A week of extremes
What a week of contrasts. At one end of the pendulum, rusted-on Nationals and Liberals were calling for more coal plants and at the other fresh faced students - desperate for a half decent future on a livable planet – are today taking to the streets of 55 Australian towns and cities to spread the word about the perils of climate change. The student action is in unison with global action involving 1,325 events in 98 countries.
One student told media “I see the temperatures reaching 50 degrees during summer in my community. We have two rivers in Walgett but both are dry. No water, means no life.
The 13-year-old added “A lot of towns along these rivers are suffering because of our government’s bad decisions … I’m living and seeing my future disappear before my eyes.”
The students are urging politicians to prevent development of the Adani coal mine and to ban new fossil fuels and instead power Australia with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
The peaceful young protesters are effectively voicing the concerns of the broader community. Last year’s annual Lowy Institute Poll found that 59 per cent of Australians agree “climate change is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.” And 84 per cent agree “the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable”.
NSW opposition leader Michael Daley who faces a state election on March 23 described the striking students as “future leaders”, saying “They don’t have a microphone and they don’t have money like the big end of town but they do have a right to protest. “I support these young people and their action.”
Former federal education minister and environmental activist Peter Garrett applauded the many courageous young Australians marching for their future and declared “The patronising idiocy of climate deniers is contemptible.”
Clearly many are on a completely different tack on the future energy mix and impact on the environment.
A round up of some recent developments:
The National Party’s Barnaby Joyce has declared strong support for six Queensland National MPs calling for government support for a new coal-fired power plant in Queensland, saying it would cut power bills and provide lots of job opportunities.
Resources minister and coal advocate Matt Canavan identifies the “clear need for additional power in north Queensland”, and MP Craig Kelly is calling on the Prime Minister for taxpayer subsidies to help fund a new coal-fired power station in the Hunter Economic Zone to lower prices.
Calling this a "fantastic plan" he says it is exactly what the market needs.
Energy minister Angus Taylor told media the government is indeed assessing new coal-generation projects but that taxpayers will only be asked to support ‘viable’ projects.
Meantime stories surfaced of a Hong Kong based company plans for a low-emissions coal-fired power station with 2000 MW capacity in the Hunter Valley.
A NSW Planning spokesman said there had been no formal application and no meetings with department officials and other details are sketchy but still worrying.
A global study was circulated this week that concludes coal power stations disrupt rainfall.
Modern coal-fired power stations produce more ultrafine dust particles than road traffic and can even modify and redistribute rainfall patterns, the new 15-year international study shows.
Researchers report how coal-fired power stations clearly emit large amounts of ultrafine particles (UFP) through filtering technology of exhaust gas.
The key findings of the long-term study are: Modern coal-fired power stations emit more UFP than urban road traffic; UFP can harm human health, and UFP can affect rainfall distribution on local to regional scales by increasing the condensation nuclei count
“In this way, we found that fossil power stations have for many years become the strongest individual sources of ultrafine particles worldwide. They massively influence meteorological processes and may cause extreme weather events, including intensive rain events.
“By redistributing rainfall events, this can lead to drier than usual conditions in some places and to unusually heavy and persistent strong rainfall elsewhere,” co author Professor Hacker says.
The findings are of little interest to coal baron and LNP donor Trevor St Baker who has reiterated his plans to develop new coal plants in Victoria and New South Wales, and this week took umbrage at Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle’s warnings about the enormous risks to financial stability arising from climate change.
The ambitions of the LNP donor drew lots of negative comments, among them “I just watched a show about the demise of the Mayans… whose actions of deforestation led to a local drought and a 30 per cent reduction in rainfall. Their only source of water was underground caves which promptly dried up. Here we are in the 21st Century and haven't learned a thing.”
And in its response to Debelle’s warning, Federal Labor party put out a statement saying “The Reserve Bank has sounded the alarm bell about the impacts of climate change on the economy.
“It’s as simple as this: climate change is likely to cause more economic shocks to our economy and that our economic stability is under threat unless businesses and government act, and quickly.
“If government and business don’t act quickly to address climate change, we’ll all be worse off for it.
Stating renewable energy is now cost-effective for generation, the ALP is calling for an orderly transition to clean energy, Investment in energy transmission and storage; A just transition for communities and workers so that people aren’t left behind; and Energy policy that is steady and orderly.
“Unlike the government, Labor has a plan to act on climate change that ticks those four boxes while being good for jobs, good for the economy and good for the environment.”