Australian news, and some related international items

Fire tornadoes a risk to nuclear facilities, as climate change continues

text-relevantTurn and burn: the strange world of fire tornadoes December 17, 2012 Rick McRaeACT Emergency Services Agency and Jason SharplesUNSW Australia Rick McRae is Researcher at ACT Emergency Services AgencyJason Sharples is Lecturer, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at UNSW Australia.

We’ve all seen footage of out-of-control bushfires sweeping the Australian landscape, burning out hectares of native forest in their wake. But you might not have heard of a fire tornado, let alone seen one.

For many years now researchers have theorised that fire tornadoes could be possible. Now, in studying the 2003 Canberra bushfires, our colleagues and us have shown fire tornadoes do indeed exist.

So what are fire tornadoes? Where do they come from? And what sort of damage can they cause?

Fire thunderstorms

To answer these questions, we first need to understand a separate – but related – phenomenon: fire thunderstorms, also known as pyro-cumulonimbus clouds……….

Tracing the tornado

We showed that the weather conditions the fires were burning in were also suitable for tornado formation. We mapped the damage path, from the air and on the ground and could track the tornado in weather radar data………..

The 2003 Canberra fire tornado

Unlike the fire whirls observed by firefighters, the 2003 Canberra fire tornado was linked to the base of a thunderstorm, lifted off the ground, and then touched down again, three times.

What made this fire different to other fires was the wide range of observations being made as the edge of Australia’s capital was threatened.

They included:………


August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Uranium miner ERA losses slump, yet again

nuclear-dead-catERA’s loss widens to $255m, Yahoo 7 Finance, 1 Aug 15   Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has slumped to a $255 million half year loss after shelving a major mine expansion in challenging conditions.

The Rio Tinto-controlled miner will not pay a half year dividend and said the uranium market remained challenging as an oversupply kept prices week……Half of the company’s board quit last month after ERA decided its proposed new underground mine at Ranger the Northern Territory would not proceed to a final feasibility study due to a sluggish uranium market.

Controlling shareholder Rio Tinto then pulled its support for any expansion of the mine, despite ERA saying it would seek to extend its authority to operate Ranger in order to re-visit the expansion at some stage.

ERA’s net loss in the six months to June 30 is significantly larger than the $127 million loss incurred in the same period of 2014, due mainly to a $197 million writedown related to the mine decision……

August 1, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Senators, servants of the nuclear lobby, stitched up wind power inquiry

The Senate inquiry is led crossbenchers David Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Bob Day


.Senate inquiry into wind power a ‘stitch-up’ Jul 31, 2015   Renewable energy sector claims industry would be destroyed if recommendations are followed. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has accused a Senate inquiry of a “biased political stitch-up” against the renewable energy industry. Continue reading

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, wind | Leave a comment

Abbott’s latest attack on the wind power industry

wind-farm-evil-1Abbott passes new wind war  By   From The Australian:

The Abbott government is being urged to strip billions more from subsidies to wind farms in the final report of a Senate committee that has already pushed renewable ­energy investment to favour solar.

In its recommendations, the committee says renewable energy subsidies for new wind farms should be limited to five years from more than 20.

It also wants the issue of renewable energy certificates restricted to projects in states that adopt federal regulations on infrasound and low frequency noise.

Why not adopt regulations on unicorns and bunyips?

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, wind | Leave a comment

Let’s not pretend that nuclear power is “low emission”

The technology trap  Could new types of nuclear power station solve the problem? “Fast breeder reactors” produce more nuclear fuel than they use and so would theoretically have much lower life-cycle CO2 emissions than existing “burner” reactors. But in practice breeders are even more complex, dangerous and expensive than burners. As a result they have been stuck at the demonstration stage for decades and even some nuclear proponents admit that breeders are unlikely to be commercialized for at least another two decades, if ever.

The government’s issues paper mentions the possibility of nuclear reactors based on the thorium fuel cycle, but these are also more complex than uranium-based nuclear energy and there are no commercial systems operating as yet.

To sum up, based on existing commercial technology, nuclear energy is not a solution to the global climate crisis, because it will soon become too emissions-intensive. It is also not a short-term solution, because it is a very slow technology to plan and construct. It is dangerous and very expensive.

