Saturday, October 31, 2009

Run for a Safe Climate

Run for a Safe Climate, a fantastic campaign by Safe Climate Australia, will see 25 runners run 6000km down the east coast of Australia, cut west along the Victorian border to Adelaide, and then finish in Melbourne on 29 November.

The runners are emergency service workers who know we're facing a climate emergency and are calling for strong action to meet the challenge of catastrophic climate change that, among many severe impacts, will raise sea-level and spark more frequent and devastating bushfires.

Their short film is a powerful statement of why they're doing it - they're running for a safe climate because we're running out of time. Every Australian should know about this campaign. Get involved to say you care about climate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

International climate action brings local message to Ferguson

The 350 sign at CERES CafeThe International Day of Climate Action has seen more than 5200 actions across 181 countries drive home the need for urgent action on climate change - in particular a rapid global reduction below 350ppm of carbon dioxide.

At Darebin Parklands, in the local electorate of federal energy and resources minister, Martin Ferguson, the community sent a clear message that he is failing them on climate - especially in his misguided support for fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

DarebinCAN 350 Event from DarebinCAN on Vimeo.

Organised by Darebin Climate Action Now, the Darebin Parklands event highlighted the local connection between Martin Ferguson as the local MP for Batman and Martin Ferguson the keen listener to the fossil fuels lobby. In a rapidly greening electorate, that's not a link that Ferguson will be keen to have made, but it's a necessary one if we are to get effective action on climate change by the Australian Government.

We simply can't take our scientifically unjustified climate position to international climate talks in Copenhagen. That's because, even if they were adopted by every other developed nation, our current policies would simply have no impact on catastrophic global warming.

Good on you, DarebinCAN!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ferguson fuels the need for emergency climate action International Day of Climate Action 24 October 2009

Dangerous climate change starkly underscores the connection between the local and the global - when emissions-intensive brown coal burns in the Latrobe Valley to produce more than 90 per cent of the State's electricity supply, it fuels global warming and disastrous impacts that are felt around the world.

In the same way, a local politician can contribute to climate destruction through a broader role in government policy and the promotion of fossil fuels. That's the connection the residents of the federal seat of Batman need to make between their local federal MP, Martin Ferguson, and his role as energy and resources minister in the Rudd Labor Government.

Ferguson supports the continuing exploitation of brown coal even though he knows it is destructive to the climate. Claims that coal-fired electricity can be made cleaner are belied by the billions of dollars of compensation promised by the Government's so-called climate measures. Why would coal-fired electricity generators need to be compensated under carbon trading if they could cleanly exploit their vast coal reserves?

The answer is that they can't, so they claim the need to be compensated for a carbon price, even though they should have long known a change was in the wind. As well as continuing to exploit coal, they want to exploit taxpayers and monetise climate damage for their own profit and the world's detriment.

As Environment Victoria's Mark Wakeham pointed out on tonight's edition of Stateline Victoria, the priority seems to be to dig the brown coal out of the ground and burn it, or export it to India, before the 'social licence' to do so expires with the realisation of just how damaging the fossil fuel is to our safe climate future. For Ferguson, coal is simply too commercially valuable to be left in the ground.

Often there's an appeal about job losses in this context. It's a diversion. Not only are green jobs to be had in renewables, but the coal lobby is asking us to believe they want to protect workers, when in normal circumstances they'd be trying to cut their workforce to the bone. Surely it is possible to compensate and retrain workers rather than their polluting, profit-taking employers?

Fortunately, with tomorrow's international day of climate action, the local can also impact upon the global - albeit in a far more hopeful way. At Darebin Parklands, in Ferguson's Batman electorate, Darebin Climate Action Now will be holding a picnic from 3.00-3.50pm as its event, and will be asking participants to send a postcard to Martin Ferguson.

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel lobby is much more likely to be heard by Martin than his local constituents' valid concerns about the consequences of his short-sighted quarry vision.

As the champion of fossil fuels, and the defender of massive oil slicks, it's no wonder Ferguson likes to ride on the coat-tails of local green initiatives, is it? They're good PR.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Climate spells 'code red' for bushfires

With Bushfire Action Week upon us, it was good to see the Victorian Government announce a range of improved communication measures and finally urge early evacuation in the face of high-level bushfire risk. What they must also admit, however, is that climate inaction by Australia and other developed nations has given us more bushfires we can't defend.

