“Wouldn’t it be lovely…” the 4 DEGREES Art Exhibition by Peter Neill

4 Degrees

A brief speech was made at the opening the 4 DEGREES Art exhibition at the Butter Factory Art Space in Bairnsdale on Friday 1st April, by artist and manager Peter Neill.

“Wouldn’t it be lovely if there wasn’t any Climate Change? But the hard scientific evidence shows that it is happening and hoping that it will go away just won’t work. Understanding the science about the enhanced Greenhouse Effect is straight forward. By burning so much fossil fuel we are overloading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases making our planet ever increasingly warmer. However putting in place solutions to halt Global Warming is a ‘wicked problem’…Wouldn’t it be lovely if someone fixed it up! Yes it would but there are no heroes or saviours. We are all in this together.

…Wouldn’t it be lovely if somehow we could turn this climate trend around and not get to 4 degrees! Yes it would and yes we can! We have the technology to do it. But despite the seriousness of our situation many people find climate change a difficult subject to engage with. As artists we hope that our artwork will be a catalyst for community conversation and action.

Here’s a few ideas for individual action…1. Be informed…google it, read about it – there is a great deal of information available. 2. Don’t look away! If we continue with business as usual we are on track for a 4 degree world. Think and reflect about what that means… imagine the future catastrophe. 3. ‘Challenge the Silence’. The solutions to climate change have to belong to all of us and the first step in finding solutions is to talk about it. We all belong to many different groups and tribes… family, friends, work place, sport, clubs committees etc. Speak up about it in all of these groups. 4. Do Stuff. We all make choices every day both big and small which affect the impact we have on the planet. 5. Join a group of like-minded people. 6. Write an email or 3…. Make climate change a big issue at our forthcoming election. 7. Never give up!”

(Note the 4 degrees Art Exhibition is on at the Bairnsdale Butter Factory until the 29 April Daily 10.30-3.0pm. About 40 people attended the opening on 1 April and a number of works have been sold.)

Climate Change & Unconventional Gas

Ice Cores and Keeling Curve
Ice Cores and Keeling Curve

Brief Address to the East Gippsland Shire Council 5 April

I want to speak to you solely on the matter of Climate Change and Unconventional Gas.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe in climate change or not. The greenhouse effect is basic physics, like gravity. Greenhouse gases help retain heat on our planet. Without greenhouse gases our earth would be 30 degrees colder – like Mars. Since the industrial revolution man has been adding a greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide – to the atmosphere at increasing rates and the earth is getting measurably warmer. 2014 was the warmest year on record, 2015 then became the warmest year and 2016 already looks like breaking last year’s record.

Unconventional gas is Methane and is initially 30 to 100 times a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  In the USA there has been considerable methane leakage measured in the drilling process, from wells and pipes. Also black carbon – another warming product – is produced when gas is flared to the atmosphere. Professor Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University has suggested exploiting unconventional gas may produce more warming than coal! See here and here.

Personally I would have preferred council to issue a simple ban on unconventional gas. But in lieu of this I urge you to support and pass Cr Rowe’s motion. When greenhouse gases were previously as high as they are now the earth was 2 degrees warmer, sea levels were 20 metres higher and there were no human beings in existence.

(Note There were 6 other speaker from the floor all supporting Cr Rowe’s motion – effectively a ban – which was passed unanimously)

Marlin in Gippsland Waters Verified

 

 “Caught last month off Tassie” photo Team Choonachaser
“Caught last month off Tassie” photo Team Choonachaser

Letter published BA 1.4.16

Thanks for your article “Keep Clear of Rigs” in the East Gippsland News (23.3). The most astounding part of this article, which surely should have been front page headlines across all your publications, was on “the recent influx of marlin to waters off Lakes Entrance…”

Little over one month ago in a letter to the Addie (11.2) on the tropical species of leatherjacket discovered and photographed by Don Love off Cape Conran I noted that this was just “another example of species moving into our waters as they warm – a direct result of global warming where our lakes and ocean are warming far more rapidly than the land…” and speculated that to “the leatherjacket can be added a number of new, and as yet unidentified, jellyfish in the lakes and possibly the Black Marlin in our nearby oceans.” Again late last year I forecast in a web article “A Black Marlin Fishery for Gippsland”  that the Black Marlin may already be in our waters. It now appears that this speculation has been verified.

