Gippsland News & Views

The climate emergency and our media

Carbon Dispersed by Ray Dahlstrom

Last week I attacked the mainstream media for their failure to comprehend the climate emergency, and our politicians who, in the main, follow the media. It is clear ‘business as usual’ must be replaced with the climate emergency. The term ‘climate emergency’ has been around now and in general usage for about 5 years and it has been adopted as policy by many government instrumentalities – mainly local – in Australia. In East Gippsland the local shire council was petitioned to adopt it in 2019 just before the black summer – a clearly connected emergency – but failed to do so.

Inertia in the climate system means that the planet will continue to warm after we have achieved the fabled ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. That will be a momentous task, but even more momentous will be drawing down of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a liveable level (well below 400ppm) for humanity and countless other species. The climate emergency recognises this task whereas for business as usual it is, at best, that global warming is just one problem amongst many.

The latter is clearly recognised in online media websites where there is a complete failure to give the issue both priority and prominence (with perhaps  the exception of the Guardian) and this flows through to the wider media. The lack of urgency in the media influences both politicians and the general public. Amongst other results, this has allowed vested interests and their lobby groups to delay meaningful action in Australia for more than a decade and to sow doubt and denial generally. A massive advertising campaign on the basic science of the greenhouse accompanying the carbon tax legislation may well have saved us from a decade of Abbott denialism.

The media blitz that we have just had with the death of Queen Elizabeth may be approaching something along the lines that the climate emergency requires but for much longer and more or less continuously. It is yet to come. Until then we must do our best to promote and publicise the basic science as best we can. Perhaps it is time to ask the local shire again to declare a climate emergency.

A Victorian Climate Election?

The mainstream media are yet to grasp the climate emergency, and until it is embraced almost universally, every election should be a climate election – State, Federal and local.  The ALP federally have pushed their climate legislation through parliament and it is now law. (I jumped the gun on this a few weeks ago.) However the legislation is minimal in that its proposed emissions reductions target is nowhere near enough contribution from us, for the world to limit warming to 1.5 C. It is a small step in the right direction.

Labor then spoils what little they have gained by their refusal to stop new fossil fuel projects. Aside from the fact that almost all these projects – from Adani down – will soon be stranded assets, it illustrates that our politicians are also yet to comprehend the climate emergency. From our Prime Minister down the thinking is still governed by short-term political advantage rather than what must be done. To put it simply and bluntly all burning of fossil fuels is causing the warming. Therefore all new projects should be forbidden and current usage phased out as quickly as possible.

Obviously State Labor are better by a ‘country mile’ than the Lib/Nats, especially as far as renewable energy is concerned, but they too are yet to come to grips with the climate emergency. This means there can no longer be any business as usual. The heavily subsidised logging industry needs to end much sooner than the current projected cut-off of 2030. Funds saved can be redirected towards a ‘just transition’ for workers and communities and all support for offshore oil and gas and the coal to hydrogen developments should be abandoned, as should the current tax on battery electric vehicles.

There are a few so-called ‘teal’ independent candidates sticking their hands up for the November State Election but the emphasis on climate is either lacking or not to the fore of their promotions*. So far there are ‘voices’ candidates in Hawthorn, Kew, Caufield and Mornington, and no doubt others that I have missed or are yet to declare their candidacy. Dr Kate Lardner will be running in the electorate of Mornington and her website clearly states the importance of the ‘climate’ issue. For a short time, she was the facilitator of the Gippsland2020 group meeting in Sale. I am unaware of any climate independents standing in any of the Gippsland electorates.

At the moment polls indicate that the ALP are comfortably ahead. Hopefully, like the recent Federal election, climate independents and the Greens can make serious inroads into both the major party numbers. Also hopefully, the Greens remember to direct their preferences to any serious climate independents.

*this may be because of media treatment, or lack of it. Sophie Torney in Kew for one is emphasizing climate in her campaign and Sophie, Kate and Melissa Lowe in Hawthorn are all supported by Climate 200

Could Bairnsdale Burn?

(The Guardian)

The London fires in July left me with the feeling that the historic fire of London could be repeated, and if so, is any residential area safe from the catastrophic fires the climate emergency helps create. An article in The Observer noted that 41 houses burnt in three locations as the temperatures approached 40C and a comparison of this recent event was made with the great fire of London in 1666. 

“Guillermo Rein, professor of fire science at Imperial College London, said that strong winds played a major factor in spreading the 1666 fire, which lasted for four days and ended when soldiers blew up houses to create fire breaks, and the strong easterly wind died down. ‘While it was blowing, the [great fire of London] was completely unstoppable’ he said. ‘So let’s put it this way. Tuesday could have been even worse if we had more wind.’ Gusts reached 14mph last week, barely above average.”

