Things other than elections happen in the real world. You wouldn’t know so this week, with election talk in the United States and Australia dominating mainstream and social media. The media is fascinated by politicians talking elections. Politicians are fascinated by the media talking elections. They are fascinated with each other. Rarely do we get an insight into what people are interested in. This week we did - on climate change - in Australia. People want action.
This week we start with a poll of polls - 100 per cent of polls on climate change policy in Australia this week, well two of two of them, say it will be a key election issue. The Guardian reports almost half of Australian voters say policies on climate change, renewable energy and the Great Barrier Reef will influence the way they vote at the election. “The nationwide poll of 1,048 people over the weekend found 47% of people agreed or strongly agreed that “climate change and renewable energy will influence the way I vote at this year’s federal election”. That was more than twice as many as the 22% who disagreed with the statement, according to the survey conducted by Lonergan Research and commissioned by Future Super.” Meanwhile, Essential poll says 57% of those in their survey (up 4% since August) think Australia is not doing enough to address climate change and 21% (down 3%) think Australia is doing enough. Those most likely to think Australia is not doing enough were aged 18-34 (66%) and university educated (64%).
Australia’s climate change leaders went into a bit of a frenzy this week following claims made on ABC Radio by the Minister for Environment Greg Hunt that Australia had reached peak emissions:
There was a bit doing on coal and energy this week. First the Guardian reported global greenhouse gas emissions resisted a rise for a second straight year in a sign climate policies are working. Renewable power played a “critical role” in holding CO2 emissions to around 32 billion tonnes, the International Energy Agency said in a statement. The Paris-based think-tank also cited falling coal use in top carbon polluters China and the United States in its preliminary data. The figures mark the first period in 40 years that a halt or reduction was not tied to an economic downturn. The data does not account for pollution from transport or changes in land use,” the Guardian reported. “The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” IEA head, Fatih Birol said.
In a sign of the times globally, the largest privately owned coal miner in the world, Peabody Energy, warned this week its financial survival was under a cloud. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Peabody told investors: ”We may not have sufficient liquidity to sustain operations and continue as a going concern.”
The news about the coal emissions couldn’t come a day sooner. Global temperatures in February smashed previous monthly records by an unprecedented amount, according to NASA data, sparking warnings of a climate emergency. The Guardian reported the result was “a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases”, wrote Jeff Masters and Bob Henson in a blog on the Weather Underground, which analysed the data released on Saturday. “It confirms preliminary analysis from earlier in March, indicating the record-breaking temperatures. The global surface temperatures across land and ocean in February were 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month, from the baseline period of 1951-1980. Although the temperatures have been spurred on by a very large El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, the temperature smashed records set during the last large El Niño from 1998, which was at least as strong as the current one.”
In Washington, US President Obama said his country and Canada were more closely aligned than ever, using a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce joint efforts to curb emissions of planet-warming gases and to promote his personal rapport with the leader of a pivotal neighbour. The New York Times reported the two announced that they were teaming up to reduce the release of methane, contained in natural gas. They also promised that their two countries would “play a leadership role internationally in the low-carbon global economy over the coming decades.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau also pledged to cooperate in preserving the Arctic, and to move more quickly to carry out agreements made in climate talks in Paris last year.
Over ‘the pond’, the BBC reports the government of the United Kingdom is saying climate laws will be tightened to cut carbon emissions effectively to zero. “Under current law, emissions must be cut by 80% by 2050 - but ministers have said this does not go far enough. Following the climate deal in Paris, it is clear the UK must not increase CO2 at all because the warming threat is so severe, they added. No details of the law change have been given - and critics said the UK was failing to meet even current targets,” the BBC reported.
Finally, Inside Climate News reports on a new study claiming it's now possible for scientists to confidently measure the influence of climate change on some extreme weather events, such as heat waves. “In this first-ever assessment of the emerging field of climate science attribution, researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are setting the record straight on how well scientists can currently tease out the climate-change fingerprints of different types of extreme weather.”
Finally this week, leader of the Climate Reality Project Chairman, Al Gore, was in the Philippines this week and laid a wreath in Tacloban while meeting victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest storms on record and a symbol of the impact of climate change on extreme weather. “It very deeply affected me," Mr Gore said of his visit. The former US vice president was reported as saying at least 13.5 million Filipinos might have to be relocated over time to higher elevations due to rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers, among others. Thirteen and a half million people…. that’s a little more than half of Australia’s population. Imagine that.
Disclosure: Andrew Woodward is a member of the Australian Labor Party and a Member of LEAN - the Labor Environment Action Network.
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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