Category Archives: Climate Change & Sustainability

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

Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee – ‘shambolic policy’ or ‘innovative and elegant’?

Bruce Mountain in an opinion piece in the AFR (pay-walled) said the NEG was “shambolic” policy which “snatches defeat from the jaws of victory”. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, according to Laura Tingle (also pay-walled) says “the concept is innovative and elegant, and could well prove ingenious”. Continue reading Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee – ‘shambolic policy’ or ‘innovative and elegant’?

Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope

For over a month now I’ve been trying to do two posts – one on climate as an existential threat, and another on whether 1.5ºC is at all still possible. I keep being diverted.

Malcolm Turnbull has been dithering for months over whether the government would accept the Finkel review recommendation for a Clean Energy Target. For some time now, it has been clear that the climate contrarians in his own party, and the Nationals starting with Barnaby Joyce, would not accept anything that is negative about coal. In the end they asked the brand new Security Energy Commission for advice, in terms that were severely constrained. They got their advice, faithful to the brief in an eight-page letter, and announced a “breakthrough” in the form of a National Energy Guarantee to deliver affordable, reliable electricity with industry and stakeholder consultations to follow, plus the necessary modelling to be undertaken only after the states have agreed. Therein lies the problem. Continue reading Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope

Queensland powers up for a warm summer

One morning recently, 10 October I think, local ABC radio host Steve Austin called up Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey to ask him about an announcement the Queensland government had made. Something about, on a voluntary basis, turning down your aircon so it runs at 26C and being paid for the power saved.

Bailey obviously had a story to tell, but wasn’t given a chance to tell it. Austin is not a boofhead, but he sometimes does a good imitation of one. In this case Bailey was bullied and harassed, “Just answer my question!”, which was whether the purpose of the scheme was to save people money, or to keep the lights on, I think there was a third option which I’ve forgotten. In any case the answer “All of the above” was not permitted, and we never found out what the scheme was about.

With Bailey dispatched, Austin gave LNP spokesman Scott Emerson the opportunity of a free rant, presumably in the name of ‘balance’ with no right of reply for Bailey. Later in the morning Austin told us he had trouble getting people to come on the show! What a surprise! Continue reading Queensland powers up for a warm summer

Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?

Not well at all, according to the scientists. Actually it is a travesty of language to call Abbott’s position “science”. In this piece I’ll highlight the kind of thinking that unfortunately cannot be dismissed as an Abbott aberration, but has the Turnbull government in it’s thrall. Let’s start with David Rowe’s amazing cartoon from the AFR:

Continue reading Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?

Tony Abbott finds his true voice on climate

This David Rowe cartoon comes from the days when Tony Abbott actually led the country. Originally he had been a weathervane on climate change. However, as Katherine Murphy points out, he had done enough positive work on climate change as a leader, for example by signing us up the Paris agreement and retaining the RET, to disqualify himself from speaking to a group of climate denialists in London. She thinks is latest frolic is sad and cynical – just Abbott being disruptive as usual. Continue reading Tony Abbott finds his true voice on climate

Climate clippings 117

On Monday and Tuesday this week we are going to have the AFR national Energy Summit in Sydney with everyone there, including Josh, Jay, Bill, Andrew Vesey and a different Malcolm Roberts (Chief Executive, APPEA). Should be fun.

The Weekend AFR had about half a dozen articles, led off by an article by Ben Potter, Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow (no doubt pay-walled) which said our energy has become dirty, expensive and annoyingly unreliable. They reckon something has to be done, it’s just that:

the causes identified by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – or unofficial backbench energy spokesman Tony Abbott – are not the same as the causes power industry experts and regulators highlight. Continue reading Climate clippings 117

Climate clippings 116

1. South Australia wants an apology from the PM

On September 28 we had the first anniversary of the dirty big storm the brought down the power pylons in South Australia causing a state-wide blackout, as the Heywood interconnector exceeded capacity and tripped.

Now the state want an apology from the PM. Energy minister Tom Koutsantonis: Continue reading Climate clippings 116

Electricity shock

Rod Sims’ speech Shining a light: Australia’s gas and electricity affordability problem to the National Press Club certainly established that Australia has a gas and electricity affordability problem which is hurting many consumers and businesses. Electricity prices have more than doubled since 2009 as shown in this graph:

Continue reading Electricity shock

Climate clippings 115: beyond coal

1. Liddell to go

The die was cast at the AGL annual general meeting. Liddell will be closed and not sold.

    Mr Vesey spent the bulk of his address explaining how AGL would replace the capacity lost at Liddell, including new wind and solar farms, up to 750 megawatts of new gas-fired plants and a 100-megawatt upgrade to the more modern and larger Bayswater coal plant nearby. A 250 MW battery at Liddell and demand response will also come into play, he said.

Continue reading Climate clippings 115: beyond coal

Gas to burn, but at what cost?

Four and a half years ago, at the national conference of the AWU in 2013, general secretary Paul Howes issued a warning:

    Howes warned that unless some gas was reserved for domestic use, and limits on coal seam gas extraction were lifted, the massive investment boom in LNG would soon affect the supply and price of domestic gas. And consumers, business and manufacturers would all suffer.

    “This is one of the most important resolutions we’ll debate at this conference,” he said.

Continue reading Gas to burn, but at what cost?

Are we serious about our Paris commitments?

The Australia Institute has looked at the penetration of renewables required in the electricity market to meet our Paris commitments, and come to the conclusion that we need from 66 to 75% renewables by 2030, rather than the weak 26-28% currently being assumed in relation to the Finkel review.

The basic issue is simple. If we don’t maximise the reductions in the electricity sector, we’ll have trouble meeting our overall Paris commitment, full stop. It will require a large and expensive effort in other areas such as agriculture. Completely decarbonising electricity was always the low hanging fruit. We appear to be ignoring this strategy completely, and the new report does not help all that much. Continue reading Are we serious about our Paris commitments?

Storms for our grandchildren

For me the main point of George Monbiot’s article about Hurricane Harvey is that the course we are currently on to achieve 3.5 to 4°C of warming by the end of the century is equivalent in magnitude to the change between the last ice age and the balmy times of the Holocene. To talk about whether this or that extreme weather event was caused by anthropogenically induced climate change seems beside the point.

The short answer is that everything about the climate has changed, so we are experiencing a climate that is different from how it would have been, and it will change much more during the life spans of the next few generations. Generally speaking, as Climate Central’s Climate Extremes Index indicates, extreme weather events are on the increase: Continue reading Storms for our grandchildren