Australian news, and some related international items

The impact of bushfires on drinking water, rivers and fish

January 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

In water-scarce Australia, cooling water for nuclear power would become an impossible burden

In summary, in a hot dry continent like Australia, providing cooling water for a nuclear power plant would prove a huge cost and distortion to the water industry.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, reference | Leave a comment

While ignorant tunnel-visioned politicians kowtow to irrigators, the Murray River system faces death

Water wars: will politics destroy the Murray-Darling Basin plan – and the river system itself?

Drought is not the only threat to the river system: the plan to save it is in doubt as states spar over the best way forward,  Guardian, Anne Davies

 @annefdavies, Sat 14 Dec 2019   The millennium drought led to the realisation Australia’s major river system would die unless there was united action to save it; the latest drought is threatening to undo the Murray-Darling Basin plan.

The basin states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – as well as the federal government, are due to meet on Tuesday in Brisbane amid threats from the NSW Nationals that it will walk away from the plan unless major changes are made.

“We simply can no longer stand by the Murray-Darling Basin plan in its current form, the plan needs to work for us, not against us,” NSW Nationals’ leader John Barilaro warned last week.

“NSW is being crippled by the worst drought on record and our future is at risk. The plan should be flexible, adaptive and needs to produce good environmental outcomes for this state.”

NSW has already flagged that it will be asking to be relieved of its remaining contributions towards the environmental water target – it has committed to saving a further 450GL – while Victoria is balking at meeting its commitments as well.

There have also been calls from various ministers to end environmental flows during the drought and to instead allocate more water for agriculture. In particular is unhappiness from NSW at the amount of water stored in the lower lakes in South Australia. That will be fiercely resisted by SA. Continue reading

December 16, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison, comfy in his Morrison bubble, trashes Environment Department

Morrison torches Environment Department, Independent Australia, By Stephen Saunders | 15 December 2019, For a time, Arts and Environment were in the same federal department. Both functions have taken a hit, in Scott Morrison’s Christmas departmental reshuffle.

Australia’s first federal Environment Department debuted 1971. The function has carried forward to this day, under varying departmental banners. Since 1993, “Environment” (or “Sustainability, Environment”) has always been the leading item in a departmental title.

Not any more. “Busting” congestion, blindsiding the public service, Morrison has reversed recent history. The Environment function of the previous Environment and Energy Department goes into the Agriculture Department. It’s never been parked there before. The Industry Department mops up most of Energy and Climate.

Apparent wins there, for fossil fuels and land conversion. And never mind the fire and smoke. Brand-new Environment chief David Fredericks has been recycled as Industry chief…….

With endless growth running the show, the Department has won battles and lost wars. Our first State of the Environment report surfaced in 1986. When you decode the polite language of the scientific committees, successive reports reveal steady decline up to 2016.

It’s simplistic to say, but the Department has prospered more under Labor……

In his [Morrison’s] inflated opinion,  ministers can always be relied on to “set the policy direction” correctly. As they surround themselves with increasingly docile public service chiefs.

On top of all this, he cashiers the Environment Department. And puts Energy and Climate under Industry. His religion and ideology seem to be clobbering reason and science.

Labor’s bulldog adherence to Big Coal and Big Australia undermines their credibility to oppose environmental overreach. Still, Morrison’s arrogance might come back to bite him.

Over its first 30 or 40 years, the Federal Environment Department attracted a keen cadre of officials, whose commitment and knowledge could be turned to disparate environmental issues at short political notice. They had notable successes and signal failures. But their relationships with ministers held more nuance than the feudal deference that Morrison now demands.

You can’t throw the switch, to recharge independent and vigorous environment policy advice at a moment’s notice. Rationally speaking, we need those skills, more than ever.

Weather, rain and fire are visibly different, within our own short lifetimes. Environment and growth problems have never been more obvious. The environment has returned to the public consciousness bigtime.

The “bubble” isn’t around Canberra. It’s around Morrison himself. Sure, the weakened Environment and Climate bureaus will have to answer, to him and his ministers. The physical environment may not be so obliging.,13415

December 16, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, politics | Leave a comment

A foreign corporation gets 89 BILLION litres of Australia’s water, as drought worsens

December 12, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, environment, water | Leave a comment

Victoria’s chemical waste scandal

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

Environment is downgraded, as Morrison merges government departments

Concerns for environment as Morrison merges government departments Newsline, 5 Dec 19, “……. Farmers for Climate Action spokesperson Verity Morgan-Schmidt said strong environmental policy was essential to make the agriculture sector sustainable.

“We’re failing to address climate change, which is the biggest threat to agriculture, and the concern in this merger is that ecological outcomes will be overlooked,” Ms Morgan-Schmidt said.