Sure, let’s debate nuclear power – just don’t call it “low-emission”,

global warming A

miningawareness Mark DiesendorfUNSW Australia, 31 July 15  Nuclear power is back on Australia’s radar. In its recent issues paper released as a preface to September’s Energy White Paper, the Abbott government reopened the debate thus:

With environmental considerations constraining the further development of hydro-electric sources, nuclear technologies continue to present an option for future reliable energy that can be readily dispatched into the market.

This sentence appears in a passage dealing with the “move to low-emissions energy”, and although nuclear is not explicitly described as a low-emission option, it certainly looks as if the government is prepared to consider embracing nuclear power as part of an alleged move away from fossil fuels.

Is nuclear energy really low-emission?

Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered.

In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation. All of the other steps – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.

Several analyses by researchers who are independent of the nuclear industry have found that total CO2 emissions depend sensitively on the grade of uranium ore mined and milled. The lower the grade, the more fossil fuels are used, and so the higher the resulting emissions. Continue reading

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Working people benefit from Labort’s energy policy

Labor’s energy policy an Australian first in supporting workers TONY MAHER THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 30, 2015 There was an important Australian first in the electricity and climate change policy passed by Labor’s national conference on the weekend, and it had nothing to do with the renewable energy target or emissions trading schemes. Frankly, it had nothing to do with climate change.

It was the first time an Australian political party has got serious about designing a plan to support electricity workers and their communities with the transition from a coal-fired electricity system to a future where renewables play an increasing role in powering our homes and workplaces……….

So Labor’s plan for the electricity sector is an Australian first. It establishes a dedicated agency to manage any transition and oversee redeployment, retraining and income support. This has budget implications but it is the only way forward.

We need a clear industry adjustment package and workforce plan. The approach to retraining and redeployment requires a serious analysis of growth industries where energy and mining workers’ skills are transferable, combined with government intervention and financial support to help individual workers make a transition.

With thermal electricity plants closing one by one, we need a clear focus on redeploying workers to jobs in the energy and mining sector, including to remaining plants with continuous vacancies due to their age profile………

Labor’s electricity modernisation strategy announced on Saturday charts the way forward. It is designed to manage necessary industry restructure and support workers and their communities, while reducing emissions. It deserves broad support but, make no mistake, if Labor in government doesn’t deliver for workers, we will wage a concerted campaign to get what has been promised.

Tony Maher is national president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Cut through the politics: a carbon tax is the best method to cut greenhouse emissions

Was carbon taxation ever given a fair go?……..

Pricing carbon: the simpler, the better..….. If we are to reduce carbon-emitting activities, the prices of those activities must be increased. Appropriate prices are the key here, and one way to make people happier about paying them is to make them as simple and transparent as possible. That’s what a carbon tax does

Abbott-chicken-littlePolitics aside, a simple carbon tax makes more sense than a convoluted emissions trading scheme, The Conversation,  Associate Professor at University of Western Australia  Adjunct Lecturer, Law School at University of Notre Dame Australia July 31, 2015 Writing recently on The Conversation, Clive Hamilton correctly pointed out that an emissions trading scheme (ETS) can in no sense be called a tax – the two are fundamentally different. Under an ETS, the amount of emissions is fixed by the government and the market then sets the price; under a carbon tax, the price of emissions is fixed and polluters decide how much to emit.

In this sense, Hamilton is right to opine that “emissions trading is the opposite of a carbon tax”. But during Australia’s fractious debate about climate policy in recent years, the two have often been conflated together, and we have generally been starved of sober analysis of the contrasting merits of different policy instruments.

To put it more succinctly, what are the actual merits of a carbon tax, specifically as opposed to an ETS?

Start small

Continue reading

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change causing island to vanish – ecomigration is necessary

Vanishing Paradise Kiribati – A Case of Ecomigration : Dr Abe V Rotor   31 July 15   Kiribati main island is formerly Atoll Christmas, named by Captain Cook when he arrived on Christmas Eve in 1777. The island, like most islands in the region, faces irreversible submergence and sea water intrusion as a result of rising sea level brought about by global warming. The island was used as nuclear testing ground by the United States in the fifties and sixties.
Aerial view of the Kiribati group of islands. Rising sea level is forcing inhabitants to leave permanently their home islands, a classical example of modern day exodus – ecomigration. Displaced inhabitants are being settled mainly in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Kiribati island
Kiribati (pronounced /ˈkɪrɨbæs/ ( listen) KIRR-i-bas;[4] Gilbertese: [ˈkiɾibas]), composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point. Kiribati is the only country in the world located on both hemispheres and lying on both sides of the 180th meridian.

