Category Archives: Climate Change & Sustainability

Posts on aspects of climate science, climate action and climate policy & planning.

Weekly salon 12/1

1. 2021 in graphs

Peter Martin has assembled 10 graphs from articles he has edited in 2021.

Each tells a powerful story. For example, it is clear that sooner or later something will have to be done about JobSeeker when it is forecast to become a mere fraction of the old age pension, which is miserly by international standards. Remember around a third of pensioners already live in poverty. Continue reading Weekly salon 12/1

Cleaning out coal

When Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen stated at the Press Council that no jobs would be lost in coal or gas through Labor’s policy he received a strong challenge from Mike Foley of the SMH and The Age (from about 40:00 on the tape) who pointed out that the Government’s modelling showed coal-fired power reducing from 25GW to 14GW, which was more than can be accounted for by stated station closure timelines. Labor is going harder on renewables and claims that 82% of power generation will be renewables by 2030. Surely this means early closure of coal.

Bowen said stations may close, the market will decide, but there was no causal relationship with the policy, and the small percentage is explained by the fact that if we follow the call to ‘electrify everything’, especially heating and transport, much more power will be needed.

Coincidentally AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) has just produced it’s 2022 Draft ISP Consultation plan which show coal disappearing, evaporating before our eyes. Continue reading Cleaning out coal

COP26: Aspiring to failure

A theme of the Glasgow Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’ knowing that they would fail. This is where the new pledges would take us by 2100 according to Climate Action Tracker:

My point, however, is that in choosing the goal of 1.5°C the UNFCCC is choosing failure. Back in 1994 the UNFCC was set up to prevent dangerous climate change. This is a simple ‘burning embers’ chart produce by the IPCC in 2018:

Any child can see that for a safe climate 0.5°C is plenty far enough.

Kevin Anderson in a recent YouTube talking about Britain’s responsibility points out that the latest IPCC report says that for a 67% chance of remaining below 1.5°C is only 400Gt of CO2.

He says that the UK’s share in the energy sector would go in the next four years. He also says that the UK’s effort to date, reckoned to be one of the best in the world, is only worth half a cracker. The claim is that the UK has reduced emissions by 51% since 1990. However, when calculated properly, including shipping and air travel associated with Britain’s way of life, plus the emissions avoided by moving dirty industries offshore, the Brit’s have only achieved 15% or 0.5% pa.

There is more wrong with the IPCC statement.

Firstly, 67% means lousy odds, given the importance limiting warming. I’d reckon it should be 99.9999% (I think that is one in a million!)

Secondly,
all scenarios from the IPCC now involve overshooting and negative emissions, or drawdown that goes on long after net zero in 2050. This slide comes from his January 2020 talk to Extinction Rebellion, Can meaningful hope spring from revealing the depth of our climate failure?:

Somewhere he says 6-10Gt pa, starting ASAP and continuing indefinitely. If you want to improve the odds, you have to suck more out.

Then if you want to aspire to reducing CO2 to 350ppm, for a safe climate, you need even more.

So, what are the chances of keeping the temperature under 1.5°C? Infinitesimal.

Can we draw hope? Anderson is full of ideas about what we can do, so if you get busy you may also hope.

Personally, much as I hate their methods, Extinction Rebellion is one of the few organisations that is clear-eyed about what our realistic prospects are.

Here’s Roger Hallam in How to fix climate in a few years:

The climate ball is about to go over a cliff.

More to come. I have to go bush for a few days, unexpectedly early. I want to say a bit more about tipping points, and the problem of climate justice, but there is a fair bit in the above for starters.

Morrison goes to Glasgow: what’s new?

PM Morrison: AAP/Dan Himbrechts, from The Conversation

Last week our PM, one Scott (“Scotty from Marketing”) Morrison, scrambled to wrest control of our borders from a disruptive new Premier of NSW, one Dominic Perrottet, who effectively sidelined the PM, while announcing that he will indeed go to Glasgow to spruik our newly minted policy on climate change, that is, if his recalcitrant coalition partners, the Nationals, agree to have one.

Laura Tingle’s AFR opinion piece The most abject failure of leadership in living memory (published under a less pungent title at the ABC) asks “Who is in charge now?” since the states and the Nationals seem to be running the show. Continue reading Morrison goes to Glasgow: what’s new?

Australia must leave 95 per cent of coal in the ground

In March this year UN chief Antonio Guterres said he wanted:

    all OECD countries to commit to phasing out coal by 2030, and for non-OECD countries to do so by 2040. Science tells us this is essential to meet the Paris Agreement goals and protect future generations.

