Fighting Climate Change Down Under
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Fighting Climate Change Down Under
We're honored to have a guest post this week from Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board:
The Australians are renowned for their laidback attitude and “no worries, mate!” approach to life. Except apparently when it comes to climate change. As I learned a few weeks ago when I traveled there to meet with top government leaders and policymakers, Australians are serious about fighting global warming.
And they should be. Australia has experienced firsthand the ravages that come with a rapidly changing climate. Over the past decade, the country has been hit by increasingly extreme weather events like drought, flooding, and intense wildfires. Earlier this year an unprecedented set of heat waves literally buckled roads in parts of the country. Like California, Australia has a lot at stake in the fight against global warming.
Since 2012 Australia has had a national emissions trading system. They started their program with a fixed price for allowances and designed it to transition over time to a market-driven price. The origins of Australia’s program can be traced back to 2007 when state and territorial governments banded together to commission a review of climate impacts and policy recommendations. Eventually the federal government jumped on board under the leadership of then (and current) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The fact that Australia has a carbon pricing system is noteworthy for several reasons. For starters, coal supplies more than 75% of the nation’s power. As you would suspect, this makes the coal industry a powerful political force. The country is also near the top of the global list in per capita emissions.
Yet despite these challenges, Australia has demonstrated great leadership by moving ahead with its program to implement an economy-wide carbon price. And it’s working. What isn’t clear, however, is what direction the program will take following the national election that has been set for early next month. The opposition, headed by Liberal party leader Tony Abbott, has labeled the trading system an “energy tax,” even though it isn’t, and made it a central part of their platform to unseat the ruling Labor Party. The Labor leader and current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has declared that he will accelerate the transition to a market-driven price a year ahead of schedule and announced plans to link Australia’s system with the EU-ETS in mid-2014. A month ago the Labor party looked to be in serious trouble. The polls have since narrowed considerably, but of course we don’t know how the election will turn out.
What’s encouraging though is that both parties are squarely in the camp of taking action to slow climate change (Abbot’s party has proposed to replace the “tax” with a government administered “emissions reduction fund” to subsidize low-carbon programs and technologies). And despite the “anti-tax” rhetoric coming from the opposition, businesses in Australia are becoming increasingly comfortable with the carbon pricing approach and not eager to see major changes. My bet is that carbon pricing in Australia is here to stay. And so is Australia’s desire to work with California, China, South Korea and other leading economies to build an alliance for mutually beneficial actions to address this global challenge.
But I didn’t travel halfway across the world to simply learn about what the Australians were doing. I came with a message for them as well. My message was simple: putting a price on carbon pollution is a key element of tackling global warming, but it’s not enough. Like we have done in California, the Australians also need to focus on putting in place a range of other policies that will drive down emissions from all major sectors and increase cleaner and more efficient energy use. They understand this and are eager to learn more about what we’ve done in California.
Perhaps Governor Brown said it best earlier this year at Tsinghua University in China. “We’re in one world. We’ve got one big problem and we all have to work on it… [Climate change] is a great unifier. This is an imperative where human beings could collaborate.”
That’s exactly what we’re doing with Australia.
- Mary D. Nichols
A New California Oil Boom? Drilling the Monterey Shale Pt. 2: The Most Dangerous Chemical You’ve Never Heard Of
In part 1 of our series on the Monterey Shale, Next Generation researcher Rob Collier outlined the technical challenges of developing the Monterey Shale oil field – and how a technique known as “matrix acidizing,” which uses hydrofluoric acid to dissolve underground rock formations, may be the key to its development. In Part 2 we explore the risks of widespread HF use.
15/Aug » Next Generation
To most people, climate change means melting snowcaps and helpless polar bears sweltering under escalating temperatures. But most of the world’s populations aren’t likely to see an iceberg in their lifetimes, much less a stranded polar bear in the wild. Which explains why the dangers of these environmental changes haven’t exactly earned high priority on most people’s list of attention-worthy crises. But what if climate change were instead about an increase in childhood asthma, or a surge in infectious diseases, or even an influx of heat-induced heart attacks? Would that hold more resonance for the average citizen of the world?
08/Aug » TIME
New oil drilling leases have been banned in the Santa Barbara Channel off California's coast ever since a devastating oil spill shook the region in 1969. But a recent Associated Press report showed that drillers have used hydraulic fracturing at least a dozen times on existing leases since the late 1990s, prompting lawmakers to petition federal agencies for an investigation.
12/Aug » E&E NEWS EnergyWire
Elon Musk -- the owner of Tesla Motors Inc. and SpaceX -- has offered his vision for high-speed public transportation. Called the "Hyperloop," it amounts to flying in a pipeline. The transportation system Musk described yesterday in his white paper is made up of two long, steel tubes that could jet people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes inside small pods traveling up to 800 mph.
13/Aug » E&E NEWS, ClimateWire
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is touting federal green energy loans that have drawn strong criticism from Republicans over the collapse of the solar panel company Solyndra. Moniz, speaking at a green energy summit in Nevada, said that the overall program, which supports low emissions energy projects and automakers, has been a major success.
13/Aug » The Hill
In a welcome development for the planet, the cars on American streets are becoming much more climate-friendly much sooner than many had expected. Consumers are increasingly buying fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles thanks to breakthrough innovations and supportive government policies.
13/Aug » The New York Times
It's still weeks before the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds usually arrive and already it's been a brutal fire season, with nearly twice as many acres (hectares) burned statewide from a year ago, including 19,000 acres (7,690 hectares) scorched this week in a blaze still raging in the mountains 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.
11/Aug » Christian Science Monitor
California is feeling the effects of climate change far and wide, as heat-trapping greenhouse gases reduce spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, make the waters of Monterey Bay more acidic and shorten winter chill periods required to grow fruit and nuts in the Central Valley, a new report says.
10/Aug » The Los Angeles Times
For years, there’s been lots of debate over “peak oil” — the notion that, at some point in the near future, the rate of global oil production will bump up against a hard ceiling. This is generally considered a gloomy prospect. But another, related concept has started to bubble up in energy discussions lately. It’s the notion of peak oil demand.
09/Aug » The Washington Post
An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars.
08/Aug » Climate Central