Keeling Curve

When it comes to the climate fight, Australia is barely in the ring. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Federal ministers are fond of trumpeting how Australia “punches above its weight”, such as in our military commitment to Middle Eastern wars.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg (left) and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull need a climate plan – and fast.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But when it comes to tackling climate change, this country’s record is nothing to brag about.

That’s probably why the Turnbull government left it until just before Christmas to release the latest national greenhouse gas emissions figures and review of its climate policies.

The 2015 Paris climate deal will be reviewed in 2018 with nations to be asked to get their emissions goals more in line with the two-degree warming limit. Photo: AP

This past week Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, had to be pressed repeatedly to concede emissions rose in the year to last June by 0.7 per cent to 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

But the broader picture is even more concerning.

Buried near the back of the emissions report was a table revealing the nation’s carbon pollution has risen in each of the past five years.

What will confuse many is that Australia will likely meet its pledge to cut emissions 5 per cent by 2020 even though pollution is rising.

Thank the special treatment Australia got during the Kyoto Protocol period.

We were permitted to increase emissions by 8 per cent during the 2008-12 period, even as other rich nations agreed to cuts.

As actual emissions fell 128 million tonnes short of that bloated goal, Australia generated a “surplus” it is now using to count towards the 2020 goal.

Five nations, including Germany and the UK, cancelled similar surpluses.

A rising pollution trajectory, though, will eventually catch up with Australia.

As part of the 2015 Paris climate deal, the Turnbull government pledged to slice 2005-levels emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, and the surplus will be long used up by then.

As Fairfax Media’s Eryk Bagshaw highlighted last week, separate data released on the quiet late last year revealed Australia will overshoot the 2030 goal by at least 140 million tonnes of CO₂ on current growth rates.

The sole area of significant improvement has been the electricity industry, accounting for about a third of total emissions.

The 2.2 per cent year-on-year drop, though, owes much to the abrupt closure last March of Victoria’s dirtiest power plant, Hazelwood, an event met with dismay by the Turnbull government.

The government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee – still far from a shoo-in with several states and territories wary if not publicly opposed – would lock in just a par performance for emissions reductions from the one sector almost every other country expects to lead carbon-cutting efforts.

The review of climate policies did not offer much indication how other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, will come near any 26-28 per cent reduction goal.

Take residential housing, for instance.

The climate review is silent despite massive potential savings for occupants who happen usually to be voters.

Phil Harrington, an energy consultant with Strategy Policy Research, notes minimum energy codes for new houses were last changed in 2009 and are weak by rich nation standards.

They are unlikely to be strengthened before 2022, locking in poor performance – and higher energy bills – for decades to come.

Dodging these issues isn’t a strategy.

Later this year, Australia will be pressured, along with all the other signatories to the Paris accord to lift its climate action to give the Earth a fair chance of avoiding two degrees of warming.

The arc of emissions must start bending lower soon, and certainly more sharply than current policies would point it.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

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#ClimateChange “All Hell will break loose!” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

When will we listen to the scientists?

To invest in new coal mines and ignore science is Criminal Negligence.

It is putting our children and future generations at extreme risk.

People all over the planet are demanding change.

We must declare a CLIMATE EMERGENCY

#PoweringPastCoal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The We Mean Business coalition urges forward-looking companies to sign the declaration of the Powering Past Coal Alliance and back the powerful signal sent by more than 25 countries, states and regions that coal’s time has passed.

At COP23, the UK and Canada, alongside Costa Rica, Fiji, France, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Oregon, Quebec and many others, announced the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

They stand united in taking action to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power.

They now need the private sector to step up and match their level of ambition.

Companies embracing the transition to clean energy have an opportunity to show their support, giving governments their vital backing as they look to fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Business and governments must work hand in hand to manage the transition away from coal, it must be a just transition, carefully managed to ensure it leaves no-one behind.

Coal plants still produce almost 40 percent of global electricity, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change and a major cause of negative health effects.

As a result, phasing out traditional coal power is one of the most important steps companies, governments, states and regions can take to tackle climate change and meet our commitment to keep the global temperature increase well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

Read the full declaration here and contact Jennifer Gerholdt Corporate Engagement Director at We Mean Business (jennifer@wemeanbusinesscoalition.org), to find out more and sign the declaration before the One Planet Summit on December 12, 2017.

We need a just transition

Yesterday we witnessed much needed climate leadership at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. More than 25 countries, states and regions, led by the United Kingdom and Canada and including Fiji, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, France, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Quebec, Oregon and Alberta, announced their participation in the Powering Past Coal Alliance and their declaration to accelerating growth through a rapid transition from coal power to clean power.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance declared that a transition away from coal is necessary if the world is to deliver the Paris Agreement. It is also critical for climate justice and the protection of human rights.

