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This Week in Climate Change - 2 June 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

He said, she said, he said, she said. That’s the Australian federal election campaign this week when it comes to climate change, energy and conservation policy. It is great that the issues are getting pretty high levels of attention from the nation's political leaders and media. It can only be a good thing.

Climate change was a major discussion point in the Australian election campaign this week after the subject received significant attention in Sunday’s televised leaders’ debate. According to the Guardian, “Malcolm Turnbull conceded bipartisanship on climate change was desirable and committed to meet higher targets if set by the global community in the second leaders’ debate of the Australian election campaign. But the prime minister failed to outline how Australia would reach the 2030 emission reduction targets agreed to in Paris. Bill Shorten, the Labor leader, baited Turnbull, asking: “Whatever happened to the old Malcolm Turnbull on climate change?” “You were so impressive when you were leading on climate change,” Shorten said. “Now you’re just implementing Tony Abbott’s policies,” the Guardian reported.

The Guardian reports the Australian Conservation Foundation has described the Coalition’s environmental policies as “woefully inadequate” in its traditional election scorecard. It gave the Coalition 11 points out of a possible 100, Labor 53 and the Greens 77. The ACF’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said: “The politicians who want to lead the country must have real plans to protect people, rivers, reefs, forests and wildlife for the future.” “The Coalition’s 11 out of 100 on the environment is woefully inadequate. If they are not prepared to lead on climate and nature, they are not fit to lead the country. The full scorecard is available on the ACF website.

The Guardian also reported battery storage technology has the potential to reshape not just the energy and transport sectors but also the upcoming Australian federal election, according to a new report. The Australia Institute report Securing Renewables: How Batteries Solve the Problem of Clean Electricity includes polling indicating that 71% of Australians would be more likely to vote for a party that supported distributed small-scale solar and storage. Based on a national opinion poll of 1,412 people undertaken between February and March 2016, the study also found 63% of respondents would be more likely to support a party that aims to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and that 45% would be more likely to support a party that attempts to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.

Still in Australia, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said although 2015 was a tough year for the Australian renewable energy industry, it ended with a lot of optimism as the sector turned its eyes towards the future. “Even though hydro power was down, largely as a result of the historically low rainfall in Tasmania, the proportion of Australia’s electricity provided by renewable energy increased in 2015 due to a good boost from wind and solar power. Renewables delivered 14.6 per cent of our electricity, enough to light up the equivalent of approximately 6.7 million average homes,” Mr Thornton said.

The Guardian reports the risk that houses in some areas of Australia are likely to become uninsurable, dilapidated and uninhabitable due to climate change is kept hidden from those building and buying property along Australia’s coasts and in bushfire zones, a Climate Institute report says. “The report says there is untapped and unshared data held by regulators, state and local governments, insurers and banks on the level of risk, but that most homebuyers and developers are not told about the data and do not have access to it. The full scale of risk may only be recognised through disaster or damage, or when insurance premiums become unaffordable,” the Guardian reported.

The US election now and some good news for Hillary Clinton. The Washington Post reports a major environmental group, the NRDC Action Fund, endorsed the Democrat front runner on Tuesday in its first political endorsement in a presidential election. In a statement, the NRDC Action Fund, a political affiliate of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the unprecedented endorsement reflects a need for left-leaning groups to unite against Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee. “Hillary Clinton is an environmental champion with the passion, experience and savvy to build on President Obama’s environmental legacy,” Rhea Suh, president of the NRDC Action Fund, said in a statement. “More than any other candidate running, Hillary Clinton understands the environmental challenges America faces, and her approach to solving them is grounded in the possibility and promise our democracy affords us.”

Climate Change News reports China expects coal use to fall and greenhouse gas emissions to flatline through 2016, according to analysis of the government’s energy strategy by Greenpeace. “The environmental group says coal use and carbon emissions could be 10% lower than expected by the end of the decade as the country’s transition to a greener economy gathers pace. Citing a recently published workplan by China’s National Energy Agency, Greenpeace analyst Lauri Myllyvirta argues China could be on the cusp of a dramatic fall in emissions. “A key dilemma for energy planners is that targets for total energy consumption and CO2 emissions were already set in the overarching five-year plan released in March, and these targets do not yet take into account the dramatic shifts that have taken place in the past few years,” he writes, according to Climate Change News.

Reuters reports a record amount of renewable power capacity was installed worldwide last year as solar and wind costs fell, becoming more competitive with fossil fuels, research by renewables policy organisation REN21 showed on Tuesday. “New installations of renewable power generation capacity (including hydropower) rose to 1,848.5 gigawatts (GW) globally in 2015, an increase of 147.2 GW from the previous year, Paris-based REN21's annual renewables global status report showed. This is the largest ever annual increase in installed capacity and was mainly driven by renewables becoming more cost-competitive with oil, coal and gas in many markets and an increase in government policies to support the growth of clean energy, it added. Global new investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydropower) rose to $285.9 billion last year from $273 billion in 2014, the report said,” according to Reuters.

The New York Times reports on anew report looking at the impacts of climate change on world landmarks. “Stonehenge eroding under the forces of extreme weather. Venice slowly collapsing into its canals. The Statue of Liberty gradually flooding. Images like these, familiar from Hollywood climate-catastrophe thrillers, were evoked by a joint report, released on Thursday by Unesco, the United Nations Environment Program and the Union of Concerned Scientists, that detailed the threat climate change could pose to World Heritage sites on five continents.(The Australian continent was originally included in the report, but its government requested it be removed because of concerns that the information would hurt its tourism industry.),” the NY Times reported.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports more than one-third of the coral reefs of the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the huge bleaching event earlier this year, Queensland researchers said. “Corals to the north of Cairns – covering about two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef – were found to have an average mortality rate of 35 per cent, rising to more than half in areas around Cooktown. The study, of 84 reefs along the reef, found corals south of Cairns had escaped the worst of the bleaching and were now largely recovering any colour that had been lost,” the SMH reported.

Daily Pakistan reports winters shrinking by one day every year due to climate change. Global warming and subsequent climate change, caused by multiple environmental hazards, has brought on a slow and gradual reduction in cold weather conditions in Pakistan. “Around 15 years ago, the summer season in Pakistan spanned over 145 days (almost five months), but now it has reached 170 days, which means more or less one-day addition per year in hot days,” Dr Muhammad Hanif said. Now that makes me sweat!

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 26 May 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

The most important news this week happened ten years ago. Yes, you read that correctly. It was this week ten years ago that a documentary came out on something called climate change. You might have heard of the doco - it was called “An Inconvenient Truth” and starred a former politician, Al Gore, ‘the former next President of there United States of America’. The rest is history.

Mainstream and environmental media in the last week has been filled with great reading, looking back on the making of and impact of this groundbreaking film. I have collected the best of the reading in ‘Weekend Reading’. The best of the articles came from Grist and it is a lengthy but worthwhile piece. “Al Gore got stuck on a scissor lift. Studio execs fell asleep at a screening. And everybody hated the title. The amazing true story of the most improbable — and important — film of our time. Somehow, a film starring a failed presidential candidate and his traveling slideshow triggered a seismic shift in public understanding of climate change. It won Oscars and helped earn Al Gore a share of the Nobel Peace Prize. It injected the issue into policy debates and dinner-table conversations alike,” was how Grist introduces itspiece. As I said, it is a great read.

The anniversary this week was particularly timely as many parts of the world today work up to the news that Donald Trump has the numbers to be the Republican nominee for the USA election in November.  He wants the USA to wind back what was agreed to in Paris last year and promises to dismantle President Obama’s clean power plan. In an interview on American television, Mr. Gore is concerned that a potential Donald Trump presidency could roll back progress in the fight against climate change. "He has said some things on the climate crisis that I think should concern everyone,'' the former vice president told Anne Thompson in an interview on TODAY Monday.

It seems the principle of the documentary - inconvenient truth - seems to be in effect with the Australian government. The Guardian reports every reference to Australia was scrubbed from the final version of a major UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, objecting that the information could harm tourism. “Guardian Australia can reveal the report “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”, which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests. But when the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, said Australia’s move was reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”. No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions. Explaining the decision to object to the report, a spokesperson for the environment department told Guardian Australia: “Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism.” The omission was “frankly astounding,” Steffen said.” reported the Guardian.

Outside of the Guardian piece, there were no significant developments on climate change and the environment in the Australian election campaign this week. Renew Economy reported on a new report by the Climate Council that highlighted how Labor governments in South Australia and the ACT have encouraged and accelerated the rollout of renewable energy, while Coalition governments elsewhere have done little, or have hindered the industry in recent years. “The findings should come as no surprise to those with an interest in the industry, and reflect the trend in federal policy areas, where the Coalition government brought the large-scale industry to an effective halt after three record years of investment under Labor. But it serves as a timely reminder in the middle of an election campaign about the relative pretensions of Conservative and Labor parties on what could still emerge as an important campaign issue,” Renew Economy reported. 

To some good news, Renew Economy reports South Australia’s energy market continues to provide fascinating viewing for energy nerds, large energy consumers and vested interests since the exit of the last coal-fired generator just over a fortnight ago. “On Sunday, wind energy exceeded local demand for more than 10 hours, from 1.40am to just before midday (11.55am), with a peak of 120 per cent of demand at 4.30am. (See graph below, courtesy of Melbourne Energy Institute)," Renew Economy reported.

In the money markets, Renew Economy reported a second member of Australia’s Big Four banks has entered the green bond market, with the issue of a $500 million Westpac Climate Bond aimed at financing a $1 billion Australian-based clean energy portfolio, including low-carbon commercial buildings. “Westpac said on Thursday the issuance had been certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative, and had already elicited a strong response from investors, including the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has committed $90 million as a cornerstone investor.  According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, between $12.4 billion and $12.5 billion of investment in large-scale renewables will be required in Australia to 2020 in order to meet the RET,” Renew Economy reported. In another report, Westpac Bank in conjunction with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has launched new loan facility that will help Australian businesses invest in solar, battery storage, energy efficient technologies and electric vehicles. “Using $200 million from the CEFC, the Westpac Energy Efficient Financing Program will offer finance leases, commercial loans and commercial hire purchase finance for qualifying renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, as well as low emissions vehicles, the bank said on Tuesday,” Renew Economy reported.

There was some interesting science news this week. First, The Conversation reported the 2015-16 El Niño has likely reached its end. "Tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures, trade winds, cloud and pressure patterns have all dropped back to near normal, although clearly the event’s impacts around the globe are still being felt. Recent changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures have been comparable to the decline seen at the end of the 1998 El Niño, although temperatures remain warmer than at the end of the most recent El Niño in 2010. Models suggest that ocean cooling will continue, with little chance of a return to El Niño levels in the immediate future," it reported. 

The Guardian carried a story that the planet would warm by searing 10C if all fossil fuels are burned, according to a new study, leaving some regions uninhabitable and wreaking profound damage on human health, food supplies and the global economy. “I think it is really important to know what would happen if we don’t take any action to mitigate climate change,” said Katarzyna Tokarska, at the University of Victoria in Canada and who led the new research.

Well, yes, it is important, really, really important.  

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week in Climate Change - 19 May 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

I was graded as a journalist in 1986. Upon my grading, I thought it would be a good idea to look up the meaning of the word “news”. I mean, that’s what the job is all about. The definition I found was along the lines of - something unknown to someone. I have kept that in mind for the subsequent 30 years. Why am I saying this? Well, this week’s main “news” on climate change is “news” but doesn’t fit that definition. The news is that we’re heading for the hottest year ever. Well, we sort of knew that. 

The Guardian reported last month was the hottest April on record globally – the seventh month in a row that has broken the monthly record. “The latest figures smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded. It makes three months in a row that the monthly record has been broken by the largest margin ever, and seven months in a row that are at least 1C above the 1951-80 mean for that month. When the string of record-smashing months started in February, scientists began talking about a “climate emergency”. Figures released by Nasa over the weekend show the global temperature of land and sea was 1.11C warmer in April than the average temperature for April during the period 1951-1980. It all but assures that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, and probably by the largest margin ever,” the Guardian reported.

Sticking with numbers, MSN reported looked at an upcoming eerie coincidence. “6.6.16 is almost the devil's number, but it might be much more than that if a leading scientist's prediction on climate change is correct. CSIRO fellow Dr Paul Fraser has earmarked June 6 ("plus or minus a week") as the day when carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will hit the point of no return, 400 parts per million (ppm). The atmospheric measuring station at Cape Grim in Tasmania has recorded the current C02 levels in the atmosphere at 399.9ppm. Dr Fraser said the difference between 399 and 400ppm was trivial, but when it does hit 400ppm mark it would be a "psychological tipping point,” MSN reported. "Once it reaches 400ppm at Cape Grim it's very unlikely to drop below 400 again," Dr Fraser told ninemsn. “In the days when I started measuring CO2 in the atmosphere in the 1970s all the texts would say that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 300ppm or 0.03%, the concentration is now 0.04%. It was rising at just over a part per million a year, it's now rising at about 3 parts per million a year. It's certainly going up quicker than we thought it would."

Going now a little further down from Tasmania, the Washington Post reports on the melting of ice at the South Pole. “Scientists ringing alarm bells about the melting of Antarctica have focused most of their attention, so far, on the smaller West Antarctic ice sheet, which is grounded deep below sea level and highly exposed to the influence of warming seas. But new research published in the journal Nature Wednesday reaffirms that there’s a possibly even bigger — if slower moving — threat in the much larger ice mass of East Antarctica. The Totten Glacier holds back more ice than any other in East Antarctica, which is itself the biggest ice mass in the world by far. Totten, which lies due south of Western Australia, currently reaches the ocean in the form of a floating shelf of ice that’s 90 miles by 22 miles in area. But the entire region, or what scientists call a “catchment,” that could someday flow into the sea in this area is over 200,000 square miles in size — bigger than California. Warmer waters in this area could, therefore, ultimately be even more damaging than what’s happening in West Antarctica — and the total amount of ice that could someday be lost would raise sea levels by as much as 13 feet.” the Washington Post reported.

The Guardian reports on new evidence that poorer countries will suffer the worst effects of climate change has shown that the number of hot days in tropical developing countries is likely to increase markedly as global warming takes hold. “Those living in the poorest countries also have the most to lose, as so many depend on agriculture, which is likely to be badly affected by temperature rises and an increase in droughts, heatwaves and potential changes to rainfall that may lead to recurrent patterns of floods, droughts and higher intensity storms.The study, led by the University of East Anglia, is the first to examine the link between cumulative carbon dioxide emissions and more frequent hot days.

