Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sustainable transport solutions are what we need

As I live in and travel about Melbourne, Australia, I ponder over our fixation on building, expanding and connecting more roads and freeways.

Melbourne traffic is grinding to a halt both on and off the freeways for much of the working day in many areas. Every freeway suffers big traffic jams as many use them to commute to work in their own cars, often as the single occupant.

It was apparent on my first visit to Los Angeles in the 1989 that a freeway system cannot function as an effective urban mass transit system. "Tailbacks" of waiting cars form, accidents happen, and tonnes of greenhouse gases are emitted by the vehicles using them.

Yet here in Melbourne in 2007, Eastlink is moving towards completion, another two lanes are being added to the Monash freeway, the Westgate bridge is groaning under the weight of vehicles and often gridlocked, and the state government has flagged a likely project to build a very expensive tunnel ($8b) to connect the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways - despite the fact that most motorists don't want to travel between the two - they just want to get in and out of the city.

On the Monash freeway a small section of new sound barriers cost $8m, which is more than state's entire budget for cycle paths.

The entire Eastlink project is costing about $6b, but you cannot find out the exact figure as the project is being done as a "Public Private Partnership" (PPP) so the the financials are kept secret.

No new train lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1937.

We need viable low carbon emission transport options such as trains and cycle paths. At this point, there is no real government action on either.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

A new climate change working group for Australia

With Kevin Rudd and Labor now settling into government it is encouraging to see all the states, territories and the Federal government at the recent COAG meeting agree to form seven working groups on important issues including health, infrastructure, and climate change.

I was getting rather sick of the perennial blame game between that Labor states and the previous Federal government, which culminated in a "jihad against the States" during the election campaign just passed.

I await with interest which minister will chair the working group on climate change and who will be on it. Hopefully some real action on climate change will start soon, and some of the carbon catastrophes of the States - like Victoria's desalination plant and Tasmania's pulp mill - can be reigned in and stopped.

We need urgent action to ensure or greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2015 then decline. We therefore need a moratorium on building any new coal fired power stations, and we need considerable investment in zero emissions energy.

Link: States, territories welcome new working partnership

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tap into alternatives

Published as a letter to the editor in The Age, Wed 19 December 1007

Cross posted at Forest Letter Watch Blog.

Water Minister Tim Holding's assertion (Letters, 17/12) that the Government's water plan is cost effective and sustainable is questionable. The proposed desalination plant will consume most of Victoria's available renewable energy, which will lend impetus to the Government's ill-advised plan to build yet another brown coal-fired power station.

Incredibly, the Government is still allowing logging in the Thomson catchment, decreasing the quality and quantity of our water. Last week, logging started in the Armstrong catchment, closer to Melbourne. Stopping this logging would be much cheaper than producing desalinated water.

In 2002 extensive public consultation led to a move to develop plans to stop logging our catchments. Five years later it is still business as usual.

Our Melbourne house has been almost self-sufficient for water for more than five years, with 23,000 litres of tank storage.

The $3 billion to be spent on the desalination plant could equip about 600,000 households with tank systems that could provide more water than the plant's estimated production. Combined with recycling sewerage water and protecting our catchments, we may not even need desalination.

We also need improved consultation about options for Victoria's water, rather than unilateral decisions made in Spring Street following deliberations behind closed doors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The lunacy of logging in catchments continues

We have two 4,500 litre and one 13,500 litre rainwater tanks giving us a total of 22,500 litres of storage for rainwater collected from our roof. First flush diverters remove impurities in the water that first comes off the roof when it starts raining.

We don’t use a filter system and have had acceptable results from water quality tests conducted on our tankwater.

A Davey electric pump supplies the tankwater for all uses in the house including showers, the dishwasher, the laundry, the hot water system and garden watering.

We have additional tap for Melbourne water in the kitchen sink e for some drinking and cooking use.

There is another Melbourne water tap under the house that can be used to fill the rainwater tanks should they run out of water.

We filled the rainwater tanks in late 2001 when we moved in after the house renovation. We have only needed to add more Melbourne water on one occasion in 2002 and on two occasions early in 2007 during the severe drought. This means we have been basically self sufficient for water for around 5 years.

Based on Melbourne Water’s estimated daily average water usage of 303 litres per person (as of December 2007 with Stage 3A restrictions) this means we have saved around 0.3 megalitres of water per year and 1.5 megalitres of over five years.

If the $3 billion allocated by the Victorian Government for the desalination plant were spent on domestic rainwater tank systems, this would equip around 600,000 households (at a unit cost of $5,000 for a tank and pump) and could provide up to 160 gigalitres of water per year that would otherwise be lost as stormwater. This equates to 165 days of Melbourne’s total water consumption based on the current daily usage of 992 ml, and it exceeds the estimated yearly production of 150gl from the proposed desalination plant.

However, rainwater tank supplies are of course not guaranteed due to ongoing reduced rainfall patterns.

It would appear that we could be better off if a much smaller desalination plant (say $1billion) were built and the remaining $2 billion spent on rainwater tanks and improved recycling of sewerage water currently sent out from ocean outfalls.

At the very least, we need radically improved public consultation about options for Melbourne’s and Victoria’s water strategy rather than unilateral decisions made in Spring Street following secret deliberations.

Logging in catchments and Melbourne’s water supply

In May 2002, the Victorian Government released a repost titled 21st Century Melbourne: a WaterSmart City. Strategy Directions Report.

A majority of public submissions for the study stated that logging should cease in all water supply catchment areas due to the impact on water quality and the reduction in long term water yields.

The report contained a recommendation to conduct a detailed and comprehensive investigation into the feasibility of establishing plantations to allow for the phasing out of logging in Melbourne’s water supply catchments

The report further stated that if plantation alternatives are confirmed feasible, an implementation plan to phase out logging from within the catchments should be prepared.

Potential water savings from the gradual phasing out of logging in the Thomson catchment by 2020 were estimated to provide an estimated additional average annual volume of water of 20 gigalitres (20,000 ML) in 2050.

In June 2004, the Victorian government released another report titled Securing Our Water Future Together.

This report stated that Melbourne’s original water catchments are closed catchments, are managed as national parks and that logging will continue to be banned in those catchment areas. It was found that improved water yields within catchments supplying water to Melbourne are important in securing Melbourne’s water supplies.

Actions to be undertaken by the Government were to:

  • Undertake studies on the impact of logging on water yield of catchments in State forests supplying water to Melbourne;
  • Develop options aimed at improving the water yield, including potential changes to management practices and phasing out logging in these areas;
  • Assess the feasibility of establishing plantations outside State forests to offset any reductions in timber availability. This will be informed by the results of modelling and mapping work on high, medium and low-impact zones for plantations (refer Impacts of new plantation policy above); and
  • Investigate the economic, social and environmental benefits and costs of these options.
The report stated that the Government would report on the findings of these studies and begin consultation with the timber industry, the community, and other stakeholders to develop a long-term plan that will aim to improve water yield outcomes for Melbourne’s catchments, while continuing to meet timber supply commitments.

On 16 May 2007 Environment and Water Minister John Thwaites stated at a public meeting in Ashburton that “work on the report is still in progress”.

