Australian news, and some related international items

Federal Nuclear Inquiry Report expected this week

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australia on fire. Scott Morrison under fire over bushfire emergency

‘Australians are paying the price’: Scott Morrison under fire over bushfire emergency, The unprecedented severity of Australia’s bushfire season is igniting calls for stronger action in response to the climate emergency. SBS, BY TOM STAYNER , 9 Dec 19,  As Australia burns, public concern over the need for greater action against the devastating bushfire season and climate change is igniting.

Dozens of bushfires continue to burn across the nation’s east coast with the effects of these blazes ranging from razed homes on the frontlines to smoke choking metropolitan centres.

The fire season has captured international attention with media outlets from the New York Times to the BBC drawing attention to criticism against the Morrison government’s inaction on climate change.

The Climate Council has also laid fresh blame on the Federal government, accusing it of being “out of touch” with the action Australians are demanding.

“It is irresponsible not to connect the dots – it is absolutely clear … that climate change is exacerbating dangerous bushfire conditions,” the Climate Council’s Dr Martin Rice told SBS News.

“Australia must act on climate change it must join the global collective effort – we’re falling woefully behind and Australians are paying the price.”…..

The Department of Environment and Energy released the “Australia’s emissions projections 2019” report on Sunday citing the nation would exceed its 2030 Paris target by 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

But Dr Rice said the numbers point to a “dodgy accounting” trick through using “carry-over” credits to reach the commitment, symptomatic of a failure to respond to the “escalating climate crisis”.

“Australia is on the frontline of the escalating crisis, now is not the time to cut corners on climate,” he said.

“We need to actually prepare our emergency services and our fire services and our community for the escalating threats.”…..

More than 90 fires were burning across NSW alone on Sunday evening and there are fears of worsening conditions when temperatures soar later this week.

Amid these conditions, Labor has again urged Mr Morrison to hold an urgent COAG meeting to prepare Australia for the bushfire season.

“We can see, smell and feel the changing climate but our Government says we’re only imagining it,” Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said over the weekend…..

[Morrison]  has faced criticism for not meeting with a group of ex-fire chiefs, at the centre of a petition signed by more than 100,000 Australians which calls for a national emergency summit…..

Climate change is Australia’s labyrinth without an exit’

The horrific fire conditions have spawned international headlines about Australia’s response with the New York Times writing the fires revealed “once again” that Australia’s “pragmatism stops at climate change”.

The outlet cited political spats over climate changes and the link to bushfires including Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s jibe against “raving inner-city lunatics”, The Greens.

“Climate change is Australia’s labyrinth without an exit, where its pragmatism disappears,” the New York Times wrote.

One of those Greens, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young again took aim at Mr Morrison this weekend over his government’s response.

“Our nation is our fire,” she said.

“Australians deserve better than politicians with their heads in the sand.” HTTPS://WWW.SBS.COM.AU/NEWS/AUSTRALIANS-ARE-PAYING-THE-PRICE-SCOTT-MORRISON-UNDER-FIRE-OVER-BUSHFIRE-EMERGENCY

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Water supply problems to hit nearly 2 billion people as mountain glaciers melt

1.9 billion people at risk from mountain water shortages, study shows  

Rising demand and climate crisis threaten entire mountain ecosystem, say scientists, Jonathan Watts Global environment editor,  @jonathanwatts, Tue 10 Dec 2019 A quarter of the world’s population are at risk of water supply problems as mountain glaciers, snow-packs and alpine lakes are run down by global heating and rising demand, according to an international study.

The first inventory of high-altitude sources finds the Indus is the most important and vulnerable “water tower” due to run-off from the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Ladakh, and Himalayan mountain ranges, which flow downstream to a densely populated and intensively irrigated basin in Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan.

The authors warn this vast water tower – a term they use to describe the role of water storage and supply that mountain ranges play to sustain environmental and human water demands downstream – is unlikely to sustain growing pressure by the middle of the century when temperatures are projected to rise by 1.9C (35.4F), rainfall to increase by less than 2%, but the population to grow by 50% and generate eight times more GDP.

