Six Wasted Years

Yours truly (as Renewable Energy Party candidate) and Greens Ian Onley at 2016 Gippsland Solar Tesla Station Launch

 

In June 2016 as part of the last election campaign Darren Chester MP officially opened the new Tesla electric vehicle charging station at the Gippsland Solar rooms in Traralgon. Whilst it was a coup for Gippsland Solar in terms of publicity, Darren Chester MP has been at best a feeble advocate for the electric vehicle revolution. And now one full government term and a new prime minister later the Liberal National Coalition have decided to attack the modest electric vehicle proposals of the ALP in the most ridiculous and absurd fashion. See here and here. Some parts of the media insist that there is little difference between the policies of the major parties on electric vehicles. But there is one big difference. In a government with an ex-PM who liked photo ops with electric vehicles, and our local member praising the innovations of Gippsland Solar, they have done precisely nothing.

I cannot recall what Darren said at the Gippsland Solar opening and probably, like most political speeches, was eminently forgettable. His parliamentary record gives a better indication of what he stands for rather than his media appearance at Traralgon. Over the years he has voted strongly against the carbon price, the carbon pollution reduction scheme, the carbon farming initiative and strongly for unconventional gas mining (also known as coal seam gas). As far as I am aware he has never commented on climate change or accepted that our current warming is caused by human activities. I had a go at him in a post to this blog just before the 2016 election calling him ‘climate change denier’ and a ‘climate dinosaur’ who was firmly entrenched in the coal lobby and in particular the brown coal lobby. However, besides some of his colleagues, he seems to be reason and good manners personified and is considered by the main stream media to be a moderate in the National Party.

But the recent outrageous statements on electric vehicles are made laughable by the progress in other countries around the world, Europe and China in particular. And with sensible incentives as have been introduced in countries like Norway the transition to electric vehicle adoption can be very rapid indeed. As usual New Zealand is well ahead of us. There are also many other advantages to a  rapid adoption besides acting on climate change and the Paris Agreement including solving balance of payment problems and reducing city pollution.

Whilst we are pushing this as a ‘climate election’ it is unlikely that opposition candidates will make inroads into Darren Chester’s parliamentary majority. This in spite of the fact that the current drought we are experiencing in Gippsland is almost certainly heavily influenced by the human caused global warming that he refuses to accept or acknowledge.* For many farmers feeding out in the region the cost of loyalty to the National Party and their sitting member is becoming very expensive indeed. And for those who accept the science it has been six wasted years.

*to the question I have been sending to all candidates “Do you accept the scientific consensus on human caused global warming?” he has yet to answer.

Forming the Bass Coast Climate Action Network by Maddy Harford

There’s a new kid on the block: Bass Coast Climate Action Network, or Bass Coast CAN to its friends.

We’re a small group of Bass Coasters committed to getting the word out about the reality and the impacts of climate change. 

An increasing number of individuals and organisations are coming to understand the stark ramifications of the remorseless increase in overall global temperatures: rising levels – and acidification – of the oceans, increasing frequency of extreme weather events and melting ice caps to name a few.

​Is this a climate emergency?  We think so!

We want to start a community conversation.  Bass Coast CAN is inviting people and groups to combine their voices, networks and resources, with the aim of raising awareness of the issue and developing ways to address climate change at the local level.  ​

​Our first event will be the screening of Accelerate; a film produced by the 350.org organisation* and distributed across the globe (but tailored to Australian issues).  The film runs for 30 minutes and will be followed by a panel discussion, including local experts and community members.

Accelerate will screen on Friday, May 10 at the Wonthaggi Baptist Church, corner McBride St and Broome Crescent at 6.30pm for 7pm, with supper and discussion afterwards.

​Those interested in joining voices with Bass Coast CAN and/or attending the film can contact Michael on mnn@fastmail.fm ; Graeme on graemejcharles@gmail.com or Maddy on maddy.harford@gmail.com .

* The number 350 means climate safety: scientists tell us that to preserve a liveable planet, we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 410 parts per million, and heading north, to below 350 ppm.

Reprinted from Bass Coast Post.

A Climate Party and the Climate Election

One would hope that history does not repeat itself and that political advances in the cause of climate science are made over time. Since the first climate election in 2007 there have been four attempts at forming a single issue climate party, each of which in turn I have been a member. Last Thursday on the day the election was called the Independents for Climate Action Now (ICAN)* was registered by the Australian Electoral Commission. I wish ICAN well and am aware that just by being registered is a boost to climate action and a big step towards making 2019 the second climate election in Australia.

