My 2013 Poll Declaration Speech

(Sale 2pm 26.9.13)

A thousand years ago King Canute demonstrated the limited powers of rulers by having his throne placed on the shore to show – that powerful as he was – he could not stop the tides. Tides, of course, are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and gravity also holds our atmosphere – a natural law. Without atmosphere there could be no life on earth as we know it. Within the atmosphere we have another natural law – the Greenhouse Effect.

The Greenhouse Effect was discovered by Fourier in the 1820s. He calculated quite accurately that without the Greenhouse Effect the Earth would be about 30 degrees colder – a permanent ball of snow and ice. Without the Greenhouse Effect there could be no life on earth as we know it.

In 1857 John Tyndall identified the two main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – in effect these trace gases are the earth’s thermostat.

In 1895 Svante Arrhenious calculated that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was doubled the temperature would increase by 4-6 degrees.

Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution in 1750 mankind has increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 400ppm – about a third – by burning fossil fuels. This has caused the average temperature on earth to rise by about a degree with as much as another degree warming still in the pipeline. Man has been unknowingly turning up the earth’s thermostat and continues to do so, despite the warnings from science for more than 20 years.

So our new government has a huge problem. Like Canute it cannot alter natural laws. It can ignore them – business as usual – but if we keep on with business as usual the problem then gets much worse. Business as usual means a dominant fossil fuel lobby and risks low level runaway global warming. This will mean the end of life on earth as we know it.

Prof. Steven Sherwood of UNSW recently stated  “… if we fully ‘develop’ all of the world’s coal, tar sands, shales and other fossil fuels we run a high risk of ending up in a few generations with a largely unliveable planet”.

The new government therefore needs a price of some sort on carbon. Since the carbon tax and emissions trading are both unpalatable to them they might consider the fee and dividend proposal of James Hansen. The fee is collected from all fossil fuel producers at the mine or well head. The dividend is this fee [that is] then paid to every citizen of the country. You can find a brief video about this on my twitter page.

Finally I am prepared to talk to any group, small or large, about climate change and the emergency actions required, including members of the National party.

*this brief speech was prepared on the assumption that Darren Chester, the Nationals sitting member would be present, but unfortunately he did not attend. Slightly edited and some of the science has since been modified, for instance the chances of low level runaway global warming now appear unlikely.

More CARE Exhibitions in Gippsland

CARE opening last year (Lisa Roberts)

Following on from the successful exhibition of CARE (Concerned Artists Resisting Extinction) at the East Gippsland Art Gallery last year the show, or part thereof, has now moved to five other galleries in Gippsland – at Briagolong, Maffra, Gippsland (Sale), Orbost and Swifts Creek. Founder of the CARE movement, Dawn Stubbs of Munro, opened the exhibitions with a speech at Briagolong on 31 July. Brief extracts from her speech follow.

“The Orbost Exhibition is looking fantastic and is being extended …Without the steady direction of Ros Crisp who has taken on the Orbost Exhibition with gusto and enthusiasm this one just wouldn’t have turned out the way it has. And her right hand woman our dear Di Deppeler who is travelling somewhere in the great outdoors at the moment. Please fill your cars up and travel to see this exhibition at Orbost, especially to hear fire expert Phil Zylstra when he is allowed out of Sydney. We will update everyone as things unfold. All five exhibition spaces are really worth the visit. I will be at the Maffra Exhibition space on as many days as I can spare.” 

“Right now what is needed is leadership, unfortunately it’s sadly lacking in nearly every tier of Government. We have crises on our hands our ecosystems are collapsing and Australia’s unique animals are on the brink. If I was overseas right now I would be ashamed to call myself Australian, not two weeks ago the same environment minister that met with us in Canberra fronted the media and was more concerned about tourism than what her portfolio represents the Environment in regards to the Great Barrier Reef one of the greatest wonders on our Planet. One can measure the greatness and the moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals.”

“Unbeknown to us over 10,000 of those years the average temperature never fluctuated more than one degree Celsius. Until now, it is no coincidence that deforesting our world and Climate breakdown are happening at the same time. I’m afraid the two go hand in hand what people may not realise is that the animals that also lived in these deforested areas are also contributors to the symbiotic relationship that is needed for a healthy ecosystem.”