Strains are apparent elsewhere in the water tower index, which quantifies the volume of water in 78 mountain ranges based on precipitation, snow cover, glacier ice storage, lakes and rivers. This was then compared with the drawdown by communities, industries and farms in the lower reaches of the main river basins.

The study by 32 scientists, which was published in the Nature journal on Monday, confirms Asian river basins face the greatest demands but shows pressures are also rising on other continents.

“It’s not just happening far away in the Himalayas but in Europe and the United States, places not usually thought to be reliant on mountains for people or the economy,” said one of the authors, Bethan Davies, of Royal Holloway University.

“We always knew the Indus was important, but it was surprising how the Rhône and Rhine have risen in importance, along with the Fraser and Columbia.”

The study says 1.9 billion people and half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots could be negatively affected by the decline of natural water towers, which store water in winter and release it slowly over the summer.

This buffering capacity is weakening as glaciers lose mass and snow-melt dynamics are disrupted by temperatures that are rising faster at high altitude than the global average.

“Climate change threatens the entire mountain ecosystem,” the report concludes. “Immediate action is required to safeguard the future of the world’s most important and vulnerable water towers.”

As well as local conservation efforts, the authors say international action to reduce carbon emissions is the best way to safeguard water towers.

Citing recent research by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Davies said 75% of high-altitude snow and ice would be retained if global warming could be kept within 1.5C. However, 80% would be lost by 2100 if the world continued on a path of business as usual.

December 9, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Hypocrisy of Australian Labor Party on climate change

The ALP remains far more worried about looking like it is attacking people who work in coalmines than getting on the front foot on climate change.

It is 2019 and the leader of the ALP is now repeating lines about our exports of coals that Tony Abbott used.

The ALP cannot afford to play games on this issue. You can’t say climate change is real and then ensure your messaging is about protecting coal.

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australia is copping it at COP25 – and rightly so

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Dr Katharine Hayhoe on The Bible and Climate Change

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Climate Change But Were Afraid to Ask, Forbes, Devin Thorpe 9 Dec 19,   Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist who leads the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and is the host and producer of the PBS series Global Weirding. I asked her everything you want to know about climate change but were afraid to ask…..

She explained why a difference as small as two degrees actually matters, why she calls it global weirding, how she explains climate science to skeptics who are religious, and the respective roles of big business, entrepreneurs and individuals in fighting climate science. ……
KH: Well, our most popular global weirding episode, the one that the most people have watched, is called “What Does the Bible Say About Climate Change?” And that’s sort of a trick question, because, of course, it says nothing about climate change. But it says a lot about our responsibility for this planet, God’s love and care for creation, and about how we are to care for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are less fortunate than us today. So I’ve looked into this and thankfully, as you just said, the correlation is not causal. So believing the Bible doesn’t make us reject the idea that climate is changing due to human activities. In fact, as I recently said in New York Times op ed just the other week, if we truly take the Bible seriously, we would be out at the front of the line demanding action on climate change, because that’s what we as Christians would do because of who we are……..

DT: What would you tell someone who wants to do their part to solve climate change?

KH: Well, I would say, first of all, we’re not saving the planet we’re saving us. The planet will still be orbiting the sun long after we are gone. We care about ourselves, our families, our kids, our communities, our city or state, our country. We care about ourselves. And that’s what’s at stake here. So one of the most important things we can do and actually talk about this is my TED talk is talk about it because it turns out we never have conversations about this because we’re worried, well, I’m not a scientist or I don’t want to pick a fight with Uncle Joe. But talking about it is the most effective thing that we can do……

December 9, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The very grave dangers of small nuclear reactors in floating nuclear power

nuclear experts have highlighted crucial negatives that cast doubt on the floating nuclear utopia.Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace Netherlands senior expert nuclear energy and energy policy, sees the three main disadvantages of Akademin Lomonosov to be the big human factors risk, its problematic construction, and the pollution of the Arctic region with nuclear waste.

this project is reintroducing a major pollution risk in an area which functions as a climate regulator for the globe – “the Arctic pristine area, which is a very important natural area for the entire balance on the planet,”

Is floating nuclear power a good idea?  Power Technology  By Yoana Cholteeva, 9 Dec 19,  Floating nuclear power promises to provide a steady source of energy at hard-to-reach locations, but at the same time the dangers inherent in nuclear power make some question whether it’s safe enough for areas where help is hard to find. Is floating nuclear power really a good idea? Yoana Cholteeva investigates.