To reduce our long-term risk, our current inadequate climate policies - including the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and those outlined in Victoria's Climate Change Green Paper - must be assessed according to whether they tend to increase, decrease or have no effect on climate impacts such as bushfires - any other approach amounts to climate blindness.

It was also ironic that 'code red' was chosen as the new warning for days of catastrophic bushfire risk when Climate Code Red is one of our leading books on the disastrous impacts of climate change. I commend that book to Premier Brumby, together with Mark Diesendorf's Climate Action, and, as of yesterday, the Greens' Safe Climate Bill (more on that soon).

Finally, The Age has today run my letter capturing some of these thoughts, unfortunately lopping the 'climate code red' bit at the end. Nevermind - it ends appropriately enough with the sad contrast of Bushfire Action Week and our climate inaction years (scroll down to 'Years of doing nothing' on their letters page).
So it's Bushfire Action Week in Victoria. No doubt Premier Brumby, climate minister Gavin Jennings and emergency services minister Bob Cameron will all be scrambling for the phone to tell Kevin Rudd that his emission reductions targets are so pathetic they will do nothing to reduce global bushfire risk even if adopted by all other developed nations.

Maybe they will tell the prime minister that all climate policies should be assessed to see if their broad international adoption would increase, decrease or have no effect on the range of climate impacts we're now facing.

Of course, Rudd may ask why all the fuss now, when the bushfires royal commission didn't bother to make even one recommendation about effective climate policy as a tool of long-term bushfire prevention. Why all the fuss from the State that continues its addiction to the coal-fired electricity that is propelling carbon emissions, global temperatures and climate risks relentlessly upwards?

And of course we now have the new 'code red' for the increasing number of days we'll be facing 'catastrophic' bushfire risk. Sadly, Bushfire Action Week isn't helped by our long stretch of climate inaction years - especially when, in the title of a leading Australian book on the topic, we have already reached climate code red.
Comments welcome.

Read more about the 2009 Victorian bushfires and climate change.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ferguson's double-standard on renewables and coal

After reading energy and resources minister Martin Ferguson's 7 October letter in response to an article about the Solar Systems collapse in The Melbourne Times, the less well informed might take home the message that solar just can't cut the commercial mustard, that it's failing to achieve milestone after milestone, and that the Australian Government is bending over backwards to help the industry get off the ground to help tackle climate change.

To quote Ferguson, the financial state of Solar Systems 'is unfortunate but is wholly linked to the commercial viability of this company and not a reflection on government policy related to renewable energy'. Well, according to Paddy Manning writing in The Age, this is not the kind of tough-minded, financially accountable commercialism that is being applied to the coal industry.

Manning points out that up to $10 billion could be destined for the coffers of our dirtiest coal-fired power generators if we add to the $3.5 billion compensation under the existing CPRS the Opposition push for a further $6.5 billion in its bid to amend the scheme to make it even more coal-friendly.

And while - unlike renewables - coal-fired power makes a monstrous contribution to carbon emissions and therefore to climate change, in no way can it be said that so-called 'clean coal' technologies are anywhere near implementation on a commercial scale anywhere in the world.

This was recently highlighted by the Four Corners program, 'The Coal Nightmare', and one can only conclude that the sheer scale of the Australian Government's proposed compensation to the industry is a huge vote of no confidence in the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. If CCS were viable and allowed low-emission commercial exploitation of coal even with an appropriate price on carbon, why would compensation be considered?

As Manning points out in his most recent column, the viability of combined wind and solar is a different story according to a recent Deakin lecture by Dr David Mills, Chief Scientific Officer with US solar thermal developer Ausra, whom he quotes as follows:
We are finding that solar and wind are a beautiful match for each other and together can carry almost the entire electrical load of a large economy
Ferguson is fond of referring to 'energy security', but this argument for dirty fossil fuels is rapidly disappearing, and in any case has always ignored the pressing need to secure our global climate. It is in fact viable to provide baseload power supply by combining wind and technologies such as molten salt storage for solar thermal generation, and thereby secure our energy and climate at the same time.

As the development of truly clean renewable technologies increasingly outpaces the empty promises of 'clean' coal, Ferguson will be forced to admit that he's not really talking about energy security at all, but instead protecting the profits of the coal industry. As I've said before, if the coal barons owned the sun and the wind, it would be a different story, but they can't stand to leave their dirty coal in the ground when there's profit to be had. Too bad for the global climate.

Further commentary on the Solar Systems collapse at the ABC and David, a worker from the plant, is interviewed onsite here.

Read more about Martin Ferguson on this blog.