The Bass Coast CAN Forum

BCCAN media release 6.3

Over 50 people attended Bass Coast Climate Action Network’s Forum ‘Coast’ at the Bass Coast Adult Learning Centre on Saturday 18th February to find out more about what the Council is doing about their Climate Action Plan since declaring a Climate Emergency in August 2019 – the only Shire in Gippsland to do so.

Speakers included Joey Thompson, Newhaven College student and School Strike for Climate advocate, Zoe Geyer, Coordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island and Christian Slattery, Bass Coast Shire Council Climate Emergency Project Officer. The forum was chaired by Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan. Attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about local climate-related issues such as urban sprawl, public transport, Landcare and energy efficiency, followed by break-out groups.

Mayor Michael Whelan commented  “A very successful event and congratulations to BCCAN for its initiative. The range of community groups involved and the energy in the room bodes well for the Council community partnership to achieve net zero emissions by 2030”. Prior to the event, The Energy Innovation Co-op launched of 14W of solar panels at BCAL which were funded by COPower and Southern CORE Fund. See pic in the article attached.

Break-out Groups

The Cosy Homes group resulted in an exchange of information about solar installation, saving money on bills and keeping the cold out of old Wonthaggi homes. Re-furbishing the energy kits available at the libraries is a priority for Cosy Homes. School Striker Joey Thompson lead a fruitful discussion about how to convince NAB to stop funding coal mines. See below to find out how to get involved. Ten people joined Christian Slattery and Harry Freeman in a workshop to discuss how the community can be encouraged to participate in the council’s plan. There is now an intention to form a group which will meet regularly to take our ideas further and help the council’s officer develop a toolkit to show the public different ways in which they can become involved.

To join the Bass Coast Climate Action Network mailing list, please email

Environment Connect Autumn 23

Offshore wind areas

The East Gippsland Shire’s quarterly publication Environment Connect Autumn edition is out now with interesting news on various items including the successful completion of the LED streetlights program and a planned EV expo to be held in conjunction with Rotary Bairnsdale and the Gippsland Climate Change Network. The big news is the continuing rapid rollout of EV charging stations across the shire and the progress of offshore wind developments in Bass Strait.

The latter was featured under the header “Offshore wind could now include East Gippsland” and noted that the “Commonwealth declared an offshore renewable energy zone off the Gippsland coast on the 19 December 2022, however the original boundary advice has changed and now includes parts of the East Gippsland coastline.” As the image above indicates the area for possible development is huge and although the impact on East Gippsland “is unknown” there can be little doubt that in the medium to long term it will be substantial and will be a big contributor in replacing the remaining Latrobe Valley brown coal generators.

With regards the Electric Vehicle revolution the shire continues to lead the way with charging stations established across the region. EC noted: “In a first for the region, East Gippsland Shire Council is installing seven 50kW fast chargers by the end of this year. Four of those stations – Omeo, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Cann River – are now installed and available, while Mallacoota, Lakes Entrance and Buchan are being planned. Council is also working with private companies to support the installation of additional stations. There will be about 14 EV charging stations in place across the shire, strategically located to ensure they are all within range for local people, and also complement charging stations outside East Gippsland.”

It is of critical importance that all “electric vehicle charging stations installed by Council will source 100% renewable electricity as part of VECO”* and that “visitors with EVs can now confidently travel to East Gippsland, and travel within and through our great shire. The initiative is part of Council’s ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable transport options.”

The East Gippsland Shire Council is to be congratulated on their push for EV charging. There can be little doubt that the EV revolution will be quickly upon us.

*via the Shire’s Power Purchase Agreement

My Climate Change Awareness

Signing the Climate Emergency Declaration 2016

The first written mention I made about climate change that I can now locate is in some poetry written about 1988. However as a layman generally interested in conservation matters I was aware of the problem much earlier than this – probably around the late 70s to early 80s. I have a vague recollection of writing a letter on the subject to then Senator Don Chipp, but have no record of it. I can clearly remember discussing it at a party with Ian Enting – then a member of the CSIRO Atmospheric physics group – about 1985 and him saying words to the effect that “there is no debate in the scientific community about whether global warming was occurring. The debate is over how bad it will be.”