The point of this is not to ‘blow my own trumpet’ or say ‘I told you so’ but to emphasize that these or similar predictions could have been made by anyone who stopped for a moment to think about the problem of global warming, and in particular, our rapidly warming oceans. Most importantly it is a call for our representatives at all levels of government to recognise how serious the problem of climate change is and then to act decisively on it guided by the best scientific advice. Whilst Black Marlin fishing may provide a temporary boost to local tourism destructive climate related phenomenon such as heatwaves, bushfires, storms, insect plagues and mosquito born viruses, algal blooms, and increased coastal flooding will not.

 

Climate Emergency Administrations (1)

war time govt 1

Some prominent scientists have been astounded by the recent surge in global temperatures and are now talking about a climate emergency. It is becoming obvious that our elected governments, of whatever persuasion, are paralysed by the threat of climate change and are unable to pass any meaningful legislation. They are divided and kowtow to vested interests and financial restrictions; they are prisoner to the status quo. Consequently we are rapidly approaching the time when “war-time style emergency governments” will take control of our legislatures to deal effectively with climate change.

How will emergency governments come about? The true divide in Federal Parliament is not between labour and liberal or left and right but between those that accept the science of climate change and see the need to act and those that don’t. Generally speaking the National Party are in the latter group and the liberal party is divided. But overall there is a clear majority in favour of action. There are a number of possible paths to emergency governments. One is a split in the Liberal – National party coalition that isolates the climate denying rump. Another is the more gradual process of the climate deniers being removed in the electoral process. Our representatives will eventually come to the conclusion that drastic action is required quickly and that the only way to tackle mitigation and carbon drawdown will be to act in the interests of the people and not for vested interests. A precursor to “emergency government” will probably be a bipartisan approach by all or most of our MPs.

Emergency government will mean the end of such matters as ‘debt’ and ‘financial restraint’. The questions facing administrators will be what needs to be done and how to get that done as best and as quickly as possible. This will be achieved by acting on the advice of the ‘best science’. Engineers will provide the possible ‘how to do it’ paths. The last criteria in the decision process will be cost. No doubt once the prerequisite decisions have been made – what needs to be done and how to do it – they will done as cheaply as possible. But if the ‘best outcome’ is also the most costly then that must be undertaken.

Some of the sorts of tools necessary for emergency governments could possibly include strict financial controls and massive propaganda campaigns but also increased media controls. The governments during World War 2 used matters like this but also included conscription of labour, rationing of essential items, industry and trade controls and many other matters directly related to consumption.

The irony is that many who, in the name of freedom and democracy, continue to oppose any action on climate change are, by their actions, actually attacking that which they are supposedly standing for. Emergency governments will curtail certain aspects of freedom and some democratic rights will be removed. It will no longer be a question of whether to do things but become a question of which, how, the best way to do it, and the quickest. Each day that concerted action against climate change is delayed the more certain it is that emergency governments will eventually emerge.

Department of Name Change Vandalism on Dellicknora Road by Deb Foskey

Dellicknora

People who live in the border region of Far East Gippsland – Bonang, Dellicknora, Tubbut – were shocked to see what has turned out to be hundreds of trees felled in a dry schlerophyl forest on the Dellicknora road. On inquiry to DELWP we were told that these were ‘hazardous trees’ felled for the occupational health and safety of the workers who would be required to conduct a ‘fuel reduction’ burn this season. The season is drawing to an end and so far weather has made it impossible to burn. The trees may have been felled for no purpose, equating their demise with extreme environmental vandalism. In any case, the entire concept of ‘hazardous trees’ deserves close scrutiny.

