The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a dedicated Catholic. Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter and his call for action on climate change confronts Tony Abbott with an interesting dilemma: As the leader of a nation shortly to become the world’s biggest exporter of gas and among the world’s Top 5 biggest exporters of coal, will he be faithful to his religion or to his climate-denying mates in the gas and coal industry?
“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem to indifference, to convenient resignation or to blind faith in technical solutions,” the Pope says.
Tony Abbott belongs to that category. Last week he told Australians how much he hates wind turbines, and that he is proud of how he has managed to wreck the entire sector for renewable energy in the nation. And on 23 June 2015, the Abbott government’s push to cut the country’s Renewable Energy Target – the key national renewable energy policy – passed the Senate.
The Renewable Energy Target has been cut from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh by 2020. Emissions intensive industries will be exempted from the scheme, the government will classify burning native forests as ‘renewable energy’, and wind energy faces stringent national regulation.
While the world is embracing renewable energy – global new investment in renewables increased 17 per cent over 2013, to USD 270.2 billion, and as a whole renewables account for 59 per cent of net additions to the world’s power capacity, Australia is choosing to cut its renewable energy sector and protect its fossil fuel industry.
Globally, as of end-2014, renewables comprised an estimated 27.7% of the world’s power generating capacity. In 2014, an estimated 7.7 million people worldwide worked directly or indirectly in the renewables sector. (Source: Renewables 2015 Global Status Report)
So decisions like this one in the Australian senate stand out and go around the world in mainstream media, and even more so via social media. Europeans and Americans expressing concern about the climate change issue are shaking their head and asking, “What is wrong with those Australians? Why would they want to be stuck in the Coal Age?”
As a resident in Australia with a European passport, I was recently asked by a group of Europeans to please explain, “what the hell is going on with the Australians – are they out of their mind?”. This was how the question was formulated. I was also asked whether I would agree that it is time now to start campaigning for a boycott of Australian goods because of the country’s carbon-criminal attitude to the global warming issue.
Emails have been going around lately with messages like this one, from Gideon Polya:
“Greedy, rich Australia is a world-leading climate criminal country that with 0.3 per cent of world population is responsible for 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas pollution…”
Gideon Polya: “25 Ways World-Leading Climate Criminal Australia Threatens Planet And Invites Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions”, in Countercurrents on 6 June 2015.
I tried to explain that not all Australians think and act like Tony Abbott. They didn’t buy that, though – “What matters are the emission figures”, they argued. And figures tell that Australians are the worst polluters in the world, measured per capita. Every other month, Australia is opening a new coal mine for exporting coal, and more are on the planning table. Coal is Australia’s second biggest export earner, bringing in some $40,000 million dollars a year. $40 billion that is. And two thirds of electricity in the country is produced by burning coal.
The following is an attempt to dig into this question about what is going on with those Australians – and with the leader they elected in 2013, Tony Abbott. Don’t take it for more than it is: a personal interpretation and some links to more knowledge on the topic. My apologies on beforehand that it got a bit long. If you do bother to read it, I’ll be glad to see your comment below.
“I believe Tony Abbott’s becoming a very real threat to the Australian way of life. This guy is out of control.”
Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor’s agriculture spokesman, interviewed by ABC’s Insiders
Newspaper headline on election day in Australia in 2013
“Abandon chaos to secure future,” was prime minister Tony Abbott’s election slogan in 2013, and ever since he was elected, it appears he has firmly steered Australia towards an insecure future where the only thing that seems certain for the general population is a future of economic recession, food disruption, weather chaos, increasing amounts of boat refugees, and loss of lives.
This is the Australian climate paradox: With ‘five minutes to midnight’ in the global carbon emissions crisis, according to the world’s climate scientists, and along with them the United Nations and the president of the United States, Tony Abbott’s and his government’s recipe for prosperity is to provide the Australian people with the exact opposite. The mining and fossil fuel industries maintain and protect their short-term profit-making, while ‘Tonystralia’ as a consequence has obtained an international reputation as one of the world’s worst carbon crooks.
What happened? Australians have, as long as I can remember, always had an international reputation as a relatively educated, progressive, modern-thinking and civilised people. And they live in the sunniest and windiest country on the planet. What made the Australians allow a development to take place where self-interest, greed and ignorance – in particular among CEOs of large energy companies and their affiliated parliamentarians – clearly has become a threat the economy and the food security of the entire nation?
The 2013 extremes of heat cost the nation an estimated US$ six billion in lost productivity, and there is evidence that such events could become five times more likely as global average temperatures rise, according to researchers from University of New South Wales. The country’s agricultural producers are in the front line.
“Australia is a landscape of extremes of heat and drought and occasional devastating flood. It is also a land of paradox. Its own scientists have calculated that the island’s most recent and devastating heatwaves are a clear consequence of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, yet the government that finances such research has questioned the validity of its climate science and encouraged the increase of emissions.”
Climate News Network
There is a health aspect to it as well. It has been estimated that each year more than 3,000 Australians die premature deaths from urban air pollution, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
How did Tony Abbott manage to make Australians swallow this pill of dire predictions as if they didn’t matter Allowing the protection of corporate self-interest to take control of both media and government is one thing. But when such protective behaviour of one specific, destructive industry turns into self-threat for the nation and a threat to international security, you would think it would quickly become a matter of real concern for the entire population.
In the same week as a G7 Summit bringing together leading world powers had just committed themselves to getting the global economy off fossil fuels – forever! – the Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was interviewed on national radio about Australia’s renewable energy industry. He proudly explained that he has managed to gut Australia’s renewable energy sector. Talking about wind turbines, he said that they are ‘visually awful’ and ‘utterly offensive’, and he took the time to spell out the word ‘reduce’ for the radio host, Alan Jones, just to make it abundantly clear that his objective has been to R-E-D-U-C-E Australia’s renewable energy industry as much as the senate had permitted him to.
The words he used were that he had managed to “reduce the current growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow.”
» Here are the same Abbott-quotes in another video produced by Australian Labor.
» An open letter to Tony Abbott about that particular wind turbine comment
A humerous response to Abbott’s wind turbine bullying – published on youtube.com on 20 June 2015.
So after two years of speculations, the prime minister finally let it out in the open when he explained why his goverment has allowed investment in renewable energy to fall by 88 per cent – something which would seem a mystery to anyone who recognises the climate scientists’ warnings about global warming. In comparison, the world-wide investment in renewable energy climbed 16 per cent during the same period.
Axing the renewable energy sector has been Tony Abbott’s deliberate strategy ever since he was elected in 2013. And he has been devastatingly effective at this:
“Investment in utility-scale renewable energy projects has all but ground to a halt, some major global players have given up on the country altogether, and potentially thousands of jobs have been lost,” wrote the director of Sydney Renewable Power Company, Andy Cavanagh-Downs, on 5 June 2015 in RenewEconomy
Wind turbine manufacturers have had to fire staff or close down entirely. Thousands of jobs in the industry have been lost. Investment in large-scale renewables in Australia has been virtually zero over the last 18 months, reported RenewEconomy. Skilled Australians in the field of renewable energy technology have moved to other areas and other countries, or are in the process of moving.
