Gippsland News & Views

Three Climate Letters in the Advertiser

The following letters were published in the Bairnsdale Advertiser on 16 August and are re-published here with some small editorial changes. 

1.Under the headline ‘Wake up to Madness’ in last week’s Advertiser Have Your Say section, the author denies that climate change is happening. I heartily endorse the headline, but not the letter’s content. Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland recently wrote “I believe that climate change denial is not just ignorant, it is malign, it is evil…The evidence about the effects of climate change is incontrovertible, and the moral case for urgent action indisputable”.

Local action groups, like East Gippsland Climate Action Network and the Extinction Rebellion are working to ensure that government policies change to reflect the emergency of global warming. I for one will be supporting the students and others participating in the Schools Strike 4 Climate protest planned for September 20 in Bairnsdale as one step in advocating for effective policies. Tony Peck Bairnsdale

2.I am writing to respond to the recent letter denying the role of CO2 in global warming. While I am sure the author has strong opinions… I wonder what he understands about science and the scientific method.

When I want medical advice I see a GP who draws on hundreds of years of scientific knowledge to advise me. Some people choose to ignore this accumulated knowledge and believe that vaccinations are a conspiracy by governments and the United Nations and cause autism. They believe this despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.

Climate science relies on the advice of meteorologists, physicists, glaciologists, geologists, oceanographers and many other sciences to reach their conclusions and they use the same scientific method which informs our GPs. Have all those thousands of scientists around the world and across many disciplines got it wrong? Or does the writer believe that there is a worldwide conspiracy involving NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology, the United Nations and every major scientific organisation in the world?

If I get a pain in my chest I have a choice. I can rely on medical science to investigate and treat a potentially life threatening condition, or I can ask some bloke with strong opinions but not much scientific training. Mark Kilpatrick Bairnsdale

3.In response to J*** M*********’s letter published on August 8 – we  have no time for climate debate. Our efforts are best devoted to working together to create the safest planet using the smartest solutions – and to do it in a way that avoids economic chaos as well as environmental chaos in the challenge we all face. Robyn Hermans Clifton Creek

Greta Thunberg and our Media

The bitter and personal attack on young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg by Murdoch ‘hit man’ Andrew Bolt has been echoed by reactionary journos and commentators everywhere (see here and here). But this is a ‘David and Goliath’ struggle of mammoth proportions. ‘David’ of course is Greta Thunberg and ‘Goliath’ the combination of fossil fuel vested interests and reactionary media and politicians around the globe, both immensely rich and powerful.

But Greta is no longer a single teenager striking from school on Fridays to protest the inaction of governments on climate change. Almost overnight the ‘strike for climate’ took off and has been repeated amongst students and their supporters world-wide numbering in their millions. It is this movement that clearly has the vested interests worried. And they should be for Greta’s message is simple, urgent and common sense – unite behind the science.

The media is all powerful in this struggle but their resolve and, or inaction on climate change, is weakening. A number of media organisations – mainly online but including the BBC, the Guardian and SBS – are now freely mentioning and screening Greta’s activities. Supposedly ‘middle of the road’ publications like the Melbourne Age (from which I have recently unsubscribed) have yet to mention her in any detail. The media generally sees no contradiction in denying or ignoring a critically important part of science whilst existing in a society based on science – from medicine through to smart phones and computers. They are in reality ‘flat earthers’ even if they cannot comprehend or visualise the fact. The conservatism of the print media on the ‘climate emergency’ may well be its death knell.

Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland recently stated “I believe that climate change denial is not just ignorant, it is malign, it is evil…The evidence about the effects of climate change is incontrovertible, and the moral case for urgent action indisputable”. Something for everyone in the media to ponder, especially those ignoring the science and those led by the climate criminals of News Corp.

This year the newly formed East Gippsland Climate Action Network has had two die-in demonstrations in Bairnsdale. On both occasions brief excerpts from Greta’s speeches were read to the gathering on the climate emergency (our house is on fire) and accepting the science (even a small child can understand it). Both demonstrations have been reported in the conservative Bairnsdale Advertiser. Now we look forward to the student strikes in Bairnsdale, Sale and Traralgon (and others) on September 20. The wheel is slowly turning but the battle against ‘Goliath’ continues not yet won.

