28 September 2020

When climate risks are so high, short term actions matter most

by David Spratt, first published at Pearls and Irritations

Last week, Prince Charles was the climate radical. Speaking by video link to Climate Week in New York, he said that the focus on 2050 climate targets “suggests we have room to delay” but, on the contrary, “it is absolutely vital, given the enormity of the problem we face, that we make truly transformative progress along the road to net zero by 2030”.

By contrast, when Australian energy minister Angus Taylor launched his energy roadmap this week, Australia’s not-for-profit climate lobby’s main message was that “the Federal Government is behind the pack in its refusal to commit to a net-zero by 2050 emissions target”.

There was no talk about zero emissions by 2030, or in fact any 2030 goal, which appears to have become a threatened species. Advocates feared they would not be heard if they were “politically unrealistic”, but this is about science, too. And if you talk about 2050 just as most of the world is, you’ll be drowned out anyway, caught somewhere in the middle of the peloton, and certainly not up the front in the 2030 breakaway leaders’ group.

09 September 2020

We live in “disaster alley”: Australia and the region are particularly vulnerable

Coastal NSW rivers stopped flowing
during 2019 record-breaking drought:
The Barnard River, a tributary
of the Manning River, at Bretti
Reserve. Photo: Darren Ray
by David Spratt

The following is the text of a presentation today to the opening session of the Smart Energy Council’s 2020 Virtual Conference and Exhibition. 

In this Covid-19 period, I should start by re-affirming that the first duty of government is to protect the people: their health, safety and well-being. This requires management of high-end risks —  such as nuclear and biochemical weapons, pandemics, climate disruption, ecological and economic collapse  and so on  — where the threat may be catastrophic or existential. 

In managing such risks, Covid19 provides some alarming insights into this challenge. Last year the Inaugural Global Health Security Index of pandemic preparedness found, in their words,  “severe weaknesses in countries’ abilities to prevent, detect, and respond to significant disease outbreaks” with an average global score of 40/100.

Remarkably, given what has eventuated since, it found the USA the “most prepared” nation, and the UK second most prepared. Nations and experts believed they were prepared, but were not. That parallels the politics of climate disruption.