And, as a recent poll by Lowy Institute shows, sadly, the Australians are being influenced by their Prime Minister and the anti-wind propaganda from the anti-renewables lobby groups. Australians don’t seem to think wind energy has any future in this nation:
In a world struggling to reduce carbon emissions and avoid the worst of the global climate catastrophe, the Australian government’s indifference to this struggle – allegedly the most serious problem humanity has ever confronted – is being noticed. Considering that there are other countries on this planet where people currently are working hard to implement CO2-reducing solutions, this kind of behaviour at government level is increasingly regarded as irresponsible, egoistic, selfcentered, reckless, short-sighted, ideologically driven and greedy. These are all sentiments which eventually will turn out to be really bad for business – in particular as far as exports of Australian goods are concerned.
Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, good for some $860 American oil-dollars, put it this way when she was interviewed for the ABC documentary ‘The End of Coal?’:
“To put more money into something that you know is damaging the environment is not only denying science, it is denying data. But there are coal and gas interests out there who have allies in the current Australian government. I would say there has been a lot of denial at the federal level.”
With a statement like that, Valerie Rockefeller gives you the feeling that not only does she know what she is talking about here, she is also knows not to tell us everything she knows.
The newspaper The Age wrote in its editorial on 18 June 2015:
“On climate change we are fast becoming a pariah island.” (…)
“No man is an island, yet it appears that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is determined to prove wrong the declaration of poet John Donne. Mr Abbott’s stance on climate change, and thus Australia’s position, is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.”
» The Age – 18 June 2015:
Memo Mr Abbott, the climate has changed
“A national wind farm commissioner to investigate complaints about wind turbines will be appointed by the Abbott government as anti-wind energy senators move to curb the industry’s growth.”
» The Age – 18 June 2015:
Abbott government vows to appoint a wind farm commissioner in crossbench talks over renewable energy target
» The Age – 21 June 2015:
The Australian elites have fundamentally failed us on climate change
By Ian Dunlop, formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chairman of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
» The Age – 22 June 2015:
Climate Change: Australia set to be lumbered with costly stranded assets
» RenewEconomy – 6 July 2015:
Abbott imagines a fossil-free future …after it’s all been burnt
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he can imagine a future where the world no longer uses fossil fuels. That might seem like a major step forward for a leader who dislikes wind turbines and has cut the renewable energy target, but his vision has one major caveat: He can only see it once every tonne of coal and every molecule of gas has been burned. Article by Giles Parkinson.
“The Abbott government is paying lip service to the renewable energy industry because it knows speaking its mind would be unpalatable to the public.”
» The Guardian – 19 June 2015:
The Coalition is engaging in double talk on climate policy – it has no other option
» The Age – 21 June 2015:
The sound of something snapping: God, Gwyneth and a glimmer of good climate news
By Adam Morton, Sunday Age Deputy Editor
Australian business community aims at zero carbon
The fact that Tony Abbott is out of touch on climate change even with the Australian business community, was made clear on 29 June 2015, when a new “welfare lobby group” which includes two of the nation’s most recognised and powerful employer organisations, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia, told media that it wants to set the path for policies that encourage investment in low and zero-carbon technologies.
The business community is increasingly showing real leadership that bridges previously untouchable divides, and which attacks the Abbott Government where it hurts.
» The Guardian – 29 June 2015:
Australian climate policy paralysis has to end, business roundtable says
“Business and industry alliance sets out climate ‘principles’, including that climate policy should be ‘capable of achieving deep reductions’ in emissions.”
» Sydney Morning Herald – 29 June 2015:
Unprecedented alliance of peak bodies pressures PM over climate change
“Some of the nation’s peak business and lobby organisations are calling on the Abbott government to dramatically ramp up Australia’s emissions reduction commitments from 2020 onwards, warning against “piecemeal” policies and arguing that avoiding dangerous warming and reconfiguring the economy requires tougher and more urgent action than politicians have allowed.” This article is part of Climate for Change, a Fairfax Media series on global warming.
“…The story of how a deeply dysfunctional political class (both politicians and media) have betrayed our future.
Dominated by two intellectually moribund and ethically vacuous political parties, the second highest paid politicians in the world have undermined public confidence in democracy and led us into political cul-de-sacs on every major policy issue from climate change, asylum, education, health care, and Aboriginal affairs, to tax reform and the management of the nation’s finances.
The basically progressive instincts of the Australian people have been manipulated and subverted for the political interests of a tiny self-serving elite and their corporate sponsors…”
How Australia buried the will to act on climate change
“Author Maria Taylor explores how Australia went from being at the forefront of climate change action to the world laggards.”
Prohibition of new wind funding
Compared with solar PV, at a global scale, wind power currently provides more than twice the amount of electricity. Regardless, at this time where scientists are sending urgent warnings to the world’s governments about that we are on track to a climate catastrophe, the Australian government chooses to do the complete opposite. In July 2015, Tony Abbott issued its so-called green bank – the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation – with a directive to change its investment mandate, prohibiting new wind funding, putting international investment in wind energy in Australia further at risk:
» The Guardian – 12 July 2015:
Coalition bans government’s clean energy bank from financing wind power
Trade minister confirms Clean Energy Finance Corporation will no longer invest in wind projects, but disputes report that Greg Hunt was outmaneuvered.
» Sydney Morning Herald – 11 July 2015:
Tony Abbott has escalated his war on wind power
“An overt directive preventing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from investing in wind reinforces a growing perception that renewable energy investors are not welcome in Australia. In the midst of a global race to attract investment and jobs in renewable energy, Australia has just thrown another weight in its own saddle bag.”
Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation was set up by the former Gillard government, and the Coalition’s policy is to abolish it altogether.
Labor said the decision to stop investment in wind was part of the Coalition’s “relentless attack on the renewable energy industry”:
“How a prime minister and treasurer can so blatantly undermine thousands of Australian jobs and billions of dollars in investment is beyond comprehension. Tony Abbott is abusing his office and the cabinet process by pursuing his own anti-wind ideology, enlisting fellow wind haters Joe Hockey to help bring down a whole industry.”
Mark Butler, the opposition’s environment spokesman
Tony and the Pope
Catholic government members simply ignore the Pope
Published on youtube.com on 21 June 2015.
42 per cent of the Abbott cabinet is Catholic, including the Prime Minister. So what does the Pope’s new encyclical mean to them? Would they now listen to the Pope and act accordingly? Of course not.
Senator Larissa Waters from The Australian Greens asked that question directly in Parliament – on the same day the government were discussing how much to downsize the Renewable Energy Target – a policy which goes directly against the encyclical instructions – or advice – from the Pope.
The Prime Minister wasn’t there to answer for himself. Regardless, most of the reply came in the way the government senators reacted – not in what Senator Brandis, representing Tony Abbott, eventually managed to formulate as his reply.
Here is what the Pope has to say to the likes governments as the Australian which is proud that it has rolled back the effective price on carbon pollution, because it was an easy way to promise taxpayers an annual $500 rebate on electricity prices – an election promise which I wonder who can see much of when they look on their electricity bills two years later, but that is another story – and which now tries to kill the renewable energy sector as much as it possibly can:
“The current global situation engenders a feeling of instability and uncertainty, which in turn becomes “a seedbed for collective selfishness”. When people become self-centred and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.”