The groups of islands are:

* Banaba: an isolated island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
* Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 930 miles (1,500 km) north of Fiji
* Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,100 miles (1,800 km) southeast of the Gilberts
* Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 2,050 miles (3,300 km) east of the Gilberts.
Caroline Atoll channel between west side of Long Island and Nake Island.

Used for nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, the island is now valued for its marine and wildlife resources. It is particularly important as a seabird nesting site—with an estimated 6 million birds using or breeding on the island, including several million Sooty Terns.

According to the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, two small uninhabited Kiribati islets, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea, disappeared underwater in 1999. The islet of Tepuka Savilivili no longer has any coconut trees due to salination. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise by about half a metre (20 in) by 2100 due to global warming and a further rise would be inevitable. It is thus likely that within a century the nation’s arable land will become subject to increased soil salination and will be largely submerged.

Rising level level is also being felt in many countries, particularly island-countries like the Philippines.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | 1 Comment

New website advises on protection from UV rays

UV-radiationSlip, Slop, Slap 2.0: New website tells Australians how much sun protection they need A new index measuring ultraviolet rays will give sun-lovers Australia-wide a new way to figure out how much protection they need outside.

Exposure to sunlight is a balancing act, with too much UV radiation raising the risk of melanoma and premature ageing. However, sunlight also boosts vitamin D production, which is vital for the health of bones, boosting the immune system, and balancing mood.

 The new index can be found on the MyUV website or through the SunSmart app, and also provides daily forecasts. The developers of the website said sun protection is not recommended when the index is below three.

The UV index is not dependent on temperature, reaching 1.8 by 10am in Sydney today, peaking at three at noon, before dipping to 1.8 at 2pm.

In Australia’s southern states, the midday sun is mild enough to usually render protection unnecessary. However, in summer, a few minutes of exposure to mid-morning or late afternoon sun should produce enough vitamin D. It is also recommended to expose larger areas of skin in short bursts to avoid vitamin D saturation.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Australian uranium company Paladin desperate to stay alive – cuts salaries

thumbs-downPaladin Energy cuts management salaries in break-even bid, THE AUSTRALIAN,BUSINESS SPECTATOR JULY 30, 2015     Troubled Australian uranium miner Paladin Energy has slashed the pay of its chief executive by 20 per cent as part of a string of cost cutting measures across the business designed to get the firm to a cash flow break-even point by the end of the year.

Paladin (PDN) said today it had materially lowered its break-even level for the 2016 financial year, on a cashflow basis, off the back of capital expenditure reductions, and cutting of corporate and debt costs….

Previous to this, the salary of the managing director had been reduced by 35 per cent and board fees cut by 10 per cent.

…Mr Borshoff also gave himself a 20 per cent pay cut as part of the restructure, along with a 10 per cent salary cut for management and staff and further 20 per cent reduction in fees payable to Paladin’s chairman and non-executive directors……..

Uranium is currently being traded at $US36 a pound, The market has been soft for some time, with the uranium spot price hovering around or under $US40 for the last two years, well below its peak of $US130 a pound in 2007.

Paladin shares have also taken a pounding since the commodity’s peak, falling from $10.44 in 2007 to their current level at 22.5c……..

Earlier this year, Paladin posted a loss of $US176.1m in the nine months to March 31, compared with a $US286.1m loss in the previous corresponding period. ….


July 31, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Port Augusta coal-fired power stations to close early

Alinta Energy to close Port Augusta power stations and Leigh Creek coal mine early, ABC News 30 July 15  Alinta Energy has brought forward its deadline to close its power stations in Port Augusta and coal mine at Leigh Creek.

The company announced last month it would close the power stations and mine at some point between next March and March 2018…….

July 31, 2015 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Youth Climate Coalition calls for NO Bjorn Lomborg Climate Centre at Flinders University

logo Aust Youth Climate CoalitionOpen Letter to Flinders Uni – Keep Us Bjorn-Free

To Flinders University Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Robert Saint,

We, the below signatories, object to controversial Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg being offered $4 million to set the Australian Consensus Centre at Flinders University. We are students, teachers, academics, alumni, and the general public. We are concerned that Flinders would consider such a reputationally risky and academically damaging appointment.

