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Invisible Hands #auspol #qldpol #IPA #Longman #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Neoliberalism

Dark money is undermining our democracies, and it’s never darker than when channelled through lobby groups masquerading as think tanks

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th July 2018

A mere two millennia after Roman politicians paid mobs to riot on their behalf, we are beginning to understand the role of dark money in politics, and its perennial threat to democracy.

Dark money is cash whose source is not made public, that is spent to change political outcomes.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal unearthed by Carole Cadwalladr and the mysterious funds channelled through Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to the Leave campaign in England and Scotland have helped to bring the concept to public attention. But these examples hint at a much wider problem. Dark money can be seen as the underlying corruption from which our immediate crises emerge: the collapse of public trust in politics, the rise of a demagogic anti-politics, assaults on the living world, public health and civic society. Democracy is meaningless without transparency.

The techniques now being used to throw elections and referendums were developed by the tobacco industry, and refined by biotechnology, fossil fuel and junk food companies. Some of us have spent years exposing the fake grassroots campaigns they established, the false identities and bogus scientific controversies they created, and the way in which public broadcasters and other media outlets have been played by them. Our warnings went unheeded, while the ultrarich learnt how to buy the political system.

The problem is exemplified, in my view, by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). In the latest reshuffle, two ministers with close links to the institute, Dominic Raab and Matthew Hancock, have been promoted to the front bench, responsible for issues that obsess the IEA: Brexit and the NHS. Dominic Raab credits the IEA with supporting him “in waging the war of ideas.” Matthew Hancock, in his former role as Cabinet Office minister, notoriously ruled that charities receiving public funds should not be allowed to lobby the government. His department credited the IEA with the research that prompted the policy. This rule, in effect, granted a monopoly on lobbying to groups like the IEA, which receive their money only from private sources. Hancock has received a total of £32,000 in political donations from the IEA’s chairman, Neil Record.

The IEA has lobbied consistently for a hard Brexit. A report it published on Monday as an alternative to Theresa May’s White Paper calls for Brexit to be used to tear down the rules protecting agency workers, to deregulate finance, annul the rules on hazardous chemicals and weaken food labelling laws. Darren Grimes, who was fined by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday for spending offences during the Leave campaign, now works as the IEA’s digital manager.

So what is this organisation, and on whose behalf does it speak? If only we knew. It is rated by the accountability group Transparify as “highly opaque”. In my view, all that distinguishes organisations like the IEA from acknowledged public relations companies like Burson Marsteller is that we don’t know who it is working for. The only hard information we have is that, for many years, it has been funded by British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris International. When this funding was exposed, the IEA claimed that its campaigns against tobacco regulation were unrelated to the money it had received.

Recently, it has been repeatedly dissing the NHS, that it wants to privatise; campaigning against controls on junk food; attacking trade unions; and defending zero hour contracts, unpaid internships and tax havens. Its staff appear on the BBC, promoting these positions, several times a week. But never do interviewers ask the basic democratic questions: who funds you, and do they have a financial interest in these topics?

The BBC’s editorial guidelines seem clear on this issue: “We should make checks to establish the credentials of our contributors and to avoid being ‘hoaxed’”. In my view, the entire IEA is a hoax. As Adam Curtis has revealed (ironically on the BBC’s website), when the institute was created in 1955, one of its founders, Major Oliver Smedley, wrote to the other, Antony Fisher, urging that it was “imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the Public along certain lines which might be interpreted as having a political bias. … That is why the first draft [of the Institute’s aims] is written in rather cagey terms.”

The two men were clear about its purpose: to become a public relations agency which would change society along the lines advocated by the founder of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek. It should not, Hayek urged them, do any actual thinking, but become a “second-hand dealer in ideas”. The IEA became the template for other neoliberal institutes. It was financed initially from the fortune Anthony Fisher made by importing broiler chicken farming into the UK. Curtis credits him with founding 150 such lobby groups around the world.

While dark money has been used to influence elections, the role of groups like the IEA is to reach much deeper into political life. As its current director, Mark Littlewood, explains, “We want to totally re-frame the debate about the proper role of the state and civil society in our country … Our true mission is to change the climate of opinion.”

Astonishingly, the IEA is registered as an educational charity, with the official purpose of helping “the general public/mankind”. As a result it is exempted from the kind of taxes about which it complains so bitterly. Charity Commission rules state that “an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political.” How much more political can you get? In what sense is ripping down public protections and attacking the rights of workers charitable? Surely no organisation should be registered as a charity unless any funds it receives above a certain threshold (say £1000) are declared?

Last week, the Charity Commission announced that, after thinking about it for just 60 years, it has decided to examine the role of the IEA, to see whether it has broken its rules. I don’t hold out much hope. In response to a complaint by Andrew Purkis, a former member of the Charity Commission’s board, the commission’s head of regulatory compliance, Anthony Blake, claimed that the IEA provides a “relatively uncontroversial perspective accepted by informed opinion.” If he sees hard Brexit, privatising the NHS and defending tax havens as uncontroversial, it makes you wonder what circles he moves in.

