So, Australia released it its emissions reduction target. Those in the know say it is too little. Those that put them forward did so with a windstorm of big, confusing, convoluted and out of context numbers all wrapped in political spin, amplified by News Ltd.
Compare what happened in Australia this week to what happened just a few weeks ago in the United States when its President, Barack Obama, announced the Clean Energy Plan. The Obama message was simple - we’re doing this to save the planet and to become a world leader in clean technology. The Australian message was - we’re doing this because it has the least impact on the coal industry. There was no talk this week, anywhere, about the environmental, economic, health, security or social impact of climate change. It was all about the cost of implementing this policy, the politics and protecting distressed assets. It is just distressing. If you need a reminder of the impact of climate change, take a moment to go back and review Chapter 6 of the 2008 Garnaut Review of “Climate change impacts on Australia”. It is frightening and none of its impacts were discussed this week.
So, how to summarise the week? I won’t rehash all of the commentary - there’s acres of it. Headlines however give you a taste of the reaction:
• Australia files joke of a climate pledge to the U.N., Grist
• Australia Sets Emissions Goal, but Climate Experts Say It Falls Short, New York Times
• Australia carbon plan sends shudder through neighbours, BBC
• Australia’s emissions target criticised by energy industry as not ‘credible’, Australian Financial Review
• Three Ways Abbott And Hunt Misled The Public Over Their Climate Change 'Plan’, New Matilda
• Australia’s Weak Climate Pledge Draws Instant Derision, Inside Climate News
• Australia disappoints with weak UN climate pledge, The Carbon Brief
• Editorial: Low emissions reduction target is just a short-term political fix, Sydney Morning Herald
• Editorial: Abbott chalks up another failure with carbon target, The Age
• Michael Gordon: Not leading, following, as Abbott puts jobs first, The Age
• Comment: Tony Abbott should apologise to our children for not doing enough on climate change, Sydney Morning Herald
• Laura Tingle: Abbott’s climate policy the dodgiest in years, Australian Financial Review
• Anger as Australia unveils ‘weak’ climate pledge, RTCC
• Abbott government’s 'political’ climate target fails three key tests, Sydney Morning Herald.
• Carbon emissions: Tony Abbott dismisses attacks from Labor and Greens over 'pathetically weak’ target, ABC
• There's only one science Tony Abbott trusts - political science, Sydney Morning Herald
There’s more. Was there a positive headline, anywhere? No. You can read these stories and more at the Climate Communications blog.
To conclude on this subject, let’s try and summarise it all. Leading commentator, Frank Jotzo, from the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at Australian National University said the following in The Conversation: “Fundamentals first. Australia’s 2030 target is not compatible with the internationally agreed 2C goal. It falls far short of what would be a commensurate Australian contribution to such an outcome. The Climate Change Authority in its Targets and Progress Review showed a 40-60% reduction at 2030 (relative to 2000 levels) as compatible with a 2C emissions budget. That said, most other developed countries’ targets also fall short of the 2C mark, though generally by less than Australia’s target. The take-home message is that ambition will need to be ratcheted up in the years after the Paris climate conference.” Fairfax also provided a handy guide to the facts and spin.
In other news this week, the Climate Institute released its annual survey to attitudes on climate change and policy. The research was conducted by Galaxy. Among the key findings were that nearly two thirds of Australian believe that the ‘Abbott government should take climate change more seriously’, a surge of 6 per cent from last year. Support for regulating and limiting carbon pollution is very strong with two in three (67 per cent) agreeing governments need to regulate carbon pollution and only 9 per cent disagreeing. The core element of the government’s ‘Direct Action’ plan, the taxpayer backed Emissions Reduction Fund, is unpopular with over three quarters (76 per cent) agreeing that policy should shift responsibility for pollution reduction to the polluters not taxpayers.
There was also a bit of skullduggery this week involving. surprisingly, climate change deniers and News Ltd. The Australian ran a full page advertisement “PSYCHOLOGY AND THE NEW CLIMATE ALARM”. The advertisers identified themselves only as “The Climate Study Group” in the page five advertisement that ran last Friday. The advert claimed there was “no evidence CO2 has determined climate in the past or that it could do so in the future” and that “the next ice age remains the real global threat”. The Australian Psychological Society fired back with a stinging letter, according to Graham Redfern in Desmog, saying the little-known group “misuses psychology-based arguments” to “mislead the public” on the science of climate change.
Canberra is the capital of skullduggery and it has spread across Lake Burley Griffin to the CSIRO. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the CSIRO has axed the annual attitudes survey on climate change and is delaying the 2014 results. “The science agency had conducted the annual survey for five years, mostly in July and August, often polling the same people to create a long-term view of how Australians view global warming and their support for action. The delay, says Labor, means the public will miss out on information that counters the Abbott government's "scare campaign" on climate issues,” the Herald reported. “Tony Abbott is sick of all the reports that show Australians want climate change action," said Mark Butler, Labor's climate change spokesman.
There was skullduggery in Sydney too! The Sydney Morning Herald reported the Baird government spiked post-2020 carbon submission. “The NSW government prepared a post-2020 carbon reduction report for the federal government but decided not to submit it. The report was prepared by the Office of Environment and Heritage and is understood to have made a recommendation about Australia's national emissions reduction goals to 2030. However, it did not get past Premier Mike Baird's office.”
I other news this week, New Zealand has pledged to end coal by 2018. “Historically coal has played an important role in ensuring the security of New Zealand’s electricity supply, particularly in dry years where our hydro-lake levels are low,” Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s Energy and Resources Minister, said in a statement reported by Think Progress. “But significant market investment in other forms of renewable energy in recent years, particularly in geothermal, means that a coal backstop is becoming less of a requirement.”
Finally in science this week, RTCC reports that the glacier melt has hit record levels. “Scientists say many glaciers are melting faster than ever − and many will continue to do so even if climate change can be stabilised. The researchers say the current rate of glacier melt is without precedent at the global scale − at least for the time period observed, and probably also for recorded history, as reconstructions from written and illustrated documents attest.”
Man the lifeboats!
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.
ABC: ACT launches second large-scale wind farm auction to meet 90 per cent green energy target
ABC: Health of Australians suffering as government again fails to address climate change
ABC: Solar: the new normal for a sunny country
Ben and Jerry: What is a COP, Anyway? An Arresting Acronym Explained
The Conversation: Recycling rules: carnival of coal is a blast from the PR past
The Conversation: Obama’s new climate plan is leadership fuel for other nations
The Conversation: What does Australia’s new 2030 climate target mean for the local coal industry?
Crikey: Repent, ye sinners: world about to end in a hellish blaze of carbon tax fury
Guardian: Australia was ready to act on climate 25 years ago, so what happened next?
Guardian: Exclusive: Coalition modelling shows 2030 target will hit coal sector hardest
The Land: Climate policy void defies grim forecasts
Medium: It’s Time to Change Canadian Climate Politics.
Renew Economy: Coal industry assets are the penny dreadfuls of new economy
Renew Economy: Abbott wrong to say Australian coal will help Indian poor
Rolling Stone: The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
The Saturday Paper: Filthy secrets shroud Aust’s emissions reduction plans
Scientific American: How Far Does Obama's Clean Power Plan Go in Slowing Climate Change?
Weekend Reads: King Coal, Long Besieged, Is Deposed by the Market
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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