Gippsland News & Views

Report on the Forest Fire Severity & Biodiversity Forum Bairnsdale 12.3

The Forest Fire Severity & Biodiversity Forum held in Bairnsdale on 12 March drew a good crowd of about 70. The two speakers were Dr Chris Taylor from Melbourne University and Phil Ingamells of the Victorian Nation Parks Association (VNPA).

Dr Taylor’s studies centred on how Mountain Ash plots of various ages responded to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. The Mountain Ash is a fire sensitive species and because of the height of the forest it is difficult for a fire under most conditions to scorch the crown. Taylor’s studies found that regrowth stands of between 5 and 40 years old were highly susceptible to crown fires in extreme weather conditions. This has implications for the logging industry. Is logging increasing the intensity of severe fires? Taylor concluded by noting that the frequency of both severe fires and the disturbance of the bush of the bush had greatly increased and that management must adapt to the changed circumstances.

Phil Ingamells spoke of the role of the VNPA and emphasized that the two priorities of the Black Saturday Royal Commission were the preservation of life and property and secondly the preservation of the environment with which he and the VNPA concur. He questioned the value of the 5% target of control burning and pointed out that this has been achieved only once in the history of controlled burning. Having a set target meant that a lot of country that did not need burning was burnt and a lot of country was burnt more frequently than it should. The loss of hollow trees for a diversity of habitats was also emphasized. Ingamells made a number of suggestions with regards control burning and fire fighting including control burning close to communities and purchasing a number of “Elvis” fire fighting helicopters to station across the state. He finally mentioned the affect climate change was having on fire severity and frequency. “The affects of climate change” he stated “are perilous. There is more fire in the landscape now than there has been for the last 50,000 years”.

Letter to the Minister for Energy and Resources 12.2.15

Lily D’Ambrosio MLA, Minister for Energy and Resources

Dear Ms D’Ambrosio,

I am writing to you with regards the parlous situation we find ourselves in with regards climate change and your portfolio. There are many reports that suggest we are currently heading for worst-case climate scenarios in Australia. e.g. See a recent report from the UK’s prestigious journal The Economist http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21642247-predictions-wide-brown-lands-future-get-ever-more-dire-droughts-and-flooding-rains?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/of_droughts_and_flooding_rains

It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot burn all our carbon resources without destroying the planet. This is known as the ‘Carbon Budget’ – a term you are no doubt familiar with. The US citizen first to raise the ‘Carbon Budget’ question was Bill McKibben. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719 His calculations have been refined and reproduced many times.

The upshot of this is we need to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible. I suggest the following.

  1. Give up on onshore unconventional gas (CSG) completely. Just ban it.
  2. Abandon all projects aimed at further coal development.
  3. Turn Morwell and the Latrobe Valley from a depressed area into a growth centre by pouring funds into it. (e.g. I believe offshore wind generation employs twice as many workers as offshore oil & gas)When this has been achieved begin the process of closing down the brown coal generators and rehabilitating the open cut mines.

The time to start this process is now.

Sincerely

Peter Gardner

Copy

Lisa Neville Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water

Russell North MLA Morwell

Tim Bull MLA Gippsland East

Darren Chester, MHR Gippsland

Letters to the Editor Bairnsdale Advertiser 23.1.15

May I respond to the letters of Neil Barraclough (BA 9/1) and J. McCracken (BA 12.1)

The science of Climate Change is basic physics. I suggest those interested consult Wikipedia on the ‘Greenhouse Effect’. For more detail try a) the French mathematician Fourier whose work discovered the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ about 1827 b) James Tyndall who identified carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane as the main greenhouse gases about 1859 and c) Svante Arrhenius who calculated in 1895 that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase the average temperature of the earth six degrees. The latter calculation has since been refined.

A practical illustration of how the “Greenhouse Effect” works can be made by comparing the temperatures of a clear winter night with a cloudy one. The cloud acts as a blanket keeping the heat in and the land is much warmer. So too the greenhouse gases (including water vapour) keep the earth warmer – by Fourier’s calculations about 30 degrees.

