Australian news, and some related international items

Australia faces a costly future with climate change’s weather extremes

Poor planning leaves Australia exposed to climate change and massive damage bills, CSIRO says ABC NewsBy environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer and the National Reporting Team’s Mazoe Ford 9 Dec 2014, 

As Sydney and Brisbane clean up from severe storms and the planet heads towards its hottest year on record, the CSIRO is warning the damage caused by extreme weather could cost Australia more than $1 trillion.
The ABC has obtained advice from the nation’s premier science agency warning climate change and poor planning were leaving the nation increasingly exposed to natural disasters.

The CSIRO draft discussion paper said the cost of replacing homes and other buildings exposed to bushfires, inland flooding and coastal inundation could almost double by 2100 to $1.38 trillion.

“All evidence suggests that the current trend of increasing disaster costs will continue into the future with a direct impact on Commonwealth expenditure,” the CSIRO said.

“Climate change is likely to increase this trend in the longer term for many hazards.”………………

December 10, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Will Australia again be notorious for climate change denial policies, at the COP20?

cartoon-Tom-Toro-Will Australia be the great coal defender at Lima climate talks? Guardian,    3 Dec 14, Australia heads to major climate negotiations in the wake of high level defence of its coal industry. When a climate science denialist starts congratulating your country on its stance at major international climate change talks, you know things have gone decidedly bad.

That was a year ago in Warsaw, Poland, where Australia was establishing a new reputation as a negative force on global climate negotiations.

“Australia gets it,” said the climate science denialist talking head Marc Morano, a man most often seen verballing peer-reviewed science on conservative American cable news channels.

But Morano made another statement that seemed to be an attempt make the brains of as many greenies as possible go kaboom.

Coal is the moral choice,” said Morano.

But what appeared then to be a ridiculous statement, is now Australia’s official political position. We’ve had Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “coal is good for humanity”, the Treasurer Joe Hockey’s “we export coal to lift nations out of poverty” and the Finance Minister Matthias Cormann’s “coal is good”.

Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom!

Since Warsaw, Australia has also become the first nation in the world to actually remove laws to price greenhouse gas emissions and the Abbott Government continues to push for a cut to its own target on renewable energy generation.

Australia also declared its hottest year on record – 2013 – with 2014 likely to also be among the five hottest years on record (we have also just had the hottest November on record and the hottest spring on record).

Globally, 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest – if not the hottest – years ever recorded.

Now the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 20thConference of the Parties meeting in Lima (to be hereafter mercifully referred to as COP20) is underway (I’ll be there in three days time).

The key task for negotiators is to have in place the draft text of a new deal to be signed in Paris in late 2015 (at COP21) that for the first time will include all countries – both developed and developing.

Countries won’t need to declare exactly what steps they’ll take in Lima (known as Intended National Determined Contributions, or INDCS) and can wait until March next year, although some have started that ball rolling already.


December 5, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

COP20 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 20thConference

globalnukeNOThe narrative of nuclear being good, carbon-free and safe needs to be countered, or nuclear plants could start proliferating.

Nuclear energy is definitively not the solution

Phase out Fossils. Phase in Nuclear? Pérez Català  December 3, 2014 

highly-recommendedSecond day of the COP20, and the plenary is full of delegates discussing the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). The atmosphere is really hot, like if we could feel the 2 degrees temperature rise due to climate change, and delegates are discussing the beginning of the draft and how it would look in a screen.

The ADP document is very important, because it aims to define the new climate agreement in 2015 and foster greenhouse gas reduction. Continue reading

December 5, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

The Bishop – Julie – Australia’s great defender of the Coal Faith

Will Australia be the great coal defender at Lima climate talks? Guardian,    3 Dec 14,”………whereas in Warsaw the government decided not to send any ministers, this year the Australian delegation will be joined by two – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb (Robb was shBishop,-Julie-Aadow minister for Industry and Climate Change for a year in 2008).

