Snowball Earth

Solar Power Could Still Save the World! #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange #auspol #nswpol #qldpol Demand #ClimateAction We can do this!

Award-winning solar scientist Martin Green says the technology is being underestimated in climate predictions. SHARE TWEET

Award-winning solar scientist Martin Green says the technology is being underestimated in climate predictions.

Monks look at solar panels in Ladakh, India in 2017. Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty

Our future on this planet is totally, irrevocably, screwed.

That would seem to be the message from last week’s major UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Without societal changes unprecedented in human history and trillions of dollars of new spending, it argued, humankind is to set to blow past the climate target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures scientists see as the threshold of total environmental chaos. “The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it,” explained Amjad Abdulla, an IPCC board member. 

With Donald Trump in the White House, and Congress controlled by Republicans who have spent years blocking action on climate change, our odds of ensuring planetary survival look even slimmer.

Yet in early October I spent several days with an Australian scientist who argues we may be less screwed than many people think. “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a data-driven optimist,” said Martin Green from the University of New South Wales.

Here’s what the data are telling him: The cost of solar energy is dropping faster than anyone expected: 34 percent this year alone. And installations of it are skyrocketing. 

If this exponential growth continues, with solar and other renewables wiping out coal usage while accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, Green told me that it’s conceivable greenhouse gas emissions could begin plummeting at rates needed to avoid the worst-case impacts of climate change. 

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Among his ARIA awards, writing and acting credits, and sterling Twitter banter, Briggs has proven himself (again and again and again) to be one of Australia’s most significant voices. Briggs finds solace and satisfaction in a trip to the barber.

“A couple years ago I was getting quite pessimistic… I thought, ‘Oh it’s never going to happen,’” he said. “Suddenly in 2016 we started seeing these abnormally [low] solar prices.” Solar rapidly went from being one of most expensive sources of energy to one of the cheapest. He is now certain “the time of solar has arrived and this is good news for the world.” 

Green has been part of the industry since its earliest days.

He founded a research group that in 1989 created the first solar cell with a 20 percent efficiency rate, a world record at the time. “We took efficiency way beyond what anyone thought possible,” he said. Green invented something called a PERC solar cell, which now accounts for over $10 billion of solar sales. His fellow lab researchers—including Zhengrong Shi, now the head of Suntech Power—played a crucial role in creating China’s solar energy industry, the world’s largest. 

Green beat out Elon Musk to win this year’s Global Energy Prize, a scientific award given out annually in Russia, which he shared with Russian thermal power scientist Sergey Alekseenko. I was at the Moscow award ceremony on October 6 to receive an energy journalism prize. I attended several of Green’s talks and we spoke one-on-one about his research. 



The point Green made again and again is that the mainstream political debate about addressing climate change often doesn’t align with reality.

Political leaders such as Trump portray our shift off fossil fuels as costly and unreliable. “That’s an old argument,” Green told me. “The modern argument is you’re going to save money because it’s cheaper.” Two years ago total installations of solar amounted to 230 gigawatts. By the end of 2017 that number was 400 gigawatts. The US National Renewable Energy Lab predicts it could pass 1,000 gigawatts by 2023. Green thinks it may go as high as 10,000 by 2030. 

He says the carbon reductions from an exploding solar industry, as well as other industrial shifts away from fossil fuels, could put us on “the right slope” to achieve the type of rapid economic transformation described in the IPCC’s recent report. Yet that is far from a given and Green said that “it will be difficult to achieve by political means” while leaders of major countries continue to deny the reality of climate change. 

And even if we are able to rapidly reduce global emissions over the coming decades, that still might not be enough to avoid massive global disruptions. The recent IPCC report said that unless we cut our carbon output to effectively zero by 2050, the planet may grow inhospitable to life. At 1.5 C of warming, up to 90 percent of coral reefs may vanish, while at 2 C they could disappear entirely. Current projections suggest the world might warm between 2.7 C to 3.7 C by the year 2100. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland called the report’s findings “a ticking time bomb.”

Martin Green in Moscow. Photo by Mikhail Japaridze\TASS via Getty

Media coverage understandably fixated on these and other apocalyptic warnings. But the IPCC report also contains hopeful news, albeit in dense and technical language. “The feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage mechanisms have substantially improved over the past few years,” it notes. 

Earlier this year a group called Lazard calculated that the cost of solar in North America fell from over $350 per megawatt hour in 2009 to $50 in 2017, while the cost of coal remained at around $102. “This recent change could be a sign that the world is on the verge of an energy revolution,” Business Insider reported. Price declines like these have occurred so rapidly in recent years that many mainstream projections for solar—including those relied on by the IPCC—haven’t fully taken them into account. “The facts have changed very quickly,” Green said. “You read any report that’s a couple years old… and it’s just irrelevant to the realities now.” He thinks that the recent IPCC report is “very conservative [on] the impact of solar.”

It’s important to note that while Green’s views seem to be shared by other influential thinkers, including recent Nobel Prize winner Paul Romer, they aren’t accepted widely in the mainstream. Even those who gave Green his award are unsure that renewables can carry us all that close to our climate change targets. “Martin’s analysis only refers to electricity,” Rodney John Allam, the chairman of the Global Energy Prize committee, told me. “It doesn’t refer to the other [energy] uses.” At the moment it’s still difficult to remove fossil fuels from industries like transportation and petrochemicals. 