Climate Crimes against Humanity and the Murdoch Media

The online definition of ‘Crimes against Humanity’ is “a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign that causes human suffering or death on a large scale”. There can be no doubt that fossil fuel vested interests have known for a long time that catastrophic climate change may result from the continued sales of their product. Exxon (aka Esso) for example has been aware of this for forty years. From the 1990s many of these companies launched a ‘systematic campaign’ to either discredit or confuse the science to enable them to continue selling their products.

Further this campaign – conducted in the mass media and through favourite politicians and commentators – has been highly successful. And there can be no doubt that in the last 20 years extreme weather events (predominantly heatwaves, droughts) have caused ‘human suffering or death on a large scale’. Examples include the Paris heatwave causing 15,000 deaths in 2003, the Russian drought of 2010 leading to the Arab Spring and the Syrian drought leading to the civil war and a massive exodus of refugees. In Australia the heatwave preceding the Black Saturday bushfires caused an extra 370 fatalities – not something you read about in the media.

It follows then that the actions of the fossil fuel companies and their organisations promoting climate change denial – including various politicians and media players – have been (and are) committing crimes against humanity. Due to inertia in the climate system the successful campaigns of the climate change deniers may be the difference between harsh but manageable effects and catastrophic results threatening human existence itself.

In Australia the near print monopoly of News Corp (controlled and directed by climate denier in-chief Rupert Murdoch) and their media organisations have set the agenda for the denial of climate science to be accepted politically and generally in the community. This agenda leads other media organisations such as Fairfax and the ABC to be hesitant in their advocacy of the science. The reluctance of politicians to adopt meaningful measures in Australia is heavily influenced by the Murdoch media. Thus, from the mogul himself down, his acolytes and mercenaries in the Australian, and on Sky News, the obnoxious Andrew Bolt, the sundry radio ‘shock jocks’ and fellow travellers, it follows that they are all ‘climate criminals’.

If I were to attack someone in the street I would be charged with a crime and rightly imprisoned. Yet these purveyors of lies and deniers of climate science continue unhindered despite helping perpetuate ‘crimes against humanity’ which may eventually be much worse than the Nazi holocaust.

A Renewable Energy Superpower Lecture

Norway in the near future?

I recently delivered a power point lecture at the Bairnsdale U3A on Australia (and Gippsland) as a renewable energy superpower based on the need to change from fossil fuel based industry to renewables as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. In doing so I relied heavily on a Beyond Zero Emissions paper of the same title and the feedback reigns website.

After an historical introduction on the greenhouse effect and the role of climate inertia in the climate emergency the advantages and options of having a renewables revolution in Australia and our region were examined.  The importance for Gippsland cannot be overstated when much of our local economy is dependent on fossil fuel based industries and others like logging that have to be rapidly phased out in any real emergency action.

A wide range of options were examined including solar, wind, pumped hydro, batteries, other forms of energy storage, green blue and brown hydrogen, burning rubbish for energy, pyrolysis, geothermal and even the possibilities of nuclear generation. The performance criteria for the options being that they were carbon neutral, could be established rapidly within a 10 year time frame, and either were not capital intensive or had ready finance. Consequently many of the options for Gippsland failed including burning rubbish (produces greenhouse gases) brown hydrogen (ditto) and nuclear (establishment time and capital requirements). The options of manufacturing electric vehicles included the establishment of a Sea Electric factory in Morwell next year with the promise of 500 jobs. Other manufacturing options were canvassed for the Latrobe Valley including heat pumps, floating solar floats and the BZE plans for carbon neutral cement production.

In particular I examined two major job and power generating proposals – the Star of the South offshore wind farm and the Thompson Dam pumped hydro proposal – both of which when completed could produce or store more energy than Yallourn. There is no employment estimate made for the pumped-hydro project though it can be assumed that during construction it would be substantial whilst the Star of the South projects claim the creation of 12,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 200 permanent jobs on completion. High employment is essential to a rapid just transition in Gippsland and both these proposals take full advantage of valley infrastructure.

I also looked at transport in some detail including the BZE Very Fast Train (VFT) proposal between Melbourne and Brisbane. Whilst there are number of these trains operating successfully overseas the obstacles to a VFT in Australia are enormous including the time period for construction and capital requirements – estimated by BZE to be in the vicinity of $90b. But the fact that battery powered planes already exist with the prospect of a small passenger carrying electric plane in Norway by 2022 with a 500 K radius and larger ones with a 1000 K radius by 2027 may mean the VFT proposals for Australia are obsolete.