While in opposition in 2011, Bishop was striking a denialist tone on climate change science in a column published in Fairfax newspapers.

Bloggers later found that Bishop had likely cut and pasted the material from climate science denial blogs.

Bishop’s sympathy for people who rejected the multiple lines of evidence for human caused climate change was similar to a piece she had written in 2008.

In a mining industry conference speech earlier this year, Robb celebrated the future of brown coal – the dirtiest form of the already dirty fossil fuel.

Robb said brown coal was “a resource that is often demonised, particularly by those who oppose growth and development”.

A few weeks ago Robb also jumped to the defence of Bishop, who had said the Great Barrier Reef was “not in danger” – contradicting the view of her government’s own science agencies.

So what will Bishop, Robb and Australia be looking for in Lima?

In October, Australia laid out its starting position in a document submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat.

In the document, Australia said it wanted all countries to be working on a “common playing field” and that countries must be allowed to take action that would “sustain economic growth”.

The action needed to be “appropriate to their national circumstances and policy choices” and any pledges “must include clear, credible and quantifiable emissions reduction commitments by all” that would “deliver real global outcomes”.

This is the language of multi-lateral climate negotiations – broad, woolly and open to a wide array of interpretations…….

Australia’s policy choice is to do away with pricing greenhouse gas emissions and cut ambition for renewable energy.

The “national circumstance” appears to be the world’s greatest defender of coal.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia’s forgotten island people affected by rising sea levels

climate-changeRising seas pose a cultural threat to Australia’s ‘forgotten people’  The Conversation,  Elaine Kelly  Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Cultural Studies at University of Technology, Sydney 27 November 2014 While you may have heard about the increasing threat that climate change and rising seas pose to Pacific islands — already forcing some communities to move — Australia has its own group of islands that are just as threatened.

For communities in the Torres Strait, climate change is not a matter for political debate, but a reality.

Around 7,000 people call the Strait home, and they are already exposed to the impacts of climate variability. There are king tides, flooding, and unpredictable weather patterns that impede their everyday lives. In 2012, extreme weather damaged the local graveyard on Saibai island.

This raises important ethical and political issues for Australia. As a nation we must engage with the harmful cultural implications of climate damage.

Australia’s forgotten people

At the northern tip of Australia, the Strait finds itself not quite excised, like other Australian territories scattered off the mainland such as Norfolk and Christmas islands.

Still, the islands are certainly invisible in political decision-making and in public concern. When I visited the region in 2013, I was told time and again by locals that they felt like Australia’s “forgotten people”.

According to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous peoples worldwide contribute the least to human-induced climate change, yet are among the most vulnerable to its effects…….


November 28, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Cheerful Tony Abbott warns on a hot summer coming (nothing to do with climate change)

heat_waveSummer’s hot, get used to it, says Tony Abbott THE AUSTRALIAN  AAP NOVEMBER 22, 2014

TONY Abbott today warned of a long, hot summer as he opened a Sydney swimming pool, but steered clear of mentioning climate change.

Abbott smiles“It’s going to be a hot summer,” he said at the Hornsby Aquatic Centre. But the Prime Minister was quick to add: “How many Australian summers are not hot summers?”

His comments came as Sydneysiders braced for high temperatures tomorrow with the city expected to reach 35C and up to 40C forecast in the west…….

Mr Abbott’s comments about the hot summer also came after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop challenged US President Barack Obama over a climate change speech he made on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane.

November 23, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

British Conservatives criticise Tony Abbott’s “flat earth” attitudes on climate change

Abbott-in-hot-panUK Tories slam Tony Abbott on climate policy, The Age, November 20, 2014  The attitude of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the global challenges of climate change is “eccentric”, “baffling” and “flat earther”, according to a group of senior British Conservatives.

