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 Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto has struck a partnership with South Korea’s POSCO to develop technologies to decarbonise the steel value chain.
A preview of what is to come?
According to a new study from World Weather Attribution and published in Scientific American, the blistering heatwave that scorched the Pacific Northwest last month would have been “virtually impossible” without the influence of climate change. In fact, it was nearly impossible even with it.
Rio Tinto aiming for net zero
Perhaps the steelmakers are seeing the writing on the wall, or maybe they are genuinely trying to do their bit, but Rio Tinto has struck a partnership with South Korean steel giant POSCO. Their goal is to explore and develop a range of technologies to decarbonise the steel value chain. Rio Tinto wants to deliver reductions in steelmaking carbon intensity of at least 30% from 2030, or with potential to deliver carbon neutral pathways from 2050.
It seems that we have a carbon price after all, albeit a de facto one. Pledges from major companies to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions have driven prices for Australia-based climate offsets to $20 a tonne. Prices may reach $50 a tonne by 2050.
A Minister refusing her duty of care
Just as we were all rejoicing about the Federal court ruling that the Minister for Environment Sussan Ley had a duty of care to protect children from personal injury caused by climate change, she decided to appeal. (What? She doesn’t want to protect children from harm?)
Perhaps because of the Nationals’ new leadership, the Federal Government has still not committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Mike Goldman – chargé d’affaires at the United States embassy in Canberra – has told Prime Minister Morrison that both countries need to set “more ambitious climate goals” and tackle the climate crisis “head on”.
Australia certainly does need to lift its climate ambition. In fact, our country was ranked dead last for climate action in the latest Sustainable Development Report, which assesses the progress of countries towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Australia received the lowest score awarded to any of the 193 members of the United Nations for the level of climate action, “a withering repudiation of the Coalition government’s climate efforts” according to Michael Mazengarb, writing in John Menadue’s blog Pearls and Irritations.
Adani’s latest damages
The fight against the Adani Carmichael coal mine goes on, and on, and on. Apparently, aquifer levels have dropped significantly near the coalmine since 2019. This fact prompted concern that the large volumes of water being pumped may have already locked in irreversible damage to sensitive wetlands – such as the Doongmabulla Springs – that are of significant importance to the local Aboriginal communities. Groundwater monitoring data from one aquifer in the mining lease shows a drawdown of about 50 metres in the past two years.
Close that tap!
Rainfall and run-off in SW Western Australia have been declining for decades now. However, this June was particularly worrying. The monthly rainfall was 32% below average across WA, while in Perth it was 45% lower. The WA Water Minister Dave Kelly stressed this week that “the impacts of climate change reinforce importance of being waterwise all year round”.
You might want to watch this video from Beyond Zero Emissions about Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts.
- Australian government must protect young people from climate crisis harm, court declares. Environment minister has 28 days to appeal historic ruling that carbon emissions from coalmine should not cause young people ‘personal injury or death’.
- Shhhh, here come Brisbane’s first oh-so-quiet electric buses. Drivers say they will take time to get used to the location of mirrors and “riding the clutch” on Brisbane’s new whisper-quiet electric buses, but Brisbane’s carbon footprint has dropped by 7 per cent since 2017.
- NSW offers grants to secure 3GW of pumped hydro to replace coal. NSW offers grants to help secure 3GW of pumped hydro projects in time for next wave of coal fired power station closures.
- Batteries getting bigger and leaping to four-hour storage as market changes. Battery storage installations are getting bigger and delivering more services as the market shifts more rapidly to wind and solar.
- ‘Heat dome’ probably killed 1bn marine animals on Canada coast, experts say. British Columbia scientist says heat essentially cooked mussels: ‘The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk’.
- 5 million deaths a year caused by global climate related abnormal temps. The world’s largest study of global climate related mortality found deaths related to hot temperatures increased in all regions from 2000 to 2019, indicating that global warming due to climate change will make this mortality figure worse in the future.
- The climate crisis will create two classes: those who can flee, and those who cannot. Nearly 700 million people worldwide live in low coastal zones vulnerable to sea-level rise and coastal storms. That number could reach a billion by 2050.
- ‘We don’t have 40 years’ to fight for climate justice. The ‘father of environmental justice’ discusses the legacy of his work, how systemic racism in agriculture is tied to the larger injustices faced by Black and brown communities, and what brings him hope in this moment.
- What technology could reduce heat deaths? Trees. At a time when climate change is making heat waves more frequent and more severe, trees are stationary superheroes: They can lower urban temperatures 10 lifesaving degrees, scientists say.
- Government credit agency gave 80 times more money to fossil fuels than renewables over last 11 years. Research from Jubilee Australia has found Export Finance Australia provided up to $1.69 billion in financing to the fossil fuel industry compared to just $20 million for renewable energy projects between 2009 and 2020.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.