Climate change politics changed this week in Australia. Bill Shorten joined Hillary Clinton as a social democrat putting climate change at the centre of their respective meetings with voters over the next 18 months.
News broke on Wednesday, via Mark Kenny in the Sydney Morning Herald, that Labor has a “bold climate policy goal requiring half of Australia's large-scale energy production to be generated using renewable sources within 15 years”. It reported, Mr Shorten will use this weekend's ALP national conference in Melbourne to announce the even more ambitious goal, dramatically beefing up Labor's renewable energy target. Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy said the Labor announcement is significant and if elected could spark a rebirth of the renewables industry in Australia: “The announcement by Shorten that he would ask Labor to adopt a 50 per cent renewable energy target – following a major push among grass-root branches – is a real breakthrough for the political debate in Australia, possibly as significant as the bipartisan deal to pursue a 20/20 renewable energy target way back in 2007.” The Labor Herald has the back story on the grass roots push in Labor branches.
Hugh Saddler from the ANU writing in The Conversation says Labor’s policy will cost households up to $250 a year but this will start to fall after a few years. Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute says Labor needs to go further: “This proposal demonstrates in spades how poisonous climate change politics has trumped good policy. As with taxation, neither main party seems prepared to develop an effective and efficient climate change policy and make a case for it in a way the electorate will embrace.” Tom Arup in The Age said the policy levers that the ALP uses will be key: “The target is a push in the right direction. But Labor will have to back it up with a credible climate plan or risk it being seen as a vote grab.”
Sophie Vorrath in Renew Economy rounded up other reaction from leader in the industry and the response was generally positive. Renew Economy also says the policy should go down well with votes. In a survey conducted by Essential Research, 60 per cent of respondents said they thought coal had received enough federal government support, while more than 50 per cent believed renewable energy technologies like wind farms (56%), big solar (55%) and rooftop solar (57%) had not. The survey also indicated that this lack of federal support for renewables could be a vote-changer, with 55 per cent of respondents saying they would be more likely to vote for a party with a policy of increasing renewables support, such as Labor or the Greens.
Still in Australia, there was a mini breakthrough in the farm lobby this month with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that the peak NSW farm lobby group has shifted its climate change policy stance and has called on governments to back "the transition from fossil fuels”. The NSW Farmers Association ended its annual conference by voting to remove clauses in its official policy that had called for a royal commission "to explore the scientific veracity and soundness of claims that carbon is a pollutant" and to investigate "whether the activities of mankind are responsible for causing any change”. In their place, members voted to replace those calls with a recognition that primary producers "are on the front lines of seasonal variability, exacerbated by a changing climate”. The political ramifications of this are significant.
Going overseas now, as the Pope hosted a selection of Mayors from major cities around the world to talk about climate change, one of his lieutenants, Australian George Pell, criticised his boss over the recent encyclical calling on the world to address climate change. Cardinal Pell told the Financial Times the church had "no particular expertise in science. The church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science.” Meanwhile, Muslim scholars are set to name climate change as a dire threat. RTCC reports on a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August. “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour – but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.”
Looking at the Paris talks later this year, top climate envoys are confident things are on course for success. RTCC reports envoys from the US, China, Brazil, Russia and 18 other countries have offered the clearest signal yet they feel a UN climate deal will be reached in Paris this year. Japan has become the latest major nation to shows its hand on emissions reduction targets. It is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26% below 2013 levels by 2030, equivalent to 18% below 1990 levels by 2030. However, the Climate Group says the Climate Action Tracker rates Japan’s INDC as ‘inadequate’ because “if all countries adopted this level of ambition, warming would likely exceed 3-4 degrees Celsius in the 21st century,” adding that “with the policies it already has in place, Japan can almost reach its proposed INDC target without taking any further action.”
In the UK, top British institutions tell governments to act on climate change now. The Guardian reports: “An unprecedented coalition of the UK’s most eminent scientific, medical and engineering bodies says immediate action must be taken by governments to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But the joint communiqué, issued by 24 academic and professional institutions, also says that tackling global warming would drive economic progress, benefit the health of millions by cutting air pollution and improve access to energy, water and food. To have a reasonable chance of keeping warming below 2C, the internationally agreed danger limit, the world must end all emissions within the next few decades, the communiqué warns.”
As usual , there was a good selection of science news around this week. Here’s a summary of three:
• Slate has written up a yet to be peer reviewed study lead by former NASA chief climate scientist, James Hansen, saying oceans may rise faster and higher than previously anticipated. “In what may prove to be a turning point for political action on climate change, a breathtaking new study casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels. The study--written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields--concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.”
• Vice reports Global temperature records continued to tumble in June, as the strengthening El Nino in the Pacific combined with background warming from climate change. Land and sea-surface temperatures last month and for the first half of 2015 were the warmest in 136 years of records, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Monday. It quoted a NOAA spokesman saying: ”Those are easy to latch on to statistics, but more importantly they reconfirm -- and they put an exclamation point on -- the trends that we've seen for years and decades. Different pieces of the climate system will surge and fall back from year to year, but across the board we're living in a world that's changing and in most cases changing really rapidly.”
• Guardian reports on a study indicating that oceans are warming faster than climate models predicted. “if you want to know how much “global warming” is happening, you really have to be able to measure “ocean warming”. That is because more than 90% of the excess energy coming to the Earth from greenhouse gases goes into the ocean waters. My colleagues and I have a new publication, which better characterizes this heating and also compares climate model predictions with actual measurements. It turns out models have under-predicted ocean warming over the past few decades. “
Finally, you are being watched! We know you are concerned about climate change! Yes, really. New Matilda reported this week on Google data showing the ebb and flow of what people are searching on, including the climate change. It is worth a look as it demonstrates how the issue as matured in the mind of the public over the past decade. Climate change searches are now about 10 per cent of what they were at their height in 2007, not long after the arrival of Inconvenient Truth. Now that’s inconvenient.
Read The Week That Was with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
A selection of good reads on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward.
The Age: A Prime Minister fighting the sun and the wind
Bloomberg: When Climate Change Becomes a Climate Catastrophe
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin #038
The Conversation: One year on from the carbon price experiment, the rebound in emissions is clear
Crikey: Rundle: Abbott’s gutting of renewables is not just dumb, it’s treason
Elephant Podcast (Audio): Bill McKibben and Tim Flannery on The Politics of Fighting Climate Change
Grist: Can meat be ecofriendly?
LA Times: Who should pay the price of clean energy?
Mother Jones: Sport: The Natural. Can Allen Hershkowitz’s green sports movement turn fans into environmentalists?, Mother Jones, July/August 2015 issue, #sectors
New Matilda: Can Australians Sue The Government Over Its Climate Inaction? New Matilda, 20 July 2015, #legal
PBS NewsHour (Video): The economic options for combatting climate change
Radio National Background Briefing (Audio): A burning question
RTCC: Who’s who in the world of climate change diplomacy?
The Saturday Paper: Abbott's campaign to kill renewable energy sector
Weekly Review: Virginia Trioli: Cold winds of change
Read Weekend Reads with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
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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