The group, including Prime Minister David Cameron’s Minister for Energy and a former Thatcher Minister and chairman of the Conservative Party, says Mr Abbot’s position on climate change represents a betrayal of the fundamental ideals of Conservatism and those of his political heroine, Margaret Thatcher.

In a series of wide-ranging, separate interviews on UK climate change policy with The Age, they warn that Australia is taking enormous risks investing in coal and will come under increasing market and political pressure to play its part in the global battle against climate change.

Their comments come almost 25 years to the day since former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the United Nations to place climate change on the global environmental agenda. “It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways,”  she said………….. Mr Abbott declined to comment.

November 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

UN report shows that Abbott’s Direct Action policy will not meet its 2020 emissions target

Abbott-firemanAustralia will miss emissions target due to Direct Action, UN says, The Age November 21, 2014 –   Australia is “no longer on track” to meet its 2020 emissions target and the Abbott government’s decision to axe the carbon tax is to blame, the United Nations has found.

The 2014 Emissions Gap Report, prepared by the UN Environment Programme, names Australia among four international pariah states that will require further action to meet their governments’ emissions pledges.

Instead of hitting a target of 555 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020, Australia was on track to produce between 685 and 710 million tonnes, the report said. ……

“Australia had been on track to meet its pledge in part through its carbon pricing mechanism, but this mechanism was abolished on 1 July 2014.”

In a section of the report comparing countries’ pledges, trajectories and recent policy developments, the authors state in relation to Australia: “New government replaced carbon-pricing mechanism with Emission Reduction Fund. This results in an increase in projected emissions for 2020.”

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler said the report showed up the Prime Minister’s claim at the G20 summit in Brisbane that Australia that would “deliver” on its emissions targets.

“World leaders, including some of Australia’s largest trading partners, have pledged to increase their emissions reduction targets,” he said.

“Tony Abbott would rather pay polluters to pollute and keep his head in the sand.”………

November 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

President Obama criticised by Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chides Barack Obama over Great Barrier Reef climate change remarks ABC News 20 Nov 14 Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has criticised US president Barack Obama for a speech in Brisbane last weekend in which he claimed climate change threatened the Great Barrier Reef.

Speaking to 7.30 from New York, where she is attending a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Ms Bishop said “there was an issue regarding [Mr Obama’s] statement” and she could “understand the Queensland Government’s concern”……..

Bishop latest Coalition politician to take aim at Obama

Ms Bishop is not the only Coalition politician to voice criticism of Mr Obama, with frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Jamie Briggs making comments in the wake of the Brisbane speech.

Mr Briggs labelled the address as a “massive, massive distraction” from the rest of the G20 summit, while the Treasurer said it would be difficult for Mr Obama to deliver on his stricter emissions standard pledge.……..

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned the Great Barrier Reef could be at risk if more is not done to reduce carbon emissions………The UN’s World Heritage Committee has deferred a decision on whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” until next year.

November 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Julie Bishop contradicted by scientists, on her claim about the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef will be ‘slaughtered': scientists dismiss Julie Bishop’s claim reef not at risk November 21, 2014 – 3:59PM   Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald World-leading scientists say the Great Barrier Reef will be “slaughtered” this century as seas warm and become more acidic, dismissing comments by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop that Australia’s natural icon was not at risk.

Ms Bishop told Sky News on Friday her office had sent the White House a briefing outlining the Australia’s efforts to preserve the reef after US President Barack Obama’s warning in Brisbane last weekend that its “incredible natural glory” was threatened by climate change.

“Of course, the Great Barrier Reef will be conserved for generations to come. And we do not believe that it is in danger,” Ms Bishop said……….

on Brodie, a chief research scientist from James Cook University, said Ms Bishop’s comments contradicted the government’s own report on the state of the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 “found the reef to be in poor condition and the outlook is for continuing deterioration,” Dr Brodie said. “It’s obviously in danger.”

“Climate change remains the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the decades to come,” the report said.

