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Tag Archives: climate

Laggards or Leaders

While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”. In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.

You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June. In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone. The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.

Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself. This was the first story I came across.

Australia awarded Fossil of the Day at UN Climate Talks for Trying to Reconvene Flat Earth Society

June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”

News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”

CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.

He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.

Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.

He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past. [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke. Abbott has really done this. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”

This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.

November 22, 2013

This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”. What I see is ill-informed naïvity. Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax. Nice going Clive.

Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow….but don’t bet the house on it.

This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail. Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda. Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency”.

A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem”.

In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.

In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity”. The main thrust of the study is:

  • Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
  • A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
  • Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.

The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close”. To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”. Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.

The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during — and well beyond — the critical decade.

Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.

To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.

Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.

But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.

Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.

It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.

The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence. Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.

Clearly, international cooperation will be required — particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions — working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.

Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.

We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” — a global fossil fuel phase out — a reality.

We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.

Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.

The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.

Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century — from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty — and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.

Australia has the power to make it happen. It is up to us to insist that it does.

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Abbott’s war on the environment is facing some tough opposition

Big mining may have put the COAL in the Coalition, but Abbott’s war on the environment is facing some tough opposition.

To spite the Climate Change Authority predicting that the scrapping of the carbon tax will lead to a 17% increase in emissions (over 2000 levels) by 2020, the urgency of the climate situation seems totally lost on our government. It appears the LNP would prefer to destroy the CCA, (and every other climate/renewable agency/initiative in the country) rather than heed their sobering warning.

Mean while, back in the real world, those of us who value scientific consensus over the bloated opinions of fox news, corporate toadying shock jocks and all the other wilfully ignorant, vested interest denialists, are rightly concerned.

The science is in, and it’s not looking good. While a certain amount of climate change is now inevitable, we have a small window in which to avoid the CATASTROPHIC consequences of a major climate shift. Almost everyone seems to understand this, except our government.

Let’s face it, the profoundly short term “Après moi le déluge”, attitude of Abbott and his cronies is certainly not the quality of response any one with half a brain would want from those at the helm. That is of course unless you are coal miner, in which case Tony is definitely your man on the inside!

In the run up to last years federal election big mining and energy poured over $1,000,000 in declared donations into LNP coffers, (not that anyone would be so bold as to suggest that may have wielded any influence on Coalition policy). It is however worth noting that the LNP’s largest donor, the Cormack Foundation, is an entity designed to shield the identity of donors,which means that the true figure could actually be much larger, but we would never know.

So … in stark contrast to the rest of the developed world, the coalition is determined to push it’s demonstrably ideological position in favour of coal, and wind back, (rather than ramp up), Australia’s climate action. In series of moves, that could only be described as economically reckless, including the dismantling the PROFITABLE clean energy fund (potentially costing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in sustainable investment and development), the LNP appear determined to trash the renewable energy industry. While this course seems to defy all logic (especially when one is supposedly managing a “budget emergency”) quick application of Occam’s razor would suggest that the LNP must have been bought and paid for by big mining and energy.

If you look at the coalition’s much ridiculed “direct action” policy, a policy that removes the cost of acquiring carbon credits from big mining and energy and then hands them tax payers money in return for some nebulous promise to behave nicely, it reads like something Energy Australia might have put on their christmas list.

Admittedly with Abbott at the wheel Australia’s environmental landscape appears overwhelmingly bleak, but the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion. The global commitment to acting sensibly is growing fast, with both the US and China moving aggressively to reduce emissions and embrace renewables. Those of us who wish to run along side them should take some heart in the fact that our senate is far from compliant with Tony’s madness, and that it is a long way from policy to legislation.

While we may not hear about it in the Murdoch press there is considerable senate pressure being brought to bear on the government over it’s lunatic climate policies.To wit something rather special happened in parliament recently that I would like to share with you. Amongst all the argy-bargy of the post budget wrangling Greens senator Scott Ludlam, armed with nothing more than intelligent line of questioning, managed to unravel the sad truth behind the LNP’s “direct action” climate policy. Which is, quite counter to all their rhetoric, not even the government expect their direct action policy to actually reduce emissions (in real terms), let alone energy prices in the longer term.

