Global warming

Election Edition

     

Welcome to Beyond Zero's Election Edition, where Vivien Langford talks to the three major political parties about their policies on climate change.

Greg Hunt, Liberal MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change Action, Environment and Heritage

Yvette D'Ath, Labour MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and

Christine Milne, Greens senator, leader of the Australian Greens.

Coal seam gas mining documentary to air

It was a film that first prompted Forster’s Holly Rankin to educate herself about Coal Seam Gas mining (CSG) and she aims to use the same medium to help educate others with the screening of ‘Bimblebox’ a documentary about CSG in Australia.

“I went to a screening of Gasland in Sydney in 2010 and it really scared me,” Holly recalled.

“I was completely unaware of it (CSG) what it was and what it did and afterwards I really wanted to see what coal seam gas mining was going on in Australia.” 

The 2010 film directed by Josh Fox focuses on communities in the United States impacted by CSG mining and features one memorable scene in which a farmer sets his running tap water alight. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2011. 

Opponents of CSG mining are concerned that hydraulic fracturing (known colloquially as fraccing), the process by which the gas is extracted, poses a threat of contamination of water sources.

“ Having grown up in Forster around our beautiful waterways I feel they need to protected from contamination and people need to be aware of the dangers CSG poses.”

As state and federal governments continue to investigate the possible expansion of CSG mining and with numerous wells already sunk in the neighbouring Hunter and Gloucester areas Holly and her group Youth Against CSG Mining in the Great Lakes, which boasts 300 members on its facebook site, have organised a screening of Australia’s first comprehensive documentary about the practice.

“It’s primarily about education,” Holly said.

“I’m not a scientist, I’m still learning about what it is and the impact it can have but we want to encourage people to find out before it ends up here.”

Bimblebox, directed by Michael O’Connell, looks at the effects of CSG around the country including the in the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra regions with interviews with residents and experts on the issue.

The film features many prominent members of the debate against coal expansion in Australia including Guy Pearse (Global Change Institute), Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland) and Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions) and sets shots of the Australian landscape to the music of indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (known primarily as Gurrumul).

Renewable energy could 'run Australia'

All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a notable finding for a country ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave.

By Paul Brown

LONDON – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne.

In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave, the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels.

Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change.

The report, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, says that if there were the political will Australia's enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs.

About 40 percent of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Australia: Making its way toward a low-carbon future

Twenty-eight billion tons. That is the amount of carbon Australia pumps into the atmosphere every year. Consequently, with such an impact, the nation has been tagged as the world’s largest-emitting nation per capita. So much for this distinction, Australia has been trying to make a change.

Especially for the past several months, the country has been making successive announcements about what it is going to do to shift to a future with lesser emissions. And despite its heavy carbon footprint, Australia can lead the way toward a zero-carbon future, according to a recent report from Beyond Zero Emissions.

The report, “Laggard to Leader,” suggests that the country can be the future’s leader in employing renewable energy resources from being a laggard in terms of its efforts to mitigate climate change.

“What is required to make this happen is leadership through action from policymakers and society, with firm decisions made quickly that will allow this transition to occur,” stressed in the report.

Exporting more coal and gas?

Newcastle, home of the biggest coal loader in the world, is set to expand at Terminal 4.Tonight we talk to activists Steve Phillips, Amanda Albury and Fergus Green. Music from The Lurkers

 

Steve tells us how cancer rates have soared among families on Kooragang Island. A wetland there, protected by an international treaty for birds migrating from China, Japan and Korea is set to be destroyed.

Amanda is president of Rivers SOS. She has campaigned for many years against the impact of coal mining around rivers .Shereports on the recent case where Duralie Coal Co was taken to court. She challenges the heart warming ads we see from the Mining Industry and the myth they put about
that coal seam gas is a “clean” energy.

 

Fergus Green is the co-author of BZE’s latest report “From Laggard to leader”.

We are laggards in that we have the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world. When we try to evade this by saying “Well , Australia only causes 1.5% of World emissions:” we have our heads down the coal mine.

Our fossil fuel exports are booming and we are on track to export twice the fossil fuels of Saudi Arabia creating 4% of world emissions. The expanded coal facility at Newcastle is a case in point. Fergus analyses how stopping exported emissions in our sphere of influence can make us a leader in turning around irreversible climate change.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Albury

Terminal 4 would have new rail lines running through the wetland with coal dust full of cancerous particulate matter whirling off the uncovered wagons day and night. Submissions from the public scream out a message to the planning minister

” Climate change is happening faster than predicted; the impacts are more serious than people realized. To contribute ,...nay actively encourage developments such as T4 is a grossly irresponsible act of governance.”

