Future Gas Strategy is a betrayal of promised Climate and Environmental Policies

May 15, 2024
World map logistic and supply chain network distribution Natural Gas

Climate scientists reveal data that earth’s heating is accelerating, heat extremes are increasing and 1.5C has been breached faster than forecast. We are failing to treat climate change as the single greatest threat to humanity.

At the same time our government has announced a gas strategy which increases emissions and the earth’s heating. Either we have misjudged the ability of government to understand climate change or they have been conned or captured by gas industries.

The danger is now so great that a majority of national initiatives must be directed to climate change. Yet ominously the Treasurer has been dancing under the falling leaves of deciduous trees muttering about economic and population growth which are already the shibboleths of failed climate and environmental policy.

The global average heating over February 2023 to January 2024 — exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) because governments have succumbed to a delusional policy-making narrative that warming to 1.5–2°C was still possible while continuing emissions to 2050.

One study consulted almost 400 senior authors from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Almost 80% expected a temperature rise of at least 2.5C above pre-industrial levels, unliveable temperatures for most of the world while only 6% thought it would stay within the 1.5C limit.

Data for extreme heat in Northern Australia presented by former Australian Defence Force chief Admiral Chris Barrie suggests that human life will be unviable in many areas of NT where defence bases are sited.

Such climate data are not included in the ADF’s security statement. Admiral Barrie and his team of security experts state that the federal government either doesn’t understand or is hiding from the public the risk of climate change to national security. They say mass migration, food insecurity and other climate risks must be addressed by government and the ADF.

Barrie’s following words should be of deep concern to all Australians.

“Stripped of climate expertise by the previous government, the Australian Public Service has barely enough capacity to understand, coordinate or advise appropriately on the full range of climate risks. It will take years of effort to rebuild this lost capacity across the government. And climate research is not planned or integrated sufficiently to be accepted for delivering what the government needs for realistic risk assessment and policy-making”.

An additionally worrying possibility is the viability and safety of both defence bases and planned mining operations moving into unliveable heat. Has the gas industry got its toxic fingers into national security?

The Government’s Gas Strategy will increase world emissions and temperatures. The countries burning our gas will be nominally responsible for these emissions and so our government can and does deny responsibility. No responsibility? We are a wealthy country offering no leadership to an ailing world.

The Gas Strategy says production for export will be increased further.

The health impacts for our exported gas include thousands of deaths and we join our mates USA and Canada in this malfeasance to humanity in poorer countries already suffering badly from climate change caused by us.

For this strategy the government has to retain weak environmental laws to allow implementation of the expansion of gas developments.

Since their election, the public has waited 2 years for reform of the EPBC Act 1991 deemed totally out of date in Professor Samuel’s Review. The most recent State of the Environment Report indicates significant environmental loss of species and ecological services, land clearing has continued and effective water policy is wanting. Crucial parts of the Nature Positive Act are now deferred after closed door discussion with environmental groups and resource chiefs.

Presently permissions for resource projects are developed by States via the Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) which Samuel remarked has insufficient expertise to assess them. The EIA includes Health Impact Assessment which the States have a history of omitting. In the NT Middle Arm gas development a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is being used which omits health and also effective discussion with Aboriginal People.

The health aspects have been assessed by gas experts from Sydney University and from North Carolina University. Australian governments do not comment on these findings presumably because they might damage our gas led future.

In 2011 concerns about possible health impacts of coal seam gas were reported, and Health Impact Assessment for all projects were recommended.

In 2012 the Australian Government commissioned the National assessment of chemicals associated with coal seam gas extraction in Australia.

This study failed to identify that some chemicals used by the industry were harmful, as were chemicals released from the coal seams during fracking.

The health impacts in people exposed to oil and gas operations are

  • more severe asthma in children requiring more medical treatment, emergency department visits and hospitalisations
  • higher hospitalisation and death rates due to heart attacks, heart failure, respiratory diseases and some cancers
  • increases in depression, anxiety and social withdrawal, especially among young and pregnant women
  • reproductive harms and interference with development of unborn babies, including higher risks of low birth weight, pre-term delivery and spontaneous abortion
  • higher risk of severe birth defects
  • higher risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Babies and young children are the most vulnerable.

The UN Convention on the rights of the child, the Committee on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change include States ensuring children’s rights to “a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” and States must “Equitably phase out the use of coal, oil and natural gas.”

The Federal government will have a problem with this for in 2022, in the Federal court of Australia the Federal Government argued that it has no duty of care for children, and that the best interests’ principle is not something it ought to consider when making decisions about the environment. What an incredible decision when health and the environment are indivisible.

Urgent action is needed to stop further major gas developments, for the Federal government’s gas strategy will increase national and world emissions, deaths and ill-health. Calling a federal election now would be appropriate because it would likely bring more independent members into Parliament. To precipitate an election, Minister Plibersek must consider standing down – it is her obligation when she has not delivered her promises and has rolled over to the voice of her colleagues and the gas industry. She has the standing to have an important role in future Governments.

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