In a stunning display of political acumen Ludlam tore through the LNP’s rhetoric, establishing that not only is the LNP’s direct action policy not expected to reduce emissions, the LNP haven’t actually done the modelling required to give us so much as an estimated reduction in emissions.

While the LNP readily admit “direct action” will cost a lot, about $2 Billion (AU) over the forward estimates (not to mention the revenue lost from abandoning carbon pricing), under Ludlam’s relentless interrogation they were forced to admit that they may even need to “find” a bit more money for the scheme.

It was an eye opening display, and one that warmed my heart. It was a real pleasure to see the quality of interaction elevated above that of school yard cat calling; to actually see intelligent, articulate scrutiny sweep aside the slogans and cut to the heart of the matter. I congratulate Mr Ludlam, and I sincerely hope we may we see many more of his calibre entering politics on all sides!

Is the Coalition driving renewable energy investment overseas?

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Bringing Science back from the brink

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In today’s modern society, in Australia science is failing to communicate to the broader social perspective. It is with a fervent attitude that we can only deduce that somewhere along the lines, the realism of scientific consensus has been misrepresented in social discourse. External influences, such as conglomerate media structures and political organisations, have distorted the relevant complexity of science, leading to an overt perversion of scientific reverence. So how can we bring science back from the brink? And, as it is said on the Australian five dollar bill – (“The greatest question which we have to consider is”) . . . What among all influences is the most crucial foreground for science to regain its lost confidence in social discourse?

Climate change is absolute, the globe is warming and long-term weather patterns are being altered (IPCC, 2011). Now in the era of irreversible change – never has it been more appropriate, or more important to communicate scientific consensus. The purpose of this aricle is not to investigate why scientific consensus is currently being ignored, but to identify which existing barriers in science communication methods could be adapted, to become effective at bringing science back from the brink and back into the slipstream of society. In this article, I evaluate the nominal pathways in which scientific knowledge is distributed – both internally among peers and externally among the public; to further highlight the complexities and barriers scientific professionals are faced with regarding effective communication of climate change science. I then offer possible solutions as to how such barriers may be overcome, by demonstrating which approaches are most likely to succeed and which approaches are most likely to fail.

Information about the workings of the world falls under the profession of science. Scientists report implicit logical arguments through the use of mathematics, statistics and physical evidence (Manly, 1992) and therefore, have a unique way of communicating which is abstract from mainstream society and traditional literature (Dawson et al, 2010). Literature often contains jargon and complex mathematical equations and often does not adhere to a broader range of audience (Knight, 2006).

Scientific literature is put into context in a scientific report. The format forms the basis for all scientific fields and includes: a title, an abstract (summary), aims, introduction, methods, results (findings) discussion and conclusion (Dawson et al, 2010). Scientific reports do not serve a purpose in the public eye. Information is compiled, analysed and reviewed dictating complex concise information. Reports in science assist with studies being repeated by fellow scientists, without bias (Manly, 1992). As it is generally accepted, communication is a learned practice in society (West and Turner, 2010) and scientists learn to communicate effectively among each other for the purpose of expanding knowledge for an internal profession.

Existing Pathways: Public barriers

External

Occasionally, scientific concern requires broad range perception. Science, as any other written or spoken communication, is likely to become lost in translation, if not properly transcribed. For instance, a road repairman probably would not know that the critical issue between long wave radiation and depletion of the allotrope: ozone; is just another way of discussing chemical reactions that cause a hole in the ozone layer and global warming, adversely changing the climate. In this instance, the ineffective communication path results in scientists failing to convey a message of critical importance. Only a clear message is effective through communication channels to reach all audience (written communications that inform and influence, 2006). Therefore, complex scientific jargon and scientific language creates a barrier and the message is misunderstood. The result: the road repairman likely did not get the critical message about climate change.

