Climate Newsletter 30 June 2018

I spent last Sunday in Canberra at the regional conference of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Guests speakers included former Liberal leader John Hewson and  ANU Engineering Professor Andrew Blakers. Hewson described the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) as “the fourth best option” while Blakers wanted it voted down by the states at the COAG Energy Ministers’ conference on 3 August. This is in accord with the splendid lead letter in the Canberra Times from CAM supporter Catherine Rossiter through the week (see below).

Nevertheless, we CCL attendees trooped off to Parliament House the next day to try and persuade members of Parliament to support the NEG, primarily to provide bipartisanship on the energy issue and end the uncertainty of the past decade. As part of the delegation to see our local MP, Mike Kelly, however, I asked that it be conditional on NEG not impeding greater ambition by either the states or a future federal government on emission reduction. (Mike will be our guest speaker at the AGM in August – details later).

Interestingly, according to a report below, Labor Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler “has been warning consistently that the ALP won’t sign up if it can’t scale up the target for emissions reduction in the scheme in the event it wins government at the next election”.

Meanwhile, while Pauline Hanson sought approval in the Senate for a coal-fired power station in North Queensland, Bob Katter asked “how could any government conceive of the stupidity like another baseload coal-fired power station in North Queensland?”

The money is on Katter, because through the week, wholesale prices of solar in Queensland went negative as more and more solar projects are connected to the grid and householders put solar panels on their roofs.

And our Energy (and Environment, but generally forgotten) Minister Josh Frydenberg says he would welcome a new coal-fired power plant (see story below).

The Climate Emergency Declaration team has just launched the Tassie No More Bad Investments (NMBI) petition. This calls for adoption of legislation to ban all new climate-damaging projects in Tasmania in cases where alternatives are readily available, and to set timelines to introduce bans for other climate-damaging supply chains.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Energy minister would welcome new coal-fired power plant
Josh Frydenberg sends the positive signal about coal before Tuesday’s internal government deliberations

Solar pushes mid-day electricity prices below zero in Queensland
Wholesale electricity prices in Queensland go negative in middle of the day, underlining the case for storage as more large-scale solar projects connect to the grid, and rooftop solar continues to grow.

Does new coal stack up financially? Consider Queensland’s renewables numbers
Matthew Stocks and Andrew Blakers
There are calls from the backbench and elsewhere for the Federal Government to safeguard the future of coal. But do those calls make economic sense? A look at Queensland’s energy landscape suggests not

Climate change could kill off bees, Northwestern study finds
Slight increases in temperature could lead to the extinction of bees in southwestern states in the near future, according to a new study from Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Global warming in South Asia: 800 million at risk
Some of the poorest and hungriest people in the world will see their living standards decline sharply if emissions continue to grow at their current pace, a study by the World Bank found.

Major 200MW + battery solar farm approved in outback South Australia
Work set to begin on Solar River Project after “Australia’s biggest” PV farm approved for 220MW solar, 120MWh lithium-ion battery.

Meet America’s new climate normal: towns that flood when it isn’t raining
Elizabeth Rush
In this extract from Rising, Elizabeth Rush explains ‘sunny day flooding’ – when a high tide can cause streets to fill with water

Elon Musk turns Sydney transport depot into green energy hub
Lord mayor Clover Moore’s plan to make half of Sydney’s power come from renewable energy has been supercharged by the launch of the city’s first industrial-sized battery and solar installation.

Clean power is not enough
Coal power versus wind and solar energy — debates about the Paris climate targets often center around electricity supply. Yet, even in a world of stringent climate policies and a clean power generation, the remaining use of fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating in buildings could still cause enough CO2 emissions to endanger the climate targets agreed on by the international community, an international team of researchers finds.

Record emissions keep Australia on path to missing Paris target
Annual carbon emissions, excluding unreliable data, higher than ever, report says

Letter published in Canberra Times 27 June.

NEG reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns

Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg are keenly pushing the states and territories to sign up to their National Energy Guarantee scheme, despite plenty of evidence on one side that it will actually not achieve any significant cuts to our greenhouse emissions and, on the other side, from Tony Abbott and his minions, that it goes too far. Figure that one out.

The tragedy is that the whole scenario is reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Australia is a wealthy country, with one of the highest per capita emission rates in the entire world, yet our politicians seem incapable of coming to grips with this mighty problem.