I don’t know the whole story but DELWP is terrified of further litigation after two people in a car in a restricted area were injured (killed?) by a falling branch which crushed their car. As a result, many trees have fallen. Apart from the difficulty of assessing a hazardous tree, it would seem that looked at in this manner, any tree is hazardous. For instance, a drunken driver may veer off the road and hit a tree. Is this tree hazardous because it is in the ‘wrong’ place?

The trees are lying on the ground, the most we can do is take some firewood from some of them. The planned burn wasn’t likely to do much to protect our communities, being at some distance from them. In any case, it may not occur this season as weather is not favouring the foresters. Have the trees been fallen in vain?

The 5% target for fuel reduction burning is still in place but is required to be replaced next season by a more risk-based approach where ‘assets’ to be protected are identified and communities and department work together how to protect them. A sea change in community engagement will be needed to make these discussions meaningful but they do allow the science to be given more weight than alarmist public opinion.

Dr David Cheal addressed the DELWP Roundtable on Monday March 21st and said that remote area burning plays no role in protecting communities and is bad for native flora and fauna. He is free to speak as he has retired from his position at the Arthur Rylah Institute. DELWP staff must spout the government line but they do have some discretion. In the felling of the trees at Dellicknora they went overboard.

The Member for Gippsland: another Climate Change Dinosaur

head in sand

Our local member Darren Chester MHR is a ‘climate change denier’ and a ‘brown coal champion’ and as such is just another ‘climate dinosaur’ in Federal parliament. In 2011 when he spoke against the Labor government’s ‘Carbon Credits Bill’ he railed against “so called dangerous climate change” and argued that Labor was conducting a scare campaign. The biggest polluters he claimed were also “some of the biggest employers in this nation”. His full speech is here.

From 2010 to 2013 he was part of the Abbott opposition campaigning against the ‘carbon tax’ which could only be called a ‘scare campaign’ of mammoth proportions and based on a lie. Since 2013 he has been a member of the Abbott/Turnbull government whose main claim to fame has been the abolition of the ‘carbon tax’– one wonders how many people there are in Gippsland who got back the promised $550 per annum on their electricity bills after the ‘tax’ was abolished (I’ve yet to meet one). Of equal importance has been Abbott government’s attempt to crush the renewable energy industry.

Mr Chester clearly does not understand the basic physics of the ‘greenhouse effect’ – the direct association of warming with CO2 and other greenhouse gases – and appears happy to repeat the misleading information supplied by climate sceptics and vested interests. For instance he confuses, and fails to discern between, weather and climate. He talks of “long term change” not acknowledging that it is something that it is happening now. In fact the planet has been gradually warming all our lifetime following the increasing amounts of CO2 put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. The human caused climate change fingerprint has now been identified on extreme weather events as early the 1930s.

Mr Chester claims “that coal will play an important part in our nation’s energy needs for decades into the future.” And that “there are 500 years worth of brown coal. It is a reliable natural resource. It provides a cheap form of energy, and our challenge is to use it in the most environmentally friendly way possible. There have been some remarkable efforts over the past decade by companies that are exploring ways to reduce the moisture content and export brown coal.”

Some prominent scientists are now calling the recent warming a climate emergency. By championing coal Mr Chester does his heartland a huge disservice for they (and we) are the ones who will suffer the various effects of climate change now and in the near future. And it is our grandchildren who will suffer much sooner than 100 years.

Last Pre-Election Call for a Climate Coalition

Senate Voting ticket (Morey)

Sample Senate Ballot (Stephen Morey)

Since the failure of the Climate Coalition in the 2007 Australian general election there has been a need for a political party concentrating on climate change and renewable energy. Currently there are two fledgling parties of this sort – Save the Planet (STP mainly in Victoria) and the Renewable Energy Party (REP mainly in NSW) both unregistered and seemingly unable to muster the 500 members needed for registration by the Australian Electoral Commission. But a sitting member of parliament can form a political party with just 30 members.