“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”
Three excerpts from Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which directly or indirectly can be said to refer to Mr Abbott and his government.
German climate change authority: ‘Suicide strategy’
A leading German climate change authority and adviser to the Pope on the effects of global warming has lambasted Australia over what he perceives as its failure to address an inevitable process of de-carbonisation.
Professor Hans Schellnhuber, head of the highly-regarded Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research outside Berlin, told reporters Australia’s reliance on coal exports to China was a ‘suicide strategy’:
“I don’t think Australia can be sustained based simply on raw materials,” he says. “Just pursuing the carbon path is a red herring.”
Change is in the air! It is certainly not business as usual to see an article like this published in the Australian Finanial Review.
» Australian Financial Review – 17 June 2015:
Pope’s climate adviser lambasts Australia
A hotter world
All this at a time when climate scientists with increasing desperation are pointing out that “if we don’t stop this carbon pollution madness, we are doomed!”
The main issue with this is that we are not seeing any concrete impact of the Australian carbon madness when we look out the window – and most likely many of us won’t even see much of the predicted climate catastrophe in our lifetime. So, who cares. According to polls, half the Australian population actually couldn’t care less.
In mainstream media we rarely hear about it, and whenever we do, it is typically in the shape of meteorologists who tell us stuff like that 2014 set a global heat record, first quarter of 2015 set a global heat record, and right now a powerful El Nino is building up, which means 2015 is likely to beat even the 2014 record.
According to the climate scientists, the rising temperatures are caused by the record-high concentration af carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – currently around 404 parts per million. Research shows how our emissions traps heat in the atmosphere and in oceans for thousands of years. Satellite photos have shown us that this year, the Arctic sea ice reached a record-low. We also have record-high amounts af methane in the atmosphere – something which is a released into the atmosphere in alarmning amounts at onshore gas mining sites.
When all this carbon dioxide we pour into the atmosphere later on dissolves in water, it creates acid. The acidic levels of the oceans therefore has risen 30 per cent since industrialisation, and this is now a threat to the ocean’s ecosystems. Everywhere on the globe animal and plant species are going extinct at a record-high pace.
This is the story in a nutshell. These are all measurable, scientific facts. Facts which the prime minister of a nation, representing 23 million people, chooses to ignore.
Regardless of the scientific facts, Tony Abbott, and with him a large amount of compromised right-wing politicians around the world, pretend or claim that “the science isn’t clear”. They use this as an alibi to keep the fossil fuel industry running, to keep digging for more coal and drilling for more oil and gas. Everything is driven by the profit and revenue it gives to those in business.
Fossil fuels are profitable and hard to get rid of because governments not only protect them, they finance them – with taxpayers’ money. Governments on this planet still choose to subsidise the fossil fuel industry, as IMF revealed recently, with 10 million dollars every minute. Every sixty seconds an amount equivalent to $10 million American dollars is being handed over by governments to support the climate-disruptive fossil fuel industry. This amounts to more than the same governments pay to public health.
Add to that that these same governments currently only invest two procent af their funding for scientific research in renewable energy research.
In Australia, research in renewable energy is not only poorly funded, it is being shut down entirely. Scientists are packing up and leaving the country. And the government is handing more than $12 billion annually in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, a figure which allegedly is on the rise, year by year. ($47 billion over four years, according to figures from the Australian Conservation Foundation).
In the light of the warnings about a catastrophe caused by our air pollution, considering what we are able to measure is already happening to our planet – the atmosphere, the oceans, the poles – and considering the health impact all of this has, the fact that governments in 2015 still keep subsidising the fossil fuel industry with $10 million dollars a minute is… grotesque.
With the knowledge we have available today, you would think that politicians who make this kind of decisions with public funds would be treated as criminals and taken to court.
But as it stands, this is not at all what is happening. The fossil fuel industry is wealthy, and it has understood how to protect its interests. Not only in Australia, but in all countries which are rich on fossil fuels in the ground. What is happening in Australian ‘politics’ is just one example of this. As Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, and many others with her, have pointed out: In reality, this has nothing to do with ‘politics’ and everything to do with vested interests and big sums of money.
The fossil fuel interests openly contributed more than $900,000 to the federal Liberal Party from 2009 to 2013, according to Business Spectator. What is not included in that figure is the various fund-raising soirees, lobby meetings and private events which are organised to influence the politicians.
In Australia, these close links between government and industry are not called corruption – it is usually being referred to as so-called vested interests. (If you click on the link here, you will see that is a topic and a phenomena which one guest after another in The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse has described for us and our listeners.)
It doesn’t look like a coincidence that the actor playing the evil CEO of a fossil fuel company in this short trailer resembles a certain prime minister:
“The world has watched as the Abbott government abolished a legislated price on carbon emissions; cut hundreds of millions of dollars from climate science setting Australia’s climate change action policies back to the 1990s; shut down the Climate Commission and other climate bodies; drastically slashed funding for the UN’s environment program; and cooked its books by panic-pulling funding from foreign aid to beef up its Green Climate Fund commitment.
Its widely criticised “Direct Action” policy led to dirty coal emissions soaring immediately. The first auction for its $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund blew 25 per cent of its funding in its first auction, much of it on existing projects, projects that won’t be delivered until after 2020, and ones that will get it barely anywhere towards its inadequate goal.
» Source: The Tree
Tony Abbott himself noted that the Emissions Reduction Fund is not actually about achieving a five per cent target, saying: ‘The bottom line is we will spend as much as we have budgeted, no more and no less. We will get… as much emission reduction as we can for the spending we have budgeted.’
Video from Jeep’s ‘Don’t Hold Back’ campaign in 2012
How did Abbott get elected in the first place?
One thing people overseas just can’t seem to grasp is: What made Australians choose a climate skeptic like Tony Abbott as their leader?
“Have a majority of the 23 million people Australian not understood any of the science of global warming and climate change? Why wouldn’t they want to join the international community as it takes measures to avoid runaway global warmning? What kind of arrogant, short-sighted and egoistic people are these Australians?”
The issue of global warming and climate change is a scientific reality, just like gravity and many other measurable phenomena of the real world are, and most Australians understand this. They understand that climate change is actually apolitical, just like catastrophes are. Regardless of political standpoints, when “shits hit the fan” – when a natural disaster hits our society – we stand together and act as human beings, across all those political, religious and cultural barriers that may have separated us in the daily business of life.
So whether they voted for candidate A or candidate B in the last election, would make any difference in that regard. Because they were both ignoring the climate issue and avoiding questions about it as much as they could.
Tony Abbott became prime minister of Australia primarily because voters were tired of the internal power-battles within the previous government, the Labor party. Not because of his climate skepticism and anti-renewables policies.
A majority of the Australian voters voted for Tony Abbott because he was presented in the media as the only alternative to Labor’s unpopular leader, Kevin Rudd, who most people didn’t feel deserved to win. The two Labor leaders Kevin Rudd’s and Julia Gillard’s internal power struggle for the prime minister post has been referred to as one of the most turbulent times in Australia’s political history. People didn’t like this backstabbing circus.