And the type of solar growth Green predicts would require massive—and unprecedented—levels of investment. The IPCC report estimated the world has to invest $2.4 trillion per year in renewables for any hope of hitting the 1.5 C target. Last year about $333.5 billion was invested. In 2017, the International Energy Agency calculated, roughly $715 billion went to oil and gas. 

“The mainstream view is still that we can’t decarbonize our electricity system fast enough to meet the IPCC’s targets,” Bloomburg columnist David Fickling recently argued. “But a decade ago, the current situation of plateauing demand for coal and car fuel and cratering renewables costs looked equally outlandish. Given the way the world’s energy market has changed in recent years, it’s a good idea to never say never.” Green agrees. “For those of us who care about our climate, we have always feared we would have to wait for the politicians to drive change,” he said during a speech in Moscow. “We have feared it because political change can always be slow.” He continued: “But economic change is fast and we are currently witnessing it.”

Press link for more: Vice.com

Coal’s days are numbered, top government adviser says #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange BHP calls for a price on carbon.

The federal government’s top energy adviser Kerry Schott says the plunging cost of renewables will force Australia’s remaining coal plants to close even earlier than planned, as mining giant BHP renewed calls for a price on carbon to urgently slash national emissions.

The Morrison government’s failure to produce an emissions reduction plan for the electricity sector and general inaction on climate change have been credited with helping to drive a massive negative swing in the Wentworth byelection, which is expected to cost it the seat and force it into minority government.

The nation’s energy ministers are due to meet in Sydney on Friday to discuss the Morrison government’s bid to lower prices and improve reliability. Efforts to cut greenhouse gas emitted by electricity generators are not on the agenda.

Respected energy chief Kerry Schott.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The federal Coalition insists coal will remain a vital part of Ausralia’s energy mix for decades, despite a major UN climate report this month calling for the industry to close down by 2050 to avert the worst climate disasters.

Energy Security Board chair Dr Schott on Monday predicted that renewables would force many of Australia’s remaining coal-fired power plants to make an early exit from the energy market, by beating them on price.

“Commercial reasons will be made about retiring coal plants and they’re likely to get dropped out the door faster than their technical lives would suggest,” she said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Melbourne.

But she said the transition must be well managed to avoid a hasty rush to renewables pushing up energy prices.

Dr Schott predicted Australia would meet its emission reduction targets under the Paris accord, mostly through the actions of state governments.

“Australia has tried practically every emissions policy ever dreamt up and none of them has worked at a federal level,” she said.

BHP on Monday renewed calls for a price on carbon to drive emissions reductions in Australia.

Australia’s emissions have soared since the LNP government axed the carbon price.

Speaking at a conference in Melbourne, BHP head of sustainability and climate change Fiona Wild said the company accepted the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the “warming of the climate is unequivocal, the human influence is clear and physical impacts are unavoidable”.

Australia and the world must act to curb climate change in line with international agreements, provide access to affordable energy, and introduce a price on carbon, she said.

“We believe there should be a price on carbon, implemented in a way that addresses competitiveness concerns and achieves lowest-cost emissions reductions,” Dr Wild said.

The Morrison government has dumped its proposed National Energy Guarantee, including emissions reduction goals for the sector, but is still seeking to progress the reliability obligation on retailers to encourage investment in dispatchable generation.

Those aims will be discussed at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, which comes days before the Victorian government goes into caretaker mode ahead of the November 24 state election. Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said “we won’t be making any decisions until December”.

ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury predicted that states and territories will seek to discuss a national greenhouse gas emissions policy for the electricity sector.

“Australian politicians need to deal with climate change and the situation just becomes worse the longer they delay,” he said.

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said his government’s focus at COAG was “easing the burden on the hip pocket for our state’s households and businesses and providing certainty to the market”.

Speaking at a conference in Sydney on Monday, Alinta Energy chief Jeff Dimery said the national electricity market had “shortcomings … it isn’t sustainable forever”.

Frontier Economics chief executive Danny Price told Fairfax Media that without a national policy to guide investment, including emissions reduction targets, electricity  prices will continue to rise.

“The National Electricity Market can’t last more than a few years in its current form, it just can’t cope any more,” he said.

A new report by consultants Wood Mackenzie forecasts that renewables will become the main global source of energy by 2035.

“This is the point of no return, and represents a new era for the energy industry,” it says.

Mr Price said though elements of the government have pushed back against the shift by supporting more coal, the change was inevitable.

“There is serious change going on and you can’t stop the evolution of energy just because [former prime minister] Tony Abbott and his mates don’t want it to,” Mr Price said.

with Nicole Hasham

Press link for more: Brisbane Times

Voters eager to punish politicians ‘stuck in the past’ #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal #TheDrum #QandA @TheCairnsPost

The Morrison government can’t dismiss the dissatisfaction with its climate and energy policies, which sent thousands of votes Kerryn Phelps’ way in the Wentworth byelection. ABC TV Screengrab

The revolt against the Morrison government in the Wentworth byelection shows voters do not buy the government’s “false choice” between lower energy prices and cutting carbon emissions, energy experts said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government had heard the voters in Wentworth, where a big swing to high-profile independent Kerryn Phelps imperils the Coalition’s long grip on the seat, but did not need to change climate and energy policies.

“The issue of climate change is important to the people of Wentworth,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday. “The government has a settled policy in that but we will not reduce emissions at the expense of people’s power bills.”

