Agitated Nationals grapple with climate debate, as former minister Chester takes ‘a break’ from party room


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraA tough debate is expected when a highly volatile Nationals parliamentary party meets on Monday, ahead of climate change negotiations between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to endorse a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Joyce is under dual pressure, with his party room sharply divided over the 2050 target, and former minister Darren Chester announcing, in a weekend statement which criticised Joyce without naming him, that he is taking “some time away” from the party room.

No details of the climate plan are yet on the table, but strong positioning is underway, with negotiations between Morrison and Joyce resuming once the PM, returning on Sunday night from his American trip, is back in the country.

The Nationals meet every fortnight, remotely when parliament is not sitting.

Joyce indicated on Friday he would accept the government adopting a firm target of net zero emissions by 2050 provided the regions were not worse off. He also wants some largesse for the Nationals.

At the same time he is expressing concerns and gives the impression of being dragged reluctantly towards an agreement.




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View from The Hill: Barnaby Joyce falls (sort of) into step for the ‘net zero’ march


Morrison was pressed again while in the US about increasing Australia’s ambition on climate policy and has signalled he proposes to do so. But he has to get the minor Coalition partner on side.

Both President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have pushed Australia hard as the November Glasgow climate conference draws near.

The government’s current position is net zero “preferably” by 2050.

Interviewed by the ABC on Sunday, Joyce provided little fresh clarity. But asked whether there should be no coal jobs lost, he said, “well, not by reason of domestic policy”.

Deputy Nationals leader and agriculture minister David Littleproud, who supports the 2050 firm target with safeguards and incentives for the regions, told Sky that members of the Nationals party room were “pragmatic”. They were “looking through the lens of protecting regional Australia but making sure there’s opportunity for regional Australia to also participate in this”.

But former resources minister Matt Canavan tweeted, “I am deadset against net zero emissions. Just look at the disaster the UK is living through. They’re switching off their industry to keep their lights on, and they are struggling to feed themselves. Net zero emissions would just make us weaker.”

Resources minister Keith Pitt said: “We are yet to see the strategy, the plan, the cost, and who’s paying.

“My priority will be the 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs associated with the resources sector”.




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Chester, who is a supporter of net zero, won’t be in the meeting to help advance the case. He said he had “decided to take a break from organised meetings, events and activities in The Nationals Federal Parliamentary party room.

“I will reassess my position when Federal Parliament resumes in October.

“To be clear, I continue to support the Coalition government but want some time away from the The Nationals Federal Parliamentary party room to reflect on a number of significant issues.

“My decision follows months of frustration with the repeated failure of the leadership to even attempt to moderate some of the more disrespectful and offensive views expressed by a minority of colleagues.”

Chester, who was dropped from the frontbench when Joyce became leader, has been highly critical of Queensland National George Christensen, whose string of provocative comments have included, most recently, accusing Victorian police of using excessive force against demonstrators, and suggesting they should be arrested.




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Joyce on Sunday again indicated he could not silence Christensen, who is retiring at the election, and said that anyway, there was a right of free speech.

Asked on SBS whether he thought he had the support of the majority of the Nationals to go forward on climate policy, Morrison said: “It’s not about my view. It’s about what I think Australians are clearly looking for”.

“My job is to bring my government together to focus on the plan that can achieve it.

“A plan [that] says to Australians, whether they’re up in the Hunter, or down in Bell Bay, or up in Gladstone or up in the Pilbara […] this is how we achieve net zero emissions in the future.

“Our view is that we can achieve that by keeping the costs low, keeping people in industries, ensuring we’re using transition fuels that take us from one place to the next, and we take people on the journey,” Morrison said.

The communique from the QUAD summit which Morrison attended at the end of his trip said: “We have joined forces to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the urgency it demands.

“Quad countries will work together to keep the Paris-aligned temperature limits within reach and will pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“To this end, Quad countries intend to update or communicate ambitious NDCs [nationally determined contributions] by COP26 and welcome those who have already done so.”

The QUAD includes the US, Australia, Japan and India.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Matt Canavan suggested the cold snap means global warming isn’t real. We bust this and 2 other climate myths


Steven Saphore/AAP

Nerilie Abram, Australian National University; Martin De Kauwe, UNSW, and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, UNSWSenator Matt Canavan sent many eyeballs rolling yesterday when he tweeted photos of snowy scenes in regional New South Wales with a sardonic two-word caption: “climate change”.

