Much of the media in Sydney, at least, spends each weekend and a part of Monday carrying on about the heat in the overheated property market when reporting on the weekend housing auctions. New beginnings are set for some - dreams are shattered for others. Well, there was another auction recently. The result? Some smirked, “You’re dreamin’” while others were left shattered by the public policy farce.
The first of the Government’s Emission Reduction Fund auctions occurred. The government trumpeted it as a success. It has been largely condemned by most. The general consensus - it will cost too much and not achieve what it needs to. Business in Renew Energy said the Direct Action Plan will create a budget black hole. Academia in The Conversation said the plan falls short of what it is intended to do: “The reverse auction approach seems incapable of driving a national transition to renewable energy or encouraging substantial emissions-reducing activities by major industrial emitters.”
One of the biggest stories of the week in politics and industry has been a grant by the government to the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, headed by the controversial Dr Bjorn Lomborg. It is a difficult story to summarise in a paragraph or two. Perhaps the best summary comes from Tim Mazzarol, Winthrop Professor, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Marketing and Strategy at University of Western Australia in The Conversation: “In my view Dr Lomborg is neither a scientist nor an economist. He is more an entrepreneur who has used the talents of a gifted polemicist to secure resources and garner attention. His “consensus” process is not without merit and seems like a useful model for securing government and media attention. It may also generate some potentially useful policy outcomes.”
Oddly enough, at the height of the rumpus, Dr Lomborg was in ‘print’ this week in USA Today contradicting both the Prime Minister and Environment Minister Greg Hunt on key policies:
• “Focusing on R&D in energy technologies can help create green energy solutions that are effective enough to take on fossil fuels on the market. This could be funded with a slowly rising carbon tax (giving businesses an incentive to cut emissions but not telling them how to do it). In total, this solution would avoid $11 of climate damages for every dollar spent.”
• “Another great goal would be to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. The world spends a whopping $548 billion on such subsidies, almost exclusively in developing countries. This drains already streched budgets of resources that could be used to provide health and education services, while encouraging greater carbon-dioxide emissions.”
It isn't a good time for there Abbott Government. While the market has rubbished the first auction - Renewable Energy Target negotiations remains stalled; the government has rejected the post 2020 targets from its own Climate Change Authority and it has copped enormous flak over funding for Dr Lomborg. Industry commentator Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy says the past week highlights the government’s “contempt for climate”.
Respected federal political reporter, David Speers of Sky News in the Switzer Report opined Australia could be heading toward another climate change election - “Tony Abbott is itching for this fight and some senior Labor figures are already very nervous.” While David Speers thinks climate election could be front and centre in an Australian election, the Guardian has lamented the lack of attention to the issue in the current UK election campaign.
Mr Abbott, who last year famously said coal is “good for humanity” has one friend at least. Fellow Manly area resident and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird joined the love-in on coal when in the Hunter Valley this week. He told the Newcastle Herald “no doubt coal is good. It’s an important part of the economy and has been for a long time and the expectation is it will be for many years going forward.” It appears neither gentlemen ‘got the memo’ with The Conversation reporting “Ninety per cent of Australia’s current coal reserves will need to be left in the ground for Australia to play its role in limiting warming to no more than 2C.”
The view of Mr Abbott and Mr Baird isn’t shared by the G20, the top 20 nations in the world. The (UK) Telegraph reports the G20 powers have launched a joint probe into global financial risks posed by fossil fuel companies investing in costly ventures that clash with international climate goals and may never be viable. “World leaders are increasingly concerned that a $6 trillion wave of investment into the nexus of oil, gas, and coal since 2007 is based on false assumptions, leaving companies with an overhang of debt and "stranded assets" that cannot easily be burned under CO2 emission limits.” Global banking giant HSBC, according to Time, is advising clients against fossil fuel investment.
The Pope this week held his long awaited climate change meeting. The Washington Post says the Pope’s interest in the issue could have a “dramatic” impact of effecting action. According to another story in the Washington Post, the conference heard that 2015 the ‘last effective opportunity’ to safely limit warming.
In science news this week, the World Health Organisation this week released a report saying “A staggering US$ 1.6 trillion is the economic cost of the approximate 600 000 premature deaths and of the diseases caused by air pollution in the WHO European Region in 2010, according to the first-ever study of these costs conducted for the Region.”
Locally, The Conversation reports on new research indicating the climate ‘hiatus’ doesn’t take the heat off global warming. “The recent slowdown in the rise of global average air temperatures during the first decade of the 21st century is being used as a touchstone argument for those who deny the science of global warming. But in research published today in Nature Climate Change, I and others show that the “hiatus” is just a blip on the radar compared to the long-term warming we have in store.”
A report released today by the Australian Academy of Science warns that Australia will have to adapt to reduce the risk of health impacts from climate change. “Health issues identified in the report include extreme weather events such as fires, floods, and heatwaves; increased risk of infectious diseases; problems with food supply; loss of livelihoods including farming, fishing and tourism; and conflict provoked by displacement and migration,” The Conversation reported.
Finally, spend the weekend thinking about what questions you want to ask on ABC TV’s Q&A on Monday night. Greg Hunt and Mark Butler are on. Both need to answer serious questions about the state of current and future climate change policy in Australia.
Want more: Climate Change News for business: http://climatecomm.squarespace.com/news/
Al Gore at UC Berkeley Haas Business School: On Thursday morning (30 April 2015) at 0530 Sydney time, Mr Gore addressed the Business School as a part of the Dean’s speaker series. The video is available on the school’s web site.
Former Climate Commission chief Tim Flannery on Renewable Energy Targets. ABC: As the government's Climate Change Authority calls on Australia to dramatically increase its cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, Lateline's Tony Jones talks to former Climate Commission chief Tim Flannery.
EcoWatch: Watch Obama and Bill Nye Take on ‘Climate-Denier Club’ in Congress
Medium: A changing climate movement
Washington Post: Bill Nye: Climate change is “not something you should be debating or denying”
Guardian: From 'axe the tax' to 'climate consensus': how Abbott reshaped our climate story
Guardian: Britain’s political leaders have a clear moral duty to end coal-fired power
Guardian: Whether it's apartheid or fossil fuels, divestment is on the right side of history
RTCC: Climate tracker: What’s happened to pledges for Paris summit?
New York Times: Laurent Fabius: Our Climate Imperatives (Laurent Fabius is France’s minister of foreign affairs and international development and the president of the United Nations conference on climate change scheduled for later this year.)
The Conversation: The climate ‘hiatus’ doesn’t take the heat off global warming
USA Today: Bjørn Lomborg: Measurable goals for a stronger Earth
Climate Central: The State of the Earth in 4 Climate Trends
Image of Bjorn Lomborg by Dian Lofton, under Creative Commons License.
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