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Category Archives: Environment

The Australian Government’s planned phase out of unleaded petrol is on the nose

By Dr Anthony Horton

Earlier this week, the Australian Federal Government announced a plan to phase out unleaded petrol within 2 years. The basis of this plan is unleaded fuel sold in Australia has the highest sulphur concentration of 35 OECD countries – according to the current Australian fuel quality standards, the sulphur concentration of unleaded fuel is 500 parts per million (ppm). As part of their announcement, the Government launched two Regulations and a discussion paper covering fuel quality, vehicle efficiency and vehicle emissions in Australia. Having reviewed these documents, the omission of the health impacts of benzene emissions from petrol leaves me to conclude that the Government’s planned phase out of unleaded petrol is a bit on the nose.

In the Regulations and discussion paper there is a clear focus on the economic impact(s) of increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in Australia and of tightening Australia’s fuel quality standards. Economic impact(s) are certainly an important consideration – cost benefit analysis has been part of standard business operations for decades. Drilling down into the economic positions presented in these documents however, I find it particularly interesting that the economic impact in terms of health outcomes is discussed in terms of particles, oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and Sulfur (SOx) and ground level ozone. This is interesting because while particles, NO2 and SO2 and ozone are important emissions from vehicles, a thorough economic assessment of the health outcomes should also include benzene. Benzene has replaced lead in petrol and is an aromatic compound – one of the first chemicals you may smell when filling up your petrol tank.

As someone who has worked in air pollution monitoring and management for more than 15 years and completed a PhD examining the excess lifetime leukaemia risk of exposure to benzene in petrol, I find the omission of benzene from the health outcome discussion disappointing. Like many chemicals, benzene has acute and chronic exposure symptoms and has been known to be carcinogenic (extremely harmful to humans) since the 19th century. The acute (short term) exposure health effects range from dizziness and euphoria to vomiting and loss of consciousness. The chronic (long term) exposure heath effect is leukaemia – based on exposure to very high concentrations over many years in occupational settings. As a result of the link between occupational exposure to benzene and leukemia, benzene has been phased out in many industries in which it was used (e.g. chemical manufacture).

As part of my PhD I conducted a study of personal exposure to benzene in petrol and recruited participants who were not exposed to benzene as a result of their occupation or from smoking. In addition to monitoring participants’ personal exposure, I monitored benzene concentrations at petrol bowsers, along freeways and in multi-storey carparks. Suffice it to say the highest concentrations were found at the bowsers which may surprise some people given that refuelling may only take 1 minute or so (depending on the capacity of the fuel tank). I suspect that many people fill up their vehicle fuel tank without giving much thought to the emissions that are around them.

The last stage of my research was a risk assessment which sought to determine what added cancer risk refuelling once per week posed over a lifetime. I used a World Health Organisation (WHO) risk assessment methodology which based the risk on a lifetime of 70 years. I found that the excess lifetime risk of refuelling once per week was approximately double that of commuting in Perth. Throughout most of North America and Europe, laws have existed for decades which mandate equipment being attached to the bowser hose that is essentially a vacuum. When you insert the nozzle from the bowser into your vehicle fuel tank, the vacuum forms a seal around the nozzle and tank so that your exposure is greatly minimised (if there is any exposure at all). To date, only one Australian state (New South Wales) has introduced a rollout of vapour recovery at petrol bowsers.

A previous article I wrote last year ‘Australian Government review of vehicle emissions has a now familiar aroma of disappointment’ discussed the Federal Government’s announcement of a working group charged with the responsibility of examining the implementation of Euro 6 vehicle emission standards for light duty vehicles (cars and vans), fuel quality standards, fuel efficiency measures for light duty vehicles (focusing on CO2) and vehicle emissions testing. In my article I expressed concern that the Government was ignoring the exposure of petrol station customers to benzene at the point of sale and in this week’s announcement regarding the planned phase out of unleaded petrol, it appears that the Federal Government has again missed an opportunity to reduce air pollution emissions and improve the health outcomes of Australian motorists by failing to acknowledge that any review and discussion of fuel quality and vehicle emissions in Australia must include benzene.

About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

 

Protecting the Sacred

By R D Wood

At present many of our best natural features are treated as a resource rather than the precious environment they really are. That is to say, sites that are sacred are not seen as such. If one considers current regulation surrounding Indigenous sacred sites in Western Australia one notices the paucity of the system.[1] If a site is declared sacred it enters a registry. This is determined through a bureaucratic process involving traditional custodians. Whether the site is worthwhile to begin with must come from Indigenous people themselves even as the government can veto this. However, if a mining company desecrates the site, the fine it pays goes to the state government. In other words, the state government accrues revenue based on a value system that it does not take entirely seriously, and hence is complicit with companies in neglecting sites of profound importance. It is not only that the fine is set too low to act as a deterrent against multinational entities; it is that there is no incentive to stop desecration because the state government does not sufficiently care.

As a comparison, imagine if the Buddhists, Sikhs or Muslims were the ones who gained a fee if the Sistine Chapel was destroyed? It would rely on their goodwill or economic self-interest to ensure they did not change it or simply knock it down. This means there is a mismatch in a system of value, which simply underscores the colonial tensions at the heart of Australia. We need to realise that Indigenous legal systems deserve better representation when administering their own affairs through prescribed body corporates, which includes the ability to set and manage boundaries, raise fines, and ratify sacred sites. This way we will get a better outcome for people in the community and manage to educate people about how sacred the place really is. That this is the only moral outcome needs not be restated.

This is also the case when it comes to recognising the importance of wilderness as wilderness be that James Price Point, Beeliar Wetlands or the Great Barrier Reef. How do we put a price on the great outdoors? How do we put a price on exploring beautiful places that interest us all? Our frontier needs to be there as a possibility for how we live our lives right now, and how we intend our children too as well. Why do we continue to pollute our oceans rather than see them for the deep wellspring of life that they truly are? To overcome this we need to elevate all sorts of collective action that already takes place such as Clean Up Australia Day and the Walkajurra Walkabout. We are doing OK, but we must do better.

In that way we often think of the whale and not the water. We fail to see the forest for the trees. A whole permacultural vision of Australia acknowledges that we need to integrate systems-level thinking into our environmental consciousness. That means understanding that a price on carbon is simply one beginning. We need to think through all pollutants as symptoms rather than simply blame one part of the system. We need to undertake a reorganisation that is sustainable through understanding the whole and not the part. This is not to say we cannot tinker at the edges, but that we need to keep going to encourage genuine structural change through legislation that encourages a better form of daily life. We know enough is never enough when it comes to protecting the places that matter to us.

It might mean turning our waste into a resource so we do not further encroach on places that are sacred. This is not only through encouraging the consumption of recycled products as a type of substituted good, but also about finding worthwhile things in our discarded piles. Why can’t a tip be mined? Why can’t water be recycled for toilets? Why can’t we have fruit trees on public property? At the level of re-using though, there is something to a society that does not pride itself on a cycle of fast consumption and inbuilt obsolescence, something to those old glass milk bottles, something to the fact that a car once lasted twenty years. The government can regulate in this regard. This is not only about banning pollutants, but protecting consumers from the harm that ails us all.

 

[1]To read more about this I recommend Tod Jones’ article, ‘Separate but unequal: the sad fate of Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia’, The Conversation, 7 December 2015.

 

Technology Population and Behaviour; Connecting the Dots

By Sean Hurley

Our species has come a long way since early human history; we have left behind the life of the hunter gather and learned to manipulate our environment to our benefit. We have continually enhanced our ability to create to such a point that it is now having detrimental impacts on our tiny planet. Where once the horizon appeared to be a far off place, the world an expanse beyond our comprehension, and our desire to explore and learn has revealed just how confined we are on this rock hurtling through space. While we have learned to dominate our surroundings, we failed to consider the damage our actions are having on our life support systems.

