Australian news, and some related international items

Scott Morrison transfers his love affair with coal, to gas

Our coal-fondling PM switches his prop to gas, but is anything really different?  Jacqueline Maley, Columnist and senior journalist, The Age, 20 Sept 290   In February 2017, Scott Morrison walked into Parliament to perform a piece of coal-centred theatre that became one of the defining moments of his political career. “Mr Speaker, this is coal,” he pronounced, brandishing a black lump. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you!”

As was pointed out at the time, the coal must have been lacquered – touching raw coal covers you in black dust. Morrison didn’t want to get his hands dirty. He just wanted to score a political point.

His speech was not about the benefits of coal so much as it was a gleeful attempt to wedge Labor over the electability problem it had, and still has – the insoluble tension between its heavy industry-reliant, blue-collar voter base, and its urban voters, who want meaningful climate action.

No one feels this tension more than Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who is old-Labor in his sensibilities, but whose inner-Sydney electorate is under siege from the Greens…………

It was always the Coalition, of course, that had the ideological attachment to coal as an energy source. The Nationals, in particular, appear to be moving away from representing farmers to supporting what is buried in the earth beneath their crops.

Coal-fired power became a literal touchstone in the culture wars, an identity stance that Liberals and Nationals clung to even in the face of all market and scientific evidence of its limitations and harms.

It is Labor that has always had the political problem with coal. It needed to convince its blue-collar base it cared about jobs and electricity prices, while also being serious about emissions reduction. But Labor is also the only side of politics that has ever been effective on emissions reduction, instituting in 2012 the only sensible mechanism to bring emissions down – a carbon price and emissions trading scheme.

It worked, in the short time it was operational, before being abolished by Tony Abbott, elected in a 2013 landslide to do exactly that.

The energy prop has changed now, with Morrison this week announcing he wants a “gas-led recovery” for the post-COVID-19 future. He is backing slowly away from coal.

In a speech in the Hunter Valley – a carefully chosen location given its significance in Labor’s own climate wars – he said there was “no credible energy transition plan for an economy like Australia that does not involve the greater use of gas”.

Details of his plan were scant. It is a plan for a plan. Morrison issued an ultimatum to electricity companies, saying if the industry did not back “dispatchable” electricity generation by next year, taxpayer money would be used to build a gas-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley, replacing the near-defunct Liddell coal plant at Muswellbrook………

Most Australians are too stressed by contemporary events, and fatigued by the climate wars, to follow the detail, which is complex. But Morrison will be able to use his “gas-led recovery” rhetoric to hedge.

His government no longer has to fight a rearguard action in defence of coal, an energy source that markets have firmly turned away from, and which public opinion is swaying against. But his party can still keep its distance from the renewable energy sources to which it seems to nurse an ideological objection. It remains to be seen if the plan will work to reduce emissions, or ensure low electricity prices.

Meanwhile, business continues to move ahead faster than the government. On Friday, BlackRock, the world’s largest investor, with $US7.32 trillion in assets under management, released a report showing that more than 1000 global companies and other organisations had signed up to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure standards.

………Morrison’s plan for a plan will stand in for an energy policy, for now, from a government that has thoroughly betrayed the electorate on this issue for the seven years it has been in power. In that time, the earth has warmed further, and Australia has had a good taste of what is yet to come in terms of climate devastation.

September 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison turns to socialism, with his new religion, not coal, but “gas-led recovery”

It’s a small church that sings the gas gospel, Canberra Times, Michelle Grattan, 18 Sep 20, 

If Labor were threatening to build a power station, the Liberals would likely be screaming “socialists”.

As for a Coalition government contemplating such a thing – well, to say the obvious, it hardly fits with the Liberals’ stated free-market, private-enterprise philosophy. But hey, neither does the hyper-Keynesian support package to cushion the economy through the pandemic.

Only a few within its own ranks would dispute the government’s COVID-19 mega-spending, whatever the ideological contradiction. And they’re keeping their voices to private whispers.

The gas power plant is another matter, and it will be fascinating to see how the debate plays out if the threat turns into reality.

The threat is part of the go-with-gas policy unveiled by Scott Morrison this week, spruiked as driving a “gas-fired” recovery, especially for manufacturing. This sounds suspiciously like a three-word slogan that promises more than it is likely to deliver.

But Morrison has signed up to the church of gas, whose pastors include Nev Power, chairman of the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 commission, and Andrew Liveris, the head of its (now defunct) manufacturing taskforce, which delivered a pro-gas report.

Much of the gas plan is broad and aspirational at this stage. But the threat is specific enough.