Russian nuclear company Rosatom announced the arrival of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, in September 2019 when the technology was transported to the port of its permanent location in Russia’s Far East. The 144m-long and 30m-wide vessel has now docked at the port in Pevek, off the coast of Chukotka, where it will stay before its commissioning next year.

Akademik Lomonosov will use small modular reactor technology and is equipped with two KLT-40C reactor systems with 35MW capacity each. It has been designed to access hard-to-reach areas where it can operate for three to five years without the need for refuelling. It also has an overall life cycle of 40 years, which may be extended to 50 years Continue reading

December 9, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Victoria’s chemical waste scandal

December 9, 2019 Posted by | environment, secrets and lies, Victoria, wastes | Leave a comment

Australian govt’s dodgy climate accounting tricks to be tested in Madrid

Australia’s ‘betrayal of trust’ emissions plan to be tested in Madrid, SMH, By Peter Hannam, December 9, 2019, The Morrison government could be forced to justify Australia’s plan to count “carry-over credits” towards the country’s Paris climate target, with a global summit set to debate eliminating their use.

The 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) meeting in the Spanish capital of Madrid is scheduled to debate the so-called “rulebook” for the goals agreed by the nearly 200 Paris signatory nations.

According to the draft “guidance on cooperative approaches“, one “option” for debate will be that “Kyoto Protocol units, or reductions underlying such units, may not be used by any Party toward its [nationally determined goals]”.

The Morrison government has repeatedly said Australia is entitled to use “surplus” units the country will generate during the Kyoto period (2008-2020) to count against the 2021-2030 Paris target.

Australia’s latest emissions projections report, released over the weekend, showed the government is planning to count 411 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO-e) from the Kyoto-agreement era. The use of such credits would mean Australia could meet its pledge of cutting 2005-level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030 with minimal effort.

Malte Meinshausen, co-director of the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University and a former climate negotiator with Germany, said it was good the Kyoto option appears “to be on the table”.

The use of Kyoto credits was “a betrayal of the trust which all countries signed up to at Paris”, Professor Meinshausen said, noting New Zealand, European Union and Pacific states opposed them.

While climate laggards such as Russia and Brazil may join Australia in opposing the Kyoto “option”, “it’s a reminder that the international community does not want to give up easily the good cooperative fruits developed in Paris”, he said…….

Australia will certainly have to defend its carryover and depending on how the text evolves might find itself increasingly isolated,” said Richie Merzian, an emissions analyst with The Australia Institute and former climate treaty negotiator for the Australian government.

“There are apparently over 100 countries supporting the restriction to limit Kyoto Protocol units from being used to meet Paris Agreement commitments,” he told the Herald and The Age from Madrid.

“Australia’s usual allies – other developed countries – either have ruled out using these credits voluntarily or don’t have skin in the game,” Mr Merzian said. “Australia’s only support might come from China and Brazil keen to use their carbon market credits from Kyoto to cash into Paris.”

Adam Bandt, Greens climate spokesman, said “Scott Morrison’s dodgy climate accounting is now up in lights on the world stage.

“Australia is burning at home, and Angus Taylor is turning up at an international event asking for the right to keep on polluting,” he said…….

“[The emissions drop] is driven mainly by declines in the electricity sector because of strong uptake of rooftop solar and the inclusion of the Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory 50 per cent renewable energy targets,” the report said.

“The government is banking on all the renewable infrastructure that they tried to kill” to meet their goals, Mr Merzian said.