I see such organisations as insidious and corrupting. I see them as the means by which money comes to dominate public life, without having to declare its hand. I see them as representing everything that has gone wrong with our politics.

http://www.monbiot.com

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Global heat wave: an epic TV news fail #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ThisIsZeroHour

Simulation of maximum temperatures on July 18 at two meters above the ground, from the Global Forecast System weather model. Credit: University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer

This month’s scorching heat wave broke records around the world.

The Algerian city of Ouargla, with a population of half a million, had a temperature of 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6, the hottest reliably measured temperature on record in Africa. In Ireland and Wales, the unusually hot weather revealed ancient structures normally hidden by grass or crops.

In Chino, California, the mercury soared to 120 degrees.

Another round of hazardous summer heat is expected this week, with record high temperatures possible in the southern United States.

The prolonged heat wave has been a staple of television news for weeks.

However, most of the coverage has been sorely lacking in context: Humans are warming the planet, and scientists have already linked some heat waves to climate change.

A recent analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that human-driven climate change, rather than natural variability, will be the leading cause of heat waves over the western United States and Great Lakes region as early as the 2020s and 2030s, respectively.

Like the heat itself, much of the media coverage was stupefying. “Major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat,” according to a Media Matters survey. “Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change.”

TV coverage would undoubtedly improve if weather forecasters were better informed about climate science.

But four Republican senators with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are trying to eliminate government funding for a National Science Foundation designed to help forecasters (and by extension, the general public) “become more familiar with the science behind how their local weather and its trends are related to the dynamics of the climate.”

Press link for more: The Bulletin

Breakthroughs Converging to Completely Derail Fossil Fuels #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #Innovation #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What will ultimately push fossil fuels back the way of the dinosaur?

Purely and simply, is it our ethics and our resolve as consumers and brands that will end our dependence on dirty energy.

The response to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement — in which business and civic leaders vowed to continue working towards clean energy, anyway — is easily part of the mix. The response demonstrated a deep level of commitment.

So, too, are efforts from activists, such as the Rise for Climate rally scheduled for September 8th, 2018.

With participants from Australia, East Asia, Africa and Europe planning to take action, Rise for Climate should be a fitting follow-up to the 300,000-strong march that took place in New York in September of 2014.

It will also be good prep for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September 12-14.

Brands, business leaders, activists — we also can’t overlook changes that people make to their lifestyles every day in an effort to lessen their climate impacts. Network theory says that individuals are linked to each other via “relationships or structural connections.”

In this case, the relationship is one of producers and consumers, as well as prosumers. There’s a conversation going on between consumers and brands, no doubt because market research says people value sustainability, but also because many people are using their brands to espouse their own values.

Without any incentive to do so, Max Burgers began planting trees in Africa in 2008, and is now making burgers that offset production-related climate emissions by 110 percent. Ambient Bamboo, a company that sells bamboo floors, dedicates its entire blog to more sustainable living and publishes tips on how to “eco-hack” homes, including info on cutting down on energy usage. These brands and many more know that minimizing energy usage is essential for leaving fossil fuels in the ground because many grids still operate on dirty energy; but according to the journal Nature, that will soon change.

A new study shows that there’s a “carbon bubble” that will burst, leaving fossil fuel assets “stranded.”

Regardless of whether nations implement policies, there will be stranded fossil fuel assets because of “an already ongoing technological trajectory.” If nations, particularly the US, adopt new climate policies in keeping with the Paris Accord — in effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2℃ — there will be even more stranded fossil fuel assets. But in effect, the damage has already been done. The study’s simulations and analyses show that new technologies will derail fossil fuels by 2050.

The coming technological upheaval

The aforementioned study calls it a “Technology Diffusion Trajectory.” This is the scenario in which countries don’t necessarily adopt additional 2℃ policies, but rather embrace low-carbon technologies, such as solar energy, to replace fossil fuels. The study refers to low-carbon technologies repeatedly, but begs the question, which low-carbon technologies?

The obvious answer is technologies related to wind and solar, but there are also many exciting advances in electrical and computer engineering that will no doubt have an impact:

• “Pee-to-power Technology,” created by Ohio University’s Dr. Gerardine Botte, turns wastewater into hydrogen, which can power hydrogen fuel cells. It also produces clean water. The invention features the GreenBox, an ingenious electrochemical conversion device.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

• This electrochemical flow capacitor from Drexel University enables efficient renewable energy storage at scale, meaning grids will no longer need huge supercapacitors.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Drexel University

• Electric cars are becoming more efficient.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

Ohio University notes that “an estimated $1 trillion is expected to be spent nationwide in bringing the grid up to date by 2030.” As solar and wind energy gets cheaper, expect grids to adopt technologies like the electrochemical flow capacitor as a solution to storage, which, combined with cheap, clean energy, would eliminate the need for coal and gas.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, notes that a Nevada solar energy plant recently hit a record low price of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even though the US recently imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels (in addition to the 30 percent he slapped on foreign panels earlier this year). The Nevada solar plant’s low price on solar demonstrates the inevitability of a low-carbon technology diffusion, as does Volkswagen’s decision to spend $84 billion on electric drivetrains.