As we come to understand the harm we have inflicted upon our global home, we have still found it difficult to question the fundamental social systems which have encouraged that behaviour. Instead we can tend to blame technology for certain undesirable social outcomes, or blame overpopulation for our inability to provide for each other.

We appear to be predisposed to maintaining the system whatever the cost, and we find anything else we can to point at as we try to find reasons for poverty, unemployment, climate change and species extinctions to name a few. However, we show a deep reluctance to question the fundamentals of advanced human society. How are we behaving and what drives that behaviour? What is driving the numerous global declines we are experiencing in the 21st century: technology, overpopulation or is there something else behind it? Something we don’t want to see.

Abrupt Climate Change: A Shallow Dip Displaying the Complexity of Climate Change.

By Keith Antonysen

On a New Zealand radio station Guy McPherson suggested that humans would be extinct within 10 years, he made these comments on 24 November 2016. (1) McPherson thankfully is an outlier in the concept of human extinction in such a short time frame.

Other commentators debunk McPherson (2); though, in research terms the referred article has been bypassed by new research. Powell, when assessing climate science journals suggested that there are something like 12,000 peer reviewed articles published each year (3).

In 2016 meta Reports have been published in relation to the Oceans (4 ), the state of the Arctic (5), and a UNEP Report on Emissions (6 ). These Reports have used hundreds of references, and represent the work of numerous climate scientists. It is facile to merely write these major Reports off with the comment that they belong to some kind of conspiracy which has an ideological basis, or they are being promoted for monetary reasons. The Reports rely on observed data, satellite data, and modelling.

All of these meta Reports have as an underlying theme of CO2 being a greenhouse gas. Already in the 1850s Eunice Foote was experimenting with CO2 and found that the interaction of light and CO2 created warmth (7).

The lead comments from chapter 2 of the Oceans Report states:

“Rapid and substantial reduction of CO2 emissions is required in order to prevent the massive and effectively irreversible impacts on ocean ecosystems and their services.”

“It is thus of critical importance that changes in the ocean are taken into account in climate talks, and a relevant architecture for this must now be developed. “ (8)

Also, from the Executive Summary:

“Sea surface temperature, ocean heat content, sea-level rise, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations are increasing at an accelerating rate with significant consequences for humanity and the marine species and ecosystems of the ocean.” (9).

The Report comments on how there are already changes in Oceans providing difficulties for coral reefs, trouble for particular species and ecosystems. These matters need to be dealt with in a changing and uncertain future (10).

Through the warming of Oceans there has been significant changes in the distribution of sea weeds. Warm water based sea weeds have moved their habitat range from 26 to 1,250 kilometres North and South of the  Equator from environments they had traditionally been found at (11).

An assertion from UNEP Report: “The strengthened long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement require even stronger actions than previously identified, calling for accelerated efforts pre-2020, as well as increasing the ambition of the Nationally Determined Contributions. “ (12)

The Oceans and UNEP Reports provide information that indicate the enormity of the scale of climate change; in relation to Oceans normally sea level rise and acidification are discussed; whereas the Oceans Report extends discussion through broaching aspects of flora and fauna, some examples being micro-organisms, plankton, sea weeds, sea birds, and marine animals. The UNEP Report stresses the need for more action to be completed by nations to keep emissions lower than discussed at COP21 in Paris.

In relation to the Arctic “The fact that the Arctic is changing fast is well known: extent of sea ice, the condition of the Greenland ice sheet, the unusually warm temperatures are all widely reported – as are the new shipping routes opening up, and the oil exploration efforts. Less prominent, but also reported, are the stories of Indigenous Peoples whose livelihoods are disappearing, or whose villages are becoming uninhabitable.” (13) The Arctic Resilience Report discusses a number of changes; including shift to ice free summers, collapse of fisheries, and changes in the landscape (14).The Arctic is subject to human driven climate change which has an impact on risk factors in the Arctic Region (15).

A matter of concern: “The great ice sheet of Greenland was long believed to be resistant to climate change, as it takes thousands of years to respond to changing conditions. Recent observations suggest, however, that major changes in the dynamics of parts of the ice sheet are occurring over time scales of only years. The ice has been thinning at rates higher than expected due to warmer summers as atmospheric temperatures rise.” (16)

The ABC (US) found some stark comments in the Arctic Resilience Report: “While some changes, such as warming temperatures, are gradual, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, have the potential to be not only abrupt, but also irreversible,” says the Arctic Resilience Report. “This means the integrity of Arctic ecosystems is increasingly challenged, with major implications for Arctic communities and for the world as a whole.” (17).

Temperatures have been extremely high in the Arctic over the last months with measures being up to 20C above normal. (18) (19).

In conclusion, it is very difficult to do justice to the meta Reports discussed; the aim of these comments was to display the complexity of climate change.  Clearly, many matters which have a bearing on what is happening in relation to climate have not been discussed. The meta Reports provide some optimism providing real attempts are made to reduce carbon emissions. Though real efforts to create change have not yet occurred, McPherson states that extinction is inevitable; a more likely situation is that the carrying capacity of humans, and flora and fauna species on Earth will be heavily reduced.

(1) http://planet3.org/2014/03/13/mcphersons-evidence-that-doom-doom-doom/

(2) http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/07/09/climate-consensus-deniers-97-percent-is-wrong

(3) http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_consensus_on_anthropogenic_global_warming

(4) https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2016-046_0.pdf

(5) http://www.sei-international.org/mediamanager/documents/Publications/ArcticResilienceReport-2016.pdf

(6) https://newclimate.org/2016/11/03/emissions-gap-report-2016/

(7)  http://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/09/02/the-woman-who-identified-the-greenhouse-effect-years-before-tyndall/

(8) https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2016-046_0.pdf

(9) ibid

(10) ibid

(11)  ibid

(12) https://newclimate.org/2016/11/03/emissions-gap-report-2016/  (through second hyperlink)

(13) http://www.sei-international.org/mediamanager/documents/Publications/ArcticResilienceReport-2016.pdf

(14) ibid

(15) ibid

(16) ibid

(17)  http://abcnews.go.com/International/arctic-undergoing-rapid-ice-melt-speed-global-warming/story?id=43806027

(18) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/17/the-north-pole-is-an-insane-36-degrees-warmer-than-normal-as-winter-descends/?utm_term=.f11749cbda18

(19)  http://www.techtimes.com/articles/187237/20161128/a-warming-arctic-svalbard-archipelago-to-experience-average-annual-temperatures-above-freezing-point-for-the-first-time.htm

Keith Antonysen is retired. He is a keen gardener, photographer, and recreational fisher. The Vietnam War and later the flooding of Lake Pedder created an interest in politics which led to a passion for social justice issues.  Currently very concerned about lack of action on climate change. Not a paid up member of any Political Party.

Something we don’t want to talk about

By Sean Hurley

I advocate for fundamental social change.

I advocate for fundamental social change because I want our species to have a future. Even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary, I tell myself that as humans we can change and create better outcomes for our children.

I had the idea for this post over a week ago, and it was going to be a very different article. I had intended to write about all the reasons I have for wanting to see our species change direction. To briefly summarize what I have looked into and explain how they relate to each other. For me climate change has been a part of that picture, but it was not alone, it was not the only reason to change. It still isn’t.

That was over a week ago now.

Since then I have taken in some material produced by Guy R. McPherson, professor emeritus of natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology. Some of you may be aware of his work, others may not. He has what some people, well, probably most people, would call an extremely pessimistic view of the future for our species. I created a short video in 2013 out of an interview he did, in six minutes it gives you an overview of his position.