It also helped that Tony Abbott firmly promised voters to be tough and stop the boat refugees.
“In three years time, the carbon tax will be gone, the [refugee] boats will be stopped, and roads for the 21st century will be under way.”
Prime minister Tony Abbott in his victory speech on 7 September 2013
Abbott: Climate change is ‘crap’
In that same week as a majority of Australians voted for Tony Abbott to become their next prime minister – on 7 September 2013 – the head of the United Nations’ group of climate scientists, Rejendra Pachuari, warned that “we have five minutes before midnight” if we don’t stop flooding the atmosphere with CO2.
But Tony Abbott managed to maintain the convenient impression that the threats of climate change aren’t important right now, and consequently can be forgotten about.
Tony Abbott had previously stated outright that he thinks climate change is ‘crap’. And wouldn’t it be great if he was right? Australians have bought into his promise of ‘better times’ and the dream of prosperity through growth and increased emissions – all of which climate science warns him will soon turn into a nightmare.
Climate change was never a topic in the important tv-debates leading up to the Australian 2013-election. When the top candidates discussed politics, they all pretended climate change wasn’t really an issue.
Carbon tax, however, was. Voters had $550 dollars per family per year waved in front of their noses – by scrapping the country’s carbon tax – because Tony Abbott made a big deal out of promising them this. How the Chinese and Australian oil, gas and coal industries would benefit, or what it would mean for the country’s carbon emissions and climate change, was never mentioned or discussed. So who wouldn’t mind a bit more to themselves, when offered by a generous and smiling politician? Times are not for investing in the ‘common good’ or showing solidarity with some distant populations elsewhere on the planet or the generations to come.
The Guardian’s Graham Readfearn pretty much said what there is to say about the 2013-election in Australia, and about the choices the Australian people were making:
» The Guardian – 5 September 2013:
Australia’s federal election just couldn’t face up to climate change
Australia’ competing political leaders ignore the real climate debate as the country heads towards the polls. By Graham Readfearn
Emissions on the rise
“We will restore confidence in our country and in our future – meaning more jobs,” Tony Abbott promised in his election campaign, without mentioning the detail, of course, that according to his policies, more consumption and more production will also mean more carbon emissions. Several Australian institutes and universities have since calculated that Tony Abbott’s policies within six-seven years will make the country’s carbon emissions rise with between 9 and 16 percent from 2000 levels – at a time when carbon emissions are supposed to be lowered, not rise.
The only reason people such as Tony Abbott and his business adviser Maurice Newman, along with The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjørn Lomborg, and many others – are able get away with this, is that this particular catastrophe we are talking about unfortunately is a very, very slow-moving one. And because the media chooses uncritically and undisputed to publish their opinions
News Corp Australia, owned by Rupert Murdoch – a climate denier, close friend of mining billionaires and a strong supporter of Abbott, in particular in his election campaign – account for 65 per cent of the sales of all national daily newspapers. With sales of 17.3 million papers a week, it is by far the most influential in setting the news agenda in Australia.
Why the Murdoch media hates renewable energy
“The position of the Murdoch media towards renewable energy has become a major issue: It appears designed to bring a multi-billion dollar industry to a halt, and apart from ideological reasons, or sympathy with vested interests, it is not clear why. Certainly, it is not based on the facts.
Some of the reporting on renewables from the Murdoch global network has been laughable, such as the assertion by one Fox News reporter that solar could never work in the US because it didn’t have as much sun as Germany.
Most of it, though, has simply been unbalanced, and ill-informed, such as its numerous stories about the supposed costs of wind energy, its supposed health impacts, and the repetition of the myth that it serves no useful purpose and does not reduce emissions – claims I had debunked in one of my last Greenchip columns.”
Why the Murdoch media hates renewable energy so much
Australians are not alone about being lead by irresponsible politicians. Poland, another coal exporting country, are on the same track.
Protection of short-sighted self-interests
So, don’t mistake what is currently happening in the Australian federal parliament for “politics”. It has nothing to do with how politics should run in a democracy. What it has to do with is lobbyism and a wealthy industry’s successful protection of self-interests. The smoke screen which has covered and increasingly confused the political scene in the ‘blue’ side of parliaments has everything to do with how industry money can compromise politics. It is happening not only in Australia, but in fossil-rich countries such as Canada, Russia and Poland as well.
“Why on earth would the Coalition support some namby-pamby bunch of green ventures that make a profit when they could plunge taxpayers’ money into a suite of fossil-fuel forays for the benefit of a billionaire or a foreign multinational – and rack up some decent losses?”
Michael West, Business columnist, in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 June 2015
Climate and “conservative politics”
Margaret Thatcher was a conservative British Prime Minister. Should anyone be in doubt, her approach to climate change shows that a genuine conservative politician in a normal world would obviously be understanding and taking leadership on the issue of climate change and global warmning.
» ABC: How Margaret Thatcher led the way on climate change
A study says that even if present commitments or pledges by countries to reduce greenhouse gases are met, the global mean temperature will still rise by around 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. This, according to the researchers’ calculations, will expose 668 million people worldwide to new or aggravated water scarcity.
If humans continue with ‘business as usual’, using fossil fuels and pumping out excessive amounts of greenhouse gases, the world will be on track for a planet that is 4°C warmer by the end of this century, or even earlier, says another group of eminent scientists, the 12 members of the Earth League.
A 4°C temperature rise will drastically change the Earth, they wrote in a statement.
Some coastlines and entire islands will be submerged by rising sea levels, and more extreme heat waves will cause crop failures and loss of life. The statement from the scientists says powerful feedback processes could be triggered and would very probably raise the warming even higher, and that it might prove irreversible:
“Four degrees of planetary warming means some 8°C change close to the Arctic, which will cause even larger impacts on the Eurasian and North American land mass and the surrounding seas.”
“Nations go to war, implement mass vaccinations of their populations and organise expensive insurance and security systems (such as anti-terror measures) to address much fainter threats. However, our societies seem to be willing to impose immense risks on future generations.”
They write that there is “ample evidence” that the world can hold a 2°C line, and say technology shows that global sustainability is attainable. But they add: “… the evidence demonstrates that the time frame to achieve this is rapidly shrinking.”
The children and grand children of climate skeptics, coal industry-advocates and gas-miners will eventually be confronted with the same monstrosities of global warming as anyone else.
But outside right now, the sky is still blue, and everything still looks normal when we look out the window. So it is easy to take the point of view that we just shouldn’t believe what science is telling us. Then you are off the hook and can go on buying all the fossil fuels you feel like, burn like there is no tomorrow, without thinking more about it.
The Australian government is overwhelmingly committed to unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see Australia exceed by a factor of three the whole world’s so-called “terminal carbon budget” that must not be exceeded if the world is to have a 75 per cent chance of avoiding a catastrophic global temperature rise.
