Friday, 27 February 2009

Thoughts on the Victorian Bushfires

Excellent observations and opinions on why the cry for more FRBs (fuel reduction burns) is a nonsense - written by Andrew Campbell, a Victorian Forester. Every paragraph is a pearler.

Click here to read Andrew's thoughts.

Jill Redwood,
Environment East Gippsland

New Books

Climate Change - The Science, Impacts and Solutions

Second Edition

Climate Change
A. Barrie Pittock

Colour illustrations
368 pages, 270 x 210 mm
Publication date: March 2009

View large cover

Green Building Trends


Green Building Trends
Jerry Yudelson

220 pages
Publisher: Island Press, USA
Publication date: February 2009

A Critique of Silviculture -Managing for Complexity

Critique of Silviculture
Klaus J Puettmann
K David Coates
Christian Messier

200 pages
Publisher: Island Press, USA
Publication date: December 2008

Old Growth in a New World - A Pacific Northwest Icon Reexamined

Old Growth in a New World
Thomas A Spies
Sally L Duncan

340 pages
Publisher: Island Press, USA
Publication date: December 2008

New mayor says no to hybrid

Boroondara councillor Coral Ross handed over the mayoral chain of office to councillor Jack Wegman in Dec 2008.

Cr Ross had, during her term as mayor, and in line with the council's public line on sustainability, adopted the use of a hybrid car.

This piece in the local Progress Leader newspaper questioned the incoming mayor regarding the fate of the hybrid:

Cr Wegman said the environment, including water conservation, was also important.

However, he would not say whether he planned to use the hybrid car driven by outgoing mayor Coral Ross.

“I think other cars have superseded that technology so I don’t think I’ll be using that particular car, but I’ll take (council) officers’ advice on that,” he said.

We subsequently heard that Cr Wegman did take the advice of council officers on what options were available to him and he selected a car with a 'V6' engine. Whilst it's not an SUV (the council's capital nor petrol budgets are unlikely to run to such an extravagance) it's not exactly in line with the council's self professed position as "leading by example on environmental sustainability".

1. Perhaps the mayor could have taken the advice that council itself dispenses to local citizens on the topic of transport? This document contains a great deal of the relevent information and encouragement required to make an environmentally appropriate decision on a car purchase. Not doing so does seem a bit hypocritical, doesn't it?

2. Or he could have turned to the Australian Gov's Green Vehicle Guide for advice. The picture below shows how a typical Australian V6 compares with a typical hybrid (not just on CO2 emissions). No doubt here about whether the V6 engine's technology supercedes that of the hybrid . . .

to enlarge, pls. click on the picture.

3. The council has also signed up with Greenfleet to reduce the greenhouse emissions from its entire fleet of vehicles. So by operating a V6 in place of the hybrid, the fleet's vehicle emissions will have increased and logic says the Greenfleet offsetting bill should increase too. More ratepayer's money.

Putting aside the issue of the car's environmental credentials and the thinking behind that decision, we'd like to know why the hybrid was replaced in the first place? Why the 'need' for the extra expense to the ratepayers? What happened to the old hybrid, where did it go?

More important is what sort of example that the decision sets, especially from a community leader.

It's all too easy for any of us to mentally 'sign up' to being 'green' and professing our public support. What's more difficult and more important is that we as individuals and as communites act on those beliefs in the small and large decisions we make every day. Only by doing this will we actually promote and improve our sustainability.

We hope Boroondara council sets a good (and leading) example and
continues its journey towards improved sustainability outcomes for itself and for the city as a whole. If you'd like to encourage them in this, please do contact the mayor and let him know . . .

Lighter Footprints in the news - selected highlights

click the picture to read the article

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Water as a human right

If you, or any of your network are interested, there is a national organisation starting up called the Australian Water Network. The AWN will be launched in Sydney on 2 April by Canadian activist and author, Maude Barlow, who is also Patron of AWN.

Maude is leading the charge to have water declared a human right. A grand plan one might think. Maude Barlow has been appointed Senior Advisor on Water Issues by the President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann. She is hard at work on devising an international instrument to ensure water as a human right across the globe.

