Your well-being and happiness are underpinned by financial security, and all depend on a stable, liveable environment. Think about that, as you read on.
It is IPCC time again. I’ve been digesting the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report over the last few days, and it is a little terrifying, to be honest. There is no easy way to put this — we are facing a threat to our social well-being and financial security the likes of which we have never seen before. ‘Business as usual’ is unsustainable.
Today we’ll look at what this means for Australia, and what we can do about it. We’ll also review how some of our carbon capture and use (CCU) industry leaders are taking the climate crisis, and of course, the commercial imperative, very, very seriously.
“The [carbon capture] market has been estimated to be worth almost $US6 trillion/annum”
— Sophia Hamblin Wang, COO, Mineral Carbonation International
It hasn’t been this warm for 125,000 years!
The IPCC report’s key findings are staggering. Current global atmospheric CO2 levels haven’t been this high for at least 2 million years. The last similar methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) peaks were at least 800,000 years ago. Our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased global temperatures by about 1.1oC, and since 1970, the rate of increase has been faster than at any other 50-year period in the last 2000 years. It hasn’t been this warm for 125,000 years!
Global warming is likely to pass 1.5oC between 2030 and 2052. As we approach that milestone, expect greater climate variability and increasing impacts on health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, economic growth, and your financial security.
We must reduce CO2 emissions by about 45% in the next nine years (i.e. by 2030) to be confident that global temperature won’t rise much above 1.5oC.
Australia is front and centre
Australia has an important role to play in mitigation, as the world’s third-largest fossil fuel exporter. In 2018, Australia exported 1.1 billion tonnes of C02 potential as coal, gas, refined and crude oil (Source: The Australia Institute, IEA 2018), behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia. We have 0.3% of the world population but mine 4% of the world’s fossil fuel CO2 (Source: Australia Institute). We are also the 12th highest per-capita CO2 emitter in the world — 15.48 metric tons per capita (Source: World Bank, 2018) — greater than the USA and on par with Canada. Yes, China, USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia mine more CO2 in total, but we can’t complain others are not playing their part if we fall short in our own responsibilities.
Extremes will rule
Dorothea Mackellar loved “a sunburnt country”, and “droughts and flooding rains” in 1906, but I doubt she had this in mind!
Australia’s land areas are warming, with a 1.4oC overall increase since about 1910. We are seeing more intense heat waves and fewer cold extremes. Since 1950 there have also been more fire days and longer fire seasons, and these will get more worse, more common, and last longer.
Rising ocean temperatures, particularly the East Australian Current, means more marine heatwaves, so more coral bleaching, and rising CO2 will bring greater ocean acidity.
And our rising sea levels are pushing back sandy shorelines around Australia, threatening many low-lying coastal towns and seaward suburbs of our major cities.
We can fix this
We must implement strong and sustained reductions in CO2, and other GHG emissions, accelerating the effectiveness of that process by locking up as much carbon as possible.
Here are 5 ways you can contribute
- Vote for Climate Action
Vote for concerted government action on climate change. IPCC have laid out the impacts of inaction — let them know that we expect leadership and real results in this crisis.
- Local is Best
Consider food miles. Is it Australian, or better yet from the orchard just up the road? How much carbon-rich fuel has been expended to get that apple to you, that capsicum? Centralised distribution networks are also part of the problem — produce from Cairns is shipped down to Brisbane for distribution then back up to Cairns’ supermarkets — a 3356 km round trip! Yes, we all demand variety, but at what cost?
- Zoom, don’t Travel
One of the great lessons out of COVID is that we don’t need to be in the office, or at that conference or meeting, to contribute, when Zoom will do the job. Yes, we miss out on conference dinners and the atmosphere is lacking a little, but our carbon emissions and travel expenses are reduced. And there are added benefits — less unhealthy traffic fumes and road rage. Try car-pooling, public transport or cycling if you do have to go to the office.
- Invest with your Conscience
Where does your money go? Talk with your bank or superannuation fund about responsible investment and ask if you can opt out of funds investing in fossil fuels.
- Lobby Energy Companies
Let energy companies know that we expect them to provide us with sustainable renewable energy solutions.
Turning Carbon into Cash
MCi and Airbridge, two innovative world-leading Australian companies are using patented carbon capture and use (CCU) technologies to lock up CO2 in create valuable resources.
Mineral Carbonation International MCi
In June this year, MCi won a $14.6M Federal Government grant from the Carbon Capture Use and Storage Fund to accelerate development of their technology. And in August, MCi secured its first major cornerstone investor, Japanese giant, Itochi Corporation. All this money will really boost MCi’s growth and plans to be a global leader in CO2 emissions reduction from steel, cement, concrete, mining and manufacturing sectors.
MCi’s mission is to remove a billion tonnes of CO2 by 2040.
MCi Climate Action
MCi grabs CO2 directly from industrial flumes and combines it with waste (eg. steel slag, cement ash or remnant minerals) to create sustainable materials for use in construction, industrial and consumer markets.
“We have shown a way, without a carbon price that we could be creating value from CO2 by using it as a resource”
— Marcus Dawe (CEO)
This circular economy-in-action may prove to be essential to global emissions reduction. MCi plans to roll out these plants out around the world, creating new industries and value.
“When I speak at global conference and I speak to business leaders, I show them [our product] and say: this is a bit of climate hope… . This is a way that we can make our waste and our carbon dioxide productive. This is climate action”
— Sophia Hamblin Wong, COO, MCi Australia
Watch this space. And here’s their website for more information.
Airbridge, based in Perth, WA, is another potentially major player in the global carbon capture and use market.
Airbridge Climate Action
Their patented process converts CO2 from industry flumes into carbonates and bicarbonates, producing fertilisers, paints, building materials and other products.
The bigger the scale, the more efficient the process.
“Airbridge is creating the world’s first carbon negative supply chain which is really crucial for us to get to net zero”
— Stephen McGurk, Executive Director, Airbridge
For more information get in touch with Airbridge.
Hope is essential for change
Hope is essential in these troubling days as we move towards COP26 (Glasgow, 31st Oct to 12th Nov).
Two things are crystal clear for me from this IPCC report.
Firstly, if we want a liveable future, it cannot include fossil fuels, or at least nowhere near the current levels. Secondly, we can all play our part in securing that future.
Imagine a prosperous future with cleaner air and water, no traffic fumes or belching smoke-stacks. You have tasted this in lockdown — you know what this could look like, smell like. Suddenly the skies are blue. The alternative is unthinkable.
Remember — well-being and happiness are underpinned by financial security, and all depend on a stable, liveable environment.
Yes, we will have to adapt, and it will take time, but I am optimistic that we will come out of this crisis healthier and wiser, certainly with a deeper understanding of planetary stewardship — our place in the world and our responsibilities to the planet and all who sail on her.