“Coal is good for humanity”
After Abbott came to power in 2013, the Australian government quickly abolished the Climate Commission, which was composed of Australia’s best climate scientists, economists and energy experts, on the basis of a lack of funding. And then, just three years later, four million dollars suddenly became available to import a politically-motivated think tank, led by Bjørn Lomborg, to work in the same space.
The Australian people elected a leader who thinks that “coal will fuel human progress for many decades to come”. Prime Minister Tony Abbott told this to business leaders at Asia Society Texas Centre in USA in July 2014, and he added that this was what made his government’s decide to scrap the carbon tax.
In October 2014, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened a $4.2 billion coalmine in Northern Queensland, he famously announced that “coal is good for humanity”:
“Coal is vital for the future energy needs of the world. So let’s have no demonisation of coal. Coal is good for humanity,” he said.
The Indian energy company Adani has proposed to open the Carmichael Coal mine, which they promise will eventually be paying $22 billion dollars in royalties to the Australian government – that is if the government will allow them to build it. There are the kind of figures the industry is juggling with.
And Abbott continues to talk in public about “building a stronger Australia and a better future”. If those scary figures and graphs from the climate scientists should turn out to be correct, such promises will obviously not stand the test of time.
Australians are getting it
However, it is also a part of this story that a growing amount of Australians seem to be getting it. Browsing through the numerous tweets on #endofcoal is somehow a testimony of that.
According to the Lowy Institute’s 2015 Poll, 43 per cent of Australians believe solar energy is the way of the future as against just 17 per cent for back coal, and 63 per cent of Australians believe the Federal Government should commit to significant emissions reductions so other countries will be encouraged to do the same. Around half the adult population think that “global warming is a serious and pressing problem”.
Here is an extract from the executive summary of their report:
“The 2015 Poll has recorded the third successive rise in Australians’ concern about global warming. Half the adult population (50%, up 5 points since 2014 and 14 points since 2012) say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’. A solid majority, 63%, say that in the lead-up to the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris, ‘the Australian Government should commit to significant reductions so that other countries will be encouraged to do the same’. Only 35% say the Government ‘should not make significant commitments on emissions reductions ahead of other countries’. Presented with seven possible sources of energy and asked which one ‘will be our primary source of electricity 10 years from now’, ‘solar energy’ is by far the highest-ranked option, 43% expecting this to be ‘our primary source of electricity 10 years from now’. Coal is selected by only 17%, while 13% think ‘nuclear energy’ will be our primary source of electricity 10 years from now.”
Public opinion in Australia on climate change: The Lowy Poll tracks concern about climate change every year. This fell dramatically between 2006 and 2012. However, for the last three years is has been rising steadily. Now 50 per cent of people regard climate change as a serious and pressing problem.
» The Age – 16 June 2015:
Australians fear terrorism and are tuning back to climate change: Lowy Institute poll
The world has moved on
Along with other fossil fuel producing countries such as Canada and Russia, Australia is increasingly being shamed by the international community. Tony Abbott’s skipping of the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014 – only to show up there two days later in order to discuss “security” – was just one of a long row of insults straight in the face of those, in case of the New York summit, other 125 state leaders who took time out to attend UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’s climate summit on 23 September 2014, and who were ready to tell the UN delegates and the world about their carbon slashing commitments so far.
Around the world, one country after the next is setting an example and setting goals for how to get off the fossil fuel addiction. Countries such as, for instance, Norway and Denmark and even Saudi Arabia are currently using revenues from their fossil fuel extraction to invest heavily in clean, renewable energy sources. They all understand that the burning of fossil fuels must stop now to avoid the most catastrophic global warming scenarios. So they act accordingly.
At this stage, the number of countries, states and cities that have committed to “go 100% renewables” is literally rising week by week.
“Tony Abbott’s core election pitch was focused on how he’d save householders from a massive hit to their budgets from the carbon tax. Yet 12 months on from its abolition a survey of Victorian retailer energy prices shows that what consumers gained in bill savings after the repeal in July last year was almost completely lost just six months later.”
Tristan Edis, Climate Spectator, on ‘Why Tony Abbott has a trust deficit’
“The Prime Minister’s scathing comments on wind-farms and renewable energy put him out of step with the way the world is moving.”
» Sydney Morning Herald – 13 June 2015:
Tony Abbott at odds with the world on renewable energy and climate change
The most anticipated papal letter for decades will be published in five languages on Thursday. It will call for an end to the ‘tyrannical’ exploitation of nature by mankind. Could it lead to a step-change in the battle against global warming?
» The Guardian – 13 June 2015:
Explosive intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate
“To avoid placing an excessive mitigation burden of emissions reductions on future Australians, it would be wise to supplement an emissions trading scheme linked to Europe with regulatory action over the early years.”
» The Age – 15 June 2015:
Climate change: the challenge for Australia
Op-ed by Ross Garnaut, a professorial research fellow in economics at Melbourne University. The original, longer version was published on www.johnmenadue.com
Crave for comfort
One reason that Tony Abbott remains popular among millions of Australians is that he has understood that Australians have a special love for two things: they love sport, and they are passionate about their machines – that is, in particular: their cars.
A figure to illustrate this. In the 1970s, eight out of ten school students walked or cycled to school every day. In 2015, just two out of 10 students walk or ride. The majority of today’s school kids are driven to and from school in car by their parents.
In Australia, you are not considered part of society if you don’t own a car. Open any Australian newspaper, and you will see how it is filled with pages after pages about cars, cars and more cars, while sometimes even half of the newspaper will be about sport.
You will see people drive 800 metres in car to get to a place where they can do exercise. And you will see streets which has no zebra crossings whatsoever, not even in roundabouts. Pedestrians and cyclists are treated by city planners as second class citizens.
In Australian cities, motors and engines are used almost everywhere else where manual labour is required – elevators, door-openers, tools in kitchen and garden, and so on. It is all about convenience. And the average citizen can afford to buy the biggest, most petrol-guzzling car models because the government has made it cheap to buy cars in Australia.
But if convenience is on the front seat, its three dark followers – bad health, high carbon footprint and disconnectedness to nature – is on the back seat.
The car is both a blessing and a curse to the Australian society, because while it does give freedom to move around over long distances, it is also a major reason why two out of three Australians are overweight, and according to sociologists, the nation’s extreme “car culture” is part of what holds many Australians in a culture of isolation. More than one million Australian men say they have little or no social contact with others.
The overwhelming amount of commercials and ads for cars on Australian tv and in the newspapers tells its own story about the consumer mentality which many Australians, in particular the older generations, embrace – like when a slogan for Mazda cars says: “Because more is more”. This appears to be the kind of thinking which not only sells cars in Australia, but which drives the country’s economy: More is more.
And “Don’t hold back,” as the ad campaign-slogan for Jeep tells the Australians almost every time they open their tv.
A large part of the older generation of Australians prefer to maintain and protect ‘business as usual’ with their various fossil-burning-happy investments and activities. They voted for Abbott because he promised them to support the car industry and modernise their already oversized roads for huge black-smoke exhausting trucks and oversized four-wheeler SUVs which the 63 percent of the Australian population who are overweight have made themselves completely dependent on in order to move their bodies from one place to another. They stated with their voting at the election that they prefer to continue enjoying the comforts of their ‘carbon-party’ at least a little longer – pretending they have no knowledge of the future consequences for their behaviour.
