- “Climate change is the existential threat to humanity,” the former vice president said. “Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It’s real. And we have a moral obligation.”
Bill Hare, an Australian a physicist and climate scientist, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics based in Berlin (with branches in Lome, Togo and New York, USA and now Perth, WA), Adjunct Professor at the Murdoch University, and a Visiting Scientist in the Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research since 2002 says Joe Biden’s move to net zero emissions will leave Australia in the (coal) dust.
Hare points out:
the EU, China, Japan, South Korea and the US – about two thirds of the global economy, about half the world’s emissions and close to 75% of our fossil fuel export markets –will have net zero goals for 2050 or shortly afterwards. This is a massive shift.
He says markets for coal, oil and gas should be more or less halved by 2030. Also:
- In 2019 China, South Korea and Japan accounted for 72% by value of Australia’s exports of LNG and coal: 88% of Australia’s LNG exports; 75% of thermal coal exports; and 51% of metallurgical coal exports. It is notable that none of these countries have focused on natural gas and all have mentioned renewable energy and other technologies, and all recognise that early action on coal is needed.
Australia can expect border tariffs on exports of goods manufactured here and will be diplomatically isolated. That isolation will also impact our relations with our Pacific neighbours.
Biden as president would pursue climate ‘cheaters’, Australia could be among them. In fact here’s the list of ‘climate outlaws’, in alphabetical order:
Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Part of the problem with China is its practice of building coal-fired power stations in other countries through its belt and Road initiative, an issue also mentioned by Kevin Rudd.
Jake Sullivan, who was the national security adviser to Biden when he was vice-president and is now in the candidate’s inner circle, says Biden won’t ‘pull any punches’ on what is a global problem:
Sullivan said there was “no reason it has to get awkward” for countries like Australia.
“The vice-president is not going to come to play games around that issue if he’s fortunate enough to be elected. He’ll lay it out in the way only Joe Biden can do – just plain and straight, down the line, respectful – but he’s not going to pull any punches on it.”
John Quiggin in On coal, oil and gas, Australia is becoming more isolated says:
- Contrary to Scott Morrison’s blustery claim — “I tell you what, our policies will be set here in Australia” — most of the important decisions about our energy future will be made elsewhere, by governments in Washington, Beijing and Brussels, and by energy companies and financial institutions headquartered in New York, London, Frankfurt and Tokyo.
Their decisions are reflecting the widening realisation that the world must abandon coal sooner rather than later, that our reliance on oil must also end and, increasingly, that gas is part of the problem rather than of the solution.(Photo added)
With 47 church organisations, 42 of them Catholic, now joining the ‘fossil fuel divestment’ movement, we currently have:
- 1,200 organizations and businesses worldwide that since 2012 have publicly pledged to divest more than $14 trillion.
There is concern that if Biden does not win the two Georgia Senate seats to be decided in a poll of January 5, he will have trouble getting climate legislation through Congress. Others have pointed out two main ways he can act if that happens.
Firstly, there is vast scope through executive orders and regulations.
Secondly, he is apparently selecting his whole administration team to be climate-oriented. People are watching and will let him know, as in Senior Biden adviser set for key role has ties to oil and gas, climate activists warn.
CNN has a useful summary on how things may unfold in Biden will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Here’s what happens next.
The Trump administration dismantled more than 70 major environmental regulations in four years, which can be reinstated by Biden, with improvements.
Climate Home sees Biden’s election as pivotal for climate change, with the focus on the third quarter of 2021 at the delayed COP26 UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow. For one thing:
His climate platform states that he will work with international financial institutions to provide “green debt relief” to developing countries.
“The biggest practical contribution Biden could make to Cop26 is to stop the US blocking new global funding for green Covid-19 recoveries at the IMF and World Bank,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.
Biden will need to work with China, the UK and the EU who will also hold him accountable.
Meanwhile Peter Sainsbury’s Environmental roundup at the blog Pearls and Irritations finds that the cost equation is rendering coal and gas redundant:
Remember when Morrison appointed Angus Taylor as Minister for Energy in August 2018, and then as Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction after the election in 2019, the focus was on prices and energy security, and specifically not on renewable energy and emissions reduction, making their intention clear:
There was also talk of carrying a big stick to threaten energy corporations, taken up here by cartoonist David Rowe:
Morrison has continually talked as though climate change action would cost the economy, whereas Deloitte Access Economics has looked at climate action versus inaction and found A new choice: Australia’s climate for growth.
The choice is between doing nothing, which will cost the economy $3.4 trillion and 880,000 fewer jobs in just 50 years, and climate action for growth to create an economy $680 billion bigger, with 250,000 more jobs in 50 years.