The way UN Conventions work - and I am assuming that this is the direction that Maude is taking - is that when a Convention is declared, then State Parties (that is nations like Australia) can choose to ratify the Conventions. All Conventions are not ratified by all countries - and you might be surprised at what Australia has not ratified. When a State Party ratifies, they then undertake to introduce enabling legislation at the national level. Again, this does not always happen. And there can be great delays between ratification and legislation and its implementation. So that is the top down way.

And guess what? There is a class of people who already have their right to clean water guaranteed by a UN Convention. They are children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Currently, Australians have another avenue open to them. There is a Human Rights Consultation underway. Check it all out at this site: Register to attend the Consultation when it comes to your town or suburb or city. Put in a written submission. Unsure of what to say? You might like to join the Australian Water Network for support.

Just contact me for details (see below). Let us make water a major issue in this nation by starting with telling the Human Rights Consultation exactly what we think. When the UN gets up an instrument for water as a human right, it will bring this right to individuals across the world. Here in Australia, we have the opportunity now to bring this right to people everywhere across Australia.

AWN does not, as yet, have a website but it does have a web presence in the form of a Google Group. Top of our list is water as a human right. If you or any of your network would like to join the Group please advise me of their email addresses and I will send out invitations - and they can join in the conversation. The site has only been going a few weeks and to date we have members in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. Contacts in other states and territories would be welcome.

For more information, pls contact:

Brigid Walsh (also known as Miss Eagle) 'misseaglesnetwork at'

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Opposition puts carbon tax on the table

If Rudd is NOT a dud, then his CPRS certainly seems to be.

It's coming under increasing scruitiny and pressure from all sides - although perhaps not from the polluting industries which stand to profit from it!

Now the Federal Opposition is chiming in, having recognised an opportunity to torpedo the Rudd Government's central response to climate change. They now want carbon taxes to be put on the table along with any other suitable measure. Well done! How things have changed since they were in power under PM Howard!

Cap and trade schemes are complicated, open to abuse and not yet proven in their capability to actually reduce emissions. We know this because Ross Garnaut admitted as much when he launched his climate change Review last year. But, he said, since everyone else (who had bothered, so far) had chosen cap and trade, then Australia should too, so we could link into a global system.

He also said the scheme should be kept as pure as possible and not contain any significant market distortions. Obviously the goverment and big business were not listening when he said this. The Australian CPRS was a sop to the business lobby and, even if it were successful, would lead to a miserable 5% reductions (from year 2000 levels) by 2010. Why bother?

Far more popular - among those who worry about these things - are carbon 'taxes' and carbon rationing. With a bit of luck and some hard lobbying, we may just have the whole ball of wax thrown into the bin (unfortunately, along with the millions of dollars of taxpayer's money it cost to create and market) and get something better, done right next time. And with some urgency!

For more on the breaking news, see this story from the ABC (we took their title too!).

"Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them"

Dr James Hansen, atmospheric scientist and director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies is well respected by the climate action movement and famous for his longstanding and outspoken warnings on the threats of global warming and climate change. Also for his refusal to be silenced by the Bush administration.

Hansen campaigns vigorously and vociferously against coal fired power stations as the single most climate polluting artifact of our modern economies. Simply, they spew out billions of tons of CO2 (and other nasties, but we won't go into that right now!) around the world every year and we continue to build them despite that knowledge. "The single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet."

Al Gore is quoted as saying, "I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power stations."

In this article from The Guardian, he attacks the UK government for continuing to support the building of new coal-fired power stations in Britain. But he also has a go at the Australian government too. And rightly so.
"The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, it set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young, let alone the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black - coal black."
This is a good read to get up to speed on the coal/power station issue.


Update 24 Feb 09. Adding here a video from Hansen. Not so much interested in the invitation to join the event he's announcing, but in the continuing focus on coal (and other fossil fuels) as the place we must concentrate our efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

A Call to Action on Global Warming from Dr. James Hansen from Greenpeace USA on Vimeo.

Adobe Flash software (to play this video in your browser) is available here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Global warming worse than predicted, top scientist says

Since the release of the IPCC's Fourth Assesment Report (AR4) in 2007 , we've heard a lot about how conservative it was in terms of its estimates on the progress and impacts of global warming.