When communities and governments realise we are facing an emergency it is then not a question of whether we change from fossil fuels to renewables but how and how quickly they can be done.

A Letter to the Age about Wind Generation

Generator Repairs c.1990

As a reader and subscriber to the Melbourne Age for more than fifty years I sent the following angry letter on 8 August. The letter was in response to an article by Chris Uhlmann on the decision of the Australian Energy Regulator to sue four South Australian wind farms over the blackouts in 2016. Reneweconomy noted that: “there was the effort of Chris ‘I was right and I was the victim’ Uhlmann, now at Nine Network and in Nine papers, still warning of the lights going out if we don’t slow down on renewables.” As I have been angry over other aspects of the media on climate change, though much more with the Murdoch media, I decided to add my ‘two bobs worth’ and sent the editors the following.

“Dear Sir, As a rusted on reader of the Age for most of my life I must express my disappointment with your front page story by wind farm opponent Chris Uhlmann (The Age 8.8) The climate emergency has been with us for some time although the penny has yet to drop in the halls of power and the mass media.

Without a rapid transition to renewable energy – read wind and solar farms – we are all in diabolical trouble and facing an existential crisis. Only a handful of politicians and few in the media appear able to grasp the concepts of inertia in the climate system or of tipping points and feedback loops. Only the articles by Peter Hannam, a few other journalists and the occasional well informed comment in the letters column, have given us some hope and kept us sane.

I have waited some time (read years) in vain for your front page headlines alerting readers to the climate crisis.  As Greta Thunberg put it: “The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This means that we need a rapid expansion of wind farms and other sources of renewable energy and storage. It is no longer a question of whether it is done but how it can be done as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. Bureaucratic and political opposition with inappropriate legal action and the cheering of such in the media are the opposite of what is desperately required. Yours etc.”

It seems most unlikely that the Age will print the letter, but even if they do I will probably abandon my subscription although I refrained from threatening such in my letter. Examining the diatribes and propaganda that flow from the Murdoch rags is now high on the agenda.

Wellington CAN: connecting Climate groups across Gippsland

A recent media release noted that “On 15 July fifty people met in Maffra to learn more about climate change and exchange their concerns as the situation of global warming escalates. Guest speaker, Aileen Vening, a climate educator for the South Gippsland Conservation Society, spoke of the geographical changes occurring on the planet as it responds to increased warming in the atmosphere and oceans. Wild and unprecedented weather patterns and record breaking heat will only increase unless governments take strong action to drawdown the carbon that is already present in the atmosphere and to set strong targets to reduce future emissions.

“People spoke of their frustration in seeing the Federal government still dragging its feet on this urgent issue. Australia’s carbon emissions have continued to rise for the last four years despite the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, continually saying to the contrary.

“The Victorian Government will legislate in August to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 and this is a decisive step. Twenty nine municipal councils throughout Australia have declared a climate emergency, a symbolic gesture to acknowledge the serious situation, but also to adopt practices within their municipalities to reduce carbon waste. As of this week the City of Melbourne became the thirtieth municipality to do so!

“As a result of the meeting in Maffra the Wellington Climate Action Network (WCAN) was formed and a motion arose from the meeting to work with council to declare a climate emergency.”

With the formation of WCAN Gippsland is close to being covered with community groups actively working on global warming. The Latrobe Valley and Baw Baw Sustainability groups have been active for a number of years especially so with the latter group. This year Climate Action Network groups have formed in Inverloch-Wonthaggi, Bairnsdale and now Sale-Maffra. Both the former groups have already carried out a number of successful activities. Possibly there is another ‘climate’ group in South Gippsland. Also there is a group called Strzelecki Sustainability Futures supporting the OSMI Delburn wind project in the Latrobe Valley. Then there is the well-established Gippsland Climate Change Network that does good things (see here and here) but is not inclined to ‘rock the boat’.

There are many advantages that can flow from this blossoming of community groups including sharing information, resources, guest speakers and ideas. Their existence offers support to the many dismayed by the inaction on climate of all our governments and may inspire others. At this stage what is needed is effective communications between the groups so that resources can be efficiently used between locations and that support, advice and promotion can be shared where practicable.

