A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
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.
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.
- 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.
More news & info
- Lethal power: how coal is killing people in Australia by Greenpeace Australia Pacific
- Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry
- Climate apocalypse now by Jeff Goodell. Maybe it’s just a failure of human imagination to understand what is coming.
- “Crazy”: How Taylor plans to co-opt CEFC funds into unprofitable gas projects
- NSW plan for 21 coalmines would create seven years of nation’s emissions, expert says. State Minerals Council pushing for projects despite Minerals Council of Australia goal of net-zero emissions.
- AGL to shift entire 400 corporate car fleet to electric vehicles. AGL Energy to become first Australian company to sign up to EV100 initiative, committing to transition 400-strong vehicle fleet to electric vehicles.
- Gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed. If gas-fired electricity emissions can be lower than those from coal-fired plants, should Australia expand its fossil gas industry as a means of combating climate change? The answer is a clear no, if we want to avoid the worst climate change outcomes.
- Whitehaven profit slumps 95% as Australia’s coal prices collapse. Whitehaven, one of Australia’s largest coal miners, has seen its profits nearly wiped out as coal prices collapse around the world.
- The NSW bushfire inquiry found property loss is ‘inevitable’. We must stop building homes in such fire-prone areas. We should stop developing into high-risk areas, as the associated land clearing is too significant to our ecosystems, and may still result in houses being lost.
- Every day, coal is killing us. The Coalition Government favours fossil fuels at the expense of renewables, but Australia needs to get off coal to save both lives and money.
- Sustainable cement: the simple switch that could massively cut global carbon emissions. Using sustainable cement would shift Earth Overshoot Day back by 10 days.
- Gas is not transition energy we were promised, new research suggests. Once embraced as the not-so-bad option to burning other fossil fuels, gas is increasingly seen as being potentially as destructive to the climate as coal.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.