Climate clippings 86

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is mainly about politics and policy rather than the science.

1. Anti renewables tirade

As the forces of darkness are unleashed upon us under the rule of Tony Abbott, people attending the Eastern Australian Energy Outlook Conference were subjected to a “venomous rant” against the renewable energy target from Burchell Wilson, a senior economist at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The tragedy of this is that Wilson’s presentation may have been plain wrong, nasty, manipulative and ideological, but he’s not alone in Canberra….

As Wilson (rightly) pointed out, there is a vast reserve of anti-renewables passion in the rump of the National Party and the Liberal party backbench open to such rhetoric– which insiders say is being whipped up by new Liberal MP Angus Taylor.

Wilson expressed his hope that these views would overwhelm those of moderates such as Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane. He hoped that the economic rationalists at the Productivity Commission would have carriage of the next RET review.

2. Mining lobby targets RET

In the current political climate the RET is under serious threat, being targeted directly by the mining industry.

This is how John D sees it:

Australia’s RET is one of the few emission trading schemes in the world that is actually working. For years it has been steadily driving investment in utility scale renewables. Better still, because it is an offset credit trading scheme that does not generate government revenue it is achieving this with negligible changes in power costs. (The fossil power companies are actually complaining that it is pushing wholesale prices down!)

For this reason it is of some concern to see that the Minerals industry is pushing for the repeal of the RET.

We should all be campaigning for an increase in the RET target and against any attempt to eliminate or scale back the RET.

3. Greg Hunt stays home

Greg Hunt has announced that rather than go to Warsaw to represent us on climate change he will stay home and read Wikipedia attend to destroying the dreaded ‘carbon tax’.

Australia will have no government minister at the main United Nations climate negotiations next week, for the first time since the Kyoto accord in 1997.

Diplomat Justin Lee, Australia’s ambassador for climate change, will represent the country at international talks in Poland, which are seen as vital to laying the groundwork for a global agreement to cut carbon emissions.

Not even a parliamentary secretary could be spared.

Labor was sharply critical.

UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres said the 19th Conference of Parties said the meeting was

a pivotal moment to advance international climate action and showcase a growing momentum to address climate change at all levels of society.

I suppose if you have nothing to showcase you might as well stay home.

4. Abbott’s war on science begins

Meanwhile a razor has been taken to CSIRO:

Almost a quarter of scientists, researchers and workers at Australia’s premier science institution will lose their jobs under the federal government’s present public service jobs freeze.

With no minister responsible for science I understand this falls in Ian Macfarlane’s industry portfolio, but I could be wrong.

5. Climate change risk at BHP Billiton

A character called Ian Dunlop aspired to become a director on the board of BHP Billiton because he believes they are not doing enough to adapt to the risks to the company from climate change.

Dunlop was proposing climate friendly measures at BHP Billiton by reducing emissions and finding improved ways to operate various assets in a hotter environment. Not content with that he suggested that we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Unsurprisingly BHP Billiton feel they can get along just fine without Dunlop’s particular expertise.

Surprisingly, though, Dunlop is a former Australian Coal Association chairman and, separately, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Unsurprisingly I heard on the radio that only 4% of shareholders voted for him.

6. Obama’s direct action moves on climate adaptation

By executive order President Barack Obama has pulled together an impressive task force to look at plans for climate change adaptation. That report is from Fox News, so contains a mandatory component of ‘balance’ on the science. This initiative builds on Obama’s “Climate Action Plan last June, which include the first-ever limits on climate pollution from new and existing power plants.”

This report contains the following fascinating information:

A new poll, however, indicates that Republicans are divided on the topic.

The Pew Research Center reports that “just 25% of Tea Party Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, compared with 61% of non-Tea Party Republicans.

Overall, Pew reported, “two-thirds of Americans (67%) say there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades, a figure that has changed little in the past few years. While partisan differences over climate change remain substantial, Republicans face greater internal divisions over this issue than do Democrats.”

7. Climate change countdown

Doug Evans at Independent Australia has produced a very fine two-part series Climate change countdown. In Part 1 The last roll of the dice he “examined some of the most recent predictions of our climate crisis, what action they required if a safe climate is to be retained and what progress is being made down that path.” In it inter alia he makes use of material (linked) which we looked at here.

One small glitch, Doug, the Copenhagen UNFCCC fiasco was in 2009, not in 2011, but overall, well done!

In Part Two, Time to stand up and be counted he

looks at options for Australia now that an Abbott-led Coalition has been elected. Where does Australia stand in relation to the huge changes that provide our only path to a safe climate?

