At a time when the Turnbull Government is pushing to extend the life of a coal-fired power station – despite the owner of that plant, AGL, previously committing to shutting it down – you’ve got to seriously question Australia’s overall concern regarding the impacts of climate change.
You’ve also got to question the PM’s commitment to innovation.
The UN’s former climate chief Christiana Figueres is in Australia this week, and summed up the situation to Fairfax Media: “The time is short,” she said. “10 years of dithering is enough.”
But then to say we’ve been dithering is an understatement. It’s not even a matter of having our heads in a bucket of (slowly disappearing) sand.
The catastrophic environmental events of the past couple of years – and two monster hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, in just the last couple of weeks – are hardly things you can miss.
Australia has not been immune to significant weather events. When the destructive and deadly Cyclone Debbie hit earlier this year, researchers suggested it was indicative of the fewer, but more intense, storms we can expect to see as a result of warming in the upper troposphere. A 2016 bleaching event affected the vast majority of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has been described as sitting in what some experts dub as “disaster alley”, a region home to large coastal populations exposed to extreme weather events that are predicted to worsen in the years to come.
Australia also happens to have an abundance of renewable energy resources, and a PM who once put innovation at the forefront of his agenda.
We should be leading the world.
But the Turnbull Government has been busy meeting with AGL executives, pushing for a major refurbishment of a “grandmother” power plant, as Figueres describes it. A plant that’s almost half a century old. Renew Economy estimates that upgrading and keeping it running another five years could cost somewhere between $500 million and a billion dollars. Imagine how such money could be used to invest in clean energy, that can operate well into the future?
A couple of months ago, I asked one of the world’s most influential women on climate change if she’s optimistic about the future. Sherri Goodman (pictured above) suggested that if Australian politicians could “wake up” to the full extent of the threat of climate change – and the fact it’s a ‘threat multiplier’ that can even be linked to recent conflicts – that we could feel some cause for optimism. She just hopes it doesn’t require a humanitarian disaster or some other type of sudden surprise.
She added she was also encouraged by the idea of more women taking positions of power.
“What we [women] have in common is that we don’t shrink from challenge, we’ve had to chase a lot of challenges to be successful, to get to where we are,” she said.
“I think women are also able to see what it takes, and know instinctively that when food water and shelter are at risk, that families, communities and societies are also at risk.”
The Department of the Environment and Energy states on its website that “Decisions made today about infrastructure, health, water management, agriculture, biodiversity and housing will have lasting consequences for future generations.”
We know this. We know these decisions will affect our families, our communities, our economy, everything.
And yet still we’re dithering.