Lomborg’s “Consensus Centre” has already been kicked out of Denmark for its dangerous opinions that don’t align with scientific consensus . Flinders should learn from the decision of the University of Western Australia, where Lomborg was ousted because of his outdated views on climate change and record of poor academic integrity.

In a time when young people are attending university to equip themselves with the skills they need to make a positive impact on the world, there is no place for Lomborg’s backwards views at Flinders University.

This funding allocation sits outside of the competitive research grant process – an insult to students and researchers who are facing hefty cuts and job losses, doing important scientific research.

Lomborg’s views are dangerous. He trumpets the same ideology as the fossil fuel lobby – that we can solve energy poverty with coal, that Pacific Islanders don’t care about climate change, and that climate action should not be a priority for governments.

Bjorn Lomborg’s views on climate change, fossil fuels and economics are outdated and have been repeatedly discredited.

We will not stand by while ideologically motivated fossil-fuel industry mouthpieces are invited onto university campuses for political gain.

In the name of science, academic integrity and a safe future, we are calling on the Vice Chancellor to reject the appointment of Bjørn Lomborg.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, South Australia | Leave a comment

Institute of public affairs works hard for the coal lobby

logo-IPA-wolfIPA: Coal lobbyist and climate skeptic factory, Independent Australia, Graham Readfearn 30 July 2015 The fossil-fuel funded Institute of Public Affairs has just a released a report promoting the potential of the Galilee Basin, which just happens to be a project by one of its funders — right-wing, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart. Graham Readfearn from DeSmogBlog reports.

The Institute of Pubic Affairs holds the unofficial and dubious title of being Australia’s leading climate science denial organisation.

The so-called “think tank”, based in Melbourne, promotes fringe views on climate science from non-experts while attacking renewable energy………

The IPA has worked with Rinehart’s lobby group, Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision, to push for a lowering of taxes and regulations in the country’s north to promote mining projects. IPA executive director, John Roskam, confirmed to Fairfax media in 2013 that Rinehart had provided funding to the IPA.

The IPA also gave Rinehart a “Free Enterprise Leader Award” in 2013 during its 70th anniversary dinner, attended by a who’s who of Australian conservative politics including Abbott and Rupert Murdoch.

But has the IPA’s decision to go all out in support of Galilee Basin coal come too late?  ………,7999

July 31, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Tobacco corporation Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette plain packaging

ISDS provisions have been criticised by the High Court Chief Justice Robert French and the Productivity Commission which warned they gave foreigners greater legal rights than Australian companies, exposed local business to potentially large liabilities and were red tape-heavy.

There are concerns similar provisions in the yet-to-be-concluded 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, it would constrain the listing and pricing of medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

justiceTobacco giant sues Australia, The West Australian, Andrew Probyn July 28, 2015,  More than $50 million of taxpayer money is expected to go up in smoke defending cigarette plain packaging in a secretive international tribunal in Singapore.

But costs will pile much higher if Australia loses on its first defence that Philip Morris indulged in cynical “venue shopping” by shifting its headquarters to Hong Kong to sue Australia.

The West Australian can reveal the Attorney-General’s Department, which is running the case in defence of plain packaging, called former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan as a witness before a special tribunal sitting in Singapore back in February.  Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Labor Senator Wong fights TPP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses

logo-anti-TPPISDS clauses give foreign investors the right to sue governments if the company’s business interests are adversely affected by national policy. The Asian arm of the tobacco multinational Philip Morris is challenging the Australian government over plain packaging laws, despite the company already losing a case in the Australian courts.

Penny Wong backs fight against free-trade clauses that let companies sue Australia 

Labor’s trade spokeswoman supports motion to remove investor state dispute settlement clauses from existing trade agreements Labor has committed to remove investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses from existing trade agreements, including the Chinese and Korean free trade agreements (FTA) recently signed by the Abbott government.

The motion was supported by the opposition trade spokeswoman, Penny Wong.

The motion, moved by New South Wales MP Pat Conroy, would also mean a Labor government would work to reform ISDS tribunals to remove “perceived conflicts of interest” of judges determining disputes.

Conroy said: “When the Productivity Commission, the chief justice of the high court and a range of academics say ISDS must be reformed, it is time to fix this system that undermines our sovereignty.” Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment


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