Gippsland Climate News

The power trip continues by Werner Theinert

First published in the Bass Coast Post*

What an amazing journey it’s been since ‘The Power Trip’ – my first Bass Coast Post article on October 1, 2020.

The Nissan Leaf e+ discussed in that article is still going strong with over 46,000 kilometres on the clock. It has only been charged away from home twice, at a cost of $8 each time at the fast chargers at Moe Folk Museum. That equates to an expenditure of $16 for nearly three years and 35,000kms of travel.

The rest of the power came from home, with most of it coming from the 12kW Solar PV on the roof. The addition of a Zappi car charger last year provides us with the ability to transfer all our excess solar power into the car’s battery.

The blue curve is the power being transferred to the car battery. The first two yellow “exported” power spikes on the top graph represent the two trips into town.

Our state and federal regulators still haven’t approved bidirectional chargers for battery electric vehicles, though the South Australian Government has approved them and smart solar PV inverters for use in the home.

Basically this means that we are allowed to install large-scale batteries in our homes but not if those batteries have wheels, lights and a steering wheel!

We have also installed an Eddi, which works together with Zappi. If there’s any excess solar power left after the car’s battery is charged, then Eddi regulates it to the electric hot water services during the winter months when the vacuum tube solar hot water systems aren’t working as well.

*see here.

New Climate Books in our Library

The following three titles – all on different aspects of climate change – have been purchased recently by the East Gippsland Shire Library.

The first is Voices of Us by Tim Dunlop (Newsouth Publ. 2022) which is an account of the “independents’ movement transforming Australian democracy”. Dunlop concentrates on the early independents in particular Cathy McGowan and the ‘Voices for Indi’* and to a lesser extent that of Zali Steggall and the campaign to defeat Tony Abbott in 2016, culminating in the clean sweep of the so-called ‘teal’ independents in 2022. The book is, of course, all about politics and, in particular, the politics of climate change. Dunlop noted:

“In the end it’s climate stupid. Climate change presents us with a social and political problem of such magnitude that incremental, business as usual politics won’t be enough. Individual responses will not work. Extractive capitalism will not work. The power of the status quo to resist reforms remains strong…The 2022 election gave us a reprieve. It gave us a new government more focused than its predecessor on climate change [but] the new independent office bearers…are going to need to be far more radical than any small-l liberal, centrist positioning allows. There is no sensible centre on a dead planet.” (pp.210-11)

The second volume is Humanity’s Moment: a climate scientist‘s case for hope by Joelle Gergis (Black Inc. 2022). This is the second book by the IPCC scientist – the first A Sunburnt Country: the history and future of climate change in Australia is reviewed here. The back page blurb notes: “Joelle takes us through the science in the IPCC report with unflinching honesty, explaining what it means for our future, while sharing her personal reflections on bearing witness to the heartbreak of the climate emergency unfolding in real time.”

Finally there is No Miracles Needed: how today’s technology can save our climate and clean our air by Mark Z. Jacobson (Cambridge Uni Press, 2023) which is a practical plan in detail, neatly summarised by the subtitle in its 400 plus information packed pages. In 15 chapters Jacobson concentrates on what works and has chapters on all the obvious solutions including wind, water and solar (WWS). He also has one long chapter on what doesn’t work, again including obvious suspects such as nuclear and direct carbon capture and storage.

Eventually I hope we will have full reviews of these books.

*representative now Helen Haines MP

Should East Gippsland Shire declare a Climate Emergency? by Nola Kelly

First published in the Great Eastern Mail April 23

It does seem that East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) is making headway with their move towards lowering council emissions as council managed facilities have avoided releasing 141 tons of CO2 emissions in the past year while at the same time saving ratepayers money. However if you take a look at The Municipal Emissions Snapshot for East Gippsland it indicates that there is only a very slight reduction in CO2 emissions for the past 3 years, and certainly not enough to meet the 2030 targets. It appears that the big emitters in the area are agriculture at 300,000t, then transport at 139,000t with residential emissions from households still at 126,000t. Direct emissions from council are a very small percentage of the overall community emissions so behaviour change at the individual and household level becomes critical.