In 2007 when Kevin Rudd called climate change “the greatest moral challenge of our generation” there was an ambitious single issue climate party on the hustings. As far as I am aware the Climate Change Coalition (CCC) was the first climate party in Australia and they had several high profile Senate candidates including current Sydney mayor Clover Moore and the media ‘science guru’ Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. The CCC was interestingly a party of independents grouping around what still is the greatest challenge of our generation (or any generation for that matter). In their optimistic quest for Senate seats the CCC did some shonky preference deals. They were then swamped in the ‘ruddslide’, all their candidates lost their deposits, and the organisation disappeared soon after.

In 2016 the Renewable Energy Party was registered by the AEC one month before Turnbull called the election. Like the CCC the REP were overoptimistic in their chances and concentrated on the Senate. Their attempts at crowdfunding failed and they made no impression whatsoever on the mainstream media. Senate candidates are very hard to find on ballot papers the size of tablecloths and like the CCC all their candidates lost their deposits. After a year of no activity the REP was deregistered.

Now ICAN is registered on the day the election is called. It would appear that they too will be concentrating on the Senate and have hopes for substantial crowdfunding – all shades of the REP. More worrying still for ICAN is that the polls indicate there is a distinct possibility of another ‘ruddslide’ and they have an enormous struggle in getting any traction in the media in such a short time – just over 5 weeks.

But things are a bit different now. The science has firmed and measurements of data confirm earlier predictions – in many cases the predictions have been understatements. Global warming is starting to affect, and be noticed, by us all – especially during heatwaves, bushfires and droughts. The majority accept this and a substantial minority – especially in some conservative held city seats – consider climate change in the top three issues that concern them. Whilst ICAN will be extremely lucky to get a candidate up it is quite possible that one or more climate independents will get elected in the lower house.

Even assuming the ‘ruddslide’ and a substantial ALP majority the task before us is still enormous and we can only hope that ICAN will not, like its predecessors, be a one election flop. The ALP, whilst light years ahead of the troglodytic incumbents on climate change, is still part of the ‘status quo’. Think Adani for instance. It essential that ICAN factor in worse case possibilities for the 2019 election and plan beyond that to the next one. I have no doubt that future ‘climate elections’ will follow in quick succession. And hopefully all elections from now on will be climate elections.

#I am member and supporter of ICAN

How long has Gippsland been Warming?

Red Tuesday in South Gippsland 1898. John Longstaff National Gallery of Victoria

An interesting question about how long the planet has been warming has, as far as I am aware, yet to be answered definitively by science. Inertia calculations offered by different scientists vary considerably and a 50 year lag appears to be about the midpoint of their estimations. With the widespread burning of coal at the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1780 carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to increase. We might then expect to see the first signs of the warming from this increase in CO2 appearing about 1830. Curiously Joelle Gergis in her Sunburnt Country (MUP, 2018) noted “Recently I was involved in a study… that showed the Industrial Revolution kick started global warming earlier than we realised. To our surprise our results showed that human-caused global warming began as early as the 1830s in the Northern Hemisphere”. (p.167)

However I am reliably informed that some of the post 1830 warming may possibly be part of the recovery from the little ice age. But the lag in the mixing of greenhouse gases between the hemispheres is only a year or two.  And logically this implies that any warming from an enhanced greenhouse effect in the north will be closely followed in the southern hemisphere soon afterwards.

The science of the climate influence on extreme weather events is in its infancy but with the assistance of greatly enhanced computer power is rapidly advancing. Still the difficulties of attributing a warming influence to events in 19th Century Australia remains. Was this event influenced by warming? How much was this event influenced by warming? For instance were extreme weather events like the South Gippsland ‘Red Tuesday’ fires of 1898 and the early 1900s Federation drought affected by early global warming? If so, by how much? This remains unknown although logic implies anthropogenic warming may have at least partially influenced them.

As we progress to the current century we can conclude, almost definitely, that ‘warming’ has affected all aspects of extreme weather events such as our devastating bushfires – that they are longer, bigger and occurring more frequently. Though still considered speculative within the vagaries of climate variation our region has probably been very gradually warming all our, and all our parent’s lives. And perhaps our grandparent’s lives as well? Now the pace of warming appears to be increasing rapidly and to paraphrase Swedish student Greta Thunberg “our house is on fire” and it is time “to panic”. In other words the climate emergency is upon us and action is long overdue.