In December 2007:
  • The final report has not been issued and no date available for its release.
  • No further community consultation has occurred.
  • Logging continues unabated in Melbourne’s water catchments.
  • About 30 gigalitres of water is lost due to logging each year, which is equivalent to about 150,000 households’ usage.
On Thu 6/12/07 Water Minister Tim Holding stated on ABC radio (774) that “logging in catchments is a matter of balance between all stakeholders and the Government believes we have got this right” and did not comment on the status of the delayed final report on options for phasing out the logging of water catchments.

On June 19, 2007, in response to Melbourne’s dwindling water supplies, the Victorian government announced plans to build a $3 billion desalination plant at Wonthaggi to produce 150 gigalitres of water a year. The Victorian Government also announced that household water bills would double over the next five years to pay for a $4.9 billion water strategy to secure Melbourne's water supplies.

The water produced by the desalination plant would cost around $3000 a megalitre, based on Melbourne Water estimates, which means the net present value of the water gained by not logging the catchment, is between $1.1 billion and $1.4 billion. The cost of compensating the loggers to quit the catchment areas would be less than $40 million.

Scientific evidence indicates ending clearfell logging in Melbourne's native water supply catchments would eventually create an additional 130 litres per household per day, equal to 16% of Melbourne's present consumption.

It is now obvious that there is absolutely no balance in the Victorian Government's support for the logging of our water catchments. It is way past time for this to cease.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Councillor Fraser Brindley launches Greenlivingpedia in Melbourne

Melbourne City Councillor Fraser Brindley and Peter Campbell launched Greenlivingpedia, a free resource for sharing information about green living and building at Melbourne’s innovative CH2 building on Monday 15 October 2007.

"Today I am launching Greenlivingpedia, an important resource that enables everyone to create and share information about green living and green building, such as the CH2 building," Cr Brindley said.

"Melbourne City Council’s innovative CH2 building provides an excellent example of how we can design and build for a sustainable future," Cr Brindley said.

"Greenlivingpedia is a wiki website similar to Wikipedia that anyone can use to create and edit articles about their own sustainable living project or area of interest,” said Peter Campbell, the founder and creator of Greenlivingpedia.

"I created Greenlivingpedia to complement and link to Wikipedia and other information sources on the Internet so that people can view and create examples of green living and green building solutions," said Mr Campbell.

"Issues like climate change and reducing our energy footprint are now major concerns in the community with the focus now shifting towards what we can do to address them. Greenlivingpedia can play an important role in empowering our community to take local action on climate change and sustainable living," said Cr Brindley.

"Greenlivingpedia provides a mechanism for people to collaborate and share information about a range of topics including sustainable house and building projects, energy saving tips, green computing, solar power, community action, water conservation and recycling" said Mr Campbell.

"Many people ask for more information about our sustainable house renovation in Surrey Hills so I have written an article on Greenlivingpedia with details of what we have done and how much energy we have been able to save," said Mr Campbell.

"Wikis and blogs are dramatically changing how we can work together to create, access and share information on the Internet. Photos and images, and even video and interactive maps can be easily added to Greenlivingpedia articles, and the articles will appear in search engine results," said Mr Campbell.

More information: Peter Campbell 0409 417 504

Video of the launch

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Al Gore on Climate Change Leadership

It is imperative that the Australian Government work constructively with other nations via the United Nations on a post-Kyoto agreeement to tackle climate change that includes tangible emission reduction targets. The current approach endorsed by John Howard, Alexander Downer and Malcolm Turnbull to set "aspirational voluntary targets" will be ineffective.

Self regulation of the most polluting industries carries a very real risk that short term profit motives will outweigh taking real action on addressing climate change - which science and our own experience now tells us is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today.

Here is a good quote from Al Gore on the important role governments have in setting real and binding emission reduction targets globally.

Quote of the Day: Al Gore on Climate Change Leadership, Montreal Protocol
(From TreeHugger)

All of the market initiatives are incredibly important. The market allocates more money in one hour than all of the governments allocate over a year's time. But governments set the rules of the road and determine how markets allocate capital and make decisions. And there should be no mistake that this crisis, the climate crisis, is not going to be solved only by personal action and business action. We need changes in laws; we need changes in policies; we need new leadership and we need a new treaty. We need a mandate at Bali during the first 14 days of December this year to complete a treaty not by 2012 but by 2009, and put it completely into force by 2010. We can do it and we must do it. ...

We face a genuine planetary emergency, we cannot just talk about it, we have to act on it, we have to solve it, urgently. ... Last week the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of a great success story. A hole in the ozone layer was discovered in 1985. And then, in the following year and a half, action took place. Some people said voluntary action will solve it; businesses will take the initiative. The Secretary of the Interior at that time said voluntary measures like wearing more sunglasses and floppy hats was the answer.

I would like to call on President Bush to follow President Reagan's example and listen to those among his advisers who know that we have to have binding reductions in CO2; we have to put a price on carbon, and the United States of America has to lead the world to solve the climate crisis."

Al Gore, former vice president of the Untied States, in the opening plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative, 26 Sept. 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

East Gippsland forest protection report 2007

I visited East Gippsland in April this year to have a look at some of the forest areas protected during the 2006 Victorian State election campaign.

Unfortunately, many areas of old growth forest were not protected, such as this forest just off the Yalmy Road.

Yalmy forest

And this lovely wet eucalyptus forest with majestic old growth trees in the Jungle Creek catchment just off the Aberdeen Track was not protected either.

Jungle Creek wet forest

Here is my full report with maps, photographs and information.

Executive Summary

This report assesses some of the forest areas in East Gippsland that were announced for protection during the 2006 Victorian State Election campaign. The purpose of this report is to assess the quality and quantity of some of the forest areas newly protected and surrounding forests with respect to the stated aims of the Government which were to protect under the National Parks Act the last significant stands of Victoria’s old growth forests (available for logging) to enhance tourism and protect biodiversity.

The three areas covered by this report are outside of the proposed new reserve system and are considered to be also all worthy of protection.

The Brown Mountain region bounded by Errinundra Road to the east, Legge Road to the east and Errinundra National Park to the south contains numerous very significant old growth Mountain Ash trees with a largely intact understory. This forest area is a firm candidate for protection due to biodiversity value and age of the forest. This area should be included in the new reserve system to improve its continuity and enhance the wildlife corridor. In addition, National Park signage in this area is in need of immediate attention.

The Jungle Creek catchment south of the Aberdeen Track contains significant old growth Mountain Ash trees, cool temperate rainforest plant species and wet sclerophyll forest. This area should also be included in the new reserve system to improve the continuity of the reserve and further enhance the wildlife corridor. It is imperative that fuel reduction burning of this area of forest includes measures to protect both old growth trees and the wet sclerophyll forest.

Heavily logged forests along both the Mount Jersey and Yalmy Roads and the Rodger River Track detract from the visual characteristics of this region due to loss of forest canopy and large amounts of logging residue. In addition, regrowth areas will have little appeal or habitat value for many decades. This has a major negative impact on tourism potential. Logging activities in these areas should cease – they should be added to the National Park estate.