This is in part because the research that goes into the reports can be years old before it's published. The reports are highly respected for their scientific rigour, but conservative because of the consensus driven approach that the process requires. The wording for the Summary for Policymakers is additionally vetted by governments around the world . . .

We've also heard repeated alerts from scientists about how these effects of climate change are accelerating faster than predicted and beyond the levels predicted by both AR4 and earlier scientific research/projection.

These alerts continue and while it's possible to tune them out, we should probably listen more carefully and act on them, given that the scientists themselves are becoming increasingly alarmed and vocal, to the point where they are starting to (in certain cases) break their 'code of professional restraint' and tell us how bad the situation really is. They urge to take urgent and significant action to reduce our emissions.

Note this story from the ABC

Professor Field says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas, making them much more likely to suffer from bushfires.

One of the world's leading experts on climate change says a Nobel Prize-winning panel of scientists seriously underestimated the reality of global warming when it published its report just over a year ago.

Professor Chris Field, a leading member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released the report, says he and his fellow researchers did not have access to vital data. Professor Field says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas, making them much more likely to suffer from bushfires.

He says recent climate studies suggest global warming could also melt permafrost in the Artic tundra. These events would release billions of tons of greenhouse gasses that could raise global temperatures even more.

The report did not have data on emissions of carbon dioxide between 2000 and 2007 which show far more rapid rises than had been predicted. These increases in carbon have been caused principally by the burning of coal for electric power in India and China.

He has told an American science conference in Chicago that global warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than previously predicted. "Fossil emissions have proceeded much more rapidly than anticipated in any of the scenerios that were characterised in detail," he said. "The consequence of that is that we are basically entering a domain of climate change that has not been explored by the models. "We're on a different trajectory of emissions and therefore an unknown trajectory of warming."

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

On Story Telling

One aspect of leadership is constructing stories. That is why Rudd is reiterating the "brick by brick", etc mantra. It is both a story and a rhetorical device in the manner of Churchill's "we will fight team on the beaches". The easiest "change" stories to construct are the ones which make use of those pre-existing frames (rather than trying to break them as the full "new paradigm" response would).

There is an idea somewhere out there that goes back to the Greeks use of Rhetoric which uses the idea of talking in threes. This rhetorical device is used everywhere, from Senate speeches in Ancient Greece to sermons, to political speeches. I think it was Socrates, that great defender of the oral tradition against the vile written word ( new technology) that first discussed this.

However the other thought that springs to mind is to read one of these books. Don't Think of an Elephant is relevent here.

In the absence of the book, here is a web page which discusses the ideas raised by it. Anyone interested in how to frame an idea so it changes minds should be interested in this.

Julia Thornton

"We've never seen anything like this in Victoria's history"

It has been a tough summer in Australia.

The news of records set by the heatwave was quickly surpassed by the tragedy of the bush fires. And all of this against the backdrop of the continuing drought and some of the lowest summer rains on record. Not to mention the torrential rain and floods up north.

This story (from the SMH) covers the heatwave from the meteorologists point of view. Other quotes (aside from the title) from David Jones, of the BoM's National Climate Centre include:
"You don't usually break records by much. You might beat it by point one of a degree or point two."

"Records being broken by that much [2 degrees C] are just unheard of. You just don't break records with that kind of margin in a stable climate. It's an extraordinary event, this one."

Monday, 16 February 2009

2009 Planning Meeting - Lighter Footprints

Just want to bring your attention an important item on the calendar - the upcoming planning meeting for the group on Sunday. Pls note the start time is 12 noon (not 2pm as prev posted).

2009 Planning Meeting:
12 pm - 5pm.
Sun, 22 February, 2009.

Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre,
157 Union Road,
Surrey Hills, Vic, 3127.
Ph: 03 9890 2467

Friday, 13 February 2009

Warming gets cold shoulder from Canberra

David Spratt, The Age, January 29, 2009

The Government is jogging on the spot when it needs to take big

WHEN representatives of community climate action groups from around
Australia gather in Canberra for a meeting this weekend, discussion
will focus on understanding how the Rudd Government got climate policy
so wrong, and what can be done in 2009.

The proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme will allow Australia's
greenhouse gas emissions to increase, just as the scientific case for
reducing emissions towards zero as quickly as possible becomes more
compelling. While emissions permits will drop 5 per cent below 1990
levels by 2020, the Treasury modelling that underpins the scheme plans
on the large-scale purchase of permits from other countries, so that
Australia's total emissions, as opposed to domestic permits, will

And when coal flows from two new export infrastructure projects
announced in 2008, in the Hunter Valley of NSW and at Gladstone,
Queensland, the addition to global emissions from burning that coal
will be an amount each year greater than Australia's total greenhouse
gas emissions, cancelling out the planned reduction by 2020 many times

How did it come to this, when there was optimism after its election
that the Government would take a lead in climate policy in 2008, not
jog on the spot at the rear of the field? Was a mistake made in taking
the political pressure off in 2008 as the large climate groups
switched from mobilising people power to advocating policy detail,
assuming the Government was predisposed to listen? Did the Government
decide to give real access only to those climate advocates who were
prepared to support its "clean coal" policy, narrowing and
conservatising the range of voices to which it listened? Was the
Government always going to put the views of big business and the
fossil fuel lobby first?

It is not unreasonable to answer yes in each case.

The climate action movement's message is big and unsettling, so it is
easier for government not to want to listen. Many of the policy
players - business, unions, welfare groups - are sending mixed
messages about supporting action as long as it does not hurt their
constituencies in the short term, which quickly reduces to sectoral
self-interest and political equivocation.

It is also clear that the Government does not understand how big the
scientific imperatives are. If it did, its failure to act in accord
with the size and urgency of the problem could justifiably be
characterised as a failure to carry out its duty of care.

But the evidence points to another possibility. In a Rumsfeldian
manner, it seemingly does not know it does not know; it is ignorant
about the most recent climate science knowledge.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Europe's leading climate scientist and
adviser to the German Government and the EU, says that "we are on our
way to a destabilisation of the world climate that has advanced much
further than most people or their governments realise". Schellnhuber
says only concentrations of greenhouse gases close to the pre-
industrial levels may be safe, around 280 to 320 parts per million,
compared to the present level of close to 390 parts per million.

One sign of this problem in Australia is the way the Prime Minister
and Climate Minister have adopted a traditional Labor approach to
climate: something for the environment lobby and something for
business. But solving the climate crisis cannot be treated like a wage
deal. It is not possible to negotiate with the laws of physics and
chemistry, and believing that it can reflects only an ignorance of the
task at hand.

The planet cannot be traded off. There are absolute limits that should
not be crossed, and doing something, but not enough, will still lead
to disaster. This the Government appears not to understand at all.

Serious climate-change impacts are already happening, both more
rapidly and at lower global temperature increases than projected. We
have passed the tipping point for complete loss of the Arctic's sea-
ice in summer.

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coalmine for climate
warming, and now, as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died,"
says Dr Jay Zwally, a NASA glaciologist.

The Arctic sea-ice is the first domino and it is falling fast. Other
dominoes, including catastrophic levels of carbon release from warming
permafrost in Siberia, are likely to fall unless we stop emitting
greenhouse gases and cool the planet to get the Arctic sea-ice back.

When transformative national and global leadership on climate is now
necessary, the many thousands of Australians who work diligently in
their local climate action groups see a spectacular failure of
political imagination in Canberra.

And the conclusion to their four-day meeting in the national capital?
It will be back to doorknocking the neighbourhood, talking in local
churches and workplaces, engaging with local MPs and building an
enormous grassroots movement that aims to make our politicians
energetic advocates for transformative action on global warming, but a
movement also capable of inflicting political pain on those who
continue to taken them and the planet's health for granted.

David Spratt is co-author of Climate Code Red.

Inquiry into the choice of emissions trading as the central policy to reduce Australia's carbon pollution


UPDATE 24 Feb 09

Within days of its announcement, Minister Swan cancelled the inquiry. Perhaps because it demonstrated weakness and the government's lack of belief in its own scheme? Since then, the opposition have ramped up the rhetoric on climate change and the CPRS and in light of the cancelled inquiry have proposed to open one themselves in the Senate.


Extract from POA website. Inquiry called to investigate whether emissions trading is appropriate as the central response to reducing Australia's GHG emissions.

