In the last week I have said "WOW!" four times. Why? Climate change was made a key issue in the US Prudential election campaign; the Pope again reinforced his concern about climate change; India made some very positive noises and, the World Bank called for a carbon tax. Yes, really. However, news from Australia made lead to an audible sigh.
Grist had a look at Clinton's stand on environmental issues, reporting: "For better and for worse, Clinton’s record and stances are cut from the same cloth as Obama’s. Her close confidant and campaign chair, John Podesta, served as an Obama advisor with a focus on climate policy. Like Obama and Podesta, Clinton certainly seems to appreciate the seriousness of the threat of catastrophic climate change and to strongly support domestic policies and international agreements to reduce carbon emissions". Grist also had a look at what key environmentalists think of Clinton.
Associated Press reports UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open a key Vatican meeting this month on Pope Francis' highly anticipated teaching document on climate change. The Pope will issue an encyclical on global warming and the environment in June or July. An encyclical is generally used for significant issues, and is second in importance only to the highest ranking document now issued by popes, an Apostolic Constitution. Irrespective of your views on religion or the Catholic Church, this is very important. The conservative leaning "faith lobby" is very influential in places like America and such communications from the Pontiff may help influence decision makers, deniers and destroyers.
In the Netherlands, climate change is being taken to court over human rights. Public hearings began Tuesday in the Netherlands, where nearly 900 Dutch citizens have filed a lawsuit against their government for failing to effectively cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change. According to Think Progress, the Dutch press has hauled this a “landmark legal case” as it’s the first European example of a group of citizens attempting to hold a government responsible for inefficient climate policies.
Japan is considering reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by around 20 percent by 2030 as its contribution to a global summit on climate change in Paris later in the year, according to Reuters. The target is lower than that outlined by the United States and Europe. Japan is the world's fifth-biggest emitter of climate warming carbon dioxide, but has watered down earlier emissions targets due to the shutdown of its nuclear plants after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, with utilities burning record amounts of coal and gas for power generation.
The leader of the World Bank this week said it is time to scrap fossil fuel subsidies and bring in carbon tax. The Guardian has reported on a five-point plan to deliver low-carbon growth, including removal of incentives to exploit oil, gas and coal. Speaking to the Guardian, Jim Yong Kim said putting taxes on the use of carbon would trigger a wave of clean technology which would lift people out of poverty in the developing world while preventing the global temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees celcius above pre-industrial levels.
In India, The Hindu reports Prime Minister Narendra Modi has slammed developed nations for questioning India over global warming saying his country will set the agenda for the climate change conference to be held in France in September. “I am surprised that the world is scolding us even though our per capita gas emission is the lowest. The whole world is posing questions to us. Those who have destroyed the climate are asking questions to us. If anybody has served the nature, it is Indians," the media organisation reported. India has been a laggard on addressing climate change and these and other comments are a promising development.
As host of the UN meeting later this year, France is putting a big diplomatic effort into getting a significant agreement. President Francois Hollande has been campaigning for tough action and is now turning his sights at Australia. According the the ABC, France wants Australia to stick to its commitments. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is in France next week and Hollande has put climate change high on the agenda. In news just in today, the United Nations has announced details of a statement issued by Indian Mr Modi And Mr Hollande. The two leaders have vowed to cooperate closer in the fight against climate change and to work jointly to reach an effective global climate agreement in Paris at the end of the year.
Staying in Australia, well, there's no good news. Yes, really. Eminent economist and author of Australia's climate change reports, Professor Ross Garnaut said the recently released energy white paper from the government failed to face reality. Writing in the Australian Financial Review. "The federal government's white paper on energy contains the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is the focus on effective competition as an agent of productivity growth. Regrettably, good statements in principle are not followed through into policy positions. The bad is the failure to face up to big problems in the economy that are affected by the resources sector. The ugly is failure to face up to the reality of climate change."
There was some good news internationally this week on renewables, but it was matched by bad news in Australia. Bloomberg reports "The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there's no going back. The shift will continue to accelerate, and by 2030 more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added". Meanwhile in Australia, the ABC reports investment in large-scale renewable energy in Australia has plummeted by 90 per cent in the last 12 months and lenders are leaving the market. "Since the Federal Government announced its review of the Renewable Energy Target in February 2014, $206.9 million has been invested in the sector. In the 12 months prior to the announcement of the RET review, investment was around $US2.05 billion." Not surprisingly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week revealed the renewable energy sector had lost 2,300 jobs in the last two years.
Finishing quickly in science this week:
• The Age reports "Sea temperatures around Australia are posting "amazing" records that climate specialists say signal global records set in 2014 may be broken this year and next."
• The Sydney Morning Herald reports: "Australia's chances of a hotter and drier than usual year have increased with the likelihood of an El Nino event forming in the Pacific Ocean this year now an odds-on risk. El Nino years are typically dry ones for eastern Australia and large areas of south-east Asia as rainfall patterns shift further east. Droughts and bushfires are more common in such years. Conversely, countries on the eastern fringe of the Pacific have abnormally wet conditions."
• The Sydney Morning Herald reports that global temperature records continue to tumble, with March coming in as the hottest, in data going back to 1891, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
• The ABC reports the CSIRO has launched a tool that will help predict climate changes in particular geographical locations into the future.
Actually, I probably said "WOW!" More than four times. Now you know why.