The government dropped its carbon emissions target for electricity when it ousted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, saying it wanted to focus on lowering prices.

“The election result suggest the people don’t buy it. If so they are quite right – there is good evidence they have been presented with a false choice,” said Bruce Mountain, Victorian Energy Policy Centre director. Wayne Taylor

The director of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre, Bruce Mountain, said the government was mistaken to think it could ignore the voters of Wentworth, who are wealthier and more educated than most.

Advertisement“Surveys suggest voters are dissatisfied about high electricity prices and inadequate greenhouse gas emissions reduction,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

“Established political leadership has presented the people with a choice between the two.

Punish political leadership

But the election result suggested “the people don’t buy it”, Mr Mountain said.

Energy industry polling shows voters across states and regions believe not only that the energy sector needs to shift to clean wind and solar – but also that doing so is the way to reduce power prices. Jason South 

“If so they are quite right – there is good evidence they have been presented with a false choice. The people are evidently keen to punish political leadership stuck in the past.”

Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, said the pre-election emphasis on climate change in Wentworth “suggests the electorate shares the industry’s frustration and anger with the Coalition”.

“The Coalition abandoned its own policy on climate change and reliability, never explained why, and promoted its main protagonist to Treasurer,” he said.

“That mess will likely challenge the government’s credibility on lower prices. Even more so, since the states control most of the pricing levers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg address the media about the results of the Wentworth By- Election, on the grounds of Kirribilli House, Sydney, Sunday, October 21, 2018. Residents in the federal electorate of Wentworth voted in independent candidate Kerryn Phelps last night. (AAP Image/Chris Pavlich) NO ARCHIVING Chris Pavlich

“This credibility question and the reversal of the fall in forward wholesale power prices suggest the Coalition’s challenge just got a whole lot harder,” Mr Wood said.

North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman and City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster said dissatisfaction with the government’s climate change policies was a big factor in the huge swing in Wentworth, and private polling for the energy industry shows the views in Wentworth are seen across states and regions.

Voters believe renewables lower prices

Energy industry polling shows that consumers want lower energy prices but they also want the energy industry to shift to clean power by a ratio of two to one, making it hard to dismiss the Wentworth vote as a one-off.

More worrying for the government, these sentiments have hardened during the bitter energy debates of the past two years.

Voters have now come to believe – by a similar two to one ratio – not only that building more renewable energy is the right thing to do but that it is also the way to lower power prices – directly contradicting the government’s pitch.

One energy industry source said the government had painted itself into a corner on the issue by removing Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister and abandoning the National Energy Guarantee’s emissions targets for the electricity sector – all because Coalition hardliners did not want to be characterised as taking any action to address climate change.

Press link for more: AFR.COM

Stephen Hawking’s last warning from beyond the grave #ClimateBreakdown #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange #Science

By Nick Miller

An insular, Trump-age mindset won’t help solve challenges like climate change and population growth, warns physicist Stephen Hawking from beyond the grave.

In his final book, published after his death, physicist Stephen Hawking tackled the big questions of life, the universe and everything.

Photo: AP / Matt Dunham

With tears in her eyes, Lucy Hawking listened to her father’s narration over an animation explaining his insights into the paradoxes of black holes: a problem that he was investigating – and publishing research on – right up to his death.

“It feels sometimes like he’s still here,” she said.

But if he were he would be speaking out not just on the exotic problems of fundamental physics and cosmology.

“He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges that present themselves are global – and need us to come together and work together – that we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking,” Lucy Hawking said. “That at a time when we should be calling for unity we were becoming more and more fractured and divided.

“I think that was a huge concern for him and one that you’ll find all the way through the book… it’s a call for unity, it’s a call to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us and to work together to find a solution.”

The book is a collection of Professor Hawking’s favourite answers to the questions he was constantly asked over his acclaimed career, such as “will we survive on Earth?” and “will artificial intelligence outsmart us?”.

He began pulling it together before his death, but the project was finished by his family and colleagues.

The tenth and last question in the book is “how do we shape the future?”

In his answer, Hawking emphasised the importance of education and research, lamenting that funding for science was being significantly cut.

“We are also in danger of becoming culturally isolated and insular,” he wrote. “With Brexit and Trump now exerting new forces in relation to immigration and the development of education, we are witnessing a global revolt against experts, which includes scientists.”

But science held the answers to pressing problems such as global warming, the growing population, renewable energy and epidemic diseases.

Making science more accessible to diverse populations and young people “greatly increases the chances of finding and inspiring the new Einstein. Wherever she might be”.

In the book Hawking also said:

  • Colonising the solar system “may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves… if we stay [on Earth] we risk being annihilated”.
  • When computers become smarter than us “we will need to ensure that [they] have goals aligned with ours”.
  • In the future, we will communicate through brain-computer interfaces wired into our skulls.
  • Sometime during this century we will be able to use genetic engineering to improve our memory and lifespan, but “unimproved” humans won’t be able to compete with the new “race of self-designing beings”.
  • Scientists have a duty to alert the public to the “unnecessary risks” posed by climate change.

Professor Hawking concluded that there is “probably no heaven and afterlife”, and there is no reliable evidence for a God that created the universe or directs our fate.

It’s just wishful thinking, he said.

We have just one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe.

“When we die we return to dust. But there’s a sense in which we live on, in our influence and in our genes that we pass on to our children.”