The moral of the story: Countries that continue trying to favor fossil fuels will find themselves falling behind economies that adopt renewable and inexpensive methods of producing energy; investors who hold onto fossil fuel assets will see those assets dwindle in value, to the point where it will make no economic sense to hang onto them.

In that sense, environmental stewardship is no longer the primary reason for clean energy. Investors (and governments) who kowtow to the market and care little for ethics and the environment will find themselves sitting high and dry should they continue to support an energy source that makes no economic sense.

Press link for more: Sustainable Brands

Mass coral bleaching forces review of reef protection plan #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

By Tony Moore

An urgently revised plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef has been bought forward following evidence of damage from the back-to-back coral bleaching incidents in 2016 and 2017.

The Australian and Queensland governments have on Friday released the 2018 mid-term review of their long-term 2050 Reef Plan, after studies in 2017 confirmed serious damage to the reef from climate change.

Great Barrier Reef coral of Port Douglas in 2017.

Photo: Dean Legacy

“The unprecedented instance of back-to-back mass bleaching events shows that climate change is already having impacts on the reef and clearly underlines the importance of urgent action to build the Reef’s resilience and maintain its functionality,” the report says.

“Consecutive coral bleaching events and the impact of other stressors have fundamentally changed the character of the Reef. Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency. As corals are relatively slow growing they will have too little time to recover between events or to evolve genetically.”

The report identifies four climate change trajectories to try to keep ocean temperature warming below 2 degrees to prevent coral bleaching.

The timeline: Why has this report been bought forward?

• 2015 – The Australian and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

• 2016 – There were major problems with coral bleaching on areas of the Great Barrier Reef

• 2017 – There were more coral-bleaching incidents happened along the Great Barrier Reef. Coral bleaching is linked to ocean warming

• March-April 2017 – There was extra damage was caused by Cyclone Debbie

• September 2017 and May 2018 – Surveys showed “sustained significant coral loss due to coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish”

• July 2018 – The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum decided to bring forward a revised Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan

What has changed in policy and direction in this new report?

There is a stronger focus on climate change in the revised report.

1. New climate adaptation actions have been added. A new policy is developing a Reef Resilience Network and working on localised restoration activities to build up this network.

2. Research will begin on climate change trajectories to judge their impact on the Great Barrier Reef. These climate change trajectories will be reviewed in 2020 in the first comprehensive review of the revised plan.

3. Water quality targets have been updated.

What is the big issue?

Water temperature increases around the Great Barrier Reef need to be kept below an increase of 1.5 degrees, according to peer-reviewed scientists, to reduce the frequency of coral bleaching, the report says.

A concerted “international effort” is required.

What are some of the key projects under way now?

This three-page table shows $600 million worth of fertilizer and sediment control projects now underway, funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

Most of them are directed to cane farmers, banana farmers and graziers.

It includes $8.5 million for two sediment-erosion control and restoration projects run by Greening Australia to stop silt flowing down rivers and on to the reef.

Sediment flowing down the Burdekin River towards Upstart Bay near Bowen.

Photo: Tony Moore

Where is the money coming from?

The Australian government put in $500 million in the 2018-19 Budget.

The Queensland government put in $500 million to a Land Restoration Fund in its 2018-19 Budget.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has $1 billion available “on a commercial basis” for clean energy projects close to the reef.

By December 2017 it has invested $345 million to more than 280 projects including seven utility scale solar farms in central and north Queensland.

Earlier funding promises

In 2016, $1.28 billion was committed to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

That included $716 million from the Australian Government, $409 million from the Queensland government and $161 million from other sources.

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What does the Great Barrier Reef contribute to the economy?

1 Over two million visitors each year

2 64,000 jobs

3 Generates economic activity of $6.4 billion each year, largely through tourism

4 It is a “maze” of 1050 islands and 3000 reefs stretching 2300 kilometres along the Queensland coast

How will results be checked?

There are annual reports to Queensland and Australian environment ministers and updated in five-year Outlook Reports, independently monitored by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The first major review will be in 2020 before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee reviews the health of the Great Barrier Reef in 2020.

The Great Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO protected site since 1981.

What do observers say about the revised reef plan?

Climate Council – Acting chief executive Dr Martin Rice said the revised plan failed to acknowledge Australia’s weak greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and instead relied heavily on $500 million dollars to improve water quality and eradicate the crown-of-thorn starfish to protect the Reef.

World Wildlife Fund Australia – WWF’s Oceans campaigner Richard Leck said the plan showed more effort was needed to keep ocean warming to below 2 degrees centigrade.

He also questioned why farmers were not updating their practices to stop fertiliser run-off.

Press link for more: Brisbane Times

Australian governments concede Great Barrier Reef headed for ‘collapse’ #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

By Nicole Hasham

The world’s climate change path means the Great Barrier Reef is headed for “collapse” according to a plan endorsed by state and federal governments that critics say turns a blind eye to Australia’s inadequate effort to cut carbon emissions.

