and is not calling it “renewable energy” (which it is not, these things only last 15 years max) but refers to them as “unreliable intermittent energy”. We should all adopt that when referring to wind and solar.

  2. Ian MacDougall says:

    What set them off? One side’s footnoted paper that renewables can’t hold an organic candle to atomic power.

    What is required here is a revision of the basic laws of physics and chemistry so as to make CO2 no longer a heat-trapping gas.

    • PT says:

      Ian, you do realise that nuclear reactors don’t generate CO2 don’t you? Besides, as I’ve tried to explain to you, the frightening predictions are based not just on CO2, but the assumed feedbacks. The failure of the models to track temperatures since 1998 indicates a serious problem with these assumptions.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Some I suppose first thing in the new day repeat the mantra “anthropogenic global warming cannot possibly be happening because if it was, it would be bad for established business.” Others stray no further than their old familiar ostrich runs, like say, this site and its enthusiasts and cheerleaders for the coal industry and other GHG generators. But others, perhaps more open-minded, might have a look at a site like https://skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm or if more daring, at
        Others might consider the list of scientific organisations that endorse the AGW hypothesis at https://www.opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php and ask themselves can all those scientists be so corrupted and grants-obsessed that they will endorse anything and do anything, including betray of the future of their own grandchildren, for thirty pieces of bloody silver?
        The most telling evidence IMHO comes not from thermometers, nor from computer models (which are actually pretty good at ‘hindcasting’) but from the world’s glaciers: which are overwhelmingly in retreat and causing slow but steady sea level rise, as at http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

        • PeterPetrum says:

          “ask themselves can all those scientists be so corrupted and grants-obsessed that they will endorse anything and do anything, including betray of the future of their own grandchildren, for thirty pieces of bloody silver?”

          Short answer – YES. Just look at Climate Gate and NOAA’s and our BOM’s corruption of temperature data

      • ianl says:

        > ” … the assumed feedbacks. The failure of the models to track temperatures since 1998 indicates a serious problem with these assumptions”

        We’ve been here many times. Judith Curry has run quite a few threads on just this issue; together with John Christie and Roger Pielke Jr, she gave evidence of this to a Congressional inquiry recently. Nothing came of that as the refusal to debate is embedded to the bottom of the corrupted roots. As here.

        Quiggles’ reaction to the paper examined in this essay is also sufficient to demonstrate this. “Yell and scream and run around – for in honesty monsters do abound” … etc. Don’t read the paper, just repeat Simple Simon lines … like the resident trollster.

        Anyway, thanks Tony Thomas. It is amusing to watch pointless academic cat fights, cold comfort as this may be. I once asked a now sadly deceased and very greatly missed Geology Professor from Newcastle Uni why he thought academic in-fighting was so vicious. “Because there is so little to fight over”, he replied. Too accurate.

  3. Jody says:

    I must admit that I’ve been agnostic when it comes to “global warming” and it’s recent reincarnation as “climate change”. Yet, on those super-charged hot days and the fact that my son is picking grapes for his winery earlier and earlier each year I sense that something is in the air. However, I recently saw a documentary (name forgotten) where the narrator was explaining about a significant weather change that was anticipated but never eventuated. My husband and I looked at each other askance. So, there are still questions in my mind.

    Overwhelmingly, though, it’s the hijacking of the agenda by leftist warriors which has made me suspicious because this cultural group has not provided us with the improved society that their engineering has promises. I’m deeply skeptical about anything the Left has to say or offer. Were the climateers to unshackle themselves from the Left I’d certainly be more willing to move from my agnostic stance.

    • Jody says:

      Woops..not “it’s” but “its”. There should be an editing facility here!!

    • Bill Martin says:

      Jody, I frequently disagree with your views on a range of issues, but believe that you are an intelligent, thoughtful lady. With that in mind, I regretfully note that you show yourself to be a prime example of the success of the relentless onslaught of MSM, viciously attacking everyone daring to question the veracity of the “settled science” of climate change, providing a soapbox and loudhailer for the shysters to spruik their propaganda. They have succeeded planted doubts in your mind about the competence and sincerity of the dedicated challengers of the climate alarm industry. I, probably not unlike yourself, do not fully understand the scientific debates, so I am guided by a simpler standard: predictions vs. actual outcomes. My simple mind is quite reassured by the fact that not a single prediction of the climate alarmists have ever materialised. I am not qualified to say that I rest my case, but the case rests itself brilliantly.

    • ianl says:

      Your feelings aside, Jody, the point to this essay is the bitter disagreement between committed CAGW advocates over the feasibility of various “clean energy” systems replacing our hitherto reliable, affordable power grids. The Heard paper (sadly paywalled as most of this stuff is, keeps it away from the hoi-polloi so they remain ignorant) advocates nuclear energy because solar/wind is without merit. This causes Quiggles to fly again (apologies to the author of the WW2 Biggles stories).

      The veracity of regarding CO2 as the major agent of deleterious “climate change” is now not at all relevant. Our existing grids *are* being systematically destroyed now, without replacement by anything sensible (see SA, watch Waffles manically pirouette). Try to imagine what daily life will be like in 5 years from now – apply intuition to that, please.

      • Jody says:

        What I fear most is surviving the hot summers in the Hunter Valley sans air-conditioning. Actually, people will die if there are blackouts during those conditions. Winter isn’t a problem as we kit up in our clothing for the Arctic Circle from 2015. Then, of course, there is the complete dog’s breakfast which is the energy situation in this country. I guess we’ll be spending a lot more time in our car and less in our energy-sporadic suburban house.

        What we have is the result of knee-jerk reactions to that global, jet-setting carbon-emitter Al Gore’s dystopian view of Earth. Funny that a lot of his activism is funded by Saudi interests!!! Rich irony indeed. The most perverse and immoral aspect to the attempts to shut down coal is that we’re effectively saying to the developing world, “Look; we’ve had it good since WW2 and there’s no more coal or fossil fuels for you because it’s bad now; you’ll have to go back to burning dung”.

        • ianl says:

          It’s beyond air conditioning in the Hunter being reliable or not. Refrigeration, the financial system, water/sewage pumps, phone systems (especially with the NBN insisting on internet-based phones), ATM’s and purchase registers, supermarket purchases with no EFTPOS … an endless list.

          It has now reached the point where even raising these issues incites abuse. Denier, negativist and so on and on. That’s exactly Quiggles reaction to the Heard paper – do *not* debate anything real, avoid detail at all costs. Our Simple Simon trollster does exactly that and so has earnt my utter contempt.

          To understand where this situation has developed to in the US, try:


          Setting out a feasible plan with real details is actually negative, I’m told … Pollyanna optimism is the way. We really are a very *stupid* population.

    • en passant says:

      No doubt the grapes have already been picked, because if not, they are ruined as there is snow falling on Buller and the temperature is 8C today. Picking crops earlier and earlier would appear to be a benefit, would it not?

  4. Keith Kennelly says:


    Are you now suggesting we change the science?

    Wasn’t that all settled?


    The lengths you are orepared to go! Really!