When you are aged 50 or above today, you most likely won’t have to worry one bit about climate change as far as your own life is concerned.
So measured per capita, Australians are currently having the greatest carbon emissions-ball of all times: they are simply the most polluting people in the world. And with Abbott on deck as their carbon-burning-happy captain, it may look as if Australians simply lean back and go on pretending they live on some other planet than the rest of the world.
But again: look closer, and you will find that this actually isn’t the case.
For a start, take a look at the more than five million Australian’s who live under a roof which carries solar panels. The figure in itself is telling a story. These five million Australians – more than a fifth of the population – are aware that their government has been bought by the mining and fossil fuel industry, so as individual Australians they react by taking action on their own, regardless of federal policy and its anti-renewables legislation.
Australians on the ground have already had a fair taste of what the rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere means – with death and destruction of farm land, goods and houses from flooding, draughts, forest fires, record high temperatures, hurricanes. Australians have seen the photos and the infographs about the melting of glaciers and poles just like everyone else in the world. Australians are receiving the same warnings as everyone else about rising sea levels, a dying Great Barrier Reef, more extreme weather events, and so on.
So most Australians are actually in disagreement with their own federal government about allowing “private” energy companies to flood the atmosphere with some extra carbon dioxide.
Tony Abbott is out of step with Australians’ views on coal, renewable energy and climate change. Not only the Australian people, but also its businesses – except of course that sector of business which handles the fossil fuels.
“A society built on the narrow definition of self-interest we have today is not capable of meeting the big challenges of our time.”
Tosh Szatow co-founder and director of the Melbourne-based company Energy for the People
Action at individual level
I guess that what I am trying to say here is that even though the Australians elected a climate crook like Tony Abbott, we will have to wait to November 2016 to see if they will also re-elect him. My guess is that they won’t. Millions of Australian citizens are feeling the shame and the worry about the frightening prospects of climate change, and they are taking action at a personal level, investing their own money in the battle.
They know every well that Australia is a country which is very exposed to extreme weather events with hurricanes, draughts, flooding, sea level rise and the rest, because many of them feel it – or have felt it resently.
And in the meanwhile, until next election, the concerned part of the population do their best to make a difference at an individual level. Step by step they are building a growing “carbon freedom movement” in alignment with what is happening in the rest of the world.
Since their government at federal level won’t do it, they invest an increasing amount of their own time and money in building solutions and do what they can at a local level to prevent the worst consequences of catastrophic climate change.
According to a survey conducted by Lonergan Research who talked with 1,314 Australians, almost 8 in 10 Australians say they are concerned about their bank or super fund financing coal and gas projects in or near the Great Barrier Reef and 7 in 10 are concerned about their bank or super fund financing coal and gas anywhere in Australia.
Not only are Australians concerned about their personal finances, they’re also concerned about Australia’s reliance on the fossil fuel economy. In fact, 76% of Australians believe the risks associated with fossil fuel investments are growing and 75% agree that Australia has too many eggs in the mining basket.
Other surveys have shown that an overwhelming majority of Australians support renewable energy. And polls and surveys have shown that the vast majority of people in Australia want the environment protected, they want action on climate change and they want actions such as putting a price on air pollution.
“Australians are no climate dinosaurs as support for action evolves: poll Australia’s political leaders risk being stuck in the past as public attitudes on climate change and its solutions are on the rebound, according to the Climate of the Nation 2014 survey”
» Climate Institute – 23 June 2014:
Australians are no climate dinosaurs as support for action evolves: poll
Climate of the Nation 2014
“A newly released IPSOS Global Trends Survey shows, according to a Guardian columnist, that Anglophone countries are particularly inclined towards climate denialism.”
» The Interpreter – 25 July 2014:
Climate action: Public opinion is not the problem
“New data visualisation tools show public understanding has evolved from questioning ‘what global warming is’ in 2007, to ‘how to stop it,’ and now ‘how it is related to odd and extreme weather events.’ This, coupled with changes in the media landscape and snowballing actions globally, demonstrates that talking out of both sides of one’s mouth on climate change is no longer tenable.”
The Australian mining boom
Booming mining exports, particularly of coal to energy-hungry China and India, have fuelled 10 years of sustained economic growth in Australia. But with falling prices on coal, these days are soon over, reported the documentary ‘The End of Coal?’ on ABC in June 2015.
“As Australia’s economy started to recover from recession in 1995, median incomes began to grow, accelerating once the mining boom got under way in 2003. Median household income fell marginally in the period after the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, but the latest ABS survey shows that in the most recent period, middle-income Australians experienced income growth comparable to that the rise before the start of the mining boom.”
For most households in Australia, incomes are now higher than they have ever been. Wealth holdings, not surprisingly, reflect similar trends. In 2011, Australia’s median wealth was calculated to be the highest in the world: US$222,000. The most recent Credit Suisse Global Wealth report – prepared by Anthony Shorrocks, one of most highly respected world experts on wealth distribution – estimated that average wealth in Australia in 2011, at US$397,000, was the second-highest in the world after Switzerland.
Carbon tax created new jobs
The carbon tax had been introduced in 2011 by the previous government, and during the following two years, electricity emissions were recuded by around 12 million tonnes. The renewable energy generation went up by almost 30 percent, whilst generation from Australia’s seven most highly-polluting power stations went down by 14 percent.
This was reported by Greg Combet and published by the Chifley Research Centre on 6 June 2013.
In the same period, billions of dollars were invested in renewable energy, creating new jobs among the Australians. These achievements, however, were not mentioned in the telebroadcasted election discussions, since both the major parties running for election were eager to scrap the carbon tax.
That whole political discussion may well have turned out very different if instead of talking about a tax, the regulation had been termed something like a ‘pollution fee’, based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
The election result in 2013 created a new window of opportunities for the country’s carbon crooks. The leader of the Palmer United party, mining billionaire Clive Palmer, was declared the ‘surprise success story’ of the Australian election, receiving 5.5 percent of the national votes.
As soon as the Coalition government got rid of the carbon tax, the country’s dirtiest power stations became more profitable, and Clive Palmer’s party wanted – not surprisingly – to re-open old coal power stations that had been closed down, and to expand coal mining in the country.
Around the world, more and more people, politicians included, are beginning to understand the message from climate scientists. In contrary to the Australian government, the United Nations, EU, the World Bank, IMF, and numerous governments have understood that it is necessary now to take some strong and responsible initiatives to try and prevent that planetary runaway climate catastrophe which the scientists warn us is threatening our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ well-being, if not survival.
Outside Australia, it appears as if the world is gradually coming to its senses, and some governments, such as those in the Pacific, in northern Europe, and even in the United States, California in particular, are beginning to set ambitious goals for the reduction of their carbon emissions.
Black sheep down under
According to polls, the Australians who voted the Coalition government in, appear to remain satisfied with their leader. They don’t seem concerned about how the international community will look at them a few years from now. Maybe because of its physical distance, Australians don’t see – or don’t understand – why the country would benefit from being in better sync with the international community.
