It occurred to me, having just volunteered to work for three different community groups, that what I need, apart from worrying about the Australian government’s failed policies on Covid, climate change and refugees, not to mention bushfire risk mitigation, is a Plan.
I use the capital letter deliberately as it seems that is what our peerless leader, Scotty from Marketing, wants us to do. His Plan (well, actually it’s not his Plan) should be called a Process because after all, that is what the National Party agreed to support. As we know, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his country party cohorts emerged from days of climate talks to announce with fanfare great that it had ‘agreed to support a process’ to meet the government’s bare minimum target of zero net emissions by 2050.
Australia’s emissions are still among the highest in the world on a per capita basis, well behind similar developed countries.
At the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this week, PM Scott Morrison somehow wangled his way into the discussions. It’s not that long ago (December 2020), that he was snubbed by a United Nations climate conference in London hosted by the UK and France.
British PM Boris Johnson had invited Morrison to speak at the December 12 summit but reneged. Selwin Hart, the special adviser to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on climate action, said at the time Australia had ‘not met the threshold needed to speak’.
But given a platform at COP26 (after pledging to meet zero net emissions by 2050), Morrison gave an optimistic speech, claiming that Australia’s emissions could fall by 35% by 2030. Greens leader Adam Bandt described the speech as ‘cringeworthy’, saying it contradicted statements made in Australia. The national climate plan (NDC) merely reaffirmed the formal 2030 target of 26-28% set by former PM Tony Abbott, he said.
“Australia is also siding with Russia and China to block global action on the climate crisis, refusing to phase out coal and gas, the leading causes of global heating,” he added.
The Guardian said Morrison’s 2050 plan lacked modelling, with almost a third of the abatement task comprised of cuts via unspecified “technology breakthroughs” and “global trends”, while a further 20% will be achieved through offsets.
To be fair, Morrison has been thwarted by climate change resistance from his Coalition partner, the National Party. The Plan may or may not be influenced by trade-offs demanded by the Nationals (which has a rural support base), regarding the issue of methane emissions.
Michelle Grattan wrote in The Conversation that Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor had rejected the US push for a 30% reduction of methane emissions by 2030.
For city folk, methane is a global warming gas produced by cows burping and farting. Morrison backed his Minister, saying the government never had any intention of agreeing to the (methane) reduction.
Veteran finance commentator Alan Kohler has had a bit to say about climate change and the urgent need to keep temperature increases below 1.5 degrees celsius. As he wrote in The New Daily a few months ago, precise risk analysis of global warming is difficult because ‘feedback loop tipping points’ are unknown and unpredictable.
“It’s known that with 1.5 to 2 degrees of warming, the combination of permafrost melt in Siberia, wildfires in the world’s forests and warming of the ocean will release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“(This) means a feedback loop could take the temperature to 2.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures – and perhaps beyond – no matter what we do.”
Kohler is good value, in that he often exposes seemingly turgid reports that no-one else has looked at and translates them into plain English.
For example, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) issued a draft prudential practice guide on climate change which included 4 degrees of warming as one of its two “scenarios” for banks to use in their future planning.
“A 4 degree rise in the average global temperature would make large parts of the planet uninhabitable and lead to the total collapse of the banking system. No need for any planning,” Kohler commented.
“The other APRA scenario was for 2 degrees of warming or less, consistent with the Paris Agreement of December 2015, which should happen if all countries meet their Paris pledges (which they haven’t).”
Successive Australian governments have been terrified about drafting tough new laws to support carbon reduction. This is a country which cleared vast swathes of forest and scrub to establish pastoral land and open-cut coal mines. We have allowed fracking, built a vast network of gas pipelines, supported offshore oil drilling and relied on coal-fired power stations for much of our energy.
We also export millions of tonnes of coal to countries which have dirtier power stations than ours. We have exacerbated the global crisis rather than mitigating the effects of carbon emissions.
We here at FOMM HQ reckon we have been hearing about climate change, greenhouse gases and global warming since we became conservationists in the 1960s. She Who Taught Geography says she was aware of it when studying at university in the late 60s. We were called ‘tree huggers’ then and probably still would be now, despite knowing what we know.
So here in Australia, 50 years later, we are still in rampant denial about what rising carbon dioxide levels have done to the planet.
It’s no new thing. Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted in 1896 that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could substantially alter the planet’s ground temperature through the greenhouse effect. In 1938, Guy Callendar connected carbon dioxide increases in Earth’s atmosphere to global warming.
By the 1990s, a consensus emerged among scientists that greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes and human-caused emissions were bringing discernible global warming.
Unhappily, many people are climate change deniers. Just like those who subscribe to Covid-19 vaccine conspiracies, they defy the majority opinion of the world’s scientists.
Perhaps they were not paying attention when some of the world’s biggest fund managers started selling off their fossil fuel investments circa 2016. The latest local example of this was the State’s biggest investor, Queensland Investment Corporation, which manages State employees’ superannuation.
The topic of fossil fuels and divestment (selling oil, gas and coal stocks) was also debated at COP26. The pro-investment argument is that 80% of the world’s energy is still sourced from fossil fuel and a sudden rush for the turnstiles is unlikely.
Fossil fuel opponents understand how divestment can turn the tide quickly by shutting down fossil fuel ‘sponsorship’ (sometimes known as ‘greenwashing’).
Yet another conference, then, where world’s leaders (average age 60), left COP26 without doing anything meaningful.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin’s stark message this week is that from 1990 to 2020, the warming effect on our climate by long-lived greenhouse gases, increased by 47%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of the increase. The numbers are based on monitoring by the World Meteorological Organisation’s Global Atmosphere Watch network. As WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said: “We are way off track.”
If I make it to 2050, I can imagine 102-year-old me, spilling jelly and custard on my vintage Homer Simpson T shirt muttering: “Meh” (having been moved in a dinghy to a nursing home on high ground).
Unfortunately, ‘meh’ (shorthand for callous indifference), is the attitude of far too many people who won’t see 2050. They have all obviously forgotten climate activist Greta Thunberg’s fiery speech at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos.
“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic,” she said. “I want you to feel the fear that I feel every day and I want you to act. Our house is burning.”
More reading: Seven years ago!!!