Yes, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek approved a coal mine.

But save the angst for decisions that matter more

My latest piece in The Conversation looks at Tanya Plibersek’s masterclass in the delivery of bad news. We were softened up with the rejection of two zombie coal mines, then distracted by the approval of a relatively unimportant mine. The real news is that the Labor government, having rejected a formal “climate trigger” for environmental approvals, intends to complete disregard the climate effects of our coal and gas exports.

10 thoughts on “Yes, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek approved a coal mine.

  1. I don’t need to save angst. I have plenty of it to go round. This decision still stinks and still sends the wrong message. Labor are showing their standard total neoloiberal attitude. Stopping the mine would help to send the rigght signal, including the right price signal, that we need to find alternatives now. All forms of delaying action are dangerous at this late and critical juncture. It means there is not enough amelioration happening, nor in the pipeline to happen soon, in time and when we need it.

  2. JQ states in his The Conversation piece:

    By continuing to export thermal coal, Australia is delaying the inevitable transition for the sake of short-term profits.

    … and I’d suggest contributing to facilitating the increasing suffering of billions of people (including many Australians) in the coming years and decades.

    1. Overshooting +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold is now INEVITABLE

    In the YouTube video titled SR Australia – Social and Earth System Tipping Points | Prof. Will Steffen + Dr. Nick Abel, published 3 Apr 2022, then executive director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute, the late Professor Will Steffen said (bold text my emphasis) from time interval 0:19:12:

    So, if you look at the projected temperature rise from the IPCC, by 2050 – middle of the century – thirty years out – even under the most, ah… drastic emission reduction scenario they assess, we’ll still hit 1.6 [°C]. This is dangerous territory. As I said before, we’re on track to reach somewhere around 2.7 to 3 [°C], by the end of the century. But these other scenarios will reach 2, or have reached 2 [°C], ah… at mid… even by 2050. So, um… the… Even the IPCC is saying we’re entering dangerous territory, unless we do something really drastic. So, it’s virtually certain that we will breach 1.5 [°C] before the… ah, before the middle of this century. Some people think even by 2035, we can reach 1.5 [°C].”

    The table presented in Prof Steffen’s slide as he was talking was sourced from the IPCC’s AR6 WG1 SPM, Table SPM. 1, on page 14.

    There is NO CARBON BUDGET REMAINING for a safe climate for humanity. Overshooting the +1.5 °C warming threshold is not safe.

    So what does the Australian Government do? Approve another fossil fuel project.

    Why is the Australian government continuing to approve more fossil fuel projects? Do they wish to increase the suffering of many Australians in the coming years/decades?

    2. ‘Predictions’ in 2022 by Hansen & colleagues are looking increasingly likely

    James Hansen and colleagues at the Columbia University’s Earth Institute, in their communication August Temperature Update, a “Thank You” & Biden’s Report Card on 22 Sep 2022, presented some ‘predictions’ including:

    The next year, 2023, will be warmer because of the present strong planetary energy imbalance, which is driven by the factors noted above – mainly increasing greenhouse gases. Perhaps an El Nino will begin in the second half of the year, but the El Nino effect on global temperature lags by 3-4 months. So, the 2023 temperature should be higher than in 2022, rivaling the warmest years.

    Finally, we suggest that 2024 is likely to be off the chart as the warmest year on record. Without inside information, that would be a dangerous prediction, but we proffer it because it is unlikely that the current La Nina will continue a fourth year. Even a little futz of an El Nino – like the tropical warming in 2018-19, which barely qualified as an El Nino – should be sufficient for record global temperature. A classical, strong El Nino in 2023-24 could push global temperature to about +1.5°C relative to the 1880-1920 mean, which is our estimate of preindustrial temperature.

    The latest Australian BoM model (NINO34, run on 22 Apr 2023) was recently published, predicting a super El Niño by August 2023:

    The current Earth energy imbalance (EEI) is at an all-time high in the instrumental record:

    Is the Australian Government prepared for the consequences of a super El Niño, that’s increasingly likely later this year and into 2024?