Lucy Hawking said her father would have been “very honoured” by the decision to inter his ashes at Westminster Abbey – between the graves of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

“He never liked to be alone, he always wanted to be at the centre of everything,” she said.

“I like to think that between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin he will never be alone again.”

Press link for more: SMH

Coalition’s breathtakingly stupid response to IPCC climate report #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #WentworthVotes #TheDrum #QandA @StanGrantMOF @Melissa4Durack @ScottMorrisonMP

It wasn’t too hard to predict what the Coalition government’s responses to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report would be – you just needed to know where they would be making them.

Prime minister Scott Morrison chose two different media forums to espouse his views – that of far Right shock-jock Alan Jones on Radio 2GB, and Sky News, where the lunar right have been gearing up for this event for the past week.

Morrison takes coal to Australian Parliament

As ABC’s Media Watch host Paul Barry noted of the Sky News “after dark” coverage on Monday: It’s either irresponsible or “bat-shit” crazy.

You could categorise the Coalition government’s response along the same lines.

Media Watch

Morrison’s first response, as we reported on Monday, was to promise that Australia would be spending no money on climate change conferences and “all that nonsense.”

He doesn’t dare pull Australia out of the Paris treaty, but he has no intention of doing anything while it’s there.

Pretty much Australia’s standard response to international efforts for the last few decades.

Meanwhile in New Zealand

“We are not held to any of the (IPCC recommendations), and nor are we bound by them,” Morrison insisted. In short, Morrison was backing miners over scientists, as the Sydney Morning Herald headlined.

In the fantasy world of the Coalition, according to deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, Australia can have its cake and it eat too: He says Australia can keep on burning coal for decades, and encourage others to do so, and still have a tourism industry on the Great Barrier Reef.

McCormack says Australia will not be dictated to by “some sort of report.”

Some sort of report?

The IPCC report is an opportunity to inspire some sort of rational and considered debate. It was timed, quite deliberately, to coincide with the deadline for the rules of the Paris climate treaty to be finalised, and to encourage the world to do more than their down-payment promises made in Paris, as they had agreed.

Any hope that considered debate would emerge would follow was quickly lost.

Treasurer and former energy minister Josh Frydenberg, ditching his pretence of being a moderate, declared: “If we take coal out of our energy system, the lights will go out on the east coast of Australia – it’s as simple as that.”

If you did it all at once, with no planning, then of course. But no one is suggesting that. If you manage the exit, then no, the lights don’t need to go out.

Current energy minister Angus Taylor, the anti-wind campaigner who says there is already too much wind and solar in the grid, did not take kindly to the IPCC’s recommended global renewable energy share of 75-80 per cent by 2050.

Taylor even tried to convince himself that Australia would meet its Paris target, despite the government’s own data which suggests it will miss it by about one million tonnes on current trajectories.

He and Morrison congratulated Australia for meeting Kyoto, saying it was one of the only countries to meet its targets (the first stage of which allowed for a significant increase, rather than a fall, in Australia’s emissions. That’s not something to boast about).

And even when ministers were not talking to Murdoch media, the outcome was not much better.

In a complete train wreck of an interview, new environment minister Melissa Price – the former mining industry lawyer who is responsible for managing Australia’s emissions – admitted on ABC Radio’s AM program she had not read the whole IPCC report.

Still, she obviously felt she had read enough to suggest its 91 editors and authors had “drawn a long bow,” and insisted that Australia would meet its Paris targets.

Melissa Price Interview

Asked how, Price then cited the nearly depleted Emissions Reduction Fund, and two institutions that the Coalition has tried to scrap – the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – along with the government’s “investment in Snowy 2.0”. And something about “building” one billion trees.

Sure, the CEFC and ARENA are playing an important and welcome role in helping the energy sector reduce emissions to its pro-rata share of the pie. And Snowy 2.0, if it does go ahead, might do a very good job of using coal generation to push water up hill, if the renewables mix does not increase.

But none of Price’s examples explains, remotely, how the government intends to meet an economy-wide 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions, let alone a more ambitious target to play its share of a 2°C scenario, let alone a 1.5°Ç scenarios

Asked about the IPCC’s recommendation that coal be phased out by 2050, Price said: “I just don’t know how you can say by 2050 you are not going to have technology, good clean technology, when it comes to coal. That would be irresponsible of us to commit to that.”

Contrast all these comments from Australia’s cabinet ministers with those of Claire Perry, the UK minister for energy, who says her government will outline its next steps in the next few days:

“I welcome the strong scientific analysis behind today’s IPCC report and its conclusions are stark and sober. As policymakers we need to work togetherto accelerate the low-carbon transition to minimise the costs and misery of a rapidly warming world.

Note her use of the words response, science, and the call to action. That was the purpose of the UN report.

But Morrison’s Coalition government didn’t even try, so deep is it in the thrall of its own denial of the science, hiding in the coat-tails of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and beholden to the script laid out by the conservative forces and vested interests, and outlined in the conservative media.

And just to remind us what this script is, the Australian’s “environment” editor Graham Llloyd – in a piece entitled “UN’s Panel inhabits a universe without  parallel”– suggested it was all part of a plot by the UN to deliver a more equitable sharing of global resources.

Hint: They want to cut your meat pie in half and give it to someone else. That must explain why former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was eating his meat pie with a knife and fork, so he could cut it evenly. No wonder they ditched him.

