Covid-19 resurgence in Victoria and NSW threatens more lives and distracts from potential climate smart recovery
Jenny Goldie, CCL member from Cooma NSW, in the Eden-Monaro electorate, sums up her views and news on Australia’s week in climate change action*
The coronavirus pandemic in Australia has had a resurgence, mainly in Victoria but also NSW, causing considerable anxiety for health and economic reasons. Unfortunately, it is taking people’s attention off climate change. As the Canberra Times editorial said yesterday: “Coronavirus is a crisis; climate change is an existential threat.” Climate change cannot be left on the backburner for much longer.
The federal government has rightly distributed billions of taxpayers’ money to get Australia through this crisis. While the coronavirus stimulus money is generally welcome, Australia has spent four times as much on support for fossil fuels than clean energy, with the aviation sector getting most of the funds.
Propping up fossil fuel industries is not a good idea, except perhaps to support their workers affected in the short to medium term. On the other hand, stimulus money directed at bringing renewable projects online can generate both jobs and royalties. For instance, an analysis this week revealed that the Copperstring 2.0 project, which would connect Mt Isa to the grid, will create 3500 mining jobs and deliver $6.5b in royalties.
The National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) favours a gas-led economic recovery, unsurprisingly, given most commissioners are joined at the hip to the gas industry. For better or worse (probably worse), Santos is now exploring the potential to produce hydrogen out of natural gas in the Cooper Basin. This is known as “blue hydrogen”. It’s worse than “green hydrogen” made from renewables but better than “brown hydrogen” made from coal.
Meanwhile, Origin Energy was forced to write-down $1.2 billion the value of two of its LNG investments, as a result of a sudden collapse in global gas prices.
As reported last month, temperatures exceeded 38C in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk, the highest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic circle. The UK Met Office and an international team of climate scientists has now found these record Arctic temperatures would only occur less than once every 80,000 years without human-induced climate change. The scientists described the finding as “unequivocal evidence of the impact of climate change on the planet”.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, there is no let-up from the deniers. Coalition MP Craig Kelly mounted an extraordinary attack on the Bureau of Meteorology in a Facebook post, shared by more than one thousand in 36 hours, including by fellow MP George Christensen. There was no public reprimand from their parliamentary leaders. Kelly was then supported by Andrew Bolt on Sky. They all need to understand that shooting the messenger doesn’t help.
The Bushfire Royal Commission continues to hear evidence. This week former NSW Fire commissioner Shane Fitsimmons said the last bushfire season was “extraordinary and unprecedented”.
Now here’s a good idea. The Australia Institute has proposed a National Climate Disaster Fund to meet the escalating costs of natural disasters due to global warming. Natural disasters already cost Australians over $13 billion every year. It would be funded through a levy of $1 per tonne of carbon dioxide for all coal, gas and oil produced in Australia and would raise around $1.5 billion dollars per year. Perhaps some of this money could go to Australian farmers who, faced with increasingly frequent droughts, floods, hailstorms and bushfires, are increasingly unable to afford their insurance premiums.
And spare a thought for southern Chinese farmers (and townspeople) who are experiencing devastating floods amid the heaviest rainfall in decades.
Finally, as Joe Biden increases his lead over Donald Trump in most of the polls for the US election in November, it was heartening to see Biden’s climate policy, which proposes to spend $US2 trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity and building sectors.
All the best, Jenny
CCL Aust (Eden-Monaro) & President Climate Action Monaro
Studies/reports/videos of interest:
- An ANU study found emissions fell an average of about two per cent a year in countries with a carbon price.
- GISERA (i.e. CSIRO and CSG partners) analysed “Air, Water and Soil Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Surat Basin, Queensland”. The study concluded fracking was safe but it was condemned by Prof Ian Lowe and The Australia Institute as “not passing the pub test” because only six wells were analysed.
- StopAdani. How Adani is ruining the lives of indigenous people in India.
- Recording of a recent webinar on “A new approach to fossil fuel campaigning” the damages levy; and the fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.
Other news highlights
Energy-efficient cooling with climate-friendly refrigerants could avoid up to 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas equivalent being added to the atmosphere through 2060 – roughly equal to eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels. To meet all needs by 2050, cooling appliances worldwide would almost quadruple in number from 3.6 billion now to 14 billion, contributing greatly to higher world temperatures, according to a report by UNEP and the International Energy Agency.
Climate change is the greatest threat Canberra Times editorial
While the world was preoccupied with an ever-increasing number of coronavirus cases this week, a hugely significant scientific report was allowed to pass under-reported and unremarked. This was the study of the 2020 Siberian heatwave by World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists who have been monitoring extreme weather events for years.
COVID-19 is impacting preparations for the upcoming bushfire season and could cause problems during the season too, according to witnesses at the bushfire royal commission this week
The federal Coalition’s interminable political scare campaign over the economic cost of shifting to renewable energy – one of the key planks of the Morrison government’s election campaign last year – has been debunked once again, this time by a University of New South Wales study.
University of New South Wales wins funding to host new research hub aimed at accelerating commercialisation of renewable hydrogen.
Fossil fuel developments are rapidly increasing emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, led by the opening of new coal mines and gas fields, some of which are in Australia.
The first half of 2020 was the second-warmest on record and the year could become the warmest in recorded history, based on reports from Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
David Shearman, Melissa Haswell
The evidence that gas mining operations can harm those living near to the wells, processing plants and compressor stations has been accumulating since 2012. Of particular concern are impacts on the unborn and infants.
Exported Australian hydrogen may have to compete with much cheaper offshore wind farms for a share of Asian electricity markets.
An Australian breakthrough in wafer-thin, lightweight solar panels that can be stuck on to any surface is set to deliver Australia a new source of local manufacturing, the researcher whose team developed it says.