Climate changeNo well informed, open minded, person can doubt that the burning of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of climate change.
Climate change is not just going to harm the planet at some time in the distant future, it is harming the planet at the present. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate Report, 2016 lists effects that are happening here and now (they are also listed under Links: effects of climate change, below).
Three of the photos that I have used on this page were taken within a very few kilometres of my home and show ill-effects that, while they cannot definitely be attributed to climate change, are quite probably connected, and relate to types of harm that can certainly be expected to happen more often in the future. (Defoliation of red stringybark, Bangor fire erosion, Exceptional storms)
Ocean acidificationLess well known than climate change, but equally supported by undeniable evidence, is the fact that the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing our oceans to become more acidic.
Air pollutionThe burning of coal in particular, but also petroleum, produces air pollution that kills millions of people each year.
More intense/violent weather events, increased fire hazardClimate scientists have long warned that heat waves and storms will become more severe with global warming, increasing the severity and frequency of floods, that fire-danger seasons will be longer and days of catastrophic fire danger will become more common.
Rising sea levelsRising sea levels will displace millions of people from low-lying fertile areas such as the deltas of the Nile, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Red and Mekong rivers. Low-lying areas in the First World will not be immune; New York and a large part of Florida are very susceptible to flooding from sea level rise.
ExtinctionsClimate change, ocean acidification and air pollution affect most of life on Earth. The rate of species extinction has been estimated to be as high as a thousand times as high as has been typical during the history of the planet. We are living in a period of mass extinction comparable to only a half dozen or so in the history of life on Earth.
The damage is very long-termThe air pollution will end when the burning of fossil fuels ends, but the climate change and ocean acidification will take decades or even centuries to stabilise.
SA's renewable energy has, by competition, made the last remaining coal-fired power station in the state economically uncompetitive. It has closed down.
Coober Pedy was transitioning from almost 100% diesel-powered electricity generation to around 50% renewables in a few months, February 2017.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has a 100% renewable energy by 2020 target. The ACT government has contracted to buy most of the needed electricity from wind farms in South Australia, NSW and Victoria. At the time of writing (February 2017) most of the needed contracts had been agreed. (Some information on the contracts is on my page Wind Power in Australia.)
The ACT has the cheapest retail power prices in the nation.
100% renewable energy?The South Australian experience has shown that changing to 40% renewable energy is not difficult. The ACT experience shows that changing to 100% renewables in a small part of a power grid is quite possible, indeed easy. The King Island and Coober Pedy experiences shows that isolated micro-grids can quickly change from a high proportion of fossil fuels to a high proportion of renewable energy.
Few people would say that changing an entire national grid to 100% renewables will be easy. Getting to 60% will not be difficult; getting to 80% will be considerably more difficult, getting the whole 100% will be very difficult indeed.
However, just because changing to 100% renewables is going to be hard is no reason for not taking steps along the way. It can be done by degrees.
Considering the harm done by the burning of fossil fuels and the relative ease of replacing a substantial amount of fossil fuel burning with renewable energy, the knowingly dishonest support of fossil fuels and denigration of renewable energy by people in positions of power and/or responsibility is rightly a crime because it is certainly a grave offence against morality.
The air pollution from the burning of coal kills 1.1 million Indians each year.
Perhaps the coal-export proponents would tell us that this is just a price that has to be paid to escape energy poverty.
This would also be false. We'd be doing the Indian people a much bigger favour if we were to help them develop non-polluting renewable wind and solar power to lift them out of energy poverty. You can't much enjoy having electric lights if you are dead.
The table on the right shows that electricity expenditure in the period from 2006 to 2016 has increased more in the predominently coal-powered states of Victoria, NSW and Queensland than they have in SA. (Most of SA's renewable energy was built in this period.)
The Australian Capital Territory is transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2020 and also has some of the cheapest retail electricity prices in the nation. As can be seen in the table, the ACT's growth in electricity costs is also among the lowest in the nation.
It seems that any honest person would put down the electricity price rises to causes other than renewables.
A matter of proportionWe sometimes hear supporters of fossil fuels making statements such as:
"Australia could stop producing greenhouse gasses tomorrow and it would make practically no difference to the world – we are too small to make a difference."Of course this is quite false, everyone on Earth could say something like:
"My village, my town, my city, my state/province, my coal mine, is too small to make a difference. It doesn't matter how much greenhouse gas emissions I am responsible for, I am too small to make a difference."Plainly, we all share in emitting greenhouse gasses, we all share in responsibility to reduce emissions; those who produce more than 'their share' have a higher responsibility to take effective action.
Australia ranks 53rd in the world in population, but sixth in the world in the CO2 produced by its electricity industry; it has 0.3% of the world's population, but produces 1.2% of the world's greenhouse gasses; it is well up among the worst greenhouse polluters on the planet. This gives Australians an ethical responsibility to reduce the harm we are doing to the planet.