We have already seen one degree of warming, with its consequent 7 per cent increase in the energy in the atmosphere, and unmissable impacts around the world of heatwaves, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, and floods. Three, or four, or even five degrees of warming by the end of this century (only 82 years away) will deliver unimaginable problems of food and water insecurity, many parts of the world becoming uninhabitable or unsuitable for agriculture, increasing conflicts, and, inevitably, millions and millions of people on the move. It will make today’s refugee problems seem very small.

If we continue to dig coal out of the ground and keep burning it to produce power, whether in this country or elsewhere, we will just contribute more to this developing disaster. Tony Abbott may not care about what his grandchildren will have to deal with, but I would prefer my grandchildren to have some chance of living on a planet with a future.

Catherine Rossiter, Fadden

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Climate Newsletter 23 June 2018

First the bad news. The Berejiklian NSW government handed down its Budget through the week and the papers barely mentioned climate change, let alone provide extra money for it. Treasurer Perrottet did not deem it important enough to mention in his Budget speech. And the government hasn’t even spent two thirds of its $208m Climate Change Fund.

Thirty years ago today, on 23 June 1988, NSA scientist James Hansen appeared before the US Congress, warning:  “The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now”. This week he said the world was failing miserably to deal with the worsening dangers, blaming those who appear to be doing something but in fact not nearly enough, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel and California Governor Jerry Brown.

Despite the shift away from fossil fuels towards renewables, BP Review reported this week that global energy demand grew above its 10-year average in 2017 and carbon emissions increased after three years of little-to-no growth. (It would help the demand problem if world population wasn’t growing by 83 million a year.)

But there’s lots of good news – see stories below.

  • Renewables will account for 92 per cent of Australian power by 2050;
  • a poll finds the majority of Australians want to the government to concentrate on renewables;
  • The fossil fuel sector is actually weaker than ever (at least according to Bill McKibben);
  • The main reason given for poor polling, by Alexander Downer’s daughter Georgina,  in the SA seat of Mayo prior to the by-election, is her anti-climate change stance;
  • A rapid rebound of a portion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may stabilise the whole ice sheet against catastrophic collapse;
  • The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) sees rooftop solar trebling in the next ten years and batteries even more so (10x); and
  • Researchers have found a way to add a compound to perovskite cells – the potential low-cost alternatives to silicon-based solar cells.

Keep the following date in mind: September 8 for’s loud and vocal call for global climate action and an end fossil fuels. New Zealand and Australia will be two of the first nations to kick off the #RiseForClimate day of action.

Renewables to account for 90pc of Australian power by 2050
A new report forecasts renewable generation will account for more than 90 per cent of Australian power by 2050 as nearly all of the nation’s coal-fired power stations close in the next 30 years, and costs for new build renewables fall compared to coal.

Huge majority supports renewables over coal even at greater cost
A new poll finds a huge majority of Australians want the government to focus on renewable energy infrastructure even if it costs them more.

Some rare good climate news: The fossil fuel industry is weaker than ever.
Bill McKibben
From Wall Street to the pope, many increasingly see fossil fuels as anything but a sure bet. That gives us reason to hope.

Downer on the rocks in Mayo Peter Fitzsimon
More interesting though is the notion that the rejection is due to Downer’s refusal to accept the science of climate change.

A quick rebound of Antarctic crust promotes ice-sheet stability
The unexpectedly rapid rebound of the Amundsen Sea Embayment  may help stabilize the West Antarctic Ice Sheet against catastrophic collapse, says a new study offering a rare silver-lining in glacier research.

AEMO sees rooftop solar trebling in 10 years, batteries rising 10-fold.
AEMO sees rooftop solar and battery storage uptake surging in WA, but grid to remain stable even as fossil fuel plants retire. EV forecasts vary

Researchers solve major challenge in mass production of low-cost solar cells.
A team led by led by André D. Taylor of NYU Tandon School of Engineering and Yifan Zheng of Peking University solved a major fabrication challenge for perovskite cells — the intriguing potential challengers to silicon-based solar cells.