The paper’s economics correspondent, Judith Sloan, said the IPCC report wasn’t science but “astrological prophecies.” In an opinion piece titled “If disaster is nigh, we’ll be spared this amateur hour claptrap”, Sloan dismissed the science out of hand and claimed that scientists know nothing about cost-benefit analysis.

But it is Sloan who wilfully ignores it. You certainly wouldn’t want to go on a camping trip with any of this mob – they’d eat everything on the first day, and be on the phone to Gina the next to get helicoptered out.

As ABC’s Paul Barry noted, you might be better off ignoring such tripe, were it not for the fact that this is what is guiding the federal government.

As Opposition spokesman Mark Butler put it today:

“In spite of the clearest possible advice from the world’s most qualified scientists this government has again decided to block their ears and ignore the science, even if it means placing our children and our grandchildren in the face of serious danger.

“Malcolm Turnbull was right when he said, after losing the Liberal leadership yet again, that the Coalition is simply constitutionally incapable of taking action on climate change.”

We are now, quite openly, in the Age of Stupid; or is it the Age of Denial? Whichever it is, let’s just hope that it is over soon.

(Note: The IPCC issued a press release on June 4 announcing they had sent all governments a final draft of the 1.5°C report, so it is highly disingenuous of Price to claim she has had no time to read the report.

GENEVA, June 4 – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is inviting governments to comment on the Final Draft of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC (SR15) ahead of the approval plenary for the SPM at the IPCC’s 48th session in early October.

The IPCC distributed the Final Draft of the report …. to governments on Monday with a request to comment on SPM by 29 July 2018

Press link for more: Renew Economy

Great Barrier Reef: forest three times size of ACT cleared in past five years #auspol #qldpol #Deforestation #ClimateChange #TheDrum #QandA @Melissa4Durack #WentworthVotes to #SaveTheReef

Great Barrier Reef: forest three times size of ACT cleared in past five years

Clearing of forests in reef catchment zone show Australia a global deforestation hotspot, campaigners say

by Adam MortonThu 4 Oct 2018 04.00 AEST

New official data shows clearing of forests near and along the Great Barrier Reef continued despite Australian government pledges to protect the natural wonder, with at least 152,000 hectares felled in 2016-17 alone.

Forests covering 770,000ha – an area about three times the size of the Australian Capital Territory – in the reef catchment zone have been bulldozed over the past five years.

The area cleared last year was larger in size than that covered by new re-growth.

Jessica Panegyres, a nature campaigner with the Wilderness Society, said it showed Australia should be considered a global deforestation hotspot on a par with the Amazon and Indonesia.

“The federal government has promised the world it is doing everything it can to protect the reef,” she said. “[It] has simply refused to act on deforestation, despite the major impacts on forests, wildlife, the reef and the climate.”

Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions soar since government stop the price on carbon pollution.

The figures are included in the latest national greenhouse gas emissions accounts, which the government quietly released on Friday afternoon in the shadow of the AFL and NRL grand finals.

They showed Australia’s emissions increased 1.3% in the year to March 2018, continuing a trend at odds with the government’s repeated claim it is on track to meet the target it set at the 2015 Paris climate conference.

CO2 emissions per capita Australians are just behind the U.S.

Deforestation increases nutrient and sediment run-off on to the reef coast, hurting water quality, stimulating algae growth and at times smothering corals.

The government has spent billions addressing poor water quality, considered second only to climate change as a threat to the reef.

The land-clearing data for 2016-17 is described as a projection and does not include part of the Fitzroy river region.

It was released as the government postponed a decision on whether to allow a farmer to clear nearly 2,000ha of forest at Kingvale station on Cape York.

The federal environment minister, Melissa Price, is considering an environment department recommendation that the clearing, approved at state level in 2013 under the former premier Campbell Newman, be allowed despite the presence of endangered species.

Scientific advice to the government suggests allowing the Kingvale clearing would likely increase sediment run-off on to the reef. A decision is now due by the end of October.

Land-clearing spiked in Queensland after the former Liberal National government relaxed laws preventing mass deforestation.

The Palaszczuk Labor government passed new land-clearing laws to restore earlier protections in May, prompting protests from farmers who said they needed to manage vegetation to produce the food and fibre expected by consumers.

Legacy clearing permits remain for about 115,000ha. Panegyres said Price could block outstanding permits using national environmental laws that empower the minister to intervene if threatened species were at risk or an activity was likely to have a significant impact on the reef.

Price said state and territory governments were primarily responsible for regulating land-clearing. She said the government’s Reef 2050 plan, submitted to Unesco, was focused on improving the reef’s resilience to climate change by reducing local pressures.

“We know climate change is a big issue for the reef and this is why we have invested over $400m to help protect the reef through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation,” she said.

The minister said the emissions reduction fund, the central plank of Tony Abbott’s Direct Action climate policy, had incentivised a reduction in land-clearing. About $2.3bn of the $2.55bn taxpayer fund has been spent or committed. No new money has been allocated since 2014.

More than $1bn from the fund had been used to pay for tree-planting and habitat restoration.

Analysis of government data earlier this year found those emissions savings would effectively be wiped out by little more than two years of deforestation elsewhere in the country.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Pollution, costs mean coal’s reign is waning #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange #Airpollution #SR15 #IPCC #Drought #TheDrum #QandA

Coal and the electricity derived from it have powered, warmed and cooled our homes and businesses for generations, and meant jobs for thousands. But emissions from coal-fueled power plants have also helped make air pollution and coal-ash water pollution problems among the nation’s worst.