The following year our family joined a co-operative holiday house at Lake Bunga. Besides Ian Enting there were two other members from the CSIRO Atmospheric physics group – Roger Francey and Barrie Pittock. I can say without doubt that I have been heavily influenced and guided by these individuals and in particular by Barrie.

At this stage of my life I was immersed in research and writing on aspects of Gippsland history – frontier conflict and a local union history – and had little time for pushing the climate problem politically. As well I was broke. Thus my primary effort was earning a quid and the history projects took up my spare time. By about 1995 my finances had stabilized and the following year I began writing what turned out to be a monthly column for the Libertarian Workers in Melbourne. The column went for ten years and opinion and comments on global warming were mentioned on a number of occasions some of which I have republished (See here and here).

But it was not until the record breaking Antarctic ice minimum in 2007 that I fully comprehended the existential threat of global warming – that we were in a climate emergency. From that point on I was active spreading the word whenever I was able and on a daily basis after I retired in 2010. Much of this activity was political and involved trying to form a political party and also standing at various elections as a climate independent. In the short term both these actions can be seen as failures. The candidacy because the cost was very high for the publicity generated   – and the list parties I have been a member of  is long including the Global Warming Action Party Australia, Save the Planet, the Renewable Energy Party and Independents for Climate Action Now. Of these only STP is still functioning and registered.

Over the last 10 years my actions are clearly visible from the content of this website, specifically this blog which is now winding down and also standing as a climate independent. I remain active on the social media, support EGCAN, have a basic climate change power point lecture recently delivered to Bairnsdale U3A and am an occasional financial contributor to organizations like the Climate Council and Climate 200.

Coastal Heritage and Sea Level Rise

The Aboriginal middens that dot our coast are a valuable part of Australia’s heritage. Many are nearly as old as the current coastline – that is 4000 to 5000 years old – compared with which the European occupation of the last 250 years pales into insignificance. These middens, often identified as clear bands of charcoal and shells, are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal erosion. One midden with which I am familiar, is located at the Red Bluff near Lake Tyers.

I have been visiting this site on a regular basis since 1986. Since that time the sea level has risen by about 100mm and the coast is gradually being eroded – perhaps having retreated by two or more metres during that time. In the short term it is coastal erosion and storm damage that is having the most effect on this midden and severe erosion of primary dunes is clearly visible in nearby parts of the coast.

Bruun’s rule states that the coast will retreat 50 to 100 times the vertical rise in sea level. Here the figure seems more like 20 to 30 although other parts of the coast with which I am not familiar may be retreating more rapidly. Another aspect of this is that sand and soil from the eroding coastline must be deposited somewhere – either back off the coastline making the sea shallower or moved along the coast and deposited elsewhere. The situation at Inverloch seems to be a case in point where severe and rapid erosion has occurred in front of the surf lifesaving club and much of the sands deposited in Andersons Inlet.

About the end of the 20th century the Red Bluff midden was fenced off from the public – but not the ocean. All that remains are the posts and a single wire – the erosion has continued well beyond the fence. About three years ago (pre covid?) the west end of the midden was shored up with sand bags (image above). Although this appears to be holding – the distinct lines of the midden are no longer visible – and high tides and storms appear to be continuing their slow but enveloping progress.

It seems almost inevitable the Red Bluff midden will eventually be lost to the sea in the not too distant future. Measures like sandbagging are short term and may be ineffectual. Perhaps it is time to start planning for an archaeological excavation of this site – and others like it – as part of a comprehensive program of adaption to just one of the many effects of a warming planet.

A Review of The Big Teal by Angela Crunden

The Big Teal by Simon Holmes à Court is much more than a fascinating timeline and ‘how to’ booklet for aspiring teal movements; it has the power to light fire in the bellies of ordinary constituents in ‘impossibly conservative’ seats, to strive for and achieve better political outcomes for their communities.