Internal

Unique communication within science is both important and necessary, because it allows complexities to be explained in critical detail, helping scientists to work together (Dawson et al, 2010). Critical information and knowledge is internally communicated. For example, a biologist does not have a universal name for all bacteria. The name ‘bacteria’, is not enough information for the ecologist, a colleague to understand. There are many different species of bacteria, and if not specified the ecologist would not know what specific species to study. Further information is required in order to conduct a study on chemical reactions in prokaryote bacteria communities. An internal pathway such as this, allows specific knowledge to be passed on, from one scientist to another. Without such explicit communication, future external understanding can never eventuate. The result of this specific pathway: the biologist can conduct the study in a concise and highly detailed manor using explicit scientific jargon, which is then communicated to the associate ecologist, who then repeats the study and adds to the findings on this complex topic. With the internal pathway the result, through effective communication- the ecologist is able to bring to light a solid scientific theory. However necessary the internal pathway may be, it too can be identified as another public barrier.

Adapting pathways

In external public understanding, the method in which information is passed on is critical, failure to pass a message on, leads to a receiver that is unclear as to what information they are given (West et al, 2010). The external pathway mentioned above in this case, became lost in translation and created a barrier, despite the attempted communication of the concept (ozone depletion), was critically important for general public understanding. Hence, the use of jargon precariously added complexities in this nominal pathway. Knight (2006), suggests, scientists can both send a message and still tell a story; all without the use of complexities. Therefore, adapting this pathway though removal of jargon – while still explaining the causality of ozone depletion and global warming, may allow the public to gain understanding- without the complexity of science; where it is hoped they will still interpret the broader perspective of the concept.

Internal pathways, allow for effective communication among peers and among different scientific disciplines. In this pathway of communication- when studying bacteria communities, we can see that information regarding this scientific knowledge, will experience innate problems with translation to the public. While the internal communication is extremely critical to the progression of modern science, it leaves little avenue for appropriate public distribution. Wray et al (2008) explain, to overcome a barrier it is important to understand that end products, when properly transcribed can still be translated. Therefore, by re-developing an internal pathway, there is no loss of those fundamental and core components of the concept. In this way, scientists do not remove a concept, they adapt the pathway for the public only; while internally, the progression of modern science continues.

Connecting the public to science

Keys (1997) explains, people are more likely to respond to a scientific concept if it appears to effect them more directly. Therefore, relatable interactions are a good way to bridge the gap in communication barriers. Scientists can relate to their audience by developing a pathway from the internal communication and adapting the external communication pathway. With these adaptations and with the exclusion of jargon and or complexities, they can still relay complex information in a readable yet comprehensive format. As a result, a likely pathway between scientists and the public can be established. It is also important to understand that the outcome of scientific studies, though developed internally, can and should be later transformed to meet public comprehension. However, the scientist should still keep close eye to communicate the fundamental and core components within the scientific discipline. However, it should also be rigorously monitored, as they are scientific concepts and should always be addressed as such.

Nisbet and Scheufele (2009) explain, scientists should be looking at adapting a foreground of communication that is firmly grounded in the construct of society, one that aims to inform the notion of complex concepts in a simple yet thought provoking format. It is important to understand, that this extends further than just telling the public as if a news story. It goes beyond this format, to the substratum of audience interaction. If scientists adapt pathways of communication, they can interact with a broader audience and then transgress these elements to business and or possible political relationships, including social and education conventions and public information sessions; which lead into the formation of interpersonal relationships with possible stakeholders. To further adapt these concepts, it is important to establish a communication in which the public can relate to these relationships- forming relationships that aim to establish a meaningful connection with all involved. Individuals and groups are more likely to respond to relationships when they notice a propensity (behavioural tendency) for a meaningful purpose or idea connected to them (Wray et al, 2008).

Science, Climate Change and the future

Scientists are renowned for adapting methodology and study design. The study of climate change science is by no means any different from any scientific discipline. As I outlined above, adapting the means of communication pathways in science are by far the best method for communicating complex scientific concepts such as climate change. But in lure of what has been discussed above, we are left with inherit complexities in the notion of communicating this imperative concept. So now, we are left to decide which adaptations will work best in the critical need to communicate the foundations of climate change science? How can we create communication pathways that will bring to light the innate problems society faces with immanent changes to climate? There is no doubt that as I write this – I am faced with my own complexities, but from an outspoken perspective as it has always been said, the most important communication method is establishing an effective pathway. Below, I give my personal explanation as to how communication pathways to the public can be established.