Some significant forest areas of high quality along the Yalmy Road adjacent to the Snowy River National Park have been newly protected. However, other adjacent areas of equivalent forest have not been afforded any protection. This indicates apparent inconsistencies in the decision making process regarding the selection of areas for protection.

An impressive stand of old growth Mountain Ash with very high visual appeal is located on the Yalmy Road close to the intersection with the Rodger River track. Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is comparatively unusual in East Gippsland. While sections of this forest have been logged, the overall impression is of majestic trees. The rationale for excluding this area from the new protected reserves is not clear. It should be also be added to the reserve system both to protect the remaining old growth trees it contains, and to boost and improve the integrity of the adjacent Snowy River National Park.

While additional areas of old growth forest have been specified for protection in East Gippsland, there are good opportunities to further add remaining unprotected old growth and wet sclerophyll forest to the reserve system for the intrinsic value of these forests, to create a more robust wildlife corridor link between the Errinundra and Snowy River National Parks and to protect resident endangered species.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why the Gunns pulp mill proposal for the Tamar valley should not be approved

My submission to the "Invitation to comment on draft recommendation report - 2007/3385 Gunns Limited Proposed Pulp Mill, Tasmania"

The Gunns pulp mill proposal for the Tamar valley in Tasmania should not be approved until:
  • Full consideration of the impacts of the mill on Tasmania's native forests and wildlife habitat are assessed.
  • An independent assessment of the flow and dispersal of effluent in Bass Strait is undertaken
  • All toxic substances are removed from the mill effluent - no output of dioxin should be allowed.
  • Adequate local consultation has occurred - this was cut short when the Lennon Government abandoned their RPDC process
In its current form, the pulp mill would pollute the ocean with toxic dioxin, and have a very serious negative impact on fisheries and local tourism ventures in the Tamar valley.

The mill proposal should not be approved until these matters are resolved.

Peter Campbell


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An industry in decline

Tricia Caswell's industry views on the major problems with native forest logging (Age 30/7) reveal an industry in decline. Her shallow attempt to portray native forest logging as being "good for climate change" is simply not supported by scientific evidence.

Science tells us that around 10% of Australia's carbon emission are the result of deforestation and that old growth forests store up to 1500 tonnes per hectare. Logging them liberates the vast majority of this stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Protecting old growth forests is a key strategy for addressing climate change indentified in the recent Mitigation of Climate Change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Caswell also seeks to propagate the myth that native forest logging is well managed. How can an activity that produce 80% waste in the form of woodchips be well managed? In addition, destroying old growth forests and replacing them with de facto plantations destroys their biodiversity too.

As our old growth forest estate declines and carbon emissions rise, the failures of management and policy in our native forests become more apparent.

First the industry-friendly Regional Forest Agreements are discredited, then the estimates in the Victorian Government
"Our Forest Our Future" policy statement also turn out to be incorrect.

Government subsides for native forest logging give it unfair competitive advantage over the plantation sector - where the bulk of timber jobs now are.

The subsidies for forest roads, transport, advertising and other externalities should be removed and a carbon tax applied to the emissions resulting directly from native forest logging.

Caswell's one-dimensional view of the destructive and greenhouse polluting native forest industry juggernaut is compromising the transition to a genuinely sustainable more climate friendly plantation-based industry.

Let us hope that Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales can follow the example of New Zealand, Western Australia and Queensland and protect our native forests and encouraging the more climate-friendly plantation alternative.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Melbourne's little piece of France & Belgium

For the last few years I have been stopping by at the Waffle On, a tiny hole in the wall cafe in Degraves Street, for a coffee and superb Belgian waffles. The cafe is just above the subway entrance from Degraves Street down to the Flinders Street station underpass.

Marc, the main man (pictured), makes the best waffles in Melbourne. Many French expats frequent the tiny cafe, so a visit there is often just like being in Paris.

Marc may be returning to France soon, so if you like Belgian waffles, or traditional French baguettes along with great coffee, go there as soon as possible or you may miss out.

Forests can slow climate change

Once again we are faced with the unedifying spectacle of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull both playing political football with Australia's forests.

Kevin Rudd has just fully endorsed John Howard's forest policy which supports the destruction of remnant majestic old growth forests in both Tasmania and South East Australia. He has done this to curry favour with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union in the run up to the federal election.

Deforestation and land clearing accounts for around 10 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, yet Kevin Rudd is doing nothing to stop this, despite the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which identifies protection of forests as a key global strategy for combating climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull says he recognises the importance of forests as carbon stores, yet he also supports the ongoing destruction of Australia's forests and the resulting export of 4 million tonnes of woodchips from Tasmania and 1 million tonnes from Victoria each year. The Howard government is allocating $200 million to protect forests in South East Asia, but is unwilling to protect Australian forests that store up to 1200 tonnes of carbon per hectare.

Carbon dioxide emissions from logging in Victoria in 2004-2005 were almost 10 million tonnes which is equivalent to emissions resulting from an additional 2.4 million cars onto Victoria’s roads each year.

The solution is remarkably simple. We need to protect all remaining old growth forests to preserve both their intrinsic value and the carbon they store.

Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull can only see woodchips rather than our trees.

This was published as letter in the Heraldsun and The Age newspapers on Wednesday July 25, 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

Separated bike paths are better and safer than bike lanes

Here is an interesting video that explains why separated bike lanes are much better than the bike lanes that are painted on the roads.

"A true bicycle lane is one that can be used by a child".

While the video describes the effectiveness of seperated bike paths compared to bike lanes in New York, it is equally applicable to Melbourne.

The new separated bike paths in Swanston Street Carlton are an excellent example of how well these work. You don't have to worry about motorists parking across the bike path or entering it quickly. The bike paths start heading north of the city just past the City Baths. Give them a try.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Howard needs to address the causes of aboriginal community issues, not just the symptoms

John Howard’s recent announcement of sending police and troops to address the “emergency” that he has declared concerning aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory will not address the many causes of this situation.

Indigenous Australians are facing huge problems including low life expectancy, high infant mortality rates, high rates of diseases such as diabetes, along with drug and substance abuse problems with petrol sniffing, alcohol and kava.

The recent “Little Children are Sacred” report also highlighted another symptom of social breakdown and dysfunction – the sexual abuse of children.

None of these problems are new, yet John Howard suddenly declares an emergency.

It is not surprising that people in these communities are scared and frightened by the prospect of the army and police arriving. They clearly haven’t been widely consulted about these measures and whether they will work. Just imagine if a section of non-aboriginal Australia was suddenly subjected to the same measures.

It also appears that many of the 97 recommendations in the report are being ignored, with one of the report authors Rex Wild QC criticising the Howard government’s actions.

While Mr Howard has expressed some displeasure at being accused of playing politics with this issue, it is hard to believe that this is just another political wedge tactic to catch out Kevin Rudd and create more community dissent about the appropriate course of action to take. Why is Mr Howard and Mr Brough castigating the States and the Northern Territory for inaction on these problems when they have been doing nothing about it during two terms of government either?