Meeting Paris Climate Targets Will Require a Substantial Reallocation of Global Investment
A new analysis by an international team of scientists shows that low carbon investments will need to markedly increase if the world is to achieve the …

Clean energy investment must be 50% higher to limit warming to 1.5C
An extra $460bn per year needs to be invested on the low-carbon economy globally over the next 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5C, a new paper says.

Warming Pacific ‘primed’ for possible El Nino forming by this spring
Farmers beware: a build-up of warm water in the eastern Pacific has lifted the odds for an El Nino forming late this spring, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie,
President Climate Action Monaro

Climate Newsletter 16 June 2018

US President Trump may deserve praise this week for negotiating with Kim Jong Un over denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Before the talks, however, he behaved badly at the G7 talks in Canada in which he even failed to even attend the formal climate discussions. Nor did he sign the communique which reaffirmed commitment to the Paris Agreement.

While Trump cosies up to his long-term enemies, he is doing his best to alienate his traditional friends, not least Canada, over tariffs. Many renewable energy developments in the US were threatened by the tariff-led increase in the cost of Chinese imports of solar panels. Fortunately, because the costs of solar panels are falling by a third, this balances out the tariffs and the US developments can proceed.

Indeed, Renew Economy (see below) describes how this energy transition we are in is gathering pace, with large-scale solar falling to the low $A40s/MWh, and battery storage proving to be cheaper and more valuable than previously thought.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the scientific body set up by the UN to provide the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts. Its next report is due in October, but the draft was leaked this week and reveals that the world will have reached 1.5C degree warming by 2040 unless countries rapidly implement “far-reaching” actions to reduce carbon emissions.

When the Climate Institute lost its funding and closed last year, the Australia Institute (TAI) based in Canberra took over its climate work. In a new paper released this week, the TAI finds the Turnbull government’s target of a 26-28% reduction on it 2005 levels is “inadequate according to any recognised principle-based approach” and the Labor target of a 45% reduction is “the bare minimum necessary …” The report’s author, Richie Merzian, says Australia’s reduction target is “unambitious, unfair and irresponsible”.

A study by Australian researchers published in Nature this week, reveals that Antarctica lost 3 trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, caused by warming of the ocean and atmosphere. Unless we limit greenhouse gas emissions, it says, irreversible changes will take place and rates of sea level rise will be similar to those at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

We are already seeing some sea-level rise, of course, but even now coral reefs are not keeping pace. Nor are the rules which govern international fisheries, for the fish are moving habitat faster than the systems that allocate fish stocks.

What with the plummeting cost of renewables and coal being increasingly uncompetitive, you would have thought Adani would have given up by now to build the Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland.  But, no, he wants to pump 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River 61 km away (not a way to win the hearts and minds of drought-stricken farmers) and contracted the company Wagners to build a $30m airstrip for the mine. Protests have already begun against Wagners by members of the Galilee Blockade, wonderfully dressed as super-heroes.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Six of the G7 commit to climate action. Trump wouldn’t even join conversation
Trump skipped the formal climate discussions, had the U.S. negotiators promote fossil fuels instead, and then renounced the group’s official communiqué.

China’s dramatic solar shift could take sting out of Trump’s panel tariffs
Analysts expect solar panel costs to drop by a third. That could be a lifeline for U.S. developers, who sidelined billions of dollars in projects over the tariffs.

Solar2.0: PV and storage deals show signs of rapid energy transition

Giles Parkinson & Sophie Vorrath

China, Gupta, storage. This past week has seen landmark developments that signal the pace of the energy transition is gathering speed, with huge implications for consumers (mostly good) and incumbent utilities (mostly not so good).

Leaked UN draft report warns of urgent need to cut global warming
IPCC says ‘rapid and far-reaching’ measures required to combat climate change

Australia’s emissions reduction target ‘unambitious, irresponsible’
New Australia Institute paper finds neither Coalition nor Labor’s pollution reduction targets would see us doing our fair share

Antarctica has lost 3 trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years. Time is running out for the frozen continent
Steve Rintoul, CSIRO and Steven Chown, Monash University
What will Antarctica look like in 2070? Will the icy wilderness we know today survive, or will it succumb to climate change and human pressure? Our choices over the coming decade will seal its fate.

Coral reefs losing ability to keep pace with sea-level rise
Many coral reefs will be unable to keep growing fast enough to keep up with rising sea levels, leaving tropical coastlines and low-lying islands exposed to increased erosion and flooding risk, new research suggests.