The first duty of government is to protect its people and climate change is an existential threat that is intensifying far greater than most people realise. Engaging at a household level is an effective place for councils to start as they are after all best placed to work directly with their constituents to increase awareness and understanding of the changes we all need to make to tackle the climate crisis we are currently in. Everyone must be encouraged to see taking action to reduce our emissions as the normal and necessary thing to do, and councils are best placed to understand local conditions and the ways to assist their community to work together to achieve a better future. What could be better than knowing we are all working together to achieve the same critical goal, and where better to go for advice than the local council.

In Victoria 41 out of the 79 Councils have already declared a Climate Emergency for their area after considering the risk assessment data. There are compelling reasons for East Gippsland Shire Council to now join the many other government bodies representing well over 1 billion people worldwide who have already declared a Climate Emergency.

The following are a few of these reasons –

1.         It would demonstrate that Council is acting in accordance with the Victorian Local Government Act to undertake climate mitigation and risk management while seeking the best outcomes for current and future generations.

2.         It would help to engage the community to ensure adequate preparation for increased weather variability, reduced water availability, and the increased risk of bushfires and flash flooding.

3.         It would demonstrate bold leadership and decisive, strong actions to tackle the tasks required at a local level.

4.         It would demonstrate that they are aware of the rapid progression of climate change and that they care about ensuring a safe future for constituents.

5.         It would indicate to the community the importance of taking immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change, and when combined with appropriate education would foster a higher level of preparedness and resilience.

6.         It would provide reassurance to all people, but especially the young, that we have a plan and are prepared which would reduce the level of fear experienced.

7.         It would indicate the scale of the problem we face and the speed of the response required, after all we must dramatically reduce emissions this decade, and there are only seven and a half years left.

8.         It would demonstrate a commitment to preserving and caring for the natural environment and the areas so loved by East Gippslanders.

9.         It would demonstrate that Council is keeping up with the times and are in tune with world developments, as well as show that they wish to reduce the problems that will be exacerbated by further delay.

10.       It would demonstrate to any people who are not yet ready to believe the overwhelming science about the reality and consequences of man made climate change, that this is a real and urgent problem with potentially dire consequences if we fail to act quickly.

11.       It would assist farmers to address the issues they face from the growing climate instability that threatens food security and productivity in the area.

12.       It would help raise awareness of the risk mitigation required for properties located in areas where they face either becoming uninsurable or the insurance becoming too expensive to afford.

‘Get off Gas’ East Gippy Campaign

Old stove used prior to 2012 now have induction cooktop

Media release EGCAN *

Members of East Gippsland Climate Action Group (EGCAN) have been busy writing letters to councillors and the Shire calling for action to help us Get off Gas. Tony from Bairnsdale wrote that he would like to see the council ‘take action to discourage the use of gas as a domestic fuel in our region.’ and that “There is now strong evidence of the major impact domestic gas is having on people’s health… It is estimated that 12% of childhood asthma is attributable to the use of gas cooking stoves.’

In another letter, Robyn from Clifton Creek said that a number of organisations including the Climate Council ‘…advise (us) to decarbonise at speed and this means moving away from gas as a fuel source. As a leader in our community in reducing emissions, it is time for the East Gippsland Shire Council to step up further in education and leading by example – electrify everything, accelerate the transition to clean energy, invest heavily in renewables and storage, and prioritise energy efficiency in new homes and social housing.’

Angela from Bairnsdale summed up a common congratulatory note for the shire on what it was already doing as she wrote that she acknowledged ‘the already powerful and effective measures taken by the council in recent years. East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) is finding useful ways of doing our bit in this actual and existential emergency. Congratulations.’

However, Nola from Metung pointed out that some information on Shire web pages is out of date and that ‘Developers can also be strongly encouraged to not supply gas to any new developments or projects. Ultimately money can be saved by both the developer and the homeowner as an all-electric house with solar panels is substantially cheaper to run.” Judy from Clifton Creek added that ‘Programs that support the approach to “electrify everything” are the way forward for our communities.’

Grace from Johnsonville calls for the council to look at a range of options to encourage people to get off gas, including carrots such as rate relief and education as to the benefits of going efficient affordable all-electric households.