……. Farmers for Climate Action spokesperson Verity Morgan-Schmidt said strong environmental policy was essential to make the agriculture sector sustainable.

“We’re failing to address climate change, which is the biggest threat to agriculture, and the concern in this merger is that ecological outcomes will be overlooked,” Ms Morgan-Schmidt said.

……. Infrastructure, transport, regional development, communications and the arts will also come together in another massive new department.

Education, skills and employment will be merged in a move welcomed by vocational education advocates……..

December 6, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

BHP’s plan to take yet more water for huge copper-uranium mine

The federal government is inviting public comment on BHP’s proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine (ODM) until Tues. 10 Dec 2019.

BHP plans to increase extraction of precious Great Artesian Basin water to an average 50 million litres per day for the next 25 years, with likely serious adverse impacts on the unique and fragile Mound Springs ‒ which are listed as an Endangered Ecological Community and are of significant cultural importance to Aboriginal people.

Please make a brief submission to the Federal Minister for Environment. You can use our pro-forma submission and just add your name (and you can add any additional comments you like).

More information:

December 5, 2019 Posted by | environment, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Public opinion: for the first time, Environment is Australians’top concern

December 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry – an unsustainable water-guzzler

Ethics of Nuclear Energy  Abu-Dayyeh (P.hD) Amman – H.K. of Jordan E_case Society (President)  [Extract] 

“…….4- Sustainability

Environmental Ethics is perceived as the practical dimension of ethics concerning environmental issues. It is also conceived by some as an “education for sustainability”, and “an important vehicle to transmit values, to change attitudes and to motivate commitment” (40). Therefore, sustainability is a crucial element in our moral decision over the choice of energy.

The new technologies in shale-gas extraction are expected to extend the life-time of gas reserves worldwide many folds the life span predicted for oil reserves, which are unlikely to last more than 40 years. On the other hand, uranium reserves of  high concentrations (above 1000 ppm) mainly exist in Canada and Australia (41), as can be seen in Figure 2: [on original]

Therefore, considering the present consumption of uranium U3O8 per year, which stands at around 70,000 tonnes, the world reserves of around 3.5 million tonnes will not last more than 50 years. A report published in the International Journal of Green Energy in 2007 suggests that if a nuclear renaissance is expected soon, according to the myth of a nuclear renaissance which the nuclear lobbies and the IAEA are trying to promote, the uranium reserves will only be sufficient to keep the world’s nuclear reactors functioning for only 16.5 years (42). In another words, most of the reactors that are proposed now for future investment would practically be out of enriched fuel soon after they are commissioned.

The other choice out of this impasse would be to acquire fuel from reprocessing of depleted fuel and from the plutonium of nuclear warheads that has been neutralized after the cold-war. However, this industry is extremely complicated, risky and it’s environmental impact is highly controversial; two reprocessing plants had already been shut down after Fukushima, one in Japan; the Rokkasho Reprocessing Program; which economical feasibility has already been questioned by Sakurai Yoshiko and Inose Naoki. A governmental committee estimated the cost of reprocessing existing nuclear waste in Japan at 18.8 trillion yen (43); around 200 Billion US$; the second facility shut down was in the UK at Sellafield.

After the Japanese disaster at Fukushima on March 11, 2011 the maximum world capacity of fuel reprocessing at the present time has become around 20% of the total depleted fuel produced all around the world, thus causing a serious set-back; not only for providing a new source of fuel, but also to depositing depleted fuels at lower radioactive level and less segregating radioactive isotopes.

We can thus conclude that fission-fuel technology is not a sustainable source of energy for the future……

Even if the depletion of uranium is postponed much further, it remains an unsustainable source of energy per excellence, particularly if water, energy and CO2 emissions are taken into consideration as shown in Figure 3.

If we take the Olympic Uranium Project as an example we can see that more than 3402 KL of water is needed for each tonne of U3O8 mined, this number is more than doubled at the Beverley Mines. If we add the amount of water needed for all the by-products, such as enrichment of fuel, cooling the reactors, etc. we can say that huge amounts of water are consumed in the overall process. The poorer the grade of uranium ore is the more water is needed. The Australian Olympic and Beverly mines ore grade are around 640-1800 ppm, so we can postulate the much larger amount of clean water are needed for poorer quality, at 200 ppm or even less!

Each tonne also consumes more than 1700 GJ of energy and can emit more than 320 tonnes of CO2 for each tonne U3O8 produced. [table on original]……”

November 30, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

The Murray Darling water crisis and what governments must do to fix this

November 28, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Australia’s ‘permanently wet’ rainforests now burning for the first time

Bushfires devastate rare and enchanting wildlife as ‘permanently wet’ forests burn for first time    ABC, RN BY ANN ARNOLD  27 NOV 19  The rainforests along the spine of the Great Dividing Range, between the Hunter River and southern Queensland, are remnants of Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that broke up about 180 million years ago.