Climate change means fish are moving faster than fishing rules, Rutgers-led study says
Climate change is forcing fish species to shift their habitats faster than the world’s system for allocating fish stocks, exacerbating international fisheries conflicts, according to a study led by a Rutgers University-New Brunswick researcher.

Anti-Adani protesters target construction firm Wagners over $30m contract
Queensland company contracted to build airstrip for troubled Carmichael coalmine

‘Australia doesn’t realise’: worsening drought pushes farmers to the brink
Liverpool plains farmer Megan Kuhn says cows are being slaughtered because there is no way of feeding them after years of extreme weather.

Letter published in Canberra Times 15 June 2018

Unviable project

According to your report (‘‘Adani shuns water trigger’’, June 13, p9) Indian mining giant Adani wants to pump up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River in a 61km pipeline to its proposed mega coal mine. As if the direct and indirect effects of the proposed mine on the climate and the Great Barrier Reef aren’t bad enough, now the company wants to rob Queensland farmers of much needed water in a time of drought.

The website Renew Economy, tells us that in the last two months India has seen 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of wind tenders completed at record low US$36-37/MWh tariffs. Adani’s Mundra facility, the largest coal import plant in India, is idle, unable to compete. Why on earth would Adani want to dig up coal in Australia when it cannot compete economically with renewable energy? Please, would the ALP just tell us it will not allow Adani’s Carmichael mine to go ahead, should it be elected at the next federal election?
Jenny Goldie

Climate Newsletter 9 June 2018

In South Australia, steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has unveiled a stunning plan to provide cheap solar power to five major South Australian companies, promising to slash their electricity costs by up to 50 percent.

Just as we’re beginning to think there’s little hope in the federal government, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledges the climate is getting warmer. And Agriculture Minister David Littleproud also comes out of the side of rationality. He says the climate is changing and the “disruption that’s happening with the technology, moving towards renewable energy… is exciting. I think it is a good thing.” He also says we must use ‘the best science available’. Hurray.

Poor old Western Australia is having a hard time this week, being battered by storms. And then prescribed burning fires got out of control because of strong winds, particularly near Albany.

It’s good news from Queensland with a massive wind-farm being approved north west of Rockhampton. In addition, a massive solar farm on 154 hectares will be built near Warwick on the Darling Downs to provide all of the University of Queensland’s electricity needs, though there have been protests because the Darling Downs is, of course, prime agricultural land.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) finds that there was mass coral bleaching in successive years in the northern Great Barrier Reef which is unprecedented in the historical record. This will, of course, have dire effects on the tourist industry.

There were assertions through the week at the Energy Networks Australia conference that too much solar in the system was going to cause blackouts because of frequency problems. As Giles Parkinson of ReNew Economy, however, points out, the new inverters will deal with all the problems of frequency and thus blackouts will be rare.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change this week warns that the transition to renewables is so rapid that fossil fuel companies could be left with trillions of dollars in stranded assets and spark a global financial crisis.

The Renewables 2018 Global Status Report released this week finds that the transformation to renewables is picking up speed in the electricity sector, but urgent action is required in heating, cooling and transport.

Tesla owners roll out Australia-wide charging network – for all EVs
Tesla owners club installs Round Australia Electric Highway, providing all EV drivers with usable charging route – while governments and industry catch up.

Why you may only need to charge your EV once a week, or less
Range anxiety? Most EVs would need to be charged less than once a week to meet the average daily commute of Australian drivers.

A bird’s eye view of New Zealand’s changing glaciers
Andrew Lorrey, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research; Andrew Mackintosh, Victoria University of Wellington, and, Victoria University of Wellington
Forty years of continuous end-of-summer snowline monitoring of New Zealand’s glaciers brings the issue of human-induced climate change into tight focus.

National party comments on drought and climate ‘a disservice’ to farmers
The majority of farmers and National party voters say they are ‘increasingly frustrated’ at the lack of action on climate change at a federal level

Record year for solar and renewables, but still not fast enough
REN21 report says record 98GW of solar capacity added globally in 2018, 52GW of wind, and 178GW total of all renewables. But other sectors – including transport, heating, and cooling – coasting along “as if we had all the time in the world.”