Measurements of various phenomena (including atmospheric temperatures, ocean temperatures at various depths, sea level rise, ice melting) over the last hundred years all indicate that global warming is occurring as predicted. This is supported by a vast amount of data that has been compiled by weather bureaus and scientific organisations around the world and has been complemented by satellite data over the last 30 years. I recommend the Bureau of Meteorology report ‘State of the Climate 2014’ at http://www.bom.gov.au/state-of-the-climate/

Against this overwhelming evidence McCracken and Barraclough quote a couple of climate change deniers in an attempt to bolster their very weak case. Barton is a retired geologist and not a climate scientist.  Readers can find more about Marohasy and her fallacious attacks on Bureau of Meteorology statistics at http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-sceptics-conspiracy-australia-record-heat.html

McCracken distortions on the German wind energy are laughable. In December 2014 Germany provided a record 8.9% of their energy from wind power. For further details see http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/u-k-germany-smash-wind-power-records-17562

The longer we delay decisive action on climate change (the carbon tax was in some ways a token effort) the more likely many of the freedoms we cherish will be lost to an emergency wartime style government. For that alone future generations may well condemn the climate change deniers and their followers.

Yours

Peter Gardner

Letter published Bairnsdale Advertiser 2.1.15

 Dear Sir,

May I reply as briefly as I can to Neil Barraclough’s letter (BA 19/12) and make the following points:-

  1. I was disappointed (and still am) that an organisation calling itself the East Gippsland Wildfire Taskforce (EGWT) could have a day forum of presentations when the question and influence of climate change on catastrophic fires was “only touched on briefly”.  Neil does not address this question in his letter.
  2. The article Neil criticised was written from one of my press releases issued in the middle of the state election campaign. My press release was not questioning or criticising the bona fides of the speakers at the forum but was critical of the approach of the EGWT forum in general.
  3. Best science (I am talking CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, NASA et al) clearly indicates climate change is making bushfires more frequent, fire seasons longer and that big fires are getting worse.
  4. Neil suggested that my knowledge may have been improved by a visit to some burnt areas. I did exactly that in 2003. My experiences and impressions, as well as Neil’s own, are “anecdotal accounts” of which he seemingly disapproves.
  5. It is unusual to provide footnotes in a brief press release – especially during a political campaign – and in my 14 press releases (see below) I only occasionally did so. These releases were used on at least 20 occasions in the media and no footnote was reproduced by any journalist as far as I am aware. At least half of these releases emphasized both the threat of heatwaves and catastrophic fires.
  6. Arguments about the phasing out of logging and plantations hinge on questions about carbon sinks and how we are going to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Neil also implies that there will be no work in the bush when logging is phased out whereas I insist there should be more. The critical question is that the jobs should be there first.
  7. Neil finishes his correspondence with a colourful quote from Voltaire with the implication that I believe in “absurdities” (climate change?) which I have been pushing for my own ends – whatever they may be. Perhaps Neil can tell us? It may be perceived that many at the EGWT forum have vested interests far above any that I may have.
  8. The science of climate change is founded on basic physics – the greenhouse effect – and the acceptance of this is the major difference between Neil (and possibly a substantial part of the EGWT forum) and myself.
  9. The pity of all this is that we agree that catastrophic fires are a huge problem and that a large number of actions are necessary to protect both life and property.

Peter Gardner

 

 

 

Press Release No.12 (23.11.14)

“Goodies versus Baddies: Solar and Coal”

Gippsland East Independent candidate Peter Gardner attacked the Prime Minister’s simplistic “goodies and baddies” slogan. He said: “I can accept the PM’s slogan but (politely speaking) he has it the wrong way about. Coal is definitely the “baddie”. It is the new asbestos. Each time we turn on our air conditioners we make ourselves a little more comfortable and our children’s future worse. We must leave the coal (and coal seam gas) in the ground.”