Also well done!

Evans correctly, I think, identifies Labor’s shallow commitment to climate change. In the context of the leadership contest:

scratch even a little below the surface and it is clear that neither of the leadership contenders is prepared to address the yawning contradiction between Labor’s helpful, mid-green climate change policies and its environmentally destructive deep brown energy policies.

Eventually we are going to need real political vision and leadership at all levels. What kind of community action will put some starch into our politics is an important question for debate.

8. Green buildings Thailand style

Finally here is a photo of apartment buildings in Thailand from the Around the World Facebook site:

Thailand apartment buildings_500

22 thoughts on “Climate clippings 86”

  1. Given the way the economics of renewables are trending a Productivity Commission review of the RET might not return an answer that Burchell Wilson seems to be expecting would result.

  2. Hope you are right Doug. Problem is that renewable investment has been stalled because of the uncertainty associated with what Abbott will do about the RET. There is a case for setting up long term contracts to supply renewable capacity to get something moving while the review runs its course.
    The situation isn’t helped by the carbon tax. At the moment it is nothing but a great big distraction. Ditto Labor’s demand that the carbon tax be replaced by an ETS.
    A Labor party that rally wanted some climate action might agree to support the end of the carbon tax in return for a jump in the RET target large enough to put us on track to meet some challenging 2020 emission reduction targets

  3. This link provides some background on the reasons that fossil power producers are campaigning against the RET even though it is helping consumers by pushing the wholesale price of power down.

  4. Warning … linking to the webpage from “Around the World” (facebook) crashed my browser, twice. Perhaps leave this until you are ready to close your other browser links.

  5. Burchell Wilson will no doubt soon be taking up residence at the gated community for retired ACCI ideologues, aka Catallaxy.

  6. CSIRO depends on grants and research contracts for a lot of its income. Funny thing is that a large part of the work for these is done by post docs and others on short term contracts – The people they are proposing to get rid of.

  7. I saw Greg Hunt debate Mark Butler on sunrise Friday. The man looks extremely uncomfortable with the position he’s been put into and the lie he is expected to live.

  8. Abbott’s war on science, especially through job losses at the CSIRO, is an excellent move that clarifies the issue, or ought to do so, for any scientists still wondering where their interests might lie.

    It’s good that this climate science thread is mostly about the politics because that is the main problem at this stage.

    I am in awe at the sight and sound of Lib/Nat fundamentalist believers imagining that they can bully a planet into behaving itself. What’s that? They don’t think that? OK, then they imagine that they can browbeat a population into believing horsehit. Well, they’ll succeed in bullying many, but not all, thanks to Whitlam opening the door to a tertiary educated population.

    The broad environment movement has behaved well so far, aware that the least escalation in resistance to these fanatics will be labelled and treated as terrorism.

  9. Part of the CSIRO problem is that CSIRO management have put so many staff on one-year contracts. (Its standard practice in academia and obviously makes life insecure for a lot of people). CSIRO management could have given a lot more staff 3 year contracts, but have chosen to treat a particular chunk of their workforce as disposable and now have to lie in the bed they have made.

    Not to excuse the government. If you need to cut staff at a research institution the most logical way is to get rid of scientists who do not produce useful data and have not done so for a few years.

  10. Chumpai: I have been involved in a number of organizations that allocated research grant money to organizations like CSIRO. The underlying problem is that contribution of research grants to research organization budgets has been growing over the years.
    While the organizations I was involved with recognized the importance of long term support for successful teams there was never any guarantee that CSIRO would automatically get a fixed share of the grant money or that the amount of grant money would be relatively stable. Even if the amount of money Priorities change and the skill sets required to pursue these priorities change.
    Given the above it is inevitable that the number of contract and casual workers will rise even though there is merit in more permanent employment arrangements and the long term development of promising researchers.
    The real problem is that governments (and most employers) find it easier to lay off contractors and casuals than permanent employees. This is supported by a union attitude that tends to be anti contractors.

  11. I’m probably still persona non grata around here but I just wanted to alert you, if you weren’t already aware, that submissions on the so called carbon tax repeal bills are being kept secret.

    The bills will be introduced tomorrow and probably debated tomorrow, but submissions have not been published as of this morning. Public comment was invited but we are not allowed to see it.

    I made a submission but I got no acknowledgement and I’ve got no information. The info line people know nothing, the staff in the Minister’s office no nothing, and you can’t talk to the public servants who are handling the submission process – only send them emails, to which they don’t reply.