If we all became vegan tomorrow
Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul
The Guardian repeats the myth that becoming vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth.

What is the carbon bubble and what will happen if it bursts?
As the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, fossil fuel investments worth trillions of dollars, from oil wells to cars, will lose their value

Geoengineering: ‘The Voldemort of climate change’
Geoengineering solutions to climate change sound like magic, but a leading proponent says most people working on climate change dare not speak its name.

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees now ‘aspirational’: scientists
The chances of limiting dangerous climate change to less than 2 degrees are rapidly disappearing as carbon emissions again ramp up in China, scientists say.

(on the other hand…)

Global warming can be limited to 1.5°C by changing how we travel, heat homes, use devices
Global warming can be limited to 1.5°C by unprecedented improvements in the energy efficiency of everyday activities, according to new research from an international team of scientists at IIASA.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Climate Newsletter 3 June 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

The renewables revolution was outlined in detail by Australian National University Professor Andrew Blakers in his appearance before the “NSW Select Committee on Electricity Supply, Demand and Prices”.  He argues that 100 per cent renewable energy is possible with back-up storage (pumped hydro or batteries) and demand management.  His evidence, in the above transcript  of proceedings, starts on page 53.  It’s worthwhile reading, believe me.

The Fairfax media, in contrast to Murdoch media, has been very good on climate change. Even so, it was touching to read the Sydney Morning Herald’s economic editor, Ross Gittins, berating himself for not doing much more, given, he says, climate change is the most pressing economic problem we face.

In the same vein, Kane Thornton of the Clean Energy Council railed against the lack of a clear climate and energy policy, and called for an end to the ‘energy wars’.

If you’re worried about dry paddocks now, winter is not going help much. For this part of the country, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts winter will be warm and dry. Meanwhile, Mountainwatch says it will be wetter in the Alps but whether that translates as snow is another matter.

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of a renewable energy revolution with North Queensland being ahead of the game in approving large-scale wind and solar projects. The Clean Energy Council’s report  for this year shows Queensland as a whole way ahead of the other states in new projects.

The Australia Institute corroborates all this with a National Energy Emissions Audit by its energy expert Hugh Saddler. The Audit shows that the capacity of large-scale solar generation tripled between March and early May, and that South Australia became a net energy exporter for the first time in March, selling the state’s abundant wind-generated power into Victoria.

And for the best laugh you will get all year, watch this video about the federal government’s energy policy.

The rapidly changing dynamics of Australia’s grid
South Australia becomes net electricity exporter for first time, 12 new wind and solar farms were added, the amount of large-scale solar tripled, and rooftop PV kept a lid on demand.

Wind and solar slashing corporate energy costs by 40%
Company behind new “Renewable Energy Hub” says wind, solar clearly delivering electricity at 40% discount from the grid.

Turn up the heat, turn down the productivity
Global climate models predict a decline in ocean net primary production. This is the difference between the amount of carbon dioxide that phytoplankton take in to photosynthesize and the amount that is released by the phytoplankton during metabolism.

Renewables smash records in 2017, but 2018/19 will be bigger
CEC report details record-breaking year for solar, wind, batteries in Australia – and “just a glimpse” of unprecedented level activity expected in next two.

NEG target in cross-hairs as CEC, SEC call for more ambition
Clean Energy Council and Smart Energy Council call for high emissions reduction targets, as Frydenberg promises no change to the party room.

Subsidies helped wind and solar mature in Europe. Now they’re thriving on their own
New renewable energy projects are counting on turning a profit without governments subsidising their output.

ACT government to install 50 EV charging stations
ACT to install 50 EV charging stations on government sites across Canberra as part of nation-leading effort to decarbonise city’s transport sector.

Land-clearing wipes out $1bn taxpayer-funded emissions gains
Official data shows forest-clearing released 160m tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2015

Why there will be no new petrol cars sold in Australia by 2027
Robert Dean
Within 10 years, the only ICE vehicles of any value will be rare classics from the days when Australian’s loved their cars. Here’s why.

The coming wave of climate displacement
Not since 1951 has the international community produced a treaty to protect the legal status of the world’s refugees. Now, two agreements are currently under discussion at the United Nations, and each offers a rare opportunity to protect global migrants from the biggest source of displacement today.