Gippsland News & Views

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…”


“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.

We are in a Climate Emergency Part 1 by Tony Peck

This table indicates the different impact of 1.5ºC of warming compared to 2ºC. With current actions we cannot stay below 1.5ºC but 2ºC is possible if we treat the threat as an emergency and act now.

We have reached the point where even conservative journals such as Scientific American have come out with the statement ‘Given the circumstances, Scientific American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term “climate emergency” in its coverage of climate change.’ (April 2021)

Since the industrial revolution carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have increased as a direct result of burning oil, gas and coal. With an increase in CO2 from 280ppm to the current 420ppm the global average temperature has already risen by more than 1ºC. These greenhouse gases are effectively creating a blanket around the planet that retains heat that would otherwise dissipate into space. As a consequence there is a rapid increase in global land, air and ocean temperatures. There have been previous warming events that have taken place over many thousands or even millions of years. The warming we are now experiencing is different. It has been triggered by human actions and is happening many times more quickly than ever in the planet’s history.

There has been an amazing amount of research done over many decades and scientists are now in agreement that we are clearly causing this warming. They are also in agreement that we can stop it and eventually may even be able to reverse some of the warming. The consensus on what is happening and why is overwhelming with more than 97% of climate scientists agreeing on the cause and key actions to halt more dangerous warming. The scientific consensus on what will happen if we do nothing is also overwhelming. The predictions include a planet with regions that are uninhabitable, rising severity of storms and floods and more severe heat events with longer, deeper droughts and regular major fire events.

An emergency? Decisive and dramatic actions in response to any life threatening situation is the best option – experts are giving the clear message that avoiding climate change’s most catastrophic impacts is essential and urgent. Time to take heed!

During the terrible, unprecedented fires that ravaged Australia’s East Coast and most of East Gippsland in 2019-20, 33 lives were lost directly from the fires. During this disaster smoke caused a further 417 deaths (MJA Vol 213 Issue 6) due to smoke from the fires. Projections suggest hundreds more died from these heat events across Australia over this same period. Extreme heat events and extreme fires will be more frequent and more severe with even a 2ºC increase in temperatures.

During the COVID pandemic we have seen countries that used the best available science were able avoid the worst outcomes. Australia and New Zealand are in this successful group. Countries where action was not immediately based on science have had a very different trajectory. America, Brazil, India are some examples among the many where best scientific advice was ignored and hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths have resulted.

We can see a glimmer of light on the horizon with some recent attention to global warming. Biden’s election in the US has added a sense of urgency and increase in global ambition. The USA, Japan, England, most European and many other countries are committing to far more realistic targets than originally proposed in Paris. (to be continued)

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

The Nationals, Gippsland and Climate Change

The recent change in leadership in the National Party replacing Michael McCormack with the climate change denier Barnaby Joyce has brought the question of climate change action to the fore. With the demotion by Joyce of Darren Chester from the ministry, the split in the Nationals has become public. The public perception of the Nationals has long been the ‘big coal’ party. Six years ago, even Darren Chester was part of this faction and I wrote a blog calling him a climate change dinosaur. Since then he has modified his views as his electorate has experienced severe drought, heat waves and bushfires – all made more extreme under a warming globe.

In the middle of our ‘black summer’ an EGCAN delegation visited Darren to discuss climate change and he told them he did “not share [their] same level of concern”. The delegation “left seriously disappointed” and wondered if they “should have been harder and more critical. With all that has happened since and indeed with major fires set to burn until they run out of fuel… a dramatically more effective response is required from our regional politicians.” Darren accepts the science of climate change but until now has made no statement about it. Following his sacking Darren labelled his new leader ‘incoherent’ and wrote in the Herald Sun (2.7) that the “Nationals fight isn’t Joyce v Chester, but 1950 v 2050” and the “hard line Nationals” are locked “into a climate denial agenda”.

An article by Richard Willingham of the ABC noted that the “Nationals’ decision to replace Mr McCormack with Barnaby Joyce prompted Victorian leader Peter Walsh to move a disaffiliation motion at a recent Victorian Nationals board meeting. It was not passed, but it highlighted the deep anger among Victorian MPs about the behaviour of their federal colleagues” and “Deputy leader Steph Ryan… is adamant that voters in rural seats want to see action on climate. ‘I actually think this is an extraordinary opportunity for our party to argue for a strong investment in research and development, for agriculture, but also for different sectors across our communities,’ she told the ABC. ‘We know this week; we’ve seen a huge heatwave across places like Siberia and Canada. If we were to have similar conditions replicated here, we will have farmers who lose crops, we will have infrastructure that fails, and the health of our communities will be put at risk. So, the stakes are high. And I think our voters are asking us to do more.’”

Willingham also noted that the “first motion passed at this year’s Victorian Nationals conference welcomed moves by agricultural industries to achieve zero net emissions and put in place policies to support farmers to achieve this goal.’” The conference was in Wonthaggi and members of the Bass Coast CAN demonstrated outside. Both Peter Walsh and Steph Ryan spoke to the demonstrators. One participant concluded: “by speaking with us…they got to understand that we were educated about climate change and that they were somewhat deficient when it came to scientific facts” and “I think this was a worthwhile exercise. The more that we confront them with facts, the more they realise that that can’t run from us any more…”

I have thought for a long time that the Liberal Party was a split waiting to happen over the climate issue and it appears that the same applies to the Nationals. Perhaps the hard work of the climate activists across the region is now starting to tell.

Carbon Farming at Ventnor by Catherine Watson

Bob Davie, left, with fellow researchers Roy and Mark Roberts at Bimbadeen

Excerpts from an article in the Bass Coast Post

Twenty years ago when Bob Davie talked about carbon farming he was regarded as a bit of a nutter.  For the past decade he’s been preaching to the converted, people like him who understand the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide, and offsets and insets. But with a recent double-page spread in the Herald Sun, the Phillip Island farmer has now entered the mainstream. As a pioneer of carbon farming, Bob couldn’t be happier. He thinks people – including many people in power – have suddenly “got it”. “It’s going to happen… I didn’t think I’d live to see the day.”

Now into his 80s, Bob is helping to lead a revolution in farming. In August he’ll address 250 farmers at a beef farmers conference in Bairnsdale. Where once the farmers might have listened reluctantly – or even skipped a session related to climate change – this time he can expect a captive audience. Bob’s message will be that farmers have nothing to fear from zero emissions targets. In fact they have everything to gain. He echoes climate academic Ross Garnaut, who believes carbon credits could be as valuable a commodity on the world market as wool.

They are a counter to the National Party, which argues that farmers should be exempt from meeting emissions targets. The tide has turned, says Bob. Meat and Livestock Australia is already committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. Farmers want to know how to transition and how to make it work. “I believe most farmers can become carbon neutral fairly easily. I believe a lot of farmers are already carbon neutral and don’t know it.”

“I’m really pleased it’s finally taking off. There are more and more inquiries and articles in the papers. It feels good. I’ve always felt I’ve been on the right track.   Bob says he’s been carbon farming for 65 years – “45 years without knowing I was doing it.” Bob’s carbon farming experiments have been carried out at Bimbadeen, the Davie family’s 140-hectare beef property at Ventnor…

For the full article go here