Unfortunately the pandemic has delayed the original plan by 18 months and another Coronavirus lockdown has now intervened, but hopefully everyone will have the opportunity to visit and view at least one of the exhibitions.

A New Offshore Wind Project for Gippsland

A Scottish offshore wind company Flotation Energy has a project on the drawing board for Gippsland. It joins the Star of the South as the second major offshore project for the region. The company website notes that this “is a 1,500MW energy transition project. It will be located in the Bass Strait, off the Ninety Mile Beach coastline. The electricity will be exported to the Latrobe Valley, where there is a strong electricity grid, due to the presence of ageing coal power stations.”

Flotation Energy is a major offshore wind developer in the UK working on 9 projects around the globe promoting the advantages of offshore wind, and in particular floating offshore turbines. They note that “Floating offshore wind is a simple concept with a big future. It means that you can take wind turbines into deeper waters, where the winds are stronger and more reliable. Further offshore, the wind turbines have less environmental and visual impact. This means that floating wind is popular with politicians and local communities. It has a very big role to play if governments are to achieve their net zero targets. The global potential for floating wind is enormous.”

Their website emphasizes the need for climate action. “The threat of climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet. Urgent action is required, from governments and business as well as from local communities and individuals. We have seen the growing extremes of climate change having a huge impact, with lives being lost and many communities threatened by worsening storms and floods, heat waves and droughts. The poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable often suffer the most. Now is the time for bold action.”

The company predicts the rapid expansion of offshore wind. “This rapid expansion has been driven by the increasing need for de-carbonisation to tackle climate change and achieve net zero targets. Energy security, job creation and economic growth potential are also major considerations. The cost of offshore wind has fallen dramatically, aided by stable energy policy, technology innovation including larger turbines, economies of scale and less expensive finance.”

With Star of the South they could replace two of the remaining Latrobe Valley coal fired generators. The ocean they would occupy would appears to be further east that the Star of the South and perhaps further offshore in deeper water. Both the construction phase and ongoing maintenance will be a huge boon to local economies.

Unfortunately neither our local members (State and Federal) or the media have little to say on these projects (see blog on delays here). The delay on these projects appears deliberate and due to the influence of the fossil fuel industry. Climate action now requires offshore wind enabling legislation in Federal parliament and for all governments to put these projects into fast forward mode.

A Summary of Kalbar Project Blogs

Over the last three or four years a number of blogs have been posted on the Kalbar mineral sands project near Lindenow. The blogs have mainly been about the carbon emissions of the project and some of Kalbar’s more outlandish renewable energy claims. The first was a general letter about the ‘greenwash’ spin of the company and relating to possible large greenhouse emissions of their proposed operations which was published in the Bairnsdale Advertiser (December 2017) and reposted to this blog.

This was followed by two further blogs which examined in more detail the company claims that the renewable energy revolution necessary to combat global warming could not proceed without the rare earths from the company’s mineral sands – claims that are clearly untrue (see here and here). The latter blog examines the myth that rare earths were essential to the renewables revolution and notes that Tesla electric vehicles do not use rare earths in their motors.

More recently there have been a number of submissions to the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) enquiry that are mainly concerned with climate aspects and carbon emissions of the project. The first was by Alistair Mailer, retired engineer of Newlands Arm, who examined the greenhouse emissions in detail and excerpts from his submission were posted as  two blogs (see here and here). Alistair lists in detail the various Scope emissions of the project and, in particular, mentions the Scope 3 emissions which the company does not  count. He concludes the company failed in its own EES.

The other EES submission of note was from Ursula Alquier, formerly an activist with ‘Lock the Gate’ and now with Farmers for Climate Action. Her long submission was on behalf of the latter organisation and extracts from it were published as 3 separate blogs (see here, here and here) and in particular on climate change, water availability and the company’s large water requirements. Ursula’s submission had input from local farmers.

With all the other objections (those on global warming and carbon emissions are but a few) and with the company’s propensity to ‘greenwash’ their environmental credentials, it is clear this project should not proceed.

Our Media, Our Emergencies and Action

During the world war emergencies of the twentieth century, the media (radio and print) was solidly behind the war effort, either through a process of censoring and self-censoring or by just being caught up in the patriotic fervour of the times. It is impossible to imagine the media giving any support at all for the enemy. Bad news was often downplayed, or omitted altogether. For instance, the official death toll of the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942 was 17 when the real figure was over 200. During World War II, when the nation was directly threatened, we were in an emergency government with various government controls including petrol rationing.

