One side of my brain is that of a positive, optimistic, glass one hundred per cent full kind of guy. The other side of my brain is the cynical, burnt out and perpetually outraged former broadcast journalist, political staffer and party hack who smells rats a mile off. This week, I was overcome by strong odour coming from 1382 miles away. That’s the distance from my place in Sydney to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.
What? Isn’t New Zealand “100 per cent pure” as its tourism marketing suggests? Not quite. On Wednesday, the NZ Minister for Climate Change (at least they have one) announced his country’s targets for the upcoming climate conference in Paris. According to RTCC, New Zealand could cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. “Analysts have branded the proposal weak, given it is only a small increase on a 2020 ambition to slash emissions 5 per cent on 1990 levels. But the government says it is consistent with a long term goal of 50 per cent reductions on 1990 levels by 2050.” Oxfam slammed the Keys Government. “New Zealand’s neighbours in the Pacific are some of those most affected by climate change and this target will be a slap in the face to them,” Oxfam said. Carbon Pulse reported on comments by Erwin Jackson of Australia’s Climate Institute that New Zealand’s target was so weak the country is putting at risk its competitiveness in a carbon-constrained world. “If it does not lift this initial offer to the international community New Zealand will join Canada in family of free riders by significantly reducing their emissions reductions efforts,” he said. The Climate Institute produced an excellent table which highlights the shortcomings of the New Zealand targets. So who’s the rat and where is it? Well, Australia is the rat and it is in Canberra. NZ traditionally does what Australia does on international standards given the cultural, regulatory and physical proximity to Australia. It makes sense for them to do that. The rat? Well, could NZ be copying Australia’s soon to be announced targets, via a bit of back channel discussion between the two conservative governments?I hope not but I think so. There in lies the rat. We will find out soon enough. I hope I am wrong.
So what about Australia’s targets? According to the Guardian, The Climate Change Authority (Australian Government department) last Thursday (2 July 2015) again recommended to the government that Australia must cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent to 2000 levels by 2025 and urged to sign up to further cuts of 40 to 60 per cent by 2030 ahead of Paris climate talks, in effort to catch up to other countries. Renew Economy reported that the Authority’s Chairman, Bernie Fraser, called on everyone to stop paying lip service to climate policies. “Most policy people say they believe and accept the science of climate change and support the 2C target”. “One has to wonder how strong this belief is. If they really supported the 2C goal, it would be pretty easy to get the type of targets we are talking about for Australia. You would really be wanting to take effective action,” Fraser added. “If you believe the science and support the goal, you would be wanting to do at least as much as other countries.” He said even the CCA recommendations would not represents Australia’s fair share of a real 2C target, but it would get the country a lot closer.
Meanwhile, Renew Economy reports the Prime Minister has had a ‘moment’ on climate change and renewable energy while in Western Victoria when announcing a new Agriculture White Paper that barely mentions the CC words. “Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he can imagine a future where the world no longer uses fossil fuels. That might seem like a major step forward for a leader who dislikes wind turbines and has cut the renewable energy target, but his vision has one major caveat: He can only see it once every tonne of coal and every molecule of gas has been burned,” reported Renew Economy. “One day the coal will have been dug up, the gas will have been extracted, but we will always need food and our land forever,” Abbott told reporters in Victoria on Saturday. Then there’s the backbench. A somewhat prominent Liberal backbencher was ridiculed this week after appearing on Radio National Breakfast about climate change. It was the usual message from MP Dennis Jensen. Graham Redfern in the Guardian summarised it this way “Now is probably not the best time – if there ever was one – for a minority within Australia’s Liberal party to be excreting climate science denialist brain farts.” Renew Economy reports “A group of 13 Australian scientists have offered to meet with the two Liberal members behind the retrograde push – Denis Jensen MP and Senator Chris Back, both from WA – to brief them on the latest science on climate change and gently remind them that they are, well, simply wrong”.
There were quite few reports and research on the science, innovation and impacts concerning climate change this week. Here are six worth being across:
• The Guardian reports on research that climate change is compounding threats to Australia's ecosystems. Professor David Keith of the University of NSW, said the study indicates that climate change is leaving its imprint on vast swaths of the environment. “The overall picture is one of increasing risk. Climate change is amplifying other threats. It’s the most pervasive threat because it cuts across everything, whereas habitat loss and diseases are specific to individual systems. It’s very worrying.”
• The Conversation reports that the chance to rescue the world’s oceans from climate change is drifting away. “Failure to act on climate change will see warmer and more stagnant oceans, with declining oxygen levels and productivity in some regions, and the removal or modification of ecosystems in other areas. Fisheries and national economies are in the cross hairs in many regions. Rising seas and intensifying storms, plus a loss of critical coastal features, will make life on the shores of a rapidly changing ocean dangerously different to today.”
• AFP reports nearly 2,000 climate scientists gathered in Paris on Tuesday, just five months before the deadline for a historic carbon-curbing pact, to remind politicians it is not too late to limit dangerous planet warming. Dubbed "Our common future under climate change", the gathering of academics from nearly 100 countries will review the most up-to-date science on climate challenges and solutions to feed into the Paris pact.
• Renew Economy reports the solar revolution can’t be stopped, but it can be slowed. “Unstoppable though this force may well be, it seems it can certainly be slowed. And recent Australian pricing decisions suggest that the incumbents are doing their level best to make hay, not so much while the sun still shines, but while policy and pricing regulators are happy to keep moving the goal posts to protect revenue streams.”
• The Clean Energy Council said “After 18 months in the deep freeze during which investment plunged some 90 per cent, the large-scale renewable energy sector is starting to show some much-needed signs of life”.
• The Sydney Morning Herald reported emissions from Australia's main power sector are rising at an increasing rate one year after the end of the carbon price, with plants in Victoria fired by brown coal the biggest contributors, according to an energy consultancy.
Time to go and set the rat trap.
A selection of good reads on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward.
350.org: This weekend was a turning point in the Canadian climate movement
The Age: The climate one year on: exit carbon tax, enter brown coal
Christian Science Monitor: How America is quietly becoming a climate change leader
Climate Progress: Why Climate Change Is A Women’s Rights Issue
Climate Spectator: The Reef is in danger from our coal
The Conversation: Meat is a complex health issue but a simple climate one: the world needs to eat less of it
GreenBiz: Ten steps to the new climate economy and the full report from Global Commission on the economy and climate: Seizing the global opportunity
GreenBiz: Virgin, Qantas, United and the revival of alt jet fuels
Grist: Talking about jobs isn’t the only way to lure voters into the climate movement
Grist: How do we get conservative politicians to vote for climate action? Attack and embarrass them
Guardian: The green diet: how to eat healthy and save the planet
Guardian: 12 tools for communicating climate change more effectively
Huffington Post: Sustainability Policy Is Taking Hold in China
New York Times: A College in Maine That Tackles Climate Change, One Class at a Time
Quartz: It’s taken only 70 years for humans to drastically change the planet
Skeptical Science: Announcing the uncertainty handbook
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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