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: Unexpected and catastrophic freezing conditions have affected the US state of Texas. These events have been linked to anthropogenic climate change. Source: wikimedia.
The frozen star state
Forget “global warming”, let’s talk “climate weirding”! Texas ground to a halt with freezing conditions due to a jet stream extending 4,000 miles from the Arctic. Many blamed the resulting blackouts on a failure in wind power. However, the cause was the frigid temperatures stalling the production and transport of Texas’s main source of power: natural gas.
Denialists saw it as proof that global warming was not happening. On the contrary, climate change has led to the Arctic warming three times more rapidly than the rest of the planet. The strength of the jet stream is powered by the temperature gradient between warm (equatorial) and (Arctic) cold air. With a warmer Arctic, the gradient was lower and led to a weaker, more wavy jet stream, bringing cold air southward.
The New Climate War
I have been reading Prof Michael Mann’s new book The New Climate War. You may remember Mann on Q&A in February, when he responded to Senator Jim Molan’s comment that he (Molan) was keeping an open mind and not relying on the evidence (of climate change). Mann replied: “You should keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out”.
Mann returned to the US to write a book in which he details how the world has been subjected to a deliberate misinformation campaign over climate change. He argues that “inactivism” has superseded misinformation and become central to opposition against climate action. This comprises a combination of “doomism” and deflection. Doomism reflects the message that fixing the climate is such a daunting task that we should not even bother trying. Deflection expresses the attitude of putting all the responsibility to take action on individuals (you and me), rather than corporations and governments, which have the real power to change things as quickly as needed.
The Aussie front
Unfortunately, at the Federal level in Australia, the opposition to climate action takes yet another form. While acknowledging that climate change might be a threat, the priority seems always to keep the fossil-fuel vested interests happy. This is achieved by trying to include gas, nuclear and HELE (High Efficiency Low Emissions) coal-fired power stations into the mix of future energy sources. Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has tried to include the latter in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) funding. Mr Joyce clearly does not understand what the word “clean” means. Fortunately, his amendment was pulled mid-debate. At least the ALP is holding firm against including gas projects into CEFC funding. Deputy Premier Michael McCormack set the cat amongst the pigeons by calling for agriculture to be excluded from any zero net emissions target.
Interestingly, NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro came down partly on the side of the angels this week. He said that the Federal Government should reject plans to extend a permit allowing gas drilling in offshore waters from Manly to Newcastle. He was responding to a petition that gained 60,000 signatures: this is the strength of democracy! On the other hand, despite massive damage to forests and wildlife, Barilaro overruled the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and determined that industrial-scale logging can continue in NSW’s burnt and unburnt forests.
Net-zero competition in WA
Over in Western Australia, where a State election will be held on 13th March, the Labor State Government under Mark McGowan has released a $259 million green jobs package. This is centred on the construction of more than 1,000 stand-alone power systems, which include solar panels, battery storage and back-up generators. Meanwhile, the State Liberals under Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup have a hugely ambitious plan for WA to reach net zero emissions by 2030. Kirkup has promised to shut down coal-fired power stations by 2025 and deliver a massive wind and solar farm in the state’s mid-west to generate renewable energy. Extraordinary and wonderful that both parties are so enlightened.
- New UN report sorts through ‘three interlinked environmental crises’. “For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature. The result is three interlinked environmental crises”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a virtual press briefing on the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report, Making Peace with Nature.
- 8 things that need to happen this decade to reach net zero emissions by 2050. We’re running out of time to hit 2050 goals, but there is a path to get there.
- Climate change driving increased migration from Central America. This past autumn we witnessed the beginning of what may be one of the most straightforward examples of climate-induced migration in Central America. Around 10,000 people have already attempted to migrate northward after two devastating storms hit, and many more are planning to leave soon.
- ‘We have no time to lose’: why Bill Gates is on a planetary crusade. Having grappled with malaria, HIV and Ebola, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist has set his sights on solving another intractable global problem: climate change.
- Australia’s battery and hydrogen storage pipeline jumped by massive 20GW in 2020. Number of battery storage and hydrogen electrolyser projects in Australia soared in 2020, rivalling that of solar PV and wind energy as developers bet on a rapid transition to renewables.
- Origin profits collapse as it prepares for ‘messy’ coal exit and big battery plans. Origin Energy says things could get messy with coal plants heading towards early closures, as it reports first half profits slashed by 98 per cent.
- Australians fear climate change more than catching Covid, survey shows. Edelman Trust Barometer records big gains for attitudes towards government, media and business, but not technology.
- Australia risks being left behind in petrol-fuelled ‘parallel world’ as other countries embrace electric cars. Morrison government’s inaction is driving away chance to build a new low-emissions economy, industry experts say.
- Australia’s lack of effort on climate change is going to cost us. Australia is deeply exposed to carbon border tax adjustments due to our lack of action in reducing emissions.
- Australia lagging behind on electric vehicles and climate action. The Federal Government’s electric vehicle policy was released two years ago, but they still cannot bring themselves to call it that.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.