The choice is a no-brainer, but Morrison’s choice for our country is for a gas-led post-Covid recovery.
For commentary on this see Penny Sackett, Australia’s chief scientist from 2008 to 2011, in the SMH Gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed and the Grattan Institute’s Flame out: the future of natural gas.
Meanwhile a Climate Transparency report, an assessment by 14 organisations released before this weekend’s virtual G20 summit, has found Australia’s climate record labelled ‘simply embarrassing’ and among worst of G20 nations.
Scott Morrison has said he would like to achieve zero net emissions by 2050 or as soon as we can do it and has recently signalled retreat on using carryover credits to meet emissions targets.
However, he has on board people like Craig Kelly who warns it would be ‘political suicide’ for Scott Morrison to adopt net zero by 2050 target.
Wilkinson details how John Howard’s policy was to do as little as he could get away with on climate, while not wanting to buy into debates about whether climate change was real, and his government continued to promote fossil fuels. This policy was only viable internationally because George W Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol gave him cover.
That kind of cover is about to disappear for Morrison. His policy has been to use cheap accounting tricks as cover for doing as little as possible.
So while the cost-benefit issue has flipped, no-one in the Coal-ition seems to have noticed. The costs of inaction are humungous.
There is some optimism that a Biden victory will put the world ‘within striking distance’ of the 1.5°C Paris goal. However, what is not appreciated is firstly, zero emissions for the whole planet will only give a 66% chance of staying within 1.5°C, and secondly, advanced countries should get to net zero before 2050 in order to allow the developing countries extra time to get there. (See the World Resources Institute What Does “Net-Zero Emissions” Mean? 6 Common Questions, Answered for an objective exposition on this issue.)
Adam Bandt (see Net-zero by 2050 not enough, Australia’s leading climate scientists say) is one politician who understands this, but he hardly ever says so.
Moreover, there is an assumption that a two-thirds chance represents acceptable odds, that there won’t be any tipping points before then, and that it is acceptable for an already dangerous climate to become worse in terms of effects already evident. For example, bushfires, droughts, floods, cyclones, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, ocean acidification, sea level rise that will drown many of our Pacific neighbours, impinging on large swathes of real estate on our coastlines, and so on.
If we are to have a future on the planet, we can’t allow coal and gas-fired assets to run their course, and any new developments will surely become stranded assets. Net zero by 2050 is far too late for a safe climate. I’ll explain more in another post.
While we fiddle Rome burns. Here from the CSIRO-BOM State of the Climate 2020 report is the news that total GHG emissions expressed as CO2-equivalent reached 508 ppm in 2019:
Back in December 2007 James Hansen told us this number needed to reduce to 350ppm. There are no politicians I know in Australia, including Mr Bandt, who are taking him seriously.
Below I’ve retained all the links I gathered for this post but did not use, in no particular order:
Bill McKibben says Biden’s Most Daunting Adversary will be the physics of climate change.
- Biden Urged to Be #ClimatePresident by Taking These 10 ‘Game-Changing’ Steps in First 10 Days in Office
No, Prime Minister, gas doesn’t ‘work for all Australians’ and your scare tactics ignore modern energy problems
- Scientific American – Here’s How Scientists Want Biden to Take on Climate Change
- Biden says the US will rejoin the Paris climate agreement in 77 days. Then Australia will really feel the heat
- Richard Holden – Vital Signs: a global carbon price could soon be a reality – Australia should prepare
- Andrew Clark AFR – Climate wars evolve into a contest of targets
- Australia will lose more than $3 trillion and 880,000 jobs over 50 years if climate change is not addressed, Deloitte says
- Blueprint Institute Powering the next boom
I haven’t seen any analysis on why Biden won. Joel Fitzgibbon is maintaining it was not because of his climate policy, rather COVID and a vote against Trump.
Certainly Biden’s campaign strategy seemed to be to make the election a referendum on Trump.
Nevertheless, Biden consistently stated climate change as his top policy issue, and did not seek to bury it.
Interesting now is the criticism from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the Democratic Party campaign was incompetent, and that the reason the Democrats lost ground in the congressional vote was that they did not push progressive issues and climate change, In contests where the campaign on the local level did emphasise these issues they did well. See Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ends truce by warning ‘incompetent’ Democratic party.
In Business Insider Biden’s climate change policies are better than Trump’s, but they still aren’t enough to prevent a climate catastrophe supports the AOC view and stresses that the Democrats will lose ground in the mid-terms if they don’t embrace broader green issues that go beyond a return to Obama’s policies.