Basically, Guy expresses that we are doomed to extinction in the relatively near-term. I came across an interview he did in New Zealand the other day in which he has revised his expectations. Guy is now saying that there will not be humans on the planet in ten years. A decade!

How do you react to that when you hear it or read it? Of course the initial response by many, probably the vast majority, will be to reject it or dismiss it. A very good friend of mine after seeing the interview, a friend who I most deeply respect, expressed that it was one man’s opinion. To be sure it is, and of course hearing what Guy has to say is difficult at best.

I struggled with it. I am still struggling with it. I have been writing with Social Rebirth for a few years now. Long enough that we have had an initial release of the site, then changed tack and produced material on three different sites and finally came back and relaunched Social Rebirth again. That of course has made our content look like it has only been written in the past 2 years, when actually much of it was written previously and went through a re-edit to be posted after the relaunch.

Back in 2012 when Stuart Dobson pitched the idea of starting a website to Jules Elbeshausen and myself I decided that I would try to do my best to always address causality in my content. I have never felt like I was a great writer by any stretch of the imagination but, thanks to Stuart and Jules I think I have improved and come to really enjoy putting articles together. From the outset I have had a plan with my writing to try and produce articles that would work in conjunction with each other. I wanted them to not only be stand alone pieces but to also support each other, which recently culminated in Stuart and I selecting a range of our articles and putting them together into our first book From the Ashes of Capitalism.

I have, since starting the blog, been interested in showing the connection between our economic system, climate change, social disparity and ecological decline. I think that is an important picture for us all to be able to see, which is why I am struggling with the most recent Guy R. McPherson interview.

I have been researching what he is talking about for a few years now, and writing about aspects of it, so how did I not see the timeline? Maybe it is because I have been writing and reading about things in isolation from each other, which is exactly what I did not want to do. Even after collating the articles into the book, knowing things were not great, I did not allow myself to appreciate just how bad they were. Maybe subconsciously I did not want to. Who really wants to see the big picture when it is a picture of almost certain death? I just had to stop and laugh to myself. You see I am still doing it, where Guy points out species extinction is unavoidable in the near-term I want to add the word ‘almost’.

Perhaps I am optimistic to a fault; I want to hold onto the idea that as a species we still have hope, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The most troubling thing about what Guy is saying is that the evidence to support those claims is not hidden away. It is all around us, multiple agencies have been publishing the information for a long time. The thing is they have been published in isolation. We read articles about co2, species extinction, melting ice, ocean acidification, global dimming etc, but we don’t see them all wrapped up together at the same time.

This is what Guy has spent his time doing, he put the pieces together. It is extremely emotional to see, and it is difficult if not impossible to not have an emotional response to being told we are all going to die inside ten years. There are bound to be a range of responses to what he presents, people laughing at him, dismissing him, getting angry, depressed, we are humans after all and will have that range of responses. Which is why I find myself struggling with it, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I am finding myself constantly needing to remind myself to not be dismissive of what he is saying, to not look for people to blame out of anger, to not get upset about it because maybe it is not correct, to not just give up.

I know climate change is happening, I think the clear majority of people have come to accept that reality. I also accept that although our climate has changed in the past, and will continue to change into the future, the current change we are experiencing is human induced, or ‘anthropogenic’. So in the end I come to the conclusion that I need to try and be objective. I need to look at the information available and see where it leads. Do we still have time to change and avert disaster for our species and the many others we share this planet with? I hope so.

The one thing I think I can be certain of is that if we don’t do something serious now then the outcome will not be one we will want to talk about: our own deaths. If you want to take in the talk by Guy about climate change and our future it is in the video below. I don’t know if I want to recommend it. I will say this, if you are going to watch it try and remain objective. Try to catch yourself if/when you start to have an emotional response. I am going to try and prepare a series of work that will look at the current state of our planetary environment and explain what I find. I am also going to remain optimistic, because I feel we are a species with great potential. We will act or we will die.

You can review the work of Guy at his website, I encourage you to check his source.

Healthy States

By R D Wood

We need to be organised in such a way that we create a society where our good health is possible and enabled rather than fraught and fought for. The money we raise from taxing sources of our health problems (sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling) needs to go into regulation and enforcement as well as prevention and education.

Even if we can agree that denatured, processed, sugary food is not good for anyone, we need to realise that every body is different. My traditional food is not the same as your traditional food; what is healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. People I know in communities in the Pilbara and Kimberley stay strong because they eat their traditional food. I know cancer survivors who swear that it was kangaroo or bush turkey or emu that kept them alive while they were undergoing chemo. And they are more than likely right. When I have visited my mother’s homeland in southern India, I have felt healthier after eating fish curry than I have on many occasions in many other places.

We need to diversify our idea of healthy food then rather than project a universal notion from a basis of perceived superiority. Spinach is good for some, coconut oil is good for others, goanna for others yet. We need to get away from the fetish for a particular ingredient be that avocado, quinoa or kale, not simply because different rules apply to different people but also because of the complicated flow of resources that happens when one is neither strictly local nor living in one’s ancestral homeland. This focus on food as a source of prevention and primary care could be traced back to Hippocratic principles, but it is there too in Ayurveda and traditional health systems as I have experienced them on Ngarluma and Martu country.

This is where the work performed by local primary providers, from GPs to nurses to food providers and educators, is essential to ensuring we can be as healthy as possible. One particularly heartening example of this is the Eon Foundation, which operates in 16 remote communities across Australia. It performs the work of the local farmers’ market in places where access to fresh produce is difficult. Founded in 2005, Eon builds:

Edible gardens in remote Indigenous schools and communities for a secure supply of fresh food, and partner with them to deliver a hands-on practical gardening, nutrition education, cooking and hygiene program.

It is a practical and holistic early intervention program that allows children the best possible start in life. They invest in a community for a minimum of five years, and contra the intervention, only go to communities where they have been invited. They have partnered with the private and public sector to deliver the best possible outcome for children on the ground.  As the 2013 KPMG report on Eon suggested, ‘it is a genuine community development approach that values long term engagement over rapid delivery, local capacity-building over passive hand-outs, and practical cooperation over top-down intervention, in the approach most likely to be effective.’

These kinds of initiatives are vital in places not only because of the healthy eating they promote, but also because they provide meaningful modes of positive engagement for young people. In the Kimberley these forms of positive engagement are vital to providing a supportive community in the face of unfolding trauma, which includes a continuing battle with youth suicide.

This is a mental health issue that needs our attention in the long term rather than simple outrage and media commentary when it is clickbait. Support for mental health services is vital. As with the case of healthy eating, this means sustained investing in the grass roots service providers who are working at the coalface. This early intervention is key and as Amanda Lee and Nicole Turner state in regards to remote Indigenous health:

Effective primary care strategies such as targeted family support, “well person’s health checks”, breastfeeding promotion and infant growth assessment and action programs are ready and waiting for funding to be implemented and expanded.

Preventative care such as good food provision and health checks are even more acute in these remote places because of the absence of tertiary services. We must rail against the expectation that one will have diabetes or become obese or suffer from depression and we must also challenge the idea that the services provided for those most in need cannot be different. In Jigalong for example, a mining corporation established a dialysis centre but only funded it for three years initially. That long-term instability means we cannot plan adequately and our costs skyrocket when we are being simply reactive, which is no way to provide good services for those who are suffering in our very midst. Access to a healthy diet means access to traditional foods, which means encouraging community-led health initiatives that acknowledge the realities of life in remote Australia. This is one way we can all take a step forward together.

 

Further illegal logging exposed in Tantawangalo State Forest

MEDIA RELEASE

Police and State Forests now at the scene.

