Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 10:15 | SYDNEY
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Climate change

Solastalgia: A malady for our age?

Some words capture the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times. We’ve been talking about “globalisation” for decades now, until it’s become a comfortable part of our intellectual furniture. Pretty soon we might have to get used to talking about “de-globalization”, though, as trade wars and

Learning from extinction

They called the last one Martha. I’d never heard of the passenger pigeon until a couple of years ago, these small birds that once flew in great nomadic flocks across North America in numbers dense enough to blacken the sky, taking hours to pass. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 3 and 5

Japan has struck low in climate ambition

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has repeatedly pledged that his country would lead global efforts to address climate change. Increasingly, however, Japan is facing scrutiny over the gap between its lofty rhetoric and the reality of its climate policies, which include ongoing support for coal-

Economic diplomacy: Two big-C issues

Change of pace If Australia’s bushfire crisis has done one thing to inadvertently calm the national zeitgeist during the holiday season, it is in the way climate change has suddenly returned to supplant China as the country’s biggest wicked problem. But in reality, these two big-C issues

Jakarta is flooding and its governor is sinking

Jakarta welcomed the new year with a new record — the heaviest rains in decades. The deluge left parts of the Indonesian capital under 5 metres of water, which triggered landslides and cut off whole neighbourhoods. Before the water finally receded this week, at least 60 people were dead and

Climate leadership: An idea whose time has come?

Julie Bishop’s seemingly belated call for Australian leadership on climate change has drawn some predictable criticism. Why, it might reasonably be asked, didn’t she do something about it when she had the chance as foreign minister? It’s a good question. The answer, and Bishop’s own defence

Best of The Interpreter 2019: The rising climate chorus

The annual Lowy Institute poll has tracked Australian attitudes on the environment for more than a decade, a mirror of the political vicissitudes in the country. The 2019 results led Matt McDonald to ask, are Australians more worried about climate change, or climate policy? One fascinating feature

Favourites of 2019: Ross Garnaut on climate

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. Ross Garnaut’s Superpower has already been reviewed on The Intepreter. But can I include it in the context of “favourites for 2019”? This book marks not

Should you lie to your children about reality?

Is the world currently too awful to contemplate for the so-called “snowflake generation”, which apparently can’t face the realities of life in even the most fortunate of nations? Should responsible parents attempt to insulate their offspring from some of life’s less pleasing aspects for as

Chart of the week: The climate cost

Two years ago, Scott Morrison walked into the Australian parliament brandishing a lump of coal. “Don’t be afraid. Don't be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” Morrison said, the nation’s treasurer at the time. We can only assume that he didn’t know then that in 2019 he would be

Book review: The chance to actually change the climate

Book Review: Ross Garnaut, Superpower: Australia’s Low-Carbon Opportunity, La Trobe University Press, 2019) If anyone in Australia deserves the somewhat overused epithets of “public intellectual” or even “policy entrepreneur”, it’s Ross Garnaut. Over a long and distinguished career, he

In Java, the water is running out

Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents. For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has

Keep calm and fly on … unless someone stops me

Shame is a powerful emotion, but is it powerful enough to save the planet? Almost certainly not. But the question has assumed unexpected prominence as the sensitive Scandinavians and the schoolgirl activist Greta Thunburg spearhead a campaign to encourage us to fly less, simply because it’s the

Climate change is a national security issue

If only a minister of the Morrison government would be as forthright in identifying climate change as a massive destabilising force in Australia’s region as the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has been. In a private speech in Bowral in June, General Campbell is reported to have sounded

Adapting to climate change: the priority for Australia

Adaptation to climate change was for a long time considered as an abstract issue for the future, something that would need to be worked out later by someone else. Adaptation, in short, is a process of preparing to live with a changing climate where most of our definitions of typical weather and

Just how green is the Belt and Road?

China is frequently hailed as a leader in international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement, and pledging that carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and decline rapidly thereafter. The country has quickly become one of the

Russian gas will not stop China’s air pollution

As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties. But although upping gas

Vietnam’s quandary: red or green?

