My daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 16 October 208

by ray goodlass

McCormack fiddles while the earth is burning

Ever since the Paris climate agreement was negotiated in 2015, questions have been asked about the feasibility of its ambitious goal to limit global warming to 1.5C. Now we have the answers, courtesy of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It concludes that the goal is still just within reach, albeit with a ‘transformational’ effort to cut emissions to 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050.

Most of us are broadly aware of this, if not the exact detail, but not the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and our very own local member, Michael McCormack, who promptly said “Nothing will replace coal soon and policy will not change based on ‘some sort of report’  (Guardian Australia). That Mr McCormack would belittle the IPCC with such a dismissive comment is almost as bad as his woeful ignorance about the science of climate change.

This is frighteningly reminiscent of the way President Trump and his sorry band of cohorts dismiss any sort of expert research findings as elitist and so not to be acknowledged as being of significance – as well as being ‘fake news’, of course.

The Labor leader Bill Shorten also did not commit to the total phase-out of coal.

Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt seems to be the only one who can see what is staring us in the face when he said “The report contained a very clear message: if we don’t quit coal, we are screwed”. Well said, Adam.

Now to the detail what the IPCC is so persuasively arguing. It warns there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.

As the report wrote “We have presented governments with pretty hard choices,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will.”

So what are our political parties proposing to do to head off planetary catastrophe?

The Coalition’s official target for 2030 is to have Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels.

It’s main policy to achieve this is the Emissions Reduction Fund, but it is rapidly exhausting its funding and what it can achieve is “a drop in the ocean”.

Under Malcolm Turnbul the Coalition had one other headline policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the National Energy Guarantee, but new prime minister Scott Morrison has scrapped that policy, and replaced it with nothing. He also echoed McCormack’s remarks.

The Coalitions few other emissions reduction schemes will not result in anything meaningful, which means the Coalition is on track to miss its own target by a huge margin.

By 2030, Labor aims to generate 50 per cent of the country’s electricity by renewable sources but unfortunately coal will generate the rest.

The Greens’ policy is by far the most ambitious. They aim for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by “no later than” 2040; the banning of fossil fuel mining; and for 100 per cent of stationary electricity to be generated by renewable energy.

In a direct answer to the coal lobby’s claim that this will mean a huge increase in electricity prices research has shown that combining 100% renewables with a return of electricity generating and distribution to the public sector rather than the profit gouging free for all we have had to live with in recent years will actually keep prices down.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation plan has no explicit policy to reduce emissions. Instead it is promising to build more coal-fired power plants, which would increase emissions, and so cook the planet, and almost all life on it, though perhaps cockroaches will adapt and survive. Or as Adam Bandt succinctly put it, “Quit coal, or die”.