Logging has been halted in Tantawangalo State Forest near Bega this morning. A tree sit is suspended 35m by steel cables connected to 3 logging machines. Evidence of systematic damage to forests in southern NSW as a result of government-supervised logging has forced the environment department EPA to again investigate the state-run logging agency, Forestry Corporation of NSW, Australian Natural Wood Exports (ANWE, the Eden woodchip mill) and their logging contractors.

Recent inspection of native forest logging practices in several compartments of Tantawangalo State Forest by conservation group South East Forest Rescue (SEFR) has uncovered fresh evidence of illegal logging of rock outcrops in the escarpment forest. The logging contractor has been caught red-handed parked right next to the breach in what should have been an exclusion zone.
.
Six years ago half of the coups in the compartments in this area were logged and SEFR reported numerous breaches, which were confirmed by the EPA. One concerned the logging of a rocky outcrop that continued into an adjoining coup. A year ago when SEFR became aware that Forestry Corporation were to log the remaining coups we notified the EPA of our objection to this operation because of the extremely high probability of further breaches and specifically the half logged outcrop.

Despite this Forestry Corporation has logged what should have been a 40m exclusion zone. SEFR has also identified several other probable breaches that need to be further investigated. Forestry Corporation has gone rogue and the EPA has failed to enforce compliance of the rules.

“This situation is outrageous.” Said SEFR spokesperson Mr Scott Daines. “ All these breaches should never have happened after we notified the EPA a year ago. These are systemic breaches, past audits have exposed illegal logging of endangered ecological communities, old-growth and rock outcrops, we have proven systemic re-occurring breaches on the south coast that show a pattern of wilful non-compliance.”

The EPA has handed out penalty notices to the Forestry Corporation in the past for breaking these logging rules, and is now prosecuting over breaches in Glenbog State Forest, yet despite this SEFR today confirmed that the illegal logging of native forests continues by Forestry Corporation.

SEFR has reported on rocky outcrop breaches in this area as far back as April 2010, and still there has been no noticeable change in the practices of logging contractors.

“The chipmill ANWE and the Forestry Corporation have gotten away with actions the average person would be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for,” said Mr Daines.

Damage similar to that at Tantawangalo State Forest was identified by South East Forest Rescue in other Tantawangalo compartments as well as Glenbog and Yambulla State Forests, after ANWE and Forestry Corp’s logging operations.

“These regulations have been in place for 18 years, they are simple to follow and yet they are being broken regularly,” said Mr Daines. “The EPA has tried ‘education’, warning letters, its tried fines, but nothing is working. Citizens can’t take FCNSW to court. It’s time the NSW Government cut the cord and ended destructive native forest logging.”

This peaceful action has also taken place because deforestation is one of the biggest causes of climate change and Forestry Corp are incurring a massive financial loss in native forests.

“South East Forest Rescue calls on the state government to suspend all native forestry operations on the south coast immediately. The unsustainable wood supply agreements have surpassed the tipping-point of credibility and integrity. The citizens of the state of NSW have been defrauded, and the forest-dependant species of our region have been the silent victims” said Mr Daines.

The time has come to follow New Zealand’s lead an end native forest logging once and for all.

Depopulate . . . or perish

By Harquebus

The overpopulation problem is one that never seems to be discussed by our misleaders politicians and misinformers journalists. It is time for these shirkers them to face up to their responsibilities and address this very real threat that is ‘population overshoot’.

It is only recently in the history of humankind that our numbers have been able to increase so dramatically. From an estimated 1 billion at the turn of the 19th century to the several billion that we have now, the increase has been truly spectacular. The main factors that have enabled this increase are sanitation, modern medicine, and modern agriculture.

With increased survival rates and the ability to feed the growing hordes, we have flourished in a world of natural abundance and surplus. Unfortunately, that world of abundance and surplus is no more. We have consumed most of it and are now entering a new era dubbed ‘the anthropocene’ along with our planet’s sixth mass extinction event.

When once trees regrew faster than we could chop them down, now we have destroyed all but two of the world’s large natural forests. When once our fish catch was limited by the number of fisherman, now it is limited by the pace at which fish can reproduce and most global fisheries have either been destroyed or are in terminal decline. Minerals and fossil fuels were abundant and obtaining them was relatively easy, now we dig and drill kilometers into the Earth’s crust to obtain them.

If our numbers continue to increase, the raping and pillaging of the natural world will continue until all that is needed to sustain us is either destroyed, poisoned or so difficult to obtain that doing so becomes pointless. And it will accelerate.

There are two main factors that contribute to this destruction: the number of people, and per capita consumption. One way or another, per capita consumption is going to decrease. The natural world on which we depend just can not support the current rate of consumption and survive. As crude oil depletes – and it will – the agricultural revolution that has fed us will collapse and there goes most of the population. No more will we be able to drive to the shops to purchase our daily needs and even if we could, there will be nothing there.

Do you want future generations to live with extreme hunger and poverty? A world where every man, woman and child scrambles and fights for every scrap that hasn’t already been consumed. In some places this has already begun. Would it not be better to reduce our numbers voluntarily, conserve what precious resources remain and give the natural world time to recover? Future generations must be owed at least this much.

Without voluntary population reduction and control, make no mistake, the natural world will do it for us . . . and it will not be pretty.

We have reached the limits. It is now time to face this reality and abandon the growth ideology or face an unimaginable horror in a world that has become increasingly hostile for us and the natural world that sustains us.

How we reduced populations voluntarily is another debate. Bringing this subject to the front of public discourse is the first priority and hopefully, this submission will help towards that aim. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

“Ecological reductionism begins with the true insight that humans and markets are not exempt from the laws of nature.” — Herman Daly.

 

How far off is abrupt Climate Change?

By Keith Antonysen

The debate about coal verses renewables can go on for a long period, but, nature makes the decisions in the end.

Previously, I have written about volume of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean; providing figures only for the break down of volume, the graph and comments by Dr Joe Romm ( physicist) put more of a perspective on it through comments and graph (1).

The headline from the article is:

“A collapse in Arctic sea ice volume spells disaster for the rest of the planet. Global warming drives a stunning collapse in sea ice volume.” (2).

Quote:

“The sharp decline in Arctic sea ice area in recent decades has been matched by a harder-to-see, but equally sharp, drop in sea ice thickness. The combined result has been a warming-driven collapse in total sea ice volume — to about one quarter of its 1980 level.” (3).

Also:

“Unfortunately, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The accelerated loss of Arctic sea ice drives more extreme weather in North America, while speeding up both Greenland ice sheet melt (which causes faster sea level rise) and the defrosting of carbon-rich permafrost.” (4).

Europe also is impacted by what happens in the Arctic, and ultimately the rest of the globe is affected.

PIOMAS is supported by data created by satellite … CryoSat-2 . (5).

Supporting incidental information comes from the thawing of permafrost; it occurs when temperature has been high for a considerable time. Islands off the Siberian coast are disappearing as permafrost is thawing and wave action is eroding them.  (6).

A British yacht sailed both routes of the North West Passage in 2016. In a press release it was stated :

“The Polar Ocean Challenge successfully completed their quest to sail the North East Passage and North West Passage in one season.  The North West Passage was completed in an astonishing 14 days due to the fact that it was almost totally ice free.  They encountered ice only twice in their 1800 mile NW Passage part of the voyage.  This highlights an extraordinary loss of sea ice in the Arctic in the 30 years that David Hempleman-Adams has been coming to the area….” (7).

Methane explosions have been reported by the Siberian Times and Western sources.

What is the significance of the Arctic sea ice breaking down?

Remember, Dr Romm’s article uses observed data to provide a fearsome headline indicative of the future.

The cryosphere (snow and ice) has a moderating impact on temperature and is a determinant of climate. We do not know what tipping points will be reached as the Arctic sea ice disappears. The trend line is not appearing healthy and is suggestive that the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in a decade plus/minus. Meaning worse extreme weather; damage to crops, fresh water being contaminated, war, and creation of climate change refugees.