Things are changing quickly.

A recent announcement by NIPSCO shows things may be changing quickly.

The Merrillville-based electricity and gas utility is considering a plan to retire most of its coal-fired plants within the next five years, and to eliminate its use of coal entirely within a decade.

Indiana Michigan Power may be on much the same path.

Elaborate pollution controls, greater energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy including natural gas andrenewables have combined to make coal a more expensive option, said Jodi Perras, who manages the Indiana Beyond Coal campaign. But NIPSCO’s plan is “unprecedented for an Indiana utility,” she said. “It really shows how the market has changed.”

In 2010, Perras said, there were 26 coal-fired plants operating in the state; 16 have since been closed or targeted for retirement.

If NIPSCO closes its plants in Wheatfield and Michigan City – part of the tentative plan announced by the company Sept. 19 – just eight coal-fired plants will be left.

One of those is a giant facility I&M operates in Rockport in southern Indiana,which produces much of the electric power supplied to this area and is one of the nation’s top sources of toxic and greenhouse gas pollution. I&M says it is planning to let its lease lapse at one of the plant’s two units in 2022, and the other unit, which I&M owns, may stop burning coal by 2028. Brian Bergsma, I&M’s director of corporate and governmental affairs, would not say whether I&M might move faster or make a no-coal pledge like the one NIPSCO said it wants to finalize in November.

But Bergsma emphasized his company is moving toward greater reliance on renewable energy and other alternatives. “I think the NIPSCO announcement reflects what utilities like I&M and others have been doing,” he said.

“We are already committed to providing power for 100,000 customers through renewables,” Bergsma added. “We are looking to expand it more, but we need to do it in … a process that keeps the lights on.” A new company goal will be 400,000 customers served by renewable power, Bergsma said.

Perras said she isn’t necessarily impressed by those numbers; the Sierra Club’s figures show I&M still uses coal to produce about 40 percent of its electricity. As part of a campaign to keep the pressure on I&M, the Sierra Club released a letter signed by all nine Fort Wayne City Council members urging the utility to move more quickly in switching to alternative fuels.

The nearly 2,500 Hoosiers still in the coal industry deserve retraining and support during the years ahead. But an analysis by the Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs this summer estimated the state now has five times more jobs in alternative energy and energy efficiency than in fossil fuels.

A new report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center estimates the solar and wind industries alone have created 10,000 jobs in Indiana. “Renewable energy is an important part of the Indiana economy, including jobs,” said the center’s Janet McCabe.

Coal, by contrast, is a fuel whose time is passing quickly.

Press link for more: Journal Gazette

IPCC Begins Discussion on Global Warming of 1.5°C #sr15 #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #climatechange #drought #bushfire #QandA #TheDrum #StopAdani #EndCoal @TheCairnsPost

UN Climate Change News, 1 October 2018 – Against the backdrop of a record year of climate change impacts such as heatwaves and droughts across the world, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today began considering the critically important key findings of its Special Report entitled ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’.

In time for this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24), to be held in Katowice, Poland in December, the special report on 1.5C was mandated by world’s governments in 2015 when they adopted the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2ºC and as close as possible to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.  Keeping average global temperature increases as low as possible is key to limiting future potentially severe climate change impacts around the world.

For the ‘Global Warming 1.5C’ report, the IPCC has therefore assessed the most up-to-date scientific findings about the damage that will be caused by a 1.5°C warming. It also compared this to the damage that would be caused by a 2°C warming.

At the week-long meeting in the Republic of Korea government delegates will consider the key findings of the report line-by-line and adopt these as the “Summary for Policy Makers”.

At the opening of the Songdo meeting, Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC described the event as “one of the most important meetings in the IPCC’s history”.

“Scientists have been warning us for years that we can expect to see more extreme weather with climate change.

The heat waves, wildfires, and heavy rainfall events of recent months all over the world underscore these warnings,” he said.

The current climate change impacts which can already be observed today are the result of an approximately 1ºC global average temperature rise.

Examples of extreme weather this year range from record heat in northern Europe and historic flooding in Japan, India, southeast Asia and the southeastern United States.

Representing UN Climate Change in Songdo, the Head of UNFCCC’s Adaptation Programme, Youssef Nassef, highlighted the importance of the report for the climate negotiations this year.

“In this era of implementation of the Paris Agreement, there has never been a more urgent need for a science to inform climate action.  With the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the IPCC has responded to this need.  For the UNFCCC process, this is a particularly special “Special Report”, given its seminal importance to the evolution of ambition in the climate change negotiations.”

Current Nationally Determined Contributions, in which countries detail what they will undertake to tackle climate change, are unlikely to be ambitious enough to keep the world within the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals.

As a result, the Summary for Policy Makers will be carefully considered at COP 24.   It will be taken up by Ministers during the  political phase of the “Talanoa Dialogue”, an international conversation on how best to raise ambition.  Global Warming 1.5C  will also be presented at a joint event organized by the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the IPCC at COP24.

Known as SR15, the full name of the report is: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

This summer, some 60 governments commented on the draft report. “In all we have received 42,000 comments on the drafts of this report”, said the IPCC chair.

“The governments of the world are eagerly awaiting the findings you will present in the report, so that they can make informed decisions at COP24, during the Talanoa Dialogue, and beyond, through the global stock- take, which itself will also be informed by the outcomes of the Sixth Assessment Report, to be completed in 2022”, said Mr. Nassef.

