Thursday, December 27, 2007

La Niña brings some rain, as Global Climate hots up

One of the important weather factors in the Pacific basin affecting global weather but particularly Pacific Rim countries is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño and La Niña are caused by a change in sea surface temperatures across the Pacific Ocean which affects trade wind patterns which bring rain and drought to regions around the Pacific and further afield. A La Niña condition has been developing since February 2007 and is likely to last to April 2008.

Related: El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

La Niña operating until April 2008

In November/December 2007 we are experiencing La Niña with sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific below average, and temperatures in the western tropical Pacific above average. La Niña brings rain to Indonesia and Australia and drought to the southwest of the United States, western Mexico, Peru and Chile. Effects are typically opposite to those associated with El Niño.

The Southern Oscillation has a global impact. NASA describes the effect as:


"Globally, La Niña is characterized by wetter than normal conditions west of the equatorial central Pacific over northern Australia and Indonesia during the northern hemisphere winter, and over the Philippines during the northern hemisphere summer. Wetter than normal conditions are also observed over southeastern Africa and northern Brazil, during the northern hemisphere winter season. During the northern hemisphere summer season, the Indian monsoon rainfall tends to be greater than normal, especially in northwest India. Drier than normal conditions are observed along the west coast of tropical South America, and at subtropical latitudes of North America (Gulf Coast) and South America (southern Brazil to central Argentina) during their respective winter seasons."


Australia: Higher than average temperatures and rainfall predicted

The widespread rains in Victoria and New South Wales over the last week were probably partly induced by La Niña. The POAMA model run daily at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology predicts "La Niña conditions to remain over the coming months, persisting until around April 2008." Read more about Australian rainfall patterns during La Niña events.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting higher than average temperatures over much of southern Australia from January to March 2008. The temperature on New Years Eve in Melbourne is predicted to be 38 degrees. There is also a greater chance for higher than the median rainfall "in a large area extending from southeast Queensland across both the northern inland and east of NSW. The southwest of WA also has similar chances, although it's a seasonally dry time of the year in this part of the country."

For North and South America "La Niña is the diva of drought,” explained Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It keeps the Pacific jet stream farther north, toward Oregon, Washington, and Canada, so the U.S. Southwest and Southeast get less moisture.”

Warmest Decade on Record

The World Meteorology Organisation announced in a press release on 13 December that the decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record. "The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F." The statement also detailed "the record-low Arctic sea ice extent...., a relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole; development of La Niña in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific; and devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world."

"2007 global temperatures have been averaged separately for both hemispheres. Surface temperatures for the northern hemisphere are likely to be the second warmest on record, at 0.63°C above the 30-year mean (1961-90) of 14.6°C/58.3°F. The southern hemisphere temperature is 0.20°C higher than the 30-year average of 13.4°C/56.1°F, making it the ninth warmest in the instrumental record since 1850."

According to the WMO statement "Australia recorded its coldest ever June with the mean temperature dropping to 1.5°C below normal." and "while conditions were not as severely dry as in 2006, long term drought meant water resources remained extremely low in many areas. Below average rainfall over the densely populated and agricultural regions resulted in significant crop and stock losses, as well as water restrictions in most major cities."

Sea Level Rise and Greenland Ice melt Accelerating

The WMO highlighted that sea level continues to rise "substantially above the average for the 20th century of about 1.7 mm per year." According to satellite measurements "global averaged sea level has been rising at about 3 mm per year" since 1993. This comes hot on the news that the melting of the Greenland icecap is accelerating according to study by the Steffen Research Group from the University of Colorado at Boulder. "The amount of ice lost by Greenland over the last year is the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps, or a layer of water more than one-half mile deep covering Washington, D.C." said lead climate scientists Konrad Steffen. "The more lubrication there is under the ice, the faster that ice moves to the coast," said Steffen. "Those glaciers with floating ice 'tongues' also will increase in iceberg production." Greenland ice melt currently contributes to global sea levels by about 0.5 millimeters per year. Some climate scientists like James Hansen believe the Greenland ice sheet may disintegrate within 100 years leading to a sea level rise of several metres.

Sources:

* NASA Earth Observatory La Nina for November. See also from February 2007 El Nino May Be Morphing to La Nina and in October 2007 La Nina Strenghtens in Autumn 2007
* NASA Earth Observatory La Niña Factsheet
* Bureau of Meteorology El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
* Bureau of Meteorology Dec 17, 2007 - Warmer season favoured in southern Australia
* Bureau of Meteorology Dec 17, 2007 - Mixed March quarter rainfall outlook
* World Meteorological Organization Dec 13, 2007Press Release No 805
* NASA Earth Observatory - Media Alert Dec 11, 2007 GREENLAND MELT ACCELERATING, ACCORDING TO CU-BOULDER STUDY

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Climate Change Road map Agreement Reached in Bali Meeting

Climate Talks concluded in Bali with the United States caving in under pressure of the European Union and the developing world and agreeing to a compromise text in the preamble of "Deep cuts in global emissions will be required" to avoid dangerous climate change. The guideline that rich countries should cut emissions by 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 as recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was moved to a footnote at the US delegation's insistence.

Photos: Transnational Institute | Oxfam | Greenpeace | Related: FoE: Kyoto afloat after attempted sabotage

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Melbourne now Freeway capital of Australia - a Disaster for Climate and Sustainability

A new report from University of Melbourne on travelling to work says that car travel in Melbourne is the "worst performing city over the three decades. It has the biggest increase in car driving and the biggest declines in public transport, car pooling and walking. More cars are driven to work each day in Melbourne than in Sydney, despite Sydney’s much bigger workforce. The share of workers who drive is now higher in Melbourne than in Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and even Canberra. This appears to be a result of Melbourne having constructed more urban freeways and tollways over the last 30 years than any other capital."
,
Related: Travel to work in Australian capital cities, 1976-2006 |

Victoria Envirowatch: one year in

The report’s principal author, Dr Paul Mees, said that despite the recent focus on climate change and the push towards more sustainable living, city based workers remain unconvinced with many driving to work. "There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cars driven to work each day in Australia capital city – a 70.1% rise over the past 30 years. That’s more than 1.4 million cars on the road each day since census data began recording work travel information. The result has been a huge increase in greenhouse emissions."

According to the report just over 78% of Melbourne workers drive each day, while just 13.9% use public transport. Cycling accounts for just one per cent of trips everywhere, though the figure is higher in Canberra (2.5%) and in the innercity suburbs of capital cities. Although increasing its profile as sustainable transport for urban workers, cycling is growing from a very low base.

The report says that "The census data show that treating traffic problems by building more roads is an ineffective response. The main result has been to shift travellers out of environmentally friendly modes and into cars. By contrast, the performance of public transport and walking can be improved more cheaply and would produce superior environmental outcomes."

The federal government comes in for criticism over its funding priorities: "The Auslink scheme is exacerbating urban transport problems, because it is biased in favour of new roads and against urban rail infrastructure. Investment needs to be redirected away from urban motorways towards more environmentally friendly modes, particularly public transport and walking. This is the only way Australia can meet its international environmental obligations in the transport arena."

The report recommends that "State governments also need to change their transport policies, which remain dominated by motorway-building. In addition, they need to reform the governance and management of public transport, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, both of which lack competent, dynamic regional public transport agencies."

Big Carbon emissions Projects in the Pipeline



Victorian Premier John Brumby has just come back from the Climate Change talks in Bali and undoubtedly we will see pronouncements about his Governments green credentials and projects to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. But Kenneth Davidson has just written a scathing column in the Age titled Big projects taking us all for a ride.

Davidson points out that:

* Melburnians are growing more dependent on cars to get to work, and going backwards in terms of comparative trends in other Australian cities. (See Melbourne now Freeway capital of Australia - a disaster for climate and sustainability)
* In 2005 the State Labor Government extended the life of the Hazelwood power station from 2009 to 2031, even though it is the dirtiest power station in the country.
* Building a highly energy intensive desalination plant under a public-private partnership, thus ensuring that we will get and pay for deslinated water and profits for the plant operator even when there is sufficient natural supply in our water reservoirs. In other words profits from selling water will take priority over CO2 emissions and climate change.
* The Government is considering an east-west tunnel connecting the Eastern Freeway to EastLink, running under the Melbourne Cemetery at a time of rising oil prices with the onset of Peak Oil which will make "tollways redundant long before their economic life ends."
* There has been no significant heavy rail extensions since the opening of the Glen Waverley line in 1930. According to Davidson Melbourne's public transport system has been mismanaged since its privatisation in 1999 with subsidies to Melbourne's public transport operators having doubled in real terms since 1999.

According to Environment Victoria half of the Victorian Government’s environment election promises are at risk of not being delivered or have already been broken. The report says that the State Government has broken three of its 68 pre-election environment promises, while another 31 show little or no signs of progress. It has so far kept seven of its pre-election promises, while another 27 are on target to be delivered. The broken promises relate to the decision to raid rivers of their legal water entitlements to provide water for urban use and agriculture. Over 50 per cent of the Government’s climate change promises are at risk of not being delivered.

Ms O’Shanassy from Environment Victoria said the Government would need to significantly boost energy efficiency and renewable energy programs over the next three years to meet their election promises. "Unfortunately, even if all these promises are met, they are unlikely to ensure Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions actually fall," she said. "What we’re really missing is a short-term target to reduce pollution that informs all government decisions."

Don't hold your breathe. Our politicians are stuffing up in not funding major public transport infrastructure building in reversing car dependence. This particularly affects outer suburban areas. The crunch will come with Peak Oil as petrol prices increase as demand soars. Transport is second to Electricity production in its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The greater the intransigence now the greater the social cost downstream to our children and grandchildren.

Reports:

* Travel to work in Australian capital cities, 1976-2006: an analysis of census data | Press Release
* Envirowatch: one year in


Originally published at Melbourne Cyclist by Takver

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ocean warming: Ocean Heat Content Change (W - year/m2) 1993-2003



"Not only is Earth absorbing about 0.85 Watts of energy per square meter more than it is radiating back to space, but a sizable chunk of that excess energy is “hiding” in Earth’s oceans, its full effect on the climate system still unrealized.

These maps show observed (top) and modeled (below) energy imbalances in the top 750 meters (2,461 feet) of the world’s oceans from 1993-2003. Areas where there was an energy surplus are shown in shades of yellow to red, while areas where there was an energy deficit are in shades of green to purple.

Think Not 'Global' Warming - Think 'Oceans' Warming

Guest post by Don Beck reposted from Sydney Indymedia

Global warming seems mysterious to most of us. A 1 degree rise in annual global temperature sounds minuscule, doesn't it....... until you remember that the oceans are involved ........... very heavily involved.

The oceans are simply unfathomably immense! Their mass is actually incomprehensible, being 70% of the earth's surface (310 million cubic miles). If you could stack water 100 cubic miles long and 100 cubic miles wide, that column would reach 31,000 miles into outer space. That is truly an astronomical amount of water!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Activists close Power station As Evidence mounts on Climate Change Accelerating

15 Greenpeace activists closed down Munmorah coal fired power station on Thursday in protest against the greenhouse gas emission policies of the Howard Government and Rudd opposition. The power station is located on the Central coast of NSW, 110 km north of Sydney, and has been identified as one of the most polluting coal stations in the world.

The protest ocurred as a new report (PDF) was published by the Climate Institute that said "the IPCC assessment is underestimating the risks of adverse impacts due to increased warming during this century and that impacts previously considered to be at the upper end of likelihood are now more probable. Greenhouse emissions are rising faster than the worst case IPCC scenarios."

Greenpeace Photos | videos 1, 2 | CARMA - Carbon Monitoring for Action | Carbon Equity | Video: Peter Costello on 2050 climate targets

Greenpeace is campaigning for greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 30% by 2020 by switching from polluting coal power to clean energy systems and energy conservation. The activists draped a banner over the coal feed conveyor belt housing reading 'Climate change starts here'. Another group climbed onto the roof of the main building and painted the message "Coal Kills", which is clearly visible from the air.

Steve Campbell, head of Greenpeace campaigns said "With just one week until the election, both major parties are backing climate policies that will see emissions increase. Neither Howard nor Rudd have committed to making the deep cuts needed in the next decade if we are to avoid dangerous climate change,"

"Coal is killing our planet and our future. This week the world's top scientists are warning that we must slash emissions by 2020. There is no way we can do this unless we push the emergency stop on coal, starting with the oldest and dirtiest plants, like Munmorah."

"We can expect to see more and more people taking part in civil disobedience actions against coal power," Campbell said. "To stop climate change we need to make the switch from coal to clean renewable energy. We are calling on John Howard and Kevin Rudd to put in place the clean energy policies needed to make this happen."

Munmorah Power Station is NSW’s oldest power station, built between 1967 and 1969, with a capacity of 600MW and is owned by the State Government through Delta Electricity. Delta has said that unless Mumorah is refurbished, it will close in about 2012.

According to Greenpeace, in 2006 Munmorah generated 1,416Gwh of electricity, the most since 1994. Given that Munmorah emits 1.065 tonnes of greenhouse pollution for every megawatt hour of electricity generated, it would have produced about 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006, about 1% of NSW’s total.

Greenpeace suggests programs such as switching all households to solar hot water and upgrading household insulation would save approximately four times the outout of Munmorah. Energy conservation programs could save up to 30 per cent of energy demand, with the projection of wind and solar under present policies of meeting 15-20% of electricity consumption by 2020.

International Study on Power Station emissions

Coincidentally, the protest ocurred on the same day that an international study by the Centre for Global Development of the world's 50,000 power stations was released, which ranked Australia as the world's worst greenhouse gas emitter on a per capita basis. According to the study Australian power plants produce more than 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person each year, ahead of the United States, rated second at more than nine tonnes per person, while China is down the list and only rates two tonnes per person.

The information has been collated in a huge database called CARMA—Carbon Monitoring for Action, that anyone can visit. “CARMA makes information about power-related CO2 emissions transparent to people throughout the world,” says Dr. Wheeler, an expert in the use of public information disclosure to reduce pollution. “Information leads to action. We know that this works for other forms of pollution and we believe it can work for greenhouse gas emissions, too.”

“We expect that institutional and private investors, insurers, lenders, environmental and consumer groups and individual activists will use the CARMA data to encourage power companies to burn less coal and oil and to shift to renewable power sources, such as wind and solar,” Dr. Wheeler said.

Report: Evidence of Accelerated Climate Change

The report prepared for the Climate Institute was peer reviewed by Graeme Pearman, former head of CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research. The report briefly looks at temperature increases, Greenhouse Gas Concentration, melting sea ice, collapsing ice shelves, sea level rise, declining sinks and growing sources. It comes just before the release of the 4th report by the IPCC, which it criticises as aleady out of date. It strongly argues "the case for a policy of risk management and more urgent intervention is strengthened."

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor told the ABC "It means we're running out of time to help stop dangerous climate change and our politicians need to be much more urgent and decisive in the actions that they're taking in cutting greenhouse pollution, making the switch to green energy and showing real international leadership on this," he said.

The report summary says in full:

"Managing the risk of climate change requires consideration of those consequences that we understand and those where there is the potential (particularly if it is large) for impacts, even though at this stage the probability of the occurrence is unknown. This paper suggests that there exists evidence that the IPCC process may have led to an underestimation of the risk of greater warming and that the impacts of climate change are occurring more rapidly then previously projected. In part this may reflect the rapidly unfolding observations and theoretical understanding of climate change. This range of issues will require close monitoring and further research, and inclusion into the risk management process preceding policy development. To the extent that the impacts of climate change may be in the more severe range of those outlined in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the case for a policy of risk management and more urgent intervention is strengthened."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thousands march for Action on Climate Change

Over 100,000 people marched around Australia against the lack of action on climate change by our political leaders including 30,000 people in Sydney, 8,000 in Canberra, 1,500 in Adelaide, 3,000 in Hobart, and up to 50,000 in Melbourne. At more than fifty locations around Australia people participated in the Walk Against Warming.



Quit Coal - Reduce CO2

Photos: Melbourne1 2 | Perth1 2 | Goldcoast | Sydney | Adelaide1 2 | Cairns | Brisbane | Canberra



Video: Thousands march in Melbourne | Hobart Walk says no to Pulp Mill

In Sydney shadow Environment Minister Peter Garret from the Labor Party was booed with some people in the crowd turning their back when he spoke. Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, although invited, did not attend. Leader of the Greens Bob Brown also addressed the Sydney rally to warm applause. Other speakers included executive director of GetUp Brett Solomon, and the 9-year-old star of The Climate Institute’s TV ad campaign, Jack Simmons. Both the Government and the Labor Party have not given commitments to short term targets, and their longer term targets are being criticised as too little too late.

“Neither of the old parties will tackle these priority issues – we need a seismic change of thinking at the top." said Senator Bob Brown. The Greens have a target of 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. Senator Brown said that Labor’s Peter Garrett ‘copped some stick’ from the crowd, “but Peter turned up and put Labor’s climate change strategy to the Australia people. Malcolm Turnbull squibbed it. “

Like the USA, Australia has refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. The climate policies of both major Australian parties allow Australia’s emissions to continue to rise. New coal-fired power stations continue to be built, with 11 new coal projects under construction or planned which will see emissions increase by 10% over current levels, according to Greenpeace.

Solar and Wind not NuclearCate Faehrmann, Executive Director of the NSW Nature Conservation Council called on the next elected government for a short-term target to reduce greenhouse pollution by at least 30 per cent by 2020. “Walk Against Warming has been the biggest public rally of the federal election campaign, which demonstrates how concerned Australians are about climate change and just how important an issue it is for the coming election,”

"The election countdown now stands at less than 2 weeks and Australians have voted with their feet to let politicians know they expect leadership on climate change, not half measures. An important test of leadership on climate change is now to act on the scientific evidence of global warming and reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.” said Ms Faehrmann.

Across New South Wales many of the 32 Walks were held in marginal electorates including Parramatta, Dobell, Page and Eden-Monaro.

In Melbourne many families with kids attended the march, with prepared placards from Greenpeace, Zero Emissions Network, Get Up!, and other environmental and activist groups. There was an abundance of home made placards and banners. Turtles, polar bears and John Howard puppets enlivened the march, along with several street bands.

Funny enough the Age newspaper in Melbourne focused on the Sydney rally where some of the crowd (SMH report) turning their backs on Peter Garrett. (Age Report) The main photo in Monday's Age shows an estimated crowd of up to 50,000 people (Herald Sun, SBS news, Age), in Swanston Street. The rally was adressed by head of World Vision Tim Costello (brother to Treasurer Peter Costello) at the State Library before the march down Swanston Street to a festival in the Alexandra Gardens where the Counterfeit Gypsies performed for the crowd.

See Also: Green Left Initial Report: Rallies call for action on climate change. | The Big Switch

Walk Against Warming 2007: Photos by Takver

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Climate activists blockade Newcastle Coal Port

More than a hundred people participated in a maritime blockade of Newcastle Port on November 3 to protest the expansion of the export coal industry and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Hundreds more people watched the protest from shore. The protesters, in a flotilla of kayaks, canoes and small boats blocked the main shipping channel for about 5 hours.

Related: George Darroch Photos | Sutherland CAN Photos | Rising Tide Australia

Newcastle is the world's biggest coal port, with the NSW Government committing to a third export coal terminal and new coal mines, while the world faces a climate crisis. According to the latest figures submitted to the United Nations, Australia is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters in the developed world, and rapidly getting worse. Australia's emissions increased by 26 per cent from 1990 to 2005, which was one the fastest rates of emissions growth among developed nations. Average emissions per person in Australia is now 26 tonnes per year, outranking the USA (25t), Russia (14t), India (10t), and China (4t).

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle participated in the blockade and claimed later that the action had delayed the transport of coal which when burnt would put 1.66 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

"If Labor and the government were serious about stopping climate change they would have a plan for the transition from dirty coal to renewable energy, but they don't," she said according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The protest was organised by climate protest group Rising Tide Newcastle. Spokesperson Georgina Wood said the protest against the expansion of coal export facilities was a success. "It is clear the community is calling for change, and that our governments need to heed that call."

A woman suffered back injuries from a police jetski that failed to stop in time during the protest. She was taken to hospital but released a short time later. A Rising Tide spokeperson told the ABC the incident was due to aggressive actions by police. Police are investigating the incident.

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change is due to hand down the final part of the Fourth Assessment report on November 17, which will help set the agenda for climate talks scheduled in Bali in December 2007.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

German Environmental Foundation announces Peak Oil is here.


Peak Oil is here and was reached in 2006, announced the Energy Watch Group in London on October 22, 2007. This simple statement will progressively affect our whole society, particularly our food production, energy and transportation systems. Demand for oil is already outstripping supply with the industrialization of India and China. Oil production is at capacity and will soon start to decline at an increasing rate. Crude oil hit $88 a barrel recently and is set to rise even further once the decline in production becomes apparent.

"The most alarming finding is the steep decline of the oil supply after peak", warns Jörg Schindler from the Energy Watch Group. This result, together with the timing of the peak, is obviously in sharp contrast to the projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA). "Since crude oil is the most important energy carrier at a global scale and since all kinds of transport rely heavily on oil, the future oil availability is of paramount importance as it entails completely different actions by politics, business and individuals.", says Schindler.

Until recently the International Energy Agency has denied that a fundamental change of energy supply is likely to happen in the near or medium term future. Hans-Josef Fell MP, a prominent Green Party member of the German Parliament said "The message by the IEA, namely that business as usual will also be possible in future, sends a diffusing signal to the markets and blocks investments in already available renewable energy technologies."

The Energy Watch Group was initiated by Hans-Josef Fell, Member of the German Parliament (deutscher Bundestag) since 1998, Speaker for the Energy and Technology Policy of the Parliamentary Party Alliance 90/The Green Party and Chairman of the Environment Committee, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Parliamentarians from other countries have since become involved in the organisation which is supported by the Ludwig-Bölkow-Foundation. Funding by the foundation allows project scientists to work on studies independently of Government and company interests concerning the shortage of fossil and atomic energy resources, development scenarios for regenerative energy sources as well as strategies deriving from these for a long-term secure energy supply at affordable prices.

The report says that remaining world oil reserves are estimated to be 1,255 Gb (Giga barrel) according to the industry database HIS (2006). But the Energy Watch Group (EWG) contradict this figure and say that there are sound reasons to modify these figures for some regions and key countries, leading to an estimate of 854 Gb. The EWG analysis is based primarily on production data which is more transparent and thus more reliable than reserves data which in the past have been frequently "adjusted".


Peak Oil is now, the report says, and it signals that human society is at the beginning of a structural change of its economic system. A sharp decline of fossil fuel supplies will influence almost all aspects of daily life according to the report. Climate change will also force mankind to change energy consumption patterns by significantly reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

The report warns that supply shortages could easily lead to disturbing scenes of mass unrest and a meltdown of society. "My experience of debating the peak oil issue with the oil industry, and trying to alert Whitehall to it, is that there is a culture of institutionalised denial in government and the energy industry. As the evidence of an early peak in production unfolds, this becomes increasingly impossible to understand", says Jeremy Leggett, the Solarcentury CEO and former member of the British Government’s Renewables Advisory Board.

Now the crunch is upon us with both peak oil and climate change. Time is fast running out for making structural changes in our energy and transport systems to cushion the impact of peak oil. And still we see Governments the world over committing resources to major road building when the prospects for road transport are looking particularly bleak with the projected increase in fuel prices as oil demand and prices skyrockets. Few Governments are pledging large scale expansion of the public transport and rail freight system which may soften the social impact of peak oil and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Most food production is now highly capital intensive and relies on oil as a fuel and as fertilizer products. When oil is too expensive to use, our farming techniques will need to adjust to smaller scale agriculture more dependent on human labour. Are you ready to become a farmer?

The business as usual scenario can only result in many people being hurt.




If you want to see an example of a society forced to experience peak oil, the Soviet withdrawal of support to Cuba after 1989 precipitated an oil crisis which forced food rationing, a major shakeup of public transport and agricultural systems. "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" is a documentary about how Cuba faced this crisis. Soon it will be our turn for the crisis. How ready are you? How ready are our governments? Do we really need expanded roads and taxcuts with a peak oil crisis looming?

The executive summary conclusions of the report say that:
  • Production will start to decline at a rate of several percent per year. By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.
  • The world is at the beginning of a structural change of its economic system. This change will be triggered by declining fossil fuel supplies and will influence almost all aspects of our daily life.
  • Climate change will also force humankind to change energy consumption patterns by reducing significantly the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The now beginning transition period probably has its own rules which are valid only during this phase. Things might happen which we never experienced before and which we may never experience again once this transition period has ended. Our way of dealing with energy issues probably will have to change fundamentally.
  • The International Energy Agency denies that a fundamental change of our energy supply is likely to happen in the near or medium term future. This sends a false signal to politicians, industry and consumers.

Sources:

Based upon an original story from Sydney Indymedia - Peak Oil Has Arrived: Report Warns of Social Meltdown

Australia: Marine Scientists Demand Immediate Action on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Fifty Australian marine scientists have issued a consensus statement warning of the impact of climate change on coral reefs and calling for immediate and substantive reduction targets in human produced greenhouse emissions. The unprecedented call for action is the outcome of a National Forum on Coral Reef Futures, held at the Australian Academy of Science, in Canberra. The scientists have already warned that ocean acidification due to increased atmospheric CO2 is accelerating.

“Reefs cannot be climate-proofed except via reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses. Without targeted reductions, the ongoing damage to coral reefs from global warming will accelerate and soon be irreversible,” says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a Professor at the University of Queensland and Deputy Director of the ARC Centre.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Australia: Nuclear Plans and Anti-nuclear protests


On Friday morning 25 protestors disrupted the start of the Australian Nuclear Association conference and the speech by Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in Sydney. With anti-nuclear placards and chanting slogans the protest caused heated arguments with conference attendees before the building manager was called and ordered the protestors to leave. The protest and Switkowski's speech outlines that this Federal election campaign is effectively a referendum on Nuclear Power in Australia.

Outside the conference Senator Kerry Nettle gave the Greens policy on Nuclear Power to the media. "Ziggy Switkowski who is speaking as a keynote speaker today has drawn up the plan for 25 (nuclear) reactors around Australia," Senator Nettle said. "This is a plan which sparks a disaster for us in tackling climate change." she was reported in the Age as saying.

The Greens say Sydney’s nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights should be shutdown. The new OPAL reactor had to be shutdown three months after it opened this year because of problems in the fuel assembly and leaking water coolant and ANSTO say they don’t know when it will become operational, although the Greens have inside information that repairs may take up to 12 months.

ANSTO and the Federal Government justify the $140 million annual cost of running the new reactor by its production of nuclear isotopes for use in nuclear medicine. However a 2004 report by the Medical Association for Prevention of War Australia found that a nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney is not required for medical purposes, with supply of essential isotopes able to be satisfied by importing reactor-produced isotopes from overseas and producing many other isotopes here in cyclotrons.

Inside the conference ANSTO Chairman Ziggy Switkowski said that the protesters' views were not representative of the general population. "If we allow the debate to unfold, and make it fact based, I think we will see that the broader community will accept nuclear power," he said according in an ABC report.

Yet according to a Newspoll conducted late in December 2006 for the Australia Institute, detailed in their report 'Who Wants a Nuclear Power Plant? Support for nuclear power in Australia', there is widespread majority opposition to the construction of Nuclear Power plants both generally and even more so when it is local to people questioned.

Dr Switkowski is pushing for 25 nuclear power plants that he claims would would produce about a third of Australia's energy needs reducing greenhouse emissions by a fifth. However at all other stages of the nuclear cycle: the construction, mining, milling, fabrication and transport nuclear power is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and generates an enormous amount of greenhouse gases.

The Australia Institute published a paper in January 2007, Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia Where would they go? (PDF), outlining the likely location for nuclear power stations. They include:

  • in Queensland – Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg,
    Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island;
  • in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory – Port Stephens,
    Central Coast, Botany Bay, Port Kembla and Jervis Bay/Sussex Inlet;
  • in Victoria – South Gippsland, Western Port, Port Phillip and Portland; and
  • in South Australia – Mt Gambier/Millicent, Port Adelaide and Port
    Augusta/Port Pirie.


Switkowski is also pushing heavily the development of the 'clean coal' technologies of carbon capture and sequestration, which are still at an early research and development stage. "The most important thing is to find ways to burn coal more cleanly, to capture the combustion product and store them and then to make that technology available to the large coal burning countries around the world," he said to the conference.

However Professor Kurt Lambeck, a geophysicist at Australian National University has criticised both the Government and Labor opposition support for the development of clean coal technologies. "There's a lot of talk about clean coal - it could be construed as an oxymoron. The technological solutions that are being looked at are probably 20 years away before they can be really employed on the large scale. The sequestration has its limitations, the capture of the CO2 has limitations, and it's never totally clean anyway." said Professor Lambeck according to a report in the Age in September. He pointed out that renewable energy systems such as wind and solar are truly clean and should be supported by Government funding and regulation rather than the substantial public handouts and protection to the established coal industry through 'clean coal' research and development.

Australian Governments over the last 30 years have ignored and continue to ignore the necessity for an ongoing national Australian energy policy and a framework for developing alternative energy systems. Justice Fox in his wide-ranging First Report of the Ranger Uranium Enquiry in 1976 made a number of recommendations that have never been carried out by the Fraser, Hawke, Keating or Howard Governments. He recommended that the Australian Government should: develop a national energy policy and review it regularly; take immediate steps for instituting programs of research and development into liquid fuels to replace petroleum, and energy sources other than fossil fuels and nuclear energy; institute a national program of energy conservation; and take into account the energy needs and resources of developing countries.

According to the Greenpeace report, 'Hung Out to Dry:
Federal Neglect of renewable energy research and development in Australia
' (PDF) released September 6, 2007:

"In Australia, renewable energy research and development (R&D) now receives very little federal funding; in fact, nearly all current federal energy R&D supports fossil fuel industries. A recent report examining energy and transport subsidies estimated that for 2005-06 R&D funding to Cooperative Research Centres and the CSIRO for fossil fuels was $226 million compared with just $27 million for renewable energy."

Succeeding Governments have continued to fund the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the coal industry while a pittance in comparison has been devoted to the development of liquid fuel alternatives and alternative energy sources other than fossil fuels and nuclear power.



Cycle Against the Nuclear Cycle Reaches Melbourne


While Mr Switkowski was outlining his ambitions for nuclear power in Australia, an intrepid group of cyclists has been cycling through the State of Victoria meeting local people and talking about uranium mining and nuclear power. They are the Cycle Against the Nuclear Cycle III who started their journey in Rockhampton in June and will finish in Adelaide in November after more than 4500 kilometres on the road.

I caught up with the cyclists 4 weeks ago when they rode into the East Gippsland rural service town of Orbost on the banks of the Snowy River. Even in deeply rural Victoria they had generated a degree of local support with a welcome barbecue. More astounding, two participants of the 1977 Ride Against Uranium (Video) happened to be in Orbost and attended the barbecue and talked about their experiences in the 1970s campaign against uranium mining. At the public meeting that night about 30 people attended and watched the 'Climate of Hope' 30 minute documentary on climate change and nuclear power.

Three weeks were spent riding through Gippsland, talking to people with Meetings in Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale and Wonthaggi. According to the Irregular Gippsland Peace Newsletter:

"....the PM's 'facilitator' Dr. Switzkowski claimed that Victoria could have 8 nuclear power generators by 2050. When asked about a Western Port location Switzkowski replied: "If you are going to build a reactor you need to have it near the electricity grid, near a really big user base - whether it's industry or a large population - and you need it close to water - and the coast is acceptable. Does Western Port satisfy those criteria? Yes, it does." It is an interesting statistic that two out of every three Australians remain opposed to nuclear reactors in their local area. The recent earthquake in Japan underneath its largest nuclear reactor highlights the vulnerability of these power stations to natural disasters...Whilst the Member for Flinders apparently states no nuclear power plant will be built in Flinders because four fault lines run through the district whilst every nuclear power plant in Japan and a number in California are built on, or near, fault lines and in countrysides prone to earthquakes. The fact remains that if the Howard government is reelected then Westernport remains the most likely location for the first of up to 8 nuclear reactors planned for the state.

A Nuclear white elephant met the cyclists in Hastings on the 11 October. "We are here because the Hastings community is concerned about the dangers of nuclear power. Nuclear waste is the biggest problem" said spokesperson, Rebecca Pearse. "After 60 years of the nuclear industry, there is still no safe way to deal with radioactive waste. From uranium mines to nuclear reactors, all stages of the nuclear fuel chain leave a radioactive legacy for hundreds of thousands of years" said Pearse. "If we doubled the world's current nuclear power output, we would only reduce CO2 emissions by 5%. Instead of reducing emissions, nuclear power will leave us with radioactive waste dumps, uranium mines and reactors imposed communities. These are things we don't want or need" said Pearse.

Mary Madigan of the Westernport Action Group (WAG) supported the cyclists "We are part of the 74% of Australians who know renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures are the solutions to climate change. Nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and unnecessary" she said.

On the 14th October the Mayor of Frankston briefly joined the ride guiding them on the start of their last leg into Melbourne along Beach Road to St Kilda. More cyclists joined the group at St Kilda for the final leg through the city and a relaxed Garden Party event with picnicing with lots of "yellowcake", dancing and a few speakers. Mike McKeon and John Englart, both veterans of the Friends of the Earth Rides Against Uranium in the 1970s gave impassioned accounts of their experiences, followed by ACF anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. A mutant 3 headed kangaroo scooped the prize for the best costume of the day.

Ride to Work Day

Tens of thousands of people embraced Ride to Work Day on Wednesday, October 17, with CANC cyclists participating by riding into Federation Square before leaving for Geelong. According to an ABC report Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne Gary Singer said 8 per cent of city's traffic is now made up of cyclists. "What we're seeing is people often cycling for fitness and wellbeing and also a concern about the environment," he said.

"Every cyclist here is saving 0.3kg of CO2 for every kilometre they ride today." said CANC spokesperson Rebecca Pearse. "People are willing to reduce their energy use and change their lifestyles. What we need to complement this is a government that will committ to sustainable energy technologies, energy efficiency measures" said Ms Pearse.

Thirty thousand people had pre-registered in Ride to Work Day in Sydney and Bicycle Victoria organisers said over 90,000 had participated nationally. Bicycle counts from around Australia show a 30% increase on major commuter routes in the past year. Bicycles outsold cars for the fifth year in a row, reaching a record of 1.3 million in 2006, while motor vehicles declined. 34% of those who took up riding in the Victorian event in 2006 were still riding to work five months later, according to Bicycle Victoria.

Cycle Against the Nuclear cycle are holding further events and meetings in towns in Western Victoria and South Australia. They are due to arrive in Adelaide on November 11, 2007 in time for the Walk Against Warming event.


Sources

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Change in Global sea surface acidity



Image from Wikimedia Commons

Description: Estimated change in sea surface pH from the pre-industrial period (1700s) to the present day (1990s). ? pH here is in standard pH units. This change is caused by the invasion of anthropogenic CO2 (see Ocean acidification). Calculated using Richard Zeebe's csys package with data from the Global Ocean Data Analysis Project[1][2] and World Ocean Atlas[3] climatologies. ? pH is plotted here using a Mollweide projection (using MATLAB and the M_Map package).

Scientists say Ocean Acidity Increasing at Faster Rate

Ocean acidity is increasing at a much faster pace according to marine scientists meeting in Canberra at the Coral Reef Futures 07 Forum, October 18-19, 2007. "It appears this acidification is now taking place over decades, rather than centuries as originally predicted. It is happening even faster in the cooler waters of the Southern Ocean than in the tropics. It is starting to look like a very serious issue." said Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and the Australian National University.

"It isn’t just the coral reefs which are affected – a large part of the plankton in the Southern Ocean, the coccolithophorids, are also affected. These drive ocean productivity and are the base of the food web which supports krill, whales, tuna and our fisheries. They also play a vital role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which could break down." said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of CoECRS and the University of Queensland.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Arctic Sea Ice heading for Rapid Disintegration: Greenland Ice Sheet melting

Arctic summer sea ice is headed towards rapid disintegration as early as 2013, a century ahead of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections, according to 'the Big Melt' (PDF), a new review of recent scientific literature on climate change produced by www.carbonequity.info. We have gone past the tipping point for Arctic sea ice and now we watch the disintegration of the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets which will result in catastrophic changes in sea level of 5 metres or more in the next 100 years.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

APEC: The Sydney Declaration a Climate Distraction

While thousands of people protested in the streets of Sydney about the war in Iraq, climate change, and civil liberties, the 21 APEC leaders made a fashion statement on the steps of the Opera House, before meeting inside and signing the Sydney Declaration - a statement on climate change, that is being widely criticised by environmentalists and climate activists.

According to details from a draft of the declaration being widely circulated by the media, the APEC wide regional aspirational goal is to reduce energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030 from the 2005 level, and set an APEC-wide regional goal of increasing forest cover in the region by 20 million hectares by 2020.

About the Sydney declaration Australian Prime Minister Howard said "Firstly the need for a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal, and that is enshrined in the Sydney Declaration," he said. "Secondly the need for all nations, no matter what their stage of development, to contribute according to their own capacities and their own circumstances to reducing greenhouse gases."

Prime Minister John Howard and US President George Bush will play up the Sydney Declaration as a win for combatting climate change but Howard has already been effectively contradicted by his own foreign minister Alexander Downer. In April 2007, Alexander Downer told an APEC lecture in Melbourne that aspirational targets are a "political stunt" and "not a real target at all".

"I think you have to face up to the fact that, within the APEC group, there are Economies… that believe in setting CO2 emission targets, by particular dates. Some of them, of course, are just aspirational targets: which is code for “a political stunt”. An aspirational target is not a real target at all.” said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer at the Monash APEC lecture.

Greenpeace spokeperson Catherine Fitzpatrick said "If this statement is the platform we build future climate change action on, the world is in trouble," she said. "Because this is a statement with no recognition of binding targets, it has no targets for the future. Without binding targets for developed countries, it's little more than a political stunt by the prime minister."

Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry, told the Herald Sun "Today's declaration does not advance global discussions on climate change. History shows vague aspirational goals do not lead to reductions in greenhouse emissions. The Kyoto Protocol was established precisely because the aspirational targets of the early 90s failed to stop the spiralling rise in global emissions."

Australia and the USA are the only two developed nations who have not signed the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement on reducing emissions to the year 2012.

The Chinese President, Mr Hu in a speech on September 7 called on countries to uphold the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, calling them "the core mechanism and main avenue of co-operation" for tackling climate change.

Developing nations were determined not to sign up to a specific goal on emissions, especially when Australia and the USA, the two biggest greenhouse gas polluters on a per capita basis, had not signed up for the Kyoto targets.

The Governments of the USA and Australia do not want to work within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) framework after Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and are actively undermining any such agreement that follows on using this framework. The next meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference is in Bali, 3 - 14 December 2007.

Source:

* Alexander Downer, 19 April 2007, Monash APEC lecture (PDF)
* Greenpeace Sept 6, 2007, Downer admits aspirational goals “political stunt”
* Melbourne Herald Sun, Sept 8, 2007, Greenpeace slams APEC climate pact
* ABC Online Sept 8, 2007, Leaders wear Driza-Bones for APEC photo

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Online Petition sites join to Demand Climate Targets from APEC

Online social justice petition sites Get up! and Avaaz have launched a joint campaign demanding Real climate targets from leaders attending the APEC 2007 forum in Sydney this week. The sites have set a task of 100,000 online signatures on a petition to be presented to APEC leaders.

They have also encouraged site visitors to download a climate target logo: draw it, paint it, or print it, or "get creative--paint it on the side of your house, carve it into a snowbank or a beach, or get friends together and make a human target in a park" then photograph it and upload the photo to the GetUp! or Avaaz sites. The first wave of photos will be shown at a press conference in Sydney this Wednesday 5th September.

Prime Minister John Howard is intent on subsidising his mates in the coal industry through massive investment in clean coal technologies and geo-sequestration of CO2 (both still under research and development) while expanding the mining, use and export of coal. The Howard Government is also intent on pushing nuclear power as a method of reducing climate impacts despite the heavy capitalisation cost in starting such an industry and the dangers in processing, operation and waste management in the nuclear industry. Meanwhile research, development and installation of renewable energy systems has been starved of Government capital investment for at least 30 years.

Climate change and its effects and unfriendly nuclear proliferation are now at the top of opinion polls, according to a Lowy Institute poll reported on in the Australian.

So if you can't make the protests in Sydney this week, spend a few minutes and join this online campaign to demand firm climate targets from the leaders meeting at APEC in Sydney.
Email to Avaaz subscribers

This weekend, leaders of 21 nations--responsible for half the world's greenhouse gases--will meet at the APEC summit in Australia. Climate change tops their agenda. But according to leaks, a growing number around US President Bush and Australia's John Howard want to ditch the binding global targets needed to avert catastrophic climate change, and replace them with empty rhetoric about "aspirational goals" and voluntary action.



The global climate movement has built up tremendous energy this year--we mustn't let the cynics hijack our campaign and turn it into hot air. We need to make sure the Asia-Pacific leaders, and the 1100 journalists covering the summit, can't ignore the world's call for binding targets. To grab their attention, let's create a spectacular photo petition of "target" images all over the world--we already have "target ceremonies" planned at the Great Barrier Reef, Patagonia, Palau, and many more! Submitting your own target photo is easy and fun--click here to learn how:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/apec/b.php

* To contribute, you can just draw a target--a dot with circles around it--on the palm of your hand, and snap a photo with your cell phone,
* You could print the special target logo from our website, and take a picture of yourself holding it up as a sign,
* Or get creative--paint it on the side of your house, carve it into a snowbank or a beach, or get friends together and make a human target in a park.

Once you have your picture, click through to our website at this link to send it to Avaaz-- it will pop up in our global photo map right away. We'll also show the first wave of photos at a big press conference in Sydney this Wednesday 5th September, so there's no time to spare!

We'll also deliver the biggest global petition for binding climate targets--we can use the "targets" spectacle to amplify our efforts. Avaaz has worked with Australian allies at GetUp to plan a stunning series of target ceremonies--including a 144 square-metre target banner that swimmers will float over the Great Barrier Reef. (If climate change is not reined in, the Reef will be extinct by 2030. Its caretakers are excited to help keep it alive!) These powerful images will join the photos contributed by the rest of us around the world, to send an unmistakable, global call to action.

We want to make sure the leaders gathering in Australia see targets on the news as they go to sleep, and in the newspapers when they wake up. So click here to see all the targets that have been sent in so far, and to send in your own:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/apec/b.php

Last week, after international campaigners revealed prime minister Howard's plans to junk real targets at APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit), Australia's main opposition party took up the rallying cry. Howard is set to call an election shortly after the summit. By focusing public attention on this issue, we can multiply the pressure on him and other leaders in the "Axis of Global Warming"--and strengthen the hands of those leaders who support the right policies, from New Zealand to Chile and the Philippines. Most of all, we can try to pin down those wavering leaders in the middle, unsure which way to decide. Every leader must answer: do they support global, binding targets? Or are they full of hot air and voluntary "aspirations"?

The APEC summit is the first of a string of critical meetings this fall, leading up to a major conference in Bali, Indonesia where work will begin on the next Kyoto Protocol. What happens in Australia will shape everything that comes after. And because of the worldwide movement that hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members have driven forward--from the G8 to Live Earth--we now have a real chance to shape what happens in Sydney.

The world needs binding global targets to stop climate catastrophe. Let's join together, demand action, and aim high -

With hope,
Ben, Ricken, Iain, Graziela, Galit, Paul, and the Avaaz team

Monday, September 3, 2007

APEC Climate Change protest shuts down Victorian Coal Power Station


Activists have shut down power generation at the Loy Yang power station in Gippsland's Latrobe Valley on Monday morning for five hours, as a protest against inaction on climate change by the Australian Government of John Howard, and policies that maintain the coal power industry and its contribution to climate change.

At least four activists from Real Action on Climate Change entered the power station at 5am and locked themselves on to a coal conveyor and an overburden conveyor belt, forcing the shutdown of the 600 megawatt generator, halving production from Victoria's biggest coal fired power station that supplies 30% of the states power, the dirtiest power supply in the developed world. (Watch Video)

Another power unit at Loy Yang is out for maintenance and today's forced shutdown has dropped power output to half. The electricity price in Victoria has risen to $63 because of the action and is expected to cost the operators thousands of dollars in lost production.

Spokeperson Michaela Stubbs said the action was intended to send a message to APEC leaders meeting in Sydney this week.

"We're already seeing the effects of climate change and it's our generation and future generations that are going to be dealing with the long term consequences of climate change," she said in an ABC new report. "We need to see real action now, through the Kyoto process."

The Group say they are making a stand for all Australians to protect our community against the dangers of climate change. The group says the APEC meeting is being used to further the lies and deciet being spread by Prime Minister Howard in regards to the Climate Change issue and his continuing efforts to undermine the Kyoto Protocol. A group spokesperson said that Climate Change ends with leaving coal in the ground.

"It is people of our age, our generation who will be dealing with the long-term consequences of climate change. We need real action on climate change to stop our reliance on polluting forms of energy such as coal and move towards a renewable energy future." said spokesperson Michaela Stubbs. "Real action on climate change is about people power not coal power" said Michaela Stubbs.

Police Search and Rescue squad were forced to cut the activists free from the conveyor belts, and they have been taken to Traralgon police station.

Sources:

* Beyond Zero Emissions Media Release Sept 3, 207 - Protesters block coal supply to Loy Yang Power station
* Scoop Sept 3, 2007 - Real Action: People Power, Not Coal Power
* ABC online, Sept 3, 2007 - Climate protest shuts down power station
* ABC online, Sept 3, 2007 - Michaela Stubbs on ABC Radio 774 (MP3)
* Blog, Sept 3, 2007 - Real Action on Climate Change for account of action and photos
* Climate IMC, 3 Sept 2007 This is real action on climate change
* Engagemedia.org Sept 5, 2007 APEC Climate Action at Loy Yang Power Station (Video)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Australia: Greenpeace activists arrested at APEC coal protest

Twelve Greenpeace activists have been arrested at the world's biggest coal port at Newcastle, 160km north of Sydney, after painting the message "Australia Pushing Export Coal" on the side of a coal ship, The Endeavour, and unfurling a large banner in Chinese calling on China to be cautious of John Howard and George Bush’s attempts to sabotage Kyoto. The protest comes at the start of the 2007 APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum meeting being hosted by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney 2-9 September 2007, and being attended by USA President George Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Pacific rim leaders.



Photo: Newcastle, Sunday 2nd September 2007. Greenpeace activists enter the world's biggest coal port at Newcastle and paint the message "Australia Pushing Export Coal" on the side of a coal ship.The message was part of a peaceful protest to expose the Howard Government's real APEC agenda: to protect Australia's coal export industry by undermining the Kyoto Protocol. (c) Greenpeace/Morris.

The protest was enacted at dawn on Sunday September 2 to highlight the Australian Government's real APEC agenda: to protect Australia's coal export industry by undermining the Kyoto Protocol. The message was painted in two metre high letters to highlight to the world that Australia's addiction to coal is behind its spoiler role in international negotiations on climate change. According to Greenpeace, the message exposes the Howard Government’s real APEC agenda: to protect Australia’s coal export industry by undermining the Kyoto Protocol.

"Australia’s climate policy is to ‘Push Export Coal’ and to hell with the consequences for the planet," said Ben Pearson, Greenpeace energy campaigner.

"Real action on climate change means moving away from coal and shifting to clean, renewable energy – and we don’t have the luxury of time for expensive talkfests that have no concrete outcomes. Like any dealer protecting its patch, Australia’s government under John Howard is blatantly ignoring global efforts to extend and strengthen Kyoto, the only internationally binding agreement to deal with climate change – and pushing instead a hopelessly vague distraction through APEC.”

More than four million tonnes of coal will be exported from Newcastle during APEC, resulting in over 11 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the annual emissions from 800,000 average Australian households, according to Greenpeace. Factoring in the costs of climate change impacts, as detailed in the Stern Review, Australia’s coal exports will result in more than $1.2 billion of damage during the APEC week alone, and $64 billion annually, Greenpeace calculated.

Newcastle, already the world's largest coal port, is set for a major expansion to double its capacity for exporting coal.

"At a time when we need to see deep reductions in greenhouse gases, Australia is not only refusing to act, but is also increasing the greenhouse pollution it exports to the rest of the world. Australia’s climate policy is to protect coal exports at the expense of the climate rather than make the switch to renewable energy and improved energy efficiency measures we know we need to make." explained Ben Pearson, Greenpeace Australia energy campaigner.

Under a new police powers Act protesters arrested durng the summit week will have a presumption against bail. Police from Sydney travelled to Newcastle to discuss charges against the Greenpeace activists, but no action was taken under the APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007. Eleven activists were charged with malicious damage and a twelfth with dangerous navigation: all were released on bail later in the day.

The APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007 came into force on August 30 and remain valid to September 12, 2007. It includes a list of people the police can exclude from the city centre, plus expanded powers of stop, search and detention, and confiscation of items from people. APEC signals the rise of military urbanism in Australia.

NSW Police Minister David Campbell has said that antiwar demonstrators and anyone else considered "suspicious" will be arrested and detained without bail for the duration of the September 6-9 summit. People on the 'excluded list' will be denied access to restricted zones, without any recourse or avenue of appeal. The Daily Telegraph has already published a list of 29 people with their photos allegedly on this list. The measures in this Act amount to a new form of detention without trial, and constitute a direct attack on freedom of political expression and movement, aimed at outlawing dissent and stifling opposition to the APEC meeting.

Much of the northern CBD of Sydney will be contained by a nine foot high concrete and wire security fence, dubbed unofficially the Great Wall of APEC.

The coal ship, The Endeavour, sailed out of Newcastle at 11.30am Sunday local time, with the painted message already removed.

Sources:

* Greenpeace Australia Media Release Sept 2, 2007 - Howard’s real APEC agenda spelled out in coal protest
* Daily Telegraph Sept 2, 2007 - APEC arrests begin with Greenpeace protest
* Sydney Morning Herald August 30, 2007 - Police get special APEC powers
* WSWS.org May 21, 2007 - Australia: Police-state measures for APEC summit in Sydney

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Greenpeace activists highlight Climate Change on Grounded Coal Carrier

Nobby's Beach, Newcastle, Australia — Greenpeace activists used laser lights projected onto the grounded coal carrier Pasha Bulker to protest the continued expansion of NSW's coal industry and its contribution to climate change. Messages beamed onto the side of the stranded ship included 'COAL CAUSES CLIMATE CHAOS', 'THIS IS WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE LOOKS LIKE', and 'LET'S EXPORT SOLAR PANELS INSTEAD'.

The Pasha Bulker ran aground on Nobbys Beach in Newcastle on the 8th June in the severe weather that recently hit NSW's coastline.

Steve Shallhorn, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Chief Executive said “We know burning coal causes climate change and, consequently, extreme weather impacts such as the fierce storms that lashed NSW causing the Pasha Bulker to run aground. Yet very few commentators have made the ironic link between the coal carrier and climate change.”

“Every tonne of coal we burn here in Australia or export will return as climate change impacts. We are already seeing such impacts; severe droughts, bushfires and storms. These are predicted to become more frequent and more intense unless we make deep cuts to our own CO2 emissions, at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, and this cannot be achieved if Australia continues its reliance on coal.” said Shallhorn.

The NSW state Labor government is planning to upgrade Newcastle's coal exporting facilities and to open new coal mines such as the Anvil Hill mine in the Hunter Valley recently approved. According to Greenpeace Australia this mine alone will contribute 27 million tonnes of CO2 each year - equivalent to doubling the number of cars on NSW roads.

“Every tonne of coal we burn here in Australia or export will return as climate change impacts,” Shallhorn said. “We are already seeing such impacts; severe droughts, bushfires and storms. These are predicted to become more frequent and more intense unless we make deep cuts to our own CO2 emissions, at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, and this cannot be achieved if Australia continues its reliance on coal.”

According to Greenpeace, insurance companies have estimated that the recent storms in NSW could cost the insurance sector up to $500 million.

Update: 2015: chart of rainfall showing 2007 spike




More Information:

* Greenpeace: More photos
* Stop the Newcastle Coal Export Terminal - Take the Pledge
* Rising Tide Australia
* Newcastle Street March! Tell the ALP: “Save the climate – say no to coal!” 31st June 2007

Sources:

* What climate change looks like Greenpeace Australia Pacific June 27, 2007
* Climate chaos beaches coal ship at Newcastle Rising Tide Newcastle

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

World Environment Day highlights global climate change

Did World Environment Day pass you by? A few people in Melbourne remembered and gathered on the steps of the old GPO in the Bourke Street Mall, to highlight the risks of inaction on climate change, or adopting ineffectual policies such as geo-sequestration or nuclear power instead of radically reducing emissions through renewable energy technologies and energy conservation.

World Environment Day - June 5 - was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of UNEP.

In 2007 UNEP has highlighted climate change as a central issue with the statement "Melting ice - a hot topic?" prominently on its website.

The rally in Melbourne was addressed by several speakers including anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney, Adrian Whitehead from the Zero Emissions Network, Marcus Greville from the Stop the War Coalition and Margarita Windisch from the Socialist Alliance.

I was interested in what Whitehead had to say, and so recorded his speech, although missed recording his introductory words. Here is a rough transcript of the second half of his 7 minute speech.

"If we don't start re-engineering our society and reorganising our society around to deal with these issues of climate change and oil peak which are simultaneously affecting us, the social disharmony and effects are going to be widespread and felt by everyone.

"We have a great opportunity here in Australia to use an amazing amount of intellectual resources that we have. We have fantastic scientists at many universities. But unfortunately they are not being funded to go ahead and develop their projects to commercialisation. Instead we see some of our best scientists heading overseas to countries like America and China where they are developing renewable technologies to commercialisation that were designed and instigated here in Australian universities. Unfortunately under this Federal government Australia is missing out on climate change solutions and the windfall development that will be associated with it.

"We are in danger of becoming a stranded economy, an economy based on old technology largely based on coal"

"If you look at the science, we are actually heading down a really disastrous track. Even though today it is nice and cold, we are seeing an average temperature 2 or 3 degrees above average this last autumn. If we continue down this track our environment want be sustainable. We will have a massive reduction in water availability, our forests and our natural systems. Our agriculture, in many cases already on marginal areas, will be forced off that land. And we may even suffer a major collapse of core agricultral land across Australia."

"We really need to get serious about this issue, and we really need to get serious about it now. And the only thing that is really going to make any difference is if we go for zero emissions. Zero Emissions is the goal we can actually implement. The solutions are there, the solutions aren't cheap but their there, the technologies developed, you can buy it off the shelf today. And if we don't go down this line now, every year that we wait, every year that we propose alternatives that might be carbon cap-and-trade or geo-sequestration, every year we talk about going down the nuclear path is one more year that we will have to play catch up. And the costs involved in catching up will be far more than it will cost us today in implementing on a large scale zero emissions technology, especially around renewable energy and the transport sector."

The gathering hovered between 60-80 people with a constant fluctuation of shoppers and city workers passing by, some stopping to listen for a little or to sign a petition before rushing to their appointments or journey home.

Organisers were expecting more, however the masses just didn't eventuate and the planned march up the street to BHP headquarters was thus cancelled.

Further Information:

* World Environment Day UNEP
* Zero Emission Network
* Nuclear Free Australia
* Carbon Equity

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Australia: Activists confront NSW Premier over Doubling of Coal Exports

NSW Premier Morris Iemma has been confronted by climate change activists at the foot of of the world's biggest coal port this morning, about the Government's plans to double coal exports from Newcastle - massively increasing the state's contribution to global climate change. The Premier is campaigning in the NSW State Election to be held on 24 March.

The Premier's security team took to a group of climate change activists this morning during his visit to a Newcastle factory. The Premier was in his car being driven into Downer EDI to inspect new rail carriages being built by the company.

Several protesters, from climate action group, Rising Tide (http://risingtide.org.au) concerned over massive coal expansion in the region, jumped onto the Premier's' car.

Protesters were violently crash-tackled to the ground and put into headlock by the Premier's security team.

As the Premier's car arrived at the EDI rail sheds this morning, next to the Kooragang Coal Terminal, 9 climate change activists from Rising Tide Newcastle stood in front of the Premier's car, attempting to engage him about his government's plans to double Newcastle coal exports.

The Premier's vehicle drove through the demonstrators, tearing a large banner.

A spokesperson for the protesters, Georgina Woods, said "Newcastle coal exports are this state's biggest contribution to global climate change, producing more greenhouse pollution than every other activity in this state combined. If the Iemma government was serious about climate change, they would be developing a plan for Newcastle to move away from the coal industry. Instead, the Iemma Government is currently doubling Newcastle coal exports."

The demonstators rejected the Premier's claims that he was attacked. "At no stage did we attempt to grab or touch the Premier in any way. We simply wanted to get as close to him as possible to attempt to engage him on the issue of coal exports. Morris Iemma can no longer ignore this issue."

Ms Woods said the people were not trying to hurt the Premier. "We were just trying to get our point across that we can't afford to increase Newcastle's coal exports any further," she said. "We do feel really strongly about this issue and we were trying very hard to get the Premier's attention and he was totally ignoring us, but nobody was trying to attack anyone. All we needed to do was to make our point."

Rising Tide Newcastle has hit out at the Labor party for what it says is misleading and cowardly greenhouse emissions policy that will condemn NSW to accelerated climate change. Rising Tide say NSW is directly responsible for 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent entering the atmosphere every year. Carbon dioxide released from exported NSW coal which is burnt overseas, comes to an additional 220 million tonnes per year. Neither figure shows any indication of falling in the foreseeable future.

Rising Tide say: "The trajectory NSW is following is going to devastate the ecology of this state. The Labor Government’s plan does not cut emissions by anywhere near the degree necessary to avoid a 2ºC warming scenario, which will lead to nearly 80% loss in coral reef systems globally and an up to 70 per increase in forest fires in the coming decades..."

"The Labor Government is living in a fantasy land when it comes to climate change..." Currently Newcastle exports over 80 million tonnes of coal per year. Recent extensions have lifted capacity to over 100 million tonnes per year. Two separate projects are also awaiting decisions from the NSW Government - the proposed expansion of the Kooragang Coal Terminal, and the proposed construction of a new Coal Export Terminal next door, Rising Tide say in a communique.

Together, these two projects would lift the coal export capacity of Newcastle to 211 million tonnes per year. At that level, the greenhouse emissions from Newcastle coal exports would rival the emissions from every single source within Australia's borders - every coal plant, every steel mill, every vehicle, every land clearing operation...

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Recently a satirical website created by Rising Tide Newcastle was shut down by powerful coal industry lobby group, the NSW Minerals Council, before being relocated offshore. SEE: http://www.miningnsw.com.au/

In February, members of the environmental action group Rising Tide Newcastle built a plywood and 44-gallon drum obstacle to block the doors of NSW Labor's Sydney office. The activists placed a large wooden sign across the entrance of the ninth-floor offices of the NSW ALP shortly before 9am. One member locked herself to the barrier with a large metal bicycle lock. Police were called to the building shortly after 9am and, after negotiations, 10 of the 12 activists left the building voluntarily at 10.10am. Police cut the lock from Dean's neck and arrests were made.

SOURCES:
* Security scuffles with protesters as Iemma tours factory - ABC
* Labor party policy is condemning NSW to catastrophe - Rising Tide
* PERTH INDYMEDIA: Coal lobby censors climate change website
* Two arrests in coal protest - News Ltd: Feb 27, 07
* Iemma confronted over coal exports and climate change - RISING TIDE NSW
* perth.indymedia.org/index.php?action=newswire&parentview=52498

* See photos and full report: http://risingtide.org.au/node/414