Deniers have delayed a sequential approach to tackling climate change for about two decades. Action is becoming increasingly more urgent.

References

1. http://thinkprogress.org/watch-the-arctic-death-spiral-in-this-amazing-video-b63486b99383#.y6ogew60z
2. ibid
3. ibid
4. ibid
5. ibid
6.  http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/14/thawing-permafrost-destroying-arctic-cities-norilsk-russia
7.  http://polarocean.co.uk

Keith Antonysen is retired. He is a keen gardener, photographer, and recreational fisher. The Vietnam War and later the flooding of Lake Pedder created an interest in politics which led to a passion for social justice issues. Currently very concerned about lack of action on climate change. Not a paid up member of any political party.

This article was published on tasmaniantimes.com and has been reproduced with permission.

 

Are we really doomed?

Many people are rightly concerned about the world’s growing population and its dwindling resources and if they aren’t, they should be.

As of August 2016, world population was estimated at 7.4 billion. The United Nations estimates it will further increase to 9 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in the year 2100.

But this doesn’t have to be and we don’t have to rely on plagues, famine, enforced sterilisation or murder to curb growth.

“Unsustainable population growth can only be effectively and ethically addressed by empowering women to become pregnant only when they themselves choose to do so.”

Examples from around the world demonstrate effective policies that not only reduce birth rates, but also respect the reproductive aspirations of parents and support an educated and economically active society that promotes the health of women and girls. Most of these reproduction policies are relatively inexpensive to implement, yet in many places they are opposed on the basis of cultural resistance and political infeasibility.

Eschewing the language and approaches of “population control” or the idea that anyone should pressure women and their partner on reproduction, Worldwatch Institute President Robert Engelman outlines nine strategies that could put human population on an environmentally sustainable path:

  • Provide universal access to safe and effective contraceptive options for both sexes. With nearly two in five pregnancies reported as mistimed or never wanted, lack of access to good family planning services is among the biggest gaps in assuring that each baby will be wanted and welcomed in advance by its parents.
  • Guarantee education through secondary school for all, especially girls. In every culture surveyed to date, women who have completed at least some secondary school have fewer children on average, and have children later in life, than do women who have less education.
  • Eradicate gender bias from law, economic opportunity, health, and culture. Women who can own, inherit, and manage property; divorce; obtain credit; and participate in civic and political affairs on equal terms with men are more likely to postpone childbearing and to have fewer children compared to women who are deprived of these rights.
  • Offer age-appropriate sexuality education for all students. Data from the United States indicate that exposure to comprehensive programs that detail puberty, intercourse, options of abstinence and birth control, and respecting the sexual rights and decisions of individuals, can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and hence reduce birth rates.
  • End all policies that reward parents financially based on the number of children they have. Governments can preserve and even increase tax and other financial benefits aimed at helping parents by linking these not to the number of children they have, but to parenthood status itself.
  • Integrate lessons on population, environment, and development into school curricula at multiple levels. Refraining from advocacy or propaganda, schools should educate students to make well-informed choices about the impacts of their behavior, including childbearing, on the environment.
  • Put prices on environmental costs and impacts. In quantifying the cost of an additional family member by calculating taxes and increased food costs, couples may decide that the cost of having an additional child is too high, compared to the benefits of a smaller family that might receive government rebates and have a lower cost of living. Such decisions, freely made by women and couples, can decrease birth rates without any involvement by non-parents in reproduction.
  • Adjust to an aging population instead of boosting childbearing through government incentives and programs. Population aging must be met with the needed societal adjustments, such as increased labor participation, rather than by offering incentives to women to have more children.
  • Convince leaders to commit to stabilizing population growth through the exercise of human rights and human development. By educating themselves on rights-based population policies, policymakers can ethically and effectively address population-related challenges by empowering women to make their reproductive choices.

If most or all of these strategies were put into effect, Engelman argues, global population likely would peak and subsequently begin a gradual decline before 2050, thereby ensuring sustainable development of natural resources and global stability into the future. By implementing policies that defend human rights, promote education, and reflect the true economic and environmental costs of childbearing, the world can halt population short of the 9 billion that so many analysts expect.

14 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year. In the developing world, poverty and traditional gender roles magnify this problem. 1 in 7 girls is married before age 15, and some child brides are married as young as 9 years old.

Each year, an estimated 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth. Only 35% of unmarried girls and women in developing countries use a modern method of contraception — so most teen pregnancies are unplanned.

For every dollar spent on family planning, governments can save up to 6 dollars on health, housing, water and other public services. Family planning enables millions of girls to stay in school, saves lives and has the capacity to lift entire communities out of poverty.

31 million girls in the world don’t have the opportunity to pursue an education. Every day, they are taken out of school and forced to work or marry. One out of five girls in the developing world doesn’t even complete the sixth grade.

When girls have the opportunity to complete their education through secondary school, they are up to six times less likely to be married as children than girls with little or no education. Educated girls are also less likely to have unintended pregnancies as teenagers.

Educated girls and women are healthier, have the skills to make choices over their own future and can lift themselves, their communities and their countries out of poverty. Even one more year in school makes a difference.

Poverty is also a factor in people having large families due to previous high infant mortality rates and the need for more hands to help work.  Wealth eventually stops procreation in its tracks, a fact demonstrated by countries as diverse as Italy and Japan.

Most religions are going to have to do some soul-searching and change their views about women and  the sacredness of sperm.

Environmental concerns must be more heavily weighted in the decision of which city hosts the Olympic Games

By Dr Anthony Horton

Recent media attention on the parlous state of the environment in the vicinity of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games sites, and Brazil more generally, piqued my interest in researching the extent to which environmental issues are taken into account when deciding which city hosts the Olympic Games. A report entitled ‘The 2016 Olympic Games: Health, Security, Environmental and Doping Issues’ published by the United States Congressional Research Service on 28 July 2016 highlights the environmental commitments made by the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee for the 2016 Olympic Games and the assessment process that each city must successfully navigate in order to be awarded the right to host the Games. This report was quite an eye opener for me, and after considering the findings I can only conclude that environmental concerns must be more heavily weighted in future decisions regarding which city hosts the Olympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has adopted a two-stage process to assess cities wanting to host the Olympic Games.

Since 1999, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has adopted a two-stage process to assess cities wanting to host the Olympic Games. The first addresses a number of items including environmental conditions and impacts. As part of this assessment, cities must provide the IOC with the following information:

  • An assessment of current environmental conditions in the city
  • Details of ongoing environmental projects
  • An assessment of the environmental impacts of hosting the Olympic Games in the city or region
  • Information regarding any environmental impact studies carried out on prospective venues and if any legislation requires that such studies are performed

During the second phase, cities wanting to host the Olympics must provide additional details including:

  • Air quality reports
  • Information about protected nature reserves/conservation areas
  • Information regarding the roles and responsibilities of Governments
  • Environmental impacts of proposed construction work related to Games venues/facilities
  • Integration of environmental approaches into contracts with suppliers and sponsors
  • Estimates of rainfall, wind, temperatures and humidity levels during the Games

The IOC considers the above 6 factors to be critical to developing a ‘green games’ and that all commitments from a city regarding actions, programs and policies are binding and should therefore be carried out by the city’s Organising Committee.

