Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Climate Green Paper closes today

Comments on the Victorian Climate Change Green Paper close today. There's still a chance to have your say, so make your case for stronger climate action by the Victorian Government.

My submission argues that Victorian policy needs to build in stronger advocacy for an effective national approach in the lead-up to Copenhagen. It also highlights the unwillingness of State and Federal Governments to explicitly link their climate measures - such as emissions targets - with the degree of climate impacts we experience.

For example, how will the Australian Government's current weak targets play out for bushfire risk if adopted by other developed nations? Of course, Rudd's targets will increase bushfire risk over time. If, as the Green Paper argues, 'effectiveness' will be one of the measures of climate policies, surely the link between policy and impacts must be explicitly acknowledged at State and Federal level?

Already with the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, we have seen a reticence to speak about climate policy as a means of long-term risk prevention. That must change in the policy discussion about all climate impacts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ferguson losing his climate PR war

Maybe it's because Kevin Rudd says 'arguments grounded in fact will always win the day', but Martin Ferguson appears to be losing his climate PR war to dupe locals into believing he's some sort of climate progressive.

Following a recent climate demonstration at HP Zwar Park in Preston, Martin got his nose out of joint when the protest sparked letters to The Melbourne Times. He responded with a misrepresentation of the protestors' arguments, and even letterboxed Preston locals specifically naming me as a 'Greens activist' - this when I am not and never have been a member of the Greens party.

Well, Martin's letterboxing efforts earned him coverage in Crikey, and today The Melbourne Times has published a strong letter by Anne Martinelli (OMG, isn't she with the Greens?), and my own response to Martin's earlier letter to the editor:
It is laughable that Martin Ferguson asserts the belief that 'science, not green faith, must form the basis of our response' to climate change. By that measure, if Australia's emissions reduction targets were adopted by all developed countries, we would come nowhere near the greenhouse levels science says we must achieve to avoid catastrophic global warming and further severe impacts such as the Black Saturday bushfires.

Ferguson also falsely implies that the climate change movement is uniformly prescribing zero emissions for Australia by 2020. While that is indeed a laudable aim, and has been adopted as a net community target by a newly progressive Darebin Council, it poses a considerable if not insurmountable challenge for the nation by that date. However, the transition to zero emissions that science does support as soon as possible surely calls for 2020 cuts far deeper than the token reductions being put forward by the Rudd Government.

Sadly, Ferguson does not support science-based solutions to climate change, and our resources minister favours renewable energy far, far less than the fossil fuels his mates in the coal industry gouge from the ground and flog for their massive profit at the expense of our relentlessly warming climate. If they owned the sun and the wind, Ferguson might have a change of heart. Until then, Australia is a quarry and our climate gets hotter.
All this coverage is tending towards a rather unpleasant outcome for our fossil-fuel-friendly energy and resources minister - constituents of his greening Batman electorate will increasingly make the link between the climate impacts of his ministerial actions and his role as their local federal MP. They might also begin to see the contradictions between the minister's climate recalcitrance and his riding on the coat-tails of worthwhile local initiatives to green up his image.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carney detects faint pulse in climate patient

In today's edition of The Age Shaun Carney assesses the progress of climate talks in New York, discussing movement by China, India and Japan, and the political challenges faced by US President Obama. I've started the ball rolling in the comments:
I disagree that climate change is 'ultimately a domestic question', though effective solutions certainly face domestic political barriers, such as those besetting President Obama in the US.

Such barriers cannot, however, be used as a licence for failure by leaders such as Kevin Rudd, who seems to prefer being seen to fail heroically as he feigns leadership while taking inadequate action and talking up the difficulties before him.

As you point out, other nations have shown some movement in these talks, and Kevin Rudd could offer true international leadership by advancing stronger, science-based targets for 2020. The test is whether such targets, if adopted by all developed nations, would be effective in limiting warming far below the 2-degree level at which we'd see far more of the catastrophic impacts we are already seeing at less than 1-degree warming above pre-industrial levels.