This terrific little book explains the “teal movement” in a clear and accessible format. Holmes à Court lays out its historical background detailing his quest for better solutions to the largely two party representation that Australian voters are stuck with.

Holmes à Court’s evolutionary beginnings were piqued in a community wind farm project back in 2004. His expertise in the tech world, his reputation as a business savvy operator with connections and a passion for clean energy led to the birth of Climate 200. The baby developed and resulted in a very changed Australia after the 2022 elections.

Climate 200 gets its name from Josh Frydenberg’s Kooyong 200, a dollar donation number that gets you within earshot of the now deposed member for Kooyong. Holmes à Court was once a member.

Climate 200 was buttressed by other heavyweights: Julia Banks, Tony Windsor, John Hewson, Meg Lees and Barry Jones. In all, twenty-two federal candidates received support from Climate 200 on a platform of climate, integrity in politics and gender equity. And the movement attracted the support of more than 20,000 volunteers.

There are history lessons here too. We are reminded that the RET (Renewable Energy Target) was actually given life by John Howard. And that Tony Abbott trashed Julia Gillard‘s carbon price and replaced it with the “fig-leaf” policy of Direct Action, “that would serve to give the Coalition government cover for not having a credible plan to reduce emissions”.

Holmes à Court crucially touches on the role of the Kitchen Table Conversation (KTC) community building strategy developed by Mary Crooks and the Victorian Women’s Trust.

There is so much to be taken from this tiny book but if the reader takes nothing else, it should be the usefulness of KTCs in harnessing the strength and abilities of local communities and how people power can triumph over money and populism.

*the author is a member of East Gippsland Climate Action Network

Climate Change Yet Again Part 3

Just Another Summer by Ray Dahlstrom

Mountain Echoes No 104 first published in March 2004  

Several things about climate change and the global warming debate are already certain. Firstly the “greenhouse effect” exists for without the presence of these gases in the atmosphere there could be no life on earth whatsoever. Secondly Carbon Dioxide is a prominent Greenhouse gas (though not the only one) and the amount of this gas in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing over the last 150 years. Most of this increase is as a result of human activities in particular the burning of fossil fuels. Finally computer models have been predicting for more than 30 years that this increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to increased average global temperatures commonly referred to as ‘global warming’. As the computers have become more powerful and sophisticated so the models have been producing more detail. However they can only produce these details according to the information fed into them and therefore are fallible. Perhaps this is why the scientists in this field are both cautious and conservative in their predictions.

Some of the predictions made 20 years ago are already occurring: the average earth temperature is at its hottest since measurements began; the summer of 2003 was the hottest in the northern hemisphere for 500 years; many glaciers and ice caps are in retreat or thinning. Thus we are living in the middle of a global experiment. When man made change is clearly discernible it will be far too late to do anything about it. There is no half way on this question – it is either right or wrong. The debate is over whether the changes will be on the conservative side and manageable or on the high side and disastrous.

The relationship between lung cancer and smoking is a classic, and forbidding, example. The vested interests pursued a strong rear guard action, and it was many years before the obvious became accepted fact. The political power of the oil and coal industries is far, far greater than that of the tobacco lobby. Currently they have the most senior politician of the most powerful country in their pocket. And they no doubt fund many “scientific” organisations to search for information favourable to their cause. They have the power to delay ameliorating changes almost indefinitely, thus eventually exaggerating the effects of global warming. Perhaps we all should be preparing for a worst case scenario.

*this piece a bit dated and pessimistic but unedited

Climate Change Yet Again Part 2

Carbon Released by Ray Dahlstrom

Mountain Echoes No 104 first published in March 2004  

The changes appear to be more rapid in the high latitudes. Mark Lynas in his High Tide: News from a Warming World (quotes accessed from the Guardian website) wrote of what is happening in Alaska. There the permafrost is melting causing houses to subside and roads to buckle. Changes are “faster and more terrifying than anyone could have predicted” and there is anecdotal evidence from the town of Fairbanks of retreating coastlines. In particular Lynas noted: “Alaska is baking. Temperatures in the state – as in much of the arctic – are rising 10 times faster than the rest of the world. And the effects are so dramatic that entire ecosystems are beginning to unravel, as are the lifestyles of the people that depend upon them. In many ways, Alaska is the canary in the coal mine, showing the rest of the world what lies ahead as global warming accelerates.”

