Cyclone Debbie the tip of the climate change iceberg

by ray goodlass

We are all concerned for the welfare of those who have suffered from the fury of Cyclone Debbie and its aftermath, and wish them all a speedy recovery, but our concern should not blind us to the link between extreme weather events, climate change, and the human activity largely responsible for global warming.

Mind you, last week US President Donald Trump exhibited such a trait when he signed yet another executive order, this time scrapping Obama-era climate change regulations that his administration says are costing jobs in the oil and coal industries. This is despite the fact that these industries say that even if deregulated they will produce very few jobs due to increased automation, which of course means larger profits.

If that’s not enough, President Trump’s executive order goes from bad to worse as it will also remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

Meanwhile, back in Australia it was pleasing to see Greens MP Adam Bandt, who has the party’s Climate Change portfolio, making the link when he connected Cyclone Debbie to a proposed new coal-fired power plant and climate change, saying more people will suffer with the burning of more coal.

The proposed new coal fired power station to which Mr Bandt is referring is a government backed scheme to use taxpayer funds allocated to a $5 billion fund to develop industries in Northern Australia to back a so-called new “clean coal” plant for Rockhampton in Queensland.

Predictably enough, and with the storm already having claimed one life, champions of fossil fuels such as Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg were quick to condemn the Greens’ comments, labelling them as “unconscionable and hysterical”, which itself sounded pretty hysterical when I heard him. He went on to say that any new coal-fired power station would produce “far lower emissions” than an existing plant because it would involve improved technology, which is far too close to the ‘clean coal’ myth championed by President Trump & Co for comfort.

Mr Bandt quite correctly pointed out that “The more coal we burn, the more intense extreme weather events like Cyclone Debbie will be. People will suffer”.

Progressive parties such as the Greens are of course not a lone voice. The Australia Climate Council warned in January that more intense and destructive cyclones were likely in Queensland as a result of climate change and rising global temperatures.

In January even China’s energy regulator told 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired projects, even though construction had already begun on some.  It follows similar initiatives last year and comes after the government said in November it would eliminate or delay at least 150 GW of coal-fired power projects between 2016 and 2020 and cap coal power generation at 1,100 GW.

A report prepared by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace published last week found there was a 48 per cent decline in the number of planned coal units in India and China and a further 62 per cent decline in construction starts with the drop mainly attributed to changed policies in China and India.

The government’s renewed embrace of coal also appears to be at odds with Australian voters. A Fairfax-IPSOS poll published on Tuesday found just 33 per cent of those surveyed believe Australia should continue backing coal. Clearly it is time for Mr Turnbull et al to listen to the people