    3. Global warming in the pipeline

    James Hansen and Makiko Sato published a communication on 13 Dec 2022 titled Global Warming in the Pipeline. They reported:

    With 14 co-authors, we have submitted Global Warming in the Pipeline¹ to Oxford Open Climate Change. With permission of Editor-in-Chief Eelco Rohling, the submitted version is available on arXiv, the website used by physicists for preprints.

    The Hansen et. al. preprint paper titled Global warming in the pipeline, submitted 8 Dec 2022, last revised 12 Dec 2022, (see arXiv 2212.04474) begins with:

    Improved knowledge of glacial-to-interglacial global temperature change implies that fast-feedback equilibrium climate sensitivity is at least ~4°C for doubled CO2 (2xCO2), with likely range 3.5-5.5°C. Greenhouse gas (GHG) climate forcing is 4.1 W/m2 larger in 2021 than in 1750, equivalent to 2xCO2 forcing. Global warming in the pipeline is greater than prior estimates. Eventual global warming due to today’s GHG forcing alone — after slow feedbacks operate — is about 10°C. Human-made aerosols are a major climate forcing, mainly via their effect on clouds. We infer from paleoclimate data that aerosol cooling offset GHG warming for several millennia as civilization developed. A hinge-point in global warming occurred in 1970 as increased GHG warming outpaced aerosol cooling, leading to global warming of 0.18°C per decade. Aerosol cooling is larger than estimated in the current IPCC report, but it has declined since 2010 because of aerosol reductions in China and shipping. Without unprecedented global actions to reduce GHG growth, 2010 could be another hinge point, with global warming in following decades 50-100% greater than in the prior 40 years. The enormity of consequences of warming in the pipeline demands a new approach addressing legacy and future emissions.

    On page 33:

    With current policies, we expect climate forcing for a few decades post-2010 to increase 0.5-0.6 W/m² per decade and produce global warming at a rate at least +0.27°C per decade. In that case, global warming should reach 1.5°C by the end of the 2020s and 2°C by 2050 (Fig. 19).

    And on page 34:

    Our second perspective article – Sea Level Rise in the Pipeline⁹³ – concludes, as outlined already,¹⁵ that exponential increase of sea level rise to at least several meters is likely if high fossil fuel emissions continue. Specifically, it is concluded that the time scale for loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet and multimeter sea level rise would be of the order of a century, not a millennium. Eventual impacts would include loss of coastal cities and flooding of regions such as Bangladesh, the Netherlands, a substantial portion of China, and the state of Florida in the United States. For practical purposes, the losses would be permanent. Such outcome could be locked in soon, which creates an urgency to understand the physical system better and to take major steps to reduce the human-made drive of global warming.

    I think it would be foolish to bet that James Hansen and colleagues are significantly wrong on this issue.

    Is the Australian Government prepared for the consequences of the Earth System overshooting the +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold, that’s increasingly likely within this decade (2020s)?

    Is the Australian Government prepared for an increasingly likely multi-metre sea level rise before 2100?

  3. And what was this I read this morning about them trying to resurrect the Indue card?
    also handing over a quarter of a $ trillion to some of the worst people in this country when the government itself said years ago that there was a “revenue problem, not a spending problem”.

    I thought Labor started well, but it looks like the old neo liberal nonsenses have reasserted themselves in a number of portfolios.
    As ever, back to wonder what is actually hidden in the FTA articles of surrender, plus un welcome attention from foreign influences and I don’t mean China, as well as the local oligarchs.

    I’ve digressed far too much.

    Ok, So Labor is kicking against the wind, but I would love to know who actually caused the government to falter on real issues like the one raised here.

    I also celebrate my advancing years, I will avoid perhaps the worst tendencies of the future. There seems no response from the authorities to the real issues of the world, so think it is way past any hope of recovery given the nature and number of these given the sort of mentality that runs the globe.

  4. JQ, you will need to write this article another 7 times to capture reality.

    You pinned Plibersek & Albo, but as we are in a federation, doesn’t Annastacia Palaszczuk need to be highlighted also;
    “That Queensland is not only approving new coalmines, but the fact that they don’t even have to put in an EIS, is absolutely crazy.”

    The Qld Government has said no need of environmental assessment if sub 2m tonne mines.