Image courtesy of econews.com.au

Image courtesy of econews.com.au

First and foremost, I feel it is extremely necessary that science communication pathways to the public, seek to remove the inherit complexities associated with jargon and complex mathematical concepts- as well as removing the notion of trying to translate too much information. Information, which is not connected to the key concepts in a vital way. For example, going back to the concept of the hole in the ozone layer, to effectively translate this idea on climate change, scientists should err on the side of caution when using jargon. Firstly, let’s imagine the road repairman is a community stake holder, in this case it would be important to form a strong interpersonal relationship with the individual (the road repairman). I feel this scientific concept would better be described, by explaining to the individual, how climate change will affect him and his respective community; and just how important the idea of climate change is to future generations in his community. Furthermore, it would be important to translate this information in a simple format. A format that eliminates, the need to express any concepts that should only represent communication avenues of an internal nature.

Therefore, ‘what not to do’ in this instance would be, explaining the concept using too much jargon and complexities, or discussing scientific names of chemical species. For example: ‘Ozone, Carbon Dioxide and Chlorofluocarbons are reacting with OLR in the stratosphere, they cause the global temperature to rise, influencing the global weather patterns which regulate high and low pressure systems. Consequently, this sort of level of relation is inappropriate to establish a meaningful connection with this particular individual, and the respective social structures in which the individual represents. At the most, the road repairman probably recognises key words such as: carbon, stratosphere and systems, but using complex jargon together with complex explanations is inadequate, because this is internal communication used among science professionals and is unfit for public consumption. The explanations are too detailed and saturated in explicit scientific consensus. This automatically creates a barrier, which is ineffective to create a pathway whereby public understanding is achieved. Therefore, it is highly important to avoid that internal pathway used by scientists, in favour of something more appropriate such as the external. At this point, if such a barrier is not overcome an individual is unable to relate themselves to the concept in a meaningful way.

The alternative, explain that ‘scientists are certain that the interactions occurring inside the atmosphere have been impacted since the industrial revolution. These impacts are warming the globe, which causes the climates to shift and change, which affects the wet and dry periods we experience in the weather’. Lastly, explain ‘reducing these impacts will allow for a reduction in these climate shifts’. If at least some relationship is established, a communication pathway may be opened, and through the use of these adapted external communication methods, this may create meaning for the individual. They may then notice the propensity to connect with the concept of climate change science; and develop an idea of individual purpose for understanding the inner workings of climate change – as they can then relate to how it will impact them on an individual and or community/stakeholder level.

Conclusion

The innate problem that surrounds the perversion of public discourse in the field of science, is surrounded with complexities in its self, and undoubtedly requires rigorous scientific study. That being said, from a discussion stand point only, I have outlined a few key concepts which I feel are most effective for the nature of translating this complex scientific idea – climate change. Clear communication is essential. Therefore communication that is free from jargon, complex scientific information, as well a removal of unnecessary explanations of scientific relationships (not connected to foundational concepts) – will help bridge the gap between barriers which we currently see plaguing the view of scientific emphasis in public discourse.

Removing such barriers, will allow for the establishment of relationships that will seek to improve the communication pathways, forming relatable aspects of science that connect the individual to the concept to provide purpose and meaning to the broader social perception. These interactions must be centred around meaningful relationships that always seek to obtain a strong connection with scientific professionals. They must provoke audience interaction and always be centred around simple translations that all social participants can understand.

Such pathways, will allow for science and critical science concepts, to be incorporated back into Australian society. These methods alone, will undoubtedly assist scientific professionals to illustrate the critical need for climate change initiatives, and bring science into the slip-stream, thus- back from the brink.

References

Dawson,M,M., Dawson,B,A.., and Overfield, J,A., (2010), Communication Skills for the Biosciences.Wiley-Blackwell publishing, United Kingdom

Keys, C. W. (1999). Revitalizing instruction in scientific genres: Connecting knowledge production with writing to learn in science. Science Education, 83(2), 115-130.

Knight, D. (2006). Public understanding of science: A history of communicating scientific ideas (1st ed.). USA and Canada: Taylor & Francis e-library.

