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.
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.
Climate and Health Alliance. Discussion of report below. 8–9am 17 September. RSVP here.
UN Sustainable Transport Conference, 14-16 October 2021, Beijing, China. Information here.
- 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.
- Friends of the Earth. Day of Action for Australia’s 2030 Target. 1 October. Email the PM here.
- AEMC: Transmission Planning and Investment Review. Submissions close 30 September.
- A betrayal of farmers: The Nationals are lackeys for coal. The National Party has abandoned farmers in favour of caving into the demands of fossil fuel donors.
- Yes, it is entirely possible for Australia to phase out thermal coal within a decade. In a UK study published today in Nature, scientists found Australia must keep 95% of coal in the ground if we have any hope of stopping the planet warming beyond the crucial limit of 1.5℃.
- Why Australia ‘needs to leave almost all of its coal in the ground’. Australia must leave almost all its coal in the ground, as well as a good chunk of its oil and gas, if the world is to have one-in-two odds of keeping global warming to 1.5C, according to a new study.
- Australia can achieve rapid, deep and cheap emission cuts from tech we have now. There is a superhighway to rapid elimination of 80% of Australian greenhouse emissions, using low-cost, existing technology from vast production runs.
- The climate apocalypse: Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided? United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said “a target of net zero 2050 emissions to address the climate emergency is an illusion, net zero must be in the next decade. There must be no new coal plants built after 2021. OECD countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040”.
- Why electrifying everything is an ‘easy slam dunk’ for solving climate change
- Australia could rapidly get most of the way to net zero emissions by using existing technology to electrify “low-hanging fruit”, according to some experts — and with minimal disruption for most people.
- News Corp hasn’t seen the light on climate – they’re just updating their tactics. Is News Corp really seeing the light on climate? More likely it’s pivoting to a modern style of greenwashing and delay, just like Morrison.
- Climate change means Australia may have to abandon much of its farming. The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest Australia may have to jettison tracts of the bush unless there is a massive investment in climate-change adaptation and planning.
- Australia warned climate crisis will ‘wreak havoc’ on economy if coal isn’t phased out. Senior UN official says it is in Australia’s interest to make the transition to renewables as investors increasingly abandon fossil fuels
- This wildly reinvented wind turbine generates five times more energy than its competitors. It could power up to 100,000 households.