Unfortunately, Kevjn Rudd is playing politics too by fully supporting Howard’s police action initiative. It has been left to some Labor State premiers to question Howard’s motives and point out that police action on its own won’t solve all the problems.

This is a matter of human rights and fair treatment of indigenous Australians. There is a law and order issue, but this is a symptom of the problem with a "law and order crackdown" being yet another ill informed attempt at "cure".

Rudd needs to stand up and state what is wrong with Howard's position on this.

What about prevention? What about building resilience in these communities? What about allowing people to develop their own meaning and path in life? Why is there no discussion of prevention measures or causes? Why are we sending in police prior to consulting with the communities in question?

The Howard government's anti-reconciliation, anti-land rights and anti-multiculturalism stances are all implicated as contributing factors to the problems faced by Indigenous Australians.

We need a non-political approach to these problems that carefully assesses all the report’s recommendations and engages the communities involved. There are opportunities to build on the some success stories among indigenous Australians. We need real consultation and leadership on this, not political maneuvering and point scoring.


PM's 'got it wrong' on abuse plan

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stop logging Melbourne's catchments to save water

Letter to the editor

It is encouraging to hear that the announced desalination plant for Melbourne (Australian 20/6) will be carbon neutral. However the renewable energy it will consume would be better utilised supplying Melbourne which is now struggling for power during peak load times.

Following the doctrine that prevention is better than cure, the Bracks government should end all logging of our old growth forests and water catchments.

Considering the Thomson catchment, which supplies over 50% of Melbourne's water during drought years:
  • Over 50% of the Thomson catchment has now been logged.
  • The area most heavily logged produces 70% of the water.
  • This is causing the loss of 20 gigalitres of water each year from the catchment, which amounts to the water used by about 100,000 households.
The image below shows the extensive patchwork logged forest in the Thomson catchment, circa 1995.

Around 90% of Melbourne's tap water comes from 157,000 hectares of native forest spread across our water catchments. These forests have the prime purpose of harvesting drinking water. Scientific studies have confirmed that logging causes the loss of at least 30 gigalitres from these catchments each year. These losses are equivalent to the current water use of 150,000 Melbourne households per year. Over the last 30 years a third of these catchments have been logged.

The value of the water lost subsequent to logging far exceeds the low value of the woodchips, timber and royalties. Victorians would be $147m better off per year if logging of catchments stopped.

Melbourne Water should buy out the timber licenses for the Thomson and Yarra tributary catchments at an estimated cost of $3.9 million, rather than spend the estimated $20 million to bring the Tarago catchment back into the domestic water supply system.

If the Bracks government were to stop logging our native forest, adopt further conservation measures and encourage every household to use a water tank, we may not even need the $5 billion desalination plant which will double the cost of water bills.

The UK Stern Report estimates that deforestation represents more than 18% of global carbon emissions, so protecting protecting our forests from logging has the added benefit of ensuring the carbon they store stays there and does not further contribute to climate change.

City counts cost of logging, The Age

Monday, June 11, 2007

Australia should embrace the clean energy industry

Here is an excellent letter to the editor of The Age that points out that the Howard Government is guilty of extreme economic negligence by deliberately ignoring the fantastic opportunity for Australia to develop jobs and exports in the clean energy industry.

The European example points out on what Australia is missing out on:

  • In 2006 in Europe $38b was invested in the renewable energy industry
  • In 2007 it is projected that renewable energy industry investments will increase to $45b
  • Nuclear provides about 6% of Europe’s energy and is being phased out
  • On current trends renewable energy is predicted to be cost competitive with coal by 2015
  • The renewable energy industry employs approximately 500,000 people while the coal industry employs about 30,000
  • In 2006 wind energy output exceeded nuclear energy output on one day in Germany
  • In 2006 in France, energy production from nuclear was halved due to a shortage of water to cool the power stations.
  • Germany has now mandated that new houses must produce 20% of their power needs
  • The EU is currently considering increasing their Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) to 20%
It is interesting that emission trading in Europe has not assisted renewable energy, it has only improved efficiencies of fossil fuel use. So John Howard's future dated "response to climate change" is far to little, far too late.

What a waste
Vivienne Gray, Williamstown
Published in The Age on Saturday 10 June 2007. (Source)

Why does our Prime Minister always stress the economic costs of adjustments needed to address global warming, and not the economic opportunities?

Andrew Stephens' article (3/6) highlights how Australia has lost out over the past few years. The Federal Government has failed to foster technologies and industries that could have ensured our ongoing prosperity and at the same time helped reduce our greenhouse emissions. As a result, many thousands of "green-collar" jobs have been created offshore.

The last decade gave us a chance to make progressive adjustments to our fossil-fuelled energy industries. But in the face of government inaction, we now have to take more drastic steps and, if Howard is to be believed, we'll need a network of nuclear power plants.

So, we can forget about being the "clever country". The Federal Government's vision will ensure we remain the world's quarry - mining coal (until no one will buy it) and uranium. Our existing power plants will be replaced with equally ugly nuclear power plants.

Oh, and we'll take the world's nuclear waste, too. At least we'll lead in something.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mother's climate action and John Howard's response

Here is an inspiring video made by some people who care about climate change - the Blackheath Climate Action Now! Group in Sydney.

Local community action like this will really make a difference to our politicians, who are currently unwilling to take real action on climate change.

John Howard won't commit to any emission reduction targets until after the election - probably because his targets will be so weak they won't make any difference. His emissions trading scheme won't really address climate change either. His obsession with nuclear power won't help either - it wouldn't be ready in time and isn't renewable energy.

Kevin Rudd has only committed to 60% emission reductions by 2050. However, with no 2010 or 2020 targets, Australia's carbon emissions would continue to grow - up to a 20% increase by 2020, so 2050 targets on their own are basically useless.

Let your local member know that you care about climate change, and that you want real action on climate change.

For more details on what our leaders should do to really take action on climate change, visit The BigSwitch.

Here is a leak of John Howard's response - his upcoming PR campaign on climate change - from the Getup climate change campaign

Monday, June 04, 2007

Logging our native forests is just not on

The recent high score awarded to the logging industry by the EPA for complying with environmental requirements (Age, Business 4/6) unfortunately doesn't take into account the huge impact that logging and burning native forests has on biodiversity, the survival of endangered species such as Leadbeaters Possum, or the resulting loss of water from our catchments.

Reporting high compliance levels with the weak and substandard Code of Forest Practice is hardly a commendable outcome. I have witnessed at first hand numerous breaches of the Code, and the rampant forest destruction that results even when the Code is adhered to. For example,
most habitat trees left recently logged Yalmy forests in East Gippsland have now died.

The Government is wasting a lot of taxpayers money doing questionable audits on an industry now almost exclusively focussed on producing low-value woodchips that are nearly all exported. The audits don't include the huge carbon emissions that result when the logged forests are burnt. These native forests should be protected both to address climate change, and to ensure they can be enjoyed by future generations. Treating them like de facto plantations is just not on.