Manly, B. F. (1992). The Design and Analysis of Research Studies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nisbet, M. C., & Scheufele, D. A. (2009). What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10), 1767-1778.

West, R., & Turner, Lynne, H. (2010). Introducing communication theory: analysis and application (Ch.5) Symbolic interaction theory(pp.76-91). New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill.

Wray, R. J., Becker, S. M., Henderson, N., Glik, D., Jupka, K., Middleton, S., … & Mitchell, E. W. (2008). Communicating with the public about emerging health threats: lessons from the Pre-Event Message Development Project.American Journal of Public Health, 98(12).

(2006). Written communications that inform and influence. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

This article was first published on “Science in Australian Society” and reproduced with permission.

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THE CLIMATE OF DENIAL: Why real climate action will NEVER come from big business or government.

By Letitia McQuade

If a quick study of our industrial age can teach us anything, it is that big business and governments are either not willing, or not able to “fix it”, whatever “it” happens to be. Climate change is no exception.

For the vast majority of us, (who are not making billions of the back of fossil fuel, or other mass polluting industries), the solutions to climate change appear simple enough. We just need to change course, invest differently, get behind renewables, preserve and plant forests etc…

BUT, and this a big but… Most of those in power have a HUGE amount invested in the fossil fuel economy, and surprise surprise……they don’t actually want things to change.

While big business continues to profit from devouring fossil fuels with a rapacious zeal, and governments remain little more than advocates for the corporations that fund their campaigns, should we really be all that surprised that climate summit after climate summit nothing terribly significant is achieved?

It is a curious facet of human nature that when ever circumstances permit almost all of us are driven to acquire wealth well beyond our personal needs, and to that end those of us who find ourselves in power, (be it economic or political), are generally happy to exploit those of us that are not. This usually continues along merrily until those at the bottom of the heap no longer feel that quietly starving is viable strategy and some form of revolution ensues.

Bear in mind revolutionary change is never a top down process, much like a volcanic eruption the pressure builds from beneath until it becomes an unstoppable force. While those at the top may sense the rumblings they almost never choose to tackle the situation head on. (The relatively harmonious dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid being the only example that readily springs to my mind). Instead, like Louis the XVI, the Rominovs, the Saar of Iran and countless others toppled by revolution they turn a deaf ear to their inevitable demise, and it’s usually not until their lives are quite literally on the line that they realize the gravity of what is actually going on.

The corporate/political oligarchy seem happy enough to fiddle while Rome burns, knowing they can afford a class can afford a 1st class ticket out of New Orleans, or Tachloban (or wherever the next disaster falls) well ahead of the storm, and what ever consequences ultimately come, they will most likely occur after their lifetime.

But those of us who don’t have a multiple choice of other homes to occupy (or the private jets to take us there), are all too aware that the weight of any future disasters will fall squarely on our (or our children’s) shoulders. And as such I think it’s time we face the fact…THEY ARE NOT GOING TO FIX IT.

Given that we all know, in heart of hearts, that those in power are highly unlikely to act in any meaningful way, it kind of begs the question: Why are we sitting around like Marx’s lumpen proletariat, or the tragic character’s in Beckets “waiting for Godot” doing nothing, waiting in vain them “to do something about climate change”?… and further more, how exactly is that working out for us? If you believe the science then the only possible answer is not too well!

So where exactly does that leave us?

For a start let’s just sweep aside the all the so called “arguments” of the denialist movement; whom, with a staggeringly willful ignorance manage to push aside 99.9% of the science in order to advocate for the status quo. In spite of the fact the mainstream media, (no doubt due to the vested interests of their owners), continues to give these deluded souls ill deserved airtime to espouse their crackpot anti science, if you talk to any sane, educated person they will readily acknowledge that the proof is in and the facts are irrefutable. Climate change is real, we are responsible and it poses a real, tangible threat to us and future generations!

 

On the face of it this may seem a rather bleak prospect, and many rational Australians are in total despair at the governments active dismantling of our national climate action initiatives. But rather than fall into a pit of despair (like the Greek Goddess Cassandra, who was cursed with seeing the future, but was unable to alter events, or convince others of the validity of her predictions), I would suggest it’s time for us to stop wringing our hands and turn our focus on what WE, as individuals can actually do.