Another Bairnsdale Die-in

Members of East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EG CAN) held another die-in in Bairnsdale on the 3rd of August calling for action on global warming and the climate emergency. The formula used was very similar to the original protest held a month ago in the Nicholson St Mall but this time the die-in was held in the busy monthly Farmers Market at the Secondary College.

About 50 members and supporters of all ages met at the entrance to the market on McKean Street. All stall holders were informed in advance of the action as were the market organisers. The group, many of whom were adorned in red clothing, proceeded the 100 metres or so to the centre of the market square, banging pots and carrying placards such as “There are no jobs on a dead planet” and “Climate Action Now”. There most of our group lay down beside each other in a single line some covering their faces with shrouds – symbolising a row of cadavers.

As with the Mall protest after three minutes of the die-in a brief message from Swedish teenage activist and strike for climate founder Greta Thunberg was read to protesters and onlookers:

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people.

And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say.

Now is the time to speak clearly. Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that homo sapiens has ever faced.

The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it.

We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This ended the protest, where many remained, some handing out pamphlets with contact details, others shopping at the market stalls and a small number of protesters joined in discussions with the crowd. Amongst those doing so was nonagenarian Audrey Porter – perhaps a bit frail to lie down but a strong supporter nevertheless. And unlike the Nicholson Mall die-in on this occasion we had a large and captive audience. Hopefully we will also improve on our impressive number of posts and support on the social media.

Thanks to everyone for their participation, support and encouragement. Undoubtedly EG CAN’s work will now be directed towards supporting the student climate strike on September 20.

Bass Coast Climate Action Network by Michael Nugent

Coastal Erosion at Inverloch

(edited article from the Bass Coast Post 21.7)

You’ve installed solar roof panels, you avoid heavily packaged goods, you leave the car at home and walk or bike, you take your own cup for takeaway coffee …But while you and I are trying to reduce our carbon footprints and to live more sustainably, individual actions alone won’t save us from climate change’s most severe effects.

We also need collective action from federal, state and local governments to reduce emissions.  Collective action is also needed for climate change adaptation to help communities adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change, including those already upon us in Bass Coast, such as increased coastal erosion. And while we all know it’s a global problem, we also know that tackling climate change requires local action.  That’s why locals are joining the newly formed Bass Coast CAN (Climate Action Network).

BC CAN’s goal is “A just transition to a safe climate future for all people, all species, and all generations”.  We operate primarily within the municipality of Bass Coast, but also promote and engage in activities with a state, national or global focus.  We seek to galvanise action at the local level through generating, gathering and delivering information, facilitating community action, and influencing decision-makers. We also call for strong leadership and decisive action on climate change mitigation and adaptation and for all levels of government to respond to the current climate emergency.

BC CAN has run two events to date: in May, our screening of Accelerate attracted over 60 attendees. In June, more than 140 people took part in a panel discussion focused on the extraordinary erosion at Inverloch beach, with input from two internationally renowned scientists and local citizen scientist Aileen Vening. We recently held a forum of core members to identify what activities the group will take on in future.  Many wonderful ideas were brought up that you will hear more about soon. For now our most significant action, and it is a very important action, is the launch of a Climate Emergency petition to make sure Bass Coast Shire Council understands that its community demands serious and immediate action on climate change.

Already, over 800 councils and governments, including Melbourne, Sydney and New York, in 17 countries and covering more than 140 million citizens, have declared a climate emergency (up from 700 just a month ago).  They acknowledge that dangerous climate change is happening now, and accelerating.  They are acting on their citizen’s concerns that current policies and actions are seriously inadequate, exposing current and future generations to unacceptable risk.  Declaring a climate emergency recognises that the window of opportunity for effective action is rapidly closing.

If our council accepts the science, then it needs to take a leadership role in the community and declare a climate emergency.  A public declaration will signal its acceptance of the need to act with urgency and its intention to do so. It will change how the community at large views this issue and help normalise discussion of climate change as THE issue of our day; one that demands action at a pace far beyond business and politics as usual. Importantly, it will also put upward pressure on state and federal governments to do likewise.

For the full article and contact details go here.

