Climate change has many known impacts, rising sea levels, destruction of coral reefs, increases in severe storms and the list goes on… but this week I heard about one impact that really took me by surprise. As more of the permafrost beneath the Russian tundra melts due to global warming, increasing numbers of well-preserved Mammoths are coming to the surface. Taking advantage of this opportunity Russia has begun mining the remains of these long-extinct woolly mammoths to meet a growing demand for ethical ivory.
We can only assume that as things continue more and more unforeseen impacts will come to our attention. If they are all as harmless as the surfacing Mammoths things might not be so bad… I can only hope that the human race is able to adapt its behaviours before we have a chance to find out.
Nearly all the major papers ran stories on green energy and the bill hikes last week. The general conclusion of these articles was that green energy is not the reason for large increases in electricity bills seen across Australia. All of these articles did however quote one source as stating that ‘prices were pushed up by renewable energy initiatives’ so I thought I’d have a little look into the source of this information.
This claim came from none other than Julie Novak of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Julie claims that ‘renewable energy initiatives are hurting families because they push up the price of electricity’. This view is in direct contrast to the original information published about price hikes which explained that the ‘increases will allow energy providers to increase investment in infrastructure and improve network security and reliability of supply’ – nothing even remotely related to green energy!
So it turns out that the Institute of Public Affairs, Julie Novak’s employer, is a Liberal associated think tank funded by Exxon-Mobil, BHP Billiton, Caltex, Shell and Esso. Other backers include electricity and mining companies.
The Institute of Public Affairs is a known advocate of global warming scepticism, and has even funded University of Queensland research projects in conjunction with key anti-climate change scientists…. So it is really is no wonder that they have produced media releases trying to dirty the name of renewable energy.
This week I heard about some interesting science which entered the climate change debate… for years now people have argued about the effect of the suns activity on the earth’s climate, with global warming sceptics claiming that the heating of the planet is the result of a natural, cyclical solar phenomenon. Well…. recent research suggests that an increase in the sun’s activity actually cools the earth rather than heats it. The new data shows that as solar activity fell at the end of one of the sun’s 11 year cycles, the light and heat reaching the Earth actually rose. This means that over the past century overall solar activity has been increasing and should therefore have cooled the Earth, but as it is global temperatures have actually increased.
The world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are yet to reach agreement on emission reductions targets at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in China this week. That is China and the US. The committee made progress on the issues of forestry, technology transfer and financing poor nations to cope with climate change but the two big payers blocked discussion on the key topic of emission reduction targets – a key feature of any realistic warming management plan. Obviously this is a very scary result… we need to reduce emissions now if we are ever going to be able to halt change. Hopefully China and the US will be able to rise to the challenge and lock in required reduction targets before the UN climate summit starting in Mexico next month.
This week Julia has been busy forming her climate change committee. She says the committee will start from the position that a carbon price is required to reduce pollution and encourage investment in low-emission technologies.
Personally I think the committee will have a hard time coming to a decision on the carbon price… Firstly we have independent Tony Windsor whose interest will ultimately be focused on keeping the price for agriculturalists low… then we have a number of representatives from energy, petroleum and mining companies, and the NAB (which is one of the biggest funders of coal based projects in Australia).
In true Abbott fashion the opposition has refused two places on the committee, rejecting the stipulation that its members must commit to a carbon price from the outset.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting is currently being hosted in China to secure a post-2012 global treaty on tackling climate change. Little progress has been made since world leaders failed to broker a deal in Copenhagen last year and the delegates were told they had to break the stalemate ahead of another UN climate summit in Mexico starting next month.
The final goal of the process is a treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, which could potentially be clinched late next year at a UN summit in South Africa, in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012.
The Chinese Government was one of the major roadblocks to reaching an agreement at Copenhagen last year. As host for this year’s convention it seems they may have changed their tune – “China said it wanted to foster a spirit of cooperation at this week’s conference” reported the Brisbane Times today.
However Dai Bingguo (China’s top foreign policy official) also indicated China would hold firm on some of the key disputes with the United States and other developed nations that have led to the current gridlock.
If discussion remains at a gridlock we will have an even further delay on action, and as Christina Figueres (UNFCCC executive secretary) point out it is in no-one’s interest to delay… “Quite the contrary, it is in everyone’s interest to accelerate action in order to minimise negative impacts on all” Figueres said.
The other week the chairman of BHP CEO expressed concerned for Australia’s future and urged the that we must get on board with carbon reduction policies and clean energy… this week on of the big four banks has joined the climate change debate by expressing that they will favor the funding of energy efficiency and clean energy projects over new coal-fired power stations.
Westpac’s statement coincided with the release of a Greenpeace report which showed that Australia’s major banks provided loans worth $5.5 billion to the coal industry over the past five years, seven times more than the $784 million lent to the renewable energy sector (Manning 2010).
I think this is great, don’t get me wrong but what’s with all the big corporations all of sudden becoming anti-coal when they have been entwined with the industry for decades. With my pessimistic hat on I can only assume they are trying to tap the previously untapped profits which could be gained though the clean energy sector and the development of new technologies…