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: Icebergs around Cape York, Greenland. Last Tuesday was so hot that the quantity of ice melted in Greenland on that day alone would have covered the entire state of Florida in two inches of water. (Credit: Brocken Inaglory)
Downwards in Sustainability
Concern for the state of the planet for future generations is an important element of climate action. A worrying news item this week was the publication of a paper by Gaya Herrington. According to the paper we are on schedule to meet the predictions of the 1972 ‘Limits to Growth’ study commissioned by the Club of Rome. This study predicted that rapid economic growth would lead to societal collapse in the mid-21st century due to overexploitation of planetary resources. Herrington downplays the role of resource scarcity. However, he says that pollution – notably that which leads to climate change – is actually the big problem.
New Sea Level Records
Yesterday I woke up to an alarming statistic. Last Tuesday was so hot in Greenland that the resulting meltwater from this one day alone would have covered the entire state of Florida in two inches of water. If all the ice covering Greenland was to melt – a realistic scenario in a rapidly warming climate – sea levels would rise by 7 meters.
What are the solutions?
For 40 years, scientists have been warning about climate change. Two years after the last such warning over 11,000 world scientists have issued another warning on climate change, calling it an emergency. They cite six solutions to limit the worst impacts of climate change:
- eliminating fossil fuels;
- slashing back short-lived pollutants such as methane and soot;
- protecting the Earth’s ecosystems to restore biodiversity;
- switching to mostly plant-based diets and change cropping practices;
- moving from indefinite GDP growth to a circular economy;
- stabilising and gradually reducing human populations by voluntary means.
Politicians favouring gas again
We need to talk about Barnaby. In an effort to win back his farming constituency, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is now saying that farmers should be paid more to host coal seam gas (CSG) wells on their properties. He is still convinced that gas is good and needed to reduce emissions. It may or may not be better than coal, but a shift to renewables is the only way to go if you really want to reduce emissions.
Another assault on ARENA
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the ditching by Parliament of the regulations drafted by Energy Minister Angus Taylor to expand the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to include so-called low emissions technologies (hydrogen, CCS and gas). Unfortunately, those same regulations have been redrafted and resubmitted. Hydrogen is OK as long as it is green (produced from renewables). However, the Federal Government wants to include:
- blue hydrogen, generated from methane burning;
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which has just spectacularly failed on the Chevron gas wells of the NW shelf;
- natural gas.
Let’s hope the Senate will throw out the new regulations as well.
Melbourne-shift in power?
There’s mixed news on grid-size batteries this week, with a fire in the new battery at Geelong. However, Melbourne is looking to an inner-city battery from next year.
Bravo all our Australian athletes who won medals in the Olympic Games this week, particularly in swimming. It has been a great distraction from the awful news on weather and climate. Nevertheless, this article from Time magazine about climate change and the Olympics is worth a read.
- How the carbon tax has come back to haunt the Australian government. The federal government’s stance on carbon tax policy means its risks being caught on the wrong side of history and damaging the economy.
- Climate crisis: what one month of extreme weather looks like – video. In the last month, devastating weather extremes have hit regions across the world.
- World natural resources may run out by 2040 – study. A study predicted that if the world’s economy and population continue to grow at their current pace, natural resources will run out within 20 years.
- Greenland: enough ice melted on single day to cover Florida in two inches of water. Data shows ice sheet lost 8.5bn tons of surface mass on Tuesday. All-time record temperature of 19.8C in region on Wednesday.
- Climate emergency not slowed by COVID-19 pandemic and planet’s ‘vital signs’ worsening, scientists say. Scientists have declared Earth’s “vital signs” are worsening, despite a change in habits because of COVID-19.
- More livestock, more carbon dioxide, less ice: the world’s climate change progress since 2019 is (mostly) bad news. Back in 2019, more than 11,000 scientists declared a global climate emergency. They established a comprehensive set of vital signs that impact or reflect the planet’s health, such as forest loss, fossil fuel subsidies, glacier thickness, ocean acidity and surface temperature.
- Research shows variable climate cutting farmers’ profits. Farm incomes have become more variable with changing climate, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, and it is costing farmers $30,000 a year, every year.
- Big win for coal generators as ESB pushes for Taylor’s favoured capacity markets. New rules championed by Angus Taylor could benefit coal and stifle the pace of the clean energy transition. “It’s terrible,” said one insider.
- How the US could help Australia develop climate action. There comes a time when the citizens of one country need help from another country to solve crucial problems. In the case of Australia, help is not for poverty, chaos or insurrection, it is the need to join the world in addressing the climate and environmental crisis.
- NSW emissions reductions ‘totally undone’ by coal mine approvals, analysis suggests. Emissions from fossil fuel projects approved in the past three years will undo much of the NSW government’s emissions reduction work and could undermine the state’s net-zero by 2050 target, an analysis suggests.