It seems that the greenhouse effect is “amplified at high latitudes by a positive feedback: once snow and ice begin to melt, the reflectivity of the earth’s surface decreases, allowing more of the sun’s heat to be absorbed” which in turn causes further melting which continues in an upward spiral. The average Alaskan winter time temperatures have risen by 6 degrees centigrade an “absolutely enormous signal … bigger than any of the computer models have predicted”.

On the opposite side of the globe in the sub Antarctic Australian possession of Heard Island something similar to the Alaska situation seems to be occurring.  Here it has been recently calculated that the Brown glacier which was previously retreating at a rate of half metre a year for the 50 years to 2000 has since then retreated at the rate of 2 metres or 4 times the previous rate. According to a scientist involved this was an early sign of global warming (report ABC www. 7.3.04). (to be continued)

*this piece unedited

Climate Change Yet Again Part 1

2358 by Ray Dahlstrom

Mountain Echoes No 104 first published in March 2004

In my last number I mentioned the Pentagon report on climate change that had possibly been first suppressed and then ignored by the mainstream media. In fact it was suppressed for four months by the white house before being publicised in the Observer and later the Guardian. The report, obviously a worst-case scenario, contained some dire, and immediate, warnings such as by “2007 violent storms smash coastal barriers rendering large parts of the Netherlands uninhabitable” and China’s “huge population and food demand make it particularly vulnerable. Bangladesh becomes nearly uninhabitable because of rising sea level, which contaminates the inland water supplies.”

Further “riots and internal conflict (will) tear apart India, South Africa and Indonesia” as access “to water becomes a major battleground” and “mega-droughts affect the world’s major breadbaskets including America’s mid-west.” I communicated about this briefly with an acquaintance of considerable scientific knowledge on climate change and he replied that although the Pentagon report was a “worst case scenario” it gave some balance to those at the other end of the spectrum (mostly sponsored or financed by guess who?) who deny any man made changes to climate whatsoever.

A glance at the media will tell us that much of this is already happening, (as a result of overpopulation rather than climate change) in particular wars over scarce and fixed or declining resources (land, oil) in the Middle East. Anecdotal evidence suggests the climatic prediction about droughts may be already upon us for, in my own country, with admittedly varied weather patterns, we have had drought for almost 25 years interrupted by the occasional good year and twice by floods. Each decade appears dryer than the last. We are now in short sharp drought and in the first 3 months of the year have had virtually no rain.  This is reminiscent both of the period before ‘ash wednesday’ and more recently the 1998 drought. (to be continued)

*this piece a bit dated and pessimistic but unedited. Fortunately the Pentagon worst-case scenario did not eventuate.

Global Warming Again Part 2

Antarctica Melting by Ray Dahlstrom

First published in the Mountain Echoes column April 2002

In a recent article in the Guardian Andrew Simms pointed out that the requirements for cutting greenhouse gas levels by nations are non-negotiable and that negotiating on who will cut what is like negotiating to build a bridge half way across a canyon. Some time ago a CSIRO scientist pointed out to me that global warming was an established fact and would continue to increase. The actions of man and governments will only ameliorate the increases and the effects of these. They will not stop it.

As old colonial boundaries render it difficult to solve Australia’s water problems, so the nation state is incapable of solving world problems, of which global warming in one of the major ones. It seems wiser to accept that due to the inability of the nation states to solve or agree to solve world problems, along with the ability of vested interests to direct the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth, that global warming will occur. Its effects will quite possibly be catastrophic, if for example, the West Antarctic ice sheet were to melt over a relatively short period of time.