Canavan, a renowned opponent of climate action and proponent of the coal industry, appeared to be suggesting that the existence of an isolated cold snap means global warming isn’t real.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously insisted there is “no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change, globally, and its effect on global weather patterns”. But Canavan’s tweet would suggest otherwise.

The reality is, as the climate warms, record-breaking cold weather is becoming less common. And one winter storm does not negate more than a century of human-caused global warming. Here, we take a closer look at the cold weather misconception and two other common climate change myths.

Myth #1: A cold snap means global warming isn’t happening

Canavan’s tweet is an example of a common tactic used by climate change deniers that deliberately conflates weather and climate.

Parts of Australia are currently in the grip of a cold snap as icy air from Antarctica is funnelled up over the eastern states. This is part of a normal weather system, and is temporary.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to weather conditions over a much longer period, such as several decades. And as our climate warms, the probability of such weather systems bringing record-breaking cold temperatures reduces dramatically.

Just as average temperatures in Australia have risen markedly over the past century, so too have winter temperatures. That doesn’t mean climate change is not happening. In a warming world, extremely cold winter temperatures can still occur, but less often than they used to.

In fact, human-caused climate change means extreme winter warmth now occurs more often, and across larger parts of the country. Record-breaking hot events in Australia now far outweigh record breaking cold events.

Extreme cold and warm winter temperatures in Australia
Percentage of Australia experiencing extreme cold (bottom 10%) and extreme warmth (top 10%) in winter since 1910. Data from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Myth #2: Global warming is good for us

Yes, climate change may bring isolated benefits. For example, warmer global temperatures may mean fewer people die from extreme cold weather, or that shorter shipping routes open up across the Arctic as sea ice melts.

But the perverse benefits that may flow from climate change will be far outweighed by the damage caused.

Extreme heat can be fatal for humans. And a global study found 37% of heat-related deaths are a direct consequence of human-caused climate change. That means nearly 3,000 deaths in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne between 1991 and 2018 were due to climate change.

Extreme heat and humidity may make some parts of the world, especially those near the Equator, essentially uninhabitable by the end of this century.

Global warming also kills plants, animals and ecosystems. In 2018, an estimated one-third of Australia’s spectacled flying foxes died when temperatures around Cairns reached 42℃. And there is evidence many Australian plants will not cope well in a warmer world – and are already nearing their tipping point.

Heatwaves also damage oceans. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered three mass bleaching events in just five years. Within decades the natural wonder is unlikely to exist in is current form – badly hurting employment and tourism.




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Climate change is making ocean waves more powerful, threatening to erode many coastlines


Myth #3: More CO₂ means Earth will definitely get greener

In January last year, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt caused a stir with an article that suggested rising carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions were “greening the planet” and were therefore “a good thing”.

During photosynthesis, plants absorb CO₂. So as the concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere increases, some researchers predict the planet will become greener and crop yields will increase.

Consistent with this hypothesis, there is indirect evidence of increased global photosynthesis and satellite-observed greening. There is also indirect evidence of increased “carbon sinks”, whereby CO₂ is drawn down from the atmosphere by plants, then stored in soil.

Rising temperatures lead to an earlier onset of spring, as well as prolonged summer plant growth – particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Researchers think this has triggered an increase in the land carbon sink.

However, there’s also widespread evidence some trees are not growing as might be expected given the increased CO₂ levels in our atmosphere. For example, a study of how Australian eucalypts might respond to future CO₂ concentrations has so far found no increase in growth.

Increased plant growth may also cause them to use more water, causing significant reductions in streamflow that will compound water availability issues in dry regions.

Overall, attempts to reconcile the various lines of evidence of how climate change will alter Earth’s land vegetation have proved challenging.

So, are we doomed?

After all this bad news, you might be feeling a bit dejected. And true, the current outlook isn’t great.

Earth has already warmed by about 1℃, and current policies have the world on track for at least 3℃ warming this century. But there is still reason for hope. While every extra bit of warming matters, so too does every action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And there are promising signs of increasing ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the global front – from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and others.

Unfortunately, Australia is far behind our international peers, instead pushing the burden of action onto future generations. We now need the political leadership to set our country, and the world, on a safer and more secure path. Ill-informed tweets by senior members of the government only set back the cause.




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Spot the difference: as world leaders rose to the occasion at the Biden climate summit, Morrison faltered


The Conversation


Nerilie Abram, Professor; ARC Future Fellow; Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes; Deputy Director for the Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science, Australian National University; Martin De Kauwe, Senior lecturer, UNSW, and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.