“We must transform the Latrobe Valley from a coal and electricity generating area to a more sustainable economy. There will be far more jobs rehabilitating the mines and the electricity generators than there ever were running then. The valley must switch to the new industries, solar, wind, heat pumps, and possibly the geothermal energy under the coal seams. You will note that I say “must” because we will have no choice in the matter. The sooner we get down to business the easier and better it will be.”

The “goodies” are the renewable energy sources. They are sustainable, clean, more reliable, and cheaper. For the most part the energy source is free. The renewable energy industry will employ far more than the “baddies” ever did. This work will be decentralised. Many of the jobs will be in East Gippsland and much of that will be youth employed as apprentices and other workers. Bring on the “goodies”. Bring on the ‘solar revolution’. One must ask how a Rhodes scholar could get it so wrong!

Gardner urges voters to select candidates that support the “solar revolution” at every election and at every level of government. He urges those who are committed to a political party to consider casting their primary vote for a solar candidate before giving their preference to the party they favour. “That way we will send a message to Spring Street that solar and renewables are what the people want.”

 

Press Release No.11 (17.11.14)

Climate Change and Revitalising East Gippsland or Jobs in the Bush

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner stated that the countryside can benefit in the fight against climate change. He said: “The countryside is the frontline in the fight against the severe and damaging effects of climate change. These include more frequent and prolonged droughts, heatwaves, floods, storms including increasing thunderstorms and related bushfires of which we will have an increasing number of the catastrophic variety.

“The first half of 1998 was a classic example of a short severe drought followed by a couple of intense rainfall events where many places received more than half their annual rainfall in less than a week. Most of these extreme weather events of the last 25 years have been influenced by climate change or in simple terms made worse by it. Country people have the most to gain by combating climate change and the most to lose if nothing is done.

He continued: “East Gippsland and the bush generally should benefit from the massive redirection of our resources away from the city. This is required to combat climate change. Emphasis should be on putting people on the ground, giving people jobs – not bricks and mortar or spending large amounts on technical solutions.

“The policies can be financed by a redirection of funds away from big developments in the city with the notable exception of public transport. Under a succession of governments over the last thirty years the bush has been left to decline. History is littered with examples of civilisations that have collapsed because they neglected or destroyed their agriculture systems.

“My policies are designed to combat and, or adapt to, climate change and many relate to employment. To implement them will provide a boost to the local economies and jobs – especially for young people. These policies include boosting all emergency services, bringing on the renewable energy revolution with local community based energy projects of many kinds, strengthening CFA and the DSE in fire fighting and fire prevention  in country towns and on communications routes, bolstering Landcare in private and community revegetation projects, decentralisation of government departments, and last but not least a general public transport upgrade including increased services, especially of the feeder buses, increased maintenance and the replacement of the Stratford bridge.

In general Gardner supports the Federal coalition’s Green Army but insists it should be engaged in serious projects concerned with either mitigating or adapting to climate change.

“We are all in the same boat with regards climate change. Anything more than the projected 2 degrees average increase in the earth’s temperature will be catastrophic. Now is the time to do some ‘heavy lifting’, to return to a bipartisan approach that puts people above party, and starts to treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves. Now is the time to phase out coal – the new asbestos. Coal has helped develop our society but now we know it kills, and like asbestos we must cease exploiting it as quickly as possible. To do nothing is to endanger life on the planet as we know it. That is why I ask you all to vote one for the vote climate, vote solar platform.”

Press Release No.10 (10.11.14)

Climate Change and the Bushfire Mitigation Public Meeting in Bairnsdale

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner said he was disappointed that the issue of climate change was dealt with so fleetingly at the Bushfire Mitigation Public Meeting at Bairnsdale on Wednesday.

Gardner noted that climate change was mentioned only in passing and that science of global warming was treated with a certain disdain. Gardner stated: “My concern above everything else is climate change and this includes the dramatic effect climate change is having on our weather and bushfires.

“The problem of climate change and its effect on bushfires is so immense it is obvious we must work on best science. Everything else is wasted effort and funds.