Our resilience in the face of the global financial crisis, our abundance of renewable energy, and our culpability as the world's largest coal exporter all argue strongly for our climate leadership. Kevin Rudd must overcome the self-serving climate scepticism of the fossil fuel industry, and of his own energy and resources minister, Martin Ferguson, and take a stand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rudd's false leadership flags climate failure

The Age recently reported that, on Kevin Rudd's New York visit to the UN and G20 talks, Australia's PM was pushing to 'restore momentum' in climate change negotiations, lest the December climate negotiations in Copenhagen become a 'wall too high to scale'.

Judging by Australia's 2020 emissions targets, I suggest that, far from breaking down the wall, Rudd is more concerned to be seen as heroically failing to climb it. The Age has run my letter responding to the article in today's edition (See also, 'Break down this wall, a brick at a time' on their letters page):
IF, as reported, Kevin Rudd sees a need for world leaders to restore momentum in climate negotiations, he should face up to his own role in building a wall too high to scale at the international talks in Copenhagen. Instead, he makes a show of false leadership that risks merely flagging the expectation of failure.

The Prime Minister wrote recently that 'there will always be differences of opinion, but arguments grounded in fact will always win the day'. Given his acknowledgment that climate change is real and that its impacts are already happening, what better case could he make for basing Australia's emission reduction targets on science?

Unfortunately, if Australia's inadequate targets were adopted by the developed nations Mr Rudd purports to lead, science shows we would come nowhere near a solution to catastrophic climate change. If the Prime Minister wants to break down the wall at Copenhagen, he needs to go beyond lip service to the problem and adopt strong, science-based emissions targets for 2020.
The talks at the UN and G20 in New York would be a good place to start.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Darebin Safe Climate Forum

Last Thursday night I attended the Safe Climate Forum organised by Darebin Climate Action Now. At the forum David Spratt gave an engaging and quite compelling presentation on the impacts of climate change in the Himalayas, as well as more broadly here in Australia. The light wasn't great, but I capatured the following video of David's talk. Further video will appear here shortly.

Also speaking at the event were engineer, Tim Forcey, on energy solutions, and climate-savvy comedian, Rod Quantock, who was very funny on Penny Wong shortening the AFL footy season, John Howard spoiling our Ashes chances with his terrible climate policies, and why we should eat New Zealand meat-promoting actor, Sam Neill. I got some video of Tim, but the battery on my green-power charged video camera conked out before Rod came on - sorry about that, folks.

Update: I've now got Tim's video done, and here it is - enjoy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ferguson's desperate evasion on climate

The two Martin Fergusons at HP Zwar ParkBack in early September, I wrote a letter to The Melbourne Times in protest at Martin Ferguson's recent opening of an environmental refurbishment at HP Zwar Park in Preston, part of his Batman electorate. Well, Ferguson has struck back with some quite misleading claims in letters to the paper and to Preston locals.

His letter in this week's edition of The Melbourne Times infers that the protest at the park called for zero net emissions for Australia by 2020. Instead, the climate advocates attending were simply supporting the 2020 zero net emissions community target recently adopted by a newly progressive Darebin Council.

True, zero net emissions is a worthwhile aim for Australia, but that will require a significant transition and many Darebins to achieve. What is certain is that achieving a safe climate will require far deeper emissions cuts by 2020 than are currently proposed by the government Ferguson serves as pro-fossil-fuel energy and resources minister. His appeal to science in framing a climate solution is laughable given that his proposed solution fails so miserably on every scientific measure.

Along with dirty coal and climate inaction, it was the contradiction between Ferguson's government role and the environmental values of the park that we were protesting - not the refurbishment itself, which was universally supported by everyone present on the day.

Yet in a letter to local residents, Ferguson claims I dismissed the park refurbishment, simply because for him it could only have been an empty, feel-good PR opportunity.

The letter also makes the false claim that I am a 'Greens activist', when I am not and never have been a member of the Greens party. I have, in fact, a strong record of running as an independent in Council and State elections. Still, far better the Greens than Ferguson's brand of climate vandalism.