The federal and Queensland governments on Friday released a “new and improved” Reef 2050 Plan to save the iconic natural wonder, which explicitly acknowledges climate change poses a deadly threat to the reef.

The comments depart starkly from previous official efforts to downplay damage wrought on the reef for fear of denting the tourism industry.

Global temperature rises this century must be kept below 1.5 degrees to ensure the Great Barrier Reef’s survival, the government plan says.

Photo: E.Matson, AIMS

Based on current climate projections, the outlook for coral reefs generally is “one of continuing decline over time, and in many regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the collapse and loss of coral reef ecosystems”, the plan says.

It concedes that consecutive coral bleaching events and other stressors “have fundamentally changed the character of the reef”, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

“Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency … those coral reefs that survive are expected to be less biodiverse than in the past,” the plan says.

Critics say the revised Reef 2050 Plan ignores Australia’s weak emissions reduction targets.

Photo: Australian Institute of Marine Science

The reef is the world’s largest living structure, covering an area roughly the size of Italy.

Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change including higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification and more intense storms and cyclones.

The plan recognised that “holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs”.

“Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said.

However WWF-Australia head of oceans Richard Leck said Australia’s emissions reduction efforts were not even in line with limiting warming to 2°.

He cited a 2017 report by the United Nations environment program that found Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions were set to far exceed its pledge under the Paris accord. This agreement aims to limit global temperature rises this century to well below 2° and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share,” Mr Leck said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven said increased recognition of climate change as a threat to the reef must be followed by action.

Fish swim among bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

She said scientific research soon to be published showed that if global temperature rises reached an average 2.4°, the Great Barrier Reef would suffer bleaching events twice a decade from 2041. This would occur as early as 2035 if average temperature rises reached 4.3°.

Bleaching events would be far less frequent under an average temperature rise of 1.6°, Ms Zethoven said.

“The onset of twice-a-decade bleaching will then become the onset of annual bleaching and eventually [the entire reef] will be affected,” she said.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s Paris target was ambitious and the nation was “on track to meet and beat its 2020 target, we will also meet our 2030 target”.

The Queensland government has previously said millions of dollars in federal reef spending is essentially useless unless matched by efforts to tackle climate change

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said the federal government had neglected the reef by allowing large-scale land clearing in nearby catchments, which damages water quality.

Press link for more: SMH

Life after coal: South Australian city leading the way #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

It was a coal town, predicted to be wiped out by the closure of two ageing power plants. Now Port Augusta has 13 renewable projects in train

Adam Morton

The largest solar farm in the southern hemisphere lies on arid land at the foot of the Flinders Ranges, more than 300km north of Adelaide.

If that sounds remote, it doesn’t do justice to how removed local residents feel from what currently qualifies as debate in Canberra.

As government MPs and national newspapers thundered over whether taxpayers should underwrite new coal-fired power, mauling advice from government agencies as they went, residents of South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf region have been left to ponder why decision-makers weren’t paying attention to what is happening in their backyard.

What’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years.

Sam Johnson, mayor of Port Augusta

In mid 2016, this region was on the brink, hit by the closure and near collapse of coal and steel plants.

Now it’s on the cusp of a wave of construction that investors and community leaders say should place the region at the vanguard of green innovation – not just in Australia but globally.

There has been an explosion in investment, with $5bn spread over the next five years. There are 13 projects in various stages of development, with more than 3,000 construction and 200 ongoing jobs.

The economy of this once-deflated region has been transformed and those who live here are starting to feel hopeful again.

The Port Augusta mayor, Sam Johnson, a 32-year-old former Liberal member, is continually surprised at how resistant some are to the idea that the energy environment has changed. “You might choose to ignore what’s happening here now because we’re out of sight, out of mind, but the reality is that what’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years,” he says.

In simple terms, the Upper Spencer Gulf transition story goes like this. Port Augusta was a coal town, home to the state’s only two lignite – or brown coal – plants, Playford B and Northern. Playford B, ageing and failing, was mothballed in 2012. Northern, the larger and younger of the two, closed in May 2016 when owner Alinta Energy decided it was no longer economically viable. The Leigh Creek mine that supplied it, by then offering up mostly low-quality coal, shut at the same time. About 400 workers at the plant and the mine lost their jobs. Roughly a third retired, a third found other employment locally and a third had to leave town to find work.

At the same time, further around the gulf, the steel town of Whyalla was teetering precipitously after the owner, Arrium, put the mill in voluntary administration facing debts of more than $4bn.

Nexif Energy project manager Ben Williams, inspects the interconnector under construction to service the Lincoln Gap wind farm. Photograph: The Guardian

Yet as the doom hit, there were also rays of hope as several clean power projects were mooted for the surrounding area.

Two years on, the Port Augusta city council lists 13 projects at varying stages of development. And Whyalla has unearthed a potential saviour in British billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, who not only bought the steelworks but promised to expand it while also spending what will likely end up being $1.5bn in solar, hydro and batteries to make it viable.

Gupta says the logic behind his investment in solar and storage is simple: it’s now cheaper than coal.

