I’ve been back home from my overseas trip for about a fortnight now, and although I’m now back into the swing of work I’ve been somewhat avoiding the news for fear of what else might happen.
Apart from a change in government in Queensland last month which resulted in the dismantling of its climate policies as well as the Department of Environment and Resource Management, the icing on the cake was a recent court decision to approve the development of the largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere.
To the objection put forward on the basis of projected climate impacts from the development of the mine and resultant burning of the coat (1.3 billion tonnes of CO2e, and an increase of atmospheric CO2 concentrations 0.11 ppm by 2050), the judge’s response was a resounding “meh”. This all happened while I was out of the country and I did wonder whether I should bother coming home at all.
Nevertheless I am here, and right on cue there was much gnashing of teeth and serious words from business groups and State Governments this week about all those pesky environmental regulations which hold back economic growth/development/prosperity, kill jobs, maim kittens and make small children cry. Apart from wondering why such discussions about removing environmental regulations take place with apparently little to no regard of scientific or legal opinion, the idea of the Commonwealth handing over a large portion of their power over environmental decisions to the State Governments is extremely concerning for me.
The fact is that the federal EPBC Act has often been the only obstacle remaining in the way between State-approved development projects and threatened species and other sensitive aspect of our natural heritage -recent examples including the ‘scientific’ grazing in Victoria’s Alpine National Park and the failed Traveston Dam project in Queensland. Ben Eltham has some interesting commentary on the issue.
Other things which caught my eye this week:
- Lloyd’s of London, the world’s biggest insurance market, has pointed out the “unique and hard-to-manage risk” that stems from oil drilling in the Arctic – another example of environmental risks being incorporated into investment decisions
- Good news: A success story where a community in northern Ethiopia has reclaimed its land once at risk of desertification through targeted water, soil, and forest management.
- A short overview of the need for multi-layered climate policies in light of suggestions that the Australian carbon tax legislation could be ‘unconstitutional’
- A terrific explanation of physical limitations to conventional economic growth, in a conversation between a Exponential Economist and a Finite Physicist. Along a similar theme, a review of ideas lost in time but still relevant today, and a multi-organisational effort to map the new economy.
- The Nature Conservancy’s head scientist Peter Kareiva has been getting a bit of attention lately, after publishing an article which critiqued the conservation movement, and now his views have been critiqued in the NYT this week. I have mixed feelings on this that might require a blog post of its own.