Morrison said the electricity sector must lock in by April investments to deliver 1000MW of new dispatchable energy to replace the Liddell coal-fired power station before it closes in 2023. Or else. The government-owned Snowy Hydro was working on options, he said.

Going back to Malcolm Turnbull’s time, the government conducted – and lost – a bitter battle with AGL over the planned Liddell closure. It exerted maximum pressure on the company to extend the life of the station, or alternatively to sell it, but to no avail.

The gas policy, especially the threat, hasn’t gone down well – with the energy sector or environmentalists. And it’s come under criticism from experts and even from within Coalition ranks.

The Australian Energy Council, representing investors and generators, warned the spectre of a government gas generator could put off private investors.

Environmentalists are against gas anyway, whoever produces it, because it is a fossil fuel and therefore has emissions, albeit not as bad as coal.

The Nationals’ Matt Canavan, who not so long ago was resources minister, says if a new power station is to be built in the Hunter region it should be coal-fired.

And the director of the Grattan Institute’s energy program, Tony Wood, says the government’s claim that 1000MW of new dispatchable capacity is needed isn’t supported by the advice from its own Liddell taskforce.

More generally, Wood argues the idea of a gas-led recovery is “a mirage”.

He says east-coast gas prices are unlikely to fall to very low levels and anyway, even very low prices would not stimulate major economic activity. “Investing in more gas infrastructure in the face of climate change looks more like a herd of stampeding white elephants” is Wood’s blunt assessment…….

Critics don’t like the proposed expansion of the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation beyond supporting renewables.

September 19, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australia’s mainstream media dutifully parrots out Government spin about gas

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

In tropical areas, increasing heat and humidity will make life almost unbearable

These impacts will be stronger in the seasonally wet tropics (such as the Northern Territory of Australia), where more extreme warming is expected than in the equatorial zone.

Predictions for Darwin, in northern Australia, suggest an increase in days with temperatures above 35℃ from 11 days a year in 2015 to an average of 43 days under the mid-range emission scenario (IPCC’s RCP4.5 scenario) by 2030 and an average of 111 (range 54-211) days by 2090. Under the higher emission scenario (IPCC’s RCP8.5), an average of 265 days above 35℃ could be reached by 2090.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

‘Gas-led recovery’ may actually deter energy investment: Experts

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

A legal win for Adani, against climate activist Ben Pennings

Adani granted injunction to stop activist Ben Pennings using ‘confidential material’ABC 11 Sept 20,   Mining giant Adani has been granted an injunction ordering an activist to stop using “confidential material” it claims is frustrating the development of its mine and rail network in the Galilee Basin.

Key points:

  • The legal action is against Brisbane activist Ben Pennings
  • Mr Pennings is accused of demanding contractors to cease working with Adani
  • Justice Martin found the “Stop Adani” movement had caused at least three contractors to withdraw

Adani launched legal action in the Supreme Court in Brisbane against activist Ben Pennings, claiming he had continually demanded contractors who had agreements with the mining company to terminate or withdraw from negotiations.

Adani also argued Mr Pennings would encourage others to provide confidential information to an ongoing campaign —The Galilee Blockade — concerning plans and operations at the site.

Today’s order comes after Adani twice failed to secure a search order to seize evidence from Mr Penning’s home.

…… Under the injunction orders handed down this morning, Mr Pennings will be required to remove certain social media posts and be prevented from using confidential information obtained through campaigns run by him.

Activist accused of ‘intimidation and conspiracy’

Outside court, Mr Pennings said he would respect the court’s injunction but was “very concerned” about ongoing civil action in which Adani accused Mr Pennings of a “breach of confidence, inducing breach of contract, intimidation and conspiracy”.

“I have a family at home, kids, a kid with a disability,” Mr Pennings said.

“If Adani is successful with their civil action, I’ll have to sell my house, and that’s really difficult for my family, but Adani seem determined to hurt me.

“I don’t believe I should have to sell my suburban family home in Aspley to make an Indian multi-billionaire even richer.

“The ‘Stop Adani’ movement is massive. I’m just one passionate person. They really can’t sue all of us.”……….

September 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment

Australia’s nearly 2 $trillion costs by 2050 – if we continue climate change inaction

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison will be praying for a Trump win: they see eye-to-eye on doing nothing about climate change

September 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Endless summers, endless wildfires,

Endless summers, endless wildfires, South Wind 8 September 2020, 

If leaders can’t get their heads around the wildfire-climate link, we had better prepare for many more nasty summers  “…………. Now, everything is merged into one, and greatly enlarged. In my youth the places I recall having summer fires were Australia, the western United States, and odd outbreaks in Latin America, Africa and Mediterranean countries. Now we hear of fires erupting in other northern lands, as far north as the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Looking back at this year so far we could be forgiven for thinking the whole world is ablaze. Almost as soon as wildfires are extinguished on one continent they seem to be breaking out afresh on another one.

