Each year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes, in its annual World Energy Outlooks (WEOs), its perspectives on the energy sector over the next 25 years. These explore the implications of taking alternative climate and energy pathways.
They present three scenarios: current policies (CP) which assumes business-as-usual, new policies (NP) which extends CP with policy governments have committed to but not yet implemented, and the 450 scenario which is the pathway to keep global average temperature increase below 2C.
This information is highly influential in justifying investment decisions. In the WEO 2015 released last November, under CP assumptions global demand for coal would increase by 43% by 2040 compared to current levels, under NP by 12%, but under 450 scenario it declines by 36%.
NP figures imply an absolute increase in coal use of 23%. However the 450 scenario, to which the government supposedly committed in Paris, shows coal’s share of electricity demand falling from 40% to 12% by 2040, an absolute reduction in coal use of 57%.
The IEA have made it very clear that the first two scenarios are incompatible with the goal of restricting warming to below 2 degrees and therefore unsustainable.
“We look to the negotiators in Paris to destroy our projections in our central scenario (NP), which we show to be unsustainable, in order to create a new world in which energy needs are met without dangerously overheating the planet.”
But apparently our new Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, missed that bit.
“The IEA tells us that 40% of today’s electricity demand is met by coal and by 2040 it will still be 30%.”
Likewise, Steve Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, who assures us that “Global demand for coal is still going through the roof.”
The deliberate omission of the consequences of this path by these two politicians, whose very duty it is to make policy based on the available information, amounts to criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence is a ‘misfeasance or ‘nonfeasance’, where the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest. In some cases this failure can rise to the level of willful blindness where the individual intentionally avoids adverting to the reality of a situation. The degree of culpability is determined by applying a reasonable person standard. Criminal negligence becomes “gross” when the failure to foresee involves a “wanton disregard for human life.”
Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
Last year, three judges ruled that the Dutch government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change.
The successful case was based on the fact that at the climate conference in Cancun, in 2010, all 195 signatory states to the United Nations climate treaty agreed that two degree warming of the average temperature of the Earth constitutes ‘dangerous’ climate change as defined by the treaty itself.
“… industrialised nations of the world also agreed, based on IPCC science, that to have a 50 per cent chance of staying below two degrees [they]would have to mitigate their greenhouse gasses by 25-40 per cent by 2020.”
When public office-holders misuse or abuse their power, thereby putting the whole planet at risk, they have breached their duty of care.
The collusion between the Coalition government and groups like the Minerals Council of Australia to mislead and misinform, to deliberately ignore known threats to our very existence that are already causing death and destruction of property and the environment, is an offence for which they should be held personally accountable.
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