Today we celebrate this commitment to delivering concrete action on cutting emissions. We wish to emphasise, however, that the transition away from coal to net-zero emissions can only happen with commitment from governments and businesses to work hand-in-hand with workers to ensure a just transition, which secures decent, low-emissions jobs, upholds rights, protects vulnerable workers and communities and leaves no one behind.

As B Team Leaders, we urge that the Powering Past Coal Alliance ensure that their work and statements about it include this “just transition,” as enshrined in the preamble of the Paris Agreement and by the International Labour Organisation. The fact that the declaration does not include just transition is in our view a major omission. Minister McKenna of Canada and Minister Shaw of New Zealand both reflected on the need for just transition during their remarks yesterday.

As the Powering Past Coal Alliance moves forward, we hope that it can revisit its declaration and commitments by participants, so that they reflect just transition as well as moving away from coal. Governments who support the alliance should commit to setting targets to move away from existing traditional coal power through a just transition of the workforce, that protects human rights and takes steps to revitalize affected communities. Businesses and other partners should commit to powering their operations without coal and to collaborating with unions to achieve to a just transition for workers and communities that spurs new, decent and low-emissions jobs.

We, like our fellow B Team Leaders, know that businesses will only grasp the opportunities of the net-zero economy if workers are partners in the process to develop concrete plans to protect themselves and their communities. This cooperation will ensure workers get the skills and opportunities they need for good and green new jobs that respect global labour standards.

We are pleased to see fellow B Team Leader Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which has an industry-leading coal phase out commitment, working with the alliance to explore how the global business community can engage. We, along with partners such as We Mean Business, encourage continued support for a just transition to power past coal and encourage business to join this alliance.

Update: https://www.facebook.com/StopAdaniBrisbane/videos/395052270934742/

Press link for more : Bteam.org

wemeanbusiness

Australia’s extreme heat here to stay. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol

How Australia’s extreme heat might be here to stay

By Adam Morton

Hobart

A section of highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne started to melt.

DRIVERS were being urged to take caution while heading towards Melbourne on the Hume Highway.

A stretch of the road began to melt at Broadford in hot weather on Friday afternoon.

Bats fell dead from the trees, struck down by the heat.

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney. (Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown)

On the northern Great Barrier Reef, 99% of baby green sea turtles, a species whose sex is determined by temperature, were found to be female.

In outer suburban Sydney, the heat hit 47.3C (117F) before a cool change knocked it down – to the relative cool of just 43.6C in a neighbouring suburb the following day.

Scenes from a sci-fi novel depicting a scorched future?

No, just the first days of 2018 in Australia, where summer is in fierce form.

With parts of the US suffering through a particularly grim winter, extremes in both hemispheres have triggered discussions about the links between current events and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Climate change ‘no brainer’

The climate system is incredibly complex and no weather event can be directly attributed to rising emissions, but everything that is experienced today happens in a world that is about one degree warmer than the long-term mean.

Prof Andy Pitman, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales, says given the average temperature has risen it is a “no brainer” that the likelihood of the sort of heat that hit Sydney last week has also increased.

Sydney swelters on hottest day since 1939

Reactions to extreme weather in US and Australia

“It was a meteorological anomaly, but the probability works a bit like if you stand at sea level and throw a ball in the air, and then gradually make your way up a mountain and throw the ball in the air again,” he says.

“The chances of the ball going higher increases dramatically.

That’s what we’re doing with temperature.”

Sydney has experienced a sweltering start to 2018

While it is record-breaking that tends to make news, scientists say it is the unbroken run of hot days in the high 30s and 40s that causes the significant problems for human health, and other life.

Health officials in Victoria highlighted the threat of heatwaves when they found about 374 more people died during an extreme three-day period in January 2009 than would have been expected had it been cooler.

There has, however, been relatively little investment in research into the health impact of escalating maximum temperatures.

A paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change last year said while a government report called for greater focus on the area 25 years ago, less than 0.1% of health funding since has been dedicated to the impact of climate change.

Hundreds of bats die as Sydney swelters

Australia had third-warmest year on record

VR shows terrifying reality of bushfires

Prof Pitman says Australia is yet to properly consider the health risks of a warming planet.

“It’s not being able to cool down at night, and in the days that follow, that causes problems,” he says.

“I was camping in the Blue Mountains [west of Sydney] on Saturday night. It was about 30 degrees at midnight, and I could feel my heart racing. Now, that extra stress on my cardiovascular system didn’t kill me, but it might have if I was 20 years older.”

