Last year Scott Morrison, then the Treasurer, carried a lump of coal into Parliament during Question Time, where he brandished it about, saying
“This is coal. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you…It’s coal that has ensured Australia has for over one hundred years enjoyed an energy advantage that has delivered prosperity”.
He went on to describe the Opposition as suffering from the malady of coalaphobia and possessing an
“ideological, pathological opposition to coal as being part of our sustainable and more certain energy future.”
Yesterday the international body responsible for updating our knowledge of climate change, the IPCC, release its latest report on keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees. Their report included this paragraph:
In modelled 1.5°C pathways with limited or no overshoot, the use of CCS would allow the electricity generation share of gas to be approximately 8% (3–11% interquartile range) of global electricity in 2050, while the use of coal shows a steep reduction in all pathways and would be reduced to close to 0% (0–2%) of electricity (high confidence). While acknowledging the challenges, and differences between the options and national circumstances, political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage technologies have substantially improved over the past few years (high confidence). These improvements signal a potential system transition in electricity generation (IPCC SR15 SPM p33)
The report notes that keeping temperature rises to 1.5° would have significantly fewer impacts upon the planet and the well-being of its people then a rise to 2°. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is likely to diminish in size at 1.5° temperature rise, but at 2° would likely disappear completely.
This has certainly wiped the smug tone from the government’s defence of coal, but not their determination to see coal as an ongoing part of Australia’s energy mix long into the future. The conversation we should be having is how we will replace coal with renewable forms of energy over the course of the next couple of decades. We have time to do it and to do it right. Instead we have a government burying its head in the sand, denying the IPCC report has any significance for us, and declaring support for the coal industry. I think we all know who the pathological ideologues are.