With the newly legislated changes to Senate voting and under current circumstances it is unlikely that many of the crossbench Senators will be re-elected. The personal political party (perhaps aside from Xenophon) will not succeed. Neither will the obscure party. But here is an major issue with substantial and growing support (or alarm) waiting for a party – a climate change party incorporating the no coal mines and no coal seam gas movements, renewable energy and combating and adapting to the threat of warming. A threat on which neither of the major parties have a satisfactory policy and with the greens is often submerged in plethora of their other policies. Recent polls indicate climate change is one issue electors are increasingly seeing as a being very important.

A new ‘climate coalition’ could be quickly formed by one or more of the crossbench Senators. It could quickly absorb or affiliate the unregistered parties and provide a substantial number of well qualified high profile candidates across the country in the next election. It could quickly garner maximum publicity and raise substantial sums for election campaigning. It would have the prospect of getting a Senator elected in several states especially in the event of a double dissolution.

The most likely candidates to do this are Senator Muir or Senator Lazarus. Either could form this climate party (and bring in STP and the REP if possible) but it must be done now. It may be an opportunity for either, or both, of them to extend their political careers. Such a party could change the face of Australian politics. And with a moderate name like the Climate Coalition it would hopefully attract a substantial number of votes from across the political spectrum.

A Just Transition in the Bush

log truck

While much energy has been devoted to obtaining a ‘just transition’ in the Latrobe Valley little has been said about obtaining the same for the bush. Government policies have been gradually destroying the bush and small country towns for decades. In the 70s I used local timber in my owner-built house long before I had heard of global warming. The mill workers wages stayed mainly in the local community and their children kept the school numbers up. Now there is one mill (Swifts Creek) where once there were four. And this mill imports its timber quite large distances from areas close to Melbourne, mills it and then sends it back again – fossil fuel intensive and an economic absurdity. We have the unusual spectacle of log trucks going both ways on the Great Alpine Road. And the other mill is in Heyfield a further two hours travel away. A true carbon tax would make both these operations uneconomic. More than anything else the lack of employment opportunity has been a major factor in the drift to the cities. Climate change and a just transition to a low carbon economy is the means by which this process can, and must, be reversed. And a just transition in the bush means that the jobs must be there before the loggers are completely closed down.

With effective policies on global warming we are left with few options. Native forests must now be protected and managed as a carbon store. Logging – a fuel intensive process – must be rapidly phased out and replaced with plantation timber. Native forests should also be protected against severe fires where possible. Protecting the forests adequately – in particular against ‘crowning’ bushfires, but out of control fires in general – will boost employment in our remoter regions. Various means of radically increasing the store of carbon need to be explored and evaluated including revegetation projects, soil carbon on farms and biochar production from waste.

Control burning using low intensity fires should be much reduced and used only sparingly – burning can be in the mix amongst other tools including green summer crops along rivers, removal of combustible materials with protected areas, mowing, pruning, and creating fire breaks along communications routes. Other aspects of a low carbon economy should also include adoption of renewable energy where ever possible, energy storage and using micro-grids, and other energy efficiency applications.

Thus the major changes should be as follows: end logging in native forests and replace with plantation timber, protect native forests with increased employment and a using a variety of tools including a reduction of control burning. Protecting local communities and communications from bushfires should also remain a priority. There is a need to start planning for the end result – a low carbon future – now and then act to reach that state as quickly and seamlessly as possible. It is now imperative that we protect all the native forest that remains as a carbon store.