Not caring about carbon pollution is not going to be acceptable behaviour in the global village much longer, since we all share that same atmosphere, as well as the problems with rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans, across national borders.
Countries which are making serious efforts to ensure a safer climate are being made fools of by an attitude like that. The international community may react in ways which will surprise – and hurt – the average Australian. It is already being suggested to send a clear message to Australia by leaving the Australian wines on their shelves in the supermarkets, like it was effectively done in 1995 when the Frenchmen making nuclear tests in the Pacific.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, Gideon Polya encourages “decent people around the world to urgently respond to deadly climate change inaction by leading climate criminal countries, like the US and its lackeys Canada and Australia, by (a) informing everyone they can, and (b) urging and applying boycotts, divestment and sanctions against all people, politicians, parties, collectives, corporations and countries disproportionately complicit in the worsening climate emergency and in the worsening climate genocide.” (“25 Ways World-Leading Climate Criminal Australia Threatens Planet And Invites Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)”, Countercurrents, 6 June 2015)
It is problematic when leaders of a nation question whether the scientific reality of the rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is going to cause as much trouble and crisis as the scientist are predicting – the sea level rise, ocean acidification, fresh water shortage and food crisis. It is problematic because it creates confusion at a crucial time when what society needs is clarity, decision making and action to try and prevent the catastrophe from happening.
Our collective problem here is that we need to act before the shit hits the fan, not after. Once we cross a certain tipping point, it will be too late. Some scientists tell us we have already reached that point.
On track to 4°C degrees
Every year 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas is burned alone in connection with oil production – a completely unnecessary waste which is adding further 350 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. This is just one example which shows how ignorant governments are, and how insufficient their current legislation is.
The risk that the world in 2100 will be 6°C warmer than it is today is being estimated to be one ud af 10. Such a temperature rise will cause catastrophic changes in the global climate with unimaginable consequences for the human civilisation, the climatologists warn us. Currently we accept living with a risk that is at the same level as if we tolerated the risk that 10,000 airplanes would crash.
Even that 2°C degree global warming – viewed in 2009 by politicians at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen as the upper limit for what they believed should be tolerated – will cause significant damage and disruption. But what is worse: at the moment, we are on track to a warming of 4°C for 2100.
No one speaks about what this means the global temperature rise will be in 2200. Or 2300. We prefer to ignore that the temperature will continue to rise each year – unless humanity manages to intervene with an effective method that pulls the carbon dioxide out from the atmosphere in enormous amounts at some point.
In spite of all this, it doesn’t look like the UN climate summit, which brings world leaders to Paris in December 2015 for COP21, will bring any solution to this.
Again, the personal motivation is lacking, because the climate crisis may not be fatal – or even a problem – for the politicians themselves. It will be their children, grand children and future generations, who will have to pay the bill for their stupidity.
One can not, however, blame the politicians for not acting on the climate change issue as long as they can’t see any pressure from their voters to do so. Journalists and editors in the media have a great deal of responsibility for this situation. They do not have the knowledge and insight it requires to be able to tackle these important questions about the planet’s future.
So, because of the current physical invisibility of the problem, and the confusion deliberately caused by so-called ‘skeptics’, anyone who has vested interests and wants to protect status quo of the coal, gas and oil age of the previous centuries has an easy game. So far they have been successful.
Climate change is invisible, and as long as it is invisible, global warming and the rest of this debate becomes a question of moral. It is about which kind of world we think we would like to pass on to future generations. It is about which kind of risk we think it is okay to take while we gamble with the future of this planet. It is about whether we feel responsible – or whether we think, “What t’heck, I won’t be there anyway…”
Most people would want to leave a little something for their kids when they pass away. But what anyone of us in the industrialised world is allowing to happen at the moment, is that we leave them a terrible collective debt.
Standing up for the moral dimension of this
With or without Australia on board at international negotiations, the positive change of direction away from the dependence on fossil fuels is happening. Even within Australia it is happening at an individual and business level. Australia has a growing, very passionate and determined grassroots movement for renewable energy and sustainability.
Sunshine stories do exist in the country – like the state South Australia which plans to raise the bar from their current 30 per cent to 50 per cent renewable energy in the electricity generation within the next ten years.
The carbon mess which the Australian voters have called upon themselves has left it up to the individual Australian to take action accordingly. There comes a time when one has got to make up one’s mind whether you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem.
Many Australians, including several religious communities in the country, such as the Uniting Church, believe it is time to stand up for the moral aspect of carbon pollution, to insist that it is immoral and wrong to allow air pollution to continue unregulated, to subsidise fossil fuel industries with billion of dollars, to cut funding of research in renewable energy technologies, and to keep delaying the inevitable transition to modern technologies based on clean, renewable energy sources.
In the coming years, growing numbers of responsible citizens, parents and grandparents, will continue to work upstream for building a genuinely stronger Australia and a better – and safer – future for their families.
» More notes from Tonystralia
Abbott: Climate change is ‘absolute crap’
Australia’s new prime minister plans to immediately dismantle his country’s fight against climate change, Rob Wile wrote in Business Insider:
“Tony Abbott, a one-time Jesuit prelate candidate turned head of the country’s conservative Liberal Party, will be the new Prime Minister of Australia.
He’s a pretty controversial guy.
Among the contenders for his most extreme viewpoint is his belief that climate change is “absolute crap.” (…)
In his acceptance speech, he named scrapping Australia’s carbon tax as the very first thing he hopes to accomplish in the next three years.”
“Tony Abbott does have a plan of sorts to reduce emissions. It’s called Direct Action. (…) But most scientists don’t see the plan as a viable way for reducing emissions.”
» The Guardian – 3 September 2013:
Rudd accuses Abbott of abandoning Australia’s climate commitments
PM attacks after opposition leader said he would not increase funding for Direct Action plan if it missed emissions target. By Lenore Taylor, political editor
More smoke from more fires lead to even more fires
Due to more fires, fire smoke levels could increase by between 20 and 100 percent by 2050, an American study says.
A team of environmental scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the U.S. calculated the likely extent of fires in mid-century. They found out that the biggest driver for fires in the future is temperature. That result appears robust across models.
Their forecasts for fires in the western U.S. in 2050 are that areas burned in the end of summer season could increase by 65 percent in the Pacific Northwest, nearly double in the Eastern Rocky mountains, and quadruple in the Rocky Mountains Forest region.
Probability of large fires could increase by factors of two or three, the start dates of the “fire season” could be earlier, and the end date could be later. The study also predicts that, due to more fires, smoke levels could increase by between 20 and 100 percent by 2050.
“I think what people need to realise is that embedded in those curves showing the tiny temperature increases year after year are more extreme events that can be quite serious,” says Loretta Mickley, the study’s co-author and a senior research fellow in atmospheric chemistry at Harvard SEAS: “It doesn’t bode well.”
Australians already have had numerous traumatic experiences with forest fires. Southern Australia is getting dryer and dryer and dryer.
