We have the power
On January 7, temperatures of 47 °C made some Sydney suburbs the hottest places to be on our planet. Let’s just think about that, this means we were experiencing temperatures higher than places like the Sahara and Kalahari deserts that day!
Also, it comes as no surprise that in Australia 2013 - 2017 was the hottest five-year period ever recorded.
Frighteningly, the worst is yet to come. If we don't address climate change and its causes - soon, Australia's year-round temperatures could be up to five degrees hotter by the end of this century. It means we'll be facing more bushfires, heatwaves and drought, with far-reaching economic, environmental and social impacts.
Turning up the heat
Climate change is already making life uncomfortable for people and animals, but it's also now putting the heat on our energy suppliers. Australia's large, old coal and gas-powered plants are not cut out for operating under extreme temperatures for prolonged periods; they can't scale up quickly enough to meet demand, and when they break down it can be disastrous. The Australia Institute (TAI) has described our reliance on them as the "single greatest threat to the energy security of our electricity system’.
This became painfully clear during the February 2017 heatwave. TAI found that the heat caused failures in coal and gas-fired power plants across SA, NSW and Qld. These failures stripped 14% off their capacity when demand was greatest. In SA, this contributed to extensive blackouts and crippled some industries. If not for solar kicking in, power disruptions would’ve been much worse.
Heatwaves of this kind used to be rare - think once in 500 years. Now we need to be prepared for one every 50 years. And if our planet continues to warm by two degrees (possibly by 2050), major heat waves could occur every five years.
We’re actually leaders in renewable technology
The crazy thing is, we have the means of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We can mitigate global warming. In fact, Australians are world leaders in some of this tech. Renewable energy. Wind power. Solar. Even wave energy.
"Coal generators are failing in the heat when people need electricity most," said Kerri Major, WWF-Australia's Climate and Earth Hour Engagement Manager. "These traditional power plants are among our biggest greenhouse gas polluters, so the solution to reducing heatwaves and keeping the power on is a smart, renewables-based energy system. We just need the political will to implement it."
Since it started operating in December 2017, the world’s largest battery storage in South Australia has captivated the world - and proved how efficient and economical renewable energy production can be with the aid of battery storage. Now Victoria is following suit.
If Australia wants to meet WWF's target of 100% renewable energy generation by 2030, and to meet the Paris Agreement targets to keep global warming below two degrees, our politicians must act on a nation-wide scale. We need commitments to phase out fossil-fuel electricity production. Beginning now.
Make the switch
A growing number of Australians have embraced the power of wind and solar, and either installed their own systems or switched to renewable energy retailers. And every year, more are showing their support for the planet by switching off for Earth Hour.
Saturday, 24 March, from 8:30 - 9:30 pm your time, Aussies across the country will be switching off for an hour to raise awareness about the need for stronger action on climate change.
This year, we’re inviting you to switch off, and #Connect2Earth by adding your voice to a global conversation about the need to protect the planet.
Millions of voices are too hard to ignore, so join us.