So what is the upshot of Ferguson's cheap campaign? The answer is that it's nothing more than a desperate climate evasion by a federal MP sitting in a seat whose constituents are keenly aware of the threat of human-induced climate change. That's an awkward position to be in when the CEO of a resources company has you down as a prominent climate sceptic and you've been included in Clive Hamilton's Greenhouse Mafia 'dirty dozen'.

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bury any ideas of carbon capture

I haven't caught up with last night's Four Corners program on carbon capture and storage as yet, but the synopsis seems to indicate it views the problem as a lack of investment in what is, in my view, a speculative and slow technology that won't solve our emissions emergency any time soon (see update, below).

With Victoria's marginally lower winter emissions receiving positive courage, I thought I'd make a point about coal and why we've been able to leave our heaters off. Today The Age has kindly run my letter:
OUR small reduction in winter carbon emissions would be a positive sign were it not for the fact that we've been able to leave our heaters off just a little bit more only because the global heater has been turned on high ('Emissions fall as states heat up', The Age, 7/9).

In large part that's due to the burning of fossil fuels, a huge industry in Victoria. The solution of federal Energy and Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, is carbon capture and storage Mark II. Why Mark II? The current version is to capture carbon-rich coal in the shovel of an excavator, burn it, then store the resulting carbon dioxide in our steadily warming atmosphere. Both versions are fatally flawed, and it's time we forgot about 'shovel-ready' coal and switched to a mix of renewables that can readily combine to give us a green power supply.

At the moment I'm reading Diesendorf's Climate Action, which makes a clear and powerful case for replacing coal-fired power with renewables. While CCS may in time be developed, it won't be anywhere soon enough, brings the risks related to large-scale underground storage of carbon dioxide, and government investment in the technology is a distraction from much-needed support for renewable sources that are ready to go.

A good reason to Switch off Hazelwood, don't you think?

Update: Monday's Four Corners edition, 'The Coal Nightmare', turned out to be an excellent program that made clear that the coal industry itself isn't coming to the party in funding potential solutions to its own heavy emissions. At the same time it is undermining moves to put a price on carbon that would increase the pressure for it to do so. Martin Ferguson was, as expected, unconvincing in justifying the billions of dollars of public funds being directed to so-called clean coal development when the industry itself should be footing the bill.

It was good to see Mark Diesendorf interviewed, and I would like to have seen more of him, especially putting the strong case he makes in his book to move ahead with existing and maturing renewable energy technologies rather than speculating on CCS just so we can dig it out of the ground and flog it - we're the world's biggest exporter, as well as getting 82% of our energy from coal (thanks for the latter statistic, Mr Ferguson).

The ABC has extended interviews and lots of resources via the link above.

Comments welcome

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Energy minister needs a new perspective

Having attended the recent opening of HP Zwar Park in Preston, I wrote to The Melbourne Times about the irony of it being opened by Martin Ferguson, MP for Batman, and the anti-climate, pro-fossil-fuel-industry energy and resources minister in the Rudd federal government. Here's the unedited version of my letter:

As one of the protesters at the new, greener HP Zwar Park in Preston, I could not help but notice the irony of its opening by energy and resources minister, Martin Ferguson ["Keep it clean, protesters beg", TMT, 26/8/09]. Ferguson's lust for the exploitation of Australia's fossil fuels will, if unopposed, smother with greenhouse gases the many small, local measures to create a more sustainable world.

Unfortunately, the contribution of federal money to the park obliged the involvement of our minister for climate destruction, who is also our federal member for Batman.

Mr Ferguson, veiling yourself in feel-good local projects does nothing to lessen the damage of spruiking emissions-intensive energy sources while paying lip-service to renewables. The true test of your policy is whether Australia's emissions take a much-needed plunge towards a safer climate with fewer devastating bushfires over time. The science is against you. It's time for tougher emissions targets and Australian leadership at international climate negotiations this December.
Comments welcome, Martin.

Update: Photos of the Saturday 22 August demonstration at HP Zwar Park in Preston are now available on DarebinCAN's Flickr page.