Last year was Australia’s third-warmest year since records began, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Globally, it was the second or third warmest, and comfortably the hottest year in which there was not an El Niño weather system helping push up temperatures further.

Put another way: it is now hotter without an El Niño than it was with an El Niño just a few years ago.

Far-reaching impact

In eastern Australia – where the bulk of the population lives – temperatures were particularly inflated during summer months, when an increase is most likely to lead to uncomfortable or dangerous heat.

Several locations had runs of record hot days and nights. More than 40% of the most populous state, New South Wales, recorded at least 50 days hotter than 35C. The town of Moree had 54 consecutive days of extreme heat.

“Across Australia, the last five years were all in the top seven years on record. That’s quite a striking signal,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr Blair Trewin says.

The extra energy warming up the climate system is also being felt in several ways. The bushfires season starts earlier than it used to, and Australia has already experienced wild blazes this season.

Along with the increased background heat, this is in part due to a clear drying pattern in some areas.

Rainfall is down for both the south-east and south-west of the country in the cooler months months between April and October.

“That also has quite significant impacts for agriculture because historically that’s when they get most of their inflows,” Dr Trewin says.

The impact of warming on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the only living structure visible from space, has been well documented. Estimates suggest about half its shallow-water coral was killed during bleaching events over the past two years linked to increased water temperatures.

Damage to Australia’s reef ‘unprecedented’

Further south, the sea along Tasmania’s east coast has warmed dramatically, pushing tropical species to unlikely high latitudes and coinciding with the disappearance of giant kelp forests.

Some weather patterns have not changed. There is no evidence of variations in cyclone behaviour or the frequency or intensity of large hail and lightning, for instance.

All this comes against a backdrop of political fighting over how to tackle climate change.

It is less than a year since senior government members brandished a piece of coal in parliament to taunt the Labor opposition, whom ministers accused of wanting to see an end to the fossil fuel industry.

The Malcolm Turnbull-led government remains committed to a 2030 target pledged at the Paris climate talks: a 26-to-28% cut below 2005 emissions.

It says it can cut emissions while shielding the public and business from unnecessary price rises.

It also points out that Australia is directly responsible for little more than 1% of global emissions (though it is responsible for about 30% of the global coal trade).

But national greenhouse accounts released in the week before Christmas showed Australia’s industrial emissions have been on an upward curve since 2014, when the government repealed carbon pricing laws, which required big business to pay for its pollution.

Emissions had fallen in the two years the laws were in place. The latest projections in the accounts suggest Australia will overshoot its 2030 target unless new policies are introduced to arrest the growth.

“There really isn’t an argument that climate change isn’t true in parliament anymore,” Prof Pitman says. “You’d find a couple of members of parliament that say that, but you’d also find a couple who didn’t believe in evolution and didn’t believe in inoculating children against disease.

“The issue now is that the scale of concern – and the action under way or committed to both in Australia and internationally – doesn’t match the scale of the problem.”

Press link for more: BBC.COM

Depleting Nature’s stocks. #StopAdani Australia uses 5.4 times what earth can provide. #auspol

Humanity uses 70% more of the global commons than the Earth can regenerate

Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network

Persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks. Photograph: NASA/REX/Shutterstock

Households and governments who want to succeed track both expenditure and income. Businesses similarly keep a keen eye on their balance sheets.

So what does the physical balance sheet of our biggest household – the Earth – look like?

The income side would tell us how much our planet provides in matter and energy.

The expenditure side would tell us how much material and energy people use – or what we call humanity’s ecological footprint.

Ecological footprint accounting was developed to address the question: how much of the biosphere’s regenerative capacity – or biocapacity – does human activity demand?

Global Footprint Network measures this human demand for ecosystem services by adding up the space occupied by food, fibre and timber provision, space occupied by infrastructure, and the absorption of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Indeed, carbon dioxide emissions take up approximately 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint.

Australians use 5.4 times

This audit can be done at any scale.

Analysing the accounts for the entire world enables us to compare the material demands of humanity against the size of the global commons.

Global Footprint Network’s most recent data show that humanity overshoots the regenerative capacity of our global commons, and now demands about 70% more than what the biosphere can regenerate.

In other words, we are using 1.7 Earths.

Keeping humanity’s ecological footprint within the planet’s biocapacity is the minimum threshold for sustainability.

That threshold can be exceeded for some time, just as households can spend more money than they earn by dipping into savings, thereby depleting their assets.

But persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks, through the collapse of fisheries, soil loss, freshwater overuse, over harvesting of forests – or leads to climate change from the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified nine planetary boundaries, required to maintain the integrity of healthy, productive ecosystems. The UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) bring together a vision for safeguarding the health of the global commons while ensuring flourishing lives and wellbeing for everyone. The Stockholm Resilience Centre calls this vision the safe operating space.

Oxford University economist Kate Raworth adds the social dimensions and calls it doughnut economics – with the outer circle of the doughnut representing the ecological boundaries within which we need to operate, and the inner one the social necessities required for thriving lives for all.

The core idea of socially and ecologically safe operating space was quantified for the first time in 2002 by Aurélien Boutaud.

He combined the Ecological Footprint and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP)’s Human Development Index (HDI) to track sustainable development outcomes country by country, city by city. His approach has evolved into the HDI footprint diagram. His framework has been used widely, by those including UNDP, UN Environment, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and WWF’s Living Planet Report. It even serves as the foundation of the Philips sustainability programme.

Figure 1: Mapping sustainable development outcome: HDI and the Footprint of nations, in 2013

One axis of the diagram is sustainability – or to what extent development can be supported within the Earth’s means. It is measured by the ratio between what people take compared to what the global commons can renew. The second axis, development, is measured by HDI, which captures income, access to basic education, and longevity.

Global sustainable development occurs where these two dimensions intersect. Available biocapacity is now 1.7 hectares per person. Some of this, however, is needed to support wildlife – and we also need to leave room for a growing human population. So the average ecological footprint per person worldwide needs to be significantly smaller if we are to live within nature’s means.

The figure above shows the latest results for most countries of the world (2013), comparing their footprints per person against the world’s per capita biocapacity, to show how far their development models could be replicated worldwide.

Most countries do not meet both minimum requirements. Since every country has different amounts of biocapacity within its natural boundaries, this analysis can be adapted to each country.

Using a scale from zero to one, UNDP considers an HDI of more than 0.7 to be “high human development”, with 0.8 “very high”.

For global sustainable development to occur, the world average would need to be in the marked panel at the bottom right (the global sustainable development quadrant). This is defined by an average footprint of less than 1.7 global hectares per person and an HDI score of more than 0.7. Yet the quadrant is ominously empty.

The HDI score of the UK is 0.9, but its ecological footprint per person is five global hectares, high above the sustainable development quadrant.

India has an HDI score of 0.6, and an ecological footprint per person of 1.1 global hectares, suggesting the need to increase the quality of life of citizens and the footprint.

Global sustainable development is necessary for a thriving future.

The SDGs give us strategies on how to get there.

Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) global commons initiative makes obvious the dependence on Earth’s physical health. It reminds us that our fabulous planet enables the wellbeing of all, if we manage it carefully.

Measuring whether we are achieving these desired outcomes enables us to take charge of the future we want.

We can explore countries’ resource balances, and compare them with what would be in their economic self interest. And we can allocate our budgets and choose our development strategies more effectively so that they serve the goals we have wisely chosen through the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Therefore, Global Footprint Network firmly endorses the GEF’s initiative, which stimulates the collaborative effort needed to create a world where all thrive within the means of the planet’s regenerative capacity.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Sydney Hottest Day in 78 years. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol

Temperatures In Australia Hit 117 Degrees As Sydney Sees Hottest Day In 78 Years

The extreme weather melted one area’s roads. Elsewhere in the world, record low temperatures were seen.

Nina Golgowski

A brutal heat wave in Australia skyrocketed temperatures in Sydney on Sunday to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.3 Celsius), making it the hottest weather New South Wales’ capital has seen in 78 years, weather officials said.

The bizarre forecast follows record low temperatures in other parts of the world.

The worst of the weekend’s heat was recorded in the Sydney suburb of Penrith where the triple-degree temperature was just slightly lower than a 118-degree (47.8 C) reading recorded in the town of Richmond in 1939, according to the New South Wales’ Bureau of Meteorology.

James D. Morgan via Getty Images

Crowds cool off in water at Yarra Bay in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday amid a heat wave.

Temperatures became so hot across southern Australia that police in the neighboring state of Victoria warned drivers on Twitter that a 6-mile freeway was “melting.”

Fire warnings and bans were also issued across Sydney in response to the high heat threat that has caused multiple wildfires. There was also an air quality warning issued by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for higher than normal ozone levels, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Adding to some of the misery felt, a power outage left thousands of people in Sydney without electricity on Sunday evening as temperatures stayed between 91 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the local news site reported.

A spokeswoman for local electricity provider Ausgrid, speaking to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, partially blamed the outage on a surge in power use.