Targeting the ‘Climate Dinosaurs’ in Canberra

 

Tony Windsor to challenge our top ‘climate dinosaur’(Photo Mick Tsikas /AAPTony Windsor Photo Mick Tsikas AAP

This election year is already shaping up as the hottest recorded year ever, following the previous hottest years of 2014 and 2015. Perhaps a ‘tipping point’ has been reached resulting in this apparent surge in warming, the problem being with tipping points is that we can only identify them afterwards. What this does highlight is the urgency with which we need to clear our parliaments of the ‘climate dinosaurs’ that continue to resist the changes necessary for a rapid change to a low carbon economy.

The possibility of an early double dissolution election along with voting changes in Senate may give us the opportunity. Already the climate group 350.org has identified a ‘dirty thirty’ – the thirty top ‘climate dinosaurs’ in Federal parliament. However to get rid of them suitable alternative ‘high profile’ candidates should be supported and promoted. Already Tony Windsor has declared he will nominate against the Deputy Prime Minister in the seat of New England. The need is for a number of these ‘high profile’ independent candidates of the stature of Windsor to challenge the ‘dinosaurs’. There are a number of possible suitable candidates including former liberal leader John Hewson and Ian Dunlop in Victoria and perhaps Dick Smith in NSW.

There is also a need to identify and rank members in all parties according to their stated views on climate change and the emphasis they have placed on climate action – to go beyond the ‘dirty thirty’ and rate all sitting politicians’ climate performance from best to worst. Generally the National party has performed poorly. As far as I am aware our local member, Darren Chester, has said nothing on the matter and is thus part of the problem. But in Gippsland we are waiting for a suitably qualified contender to emerge.

In the Senate, depending on the voting reforms and whether a voter can also give optional preferences below the line, it may be possible to preference across party lines and preference against the dinosaurs. At the worst ‘climate tickets’ could be published for each of the parties and voters encouraged to vote below the line. In South Australia for instance a ‘conservative climate ticket’ would have Cory Bernardi last (or not at all) instead of first.

The next parliament to aim (and hope) for is one that acts for the well-being of the nation rather than vested interests and makes action on climate both bipartisan and an urgent priority. The members of the ‘dirty thirty’ in your state can be found here http://gofossilfree.org.au/pfp-blockers/

The SECV and the Just Transition

alcoa (Jamie Brown)

It’s time to revitalise the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) as the body to organise, oversee and plan the just transition from coal fired power to renewable energy. This organisation is approaching the end of its current usefulness as the State government agreement to provide Alcoa with cheap electricity finishes at the end of this year. It now needs an injection of funds, a new brief to reorganise our energy priorities to a low carbon future and to relocate back to the valley.

From its early beginnings in 1917 many would have seen the drive to brown coal generated power as an impossible task. Yet within 10 years Yallourn was up and working. The SECV was a success story that managed the growth of the Victorian power industry and provided power and economic growth through much of the 20th Century. Since the ill-advised and badly managed privatisation commenced in 1994 the SECV has become a shell principally to provide subsidies to Alcoa. Parts of the Valley – especially in Morwell and Moe – have become depressed regions. But climate change means the inevitable closure of all the valley generators.

Recent studies by the Australian Conservation Foundation have revealed what ‘Blind Freddy’ already knew – that the four brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley are the top carbon polluters in Australia. If we are to make any significant reduction in our greenhouse gas output all these generators need to be closed in a very short time – as little as 10 years. Although this has been known for some time (I wrote a short basic essay on how this could be done 4 years ago) no progress has been made at either a State or Federal level. In Victoria there have been minor policy improvements on both climate change matters and renewable energy. But these are mainly token changes with much tinkering at the edges and consulting the electorate on too much detail. State Labor has effectively used up half their term in office without even approaching the critical connected problems of closing the brown coal generators and a just transition in the Latrobe Valley.

By reviving the SECV and giving it the brief of overseeing the just transition the organisation can immediately commence planning for its eventuality. The timetable should include a return to full employment across the valley and an extensive local media campaign to support the changes and be armed with both the teeth and the finances to complete the task in say, 15 years. If the State Labor government cannot do something along these lines before the next election their policies on climate change will be insufficient, and invariably another failure.