Logging audit gets high score

Saturday, June 02, 2007

LETTERS: We can pursue ambitious cuts and also grow the economy

It is encouraging to see that many are seeing through the Howard's government spin and hyperbole on climate change. Here are some letters from the Australian on June 2, 2006 that cut to the chase:

Chris Cuthbert
Epping, NSW

The climate change sceptics and the merely querulous have had a good run on the letters page this week (Geoffrey Luck, 30/5; Tom Biegler, 31/5; J. Morrissey, 1/6), so it might be time to present the other side of the debate.

The science by now is solid. The true scientists and the professional sceptics can debate the issue for the next 50 years, and new research will extend our knowledge and modify some conclusions as to the road ahead, but this won’t change the main conclusions: the world is heading for big trouble and we’re overdue in taking some serious corrective action.

Corrective action will not destroy economies or even put them under great strain. This was stated very clearly in the Stern report and also in two local reports, the latest by the CSIRO. Their conclusions? We can adopt challenging emission targets, do our best to meet them, and also grow our economy.

The do-nothing alternative is just not acceptable. To state the obvious, the economy is a fully owned subsidiary of the environment. A damaged environment equals a damaged economy. Anyone who doubts that had better read some Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Australia is one of the countries that will definitely be worse off.

If we decide to wait for everyone else, our international reputation in relation to this very significant issue will be even lower than it is today. To take just one example: the Indonesian archipelago is made up of 27,000 islands, 8000 of which are inhabited. Thousands of these islands will be under threat from rising sea levels and storm surge, if not by 2030 or 2050 then certainly by the end of the century. The vast numbers of people displaced will look south to observe a rich, complacent and uncaring land taking a free ride. What’s the point of individual Australians and our governments sending aid to these people every year and then washing them out of house and home?

Bruce Jame
Tea Tree Gully, SA

In the carbon trading and global warming debate, many people seem to think that if carbon dioxide emissions generated in Australia are reduced, there will be a commensurate reduction in the rate of Australia’s climate change. This is not so. We are almost totally dependent on what happens in the large industrial and developing countries, the US and China in particular.

What we do may be useful in consciousness-raising and setting a good example, but in practical terms will have very little effect and may come at a considerable cost. John Howard’s reluctance to promote emission targets and carbon trading may be influenced by this, but he does not say so. This is because he’s desperately trying to appear to be doing something that will make a difference and thereby curry favour with the electorate. For whatever reasons, other political leaders and global warming activists, who must know better, do not point out the futility of carbon trading unless it’s part of an effective global scheme.

Matt Mushalik
Epping, NSW

The Prime Minister recommends a cautious approach to the adoption of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nature doesn’t care about the PM’s – or anyone else’s – opinion about the pace of reducing greenhouse, it just responds to our emissions. If emissions don’t go down year on year, we’ll pay the price.

All our politicians need to attend a training course in climate physics. And the electorate will have to put pressure on all political parties. The solution is a re-industrialisation of Australia on the basis of renewable energies with technologies developed at our universities. They are ready. We can start today.

Natasha Hildebrand-Lockie

Yarraville, Vic

John Gava ("Cut gases or cop the cold shoulder”, Opinion, 31/5) overlooked three important reasons why Australia must significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

First, Australia’s annual contribution is 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions; we should, therefore, be responsible for our contribution. If every country reduced their own contribution and stopped worrying about other countries’ contribution, then the problem would be solved.

Second, Gava claims that “our production of greenhouse gases is so minuscule compared with the rest of the world”. In reality,
Australia’s emission levels are on par with many industrialised countries, such as France and Italy, and only 20 per cent lower than that of the UK. If Australia argues that our emissions are too insignificant to require action, then so could the vast majority of countries – and global warming will never be addressed.

Third, Australia can act as a convincing example to the highest emitting nations of how it’s possible to progress, cost effectively, to a low-carbon economy. In this way, Australia has the potential to make a huge contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this shouldn’t be trivialised.

Mike Driscoll
Adelaide, SA

AS part of any carbon trading initiative, a carbon tariff should be imposed on imported goods proportional to the country of origin’s carbon emissions. This would serve to protect the economies of emissions-abiding countries from imports from non-abiding countries.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Howard greenwashes climate change with weak carbon emissions scheme

Howard's proposed carbon emissions trading is just a greenwash that won't address climate change. It is too little and too late.

Emissions trading in Europe (where they have been doing it for years) has not benefited the development of renewable energy.

With no (or soft) targets/limits, there won't be any reduction in carbon emissions. At least $35 per tonne for carbon is required before wind can compete on a level field with coal. $50 per tonne is required to make carbon capture/sequestration competitive due to its very high development cost (and don't forget the risk that it may not actually be economically feasible).

Permits must be auctioned, not given away to polluters. Otherwise the highest emitters such as coal fired power stations get a free concession to pollute, and the value of the permits is devalued.

Permits must be temporary licences, not property rights, otherwise owners will claim compensation from taxpayers when they lose them if we actually do succeed in cutting emissions.

Howard has quite obviously been forced by public opinion to reluctantly do something to look like he is addressing climate change. Unsurprisingly, he has failed to address the root cause - which is the burning of fossil fuels.

Malcolm Turnbull has just stated that "the long term direction is for zero emission energy", but the Howard government is light years away from this and is giving $500m to the coal industry.

Here is the roadmap they are studiously ignoring:

  • Reduce consumption through efficiency measures.
  • Boost renewable energy such as biomass, wind, and solar and zero emission geothermal energy and reduce coal-fired generation
  • Gas can be used for power generation to transition to lower emissions
  • Set scientifically backed emission reduction targets of 20% by 2020 (at a minimum) and up to 80% by 2050
  • Use the world global average temperature to measure progress; if it keeps rising more stringent measures are immediately required.

Kevin Rudd is avoiding any short term targets for emission reductions too, so Labor's policy for reducing carbon emissions is currently not much better than Howard's.

We need a paradigm shift to a new jobs-rich economy based on renewable energy. With both major parties dodging and weaving on this, the only clear option to safeguard our future is to vote Green.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Letter to my local member Petro Georgiou on climate change

I just sent this letter to Petro Georgiou, my local member in the Kooyong electorate.

Dear Petro,

I write to you as a constituent. Thanks for your letter dated 16 May advising of budget matters and the Government's platform for the 2007 election.

I believe that climate change is the number one issue facing Australia and Kooyong at present. I don't think the Government and budget initiatives you mention under "The Environment" are anywhere near enough to address climate change.

For example, nearly all the total $500m Low Emissions Technology Demonstration fund is committed to carbon capture and sequestration research and development. You incorrectly refer to this as "clean coal". There is no such thing, burning coal will always result in carbon emissions. This technology is unproven, and will in any case will not be available in time to address the major cutbacks immediately required in carbon emissions - as identified in the Stern report and recent IPCC reports.

Both these reports indicate that significant expenditure (about 1% of GDP) is required to limit further global temperature rises by one degree. The cost of doing nothing effective now could require over 3-5% of GDP to address later (say in 5 years time).

Your government and the Prime Minister has stated that Australia cannot take action to address climate change as it will affect employment and our standard of living. This is completely the wrong way around. If we don't take immediate action to address climate change, our incomes and standard of living will greatly affected in the near future. We are already seeing the affects of climate change and drought on our agricultural exports and food supply.