EGCAN website here https://egcan.wordpress.com/

A Review by Nola Kelly

The Future we Choose – surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett_Carnac (Knopf Doubleday, 2020) *

Two very well informed people have come together to deliver a book of reality, hope, and a pathway to achieving the future our children are entitled to. Christiana was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2014, and Tom was president and CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project USA and a former Buddhist monk. Together they offer education about the urgent and critical situation we face, as well as practical steps we can all take immediately.

The pair describe the irresponsibility of climate deniers and the destruction that has been caused as a result of delayed action in order to make more profits, and how those most impacted are the powerless and those not yet born. They highlight the immense responsibility that lies with people to act in this decade – in order to have even a 50% chance of keeping warming at below1.5 degrees Celsius we must cut global emissions to half their current level by 2030, and how  the demise of the human species will be inevitable if we continue on our current trajectory.

The need for a total change of mindset is explored as our current economic modelling is based on the assumption that we can continue to draw from the planet far more that it can regenerate, and pollute far more than we clean up. As a species we are used to taking but not giving. They highlight that what is needed is both systemic transformation and individual behavioural change, but this needs to be supported by optimism to face what is the greatest challenge of human history. A section of the book is devoted to the description of the abundant regeneration that is possible if we have the will, maintain an optimistic approach, and work with Nature rather than against. Also mentioned are the amazing benefits available for humanity that will come from this reconnection with Nature. “The time for doing what we can has passed. Each of us must now do what is necessary”

Practical steps we must all take –

1.         Let Go of the Old World – honour the past but let it go as things have to be different.

2.         Face Your Grief but Hold a Vision of the Future – a regenerative world where humans and Nature can thrive together.

3.         Defend the Truth – believe in the science, learn to ascertain the truth and then accept the reality.

4.         See Yourself as a Citizen not as a Consumer – one involves give and take, the other just takes.

5.         Move Beyond Fossil Fuels – they are polluting for the planet and bad for our health and there are alternatives.

6.         Reforest the Earth – through rewilding, planting trees, eating mainly plant based foods, and rejecting products that contribute to deforestation.

7.         Invest in a Clean Economy – put your money where it does good and does not contribute to the problems of the world.

8.         Use Technology Responsibly – evolving technologies have great capacity for good but also to be destructive to humanity so know what is happening.

9.         Build Gender Equality – work towards social and financial independence, and representation  for all.

10.       Engage in Politics – true democracies require participation and even not acting is taking a stance.

There are also useful tips of what each of us can do right now, today or tomorrow, this week, this month, this year, by 2030, and by 2050. We have to be up for the challenge.

*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Council library

Why we should ‘Get off gas’

East Gippsland Climate Action Network Media release

With headlines once again saying there will be gas shortages this winter in Victoria, it’s the right time to get off gas.

Many homes in East Gippsland use natural or bottled gas — for heating and cooking. Burning gas for energy produces carbon dioxide. CO2 and methane is released at every stage of gas production from the well to the house. Twice as much gas is used to process gas for export than is actually used in our homes! The recent United Nations and IPCC report are clear that we must electrify everything and stop burning fossil fuels.

Gas prices are high, with producers able to make massive extra profit due to the war in Ukraine. Now is the best time to get off gas!

If you are thinking of building a new home or your gas appliances are nearing the end of their life or you have been thinking of shifting from electric appliances to gas, now is the time to Stop and Plan:

Don’t connect to gas in the first place: You will only have one supply charge for energy, saving hundreds of dollars a year before you use any energy. Buying gas appliances is a wasted investment and we will need to replace existing gas to reduce carbon emissions. It is likely that regulations will discourage new gas connections. In future people will see buying a house reliant on fossil fuels (gas) as poor value.

What you can use instead: Heat pumps have almost miraculous efficiency. A heat pump can range  from 200% to more than 500% efficient. You buy 1 unit of energy and get two to more than 5 times the energy in heating or cooling! The added bonus for reverse cycle air-conditioners they efficiently cool a house in summer.

If you have solar panels on your roof you get a double benefit. Your heat pump hot water service can be set to heat during the day using your solar output. In hot weather you can cool your house using your solar during the day.

