Gippsland Climate News

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

Wind Power for Bass Coast

Murra Warra II wind farm on sheep and wheat country near Horsham

Bass Coast Shire Council media release, December 2022 republished from The Bass Coast Post

Bass Coast Shire Council has saved almost $30,000 and almost 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the past 12 months by powering its municipal offices, streetlights and community buildings with 100 per cent renewable energy. Bass Coast is one of 51 local governments to have switched council buildings and facilities to renewable electricity through the Victorian Energy Collaboration (VECO).

The renewable energy is provided by two wind farms – the 80-turbine Dundonnell wind farm near Mortlake, which started exporting power to the grid in March 2020, and the 99-turbine Murra Warra II wind farm near Horsham, which has just come into operation. VECO is the largest ever emissions reduction project by local governments in Australia. Since launching in 2021, it has grown from 46 to 51 participating councils in Victoria to now be the biggest renewable energy buyers’ group in the country.

25% cheaper electricity has already been delivered in the first 12 months, thanks to VECO’s collective investment in Victorian renewables. These savings are being re-directed to critical community services. This landmark collaboration demonstrates the value of local governments working together to tackle climate change. Approximately 172,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been saved by councils in the first 12 months, equivalent to powering up to 35,000 homes or taking 66,000 cars off the road each year. Savings are expected to increase to 220,000 tonnes per year.

Through the collective buying of renewable energy we have supported investment in renewables in Victoria, increasing energy stability and reducing retail energy prices. It also supports the delivery of Bass Coast’s commitment to achieve net zero council emissions by 2030.

A Climate Review by Nola Kelly  

Anika Molesworth Our Sunburnt Country, Macmillan, 2021*

Anika first became aware of a changing climate at a young age on her family’s farm as she watched the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth” and slowly she comes to realise the climate crisis that we face. Her journey takes her to gain a PhD as she studies, reads, and speaks to many knowledgeable people around the globe, her focus on food and farming as both offender and victim in the Climate Change scenario.

The book explores the need for us to have courage, to not shy away from reality but to know it, and act accordingly. To also recognise the losses as our biodiversity is changing with sometimes huge consequences and impact on the world as we know it. Anika raises the concept of “the shifting baseline” where over generations species become lessened and disappear and we forget what abundance there once was. Hugely depleted fish stocks are a prime example of this. We are devouring our planet and Climate Change affects what we eat and what we eat affects Climate Change, so we must accept responsibility, learn from the past, and realise the need for urgent action now.

Life is seen as fragile and precious, and food is seen as the staple of life. For thousands of years First Nations peoples have sustained themselves from the land and it is by acknowledging our relationship with the land around us that we become aware of our responsibility to look after it. Degradation of the land leads to more people abandoning country life and results in a disconnection from nature as well as the processes of food production. The global average age of farmers is now 60 years.

A big part of the problem facing our food production is seen as the public demand for cheap food which leads to land degradation, deforestation, poor animal husbandry, and destruction of diverse eco systems. As the food becomes less nutritious due to these intense farming methods our health deteriorates and disease increases. The gulf between people and nature widens. Anika suggests that we can all take more responsibility for our food systems by paying attention to where our food comes from, what it takes to produce it, as well as the nutritional value for our bodies.

Anika laments the unfairness that the people most vulnerable and at risk of the repercussions of Climate Change are those who have contributed least to it’s creation. It is seen as social injustice with most of the problems stemming from a wealthy minority. In the developed world we are all part of the problem and must accept responsibility for being part of the solution, recognising and addressing the problems however hard this may be. New and creative thinking is required to alleviate social, environmental, and economic problems.

Change can occur when we focus on building the new and this can happen quickly when policy change is part of the mix. As people demand better leadership, and with mass mobilisation, the goals to heal the planet can be reached. Anika has a vivid vision for the future, one that involves justice, equality, respect, and abundance. All of it achievable if only we have the will to do so. This is an inspiring chapter and outlines just what is possible if we all take action. The last chapter gives ideas and guidance of what we can all do, today, this week, and this month. We can all make a start to do this by sitting in nature and contemplating our role in caring for the planet and the future of humanity.

*copy in the East  Gippsland Shire Library

Electric vehicle charging stations in East Gippsland

Francis St Station (Tony Peck)

Republished from Environment Connect Summer 22-23

The East Gippsland Shire Council has installed the first stage of the planned public electric vehicle (EV) charging station network in East Gippsland. Contractors are working hard to have them ready before Christmas. Stage one is funded by the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program and is seeing a 50kw fast charger installed in the following sites:

121 Nicholson Street carpark, Bairnsdale

Tongio Road, Omeo

Wolseley Street carpark & toilet block, Orbost

Ward Street, Cann River

The fees and charges were set at an unscheduled Council meeting on 29 November 2022. The cost for the public to charge will be 40 cents per kWh, and the customers will need to set up an account with ChargeFox. For more information and to stay up to date visit Council’s Electric Vehicle Your Say page, where information on the new electric vehicle network is updated regularly – including sites being planned for next year in Buchan, Mallacoota and Lakes Entrance.The EV chargers will supply 100% renewable electricity from Council’s energy retailer via a ten year power purchase agreement, called VECO.

Evie networks are also installing EV chargers for the public. They will be installed in the following towns:

Francis Street, Bairnsdale (image above)*

Visitor Information Centre, Lakes Entrance

Raymond Street, Paynesville

Visitor Information Centre, Bruthen

Evie Networks will also be installing 50kW DC charging stations, using their own software platform. The units for Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance are likely to be installed and ready for use over the summer holidays. Electrical supply upgrades are required at Bruthen and Paynesville, delaying the roll out until 2023 at these two sites.