2020 began with Australia’s record-breaking Black Summer fires destroying millions of hectares of forest and capturing global attention. Within a couple of months fires had broken out in Ukraine, threatening the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear plant.

A month later, smouldering peat that had been primed by years of drying and warming began to spark vegetation fires in Siberia that would eventually number over 600, emitting more carbon in two months than any preceding year and producing a smoke cloud spanning an area bigger than Europe.

The Siberian fires were still burning in mid-August when forests in California erupted into flames, more than a month earlier than the start of a “normal” season in that part of the world and less than two years after its previous record-breaking year.

At the end of a relatively quiet Californian fire season, in 2019-20 Australia got the benefit of that state’s large water-bombing aircraft, one of which crashed in the Australian Alps killing its US crew. Now, with California suffering similar devastation, we are battling to respond to its desperate appeal for reciprocal help.

Add to all those the perennial fires accompanying rainforest clearing in Southeast Asia and Brazil. The Amazon Basin situation is dire. August-September is the land-clearers’ peak burning period, and this year, with legal constraints all but destroyed under president Jair Bolsonaro, the area burnt and smoke generated looks like being even worse than what triggered last year’s global alarm.

Last week saw release of the interim report of the inquiry into Australia’s natural disaster management, led by former air force chief Mark Binskin, which was set up by the Morrison government after the Black Summer fires.

As the Black Summer fires showed, the report said, “bushfire behaviour has become more extreme and less predictable. Catastrophic fire conditions may become more common, rendering traditional bushfire prediction models and firefighting techniques less effective.”

No close observer of climate change would be surprised by the coronavirus pandemic’s global progress and the response to it of many political and vested interests. Those interests might wish it were otherwise, but this contagion operates without any reference to the things they hold dear.

Climate change, too, doesn’t recognise human boundaries. We set it off, and by failing to curb carbon emissions, we ensured its impact would continue to grow. Yet Australian governments, ignoring dire warnings from disaster experts, continue to behave as if it doesn’t exist.

This summer may see something of a reprieve. Weather authorities anticipate a wettish spring for eastern Australia. A moist understory is less likely to kindle fire from dry lightning, which has plagued recent fire management in both hemispheres.

But hoping for good weather doesn’t replace what the experts keep saying: a fire plan that doesn’t acknowledge the overwhelming influence of climate change is no plan at all. If partisan politics and vested interests prevent us acting on this, we’d better get ready for many more summers from hell.

September 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Joe Biden if president will push allies like Australia to do more on climate, adviser says

Joe Biden if president will push allies like Australia to do more on climate, adviser says

Jake Sullivan says the former vice-president, if elected, won’t ‘pull any punches’ on what is a global problem. Guardian  Daniel Hurst @danielhurstbne, Mon 7 Sep 2020 

Joe Biden will not pull any punches with allies including Australia in seeking to build international momentum for stronger action on the climate crisis, an adviser to the US presidential candidate has said.

If elected in November, Biden will hold heavy emitters such as China accountable for doing more “but he’s also going to push our friends to do more as well”, according to Jake Sullivan, who was the national security adviser to Biden when he was vice-president and is now in the candidate’s inner circle……..

While Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, is likely to welcome the pledge of US coordination with allies on regional security issues, there may be unease in government ranks about the potential for tough conversations about Australia’s climate policies.

The Coalition government has resisted calls to embrace a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and it proposes to use Kyoto carryover credits to meet Australia’s 2030 emission reductions pledge. Some Coalition backbenchers still openly dispute climate science.

Sullivan said climate change would be a big priority for Biden, both in domestic policy – with climate and clean energy issues placed at the heart of his economic recovery visions – and in foreign policy, where he would do more than just reverse Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris agreement.

He has said right out of the gate, we’re not just rejoining Paris – we are going to rally the nations of the world to get everyone to up their game, to elevate their ambition, to do more,” Sullivan told the Lowy Institute. ……….

September 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment


Parliament Covers Up Australia’s True Carbon Footprint, ByTasmanian Times, August 31, 2020    The House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy today tabled its report on Andrew Wilkie MP’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment (Transparency in Carbon Emissions Accounting) Bill 2020 in Federal Parliament.

