The climate this week – 14 Sep 2021

The climate this week – 14 Sep 2021

A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action

By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.

Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 Twin Towers disaster and the media is rightly focussed on that for a while, along with continuing Covid cases and lockdowns. Nevertheless, the climate crisis continues, largely unabated. British scientists warned that, if we aim to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, then 90% of coal will have to stay in the ground, and just under 60% for oil and gas. For Australia, 95% of coal will have to stay in the ground, 40% of oil and 35% of gas.

Also last week, Selwin Hart – the UN’s assistant secretary general for climate action – reiterated calls for OECD countries such as Australia to stop using coal by 2030. He said that Australia’s Morrison government had become isolated by resisting calls to set a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. Global emissions needed to be cut by 45% this decade, he said, to keep limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within reach. You can find the video of Hart’s talk here. (You will need to turn on sound.)

A mortal embrace with coal

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison remained unmoved by it all and declared coal use would continue, saying coal was “absolutely critical to Australia’s future. And we’ll keep on mining. Of course we’ll keep on mining.”  To make matters worse, he had reference to Paris targets removed from a trade deal with the UK. The shame should be shared with UK PM Boris Johnson for agreeing to it, particularly in light of his country hosting the COP26 UN climate meetings in Glasgow within 50 days from now.

Not that Morrison is alone in his Cabinet with those views on coal. Resources Minister Keith Pitt said “coal will remain a significant contributor to the Australian economy well beyond 2030 as global demand continues to grow”. The latter assumption is shaky, even though demand from China and India has increased, but most believe it is temporary.

And not to be outdone, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor says Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and hydrogen (all colours, not just green) will be investment priorities for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). As said before, Taylor has no idea what the original remit of ARENA was, namely, it is for funding renewable energy projects.

Sucking CO2 out of the air

Good luck on the CCS, hardly a proven technology at scale. However, Iceland has just started to capture carbon dioxide from the air and pump it underground into basalt reserves, and it seems at scale (big enough to make a difference) though whether affordable or not remains to be seen. Let’s hope it works. As eminent scientist Prof Will Steffen says “in the fight against climate change, we need not a silver bullet but silver buckshot” that is, many solutions.

An about-face to be trusted?

Interestingly, NewsCorp Australia – until now arguably the biggest obstacle to effective climate action in this country – has done a turnaround and said it will now advocate for NZE by 2050. What Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones think of this is another matter. NZE by 2050 is certainly better than straight out denial but we all know now that 2050 is too late and globally we need it by 2040 and in Australia by 2035.

A prescient news article from the past

Finally, have a look at this picture. It is a fascinating news item from a New Zealand paper in 1912 (!) noting correctly that carbon dioxide acts like a blanket over the Earth, causing an increase in temperature. It got its timing wrong, however, saying the effect would be considerable in a few centuries – it is having a considerable effect after only one. Nevertheless, a very prescient article.

Invitation

Check out here an invitation to the launch of ZeroSE, an initiative of Climate Action Monaro and our colleagues on the coast (350Eurobodalla, SHASA, Coastwatchers, Repower Shoalhaven and CANsign). Its aim is to achieve policy change and action to accelerate a transition to a low carbon economy in the southeast region of the state. Prof John Hewson will launch ZeroSE. It is on Tuesday, 21 September at 5.30pm but please join well before then – the zoom room opens at 5.15pm.

Webinars

Smart Energy Council. Global race to zero virtual summit. 20 and 21 October. Register for Day 1 here. Register for Day 2 here.

Climate and Health Alliance. Discussion of report below. 8–9am 17 September. RSVP here.

Conference

UN Sustainable Transport Conference, 14-16 October 2021, Beijing, China. Information here.

Reports

  • Climate and Health Alliance: Real, Urgent and Now: Insights from health professionals on climate and health in Australia. Read it here.
  • Doctors for the Environment. How Climate Change Affects Your Health: The Facts. Download here.

Campaign

  • Friends of the Earth. Day of Action for Australia’s 2030 Target. 1 October. Email the PM here.

Consultation paper

  • AEMC: Transmission Planning and Investment Review. Submissions close 30 September.

Further resources

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

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