Al Gore, in his latest movie, "An Inconvenient Sequel", called for "Truth to Power". I am convinced that thruth to power is wrong. Politicians are so enthralled by the fossil energy industry that they will never listen to the truth on climate change. But when fear of not being reelected confronts them they will act. So, it is TRUTH TO SOCIETY that we need, and we need it NOW. The thinking that telling the truth in its raw and frightening nakedness will only turn off society needs serious review. Somehow we must make society understand the deadly seriousness that anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change poses for life on Earth. I absolutely agree with Steve Posselt when he says: "it's not about my grandchildren anymore, it's about ME!"
This article by Ian Dunlop in yesterday's Renew Economy clearly agrees and calls for an end to "appeasment" (my highlighting in the article):
The current chaos around climate and energy policy brings to mind George Santayana’s caution that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. That is exactly what we are witnessing, albeit with far more profound implications even than the advent of the Second World War.
In November 1936, Winston Churchill, concerned at the dangers posed by the Third Reich, warned the House of Commons about the refusal of the British establishment to face up to reality:
“They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent……Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of great danger ….. The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In it’s place we are entering a period of consequences….. We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now …..”
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was not to be diverted from the appeasement path, returning from Munich in September 1938 waving his “peace in our time” paper signed with Hitler. The rest is history; the war started a year later.
So it is with the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). Conjured out of nowhere, with experts press-ganged to provide underwhelming technical credibility, warning lights flashed red when the little Hitlers of the Coalition’s right wing, such as Craig Kelly, Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott himself, gave effusive support.
Most media commentators demonstrated their profound ignorance by instantly heralding the NEG as the answer to our energy prayers, despite a total absence of detail and minimal reference to the climate implications.
For climate is the key. Until climate drives energy policy, there will never be the certainty for investment, reliability, security and affordability, that everyone craves.
Kelly gave the game away by letting slip the magic word “backloading”. Put simply, to satisfy these little Hitlers, when detail of the NEG does emerge, it will guarantee business as usual for energy supply, ramping up coal and CSG, with any attempt to reduce carbon emissions in line with our wholly inadequate Paris Agreement commitments, left until the last possible minute prior to the 2030 deadline.
The rationale being that the cost of compliance by then will be greatly reduced due to technology improvements.
In that one word, the government has completely abrogated its first responsibility to safeguard the people and their future wellbeing, for everything about this “elegant” solution is wrong.
Many parliamentarians still do not believe human-induced climate change even exists; a view closely correlated with massive political donations from the fossil fuel industry.
For a country whose wealth has been based on the sensible application of science and technology, a parliament so corrupt and lacking in basic scientific, technical and economic understanding, and commonsense, is the greatest threat to our future security and prosperity.
In the real world, beyond the Canberra goldfish bowl, human-induced climate change is accelerating far faster than expected. The unprecedented hurricane season in the Atlantic, devastating bushfires in California and extreme heat in many parts of South Asia are only the most recent portents of what is to come.
The lower Paris objective, of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, is no longer achievable. Staying below the upper objective of 2 C requires a halt to the burning of fossil fuels today.
That will obviously not happen, but the more carbon that is pushed into the atmosphere, the greater the overshoot beyond 2 C and the greater the catastrophic conditions we create for ourselves.
For Australia, as one of the hottest and driest continents, this is extremely dangerous, particularly for our rural communities and for Northern Australia.
The climate impact of carbon emitted today does not manifest itself for years to come. In these circumstances, to seize upon “backloading” as a key policy plank, deliberately encouraging Adani and other Galilee Basin coal mines, the expansion of domestic coal-fired power, and CSG which is worse than coal from a warming perspective, is the height of irresponsibility, for it would automatically lock-in catastrophic outcomes.
Emissions have to be reduced now, not a decade hence. Lower energy costs will only come from a major investment in renewables, improved energy efficiency and changing social values, not from massively expanding fossil fuels and continuing to subsidise them by refusing to price carbon.
For the last twenty years, beginning with John Howard, both major parties have continually played the appeasement card on climate policy. Howard signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and as a result triggered the first design of an Australian emissions trading system, completed in 1999 (see disclosure below).
Despite strong business support, Howard shelved the Kyoto Protocol, and the emissions trading system when George W Bush refused to sign Kyoto. Business interest in climate action evaporated and fossil fuel industry resistance grew. (The Kyoto Protocol was not ratified by the Australian Parliament until after Rudd was elected PM..)
To appease the fossil fuel lobby, every proposal subsequently has been used as a starting point to further ratchet down sensible climate policy ambition, the most recent example being the Finkel Review.
In good faith, Alan Finkel (an engineer) put forward an honest proposal for a politically acceptable climate and energy policy, albeit far from ideal. It was simply taken as the starting point to be ratcheted down again to the magical vision of the NEG.