The bizarre weather isn’t just in Australia, however.

Across the Pacific, Alaska has experienced unusually warm temperatures in recent days, roughly 10 to 20 degrees above average, prompting concerns about ice levels, NPR reported.

Last week, temperatures in Anchorage were warmer than in northern Florida, which saw snow.

The U.S.′ northeast has also endured unseasonably cold temperatures, with the mercury dipping below zero in many places. At New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the area saw an all-time low on Saturday of 8 degrees F, meteorologist Bob Oravec of the Weather Prediction Center, told Reuters.

Temperatures are expected to rise to above normal temperatures for much of the United States in the middle of January, the National Weather Service said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis pointed out on Friday that Europe is also experiencing unusual temperatures.

“The French national average on Wednesday was 11.5 degrees Celsius [52.7 degrees Fahrenheit], so that’s about 6 degrees Celsius above the normal, so as I said, lots of extreme weather,” she said during a United Nations session, according to Newsweek.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

1.5C a missed Target #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Leaked Draft of Landmark Climate Change Report Pours Cold Water on 1.5°C Goal

Missed Targets

Bar a concerted global effort to reduce emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere, the world is highly likely to exceed the most ambitious climate goal set by the Paris Agreement by the 2040s, according to a leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report obtained by Reuters.

The IPCC is expected to release the final version of their highly anticipated Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C in October.

The preliminary version obtained by Reuters was submitted to a small group of experts and government officials for review and was not meant for public release.

Every few years, the IPCC publishes an Assessment Report containing the available research about the current state of climate change.

This year’s special report is the first focused on what is possibly the Paris Agreement’s most controversial climate goal: limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Though some countries are in strong support of taking action to ensure the world meets this climate goal, research has shown that we are highly unlikely to do so.

The draft of the special report obtained by Reuters seems to confirm this low probability of success: “There is very high risk that […] global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels [should emissions continue at the current pace].”

The draft also states that meeting the climate goal would require an “unprecedented” leap from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and extensive reforms everywhere from industry to agriculture.

Additionally, while curbing global temperatures would help reduce some of the worst impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and droughts, it would not be enough to protect the planet’s most fragile ecosystems, including polar ice caps and coral reefs.

Political Motives?

While the findings currently included in the report confirm what the public may consider the worst-case scenario, scientists who have read the report are not surprised by its contents.

“The report is unexceptional,” Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Cambridge, told Futurism. “It was already clear to every climate scientist that a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit would be breached by 2050 (in fact, probably much earlier) in the absence of drastic carbon capture measures.”

Gabriel Marty, a climate change analyst and former U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegate for France, told Futurism that it’s too soon to speculate on the content of the final report.

However, once it is released, he said readers should note the treatment of the uncertainties and risks of the so-called “bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)” technologies designed to suck carbon emissions out of the atmosphere.

The risks associated [with heavily relying on these technologies] must be clearly outlined,” said Marty. “They do not exist yet, the scale that would be needed would be enormous, and the adverse impacts on land and water resources would likely be huge.”

According to sources familiar with the IPCC’s proceedings, the panel has been criticized in the past for being too coy about the limitations of BECCS and for understating their risks in order to present the 2 degrees Celsius target as “still viable.”

Wadhams also mentioned the possibility that the IPCC’s hesitation to release the special report itself could be politically motivated.

“The IPCC has long since become a political rather than a scientific organization, so their secretiveness and sensitivity about a perfectly ordinary report has some political motive,” he told Futurism.

““A lot could still change between now and the final version.”

Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the IPCC Working Group 1, told Futurism that that’s not the case. She said the fact that the special report is currently confidential has nothing to do with a lack of transparency on the part of the panel — they simply aren’t finished with it yet.

“All of the expert and government review comments that come in over the next few weeks are taken on board […] Just to give an idea of what that involves, the first draft of this report received 12,895 comments from nearly 500 expert reviewers around the world,” said Pidcock. “A lot could still change between now and the final version.”

We will need to wait until October for the IPCC’s final take on the viability of the extremely ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, but whatever the contents of the report, we can’t let it discourage us from taking the strongest action possible to prevent further damage to our planet.

Press link for more: Futurism.com

Unmasking Malcolm #StopAdani #auspol

Unmasking Malcolm: The Big 5 Policy Failures of 2017

By Ben Eltham on January 9, 2018

Australian Politics

The myth of the moderate Malcolm Turnbull dies hard, writes Ben Eltham.

Will 2018 be any different?

At the end of 2017, it was easy to think of the Turnbull government as a spent force.

