Sunday, October 31, 2010

Climate Caravans to Cancún Circus

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

This is third in a series of posts exploring the challenges facing climate activism. Some questions from my earlier post:

We’ve been looking for new or different ways of working. Do we make community education and awareness the priority? How do we reach out to a broader audience?
Should we become more involved in mainstream politics through political parties and elections? Is direct action a better route?

How do we raise awareness and influence the decision-making processes?

The debate about strategies and tactics has intensified since Copenhagen.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cancún Bottom-up: Shaping Global Climate Action

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

Focus on Cancún

So how do we re-focus climate change action? Can Cancún play a positive part?
One of the issues raised in my previous post was: Do we sideline the struggle for a global agreement in favour of more achievable goals?

At Inside Story, Stephen Howes looks at three challenges resulting from the US Congress’ failure to pass climate legislation:
On the domestic front, in a more bottom-up world countries will have both more freedom and more responsibility to define the mitigation problem as suits them.

On the international front, a strategy is needed to deal with America’s intransigence on climate change. It isn’t easy to think of one. No country will probably have more impact on US action than China, but China will only act decisively if it is not acting alone.

Finally, in a bottom-up world it will be more difficult for each country to judge what others are doing, since countries will tend to pursue different policies and measure impacts with different metrics.
Climate change negotiations: unravelling or shifting gear?


Our Generation: Melbourne Launch

The Melbourne launch of Our Generation on 22 October 2010, a documentary on aboriginal rights in Australia, by filmmakers Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis.

Our Generation - Melbourne Launch from Kevin Rennie on Vimeo.

for more information please visit their website Our Generation

Copenhagen to Cancún: Re-imagining Climate Action

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

There has been lots of soul searching since Copenhagen. We have all questioned the direction that climate activism should take. This is the first of a series of posts exploring this challenge.

We’ve been re-evaluating our goals and strategies. Do we sideline the struggle for a global agreement in favour of more achievable goals? Do we focus our energies at the National, State or local level?

We’ve been looking for new or different ways of working. Do we make community education and awareness the priority? How do we reach out to a broader audience?

Should we become more involved in mainstream politics through political parties and elections?

Is direct action a better route?


Friday, October 29, 2010

Tracking Our Cancún Climate Negotiators

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

There is a rich online world that doesn’t exist in the mainstream media. A classic climate change example is the Adopt A Negotiator project.

Adopt A Negotiator will be at COP16 in Cancún. They have blogger/trackers from 13 countries who follow ‘international efforts to confront climate change in the race to a better future’:

Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy Russia, Spain, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA.

The emphasis is on youth:

Australia’s tracker is Phillip Ireland. He’s originally from Newcastle so he should know about the latest solar project there.

Phil has a report on the pre-Cancún negotiations that is not all bad news:
In the end, progress at the China climate negotiations was mixed. There was good progress in some sections of the talks, however, other key components were stalled. A colleague commented to me “oh dear, it seems we’ve ended with a question mark”.
Stocktaking Progress on a Global Climate Agreement
His posts give both an international and an Australia perspective on recent developments. He also blogs at A Climate for Change.

It seems like a great idea. Anyone can do it. Start with the relevant national or state minister. Make sure you let them know you're watching and reporting.

Super Solar Hard Sell

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

Renewable energy technology is not the sole answer to global warming but it’s probably the number one. Carbon taxes or cap and trade schemes will fail if they do not stimulate research and development of alternatives such as solar.

Australia is currently trumpeting a breakthrough in solar research:
Researchers in Newcastle north of Sydney are constructing the largest solar field of its type in the world, using entirely locally produced materials and attracting international interest potentially worth billions of dollars.
Solar project shines light on Australian potential

It’s supposed to be perfect for desert areas unlike conventional solar technology because it does not use water, only sun and air. We can only hope that it's not a case of smoke and mirrors and that this hard sell promotion reaps the kind of benefits it promises.

 Photos courtesy of CSIRO

We can only hope that this hard sell promotion reaps the kind of benefits it promises.

