A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
Featured image: A hydrogen-filled Zeppelin flying over the skies of Manhattan. Hydrogen could be the key to lift our economies towards a net-zero carbon-dioxide emissions future.
Spring has arrived and with it anxiety about possible bushfires. The NSW Inquiry into last summer’s bushfires made clear connections with climate change. The interim report of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (i.e. bushfires) made no such connections yet. However, they may well do so in their final report, due to be released in a couple of months. Meanwhile, the western states of the USA are enduring even worse wildfires than ours, if that’s possible. Like ours, they were preceded by severe drought and very dry conditions. Despite these events are undoubtedly climate-related, the majority of news outlets there fails to mention this fact.
On another side of the world, Senegal and Nigeria are enduring severe floods.
As you will recall, the Paris Agreement of 2015 sought to limit global warming to under 2°C over pre-industrial levels, and ideally to 1.5°C. Now the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warns that this 1.5 degree limit may well be exceeded by 2024 – and the risk is growing. For more details, see the reports in the section “More news and info” below.
A hydrogen-led recovery
In NSW the highlight of the political week was the attack (soon folllowed by a retreat) by John Barilaro – Nationals’ leader – to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian. In the meantime, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean quietly got on with his job. At the sustainability summit hosted by the Sydney Morning Herald, he declared hydrogen to be the “breakthrough that changes the world”. This decalration followed reports that NSW would pursue large-scale hydrogen production as part of its response to the economic crisis caused by the Covid pandemic. It’s worth reminding that hydrogen as a source of energy is not intrinsically “clean”. It is only as clean as the process used to produce it, such as electrolysis powered by renewable energy. On the other hand, hydrogen produced from fossil-fuel energy (including natural gas/methane) does clearly not help the goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.
Some of you might be queasy about hydrogen, having popped hydrogen in the chemistry lab at school or seen footage of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. While hydrogen in gasesous form (H2) is quite explosive, there is a safe transporting way by converting it into the safe ammonia (NH3). At the destination, it can be converted back to H2, or used directly. Nitrogen (N), a safe gas, is simply released into the atmosphere.
In a speech on Wednesday, federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the resources sector had been the backbone of the Australian economy for decades, but now the nation’s “long-term future lies in renewable energy sources”. He went on to say that, if the policy settings are right, “we can transform our nation into a renewable energy superpower”. A large segment of the electorate is eager to hear more politicians speaking like Mr Albanese. Let’s hope that at the next Federal Election there will be the widest political offer in this direction from both sides of the aisle.
While we are hopeful, there’s room for scepticism. A leaked document released last week revealed that the Federal Government is planning to alter the remit of both the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Energy Minister Angus Taylor plans to broaden the scope of CEFC and ARENA to make them “technology neutral”. The goal is to encourage the funding of not just gas projects, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well.
- From the WMO: United in Science 2020
- From the Australia Institute, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation. Weapons of gas destruction: Lifting the lid on greenhouse gas emissions from Australian fossil gas projects and resources
- From Insurance Australia Group (IAG) and NCAR: Severe weather in a changing climate.
- Getting started with community energy September 15, 2020 7:00 PM. Register here.
- The Gas Fallacy. Why we need a renewable led recovery for our climate, health and economy. Tuesday 15 September 7 – 8.30pm Register here.
- Common Cause: help people engage cultural values to create a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society, with Mark Chenery. RSVP here.
- Preparing for flooding & cyclones in the time of COVID-19. 9:30am – 11am, Wednesday 23 September. Register here
- Public forum: Australia, the global renewable energy pathfinder. 4pm-5:30pm, Thursday 24 September. Register here.
- BZE Discussion Group on ABC’S Fight for Planet A: Our Climate Challenge with Craig Reucassel, Damon Gameau et al. Access recording here.
- Construction under way on Australia’s largest community-owned solar farm (from 29 August) The first sod on the future SolarShare farm in Majura was turned on Friday afternoon.
- Climate policy pressure builds as Steggall sets November date for zero emissions bill. Independent MP says she will present Climate Change Bill to federal Parliament in November, as the focus switches from surviving Covid to a green recovery.
- Earth may temporarily pass dangerous 1.5℃ warming limit by 2024, major new report says The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century. A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation warns this limit may be exceeded by 2024 – and the risk is growing.
- Trillions up in smoke: The staggering economic cost of climate change inaction. Over the next 30 years, increasing economic damages from climate change will cost the Australian economy at least $1.89 trillion – or roughly 4% of projected GDP each year – if current emissions policies are maintained.
- Climate change is ravaging California. it’s time to electrify. COVID-19 isn’t the only crisis taking a toll on California this summer. Record-breaking heat has helped fuel the largest wildfire season on record, with more than two million acres already burned. Smoke from the fires has blanketed much of the state, causing some of the worst air quality in the world.
- Climate crisis could displace 1.2bn people by 2050, report warns. More than 1 billion people face being displaced within 30 years as the climate crisis and rapid population growth drive an increase in migration with “huge impacts” for both the developing and developed worlds, according to an analysis.
- India to have 220 GW renewable energy capacity by 2022: PM Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister asserted that ISA is part of this project which can bring transformational benefits for entire humanity.
- Research reveals shocking detail on how Australia’s environmental scientists are being silenced. Ecologists and conservation experts in government, industry and universities are routinely constrained in communicating scientific evidence on threatened species, mining, logging and other threats to the environment, our new research has found.
- Last season’s climate catastrophes cost insurers $5.4b. A warming climate is increasing the risk of catastrophic bushfires, damaging hailstorms and powerful cyclones, the country’s biggest insurer says.
- Dawn of ‘green steel’ and the revival of Australian manufacturing. A process for making steel without emitting greenhouses gases could not only help Australia tackle climate change but revitalise our industrial heartland.