Climate Change Concerns Climb In Australia

Climate change attitudes in Australia

The level of concern among Australians regarding climate change and its impacts has increased significantly due to the nation’s bushfire crisis.

Climate of the Nation is a long running-survey commissioned by The Australia Institute (TAI), gauging attitudes in the community on the issue of climate change. The latest related poll of 1,033 Australians conducted between 8 and 12 January 2020 indicated 79% of Australians are concerned about climate change, up five percentage points from the July 2019 survey. 47% are “very concerned” – up 10 percentage points.

Climate change concern - Australia poll

Missing from the TAI’s graph is South Australia, which registered 47%.  As for NT/ACT/TAS, results were only shown only for larger states

Other key results:

  • 72% of Australians polled agreed the bushfire crisis is a wake-up call for the world on climate change impacts.
  • 48% agreed mining and burning coal makes bushfires worse, while 34% disagreed.
  • 79% are worried that Australia’s native forests and unique wildlife will never be the same.
  • 33% agreed the federal government has done a good job managing the climate crisis, while 58% disagreed.

“Two thirds of Australians agree the current bushfire crisis demonstrates the cost of inaction on climate change,” said TAI Director, Ebony Bennett. “The fossil fuel companies that profit from climate change should be contributing to meet the costs of climate-fuelled disasters, but currently, it’s the Australian community who pays.”

In the case of the bushfire crisis situation, there have also been a bunch of very generous folks overseas who have seen the plight of Australians and wildlife affected and kicked in a bunch of bucks too.

The full key findings of the latest poll can be viewed here.

TAI’s Polluter Pays (A Bit) Proposal

Last month, TAI released details of its proposed National Climate Disaster Fund (NCDF), which would help address the damage associated with climate change and be funded through whacking  a levy of $1 per tonne on carbon emissions associated with all coal, gas and oil produced in Australia. TAI estimated the levy would rake in around $1.5 billion a year based on current production levels.

Last week, the Institute suggested the Morrison Government’s $2 billion bushfire recovery fund should be paid for by fossil fuel producers.

The Cost Of Inaction Coming Home To Roost

While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the NCDF would be a little like a band-aid over a gangrenous wound; it would be a start.

Last week, Moody’s Analytics said the economic impact from this bushfire season could easily surpass the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, which cost an estimated $4.4 billion. Any argument about how much climate change contributed to the damage bill  is neither here nor there. The situation happened (and is still happening) and it was/is/will continue to be exacerbated by climate change.

And what dollar value do you put on the decimation of our fauna and flora along with other impacts; some of which we are yet to discover? What about the resulting misery and psychological scarring?

Our lack of required action to rapidly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will continue to cost us on all fronts. The arguments against doing so, including “cost” and “jobs”, are looking even weaker. This isn’t just because renewables are cheaper and provide plenty of jobs, but the fact that not using them is going to be incredibly expensive.

If as much effort had been put into boosting renewables such as solar power and related technologies as has been applied to resisting them; we’d all be a lot further down the path towards a clean energy future and perhaps avoid some of the fury the planet we call home has in store.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Geoff Miell says

    Michael Bloch,
    You report:
    “Last month, TAI released details of its proposed National Climate Disaster Fund(NCDF), which would help address the damage associated with climate change and be funded through whacking a levy of $1 per tonne on carbon emissions associated with all coal, gas and oil produced in Australia. TAI estimated the levy would rake in around $1.5 billion a year based on current production levels.”

    As I said in another thread, John Quiggin thinks that Australia’s bushfire emergency recovery (so far) will cost $100 billion.
    See: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/10/perspectives/australia-fires-cost/index.html

    Des Scahill makes his point in another thread:
    “My point though is this – 100 billion dollars is a massive amount money for a country with a population the size of Australia. Most of this will be spent on ‘restoration’, and it will take some years before everything gets back to a ‘normal’ Comparatively little extra gets spent on mitigating/countering or even deflecting, likely FUTURE effects of FUTURE disasters yet to come.”
    See: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fossil-fuel-bushfire-recovery-mb1358/#comment-595730

    The estimated $100 billion that is being redirected towards ‘restoration’, should be spent on climate change mitigation. Economists refer to “opportunity costs” – money that would be spent on something that is not available to be spent on something else. As the consequences of dangerous climate change escalate, it is inevitable that other costly disasters will strike.