Johnson says he expects the Upper Gulf region to receive $5bn in clean energy investment over the next five years. “My gut feel – and I’m an optimist – is that they will all go ahead,” he says. “They are different technologies and they are playing in different markets, so they are not competing for power purchase agreements.”

By any measure, the Bungala solar power plant is vast. Once its second stage is complete, 800,000 photovoltaic modules will cover an area the size of the Melbourne central business district. The scale is neatly summarised by Chris Rowe, the plant’s operations manager and, with maintenance officer Andrew Bartsch, our tour guide around the site. Both men recently returned to Port Augusta after working away to take up positions with Enel Green Power. One day Rowe decided to stroll back from the 275MW farm’s outer edge, weaving in and out of the rows of panels as he went. By the time he got back to his office, he had covered 12km. “At that point I thought, ‘gee, this is really something’,” he says.

Bungala is nearing completion, with work on the $425m plant expected to be finished by January. Its first section started feeding into the national electricity grid in May. Further west, ground has been broken on the 59-turbine, 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm, though progress has temporarily stalled after developer Nexif Energy discovered unexploded ordnance from historic military testing on site.

As Guardian Australia visited the region, the South Australian Liberal government gave final approval for a $600m hybrid wind-and-solar energy park on the south-eastern edge of Port Augusta that proponent DP Energy says will be the largest development of its kind in the country. A second stage with more solar and a 400MW battery is slated to follow.

At Cultana, just north of Whyalla, Energy Australia is investigating building the country’s first saltwater pumped hydro energy storage plant. It would draw water from the Spencer Gulf, pump it uphill when energy is plentiful and cheap, and convert it to hydro electricity at times of high demand. A decision on the project is expected in 2019.

All are potentially agenda setting, but none are as anticipated as the Aurora solar thermal power station. It is the culmination of a push that began in 2010. A research paper by advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions formed the basis for the creation of Repower Port Augusta, a community group that built widespread support for bringing the developing technology to the region among councils, business and unions.

US developer SolarReserve took notice. It plans to use a field of mirrors to heat a molten salt system inside a 234-metre tower. It will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining. The company says the $650m plant, to be built at the Carriewerloo sheep station about 30km north of Port Augusta, will be the world’s largest solar tower with storage and provide 5% of the state’s energy needs.

The planned Aurora solar thermal plant will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining.

The SolarReserve vice-president, Mary Grikas, stresses the plant will operate “just like a conventional coal or gas power station, reliably generating electricity day and night – except without any emissions”.

With the increasing emphasis on “firming” power to back up variable renewables, solar thermal is seen as a potentially major player in filling the gaps, along with other fast-starting options such as pumped hydro, lithium-ion batteries and peaking gas. The 150MW Aurora plant is underpinned by a 20-year power supply contract with the South Australian government, but the company is still to finalise a $110m concessional loan with the federal government, the result of a deal with former senator Nick Xenophon in return for his support for company tax cuts.

Dan Spencer worked on the solar thermal campaign as an activist with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Solar Citizens, relocating from Adelaide for six months to help build local support. Now a campaigner with the Australian Services Union, he is still pinching himself that it is set to become a reality. “The transition from coal hasn’t been perfect, but in a couple of years we will be seeing this incredible project that people not that long ago thought was just pie in the sky,” he says. “The local community really deserves the credit.”

Aurora is not the only solar-thermal project linked to the region. Port Augusta is already home to a small concentrated solar-thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms that it uses to run a hydroponic greenhouse that provides Coles with tomatoes.

Also on the horizon, and just as unique design-wise, is a proposal by Solastor, chaired by former Liberal party leader John Hewson. It promises new graphite-based technology to capture solar energy and store it in a load-shifting battery. Hewson says it will be a world-class project. “Solar thermal will take the market, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.

Why are developers choosing the Upper Spencer Gulf? Investors say it has several things going for it: great sunshine; a history of electricity generation that left strong connections into the national grid; nearby industry – particularly mine developments – demanding reliable energy; strong facilitating support from the Weatherill Labor government that has continued under the new Liberal premier, Steven Marshall.

Ross Garnaut is a former Labor climate policy adviser who is now the president of Zen Energy, a solar and battery firm that has projects in the region and is 51% owned by Gupta.

“The Upper Spencer Gulf happens to be a very good place to start,” Garnaut says. “Some coal generation regions have good renewables and others don’t, and no others have them as good as Port Augusta. [But] the Port Augusta developments could be replicated in any region that has good solar and wind resources.”

The inclusion of solar thermal is crucial as it means jobs on a semi-industrial scale. Wind and solar photovoltaic plants bring plenty of jobs in construction, but few in operation. Solar thermal has more in common in operation with coal, using steam to spin a turbine. SolarReserve expects to have a 50-strong permanent workforce at the Aurora plant.

It is an important point. While enthusiasm about the new projects in the gulf is high, the shift away from coal has not been seamless – less a transition than a period of loss followed by rebirth. There remains significant disappointment, in some cases anger, about what some consider the unnecessary pain caused by a failure to plan for life after coal.

My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would,’ says Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson. Photograph: Che Chorley for the Guardian

Gary Rowbottom is a case in point. A mechanical technical officer at the town’s power stations for 17 years, he joined the Repower Port Augusta campaign in 2012 and became the public face of the campaign. He was persuaded that solar thermal was the future and hopeful Alinta would be persuaded to embrace the technology to replace coal. He says he was naive about how easy that would be. When the company announced Northern’s closure earlier than expected, he was 55 and left hunting for work.

Fifty job applications and 11 interviews later, he was still looking. After about 18 months he left town to take a position on a coal plant in central Queensland. He now sees his wife, Debbie, only every couple of months.

“It’s not been ideal,” he says. “I did my best to get a job that would have kept me home. I guess it was hurting me financially, watching my redundancy steadily getting eroded away, and I had a growing sense of failure. I worry that others are going through the same thing.”

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Rowbottom is buoyed by the developments under way at home, and hopeful the Aurora solar thermal plant will provide his ticket back. “It’s great it is happening. We just wish it could have happened a bit sooner,” he says. “What is hard for many of us to understand is why the closure couldn’t have been organised as a proper transition.”

Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully for Xenophon’s SA Best party at the state election, says Port Augusta is set to be the renewable energy capital of the country, with more ongoing jobs if all proposed projects in the Upper Spencer Gulf go ahead than at the former coal plant.

But he says both the former Labor state and current Coalition federal governments failed to offer the community the support it needed when the coal plant closed. The ramifications of the rapid closure were significant. Some small businesses and shut. Dirt and coal ash continue to blanket Port Augusta when the wind blows from the south-east because the former coal plant site was not properly rehabilitated. Wholesale electricity prices across the state increased more than they would have had more significant replacement generation been readied earlier.

“I’d love for people to learn from what’s happened here [about] what not to do when you’re closing a power station,” Johnson says.

Whyalla seems to have fewer issues in the wake of Gupta’s arrival in July 2017. Seeing a business opportunity that governments and publicly listed companies did not, he promised to initially spend $1bn to double the steel mill’s production and convert it to a “green steel” model he has applied in other countries. This includes using more recycled steel and investing heavily in clean energy close to the plant. He is spending $700m building two farms of solar panels, a cogeneration plant to convert the waste gases from steel production into electricity, the country’s largest lithium-ion battery and up to three pumped hydro plants in disused mining pits in the Middlebank Ranges.

He says more will follow.

Both Gupta and Johnson say the message for the rest of the country is: embrace change.

Gupta says: “Be braver. Be more entrepreneurial. Take risks … It is very difficult to change things in Australia. Everyone is too stuck in their ways.”

Johnson says: “You can resist change as much as you like, but the reality is, if you’re in a community that has a coal-fired power station, its days are numbered. The market is dictating that change whether we like it or not.

“My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

A man cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave in Philadelphia this month.

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer.

The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here.

We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.

“The red alert is on,”

Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting.

As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.

A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.

We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do.

At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways.

Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.

And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.

The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.

If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.

Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period

Nick Kilvert

Over the last three decades the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by a series of intense cyclones, bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks and flood events that have caused well-documented, but reparable damage.

Scientists have hoped that an extended period of benign conditions would allow the natural processes of reef restoration to flourish, and many of the hardest-hit regions to return to a healthier, more colourful and biodiverse state.

But a new study of coral-recovery rates based on 18 years of data and published in Science Advances today, found the ability of many corals to bounce back after disturbance has significantly slowed down.

Although recovery rates were variable between different reef patches and coral types, the researchers found the overall recovery rate of corals across the Great Barrier Reef declined by an average of 84 per cent between 1992 and 2010.

Following acute disturbance events like cyclones, coral recovery was hindered by poor water quality and high temperature, according to lead author Juan-Carlos Ortiz from the University of Queensland, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

“We noticed that…water quality played a significant role in that reduction in recovery rate,” Dr Ortiz said.

The study looked at data from more than 90 primarily mid-shelf and offshore reefs, comparing the rate of recovery following disturbance events.

“We noticed for the first time a very large decline in the ability of the reef to recover from disturbances over those 18 years,” he said.

The research team classified corals into six groups based on their growth forms. Although all groups showed an overall decline in recovery rate, two groups — the Montipora and branching Acropora both “went into negative”.

What that means is they continued to decline even after the disturbance had ceased.

While increased disturbance events are expected as the impacts of climate change ramp up, the slowed recovery time is a concerning compounding factor.

“It is exacerbating the problem. The assumption that we were working on was that naturally reefs recover fast,” Dr Ortiz said.

Although the results paint a grim picture of the trajectory of the reef, the researchers say there are some very positive things that can be taken from their findings.

The reefs furthest offshore receive less runoff from the catchment area, and because they are generally buffered by deeper water, are less susceptible to short-term fluctuations in temperature.

Although the study only analysed data from up until 2010, Dr Ortiz said there was a period without significant disturbance to the reef following Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“On the offshore reefs like the Swains, where they are least affected by water quality issues from land … they did recover really fast,” he said.

“Which suggests that this trend is reversible.”

Tackling climate change is vital

In short, the researchers said both improving the water quality of runoff from the reef catchment area and addressing climate change can help reverse the reef’s decline.`

But trying to improve conditions on the reef without tackling climate change is like putting “band-aids on arterial wounds”, according to James Cook University’s Associate Professor Jodie Rummer, who was not involved in the study.

“We definitely need to be controlling problems with water quality and problems with crown of thorns, but first and foremost we need to deal with the big problem,” Dr Rummer said.

“What it does come down to is warming. Everything else just makes it worse, but warming is the primary concern.”

Dr Rummer, who will be presenting some of her work at a two-day reef symposium in Brisbane this week, has been studying sharks in French Polynesia and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Although French Polynesia is a declared shark sanctuary, she said their numbers are still suffering.

“Even the best protected marine parks, shark sanctuaries, and marine sanctuaries are not immune to climate change. We saw that when the reef started bleaching in 2016,” she said.

“I was at Lizard Island, and that’s some of the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef, protected from so much activity, and still, climate change killed it.”

Federal Government pledges cash for farmer ‘champions’

Key to improving the Great Barrier Reef catchment is preventing large-scale deforestation.

Deforestation destabilises soil and increases the sediment and nutrient load carried to the reef during heavy rains, smothering corals and encouraging algal growth.

But the latest Great Barrier Reef catchments report from the Queensland Audit Office shows more than 1.2 million hectares were cleared in Queensland between 2012 and 2016, and nearly 40 per cent of that was cleared in the reef catchment area.

Despite committing $500 million to protecting the reef in the budget, the Federal Government came under fire earlier this year when it granted approval for the clearing of 2,000 hectares of bushland at Kingvale Station, which drains into reef-fringed Princess Charlotte Bay in North Queensland.

This week, the Federal Government committed $3.5 million to help sugarcane farmers “improve fertiliser use and efficiency” in the catchment. That is on top of $3.7 million committed by the Queensland Government.

The investment will help minimise nitrogen-pollution runoff entering the reef, according to a statement from Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price.

“Optimising the rate of fertiliser application helps sugarcane farmers to increase their profitability, while minimising nitrogen pollution run-off entering the reef,” Ms Price said.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

Who will pay to protect our cities from rising seas? #auspol #qldpol

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California are in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, , when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure”.

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

The local governments asking the courts to intervene allege that higher sea levels brought about by climate change are a public nuisance.

That may sound odd at first, but I believe that is fair to say. It is also the legal basis on which similar liability lawsuits have been filed before.

The sea level along California’s coasts may have risen about 8 inches in the past century. Scientists project that they may rise by as much as 55 inches by the end of this century.

That worst-case scenario would put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100bn in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, parks and tourist destinations.

Superstorm Sandy caused over $60bn in damage along the New Jersey and New York coasts. Several researchers have concluded that sea level rise and a warming ocean played a major role in making that storm so catastrophic.

The Trump administration has released a national climate change assessment, confirming that extreme weather events – storms on steroids – are becoming more frequent and intense.

If anything, characterising these catastrophes as a public nuisance is an understatement.

A question about jurisdiction

Oakland and San Francisco both sued five of the world’s largest oil companies in state court, asserting claims based on California’s own nuisance law. They are seeking billions of dollars for an abatement fund.

But Chevron, one of the five oil majors being sued, objected and sought to transfer the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuit to a federal district court, where Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case.

Still, it wasn’t a clear win for oil companies.

Alsup accepted the scientific consensus that the defendants’ line of business is driving climate change and therefore poses a clear and present danger to coastal communities and others. But in his ruling, he also questioned whether it’s “fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded”.

And while the judge also acknowledged that federal courts have the authority “to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming”, he opted to “stay his hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches”. In other words, he said it’s up to Congress and the White House to figure out whether oil companies ought to pay to, say, move San Francisco’s airport to higher ground.

Even if prospects for federal action on this front are next to nil for the foreseeable future, given the Trump administration’s warm embrace of oil, gas and coal, this is no legal dead end. I believe that Oakland and San Francisco will surely file an appeal to the 9th Circuit, which could rule differently.

Even more importantly, there is another case pending that is taking a different course. The counties of Marin and San Mateo and the City of Imperial Beach, California, are also suing oil companies with similar climate liability claims. Judge Vince Chhabria sees things differently than Alsup and ruled that state law, not federal law, should prevail.

He has ordered that case back to state court, a move that Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and the other oil company defendants are trying to prevent.

In addition to coastal communities concerned about rising sea levels, several Colorado counties filed their own climate liability cases in April 2018. Those lawsuits allege that oil companies should be held responsible for the higher temperatures now reducing the state’s snowpack. Getting less snow is jeopardising Colorado’s agriculture, water supply and ski industry.

Several legal precedents

I maintain that these cases do belong in state court because there are many relevant legal precedents.

U.S. courts have repeatedly held manufacturers liable for the damage their products wreak, especially when those companies knew full well that their products, used as intended, would cause that harm.

The biggest precedent is the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states, which called for companies to pay out $246bn over the next 25 years.

In addition, there have been many judgments against oil companies and other corporations responsible for manufacturing a potentially cancer-causing chemical called MTBE that used to be a common gasoline additive and has contaminated public water supplies.

And a panel of California judges ordered paint companies to pay more than $1bn to help get lead out of housing that remains contaminated decades after the government banned lead-laced paint. The companies are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if they can.

Currently, another new kind of liability lawsuit is emerging against opioid manufacturers. Ohio and at least six other states are seeking damages to help cover the expense of dealing with widespread addiction from the allegedly irresponsible marketing of prescription painkillers – which it says the companies should have known were being abused.

Exxon knew

As for the oil industry, it has evidently known for 60 years or longer that burning fossil fuels would eventually overheat the planet, with monumental consequences.

Rather than alert the public and engage in good-faith discussions to address the problem, oil majors like Exxon sought to mislead and deny what they knew about the risks of fossil fuels. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industries have sought to block any meaningful federal climate response by donating vast sums to the political campaigns of candidates who promised to oppose the requisite policies.

In a perfect world, the nation’s elected leaders at all levels of government would be hard at work passing laws and establishing programs to confront the existential threat of climate change and to help communities prepare for the unavoidable impacts that are already baked into the system.

Alas, that is not the case. The courts are the last line of defense in this epic struggle to deal with the effects of climate change – including the astronomically expensive costs of moving housing, businesses, schools and other structures out of harm’s way.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

Climate Change hoax busted #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

Climate Change Hoax Busted (We are causing it) |

Auto Expert John Cadogan | Australia

Published on Jan 5, 2018

Nothing triggers a frenzy of fresh nuts like climate change.

Here’s Joeguitargod.

“You should keep your science opinions just that…opinions! You’re not an atmospheric scientist! Nor are you an expert on the THEORY of gravity!”

Theories are not guesses. They’re not opinions. Scientific theories are derived from facts. They are true and repeatable – proved so by virtue of ongoing observations and experiments.

Science works. Car work. Planes work. The Internet works. There’s your evidence.

NASA says:

“Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

Hello Hun says:

“I was loving your channel until you started spouting off on your beliefs of human caused global warming.”

The hydrocarbon power consumption of humanity is 15 terawatts. That’s 15 million megawatts. We really do leave the light on.

This is not a consequence-free activity.

If you think you have divorced yourself through solar cells on the roof, or wind power, or your Tesla, you are an imbecile. Hydrocarbons are everywhere – right now, at home, in the office. The food, the medicine, the clothes you wear, the internet you’re using to watch this video.

According to the Geological Society of America:

“Human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s”

Of course, nutty Allen H lives in a parallel univers, apparently:

“Here you go you lying sack of shut. I know man made global warming Is a religion to you nuts, But your God is dead. In remember it’s the science were really on your side you would need to keep going back in readjusting historical temperature data and otherwise get caught cooking the books time after time to support your politically motivated pseudoscience”

I really don’t think the American Geological Society or NASA would do that. I mean, why bother with the arduous trips to the Antarctic, drilling those ice cores, making the painstaking isotopic analyses of the carbon … why bother, if you’re just going to make up convenient, agenda-serving data?

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

“The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.”

William W disagrees:

“You are talking SHIT here John! Glabal Warming is a massive SCAM and has been proven to be so much so that they have now changed it to Climate Change so you are way behind in your OPINION as well.”

This alleged proof of an alleged scam simply does not exist.

So I guess you can listen to William on Glabal Warming, or Allen H accusing me of being a lying sack of shut – maybe he’s a Kiwi – but the American Geophysical Union says:

“Human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed global average surface warming over the past 140 years. Because natural processes cannot quickly remove some of these gases (notably CO2) from the atmosphere, our past, present and future emissions will influence the climate system for millennia.”

Kenneth G offers this from planet patriotism:

“The stupid negative Trump comments don’t make you sound intelligent, just ignorant.”

We should talk about Trump because he’s the kind of wealthy moron whose only skill seems to be getting the public perception of objective reality hooked on crack.

On December 29 last year, The Imbecile in Chief tweeted:

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

This is the guy they hand the football to. A guy who doesn’t know: A) There’s a difference between climate and weather. B) Cold snaps and heatwaves occur no matter what the trend in the climate. C) 2017 was one of the top three warmest years on record.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – 2017, 2016 and 2015 are likely to go down as the top three warmest years on record.

“Last year’s record global heat, extreme heat over Asia, and unusually warm waters in the Bering Sea would not have been possible without human-caused climate change” – NOAA

So on one hand you have the consensus view of a vast network of diligent scientists employed in many cases by the US Federal Government to know this stuff because that’s their job. And on the other hand you have a billionaire imbecile with a daughter-wife who tweets off the cuff because, hey.

The nuts – so vocal. Trump – such a freak show. And the scientists – perhaps not nutty enough … or at least not relatable. Too reserved. Seemingly dispassionate. Making so many qualifying statements.

They say ‘societal consequences’ when they mean making the earth un-live-able.