“Regrettably the Committee has voted to cover up Australia’s shameful role as one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change,” Mr Wilkie said. “But the reasoning behind its recommendation for Parliament not to pass this Bill doesn’t stack up.”

Mr Wilkie’s Bill would require the Federal Government to include scope 3 emissions in reports of Australia’s carbon emissions, boosting transparency and accountability. Scope 3 emissions are the potential emissions contained in the gas and coal mined in Australia, which is then exported overseas. The Bill allows Australia to track its impact as one of the largest exporters of fossil fuels in the world, giving the public access to information about Australia’s role in very significantly contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Australia must have a clear picture of its contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Wilkie said. “This is essential as the world tries to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and halt catastrophic climate change. Keeping track of Australia’s scope 3 emissions is not double counting but gives a true picture of our responsibility for climate change around the globe.

The Committee can hardly argue that tracking scope 3 emissions is ‘too hard’ when the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has not even conducted an assessment of compliance costs. For goodness sake, the Committee acknowledges that more than a quarter of ASX200 companies already voluntarily report their scope 3 emissions.

“Further, the fact that this kind of tracking is not required by the Paris Agreement is beside the point. The Australian Government should be open and transparent for the sake of the community, rather than claiming that Australia can do little to influence climate change. The truth is that when the carbon in fossil fuel exports is taken into account, Australia accounts for about 5 per cent of the global total for fossil fuels.”

The full House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy report can be found here.


September 1, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Book: The Carbon Club -Tony Abbott and the ‘people’s revolt’ against Gillard’s climate policy

Tony Abbott and the ‘people’s revolt’ against Gillard’s climate policy

In her new book ‘The Carbon Club’ Marian Wilkinson exposes the truth behind Australia’s inaction on climate change. Crikey, MARGOT SAVILLE,  AUG 28, 2020

Among developed nations, why is Australia one of only two countries to have such a shameful record on climate change? And why have the brutal and divisive politics of climate change managed to topple three of our prime ministers?

For several years, award-winning journalist Marian Wilkinson has been investigating the relationship between climate-sceptic politicians, business leaders and their allies. For her latest book The Carbon Club, she has conducted scores of interviews with players on both sides in order to expose the truth behind Australia’s inaction on climate change.

In this very readable book, released on Monday, Wilkinson has revealed many new details of the international campaign to undermine climate science and the urgency of the climate crisis.No book on this topic is complete without an analysis of one of our most sceptical politicians, Tony Abbott. In 2010, with Julia Gillard in the Lodge, Abbott’s shadow parliamentary secretary and chief attack dog Cory Bernardi was let out to stop the carbon tax.

Bernardi teamed up with young libertarian Tim Andrews, who had trained with the Koch Brothers’ internship in the US.

“The two helped create the ‘people’s revolt’ against the climate policy, using the power of social media and the tactics of the Tea Party movement that was gaining ground in the US Republican party.

“One of the driving ideas behind the campaign was to exploit the anger and disaffection among ordinary voters towards politicians,” Wilkinson writes. …..

The “people’s revolt” against Gillard and the emissions trading scheme passed by Kevin Rudd would fundamentally fracture conservative politics in Australia, fostering splinter parties and deepening divisions in the Liberals, Wilkinson writes.

“It would destroy any chance of uniting the major political parties to face the enormous challenge of climate change.”………

Marian Wilkinson will discuss her new book at a Crikey Talks event for Inside Access members next month. Visit our Inside Access page to upgrade

August 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Adani quietly rebranding Abbot Point terminal as company hit with $107m damages bill

Adani quietly rebranding Abbot Point terminal as company hit with $107m damages bill

Exclusive: Queensland supreme court says company engaged in ‘unconscionable conduct’, Guardian  Ben Smee @BenSmee, Fri 28 Aug 2020 Adani has quietly begun planning to rebrand its Abbot Point coal terminal – removing all reference to Adani in its company name and branding – as financiers continue to abandon the business and a Queensland court orders it to pay $106.8m in damages.

The Queensland supreme court this week ordered Adani to pay four terminal users damages for “unconscionable conduct” in a judgement that was scathing of Adani’s actions to advantage its own financial interests over other coal companies.

In the 93-page decision, the supreme court justice Jean Dalton said Adani’s ports business “attempted to disguise its behaviour in complex transactions”, engaged in conduct outside the boundaries of normal commercial behaviour, and “pleaded matters which were false”.