Some good news. Renew Economy reports Australia’s leading solar research scientists have achieved another significant milestone, reporting a huge leap in solar cell efficiency that could in time lead to a quantum reduction in solar power costs. “A University of NSW team led by the renowned Professor Martin Green and Dr Mark Keevers (pictured above) has reported a new world efficiency record for solar cells using unfocussed sunlight, the sort of light that falls on the rooftop solar modules on homes and businesses. The striking part of the new record is that it is so far ahead of previous achievements – 34.5 per cent instead of 24 per cent – and is edging closer to the theoretical limits of sunlight to electricity conversion – and more than three decades before recent predictions. (Disclosure: This author is a post graduate masters student at UNSW),

In Brazil, there could be implications for climate change policy with the political upheaval generated by the suspension of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.  Think Progress reports environmentalists in Latin America’s largest ailing economy worry that powers in the new administration favor infrastructure development and financial recovery over environmental laws. “As it is now customary in multiple countries, Brazil requires environmental assessments prior to construction projects. But the Senate is now considering a bill that would give fast-track status to projects like roads, dams or ports deemed in the national interest by the president. That would allow developers to move forward simply by saying an environmental impact study is in the works, but bar agencies from halting the project once construction begins. Moreover, there is a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate environmental licensing altogether. These proposals aren’t new, but their political backing could get a push within Brazil’s new interim government,” Think Progress reported.

To the Australian election, the Sydney Morning Herald reports strong climate change policy is a vote-changing matter for a majority of Australians, a new poll shows, establishing the issue as an important battleground one week into the election campaign. “According to the ReachTEL survey of 2400 people, conducted for a coalition of environmental groups, 64 per cent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a party seeking 100 per cent renewable energy in 20 years and 48 per cent said they would be more likely to support a party reducing Australia's net carbon emissions to zero by 2050,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported. This week, there was also a debate between the government and opposition environmental and climate change spokespeople. Renew Economy summed up the debate this way: “Emissions reduction, renewable energy and the Paris climate pact were just some of the topics du jour at the National Press Club on Wednesday.” According to the Guardian, the 2016 Australian election is the last opportunity to save the Great Barrier Reef, the authors of a new scientific paper have warned. “The government needs to commit to $1bn a year for 10 years to reduce water pollution, which would give the reef a chance to survive the impacts of climate change,” the Guardian reported. There’s plenty more on the Australian election in Weekend Reading on Climate Change

Let’s end on some positive news. In recent weeks, there have been reported of England and Germany running on renewables for a period of time. Portugal joined the club this week. According to Zero.ong, and brought to our attention by SolarCrunch, Portugal ran on renewable energy alone for 4 straight days last week. This 100% was preceded by more than 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources of energy during the first quarter of 2013, and 63% for all of 2014. Portugal stopped burning coal in 1994.

Portugal looks like a quiet achiever in the renewable energy revolution. 

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 12 May 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

This was a week where there was a lot of big statements about climate change - impacts, readings, needs, action, inaction, firsts, progress and delays. The debate also welcomed a new high profile advocate for action on climate change - the new Mayor of London. 

The Guardian reports world leaders have failed to come to grips with the epic challenge of phasing out fossil fuels and running the entire global economy almost entirely on clean energy by the middle of this century, experts said this week. “While more than 170 countries converged at the United Nations on Friday to demonstrate their support for the landmark deal to fight climate change reached at Paris last December, economists and scientists warned the accord’s goal of keeping temperatures below 1.5-2C may already be slipping beyond reach,” the Guardian reported.  “While we should be celebrating the signing ceremony on Friday we need to be aware of the gap, where the current contributions add up to and where we need to go,” said Shane Tomlinson, a senior research fellow in energy and climate change at Chatham House.  “Why is it that with an administration that is gung-ho on climate we are in the eighth year and there is no plan at all? No sketch, no white paper, no scenario to 2050?” Sachs told a gathering this week.

Plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet” and overwhelm the deal forged at Paris to fight climate change, the president of the World Bank said last week. The Guardian reported on an unusually stark warning, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, noted that countries in south and south-east Asia were on track to build hundreds more coal-fired power plants in the next 20 years – despite promises made at Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions and pivot to a clean energy future. “If Vietnam goes forward with 40GW of coal, if the entire region implements the coal-based plans right now, I think we are finished,” Kim told a two-day gathering of government and corporate leaders in Washington, in a departure from his prepared remarks. “That would spell disaster for us and our planet.”

The World Bank was also active on other impacts this week. The Washington Post reportedthe World Bank has released a new report finding that perhaps the most severe impact of a changing climate could be the effect on water supplies. The most startling finding? The report suggests that by 2050, an inadequate supply of water could knock down economic growth in some parts of the world a figure as high as 6 percent of GDP, “sending them into sustained negative growth.” ”Regions facing this risk — which can at least partly be averted by better water management, the document notes — include not only much of Africa but also India, China and the Middle East,” The Washington Post reported.

The World Health Organisation this week released its long awaited report on air quality. The Guardian reports outdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation. Director Maira Neira says India and China need to make ‘massive efforts because the situation at the moment is really bad for the population’

Water was also a problem elsewhere. The Conversation reports at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands have been severely eroded. These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011. This is the first scientific evidence, published in Environmental Research Letters, that confirms the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people,” The Conversation reported.

The Guardian reported the world is hurtling towards an era when global concentrations of carbon dioxide never again dip below the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone, as two important measuring stations sit on the point of no return. The news comes as one important atmospheric measuring station at Cape Grim in Australia is poised on the verge of 400ppm for the first time. Sitting in a region with stable CO2 concentrations, once that happens, it will never get a reading below 400ppm.

There was some good news on electricity generation in Europe this week. The Telegraph reports Britain generated no electricity from coal on Tuesday morning for what is believed to be the first time since the 19th century, in a major milestone in the decline of the polluting power source. National Grid confirmed that none of Britain’s coal stations were running between midnight and 4am. Experts from Argus Media and Carbon Brief said they believed this was the first time there had been no coal running since the era of central electricity generation began with the construction of the UK’s first coal plant in 1882,” The Telegraph reported. Meanwhile, Quartz carried a story that Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation last Sunday. “Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%. Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity,” Quartz reported.

In Australia, the election campaign is in its first full week and climate change dropped to the back of the pack in coverage. The Prime Minister didn’t mention climate change as an issue in his election announcement. The issue figured prominently in announcements by the opposition Labor Party and the Greens. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a report that recommends putting a price on emissions from the electricity sector has been held back by the Climate Change Authority until after the election, prompting calls from Labor and the Greens that it be made public to inform debate. “The independent authority, whose board is now dominated by appointments made last October by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, was to have released its policy options paper for the power industry by the end of April.The board, though, decided to withhold the report - along with the large Special Review due out by June 30 - until after the election, "assuming it is called for early July," the authority said on its website. A spokesman for Mr Hunt said his office had not seen the reports. He also dismissed the possibility that the government would have withheld a report favouring a wide-ranging carbon price on the eve of an election,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported. It said leaked details of the Climate Change Authority's electricity industry "policy options" report said "a mandatory carbon price of some form is desirable in the sector”.

The year to April 2016 in Australia saw increases in electricity demand, electricity generation and emissions from generation in the National Electricity Market, continuing the general pattern of the past seventeen months, according to Renew Economy. “Total electricity demand increased for the fourteenth successive month in the NEM and the eighth successive month in Western Australia. There can be little doubt that the period of falling demand for electricity across Australia has now ended. Total emissions from electricity generation in the NEM increased again in the year to April 2016. Annual emissions were 5.7% higher than in the year to June 2014.”

Let’s end on some good news. A clean energy advocate became the Mayor of London this week. Labour’s Sadiq Khan promises to be the "greenest Mayor ever" after being swept into City Hall by a clear majority, according to Edie.  “Boris Johnson’s successor Khan has previously outlined his ambition to ignite a “clean energy revolution” in the capital, with the ultimate aim of running London on 100% green energy by 2050. This bold statement will now be tested during Khan's tenure along with his list of green manifesto pledges including banning fracking in London, planting two millions trees, providing more electric buses, and expanding the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) - as well as attempts to divest the London Pension Fund Authority of its remaining investments in fossil fuel industries,” Edie reported. 

It is great to have a person in such a high profile role who is ‘fluent’ in climate change and renewable energy. Hopefully, we will see more of that globally.

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 5 May 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

It started snowing in Australia - snowing with news about climate change, renewable energy and environment policy. The snow storm came as Australian politics and media whipped itself into a frenzy with the unusual combination of a budget being handed down and an election being called within the same week. Ahead of eight weeks of conjecture and the good news is that climate, energy and conservation policy will be at the centre of the debate. It is a bumper edition this week and much longer than normal due to the budget and election.

In Australia, we are on the eve of an election (due to be called Sunday 8 May for Saturday 2 July 2016) election and the good news is that there’s plenty of climate change and other environmental news at the centre of poll coverage. By way of disclosure, your correspondent is the endorsed Labor candidate for Warringah. The best way to start is with this summary from Renew Economy: “The Australian Greens have unveiled a seven-point policy plan to wean the Australian economy and electricity network off coal, including an immediate ban on all new coal and gas projects, a tax on coal exports and a carbon price. Following on the heels of federal Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan, the Greens’ 7-point plan – released on Thursday – aims to put an “urgent brake” on Australia’s fossil fuel emissions, while also investing in large-scale clean energy. And it follows the ALP in calling for the reinstatement of a carbon price – although Greens Leader Richard di Natale has already ridiculed Labor’s proposed version, which he told the National Press Club on Wednesday equated to a carbon price of 3c a tonne. The Coalition, meanwhile, is busy disparaging both, with environment minister Greg Hunt dusting off the party’s tried and tested mantra on ABC Radio National on Thursday, that “the overarching point here is that this is an electricity tax,” Renew Economy reported.

The Guardian reports the Greens want millions of households to install renewable energy storage units, saying battery storage could “revolutionise” Australia’s energy system. “They have announced a five-year support package for 1.2m homes and 30,000 businesses, to encourage the take-up of solar storage across Australia. The Greens say the program - estimated to cost $2.9b - could be funded by scrapping concessions to fossil fuel-intensive industries, and are promising to make the policy central to their post-budget and post-election negotiations with the Coalition and Labor.”

The Federal Budget came down this week and Renew Economy was unimpressed: “Climate change, prime minister Malcom Turnbull once said, is the ultimate long-term problem that needs to be acted on urgently. But in his first budget as government leader, it is as though the issue does not exist. Climate change was not even mentioned as a word, or a concept, or even an issue – despite Tuesday’s budget apparently being about growth and jobs for the future. There was no new money for climate initiatives and the only mention renewable energy got was to confirm that $1.3 billion in funds would be stripped from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). On the other side of the chamber, Labor last night came out in support of the ARENA. As for Labor, it had to come make a commitment to ARENA this week. It is crucial that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has clear and long-term access to grant funding to deliver the renewable energy innovation that will create a 21st century energy system, the said today. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said there is a clear case for the Federal Government to provide capital grants through ARENA to support innovation in exciting new renewable energy and battery storage technologies.  “We welcome last night’s commitment from the Australian Labor Party (ALP) for future capital grant funding for ARENA. While it is disappointing that this has not been cemented with a firm budgetary commitment, we look forward to working with the ALP to ensure it delivers the necessary level of funding, should the party be successful at the upcoming election,” Mr Thornton said. The Climate Institute didn’t think much of the budget: “ Climate funding cuts and uncertainties dominate in a budget that ignores the fact that if we do not invest in strong, effective action to reduce emissions now, it will simply cost us much more in the not too distant future. The consequences of ongoing failure to tackle climate change will be escalating energy, unemployment and other economic costs over the next few decades.”

Now let me try and make sense of news about the Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund:

  • The AFR reports: “The Turnbull government has not topped up the $2.4 billion Emissions Reduction Fund – the centrepiece of its Direct Action climate change policy – despite it being expected to run out of money later this year.”
  • EcoNews reports: “Fresh doubts have been raised about Australia’s ability to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) promised by the conservative Liberal-National government after a new analysis found that $10 billion of extra investment is needed. That comes at a time when lenders are wary because of changing regulations. In research, released today by BIS Shrapnel, has determined it is “highly doubtful” the 2020 target of 33,000 gigawatt-hours (Gwh) of renewable energy output can be achieved given the stalling of investment over the past few years that means a huge catch-up effort is required. It expects the goal may only be reached one or two years late.”
  • The Age reports more than half a billion dollars has been spent in the latest auction under the Turnbull government's Direct Action climate change plan, with the vast majority of the money committed to tree projects. “The results mean that about two-thirds of the $2.55 billion set aside under the government's climate change policy to pay farmers and business to cut greenhouse gas emissions has now been handed out. In the third auction of the emissions reduction fund – a central plank of the Direct Action scheme – about 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide savings were bought from 73 projects at an average price of $10.23 a tonne.”
  • Australia’s emissions are continuing to rise and the Emissions Reduction Fund is largely spent, showing once again that it could only ever function as a supporting part of a broader climate change policy framework, The Climate Institute said today. “After three auctions, the Emissions Reduction Fund has now used up 67 per cent of its budget, but has contracted for only three per cent of the emission reductions needed for Australia to be on track meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement it has just signed,” said Climate Institute CEO, John Connor. “In fact, it achieves only seven per cent of the reductions needed to meet the government’s current inadequate 2030 target.”

Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, this weeksaid the decision by Australia’s science agency CSIRO to cut climate research should be “re-evaluated at the highest level”, since they limit a source of critical information for the entire world as it attempts to solve the challenges posed by climate change, the Guardian reported. The former US Democratic vice-president also praised the government’s support for renewable energy and the Labor party’s recent climate change policy announcement. “In the face of this harsh new climate reality, there have been political forces in your country working to prevent Australia’s ability to act as the global leader it once was in the effort to solve the climate crisis,” he said, in conversation with Don Henry from the University of Melbourne, and former director of the Australian Conservation Foundation. “The most recent example of this is the announcement of major cuts to Australia’s CSIRO, a global leader and reference point for climate science. These cuts will deeply affect the source of valuable research for the entire world at a time when such information is critical to solving the challenge of our changing climate,” he said. “They should be re-evaluated at the highest level.”

Some good news in Renew Economy, the ACT government says it will better its 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, and will in fact source 100 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by that date. The ACT’s minister for the environment and climate change Simon Corbell said the switch to 100 per cent renewables was both achievable and affordable. “As leaders in the renewable energy field the ACT is reaping the environmental and economic benefits of decarbonisation,” Corbell said. Importantly, Corbell said the ACT would retain its ranking as having the lowest electricity prices in the country, even with sourcing 100 per cent of its energy demand from renewable energy, Renew Economy reported.