In their application for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Rio de Janeiro bid committee developed an agenda structured around nine environmental factors:

  1. Water treatment and conservation
  2. Environmental awareness
  3. Use and management of renewable energy
  4. Carbon neutral Games and transport
  5. Protection of soils and ecosystems
  6. Sustainable design and construction
  7. Reforestation, biodiversity and culture
  8. Shopping and ecological certification
  9. Solid waste management

By the time the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games in 2009, it had made a number of pledges regarding the Games being environmentally safe and sustainable. The Committee also pledged to prepare a Sustainability Management Plan addressing each of the above nine issues, identifying the Government bodies responsible for managing them. The plan, published in March 2013, was focused on three ‘P’s:

Planet = a reduced environmental footprint (Reducing the environmental impact of projects related to the 2016 Games to result in a smaller footprint)

People = games for everybody (Planning and delivery of the 2016 Games in an inclusive manner, offering access to everyone)

Prosperity = responsibility and transparency (Contributing to the economic development of the state and city of Rio de Janeiro and planning, generating and reporting on projects related to the 2016 Games responsibly and transparently).

The Organising Committee committed to making sustainability criteria an integral part of the management of the Games – from design and planning through to post event review. The integration was to be based on four tenets:

  • Responsibility – social, environmental and economic activities associated with the Games will be conducted in a responsible manner
  • Inclusion – the Committee will strive for a respectful relationship will all parties interested in the Games regardless of age, sex, colour, religion, sexual orientation, culture or any other grounds for discrimination
  • Integrity – basing their actions on ethical principles consistent with international standards of behaviour
  • Transparency – communicating in a clear, accurate, timely and honest manner about our activities that affect society, the economy and the environment

In light of recent media attention highlighting the environmental conditions in and around the Rio de Janeiro Games sites, I would like to look closely at reforestation – one of the 9 environmental issues that the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee addressed as part of their hosting bid. Reforestation is mentioned numerous times in the city’s Sustainability Management Plan, and across a number of locations ranging from Deodoro Olympic Park to the Atlantic Forest in Rio state. A section of the 2016 Olympic Games: Health, Security, Environmental and Doping Issues report also details a ‘Rio Green Capital Program’ whereby a ‘Mass Reforestation Initiative’ is credited with having planted more than 5,000,000 seedlings covering an area of approximately 2,500 hectares across the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro – however, I find it curious that the Amazon rainforest is not mentioned in this plan.

Whenever Brazil and the environment are discussed in general conversation, it usually doesn’t take long for the Amazon rainforest to come up. The absence of any mention of it in the Sustainability Management Plan is particularly interesting given an interactive report recently published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a United States-based not for profit organisation. This report highlights a relaxation of the Forest Code in Brazil in 2012 that resulted in less stringent conservation requirements – which many environmentalists suspect led to a 28% increase in deforestation in 2013. Such an increase is significant given Brazil’s previously successful efforts to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% between 2005 and 2012.

It is clear that environmental issues are taken into account in the decision regarding which city hosts the Olympic Games. It is also clear that the IOC wants each Games to be ‘green’ and that the IOC seeks binding commitments from the cities wanting to host the Games regarding actions, programs and policies. The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games Organising Committee complied with the IOC and prepared a Sustainability Management Plan as part of its submission, subsequently being awarded the opportunity to host the 2016 Olympics.

I feel that the glaring omission of any discussion by the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee regarding actions to prevent further deforestation of the Amazon rainforest negates the compliance of the Organising Committees’ bid to host the Olympics – raising questions regarding the process the IOC uses to assess cities wanting to host the Games. Based on the Congressional Research Service report and the Council on Foreign Relations interactive report, I can not help but conclude that environmental concerns must be more heavily weighted in future decisions regarding which city hosts the Olympic Games.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

Analysis of the world’s 500 largest companies puts a spotlight on emissions

By Dr Anthony Horton

A recent report on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions performance of the world’s largest 500 companies between 2010 and 2015 is designed to be a starting point for discussions between the business community, its customers, suppliers, employees and Governments to reduce emissions. As part of fighting climate change whilst maintaining profitability, this discussion is only going to become more important in coming years.

The ‘Global 500 Greenhouse Gases Performance 2010-2015 Report on Trends’ published by Thomson Reuters in June this year examines two aspects that will be critical considerations in an increasingly carbon constrained and competitive world. The first aspect is whether companies are reducing their GHG emissions at rates that are aligned with the United Nations United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) goal of 2°C maximum global warming. The second aspect is the extent to which these companies are growing while reducing their GHG emissions.

According to the Thomson Reuters report, the world’s 500 largest companies from a range of sectors include utilities, energy and materials – collectively representing approximately 30% of global GDP. Between 2010 and 2015 these companies emitted 10% of global GHG emissions as a result of their operations and energy consumption. During this 5 year period, their collective emissions increased by 1%.

Emissions profiles of the 500 largest global companies vary significantly

The emissions profiles of the 500 largest global companies vary significantly. 26 of these businesses decreased their emissions by more than 8% between 2010 and 2015, including BP, Vale, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Chevron Corporation. Reasons for the decrease include innovation, asset divestiture or a slowdown in business due to prevailing market conditions. 29 companies reported increased emissions between 2010 and 2015, including Air Liquide, Woodside Petroleum, GDF Suez and Holcim Ltd. According to the report, reasons for companies reporting increases include the rapid growth of a carbon intensive business and acquiring a new carbon emission based business.

In 2013 the United Nations suggested that on average a 1.4% decrease in emissions is required each year between 2010 and 2050 to maintain the 2°C maximum warming goal. The recent Thomson Reuters report shows that the world’s 500 largest companies still have a deal of work to do to align with this goal.

In addition to prompting a discussion of the performance of the world’s largest companies, the ‘Global 500 Greenhouse Gases Performance 2010-2015 Report on Trends’ included three questions that I believe are going to be asked of companies worldwide with increasing frequency in coming years by investors, regulators, consumers and stakeholders. The questions are as follows:

  • Are you operating your business in a manner consistent with the UNFCCC 2° goal?
  • If the answer is yes, what is the plan to keep doing so? Is it based on innovation, divestment or transforming the business model?
  • If the answer is no, do you plan to reconsider given the trend towards increasing transparency regarding performance and stakeholder scrutiny?

These questions are becoming increasingly prudent based on strong signals from investors worldwide that they are looking to decarbonise their investment portfolios to reduce risk and maximise returns. The momentum of the global divestment movement is prompting growing numbers of people to review not only how they invest funds but why they invest funds in particular companies. Such decisions transcend pure economics and highlights the importance of alignment between an individual’s values and those of a company.

The ‘Global 500 Greenhouse Gases Performance 2010-2015 Report on Trends’ is an effective starting point for a discussion of emissions performance, however its findings need to be implemented and across the world if the business community, its customers, suppliers, employees and Governments are going to play their respective roles in the fight against global climate change. The business community is becoming acutely aware of the reality of a carbon constrained world and that they must operate within it to remain competitive. Customers are increasingly observing what businesses offer from more than just a price point perspective. Suppliers are implementing a number of measures such as internal carbon pricing, emissions reduction targets and investing in renewable energy in response to calls to do so from companies that procure their products. Employees are becoming cognisant that maintaining their job relies on more than the financial profitability of their employer and is increasingly linked to how their employer is seen from a corporate social responsibility perspective. Last but by no means least, Governments are being called upon to implement emissions reductions policies and enshrine legislation that not only achieves emissions reductions but is aligned with other Governments have implemented as part of the global fight against climate change. This is the minimum Governments can do to increase the competitiveness of companies within their jurisdiction and in the context of an increasingly competitive global economy.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

A pioneering partnership has Adelaide on track to be the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2050

By Dr Anthony Horton

A number of my most recent articles have been predominantly focused on the economic issues associated with climate change. These issues are obviously important, however in this article I wanted to discuss a unique partnership between the Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia – an Australian first between a Local and State Government in the Climate Change space, with the City of Adelaide on track to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2050.

