Jenny’s jottings – the climate this week: 31 Aug 2020

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: The Three Gorges Dam (China), the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. Photo by Pedro Vasquez Colmenares available under Creative Commons License.

Fire and fury

Our thoughts go to those in California, where two of the three largest wildfires ever recorded there have burnt more than one million acres (with still four months to go in the fire season), displaced more than 100,000 people, and killed seven. Some say it is a glimpse of future summers under climate change. California in two weeks experienced: a fire tornado; possibly the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth at Death Valley (130°F/54°C); 11,000 lightning strikes over 72 hours; 300 wildfires, which led to the worst air quality in the world; rolling blackouts during a record heat wave.

On the other side of that continent, people are cleaning up from Hurricane Laura. This massive weather event whipped through southwestern Louisiana with 240km/h winds, destroying homes and killing people. It was the fifth strongest hurricane on record. President Trump has been visiting Louisiana. However, it remains to be seen whether he will make any connection between these events and climate change.

Meanwhile, China has been suffering devastating floods that even threatened the massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

Reckoning with the Black Summer?

Back home, the NSW Bushfire Inquiry handed down its 466-page report, recommending hazard reduction burning (HRB) in selected places (but not everywhere). A strong connection between the last summer’s bushfires and climate change was also highlighted. The NSW Government accepted all 76 recommendations.  The report noted that some fires were so extreme that they “ripped across bare earth”: in other words, that HRBs would have not helped much.

At the “Daily Telegraph’s Bush Summit” in Cooma, the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor reiterated his policy objective to add natural gas (aka, methane) into the energy mix. Controversially, he is advocating for taxpayers to pay for it.  The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was established eight years ago and is responsible for investing $10 billion in zero carbon-emissions technologies. Natural gas, being a fossil fuel that causes greenhouse gas emissions, has not until now been eligible for CEFC investment funds.  To circumvent the obstacle, the Minister is now redefining gas as a ‘low emissions technology’. On Thursday, he introduced the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill into the Federal Parliament. This move will allow the government to pay for the $1 billion natural-gas investments – knwon as the Grid Reliability Fund – using the money originally allocated to renewables expansion. In summary, Minister Taylor will use money allocated to cut carbon emissions to further increase our carbon emissions. While pushing for further fossil-fuel investments, the Federal Government stands alone against all States in not supporting a target of net zero carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050.

The proposed Adani mega-coal mine in central Queensland is still proceeding in fits and starts. The project still requires (i) a rail line to get the coal over 300 km to the coast and (ii) a port where the coal can be shipped to Asia. The good news for the week is that two more companies – Korea Investment & Securities (KIS) and the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) – added to the list of those refusing to provide financing to Adani’s Abbot Point coal port.

Melting hopes

Among the links below, you can find a Rolling Stones’ article by Jeff Goodell, author of the memorable book on sea-level’s rise ‘The Water Will Come” . There is now increasing concern about the stability of Antarctica’s ice shelves. These float on the ocean and thus, should they melt, would not contribute to sea-level rise. They hold back, however, vast glaciers.  Should the glaciers slip into the sea, they would add considerably to sea-level rise. Two such glaciers – Pine Island and Thwaites, together covering an area the size of Germany – would cause sea levels to rise by 3 metres. Sea currents warmer by 1°C under the ice shelves and land surface temperatures warmer by 2°C are further weakening them.

Upcoming appointments

Coming webinars

  • Global Smart Energy Summit (featuring Bill McKibben, Mark Carney, Mike Cannon-Brooks etc) 29 and 30 September. Co-organised by Smart Energy Council. Register here for Day 1. Register here for Day 2. Free.
  • How do we certify the amount of carbon embedded in hydrogen fuels? ANU Energy Change Institute. 4 – 5.30pm Tuesday 8 September. Register here. Free.
  • Hydrogen and mines virtual summit 2020. October 6-7. Register here. Costs.

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The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

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