Finally on Australia this week, the Sydney Morning Herald reports Australia faces a "perilous" water security future from climate change even as the Turnbull government eyes budget cuts to water programs and CSIRO halves climate investment, Rob Vertessy, the outgoing head of the Bureau of Meteorology, says. “Reservoirs in the Murray-Darling basin are now close to their lowest levels since the Millennium Drought and Tasmania is also facing "serious" issues", Dr Vertessy told Fairfax Media on Friday, his final day as the bureau's chief. "Water shortage is a problem and climate change is going to be intensifying the drought and flood cycle," he said, noting that water demand is increasing. "Australia faces a really perilous water security challenge in the future.”

To the weather now and Climate change will render parts of the Middle East and North Africa “uninhabitable” in a few decades, potentially resulting in a huge number of climate refugees, according to a story in EcoWatch. “A new study by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute confirmed a similar study from the World Bank, which also forecast a dramatic temperature increase in the region. Already, the number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970 and could increase five fold by 2050. The region is home to more than 500 million people who will be affected by the change,” EcoWatch reported. In recent weeks, I am pretty sure every edition has mentioned drought and heatwaves. The bad news keeps on coming as India is in the grip of an early-summer heat wave, according to Reuters.  It said the heat wave has killed more than 100 people and closed schools, halted construction and affected tourism in some parts. Meanwhile, Huffington Post reports climate change might be behind the terrible fires in Canada. “The conditions that made these wildfires possible — namely, the unusually warm and dry winter the region has experienced — almost certainly had a climate change component,” director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. 

Let’s end on some good news. Bloomberg reports solar power set another record-low price as renewable energy developers working in the United Arab Emirates shrugged off financial turmoil in the industry to promise projects costs that undercut even coal-fired generators. “Developers bid as little as 2.99 cents a kilowatt-hour to develop 800 megawatts of solar-power projects for the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority, the utility for the Persian Gulf emirate, announced on Sunday. That’s 15 percent lower than the previous record set in Mexico last month. The lowest priced solar power has plunged almost 50 percent in the past year. Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power International set a record in January 2015 by offering to build a portion of the same Dubai solar park for power priced at 5.85 cents per kilowatt-hour. Records were subsequently set in Peru and Mexico before Dubai reclaimed its mantel as purveyor of the world’s cheapest solar power,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Only seven weeks of the election to go. It will be fascinating.

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 28 April 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

It was one of those are unusually positive weeks in the climate change business. Regular readers of this digest will know the ‘good weeks’ are few and far between. Why was it good? The Paris deal was signed by the key players in New York and climate change moved to centre stage in the Australian federal election. But what would be without a jaw dropper somewhere?

So let’s start with a story in the Washington Post about an event in New York to sign a deal made in Paris (love dropping the names…).: “The historic agreement on climate change marked a major milestone on Friday with a record 175 countries signing on to it on opening day. But world leaders made clear more action is needed, and quickly, to fight a relentless rise in global temperatures. With the planet heating up to record levels, sea levels rising and glaciers melting, the pressure to have the Paris Agreement enter into force and to have every country turn its words into deeds was palpable at the U.N. signing ceremony. The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it, a process initially expected to take until 2020. But following a host of announcements at the signing event, observers now think it could happen later this year. China, the world’s top carbon emitter, announced it would “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the agreement before the G-20 summit in China in September. The United States, the world’s second-largest emitter, reiterated its intention to ratify this year, as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of Mexico and Australia.”

The Conversation has this take on the implications of the agreement: “The New York event will be an important barometer of political momentum leading into the implementation phase – one that requires domestic climate policies to be drawn up, as well as further international negotiations. The signing ceremony in New York sets in motion the formal, legal processes required for the Paris Agreement to “enter into force”, so that it can become legally binding under international law. Although the agreement was adopted on December 12 2015 in Paris, it has not yet entered into force. This will happen automatically 30 days after it has both been ratified by at least 55 countries, and by countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Both conditions of this threshold have to be met before the agreement is legally binding. So, contrary to some concerns after Paris, the world does not have to wait until 2020 for the agreement to enter into force. It could happen as early as this year.”

The Guardian had this take on New York: “Nor does the Paris deal go far enough. It was only a step on a long, hard road. The targets that each country set themselves do not go nearly far enough. Now the gap between reality and the ambition of holding global warming below 2C needs addressing. In Churchillian rhetoric, this is not the end, nor the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”

In Australia, The Conversation, said Australia’s signing of the agreement could prove tricky politically: “This is a major problem because without agreement across political lines, Australia could be signing a treaty with which it cannot comply. Australia is the world’s 13th-largest greenhouse emitter and the highest per capita emitter in the OECD. Now, because of the abolition of the carbon price, its emissions are rising for the first time in a decade. Australia looks set to overshoot even its modest target of reducing emissions by 26-28% by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. And as commitments under the Paris Agreement will become stricter over time, with the deal requiring countries to ramp up their climate pledges every five years, Australia will be in an increasingly difficult and embarrassing position of having made promises it cannot keep. This may set the scene for dithering by the Turnbull government, in much the same way as the Howard government held out against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol for a decade before finally proposing a climate policy when electorally it was already too late. We know that to make a meaningful contribution to combating climate change, Australia needs a credible path to net zero emissions by 2050. To do this the Turnbull government must match its international commitments with effective laws and policies at home. Legislating Australia’s climate targets, setting a national cap on emissions, and pricing carbon pollution are vital if Australia’s signature on the Paris Agreement is to mean anything at all.”

Staying in Australia, the Opposition Australian Labor Party (house minority party in US terms) this week released its climate change policy for the 2 July 2016 election. This author (Andrew Woodward) is the endorsed an endorsed Labor candidate for the election. The Labor Policy announcement set the political agenda this week, with Renew Economy reporting: “Labor has sought to outflank the Coalition government by committing to a zero net carbon pollution target by 2050, proposing two separate “low-cost” emission trading schemes, and reinforcing its interim commitments to cut carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, and reaching 50 per cent renewable energy by the same date. The proposal was hailed by most environmental groups, although nearly all noted that in a week of the Paris climate deal signing, more temperature records, and worsening impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, the party could have gone a lot further, and a lot quicker.

The Greens did just that, with Senator Richard di Natale reinforcing his party’s commitment to cut emissions by 80 per cent and reach 90 per cent renewables by 2030 – a target that is not far short of studies produced by Beyond Zero Emissions and the Institute for Sustainable Futures in recent weeks. But the Labor strategy is intent on differentiating itself from the Coalition, and to bait a trap for prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has been forced to inherit and defend the policies of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, that he often ridiculed as “reckless” and a fig leaf for action. And Turnbull duly obliged, accusing Labor of producing a “jobs-destroying” policy – even though, on the estimates of the Climate Change Authority and others, it is exactly what Australia has signed up for in the Paris agreement.”

In other Australian political climate change related news this week:

Ending on science news now, in recent months we’ve spoken of drought in Australia and Africa. Now comes news from Weather Underground: “What is most likely the most intense heat wave ever observed in Southeast Asia has been ongoing for the past several weeks. All-time national heat records have been observed in Cambodia, Laos, and (almost) in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Meanwhile extreme heat has resulted in all-time record high temperatures in the Maldives, India, China, and portions of Africa as well.” So let’s end on a jaw dropper from NASA that surfaced this week in the Insurance Journal: “Think sea level rise will be moderate and something we can all plan for? Think again. Sea levels could rise by much more than originally anticipated, and much faster, according to new data being collected by scientists studying the melting West Antarctic ice sheet – a massive sheet the size of Mexico. That revelation was made by an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday at the annual RIMS conference for risk management and insurance professionals in San Diego, Calif. The conference is being attended by more than 10,000 people, according to organizers. It was day No. 3 of the conference, which ends Wednesday. Margaret Davidson, NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science and services, and Michael Angelina, executive director of the Academy of Risk Management and Insurance, offered their take on climate change data in a conference session titled “Environmental Intelligence: Quantifying the Risks of Climate Change.” Davidson said recent data that has been collected but has yet to be made official indicates sea levels could rise by roughly 3 meters or 9 feet by 2050-2060, far higher and quicker than current projections. Until now most projections have warned of seal level rise of up to 4 feet by 2100. These new findings will likely be released in the latest sets of reports on climate change due out in the next few years. “The latest field data out of West Antarctic is kind of an OMG thing,” she said. OMG indeed. 

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 21 April 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

Two things came to a head this week in climate change and environment protection and both have profound long term impacts on environment. If you are reading this Thursday night Australian time (Thursday AM in Europe and the Americas), many world leaders or their representatives are in New York to officially sign up to what was agreed to in Paris last December. The other notable happening this week concerned the global environment movement ringing the alarm bell on the Great Barrier Reef louder than it has ever been rung before. It was deafening. It needed to be. The barrier reef is at risk of death from the climate emergency. The amount of media coverage in the last week has been the greatest since the first week of December last year when the world met to start work on the deal agreed to in Paris. As a result “Weekend Reading in Climate Change” is a bit longer than normal this week.

To New York first. The Guardian reports the US and China are leading a push to bring the Paris climate accord into force much faster than even the most optimistic projections – aided by a typographical glitch in the text of the agreement. “More than 150 governments, including 40 heads of state, are expected at a symbolic signing ceremony for the agreement at the United Nations on 22 April, which is Earth Day. It’s the largest one-day signing of any international agreement, according to the UN. But leaders will really be looking to see which countries go beyond mere ceremony and legally join the agreement, which would bind them to the promises made in Paris last December to keep warming below the agreed target of 2C. So far, the US, China, Canada and a host of other countries have promised to join this year - boosting the hopes of bringing the Paris deal into force before the initial target date of 2020 – possibly as early as 2016 or 2017, according to officials and analysts. That is well before the timeline originally envisaged at Paris. Environment ministers attending the World Bank spring meetings this week said the faster pace indicated serious commitment to dealing with the global challenge.”

Policy makers in New York will have their work cut out for them. According to Grist, a Climate Central analysis shows that the world will have to dramatically accelerate emissions reductions if it wants to meet that goal. The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48 degrees C, essentially equaling the 1.5 degrees C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December. February exceeded the 1.5 degrees C target at 1.55 degrees C, marking the first time the global average temperature has surpassed the sobering milestone in any month. March followed suit checking in at 1.5 degrees C. January’s mark of 1.4 degrees C, put the global average temperature change from early industrial levels for the first three months of 2016 at 1.48 degrees C.

Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, says the government is committed to joining new UN climate deal this year, but rejects calls for Canberra to adopt tougher CO2 targets, reports Climate Change News.  Speaking on ABC’s Lateline, Mr Hunt said the process to formally approve the deal would start as soon as he signs the UN treaty in New York on Friday. “We hope to have that ratified as soon as possible and be one of the countries to have that done this year,” he said.

Australia would also aim to ratify the 2013-2020 extension to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that commits developed countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Hunt declined to reveal if the government would consider increasing its proposed level of emission reductions of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030. “We will meet and beat our 2020 and 2030 targets,” he said. With a general election looming this year, the opposition Labor Party has committed to a 2030 goal of 45% cuts. The full Lateline interview is on the ABC website

The Climate Institute in the Sydney Morning Herald said, the long-term climate change goals will be missed, and clean energy investment will stagnate, if Australia does not start forcing its dirty coal-fired power plants to close, new analysis has found. “Economic modelling commissioned by the Climate Institute also suggests that putting off closure until after 2030 would force the country into more-extreme measures to meet the longer-term goals of the Paris climate agreement. That could include a hurried closure of more than 80 per cent of existing coal power generation in the five years following 2030, causing significant economic and social disruption, particularly in communities dominated by the industry such as the Latrobe Valley. A smoother transition could be achieved, the Climate Institute argues, by quickly adopting new laws to progressively phase out all high-emitting power plants in the next 20 years. They would sit alongside a carbon price and incentives for cleaner energy alternatives such as renewable and carbon capture and storage technologies.”

If this doesn’t happen, then we start manning the life boats - and now we know where! The Guardian reports Australians now can see on a map how rising sea levels will affect their house just by typing their address into a website. And they’ll soon be able to get an estimate of how much climate change will affect their property prices and insurance premiums, too. “The website Coastal Risk Australia takes Google Maps and combines it with detailed tide and elevation data, as well as future sea level rise projections, allowing users to see whether their house or suburb will be inundated. Coinciding with that is the launch of a beta version of Climate Valuation, a website that gives users an estimate of how much climate change will impact their property value and insurance premiums over the life of their mortgage.”

Others are already acting. Renew Economy reports Australia’s largest superannuation fund – AustralianSuper – has announced that, from next month, it will offer its members an option that will restrict investments in companies with fossil fuel reserves. The decision will see the fund dump between $190m and $235m worth of fossil fuel stocks. “This is welcome news, as AustralianSuper joins the ranks of dozens of funds that are getting out of fossil fuels. But this is still a far cry from serious climate action, as less than 2% of members will have their fossil fuel exposure partially reduced. The fund will combine its three existing sustainable investment options, creating a new option with approximately $2 billion of assets under management.”

Environmentalists in Australia this week were crestfallen with remarks form a senior government figure - Attorney General George Brandis - on climate change science. Renew Economy: “In response to a question from Labor, and on the same day that it was revealed the extent of bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef is far worse than thought, Brandis told parliament on Tuesday: “Senator Carr you’re the one who says the science is settled. I don’t. I’m aware that there are a number of views about the two questions of the nature and the causes of climate change. It doesn’t seem to me that the science is settled at all. But I’m not a scientist, and I’m agnostic, really, on that question.” “The remarks were, of course, leapt upon by Federal Labor and the Greens as proof of the hold that the far right and Abbottistas have over the current government. But the real question must be about at what point does ideology and climate denial trump simple maths about jobs and economics,” Renew Economy said.

So to the Barrier Reef. The international and domestic media woke up to the bleaching and long term future of the reef this week and went, well, nuts. Weekend Reading has six stories and they’re just a taste of the coverage. “Scientists say they are fed up with Queensland’s biggest newspaper not covering the worst bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef, so have taken out a full page ad to get the message out,” reports the Guardian.  Organised by the Climate Council, the full page ad in the Courier Mail on Thursday contains an open letter signed by 56 scientists. “One of the reasons we placed the ad in the Courier Mail was that we’ve seen very little coverage of the coral bleaching event in that paper and in fact there was a front-page story that said the coral bleaching event had been wildly exaggerated,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and one of the signatories of the letter. The letter explains that it is the worst bleaching event in its history, and that it is being driven by climate change.

“The Great Barrier Reef is at a crisis point,” the scientists say. “Its future depends on how much and how quickly the world, including Australia, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit ocean warming.” It then calls for Australia to rapidly phase out coal-fired power stations and for no new coalmines. 

A local tour operator says on its website: “The Great Barrier Reef first began to grow about 18 million years ago. Since this time, various geological events, such as Ice Ages and low seawater levels have interrupted reef growth. The reefs we see today have grown on top of older reef platforms during the last 8000 years – since the last Ice Age.” And we as a society have set it on a course for death in about 250 years. It is heartbreaking. 