In April last year the Adelaide City Council signed the Compact of Mayors, and the Government of South Australia signed the Compact of States and Regions. This is unique in an Australian context because it is the first time a Local and State Government in Australia have signed these two agreements. In an international context, The Adelaide City Council and Government of South Australia are among the first Government bodies in the world to sign these respective Compacts.

The Compact of Mayors was launched by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg. It establishes a common platform to capture the impact of cities’ collective actions using standardised emissions measurement and consistent public reporting. To date, more than 500 cities representing 6% of the world’s population have committed to the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of States and Regions was announced at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014 and provides the first single global account of greenhouse gas targets made by state and regional Governments. More than 40 Governments covering 18 countries have reported their climate commitments and data to the Compact of States and Regions to date.

In addition to signing The Compact of Mayors and The Compact of States and Regions, The City of Adelaide and the Government of South Australia published the ‘Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A Shared vision for the world’s carbon neutral city’ report in November last year. This report discusses a road map by which the City and State Governments will work collaboratively to facilitate Adelaide becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city.

The City of Adelaide and The State Government of South Australia have also formalised their joint aspiration to establish Adelaide as the world’s first carbon neutral city via a unique agreement under South Australia’s Climate Change Legislation (the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007). In a further sign of unity of purpose, The City of Adelaide and the Government of South Australia have both published parallel strategies – the ‘Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025’ and ‘Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050’ respectively.

Already exemplifying a commitment to carbon neutral solutions, Adelaide City Council’s emissions fell by 20% between 2007 and 2013

Already exemplifying a commitment to carbon neutral solutions, Adelaide City Council’s emissions fell by 20% between 2007 and 2013. The year 2007 is significant as South Australia enshrined its Climate Change legislation and published its first Climate Change Strategy. Over that time period both the economy and population in the City grew by approximately 30%.

Since 2007, $2.6 billion has been invested in extending the light rail (tram) network through the city and electrify the Adelaide Metro rail system. The metropolitan bus fleet in the City of Adelaide is solely powered by lower emission fuels including gas and bio-diesel, and Adelaide commenced its world first solar electric bus service in 2008. The number of cycling journeys in and throughout the Adelaide City Council area has doubled since 2003.

At a state level, South Australia’s renewable energy statistics are also impressive:

  • Electricity generation from renewable sources has grown from 1% in 2004 to 41% last year
  • South Australia has more than one-third of Australia’s installed wind power capacity
  • One in every four homes in South Australia has a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system
  • $6.6 billion has been invested in wind and solar PV across the state since 2003
  • The emissions from South Australia’s electricity supply has dropped by more than 30% in less than 10 years

According to the ‘Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A Shared vision for the world’s carbon neutral city’ report, The City of Adelaide’s framework for action to establish itself as the world’s first carbon neutral city is based on six tenets:

1. Build partnerships and encourage community action – partnerships will be developed with businesses, innovators and the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living to achieve the City of Adelaide’s carbon neutral goal

2. Investment in energy efficiency and renewables in the city – facilitating private sector investment for commercial building upgrades and incentivising business and household investment in solar PV, battery storage, energy efficiency products and electric vehicle recharging points will further demonstrate the City of Adelaide’s carbon neutral leadership

3. Transform the way we travel – the public transport system will be transitioned to low emission trains, trams and buses. This will reduce the carbon footprint of the vehicle fleet. In addition, development in the city will be concentrated around rapid public transport services

4. Reduce emissions from waste – encourage the incorporation of waste management systems that maximise recycling into building owners and developer’s daily operations

5. Investment in large scale renewables across the State – driving further investment in large scale renewables will further reduce the emissions intensity of South Australia’s electricity supply. Expressions of interest for the purchase of low carbon energy will be undertaken in State Government operations

6. Offset carbon emissions – carbon offsets could play a critical role in achieving carbon neutral status for the City of Adelaide. Actions that facilitate substantial and lasting emissions reductions will be prioritised to decrease the reliance on carbon offsets.

Sustainable cities are going to play a crucial role in the fight against climate change. As an Australian scientist and entrepreneur who travels extensively throughout Asia I see first hand the challenges and opportunities that climate change represents for Governments and industry. I believe Australasian cities and the rest of the world can learn so much from what the City of Adelaide is doing.

Both the City of Adelaide and the State of South Australia are undergoing significant restructure following recent downturns in the mining and automotive industries. As such, The City of Adelaide’s aspiration to be the world’s first carbon neutral city is an exciting development and this restructure marks an exciting turning point in Australia’s post mining boom economy, and for the world as a whole.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

Environmental policy implications of Brexit must be given priority in exit negotiations with the EU

By Dr Anthony Horton

In the wake of the Brexit vote, I have chosen to devote this article to discussing what it means for environmental Policy in the United Kingdom (UK). In conducting my research, I have looked at newspapers and websites, read reports and followed the conversation on social media – distilling all of this information, it’s apparent that while there is some uncertainty as to the path along which the UK and EU must travel over the next two years, one thing is certain – the environmental policy implications of the Brexit must be given priority in the negotiations between the respective parties regarding the UKs exit from the European Union.

A report entitled ‘Brexit – the Implications for UK Environmental Policy and Regulation’ published in March this year by the Institute for European Environmental Policy outlines a number of important factors needing to be debated in order for the full implications of future UK environmental and climate policies to be understood.

According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy, the UK has played a significant role in environmental management in the EU – particularly with respect to water pollution and the development of an integrated approach to controlling industrial emissions. The UK has also actively advocated more ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and the building of a lower carbon economy.

The report discusses four main environmental policy consequences of the UK leaving the EU:

  • The UK can no longer make decisions on EU environmental policies. This means the UK loses significant influence with respect to environmental issues
  • The UK can no longer influence the future direction of policies associated with the Seventh Environmental Action Program, the Europe 2020 program for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth or decisions regarding medium term climate and energy targets
  • The UK would participate in international negotiations on the environment (e.g. the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) as a sovereign nation rather than as a EU member. In the lead up to the Paris Climate Change conference in December last year, the EU and its 28 Member states (including the UK) committed to a target of a minimum 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)
  • The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) would no longer apply however the UK would have to introduce equivalent policies. These policies would have legislative, trade and economic implications for each country in the UK. There would also be implications for terrestrial and marine environmental management.

As a result of its vote to leave the EU, the UK now faces a period of negotiation with the remaining 27 members of the EU that may last at least two years. There are many uncertainties as to how these negotiations will proceed, on the basis that there is no precedent. The one certainty is that the negotiations will be based on Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. During these negotiations the UK remains a member with voting rights and current EU environmental and climate legislation and policies would still apply in the UK.

Once the UK leaves the EU, the UK relinquishes its power to determine any EU environmental policy or participate in any international meetings as a member of the European Union. If it negotiated membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and joins current members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, legislative measures covering pollution control, chemicals and waste management would continue to apply. If the UK stood alone rather than joining the EEA, a majority of the EU legislation would no longer apply. Important exceptions in this case would be product standards and other requirements that underpin the exportation of products from the UK into the EU. Future UK Governments would not have to obey EU environmental regulations if they believed a competitive advantage could be gained from doing so.

… negotiations between the UK and EU following the Brexit do not bode particularly well for either party’s transition to a low carbon economy.

A minimum two-year period of negotiations between the UK and EU following the Brexit do not bode particularly well for either party’s transition to a low carbon economy. According to a report published by the Advisory Scientific Community of the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) in February this year, the right timing of the transition to a low carbon economy in the European Union is crucial. The report entitled ‘Too late, too sudden: Transition to a low-carbon economy and systemic risk’ describes how while starting the transition too soon would still allow for economic costs to be effectively managed, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would increase in the medium term unless additional emissions reduction policies are implemented. Leave it too late, and the transition to a low carbon economy would be need to abrupt and both the economic and environmental costs would be significantly higher than in a slow transition. The ideal scenario would be to commence as soon as possible and implement additional emissions reduction policies so economic costs can be managed while emissions reductions can be achieved.

