What’s becoming clearer and clearer in the environment movement is the move to the mainstream of the economic implications of climate change. For many years it was academia, think tanks, environment groups and others warning of the economic consequences. While they’re still doing this, and forcefully, and well, more and more central bankers, high level economic groups and mega business are buying into the issue. With good reason, too.
Reuters reports trillions of dollars of non-bank financial assets around the world are vulnerable to the effects of global warming. This is according to a study on Monday that says tougher action to curb greenhouse gas emissions makes sense for investors. “Rising temperatures and the dislocation caused by related droughts, floods and heatwaves will slow global economic growth and damage the performance of stocks and bonds, according to the report, led by the London School of Economics. "It makes financial sense to a risk-neutral investor to cut emissions, and even more so to the risk-averse," lead author Professor Simon Dietz, an environmental economist, told Reuters. If the rise were limited to 2C by 2100, the study's central scenario put the total of current financial assets that could be damaged at $1.7 trillion. But if the temperature rose a further 0.5C by the end of the century, $2.5 trillion would be at risk under the most likely scenario.
Climate change poses a serious danger to public health – worse than polio in some respects – and will strike especially hard at pregnant women, children, low-income people and communities of color, an authoritative US government report warned on Monday. The Guardian said a report formally unveiled at the White House, warned of sweeping risks to public health from rising temperatures in the coming decades – with increased deaths and illnesses from heat stroke, respiratory failure and diseases such as West Nile virus. “Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change,” John Holdren, the White House science adviser, told reporters on Monday. “Some are more vulnerable than others,” he went on. These included pregnant women, children, the elderly, outdoor workers, low-income people, immigrants, communities of color and those with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions.
In Australia, Conservationists and traditional owners have been floored by Queensland’s decision to grant mining leases for Adani’s mega-coalmine while two court challenges are unresolved. The Guardian reports the Queensland government has cleared the last major state hurdle for the Indian miner to proceed with its $22bn coalmine (which would be Australia’s largest), rail and port project in the Galilee Basin and at Abbot Point. But even Adani says it won’t make a final investment decision on the project until legal challenges by “politically motivated activists” are concluded, and it has the last approvals it needs. Two groups fighting the mine in separate court battles have accused the state government of a morally bankrupt backflip that endangers the Great Barrier Reef and trashes Indigenous rights. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners both said the mines minister, Anthony Lynham, gave assurances that no leases would be issued until their court challenges were resolved.
Despite the approvals and subsequent uproar, many say in financial markets say the mine will never proceed. Respected columnist Michael West in the Sydney Morning Herald said the approvals were simply a political move. “Adani is not going to happen; the construction, that is, of the leviathan Carmichael mine, the world's largest thermal coal mine in the hinterland of the Great Barrier Reef. Much is the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the move by the Queensland government to approve the project but this approval is entirely political. The evidence is compelling. Carmichael is the whitest of white elephants. It is all about the appearance of commitment to jobs, jobs that will never occur unless the coal price doubles, and it is about the government not getting bashed up by the opposition for being anti-jobs and abandoning its election commitments. Even Adani is coy. No sooner had the Indian conglomerate been granted approval than it deferred the project for another year. Buried in the detail of its press release was this: "opportunity for final investment decision and construction in 2017”.”
Still in Australia, Renew Economy reports Australia’s electricity emissions continue to rise and are now 5.5 per cent higher than they were before the carbon price was dumped, putting Australia against the global trend which is seeing energy emissions flat-lining even as the global economy expands. “Pitt & Sherry analyst Hugh Saddler says in his latest monthly survey that total emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (all but Western Australia and the Northern Territory) increased again in the year to March 2016. Saddler blames the rise in emissions on a number of factors. One is the removal of the carbon price, which paved the way for more burning of coal, black coal in particular. Another is the rise in coal generation in Queensland to support the exports of liquefied natural gas – which will contribute an extra 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. A third is the increase in demand, driven largely by LNG requirements in Queensland but also rebounds in peak demand in other states, particularly in response to the unusually hot summer worsened by the “El Niño” effect, which has exacerbated the rise in global temperatures.”
In science news this week, The Conservation reports the summer of 2015-2016 was one of the hottest on record in Australia. But it has also been hot in the waters surrounding the nation: the hottest summer on record, in fact. “While summer on land has been dominated by significant warm spells, bushfires, and dryness, there is a bigger problem looming in the oceans around Australia. This summer has outstripped long-term sea surface temperature records that extend back to the 1950s. We have seen warm surface temperatures all around Australia and across most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with particularly warm temperatures in the southeast and northern Australian regions,” The Conversation reported.
Finally, some good news from the auto industry. Inside EVs, reports plug-in electric vehicle sales have been on the rise of late – setting 5 consecutive monthly records, but March’s result was a whole other animal. “It was a beast. While the prior four monthly records have seen small year-over year gains, ranging from 3.8% to 12%, March obliterated all previous results for the month. And in so doing, also set a new all-time record for the United States for any month.
And EV’s got a big boost this week, according to Renew Economy. “Adios gas-powered cars.” That was the reaction of Barclays analyst Brian Johnston over the weekend to news that Tesla Motors had received orders for nearly 200,000 of its Model 3 electric vehicle in less than two days. “By nightfall on Saturday, that order tally had jumped to 276,000. That’s more than $US280 million in zero-cost capital to Tesla, from the $US1,000, $A1,500 and €1,000 deposits, and total orders for more than $A13 billion of electric vehicles. It is – by a long shot – the fastest growing customer order book in the history of the automobile industry. And for a car that will not even enter production for 18 months, and has a price tag of $US35,000.” If you want more coverage on the Tesla story, take a look at this week’s Responsibility Plus Bulletin.
Finally, the ABC is reporting, Australia will be among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, with a "very senior" representative being sent to a signing ceremony in New York later this month, according to government sources. “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of governments to partake in a formal signing ceremony. France, Canada, the United States and China have all indicated they will be sending senior government representatives to the occasion. Dozens of others are expected to attend,” the ABC reported. Now that’s good news.
Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.
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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