More here.

On 12 February the Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan MP, asked the Committee to inquire into and report on the choice of emissions trading as the central policy to reduce Australia's carbon pollution.

The Committee invites interested persons and organisations to make submissions addressing the terms of reference by Friday 20 March 2009. Please refer to our brochure called preparing a submission for more information.

In order to facilitate electronic publishing of submissions, the Committee would prefer them to be emailed to or sent on disk or CD-ROM to the Committee Secretariat in Microsoft Word® or Portable Document Format (PDF).

Terms of reference


Public hearings

Media releases


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

"Over the last few days, we Australians have looked our own future in the face."

According to Senator Milne of the Australian Greens (quoted in title), Senator Wong, (ALP) Federal Minister for Climate Change, scientists and other commentators, contributions from climate change are begining to impact Australia through extreme weather events. Without action to address global emissions, these trends are predicted to continue.

This story from Reuters covers some of this ground.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Help Choose a Solar Future

"There is no energy shortage, there is no energy crisis, there is a crisis of ignorance."

That quote is from R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983) who was an architect, inventor, visionary and the second president of Mensa. He believed human societies would soon rely mainly on renewable sources of energy, such as solar power.

There's certainly no crisis of ignorance among those people who signed the solar gross feed in tariff petition! Some of the comments we are seeing on the petition really make us wonder.. "the people of Australia certainly get it; why not the government? What will it take?".

We're just about to hit the 7,000 signature mark - lets see how fast we can get to 8,000 and beyond - your signatures and comments will be the massive wake up call our government needs!

State by state tally

ACT - 176
New South Wales - 1592
Northern Territory - 55
Queensland - 1118
South Australia - 390
Tasmania - 177
Victoria - 2592
Western Australia - 710

Let others know!

We've already let politicians such as Penny Wong, Kevin Rudd, Peter Garrett, Greg Hunt and Christine Milne know about the petition.

The more signatures and thoughtful comments on the petition, the greatly the likelihood policy makers in Australia will take our collective call seriously and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will choose a solar future for our nation over filthy coal!

You have played a vital role in the future of Australia's energy security and efforts in the climate change battle, simply by having signed the petition. By taking just a few minutes to spread the word about the petition, you can do even more towards achieving our common goal!

You can forward this email on to friends and colleagues or use the "share" feature on each page of the site, alert the media, use the tell a friend form or even perhaps put up a banner on your web site/blog!

Additionally, we've published a press release you're most welcome to reproduce and redistribute!

Don't forget to confirm your signature!

After signed the petition, an email would have been sent to you with a link to confirm your signature. If you haven't done so as yet; please do as it's only confirmed signatures that we'll be submitting as part of the final petition.

If the confirmation email isn't in your inbox, please check your junk mail folder as it may have wound up in there!

Thanks again for your support and interest!

Michael Bloch.
Feed In Tariff Petition Initiative
An Energy Matters Public Service

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

New poll: Should the CPRS be scrapped?

Please see our new poll - right hand side of the web page.

CPRS = Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Since the Australian Climate Summit (and the ACF) resolved to 'prevent the scheme from becoming law' it would be interesting to know what others think.

From the environmental/climate change lobby it has been slammed for (amongst other things):
  • setting a low target of 5% emission reductions by 2020;
  • proposing massive compensatory payouts for big business carbon polluters;
  • ignoring voluntary emissions reductions undertaken by citizens and businesses.
This resolution may make for some interesting alliances between the environmental movement, the government opposition and big business . . .

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Climate Summit decides 2009 objectives

Here are the 2009 objectives agreed at the Australian Climate Summit for climate action. Please see Greenpeace for the full story:

"300 climate campaigners agreed by consensus to three campaign objectives for 2009:
  1. Prevent the carbon pollution reduction scheme from becoming law.
  2. Build a community-wide action to demand green jobs, a just transition and 100% renewable energy by 2020.
  3. Build community support for a goal of stabilisation at 300ppm CO2 and strong international agreement in line with what science and global justice demands. Communicate this position to the Copenhagen Conference of Parties and advocate for the Australian government to adopt this position.
After two days of intense negotiation, these common objectives are testimony to the will of Australians to move in chorus during this crucial year of climate action."