Even without rooftop solar, you will be using increasing amounts of renewable electricity. Australia already produces more than 30% of its power from renewables with significant periods much higher. As more renewables are installed our electricity will become even cleaner.

A significant concern with gas appliances is that they produce emissions in the home with serious affects on health. There is a higher chance of children in a home with gas cooking to develop asthma and people of all ages are affected by the dangerous pollution created in the home by cooking with gas.

East Gippsland Climate Action Network is calling on government and individuals to work together to get off gas.

The Bass Coast CAN Forum

BCCAN media release 6.3

Over 50 people attended Bass Coast Climate Action Network’s Forum ‘Coast’ at the Bass Coast Adult Learning Centre on Saturday 18th February to find out more about what the Council is doing about their Climate Action Plan since declaring a Climate Emergency in August 2019 – the only Shire in Gippsland to do so.

Speakers included Joey Thompson, Newhaven College student and School Strike for Climate advocate, Zoe Geyer, Coordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island and Christian Slattery, Bass Coast Shire Council Climate Emergency Project Officer. The forum was chaired by Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan. Attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about local climate-related issues such as urban sprawl, public transport, Landcare and energy efficiency, followed by break-out groups.

Mayor Michael Whelan commented  “A very successful event and congratulations to BCCAN for its initiative. The range of community groups involved and the energy in the room bodes well for the Council community partnership to achieve net zero emissions by 2030”. Prior to the event, The Energy Innovation Co-op launched of 14W of solar panels at BCAL which were funded by COPower and Southern CORE Fund. See pic in the article attached.

Break-out Groups

The Cosy Homes group resulted in an exchange of information about solar installation, saving money on bills and keeping the cold out of old Wonthaggi homes. Re-furbishing the energy kits available at the libraries is a priority for Cosy Homes. School Striker Joey Thompson lead a fruitful discussion about how to convince NAB to stop funding coal mines. See below to find out how to get involved. Ten people joined Christian Slattery and Harry Freeman in a workshop to discuss how the community can be encouraged to participate in the council’s plan. There is now an intention to form a group which will meet regularly to take our ideas further and help the council’s officer develop a toolkit to show the public different ways in which they can become involved.

To join the Bass Coast Climate Action Network mailing list, please email basscoastcan@gmail.com

Environment Connect Autumn 23

Offshore wind areas

The East Gippsland Shire’s quarterly publication Environment Connect Autumn edition is out now with interesting news on various items including the successful completion of the LED streetlights program and a planned EV expo to be held in conjunction with Rotary Bairnsdale and the Gippsland Climate Change Network. The big news is the continuing rapid rollout of EV charging stations across the shire and the progress of offshore wind developments in Bass Strait.

The latter was featured under the header “Offshore wind could now include East Gippsland” and noted that the “Commonwealth declared an offshore renewable energy zone off the Gippsland coast on the 19 December 2022, however the original boundary advice has changed and now includes parts of the East Gippsland coastline.” As the image above indicates the area for possible development is huge and although the impact on East Gippsland “is unknown” there can be little doubt that in the medium to long term it will be substantial and will be a big contributor in replacing the remaining Latrobe Valley brown coal generators.

With regards the Electric Vehicle revolution the shire continues to lead the way with charging stations established across the region. EC noted: “In a first for the region, East Gippsland Shire Council is installing seven 50kW fast chargers by the end of this year. Four of those stations – Omeo, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Cann River – are now installed and available, while Mallacoota, Lakes Entrance and Buchan are being planned. Council is also working with private companies to support the installation of additional stations. There will be about 14 EV charging stations in place across the shire, strategically located to ensure they are all within range for local people, and also complement charging stations outside East Gippsland.”

It is of critical importance that all “electric vehicle charging stations installed by Council will source 100% renewable electricity as part of VECO”* and that “visitors with EVs can now confidently travel to East Gippsland, and travel within and through our great shire. The initiative is part of Council’s ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable transport options.”

The East Gippsland Shire Council is to be congratulated on their push for EV charging. There can be little doubt that the EV revolution will be quickly upon us.