Given the constant state of crisis that has bedevilled politics for years now, we can be forgiven for thinking that the government is about to fall, or that Turnbull is about to be replaced.

That would be unwise.

Politics is rarely predictable, and even if it were, the fact remains that the government is just 18 months into its second term.

Turnbull doesn’t have to call an election until late 2019. As long as he can hold his government together, Turnbull has plenty of time.

The longevity of the Turnbull government is one of the stranger aspects of Australia’s unsettled political economy.

The Coalition has ruled since September 2013, but really it has been two different governments: Abbott and Turnbull.

You need to grasp that fact to understand politics in 2018.

We are not in the fifth year of a unified Coalition government.

We are 27 months into the Turnbull administration.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (left) and current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

No-one could accuse the Abbott government of lacking a program: its agenda was obvious, as soon as it was elected.

Commissions of Audit, massive cuts to health and education, endless culture wars, a jihad against climate science.

Tony Abbott and his cabinet certainly stood for something.

To their bemusement, it was a something that voters rejected.

Ever since he took office, media coverage (and to a lesser extent, popular understanding) of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership has been framed around wishful thinking – the desire for a particular sort of prime minister, a prime minister that Turnbull has manifestly failed to be.

The idea of a small-l liberal, moderate, progressive Malcolm Turnbull has died hard in the mediascape, even as it has quickly faded in the imagination.

Fawning admirers at Fairfax and the ABC fell over themselves to genuflect in front of a politician that could not help but identify with (the conservatives at News Corporation were a different matter).

Perhaps the paradigm example of the media love-in was when Turnbull ushered Annabel Crabb around the family mansion on Sydney Harbour; but there were plenty of others. When Turnbull announced his ill-fated ploy to call a double-dissolution election, commentators gushed.

Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull on ABC’s Kitchen cabinet, with Annabel Crabb.

In general, many in the mainstream media found themselves invested in the idea of Turnbull as a centrist saviour of Australia’s broken political process, with little more evidence than the fellow-feeling of a similarly privileged class.

The moderate image was fed by the man himself, who positioned himself successfully as a kinder and gentler Liberal, a wearer of leather jackets, a supporter of same-sex marriage, and a believer in action on climate change.

As we know now, he was none of those things.

Malcolm Turnbull no longer supports action on climate change.

He barely bothered to campaign on marriage equality.

The famous leather jacket is missing at the dry cleaners.

Malcolm Turnbull fooled many into believing he was a moderate. But he was lying.

Malcolm Turnbull is not a kinder, gentler conservative.

He has not been a moderate prime minister.

He is a wealthy lawyer and businessman whose main policy commitment appears to be to staying in power.

Turnbull’s government has been right wing in almost every significant respect, and the hopes for a small-l liberal, moderate and centrist government entertained by voters and journalists alike have been dashed.

The evidence is impossible to ignore: Turnbull is a ruthless opportunist who shows little scruples in his dealings with colleagues, with civil society, or with ordinary citizens.

27 months of government has shown us that what Malcolm Turnbull ultimately cares about is power: gaining it, holding it, and finally using it, in the interests of the ruling class to which he demonstrably belongs.

A screencap from Channel 10’s The Project, showing an awkward encounter for the Prime Minister on a train to western Sydney.

In the years since rolling Tony Abbott, media rhetoric has focused on Turnbull’s metric of 30 losing Newspolls as the reason why Abbott had to go.

Perhaps they should re-read the transcript of that first media conference.

Turnbull promised a “thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.” In that respect, at least, he has been true to his word. Turnbull has delivered on his promise as a capital-L Liberal. His government has indeed been one committed to economic freedom, to individualism, and to the supremacy of the market.

How do we know this? Because of the policies Turnbull has implemented.

In this article, I will examine five key policy areas: climate and energy, housing, industrial relations, tax and social policy. In each of these policy areas, Malcolm Turnbull’s government has been conservative and neoliberal. It has governed in the interests of the rich and powerful, rather than ordinary citizens.

It has been, in Turnbull’s own words, “a thoroughly Liberal government.”

1. Climate and energy

Exhibit A is a lump of dead coral. There are hundreds of kilometres of dead reefs all the way up the Queensland coast.

In decades to come, when the politics of the moment have faded, this will be the true legacy of the Turnbull government.

What could better sum up its petty mendacity than the death of a natural wonder, to the cheers of a coal-fondling Treasurer?

Similarly, nothing could better illustrate the indifference of Australia’s political classes to their larger responsibilities than the shocking death of large swathes of the nation’s largest biological organism.