“Best science indicates that with climate change we will have increasingly longer fire seasons, more severe fire danger days, more heatwaves and more catastrophic bushfires. These are going to happen whatever we do.

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that fuel reduction burns have little effect on catastrophic fires. Large areas burnt in 2003 burnt again in 2006/7. Recent studies of the Black Saturday fires indicate that logging actually increases the severity of these fires.

“We must work to reduce the severity of the problem and adapt to those changes we cannot prevent. We must commence proper controlled studies on the best actions to take. In the meantime we should adopt and act wholeheartedly on current knowledge.

“On the adaption side we must retreat from the forests and work hard on the protection of towns, farms and communications routes. We must greatly expand our fire protection and emergency services in the bush. This includes having permanent CFA officers, each with an apprentice, at each fire station.

“With mitigation we must phase out logging of native forests as these forests are a natural store of carbon (the only form of carbon capture and storage that works) as soon as we can provide full employment in the bush. As well current logging practices appear to exacerbate severe fires. In the shorter term any logging within 10km of settlements should be stopped and strategic regrowth areas should be manually thinned as an added means of protection of communities. Timber should come increasingly from plantations and these should be managed appropriately including fire protection, thinning, pruning and removal of undergrowth.

“The science is in on climate change. It is happening. It is getting worse. It is man made. “Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned” goes the saying. Every delay by our politicians to act on this matter brings us closer to the climate emergency.”

 

Press Release No.9 (3.11.14)

Land Use, Carbon Emissions and Revitalising the Bush

Peter Gardner, an Independent Candidate in Gippsland East running on a ‘Vote Climate Vote Solar’ ticket has praised a new report on land use emissions and possible solutions. The report entitled “Zero Carbon Australia Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry” has just been published by the independent organisation Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

The director of BZE Stephen Bygrave stated: “Beyond Zero Emissions has been working for several years on a major research project to look at reducing greenhouse emissions from the Land Use sector — agriculture and forestry. The result, released this week, is the Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report… The Land Use sector is right up there with the highest emitting sectors of Australia’s economy. But the report also shows that there is massive scope to reduce emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, giving a relatively fast, sharp reduction to Australia’s global warming impact…”

Bygrave added: “We also need to find ways to put trees back into the countryside on a (large) scale…Farmers and communities on the land should have the support to operate on the front line of Australia’s efforts to combat climate change; they are certainly the people most affected. Regional centres will benefit from implementing changes to land use in a way that reduces carbon pollution. New revenue streams could open up to farmers, allowing them to remain on their properties; bringing young people back to rural Australia. Regional areas could be rejuvenated by new jobs, more people, and more income – a stark contrast to the situation we face where farmers are being forced to leave their land from drought and increasing number of extreme weather events.”

Gardner noted the report highlights a path to reduce Australia’s agriculture emissions to around net zero, with reductions from land clearing, enteric fermentation, soil carbon and manure management. Substantial carbon sequestration will also be achieved by revegetation. He also agreed with Bygrave that farmers and people in Gippsland have the most to gain from reducing greenhouse emissions and the most to lose if they are not addressed.

Gardner has practiced reafforestation on a small scale on his property in Ensay in association with Landcare and Greening Australia. “These are wonderful organisations but a lot more needs to be done. They are just the embryo of much bigger organisations that will be required in the future.”  Gardner makes all his campaigns carbon neutral by offsetting his election expenditure with tree planting.

He calls on East Gippslanders to help to rejuvenate regional and small town Gippsland by a massive program to combat carbon emissions and to prepare for the most harmful effects of climate change.  “You can help send a direct message to Spring St and the major parties by firstly voting independent or minor party before casting your preference for the party of your choice.”

PRESS RELEASE No.8

Hazelwood Mine Fire, Brown Coal and Climate Change

Climate emergency Independent in Gippsland East Peter Gardner has criticised the shallowness of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Royal Commission. He has pointed out that  climate change was not dealt with in the commission’s terms of reference. Yet climate change was almost certainly a contributing factor in the Hazelwood Mine Fire and is increasing the likelihood of severe fires in the Valley’s open cuts.