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 14 April 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

So it was another one of those weeks, which are increasing in frequency and severity (sound familiar?) where there was some significant scientific studies raising an aspect of the impact of climate change. This week they all seem to talk about the rapid melting of ice and they came one after another. It is even now starting to impact how the earth rotates. It is like when you use a hair dryer to rapidly de-ice a fridge. This is an emergency. 

“Sea levels could rise nearly twice as much as previously predicted by the end of this century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe, according to new research published Wednesday. The main reason? Antarctica,” reported the Washington Post. “Scientists behind a new study published in the journal Nature used sophisticated computer models to decipher a longstanding riddle about how the massive, mostly uninhabited continent surrendered so much ice during previous warm periods on Earth. They found that similar conditions in the future could lead to monumental and irreversible increases in sea levels. If high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue, they concluded, oceans could rise by close to two meters in total (more than six feet) by the end of the century. The startling findings paint a far grimmer picture than current consensus predictions, which have suggested that seas could rise by just under a meter at most by the year 2100.”

EcoWatch tells us the decline of Arctic sea ice is already setting records in 2016, with the winter peak in March clocking in as the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say. “With abnormally warm conditions right across the Arctic, some regions experienced temperatures 4-8C higher than average. While this meant slower ice growth in some places, in others it caused a dramatic thinning by 30cm in one week, according to early model results.” Climate Change News reports almost 12 per cent of Greenland’s ice sheet was melting on Monday, according to data crunched by the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Polar researchers thought their models were broken when they first saw the results. It beat by almost a month the previous record for a melt of more than 10%, on 5 May 2010. Temperature readings on the ice were in line with the numbers, however, exceeding 10C in some places. Even a weather station 1840 metres above sea level recorded a maximum of 3.1C, which data analysts said would be warm for July, let alone April. Greenland’s usual melt season runs from early June to September. “Too much. Too early,” tweeted the World Meteorological Organisation,” the website reported.

The Guardian tells us climate change projections have vastly underestimated the role that clouds play, meaning future warming could be far worse than is currently projected, according to new research. “Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict. The analysis of satellite data, led by Yale University, found that clouds have much more liquid in them, rather than ice, than has been assumed until now. Clouds with ice crystals reflect more solar light than those with liquid in them, stopping it reaching and heating the Earth’s surface. The underestimation of the current level of liquid droplets in clouds means that models showing future warming are misguided, says the paper, published in Science. It also found that fewer clouds will change to a heat-reflecting state in the future – due to CO2 increases – than previously thought, meaning that warming estimates will have to be raised. Such higher levels of warming would make it much more difficult for countries to keep the global temperature rise to below 2C, as they agreed to do at the landmark Paris climate summit last year, to avoid dangerous extreme weather and negative effects on food security.”

The consequences? Melting ice sheets are changing how the earth rotates. Yes, really. EcoWatch reports “Driven by dwindling polar ice, climate change is actually changing the way the Earth spins, new research shows. Melting ice sheets are contributing to the change in polar motion, a term scientists use to describe the “periodic wobble and drift of the poles,” according to NASA. 

The outgoing head of the UNFCCC (the United Nations body which leads negotiations and staged last year’s conference) has been talking up the move by nations to act on climate change. “The global climate change agreement brokered in Paris in December by 195 nations will come into effect two years earlier than originally planned, the top United Nations climate diplomat predicted,” reported Bloomberg. “You heard it here first: I think that we will have a Paris Agreement in effect by 2018,” Christiana Figures said during a question-and-answer session after delivering a lecture Monday at Imperial College London. “The prediction suggests that countries may initiate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions earlier than expected, and increases the chances of meeting the pact’s ultimate goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since industrialization began,” Bloomberg said.

The World Bank this week released details of itsClimate Change Action Plan to help countries meet their Paris COP21 pledges and manage increasing climate impacts. “A key focus is boosting the resilience of people and communities to climate shocks, with new efforts to expand early warning systems, climate-smart social protection, and urban and coastal resilience. The Bank Group is ramping up action in renewable energy, sustainable cities, climate smart agriculture, green transport and other areas – with ambitious targets for 2020, the bank said in a statement.

Renew Economy says Australia in danger of losing top 10 ranking in the global solar market. “The recently released International Energy Agency 2015 Snapshot Report show that the PV market grew again in 2015 to 50GW, up from 40GW in 2014. The total installed capacity in the IEA PVPS countries and key markets has risen to at over 227 GW and, unlike the Australian market, shows no signs of slowing. In Australia, with the Solar Flagships fields coming on line over 2015, the total installed capacity in was 935MW, keeping Australia in the top ten for installed capacity in 2015. But Australia may no longer keep its place in the top ten for installed capacity. India will almost certainly move up the table in 2016, leaving Australia at the bottom of the leader table. Korea and France are installing at a rate that could see Australia lose its long-held position in the top-ten countries for installed solar.

Bloomberg is reporting that wind and solar are experiencing unstoppable growth. “While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels. One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).”

Finishing on some news with big ramifications, a group of youngsters has had a major win in their efforts to sue the United States government over climate change. Think Progress reports an Oregon judge ruled Friday that their lawsuit, which alleges the government violated the constitutional rights of the next generation by allowing the pollution that has caused climate change, can go forward. Federal District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ruled against the federal government and fossil fuel companies’ motions to dismiss the case, deciding in favor of 21 young plaintiffs and Dr. James Hansen. Filed in August, the complaint alleges that the U.S. government has known for half a century that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels cause global warming and climate change. “If the allegations in the complaint are to be believed, the failure to regulate the emissions has resulted in a danger of constitutional proportions to the public health,” Coffin wrote. He called the lawsuit “unprecedented.”

And no that wasn’t a typographical error or spell checking changing, the presiding judge really is named Thomas Coffin. Quite a coincidence.

Editor’s note: Items that didn’t make the cut this week - see the Climate Comm Blog.

Disclaimer: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 7 April 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

What’s becoming clearer and clearer in the environment movement is the move to the mainstream of the economic implications of climate change. For many years it was academia, think tanks, environment groups and others warning of the economic consequences. While they’re still doing this, and forcefully, and well, more and more central bankers, high level economic groups and mega business are buying into the issue. With good reason, too.

Reuters reports trillions of dollars of non-bank financial assets around the world are vulnerable to the effects of global warming. This is according to a study on Monday that says tougher action to curb greenhouse gas emissions makes sense for investors. “Rising temperatures and the dislocation caused by related droughts, floods and heatwaves will slow global economic growth and damage the performance of stocks and bonds, according to the report, led by the London School of Economics. "It makes financial sense to a risk-neutral investor to cut emissions, and even more so to the risk-averse," lead author Professor Simon Dietz, an environmental economist, told Reuters. If the rise were limited to 2C by 2100, the study's central scenario put the total of current financial assets that could be damaged at $1.7 trillion. But if the temperature rose a further 0.5C by the end of the century, $2.5 trillion would be at risk under the most likely scenario.

Climate change poses a serious danger to public health – worse than polio in some respects – and will strike especially hard at pregnant women, children, low-income people and communities of color, an authoritative US government report warned on Monday. The Guardian said a report formally unveiled at the White House, warned of sweeping risks to public health from rising temperatures in the coming decades – with increased deaths and illnesses from heat stroke, respiratory failure and diseases such as West Nile virus. “Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change,” John Holdren, the White House science adviser, told reporters on Monday. “Some are more vulnerable than others,” he went on. These included pregnant women, children, the elderly, outdoor workers, low-income people, immigrants, communities of color and those with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions.

In Australia, Conservationists and traditional owners have been floored by Queensland’s decision to grant mining leases for Adani’s mega-coalmine while two court challenges are unresolved.vThe Guardian reports the Queensland government has cleared the last major state hurdle for the Indian miner to proceed with its $22bn coalmine (which would be Australia’s largest), rail and port project in the Galilee Basin and at Abbot Point. But even Adani says it won’t make a final investment decision on the project until legal challenges by “politically motivated activists” are concluded, and it has the last approvals it needs. Two groups fighting the mine in separate court battles have accused the state government of a morally bankrupt backflip that endangers the Great Barrier Reef and trashes Indigenous rights. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners both said the mines minister, Anthony Lynham, gave assurances that no leases would be issued until their court challenges were resolved.

Despite the approvals and subsequent uproar, many say in financial markets say the mine will never proceed. Respected columnist Michael West in the Sydney Morning Herald said the approvals were simply a political move. “Adani is not going to happen; the construction, that is, of the leviathan Carmichael mine, the world's largest thermal coal mine in the hinterland of the Great Barrier Reef. Much is the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the move by the Queensland government to approve the project but this approval is entirely political. The evidence is compelling. Carmichael is the whitest of white elephants. It is all about the appearance of commitment to jobs, jobs that will never occur unless the coal price doubles, and it is about the government not getting bashed up by the opposition for being anti-jobs and abandoning its election commitments. Even Adani is coy. No sooner had the Indian conglomerate been granted approval than it deferred the project for another year. Buried in the detail of its press release was this: "opportunity for final investment decision and construction in 2017”.”

Still in Australia, Renew Economy reports Australia’s electricity emissions continue to rise and are now 5.5 per cent higher than they were before the carbon price was dumped, putting Australia against the global trend which is seeing energy emissions flat-lining even as the global economy expands. “Pitt & Sherry analyst Hugh Saddler says in his latest monthly survey that total emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (all but Western Australia and the Northern Territory) increased again in the year to March 2016. Saddler blames the rise in emissions on a number of factors. One is the removal of the carbon price, which paved the way for more burning of coal, black coal in particular. Another is the rise in coal generation in Queensland to support the exports of liquefied natural gas – which will contribute an extra 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. A third is the increase in demand, driven largely by LNG requirements in Queensland but also rebounds in peak demand in other states, particularly in response to the unusually hot summer worsened by the “El Niño” effect, which has exacerbated the rise in global temperatures.”

In science news this week, The Conservation reports the summer of 2015-2016 was one of the hottest on record in Australia. But it has also been hot in the waters surrounding the nation: the hottest summer on record, in fact. “While summer on land has been dominated by significant warm spells, bushfires, and dryness, there is a bigger problem looming in the oceans around Australia. This summer has outstripped long-term sea surface temperature records that extend back to the 1950s. We have seen warm surface temperatures all around Australia and across most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with particularly warm temperatures in the southeast and northern Australian regions,” The Conversation reported.

Finally, some good news from the auto industry. Inside EVs, reports plug-in electric vehicle sales have been on the rise of late – setting 5 consecutive monthly records, but March’s result was a whole other animal. “It was a beast. While the prior four monthly records have seen small year-over year gains, ranging from 3.8% to 12%, March obliterated all previous results for the month. And in so doing, also set a new all-time record for the United States for any month.

And EV’s got a big boost this week, according to Renew Economy. “Adios gas-powered cars.” That was the reaction of Barclays analyst Brian Johnston over the weekend to news that Tesla Motors had received orders for nearly 200,000 of its Model 3 electric vehicle in less than two days. “By nightfall on Saturday, that order tally had jumped to 276,000. That’s more than $US280 million in zero-cost capital to Tesla, from the $US1,000, $A1,500 and €1,000 deposits, and total orders for more than $A13 billion of electric vehicles. It is – by a long shot – the fastest growing customer order book in the history of the automobile industry. And for a car that will not even enter production for 18 months, and has a price tag of $US35,000.” If you want more coverage on the Tesla story, take a look at this week’s Responsibility Plus Bulletin.

Finally, the ABC is reporting, Australia will be among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, with a "very senior" representative being sent to a signing ceremony in New York later this month, according to government sources. “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of governments to partake in a formal signing ceremony. France, Canada, the United States and China have all indicated they will be sending senior government representatives to the occasion. Dozens of others are expected to attend,” the ABC reported. Now that’s good news.

Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week in Climate Change - 31 March 2016

When it comes to the science and impacts of climate change, it was another one of those weeks were you had to read things twice to make sure you were reading things correctly.

Let me start off with this from the Guardian: “Right now, the Earth’s average surface temperature is hotter than it’s been in thousands of years; potentially even longer.” Wow! Thousands of years! I have directly lifted the following copy -  “Stunning,” “wow,” “shocker,” “bombshell,” “astronomical,” “insane,” “unprecedented”– these are some of the words climate scientists have used to describe the record-shattering global surface temperatures in February 2016. The story goes on: “ It’s difficult to see any ‘pause’ or slowdown in the global warming over the past 50 years. To put the current temperatures into context, prior to last October, monthly global surface temperatures had not been more than 0.96°C hotter than the 1951–1980 average, according to Nasa. The past 5 months have been 1.06°C, 1.03°C, 1.10°C, 1.14°C, and 1.35°C hotter than that average, absolutely destroying previous records.” Again Wow.

Then I saw these two graphs pop up on Twitter this week. They are the sea water temperatures in Sydney and Melbourne. Just look at the black line - that’s this year. You can work the rest out for yourself. (Click each image to enlarge).

 

So…. it comes as no surprise to then read something like this in the New York Times….  “The nations of the world agreed years ago to try to limit global warming to a level they hoped would prove somewhat tolerable. But leading climate scientists warned on Tuesday that permitting a warming of that magnitude would actually be quite dangerous. The likely consequences would include killer storms stronger than any in modern times, the disintegration of large parts of the polar ice sheets and a rise of the sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s coastal cities before the end of this century, the scientists declared.” “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control,” said James E. Hansen, the retired NASA climate scientist who led the new research. “The findings were released Tuesday morning by a European science journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Specifically, the authors believe that fresh water pouring into the oceans from melting land ice will set off a feedback loop that will cause parts of the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to disintegrate rapidly. That claim has intrigued some experts who say the paper may help explain puzzling episodes in Earth’s past when geological evidence suggests the climate underwent drastic shifts.” 

And then this, also from the Guardian: “Sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades, according to new research that reveals Antarctica’s vast ice cap is less stable than previously thought. The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century - but it did not anticipate any significant contribution from Antarctica, where increasing snowfall was expected to keep the ice sheet in balance. According a study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut. As well as rising seas, climate change is also causing storms to become fiercer, forming a highly destructive combination for low-lying cities like New York, Mumbai and Guangzhou.

No wonder then the UK's leading health institutions have this week launched a new alliance, calling on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to urgently strengthen the National Health Servcies' ability to respond to worsening climate-related health impacts. According to Business Green, the group, which includes the British Medical Association, the Lancet, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Climate and Health Council, said its aim was to "encourage stronger, smarter approaches to tackling climate change that protect and promote public health, whilst also reducing the burden on health services”. The group said it was "united by a shared understanding that climate change poses an unacceptable threat to the well-being of our patients and the British public and risks undermining the broader social determinants of health".