The outcomes of the meeting and the completed Summary for Policy Makers are set to be officially released at a press conference on Monday, October 8, 2018

Press link for more: UNFCCC

In a Country So Dry Even Cows Take Showers, #ClimateChange Gets Ignored. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #TheDrum #QandA #ClimateCrisis #Drought

Australia’s government is as far from a plan of action as it’s ever been.

27 September 2018, 5:00 am AEST

Farmer Leeanne Oldfield and her dog Jett at her farm in Wandandian, New South Wales, Australia.

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

From cooling showers for cows to airport runways designed for higher sea levels, businesses and parts of Australia’s A$2.7 trillion ($2 trillion) pension industry are starting to find ways to live with rising temperatures.

In the world’s driest inhabited continent, enduring a devastating drought that arrived in mid-winter, private action to prepare for climate change contrasts with years of division on energy and environmental policies.

Australia’s latest climate casualties are its farmers, who are being forced to slaughter livestock and watch crops wither amid one of the worst droughts on record.

Leeanne Oldfield has abandoned expansion plans and the few dozen malnourished sheep that remain of her 300-strong flock can’t even drink from the dam anymore, as it has gone dry.

“In good years, this is usually full to the brim with water,” says Oldfield on her farm three hours’ drive from Sydney, pointing to the muddy pit where the dam should be. Frustrated by a lack of government action, she’s helped organize donations of truckloads of hay and grain to other farms.

Oldfield at the dried up freshwater dam on her farm.

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

“Farmers in this country are getting desperate, they’re on their knees,” said Oldfield.

Dry conditions are set to continue with eastern states including New South Wales — the most populous and the powerhouse of the economy — the worst affected. Economists estimate the drought could cut as much as 0.75 percent from gross domestic product growth.

Dry Nation

Australia receives less rain than any other inhabited continent

Shortly after taking over as prime minister last month, Scott Morrison got on a plane and toured a drought-stricken farm in Queensland, announcing measures to aid the stressed agricultural sector.

Yet as for broader climate policy, Australia appears as far away as it has ever been from a consensus on what should be done.

“The staggering thing is we aren’t leading the world,” said John Hewson, former leader of the now ruling Liberal Party who has worked as an economist for the Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund. “We should be showing them what can be done and the business opportunities from that in terms of investment, in terms of jobs, in terms of growth, are very significant. And they’ve just been cast aside like they don’t matter.”

The road block: politics. Morrison came to the prime ministership after months of toxic infighting over energy policy saw Malcolm Turnbull lose a leadership vote that resulted in the nation’s sixth change of leader in 11 years.

The new prime minister — who once brandished a chunk of coal in parliament as a show of allegiance to that sector — quickly ditched Turnbull’s contentious plan to lock in carbon emission reductions, leaving the government with no settled energy policy ahead of an election that must be called by May.

Coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef.

Source: Kyodo News via Getty Images

With Australia battling bush fires in winter and the Great Barrier Reef facing slow destruction due to coral bleaching, voters want action. An Australia Institute poll this month showed that 73 percent of Australians are concerned about climate change, up from 66 percent last year. And just over half of people surveyed think governments aren’t doing enough.

Poisonous politics is also hitting business. Australia’s total investment in clean energy soared to a record $9 billion last year, largely driven by a rush to fulfill a government target that winds down in 2020. Investment will fall off a cliff over the coming years unless there is a major change in government policy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Under the Glare

Australia is one of the most vulnerable developed countries to climate change – yet also has the financial muscle to respond

“The government has revived the default approach the Liberal-National coalition has had on emissions since the 1990s: do as little as possible, hope that economic developments reduce emissions without policy intervention, deny that there are any policy issues, and defer as many issues as possible to another day,” said Kobad Bhavnagri, head of BNEF research for Australia. “It’s akin to having one’s fingers crossed and head buried in the sand.”

For Australia’s pension funds, the lack of certainty surrounding climate policy is a problem because they often need to plan decades ahead. With infrastructure assets in particular, which investors may wish to hold indefinitely, ensuring they’ll still be operational and profitable in a changed climate is vital.

“Climate change is here and the impacts are being felt,” said Emma Herd, chief executive officer of the Investor Group on Climate Change, whose members control about A$2 trillion in investments. “Large sections of the private sector are moving in concert with global change and not being driven by domestic regulatory pressures.”

Meantime, Australian firms are developing cutting-edge tools that allow investors to model how climate change will impact precise areas where they have an asset, says Herd. Nick Wood, director of consultancy Climate Policy Research, says the private sector’s attitude has “definitely changed.”

Forget Paris

Australia is projected to miss its global commitments on current policies

IFM Investors, a A$111 billion infrastructure fund, has taken steps to safeguard assets against environmental change. It part owns Brisbane Airport, which built a new water side runway 1.5 meters higher than regulation demands. The fund is also offering lower berthing fees at its ports to less-polluting ships.

Construction & Building Unions Superannuation, a A$46 billion Australian fund, has committed to making all of its properties have net zero emissions by 2030.

A sheep drinks from what remains at the freshwater dam at Oldfield’s farm.

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

“While Australia is locked in a policy quagmire on climate action, the world is moving on and this makes sound investment and economic sense,” said Kristian Fok, CBUS’s chief investment officer.

