There was a lot of talk in the Australian media this week about climate change. There was one problem, however. All of the talk was about the fact there wasn't a lot of talk about climate change in the government's 2015 edition of the Intergenerational Report.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald , the Intergenerational Report "sets out the challenges Australia will face for the next 40 years, but it has come under scrutiny for skimming over one subject: climate change. Climate change – which the previous government gave an entire chapter, 74 mentions and described as the greatest threat to Australia's environment in its 2010 report – receives three-and-a-half pages in the 2015 document."
The Herald reported "the opposition, the Greens and environment groups leapt on what they see as a massive near-omission from a report meant to highlight the problems that will affect Australia's development and economic growth."
The Australian Conservation Foundation's CEO, ACF’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said the report talks of a future based largely on fossil fuels. “The Intergenerational Report paints an energy future that looks a lot like Australia’s energy past. This government talks about reducing the deficit to end intergenerational theft, but its approach to climate change is stealing our children’s future", she said.
John Connor, chief executive of The Climate Institute, told The Guardian “when it comes to climate change, this intergenerational report barely addresses challenges for this generation let alone the next. It contains no projections of policy outcomes, no projections of the costs of climate impacts, and no recognition of the need to achieve a net zero emissions economy by mid-century.”
Away from the opinion, The Conversation took a look at the limited detail in the report. "The 2015 IGR briefly discusses climate change, offering less than two pages (out of 170) on the issue. These report that Australia has warmed by 0.9C since 1910 and that the frequency of extreme weather events has increased. But the 2015 IGR mainly spends its time reassuring us that current policy is sufficient for the task and that Australia’s emissions targets will be met courtesy of the government’s A$2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund. It offers no critical comment about the adequacy of current targets or about additional demands for mitigation or adaptation that might arise in future."
Finally at home, Renew Economy reported that agreement on a Renewable Energy Target for Australia remains unclear. "Despite a lot of talk in mainstream papers and elsewhere, and a fair bit of salesmanship from environment minister Greg Hunt, there appears to be no real progress in talks on the future of the renewable energy target. Still, the problem remains around the numbers. The Abbott government has not budged from cutting the target to 31,000GWh. Hunt said on radio this represents a “doubling” in renewable energy, referring to the 16,000GWh already built. But, in effect, it represents a 40 per cent cut in the remaining task to 2020 from 25,000GWh to 15,000GWh. Labor may agree to a cut to as low as 35,000GWh, meaning another 19,000GWh to be built between now and 2020 (so just a 22 per cent cut), but will require other concessions, such as higher targets in interim years and possibly an extension of the “back end” of the target to beyond 2030," the website reported.
There were some positive developments internationally this week on reducing emissions. Late last week, Business Spectator reported the European Union has formally adopted climate change targets for December's Paris conference including a 40 per cent cut in emissions by 2030.
The news from Europe was matched by more encouraging news from China and its monumental push to reduce carbon emissions. Renew Economy picked up a South China Morning Post piece where "Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has told the Chinese parliament the nation will strive to put the brakes on coal consumption in a bid to address the air pollution afflicting its major cities on the same day a 100 GW solar target was announced. “We will strive for zero per cent growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country,” Premier Li Keqiang said. The pledge came on the same day as the National Development and Reform Commission, described by the newspaper as China’s top state planning agency, promised to address air pollution and overcapacity in polluting sectors of the economy, such as the steel and concrete industries, by encouraging consolidation."
In all of this, there was some science this week. It was good science, but bad news. The Guardian reported on a US study, which found that global warming was "set to speed up to rates not seen for 1,000 years". It said that by 2020 the average temperature rise per decade will be 0.25C in the northern hemisphere, more than double the 900 years preceding the 20th century.
Now that's something to talk about.
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