Contracts for closure: A tale of two power stations

In July, Delta Energy announced it was closing the Munmorah coal power station on the NSW central coast.

News reports explain that the power station had been idle for two years. Delta CEO Greg Everett cited falling demand for electricity as an underlying factor in closing the plant, as well as the high international price of coal.

Everett also said the carbon price was the final straw, although Greg Combet replied that this was just part of the scare campaign being waged by Delta’s owner, the NSW state government.

At the same time, the Hazelwood power plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley – of similar vintage to Munmorah – is negotiating for financial compensation to close under the Federal “Contracts for Closure” scheme.

I was one of the organisers of the 2009 community protest that ignited the debate around closing Hazelwood, which has been dubbed Australia’s dirtiest power station.

It was a controversial protest. There was civil disobedience, huge numbers of police and security, and many arrests. Hundreds of community members of all ages and demographics, both locals and from across the state, camped overnight and protested all day.

This protest in particular put the idea of closing coal power stations into the centre of the national discussion on climate change. That was a great step forward. Without it, the Contracts for Closure process probably wouldn’t exist.

Victory declared for the climate denialists

A victory has been declared in the field of climate change, but the lap of honour is not being run by research scientists or renewable energy bosses, or by coral reefs, drought-stricken farmers or the citizens of low-lying countries.

Rather, if you accept as valid this declaration of victory from one of Australia's leading thinkers, then those popping the champagne corks are the fossil fuel lobbyists.

Standing by the track cheering this triumph are the conservative think tanks and the free market ideologues that believe the world should be run on their terms.

To follow the analogy through to the bitter end, the losers are everyone else.

Professor Robert Manne, a political philosopher at La Trobe University, is making this declaration in a 7,000-word essay published on Friday in The Monthly magazine – its cover screaming "Victory of the Denialists: How Climate Science Was Vanquished".

Manne's essay charts the decades-long effort to spread doubt and confusion about the science of human-caused climate change, focusing on the think tanks and corporations that created and backed a "relentless" campaign in the United States which has infected other parts of the Western world, including Australia.

Manne draws on already published books and research papers about the climate denial industry, and so in that respect close watchers won't find anything new. But it is his declaration that climate science denialists have won which will stick in the throat of many climate change campaigners and science communicators.

Australia can lead zero-carbon prosperity – group

Despite its contributions to the world's total carbon emissions, Australia can lead the way toward zero-carbon prosperity while United Nations negotiations are at a standstill, a report from Beyond Zero Emissions suggests.

The report, "Laggard to Leader," proposes that Australia institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments as the centerpiece of a global campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

They say that the country's "immense" sphere of influence over emissions - due to high domestic greenhouse gas output - and the growing coal and gas exports would be ideal to lead the world's "decarbonization."

The concept views that reducing carbon emissions must be a shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. In addition, the efforts must be done in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions.

Report calls for fossil fuel phase out

A report published on July 23 calls for Australia to institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments as the centrepiece of a global campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

Hundreds attended the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane meetings to launch the latest report from climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Laggard to Leader: How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity

The Melbourne meeting, with nearly 400 in attendance, was larger than the Climate Commissioner’s Victorian report launch the following night. Lead authors Fergus Green and Reuben Finighan presented the key points of the report, along with responses from Melbourne University academics Robyn Eckersley and Peter Christoff.

Port Augusta to vote on a concentrating solar power future

Support the call for Australia's first concentrated solar thermal power plant.

The campaign for Port Augusta to become the site of Australia’s first solar thermal power plant has escalated. Port Augusta residents will be asked to vote on the plan.

Newly-formed community group “Repower Port Augusta” will host a weeklong community vote, which they say will show the overwhelming support that exists for a solar thermal future for the town.

Port Augustans have long-suffered serious health impacts from the town’s two coal power plants, which supply 30% of South Australia’s electricity.

Research by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) says they need not suffer any longer. BZE says that shifting from coal to solar power will address longstanding public health issues and massively cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It will also offer big employment benefits, from the maintenance and operation of the solar plants to the manufacturing that will take place in the area.

Critically, solar thermal power will provide far more jobs for the community than gas power. Gas would also still detrimentally affect public health and the environment.

Repower Port Augusta will launch the community vote on July 13 and will collect votes for a week from July 15. The groups says the ballot will ask “the community to decide if it wants concentrated solar thermal or gas to replace Port Augusta’s ageing coal power stations”.

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