Those who have any genuine concern for the future of this country need to call out climate appeasement for what it really is, namely the destruction of our security and prosperity by a bunch of ignorant, self-serving ideologues who have no regard for the Australian people they so earnestly claim to represent.
Appeasement never works. The devastation wrought by Hitler pales into insignificance compared with the risks to which we are now exposed by the government’s refusal to adopt sensible climate policy. The period of consequences is upon us and there are certainly no Churchills in sight.
Ian Dunlop was formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chair of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a Member of the Club of Rome.
(Disclosure: Ian chaired the AGO Experts Group which designed this first emissions trading system for Australia under the Howard government in 1998/99)
Engineers Climate & Energy dictums
Sustainability, climate and energy are beset by soft obscure statements and platitudes which infuriates and distresses engineers as it stiffles effective responses. We are alert to risks and are expected to implement sustainable systems and tecnologies bereft of leadership at every level of Government and Industry. The climate emergency campaign highlights the crisis, however catastrophe,existential threat,emergency, war time mobilisation and positions like immediate ban on coal, gas etc and 100% renewable energy 2030 may well be necesary but unachievable unless the majority are frightened to a WW11 imment threat of invasion level. Meantime we can adopt some clear positions that may be acceptable to the profession,our leaders, public majority and finally politicians. to yet this is the very language used to describe terrorist, nuclear war and contagen. y useful
ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA Climate & Energy -Key position statements to move the profession to sustainable and innovative solutions members can implement in the National interest.
Engineers must recognise that current use of non renewable resources including land clearing, deforestation, soil degradation and pollution of land and seas are the root cause of biodiversity loss through desertification, heat exposure and consequent risk to human life. Climate impacts from fossil fuel combustion is rapidly destabilising the planetary systems and we see the resulting national and international conflict and economic collapse. .In Australia many of these activities are unnecessary with long term environmental impacts far exceeding marginal short term benefits.
The 26 to 28% emissions reduction by 2030 is dangerously inadequate. Current trajectory leads to +3 to 4C if applied on world scale. A 50 to 60% reduction is essential to be on track for net zero 2050
An economy wide emissions reduction plan with carbon pricing at a level which drives rapid transition to low or negative GHG emissions through efficiency and adoption of alternatives. Emissions trading is essential to stimulate investment and fund alternatives to deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, and fossil fuel dependence.It is also needed to temporarily fund communities and businesses as fossil fuel subsidies are withdrawn.
Finkel report 28% minimum emissions reduction for the electricity sector is far too weak even to meet the Federal Government 2030 targets.
The 38% renewable energy target must be 50-60%by 2030 and near 100% by 2050 and committed in government plans.
The Climate Change Authority (previous board) found emissions intensity of electricity generation needed to reduce from 0.81 t/MWh (tonnes carbon dioxide per megawatt hour) in 2015 to 0.25 t/MWh or lower by 2030 and below 0.1 by 2050 t/MWh. Committed in Governments plans as for 3 above.
We have sufficient coal and gas to meet current needs, and both need to be urgently phased out to meet our COP21 <2C commitment. There no economic or environmental case to continue with coal or gas.
The RC would consider creation of an Authority by Act of Parliament with a mandate to restructure the energy economy and rapidly implement transitions on an emergency basis.
This would break the political impasse and prevent politicians taking destructive and destabilising actions.
Intercity air travel and airports with tolls roads are not sustainable and cannot meet emission reduction commitments. Governments must plan and reserve rail corridors now to ensure Fast trains are viable.
Implement the 2014 CCA Target A - 2020 147gCO2/km and 2025 - 105gCO2/km emissions.
for light vehicles to accelerate introduction of EV’s and phase out Diesel tax credits (up to 40c/litre) for l private users. As this a tax rebate exemptions for emergency vehicles, remote communities, some farms and fisheries can be easily applied.
Infrastructure priority ratings include vague sustainability ratings but no climate risks and impacts. Western Sydney Airport and toll road are high priority with ROI 1.9 on government costs of $5.3Bn and $1.7Bn for transport links. It will commence with 5million passengers per year and expanding to 76 million by 2030.Qantas burns 5 Billion litres of fuel emitting 12million tonnes CO2e and is highly vulnerable to oil prices and supply shocks.
East Coast High speed rail variously costed at $60Bn to $100Bn depending on the route and speed. Could carry 56m passengers when built 2030. Costs totally Government funded and are mainly land acquisition. The two projects should be submitted to (reconstituted) CCA, CEFC and productivity council to decide on risks. The result might be current airport is adequate if interstate passengers are on the trains. EA needs to be active in this kind of debate, as members are strongly interested and effected by outcomes. It is the height of lunacy for Governments and opposition to claim Coal mining in Galilee Basin has passed approvals and can proceed with $1Bn taxpayer loans. Risks are too great for Banks and EA must state a position.
All of the above are consistent with EA code of ethics, Climate policy and Sustainability Charter, and would turn those policies into action.
SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING SOCIETY 27 November