New wind farm for Latrobe Valley by Phil Evans

Environment group Friends of the Earth Melbourne are pleased to see a new wind farm proposed for the Latrobe Valley and say the project shows state efforts to tackle climate change are gaining momentum. The group that led the community campaign for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target says the Delburn Wind Farm is a sign the state’s energy sector is in transition. “Victoria’s energy system is shifting from polluting fossil fuels towards clean renewable energy and it’s good news for efforts to tackle climate change,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s climate spokesperson.

According to proponent OSMI, the Delburn Wind Farm would generate enough electricity to power 200,000 homes, cut Victoria’s carbon emissions by 980,000 tonnes of carbon per annum, and operate for 25 years. Leigh Ewbank said the wind farm would support the Victoria government’s obligations to the state Climate Change Act: “The Delburn Wind Farm would help Victoria achieve the legislated target of zero-net emissions by 2050,” said Ewbank.  “Projects like this show Premier Daniel Andrews can afford to be bold and ambitious when setting interim Emissions Reduction Targets.”

Osmi’s proposal will feature a community “co-investment scheme” to allow communities to own a share of the wind farm: “Making the Delburn wind farm available for community co-investment is a fantastic way to enable people in the region to part-own local renewable energy generation, directly benefit from it, and create new climate jobs,” said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.

“This, in turn, will help to keep profits in the local economy. The current energy supply system located in the Latrobe Valley is owned by multinationals. Having an element of local ownership is good for the local community and the people of Victoria. This is an important step in the diversification of the Latrobe Valley economy that is urgently needed. We commend Osmi for bringing this project to Gippsland.”

Friends of the Earth look forward to seeing more information from the proponent about job creation and manufacturing opportunities for Victoria as part of the project.

First published by Melbourne FOE here.

Let’s stand by them by Moragh Mackay Part 2

Amongst the adults we discussed how we could ensure our children’s voices, and concerns, are heard and responded to appropriately.  Specifically, how we could counter the naysayers who, as more and more children speak up, seem to be reverting to a stance of “children should be seen in school and not heard”.   On the way back to the bus station, pondering this perverse response to children finding their voices, I was prompted to visit one of my favourite bookstores to search for some sage advice on how to constructively respond to what I now recognise as the bystander effect.

Described in the School of Life ‘How to be a leader’ book I purchased, this effect, also known as bystander apathy, goes some way to explaining why, despite the majority of society now accepting climate change as real and dangerous, too many people in affluent societies continue to live in ways that are causing emissions to rise, not fall.  Experiments that led to the bystander effect explanation, showed that when faced with a harmful situation as a lone bystander 70 per cent of people would try and help.  Facing the same situation in a crowd only 40 per cent of people step up to assist.  Our tendency in a crisis is to wait and see what others do, hoping they will take the lead. Now we wait for our leaders to tell or show us what to do.

Well, as our children are now shouting from the streets, our national leaders have not been leading in ways fit for a climate changing world.  And our children are calling it out because they are the ones who will feel the brunt of this inaction.  Runaway climate change will kick in around 2030 if we don’t radically change the way we live now, not in five, 10 or 20 years. Now!  It’s time to listen to our children, and make sure the world they inherit is every bit as good as, if not better than, the one we previous generations have enjoyed.

We need to stop being bystanders. There is so much that every one of us can do.  Stop using plastics, stop buying food that only goes to waste.  If you can afford it put solar on your roof or invest in renewable energy projects.  If you can afford it, install batteries too; we need greater uptake of batteries to drive down prices.  If you can afford it make your next car an electric car; again we need greater uptake to drive down prices.

If you can’t afford these things join a community energy group that is leading the transition to renewables and making it a just transition, fair pricing and benefit sharing feature strongly in the new distributed energy system. Join the Take2 Pledge or complete your emissions profile using an online tool and find out the myriad of things every one of us can lead on to make a real difference.  Do something, because bystander apathy will not save the earth we love or our children’s future.

First published Bass Coast Post here. Dr Moragh Mackay is a resident of Bass and can be contacted here.

Let’s stand by them by Moragh Mackay Part 1

On March 15, strike action was taken by over 30,000 students in Melbourne calling for political action on climate change.  They were joined by more than 150,000 people Australia-wide and over one million worldwide. The students took a day out from school to make their collective voice heard, saying not enough is being done to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the point at which science tells us runaway climate change is the most likely outcome.