I would like to you ensure that Australia:

  • Legislates for a renewable energy target of 30% by 2020 to fast-track the shift to a clean energy economy, which could become one of Australia's major sectors for employment and exports.
  • Sets a legislated target to stabilise our total energy consumption by 2010. We must reduce our energy consumption through increased efficiency measures to reduce our carbon emissions,

  • Achieves reductions of 1.5% on our total electricity use every year to 2020. After stablilising our energy consumption, we must then progressively reduce it through efficiency measures.

  • Abolishes the fringe benefit tax concessions for car use. Many leased cars are currently used excessively to meet tax deduction requirements, resulting in large and avoidable carbon emissions.

  • Provides $1 billion of additional Federal funding annually for our public transport systems. Public transport, and rail in particular, is much more energy efficient than transport by privately owned motor vehicles. Increased use of improved public transport will reduce our carbon emissions.

  • Ends broad-scale land clearing and logging of high conservation value native forests by 2008, to address the greenhouse emissions from these practices.

  • Put a price on carbon pollution, either through a tax or an emissions trading scheme. This will ensure that renewable energy can compete with fossil fuel energy on a level playing field. Fossil fuel energy is heavily subsides by the Government. These subsidies must be removed.
  • Does not build new coal fired power stations and that we responsibly phase out our involvement in the coal industry.

  • Ratifies the Kyoto Protocol immediately. Climate change is a global problem, and it needs a global solution. Australia should become a constructive part of this international process.
  • Shifts overseas aid to renewable energy sectors. Australia must integrate climate change risk factors into all relevant parts of our Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) program planning and evaluation. The majority of Australia's ODA energy sector spending should be on renewable energy, demand management and energy efficiency.

  • Does not use nuclear power and stops uranium mining. Nuclear power is a dangerous and ineffective response to climate change. Australia’s involvement in the global nuclear cycle should be nil – no uranium mining, nuclear waste dumps, and nuclear power stations for Australia.

  • Limits global temperate increases to 2 degrees. Most industrialised nations now accept the imperative of constraining global temperature increase to 2 degrees or less to avoid catastrophic climate change, It is imperative that constraining global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels must underpin Australian government policy responses to global warming.

At local level, can you please:

  • Commit to Kooyong becoming carbon neutral? Can you please commit to the target of Kooyong becoming carbon neutral by 2010?

  • Provide funding for the Eastern Rail Trail? Increasing bicycle transport is another means of reducing our carbon emissions. A high quality bicycle trail along the Box Hill line through Kooyong would encourage both local and commuter cycling.

Could you please convey my views to the Australian parliament and the Liberal Party room for consideration and action?

I await your response. I will follow this email up with a phone call next week to confirm progress on this. I would also like to meet with you to discuss these matters further.

Regards, Peter

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Labor, Liberals and Family First oppose Senate motion on climate change

It is interesting to observe the serious lack of real political commitment from Labor, Liberal and Family First parties to seriously address climate change.

On 10 May 2007, Senator Christine Milne (Greens Senator for Tasmania) moved that the Senate:

(a) notes that most industrialised nations now accept the imperative of constraining global temperature increase to 2 degrees or less to avoid catastrophic climate change; and

(b) agrees that the imperative of constraining global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels should underpin government policy responses to global warming.

7 Senators (Greens and Democrats) voted for the motion, while 44 voted against it.

Labor, the Liberals and Family First all voted against it.

The pre industrial average global temperature was about 16 degrees. The average global temperature has already increased by 0.8 degrees to 16.8 degrees. It is past time for urgent action to address climate change.

The science is clear, and the catastrophic results are increasingly apparent, with yet another Government report about to be released with shocking findings, including major risks to some of our most basic services and necessities - including water, electricity, transport, telecommunications and buildings. Melbourne has just experienced its driest ever year, getting only half its yearly average rainfall as of 15 May 2007.

Unfortunately, most of our politicians are prepared to play games and fiddle while Australia burns.

Links Senate Hansard, 10 May 2007
Climate change: shock findings for Victorians , The Age, 16 May 2007
Melbourne records driest 12 months, The Age, 16 May 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Election strategy, political football and climate change

I bumped into Bob Hawke in Melbourne airport just after the 2004 federal election, and asked him what on earth happened with Mark Latham and Labor's strategy for the election. He replied that Latham had earlier sought advice from him and he told him that

“you need to take a lead position on your key strengths and you need to cover the key issues that your opponents will use against you”.

I consider this sage advice.

In 2004, Labor arguably ran on education (e.g. school funding) and health (e.g. Medicare Gold). The Howard governed countered them on education by running a scare campaign on funding for non-government schools being reduced (as per their “hit list”).

The environment has been a differentiator between Labor and the Liberals, but in 2004 Latham played a game of cat and mouse on forests with John Howard. Instead of taking a leadership position on forest protection and taking it up to Howard, Latham was lured into a trap which was deftly sprung when John Howard visited Tasmania and famously hugged members of the CFMEU in Hobart. Labor's Tony O'Connor of the CFMEU denounced Labor's forest policy in favour of John Howard's. While this did not actually cost Labor the election, it certainly did not help them much.

Interestingly, Hawke also pointed out that one of Howard's former key strengths – national security – was effectively neutralised as a campaign issue for him when the “43 eminent people” including retired defence chiefs, diplomats and former senior bureaucrats strongly criticised Howard for deceiving the Australian people over the Iraq war and pointing out that Australia had not become a safer place as a result of the war. However, Labor was not able to capitalise on this, although they did ask a series of questions in Parliament on this topic. See PM shrugs off foreign policy attack for more information on this.

Howard also effectively attacked Labor's economic credentials by running a scare campaign that interest rates would rise under Labor, which Latham was not really able to counter in the public mind despite signing a dubious guarantee that interest rates would not rise under a Labor government .

Latham's earlier wins on policy issues like books for children in schools and reducing parliamentarians superannuation disappeared in the cut and thrust of the campaign and the ensuing media storm.

So what will the strategies for the major parties be for the 2007 Federal election? Here is my take on it.

Labor will run on:


  • Increase funding and boost the ailing public education system.
  • Position Labor as the “education experts”
  • Point out that investing in education is an investment in the future
  • In Rudd's budget reply, he has announced significant funding for new technical education, which could enjoy popular support.

Workplace relations

  • Campaign on the issue that worker entitlements have been lost via Australian Workplace Agreements and the Howard Government's Work Choices reforms.
  • Labor has committed to removing AWAs

Climate change and the environment

  • Position themselves as better than Howard on climate change by ratifying the Kyoto agreement and setting targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • Keep the CFMEU and coal miners happy by committing to grubby coal funding.
  • Tread carefully on Tasmanian, Victorian and NSW forest protection to avoid a repeat performance of 2004. Tony O'Connor and Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon have already fired warning shots on this issue.

Infrastructure and long term planning

  • Rudd has announced a policy for improving extending the speed and coverage of broadband across Australia to boost Australia's capabilities to use the Internet for competitive advantage.