We need to be sewing the seeds of a bottom up revolution. (And no I am not suggesting storming the Bastille, or any other kind of armed rebellion. I am talking more of a 100th Monkey kind of revolution*). If we seriously want to address the issues of climate change and environmental degradation then we need to involve our selves in a revolutionary change of our personal habits, attitudes, expectations of ourselves and others, until we reach a tipping point where people just feel too out of step and too ashamed to behave in wasteful ignorance.

The list of things we can do to reduce our personal environmental footprint is exhaustive. For example I have a tradesman doing work on my house at present. I asked him to take a cup down to the cafe on the corner, rather than add to the pile of cafe cups steadily building up in my bin. While he chose not to take a china cup, he washed out one of his used take away cups and has now had it refilled no less than 15 times. Sure it’s a drop in the ocean, but what is the ocean if not a sea of drops?

For those of you that need a bit of help, here is a short list of changes you can make that WILL help turn the tide… (Remember it is your kids and grand kids that will thank you).

*Eat less meat (even a couple of days meat free is a great start).

*Buy a smaller car and use it less.

*Turn off lights, boycott your down lights (unless they are LED, and change those that are not),

*Use energy efficient lighting ALWAYS.

*Turn appliances off at the wall, don’t leave things on standby.

*Refuse bottled water, drink tap water (buy a filter), don’t drink Soda.

*Eat less take away, and when you do take your rinsed out containers back for a refill.

*Walk to the shop.

*Buy locally made/grown (food co ops and farmers markets are great for this).

*Use reusable bags (make it a habit to refuse plastic shopping bags).

*Read the news on line, don’t buy the print copy.

*Plant trees.

*Use air conditioners sparingly.

*GO SOLAR, (and for any Australian who has a split system air conditioner that says they can’t afford Solar, KNOW that you are lying to yourself… the cost of basic solar is less than the cost of your air conditioner installed. Fact is you just made a selfish choice based on your comfort and convenience; now smile at your kids!!… If you are getting a split system, get the solar to run it FIRST!).

*Buy unpackaged and unprocessed food and actually cook it. You tube is awash with recipes!

*Use phosphate free washing powder and cleaning products (look for the NP logo). Baking soda, white vinegar, borax and lemon juice can also do wonders.

*Next time consciously get a smaller car.

*Don’t sit idling your car while waiting for people, (start it up after they have all arrived).

Add an environmental NGO to your charity list… Personally I like “We Forrest” as a tree planting, environment remediating NGO. $20 can plant enough trees to offset your toilet paper use for a life time… (oh and don’t over use the toilet paper).

While I get that no one can do all of these things all of the time, every little change helps. The more of us that reduce, reuse, and recycle the smaller the problem gets. After all, all revolutions, (both personal and political) start with small acts of change on the part of individuals.

We all know what to do… so why don’t we do it, I am at a loss to understand! Is it because we don’t see it as our responsibility or are we all just too busy waiting for them to fix it?

So, good people I say it’s time for change on a personal level. In the immortal words of John Lennon we all need to “think globally, act locally”. Every one of us has the power to reduce our environmental footprint. What’s more we can do it ourselves, we don’t have to sit about waiting for the likes of Tony Abbott to do it for us!

[twitter-follow screen_name=’LetitiaMcQuade’ show_count=’yes’]

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An Open Letter to Tim Wilson

Dear Tim Wilson,

I’m sure you’re a huge fan of Open Letters, what with your passion for free speech. I am also a fan of free speech within the bounds of reasonable conduct, and so today I’m using my free speech to write you this letter.

I’m also a fan of getting to the point quickly so I’ll put it out there right up front. I think you’re a dickhead. Unlike lots of other people who also think you’re a dickhead, I haven’t come to this conclusion recently, or after the announcement that you’ve been parachuted into perhaps the most oxy-moronic position your buddies in the Abbott Government could have handpicked for you. No, I noticed you a long time ago as the boy playing in a man’s world, as you did your best but failed not to blush from the neck up while yelling at climate scientists in a field of scientific endeavour you know nothing about. Although I did note many months ago that your profile on your then-employer’s website, that you are/were apparently undertaking a Graduate Diploma of Energy and the Environment (Climate Science and Global Warming) at Perth’s Murdoch University. What’s that about Tim? Did you complete this qualification, or were you laughed out of the classroom for your ‘opinions’ around weather, and how it’s always been windy so climate change doesn’t exist?