November 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Ozone depletion contributes to climate change

diagram-ozone-depletionThe ozone hole leaves a lasting impression on southern climate, The Conversation,  Sharon Robinson Professor at University of Wollongong, 8 November 2014, Many people think of sunburn and skin cancer when they hear about the ozone hole. But more ultraviolet (UV) radiation isn’t the only problem.

The ozone hole has also led to dramatic changes in Southern Hemisphere weather patterns. These in turn are altering natural ecosystems and food production. These climate changes are likely having a similar if not greater impact than more UV radiation.

We discuss some of these changes in a paper published today in Global Change Biology.

This week the parties to the Montreal Protocol will meet in Paris, to consider the latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Effects Assessment Panel. This report summarises the impact of both ozone loss and the associated increase in ultraviolet radiation on the environment and human health.

The Montreal Protocol continues to be effective at phasing out ozone depleting chemicals and has decreased levels of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But while the Montreal Protocol is a success story, the Southern Hemisphere still faces the threat of climate change from rising greenhouse gases. There is still much to do.

Changing the weather Continue reading

November 19, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott urged by United Nations chief to support climate change fund

UN chief urges Australian PM to support climate change fund, SMH, November 15, 2014  National Affairs Editor UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has revealed that world leaders at the G20 are “actively discussing” climate change as he called on Australia to contribute to a UN fund supporting developing nations to combat global warming.

Abbott-in-hot-panDescribing climate change as the “defining challenge of our times”, Mr Ban’s comments cut across prime minister Tony Abbott’s push to keep discussions on climate change off the agenda at the G20.

And, while the US has pledged $3 billion to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, Mr Abbott has previously said Australia won’t contribute, describing it as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our times so it’s only natural that G20 leaders should focus much more on this as part of making this world sustainable,” said Mr Ban said in Brisbane on Saturday..

The world, he added, was looking to the G20 to take the lead on climate change, and he asked for more “ambitious pledges” towards the Global Climate Fund. As well as the US, Denmark, Mexico, South Korea, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland are other nations to support the fund…………

November 17, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australians embarrassed by their Prime Minister – show their disgust in mocking. with heads in sand

Australians Stick Their Heads In The Sand To Mock Prime Minister Abbott’s Climate Stance Reuters  | By Sue-Lin Wong SYDNEY, Nov 13 (- More than 400 protesters stuck their heads in the sand on Australia’s Bondi Beach on Thursday, mocking the government’s reluctance to put climate change on the agenda of a G20 summit this weekend.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s perceived failure to address climate change is all the more galling in the wake of an agreement between the United States and China on Wednesday to limit their carbon emissions, they said.
“Obama’s on board, Xi Jinping’s on board, everyone’s on board except one man,” activist Pat Norman, 28, bellowed into a megaphone on the Sydney beach.
“Tony Abbott!” the protesters shouted back.
Folks with babies, school children and working people in business suits dug holes on the beach and stuck their heads in them. The ostrich is said to stick its head in the sand in futile bid to avoid danger.

Ornithologists say the African bird does no such thing but that didn’t spoil the cheeky protest.
“Wiggle ya bums if you feel like it,” Norman shouted over the megaphone.
A few athletic types did handstands with their heads in the sand.

Abbott called climate change science “crap” in 2009 and said coal was “good for humanity.” Australia repealed a tax on greenhouse gas emissions in July, the only country to reverse action on climate change. Justin Field, 36, a former army intelligence officer who is running for a seat in state parliament for the Green Party, said Australia had to act.

“To be so far behind the rest of the developed world embarrasses progressive Australia,” he said.

November 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott thinks that he can get away with one tiny concession on climate change, at the G20

Map-Abbott-climateG20: Australia makes token concession on climate change after US lobbying  , Guardian Australia political editor, Sunday 2 November 2014 

Government resists calls for climate change to be listed as a major agenda item, but agrees to include in final communique Australia has reluctantly conceded that climate change can be included in a single brief paragraph of the G20 leaders’ communique after heavy lobbying by the US and European nations.