Labor will seek to mitigate Liberal attacks on:

  • Economic management credentials, including keeping interest rates low and running a budget surplus
  • Being controlled by the unions and compromising Australia's productivity
  • Endangering the economy and our standard of living by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Rudd's inexperience compared to Howard

The Liberals will run on:

The economy
  • Claim credit for Australia enjoying prosperous times, low unemployment and a healthy economy (even though the minerals boom has been a major contributing factor to this)
  • Continuing to run a budget surplus
  • Reduce taxation to keep the electorate happy with more money in their pocket
  • Position themselves as the only party capable of continuing to run a healthy economy


  • Howard has already taken it up to Rudd with the announcement a funding boost for universities with a new $5 billion Higher Education Endowment Fund, which will initially produce $300 million to $400 million annually for capital works and research facilities.

The environment

  • Climate change. $741 million over five years on climate change has been announced, including funding for solar panel rebates, and deductions for the cost of establishing carbon sink forests. There is speculation that Howard will introduce an emissions trading scheme closer to the election date to strengthen their position on climate change
  • Water tanks - $200 million over six years to support installing water tanks and other water-saving devices by schools and community organisations.
  • Nuclear power and grubby coal. Howard is positioning both nuclear power and grubby coal (referred to by him with the oxymoron of “clean coal”) as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He is on dangerous ground here as neither will address long term energy sustainability, and neither will not be available in time for the immediate reductions we require.

Other items significant for the election in Costello's budget include:

  • The aged. Immediate bonuses for about 85 per cent of people over 65, bonuses for carers
  • Low -income earners. An extra $1.1 billion paid into the superannuation accounts of low-income earners.
  • Child care. Changes include increasing the child-care benefit and fast-tracking the child-care tax rebate
  • Defence. An additional $2.1 billion over 10 years to improve recruitment and retention of personnel.
  • Road and rail. New budget funding for roads and rail of $22.3 billion over five years.

The Liberals will seek to mitigate Labor attacks on:
  • Howard's ongoing commitment to the failed Iraq war, and his reluctance to reveal an exit strategy
  • Recent interest rates rises
  • A reduction in the growth of productivity
  • Australian workers not getting “a fair go” due to Howard's workplaces reforms and AWAs
  • The Howard government's lack of real action on climate change, despite growing public concern on this issue. Australia also appears as a pariah nation on climate change, constantly seeking to avoid commitments to setting emission reduction targets, criticising the Kyoto Agreement and failing to ratify it.
  • The increased cost of housing – pushing affordabilty beyond the means of most first home buyers

Where I think both major parties will fail:

  • Setting the aggressive targets and policies to address climate change. In particular, both major parties will avoid setting strong immediate targets and strong targets for 2020. Both will attempt to buy time on this, and maintain that they are taking appropriate action.

  • Protection of remain high conservation value forests, including old growth forests not currently protected. The Liberals favour large companies continuing to plunder our forest, even though forest destruction contributes to climate change and loss of water. Labor is locked into a militant CFMEU (Union) position of logging jobs rather than forest protection - even though the logging jobs will go once the remaining forests are destroyed.

  • Funding for a national high speed rail network similar to that operating in Europe in Japan. This is in the "too hard basket" for both Labor and Liberal who support spending vast amounts of money on the road system instead. This is in spite of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee report of February 2007 that states trains use about one third the fuel of trucks per net tonne kilometre.

  • Funding for cycling transport infrastructure to make it safer and more convenient in both urban and rural areas. Again, this is in the "too hard basket" as multi billion dollar toll roads such as Melbourne's Eastlink are being constructed.

  • Putting in place effective policies for reducing power consumption and the reducing the requirement for base load electricity.

  • Setting an exit strategy for coal burning and exports. The Liberals are addicted to the revenue for coal exports, and Labor is protecting coal miners jobs. But we got of whaling didn't we?

So what about the Greens?

This is topic for a separate posting. Some of the above points where major parties may fail could be addressed by them. They will be under strident attack from both Labor and The Liberals who are not keen to lose any votes to newcomers or to share the balance of power with other parties.

Will the Greens be able to counter attacks by the major parties and consolidate growing public support for many of their core policies which have now become mainstream? Or will they be marginalised and characterised again as “extreme”? Will Labor and Liberal really take action on climate change, or will they succeed in just greenwashing themselves?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Time for action on water, not more reviews

It is a great concern that Melbourne's water storages have just dropped below 30% for only the second time since the severe 1967 drought.

Looking at Melbourne Water's information on our reservoirs and consumption, we have about 320 days of water until we get to 10% levels if we continue to consume water at our current rate. 10% could be a realistic minimum amount as it could be problematic to get access to or use remaining water below this level. If no significant rain falls, Melbourne will effectively run out of water by March 2008.

Yet with an apparent crisis looming, there is scant provision to address our water shortage in the Victorian State budget just announced by Treasurer John Brumby, despite windfall income from gambling revenue.

The best that Minister Thwaites can tell us is that the Government is still “looking at options”. It is time for action, not more reviews.

Two possible options for managing and conserving our water are:

  • Introduction of a “luxury use” premium for water used in excess of normal household usage, or;
  • A domestic water trading scheme similar to that used for agricultural irrigators could be introduced for households. Such a scheme could effectively establish a market price for scarce water. Households could have a non-tradeable allocation so that reasonable domestic use is covered, and a tradeable allocation that could be on-sold. Tradeable allocations could also be reduced in times of drought.

At this point in time, there are no significant financial incentives for those who do the right thing and install large water tanks, and people are still topping up domestic swimming pools that lose a lot of water every day due to evaporation.

A family of four can normally get by with about 25,000 litres of water storage. Most domestic swimming pools contain significantly more water than this – up to 50,000 litres is not uncommon.

Perhaps it is time that domestic pools are converted for water storage purposes rather than used for recreation.

Some real action on and funding for addressing the causes of climate change such as reducing our huge greenhouse gas emissions could also help address the causes of the drought.

Note: an edited version of this letter was published in The Australian on Saturday 5 May, 2007


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New low energy light bulbs to reduce our footprint further

When we completed our sustainable house renovation in 2001 we had about 8 light globes that were on dimmer switches in two of our main living spaces. At the time, compact fluorescent light bulbs would not operate on dimmers, or you needed a special very expensive dimmer switch. We also had some wall lighting that used small bulbs. We have been running high electrical consumption incandescent bulbs in all these areas, which has bothered me for some time.

Happily, a much larger variety of compact fluorescent are now available.

Today, I visted The Environment Shop in Northcote and bought the following globes:

  • Compact fluoro spotlight - for outside (top)
  • Dimmable compact fluoros - for inside living areas (left) to replace incandescent bulb (second left)
  • Small bayonet compact fluoro (right) to replace small bayonet incandescent bulbs (second from right).
This will dramatically reduce our energy consumption - next I will calculate by how much.

I also plan to install more panels to our solar array. Adding about four 150w panels will hopefully make us net generators of electricity and further contribute to us reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Playing politics with climate change and nuclear energy

So now the worst kept secret in Australian politics out - John Howard has just announced his decision for Australia to "go nuclear" for power generation.