More information: Rebecca Lamble, Sustainability Officer

*This station was built in just 3 days.

Voices of the East: Kitchen Table Conversations

Extracts from a 13 page VotE document: Climate Change is mentioned 10 times. The document is mostly in a ‘brainstorming’ format.

What do you think are the major issues and your concerns? Fairly sure the future is not uncertain – certainly we are all going down the gurgler due to climate change ∙ Climate change and subsequent episodic events such as fires droughts floods and hail etc. – we are not well set up to handle these on a repeated basis ∙ Forest issues – burning and logging (against this) ∙ Lack of infrastructure such as hospitals and vets etc. with all the new housing and population growth ∙ Also need the workforce to operate these services ∙ Facing an energy crisis – nationally.

 Climate Change ∙ Bushfires ∙ Loss of native forests ∙ That people learn how to have difficult conversations and listen to people they have a reaction to ∙ That people learn the difference between reacting and responding, and learn the skills to respond appropriately.

 A clean, healthy, and balanced environment ∙ Information overload and lack of time to address all the issues ∙ Effective and urgent action on climate change, inequity, racism, violence, treatment of asylum seekers ∙ That there is too much emphasis on cars and trucks ∙ That there is a genuine lack of knowledge on some of the basics of life ∙ Provision of facilities like libraries we need to identify common interests and mutual goals ∙ promote respect for all ages and different walks of life ∙ climate change ∙ climate impacts on agriculture ∙ fires, floods ∙ hierarchy of basic needs: safety ∙ emotional safety – feeling secure, significant, accepted…

Infrastructure, housing, education, telecommunication, resource management, and recycling all ranked as concerning issues. Health services, particularly staffing was raised by many people. Support for ongoing tourism and greater action on climate change were also raised as ongoing concerning issues. Some people raised ongoing inequality and ineffective and inefficient support services for drug and crime rehabilitation. People felt unprepared to handle continuous climate change induced events such as fires, droughts, floods, and significant weather events. There was concern that the destruction of the environment was contributing to climate change. A Just transition out of extractive and fossil fuel industries and into jobs that are sustainable such as eco-tourism was raised. The declining economy coupled with an aging demographic, retraction of services and collapsing roads were also raised.

More focus on recycling ∙ Local decentralised power distribution – like community battery solar generation etc. – lot of people already have solar panels but putting surplus back into the grid – we could share it amongst ourselves or the wider community ∙ Places like Lakes Entrance Metung Paynesville Raymond Island – need to show these communities what it could be like in 10 – 40 years with impacts particularly regular flooding from climate change – provide more information to the community so they can make better personal decisions – not preparing community and individuals adequately for what the future will bring ∙ Identify industries that we can move to and how to develop these – not the destructive industries ∙ Adapting to climate change got to use less concrete and cement etc. – big demand for building timber – so plantation timber an option – but need to plant trees now.

Climate and Extinction Rally at Lakes Entrance by Tony Peck

In early November, nearly 100 people rallied in Lakes Entrance. The rally’s goal was to highlight the rising numbers of threatened species caused by logging, global warming, and other human actions against habitat: affecting our forests, swamps, lakes, oceans and plains. The rally expressed anger, fear, and frustration that even though we are in a climate emergency our governments are asleep at the wheel.

Local groups Extinction Rebellion Gippsland and East Gippsland Climate Action Network organised the rally. Fantastic support came from activists across Gippsland, Melbourne, Warrnambool, and elsewhere. Blinky, the giant fire-ravaged koala joined the rally after also being a feature in amazingly graphic climate actions in the Latrobe valley.

Blinky, 4-metres-tall and with smoke drifting from its fur and a blood-curdling cry of anguish delivered an unmissable message to onlookers, equally repelled, intrigued, and emotionally affected as they watched the rally pass. Blinky was led by a funeral director, complete with the mournful sounds of a bell tolling our disappearing native species, a walking tombstone, a greater glider, bogong moth, spotted quoll and the Sybil Disobedients representing the voices of Gippsland calling for real climate action. Signs read ‘Doing nothing risks everything’, ‘Protect native forests Stop Logging’, ‘There is No Planet B’, ‘Stand up for life on Earth’, ‘Logging fuels climate catastrophe’, ‘Climate change is a burning issue’ and ‘Albo Stop funding killer industries’.

Blinky was created in response to images of fire-affected animals, including koalas during the massive 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires that threatened the homes of many of the rally participants. More than a billion native animals as well as reptiles and birds are estimated to have died during these massive fires. As the rally travelled along the Lakes Entrance waterfront, many passers-by stopped, sharing the event via their phones. Many engaged with activists, listening to explanations of the rally and taking information sheets.

Large booming drums set the rhythm for the march, slogans called for climate action and these were interspersed with Blinky’s emotionally charged roar. The march was a truly poignant and emotional occasion, but participants came away with hope that we will still able to act as though we are in an emergency and limit warming and the existential threat.

Once the rally reached the foreshore by the footbridge there were short and powerful speeches following the acknowledgement of country. Species extinction, an end to logging, and the urgency of climate action were the key focus. A drumming workshop was the finale, with wonderful rhythmic sounds.

*the author is a member of EGCAN and XR Gippsland. Image provided by author.