There have been a number of examples in North America of substantial towns being destroyed by bushfires. Examples in Victoria include Marysville in the Black Saturday fires of 2009 when whole rows of houses burned and at a number of locations in the Black Summers fires when many residences were lost – all or nearly all, in rural locations. During these recent fires a number of substantial towns were threatened, including Bairnsdale, and the fires advanced at a terrifying pace on a number of occasions.

These fires were the third I had prepared for in the last 20 years, although the first in an urban situation, and there was little I could do beyond keeping a close ear to the ABC emergency radio. Fortunately, the conditions were benign and the threat passed. But we are left with the question ‘Could Bairnsdale burn?’ and the answer is almost certainly yes.

A bushfire that approached the town during catastrophic ‘code red’ conditions would almost certainly make severe inroads destroying many residences and taking lives. The river flats and the river are easily surmountable obstacles and the combustible material in urban environments is plentiful – wooden fences and buildings, trees and shrubs, cars, even asphalt roads. As global warming gets worse we should be making detailed plans for the defence of the town.

Local ‘Voices’ Group Forms

Helen Haines current member for Indi

Media Release 25th August 2022

A number of local citizens have had three meetings to date to discuss the formation of a Voices of The East group (VoTE) based in Bairnsdale. “Voices” groups provide a means whereby more people can have their say about what issues are important in their lives and what they as individuals can do about them. The “Voices” groups are non-party political and are not a political party. Anyone who is not already a member of any political party and who is concerned about honesty, integrity and the state of our Australia democracy within all levels of government, may join these groups.*

The “Voices for Indi” group was active in the federal seat of Indi (won by Cathy McGowan in 2013), and more recently “Voices” community independent candidates won six seats in the May 2022 election. Currently there are several “Voices” community groups supporting community independent candidates for the November Victorian state election.

Some of the agreed basic principles of Voices of The East or VoTE are integrity, honesty and transparency, trust, respect, inclusivity and equality. A spokesperson said Voices of The East plans to organise a series of kitchen table conversations (KTCs) around East Gippsland. KTCs are small friendly groups of friends, neighbours or family who want to express and prioritise what’s important and to have their say.

Interested people are warmly invited to take up this unique opportunity to join VoTE and perhaps offer to help or attend KTCs in their towns and villages around East Gippsland.

Contact Grace on gracemc1936@gmail.com

*the Climate 200 organization supported many of the successful candidates in the recent Federal election and is supporting some ‘Voices’ candidates in the approaching State election. The three essential issues that the so-called ‘teal’ candidates ran on were climate change, integrity and gender and would apply generally to all levels of politics. Blog on Voices for Monash here .

Our Climate Election: a small step in the right direction

As the dust settles on the Federal election and Labor’s climate legislation passes both houses it is clear that this has been the first true ‘climate election’ – something I, and many others, have been calling for years. The final results saw great gains for the climate independents (from 4 to 10) and the greens (from 1 to 4) in the lower house and one new climate independent in the Senate. In the Senate the Greens and climate independent Pocock hold the balance of power. Less publicised has been the demise of a number of climate change deniers through retirement (Kevin Andrews) or defeat (Eric Abetz) although the LNP have still managed to introduce a few new climate troglodytes.

For those doubting the climate election the ABC noted that “according to the ABC’s Vote Compass, more people listed climate change as their most important issue this election than any other topic. Amazingly that was true not just overall, but in every single electorate in the country except for two — Longman and Flynn — where it was the second-most mentioned issue after cost of living.” Perhaps that alone helps explain the rise of ‘teals’ in safe liberal seats and the defeat of prominent party members – so called ‘Liberal moderates”.

But we must remember that all the powerful climate-denying lobbies still exist and are active, as is the poisonous filth emanating from the Murdoch media still attempting to dictate the agenda. The ALP too is in receipt of generous donations from the fossil fuel industry and appears to consider gas and fossil fuel exploration OK. A bipartisan approach on climate appears too much to hope for and the LNP (with one exception) have signalled their continued opposition by opposing Labors modest 43% bill.

With the State Election fast approaching, both major parties would do well to remember that the Climate Emergency is well and truly upon us, and business as usual no longer appropriate. At least one source indicates that the ALP could achieve their greenhouse emissions reductions target of 2030 simply by ceasing logging of our native forests now.

My EV journey Continues Part 3 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

What surprised you the most when you switch to an EV?

While everyone had done their homework before getting an EV and knew they could outperform most ICEs in a drag race, nearly all were surprised at how truly phenomenal the acceleration is (or can be, if you don’t use an “eco-switch” to limit it and save energy).

What disappointed you the most when you switched to an EV?

The only disappointments mentioned were not to do with the EVs themselves, but rather the slow rollout of: (a) any meaningful government policy on EVs, which has left us well behind where we could have been in terms of the types of car available and their price – relative to many other countries, there’s still not a lot to choose from and they are still more expensive than they should be; (b) rapid charging stations – depending on the size of your battery, this can be a particular problem if you want to go through Gippsland and up the south coast of NSW.

They are coming, but if you have an EV now, you need the chargers to be there now too; and (c) bi-directional charging, which I spoke about in my previous article – it allows you to charge your car for free on solar during the day then use it to power your home in the evening.  Bi-directional charging technology operates fine overseas and is coming to Australia, but its not here yet.

What would you have done differently?

My favourite answer to this question was “Buy an EV earlier!”.  A couple of people mentioned that they could have done more research before buying but then, on reflection, both said any trepidation they had about getting an EV was unfounded because they are totally happy with what they have, so more research would probably only have led them to the same conclusion.

The final question sums up the experience in one simple score that I believe says it all: on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (ecstatic) – how pleased are you that you bought an EV?  Apart from one self-declared “hard marker’’ who rated their experience “around 8”, all scores were between 9.5 and 11! 

In other words, once they got over any teething difficulties, these EV pioneers are ecstatic about their decision to switch to an all-electric car.

*Full article here.

My EV journey Continues Part 2 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

What’s the best thing about owning an EV?

The answers were split between the “feel-good” factor on one hand: knowing you’ve organised your personal transport as best you can to minimise your contribution to the mounting climate crisis; and the “petrol head” answer on the other: it’s a simple fact that as far as acceleration goes, a standard EV beats a standard ICE hands down every time.

Also, not having to pay for petrol ever again rates pretty highly, particularly as petrol price rises make the economics of driving an EV more and more appealing, as did the option of single-pedal driving – Nissan call this the e-pedal, a “way of including a gentle but effective braking effect (regenerative braking) on the accelerator pedal.  You will very rarely need to use the brake pedal (which is why brakes pads last a very long time on EVs)”. 

But it’s not all beer and skittles, so I also asked what is the worst thing about owning an EV? The clear winner again was range anxiety (or range hesitancy or uncertainty). 

“It is important to calculate your day to day driving distance and make sure you buy a car that has twice that range”. The EV tells you the percentage charge you have left in your battery at any given time, and it also converts that into a guestimate of how many kilometres you have to go. But the actual distance you have left depends on a range of factors, as it does with an ICE, like whether you use the heater or the air conditioner, how many people in the car, tyre pressure, whether you are driving on the open road or stop-start, whether the terrain is hilly or flat, the battery’s temperature, etc.

So you are never quite sure exactly how much is left, thus the conventional wisdom of never running down to below about 10 or 15% of the battery’s capacity.  “Having driven the car for over 20,000kms, I’m still watching the Range figure constantly, even though I know I’ll have around 100kms of range left after driving to Melbourne or the Latrobe Valley and back to the Bass Coast”…

Fortunately, we have a several rapid charging options in Bass Coast and the council will soon be installing four more as part of their plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.  But another note of caution: if you will be reliant on a particular rapid charging station for a trip, it can pay to check beforehand that it is in working order (vandalism is a problem at some locations) and that the technology is compatible with your vehicle (it’s VHS versus Betamax all over again when it comes to the plugs – it’s not that hard to work out what you need but it does take a little doing at the start and you don’t want to be relying on a charger that doesn’t work with your particular vehicle).

*Full article here.

My EV journey Continues Part 1 by Michael Nugent

Republished from Bass Coast Post* with permission.

I’d like to share what some of the pioneer EV drivers in Bass Coast say they have discovered about going all-electric, which might help you fill in a few gaps if you are thinking of making the leap. I asked Cassie Wright and Rob Gray (Nissan Leaf), Donald Ellsmore and Cheryl Padgett (Volvo XC40), Werner and Ursula Theinert (Nissan Leaf), and our Mayor, Cr Michael Whelan (Hyundi Kona) about their experiences. This is what I learned.

Jumping straight in the deep end: what’s the most important thing anyone thinking about buying an EV needs to know? The consistent answer was to understand the difference between an EV and an ICE car (internal combustion engine) and remember to do a bit of planning before taking off.  Fuelling an EV is not a simple matter of stopping for a few minutes to buy petrol at one of the zillion petrol stations between where you are and where you want to go. 

​“Whilst it is nice to not have to study the big illuminated fuel price signs at service stations, it was comforting to know they were there when needed during the days of diesel car ownership.” If you’re just going into town and pottering around, which is what most people use their car for most of the time, then making sure you are sufficiently powered up is not hard.  Either use your own, free electricity to charge up at home on a sunny day, or plug in overnight to use off-peak electricity using the EV’s inbuilt timer to turn charging on and off.  You can charge slowly through a normal power point using a portable charger (a heavy duty cable with a box in the middle), or you can install a home charger (a dedicated unit on a wall near where you park your car, inside or outside) to speed up the process.  Either way, it’s not too difficult.

But if you are going on a longer trip, you’ll need to do a bit of planning: how far are you going, how big is your battery (some will make it to Melbourne and back without needing a charge; others not so), how “full” will your battery be when you take off, will you be able to charge up overnight if you are staying away, will you need to use rapid charging stations along the way. If so where are they and how long will you need to stay at each?  Sound hard?  Not really.  There are websites (like www.abetterrouteplanner.com) and phone apps (like www.chargefox.com/) that work much of it out for you, and if you do the same trip a few times (like Melbourne and back) you’ll learn the routine pretty quickly.

*Full article here.

Darren Doesn’t Care Part 2 by Tony Peck

It is actually impossible to plan to ensure a decent future for a community when your government and all its policies were spent denying there is a problem. They spent their time vehemently arguing that we should burn fossil fuels indefinitely. Chester has avoided planning for a decent future by his ‘I’m not as concerned as you’ attitude. To his credit Chester did have a moment where he bravely stood up to extremists in his own party and advocated the acceptance of the dangerously inadequate net zero by 2050 target eventually reluctantly accepted by his government. There are few places in Australia with a better infrastructure for a renewable future with a comprehensive distribution system already in place. However Chester’s government delayed until it belatedly updated legislation to allow offshore wind farms in Australian waters.

His government has long actively thwarted plans for wind, solar and other renewable energy solutions. His government made Australia an International pariah as they acted to delay uptake of renewables. The uncertain future for our regions workers is directly tied to this delay and uncertainty, and to Chester’s own government’s dedication to a fossil fuel future despite the harm this will cause to generations to come. Indeed we are seeing serious impacts already, with intense, widespread fires, frequent intense storms, rain events, floods. Scientists have long predicted these outcomes but Chester’s government has gone against recommended actions at every step.

Chester should acknowledge that as well as the employment of people in the Valley the future of our nation is at risk. We are the 13th largest economy in the world. We also have amongst the highest per capita emissions in the developed world. Our governments have committed us to ongoing mining of fossil fuels and indeed exploration which will feed even more emissions in future. Scientists are predicting that impacts of global heating on Australia will be severe.

This man wasted time when he could make a difference and has left every person not only in Gippsland, but the nation, in a worse place. To now express concern for employees disadvantaged by his government’s inaction is pathetic. There is no justification in delaying the transition to renewables. Those adversely affected by the change must be supported and given a real future as part of addressing the climate emergency. 

*there are a number of critical blogs of Darren’s position on climate. See here and here. The author is a member of EGCAN

Darren Doesn’t Care Part 1 by Tony Peck

Darren Chester* has published a long post on his Facebook page discussing the Integrated System Plan (ISP) recently released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Chester’s response includes a summary of the plan, but his focus quite rightly is Gippsland. One of the key points Chester advocates is a delay in closure of the remaining brown coal power stations as they ‘only’ contribute 7.5% of our national electricity grids emissions and Australia only emits 1.5% of global emissions. He justifies this due to his concern for the workers employed in the fossil fuel industry.

Chester’s argument has sparked my anger. I was one of the East Gippsland Climate Action Network members that met with Chester in 2019, not long before the unprecedented fires that engulfed much of the East coast of Australia. Chester’s response to our anxiety about the rate of global heating and his government’s poor response to action was that he was not as concerned as we were. Of course we probably already had low expectations as Chester has consistently and indeed always voted with his government as they have eliminated the price on carbon, eviscerated every policy that was designed to reduce emissions and stymied effective action by states and industry to tackle the global emergency.

So this man, who was an active opponent of change, is berating the lack of care for people in his electorate who will lose work when the power plants close. Where was his planning and care for a transition when he was in power? Where was his foresight in ensuring new industries were in place to ensure a viable future for the region? Where was his support for a just transition from fossil fuel to a renewable energy led future for our region? Where indeed is his care for the people of Australia as they increasingly suffer the devastating effects of climate change. (to be continued)

*there are a number of critical blogs of Darren’s position on climate. See here and here.