“Listening to the dawn chorus in these forests is literally an acoustic window back in time,” ecologist Mark Graham tells RN’s Saturday Extra.

“It’s like listening to what the world sounded like in the time of the dinosaurs.”

The forests are mountaintop islands that have been “permanently wet” for tens of millions of years.

But now, these forests are being burnt for the first time.

“We are seeing fire going into these areas where fire is simply not meant to go,” says Mr Graham, a fire specialist with the Nature Conservation Council.

Most of the focus of Australia’s catastrophic fires has been on people and property — with the exception of koalas, which have come to symbolise the non-human costs.

Beyond the koalas are many rare and fascinating creatures whose lives and homes have been destroyed, or remain threatened.

“The fauna in these landscapes requires permanently wet conditions, and many of the fauna species in these landscapes simply have no tolerance to fire,” Mr Graham says.

The most ancient birds on the planet

The songbirds that live in these ancient wet forests have always lived there…….

One reason the north coast of New South Wales is a global biodiversity hotspot is it has the most species of eucalypts in the world, and the best areas of Antarctic Beech forest.

“These forests are recognised globally for their outstanding universal values because they are essentially the oldest forests remaining on the planet,” Mr Graham says.

The tree hollows host many fauna species, for shelter and breeding. The hollows take centuries to develop to full size. They can’t be replaced.

“You have to wait 200 to 400 years until they develop again,” Mr Graham says.

One of two nature conservation areas he privately owns, and manages for their natural values, has been almost obliterated by fire.

He wants to present only the facts, and avoid fuelling a media and political circus around the fires……

November 28, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | 1 Comment

Launch of Australia’s National Environmental Defenders Office

National Environmental Defenders Office launches, By Jerome D, oraisamy|21 November 2019 The new EDO will have offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Sydney, with all state and territory EDOs finalising their merger process over the coming months.

Launched yesterday, the national Environmental Defenders Office will “take high-impact enforcement cases to the courts to make sure the public interest is upheld, and our communities are properly protected by our environmental laws”, it said in a statement.

In explaining why the former environmental legal centres were now coming together under one roof, EDO CEO David Morris said that the environmental problems facing Australia are not bound by our state and territory borders.

“The Murray-Darling crisis spans four jurisdictions. Our iconic koalas are dying right up and down the east coast. Climate change doesn’t stop at any border,” he said.

“Now more than ever, national leadership is required to protect Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. That’s where the new national EDO steps in.”

Moreover, the merger will see us the new EDO become the “largest public interest environmental law centre in the Australia-Pacific region”, Mr Morris told Lawyers Weekly.

“With that additional scale comes opportunities to play a bigger role empowering communities and protecting places. We see big opportunities to increase our presence in the Pacific and to better serve local communities in remote parts of Australia, including northern Australia,” he said.

“Increasingly communities across northern Australia are seeking legal assistance in respect of gas developments and we intend to ensure that our expert lawyers are available to assist them.”  Merging also allows the EDO, Mr Morris added, to address the “problems of scale” identified by the Productivity Commission in its Access to Justice Arrangements report.

“That is, we’re able to centralise much of the offices’ administrative, financial and communications work freeing up our legal staff to provide better services to the community. The opportunity is that as a much bigger organisation we can play a bigger role at a national level on national issues, but at the same we’re committed to maintaining and strengthening connections to grass roots communities,” he said.

Another challenge and opportunity I expect will be big issues for us in the next twelve months will be coming to grips with what it means to be a distributed national team across a large area and multiple time-zones and multiple jurisdictions. We’ve got some tools and we’ve got some resourcing to improve our legal technology, rolling that out and implementing it will be crucial to the merger’s success.”

Australia is one of the “most naturally beautiful and biologically diverse places on Earth”, EDO’s statement continued, “but our environment is in decline”.

“There are more than 1,700 threatened species in Australia, we have lost more animals to extinction than any other country in the world. And while the Australian community expects robust accountability and oversight when it comes to environmental protection, trust in government processes and institutions has eroded to an all-time low.

Mr Morris said: “Regulations are regularly not enacted or enforced. Governments have cut resources to departments that are supposed to monitor breaches of environment law.”

“Companies routinely and intentionally breach state and federal environment laws. The problem is systemic and widespread because there is no clear legal deterrent.

“As a merged, national organisation we can share expertise, more closely scrutinise projects and address the widespread culture of non-compliance with environment laws.”

November 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, legal | Leave a comment

Survey showed environment and climate to be Australian children’s top concerns

November 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment