Posts tagged climate change

Coalition to axe Renewable Energy Target?

The one pillar of existing climate policy the Coalition has promised to keep is the Renewable Energy Target (RET), to have 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity generated by renewables by 2020. This is widely regarded as a vital driver of change, because power companies must meet this target. This may be because the RET was a Howard government policy, not a Labor one, and still has strong support in the Liberal party.

However, It seems there are many within the Coalition who want the RET scrapped, or at least put back until 2025. And just before Christmas Tony Abbott also fired a warning shot across the bows of the RET, saying the scheme is “causing pretty significant price pressure”  and needed to be reviewed.

Abbott said he would also “consult closely” with his Business Advisory Council, chaired by Maurice Newman, a climate sceptic and vocal opponent of windfarms who is on record as saying the RET should be scrapped. Abbott seems to be using Newman as his mouthpiece for what most people believe is Abbott’s own continuing climate scepticism.

The Coalition also made an election promise to conduct an enquiry into the health impacts of wind turbines, with many of its supporters pushing for a ban on wind turbines close to residential areas. Funnily enough, Maurice Newman is among a group of landowners threatening to sue their neighbour for installing wind turbines if it affects the value of their properties.

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Liposuction – the answer to climate change

Who’d have guessed? A new report links obesity to climate change. Fat people, believe it or not, eat more food and are more likely to haul their lardy arses around in cars than to get out the bike.

As George Monbiot points out in The Guardian, it’s unfair to blame fat people per se. Obesity is simply the most visible sign of the overconsumption that characterises our whole society. Food, cars, gadgets, toys, clothes… you name it, we’ve got too much of it.

On the other hand, working on the basis that every crisis is also an opportunity, there’s always liposuction. I’ve blogged before about the amazing Earthrace boat but what I didn’t mention was this.

OK, so it only went 15km on human fat, but it’s a start.

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Carbon trading or carbon tax? It\’s immaterial.

An article in Online Opinion by Geoff Carmody presents the case for a carbon tax rather than a carbon trading scheme.

I\’d agree. But I\’d add: it doesn\’t matter.

Why not? Because until Governments decide tackling climate change is a higher priority than economic growth, any approach is doomed to fail.

Climate change is a big issue and it needs a \”big ideas\” response that will transform society, not tinkering around the edges.

Reducing emissions will reduce economic growth. Emissions continue to rise because we continue to make more and more things, then transport them huge distances around the world. That is what economic growth means, and that is what causes emissions.

At the moment Governments are choosing to pursue growth, while trying to make us – and themselves, perhaps – believe we can have our cake and eat it: that we can have both emissions reductions and growth.

Modern politicians, almost to a man, subscribe to Bill Clinton\’s famous maxim: \”It\’s the economy, stupid.\” Elections are won and lost on the battlefield of economic prosperity.

The ETS (or rather, the CPRS) won\’t work because the targets are set deliberately low, to avoid it impacting on economic growth, and the Government is spooked, by industry claims that it will hit the economy, into handing out free permits and exemptions.

For the same reasons, a carbon tax will fail because the Government will set the tax rate too low to significantly dampen demand for energy, and would give big polluters tax breaks and exemptions.

It all starts with political will. At the moment there is no political will to tackle climate change. You only have to look at the global summits and billions of dollars thrown at the financial \”crisis\” compared to the energy and money put into climate change solutions to see that.

What politician will have the courage to come out and advocate a no-growth economy? Or a contracting economy?

Yet that is, I believe, the only solution to climate change.

But an end to growth needs to be sold in positive terms.

Above all, it does not mean we will be less happy. Indeed, studies tend to show increasing material wealth in Western societies has not led to any increase in happiness, and in fact may have had the opposite effect.

Fulfilling working lives, vibrant and caring communities and nourishing contact with the natural world are, I believe, more important factors in quality of life than material possessions or even material comforts. A country such as Cuba has a healthcare system and life expectancy that equals or surpasses the USA, despite being a far poorer nation.

Nor does it mean we need all become killjoy wowsers. Spend time in any number of poor communities in developing nations and you\’ll find no shortage of laughter, joking and joie de vivre.

Climate change, if what the science tells us is true, will end economic growth anyway. Indeed, indefinite economic growth is not sustainable for a range of environmental reasons, of which climate change is only one. The choice facing us is between a \”managed descent\” to a smaller economic base, or the blind acceleration of continued economic growth until we head off the cliffedge into a nightmare future of runaway climate change, food shortages and resource wars.

This isn\’t a case of left versus right. This is a whole new political paradigm.

This isn\’t a case of the technicalities of tax systems. It\’s a big picture, transformation of society issue.

Carbon tax or carbon trading? We need a much bigger vision than that.

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Electric battery breakthrough

Batteries are a big deal these days. To be precise, electric batteries that hold enough charge to power a car, say, for a few hundred kilometres and that can be recharged in minutes.

In fact, they have become one of the current holy grails of the green tech industry. A longer-lasting, faster-charging battery will trigger a wholesale switch to electric cars, for instance.

A US company, EEStor, has been promising to bring out a lithium ultra capacitor for a while now. And now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced their own lithium iron phosphate competitor, which they say could be on the market in two to three years.

If either of these – or another competitor – delivers on their promises, it will signal the beginning of the end of the petrol engine.

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A tale of three meetings

This is a quick tale of three international meetings that took place this week.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s resident climate denier Miranda Devine was allowed to devote a page lead op-ed story to report on a climate sceptic conference in the US, where a few of the usual suspects rehashed familiar, discredited, climate sceptic lines.

Elsewhere, more credible scientists were meeting in Copenhagen for an International Scientific Congress on Climate Change. The congress issued an urgent appeal to world leaders to act now on climate change, warning that in the last two years global warming seems to have speeded up dramatically, surpassing the worst predictions of even the most recent IPCC report of 2007, and we may only have a few years to prevent an irrevesible planetary catastrophe.

Curiously, none of Australia’s op-ed writers picked up on that one.

And where were those world leaders?

Many of them were meeting in England to discuss the economic downturn – a “crisis” they clearly believe is more urgent and important than climate change. (After all, where is the trillion-dollar environmental crisis package we really need?)

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EU cap and trade scheme working shock!

An interesting report in the New York Times recently cites a study claiming the European Union’s cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions reduction scheme is finally producing results. The study found a 3 per cent fall in Europe’s emissions in 2008, and attributed 40 per cent of that fall to the cap and trade scheme.

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Climate change? Been there, done that

According to a new survey, Australians are apparently losing interest in climate change. Al Gore, Ross Garnaut… that’s so, like, last year. We really haven’t quite understood this thing yet, have we.

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