No matter where you turned this week, there wasn't much good news on addressing climate change. It was budget time in Australia and election time in the UK and the good news was lean. Even President Obama in the United States did a big step backwards on reducing dependence on fossil fuels. It was one of those weeks.
First, to Australia. There was little to no good news on the environment front. Programs cut; agencies cut; agencies marked for closure; mining and fossil fuel subsidies continued. Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy summed it up as follows: "The budget handed down on Tuesday night by Treasurer Joe (I don’t like wind turbines) Hockey continues the recent trend of Coalition policy documents that sweeps the idea that Australia should be acting – urgently or otherwise – on climate action under the carpet".
Here's a summary of some of the coverage:
• The Sydney Morning Herald said the budget boosts reef protection at the expense of the Green Army.
• The Guardian said the emissions reduction fund gets another year of life.
• The ACF said the Government has again chosen the interests of the big polluters over those of the community.
• The Climate Institute said the budget calls into question the ability of the government to meet minimum and inadequate 2020 pollution reduction goals, and fails to build a bridge to a modern, cleaner economy.
• In some good news, Renew Economy reported that the budget has potentially given a major boost to the rooftop solar industry in Australia with the announcement of a $20,000 tax break for small businesses.
• And for what's left, the ABC had a summary.
And then there's a new renewable energy target. It remains far away. Labor in The Age said the government shouldn't proceed with introducing legislation if the package they put to the parliament has the two-year reviews in it. Renew Economy said $5 billion in investment is now under threat.
And then there's Maurice Newman. “This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN. It is opposed to capitalism and freedom and has made environmental catastrophism a household topic to achieve its objective.” This from Mr Newman, the chief business adviser to the Prime Minister. Yes, really. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the latest rant from Mr Newman, which even fellow conservative and Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, ran away from saying the views are not ones "I have or would express". Barnaby Joyce, according to Renew Economy, joined Mr Newman in the tin foil hat wearing club.
And then there's Bjorn Lomborg. The University of Western Australia bowed to academic, staff, student, media, public and political pressure and rejected the Abbott Government's offer of $4 million in funding to establish a research centre by the controversial academic. Climate Spectator says it was the right thing to do. On facebook, Dr Lomborg said he was the victim of "toxic politics, ad hominen attacks, and premature judgment".
In all this, there was a voice of reason. The Executive Secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ms Christine Figueres was in Australia. According to the Guardian, she received undertakings from Mr Hunt that emissions from industry and power generation will be reduced.
Actually, there was another voice too... the people of the Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a survey by a leading market research agency which found a clear majority of Australians view global warming as already causing extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and floods. Just three per cent say "there is no such thing as climate change". "Just over 60 per cent of the 1063 respondents in the report – the eighth annual survey on the subject – viewed climate change as behind extreme events, with similar numbers also linking the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and rising sea levels to warming global temperatures," the Herald reported.
Overseas in climate change politics British PM David Cameron is staying out and governing in his own right. Carbon Brief said the top line on the Conservative approach to climate and energy issues is that the party will stick to the UK's overarching carbon targets, while focusing on minimising costs. "In February, Mr Cameron signed a joint pledge with his Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts, promising to uphold UK carbon targets, to push for an ambitious UN climate deal and to phase out unabated coal-fired power stations. There is as yet no date set for a phase-out."
In the United States, President Obama, after making great strides on addressing climate change, earned the wrath of the environment movement when his administration gave conditional approval to allow Shell to start drilling for oil off the Alaskan coast in the middle of the year. It is seen as a major victory for the petroleum industry and a devastating blow to environmentalists. "The decision adds a complex new chapter to the legacy of President Obama, who has pursued the most ambitious environmental agenda of any president but has sought to balance those moves by opening up untouched federal waters to new oil and gas drilling," according to the New York Times.
Finally and back home, the science wasn't good this week either. The Age reported a "substantial" El Niño event has begun, raising the likelihood of worsening drought over inland Australia and higher daytime temperatures. "This will be quite a substantial event," said David Jones, head of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology. "It's not a weak one or a near miss" as in 2014, he said. "This event is perhaps running ahead of where the models had predicted."
And ending on an alarming note, Reuters reports on a new study which says climate change could push a sixth of species to extinction. "Species in South America, Australia and New Zealand are most at risk, since many live in small areas or cannot easily move away to adapt to heatwaves, droughts, floods or rising seas. The study averaged out 131 previous studies of climate change, whose projections of the number of species that could be lost to climate change ranged from zero to 54 percent of species worldwide - too wide to be useful in designing conservation policies."
It was one of those weeks.
PS. Well, there was one bit of good news. ABC reported that the coal mine and power in the Victorian coastal town of Anglesea will close, Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham welcomed the closure of the site and said he hoped it would lead to more renewable energy in the state.
Want more: Climate change news summary for business: http://climatecomm.squarespace.com/news/
COIN: UK election results – climate campaigners need to be more radical
Nature: Policy: Climate advisers must maintain integrity
New York Times: Bill McKibben - Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial
Renew Economy: Western Australia may go go solar – may be the only way out of energy mess
RTCC: Will a Paris climate change pact have any teeth?
Vice: We Blew It: A Time Line of Human Impact on the Planet
Vox: The arguments that convinced a libertarian to support aggressive action on climate
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm