Gippsland Climate News

My Nungurner 2013 Speech Part 2

Speaking (in blue hat) middle left. Image Heather Oke.

Business as Usual

Digging up and burning or selling every bit of fossil fuel we can find – is a recipe for disaster. Observations around the world indicate that we already are headed that way. Examples include the decline in glaciers and ice sheets around the earth – especially the Arctic – and the increase in number and severity of extreme weather events. Heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms bushfires. The recent fires in NSW were not caused by climate change. However scientists predicted more than twenty years ago that we would get more bushfires and worse ones.

Why were the NSW fire events called unprecedented and unparalleled? Because they occurred in October extending the previous fire season. In Victoria we have had in the last decade 3 bushfires that can be termed one in one hundred year events – 2003, 2006/7 and 2009. It is a foretaste of the future. In all of these events I was living at Ensay. We were directly threatened by both the 2003 and 2006/7 fires. On each of these occasions my family and I assumed the worst – that the fire would come to us – and we worked hard each day preparing for that eventuality. This is what many of us did during these threatening situations. We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

But what are we doing about climate change? At the moment we are going backwards. We have elected governments at all levels whose main priority is business as usual. We have just elected a Federal government intent on dismantling the small advances the previous government made on climate. At best these politicians – including our prime minister – give lip service to the science. At worst they are firmly in the denialist/confusionist camp.

There are formidable forces that are opposed to any action on climate change. They oppose by spreading doubt and confusion and thus the need for action. They spread their influence widely through the media, politicians and the political process. The fossil fuel lobby includes the largest, wealthiest, most influential companies in the world. The largest company on Earth – Exxon – has been funding the denialist camp for more than 20 years. In Australia the world’s richest woman has been vehemently opposed to the so called carbon tax. Why? Perhaps because she is a part owner of a huge coal mine in the Warwick basin in Queensland that plans to export to India. Coal is the main offender in terms of climate change. In the burning process each ton of pure coal is converted into more than 3 tons of carbon dioxide. (To be concluded)

*Get Up Climate Action Day 17.11.2013. Part 1 is here.

My Nungurner 2013 Speech Part 1

Introduction

My name is Peter Gardner and I call myself a climate emergency activist. I have lived in the Omeo district for forty years and am now retired to Bairnsdale.*

The notice for the “Climate Action Day” from Get Up said: “This is your chance to be part of something huge, something important. On Sunday we will stand together with tens of thousands of Australians across the country and demand our nation do better on climate change. When history looks back, we will be remembered for how we responded to this challenge. Historians will write about two groups. Those who took action, and those who remained silent.”

Climate science is one of the most complicated subjects on earth. I urge you to trust the scientists rather than the politicians in this matter. In a highly specialised society much of what we do is based on trust. We trust the pilot when we fly. We trust our doctors when we consult them. So unless you are curious about all the detail – and there’s plenty of that with five peer reviewed articles published on climate science daily around the world – here are the three things you need to know about climate change.

First the Greenhouse effect is a physical law like gravity. It was discovered in the 1820s and it keeps the earth warm. Without the greenhouse effect the earth would be 30 degrees cooler – a ball of ice and snow. Second methane and carbon dioxide are the main greenhouse gases. They are in effect the earth’s thermostat – increase them and the temperature rises and vice versa. Third since the industrial revolution we have been turning up the earth’s thermostat – from about 280ppm to 400ppm of carbon dioxide and it is getting measurably warmer.**

The land here at the Jetty was last the ocean front between 10 and 20 thousand years ago. It is a sobering thought that this may be the ocean front again in as little as one to two hundred years. When the carbon dioxide concentrations were last at 400 ppm – about 3 million years ago in the Pliocene age – earth’s average temperature was 2 to 3 degrees warmer and sea levels were about 25m higher.

Steven Sherwood of the UNSW in the New Scientist of 17.11.12 summarised our dilemma of burning fossil fuels. He said: “It looks like 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.” James Hansen formerly of NASA argues that exploiting all fossil fuels will lead to a “different, practically uninhabitable planet” by causing a “low-end runaway greenhouse effect” and “that the large climate change from burning all fossil fuels would threaten the biological health and survival of humanity”…. It would appear that the situation is far worse than we are being told. (To be continued)

*Get Up Climate Action Day 17.11.2013

** CO2 levels now around 420ppm

Environment Victoria Autumn News

Environment Victoria has been a strong campaigner for climate action for many years. Their most recent Quarterly News (Autumn No 35) has a number of items on Gippsland. They include “Communities Leading Change in the Latrobe Valley” about scientist Ruth Harper who works in the renewable energy sector; “New Bushfires Film looks beyond the burning”* which has the voices of East Gippsland bushfire survivors; and “Community Power stops AGL’s dirty gas plan” on how Australia’s biggest polluter’s gas plan for Westernport Bay was thwarted.

But perhaps the most important article is “The Road to Coal Free Victoria” by Taegan Edwards. She began her article by stating the obvious “Renewables are in and coal is out” and then added “Almost every day the Australian media speculate about the shortening lifetime of the remaining coal-burning power stations.” The article briefly looks at the failure of the Federal government to act, either on phasing out the coal-fired stations as quickly as possible or encouraging their renewable energy replacements. The state government is quite advanced with the latter action.

On the recently announced  proposed closure of Yallourn Edwards noted “2028 is too long to keep Yallourn polluting especially considering the 2030 timeline that scientists say we need for all coal in Victoria to close…it also indicates Victoria’s long awaited climate targets for 2025 and 2030 will be out of step with what the science demands.” She concludes Things are shifting fast. The clean energy juggernought now seems unstoppable and our exit from coal inevitable. But we must double down on our efforts…keep sight of urgent climate action milestones and focus on support for communities on the frontlines of change”

Along with the work of Friends of the Earth, Environment Victoria is to be congratulated for this local focus. Without this, there can be no just, or rapid, transition.

*already screened in Bairnsdale. Environment Victoria website is here.

Letter to the Bairnsdale Advertiser by Tony Peck

Hidden on page 20

The Advertiser seems to think there is still a debate on climate change. The Point of View by David Peckham does not deserve space in our local paper. The people quoted in the piece represent the views of fewer than 3% of climate scientists and giving their disproven views yet another run is wasting precious time better used taking action. 

We are in a climate emergency. More than 97% of climate scientists support the need for urgent action on man-made climate change. If a local bridge was deemed dangerous to cross by 9 of the local engineers with only 1 saying it should be OK, would we drive across? The scientific climate consensus is even more strongly decided than this example.

The discussion needs to focus on the details of what we do right now. The Victorian Governments response last week is a start. But even this is not ambitious enough to meet the goals needed to ensure we avoid the worst rises in global temperatures. East Gippsland of all places should be desperately pushing for more action after experiencing the devastating fires of 2020-21.

The reality is that we must act, we need all levels of government to work together as they have with the COVID pandemic. With luck and very serious hard work we may keep global temperatures below 1.5°C. Every fraction of a degree under 2°C will lead to a more tolerable and liveable world for our younger generations. They deserve a future as rich and diverse as older people like me have experienced.

*published on 13.5. The Author is a member of EGCAN, Bairnsdale XR and a contributor to this blog.

Building our Sustainable House in Metung by Ray McNamara

When the opportunity came up to build a new house from scratch we* decided to implement our passion and build a “Solar Passive” style of house. Lots of big windows facing north for light and winter heat. Cross flow ventilation to cool it down in summer and big verandas to shade the big windows. Plus, a concrete slab to soak up the winter sun and keep it cosy. We did not have a specific plan, but knew it would be a simple pavilion style of layout. And, compact, and, we want to be able to live in it for as long into our older age as possible. We reckoned we should be able to get an 8 Star house that delivered those outcomes.

But, we also knew that we needed a builder who thought along the same lines. And we found him doing a job just around the corner. We could see from inspecting his work that he was a stickler for detail. We liked that. So, we engaged him to be our builder before we had the house plans drawn up, and he agreed to work with us (and a yet to be appointed designer) to design a comfy and compact 2 bedroom home.

Then the surprise came! He told us about the added benefits of adding a “Passive House” overlay to our basic solar passive ideals. And, we agreed. Not only because he is an accredited Passive House (PH) constructor, but we could see the long term benefits of a really low energy house. The PH add-ons are essentially super insulation to the external skin of the house (floors, walls and ceilings), creating an airtight interior (no draughts) and supplying filtered clean air into the building at times when all the windows and doors are closed. This was great during the bushfires and the recent cool burns – we could live inside and not smell smoke. We know how much these add-ons costed. Not a lot really.

We also know what we did not have to spend. No open fireplace or wood heater. No large reverse cycle air con – the first retailer we spoke to in Bairnsdale wanted to sell us an 8kW system. We only needed 3kW. He would not sell that one to us because he feared we would claim damages against him when it did not work.

Going down the PH path added about 10% to the building cost. But without spending that bit extra, we would not be getting an annual refund from our electricity supplier of $500. And, no firewood to buy. Overall, we achieved a super low energy house (it is all electric) powered by solar PV and a grid connection. It performs better than we expected. And it did not break the budget.

*The author, and his partner Fran Carroll. They are members of the Metung Science Forum

The New Climate War – a brief review

Michael Mann is the most prominent and popular climate scientist since James Hansen. His book The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet (Scribe, 2021)* tells in detail how vested interests retard meaningful progress on climate change. The science is in. And climate deniers have been replaced by climate ‘inactivists’. The forces of inaction now employ a range of more subtle tactics than the deniers. They are “downplayers, deflectors, dividers, delayers and doomers” (p.45) and each of Mann’s categories is examined in detail in the book. All climate activists should be able to recognise them and counter them where possible.  

Resident in Australia during the black summer Mann is conversant with the climate denialism of the current Canberra incumbents. He noted “there is no will in the current Australian government to do anything about it [climate change] other than promoting ‘adaption and ‘resilience’. Such framing has been front and centre in the messaging of Australia’s fossil-fuel-industry-coddling prime minister, Scott Morrison.” (p.175)

Mann describes in detail how the fossil fuel industry uses social media bots and trolls to manipulate public opinion and sow division and cause polarisation. “A favoured approach is to seed a prospective online discussion with trolls or bots aggressively advocating opposite positions and acrimoniously attacking each other. Pretty soon a melee unfolds. This has, of course, been specifically done in the climate arena.” (p.71)

The question of individual actions verses those of governments is a theme throughout the book. Of course, individual action is to a certain extent important as teaching by example and leading the way. But the guts of the matter is that we will never make headway in the climate emergency without concerted government actions across the globe. Mann details the ‘crying Indian’ campaign as a subtle but persuasive example of deflection. The Morrison government promotion of technological cures and a ‘gas led’ recovery are good examples of deflection, ignoring the need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible.

In the introduction Mann lists a four point ‘battle plan’ to counter the ‘inactivists’: 1) “disregard the doomsayers” 2) “a child shall lead them” 3) “educate, educate, educate” and 4) “Changing the system requires systemic change”. (p.6) I like them all but especially the ‘educate’ advice. To find out more please read the book and act as best you can for systemic change.

*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library

Voices for Monash

A voices group has been organised in the electorate of Monash covering west and south Gippsland. It is currently operating a twitter page and has 100 followers. Following the success of Cathy McGowan and the Voices for Indi (V4I), voices groups have been ‘mushrooming’ around Australia, forming in every state except Tasmania, which of course, already has the strong independent Andrew Wilkie, MHR for Denison.

The history of the V4I and the election of Independent Cathy McGowan, and now Dr Helen Haines, is an intriguing political story. I asked good friend and regular Gippsland holidaymaker, Andrew Kimber of Wangaratta, who has been active in the V4I movement, especially in the early years, about this. Andy noted that “the situation in Indi in 2013 was quite unique and so our example doesn’t readily apply to other electorates where the standing member is popular/seen as doing a reasonable job” referring to the previous, unpopular sitting member.

Andrew emphasized the importance of strong local connections for any candidate, as well as possible connections with the conservative side of politics. This applied to Cathy McGowan but also to the only Independent to represent Gippsland East in state parliament, Craig Ingram. Then in “late 2012 a small group… got together at the Wang library to initiate things… – local leaders with excellent skills eg Cathy herself and people like friend Tony Lane – local health professional who works with all levels of government. They initially were planning to “just” talk to S[ophy]M[irabella] about their/our issues…” She gave them 10 minutes and the V4I was born. Current representative Helen Haines is particularly strong on the transition to renewable energy and, preferably, that it is locally owned and regionally located.

As anger rises about climate change denial, support for the fossil fuel industry, inactivity or opposition to sensible policies promoting renewable energy and electric vehicles, or the so-called ‘gas led recovery’, the hold on Federal government by the coalition is tenuous. When we add other issues to the long list of climate policy failures, including the treatment of women and the coronavirus vaccine stuff-ups, no coalition seat is safe. Thanks are due in part, to those V4I pioneers. Thanks also for the entry of Voices for Monash into the fray.

A best case for climate action and Australia is for more ‘Voices’ and independent candidates to get elected and that a sensible minority government, along the lines of Julia Gillard’s administration, and with a strong and enlarged crossbench, is installed in Canberra.

My Art on Ocean Acidification by Ray Dahlstrom

Our Carbon Footprint

Since coming to the Bass Coast 12 years ago I have used art as a means to develop awareness of the increased amount of CO2 in our oceans. As water acidifies by absorbing carbon dioxide, organisms with carbonate shells and skeletons are threatened. When carbon dioxide levels are high enough, the structure will break down, leaving only invertebrates, which then proliferate.

Many jellyfish (medusazoa), are present in my current paintings, as for me, jellyfish symbolise what will be left of marine life if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. The ocean will not only heat up, but the ecology of marine life will change forever. Ocean heating and acidification are already causing many problems for marine life, for example, dramatic change is apparent in the Antarctic, where the warming waters release carbon dioxide causing shelled creatures to dissolve in the corrosive conditions. This affects food sources for fish, birds, and marine mammals. The science is clear and the arts need to support the science.

I have created a ‘tongue in cheek’ t-shirt series with the text, ‘CO2 – Jellyfish and Chips’ (for more on this see here and here. Ed.). When it first became available it was seen by many as a very obscure message, but in recent times, it is becoming more understood. If we continue to change the structure of the ocean, the Friday night take-away won’t be fish and chips, but something a little different. Recently I have read an article that states that cooked jellyfish doesn’t taste too bad, but I don’t know whether I am ready to try it. Hopefully, if we change our lifestyles and attitude to fossil fuels, I won’t need to, and can start working on some other themes.

*the Author is an Inverloch artist who has worked on a number of climate related themes including Black Saturday, Our Carbon Footprint and January 2020.

Beyond Climate Grief – a brief review by Angela Crunden

Beyond Climate Grief by Jonica Newby (NewSouth Publishing, 2021)

Dr Jonica Newby is an author, director and science reporter of 20 years. She is best known for her role on the ABC TV science program Catalyst. She lives in New South Wales with her partner, ABC Science Show presenter Robyn Williams.

Her most recent work, Beyond Climate Grief is a book of deep emotions laid bare with rare honesty and personal exposure. It is a memoir driven by fear, love and a powerful affection for snow that, for Newby, was met with overwhelming sorrow at the realisation she was witnessing a rapidly diminishing alpine beauty.

In writing this very readable, chatty and touching book, no one can complain that Newby has skimped on the research. Amongst many others she has sought the wisdom of comedians, social scientists, farmers, musicians and fire victims in her quest to unlock answers to dealing with climate grief. She shares wonderful stories and revelations with humour and grace.

Faced, as we are, with denial, dithering and ineffectual policies at the highest levels of government, the chapter on leadership gives special reason for hope. She talks of the proliferation of climate groups large and small; Protect Our Winters, a lobby group with 100,000 members worldwide, Vets, Parents, Surfers, and even Athletes for Climate Action through to the Victorian school in Castlemaine that spawned a worldwide student protest.

For those of us needing some wind in our sails, this is an ultimately positive and helpful book that doesn’t shy away from even the darkest corners of climate science. It leaves us with hope and the equipment to maintain or even join the fight for a better future.

Useful pamphlets produced by the Australian Psychological Society and mentioned in the book:

– How to talk to kids about climate change

– How to raise kids in a climate altered world

*the Author is a member of EGCAN and Bairnsdale XR

Our Household Battery Storage Part 2 by John Hermans

Abridged version of article first published in RENEW No 155

As 2020 came around so did the strong demand and desire for Lithium batteries. This changing demand in battery chemistry (lead to Lithium) created a slump in the value of any used LAB technology, to the point that I can now obtain these batteries free. I am expecting to own a set of Lithium batteries in the near future, that perhaps come from an upgraded battery out of an EV, quite possibly our own Nissan Leaf EV when it gets to a point of range reduction that requires its replacement.

The installing of used EV Lithium batteries into household energy banks has been suggested for some time. At the Tesla battery day announcement late last year, Elon Musk…described the new 4680 cell design that was both more energy dense and less costly…Its packaging which will be changed in such a way that the new ‘battery box’ will double up as part of the vehicles chassis, leading to a lighter weight vehicle and more cost reductions.

The downside is, these new energy dense lithium ion batteries (designed to last beyond the mechanics of the car), will not be able to be removed as either smaller units or as a whole battery, as they will be welded into place along with the entire body shell. Such an outcome will no doubt put a reduced value on these vehicles once the body/ battery becomes unrepairable from collisions.

Herein lies my future battery bank, far be it that they ever make it to the scrap yard. These modern but road dead EV supercars could be permanently parked alongside off-grid and even on-grid homes, with DC supply wires going to readily available hybrid inverters, giving any household the opportunity to have a massive energy store at an exceptionally low cost, with a Mad Max look in our future power demanding world.

*the author is a regular contributor to Renew and occasional contributor to this blog. He is a member of East Gippsland Climate Action Network.