There was some good news this week. The President of the United States of America and China announced another significant step in their joint climate efforts, the White House said in a statement. The United States and China will sign the Paris Agreement on April 22nd and take their respective domestic steps in order to join the Agreement as early as possible this year. They encourage other Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to do the same, with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible. The Presidents further express their commitment to work together and with others to promote the full implementation of the Paris Agreement to win the fight against the climate threat.

Over in the UK, green financing and cash for climate-friendly infrastructure projects will be a priority for September’s G20 meeting in China, the governor of the Bank of England said on Wednesday. Climate Change News said Mark Carney told a gathering of leading bankers in London 2016 was the year to “mainstream” finance tools like green bonds, a market that grew to US$65 billion in 2015. “It’s a fundamental issue that will go straight up to leaders this year,” said Carney, who surprised many analysts with his strong call for climate action last year. Later this year, a taskforce set up by the Financial Stability Board, which Carney chairs, is primed to recommend companies offer more details about their exposure to oil, gas and coal assets.

The BBC reported global investment in renewable energy hit a record US$285.9bn (£202.3bn) in 2015, beating the previous high of $278.5bn set in 2011, a study shows. “The 10th Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment also showed that investment in developing nations exceeded that in developed countries. In another first, more new renewables capacity than fossil-fuel generation came online during 2015. But it warned that much more had to be done to avoid dangerous climate change.” Meanwhile, China is planning to increase total wind power capacity by 22 per cent this year, reiterating the government’s plans to keep renewable energy development high. The news was published on the country’s (Mandarin) National Energy Administration website. Bloomberg Business, which translated the statement, said that the Chinese Government is aiming to develop 30.83 GW of wind power this year, which is relatively in line with the 33 GW the country developed in 2015. Reporting on the story out of China came from Clean Technica.

It was no wonder then when the ANZ announced it is absorbing a bigger than expected loss as a result of lending to the mining industry. According to Guardian, this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as coal and other fossil fuels go into structural decline, based on their discussions with some financial analysts. “ANZ announced to the Australian stock exchange on Thursday that over the past month, conditions have changed such that expected costs associated with lending to the mining and resources sector would increase from a projected $800m to more than $900m.

That’s just the beginning.

Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 24 March 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

I haven’t been a ‘practising journalist’ (if there is such a thing) since the 1990’s. However, you never lose that ‘nose for news’. Likewise, you should never lose your objectivity when assessing stories, what to report and what to make a big deal about. This week, I had to do some deep reflection on the first story I am bringing to you to see if I was being over dramatic. 

Here’s what I saw on Mashable:  “Humans are releasing planet-warming carbon dioxide at about 10 times faster than the most rapid event of anytime in at least the past 66 million years. This leaves us without a historical analogue to guide predictions for how climate change will affect the world in coming years, a new study has found.” 66 million years? Not sixty thousand years, not six million years… sixty-six million years. Editorialising here - I was gobsmacked. The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, comes about a week after news broke that the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere spiked by the largest amount on record in 2015, and on the heels of the hottest year and mildest first two months of 2016 on record. February, for example, had the highest temperature departure from average of any month on record since at least 1880, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found. (Reporting from Mashable). 

Picking up on the Mashable line, Grist reported: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported the biggest 12-month jump in carbon dioxide concentrations since record-keeping began, based on preliminary data from its Earth Science Research Lab in Mauna Loa. From February 2015 to 2016, the global concentration of carbon in the atmosphere rose a record 3.76 parts per million (ppm), to over 404 ppm. The last record-holder was 1997-1998, when carbon dioxide rose 3.70 ppm. We’ve broken other records this past year, too: The 2015 calendar year also posted the biggest-annual rise in carbon levels, while NOAA reported last May that carbon stayed above an average 400 ppm for the entire month, a first in millions of years.

Then there was this in the Guardian….  “The current rate of global warming could raise sea levels by “several meters” over the coming century, rendering most of the world’s coastal cities uninhabitable and helping unleash devastating storms, according to a paper published by James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who is considered the father of modern climate change awareness. The research, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, references past climatic conditions, recent observations and future models to warn the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will contribute to a far worse sea level increase than previously thought. Without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years”, the paper states, warning that the Earth’s oceans were six to nine meters higher during the Eemian period – an interglacial phase about 120,000 years ago that was less than 1C warmer than it is today.” It was one of those weeks.

Closer to home, the Guardian reports Australian Climate Council called for urgent action as records tumble. “Record hot spells in Australia this month blurred the line between summer and autumn in another sign of rapidly advancing global warming, a Climate Council report says. The first four days of March saw maximum temperatures in much of the country 4C above average – and 8C to 12C above average in most of southeastern Australia – the report said.” Tim Flannery, the former Australian climate commissioner who helped found the Climate Council after the commission was abolished by the Abbott government in 2013, told the Guardian world heat records were an ominous sign the world had shifted from “climate change concern to climate change consequences”. “Scientists have been voicing their concerns for decades and now we are seeing the consequences,” Mr Flannery said.

Then there’s the Great Barrier Reef, which, according to most, is in real trouble. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the coral bleaching threat level on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be increased to its highest level. The ABC reported Mr Hunt saying the bleaching was not as bad as first thought. "It is not as severe at this stage as 1998 or 2002, which were both El Nino-related events, it is however, in the northern parts a cause for concern,"' Mr Hunt said. The Climate Council issued an urgent scientific alert in response to the upgrading of the coral bleaching threat to level three. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the federal government appears to be confused about how best to protect the reef. ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy: “Burning coal is heating the globe and warmer oceans are bleaching coral. “Scientists say there were no coral bleaching events recorded before the 1970s. This is a phenomenon that is firmly a result of climate change, fuelled by burning coal. If the federal government was serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef there’s no way it would have approved Adani’s plan to dig the biggest coal mine in Australia.”

Renew Economy reports ”Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has put his own stamp on clean energy investment in Australia, dumping Coalition plans to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, but announcing new plans to essentially de-fund the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and replace it with a new “Clean Energy Innovation Fund.” The retention of the CEFC will be welcome and signals a potential shift from the anti-renewable policy stance of the Abbott regime that preceded him. But the move to de-fund ARENA and create a “new” fund using money already allocated to the CEFC is nothing but a sleight of hand, and an elaborate ruse by Turnbull to save more than a $1.3 billion and get his new pet-word “innovation” included in a financing scheme. It may also be designed to meet Australia’s Paris commitment to invest “new money” in clean energy innovation,” Renew Economy reported. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on one of those ‘head scratchers’ when Australia's top medical research body has given two researchers $3.3 million to study the effects of wind farms on human health despite its own year-long study finding no "consistent evidence" that a problem exists. 

Continuing with the ‘head scratching’, US online magazine Grist came out with this (unedited): “National embarrassment and presidential hopeful Donald Trump met with The Washington Post’s editorial board on Monday and spouted some nonsense about climate change, among many other topics. The takeaways: He’s “not a big believer” in human-caused climate change; instead, he believes “our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons.”

FRED HIATT, WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?

DONALD TRUMP: I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes – if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase. I am not – I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.

I can hear you now… give me some good news… anything… anything good to finish on. Give me some hope! OK, you got it. Climate Change News reports: “Germany is drawing up an action plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 95% from 1990 levels by 2050. Drawing on a public consultation launched last year, the environment ministry expects to present the proposal to cabinet before the summer recess. It is a “mammoth task with profound implications,” environment minister Barbara Hendricks said at a conference in Berlin. “No sector will be excluded from this transition.” The long term target is at the higher end of the 80-95% range agreed across the EU, based on holding global temperature rise to 2C. Hendricks stressed the importance of the aspirational 1.5C limit on global warming agreed at last year’s UN climate talks in Paris.“There are places in the world where the extent of global warming can mean the difference between survival and destruction,” she said. Germany is a world leader on clean energy and climate change action. Many will follow its lead.

Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.

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This Week In Climate Change for 17 March 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

Things other than elections happen in the real world. You wouldn’t know so this week, with election talk in the United States and Australia dominating mainstream and social media. The media is fascinated be politicians talking elections. Politicians are fascinated by the media talking elections. They are fascinated with each other. Rarely do we get an insight into what people are interested in. This week we did - on climate change - in Australia. People want action.

This week we start with a poll of polls - 100 per cent of polls on climate change policy in Australia this week, well two of two of them, say it will be a key election issue. The Guardian reports almost half of Australian voters say policies on climate change, renewable energy and the Great Barrier Reef will influence the way they vote at the election. “The nationwide poll of 1,048 people over the weekend found 47% of people agreed or strongly agreed that “climate change and renewable energy will influence the way I vote at this year’s federal election”. That was more than twice as many as the 22% who disagreed with the statement, according to the survey conducted by Lonergan Research and commissioned by Future Super.” Meanwhile, Essential poll says 57% of those in their survey (up 4% since August) think Australia is not doing enough to address climate change and 21% (down 3%) think Australia is doing enough. Those most likely to think Australia is not dong enough were aged 18-34 (66%) and university educated (64%).

Australia’s climate change leaders went into a bit of a frenzy this week following claims made on ABC Radio by the Minister for Environment Greg Hunt that Australia had reached peak emissions:

  • MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, goals aside though, isn't it the case that even though we've set our targets, our emissions do rise over time until 2030? Still they continue to rise, don't they?
  • GREG HUNT: No I believe that we have reached what's sometimes known as peak emissions. 
  • MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Right, so it's going to fall from here?
  • GREG HUNT: Our emissions have fallen from their 2005 high point, and my best estimate is that we are unlikely as a nation ever to surpass that again. 

The Climate Council reported: “The basis of Minister Hunt's claim is national accounts data showing a reduction in land emissions. But the true test of whether a country is effectively tackling climate change is whether or not fossil fuel emissions are going down rapidly. And Australia's fossil fuel emissions continue to rise, jumping 3% in the 2014-15 year – unlike the European Union and the US, whose emissions have genuinely peaked. On top of that, independent analysis by carbon consultancy Reputex found Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions are set to keep rising well beyond 2020 on current trends, with the projected growth rate one of the worst in the developed world.” Meanwhile, Renew Economy reported Australia will need to rid itself of coal power generation completely by 2035 if it has any hope of meeting its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, the Climate Institute has warned in a submission on the nation’s climate policy framework.

There was a bit doing on coal and energy this week. First the Guardian reported global greenhouse gas emissions resisted a rise for a second straight year in a sign climate policies are working.  Renewable power played a “critical role” in holding CO2 emissions to around 32 billion tonnes, the International Energy Agency said in a statement. The Paris-based think-tank also cited falling coal use in top carbon polluters China and the United States in its preliminary data. The figures mark the first period in 40 years that a halt or reduction was not tied to an economic downturn. The data does not account for pollution from transport or changes in land use,” the Guardian reported. “The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” IEA head, Fatih Birol said.

In a sign of the times globally, the largest privately owned coal miner in the world, Peabody Energy, warned this week its financial survival was under a cloud. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Peabody told investors: ”We may not have sufficient liquidity to sustain operations and continue as a going concern.”

The news about the coal emissions couldn’t come a day sooner. Global temperatures in February smashed previous monthly records by an unprecedented amount, according to NASA data, sparking warnings of a climate emergency. The Guardian reported the result was “a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases”, wrote Jeff Masters and Bob Henson in a blog on the Weather Underground, which analysed the data released on Saturday. “It confirms preliminary analysis from earlier in March, indicating the record-breaking temperatures. The global surface temperatures across land and ocean in February were 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month, from the baseline period of 1951-1980. Although the temperatures have been spurred on by a very large El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, the temperature smashed records set during the last large El Niño from 1998, which was at least as strong as the current one.” 

In Washington, US President Obama said his country and Canada were more closely aligned than ever, using a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce joint efforts to curb emissions of planet-warming gases and to promote his personal rapport with the leader of a pivotal neighbour. The New York Times reported the two announced that they were teaming up to reduce the release of methane, a chemical contained in natural gas. They also promised that their two countries would “play a leadership role internationally in the low-carbon global economy over the coming decades.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau also pledged to cooperate in preserving the Arctic, and to move more quickly to carry out agreements made in climate talks in Paris last year.

Over ‘the pond’, the BBC reports the government of the United Kingdom is saying climate laws will be tightened to cut carbon emissions effectively to zero. “Under current law, emissions must be cut by 80% by 2050 - but ministers have said this does not go far enough. Following the climate deal in Paris, it is clear the UK must not increase CO2 at all because the warming threat is so severe, they added. No details of the law change have been given - and critics said the UK was failing to meet even current targets,” the BBC reported.

Finally, Inside Climate News reports on a new study claiming it's now possible for scientists to confidently measure the influence of climate change on some extreme weather events, such as heat waves. “In this first-ever assessment of the emerging field of climate science attribution, researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are setting the record straight on how well scientists can currently tease out the climate-change fingerprints of different types of extreme weather.”

Finally this week, leader of the Climate Reality Project Chairman, Al Gore, was in the Philippines this week and laid a wreath in Tacloban while meeting victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest storms on record and a symbol of the impact of climate change on extreme weather.  “It very deeply affected me," Mr Gore said of his visit. The former US vice president was reported as saying at least 13.5 million Filipinos might have to be relocated over time to higher elevations due to rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers, among others. Thirteen and a half million people…. that’s a little more than half of Australia’s population.  Imagine that. Incredible. 

Disclosure: Andrew Woodward its a member of the Australian Labor Party and a Member of LEAN - the Labor Environment Action Network. 

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This Week in Climate Change - 10 March 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

It was a week of numbers in climate change - deaths, temperatures, dollars, gigawatts and years all pointing to more bad news than good news.

The big news this week came via the Washington Post when it reported that food scarcity caused by climate change could cause 500,000 deaths by 2050. “The effects of climate change on food production around the world could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050, according to a grim new study. Climate-related impacts on agriculture could lead to an overall global decline in food availability, the research suggests, forcing people to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and less meat. And the public health impacts of these changes could be severe. Climate experts have long predicted severe consequences for global food security if serious steps are not taken to mitigate climate change. Rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and more severe weather events are expected to cause agriculture in certain areas to suffer, all while the global population — and its demand for food — continues to skyrocket.”

The good news just kept on coming when Grist reported the world has just surpassed a historic climate threshold, adding the world is still heating up. “As of Thursday morning, for the first time in recorded history, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere briefly crossed the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above “normal.” Eric Holthaus picked up on the momentous occasion over at Slate, adding that global warming is now “going into overdrive.” A few degrees warmer since preindustrial averages may not seem like much, but in the grand scheme of things, it matters. Countries around the world formally agreed years ago to hold warming under the 2-degree mark, and the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned of the dangerous impacts of 2 degrees of global warming.”