As I write this another article in the Melbourne Age (18.4.02) warns of dire consequences of global warming in the Himalayas. Studies have identified 44 glacial lakes in Nepal and Bhutan that have substantially grown in area over the last 40 years, and were in danger of bursting within ‘five to ten years’. This growth in size is due to the increased melting of the glaciers, itself in turn due to a local warming increase of the average temperature of one degree centigrade. The article warns of the danger of these lakes bursting the natural dams that confine them and of the havoc such an event would cause to lives, stock, agriculture and infrastructure downstream. It also warns that such an effect may be occurring more widely in the more than 2000 glacial lakes in Nepal and at various other glacial lakes spread throughout the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush and other mountain ranges. The consequences of this occurring seem statistically quite probable and will have a disastrous, but localised, effect.

The consequences of a melted, partially melted, or even slowly melting West Antarctic ice sheet on the other hand will certainly be both of disastrous proportions and universal. Real estate at various points around coastlines will be the first casualty. Often this land such as alluvial river deltas is agriculturally quite rich and heavily populated. The movement of refugees within and between countries will consequently be enormous as too death from floods that combine with rising sea levels. The infrastructure of docks, port facilities and commercial areas of large cities will also be threatened and possibly severely disrupt world trade, in particular the bulk movement of grain to prevent starvation on a massive scale.

The association of lung cancer and cigarette smoking took an absolute age to be established and generally accepted, whilst scientific studies had been indicating the obvious for several decades. Perhaps too, the evidence of an infinitely more complicated global warming will have to be seen to be markedly varying from the average before being accepted by both nations and individuals. By then it will be far too late.

*this unedited piece a bit dated and pessimistic

Global Warming Again Part 1

Larsen B Collapse

First published in the Mountain Echoes column April 2002

Over the last five years there have been various reports of warmer polar circles, ice thinning, and the ice caps shrinking. All these reports have been guarded with the usual curious scientific reserve. The reports always appear to be ultra-conservative with any predictions and usually hedge their bets by saying that there is no evidence that the phenomenon observed is due to global warming and may in fact be part of a natural process or cycle.

However the basic science of a ‘greenhouse’ planet is well established – without the greenhouse effect there would be no life on earth. This combined with the steadily increasing amounts of greenhouse gases man has returned to the atmosphere over the last two hundred years means the atmospheric temperatures must be warming up, no matter how slowly, and regardless of whether it can be recognised above normal variation or not.

The most recent developments have been the huge icebergs breaking off the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. These events have been covered in the Melbourne Age by Gerald Wright & Andrew Darby. There are a number of new theories relevant to this occurrence and the future of mankind. One is the theory that the ice shelves are like a ‘cork in the bottle’ that stops the ice sheets that cover the land from travelling rapidly to the sea and melting. Were the West Antarctic Ice shelf to melt then sea levels would be raised around the world by 5 metres. Current estimates give a probability of this event occurring at only 1 in 20 chance in the next 200 years.

Another is the new thesis that environmental changes (and extinctions) can occur rapidly and almost in a human time scale (ie about 100 years). Many of the current scientific calculations like the estimate of probability for a melting West Antarctic ice sheet above may be based on the false assumptions that the changes will be gradual rather than catastrophic and that the rising sea levels will be caused by thermal expansion of the sea and not by melting Antarctic ice sheets. Note the current estimates that predict a sea level rise of about .4 to 1.4m over the next 100 years are based on the thermal expansion of the oceans only and are not inclusive of any ice melting over land.

Meanwhile anecdotal evidence reported in the (mainly electronic) media of what has appeared to be a fairly cool summer has meant uninformed commentators, from sundry radio jocks, and even ABC commentators, have been claiming that the ‘greenhouse’ and global warming are all bullshit, or words to that effect. What they have failed to recognise is that global warming is measured in world averages. Some places may actually get colder and there may be wide seasonal variations. For example, there may be cooler summers with the other seasons warmer, or there may be diurnal variation with warmer nights and the days the same, leading to higher average temperatures. Apparently the Victorian summer, despite its lack of scorching hot days, was about average. What may be cause for some alarm is that the breakup of Larsen B ice shelf was caused by variations of this kind – local warming which had a “strong and immediate effect”. (to be continued)

*this unedited piece a bit dated and pessimistic