Good and bad news on climate

Although China has been moving away from coal-fired power for some time, provincial governments didn’t get the memo. They’ve been approving new plants at a cracking pace, with as many as 250 on the books, through a combination of inertia and desire to keep construction going. Now the national government has started pulling them into line, banning new coal plants in 15 provinces.

As this report shows there’s a similar tendency in many developing countries, with a long-standing push for coal running into the reality that it’s economically and environmentally disastrous. The result is a potential trillion dollars in stranded assets.

Still, progress in reducing carbon emissions has been much greater than seemed possible even five years ago. The problem is that the news from the scientists keeps getting worse. I haven’t had time to digest the discussion around the Hansen et al paper on sea level rise, but it’s certainly alarming. Closer to home and undoubted is the disastrous coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

And of course, while the world is moving to cut emissions, Australia is going backwards under the Abbott government (now notionally led by Malcolm Turnbull). The defeat of this government would be an important step towards saving the planet.

32 thoughts on “Good and bad news on climate

  1. @Ivor

    I agree; with a few caveats. As a matter of socioeconomic and real economy complexity and the challenges of change, I am certain that there will be socioeconomic risks and costs in the short to mid term to ensure long term civilisational and ecological survival. Of course, one of the keys will be to spread the risks and costs fairly. That is where social democracy and even s o c i a l i s m come in.

    We have to accept that we must pay economic costs and live more frugally to save the biosphere. This is a global habitability emergency. Bourgeois economics wants to play the game of pretending these costs don’t ever have to be very high: that we can destroy our biosphere and have it too. It is this kind of “magic pudding” thinking which leads to “business as usual with a bit of embroidery around the edges”. Such weak attempts at systemic reform will never avert the emergency.

  2. @Ronald Brak

    We need much more than this. Tar sand operations need to stop today. The world’s coal mines all need to be closed within about ten years. Oil/gas wells need to be closed within about twenty years I would guess. I would say they all need to close today except that our entire economy cannot instantly switch to other power sources.

    If we had started getting serious in 1990 we would be there now. 25 years ought to have been sufficient to completely transform our energy base. But neoliberalism delayed, obfuscated and obstructed so that we have made almost no progress.

    Yes, the technology has progressed well but the actual implementation of it has dragged. It has been excruciatingly slow compared to the pace of change we really needed. This indicates to me that the current world political-economic system is incapable of making the necessary changes rapidly enough. I don’t know if any other system is capable of making the changes rapidly enough but I do know, from the real world test over the last 25 years, that this system certainly is not capable of making the necessary changes rapidly enough.

    It’s already too late to save the world from dangerous climate change. To a high degree of certainty we know now that it is going to happen. Our choice today is very likely between dangerous climate change and extremely dangerous climate change. It is still worth acting but now we have to act at emergency speed. Of course, emergency action won’t happen until New Orleans goes under again and the Miami-Tampa metro area goes under with it. I mean more or less permanently this time round. When a disaster of this magnitude happens, then real action might start happening. Or maybe it will take 10 million climate refugees fleeing north from Florida or 20 million Californians with dry taps in their homes.

  3. The sea level rise research is very alarming.

    I put this on Monday Message Board as well, but there is a petition for the Goverment to make a Climate Emergency Plan here if anyone is interested in signing and sharing among your networks

    To Members of the House of Representatives and Senators,

    We call on the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and to mobilise resources to restore a safe climate.

    1. In February 2016, global temperatures spiked to well over 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, just weeks after the Paris Climate Agreement set an aim of not exceeding that benchmark. Climate scientists say that we are facing a climate emergency, and that the future of ecosystems and human civilisation now hang in the balance. Our Great Barrier Reef is dying as the oceans heat up and recent fires in Tasmania burned ancient world-heritage forests.

    2. Declaring a climate emergency is a vital step in building support for the very large changes required to restore a safe, cooler climate.

    3. A society-wide mobilisation of resources is required at a scale and speed not seen since the Second World War. Carbon emissions must be reduced to zero within a few years, not several decades, and we must draw down all the excess carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere using measures that include mass tree planting. We must rapidly transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, replacing fossil fuel jobs with jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
    The climate restoration is an enormous task, but given the risks to ourselves and future generations we must rise to the challenge.

  4. Here is an excellent article by dana1981 at sleptical science, which frames climate denial in a new and understandable way which also buttresses the understanding of how Maurice Newman as CEO of the ABC was able to deliver the government to Tony Abbott with a daily direct channel to Old White Male voting sector.

    This coming election will see a snap back to the more natural Labout dominance but the degree of that snap will be moderated by the degree to which Abbott’s climate lies have been moderated by Climate Reality. In a recent discussion I had with a long time business friend I was horrified to get the full suite of climate denial myths delivered with religious fervour. I didn”t think to ask him what the source of his information was, but will. If you monitor the JoNova denialist heartland site you will see a steady decline in interest in the subjects while at the same time the articles are are moving progressively into the theatrical as there is zero supportable scientific basis upon which to argue. I had a look at the Catallaxy site going back 11 days, it took ages…so many words….so little point, without a single article on climate matters (not a rigorous enough Cat’ scan from which to make judgements). My impression is that climate denial is slowly giving way to acceptance of the climate reality. Certainly amongst farmers this is the case.

    Anyway dana1981 makes some very believable remarks and observations.

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