A hand-crafted map on the wall of the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS) neatly captures the country’s strategic vulnerabilities as it emerges as a dynamic new regional player. The map is fashioned out of grains of rice to demonstrate Vietnam’s agricultural production prowess, but it

What to do about a warming planet

If global temperatures increase by 2 degrees and sail on past it, the ability to learn how to survive under such conditions becomes exponentially harder. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on Monday explaining the science around what

Climate change, at the frontlines

When Pacific island leaders gathered in Nauru this month, they issued a security declaration affirming climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the region. That climate change is a threat to Pacific islands is in some ways obvious; indeed the climate change wording in the “Boe

Explaining green and blue growth

A new report co-authored by Lord Nicholas Stern made headlines earlier this month with the projection that efforts to transition to a low carbon economy within the next 15 years could add $26 trillion to the global economy. The report is underpinned by the concept of “green growth”, an

Rights for people forced out by climate change

Imagine living on a low–lying atoll island in the Pacific and having just survived a severe cyclone. Your island is in ruins and you have lost everything. Humanitarian help is insufficient, your children need urgent medical care, but hospitals are not functioning, and your only hope is to join

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

Japan floods a warning for a changed climate

The scenes in Japan in the wake of torrential rain that has caused landslides and widespread flooding are heartbreaking. The rains have been described as unprecedented, and the death toll has continued to rise as emergency workers and volunteers search for those who are still missing. While

Climate change and shifting alliances

In 2009 the first democratically elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, held an underwater cabinet meeting. The stunt was crafted to draw international attention to the plight of many low-lying island nations as climate change causes sea levels to rise, threatening their continued

Climate change and security and why it’s so hard

Australian officials have paid increasing attention to the links between climate change and security. The 2016 Defence White Paper and the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper both clearly set out a view that climate change will contribute to insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region, and specifically

The Kyoto Protocol 20 years later: Heroes and villains

He was hailed as the ‘hero’ of the Kyoto climate talks 20 years ago, but the diplomat who oversaw negotiations for the world’s first legally binding emission cuts had some remarkably simple approaches to success. The first was to cut back on time. Raul Estrada Oyuela reduced the length of

Searching for sustainable energy in the Mekong

Southeast Asian governments are starting to wake up to the vast potential of solar energy, under pressure from civil society groups that insist it is time to get on board with a global revolution in renewable energy. Cambodia's former Energy Minister Pou Sothirak, now head of the Cambodian

What keeps global security academics awake at night

At the start of a Global Security course I ask my undergraduate students what they think are the greatest threats to global security. This year I went a step further, surveying academic colleagues around the globe. The results were telling in terms of what was emphasised and what was missing. The

Green power has a long way to go

One factor driving energy policies across the world is repeated claims by activists that green energy is gaining substantial market share over its despised fossil fuel competitors. These claims, made for the likes of the Danish, German, Californian and even Chinese grids, are distorting the energy

Paris agreement: signaling change for decades to come

Years from now, the Paris climate conference may be seen as the point where ambitious long term global climate policy was finally enshrined in an international agreement, and where the world found a formula that enables consistent action. True, there is a massive gap between present policy ambition

COP21 Paris update: Tough and uneven progress

The pace in Paris  is picking up. Delegates are moving from meeting to meeting, negotiating on the elements of the agreement. Even big delegations are struggling to keep up. We will not get a good sense of what will have been accomplished this week for a day or so but it is fair to say that

COP21: Where style is as important as substance

The Paris Climate Conference is underway. This is the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to which 195 states are signatories and, like previous COPs, it has been hailed as the most important climate conference in history. This is

Paris update: Anticipation and hyperbole

The delegates have arrived and the behind the scenes discussions in Paris are well underway. Negotiators are meeting to discuss strategy and informally coordinate positions. The aim is to  ensure formal negotiations proceed smoothly after the fanfare of the leaders' statements tomorrow. Canada 

Witness a global tipping point: The beginning of the end of coal

This is the first in a two part series by Fergus Green, climate policy consultant and researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science and Richard Denniss, chief economist, The Australia Institute. This post examines trends in coal demand. Part two will focus on proposals to regulate

G20 lacking ambition on climate change

G20 energy and resources ministers concluded the first-ever G20 Energy Ministerial in Istanbul over the weekend. Their communique is an initial response to the call from G20 leaders at last November's Brisbane summit to meet and progress nine agreed principles on energy collaboration. With

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