Snowy Hydro gets a boost, but ‘seawater hydro’ could help South Australia

The federal government has announced a A$2 billion plan to expand the iconic Snowy Hydro scheme. It will carry out a feasibility study into the idea of adding “pumped hydro” storage capacity, which it says could power up to 500,000 homes. The Conversation

Hydro is one of the oldest and most mature electricity generation technologies. And pumped hydro storage – in which water is pumped uphill for later use, rather than simply flowing downriver through a hydro power station – is the dominant form of energy storage globally.

But there are limitations to how much freshwater hydro can be accessed, so it’s worth looking at what alternate approaches are available. One promising prospect is to use seawater instead of rivers. This tactic could potentially help South Australia resolve its highly publicised energy problems. Continue reading

A global deal that drives good decisions: what success at the Paris summit should look like

This is the final part of a three-part essay on the prospects for a global climate deal at the Paris 2015 talks. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Much like the internet, climate change is here, and as each day passes, it only gets bigger. This is true not only of the science – another year passes, greenhouse gas concentrations rise, and the warming and severe weather events intensify – but also of the human, political and policy response to the problem. There is always another international meeting to prepare for, a new report to digest, a new policy to consider.

It is the relentlessness of the problem that can drive fatigue. People feel they have heard it before. Policies have been tried, their success has been mixed, and the debate – certainly in Australia – is either nasty, or tired, or both. Continue reading

The tipping point on the Great Barrier Reef

There is rarely a time when both reality and written word marry seamlessly as they do when our incumbent Prime Minister and his phonetic namesake represent more than just their respective entities, but rather an important ‘fork in the road’, one that will have long and lasting consequences. The other similar pair is Joe Hockey and the hockey stick of carbon dioxideemissions. They are both occurring at the same time. A sign?

We are currently faced with a government which – against all common sense and due diligence – is willing to turn Abbot Point into a dump for three million tonnes of dredge spoil to create one of the world’s largest coal ports, without fully understanding the effects on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Leard Blockade – Maules Creek coal mine

A few months ago, I left my home in Adelaide and travelled up to Maules Creek, New South Wales. I’ve never been much of a wanderer, but when I heard that Whitehaven was working on the largest coal mine currently under construction in Australia in the middle of the Leard State Forest, I realised that things were pretty serious.

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Divestment: Can moving our money move us beyond coal?

Coal has played a pivotal role in modernising the global economy. But if we had a second shot at the industrial revolution, would coal be at the centre? Would we design an economy that viewed Australia – as a senior politician recently described – as “an island of coal, floating upon a sea of gas”? Or would we put human ingenuity to the test and generate a sustainable economy powered by the sun and the wind?

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How Do We Face Extreme Climate Change?

Day 1 in Oslo began on foot, getting my bearings on an early morning walk past neat houses nestled into the undulating hills around the harbour.

I soon found myself pondering the human condition on a bridge over Frogner-dammen, face to face with sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) that display the full range of our capacity for love, tenderness, anger, cruelty, compassion, friendship, family loyalty.

The power of human emotions was a recurring theme that afternoon, with the first conference session on “Extreme Dialogue on Climate Extremes – Building a Bridge to the Future” in the expert hands of Nisha Pillai, former anchor of BBC World News.

To set the scene, a few selected participants shared their vision of what future “climate extremes” looked like from their perspectives:
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Imagining a nation free of fossil fuel investment

polyp.org.uk - New Internationalist magazine cartoonist

polyp.org.uk – New Internationalist magazine cartoonist

It’s simple really. If you want good things to happen, invest in them. If you want to stop bad things happening, cut off their funding.

But that’s not yet occurring. Banks, super-funds and governments keep investing in activities that we know are rapidly destroying the life-support systems of our planet, and it must stop.

That’s why the Bill McKibben Tour this week is so powerful and so important. Bill is a passionate advocate for divestment – getting out of investments in fossil fuels – and his presentations are clear and memorable. If you know a banker, a superannuation fund employee or a government worker, invite them to join you at one of the events on the Bill McKibben Do the Maths roadshow. You can book now for live events in Canberra – June 5th (with internet simulcasts to Adelaide, Hobart and Perth), Canberra National Press Club – June 6th, Melbourne – June 7th and Brisbane – June 9th.
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Divestment from fossil fuels

do_the_math_logoan open letter to the CEO of the ANZ Bank

For Personal Attention: Mike Smith, CEO

Dear Mike,

I figure you’re a decent chap. You’re quoted as saying: “We are focussed on growing our business responsibly, managing risks rather than taking them and approach our role in society with a heightened sense of duty and care towards our customers and the communities we serve.”

You’ve achieved that on one level. Your branch staff are some of the most efficient, knowledgeable, helpful and best-trained workers I’ve come across in retail banking. Well done.

But there’s a serious problem with ANZ activities on the national and international level. Consider these two questions:

  • Would you say it’s wrong to do things that are seriously harmful to the planet’s ecosystem?
  • Would you say it’s wrong to profit financially from doing things that are seriously harmful to the planet’s ecosystem?

So that’s the issue. Is it true that ANZ Bank continues to invest in fossil fuel exploration and extraction? Is it true that ANZ Bank and its investors continue to make profits from destroying the planet’s ecosystem?

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A New Year resolution

Here’s a big thank you to the team from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency who rounded off a solid year of tortuous negotiations with some progress at COP18 in Doha. Of course we’re disappointed that there’s such slow global action on the climate crisis that is unfolding, but we should still celebrate the huge effort being put in by Climate Change staff.

The tough reality is that within two decades we need to stop burning coal, gas and oil. We simply cannot accept the 4 to 6 degree temperature rise that is likely by the end of the century if we don’t move to a zero-emissions economy. But moving to zero-emissions won’t happen for as long as governments and international negotiations are in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.
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