My friends and I marched with our children.  We started as a group of five and ended up filling a 45-seater bus travelling to Melbourne from the Bass Coast.  We arrived at Southern Cross Station around 10.30am, as did hundreds of others from regional Victoria and we gathered together before marching up Collins Street to Treasury.  An observer may have assumed that we co-ordinated our arrivals, but it was simply chance driven by a common purpose.

​As we marched along the footpath bystanders smiled, waved, took photos, some beeped horns and cheered, some showed strong emotion, even tears.  Yet others felt compelled to shout aggressively “You kids should be in school!”  Before I could express my outrage, the students were quick to respond, holding high their banners with great catchphrases like “System-wide change, not apathy”, “Denial is not a policy” and chanting “Coal don’t dig it, leave it in the ground, it’s time to get with it”. ​

The enthusiasm and energy in the chanting was infectious and my friends and I were soon in full voice, in solidarity with these young leaders as we marched to the top end of town. We were 500 strong marching up Collins Street, arriving at Treasury to loud applause by a crowd that covered the steps and spilled across the entire intersection of Collins and Spring Streets.  Within 30 minutes we were at least 30,000 strong. Other estimates had us at 40,000.

​“The whole day left me empowered and hopeful. Surely a change will happen soon.” Isabel Rooks               

“I’m so proud of the number of people who came to support climate action.”​ Makaela Batty                                  

“I feel like we are not being listened to by the politicians and they forget that we will be voting soon.” Harriet Fallaw

 “It’s fallen on us to do something. I came home from the strike feeling totally inspired because it is the younger generations taking action.” Tarkyn Dann

Speaker after young speaker called out the inaction of our leaders in Canberra and called on them to create policies that would lead to meaningful action on reducing emissions and keeping global temperature increases below 1.50C.  I couldn’t help but feel that the power of these young people and all those they had inspired to turn up would lead to more significant change than anything governments are likely to achieve.

After the rally we discussed the day and how we could keep up the momentum of change.  Some of our students are making a short video to show at a public event, some are writing articles for the local papers, others will tell their friends and invite them to attend the next strike action, maybe locally. (to be continued)

Full version in the Bass Coast Post here. Dr Moragh Mackay is a resident of Bass and can be contacted here.

Some Gippsland Climate Action by Pat Simons

Earlier this week the federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor took to Radio National to kick off another round of scare campaigning against renewable energy and climate action, using dodgy modelling to attack the Labor opposition’s policies. Enough is enough.

Instead of trying to scare voters, the Coalition should be scared of the public for the party’s failure to act on climate and ramp up investment in wind and solar. Why are they still delaying the landmark Star of the South offshore wind farm?

We have confirmation that Angus Taylor has been briefed by his Department and media have hinted the Morrison government are close to making a decision about the initial exploration license. But Taylor is running out of time to act. If it goes ahead it would create thousands of jobs and power as many as 1.2 million homes with clean energy. It’s time to ramp up.

Today we’re asking everyone to call and email Angus Taylor with these three simple messages: It’s disappointing to see the Energy Minister spreading misinformation about renewable energy and action on climate change. All parties should be able to build renewable energy to create jobs, deliver cheaper power and cut emissions. If the Morrison government are serious about acting on climate while delivering cheaper power why has the Minister been delaying the landmark Star of the South offshore wind farm?

Call on Angus Taylor to make the simple step and take it to the first stage. Please contact the federal Energy Minister and leave a polite message using the following contact details:

Email: angus.taylor.mp@aph.gov.au

Phone: (02) 6277 7120

Here are some key facts about Star of the South to help you out: Star of the South could power up to 1.2 million homes, or as much as 20% of the state of Victoria. The offshore wind farm is expected to avoid as many as 10.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. It’s predicted 2,000 direct jobs would be created during construction, as well opportunities in manufacturing & ongoing maintenance work. Please let us know if you call or email so we can keep track of the action. Let’s do this!

Contact Pat 0415 789 961  |  (03) 9419 8700 See previous Star of the South posts here and here.

Jane Morton and the Climate Emergency


Former clinical psychologist and climate activist Jane Morton spoke passionately about the climate emergency in her power-point presentation in Bairnsdale last Tuesday. Over 60 people attended and this followed a similar successful talk at Yarragon the previous night and an ABC radio interview. A lively question and answer session followed.