» Washington Post – 5 June 2015:
How mankind blew the fight against climate change
By Bill McKibben
» Yahoo7 News – 15 October 2014:
Richard Flanagan ‘ashamed to be Australian’
» ThinkProgress – 3 September 2013:
UN Chief Scientist Urges Action On Climate Change: ‘We Have Five Minutes Before Midnight’
“May I submit that humanity has completely ignored, disregarded and been totally indifferent to the debits? Today we have the knowledge to be able to map out the debits and to understand what we have done to the condition of this planet,” said Rajendra Pachuari. Article by Kiley Kroh.
» Climate News Network – 14 September 2013:
Warming will worsen water scarcity
Study says that even if present commitments or pledges by countries to reduce greenhouse gases are met, the global mean temperature will still rise by around 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Study led by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact and Research and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. By Kieran Cooke
» The Conversation – 10 September 2013:
What next for Australia’s climate policy?
Australia’s compulsory, preferential voting system together with voter disaffection has led to this bizarre outcome of micro-parties holding the balance of power. By Frank Jotzo, Director, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at Australian National University
» New Scientist – 10 September 2013:
Australia rips up climate-change policies
Australia’s landslide election result seems to be bad news for the climate. Following the election of a new government, Australia is to abolish its emissions trading scheme, disband a climate advisory body and institute a carbon reduction policy that experts say will fail to meet its meagre target.
» The Tree – 14 August 2013:
Coalition climate policy to cost up to $16bn more than expected
The Coalition’s “direct action” climate plan is looking increasingly like an “absurdly expensive, ludicrously inefficient and gimmicky hodgepodge of climate change policies” this week, as a new independent assessment has found it faces an impossible task of reaching even the minimum climate action needed without billions of extra funding.
» The Guardian – 5 September 2013:
Coalition energy document focuses almost entirely on fossil fuels
Only reference to Australia’s $20bn renewable industry is repeat of promise to hold another investigation into the health impacts of wind farms. By Giles Parkinson
Australian parties sidetrack CO2 threat
“Concerns about changes in climate are widespread in Australia. Swathes of the country have been battered in recent years by costly cyclones and floods, and there has been long-lasting drought in many areas and a series of devastating bushfires. Many lives have been lost, and the economic damage caused has been considerable,” wrote Climate News Network in 2013.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology declared the August 2012 to August 2013 period the hottest 12 months on record. And then came 2013, where in that one year, Australia recorded its hottest day ever, its hottest month in the history books, its hottest summer, its hottest spring, and its hottest year overall. The trend has continued ever since.
Scientists are fond of saying that it is difficult to pin the blame for any one climate event onto climate change. But they have just made an exception by reporting that many things that happened in Australia in 2013 bore the signature of man-made climate change.
Despite the Australian prime minister’s climate science scepticism, research funded by taxpayers has unanimously found man-made climate change guilty of causing the country’s record-breaking temperatures last year.
Yet during the 2013 election campaign, both parties would shy away from promising any meaningful action aimed at tackling climate change issues − in particular, reducing the country’s CO2 emissions, per capita basis among the highest in the world.
Figures show that Australia, described by some as “Asia’s quarry”, has CO2 emissions of 18.4 tonnes per capita − a figure higher than in the US, and almost three times the figure in the UK.
» Climate News Network:
Australian parties sidetrack CO2 threat
» Climate News Network:
Human handprint marks Australia’s hottest year
Climate policies around the world
A number of municipalities, states and even countries have already decided to transition 100 percent to clean renewable energy before 2020 or 2025, and that number of countries who are committing themselves to positive action on global warming is growing fast.
Denmark has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions with 40 percent by 2020, and the capital city there works on becoming carbon neutral by 2025. The Nordic countries together with the US have declared that they will stop all subsidies to coal-fired power plants. Even China seems to be getting over its addiction to coal sooner than anyone thought.
» Read more about cities and countries going 100% renewable
» Reneweconomy – 11 September 2013:
Tony Abbott gets crash course in carbon bubbles
Nearly a third of the world’s thermal coal supplies are losing money because of significant shifts in consumption and economic priorities in China, the world’s biggest coal user. By Giles Parkinson
» EcoWatch – 5 September 2013:
Pacific Island Leaders Adopt Game-Changing Climate Policy
Leaders from some of the world’s most vulnerable climate countries have today adopted the Majuro Declaration calling for a “new wave of climate leadership” and marking the region’s efforts to accelerate action.
» Quartz – 5 September 2013:
China may get over its addiction to coal sooner than anyone thought
China has accounted for 82% of the increase in global coal consumption since 2011. A new note from Citigroup attacks “one of the most unassailable assumptions in global energy” – the forecast that China’s coal consumption will grow wantonly over the next two decades. By extension, it challenges apocalyptic climate change forecasts. By Steve LeVine
Increasing carbon emissions does not make common sense
Take a look at these graphs. This is where humanity is at, and where we are heading. After just a quick glance at these graphs, doesn’t it strikes you to be kind of obvious which kind of future Tony Abbott is leading the Australians to? Trees don’t grow to the sky, and neither will Australia’s economy.
Tony Abbott promised economic growth, ‘freedom’ to pollute the atmosphere free of charge, to build more roads, directly use taxpayers money to support the car industry, and to create two million new jobs within a decade.
The Australian people still has a basic choice: Will they be joining the international community in securing that our children will have a safe planet to live on? Or will they ignore the world outside their borders and go on increasing consumption, expanding roads and allowing carbon emissions to rise while exporting some more coal and gas to be burned in Asia?
You’d think that good sustainable and environmental policies at all levels of government should be in the interest of everyone, and among all political parties.
Australians are a people with a long and proud history of engaging themselves in humanitarian crisis around the world, and the world had come to know the Australians as civilised, good people who would be ready to give a hand whenever there was a call for their help. Recently Australian media was filled with stories about this – on the occasion that 100 years have gone since the start of World War One.
The Australian government is gambling with the future of the country and of the planet because of nature’s dangerous ‘feedback loops’ and runaway greenhouse effects. We know now that flooding the atmosphere with more carbon causes the polar ice to melt, more frequent destruction of our cities by hurricanes, destruction of farm land and rising food prices because of flooding, draughts, forest fires, and so on.
All this destruction will obviously create jobs. Did Abbott have these kind of jobs in mind when he promised to create two million new jobs in Australia in the coming years? Creating jobs by creating a world of insecurity, conflicts, and destruction?
Research tells us all that is necessary to transition to a new energy infrastructure running on clean, renewable energy, and some researchers have found that all it will take is an investment of around one percent of the Gross National Product. Others say that seen over a longer span of years, there will be no cost at all to society. Only gain.
Tax reductions, new jobs along with an emissions rise of 16 percent by 2020 is not making any common sense, because neither the tax reduction nor the new jobs will be sustainable the moment the predicted climate change crisis begins to set in.
» The Age – 2 September 2013:
Tony Abbott willing to break emissions pledge over funding hole
By Jonathan Swan
» The Guardian – 29 August 2013:
Coalition’s climate policy would cost vastly more than budgeted, study finds
Modelling commissioned by WWF-Australia says funds set aside to meet emissions targets would fall short by at least $20bn
» ThinkProgress – 21 August 2013:
How Climate Change Will Affect Australia’s Upcoming Election
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity”