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: On January 20th Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. His climate-friendly agenda is a source of hope for the entire world. Source: Gage Skidmore (cc).
New year, old problems
Welcome back and happy new year! Let’s hope this one will be better than 2020, which saw “horrific bushfires in Australia; a protracted heatwave in Siberia; the most tropical storms ever registered in the Atlantic; devastating blazes in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands; the highest flood levels recorded in east Africa; unusually devastating cyclones and typhoons in India, Indonesia and the Philippines; the hottest northern hemisphere summer in history; temperature records in the Antarctic and the Arctic, where winter ice formation was delayed for longer than in any season in the satellite era”. (Forgive the lack of attribution.)
Depending on whom you ask, 2020 was either the warmest year on record, or equal warmest, or second warmest (just). It is almost irrelevant because the last seven years have been the warmest on record. The writing is on the wall, we must act now, or at least in the nine years remaining of this decade.
The bottom line: act now
Any optimism I may have felt was largely smothered by a paper this week by Corey Bradshaw et al in Frontiers of Conservation Science called “Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future”. The 17 authors argue that future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed. As far as climate change is concerned, they say that the latest climate models show greater future warming than previously predicted, even if society tracks the needed lower emissions pathways over the coming decades.
On a more positive note, however, a report in the Guardian says that if we can stabilise emissions, we can return to normality fairly quickly. David Spratt of the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne, however, says that: “This area is a minefield, even within the scientific community!” Spratt puts a dampener on the optimism by saying: “…at zero emissions we lose between 0.5C and 1C (or even more) of aerosols which have been masking much of the warming, so that warming would then have to be added in…And then there is the question as to whether long-term feedbacks which are already active now would continue. For example, once permafrost carbon-cycle feedbacks kick in, it doesn’t take more human emissions and warming for them to continue. The biological breakdown of permafrost carbon creates enough heat for it to be self-sustaining.” The message is, let’s not get too excited about the result, even if we achieve zero net emissions.
Ready for US action?
The big news, of course, is that Joe Biden won the US Presidential election despite spurious claims of fraud by Trump and his supporters. The Democrats have won the Senate thanks to (albeit close) elections in Georgia that delivered two seats to the Democrats. The House of Representatives remained Democrat after the November elections. Now, with the casting vote of VP-elect Kamala Harris in the Senate, Biden will be able to get through anything that does not demand a two thirds majority. Biden will be able to re-join the Paris Agreement and put in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) people who actually care about the environment. However, the bigger picture items may have to be held over. Nevertheless, the Trump defeat/Biden win is good news for the climate.
Turn off the gas!
Here’s a petition to sign regarding green-led, not gas-led, economic recovery.
- Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp. Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.
- Climate impacts on health and urban areas: Heatwaves and death rate. Heat does not kill in the same way everywhere. Urban planning, social cohesion, traffic, crime: the urban and social context can worsen the vulnerability of individuals to heatwaves, with differences even within the same city.
- Political change must help impact of climate change. This weekend’s summery warmth should remind us there is a life outside the darkness of politics and epidemic.
- Positive ‘tipping points’ offer hope for climate. Positive ‘tipping points’ could spark cascading changes that accelerate action on climate change, experts say.
- UN chief calls for ‘urgent transition’ from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Building a global coalition for carbon neutrality by mid-century will be the UN’s “central objective”, the world body’s top official told a conference on climate action on Monday.
- IEA to produce world’s first comprehensive roadmap to net-zero emissions by 2050. The International Energy Agency today announced that it will produce the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 as it further strengthens its leadership role in global clean energy transitions.
- ‘It’s just so neat’: Solar-powered air-conditioning hits Australia. The next generation of air con comes with its own built-in solar panels and, once installed, costs nothing to run. Some can have it installed free.
- 2021 is here: what to watch out for in Australian climate and energy politics. 2021 is well underway and is already on track to be another year of climate policy shenanigans – here’s what to watch out for this year.
- Our best chance to slow global warming comes in the next nine years. The events of the past few days are shocking in their novelty – the glory of seeing the first Black Democrat ever elected to the Senate from the South, the shame of seeing a President incite a mob to storm the Capitol.
- Black Summer bushfires made worse by climate change, risk to ‘rapidly intensify’. South-eastern Australia should expect more extreme hot and dry conditions and fire-induced weather without significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.