Jamie Hanson, head of campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the Liberal National coalition had long been using “dodgy accounting tricks like these so-called carryover credits to mislead the Australian public on their appalling track record on emissions”.

“Scrapping the ability to rely on carryover credits and shifty accounting is a great step towards holding governments like Australia to account over their rising emissions,” he said.

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia – water ownership and the politics of water

Forget big oil and big energy – on the driest continent, water is the new black

If you accept that food matters, we need to talk about what we want from our farmers, and what we want our regional landscapes to be.  Guardian, Gabrielle Chan @gabriellechan, Sun 8 Dec 2019 

“………When water titles were disconnected from land titles, farmer advocates applauded because it allowed another tradable commodity. But turning water into a commodity has opened the markets to any trader, national or international. The basic rules of supply and demand mean that if you treat water as just another asset and don’t need to grow anything, you can sit on water until supply is short. Like in a drought. What could go wrong?

The thing about markets and their regulators is that they often assume everyone has perfect information. Right now, along the rivers and tributaries of the Murray–Darling Basin, ordinary multigenerational farmers – usually in family structures – are competing with behemoths, with full water-trading desks, and those giants have seen the future. So there is a squeeze between these two groups of farmers, large and small to medium. Adding on other high-industry users like mining, and increasingly, towns are running out of water.

Webster Limited has risen to prominence in water coverage because they have 150,000 megalitres, or 150,000 million litres of water entitlements. Webster is one of the largest irrigated farming producers in Australia. When you eat a walnut, it is probably a Webster walnut, given they produce 90% of Australia’s walnut crop.

Small to medium-sized farmers do a lot of things in a day – farming, trading, hedging, investing – but they are farmers at the end of the day. They are intimately involved in the day-to-day tasks and don’t have legal departments or a genius bar for water analysis. Yet, they have been tossed into what is fast becoming a water war. A 2016 World Bank report predicted: “Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration, and spark conflict.” Forget big oil and big energy, water is the new black.

A 2018 study from the European Union’s Joint Research Centre found the five most vulnerable places are the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates and Colorado rivers. The study acknowledges that the “combination of climate change and demographic growth is likely to exacerbate hydro-political issues”, and the researchers worry about cooperation between countries. That is the global picture.

In Australia, we have already seen the same issues fracture state relationships and regional communities. Water is fundamentally destabilising electorates for sitting members on safe margins. We are the driest continent in the world. We are a big agricultural exporter. Who wants a bucket of our water? The answer is everybody. In 2019, 10% of Australian water was owned by foreign interests, with the United States and China the biggest of those foreign owners. In the Murray-Darling Basin, foreign interests own 9.4% of water but it is unevenly spread. In the northern basin, the proportion of foreign water ownership is 20.9%. The place to be is at the top of the river.

A more fundamental issue than foreign ownership is transparency in the market. At the time of writing, we can’t see who is trading water – nay, we can’t even see how much water is in the system to know whether it is being traded according to the rules. We can’t see whether the water savings, paid for by taxpayers in the form of water buybacks, or water saving infrastructure exist. Our own Coalition water minister says that 14% of water rights are owned by people who have no land. The ticket clippers.

Then there are inherent conflicts in the system that put the in-betweeners at a distinct disadvantage. Private irrigation companies – formerly government-owned irrigation boards – hold the rights to deliver , regulate and also privately trade in water in an opaque system. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the key public regulator in the system, supports basin state governments to implement the Murray–Darling Basin plan and is in charge of compliance. That means the same authority is responsible for managing the politics of the MDB plan and its regulation. This is a conflict of interest, pure and simple. The Productivity Commission report labelled it a conflict and urged the authority to be split in December 2018. Silence ensued……

as a country we obsess about squeezing the last little bit of economic production out of our natural resources without a clear, long-term plan for food and farming in an uncertain global economy and an increasingly stressed environment. So much of the agriculture debate places farming in a single context – either as part of an economy or an environment. It is part of both.

