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Environment + Energy — Analysis and Comment

‘Plates of the Outback’ - A supercell thunderstorm near Urana, NSW drifts over the landscape. John Allen

Australia faces a stormier future thanks to climate change

The supercell that hit Brisbane on November 27 this year caused more than A$500 million worth of damage, produced hail up to 7.5 cm in diameter, and lashed the city with winds of more than 140 km an hour…
Over the past three years, there’s been increasing concern over the future of the Great Barrier Reef. american_rugbier/Flickr

The Great Barrier Reef should not be listed as ‘in danger’

The Australian government has stepped up its campaign this month to prevent the Great Barrier Reef being listed as a World Heritage site “in danger” at international meetings next year. The World Heritage…
A man relaxes in some decidedly un-Scottish weather outside the venue for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Scorching 2014 sees records tumble in 19 European countries

It’s clear: 2014 has been a scorcher. As well as probably being the hottest year on record globally, regional and local climate records have tumbled too. Australia recently had its hottest spring on record…
Increasing Chinese investment in renewables is driving costs down. The Danish Wind Industry Association / Vindmølleindustrien/Flickr

Chile’s mines set hot pace on renewables — Australia take note

Mining is the fourth-largest energy consumer in Australia, using roughly 10% of Australia’s total. Some of this comes from the electricity grid — but much is supplied offgrid in the form of diesel and…
Energy supply including nuclear is the best way to fight climate change and conserve wildlife and ecosystems. James Marvin Phelps/Flickr

It’s time for environmentalists to give nuclear a fair go

Should nuclear energy be part of Australia’s (and many other countries') future energy mix? We think so, particularly as part of a solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent dangerous climate…
Two days late, but the Lima talks have finally reached their conclusion. Ian McGregor

Lima climate agreement – experts react

After running long past its scheduled finish time, the United Nations Lima climate talks finally delivered an agreement on Sunday that should see all countries, not just developed ones, pledge to cut their…
It would be a stretch to call the latest climate talks in Peru a raging success. EPA/COP20

Climate talks slouch towards Paris as Lima summit finally wraps up

The UN’s climate negotiations in Lima (known as COP20) over the past fortnight were held in a military compound normally used by the Peruvian Army. Each day, negotiators at the COP passed an obstacle course…
Handshakes as the Lima conference went into overtime to deliver an agreement. But there is still plenty of uncertainty about how next year’s Paris deal might look. EPA/COP20

Australia comes in from the cold as Lima deal leaves lots to do

The world is a step closer to a new climate agreement that will see all countries, not just developed ones, take action on greenhouse emissions after 2020. The two-week Lima climate summit, which ran two…
UN negotiators will struggle to balance the demands of countries that want binding emissions targets, and those that don’t. EPA/Paolo Aguilar

‘Legally binding’ demands are still the biggest climate dealbreaker

Could the preoccupation with legally binding targets sink the next climate deal in Paris in 2015? In the run-up to this week’s Lima talks, widely seen as a precursor to the Paris summit, the Abbott government…
Scarborough, Queensland: no longer allowed to factor in sea-level rise in its planning laws. Seo75/Wikimedia Commons

Complacency rules as Queensland makes risky edict on sea-level rise

Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney’s decision, revealed this week, to order a Brisbane council to remove future sea-level rise from its planning regulations seems a rather short-sighted thing to do…
Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are bidding to repair the government’s tarnished reputation on climate - but have they pledged enough? AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Australia’s $200 million climate pledge falls short of its true debt

At the United Nations Lima climate summit, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop has pledged A$200 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund, which seeks to raise US$100 billion (A$120 billion…
The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s climate “hot spots” — vulnerable to rising seas, storms and erosion. Phalinn Ooi/Flickr

Cities could be the secret to fighting climate change

The world’s population could reach almost 10 billion by 2050. Most people will live in cities. To accommodate an additional 3 billion people, we’ll need to build the equivalent of one new city, that can…
Coal seam gas is only one issue for managing one of Australia’s most important geological resources. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Coal seam gas is just the latest round in an underground war

In a recent article on The Conversation, Queensland coal seam gas (CSG) researchers argued that the industry is progressing faster than the science, leading to concerns over fugitive emissions and impacts…
Julie Bishop will need to fight to rescue Australia’s standing after a dire first week at the Lima climate talks. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Julie Bishop arrives at climate talks amid ignominy for Australia

Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop will have a lot of explaining to do when she arrives here in Lima, Peru, ahead of her address to the UN climate summit tomorrow. It will take all of her diplomatic…
Australian farmers apply nearly a million tonnes of nitrogen-based fertilisers every year. Pete Hill/Flickr

Meet N2O, the greenhouse gas 300 times worse than CO2

When we talk about greenhouse gases we usually talk about carbon dioxide. When media reports depict climate change, we invariably see the cooling towers of a coal power station. Which is fair, because…
England is on track for its hottest year since records began in 1659. AAP Image/NEWZULU/STEPHEN CHUNG

Hot 2014 closes in on top spot in world temperature rankings

As representatives from around the world sit down in Lima to discuss how to tackle the ever-growing problem of climate change, it is becoming increasingly likely that 2014 will be the hottest year on record…
Australasian Gannets are one reason to get out bird-watching this weekend. Martin Sharman/Flickr

Six extraordinary Australian birds you need to see

Here’s an activity for you this weekend: either staying at home or heading bush, count the number and type of birds you see. It’s all part of BirdLife Australia’s Challenge Count, an annual event that’s…
Bathers out in Bondi, as Sydney enjoyed warm September weather. AAP Image/NEWZULU/PETER SCARF

Sound familiar? Spring 2014 was Australia’s hottest on record, again

This time last year, it was announced that Australia had experienced its hottest spring on record. Well, guess what? It’s happened again. The spring of 2014 was hotter still and is the new record-holder…
In the 1970s, refineries in the Middle East controlled the world’s flow of oil. Not any more. National Iranian Oil Company/Wikimedia Commons

OPEC v oil prices: how the world’s biggest oil cartel lost its power

With oil prices on the slide, members of the once-dominant Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided last week not to attempt to rally them by cutting production, leaving the Brent…
Victoria’s voters have spoken – and they have said no to Melbourne’s new freeway tunnel. AAP Image/Julian Smith

The East-West Link is dead – a victory for 21st-century thinking

Labor’s state election victory in Victoria has fatally undermined Melbourne’s most controversial tunnel, the now-doomed East-West Link, with new Premier Daniel Andrews pledging to rip up the contracts…