Welcome to 2016. It is a hard to think that this year could be anywhere near as big as last year when it comes to action on climate change. Well, it could well be. The biggest event in the world this year is the US presidential election (in November). Climate change will be a key ‘battle ground’ - fortunately and unfortunately. Closer to home, there’s a Federal Election due sometime in Australia in 2016 and climate change will, again, be a key ‘battle ground ‘- and, again, fortunately and unfortunately. We’d rather it not be a battleground - we’d rather there be consensus on mitigation, management and adaptation. There isn’t so as it does every year, the incredibly resilient environment protection and improvement lobby - that is, all of us - will be holding our elected officials, candidates, bureaucrats, business and community leaders and the media to account. It promises to be a fascinating year.
Media over the festive season carried a great deal of coverage of the successful Paris climate convention. Tuesday’s Responsibility Plus Bulletin by Climate Communication has a good summary of this coverage. A great article was issued by the Economist’s Economic Intelligence Unit covering five key takeaways from the Paris conference:
President and CEO of the Climate Reality Project, Mr Kenneth Berlin, answered the question, “Now What?”: “The simple answer is that the success of the agreement is 100 per cent dependent on whether all its provisions are strengthened and implemented. To do this we will have to redouble our efforts and work at all levels of government and the community, corporate, university, even personal level. The Agreement is thus a huge step forward, but it is still only a starting point. It must be strengthened over time and the negotiators recognized this, providing the framework necessary for long-term change.”
While you were enjoying the festive period, the Australian Government tried to sneak out some negative news. The media world has changed and there’s no quiet time period these days. So, what did they do? First, the ABC reported the Australian Government gave the go-ahead to the expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal near Bowen in north Queensland, making it one of the world’s largest coal ports. The expansion would enable coal to be shipped from proposed mining projects in the Galilee Basin, like Adani’s $16 billion Carmichael mine. Conservation groups said they were disappointed with the latest decision.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported Australia's greenhouse gas emissions increased by nearly one per cent in 2015. “Australia emitted 549.3 mega-tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide in 2014-15, up 0.8 per cent on the year before but down nearly three per cent on projections. Emissions increases were recorded in the electricity, transport, fugitive emissions and industrial and power generation sectors and offset only by a strong decline in agricultural emissions. Combined with emissions from land use and deforestation the overall increase in emissions on the previous year was 1.3 per cent,” Peter Hannam reported.
This week Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology released its annual climate statement. Well, the climate statement states the climate is getting warmer, as if that’s a surprise to anyone! “2015 was Australia's fifth-warmest year on record (national observations commence in 1910). Above average temperatures were persistent throughout the year, with several periods of record warmth. The Australian area-averaged mean temperature for 2015 was 0.83 °C above the 1961–1990 average. Maximum temperatures were 0.96 °C above average, and minimum temperatures were 0.69 °C above average; both the sixth-warmest on record respectively” the bureau reported.
In news from the insurance industry, Reuters reports insurers paid out around $27 billion for natural disaster claims last year with weather causing 94 percent of incidents, underscoring the challenge posed by climate change, data from reinsurer Munich Re showed on Monday. “While the climate phenomenon known as ‘El Niño’ reduced the development of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, storms and floods still inflicted billions of dollars of damage in Europe and North America, the world’s largest reinsurer said in an annual review. The insurance industry lobbied governments to take action to curb climate change in the run-up to the UN climate summit in Paris last year, citing both rising payouts in heavily-insured rich country markets and a lack of affordable insurance in developing countries where it is most needed,” Reuters reported.
In the ultimate revenge by nature, Time reports heat waves and drought caused by climate change could hurt power production across the world, according to new research. “The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that weather patterns that lead to higher temperatures could reduce the availability of water that plays an essential role in hydropower and thermoelectric plants. Together, hydropower and thermoelectric plants currently generate 98 per cent of the world’s power. Climate change could affect production at the majority of these plants.,” Time reported.
Finally in science, with a touch of economics, the Guardian reports 95 per cent consensus of expert economists who say carbon pollution should be cut. The Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University (NYU) School of Law recently published a report summarizing a survey of economists with climate expertise. The key finding: there’s a strong consensus among climate economics experts that we should put a price on carbon pollution to curb the expensive costs of climate change,” The Guardian reported.
So, we’re away in 2016. A massive year ahead - policy, politics, diplomacy, innovation, science, finance, activism, advocacy and a whole bunch more. Can’t wait! In late 2015, the world decided to move forward. In 2016 the world needs to start working out the pace and means to implement what was agreed in Paris. As Al Gore said in Paris the climate crisis is "ultimately a moral issue. It is a choice between right and wrong [though it is also a political, economic, and technological issue]. It's immoral to use the atmosphere as an open sewer and ignore the warnings of the scientists. . . and to condemn future generations to a life of degradation and suffering. This is a great moral challenge that we must confront successfully.” We hear you.
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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