With the coronavirus pandemic we have seen some similar responses from governments, with State government lockdowns and attempts to keep up with, and ahead of, the rapidly evolving public health crisis, although the response of the Federal government in the vaccination rollout and in quarantine has been tardy. Inevitably, this has led to restrictions on business and on individual behaviour. As in wartime, the pandemic is an immediate and recognisable threat to life and here governments have adopted an approach of following the best science.

Unlike war, during the coronavirus parts of the media have publicised and even promoted articles and ideas of vested interests (some business lobbies) and those opposed to the best science (the anti-vaxxers*). Amongst those doing so have been a ‘fat cat’ who has his own political party, a number of political commentators on Sky News and demonstrators in our capital cities. Such actions are unthinkable in a wartime situation. At the very least, these individuals would have been prevented from pursuing their agendas in the media – at worst they would be in jail and their organisations banned or prohibited. Since these activities result in the deaths of citizens, their actions are criminal. Another media aspect of the pandemic has been the massive advertising campaigns of governments, perhaps necessary considering prominence given to those opposing best science.

Unlike the previous emergencies, the climate emergency lacks urgency – at least in the media. This involves a number of factors that at first hand do not appear directly attributable to a warming planet – beyond the obvious heatwaves. The climate influence on extreme weather events currently wracking the northern hemisphere, including floods, drought, and bushfires, is less obvious. But the science has been in for many decades and worsening extreme weather events will force governments eventually to adopt a wide range of emergency actions. These will include massive advertising campaigns in science education and control and direction of the media.

*including at least 2 members of Federal Parliament

My First Foray into Global Warming Politics

John Hermans of Clifton Creek and his ‘biochar producer’ about 2015.

Media release 7.1.08

A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study has doubled the sea level rise predicted last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) illustrating the need for urgent action. The IPCC predicted that by 2100 sea levels would rise by .6m whilst the WWF study has estimated that the rise will be closer to 1.2m by this date.

A number of prominent scientists including CSIRO adviser Barrie Pittock and James Hansen of NASA have been warning for some time that the IPCC predictions may be underestimates and that the sea-level rise may be even higher than the WWF estimate.

Early indications suggest that events are occurring at the upper level of IPCC predictions especially in the case of the extent of summer ice in the Arctic. In the last two summers the Arctic ice has declined dramatically leading some to predict that the Arctic may be ice free in summer within a few decades. Warming in the Arctic circle is much stronger than elsewhere on the planet.

A recently study on the effect of climate change and subsidence by the Gippsland Coastal Board discusses the possibility of a broach of the barrier of the 90 mile into the Gippsland Lakes which could be disastrous for all the communities around the lakes. The sea level rises analysed in this report are based on the 2007 IPCC report and may be substantial underestimates. The WWF report indicates that events such as sea-level rise may be “faster, sooner (and) stronger”.

Agreement and urgent action is needed at all levels of government and across the political spectrum. A large number of actions can be taken in the local government area including conservation of energy, using a variety of forms of local electricity generation including solar, wind, and biofuels (waste powered*) and the large-scale planting of trees on shire land to offset the carbon the shire produces. A number of other practices can be implemented to adapt to the predicted changes – one example being the management of roadsides in co-operation with farmers to remove fire hazards from around towns and roadsides. The hazardous material removed should be used to produce electricity and possibly agrichar – a stable form of charcoal to be used as a fertiliser.

Whilst the challenges that global warming poses are momentous we will be far better off if we face them squarely and start working on them now.

*obviously not from logging operations as logging has to be phased out as soon as possible.

Barry Jones’ What is to Be done – a brief review

I have been a fan of Barry Jones since the ‘Pick-a-Box’ radio quiz days of the 1960s when he won the big prize by naming the individuals in the historic acronym CABAL (look it up). His career as a historian, intellectual, and politician has been outstanding and his appeal to reason meant that he could only progress so far in the field of politics. As Jones points out in his new book What is to Be done: political engagement and saving the planet (Scribe 2020) he has been active in the politics of global warming for many years. One early appearance, as Minister for Science in the Hawke government, was opening the CSIRO Monash conference on Greenhouse Emissions in 1988.