Historians will record that at the same time devastating bleaching was killing a tourism industry worth 70,000 jobs, Coalition ministers were glad-handing a lump of coal in federal Parliament.

2017 was the year when the government’s threadbare arguments against renewable energy were shown up for the lies they always were.

A series of detailed reports by the Australian Energy Market Operator showed the South Australian blackout of 2016 was caused by a cascade of faults beginning with a storm falling transmission lines – not renewable energy, as the government had wrongly claimed.

Cynicism barely begins to describe the dead-eyed psychopathy of the Coalition’s position on energy.

Despite talking incessantly about energy security throughout the year, the government has done precisely nothing to reform Australia’s energy system.

The risible example of the Liddell power plant in New South Wales perfectly illustrates this point.

In their bid for cheap media headlines, the government postured on the closure of a clapped-out hulk.

The Liddell controversy was the purest conservative theatre, allowing the government to gesture and preen about its fossil fuel credentials, even while its owner AGL calmly put together a replacement plan based around renewable energy.

Liddell Power Station (right) and the nearby Bayswater Power Station in the background. (IMAGE: Pete The Poet, Flickr)

For all the jawboning, in the end the government has not forced AGL to keep Liddell running. In fact, the government has not done anything at all in energy policy: a year after the delivery of Alan Finkel’s energy report, the government’s risible response is nothing but an eight page brochure.

There is no contest in Australian energy markets: renewables have won.

The days of coal are coming to an end, and no amount of Parliamentary grandstanding can change that.

Prices for wind and solar keep falling; decrepit old coal plants keep breaking down.

The rapid and convincing success of South Australia’s new 100MW Tesla grid battery is the most mediagenic example: after ridiculing the South Australian government for its energy policy, the federal Coalition has been forced to watch on with gritted teeth as the southern state has made good on its energy infrastructure promises.

Of course, energy policy is not really about the future of Australian energy system, at least not for the government.

It is instead about the internal politics of the Liberal Party, and the donors to that party in the resources sector.

For reasons that have nothing to do with the environment, and everything to do with ideology and money, energy and climate have become litmus tests for conservative doctrine.

Chest-puffing symbolism has become more important for the conservative faithful than any meaningful engagement with the real world, which is heating up rapidly and endangering the future of our children and grandchildren. The real world is also rapidly transforming its energy system. The myopic and stupid figures at the nexus of money and power in the Liberal Party are blind to this reality. But it is happening anyway.

In the meantime, Australia’s carbon emissions are rising. They are rising because the Turnbull government wants them to. That’s what happens when you abolish a tax on carbon, and refuse to regulate against fossil fuel pollution. That’s what happens when your entire energy policy is anti-renewable, and pro-coal. Rising emissions are Coalition policy.

Press link for more: New Matilda

It’s Time For Revolution! #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #Inequality kills millions!

For years I have begged for change.

I have copied thousands of links to science warning of catastrophic climate change.

Others have shone light on the inequalities built into our current political system.

We are running out of time!

It’s time for a revolution!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xFHXDuVA-dk&t=33s

Great Barrier Grief #CoalWar #StopAdani #auspol #ClimateChange

Great barrier grief | Andrew Stafford on Patreon

On 2 January, at the Woodford Folk Festival, Russell Reichelt, chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, sat on a panel with Dr Fanny Douvere from UNESCO and popular science author and broadcaster Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. Calmly, Reichelt laid the hard facts about the future of Australia’s greatest living wonder on the table.

His words were tweeted by the official GBRMPA account. “We are in the midst of an unprecedented global coral crisis,” he said. “Corals can adapt, but not as quickly as ocean temperatures are changing.” The tweet concluded bluntly: “Solution: Rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero.”

7NewsCairns

On its own, this should have been big news.

Neither Reichelt nor the body he chairs, which reports to the federal government, is known for making rash statements, yet here he was calling the future of an entire ecosystem – upon which so much life, and so many livelihoods directly depend – into question.

It seemed almost unthinkable.

Unfortunately, it’s been all too thinkable for too long.

Two days later, Reichelt’s statement was followed by the release of a paper in the journal Science, which he clearly knew was imminent.

The paper warned that global warming was giving coral reefs insufficient time to recover from increasingly frequent bleaching events.

Indeed, they might be the new normal.

The paper, led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Professor Terry Hughes and backed by 26 co-authors from around the world, studied 100 coral reefs internationally.

It found that the time between mass bleaching events had shrunk more than five-fold since the first recorded events in the 1980s.

Before that, such mass bleaching events were all but unheard of.

There’s a kind of dull fatigue setting in around this story, despite the ever more urgent warnings from the government’s own scientists and bureaucrats about the gravity of the situation.

Consecutive bleachings in the late summers of 2016 and 2017 left more than a quarter of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef dead; in the northern section of the park the figure was as high as 67 percent.

This last awful statistic is important, for it is often overlooked that this section of the park was considered the most pristine: i.e. it was the least affected by soil runoff, crown-of-thorns starfish (currently in plague proportions in the reef’s south) and other factors that politicians prefer to talk about when it comes to protecting Australia’s biggest natural icon.

They don’t want to talk about the brutally simple cause of the devastation in the north, and the cause of mass bleaching worldwide: the coral is cooking in above-average water temperatures.

For the solution to that problem, refer back to the GBRMPA’s tweet in the second paragraph of this post and remember, again, that it comes from the government’s own agency.

But politicians aren’t the only ones who don’t want to face up to the stark realities in front of them.

The Courier-Mail, Queensland’s sole statewide newspaper, has for years veered between outright denial, occasional acknowledgement, and prolonged, mystifying silence on what is by any rational measure the biggest story in the state. I’ve written about this before.

On Saturday, the day after the release of the Science paper, it was back in full-on denial mode. While the print edition of the paper carried no mention of the study or its implications for Queensland, its reputation and its economy, the online edition carried an op-ed that called not only the study, but science itself (the discipline, not the journal) into question.

“Our reef’s great, unlike a lot of the research about it” was the headline.

The author was Graham Young, executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress and former vice-president and campaign chairman of the Liberal Party in Queensland.

But let’s not get too bogged down in Young’s affiliations, or his and the AIP’s history of climate change denial.

Young described “reef in crisis” stories as being “as regular as summer thunderstorms”, and admits to the dull fatigue I referred to earlier, confessing he’s become less sensitive to each new claim “because the reef is manifestly, gloriously still there”. Indeed it is. But he doesn’t say whether he’s paid it a visit lately, or if so, exactly where he was, or what he saw.

Young’s piece is essentially based on two pretty shaky columns. The first is a 2005 paper by Dr John Ionnidis, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”. Since then, Young claims that there have been a flood of other papers demonstrating that 50 percent or more studies are wrong “in most scientific fields”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t cite any.

The second is a paper published in the Marine Pollution Journal by Dr Piers Larcombe and Professor Peter Ridd, of James Cook University, which Young says suggests that not only is there “no need to worry”, but that “much of the science underpinning what we know about the GBR is wrong. And not only the GBR.”

Ridd is a geophysicist who has come into conflict with his peers at JCU. He is a dissenter on climate science and, according to DeSmogBlog, is the science director of a foundation that claims wind turbines make people sick. But let’s stick with Young’s article, which goes on to call “quality control in science an institutional problem we desperately need to solve”.

Indeed, he calls to “find ways to institutionalise dissent in our universities and scientific organisations”, suggesting an idea apparently imported from commerce by the US military: “red” and “blue” teams that would try to pick each other’s ideas apart in an attempt to reduce groupthink and confirmation bias.

This seems to be a pretty basic misunderstanding, if not a deliberate misrepresentation of how scientific method works. Almost by definition it’s built on sceptical inquiry. For a hypothesis to stand up, it needs to to be testable (and therefore, unlike an article of faith, capable of being disproven). So data is gathered, observations made, and theories developed.

Dissenting views in science are par for the course. The problem for Young is that there is very little scientific dissent about climate change, warming and acidifying oceans, and the resulting threat to coral reefs worldwide. To Young and his ilk, this must mean science itself is fundamentally corrupt. Now we’re getting into conspiracy theory territory.

I don’t want to go there, because arguing with conspiracy theorists rarely ends well (though it can be amusing, if only you’ve got the time). The point is that The Courier-Mail has moved from a long tradition of anti-intellectualism to a deeper, more disturbing malaise that’s gripped the Murdoch mastheads post-Trump: a furious populist assault on science and reason itself.

It’s doing its readers a disservice. For most of us, the Great Barrier Reef is a postcard; a tourist brochure; an Attenborough documentary. Whether we’ve actually visited this extraordinary natural wonder personally is almost immaterial: we have to try to imagine our state, our country, our very consciousness without it. And that, as I said earlier, is almost unthinkable.

But that is what we are facing within our lifetimes. Close to 70,000 jobs depend directly on the Great Barrier Reef, which brings in more than $6 billion annually. While The Courier-Mail continues to spruik a coal industry in seemingly terminal decline, time is running out to avert a looming economic, environmental and moral catastrophe.

Press link for more: Patreon.com