‘Flogging a Dead Horse’: Nuclear Proposals for Gippsland

ANA proposed sites for Gippsland

On the 24 July ABC Gippsland radio interviewed Robert Parker President of the lobby group Australian Nuclear Association (ANA). He advocated that 5 nuclear power plants could be built in the Latrobe Valley. As the map above indicates ANA understanding of Gippsland geography is ‘woolly’ and at best faulty. ABC Gippsland followed this up with a post on their facebook page which generated a large number of shares, likes and comments – many of them misinformed. This publicity given by our broadcaster to a pressure group promoting an unviable energy option is unfortunate. It raises false hopes in some, anxiety in others, and is never going to happen.

This publicity followed on from calls by the former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and others in favour of nuclear power. RenewEconomy noted “It comes as the Coalition faces intense pressure from its own MPs and Senators, and One Nation, and, of course, the conservative media, to allow nuclear to be built in Australia. Most of the MPs behind this push – like Joyce, Barilaro, Keith Pitt and Mark Latham – either reject climate science outright, mock any moves to address it, and/or at the same time are pushing for the construction of new coal-fired generators.”

John Quiggin in a Guardian article entitled “The idea of producing nuclear energy in Australia before 2040 is absurd” highlighted the length of time needed to set up a nuclear power generator. He concluded that “it would be a heroic endeavour to get construction started on a nuclear plant even by 2030. Getting it finished and generating electricity by 2040 is virtually impossible. Fortunately, there are alternatives… The combination of solar photovoltaics and battery storage is already cheaper than new coal-fired power. As a backup, Australia has huge potential for storage using pumped hydroelectricity. We don’t need to call on the phantom of nuclear power to secure a reliable supply for the future.”

Almost two years ago I wrote in a similar vein “Whilst there are many issues associated with nuclear power (including major accidents at Chernobyl and Fukishima) from the perspective of climate change there are two main questions to be asked. Can it be done quickly and is the process carbon neutral?” The answer to both questions was no and so I concluded “Solar energy – produced by nuclear fusion in a safely remote source – is already approaching the free energy dream. Solar panels can be erected now whilst nuclear, and even coal plants, are many years down track. With the climate emergency rapidly approaching we need to get to zero emissions as quickly as possible. Thus we need technology that is readily available, can be installed now and producing tomorrow. Nuclear is not the answer.”

Nothing has changed. The reactionaries of the LNP, the ANA lobbyists and ABC Gippsland are all ‘flogging a dead horse’.

Letters to the Editor from Tony Peck of EG CAN

Die-in in the Mall (Bairnsdale Advertiser 19.7)

Letter published Bairnsdale Advertiser 5 July

Residents in rural settings like our wonderful East Gippsland are likely to be amongst those hardest hit with the dramatic climate changes already underway. These changes are caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases resulting in more frequent extreme weather events: storms, drought, and floods. Already we have fire seasons from Spring to Autumn, unprecedented drying across the whole of Gippsland, and in the future even more extremes of weather are predicted.  Sea level rise will seriously affect towns like Lakes Entrance.

We must take urgent action on this emergency. Greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy transition and waste reduction are some of the actions we can all take right now. We need our council to recognize this and join the hundreds of councils around the world that have already declared a Climate Emergency. The devastating impacts of climate change across the world are increasing in frequency and intensity.  Thankfully more and more people across East Gippsland and indeed the world, are taking action to ensure that we have a future. 

2. So far unpublished

Actions like the brief symbolic ‘die-in’ last week in Nicholson Mall, Bairnsdale will be repeated as momentum builds across the region.  As more animals and plants cannot cope with the sudden human induced changes to our climate, more and more extinctions will take place.  Australia already leads the world in mammal extinctions. Government protection of natural habitat is failing all over the country.

We are faced with bush fires for most of the year, terrible droughts and floods and acceleration of change in our climate.  We must take action now to halt and ideally reverse the levels of greenhouse gases, to slow increases in global warming.

We must move more quickly than our state government has planned and aim for 100% renewable energy.  The targets set by our federal government are just laughable. The most common statement on climate change from both state Nationals Tim Bull and Federal representative Darren Chester has been that we are doing enough because we only make up a minimal percentage of the world population. This ignores that we are at the top of the table in per person emissions. In any case we proudly punch well above our weight in many other fields including science, sport, military interventions and much more. The safety of our planet is at stake with the climate emergency.

We have a duty to take effective and urgent action because we care about the young people whose future we are ruining.  We must work as though we are in a climate emergency, because we are!