Last week we told you about the worst drought in a century in South Africa - let’s go one better - well nine ‘better’ actually. The International Business Times reports on NASA research indicating human induced climate change has triggered the Middle East’s worst drought in 900 years.  “Over the past four years, as a relentless and bloody civil war rages on in Syria, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, while over 7 million have been internally displaced. Many of these refugees have fled to Europe, where the influx has triggered a massive crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since the end of World War II.Several studies in the past have attributed the conflict, at least in part, to a series of severe droughts that have gripped the country since the late 1990s. Now, a new report from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies further bolsters the claim that anthropogenic climate change-induced drought may be one of the root causes of the conflict in the region. The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, states that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean region — which includes Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey — is likely the worst drought to affect the region in 900 years, and that human-induced climate change was a contributing factor.”

Here’s some good-ish news. The Guardian reports carbon emissions may have peaked already in China, years earlier than its leaders pledged, according to a study co-authored by the world-renowned economist Lord Stern. “The country’s emissions have fallen, partly as a result of its globally relevant economic slowdown, and partly owing to government policies to pursue a low-carbon path and reduce the rampant air pollution in its major cities. If this trend continues it would show that the country’s emissions have already peaked, said Fergus Green, lead author of the report from the LSE. This would be a landmark in international efforts to tackle emissions and fight climate change, formalised in last December’s breakthrough international accord on climate change signed in Paris. At the summit China, the world’s second biggest economy and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, agreed that its emissions should peak by 2030. This is an important development, as it means that the world’s biggest emitter is likely to be finally on a downward path of carbon emissions. Although there is a possibility that China’s emissions will pick up if its growth rate recovers, the reduction in emissions is likely to continue, according to Green.”

In the United States, the Guardian reports the Obama administration has made a first installment on its $3bn pledge to help poor countries fight climate change – defying Republican opposition to the president’s environmental plan. “The $500m payment to the Green Climate Fund was seen as critical to shoring up international confidence in Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on the pledges made at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris in late 2015. The White House is also working with United Nations officials to encourage countries to formally approve the Paris climate agreement ahead of a signing ceremony on 22 April. At least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global climate emissions, must ratify the agreement before it takes effect.”

The European Union reports the renewable energy sector employed over one million people in Europe and created a turnover of around €143.6 billion in 2015, according to a new report published by EurObserv'ER, the body that monitors trends in renewable energy in Europe. “According to the report – the State of Renewable Energies in Europe – the countries with the highest amount of renewable energy jobs were Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain, with the EU's smaller countries having the least jobs in the sector. When it comes to turnover, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Denmark and Spain saw the highest turnover rates last year.”

The news isn’t so good in Australia. Renew Economy reports “Australia’s large-scale renewable energy industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place: Despite legislation and an apparently firm 2020 target, and soaring prices for renewable energy certificates, the market remains at a virtual standstill. A whole slew of reports have been issued in recent weeks trying to analyse the situation. The latest, from UBS, suggests that the market remains stalled because the biggest electricity retailers (also known as gen-tailers because they have large generating plants) have little reason to invest – they suffer no penalties if they don’t invest, and risk cutting earnings from their existing fossil fuel plants if they do.”

In science news, Nature reports on research form the University of New South Wales indicating rainfall is likely to rise along with global temperatures. “Get ready for rain: climate change is already driving an increase in extremes of rainfall and snowfall across most of the globe, even in arid regions. And this trend will continue as the world warms, researchers report today in Nature Climate Change. The role of global warming in unusually large rainfall events in countries from the United Kingdom to China has been hotly debated. But the latest study shows that climate change is driving an overall increase in rainfall extremes.”

Finally……….. in Australian domestic politics…….. I don’t know how to put this…. well…… the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the NSW Liberal Party state conference last weekend, which “formally called on the Turnbull government to conduct public debates about climate change - including whether the science is settled - in a stark reminder of the deep divisions within the party over the issue. A motion passed at the party's state council calls on the government to "arrange and hold public debates/discussions" between scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and "independent climate scientists”. The motion says the events should cover "the global warming/climate change debate"; "the claims by the IPCC"; and the statement "is all the science settled”. 

And no, this is not from a satire site. Sigh.

Disclosure: Andrew Woodward its a member of the Australian Labor Party and a Member of LEAN - the Labor Environment Action Network. 

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This Week In Climate Change for 3 March 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecommwww.climatecommunication.netfeedback@climatecommunication.net)

Tuxedos and climate change normally aren’t things that make it into the same sentence but they did this week, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio when he took out an Oscar. He put climate change front and centre of his acceptance speech. The news was reported and shared around the world - over and over and over. Not since Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth a decade ago have we seen Hollywood engage so prominently with climate change. 

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he declared. The actor’s actions generated significant interest about climate change, prompting a look by the Guardian about his passion for the issue. “Leonardo DiCaprio was a climate champion long before the actor wrapped himself in an animal carcass, vomited up raw bison liver, and risked hypothermia for his Oscar-winning role in Revenant,” the Guardian reported. “Over the last few years, DiCaprio has steadily donated his celebrity - and at least $30m in funding according to his foundation - to help advance the United Nations climate negotiations, protect coral reefs and tigers, and spread public awareness about the dangers of climate change. The actor has become a fixture at events focused on global challenges since 2014,” the Guardian reported.

New Scientist reports China is surging ahead in switching to renewables and away from coal in what its officials say will allow it to surpass its carbon emissions targets. “The country’s solar and wind energy capacity soared last year by 74 and 34 per cent respectively compared with 2014, according to figures issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics yesterday. Meanwhile, its consumption of coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels – dropped by 3.7 per cent, with imports down by a substantial 30 per cent. The figures back up claims last month in Hong Kong by Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator at at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, that the country will “far surpass” its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of national wealth (GDP) by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels.” That’s the end of the good news. Now the bad news. 

Australia’s big four banks are continuing to finance fossil fuel projects despite embracing a 2C or better global warming target, according to figures from financial activists Market Forces. The Guardian reports the Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank signed off on loans totalling $5.5bn to coal, oil, gas and liquefied natural gas projects in 2015, a figure that is higher than three of the preceding eight years. “Among the deals were eight loans for coal projects signed in Australia in 2015, with a total value of $4bn, including for struggling Whitehaven Coal, operator of the controversial Maules Creek mine. All of the projects had some financing from the big four banks, with their contributions totalling $995m,” the Guardian reported. 

Renew Economy reports new government data has confirmed what has been widely suspected – the nation’s top polluters are actually increasing emissions, and will likely continue to do so despite Australia’s recent pledge to join the ambitious climate agreement sealed in Paris. “The National Greenhouse and Energy Report released late on Friday reveals the nation’s top 10 polluters – and AGL again takes top spot, this time reinforcing its position with the multi-billion dollar purchase of large coal fired generators in NSW. The data, and an analysis from the Australian Conservation Foundation, confirm that in the same year that Australia signed up to the historic Paris climate deal – an agreement to actively pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the nation’s carbon pollution levels increased, as the country’s electricity generation sector became even more reliant on coal power.”

Australia is underprepared to deal with the escalating problem of extreme "killer" heatwaves and a "whole of society approach" is needed to deal with the problem, a Climate Council report says. The ABC reported on the release saying there were more than 370 deaths during the heatwave of 2009 and climate forecasts indicate there will be longer, hotter and more intense heatwaves in future, according to The Silent Killer: Climate change and the impact of extreme heat. The number of record hot days in Australia has doubled in the past 50 years. Heatwaves have killed more Australians than any other natural hazard and have caused more deaths since 1890 than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined, the report said. The heat places "a dramatic demand" on public facilities such as hospitals and the system is so stretched there is no capacity to increase services. In the 2009 heatwave, emergency callouts jumped by 46 per cent and there was a tripling of cardiac arrests, the ABC reported.

The Guardian reports the cost of natural disasters in Australia is 50% more than previously estimated– $9bn in 2015 – and is set to increase to $33bn by 2050 even ignoring the effect of climate change, according to two reports commissioned by the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities. The studies included the first analysis of the economic costs of social impacts of natural disasters, and concluded they cost the economy more than tangible impacts like damage to property.

A land-clearing surge in Queensland is set to create additional carbon dioxide emissions in just three years that are equivalent to those the federal government claims it is avoiding by paying other farmers over $670m to stop cutting down trees, according to a new analysis, reported on by the Guardian. “The Queensland land clearing along with weakening land clearing laws in several other states are threatening Australia’s chances of meeting the climate change targets it pledged in Paris last year and raising questions about the coalition’s “Direct Action” climate policy. A new study of Australian tree-clearing by environmental services company CO2 Australia – obtained by Guardian Australia – has quantified the recent blow-out in greenhouse emissions from the weakened laws, after a decade in which declining tree clearing played a key role in Australia meeting its climate change commitments,” the Guardian reported.

The Guardian says climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted. “Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous. Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 bn tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 bn tons.”

Finally, we hear much about droughts in California and Australia but they’re also happening elsewhere - and severely. The worst drought in more than a century cut South African farming output and hurt manufacturing, curbing growth in the continent’s second-largest economy to an annualized 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter. Bloomberg reports the economy’s rebound from a recession in 2009 has struggled to gain traction as commodity prices slumped and growth in South Africa’s biggest export market, China, slowed. South Africa’s outlook has deteriorated since last year because of the drought, prompting Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week to reduce his growth forecast for 2016 by almost half to 0.9 percent. Agriculture contracted an annualized 14 percent in the final three months of last year and “we can see the pass-through to manufacturing,” Statistician General Pali Lehohla told reporters on Tuesday in Pretoria, the capital. The decline is “a big number. The drought has an impact both in terms of employment and industrial output,” he said.

As is clear this week, 24 hours of good news is quickly diminished by a week of generally bad news, right around the world and from so many angles. 

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This Week In Climate Change for 25 February 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

The government taketh from climate change - the government giveth to fossil fuels. OK, I know that’s the wrong way around but you know what I am getting at. Taking and giving was at the heart of the Australian government’s approach on climate change and energy policy for all of the wrong reasons this week- again.

First - the ‘taketh’. It was a week when outrage continued in media, public policy and scientific circles over the CSIRO’s decision to reduce its ocean, atmosphere, land and water teams by 350 positions over two years. This includes the loss of 100 full time positions out of the 140 scientists in the organisation’s climate modelling and monitoring units. It is shaping up for a long term battle. The Sydney Morning Herald, in an editorial, called for the cuts to be put on hold and for an independent review to occur on the basis of the precautionary principle: “The decision smacks of having been hastily conceived and poorly executed. It is not clear that the CSIRO board even met to discuss it. There appears to be no coherent plan for which jobs will go and why those, nor for the new hires in growth areas which are supposed to claw back the job losses over two years. Dr Marshall was poorly advised to justify the climate job cuts by saying the question of climate change "has been answered", and it's time to move on to how to mitigate it. Maintaining climate modelling and monitoring capability as we learn how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and identify climate risks has never been more important. For now, the nation's scientists are scrambling to find homes for crucial research programs and science personnel in other institutions.” You can’t get any more scathing than that. 

And then there’s the ‘giveth’. The Australian Minister for Science and Innovation, Chris Pyne, led with the chin this week announcing a new growth centre will be established by the Australian Government will drive innovation, competitiveness and productivity across the oil, gas, coal and uranium sectors. Yes, fossil fuels and nuclear. “The Oil, Gas and Energy Resources Growth Centre, to be known as National Energy Resources Australia (NERA), will promote collaboration and innovation across the energy resources sector,” Mr Pyne said. Here’s the sting: The Australian Government was investing $15.4 million over four years in the growth centre. On the one hand, the government is cutting scientific staff and on the other hand, funding research into fossil fuels and other carbon intensive fuels such uranium. The reaction has been as you would predict - outrage.

The government’s focus appears at odds with the market. Renew Economy reports the boss of Origin Energy, one of Australia’s big three energy companies, saying the world is moving quickly to renewables as solar costs plunge. “The world is moving more quickly towards renewable energy than people thought even a year ago, and Australia can expect an imminent boom in large-scale solar investment, according to Grant King, the CEO of Australian energy utility Origin Energy. King, speaking after releasing half-year results tarred by write-downs of fossil fuel investments, said the renewable energy market would be propelled by the outcome of the Paris climate agreement and the falling costs of wind and solar.” 

Meanwhile, the boss of Australia’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases says his company needs to be out of the “CO2 emissions business” regardless of what they think of the science of climate change, simply to manage the financial risk. “We’re not necessarily out of the coal business and it’s not fossil fuels because we’ll still use gas. We need to be out of the CO2 emissions business,” Andrew Vesey, the chief executive of AGL told Guardian Australia. “We’ve done a lot of thinking around this and we believe our view of the future will be restraints on carbon emissions.” “It’s nothing to do with the science – it’s irrelevant what I believe. If markets believe it, if customers believe it, if investors believe it, if government is making policy, then what I have is a significant risk in my portfolio that I have to mitigate,” Vesey told Guardian Australia this week.

Overseas, the world’s top coal producer, and the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will shut down 1,000 coal-fired power plants this year. It’s a move that will simultaneously cool off China’s over-supply of dirty coal and help tackle the country’s air pollution crisis — with even deeper cuts to come. Grist reports the news was confirmed on Monday by China’s National Energy Administration, and first reported by Xinhua, the state-run outlet, after detailed plans to slash coal consumption were issued earlier this month by the country’s powerful executive body, the State Council. The move will accelerate China’s well-documented shift away from coal.

Climate Change News reports islanders will start leaving Kiribati in 2020 as rising seas make life too difficult, according to its president Anote Tong. “The government has built coastal walls and floating islands but they won’t be enough to stop emigration, he told a climate change meeting in Wellington, Radio New Zealand reported on Tuesday” the news service reported.  “People are getting quite scared now and we need immediate solutions. This is why I want to rush the solutions so there will be a sense of comfort for our people,” President Tong said.

In science news this week, The Conversation reports the rise in extreme weather is a warning that eco systems are on the verge of collapse. “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, and heatwaves) are increasing as global temperatures rise. While we are starting to learn how these changes will affect people and individual species, we don’t yet know how ecosystems are likely to change. Research published in Nature, using 14 years of NASA satellite data, shows eastern Australia’s drylands are among the most sensitive ecosystems to these extreme events, alongside tropical rainforests and mountains. Central Australia’s desert ecosystems are also vulnerable, but for different reasons. As the world warms, this information can help us manage ecosystems and to anticipate irreversible changes or ecological collapse,” the Conversation reported.

The Guardian reports coral will become deformed and increasingly fall victim to outbreaks of herpes-like viruses as humans continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to two new studies. “Combined, the two effects suggest coral reefs will have trouble recovering from bleaching events, like the the world is currently experiencing. When carbon dioxide is emitted from factories, cars and power plants, about 30% of it is absorbed by the ocean. As that happens, the acidity of the oceans increases, which makes it harder for corals to build their alkaline skeletons.”