    “At least eight coalmining projects in Great Barrier Reef catchments and floodplains have been exempted from requiring environmental impact statements by the Queensland government, with six already gaining state environmental approval.”

    “That project, Bowen Coking Coal’s Isaac River mine, would produce 0.5m tonnes of coal a year for five years. But others squeaked in just under the 2m tonne threshold that would require the miner to prepare an EIS.

    “The coalition of environmental groups has calculated that, collectively, these eight projects represent approximately 1,866m tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions across their lifespans.

  5. Yep. NO backsliding, not just yet. Stay away from the developers and do satisfying real stuff instead. Do tax cuts for the wealthy, cost to society blowing out, really accord with the usual nonsenses about austerity against what was the Labor aspiration generally?
    If some scruffy disadvantaged kid living in a winter warehouse has to front, why not folk from Vaucluse, etc.

    I wonder if Labor’s most successful tactic has been to point to the plethora of issues facing the new government and the lack of help from others who could have made a difference. A trap that goes with the weaker aspects of ALP culture. Is the problem to do with Globalisation’s impact on local communities autonomy, eg the political processes that once purportedly strengthened democracy and have been applied by think tanks representing vested interests for short term vandalism. PWC would only be the tip of the fatberg. Is this thinking is about managing decline, whilst denying it. But it is too easy an excuse for this backsliding that many people are wary of.

    I know I’m putting forward an argument concerning fatalism, determinism and so forth, but what is the reality concerning accountability and openness and some means to break neoliberalism in appetitive capitalist form into something more constructive that just building a truck load of footy stadiums the n knocking them over to build another lot. Less timidity from the ALP, being better than the tories is no excuse for not having a dip, so I wonder just at the sheer power and influence of aggressive globalism. The illusion is that we are still a nation not a protectorate.

    I know some will wonder at the pessimism, am sorry.

  6. Market Forces details funding to the corporation now instead of project – rendering banks as Pontius Pilate for emissions.

    “If the new projects of Woodside, Santos, and Whitehaven Coal all go ahead, the cumulative impact would be 4.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2),equivalent to more than 9 times Australia’s 2021 emissions.”
    “Banking Climate Failure

    “How Australia’s big four banks are still funding new fossil fuels

    While it is becoming rarer for the big four banks to provide direct project finance to new fossil fuel projects, they are continuing to provide billions in ‘Corporate Finance’ to the companies developing these new projects.

    “Corporate finance has accounted for almost 70 per cent of the money the big four banks have loaned to the fossil fuel industry since 2016. 

    “One of the worst examples of corporate financing of fossil fuel expansion came in March 2022 when ANZ, NAB and Westpac all provided an ‘acquisition loan’ to Global Infrastructure Partners for a 49 per cent stake in the proposed Pluto 2 LNG project, enabling Woodside to go ahead with Pluto 2 and its associated new Scarborough gas field, one of Australia’s most disastrous new gas projects and one that would be ruled out for direct project finance by NAB and Westpac’s policies.

  7. Yes, all these people saying that technology and market forces will save us, along with CCS, Carbon Draw Down, Hydrogen power and marketized carbon pricing, have been sold a barrel of boondoggles. None of this has ever worked, not one little bit. It’s all been about delaying action and permitting BAU. I said none of it would not work, long ago, and I have been correct all along the line. We cannot save civilization without radical social and political economy change.

    Solar power has worked, as has wind power. These promise some hope. Basically, they are the only initiatives which still promise hope plus some niche applications perhaps to revolutionize steel and cement making. Beyond that, the heavy lifting will have to done by efficiency and consumption reduction: the reduction being outside of necessary consumption for health, welfare, education, public infrastructure and utilities. Anything less than this effort will lead, is leading now, to total, catastrophic collapse.

  8. Oops, accidental double-negative ruining my meaning above. I meant:

    “I said none of it would work, long ago, …”

  9. Meanwhile, it seems multiple governments are rolling out copycat anti-protest legislation, as more & more people are waking-up to humanity’s current trajectory towards civilisation collapse in the coming decades.

    Here’s another Honest Government Ad:

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