The climate this week – 6 Jul 2021

The climate this week – 6 Jul 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.

Featured image: NASA Earth Observatory image of temperature anomalies on June 27th, 2021 compared to 2014-2020 average for the same day during the 2021 western North America heat wave. Source: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens.

Climate change downplayed by Intergenerational Report

Last week the five-yearly Intergenerational Report was released by the Federal Government. It looked at the government’s priorities for the next 40 years. While some mention was made of climate change, it failed to take into account the magnitude of the problem. Treasurer Frydenberg’s seeing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as the be-all-and-end-all solution didn’t cut it. The Grattan Institute said it “beggars belief” that the Morrison government’s modelling failed to make projections about the scale of loss of export earnings from coal, oil and gas or the impacts from global warming such as drought and natural disasters.

Record heat in North America

The searing heatwave that killed hundreds of people in northwest US and British Columbia in Canada caused a lot of us with relatives living there great concern. On a personal note, my sister in Vancouver emailed and said it was 44C on her patio. She said that, had she been in a south-facing apartment and not the house, she would have been “one of the statistics”. The good news, of course, is that it has concentrated people’s minds on climate change. I commend the article by Simon Lewis, who argues that many places on Earth will become too hot to live in.

Nats push for more coal

The ramifications of Barnaby Joyce’s return to the Nationals’ leadership are still being felt. Farmers are urging the Nationals to end their opposition to the net-zero-emissions target by 2050. Indeed, many farmers are “ready to lead the charge on climate”. Meanwhile, Mr Joyce says that Australia needs high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal power stations, as well as revenue from continuing exports of thermal coal, to bankroll social services (oh well, at least the rationale wasn’t bad). He has also backed nuclear power. Let us not forget that the explosion at the Callide plant in Biloela in Queensland recently was a HELE plant. It caused widespread blackouts in the state.

Decarbonise to diversify

Interestingly, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) has labelled the net-zero-emissions by 2050 a “valuable target”. The BCA produced a six-tiered plan to boost productivity and diversify the Australian economy. Almost inevitably, Resources Minister Keith Pitt (now in the Outer Ministry) hit back claiming that they were already diversifying the mining sector. Late this week, Minister Pitt approved a loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to develop the $900m Olive Downs mine in the Bowen Basin. Conservationists labelled it “a bad idea” in the understatement of the week. “Deeply irresponsible”, as others said, was closer to the mark.

Meanwhile, the Investor Group on Climate Change and the UN-backed group Principles for Responsible Investment say Australian regulators must enforce standardised climate-related risk disclosure for all major companies. This would enforce better and more comparable analyses of vulnerabilities to a warming planet.

Just as we were feeling kindly towards Environment Minister Sussan Ley because of her stance against Brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park, she hit back at UNESCO for daring to assess the Great Barrier Reef as being “in danger”. Various scientist leapt to the defence of the UN, including Macquarie University pro-vice-chancellor Lesley Hughes who said Australia is a “huge contributor” to global warming and the federal government “could do a lot” to address it with more ambitious climate policies.

Aiming at 100%

The good news is that the Australian Energy Regulator has reported that more than 3,700 megawatts of new wind and solar farms and 2,500 megawatts of rooftop solar entered the main electricity grid in 2020. This boosted wind and solar energies combined output to record levels, now surpassing 19% of the energy mix.

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

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