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Just to recap, you’re more than welcome to use your free speech to deny climate change, and I also enjoy the right to tell you you’re a dangerous, irresponsible, obstructive fool who is contributing to the demise of the planet I live on. Since you are often used as the mainstream media’s poster-boy under the guise of ‘balance’ on the subject of climate change, since they can’t find a climate scientist to go into bat for the fossil fuel companies that no doubt help fund the IPA, you are the blushing face of denial for many Australians. So we’ll think of you, and we’ll be reminding you of your contribution to the problem, for as long as you continue your charade of self-interested denial for the benefit of your career.

But I guess that’s the part that’s most disappointing, Tim. Your denial of climate change is just one small part of your public persona that I find personally offensive. What I also find really offensive about you is the apparent inconsistency of your position, which is really just a consistent suck-up to the Liberal Party, the people you need to give you jobs that you don’t deserve and are completely unqualified for. It doesn’t surprise me that you are an ex-student politician, because you don’t seem to have ever broken out of that immature mindset. So even though you paint yourself as a bastion of the IPAs agenda, encompassing small government and completely unregulated markets, when it comes to your devotion to this agenda, versus your devotion to Tony Abbott’s agenda, your priority in the pecking-order of your dedication is clearly Tony Abbott. Maybe if you were an actual academic, working for a real institute, you would have a more consistent position as the ‘classical liberal public policy analyst’ which you claim to be. Maybe if you weren’t just a Liberal hack, you would understand why it’s very perplexing that you haven’t already mounted a huge defence of the Carbon Price as a market-based mechanism used to reduce carbon emissions. And where is your outrage about Abbott’s Direct Action policy? You’re very quiet on this front Tim. I see that you diligently went along with Abbott in decrying funding to Holden, but what about fuel tax credits to mining companies? Where is your outrage about this intrusion into the free market you supposably cherish? And, of course as we’ve all seen, you’re now working at the Human Rights Commission, with the apparent goal of improving our rights to say and do whatever we like without risk of being sued for discrimination, however if people are saying or doing things you don’t like, you’re all for the police-state’s favourite silencer – the water cannon.

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See what I mean about you being a child in a man’s world? It’s just embarrassing Tim. It’s embarrassing for you, for your Liberal mates and totally cringe worthy for all of us who have to hear about it.

A scan of your Twitter feed quickly reveals you to be far more interested in fighting what you very immaturely refer to as ‘Lefties’ (anyone who disagrees with you), than fighting for anyone’s right to free speech, let alone Andrew Bolt’s. And this morning I read that you’ve been bombarding the Department of Climate Change, a government organisation your ex-employer the IPA have lobbied to shut down, with hundreds of freedom-of-information requests, in fact 95% of all the requests they’ve had since April, no doubt with the overall goal of sabotaging their ability to concentrate on their important work of combating climate change, something you don’t believe in anyway. So you want to wreck them like a bully-boy kicking over a sandcastle. Just because you disagree with them. That’s pretty pathetic Tim, don’t you think?

From the behaviour you have exhibited throughout your career so far, I can see you are not just unqualified for the position you’ve been gifted at the Human Rights Commission. You’re also too immature to be representing any such organisation that does important work for the community. Whether you plan to get inside the commission and wreck it internally, or if you’re just interested in the substantial publically funded pay-cheque as a thank-you from your Liberal buddies for your blind support of their election campaign whilst at the IPA, you don’t deserve to be paid by the public to work in this position. Oh, and Tim, since we know you think public servants are a complete waste of space, I just wanted to remind you that you are one now. So I look forward to your gratitude towards the Community and Public Sector Union for your yearly pay-rise and the excellent entitlements that have been fought for and upheld through the unity of workers.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison

UPDATE: As per Dan Rowden’s comment below, I mistakenly thought this article was from 2013. It is in fact from 2011. Apologies. Thanks, Dan.

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