    IMO, $1.5 billion per annum (that TAI is recommending) is inadequate compensation for the ongoing and escalating damage that the fossil fuel industry is contributing to, potentially leading to the collapse of human civilization and with a population reduced to less than 1 billion, before this century is over.
    See: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fossil-fuel-bushfire-recovery-mb1358/#comment-596387

    Even if humanity ceased human-induced GHG emissions tomorrow, we are already locked-in for probably 1.8–2.0°C rise due to GHG emissions already present in the atmosphere (1.5°C), plus a one-off temperature increase from a reduction in climate-cooling aerosols from combustion (0.3–0.5°C). So, what ever humanity does now, the environment will become harsher – the choice is how much harsher do we want it to be?

    We now have a clear political choice:
    • Rapidly reduce human-induced GHG emissions (i.e. 50% reduction by 2030, and to zero by 2050) collectively and cooperatively on a global scale and we MAY be able to adapt to a significantly harsher environment; OR
    • Fail to reduce our emissions in a timely manner and human civilization collapses with all the associated consequences for everyone and society.

    How difficult could that choice be? – possible survival (albeit in a harsher environment that we MAY adapt to) OR likely extinction for several billions of people in an increasingly uninhabitable planet? If we don’t make a considered choice and act effectively well before this decade is over, then the dependable ‘Laws of Physics’ will likely determine our fate for us.

    Mitigation is easier than adaptation; humanity will need to do both to avoid extinction.
    See: http://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/EWG_LUT_100RE_All_Sectors_Global_Report_2019.pdf

  2. Hopefully we finally start building nuclear plants here. It is only real alternative to nearly replace for fossils. Some gas generation have to stay for now, but coal is definitely have to go.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Solar and wind farms now require around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour of output to be built. Rooftop solar is effectively much less. New nuclear will require over 20 cents per kilowatt-hour to get built. When the competition can stay in business selling electricity for less than one quarter of what nuclear needs to break even no one is likely to invest in it.

      While solar and wind are variable sources of energy. This does not matter because:

      1. We have a wholesale electricity market. Solar and wind can sell into it and destroy any chance of nuclear making a profit even if a hefty carbon price is introduced.
      2. It costs a hell of a lot less to firm solar and wind than 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    • Des Scahill says

      We won’t have the money to build those nuclear plants Paul, nor is it all sensible or economic to do so. For $5-10+ billion you could put solar PV panels on a very large number of properties, and as each one was installed, it would start reducing the demands on grid virtually immediately. You wouldn’t have to wait 7 years or so to actually get some power flowing either.

      Nuclear might be part of the answer for other countries, because of their location, geography and population size along with the fact that in some instances their exist power grid was designed to handle ‘nuclear’ generation.

      But in Australia – why would we even bother considering it at all in the first place?

      • Problem is you can’t build whole electricity grid on renewables. Cost becomes prohibitive when you take to account storage/spikers/ additional transmission capacity ( and who know what else). All these is required to make solar/wind as reliable as current generation. I have read plenty on the subject, depends on author bias general agreement that you can’t have stable grid with more than 20% to 50% renewable generation. Germans currently learning it hard way. But they are sitting in the middle of Europe when they can import lots of electricity when they need it. At this moment nuclear is only valid green option which can push us past these threshold. In my opinion Nuclear as base generation+ gas spikers + renewlables ( to degree till they sill economically feasible ) is only way to rid off coal in Australia.

        Nuclear is expensive, especially upfront cost. But majority of this cost comes from fearmorgening. It also make is good future investment, pay now get cheap electricity for next 40 years. It is very mature ans safe technology, especially in Australian condition with plenty of space, ocean and nice continental plate underneath.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          The Hinkley C nuclear reactors are expected to cost over $10 billion per gigawatt. The 100 MW Hornsdale reserve was built in under 100 days, is a 100 megawatt battery, and cost $89 million. Large scale solar and wind are coming in at around $1 and $1.50 a watt. So at these prices we could build 10 Hornsdale Reserves and 4 gigawatts of solar and wind for under $6 billion. This would provide electricity at far lower operating cost with greater reliability and financial safety than nuclear.

          In reality large scale battery storage is already much cheaper than what the Hornsdale Reserve cost and solar and wind are continuing to fall in price, so the cost of renewables plus firming would be much cheaper by the time an Australian nuclear power station could come online even if construction was started today.

          PS: My simplistic example is not how the real world actually works. If you want the dirty details you can check out this report here:

          https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Annual-update-finds-renewables-are-cheapest-new-build-power

        • Geoff Miell says

          Paul,
          You state:
          “Problem is you can’t build whole electricity grid on renewables. Cost becomes prohibitive when you take to account storage/spikers/ additional transmission capacity ( and who know what else).”

          Who says you can’t, Paul? You? What do you base those statements on, Paul? Evidence please, Paul, not what seems to me to be apparently baseless pro-nuclear propaganda BS.
          See my comment at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fossil-fuel-bushfire-recovery-mb1358/#comment-597144

          You then state:
          “I have read plenty on the subject, depends on author bias general agreement that you can’t have stable grid with more than 20% to 50% renewable generation.”

          Where and what have you read, Paul? Perhaps you could please provide some links to the information you rely upon so that we can all see where your influences originate from, and we can then make our own judgements about the veracity and biases of this information? Or do you wish to hide this from us, Paul?

          And then you state:
          “At this moment nuclear is only valid green option which can push us past these threshold.”

          IMO, compelling evidence indicates you are deluded, Paul. Some reasons that strongly indicate that nuclear-fission-based electricity generation for Australia is a mistimed, expensive, and long-term unsustainable energy choice are:

          1. Currently prohibited by Federal Australian law. A completely new legal and regulatory framework would need to be established, requiring much political ‘argy-bargy’ at local, state and federal levels – good luck with that, Paul;
          2. Only governments (everywhere in the world), and therefore taxpayers, will underwrite a nuclear power industry; and pay dearly if dire incidents occur. Most Australians IMO are unlikely to accept this – good luck trying to convince enough people otherwise, Paul;
          3. There’s currently minimal nuclear power generation technical and engineering expertise within Australia. Try building a completely new, highly complex and potentially dangerous industry from scratch, when we don’t have the luxury of time – good luck with that, Paul;
          4. Any electricity generated by nuclear-fission energy within Australia would probably be 15–20 years away from when the decision was made to proceed. With many ageing Australian coal-fired power stations due to retire within this time-frame (beginning with NSW’s 2000 MW Liddell power station in 2022-3), deploying nuclear power would take much too long, that Australia cannot afford to wait for. Do you want the lights to go out in Australia, Paul? Good luck convincing Australians they need to wait that long for nuclear energy, Paul;
          5. New nuclear fission-, gas- and coal-based electricity generation technologies are now decisively more expensive than new renewables (wind and solar-PV with ‘firming’) – the economics and deployment times required renders the nuclear-fission energy option unappealing for Australia – good luck providing credible and compelling evidence to the contrary, Paul;
          6. There’s approximately <100 years of global supply of high-grade uranium ores remaining. Nuclear fuel costs will continue to rise as finite, lower cost, easier-to-extract, higher concentration and higher quality ores are progressively depleted. An aggressive global expansion of nuclear power plant capacity cannot be adequately fed with the required known quantity of uranium nuclear fuel over the expected operational lifetimes of the reactors that would need to be built. How can nuclear be long-term sustainable without an adequate and ongoing fuel supply? – This is generally overlooked by many, including apparently you, Paul.

          It seems to me you haven’t done anywhere near adequate research on the subject, Paul. It seems to me you are just regurgitating baseless pro-nuclear, pro-gas propaganda.

          Unsubsidised nuclear is expensive from beginning (i.e. mining, plant construction, fuel processing), through middle (i.e. electricity generation, refuelling), to end (i.e. plant decommissioning and waste processing/containment long-term), takes much too long to deploy to be of any benefit to mitigate dangerous climate change (which risks civilisation collapse with attendant large-scale human and other species suffering and death), and the toxic waste legacy will long outlast any energy benefits gained.
          See my Submissions (#215 & #215a) here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2542#tab-submissions

          There’s also sage commentary by economist, John Quiggin, at his blog headlined “Nuclear update: Gen III dies an early death”, dated Jan 19, and an interesting comment by “akarog” at Jan 20, at 5:59am.
          See: https://johnquiggin.com/2020/01/19/nuclear-update-gen-iii-dies-an-early-death/

  3. Hornsdale can store 129 MWh and costs 90 million AUD
    Hinkley Point C nuclear power station generates 3,200 MWe costs £20 billion = 40 billion AUD ( Very rough estimation )

    Hinkley will produce 3200 * 24 = 76800 MWh/day
    To store it 595 Hornsdale batteries are required which will cost 47.6 billion AUD

    So we are going to pay more for way less stable power generator.
    And 1 day worth storage is not nearly enough for any real word application, you need at 10 times more.

    Sorry , grid storage is not yet an alternative. But I’m really surprised how close it comes in terms of price. We definitely need cheaper batteries .

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