#ClimateChange Australia’s position is unconscionable #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate change: Australia’s position is unconscionable for a wealthy country

By David Shearman

Video: French President tells US students they have to make a fair society (ABC News)

“There is no planet B” says President Macron in an electrifying speech to Congress, yet for most of us climate change is of much less concern than the cost of living, taxes, schools and health services.

As a slow creeping threat, “unlikely to affect me much anyway”, climate change is easy to dismiss and therefore is never high on the election stakes where it is easy for our leaders to say they are doing everything they should — which they are not.

So as a doctor, why am I distressed by the announcement that gas resources in NT are to be developed and fracked?

After all, the NT government indicates it can be managed safely, will occur in sparsely populated regions, will bring jobs and profits for shareholders and restitution for languishing state and federal budgets?

The Adani coal mine has signalled to the world more than any spoken word that the Australian Government does not understand or care about climate change.

Development of Northern Territories huge gas reserves will produce even more emissions than Adani, with a measurable increase in world and domestic emissions.

Australia has no treaty obligation to reduce the export of gas.

Gas mining on hold in many countries

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported recently that the Earth’s greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels had increased by 1.4 per cent in 2017 after three years of flat emissions. The goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change are in jeopardy.

In Australia in 2017, emissions increased by 0.8 per cent, the third yearly consecutive increase.

The IEA report indicates that natural gas demand in the world, which includes unconventional gas, is increasing rapidly and now supplies 22 per cent of total energy. If other gas developments proceed in WA, Australia is likely to be the world’s greatest exporter of gas as well as of coal.

Recognising the threats from climate change, many countries have decided on “no new coal mines” or delayed or stopped also have delayed or stopped unconventional gas mining on either local health or emission concerns.

Photo: To the World Health Organisation, climate change is the greatest health threat of this century. (Reuters: Liu Chang )

Health and the rising level of greenhouse emissions

To the World Health Organisation, climate change is the greatest health threat of this century, a view recognised by the statements of the Australian Medical Association.

It is responsible for thousands of deaths worldwide from storm, flood, fire, drought and hunger and a range of other causes including infections.

Deaths are projected to rise to 250,000 by 2030.

The forgotten islands

The Takuu group of atolls is home to a rich and historic culture, but the resilient people and their idyllic islands face an increasingly dire threat from climate change.

In Australia the existing and expected health impacts are well documented and already affect our health services.

Many doctors find Australia’s position unconscionable for a wealthy country.

We are trading more wealth for lives lost, mainly those living in less developed, poorer countries, those least able to care for themselves.

The desperate pleas for emission reduction by our neighbours in the Pacific Island States under threat or existing inundation are ignored.

Australia absolves itself by indicating it will fulfil its fair share of emission reduction under the Paris Agreement, but even that is in doubt and ignores the fact that wealthy technological nations are positioned to offer leadership and have the capacity to carry greater responsibility to do more against climate change.

These attitudes stem from a failure to recognise our collective responsibility to act, for we all share the same atmosphere and finite resource of freshwater, biodiversity and productive land which are currently threatened by increasing climate change.

As we burn carbon we also burn whatever hope our children and grandchildren will have of having a safe climate in the future. Our legacy to them will rather be an increasingly dangerous and unstable climate.

Photo: Fracking is likely to resume in the Beetaloo Basin, an area rich in shale gas and bordered by Mataranka to the north and Elliott to the south. (ABC News: Jane Bardon)

NT contribution to Australia’s emissions

The gases that leak from gas exploration, mining and sealing of wells are called fugitive emissions; add leaks during transport, loading, distribution and then the burning of gas and you have the full life cycle emissions.

What is fracking?

• Fracking is used to extract gases, such as coal seam, tight and shale gas by pumping high-pressure water and chemicals into rock, fracturing it to release trapped gasses

• There are concerns the chemicals could contaminate groundwater supplies and threaten agricultural industries

Recent science indicates that with leakage rates as little as 3 per cent, emissions from gas are no better than coal fired power stations.

Fugitive measurements in Australian gas fields are poorly regulated and are currently unknown.

In the US, emissions from unconventional gas mining range from 2 per cent to 17 per cent.

The NT government report acknowledges the problem and hopes piously “that the NT and Australian governments seek to ensure that there is no net increase in the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions emitted in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT”.

This hope remains unfulfilled in any Australian gas field.

The development of NT gas will inevitably cause an increase in Australia’s domestic emissions, as it did in Queensland.

France banned fracking in 2011. President Macron brings “Planet B” to Australia soon.

Dr David Shearman is the honorary secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

One comment

  1. “After all, the NT government indicates it can be managed safely”
    All evidence from the US and UK show this is not possible. Even the industry itself acknowledges that all well casings fail eventually.

    “will occur in sparsely populated regions”,
    Hey, isn’t wildlife population too? You cannot sacrifice the eco-system and expect the eco-system to remain in balance to provide for human needs alone. The arrogance of man, that it thinks it can conquer, control and override nature simply to make a few people rich.

    “will bring jobs and profits for shareholders”
    That will be written on the tombstone of neo-liberalism, if I’m the last man standing I’ll be sure to carve it in the stones.
    ” and restitution for languishing state and federal budgets?”
    NT authorities, ever heard of quantative easing mate? Instead of QE for banks and finance corporations, how about QE for the people?

    “The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported recently that the Earth’s greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels had increased by 1.4 per cent in 2017 after three years of flat emissions.”

    The CO2 count, from all sources, went up at least 7ppm in that same year, roughly 1.7%.

    Looking at the latest satellite data, (https://arctic-news.blogspot.co.uk/) it is clear natural emissions from melting permafrost and seabed methyl hydrates are now increasing at a greater rate, so we’re probably beyond the point of making any difference now. Looking at 2013 data on that blog, Carrara predicted a potential increase to +2.7*C above the 1750 baseline by 2020.

    That was with 2013 data, 2018 data implies we’re now at +1.7*C, so the prediction may well be accurate. Some scientists, those generally retired and not on a corporate payroll, are sayng we’ll know for sure when the arctic sea becomes totally ice free this summer or next summer 2019, when industry wide crop failure occurs. Somebody please prove to me that analysis is wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

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