Links to more liesOutstanding lies told by opponents of wind power
My page on the Turnbull government exposes a number of lies about fossil fuels and renewable energy.
Key Points; Australia:
Australian BoM; Climate change and variability;
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); Climate change information for Australia;
Australian Academy of Science: changes we are already seeing will continue and intensify, coral reefs and alpine ecosystem particularly vulnerable, fire danger will greatly increase in intensity and length of the fire-danger season.
"Heatwaves are among the highest-impact climate events in terms of human health in Australia. In very hot conditions, people can suffer from heat stress, especially vulnerable individuals such as the sick and elderly. Warmer temperatures in future will lead to increased occurrences of heatwaves."The Conversation: Extreme heat poses a billion-dollar threat to Australia's economy, 2015/05/05; Kerstin Zander, Elspeth Oppermann, Stephen Garnett. A quote:
"In a paper published today in Nature Climate Change, we and colleagues show that heat stress probably cost the Australian economy nearly A$7 billion in 2013-2014 through productivity losses..."
Links: The effects of climate change: ExtinctionsProceedings of the Royal Society B: How does climate change cause extinction? 2012/10/17;
"Climate change is now recognized as a major threat to global biodiversity, and one that is already causing widespread local extinctions."
Wikipedia: Extinction risk from global warming, lists many links, and has a quote from the International Panel for Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report:
"Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change."
The Guardian, Power plan maps out route to follow for 100% renewable energy future, by Michael Slezak.
The Conversation, 2016/05/02, Phasing out fossil fuels for renewables may not be a straightforward swap, by Anthony James, National Centre for Sustainability, Swinburne University of Technology.
Finkel Report, Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market; Preliminary Report; December 2016
By Dr Alan Finkel AO, Chief Scientist, Chair of the Expert Panel, Ms Karen Moses FAICD, Ms Chloe Munro, Mr Terry Effeney, Professor Mary O'Kane AC.
"Seven key themes are identified, each supported by specific questions to be raised with the community.
CSIRO Renewable Energy Integration Facility. "As the demand and use of renewable energy technologies in both commercial and residential environments increases, understanding how electricity generated by these sources can be integrated into future grid designs is critical."
The Conversation, 2017/02/22, How South Australia can function reliably while moving to 100% renewable power, Mark Diesendorf, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environment Studies, University of NSW; February 22, 2017
Pumped Hydro storage can secure 100% renewable electricity; by Andrew Blakers, Matt Stocks and Bin Lu, Australian National University, 2017/02/20.
Doctors for the Environment, Australia;
"The burning of coal emits hazardous air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, mercury and arsenic.
What moved me to write this page?I have been writing on the urgent need to act to reduce emissions to slow climate change for years. In addition to writing these pages I've taken part in two long walks, the first from Port Augusta to Adelaide in 2012 in support of a solar thermal power station for Port Augusta; the second from Melbourne to Canberra to carry a petition to the Australian Parliament asking for stronger action on climate change.
I've tried to raise awareness of the irresponsibility of greenhouse emissions by comparing the dumping of waste gasses into the atmosphere to dumping rubbish on roadsides.
The trigger that caused me to write this page was the dishonest, shameful and criminal blaming of the South Australian power outages of September and December 2016, wholesale price spikes, and the load-shedding of February 2017 on renewable energy.
South Australia's power outagesOver a period of 13 years South Australia has gone from very little renewable energy to more than 40%. Supporters of coal and opponents of renewable energy have blaimed power outages, clearly caused by unprecedented storms, on the state's renewable energy.
Climate scientists have told us for years that storms will become more violent with climate change. It would be more honest to blame the power outages on climate change than on renewable energy.
The Conversation, 2016/09/29: What caused South Australia's state-wide blackout?; by Andrew King, Dylan McConnell, Hugh Saddler, Nicky Ison and Roger Dargaville.
Why did energy regulators deliberately turn out the lights in South Australia?, 2017/02/10; by Hugh Saddler.
power-outage of 2017/02/09 was due to bad management, not renewables;
another page on this site; relating to the Turnbull Government.
Yet Queensland, with only one big solar power station and no large wind farms at all, had far more price spikes than South Australia, as shown in the graph from RenewEconomy reproduced on the right.
This again is blatant and criminal dishonesty from those supporting fossil fuels and opposing renewable energy.
Burning fossil fuels an environmental
Combined ill-effects of climate change
Facts on SA's power outages and what moved me to write this page
Higher flood flows
How to judge the seriousness of a crime?
Links: environmental disaster
Links; effects of climate change
Links: replacing fossil fuels with renewables
Photo: defoliation of red stringybark
Photo: Bangor fire erosion sediment
Photo: transmission lines downed by exceptional storm
Reducing fossil fuel consumption is possible and viable
South Australia, renewables and electricity costs
What constitutes a crime?