Leaving the transition too late will expose the economies of European Union member states to three risks as follows:

1) A sudden transition away from fossil fuel energy could significantly harm Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as the demand for alternative energy sources could dramatically exceed supply. In this scenario the cost of those alternative sources could increase dramatically

2) The market and investors could value carbon intensive assets differently. In this scenario the most carbon intensive assets are at high risk of becoming stranded

3) The frequency of natural disasters could increase as a result of climate change. In this scenario the liabilities carried by general insurers and reinsurers would increase.

The Paris Climate Change conference held in November 2015 demonstrated that there is a need for decisive policy action on climate change if the global average temperature increase is to be kept at a maximum of 2°C. Beyond 2°C, the consequences could be irreversible and catastrophic. While pledges to reduce emissions over the coming decades were made in Paris with conviction, there was far less conviction regarding the timing and speed of these emissions reductions.

According to the ESRB report, a late transition to a low carbon economy is likely based on an extrapolation of the emission reduction pledges made by countries attending the Paris Climate Change conference.

If European Union member Governments implement their pledges early, a ‘soft landing’ is possible. In a soft landing scenario, the transition to a low carbon economy would be planned, managed and gradual, allowing sufficient time for the replacement of fossil fuel infrastructure without driving energy costs unsustainably high. Carbon pricing and the higher marginal cost of renewable energy may result in a short-term energy price increase however the transition to a low carbon economy would not be adversely impacted. Policy innovations such as a carbon tax for fossil fuels would incentivise a shift to renewable energy.

In the medium to long-term under a soft landing, energy prices are likely to decrease as the production of renewable energy becomes more efficient. A transition to a low carbon economy could have a positive effect on European Union member economies. This positive effect is on the basis of new technologies arising from innovation, new jobs being created and lower production costs.

Starting too late would require the sudden implementation of constraints on the use of carbon intensive energy and could result in a ‘hard landing’. In this scenario, energy prices may spike sharply. There may not be sufficient energy available for European Union citizens given that technologies such as renewables may not be market ready. Fossil fuel energy infrastructure and companies with carbon intensive resources or technologies may also be stranded. Policy interventions at such a late stage could require extremely dramatic emissions reductions across the European Union. In addition, coordinating emission reductions on a global scale is difficult at the best of times, so attempting to coordinate with other countries in a short time period would be extremely difficult.

Australia’s Climate Change Institute issued a statement on Monday regarding the status of the Paris Agreement given the Brexit vote in the UK. According to the Institute’s statement, the UK has signed the Paris Agreement and no further negotiations will be held. Once the UK leaves the EU, the UK will be required to submit its own target, and the EU will need to submit a revised target. The EU has not yet signed the Paris Agreement as it needs to work through the issues with all remaining members. Fifty countries have committed to ratifying the Agreement this year or early next year.

The UK already has its own target of a 50% emissions reduction based on 1990 levels by 2025 which is stronger than that of the EU and is detailed in the UK Climate Change Act.

The optimist in me likes to think that now the UK has signed the Paris Agreement, the effort they need to apply over the next two years of negotiation with the EU regarding their exit will not come at the cost of the climate change action they will be required to implement under the Agreement. The realist in me however knows that given the extent of the economic loss experienced by UK stock markets following the announcement, environmental policies may not be very high on the list of domestic investor priorities within the UK, despite the commitment shown by the UK Government in signing the Paris Agreement.

In addition to domestic investor uncertainty, it is reasonable to question the extent to which international investor appetite will be tempered by the Brexit vote. A number of my previous articles have discussed the important roles that strong and enduring policy signals from Governments play in encouraging investors to fund renewable energy and other projects as part of a transition to a low carbon economy. Thus it is clear to me that to maintain progress towards low carbon economies in the UK and EU, the environmental policy implications of Brexit must be given priority in the exit negotiations.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

Coal peddlers are far more dangerous than heroin peddlers

By James Moylan

The science is settled regarding the relationship of atmospheric C02 and average atmospheric temperature. Ice cores demonstrate a sturdy correlation that stretches way back for many hundreds of thousands of years.

We know that there is a lag in the effect because that is apparent from the data. It seems our oceans acidify and absorb atmospheric energy at a slower rate than was anticipated by many observers, and it also seems that a higher proportion of this increase in atmospheric energy is dissipated in increased wave and tidal activity than was first accounted for.

However the discovery of unanticipated effects acting to buffer the impact of the relentlessly rising proportion of C02 in our atmosphere, only demonstrates that we don’t quite yet fully understand the nature, magnitude, and speed of the currently unfolding climate catastrophe. Yet still these minor differences between predictions and observations continue to provide solace for fools, scoundrels, and politicians.

So the political discussion in our land regarding climate change continues to be morally bankrupt.

Our major political parties refuse to even acknowledge how much Australia is actually contributing to the rise in atmospheric C02 levels. They dishonestly focus on the proportionately tiny amount of coal we burn here at home even as we simultaneously subsidise and enable the activities of some of the largest coal peddlers on the planet.

If our politicians really did comprehend the true nature of our current global predicament then their rhetoric would certainly change. They would begin to start owning up to Australia’s actual contribution to this problem and begin talking about phasing out our coal industry in its entirety. They would confront the reality that we are morally obliged to close down our coal mines and walk away from them.

We cannot continue to blithely ignore that one in seven tons of the coal that is burnt on the face of the planet comes from one of our coal mines. Nor that when this exported coal is added to our total ‘carbon footprint’ it indicates that we are responsible for more carbon emissions than Germany, a country with close to four times our population.

To continue to export coal, and then ignore these exports as if they are none of our business, is exactly akin in moral terms to a country crowing over a fall in the number of heroin addicts at home whilst gleefully turning a blind eye to the production and export of hundreds of tons of the drug. It is morally indefensible.

Yet coal is far more dangerous than heroin. The burning of fossil fuels is slowly altering the constitution of the thin gas envelope which envelops our planet. Unlike heroin, any coal exported will certainly come back to damage our society and kill our citizens. It simply does not matter where on our planet our coal might be burnt – the problem remains corporate. The ethical responsibility and the ecological disasters are all equally shared.

Yet Australia continues to be an unashamed ‘climate change peddler’. Our politicians ignore the problem and substitute their own alibis for action which they profess will somehow ‘fix the reef’ or ‘meet our greenhouse targets’ while still enabling us to continue on with business as usual. It is a lie.

There is no ‘no-cost’ option available. We will have to invest a great deal of money and simply write off a great many assets. Coal mining will have to cease. We will have to look closely at all natural and coal seam gas extraction and consider if this also is an unaffordable environmental liability.

Australia is currently living in a la-la land of ten year plans for superannuation and corporate taxation that will all likely fall by the wayside when the cutbacks in coal consumption, worldwide, as have been indicated as necessary by all of our trading partners, suddenly turn into a reality. The multi-national coal miners will all leave Australia with their riches intact and their economic future secure. The politicians who had been doing their bidding for many years will retire. Yet the cost of the environmental and economic damage inflicted by failing to listen to the scientists will remain.

So while closing our mines and changing our ways will cost us dearly. The hard facts indicate that we really have no other option. We are faced with either acting now or being forced to act later.

A change over to renewable energy systems for local power generation, and the closing of our coal mines, are both inevitable. We can either ignore this until after all our coal markets collapse, and after our international reputation is utterly trashed, and we are in the midst of a long term economic decline. Or we can simply wake up to reality, take the advice of the climate scientists, and develop and instigate an orderly transition to a 100% carbon free economy.

 

James Moylan is running for the Senate in Qld on behalf of the Renewable Energy Party.