This is an edited extract from Losing the Farm by Gabrielle Chan, Meanjin summer 2019 edition

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

UN climate talks: what’s on the agenda in Madrid and what it means for Australia,

UN climate talks: what’s on the agenda in Madrid and what it means for Australia, Angus Taylor heads to COP25 next week, where Australia has already twice been given the ‘fossil of the day’ award, Guardian,  Adam Morton Environment editor. @adamlmorton, Sun 8 Dec 2019  For two weeks at the end of every year, the world’s governments meet to work on a global response to climate change. This year is the 25th meeting of what is known as the conference of the parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Those who attend know it as COP, or COP25.

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s talks, which started on Monday in Madrid, and what they could mean for Australia.

Where does Australia stand coming into the talks?

There are nearly 190 countries represented at the UN climate talks and, contrary to some perceptions, Australia is not just a bit player.

Under UN greenhouse accounting, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, which places it 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. It emits more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.

On other measures Australia performs worse. It emits more per person than any other developed country (and far more than most developing countries), and a recent analysis found it was third for exported emissions.

It is the world’s biggest seller of coal, particularly metallurgic coal used in steel-making, and either number one or two for natural gas. It is easily the largest emitter in the south Pacific, and has been increasingly drawing criticism from Pacific leaders for not doing more to tackle the issue.

As the talks began last week, Australia was at the forefront of the climate emergency in other ways, as drought and bushfires made global headlines. Scientists say both are unprecedented and in line with climate projections.

Observers such as Howard Bamsey, the country’s former special envoy on climate change, say events in Australia are noticed and could be used to influence other countries to do more. But the government’s message focuses on its own actions: that it has set a 2030 emissions reduction target, that it more than met previous targets it set for itself and that it will meet this one.

Who is representing Australia?

Australia has a 21-strong delegation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, led by Jamie Isbister, a senior diplomat who was appointed environment ambassador less than three weeks ago.

In the second week’s political stage, Australia will be represented by Angus Taylor, the minister for energy and emissions reduction. It is his first time at climate talks. He arrives under pressure on several fronts, including a bizarre public spat with American author Naomi Wolf.

How is Australia positioning itself?…….

Scott Morrison has indicated Australia has no plan to increase what it is doing beyond its 2030 target of a 26-28% cut compared with 2005 levels, which is less than what government advisors found would be Australia’s fair share or it could afford to do.

The prime minister has not acknowledged what groups representing business, unions, farmers, investors and the social policy sector this week spelled out in a joint statement – that the goals of the Paris agreement mean Australia will need to plan to stop emitting any carbon dioxide.

Australia’s emissions are not coming down and most experts believe it is not on track to meet its target.  …….

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Peter Garrett urges Labor to reconnect with environmental movement, warns ‘true believers are dying’

December 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

December 9 Energy News — geoharvey

COP25: ¶ “Climate Change: UN Negotiators ‘playing Politics’ Amid Global Crisis” • UN negotiators meeting in Madrid have been accused of “playing politics” while the climate crisis grows. The talks are bogged down in technical details. Ministers are due to arrive in the Spanish capital this week to try to secure an ambitious outcome. [BBC] […]

via December 9 Energy News — geoharvey

December 9, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All eyes on Madrid, but they should be on China’s next 5-year energy plan — RenewEconomy

The climate talks in Madrid simply highlight how important China’s next electricity plan is for the world, for China and for Australia. The post All eyes on Madrid, but they should be on China’s next 5-year energy plan appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via All eyes on Madrid, but they should be on China’s next 5-year energy plan — RenewEconomy

December 9, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

India solar contracting giant enters Australia market, starts on Wellington project — RenewEconomy

India-based solar contracting giant Sterling and Wilson Solar enters Australian market, begins work on first local project, 200MW Wellington solar farm in NSW. The post India solar contracting giant enters Australia market, starts on Wellington project appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via India solar contracting giant enters Australia market, starts on Wellington project — RenewEconomy

December 9, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment