Friday, April 30, 2010

Diverting attention from addiction to coal

While Kevin Rudd announced a crackdown on tobacco advertising and increased sales tax on cigarettes, attention was diverted from the elephant in the livingroom: climate change and addiction to coal. At the same time Friends of the Earth Australia denounced the development of two new coal export terminals near Bowen in North Queensland, insisting the expansion of Queensland's biggest contributor to climate change must come to an end. Adding an extra $2 sales tax a pack to cigarettes is a diversion from the real problem: Australia's multi-billion dollar addiction to coal. What Kevin Rudd needs to do is put a $35 per tonne carbon levy on coal to send a significant message to business and the public on climate change and public health.

Related: Punishing the people who stand up for the common good | Conservationists and scientists angry at Rudd retreat on climate | Crikey: Pity the coal lobbyists are more powerful than the tobacco lobbyists

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Punishing the people who stand up for the common good

"It's a tragedy that the people who are responsible for the climate catastrophe get rewarded, while the people standing up for the common good get punished." said Greenpeace activist Kristen McDonald after leaving a Mackay courtroom this week. She was one of fifteen Greenpeace activists convicted and fined on charges of Unregulated High Risk Activity and other charges during a three day occupation in August 2009 of the Abbot and Hay Point coal terminals near Bowen, Queensland.

The majority had no conviction recorded, and fines ranged from $300 to $750. According to Greenpeace, the judge acknowledged that the activists' views were genuinely held, but said he was 'miffed' that the activists tried to highlight the issue, because 'the public is already well aware of the issue' and that our views are 'held by the majority of the community'.

Outside the court Greenpeace Australia Pacific's CEO Linda Selvey told reporters that the future of Queensland and the environment is being sacrificed for the short term profits of the coal industry and that the public concern on climate has not been translated into strong leadership by Governments on this issue. "While we continue to expand our coal industry in Australia and continue to increase our carbon dioxide emissions, Greenpeace will continue to take action," she said.

The charges against the Esperanza captain, Vladimir Votiacov, will be heard in Mackay Magistrate's Court in May 2010, for failing to comply with Harbour Master's direction, for navigating a ship in a pilotage area without a pilot and operation of a ship which endangers safety. The piloting of the Esperanza into the coal loader area effectively blocked all access by waiting bulk carriers.

The three day coal blockade occurred at Abbot Point and Hay Point coal loaders, near Bowen, Queensland from 4th to 6th August 2009 and involved the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza. Hay Point is one of the world's largest coal export terminals. About 30 per cent of export coal originates from Australia.

"I can see more than 12 coal ships waiting to load coal behind me. There are mountains of coal. It is a bit overwhelming - tonnes and tonnes of it. Eveything I see here means to me that there's one more family that will be affected, one more child that won't have the future they deserve." said Fenton, a Fijian activist speaking while locked onto the Hay Point coal loader.

It is estimated the three day blockade may have cost BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance who own and operate the coal port up to $20million in lost productivity, and a loss of about $1.5 million in revenue in the form of coal royalties to the Queensland Government.

See photos of the action from August 2009 on Greenpeace Australia Pacific Blog.

Images Copyright Greenpeace

The Rudd retreat on climate policy: scientists and conservationists react

Kevin Rudd retreats on climate Conservationists and scientists have reacted angrily to the breathtaking act by the Rudd Government in taking the emissions trading scheme - the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - of the legliative agenda for two to three years, delaying central action on climate change - the setting of a carbon price.

The Getup organisation have launched a public No confidence vote saying that Kevin Rudd has lost the courage of his convictions. He needs to hear loud and clear that he just lost our confidence as a result.


Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, warned that urgent action is needed today not tomorrow. "Over 95% of the world's most credible scientists are telling us that we are fast approaching the point in which Australia's future, and that of the rest of the world, will be in extreme jeopardy. It is a shame that the government has failed to move forward and has had to back down on this issue due to the antics of the opposition. It seems that the latter would rather play politics than secure a future for our nation and its children."

He also drew attention to the fact that Australia supplies the world with 30% of its demand for coal, and posed the question of what firm action is the government going to take to deal with carbon emissions which are continuing to grow?

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) executive director Don Henry said "To put comprehensive climate action in the too-hard basket until 2013 would be bad for the environment, de-stabilising for business and totally unacceptable to the millions of Australians who want government leadership on climate change. We need leadership from Government and Opposition on an issue Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described as the great moral and economic challenge of our time."

Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems and of the ARC Centre for Solar Energy Systems at the Australian National University, Canberra, called for greater action by the Government in other climate change mitigation areas, particularly tightening of minimum energy performance standards for all products and buildings and increased funding of research and development of low-carbon technology, in particular solar, geothermal and wind.

The Climate Institute called the delay "economically reckless and environmentally reprehensible."

Professor Ian Lowe warned that Australia needs to reduce carbon emissions by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 "The science tells us that global emissions must start trending down within a decade to have an acceptable chance of avoiding dangerous climate change...If we don't start until 2013 and allow further growth in the intervening period, the rate of change looks alarming.

Professor Lowe proposed that the Government could introduce a carbon tax as an interim measure. "If there is not to be an ETS, there have to be other measures, like a serious target for renewable electricity. While the government can't get an ETS through the Senate, it could introduce a carbon tax in the Budget with an undertaking to increase it each year until an ETS is legislated. That would give business some confidence to invest as well as providing a price signal to drive change."

"The truth is that every year of delay means the actions finally taken will either be a little more painful, or a little less effective. It is a similar situation to what is faced by someone with diabetes, high blood pressure or some other problem who is resisting making the lifestyle changes urged by his doctor. The patient may be lucky and not experience anything too bad even if he does relatively little, but his chances of serious problems and/or expensive/nasty treatments grow the longer he waits. This will still be true for climate, if in 2030, we are still sitting around wondering whether to listen to the scientists or just continue hoping for the best." said Professor Steven Sherwood from the Physical Meteorology and Atmospheric Climate Dynamics at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on the record saying that climate change was the great moral challenge facing society and that "To delay any longer would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and environment." Late last year in response to the Opposition request to delay the legislation until after Copenhagen he said "What absolute political cowardice! What absolute failure of leadership! What absolute failure of logic!"

The decision to delay an emissions trading scheme was blamed on the lack of progess on an international level and the Coalition's blocking of the bill in the Senate, but the reality is the Government did not want to negotiate their deeply flawed scheme with the Greens who have proposed a two year Interim Carbon Tax as a compromise to break Senate Deadlock.

The release of the Grattan Institute report on April 22 - Restructuring the Australian Economy to Emit Less Carbon - was the final nail in the coffin of the CPRS. "The assistance package under the Government's proposed carbon trading legislation for emissions intensive industries is a $20 billion waste of taxpayers' money", said the CEO of Grattan Institute Professor John Daley on the release of the report. He concluded that, "Concerns that a carbon price will devastate industry and households are misplaced and exaggerated. They are no basis for delaying adapting the Australian economy to its carbon constrained future."

So we are left with a Government lacking in leadership, still sucking up to the coal industry and other industrial carbon polluters, unwilling to take the hard decisions on climate, and still reeling from a home insulation program that was run primarily as a job creation program without adequate oversight and risk management of industrial safety in insulation installation.

The opposition parties provide no alternative as their Climate Policy is just "tinkering at the edges" say academics and scientists.

New polling at the end of March commissioned by The Climate Institute, GetUp and other partners shows more than two thirds (68%) of Australians are concerned about climate change, but neither the Liberal or Labor party are showing the necessary leadership on the issue to boost their voter support.

Trust in Kevin Rudd to manage climate change has slid from 46% in February 2009 to 36%. "The Prime Minister has paid the price of community disappointment and frustration on stalled progress, but this poll shows there is more to be gained by all political parties with returned attention to action," said Simon Sheikh, National Director of GetUp.

In the poll most Australians, 55%, see little difference between the major parties in managing climate change. 27% rate Labor as the better party to manage climate change - the same as one year ago. The Coalition has gained 4% from a year ago to 18% on the same measure. 35% of voters would be more likely to vote for the Rudd Government if they were to take stronger action on climate change; only 16% would be less likely.

"Climate change remains a potent force rewarding stronger action," said John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute, "Clearly the great majority of people don't support a head-in-sand approach to climate change and even some of those genuinely sceptical or confused by the issue realise the importance of prudent risk management," said Mr Connor.


Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Solar Power station to run on sun and air say CSIRO scientists

A brief ray of sunshine in the gloomy reports of impending climate disaster. CSIRO is about to build a new research solar power tower at it's National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle that uses just the sun's energy and heated air in a Brayton turbine to produce electricity. This is innovative renewable technology - the largest of its type in the world - to combat use of fossil fuels and climate change, to be built and fully operational by March 2011.

Most solar thermal power plants utilise the sun's energy to heat water to steam to turn turbines to make electricity. Often this is problematic as the best places for capturing solar energy are arid environments where water is often scarce. The CSIRO's new solar power tower eliminates use of water and uses air in a Brayton turbine to produce electricity.

The project has received $5million in funding for building and two years research from the Australian Solar Institute (ASI), a Federal Government initiative.

"The new technology will pave the way for solar power of the future - solar power that only requires the sun and air to create electricity," said the Director of CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship, Dr Alex Wonhas. "The field will be used to refine the technology in order to make it a cheaper, more efficient energy source that is suitable for many desert locations in Australia, and the world."

"This new facility will allow us to improve our science by using a real-world, operating solar thermal field to test ways to make the process more efficient and reduce the cost of this clean technology." said Dr Alex Wonhas.

The power station facility will consist of around 450 mirrors (heliostats) that will direct solar heat onto a 30 metre high tower to produce super-heated compressed air for a Brayton Cycle turbine. The facility will have a thermal capacity of about one megawatt, with the brayton cycle turbine rated at about 200kw which could provide electricity to about 100 homes.

The heliostat field will cover an area of 4,000 square metres and the tower will operate at temperatures above 900 degrees Celsius.

Research is also being conducted on site in thermal storage techniques, particularly using molten salts. During the day when the facility is producing heat and power, some of the energy would be used for super heating salt which would be stored in tanks and could be utilised overnight or during peak load demand times to drive the turbine generating electricity on demand.

The new solar tower and it's heliostat field will be located next to an existing solar tower field that creates SolarGas - a combination of water and natural gas - at the National Solar Energy Centre site at Newcastle, New South Wales.

SolarGas is a solar thermal technology that combines natural gas and solar energy to boost the efficiency of natural gas by about 25 per cent, which results in reduced emissions when used to produce electricity. The Queensland Government has committed $7.5 million towards the CSIRO SolarGas One project - a 4 megawatt power plant of 5 solar towers and mirror fields which will be the world's first multi-tower solar array system using SolarGas technology.

Australia has been a significant innovator in early research and development of solar technologies particularly during the 1970s, but Government and industry support for commercialisation was sadly lacking with industrial development and commercialisation often going offshore. According to Australia Solar Energy Society chairman John Grimes "Our golden opportunity was in the '70s. We led all solar fields but we squandered it. It's heartbreaking really." he said in this article on Government neglect for the solar power industry from the Courier Mail.

Visit the CSIRO for a 5 minute podcast explaining the innovative nature of this new solar power tower and storage system: Time to shine for CSIRO's new solar thermal field



Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whales and Climate Change: the role of Whale poo in absorption of CO2

Ban Whaling While back room deals are being negotiated for resumption of commercial whaling, latest research is highlighting the complex interaction of whales and whale poo in the productivity of the entire Southern Ocean ecosystem and the ocean's ability to absorb CO2, impacting climate change.

Whales and krill play a key role in the recycling of iron in the top layer of the ocean. Iron is a critical element in the ocean that enables the production of aquatic plants - algae - which absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Proposed Eden Biomass Power Station an Environmental and Climate Disaster

Conservation groups on the South Coast of New South Wales have called on the Keneally NSW Government to immediately reject a proposal for a Wood Fired biomass Power Station, nick named by them as 'Dead Koala Power', at the infamous Eden Woodchip Mill. South East Fibre Exports, a Japanese owned company, plans to use chipmill timber waste to generate electricity in a 5.5 megawatt $20million plant. The power station would be an environmental disaster for native forests and a climate disaster with greater CO2 pollution than coal fired power. Public submissions online on the assessment for the biomass power station can be made until April 22.

Related: Traditional owners, Conservationists Protest far South Coast Logging | SEFE BioEnergy Project | Chipstop: Forests in the Furnace | Online Petition


Biomass power stations are classified as low carbon renewable energy, as they generally burn biological waste byproducts to generate electricity. The Eden woodchip mill announced plans to build a new power station fuelled by wood waste from logging native forests in November 2008. The mill's owner proposed to market the power station as both renewable and low carbon, even though over 70 per cent of the biomass would be from native forests. Waste that is now primarily recycled as garden mulch for gardens in Melbourne and Sydney.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye pointed out in December 2008 that "Forestry biomass is at least four times worse than burning coal. Forestry biomass will not be economic, sustainable or low carbon." Dr Kaye outlined the myths being pedaled about the proposed biomass power station:

The native forest destroyers rely on multiple layers of propaganda, each of which is more outrageous than the previous. The first is the idea that the furnace will be fuelled by mill wastes. The concept of wastes conjures up safe images of that which would have no other uses and would be discarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. Economic forces will inevitably drag woodchips into the furnace of the power station once the plant is built, as the export price for woodchips plummets and the unit wholesale price of electricity rises dramatically. Just as whole logs are currently declared waste and hence fed into the chippers at Eden, so too will woodchips be declared appropriate fuel for the power station. No matter what prohibitions are contained in the conditions of consent, regardless of the promises made by the State and Federal governments, and irrespective of undertakings by South East Fibre Exports, the economic inevitability is the forests of south-east New South Wales being fed into furnaces to generate electricity.

The second myth is that forest biomass is an economic source of power. The massive subsidies paid by the New South Wales Government to the chip-mill owners deliver wood at less than one half of its economic value. The forest furnaces will be able to out-compete other cheaper sources of power that do not enjoy the same subsidies, including wind and solar thermal power.

The third myth is the idea that native forest biomass power generation could be declared renewable and qualify to produce certificates under national and State targets. The exploitation of the south-east, the steady conversion of native forest into managed plantations and the devastation of native species and biodiversity are the antithesis of sustainability. An industry that destroys priceless native forests could never be called renewable by any but apologists for the multinational profit takers.

The fourth myth is that the electricity from native forest biomass is low carbon emitting. The theory is deceptively simple. The CO2 emitted from the burning of the wood will be reabsorbed by tree regrowth and in this perfect world there is little or no net release of carbon. Proponents refer to it as solar energy, where photosynthesis stores the energy of the sun as chemical energy.

Forests NSW has been disgracefully negligent in its data collection on carbon storage and release in its forests. Recent work by Professor Brendan Mackey and his team at the Australian National University casts doubt on current carbon accounting practices. Our very rough analysis, based on forestry industry and peer-reviewed data, suggests that for every megawatt hour of energy generated by south-east native forestry biomass, more than 6.4 tonnes of CO2 would be released instantaneously. This is more than 6.4 times the amount of CO2 released from burning coal to produce the same amount of energy. Certainly regrowth would bio-sequester some of this carbon but at a very slow rate. It would take about 80 years of regrowth to capture 5.4 tonnes, thus returning the greenhouse gas emissions to the same level as coal.

However, the forests are harvested on a much shorter cycle. After 20 years, the forests would have captured only two tonnes, leaving more than four tonnes in the atmosphere. Forestry biomass is at least four times worse than burning coal. Forestry biomass will not be economic, sustainable or low carbon.


"Consideration of this proposal by the ALP Government breaks its promise given under Bob Carr that native forests would never be used for power generation", claimed Noel Plumb of anti woodchip group ChipBusters. " A promise given after public outrage at such proposals."

"The woodchip industry is seeking to create a massive new market for woodchips through burning the forests for electricity production, on top of export woodchips for paper production. It is known to the electricity industry as 'dead koala power' and leading industry players are shy of it, the public won't buy it." said Noel Plumb, "It is a disgraceful proposal that will ensure not only the extinction of the last koala colony in the South East Forests, in Mumbulla SF, but also lead to the extinction of other endangered wildlife in the forests, including owls, bats, parrots, gliders and potaroos."

Potential consequences for Climate

The proposal has been criticised by Victorian climate and hydrology researcher and consultant, Aron Gingis, who said that the plant will have an adverse affect on air quality which will cause a decline in rainfall, affecting river flows and leading to an increased bushfire risk due to dry conditions. He told the ABC that the project will have devastating consequences for the Snowy River. "The area of the catchment of the Snowy River will get basically nil rainfall and snowfall," he said. "In last September you had a bit of snow in the area, about 30 or 40cm in some areas. If they had that biomass power plant operational, clouds would simply not precipitate in South East slopes at all." he said.

Harriet Swift of local forest conservation group CHIPSTOP said "The industry describes woodchips as waste wood from logging operations but it's a sham. An average of 90% of all trees felled in South East NSW and East Gippsland VIC forests go straight to the chipmill. We are facing approval by the Government to this monstrous proposal in less than 3 weeks. The Planning Minister has called it a state significant infrastructure development and is set to approve it under the infamous Part 3A powers that effectively override the Environment Planning and Assessment Act."

A similar proposal under Bob Carr as Premier to burn forests as charcoal for silicon production was defeated.
"Australians have the common sense to know that this is a dirty deal - 'dead koala power'," said Prue Acton OBE of the South East Regional Conservation Alliance. "The proposed power station is not clean, it is not green and it is not going to happen. Conservationists have been battling to save the last koala colony in the South East Forests from woodchipping for paper pulp. The Eden Chipmill Power Station must not be allowed to kill off the koalas or any other forest animals. Its time to call a halt to all woodchipping of our forests."

"The NSW Government seems actually to want another running brawl on such a losing issue, all the way to the next election. It will certainly get a brawl if Premier Keneally does not step in to put a quick stop to this menace and, in so doing, restore some confidence in its environmental promises." said Ms Acton.

The native forests in South East Australia have been shown by scientific research to be the world's most carbon dense forests.

Public submissions on the assessment for the biomass power station can be made until April 22 at the NSW Government Planning Major Assessments. Submissions can be made online.
Prue Acton asks why green carbon is being ignored by the government


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Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Coal Company Fines, Reef shortcuts and Environmental Justice in Queensland

This week we saw hefty fines of $70,000 handed out to three foreign sailors from a bulk coal carrier, the MV Mimosa, which was caught travelling through restricted waters of the Great Barrier Reef off north Queensland. Also in the news was the arrest and charging of the master and the chief officer on watch of the Shen Neng 1, which ran aground on the Douglas shoal causing damage in a restricted area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But almost under the radar were the token fines totalling $8,000 handed out to three Fitzroy Coal Mines in Queensland for polluting the Fitzroy river.

The three central Queensland mines were fined for discharging into the Fitzroy River in breach of their environmental licence conditions. Moranbah North coal mine has been fined $4,000 for exceeding its water release limits and for releasing water from an unauthorised discharge point. Rolleston and Callide coal mines were each fined $2,000 for exceeding their water release limits. "These fines are a clear message to mine operators that breaches will not be tolerated," said Kate Jones, Queensland Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability.

But Friends of the Earth said the fines were much too light. "This is a token gesture and it will neither silence the critics of this dirty industry, nor deter the mining companies from continuing to illegally pollute the Fitzroy river every time there is a flood," said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Bradley Smith.

In the last financial year, both Callide and Moranbah mines each produced over $1 billion dollars of coal at average export prices, while Rolleston's coal production was $980 million.

Kate Jones said that the fines are a clear message to mine operators that breaches will not be tolerated. A further six mines had been issued with warning notices - Blackwater, Moorvale, Dawson Central, Blair Athol, Peak Downs and Moranbah North. "Eleven mines have been, or are being, investigated for non-compliance with Environmental Authority conditions." said Kate Jones. "The decision not to prosecute was taken because in each instance, despite the breach of environmental operating conditions, the investigations found no evidence of significant environmental harm having been caused," she said.

Enforcement action for breaches of licence conditions can range from a warning notice to a fine of up to $200,000 and two years imprisonment, depending on the severity of water quality breaches. According to Mr Smith the $2000 fines handed down equate to 1.5% of the revenue made by each of these mines in just one hour.

So on the one hand we have 3 foreign sailors from a bulk carrier, the MV Mimosa, being fined $70,000 each for the risks of damaging the sensitive marine ecosystem involved in taking a shortcut through restricted zones of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. On the other hand we have 3 token fines amounting to $8,000 and warnngs issued to coal mining companies for breaching licence conditions and polluting the Fitzroy River and other waterways. The ship taking a shortcut put the reef at risk, but caused no damage. The Discharge from the coal mines polluted the Fitzroy river, but probably with minimal environmental damage. The sailors get fined a total of $210,000, the mining companies just $8,000. So where is the comparative justice?

There seems to be a gross lack of environmental justice in the token fines handed out for pollution by coal mining companies in comparison to the fines against ship masters and officers for equally risky and sometimes damaging behaviour as exemplified by the damage caused by the Shen Neng 1 damaging the reef.

Coal is a major export earner for the Queensland Government. Queensland is the largest coal exporting state in the largest coal exporting country in the world, accounting for as much as 20% of the global trade, with mining and infrastructure projects set to double coal exports. According to the Friends of the Earth the 2009-2010 Queensland Budget has allocated $1,758 million to coal subsidies and expansions.

The Queensland environment Minister Kate Jones talks tough in her media release, but the pitifully small fines are another example of the greenwash and bias towards the coal industry at the expense of the environment and climate. Read more on how the Queensland Climate Change Minister spins Climate Destruction of Great Barrier Reef.

"The planned doubling of the coal industry will inevitably lead to more pollution of our waterways and more accidents on the Great Barrier reef," said Mr Smith. "Everyday Queenslanders enjoy fishing in the Fitzroy and visiting the Great Barrier Reef. It is unfortunate that the Government more interested in getting a quick buck from expanding the coal industry than protecting these natural assets for all Queenslanders to enjoy," said Mr Smith from Friends of the Earth.

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Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protection of Murray River redgum wetlands 'sold down the river' by NSW government

The NSW Government has been heavily criticised for delaying protection to the iconic Murray redgum wetland forests. The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on Federal ministers Peter Garrett and Penny Wong to intervene regarding the Millewa forests. “Legislation introduced by the NSW Government would see the healthiest half of the Millewa wetland forests logged intensively for the next five years and all of the Pericoota-Koondrook forests logged for the foreseeable future,” said ACF Campaign Coordinator Lindsay Hesketh, “Federal ministers Peter Garrett and Penny Wong need to make sure the NSW Government rethinks and strengthens this piece of legislation immediately.”

The stunningly beautiful Barmah-Millewa forest is located between Echuca, Deniliquin and Tocumwal, covering an area of approximately 66,000ha. It is the largest river red gum forest in the world. It comprises of the Barmah Forest on the Victorian side of the river, protected by the Victorian Government in November 2009, and the Millewa Forest on the New South Wales side.

Former NSW Premier Nathan Rees’ ordered an independent regional assessment of the state’s internationally renowned Red Gum wetland forests in July 2009, available from the Natural Resources Commision. Environment Minister Frank Sartor in an exercise in political spin and greenwash announced the NSW Government Approves Key NRC Recommendations (PDF) on March 2, 2010.

Barmah-Millewa is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. The forest provides major breeding sites for waterbirds, including visiting migratory birds listed under international treaties with Japan (JAMBA) and China (CAMBA) such as the Glossy Ibis, Caspian Tern and Painted Snipe. It also provides habitat and food sources for native fish, has diverse plant associations and supports rare and threatened plant species.

“This legislation would turn the best part of the largest redgum wetland forests on Earth into low value wood products and firewood. The NSW Government has thumbed its nose at the recommendations of its own independent expert committee which made strong recommendation around the protection of these precious forests." said ACF Campaign Coordinator Lindsay Hesketh.

The legislation was introduced into the NSW parliament on April 10, with environment groups calling it a triumph of spin over substance. “The Bill introduced into Parliament today fails the environment - allowing industrial logging to continue in almost 20,000 hectares of the magnificent and iconic Millewa forest” said Ms Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the National Parks Association of NSW.

Peter Cooper, campaigner for The Wilderness Society said “The so-called ‘transition’ logging in Millewa is a great big con that has been rejected outright by environment groups from around NSW and Australia. The Red Gum Bill will destroy the habitat of threatened species like the Koala, Superb Parrot and Squirrel Glider, just so that cheap Red Gum firewood can be trucked to Melbourne. The NSW Government has turned its back on the best scientific advice and is now undermining the
environmental recovery of the Murray-Darling Basin."

Greens MP Ian Cohen said the legislation failed on jobs and environment. "I can see the opportunities that will be lost if the Government doesn’t rethink the situation to allow logging in Millewa and communicate with the Yorta Yorta. The Traditional Owners have explained to me today that more logging in Millewa is a bad outcome for the River Country and also a bad outcome for their people.”

The creation of the Barmah National Park in Victoria has already provided five new ranger positions to Yorta Yorta people.

Mr Neville Atkinson, chairperson of the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation said “The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owners want to work with the NSW Government to manage a world class National Park, that fully protects the Millewa forest, to explore and develop all the socio-economic opportunities that will provide for both the broader community and the state of NSW,”

“After more than 200 years of damage and destruction, Yorta Yorta say it is time right now to start the long path to recovery of the Murray River and its floodplain, not in five years time or ten years time. I will be taking their views back to the Parliament” Mr Cohen said.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority has announced that Millewa is one of the most important key indicator sites or environmental assets in the Murray Darling that it would aim to protect and restore through its water reform processes.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Paleo-perspectives on ocean acidification - marine ecosystems under threat

Anthropogenic climate change is driving Ocean Acidification threatening marine ecosystems, according to a new scientific paper. "This will create conditions not seen on Earth for at least 40 million years. These changes are taking place at rates as much as 100 times faster than they ever have over the last tens of millions of years" Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg said, "Conditions are likely to become very hostile for calcifying species in the north Atlantic and Pacific over the next decade and in the Southern Ocean over the next few decades," the researchers warn.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice Extent returns to average trend

During March 2010 sea ice extent has continued to grow bucking the trend of a slow reduction in sea ice at this time of year. Sea Ice Extent is just below the 1979-2000 average sea ice extent. This data is still in accord with the long term trend of reduction in arctic sea ice.

One of the indicators of rapid global warming in polar regions is the area covered by winter and summer sea ice - the Sea Ice Extent. Other indicators are average thickness of sea ice and how much is 1st year ice as against older multi-year ice.

According to a report in the UK Telegraph - Arctic ice increased during freezing winter - the usual pattern of winds has changed around the North Pole resulting in more cold air than usual in lower latitudes. This pattern is known as the Arctic Oscillation, which has been in a strong negative phase this northern winter bringing freezing temperatures and snow to lower latitudes - a colder winter for North America, Britain and Europe.

Dr Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSlDC), said the sea ice continued to grow through March but that other areas of the arctic were warmer than normal. 'What this doesn't show is any indication that global warming is over. If you look at the Arctic as a whole we might get to average amounts of sea ice for the time of year. But the ice is thin and quite vulnerable and it can melt very quickly.' he said.
You can see land surface tempature mapped for December, January and February at the NASA Earth Obervatory Page - Temperature Anomalies, Winter 2009-2010. These maps show clearly the results of the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation with warmer temperatures in Newfoundland, Greenland, Alaska and eastern Siberia, while lower latitudes are much cooler.

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Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Conservationists criticise government over coal ship grounding on Great Barrier Reef

Conservationists have criticised the Queensland State Government and Federal Government for the expansion of LNG and coal for export without acknowledging the environmental harm that will be caused both on land and sea by these industries. Chinese bulk coal carrier the Shen Neng 1 grounded on a reef, is leaking oil and in danger of breakup in a restricted zone about 70km east of Great Keppel Island. It grounded just after 5pm Saturday April 3, 15km from the nearest shipping channel in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a World Heritage listed area.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Exposing Koch Industries' web of climate denial

A new Greenpeace report uncovers the multimillion dollar funding and intense lobbying against climate science and climate action by Koch Industries, that eclipses the traditional funding for climate deniers from ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies.

Greenpeace Reports: Koch Industries: secretly funding the climate denial machine | Dealing in Doubt: A Brief History of Attacks on Climate Science, Climate Scientists and the IPCC

Climate criminals come in many shapes and forms including many corporate executives and politicians who fail to take meaningful action to reduce carbon emissions or other climate mitigation action despite being aware of the climate science.

Video: James Hansen at Sydney University on 'After Copenhagen: Looking for real solutions'

James Hansen visited Australia in March and his lecture at Sydney University is available online. This is an excellent scientific introduction to current climate science, climate change and global warming.

In 2008 James Hansen wrote an open letter to Kevin Rudd calling on the Australian government to halt plans for the mining of coal, the export of coal and the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Instead there are plans to build 12 new coal fired power stations around Australia, new coal mines are being developed, and coal port facilities in Queensland and New South Wales are being expanded. Twelve new coal fired power stations will increase Australia's total annual greenhouse emissions by approximately 39 Mt CO2-e, or around 7% compared to 2008 emission levels according to Greenpeace. The rhetoric of action on climate change is strongly out of kilter with the scientific reality of the actions required on limiting climate change.

Warning: the lecture goes for 1hour 44mins. The video can also be downloaded (mp4, 289.4 Mb) from the Sydney University lecture page. Enjoy!




Thursday, April 1, 2010

UK Parliamentary Enquiry into Climategate exonerates Scientist

Climate Scientist Professor Phil Jones has been exonerated from any wrongdoing by the The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee report into 'Climategate' - the theft and publication of emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit. The Charges of withholding data and questionable scientific ethics were found not to be proved according to the enquiry media release published 31 march 2010.

However, the enquiry did criticize the lack of disclosure of raw climate data and called for climate science raw data and detailed methodologies to become more transparent and open.
Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

"Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided."


The University of East Anglia was criticised for the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. "The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited."

Many in the climate movement or working in climate science won't be surprised at the report findings.
Professor Neville Nicholls from the School of Geography & Environmental Science at Monash University said

"I was unsurprised to hear that the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee had determined that the allegations against Professor Phil Jones and his colleagues were baseless. This was exactly what was expected by those of us familiar with Phil's exemplary honesty and integrity.
Nor was I surprised to hear the Committee Chairman saying that the Climatic Research Unit's climate science is 'beyond reproach'. Again, anyone with any knowledge of the science and the scientists involved would have known this to be the case. Perhaps now we can return to discussing the facts of global warming, such as the fact that the last six months (September 2009 - February 2010) have been the hottest September-February yet observed in the satellite data."



Read more about this on retired NZ scientific researcher Ken Perrott's blog - Open Parachute: Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated

You can read the full parliamentary report: 'The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (PDF)'

I wonder if the Universities are being properly funded to handle FoI requests, and the extra web design and programming work to make the data available on the web? We know Koch Industries is bankrolling climate denial front groups to the tune of nearly $50million according to a new report by Greenpeace. Other fossil fuels companies are also still funding groups promoting denial of climate science and climate action.