Basically the presentation was divided into two parts – why there is a climate emergency and what we can do about it. Interestingly there was no pretence about the old furphies that climate change was ‘debatable’ or ‘natural’ but rather based on the readily acceptable assumptions that the planet ‘is getting hotter’ and that ‘this requires urgent action’. It is necessary to frame the political debate on our own terms and language.

The problem of language was examined in the IPCC reports and scientific language by necessity is always ‘reticent’ and hedged with conditions. This Jane claimed meant that the seriousness was underestimated by the media and general public and exploited by the vested interests. The following day a science article was published verifying Jane’s position. On this report Jane later tweeted that the “Study shows IPCC is underselling climate change. ‘We found that the main message from the reports—that our society is in climate emergency—is lost by overstatement of uncertainty and gets confused among the gigabytes of information.’”

The second part of the talk emphasised the need for urgent action. By everyone. We can start by “talking about global warming and the climate emergency and not climate change” Jane said. She then went on to talk about the massive success of the school strike movement started by 15 year old Greta Thunberg in Sweden last year and suggested that this and a non-violent campaign of direct action as per the “Extinction Rebellion” was the way ahead. She emphasised Greta’s words “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic.” Jane then asked the audience “How many of you are prepared to be arrested protesting the climate emergency?” A surprising number of the audience replied in the affirmative.

Question time raised a number of alternative actions including voting, legal action, financial boycotts and personally reducing our carbon footprints. Importantly it was pointed out that although more than 150,000 students and supporters across Australia participated in the March 15 strike there were no students in the present audience. The politics of direct action in conservative areas like Gippsland remains a conundrum and it can be argued that 40 years of direct action in the forests has achieved little and promoted a substantial reaction. Any direct action should not be directed at your ordinary workers but where it really hurts – at the politicians and vested interests. I personally prefer the Washington and Cook approach that has lots of avenues of action and does not rely on a ‘silver bullet’.

The meeting was chaired by former East Gippsland Shire Council mayor Mendy Urie though unfortunately no councillors were present to hear of the Climate Emergency declarations by councils around the world. Thanks must also go to organiser Ro Gooch for inviting Jane to speak, and working to form a local climate action group.

Power Politics, Tactics and the Climate Election

One of the things that annoys me intensely in politics is the parties slanging off at each hoping no doubt for some marginal political gain. It is another sign that the most important thing for the party is its quest for power. More votes means more electoral funding, seats in parliament and the ultimate goal of forming a government. But what is the point of all this if it is merely a quest for power with no substance. The last six years of Federal government seems to be a good example of this with little legislation, internal squabbling and division, leadership challenges and big money talking. The latter being directly tied to funding electoral campaigns and maintaining power.

What is needed urgently is a move from the quest for power to the need to do the right and proper thing which is, after all, what responsible governments are supposed to do. There needs to be a massive swing away from money, ambition and personal gain to government based on the best science, loyalty to the issue and good works. To achieve this some media and advertising controls may be needed in an industry where diversity is lacking.

On more a practical and immediate matter co-ordination and co-operation between parties with similar aims regarding the climate election appears to be missing in action. An example of this, and what I consider to be a tactical blunder by the Greens, is their appointment of Julian Burnside as their candidate in Kooyong. Burnside is best known for his opposition to asylum seeker detention but is also very strong on climate. I have paraphrased him on a number of occasions with the quote ‘If you can’t fix climate nothing else matters’.

The problem with this is he is opposing the best credentialed climate advocate in Victoria – Oliver Yates – whose campaign in Kooyong has already been running strongly for some months. Whilst this may add some interest and focus attention on Kooyong surely it would have been better to run Burnside in adjacent Higgins which includes the green held state seat of Prahran. Or even better to stand him against climate change denier Andrews in the adjoining electorate of Menzies.  Of the two best credentialed and well known climate candidates in Victoria only one can win. At worst by substantially splitting the climate vote may mean neither gets up.

The same lack of co-ordination can be found amongst non-government environment and political lobby groups. Are GetUp, StopAdani, FOE, Environment Victoria, ACF, 350.org, Solar Citizens and Greenpeace amongst others, all of whom are acting positively in some way on the climate election, talking to each other so that they maximise their climate efforts? Their aims should be as follows: to make climate change the top issue, to eliminate as many of the climate deniers from parliament as possible (in effect to decimate the Lib/Nats) and acknowledge the climate emergency.

Moves on party or group loyalty, personal ambition, power grabs and all other aspects overriding the climate issue should be discouraged. Supporting and promoting climate independents in safe National rural electorates should be considered an integral part of this campaign.