The government had resisted any discussion of climate at the Brisbane meeting on the grounds that the G20 is primarily an economic forum, but other nations argued leaders’ agreements at meetings like the G20 are crucial to build momentum towards a successful international deal at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris next year.

The final wording of the leaders’ statement after the meeting is still being finalised but it is believed to simply recommit to addressing climate change through UN processes.

The outcome – and Australia’s resistance – have been attacked by the leading climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, who has written for Guardian Australia that the latest “synthesis” report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be “high on the agenda” for the G20 meeting.

“The G20 is the most effective forum for the discussion of the growth story of the future, the transition to the low-carbon economy. Yet the local politics of a country of less than 25 million is being allowed to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s population of 7 billion people,” he writes.

Australia has agreed the G20 should discuss climate-related issues as part of its deliberations on energy efficiency, but this also appears to be wrapped up in a general commitment that countries consider taking action in the future on some of a long list of areas where energy efficiency improvements might be made……

In a special “message” about the G20 release on Sunday, Tony Abbott also did not mention climate change……..

US president Barack Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, has insisted publicly that leaders around the table at the G20 will raise climate change.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Scientists and Aboriginal land-managers work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Old ways are new again: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by fire CHRIS MAWER ABC Environment 7 NOV 2014  Lighting smaller fires at the start of the dry season prevents runaway fires later on.

Scientists working together with indigenous land-managers have reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tonnes. IMPROVING FIRE MANAGEMENT in the tropical savannah of northern Australia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes over the past year.

By reintroducing traditional fire knowledge and practices, local land managers have benefited through the sale of carbon credits, as well as helping the environment.

“Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from savannah burning represent about three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the CSIRO’s Dr Garry Cook at the 2014 annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in Alice Springs in September.

“Since European settlement, fires in the north have increased in size and severity. This has threatened biodiversity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Australia’s tropical savannah landscape is enormous — it covers an area of some 1.9 million square kilometres, or about one quarter of the entire continent. The landscape is mainly forests and woodlands consisting of wide fields of grass with scattered eucalypt trees.

The savannah stretches from Rockhampton on the Queensland coast up to the tip of Cape York and across to the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.

Frequent fires are a characteristic of the landscape, and the vast majority are deliberately lit without any authorisation. Tens of thousands of square kilometres burn every year during the northern dry season.

Many local Aboriginal communities have retained their traditional fire knowledge, and these communities hold deep aspirations to fulfil long-held cultural obligations regarding country. Dr Cook said the Commonwealth’s Carbon Farming Initiative provided the impetus to restore traditional fire management practices on aboriginal homelands, combining modern environmental and fire science with traditional mosaic burning practices.

“In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the methodology, land managers need to burn early in the dry season to protect the landscape from the more intense fires that would otherwise occur later in the dry season,” he said.

“Early dry-season fires are generally low in intensity; they trickle through the landscape and burn only some of the fuel, creating a network of burnt firebreaks. These stop the late dry-season fires sweeping through large areas and releasing large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.

“Most savannahs burn on average once in every two to four years, in the late dry season, and it’s these fires that produce between three and four per cent of Australia’s accountable greenhouse emissions. The methodology helps reduce these emissions by using low-intensity, patchy early dry-season fires to reduce the overall fire frequency and proportion of late dry-season fires, which tend to be much larger and more intense,” Dr Cook said.

The savannah burning methodology for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions was developed by a team from CSIRO, the Charles Darwin University’s Centre for Bushfire Research, the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and Aboriginal landowners and rangers in northern Australia.

Dr Cook said, “It’s lovely to see science being applied to improve land management in that part of the world: we’re talking very remote country, very limited resources for land management, and very sparse populations. It’s had a great impact.”

November 8, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, climate change - global warming, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia | Leave a comment


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