The book is a wide-ranging approach to the climate question including many personal accounts, often using a historical narrative, and dissecting in detail the malaise of national and international politics. The irrational outbursts of ex-President Trump get plenty of attention and politics is analysed with both insight and humour. Of the 16 chapters only three have climate change in their titles – Chapter 6 the science, Chapter 7 the politics and final chapter “What is to be done: political engagement and climate change.” I particularly like his treatment of the science history of the greenhouse effect naming prominent individuals in the discovery and development of the science –including Fourier, Tyndall, Foote and Arrhenius.

Essentially though, Jones is writing about the failure of Australian politics to confront the climate crisis. Despite his long career as a representative of the Labor Party in both State and Federal Parliament his analysis is relatively free of bias and his own party comes in for a good deal of criticism in Chapters like “Retail Politics: targeted, toxic, trivial and disengaged”. Jones solutions are many but his emphasis is on a massive political re-engagement by the public in the political process and the main parties. I differ slightly from the author in that I would argue that the most likely path to rapid change comes from outside the main parties.

To leave the last words to the author: “It is essential that we [do] not fall into despair and retreat to the caves. But citizens have to be informed, and then challenge and speak truth to power. It will not be easy. It will be exhausting. It will not be comfortable. We will probably lose some friends. But it must be done.” As the cover blurb quoting Julia Gillard says this is “essential reading”.

*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library

Metung Science Forum Newsletter Editorial by Tom Moore

Excerpts from July Newsletter *

It’s so cold in East Gippsland at this time of the year, one could be forgiven for thinking that global warming has taken a break. But of course, it hasn’t! We only need to look at the incredible heatwaves in British Columbia to negate any such thoughts. Lou and I have fond memories of our days skiing in BC often in deep powder snow, so it is hard to imagine that the record temperatures (some days rivalling the hottest ever recorded in Australia) have resulted in the deaths of over 100 people from heat related causes. And almost daily there are reports of tragedies happening around the world which are directly or indirectly linked with Climate Change eg. landslides in Japan, forest fires in California etc. etc.

Nice to know that in some areas “we” are starting to act. Bloomberg recently broke the news that China’s biggest bank has dumped a plan to finance a $3 billion Coal fired power station in Zimbabwe, the first time a Chinese bank has pro-actively walked away from a coal powered project. In addition, the Baihetan hydropower dam went into operation a week ago in south western China. Its 16 x one gigawatt generators will in total generate 62 terawatt hours of electricity per year saving almost 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Whilst on China, their planned emissions trading scheme has been delayed but it appears that it will still go ahead once the bugs are removed. So, it would seem that the Chinese government are moving on their plans to be carbon neutral by 2060, despite some concerns regarding their continued interest in coal.

Contrast that with Australia. There is some good news in that the Senate delivered a critical blow to the Federal Government by voting to cancel the new regulations issued to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that would have opened up the agency’s funds (which were provided strictly for green energy projects) to carbon capture and storage projects, fossil hydrogen production and a range of non-renewable technologies. Of course, Angus Taylor is busily researching another way around the Senate’s decision.

Meanwhile the proposal from UNESCO to list our World Heritage Great Barrier Reef as endangered “stunned” Susan Ley (where has she been for the past 20 years that she didn’t know this was coming?) but not enough to prevent her from blocking the development of 26 GW of solar and wind power to produce green hydrogen in Western Australia at the proposed massive Asian Renewable Energy Hub. And not enough to prevent her challenging the Federal Court on its decision that the Federal Environment Minister has a duty to protect young people from the climate crisis.

There is, of course, so much more going on and it’s hard to keep up with it all…So please keep the communications coming.

*The Metung Science Forum is a forum for progressive science and evidence-based discussion of climate change and related issues for the people of Metung and surrounds.