Gardner states that the public impression that coal mine fires are infrequent is incorrect and noted that: “Brown coal has been mined for 125 years since 1889 and there have been fires in the open coal pits of the Latrobe Valley on at least 8 occasions. These occurred in 1902, 1927, 1929, 1944, 1977, 1983, 2006 and 2014. This information is incomplete and there may have been other times when spot fires entered the pits and were quickly extinguished.”

“Further there have been many occasions in that same period when bushfires either burned the country now covered by the open cuts or were nearby. These include the Black Saturday fires which threatened Loy Yang.”

He also noted that: “there are other related effects of brown coal open cut and electricity generation that have threaten and continue to threaten our health and our electricity supplies. These include flooding, subsidence, earthquakes and mercury and other heavy metal pollution in the Gippsland Lakes.”

“With climate change upon us the likelihood of these fires and other hazards occurring in the open cuts is increasing dramatically. It is time for us to embark on massive a “Snowy Mountains” style program to change completely from coal generated electricity to renewable energy as quickly and smoothly as possible.” 

Gardner attacked both the major parties and their grandiose plans for further brown coal developments including the recent (September) public grant of $25 million to a Chinese company to produce briquettes to sell to the electricity generators. He is firmly opposed to any new coal or onshore gas developments stating that farming must have priority over these mining projects. As Tim Flannery said “Coal is the new asbestos.”

Centralised coal mines and electricity generation are vulnerable to climate change related threats including bushfire threats to mines, generators substations and transmission lines and surges in demand during heatwaves.  Gardner advocates improving reliability by obtaining power from variety of renewable sources and the establishment of micro grids.

PRESS RELEASE No.7 (20.10.14)

Are the Bats of Bairnsdale a Warning of Climate Change?

The increasing numbers of grey headed flying foxes along the Mitchell River may be a sign of climate change claims Independent candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner.

Gardner noted that this year may have been the first time that the bats have wintered over and that they are very sensitive to climate, food sources and loss of habitat. He noted with climate change that: “Flying foxes have shifted hundreds of kilometres south in their habitat range” and that studies have indicated: “that climate change is forcing the locations of species towards the cooler poles by an average of 6 km per decade”.

“Whilst visits of flying foxes in parts of Gippsland have been recorded more than 100 years ago man-made climate change has also been happening very gradually as long as accurate records have been kept.”

Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University an expert on the impact climate change has on plants and animals noted: “Despite temperatures having warmed by less than a degree [over the last century], the impact of that on [many] species has been surprising…It’s a window on the future I suppose…The bottom line is that every species will be influenced by climate change, either directly or indirectly.”*

This prediction by Professor Hughes was clearly illustrated by events in Queensland during a heatwave early this year. On the 6 January the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline “Heatwave Decimates Flying Fox Colony” stated: “Dead flying foxes have been falling from the sky in droves because of the heatwave sweeping south-east Queensland. Hundreds of thousands of the large bats may have died as temperatures soared to 43 degrees over the weekend…In Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, more than 1000 dead flying foxes had to be cleared from a single park on Saturday.”

Gardner notes: “It is a sad fact, little recognized by the media, that heatwaves also have a similar effect on human beings, their pets and other domestic animals. Morbidity statistics indicate that the heatwave of 2009 caused more than 370 extra fatalities – mostly amongst the sick and elderly. Figures for the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria indicate 167 extra fatalities, a 97% increase in calls for cardiac issues and a ‘significant increase in the demand for emergency care’. Heatwaves are now occurring five times more frequently this century than last and that the 2013 heatwave could not possibly have occurred without man made climate change.”

“Are the Bats of Bairnsdale the ‘canary in the coal mine’”? Gardner asks. “Are they a warning sign telling us that to forget the false or trivial messages of mainstream media and look what is happening before our eyes? If so it is time to commence serious action now by adopting a range of policies on climate change including changing over from coal to sustainable energy sources – in particular solar – as quickly as possible.”