Much of what is contained in this digest concerns politics and policy as it relates to climate change. Impacts and science news get mentioned but generally follow the waves and waves of conjecture that abound. Not this week. There was a jaw dropper from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada this week.
“New research shows that more than 5.5 million people die prematurely every year due to household and outdoor air pollution. More than half of deaths occur in two of the world’s fastest growing economies, China and India,” UBC said in a post. “Power plants, industrial manufacturing, vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood all release small particles into the air that are dangerous to a person’s health. New research found that despite efforts to limit future emissions, the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution will climb over the next two decades unless more aggressive targets are set. Analysis shows that the two countries account for 55 per cent of the deaths caused by air pollution worldwide. About 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China and 1.4 million died in India in 2013.” The Washington Post captured the gravity of the story in a poignant headline “More than 5 million people will die from a frightening cause: Breathing”.
Former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, weighed into the row at the CSIRO over the axing of over 300 scientific, research and support staff from climate change and associated areas. “CSIRO’s research has been vital to the world’s understanding of how our climate is changing and it has helped to build a foundation on which we can anticipate future change and risk. For many years, CSIRO’s contributions to climate observations and modeling have been globally recognized and respected, and the decision to cut this effort from CSIRO should be revisited at the highest levels of the Australian Government. Further development of climate modeling and observations by CSIRO and colleague scientific organizations is essential to planning for climate mitigation and adaptation to global warming. This effort needs strengthening, not weakening, after the Paris Agreement in December,” Mr Gore said on his website. Sydney Morning Herald Environment Editor, Peter Hannam, said CSIRO chief Larry Marshall has pointed his ship into a scientific storm with the cuts to climate change research: Mr Hannam said scientists form 60 nations had signed a letter protesting the cuts.
Staying in Australia, many in the environment movement were gobsmacked last week to read that the country’s Minister for the Environment had been named the “Best Minister in the World” at a conference in the United Arab Emirates. The conference and award had the name of Reuters - the prestigious global news agency - attached to them. This appears to have resulted in some red faces at Reuters. The Guardian reported Thomson Reuters saying it was “not correct” to say that the company initiated the award or were responsible for designing the selection process. “Thomson Reuters was solely responsible for assisting in the administration of the award, to a set of criteria approved by the World Government Summit organisers,” said a Reuters spokesman.
If you thought things couldn't get any sillier, then think again. The Sydney Morning Herald reports a prized $120 million CSIRO ship built to study marine science has been hired out to international energy giants Chevron and BP to help them search for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight. “Under the deal the ship Investigator is to spend two months working for the multinational corporations in the Southern Ocean, filling a period where it would have otherwise sat idle because of a lack of government funding.”
Still in South Australia, the government there heard from its Royal Commission into nuclear power this week. Renew Economy reports the Commission has conceded that nuclear power is not a viable alternative for Australia, but has urged authorities to consider it anyway.
“The commission delivered the results of its “tentative” findings on Monday, indicating that it supports the establishment of a nuclear waste facility in the state, the storing of spent nuclear fuel and the expansion of uranium mining. On the subject of nuclear generation, the commission admitted that it wasn’t viable in South Australia in the foreseeable future (2030) – even with a significant carbon price and a sharp reduction in the cost of capital. It conceded that Australia should only adopt “proven” new nuclear technologies such as “small modular reactors” and next generation “fast reactors” , but that these were some way off, and likely to be very costly,” Renew Economy reported. “The global trend away from the nuclear sector is reflected in the Commission’s tepid response to uranium mining and processing and nuclear power,” the Australian Conservation Foundation said in response.
Across the border in Victoria, an independent review into the state’s Climate Change Act has found the current legislation to be “inadequate” in its response to the threat of global warming, and has made 33 recommendations on how it can be strengthened. Renew Economy reports the most striking recommendation is the introduction of a long-term state emissions reduction target based on restricting global warming to 1.5°C, as well as five-yearly interim targets. “ Among its recommendations, the Committee proposes an increase in the powers of the state Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in regulating emissions reduction, and the development of a comprehensive climate change strategy every five years.”
There’s lot of other news around this week. In the first real response by a government to the Paris climate change deal, Climate Change News reports Fiji has become the first country to ratify a new global warming accord. The country’s 50 lawmakers unanimously confirmed the first global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions on Friday, the Pacific Islands News Association reported.
Renew Economy reports January 2016 has marked the worst start to a year for solar PV growth in Australia since 2012, putting it well behind the global pace – and even behind its own depressed 2015 levels, a new report by solar analysts SunWiz has shown. “Despite falling prices, growing global momentum and strong voter support for rooftop solar in Australia, installations continue to slump, with volumes in January falling back across every significant size bracket excluding the 7-10kW range and for systems 2.5kW and less.”
In news from China, Climate Change News reports China installed half of all new wind capacity worldwide last year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). “The country added an “astonishing” 30.5 gigawatts to boost installations to 145.1GW, the Brussels-based industry group said. It overtook the EU total for the first time, which added a record 6GW to increase its capacity to 141.6GW.”
The most used phrase in the media over the last few years when it comes to climate and environment reporting is “ <<< insert month/year/season>>> was the hottest on record”. Well, we have a variation to that…. EcoWatch reports 2016 will be (rather than was) the hottest on record. “It’s only February but it looks like 2016 is already on track to be hottest year ever recorded. As some cities shake off an especially brutal winter, other cities are melting in record-high heat, with one city poised to shatter a five-decade-old weather record,” the website says in talking about 45 degree days in Perth, Western Australia, and other examples. I spoke too soon… Discover Magazine reports global warming spiked in January… setting new record.
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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