East Gippsland Shire Power 100% Renewables

Victorian Energy Collaboration

East Gippsland Shire’s Environment Connect Winter 2021 recently announced a comprehensive power purchase agreement. The publication stated:

“We’re very proud to announce East Gippsland Shire Council is one of 46 Victorian councils who have joined together to form VECO, the Victorian Energy Collaboration. The 46 councils have pooled their electricity needs into one long-term contract to provide the VECO group with renewable energy generated from wind farms here in Victoria until 2030. The Victorian Energy Collaboration is the largest ever emissions reduction project by local government in Australia, and will provide 45 per cent of all Victorian councils’ electricity requirements with 100 per cent renewables, reducing greenhouse emissions by 260,000 tonnes of CO2-e every year…”

and

“The ground-breaking project will reduce each of the Council’s current energy bills, carbon emissions and reduce electricity prices by using clean renewable energy generated right here in Victoria. By joining the project, East Gippsland Shire Council will source all of it’s electricity from 100 per cent renewables for streetlights, libraries, public toilets, service centres, shire caravan parks, leisure centres and swimming pools from 1 January 2022. This will reduce East Gippsland Shire Councils corporate emissions by 4,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions each year until 2030. The VECO project doesn’t just the benefit the environment – by joining together, each Council will pay less for their power than if we’d sourced electricity individually. Every dollar saved is another dollar put back into providing vital community services and programs for all of us.”

Obviously the VECO project took a substantial amount of time organising and co-ordinating before being brought to fruition, and commercial aspects were probably locked in early in negotiations. Unfortunately the company to provide the energy was Red Energy, who, with bad timing, announced that they would be building the Morrison government’s 600Mw Kurri Kurri gas fired electricity generator. This in turn rightly brought severe criticism of the decision and there were calls to boycott Red Energy. Any justification for new fossil fuel powered generation anywhere in Australia is political and clearly should be condemned.

Locally, and somewhat unfairly, the criticism rounded on the Shire decision and the Environment Connect article. The decision by the Shire was made a long time before the Morrison government’s decision, which appears to have been a very hasty one. The nature of PPAs means that there can be no guarantee where the power you use will come from at any moment of time, but rather over a certain period the electricity supplier guarantees to supply renewable energy equal to the amount of power used. For further details on PPA’s see here. There can be little doubt that this is a massive step in the right direction and that the next PPA the shire signs after 2030 will be for renewable energy sourced within Gippsland.

We are in a Climate Emergency Part 2 by Tony Peck

Victoria’s Climate Change Strategy, released in early May, is on the right track, although not the emergency response required. Many normally risk-averse organizations such as the Meat and Livestock Association (net zero target by 2030), Farmers Federation (net zero by 2050) and large industrial organizations with clearly stated targets include BHP, Bluescope, Wesfarmers and many more. We have also reached the point where most of our politicians say they believe that climate is changing and we need to act. If anything, the need to act as though we have a global climate emergency is becoming more and more pressing.

We know what is needed to achieve cuts to greenhouse gases right now. While taking urgent and effective action we must continue to research other strategies and indeed, we may find even better responses than those we know work and can be taken now. Some of the options will eventually include locking carbon up using a variety of yet to be proven methods.

It is clear though that we must act now, using methods we know actually work. As Greta Thunberg famously said ‘I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.’

Action must focus on reducing our carbon emissions. It will require some dramatic changes and sacrifices are likely, just as have occurred during the pandemic.

Coal, oil and gas need to be phased out as fuels as rapidly as possible.

To replace these sources of power we need to move to using clean energy. Sources for this clean energy are wind, hydro and solar together with storage such as pumped hydro and batteries. The latest science is strongly indicating that even the new more ambitious targets for emissions reduction will not be sufficient. A properly funded, just transition, for workers in these industries is crucial to achieve successful change.

Opponents of action on climate have long attempted to confuse and delay. They argue that there is no problem, just historically normal climate changes. Now that the evidence is so clearly proven, many have altered their focus saying ‘of course the climate changes, but it’s not a problem we need to do anything about’. This is a well tried tactic and has been used in the past by the tobacco and asbestos industries in their attempts to maintain profits before the inevitable end to their industries.

With leadership at all levels of government, from industries and unions we are capable of using the known science to move to an electrically powered transport, domestic and industrial future, with the power largely generated by renewable energy. There are plans to export our solar and wind power as hydrogen or ammonia. There are so many opportunities that can be seized right now.

We must treat this crisis as the emergency it clearly is and focus all necessary resources to stop global warming while we still can.

*The Author is a member of EGCAN, Bairnsdale XR and a contributor to this blog. Part 1 is here.