He wants the main emitters and coal users to announce their phase-out plans well before the Glasgow UNFCCC COP26 conference in November this year. Continue reading Australia must leave 95 per cent of coal in the ground

Just transition in the Hunter Valley region

At a LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) Zoom meeting recently I was privileged to witness a presentation from Tim Lang, an environmental activist in Newcastle, active through the NSW branch of LEAN and a co-founder of the Hunter Jobs Alliance. This post of 03 November, 2020 on the National LEAN site recorded the Hunter Jobs Alliance Launch: Continue reading Just transition in the Hunter Valley region

Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?

The IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is planning to release the first of four reports in its 6th Assessment Report (6AR) on Monday, 9 August, 2021.

I believe the largest question will be whether the IPCC, this time, adequately accounts for risk. Continue reading Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?

Barnaby is back

When Warren Truss was leader of the National Party from 2007 to February 2016, just about no-one in the general public knew who he was. That was one of the reasons why Barnaby Joyce succeeded him.

Now lots of people know a lot about Barnaby for a variety or reasons, and a saw enough of his successor Michael McCormack this week to realise he was simply not up to the job. The numbers that matter are the 21 members of the federal National Party room. More than half prefer Barnaby Joyce, warts and all. So we have Barnaby Joyce victorious in Nationals leadership challenge.

I have to say that his deputy, David Littleproud, looked absolutely miserable next to Barnaby on TV, although he says he was just cold. Word is that Matt Canavan moved the spill motion, and Littleproud’s support made the difference, in the interests of longer term stability.

If so, strange thinking. As Jennifer Hewitt says in the AFR today:

    The public will now have a front row seat at Joyce’s more explosive brand of political fireworks. And he does bear grudges.

Continue reading Barnaby is back

Climate policy or biffo?

Our media, it seems to me, are more interested in biffo than policy. For example, can anyone in the media tell me why they constantly interview Joel Fitzgibbon as though he had any influence on Labor’s climate policy?

James Massola in the SMH in February gave us an explainer What are Labor’s factions and who’s who in the Left and Right? To cut to the chase, Joel Fitzgibbon is nominally in the Right, but he says:

    The Left’s national conveners are Victorian MP Julian Hill, NSW Senator Tim Ayres and MP Sharon Claydon, while MP Matt Thistlethwaite is the national convener of the Right along with South Australian Senator Don Farrell.

What, no Joel Fitzgibbon?

No Joel Fitzgibbon. Massola says this:

    While Thistlethwaite is the national convener of the Right – and his state faction – frontbench MPs Chris Bowen and Tony Burke are the most influential in that state. Joel Fitzgibbon, long the convener of the NSW and National Right, is now seen as on the outer for the “whatever it takes” faction.

Continue reading Climate policy or biffo?

The fierce urgency of now: ie 2009…2021…?

Back in May 2009 some 60 Nobel Prize winners, some of the best minds on the planet, meeting as the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium issued a memorandum under the call of The Fierce Urgency of Now:

    calling on world leaders for a global deal on climate change that matches the scale and urgency of the human, ecological and economic crises facing the world today. [ie, May 2009]

Continue reading The fierce urgency of now: ie 2009…2021…?

The dark side of clean energy and digital technologies

A man working at a rare earth metals mine in Nancheng county, China REUTERS/Springer

That’s from an article by Simon Ings in the New ScientistWhy using rare metals to clean up the planet is no cheap fix, about a book by French journalist and filmmaker Guillaume Pitron now translated as The Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies. Continue reading The dark side of clean energy and digital technologies

Climate action core Labor business in rebuilding Australia

When I attended a LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) conference in September 2019, the concern was to make environment action part of Labor’s DNA and to cast climate action in terms of a positive vision for the future. However, people were tired. Labor had lost the unloseable election to Scott Morrison Scotty from Marketing, with nothing more than slogans and tax cuts to offer, plus scare campaigns boosted by Clive Palmer’s multi-million advertising blitz, a smear campaign directed at Opposition leader Bill Shorten, and a totally misconceived anti coal-mining intervention by former Greens leader Bob Brown.

Yes, there is more to say, and mistakes were made by Labor, but understandably many were tired and discouraged. Still, some were working on strategies inspired by the Green New Deal, in short a regeneration of the fossil fuel economy with a vision of planet-friendly, sustainable restoration and growth. Some were talking about the possibilities of hydrogen.

Post-bushfires, post-COVID, and prior to the ALP Party Conference and a possible election, LEAN has now come up with a simple and I think compelling story, to be found Climate action is core Labor business and Rebuilding Australia on the interwebs. Continue reading Climate action core Labor business in rebuilding Australia