On her dairy farm 700 kilometers inland from Sydney, Ruth Kydd says there is only one answer: prepare now. To prevent dairy production dropping as cows become heat stressed, she’s installed sprinklers for them to cool off under, and stored at least six months supply of feed. That’s put her in a stronger position than many to fight the drought.

“All our decisions have a long-term aspect to them, otherwise it’s not worth investing the money,” she says. How the climate will look in a decade or more “is always in the back of your mind.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

“Hothouse Earth” Co-Author: The Problem Is #Neoliberal Economics #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #EndCoal #StopAdani #Neoliberalism once a cargo cult is now a suicide cult! #TheDrum #QandA

By Kate Aronoff

By shifting to a “wartime footing” to drive a rapid shift toward renewable energy and electrification, humanity can still avoid the apocalyptic future laid out in the much-discussed “hothouse earth” paper, a lead author of the paper told The Intercept.

One of the biggest barriers to averting catastrophe, he said, has more to do with economics than science.

When journal papers about climate change make headlines, the news usually isn’t good.

Last week was no exception, when the so-called hothouse earth paper, in which a team of interdisciplinary Earth systems scientists warned that the problem of climate change may be even worse than we thought, made its news cycle orbit.

(The actual title of the paper, a commentary published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, is “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.”)

Coverage of the paper tended to focus on one of its more alarming claims, albeit one that isn’t new to climate researchers: that a series of interlocking dynamics on Earth — from melting sea ice to deforestation — can feed upon one another to accelerate warming and climate impacts once we pass a certain threshold of warming, even after humans have stopped pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The best chance we have for staying below that catastrophic threshold is to cap warming at around 2 degrees Celsius, the target enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

That’s all correct and plenty daunting.

Yet embedded within the paper is a finding that’s just as stunning: that none of this is inevitable, and one of the main barriers between us and a stable planet — one that isn’t actively hostile to human civilization over the long term — is our economic system.

Asked what could be done to prevent a hothouse earth scenario, co-author Will Steffen told The Intercept that the “obvious thing we have to do is to get greenhouse gas emissions down as fast as we can.

That means that has to be the primary target of policy and economics.

You have got to get away from the so-called neoliberal economics.”

Instead, he suggests something “more like wartime footing” to roll out renewable energy and dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.”

That “wartime footing” Steffen describes is a novel concept in 2018, but hasn’t been throughout American history when the nation has faced other existential threats.

In the lead-up to World War II, the government played a heavy hand in industry, essentially shifting the U.S. to a centrally planned economy, rather than leaving things like prices and procurement of key resources up to market forces.

By the end of World War II, about a quarter of all manufacturing in the United States had been nationalized. And while governments around the world continue to intervene heavily in the private sector — including in the U.S. — those interventions tend now to be on behalf of corporations, be it through subsidies to fossil fuel companies or zoning laws that favor luxury real estate developers.

Contra much of the apocalyptic coverage around “Trajectories,” runaway climate change of the kind described in Steffen and his co-authors’ paper is very likely preventable.

The ways to prevent it just happen to go against the economic logic that has dominated the world economy for the last half-decade, to scale back regulations and give major industries free reign.

Climate modeler Glen Peters saw a gap between the relatively measured perspective provided in the paper and the doomsday tone of press coverage, where headlines — like “No Existing Policies Will Be Enough to Prevent a Future Hothouse Earth,” per Futurism, and “Earth at Risk of ‘Hothouse’ Climate Tipping Point Even If Emissions Are Reduced” — make the end of days seem like a foregone conclusion.

“I don’t think many scientists think that if we met our Paris commitments, we would end up in a hothouse,” Peters said. “I think at least the media coverage went too far.

The final paragraph in the paper says these are all speculative and that to sure it up, we will have to do lots of research on these questions. … The media takeaway is that we’re heading to a hellhole.”

The end isn’t quite so nigh.

On top of rapidly phasing-out greenhouse gas emissions, “Trajectories” notes that humans have to create their own negative feedback mechanisms so the Earth can maintain a stable level of carbon in the atmosphere.

That means expanding and repairing the Earth’s natural “carbon sinks,” like big forests that can effectively suck emissions out of the atmosphere and store them naturally.

“We need to immediately stop deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and other tropical forests, and start reforesting them.

That means a U-turn in terms of how we operate the world’s economic systems,” Steffen told me via Skype. “The only way you’re going to change that is if you actually change value systems, perhaps even changing the way political systems operate and so on.

The social scientists in our group have said this really is a fundamental change in human societies we need to have if we’re going to solve this problem.”

Mind, none of this is terribly unique for scientific papers on climate change. Peters notes that upon first read, he skimmed over the section in the paper describing what humans can do to prevent climate change. “I’ve read that a billion times. I don’t need to read it a billion and one,” he joked. That reining in emissions will require massive transformations in the Earth’s productive systems isn’t controversial within the scientific community, which has long argued that world economies need to decarbonize by midcentury at the absolute latest — and that’s a assuming a best-case scenario in which so-called negative emissions technologies can by that point be deployed at scale.

The paper itself put it in fairly direct terms. “The present dominant socioeconomic system,” the authors wrote, “is based on high-carbon economic growth and exploitative resource use.

Attempts to modify this system have met with some success locally but little success globally in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or building more effective stewardship of the biosphere.

Incremental linear changes to the present socioeconomic system are not enough to stabilize the Earth system; these include changes in behavior, technology and innovation, governance, and values.”

Press link for more: The Intercept