    There’s some more info on my blog, which I’ll update later when I get time.

    Has anyone seen anything like this before? I haven’t.

  12. (Apols this is repeat of message on Saturday Salon but relevant here)

    I guess everyone knows about the National Day of Climate Action tomorrow, but in case anyone hasn’t, had forgotten etc the details of local events can be found here

    I hope everyone can make it so we can send a strong message to the Abbott government (and to Labor and all MPs generally)

  13. I guess I should also update my comment @ 12 above on submissions on “carbon tax repeal”. First lot of submissions were posted on Wednesday (the day the bill was introduced to Parliament) and the remainder on Thursday, so they are not being kept secret. Also I received an email replying to my enquiries on Wednesday, from a public servant, with an apology for the delay in responding.

    The normal process is that submissions go up as they are received, so there was some kind of blockage here, however caused. I do want to note though that I am not blaming public servants for this. I’ve written about this in more detail at my blog

  14. Following the success of the day of action, there is much calling for a coordinated grass roots campaign for climate action on twitter internet etc.
    Some have suggested that this issue for the broad left to mobilise around – see eg Ben Elton in New Matilda – while others say that the issue should be taken out of adversarial politics and made a broad community issue ( I think quite a few participants in my research would support that call).

    I don’t think these two positions are necessarily incompatible – of course given Abbott’s position, it’s not possible to depoliticise the issue, but the broad left can still campaign on it without claiming it as a ‘left’ issue. After all, it’s an issue that will affect everyone, though the poor, young and vulnerable much more than others, so it is a community issue.

    I would be interested to hear the thoughts of others – including Brian who produces these wonderful posts, but also other LP commenters who have much collective wisdom – on how this could be done.

    (Without getting into stoush territory, I would like to emphasise that trying to promote nuclear would be absolutely counter productive in this context)

  15. Val: Climate action is not simply a left vs right issue. Many conservatives will do green things because they value their leafy suburbs and are genuinely concerned about the future of their grandchildren and the planet in general. Equally their are many Labor supporters who think climate action is a threat to the working class because, in their minds (and often reality) climate action = loss of good paying jobs that normal workers can do.
    We can achieve more in the next three years by pursuing a range activities at the same time using a range of groups. Some of these actions and groups should be things that a green conservative can support. Some of these groups will be better able to achieve more if they are not seen as being aligned with the Greens or Labor.
    To me the bottom lines are about reducing emissions and building strong public support for climate action.

  16. John @ 17
    I agree it is not a left vs right issue but I think it is politicised because of Abbott’s stance,
    I agree the question of jobs is very important. Becoming a carbon neutral society will require a transformation of our economy from growth-competition to stability-cooperation IMO, but there needs to be careful step by step transitions to protect people’s livelihoods. It really needs to be about doing better with less, but we need brilliant innovative thinking to get us there

  17. The “green costs jobs” goes very badly with “green costs more because of higher labour costs” IMO. I think it’s one of those little hiccups that the browns like to skip over and hope no-one notices. Sure, your highly skilled coal shoveller will have to retrain to become a highly skilled solar mirror cleaner, but that’s life, you know. Unless they’re particularly attached to carrying a lungful of coal dust around I can’t see why anyone would complain about the change.

    Perhaps we need to start explaining that “higher labour costs” means more jobs, or higher paid jobs, but probably both.

  18. Sure, your highly skilled coal shoveller will have to retrain to become a highly skilled solar mirror cleaner, but that’s life, you know. Unless they’re particularly attached to carrying a lungful of coal dust around I can’t see why anyone would complain about the change.

    I couldn’t agree more! Why do woodchip and coal workers want to condemn their children to more of the same dangerous, precarious work?

  19. It’s the transition within a working life, rather than between generations, that’s the problem though. Eg lot of older workers from manufacturing ended up on disability pension according to welfare agencies, because they didn’t have relevant skills for new jobs, also often have chronic disease etc or become depressed. So have to find ways to avoid that happening.

    Agree there could be plenty of green jobs but still need to rethink the growth agenda of capitalism. More equal distribution of wealth would be a win win way to start! Eg better paid jobs with better conditions for workers in green industries and less going to highly paid executives

  20. So today the carbon price repeal bills passed the lower House of Parliament. Also the Climate Institute found the carbon price would lead to a 15% reduction in Australia’s emissions by 2020.

    It is hard to believe the depths of stupidity that this country has sunk to.

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