Name change planned as more investors pull out

Guardian Australia can reveal that Adani reserved two new company names with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 18 August – eight days before the court judgement. The Asic documents flag its intention to rebrand Adani Abbot Point Terminal and its holding company as the “North Queensland Export Terminal”.

In July, an Adani employee registered the web domain on behalf of Adani Abbot Point Operations, a separate company that manages the operations of the export terminal.

Climate campaigners say the move appears to be Adani “changing what has obviously become a toxic brand” amid its ongoing difficulties refinancing the port’s debts.

The Guardian can also reveal two additional Korean investors have, under pressure from climate activists, said they will dump their investments in Adani’s port, which has total debts of $1.5bn.

In recent days, Korean Investment Securities and Industrial Bank of Korea have written to activist groups confirming they will not offer further finance to the port, which would export coal from Adani’s controversial Carmichael coalmine……….

August 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed

Gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed,, Penny Sackett, 27 Aug 20

Australia’s chief scientist from 2008 to 2011   If gas-fired electricity emissions can be lower than that from coal-fired plants, should Australia expand its fossil gas industry as a means of combating climate change? The answer is a clear no if we want to avoid the worst climate change outcomes.

Science has repeatedly demonstrated that the most important action to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees is to begin to reduce all fossil fuel consumption – coal, yes, but oil and gas too – in this decade.

The primary difficulty is the large mismatch between what is required to meet that stated climate goal of the Paris Agreement and what nations have actually pledged to do. Worse still, the current policies of many countries, Australia included, would increase their national production of fossil fuels, increasing emissions above their own weak pledges.

This so-called “production gap” is the subject of a recent multi-institutional, multi-national report led by the Swedish Environment Institute. Its analysis shows that governments are planning to produce about 50 per cent more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2-degree pathway and 120 per cent more than would be consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway. This means that plans for fossil fuel development or extension that are already on the table must be shelved to hold warming to the Paris target range.

Consistent with other research, the report demonstrates that to have a 66 per cent chance of holding warming to well below 2 degrees, coal, oil and gas production must all decline significantly in the next decade. That is why increasing gas development to displace coal is no longer a viable approach to maintaining a reasonably safe climate.

Over the past 30 years, coal-to-gas “fuel-switching” has played a role in reducing emissions in the United States and Britain. However, the latest information from the US Energy Information Administration shows that the US energy grid has decreased its emissions from a shift to non-fossil fuel sources by almost as much as a shift to gas. Despite the shale boom, non-carbon energy sources have now overtaken any other single source of fossil fuel in supplying energy to the US grid.

In Britain, renewables played a large role in reducing emissions in the electricity grid. Between 2006 and 2016, the renewables share of electricity production rose from 2 per cent to 25 per cent, even excluding large hydro. While the 1990’s “dash for gas” was responsible for the largest cumulative amount of avoided greenhouse emissions in Britain since 1990, the situation is different now. In 2017, the transition to renewable energy was the largest driver in its electricity sector’s emission reductions. In second place was lower electricity demand (think what we could do with energy efficiency in Australia), while coal-to-gas switching came in third.

The world we live in has already changed dramatically with global average temperatures now 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Cyclones and storm surges are more intense. Droughts are more damaging. Fire seasons are longer and bushfires more fierce. Billions of animals died in last year’s Australian bushfires alone. Entire species are becoming extinct at rates far above normal. The point of no return may have already passed for Arctic sea ice – in 15 years, globes in schoolrooms may show white ice at only one pole.

At 2 degrees of warming, heatwaves would be even more severe and more deadly to humans, animals and agriculture. Sydney and Melbourne would need to brace for 50-degree days. The fire weather that produced Australia’s Black Summer would become at least four times more likely, the amount of water available to feed dams and rivers in NSW would be reduced by 30 per cent from what was typical mid last century, and coral reefs around the world would almost certainly be eliminated.

We have all the tools to avoid that future of 2 degrees of warming. What has been lacking is coherent, science-based action that does not add yet more fuel to the climate fire. Today, when the enormous human, economic and ecological costs of even 1.1 degrees of warming are so clear, when prices of renewable energy have plummeted, and several non-fossil energy storage options are available, gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed.

Planned and rapid coal-to-renewables switching is now the responsible path. Gas will have a role in the near term, certainly, but the science is clear. The role of gas needs to be a significantly declining one, not a growing one, if we are to avoid the worst of climate change so that Australia’s future is safe, sustainable and competitively modern.

Penny Sackett was Australia’s chief scientist between 2008 and 2011. She is an honorary professor at the Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

August 27, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Nearly 90% of young Australians want real action on climate change

August 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment