Climate Newsletter 28 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

The great climate activist Bill McKibben  will be in Canberra on Wednesday 2 May and you can book here if you wish to go. I have included two articles by him below.

While the federal government assumes that the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) will be passed by COAG in August, nevertheless, on Monday, the Smart Energy Council (SEC) launched a $500,000 campaign to fight it. The SEC is concerned about NEG’s totally inadequate emission reduction targets. It believes NEG is essentially anti-renewables and could be worse than doing nothing at all as it still allows for the use of coal long past the point it should be kept in the ground.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been in the US and made an impressive speech to Congress on the need for action on climate change. His speech was interrupted frequently by standing ovations. He hopes the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement. Macron will be in Australia shortly.

With the support of Climate Action Monaro, the regional conference of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW is happening in Queanbeyan, on the 26 and 27 of May 2018 with the twin subjects of renewable energy and forests.

The Climate Council has issued yet another report, this time on land-clearing in Queensland and the implications for climate change. The Queensland government is hoping to curb the excessive land-clearing with legislation, but is meeting with stiff opposition, not least from the federal government who is concerned about its effect on farmers (but clearly not concerned about climate change).

I commend the long two-part article by one of Australia’s leading climate activists, Ian Dunlop, below. He argues that our federal politicians and bureaucracy, by failing to act on climate change, are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties to the public.

There’s another article below about social scientist Mayer Hillman who claims that, because of climate change, we’re all doomed. Because it’s a bit grim, the remaining articles are essentially good news stories so you don’t get too depressed.

Climate Change: The fiduciary responsibility of politicians & bureaucrats
Ian Dunlop
After three decades of global inaction, none more so than in Australia, human-induced climate change is now an existential risk to humanity.

Hiroshima, Kyoto, and the bombs of climate change
Bill McKibben
The Japanese cities are symbols of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced: nuclear weapons and global warming. What makes those threats different?

Pay up fossil fuel industry – your free ride to pollute is over
Bill McKibben
One of the largest environmental campaigns in history is unfolding in Australia.

‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it

The world needs to store billions of tons of carbon. It could start in a surprising place.
The ethanol industry is environmentally controversial, but now it may have a big opportunity to cut its emissions.

How windmills as wide as jumbo jets are making clean energy mainstream
The global wind turbine industry has transformed from a collection of small companies in Denmark to corporations pulling off enormous feats of engineering.

Michael Bloomberg pledges $4.5m to cover US Paris climate commitment
Former NYC mayor criticises Trump for pulling out of deal

Grassland plants react unexpectedly to high levels of carbon dioxide
Plants are responding in unexpected ways to increased carbon dioxide in the air, according to a 20-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

As United States looks to coal, China invests in renewable energy
At least one country is rising to the occasion.

The world needs to store billions of tons of carbon. It could start in a surprising place.
The ethanol industry is environmentally controversial, but now it may have a big opportunity to cut its emissions.

Climate Newsletter 16 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie

President Climate Action Monaro

A massive bushfire to the south-west of Sydney with a 60km front should be concentrating the minds of everyone on climate change. While it may have been deliberately lit, its size is a function of Sydney experiencing its hottest April ever with little rain, which in turn is most likely related to climate change.

The #StopAdani campaign reports that Turnbull’s government is still considering giving Adani up to $1 billion of taxpayer money from Efic (provides finance for Australian exporters). Labor still supports Adani’s dirty coal mine ‘if it stacks up’. So from 30 April  to 13 May local politicians will be confronted with #StopAdani materials everywhere they go. And from 14-27 May there will be posters saying No Money for Adani Actions at Liberal National MP offices. And in Labor electorates (such as ours), watch for Politics in the Pub events.

As you know, COAG meets this week to discuss the National Energy Guarantee. There have been some concessions made, and South Australia under the new Liberal government is weakening in its opposition, so unfortunately it may go through. Fortunately, though, Victoria and Queensland are insisting on strong renewable targets being included. Meanwhile, the ever-splendid Climate Council has released a new briefing paper, “What are Stakeholders Saying About the National Energy Guarantee?”

Don’t forget the great climate activist Bill McKibben will be speaking in Canberra on 2 May at 6pm at the QT Hotel, 1 London Circuit. It costs $28/$20 and you can book here.

The Victorian and federal governments have promised to pump $50 million each into a near $496 million project to gassify brown coal in Victoria and produce just three tonnes of hydrogen. While hydrogen has some virtues as an alternative fuel, ReNew Economy’s Giles Parkinson rightly asks “Has the world gone completely mad

Some of us went to an excellent talk at ANU last week by climate scientist Dr Joëlle Gergis who spoke to her new book “Sunburnt Country” which is about the history and future of climate change in Australia. I commend it to you.

On the international scene, it appears that the Gulf Stream is weakening significantly, probably caused by the intrusion of cold fresh water from melting Greenland glaciers. This weakening will have a cooling effect on western Europe, though the cooling ultimately may be balanced out by overall global warming.

Out-of-control bushfire still threatening homes in Sydney as inferno changes direction

Firefighters have been working frantically to protect properties in Sydney’s south-west, where an out-of-control blaze has burnt through the Holsworthy army base and left a 500-hectare trail of destruction.

Voters split on whether Coalition should build new coal plants or stop closures

Poll shows strong support for energy efficiency measures despite divide on generators

Energy guarantee talks in ACT this week

The federal government’s National Energy Guarantee may meet resistance from states and territories which are investing in cutting their carbon emissions.

States threaten to call off energy deal if renewables undermined

Queensland and Victoria hedge bets about national energy guarantee, saying they won’t compromise on keeping strong renewables targets

Victoria renewables auction attracts 3,500MW of bids, as state warns on NEG

Victoria says its renewables auction six-times over-subscribed, and warns it won’t accept NEG in current form.

At some point, climate change must be injected into the energy debate

Peter Hannam
It is past time the state of the climate actually got a look-in when it comes to debating what path our energy system should take.

Reality check on a half-billion-dollar brown coal hydrogen project

Is the brown coal to hydrogen plant a carbon-emitting white elephant, or can it make Australia a new energy world leader?

Turnbull’s brown coal hydrogen horror show: $500m for 3 tonnes

Giles Parkinson
Turnbull hails half a billion dollar, year long project that will turn Victoria brown coal into just three tonnes of hydrogen fuel. Has the world gone completely mad?

Climate change and extreme weather: Science is proving the link

Pinning down blame for complex weather events isn’t straightforward. But cutting-edge science is rapidly shrinking the space to argue that the crazy weather we’re experiencing isn’t due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years

Warm current that has historically caused dramatic changes in climate is experiencing an unprecedented slowdown and may be less stable than thought – with potentially severe consequences

Climate Newsletter 7 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

As if it wasn’t bad enough to have a lump of coal brought into parliament a few months ago, 20 or so Parliamentarians led by Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews and Craig Kelly, have formed the Monash Group to push for a new coal-fired power station. To his credit, Treasurer Scott Morrison (a wielder of coal in the earlier stunt), declared it was not economic and rejected the idea. The next day, the descendants of General Sir John Monash, who was a civil engineer and an Australian military commander of the First World War, complained about the group using the name Monash for their “anti-science, anti-intellectual” proposal.

Despite Morrison’s rejecting the idea of a new coal power station, the Prime Minister clearly thought a sop to the backbench was in order. He is pushing Alinta to buy the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station from AGL so that base-load power can continue after its planned closure in 2022. PM Turnbull wants  another three years or so of it so it coincides with the opening of Snowy 2.0 (pumped hydro). Fortunately, the heroic Andy Vesey of AGL is standing firm and not selling, and using it as a base to develop renewables.

Someone needs to tell the PM that base-load power is not what is required any more, rather dispatchable power is, and old power plants like Liddell do not deliver dispatchable power. And he needs to know that coal-fired power stations caused a surge in airborne mercury pollution, according to a study done in Victoria’s Latrobe valley.

David Spratt, from Climate Code Red, released a report two days ago that finds we will reach 1.5oC warming within a decade, based on a number of recent scientific papers. This of course, was the more ambitious limit of warming (as against 2oC) set by the Paris Agreement. You can read the report here.

One of the world’s leading climate activists, Bill McKibben, is coming to Australia soon. He will speak in Canberra on May 2 on accelerating climate action. He’s always worthwhile but you have to pay.

Good to see our federal MP, Mike Kelly, standing firm against a nuclear power plant for the South Coast. While nuclear power does deliver carbon-free power once built, building the plants uses a lot of energy as well as the decommissioning.  And as he says, the waste and risk issues have still not been resolved.

Meanwhile, it’s been a hot, dry start to the year. Rather than being a source of pleasure as some news readers would have us believe, for anyone who worries about climate change, it simply provokes anxiety.

 Deadheads of coal wars aren’t worthy of a giant like John Monash

Tony Wright
Would Sir John Monash, an innovator as both a military man and a civil engineer, want his name associated with propping up a creaking industry?

 Solar PV and wind are on track to replace all coal, oil and gas within two decades

Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks, Australian National University
Solar photovoltaics and wind power are on track to supplant fossil-fuel-based electricity generation by the 2030s. The only thing holding back the renewable revolution is politics.

AGL chief determined to turn Liddell into renewables hub

Andy Vesey says plant remains an extremely valuable piece of AGL’s portfolio until its closure

Coal hypocrisy all round

Ben Oquist
It is hard to know what is worse – the hypocrisy of an energy company claiming to be green yet trying to prevent coal stations closing, or a Federal Government that preaches the need for reliability and business confidence as it drives investor uncertainty to new heights. But that’s energy policy in Australia today.

Antarctica retreating across the sea floor

Antarctica’s great ice sheet is losing ground as it is eroded by warm ocean water circulating beneath its floating edge, a new study has found. Scientists have tracked the movement of Antarctica’s grounding line using European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 across 16,000 km of the coastline.

The Guardian view on Antarctica: The worrying retreat of the ice

Guardian editorial
The only thing more frightening than an advancing glacier may be one that is shrinking and raising sea levels round the world.

Australian rooftop solar boom rolls on – 351MW in first quarter

Rooftop solar installation boom continues in March, and total for first quarter is more than one third more than the previous record as households and …

Coalition still kidding itself about price of coal generation

Giles Parkinson
Scott Morrison is right to dismiss new coal generation as uneconomic, but his estimates of existing coal costs is half what NSW back coal generators charged for off-peak baseload this past winter. It is time the Coalition stopped kidding itself.

Portugal generated 100% of its energy from renewable sources in March

It aims to run only on renewable energy year-round by 2040.

 Hot, dry start to 2018

Hot dry start set to continue for Sydney, much of NSW
The state – and Australia as a whole – is off to one of its warmest starts to any year.

Climate Newsletter: 20 March 2018

From Jenny Goldie: President, CAM

As I write, people in South Australia and in Batman, Melbourne, are voting and a lot of their decisions will be based on support for renewable energy (SA) or opposition to the Adani mine (Batman). A couple of relevant articles are below. Bill Shorten’s ambivalence on Adani had been disappointing, but he seems to have firmed up his opposition to the mega-coal mine. To what extent it will determine the result in Batman remains to be seen.

A friend has been visiting Venice recently and reports it is already feeling the effects of sea-level rise, not just from rising water but also the effects of seawater on the buildings. He sent this video. Sea-level rise has become a source of morbid fascination for me, and I was struck by this youtube video of what would happen if all the ice on the Earth melted. (OK, it will take 5000 years, but a 2.5 metre rise by 2100 is on the cards.)

We were saddened by the death of Stephen Hawking this week though it was amazing he lasted as long as he did with Motor Neurone Disease. While teaching us about the complexities of space, time and the universe, he also warned that human activity is causing irreversible planetary damage and that we must take action to halt climate change.

US President Trump finally sacked Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon-Mobil, which denied climate change despite the evidence for decades. (Tillerson more or less accepted the science while in office.) Unfortunately, Trump has replaced him with Mike Pompeo, a climate denier who has received money from the infamous billionaire Koch brothers who have done their utmost to discredit climate science for years.

The Lock the Gate Alliance is holding a massive rally in Macquarie Street, Sydney, at 12 noon in a week’s time to protest against coal and gas mining.  Sydney is a long way away from the Monaro, but if you happen to be there and can attend, you can RSVP here.

Turns out that if fracking is allowed in the Northern Territory, it will release far more emissions than even the dreaded Adani mine. There’s another day of action National Day of Action on Wednesday 21 March in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to show solidarity with Traditional Owners in the NT and call for climate action.

All the best, Jenny

Batman and Labor on Adani

Karen Middleton
As today’s Batman byelection brings Labor’s coal policy into relief, Adani finds it still has not got approval for its Carmichael mine.

SA election promises compared: how do the policies add up?

South Australia’s major parties have matching commitments in some areas – here are the major points of difference

No longer ‘alternative’, mainstream renewables are pushing prices down

Simon Holmes à Court
While the government insists that renewables have made our grid unreliable, lights have stayed on and prices are dropping

CEFC backs push for solar and storage in all new-build homes

The shift towards making built-in solar and battery storage the “new normal” for new-build homes in Australia now has the backing of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, in a joint initiative with leading property development group, Mirvac.

Climate change threatens survival of thousands of species in our lifetime

An alarming study finds at 4.5 degrees warming, the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems could witness extinction of half their plant and animal species.

Eastern Mediterranean summer will be two months longer by end of 21st century

The eastern Mediterranean is experiencing monumental climate changes poised to significantly affect regional ecosystems and human health. According to a new Tel Aviv University study, these changes will drastically alter the duration of summer and winter in the region by the end of this century.

Models assume we’ll cover Earth in trees. That’s a problem

The farmland of central Illinois might rarely be at the forefront of controversial climate action — but its moment arrived last spring when a Decatur-based ethanol plant became one of the first of its kind to launch an ambitious strategy to combat global warming.

Stephen Hawking’s final warnings urged world to halt climate change

In his last years, Hawking used his platform to warn that human activity is causing irreversible planetary damage and that we must take action to halt climate change.

Scientists just showed what building a new suburb does to the atmosphere

It’s the latest evidence highlighting the environmental consequences of suburban expansion, often accompanied by more miles driven by cars and larger free-standing homes that require more energy for heating and cooling.

Snowy 2.0 put on development fast-track as environmental concerns rise

Climate Newsletter 10 March 2018

Jenny Goldie:  President CAM

I hope you saw the excellent Four Corners program on Monday night which showed farmers taking action on climate change while politicians fail to do so. It also included this quote from a corporate risk expert:

“It is clear that directors do have duties to take climate risk into account as a foreseeable financial risk, and a failure to do so may expose them to liability for a breach of their duty of due care and diligence.”

Bring it on.

Floods continue to wreak havoc in Queensland with some places recording 100mm in an hour. It bears out Dorothea McKellar’s description of a land of “droughts and flooding rains” but there is an extra edge to it these days. You feel climate change is making these events more extreme.


Sometimes life is good and this week it was the appointment of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as UN special envoy on climate change. It is an antidote to President Trump’s denialist views. Trump, meanwhile, is bleeding staffers for one reason or another, but one rising star in the White House is Peter Navarro who is very strong on climate change so, you never know, he may be able to turn the president around on the issue.

If the Brits can do it, we can too. As they turn away from coal, their carbon emissions have fallen to levels last seen in the 1890s. See below.

On Wednesday, the Climate Council has launched its latest report, Clean and Reliable Power: Roadmap to a Renewable Future,” (see attached) on the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). It includes the following key messages:

  • The proposed NEG risks derailing Australia’s investment and jobs boom in renewable energy and storage
  • The expected 26% emissions reduction for electricity by 2030 under the NEG is inadequate to tackle climate change.

You may be aware that the NT government has been holding an inquiry into the benefits and risks of fracking, the findings of which will be handed down on 26 March. The organisations Seed and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) are campaigning against fracking and are planning a national day of action  to Ban Fracking in the NT on 21 March.

All the best, Jenny

Beware the green dragon, not the red one
Crispin Hull, Canberra Times, 4 March.

As China’s President Xi Jinping came closer this week to becoming the next Emperor of China for Life, western leaders wrung their hands and worried about China’s military power; cyber power and soft power – meanwhile naively surrendering, without a scintilla of opposition, primacy the one field that made the British and then the American empires world dominant – energy.

A ‘pit bull’ for climate could soon sit next to Trump
An ascendant aide in the Trump White House has warned of the threats posed by climate change, has argued for taxing carbon, has promoted wind power and was even endorsed by the Sierra Club.

As climate change parches Somalia, frequent drought comes with conflict over fertile land
Special correspondent Jane Ferguson and videographer Alessandro Pavone report on how climate change is threatening a way of life that has sustained Somalia for millennia.

Australian homes, business installed 6.5 solar panels per minute in 2017
It’s official: CER data says Australian homes and businesses installed record total of 1057MW of solar, mostly on rooftops, in 2017.

McCormack’s climate view a bigger concern

Michael McCormack’s climate change views leave constituents high and dry.

Michael Bloomberg is the new UN special envoy on climate change and says he hopes Trump ‘changes his mind’ on Paris Agreement

While politicians question the reality of climate change, farmers and businesses act
One of Australia’s biggest wine makers has already moved part of its operation to a cooler climate and other industries are also taking action. They’re not waiting for the politicians to make up their minds about the changing climate.

Dutch plan to build giant offshore solar power farm
“There is more sun at sea and there is the added benefit of a cooling system for the panels, which boosts output by up to 15 percent.”

The Precautionary Principle asks “How much harm Is avoidable?” rather than “How much harm is acceptable?”
”Acceptable harm” has brought us to the brink of disaster. Risk assessment is easily manipulated. Two groups of fully qualified risk assessors, given identical data, can reach wildly different estimates of risk.

Analysis: UK carbon emissions in 2017 fell to levels last seen in 1890

Carbon Brief analysis shows the UK’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels fell by 2.6% in 2017, driven by a 19% decline in coal use.

Climate Newsletter 5 March 2018

Jenny Goldie: President CAM

The weather seems to get crazier and crazier with a deluge in Canberra not long ago then Brisbane last night, while Europe freezes from “the beast from the east”, and that  followed a heatwave in north-eastern US, never mind the one in the Arctic. This is all to be expected under climate change yet it is all coming about much faster than expected.

The federal government has bought Snowy Hydro from NSW and Victoria for $6 billion for the purpose of implementing Snowy 2.0 (pumped hydro as a form of energy storage). We share Giles Parkinson’s concerns (see below), however, that this may prevent the other main form of storage – batteries – from taking off.

The latest data from GetUp and Green Energy Markets show:

  • The solar industry now supports more than 10,000 full time jobs
  • Queensland is leading the country on renewable jobs with 6,421 construction jobs. (Note: This is way more jobs than the Adani coal mine will generate.)


  • South Australia now leads the world in overall solar power generation (as a proportion of total electricity generation) and is second only to Denmark in wind generation.

We were thankful that the successor to Barnaby Joyce as Deputy PM and leader of the Nationals was not Adani-loving Resources Minister Matt Canavan, nevertheless, it seems that the new leader Michael McCormack has a history of opposing climate action as well, so it’s back to square one after all.

All the best, Jenny

Government buys out states’ Snowy Hydro shares for $6b
The Federal Government announces it will spend $6 billion buying out New South Wales’ and Victoria’s shares in Snowy Hydro Limited, bringing it one step closer to starting work on the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme.$6b/9500908

Will Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro continue its war against battery storage?
Giles Parkinson
Turnbull’s purchase of Snowy Hydro means he is now both utility owner and policy maker. More concerning is that the newly purchased Snowy Hydro has a strong economic interest in preventing the battery storage market from taking off.

Climate change pushing weather extremes ‘off the scale’, says global cities group
Storms, floods and other extreme weather events are hitting cities much harder than scientists have predicted, said the head of a global network of cities tackling climate change.

The Nationals have changed their leader but kept the same climate story
Marc Hudson, University of Manchester
Barnaby Joyce had a long history of opposing climate action. His successor Michael McCormack seems to think the same way, despite climate being a growing threat to the Nationals’ rural voters.

National Energy Guarantee leaves no guarantees
David Ryan
There are some significant issues still to be resolved around the NEG – complexity and potential costs are concerning.

Canberra storm drains ‘unable to cope with major rain events’, report warned
Just weeks before a “1-in-100-year weather event” flooded some Canberra residents’ homes and brought parts of the city to a standstill, a report warned the capital’s storm-water drains would be insufficient in a major downpour.

Australia’s biggest coal state, NSW, also biggest electricity importer
South Australia’s renewables grid is often criticised for relying on “imports” from other states. But no grid relies more on imports than NSW, the grid with the highest percentage of coal generation.

South32’s shift away from thermal coal puts BHP to shame
Where South32 has moved to divest from thermal coal, BHP is increasing its exposure – and undermining its climate credentials.

Arctic warming: scientists alarmed by ‘crazy’ temperature rises
Record warmth in the Arctic this month could yet prove to be a freak occurrence, but experts warn the warming event is unprecedented

It will be warmer at the North Pole next week than in much of Europe
The polar vortex split, and now the North Pole is comparatively balmy.