After "calling for a debate" and commissioning some nuclear physicists to write a favourable report on nuclear, and completely ignoring viable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, Howard now leaps to the conclusion, and apparently "makes the decision" to go nuclear.

Were you consulted? Did you have any input to this "decision"? Does Howard have a mandate to do this? Is this the right thing to do? Is this good democratic process at work? Are the Australian publics views and wishes being represented by the elected government?

I think the answer to all these questions are emphatic "NOs".

Nuclear power stations are a bad idea because:
  • It is not a renewable energy source
  • There is no safe waste storage solution
  • Nuclear power stations will take over 10 to 15 years to build and commission, which is far too late to address the immediate emission reductions we need to make over the next 2-3 years
  • It isn't greenhouse neutral - huge amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted during construction of plants and the mining, processing and transport of uranium
  • Huge amounts of water (which we don't have) are required to cool them
  • The cost of decommissioning them are huge
  • A clear majority of Australians don't support nuclear power, or want to live near a power station
  • An accident could render a large area of Australia, possibly even one of our capital cities, uninhabitable.
  • Wind, solar and geothermal are viable alternatives that are being largely ignored
  • Reduction in consumption by improved efficiency measures mean that we don't need to build new power stations.

I think Mr Howard is on a real loser with this one. I wonder about his motives.

Is this really an attempt to wedge the ALP who have their own internal tensions on this issue? Is he really trying to shift the focus away from ramping up uranium exports of doing the enrichment processing in Australia? (neither of which have been supported by the Australian people either).

Or is Mr Howard just looking after his mates like Ron Walker, Ziggy Switzkowski and Hugh Morgan, who have all positioned themselves to get generous handouts of Australian taxpayer's (our) money? This would be very inappropriate, and may even be corrupt.

Is this just a giant red herring?

It is high time that Howard stopped playing politics and pushing his increasingly extremist neo-conservative agenda onto the Australian public. It is time he did what he was elected for - to represent us and do the sensible thing.

In the meanwhile, Australia is missing out on the booming world market for renewable energy, and all the vast local employment opportunities this could provide.

The Age: PM flicks switch to nuclear

Thursday, April 26, 2007

LETTERS: Seeing through Howard's denial of climate change

Three interesting letters in The Age on Thursday 26 April 2007 are below. It seems that many people see through John Howard's convoluted denials of climate and his increasingly extremist position of refusing to seriously address it causes and his blind and unwavering support for fossil fuel industries and the "Greenhouse mafia".

Just who is 'crazy and irresponsible'?
Graeme Scarlett, East Malvern

JOHN Howard says "it is crazy and irresponsible … to commit to a target when you don't know the impact of the target" (The Age, 25/4). Yet he has committed to short-term targets re jobs and economic growth with no understanding or acceptance of the long-term and irreversible impact his policies have on the ability of our global environment to cope. Nor does he have any understanding of the detrimental impact his policies will have on future jobs and economic stability.

Does this make him crazy and irresponsible? You bet. But as the 18th-century philosopher David Hume might have said in defence of such self-interest: "T'is not unreasonable for me to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the loss of my job!"

Opportunity knocks
Author: Rowan Dowland, Wonga Park

WHAT'S the point the PM and Opposition Leader arguing whether climate change is Australia's overwhelming moral challenge? It's both a moral and economic challenge, but most importantly it's an economic opportunity.

Solving the climate change crisis with the use of new technologies is something we have control over, can participate in at an international level and generate overwhelming levels of new business, income and jobs for Australians. Get on with it, gentlemen. Business is waiting for a clear vision of your policy framework.

Moral imperatives
Author: Peter Hanley, Townsville, Qld

IN HIS "Australia Rising" speech on Monday, Mr Howard was reported as saying that "maintaining economic prosperity was Australia's greatest moral challenge" (The Age, 24/4).

In our world today, between 400 and 500 million people in Africa exist on less than one dollar a day, while in the European Union every cow is subsidised two dollars a day. Our top climate scientists have warned us that unless decisive action is taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will be out of control. And in Australia the health statistics of indigenous people are worse than those in many Third World countries.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "moral" as "concerned with the distinction between right and wrong". I wonder which dictionary Mr Howard uses — the same one that says "greed is good"?"


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

LETTER: Balancing act on climate change

Here is another good letter by Peter Christoff published in The Age on April 25, 2007, reproduced in full.

Yesterday's lead story about China and climate change told only half the story.

True, China will become the planet's biggest national greenhouse gas emitter within a decade. But there was no comment that China's per capita emissions are approximately one tenth of Australia's, which are the world's highest and indicate the major difference in living standards between our two countries.

No comment, either, that the UN Convention on Climate Change places the onus and burden of significant initial emissions reduction on developed countries. The United States and Australia, signatories to this treaty, have substantively refused to abide by their commitments.

No mention that China - unlike Australia - will derive 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, has rejected nuclear power as a major energy option, and is the world's largest site of emissions-reduction projects, funded through Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism.

Nor that a significant proportion of China's emissions come from manufacturing goods to meet Western demand.

China is confronting both the substantial domestic impacts of global warming and the substantial challenge of overcoming real poverty and underdevelopment. This involves difficult moral and policy choices, not a "hard line".

It is very different from the situation Prime Minister Howard faces as he seeks, inappropriately, to avoid real action on global warming (including significant assistance to China) in order to preserve a completely different level of "economic prosperity".

Author: Dr Peter Christoff, School of Social and Environmental Inquiry, University of Melbourne

Monday, April 23, 2007

LETTER: Praying for rain, or just praying for votes?

Here is a good letter by Peter Kartsounis, Footscray published in The Age on April 23, 2007, reproduced in full.

LAST week delivered one of the saddest ironies in Australian political history. A Federal Government that has spent the better part of a decade being sceptical of the growing accumulation of scientific evidence of climate change has had to tell people to be prepared for one of the direst consequences predicted by that science: that the second driest continent on Earth faces a year without sufficient water to meet all its needs, and that there is no way of predicting when this situation might be alleviated.

It has had to tell people to be prepared for great losses in our national economy, with reduced exports and greater need for imports, and to expect an impact upon the cost of living for ordinary households as the price of foodstuffs rises to unprecedented levels. This from a Government that has sold itself to voters on its supposedly superior credentials in economic management.

And John Howard still just plays politics. His dire announcement is perceived, by many, to be primarily aimed at forcing Victoria to end its resistance to a handover of powers to Canberra — under a "back of the napkin" water plan that has provided no details and appears to reward other states (such as Queensland and NSW) for decades of water mismanagement, compared with the relatively more responsible administration at Spring Street.

We might all be praying for rain. Howard is praying for votes. His administration does not deserve another chance after we, ordinary Australians, have been made to endure the severe consequences of previous years of federal neglect over environmental matters that crucially impact upon the common good.

This year, we might have hardly any local vegetables or fruit in our diets: next year we might simply have no water to drink. Many saw this coming, and we must not reward a Government that consistently failed to heed earlier warnings because of the "economic rationalist" blinkers all its ministers were directed to wear by its leader. We need a government we can trust to act in a more timely fashion to a better set of national priorities than the usual school of "economic rationalists" have.

Author: Peter Kartsounis, Footscray