Guess what? Coal is not good for humanity. Yes, really. Al Gore says the world is scratching its head over Australia. Yes, really. Hillary goes big, really big, on renewables. Yes, really. Australia subsidies for fossil fuels are over $100 million a day. Yes, really. It has been a big week. Yes, really!
It started Tuesday when Think Progress reported that Oxfam Australia directed an entire report to Australia’s government, saying that for the one billion people living without electricity, coal is more expensive than renewable energy sources. “Renewable energy is a cheaper, quicker, and healthier way to increase energy access,” the report states. “Coal is ill-suited to meeting the needs of the majority of the people living without electricity.” The next day, the World Bank told the Guardian coal was no cure for global poverty, rejecting a main industry argument for building new fossil fuel projects in developing countries. In a rebuff to coal, oil and gas companies, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank climate change envoy, said continued use of coal was exacting a heavy cost on some of the world’s poorest countries, in local health impacts as well as climate change, which is imposing even graver consequences on the developing world.
The contention from the World Bank and Oxfam followed hot on the heels of a remarkable five days of climate change being front and centre in Australia and the United States. In Australia, Labor officially released a part of its climate change platform promising an emissions trading system and 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. It is yet to commit on emissions reduction targets (Renew Economy). John Matthews from AGSM in The Conversation said if implemented, the policy would make Australia one of the leading nations in renewables.
Renew Economy reported the Government and Murdoch media responded as expected. “Then you’ve got this massive and unnecessary commitment to renewables which will cause a massive overbuild of wind farms, all of which has to be paid for by the consumers,” Mr. Abbott said. As it turned out, the Prime Minister’s claim that Labor’s policy will cost $60 billion came from “the back of an envelope”. Michelle Grattan in The Conversation commented “Abbott seems to be using the cost of apples (constructing turbines) to say what would be the cost of pears (the burden on consumers of Labor’s goal). And the firm that did the calculation says it was rough anyway.”
Visiting Australia this week was Al Gore, leader of the Climate Reality Project for meetings with politicians, bureaucrats, advocates and the industry. The Conversation picked up an interesting angle on the Gore visit. “Gore, the former US vice-president who travels the world spruiking action on climate change, wanted to meet with state governments and city councils instead. He has jumped on an emerging trend: a broadening of responsibility for addressing climate change.
Under the United Nations system it is national governments that are supposed to make emissions pledges and enact policies. Some are doing so. But the reality is it’s often provincial governments or city councils who are the most ambitious, especially where national governments leave a policy void.” The ABC reported on Mr Gore’s view of Australia: “There are many people around the world that think of Australia as a leader in the community of nations, it almost always has been, and some have been frankly scratching their heads of late, wondering what has been going on," he said.” Your correspondent was one of 200 who attended a reception put on by the Australian Conservation Foundation for Mr Gore. My reflections are at the Climate Communication blog.
In the United States, while Republicans continued to deny, play down, denounce or ignore anything to do with climate change, leading Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton went big according to the National Journal: “Clinton's plan calls for more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of her first term, and having the U.S. generate enough renewable energy to power every home within a decade of the start of a Clinton presidency. Achieving the goals would mean expanding the amount of installed solar-energy generating capacity by 700 percent from current levels by the end of 2020, and adding more green-power generation capacity to the electric grid than any other decade in U.S. history, according to a summary of the plan.” Vox asked if the plan was realistic and the answer appears to be yes. Not everyone in the environmental movement is a fan. They want Mrs Clinton to go further, according to the Guardian.
Over in the UK, the Guardian is on the case of the government there in a stinging editorial: “The government’s energy policy is chaotic. On the one hand, with time running out before the Paris climate change summit in December, it is committed to agreeing tough international targets, backed by demanding European and domestic programmes for carbon reduction and renewable energy growth. But then there are Treasury-driven cuts to subsidies for renewables, and a cabinet that looks set to back off from existing schemes such as the Green Deal to incentivise energy efficiency.”
Speaking of subsidies, this story went largely un-noticed this week. Did you know fossil fuels in Australia this year will be subsidised by $41 billion? That’s $41,000,000,000. Indeed. “The International Monetary Fund projected Australia would subsidise coal, petroleum and gas consumption by $41 billion in 2015. That is almost two per cent of our gross domestic product. Despite rapidly falling costs, on many estimates renewables still produce electricity at a higher cost than coal – if only generation costs is taken into account,” reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
Speaking of subsidies, the Abbott Government seems intent on handing out money to get its widely criticised climate adviser, Bjorn Lomborg, to work in Australia. Run out of Western Australia by a hostile crowd, Lomborg’s efforts to set up his partly government funded centre in South Australia appear headed for trouble. Celsius reports “Staff and students at Flinders University have warned of an angry backlash if controversial Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg is allowed to set up a research centre at the Adelaide institution. The university has approached the government about potentially hosting the "consensus centre" - a think tank that would use methods similar to those used by Dr Lomborg's Copenhagen Centre.”
In some good news, the Independent (UK) reported the 'stars are aligning' ahead of 'most important environmental summit in history', quoting UN climate change chief, Christina Figures. “The stars are aligning towards a Paris agreement that will establish a pathway that keeps us within the limit of 2C,” Ms Figueres said. “What is unique here is that everyone is realising that this truly is a very, very urgent moment in the history of addressing climate change. That this is a moment we cannot afford to miss. And because everybody is mobilised in the same direction, we actually have a very good chance of doing something meaningful.”
Finally, in science, New Scientist reported Earth now halfway to UN global warming limit. We could also be seeing the end of the much-discussed slowdown in surface warming since 1998, meaning this is just the start of a period of rapid warming. “There’s a good chance the hiatus is over,” says Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
As Al Gore said in Melbourne a year ago when I was there: "What’s a difference of one degree? It is the difference between ice and water." Indeed.
Read The Week That Was with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
A selection of good reads on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward.
The Age: Australia needs to accept the move to clean energy
The Age: Renewable energy debate in Australia needs to focus on emissions
Bloomberg: New Energy Outlook
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin #039
Climate Progress: The Most (And Least) Extreme Republican Presidential Candidates On Climate Change
Grist: A look at California’s ambitious climate plans
Guardian: Campaigner who forced Netherlands to cut emissions by 25% says Australia 'far worse’
Guardian: Climate action isn't preserve of the leftwing, says energy minister
One Step Off The Grid: 19 graphs that explain solar panels for home owners (+maps)
Resilient Investor: Gilding: The End (of fossil fuels) is Nigh
Read Weekend Reads with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
The Week That Was and Weekend Reads - Flipboard editions
Read The Week That Was and Weekend Reads on your smartphone, tablet or computer with Flipboard. Flipboard pulls together web pages and Tweets and organises and presents them in a magazine format - best read on an tablet or smart phone.
The Week That Was and Weekend Reads Flipboard Editions are at Climate Communication.