The Guardian reports the United Nations climate chief will step down in July, at the end of a six-year term, and praised governments for reaching a 195-nation deal in Paris in December to shift the world economy from fossil fuels to cleaner energies. Christiana Figueres, a 59-year-old Costa Rican, said she would not accept any extension of her term as head of the Bonn-based UN Climate Change Secretariat after what she called the historic Paris Agreement. “We now move into a phase of urgent implementation,” she wrote in a letter to governments, which agreed a goal in Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2100 by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy such as wind or solar power. “The journey that lies ahead will require continued determination, ingenuity and, above all, our collective sense of humanity and purpose,” she wrote in the letter, dated 12 February and made public on Friday. You can read the letter at Scribd. She also spoke at TED in Vancouver.

Finally, Al Gore is truly optimistic about the future of humanity and our ability to address climate change. EcoWatch reports he admitted to the TED2016 audience in Vancouver last week that “every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” But he maintained, “I am extremely optimistic. We are going to win this. We will prevail.” Forbes was so impressed, it ran the headline: “What Makes Al Gore's Latest Batch of Climate 'Truths' So Compelling” . You can watch the 25 minute table thumper from Al Gore on the TED website

Al Gore, as always, is compelling.

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This Week In Climate Change for 18 February 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

Much of what is contained in this digest concerns politics and policy as it relates to climate change. Impacts and science news get mentioned but generally follow the waves and waves of conjecture that abound. Not this week. There was a jaw dropper from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada this week.

“New research shows that more than 5.5 million people die prematurely every year due to household and outdoor air pollution. More than half of deaths occur in two of the world’s fastest growing economies, China and India,” UBC said in a post.  “Power plants, industrial manufacturing, vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood all release small particles into the air that are dangerous to a person’s health. New research found that despite efforts to limit future emissions, the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution will climb over the next two decades unless more aggressive targets are set. Analysis shows that the two countries account for 55 per cent of the deaths caused by air pollution worldwide. About 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China and 1.4 million died in India in 2013.” The Washington Post captured the gravity of the story in a poignant headline “More than 5 million people will die from a frightening cause: Breathing”

Former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, weighed into the row at the CSIRO over the axing of over 300 scientific, research and support staff from climate change and associated areas. “CSIRO’s research has been vital to the world’s understanding of how our climate is changing and it has helped to build a foundation on which we can anticipate future change and risk. For many years, CSIRO’s contributions to climate observations and modeling have been globally recognized and respected, and the decision to cut this effort from CSIRO should be revisited at the highest levels of the Australian Government. Further development of climate modeling and observations by CSIRO and colleague scientific organizations is essential to planning for climate mitigation and adaptation to global warming. This effort needs strengthening, not weakening, after the Paris Agreement in December,” Mr Gore said on his website. Sydney Morning Herald Environment Editor, Peter Hannam, said CSIRO chief Larry Marshall has pointed his ship into a scientific storm with the cuts to climate change research: Mr Hannam said scientists form 60 nations had signed a letter protesting the cuts.

Staying in Australia, many in the environment movement were gobsmacked last week to read that the country’s Minister for the Environment had been named the “Best Minister in the World” at a conference in the United Arab Emirates. The conference and award had the name of Reuters - the prestigious global news agency - attached to them. This appears to have resulted in some red faces at Reuters. The Guardian reported Thomson Reuters saying it was “not correct” to say that the company initiated the award or were responsible for designing the selection process. “Thomson Reuters was solely responsible for assisting in the administration of the award, to a set of criteria approved by the World Government Summit organisers,” said a Reuters spokesman.

If you thought things couldn't get any sillier, then think again. The Sydney Morning Herald reports a prized $120 million CSIRO ship built to study marine science has been hired out to international energy giants Chevron and BP to help them search for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight. “Under the deal the ship Investigator is to spend two months working for the multinational corporations in the Southern Ocean, filling a period where it would have otherwise sat idle because of a lack of government funding.”

Still in South Australia, the governmentthere heard from its Royal Commission into nuclear power this week. Renew Economy reports the Commission has conceded that nuclear power is not a viable alternative for Australia, but has urged authorities to consider it anyway.
“The commission delivered the results of its “tentative” findings on Monday, indicating that it supports the establishment of a nuclear waste facility in the state, the storing of spent nuclear fuel and the expansion of uranium mining. On the subject of nuclear generation, the commission admitted that it wasn’t viable in South Australia in the foreseeable future (2030) – even with a significant carbon price and a sharp reduction in the cost of capital. It conceded that Australia should only adopt “proven” new nuclear technologies such as “small modular reactors” and next generation “fast reactors” , but that these were some way off, and likely to be very costly,” Renew Economy reported. “The global trend away from the nuclear sector is reflected in the Commission’s tepid response to uranium mining and processing and nuclear power,” the Australian Conservation Foundation said in response.

Across the border in Victoria, an independent review into the state’s Climate Change Act has found the current legislation to be “inadequate” in its response to the threat of global warming, and has made 33 recommendations on how it can be strengthened. Renew Economy reports the most striking recommendation is the introduction of a long-term state emissions reduction target based on restricting global warming to 1.5°C, as well as five-yearly interim targets. “ Among its recommendations, the Committee proposes an increase in the powers of the state Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in regulating emissions reduction, and the development of a comprehensive climate change strategy every five years.”

There’s lot of other news around this week. In the first real response by a government to the Paris climate change deal, Climate Change News reports Fiji has become the first country to ratify a new global warming accord. The country’s 50 lawmakers unanimously confirmed the first global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions on Friday, the Pacific Islands News Association reported.

Renew Economy reports January 2016 has marked the worst start to a year for solar PV growth in Australia since 2012, putting it well behind the global pace – and even behind its own depressed 2015 levels, a new report by solar analysts SunWiz has shown. “Despite falling prices, growing global momentum and strong voter support for rooftop solar in Australia, installations continue to slump, with volumes in January falling back across every significant size bracket excluding the 7-10kW range and for systems 2.5kW and less.”

In news from China, Climate Change News reports China installed half of all new wind capacity worldwide last year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). “The country added an “astonishing” 30.5 gigawatts to boost installations to 145.1GW, the Brussels-based industry group said. It overtook the EU total for the first time, which added a record 6GW to increase its capacity to 141.6GW.”

The most used phrase in the media over the last few years when it comes to climate and environment reporting is “ <<< insert month/year/season>>> was the hottest on record”. Well, we have a variation to that…. EcoWatch reports 2016 will be (rather than was) the hottest on record. “It’s only February but it looks like 2016 is already on track to be hottest year ever recorded. As some cities shake off an especially brutal winter, other cities are melting in record-high heat, with one city poised to shatter a five-decade-old weather record,” the website says in talking about 45 degree days in Perth, Western Australia, and other examples. I spoke too soon… Discover Magazine reports global warming spiked in January… setting new record.

You heard it here first!

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This Week In Climate Change for 11 February 2016

In the 12 or so months I have been doing this digest, I have probably screened 20,000 articles and had a detailed look at 10 per cent of them. About half of my 100 sources come from organisations and individuals outside of Australia. No story in this time has generated more international coverage about Australia than the decision to axe over 300 staff from the climate change and other related divisions at the CSIRO. And to cap it all off, Australia’s Environment Minister was named as the global minister of the year by a group largely funded by oil rich organisations based in the United Arab Emirates. It was one of those weeks.

CSIRO scientists say deep staffing cuts facing key divisions constitute "a real crisis for all environmental science" in the organisation, amid mounting international criticism, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Elsewhere, the paper reported “If the Abbott era was about climate change denial it seems that with the Turnbull zeitgeist it is all about climate change outsourcing. At first blush, it sounds like a joke,” the SMH said. The head of the CSIRO, Larry Marshall, said in a letter to staff on Thursday that the government's science agency's job had been "to prove climate change”. "CSIRO pioneered climate research, the same way we saved the cotton and wool industries for our nation." The SMH interpreted this as: “So it's time to move on. Continuing to do climate research would be akin to resting "on our laurels" and would be the "path to mediocrity””. “Presumably the ongoing work of deepening our understanding of climate change can be outsourced to ... someone else,” the Herald said. 

Mr. Andy Pitman, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, UNSW Australia was scathing in The Conversation about Larry Marshall’s comments: “That is among the most ill-informed statements I have ever heard from a senior executive. It will take a little to unpack it and to show that the apparent decision to dramatically downscale CSIRO’s ocean and atmospheric research will cost taxpayers and governments billions of dollars in flawed investments unless, by sheer blind luck, the right guesses are made.” The Climate Institute condemned the decision: “On face value, this would appear to be another reckless blow against sensible, strategic, informed action on climate change in this country. As one of the nations in the world with the highest exposure to the effects of climate change, we are at a critical time where we should be devoting maximum capacity to understanding it - precisely so we can be agile and informed in our ability to respond to it. It is impossible to manage climate change if you can't measure it”. In condemning the move, The Age editorialised: “Mr Turnbull should have the political courage to properly fund climate research and not force such an invidious choice on the country's premier science organisation.”

Still on this story, Australia’s new chief scientist Alan Finkel has had "significant conversations" with leading researchers to ensure planned deep cuts to climate science programs by the CSIRO would not undermine the country's ability to deal with global warming, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.  In his first appearance in his new role before Senate estimates, Dr Finkel said he was not aware of the CSIRO's cuts until they were announced last Thursday. Dr Finkel told senators he had been "doing as much as I can in the time available" to understand what capacity exists among other agencies such as the bureau and universities to "help facilitate continuous capacity" in climate research. Mr Marshall, the besieged CEO of the CSIRO issued a “correcting the public record” statement: “Australia’s biggest challenges and opportunities lie in the health, prosperity and sustainability in the face of rapid global changes; climate is one piece of a much larger puzzle. As we balance our broad portfolio of investments from Digital to Agriculture we must weigh up where we can have the greatest impact and where Australia has the greatest need. No one is saying climate change is not important, but surely mitigation, health, education, sustainable industries, and prosperity of the nation are no less important.”

Then, to cap it all off, came the news the Australia’s Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, had been named as ‘Minister of the year’ by a United Arab Emirates based organisation and conference. Renew Economy greeted the news this way: “Do not adjust your screens. This is not a hoax.  Greg Hunt, Australia’s environment minister who has presided over the dumping of the carbon price, a cut in the renewable energy target, the removal of the Climate Commission, and attempts to dismantle three other key institutions, and set the country on a path for a rise in emissions to record levels, was named the “world’s best minister” at an event in Dubai on Tuesday.” New Matilda didn’t think much of the news: “Hunt said he was “genuinely humbled” by the award, which he supposedly won for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and – I swear to God we did not make this up – “efforts towards protecting the environment”. Hunt in turn praised the UAE for supporting research in clean technology.”

The icing on the cake for the week came with news that approximately half of all complaints made to Australia’s windfarm commissioner relate to turbines that have not yet been built. “Andrew Dyer was appointed as the country’s first windfarm commissioner in October and started in the role the following month. Since November he has received complaints relating to 12 wind farms, affecting 42 residents. Dyer told Senate estimates on Monday that 50% of complaints – of which he did not have a specific number – related to seven yet-to-be built facilities,” the Guardian reported. Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy looked at the first near first six months of Malcolm Turnbull in the PM’s role: “Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister after Tony Abbott was dumped by his own party. But nothing changed. If the swap had been made by deed poll or a cardboard cut-out, the practical impact on climate and clean energy policies would have been no greater. A new composite figure, call him Malcolm Abbott or Tony Turnbull, has emerged.”  As I said, it was one of those weeks. 

Briefly in other news this week:

  • Renew Economy reports the Indian mining and energy giant Adani Enterprises appears to have put development of its massive and controversial $16 billion Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin on hold – until coal prices show signs of a solid rebound. Which could be never. A report from brooking house Axis Capital in India this week quotes Adani management as saying that no capital expenditure is planned by the company for the project until there is “visibility” of a rebound in the coal price.
  • The ABC reports the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) wants mining companies to pay less royalties and laws to cap council rates following a new industry commissioned report, which shows a third of coal mines are losing money.
  • Renew Economy reported Australia’s biggest energy utility, AGL, has announced that it is quitting gas exploration and production as part of a move to accelerate the company’s focus on the “evolution” in the energy industry.
  • The Guardian reports the Turnbull government announced $250m in loans for energy-efficient public housing on Tuesday, funded by an agency it is still seeking to abolish.
  • Renew Economy reports there is now 5 GigaWatt of solar power installed in Australia. “Indeed, solar power’s 5GW now represents 9 per cent of Australia’s total electricity generation capacity of 56GW.”
  • Guardian reports Barack Obama called on Congress to double funding for clean energy research using his final budget request – and one of the last high-profile moments of his presidency – to push for action against climate change.
  • In some bad news for the US President, Mother Jones reports the US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to temporarily stay a case that challenges Obama's signature piece of climate legislation passed last year, the Clean Power Plan, bringing enforcement to a halt in the meantime.

Finally in science news this week, and it is a doozy, CBS reports a group of international climate scientists have warned that if carbon pollution continues at its current rate, it will wreak havoc on the global climate for more than 10,000 years. Their statement is published in the journal Nature Climate Change. "Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years -- and some of it will be there for more than 100,000 years," a lead author on the article said in a statement. "People need to understand that the effects of climate change on the planet won't go away, at least not for thousands of generations.”

Sigh. That’s for the next global minister of the year to deal with. 

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This Week In Climate Change for 4 February 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

This time two months ago, the Paris climate conference was in full swing and a week or so later there was global relief that a process had been agreed to commence the process to reduce carbon emissions and encourage the widespread adoption of clean energy. Even previously recalcitrant nations, like Australia, shared in the joy. Two months on and back on home soil, it appears Australia is back playing the role of a climate villain (as it was once described in the international media).

Leading industry commentator, Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy asked this week “Was the renewables industry better off under Abbott than Turnbull?”. “Under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the rhetoric has (mostly) changed: the gratuitous insults and personal prejudice are (largely) muted, although coal is still considered to be good for humanity and to solve hunger. But policy has not changed, and the large-scale renewable energy industry has little to show for the change in leadership. The Turnbull government has begun 2016 in the same way that the Abbott government started 2014 and 2015; with legislation on the table that calls for the dismantling of the government’s key agencies – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Change Authority,” the Renew Economy Editor wrote.

Renew Economy also reported Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are poised to surge to a record high after 2020, and may not reach a peak before 2030 – despite the government’s claim it has been reducing emissions and its support for the Paris climate deal. “A new analysis from industry analyst Reputex – a division of global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – confirms what we already know: despite the Coalition’s rhetoric, emissions in Australia actually rose 1.3 per cent in 2014/15, for the first time since the Coalition was last in power a decade earlier,” Giles Parkinson reported. “The Reputex survey also notes that Australia’s emissions growth is now among the highest in the world, with the government’s own forecast showing emissions will grow 6 per cent to 2020, despite its “Direct Action” plan and the billions spent in the Emissions Reduction Fund.”

The Climate Institute this week welcomed the vote for the establishment of the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Carbon Risk Disclosure in parliament. “Australia has one of the most emissions-intensive economies in the world,” said The Climate Institute CEO, John Connor. He said it is essential that all our financial and economic policymakers understand how climate change will affect their work. This Senate Inquiry can be a positive opportunity for public discussion of this task. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Renew Economy reported the Government, despite its apparent embrace of the Paris climate agreement, voted against the inquiry, with Liberal Party Senator Scott Ryan saying “the government does not support additional red tape.” The motion was passed with support of Labor and some cross-benchers.

This week the Guardian reported on a report from Oxford University saying Australian thermal coalmines are some of the riskiest in the world for investors because of their exposure to environmental dangers. “The report – which was supported by Norges Bank Investment Management, managers of Norway’s government pension fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – also found that Australian, Chinese and US coal-fired power stations were the most vulnerable to environmental risks. The authors of the report said the findings meant investors should be very cautious about supporting projects associated with thermal coalmines in Australia, such as Adani’s Carmichael mega-mine and the Shenhua Watermark mine

Despite this Adani has secured an environmental permit from the Queensland government to build Australia’s largest coal mine. The Indian conglomerate was issued an environmental authority for its Carmichael mine, west of Bowen in north Queensland, by the department of environment and heritage on Tuesday. “It is one less hurdle for Adani’s highly contested plans, after its Australian chief complained last week that delays in government approvals were “incentivising” green activists to plot further legal challenges to stymie the company’s progress. Adani still needs to obtain significant bank funding to realise its $16.5bn mine, rail and port project,” the Guardian reported. 

All of this came in the week thatDr Alan Finkel started in his new role as Australia’s Chief Scientist. In his first day on the job, he said he wanted to put sustainable energy on the agenda to help Australians weigh up different options saying the country needs to accelerate its switch from coal to renewable energy. "I think the obligation on us and every country in the world is to move as quickly as we can towards zero emissions electricity," Dr Finkel was reported as saying in The Age. He was also on ABC RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly this week and spoke about the role of nuclear. 

Disease lurks! Time reports that climate change could spread diseases like the Zika virus. “The link between climate change and mosquito-borne illness centers around how rising temperatures may expand the area in which mosquitoes can thrive. Most such illnesses can only be transmitted at temperatures between approximately 16°C (61°F) and 38°C (100°F), according to a World Health Organization report. Perhaps more significantly, the time it takes for mosquitoes to develop decreases significantly the closer temperatures are to around 30°C (86°F). The average global temperature is expected to rise by at least 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 even if countries take dramatic action to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. In some areas, that shift will be much more dramatic.: Time reported.

Still in fossil fuels, BP has reported an annual loss of $6.5billion, it’s worse result in 20 years, and has announced that it will axe around 3,000 jobs in a bid to cut costs. According to Greenpeace, the news comes as shares in the oil major tumbled on the news that the companies bill for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster had climbed to $55bn. The energy giant has already cut around 4,000 jobs as the company struggles to come to terms with the collapsing oil price. Shares in the group fell 5% on the news of last year’s poor performance.

Well, here’s a combination of names and phrases I never thought I would mention in the one paragraph in this digest. The are “climate change”, “the Pope”, “Leonardo DiCaprio” and “PEOPLE”. Well, PEOPLE magazine reports the actor had a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on last week. “Leo explained that he wanted to discuss a subject they both have very much at heart: protecting the environment and climate change,” a source told PEOPLE. “This meeting is the latest stop on the actor’s environmental advocacy tour. DiCaprio was recently honored for his philanthropic efforts at the Economic Forum in Davos, where he donated another $15 million to environmental projects,” PEOPLE reported.

See, climate change can be entertaining.

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This Week In Climate Change for 28 January 2016

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

This week, I had to stop and read one story a few times to make sure I wasn’t reading it incorrectly. Read and understand this: “Average global surface temperatures in 2015 were 0.16 °C higher than in 2014, the next-warmest year on record, says NOAA”. Repeating - that’s 0.16 °C in 12 months. If we have the same for 6.25 years - it will increase 1 °C. Streeeeeeeeeeeewth! 

According to Nature - it’s official: 2015 was the hottest year on record. “Global data show that a powerful El Niño system, marked by warmed waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean, helped to drive atmospheric temperatures well past 2014’s record highs. Some researchers suggest that broader Pacific trends could spell even more dramatic temperature increases in years to come. Released on 20 January, the global temperature data come from three independent records maintained by NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UK Met Office. All three data sets document unprecedented high temperatures in 2015, pushing the global average to at least 1 ºC above pre-industrial levels. Although El Niño boosted temperatures late in the year, US government scientists say that the steady increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continues to drive overall warming,” Nature reported.  “The reason why this is such a warm record year is because of the long-term trend,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. “And there is no evidence that this long-term trend has slowed.” Overall, global temperatures have increased by 0.1–0.2 ºC per decade since the 1970s, says Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. So, what we had in 2015 normally occurs over a decade. Strewth! 

Australia’s Climate Council had a good look at the global tends in temperatures with three key messages:

  • 2015 was the hottest year on record globally. Climate change was a major factor in driving the record-breaking heat in 2015 worldwide.
  • Climate change is a major factor in extreme heat and fire in Australia.
  • Temperature records are being smashed across many regions of the world, largely through the influence of climate change.

It was a week when Australia continued to be recognised for its poor performance on addressing climate change with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting Australia's global ranking has dived on an international survey that Environment Minister Greg Hunt had described as "the most credible, scientifically based" analysis in the world. “The 2016 Environmental Performance Index, released every two years by Yale University in the US, has dropped Australia's ranking by 10 places to 13th out of 180 nations in its latest update. Australia was ranked top for water and sanitation, and for exposure to environmental risks. It achieved only mid-rankings for biodiversity, agriculture, and forestry. The country's worst performance, though, came in the climate and energy category, where Australia was ranked 150th for its trend in carbon emissions for electricity generation. Yale said that, among wealthy nations, only Saudi Arabia had a lower ranking than Australia for the decade to 2012,” Peter Hannam reported.

California reaffirmed its leadership on climate change action this week when the state’s insurance commissioner asked all insurance companies doing business in the state to voluntarily divest from coal companies. According to Reuters California will also require insurance companies to disclose their coal company holdings. “Coal use by utility companies has plummeted amid low natural gas prices and new federal regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change. Ten years ago coal produced 50 percent of the nation's power supply but now accounts for only about 35 percent, according to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration. The lack of demand has driven the price of coal down and helped force Arch Coal Inc , the nation's second-largest U.S. coal miner, to file for bankruptcy protection earlier this month,” Reuters reported. 

The Climate Group reports keeping the world below the 2 degrees Celsius pathway presents a US$12.1 trillion investment opportunity over the next 25 years, a new analysis states. The report Mapping the Gap: The Road From Paris, presented by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at the 2016 Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted by Ceres, shows the opportunities and challenges of filling the ‘gap’ between the business-as-usual (BAU) investment in renewable energy and what is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. At the Summit, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called investors to at least double their investments in clean energy by 2020, adding that "we must begin the shift away from fossil fuels immediately.” Last week another BNEF report showed how global clean investment attracted a record US$329 billion last year – about six times the amount invested in 2004. 

Finally, don’t adjust your clocks… the Iran nuclear deal and movement on climate change prompted the scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, to keep it unchanged on Tuesday at three minutes to midnight.  The Doomsday Clock, devised by the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is widely recognized as an indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe. Trust reports: “Positive developments in 2015 center on the international accord that limited Iran's nuclear program, and the agreement among almost 200 countries in Paris on a process to reduce output of climate-changing carbon dioxide, the Bulletin said in a statement.” The accords "are major diplomatic achievements, but they constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe," the Bulletin said. 

But what happens when daylight saving kicks in? Does it become a three minutes to 1 am? If temperatures keep rising the way they are, it will be!

Diary note for Sydney: For thought: Hope for the planet. Tim Flannery, Naomi Orestes and David Suzuki - Sydney Opera House, Tuesday 8 March 2016. “There is hope for the future, and there are solutions that may work. Join three leading international voices in science as they each share their individual perspective on hope for the planet, followed by a panel discussion of people, planet and optimism.” 

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This Week In Climate Change for 21 January 2016 (posted 25 January 2016)

A weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward (@climatecomm, www.climatecommunication.net, feedback@climatecommunication.net)

News about climate change this week has been pretty hot and pretty cold, literally. We’ve heard from the International Renewable Energy Agency Conference in Abu Dhabi and from political and business leaders in the snow capped alps at the annual talkfest in Davos. Both groups were talking about climate change. 

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Renew Economy reports Australia chose not to send any elected government representatives to the first major post Paris climate change conference, as new data confirms how the Coalition government has effectively killed the renewable energy target as an effective policy mechanism. “While 58 countries are sending their energy, environment or other senior ministers including France, Germany, and India, Australia is sending only staff from the local embassy. Under Labor, Australia was a co-chair of IRENA and sent its energy minister.” 

Had elected officials from Australia been there, they would have heard the Paris climate agreement kindled “a huge flame of hope”, establishing a new model of 21st-century diplomacy. In her first public reflections on the climate accord signed in December, Christiana Figueres, the UN climate change official, told the Guardian, that after two decades of meandering negotiations, countries had at last discovered their “higher purpose” and risen to the challenge of dealing with global warming. “Climate change is a very, very good example of how we are moving to a completely new social contract from the last century. The social contract that is going to underpin the 21st century has at least five very, very different ways of dealing with challenges and very different ways of delivering solutions. To have Paris is a huge flame of hope. We can really take some confidence from there that if we decide we want to do something, then we can,” said Figueres, who will step down this summer after guiding the negotiations for six years. “We are not bound by situations we are confronted with. We can rise above them. It’s fantastic.”

The conference was told it’s boom time for clean energy, according to Fortune: “Despite the plunge in oil prices, investors and governments around the world put $330 billion into clean energy last year including solar farms and wind projects built on both land and sea, according to a new report. The huge funding, as calculated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, highlights the global shift by many countries to shift to cleaner energy and away from certain fossil fuels like coal. The bulk of that funding (about $200 billion) went to industrial-sized projects that provide clean power to utilities. For example, power companies, banks, governments and other private investors funded a handful of large offshore wind farms off the coasts of England, China, and Germany last year. Investors also funded a big solar panel project in the U.S. Southwest and a large geothermal project in Turkey. Not surprisingly, about a third of the funding occurred in China amid increasingly aggressive support for solar and wind projects by the Chinese government to help the country meet its rising electricity demand and reduce some of its pollution problem. Investors in the U.S. and European countries spent about half of China’s clean energy funding.” The boom, however, boom didn’t reach Australia, According to BNEF analysis published in the Sydney Morning Herald, just $15 million was invested in major projects last year that were not also supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), underlining the important role the government body plays in the industry.

Keeping on with the bad news from Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports Australia's greenhouse gases from its power sector jumped by 3.8 million tonnes in 2015, potentially making it harder to meet the country's international promises to cut total emissions. “Pollution from power stations - which account for about a third of Australia's total carbon emissions - was up 2.4 per cent compared with 2014, according to data compiled by Pitt & Sherry and The Australia Institute. Emissions from electricity production, which was the prime target of the carbon tax, are now 5.1 per cent higher than in June 2014 - just before the scheme was scrapped by the Abbott government,” Peter Hannam reported. 

There is some good news out of Australia. Renew Economy reports Australia ranks fifth in the world in small scale rooftop solar PV installations in 2015. with 713MW added at a cost of $2.2 billion. “The installations – which contrast to a big decline in large scale investments – means that Australia ranked 5th in the world in small scale solar installations in 2015. The 2015 effort meant that Australia now has 23.2 million solar panels installed, or the equivalent of one panel per person in the country. Green Energy Markets released data this week showing that 713MW of rooftop solar of 100kW or less was installed during the year, the equivalent of 144,667 new systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses,” Renew Economy reported. 

Business and government leaders from many countries gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual talk up of the influential.  They were greeted with a cheery report from the World Economic Forum, the organisers of ‘Davis’, on risks. “The longer-term concerns are more related to underlying physical and societal trends, such as the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, water crises and food crises. Interestingly, extreme weather events and social instability are considered a concern in both the short and long term, reflecting an expectation that the frequency and intensity of crises will continue to rise. One of the roles of this Report is to raise awareness about the importance of long-term thinking about global risks – especially significant when it comes to attempting to limit the extent of climate change and to adapt to the change that is already inevitable. Three risk clusters are discussed in more detail below: the cluster linking the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation with water crises and large-scale involuntary migration; the cluster linking large-scale involuntary migration with a range of risks related to social and economic stability; and the cluster linking economic global risks with uncertainty around the impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the forum’s statement said. 

Barack Obama continued his end of second term crusade on climate change, last week halting new coal leases. Inside Climate News had an insightful take on the announcement. The Obama administration's announcement on Friday that it will suspend new coal leasing on federal lands and overhaul the program to better reflect environmental costs could be a turning point in climate policy. It is a concrete measure toward leaving fossil fuels in the ground, as the science demands. But it was the invisible hand of the coal markets, not the inexorable thrust of the climate models, that ultimately drove the federal government to this point. Coal companies have been going bankrupt, even a they have been granted access to a virtually limitless resource at almost negligible prices. So the federal government, as the steward of the public patrimony, could no longer justify business as usual.”

In science news this week, the Guardian reports there is now compelling evidence to show that humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and wildlife has pushed the world into a new geological epoch. Its article is based on new research from the UK and published in science. “ The question of whether humans’ combined environmental impact has tipped the planet into an “Anthropocene” – ending the current Holocene which began around 12,000 years ago – will be put to the geological body that formally approves such time divisions later this year. The new study provides one of the strongest cases yet that from the amount of concrete mankind uses in building to the amount of plastic rubbish dumped in the oceans, Earth has entered a new geological epoch,” The Guardian reported. “We could be looking here at a stepchange from one world to another that justifies being called an epoch,” said Dr Colin Waters, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey and an author on the study published in Science on Thursday. “What this paper does is to say the changes are as big as those that happened at the end of the last ice age . This is a big deal.” You can here more in an interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Will Steffen, a researcher and co-author of a paper on the topic.

I love the final quote in the preceding paragraph. “This is a big deal.” A big deal indeed. Now that’s an understatement.

Editorial note: A brief note of apology and explanation for the late filing of this edition. It is normally out Thursday day but this week is out Monday. Your correspondent and his son were visited by tonsillitis for a nasty but thankfully brief four days last week. This bulletin covers events up until Thursday morning last week Australian time and what’s happened since then will be contained in this week’s bulletin as to maintain continuity.

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