*via the Shire’s Power Purchase Agreement

My Climate Change Awareness

Signing the Climate Emergency Declaration 2016

The first written mention I made about climate change that I can now locate is in some poetry written about 1988. However as a layman generally interested in conservation matters I was aware of the problem much earlier than this – probably around the late 70s to early 80s. I have a vague recollection of writing a letter on the subject to then Senator Don Chipp, but have no record of it. I can clearly remember discussing it at a party with Ian Enting – then a member of the CSIRO Atmospheric physics group – about 1985 and him saying words to the effect that “there is no debate in the scientific community about whether global warming was occurring. The debate is over how bad it will be.”

The following year our family joined a co-operative holiday house at Lake Bunga. Besides Ian Enting there were two other members from the CSIRO Atmospheric physics group – Roger Francey and Barrie Pittock. I can say without doubt that I have been heavily influenced and guided by these individuals and in particular by Barrie.

At this stage of my life I was immersed in research and writing on aspects of Gippsland history – frontier conflict and a local union history – and had little time for pushing the climate problem politically. As well I was broke. Thus my primary effort was earning a quid and the history projects took up my spare time. By about 1995 my finances had stabilized and the following year I began writing what turned out to be a monthly column for the Libertarian Workers in Melbourne. The column went for ten years and opinion and comments on global warming were mentioned on a number of occasions some of which I have republished (See here and here).

But it was not until the record breaking Antarctic ice minimum in 2007 that I fully comprehended the existential threat of global warming – that we were in a climate emergency. From that point on I was active spreading the word whenever I was able and on a daily basis after I retired in 2010. Much of this activity was political and involved trying to form a political party and also standing at various elections as a climate independent. In the short term both these actions can be seen as failures. The candidacy because the cost was very high for the publicity generated   – and the list parties I have been a member of  is long including the Global Warming Action Party Australia, Save the Planet, the Renewable Energy Party and Independents for Climate Action Now. Of these only STP is still functioning and registered.

Over the last 10 years my actions are clearly visible from the content of this website, specifically this blog which is now winding down and also standing as a climate independent. I remain active on the social media, support EGCAN, have a basic climate change power point lecture recently delivered to Bairnsdale U3A and am an occasional financial contributor to organizations like the Climate Council and Climate 200.

Coastal Heritage and Sea Level Rise

The Aboriginal middens that dot our coast are a valuable part of Australia’s heritage. Many are nearly as old as the current coastline – that is 4000 to 5000 years old – compared with which the European occupation of the last 250 years pales into insignificance. These middens, often identified as clear bands of charcoal and shells, are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal erosion. One midden with which I am familiar, is located at the Red Bluff near Lake Tyers.

I have been visiting this site on a regular basis since 1986. Since that time the sea level has risen by about 100mm and the coast is gradually being eroded – perhaps having retreated by two or more metres during that time. In the short term it is coastal erosion and storm damage that is having the most effect on this midden and severe erosion of primary dunes is clearly visible in nearby parts of the coast.

Bruun’s rule states that the coast will retreat 50 to 100 times the vertical rise in sea level. Here the figure seems more like 20 to 30 although other parts of the coast with which I am not familiar may be retreating more rapidly. Another aspect of this is that sand and soil from the eroding coastline must be deposited somewhere – either back off the coastline making the sea shallower or moved along the coast and deposited elsewhere. The situation at Inverloch seems to be a case in point where severe and rapid erosion has occurred in front of the surf lifesaving club and much of the sands deposited in Andersons Inlet.

About the end of the 20th century the Red Bluff midden was fenced off from the public – but not the ocean. All that remains are the posts and a single wire – the erosion has continued well beyond the fence. About three years ago (pre covid?) the west end of the midden was shored up with sand bags (image above). Although this appears to be holding – the distinct lines of the midden are no longer visible – and high tides and storms appear to be continuing their slow but enveloping progress.

It seems almost inevitable the Red Bluff midden will eventually be lost to the sea in the not too distant future. Measures like sandbagging are short term and may be ineffectual. Perhaps it is time to start planning for an archaeological excavation of this site – and others like it – as part of a comprehensive program of adaption to just one of the many effects of a warming planet.