Last Friday, I received an email with “Tony wants your questions!” in the subject. My keyboard melted. I submitted my question. Rehearsed all weekend. I even contemplated a hair cut on Monday - just in case. Why? Well, I was going to be in the studio audience for the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night - featuring Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, and his opposite, Mark Butler.
Alas, I didn’t get the call. They select around 15 questions and pre-warn the chosen few. I must have been number 16, obviously. Nonetheless, Mr Hunt did receive a few predictable questions. Giles Parkinson from Renew Economy didn’t think much of Mr Hunt’s appearance, writing the Coalition government’s Direct Action policy is “a case of smoke and mirrors”. “This truth was highlighted on the ABC Q&A program on Monday night, when opposition spokesman Mark Butler pointed out that the abatement bought in last week’s auction of carbon abatement – paid for by taxpayers – would be offset by rises in carbon emissions from the electricity sector since the carbon price was repealed.”
On the other side of the chamber, the Labor Party is shaping up for a big debate on climate change at its upcoming national conference. The Saturday Paper reports “Although Shorten has pledged action on climate change, he and Mark Butler are resisting pressure from some rank-and-file members to inscribe in the platform ambitious emission reduction targets that could expose Labor to a cost-of-living scare campaign from the government.”
The head of climate change negotiations for the United Nations, Christine Figueres, was in Australia this week rallying up support for a deal in Paris later this year. She undertook numerous meetings with government, industry and advocacy groups. She told the Guardian that Australia needs a national consensus to achieve maximum effort in fight to avoid dangerous climate change. She said the states and territories could “buttress the efforts of Australia more at the international level so Australia can actually stand up there with other industrialised countries in fair effort. States and territories are a lot closer to citizens than the federal government and perhaps they are reflecting more the concerns about climate change and the opportunities that are there.”
Ms Figueres met with state and territory environment Ministers in Adelaide who, according to Renew Economy, vowed to boost large-scale renewables as RET stalemate continues. “Headed up by ACT environment minister Simon Corbell, ministers from seven different jurisdictions, including South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, agreed to collaborate on a sub-national level to boost renewables uptake, energy efficiency strategies and climate adaptation policies, including through the establishment of a senior officer level working group.”
Sticking with politics, Think Progress reports the UK is on the verge of electing a climate change champion as Prime Minister with Ed Milliband’s party promising to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation to zero by 2030. On the other side of the Atlantic, climate deniers are lining up to be the Republican Party candidate at the 2016 election. “A neurosurgeon who believes the human brain is too complex for anyone but God, an ophthalmologist who refuses to talk about the age of the Earth, and a Harvard-trained lawyer beloved by creationists are running for president of the United States, raising the prospect of an election without science,” reports the Guardian.
The signals coming from China on addressing climate change in the medium to long term continue to be good. Clean Technica reports on a Chinese government study, which envisions a nation powered by 57 per cent renewables in 2030, growing to 86 per cent renewables by 2050, all at the same time as China’s economy grows sevenfold. There’s also talk, reported on in RTCC, that the European Commission and China are set to announce climate pact in the next few months.
There was quite a bit of science news around this week and, as usual, it made for uncomfortable reading. Global carbon dioxide levels break 400ppm milestone, reports the Guardian. Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading told the Guardian: “This event is a milestone on a road to unprecedented climate change for the human race. The last time the Earth had this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was more than a million years ago, when modern humans hadn’t even evolved yet. Reaching 400ppm doesn’t mean much in itself, but the steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases should serve as a stark reminder of the task facing politicians as they sit down in Paris later this year.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post carries a story on a report co-authored by prominent British economist and academic, Nicholas Stern, which says global emissions goals still aren’t enough to prevent dangerous warming.”When it comes to combating climate change, many scientists and policy makers focus on one major goal: cut carbon emissions enough to keep the planet’s average surface temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial level. But a new analysis, published on Monday by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said we’re still falling short of the mark”. According to the report, resolutions proposed by the US, China and EU, combined with the rest of the world’s projected future emissions, will probably not be enough to keep Earth within the two degree boundary. We should recognise that it looks as if Paris will take us half of the way between what might have been ‘business as usual’ and where we need to be to meet two degrees,” Mr Stern said. “I would tend to take a glass-half-full approach to that and ask how we can fill the glass up.”
Back home, a new report says severe heat costs the Australian economy A$7.8 billion (US$6.2 billion) a year. New Scientist quotes Steven Sherwood from the University of New South Wales saying heat stress is already responsible for about as much lost productivity as general illnesses. Looking at international implications of the work, he says that billions of people live in tropical areas where many workers have to stop working in the middle of the day. "In the future if there is significant global warming, the impacts here [in Australia] will become more like those currently in the tropics."
Finally, the Living Planet Report 2014 from the World Wildlife Fund (released last year) in its introduction makes the salient point “Our own demands on nature are unsustainable and increasing. We need 1.5 Earths to regenerate the natural resources we currently use; we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than oceans replenish, and emit more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb.” It doesn't appear that the message is getting through in Australia on carbon absorbing trees. The Guardian reports eastern Australia is one of 11 areas to account for 80 per cent of world forest loss by 2030. “Between three and six million hectares of forest, mainly across New South Wales and Queensland, could be lost between 2010 and 2030” according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Forests report.
It may be that have to come up with a replacement saying for “cant see the wood for the trees”. Now that’s a question that needs and answer.
Want more: Climate change news summary for business: http://climatecomm.squarespace.com/news/
ABC The World Today: UN climate negotiator Christiana Figueres tells Australia to move away from coal
The Age: Has Greg Hunt's direct action scheme fixed climate change policy in Australia?
Mashable: An interactive map lets you watch solar energy grow in real-time
New York Times: Germany, the Green Superpower
WWF: Living planet Report
WWF: Living Forests Report (Australia on page 34 and 35)
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