Australia Revisits Carbon Tax

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

Australia has broken both a climatic and a political drought this year. In the aftermath of Copenhagen, we saw the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull lose their positions because of the politics of emissions trading.

Turnbull was unable to bring off a negotiated deal for the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme legislation and was dumped by a Liberal Party backlash by sceptics, deniers and opportunists. His replacement as Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has famously called climate change science “absolute crap”.

Rudd was perceived as backing away from his commitment to the “greatest moral challenge of our times” Any ETS was postponed till 2013.

For more on his removal by his own party, please see: Australia: Dramatic Fall of Prime Minister

After a large swing to the Greens in the August Federal elections, Labor formed a minority government promising to reinvigorate its climate change strategy. The Greens won their first House of Representatives seat at a general election and gained the balance of power in the Senate from July next year.

Julia Gillard signs agreement with Greens leader Bob Brown
(Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Australian)
The electorate had rejected Gillard's insipid election proposal for a Citizens Assembly to help re-establish a consensus. The new PM Julia Gillard was forced to beef up the party’s position and established a multi-party parliamentary committee. Its terms of reference include:
1.1. consult, negotiate, and report to the Cabinet, through the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, on agreed options for the implementation of a carbon price in Australia; and

1.2. provide advice on, and participate in, building community
consensus for action on climate change.
Prime Minister establishes Climate Change Committee
The inclusion of a price for carbon was a major change from their election stance. In recent weeks the support a carbon price has gained momentum with this call from the world’s largest miner:
THE boss of Australia's biggest mining company has urged the Federal Government to introduce a carbon tax before the rest of the world.

BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers conceded a global move on carbon would come in the future, and Australia needed to move ahead of the curve to stay competitive.
BHP calls for carbon tax
In other political developments, Australia has a new Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, and a new Parliamentary Secretary, Mark Dreyfus. This dynamic duo will hopefully get the government back on track.

Perhaps there is some cause for optimism.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Copenhagen Accord Targets

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

As we approach the Cancún COP16 December meeting of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, it is worth looking at what came out of Copenhagen.

USCAN (Climate Action Network) maintain an interactive map, tracking how countries have responded to their Copenhagen Accord commitments:

Countries Engaged with Copenhagen Accord
This graphic automatically updates as countries respond.

A detailed table is available on their website.

This week Frank Jotzo, Director of the Centre for Climate Economics & Policy and Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University's Crawford School, has published an analysis of progress, 'Copenhagen targets and Australia’s climate commitment':

An analysis that puts the different pledges on a common footing and compares them across the different metrics (Jotzo 2010) shows that the pledges given by both major developed and developing countries imply significant effort, and that on the whole they are broadly comparable across important metrics. This allows a cautiously optimistic assessment of the prospect for countries actually following through with their pledges.

He argues for 15% target for Australia compared with the current 5% and advocates a carbon price:

Cutting Australia’s emissions cost-effectively will require carbon pricing, possibly starting with a fixed price permit scheme. Investments in emission reductions in developing countries are also likely to be part of a cost-effective approach.

The full article can be downloaded here.

Australia's Gillard minority Labor government is committed to a carbon price but more on that later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nudist Bathers Reject CCTV Live Streaming

My latest post for Th!nk4: Climate Change:

CCTV cameras are not nudists’ favourite technology. Even when the CC stands for Climate Change or Cyclone Conditions. A proposal to use camera surveillance on unpatrolled surf beaches in Queensland has offended nudist bathing groups. Video would stream live online so that surf lifesavers could monitor conditions and hazardous situations.

There are no legal nudist beaches in Queensland but some optional clothing beaches are popular. Alexandria Bay beach (A Bay) at the Sunshine Coast’s Noosa Heads is one.

Free Beach Australia, who promote nudists beaches, argue that we don’t know what might happen with the video footage.

Now what does all this have to do with climate change? According to the Bureau of Meteorology the coming summer has a heightened risk of above average cyclones in Northern Australia:
Seasonal Outlook for Tropical Cyclones

The outlook suggests that the coming tropical cyclone season is likely to have

* a higher than average number of tropical cyclones over the full Australian region,
* a higher than average number of tropical cyclones in the Western region,
* an average to above average number of tropical cyclones in the Northern region,
* a higher than average number of tropical cyclones in the Eastern region.
2010/11 Australian Tropical Cyclone season outlook

BOM’s forecast for ‘Queensland Temperature change 2030 Summer’ based on different levels of emissions:

The predited storm activity will cause large surf along Queensland coasts. The extreme weather patterns are attributed by many to climate change resulting from global warming. The naked truth?

For the full audio from ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program:

Listen to MP3 of this story

Alexandria Bay is the only nudist beach I’ve ever visited. It was 1977. Wearing bathers certainly made me standout from the rest of the sun lovers. I was shamed by peer pressure to shed my budgie smugglers. I don’t recommend body-surfing in your birthday suit.

PS: I logged onto Free Beach Australia’s website ( only to find this message: This Account Has Been Suspended

Strange indeed! Self-censorship perhaps? Some other form of censorship? A cover up?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saving Australia's River Red Gums

On our recent visit to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, we came across a cemetery at Lake Mournpall. Perhaps one hundred mature trees stood dead on the flood plain, a stark reminder of the impact of severe drought and competing demands for water in recent years. My earlier post Australia’s Not-So-Civil Water War has some background on these issues.

River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) are iconic trees in Australia. Of the 800 eucalyptus species, they hold a very special place in our national psyche. They grow to 45 metres and can live for 500 years or more. They live beside rivers, lakes and on flood plains and rely on regular flooding for their survival.

The good news is that governments have taken action in recent years to allocate ‘environmental water’ to areas such as Hattah Lakes and the Barmah forest on the Murray River:
The Commonwealth allocated 7,300ML of environmental water to the Hattah Lakes in Winter 2010. This water will help ensure the long term sustainability of this iconic site, provide refuge for waterbirds and benefit fringing river red gums and will fill a number of lakes that have not been full since 1996.
Environmental watering: Murray catchment

The following slideshow, River Reds, shows some of the benefits of this policy. Thanks to Heather Milton for the photographs taken at Hattah.

This is a cross post from Th!nk4: Climate Change.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Not-So-Civil Water War

Th!nk About It has a new blogging competition: Th!nk4: Climate Change. It is an extension of Th!nk2.

My first post:

Australia’s Not-So-Civil Water War

We’ve just returned from three weeks in North Western Victoria and parts of New South Wales. It was unwitting research for Th!nk4: Climate Change. Our plan was to visit a number of national parks on or near the Murray-Darling river system. It’s an area that has been under extreme environmental pressures because of the harsh drought that devastated Australia for much of this century and the competing demands for water.

We started well, staying at the Wyperfeld and Hattah-Kulkyne National Parks in Victoria. By the second week, heavy rain at Lake Mungo NP not only closed the unsealed road after our swift retreat but also heralded a dose of wet weather that finally brought an end to official drought conditions in New South Wales. Even Melbourne’s dams were half-full after hovering at 25% most of last year. Floods have become common headlines this year across eastern Australia.

These climate extremes are not new. “Droughts and flooding rains” are an Aussie cliché. But the severity of the drought, record high temperatures and horrific bushfires have focussed national attention on the vexed issues surrounding changing climate.

You’d think the rain would bring optimism but that is not the case in Australia’s food bowl. During our trip a consultation document (actually a Guide to a Draft Basin Plan) was released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. The Authority is charged by legislation with developing a plan that returns the river basin to environmental health while maximising “economic returns to the Australian community from the use and management of the Basin water resources”. It is also required to “tackle climate change”.

The Guide recommends reductions in water allocations of between 27% and 37%. The big loser would be agriculture, especially irrigators.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has an online explanation of and ongoing updates. One of its ABC TV news reports captured the ‘tea party’ mood communities have shown at consultation meetings.

As the Authority has attempted visited rural towns, the Guide has been burned. Farmers have worn black armbands. Personal abuse has substituted for dialogue.

Lower rainfall is predicted for the basin as a result of climate change. If these warnings prove correct, the battles for a share of the diminishing water resources can only hot up.