Australian news, and some related international items

Catholic nun’s climate change petition is based on science

Sister Marie takes ‘climate change’ petition to Pirie, 26 Jul 2017 For more than 45 years, Sister Marie O’Shea has been a woman of the Catholic faith.

Now she has a new belief – “climate change”. The Port Pirie-based nun with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan has collected 200 names on a petition calling for stronger action on “climate change”. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and other people of faith are working with the Catholic Church’s Caritas Australia to raise the petition as the biggest such effort in Australia’s history.

While critics say “climate change” theory is plot to destabilise society, Sister Marie bases her belief on having lived in Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. The island nation is said to be at risk of being over-run by rising seas attributed to changing environment.

Scientific research suggests increasing carbon dioxide levels, from pollutants such as fossil fuels, are threatening the planet.

Sister Marie said she had many friends among the 110,000 people living in Kiribati where tides were eroding the shore and the sea was contaminating water in wells. “Are we saying it doesn’t matter if these islands disappear?” she said. “The highest part of the country would be no higher than the top of the window in the Parish Centre, in Gertrude Street. “People say the islanders can move to higher land, but there is no higher land.

“The Pope wrote an encyclical letter on Care of Our Common Home and it was for everyone. “It was about his belief that ‘climate change’ is a threat and action needs to be taken.”

Asked whether she thought God could save the planet, she replied: “I think God expects us to do our bit. He gave us free will and provided scientists with the minds to do their research.”

She said concerns had been raised about the world’s temperatures rising by up to five degrees.

“Can you imagine Port Pirie being five degrees hotter?” she said……

July 29, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Fukushima was fuelled by Australian uranium. Time to reconsider this unethical and failing trade

We urgently need a genuine and disinterested examination of the costs and consequences of Australia’s role in fuelling the international nuclear trade.

Earlier this decade the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s (IPPNW) called for a global ban on uranium mining after finding:

‘Uranium ore mining and the production of uranium oxide (yellowcake) are irresponsible and represent a grave threat to health and to the environment. Both processes involve an elementary violation of human rights and their use lead to an incalculable risk for world peace and an obstacle to nuclear disarmament.’

Six years on from Fukushima: Facing the fallout, Independent Australia,  11 March 2017,  Six years after the Fukushima disaster, it’s long overdue for Australia’s nuclear apologists to face up to their responsibilities, writes Dave Sweeney.

SIX YEARS is a long time to do nothing.     Australian governments of all shades routinely claim they are on the front foot — innovative, agile and responsive. The Australian mining industry’s rhetoric is full of commitments to world’s best practise, highest standards and innovative community engagement.

But when it comes to the under-performing uranium sector, these adjectives and assurances are simply cover for a profound retreat from responsibility…….

While the headlines might have faded, the radiation, dislocation and complexity has not. Lives have been utterly disrupted and altered, and Fukushima remains a costly, complex and continuing nuclear crisis, and an unresolved environmental and social tragedy today.

So what does this sad story have to do with Australian Government, and mining industry inaction and denial?

Lots. Fukushima was directly fuelled by Australian uranium. Fukushima’s radioactive fallout started its life as a rock in Australia.

In October 2011, there was formal confirmation from the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) that

Australian obligated nuclear material (uranium) was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors.’

Now, Australia rips and ships many minerals to many places and it would be unreasonable to put too much responsibility on the supply chain — no one holds a local miner culpable for a fatal motor accident in a car made overseas from Australian origin iron ore.

But uranium is different. Continue reading

March 13, 2017 Posted by | religion and ethics, uranium | Leave a comment

Transpacific Partnership now as good as dead

text-TPP-Avaaz-petitionTPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, before Trump even takes office, The Age,  Peter Martin , 14 Nov 16,  Eight years in the making, the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal between Australia, the US and 10 other regional powers is as good as dead after the Obama administration walked away from its plan to put it before the “lame duck” Congress ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.

Controversial in Australia because it would allow US-headquartered corporations to sue Australian governments in extraterritorial tribunals and entrench pharmaceutical monopolies and copyright rules, the TPP was the subject of a last-minute plea by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to president-elect Donald Trump in their 15-minute phone conversation on Thursday.

It has been signed by each of the member countries – Australia, the US, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam – but ratified by none.

Other members including Australia were waiting for a decision from the US because the rules require ratification by members accounting for 85 per cent of the the agreement’s gross domestic product, meaning it can’t come into force without the US as the other members combined have only 43 per cent.

Over the weekend the Senate’s top Democrat Charles Schumer told union leaders the deal would not be ratified. House of Representatives Republican speaker Paul Ryan, who has in the past supported the TPP, said the “votes aren’t there” to pass it.

Mr Trump made opposing the TPP a key part of his campaign, saying America did “not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down”. Democrats members of Congress were never keen, opposing by a wide margin President Barack Obama’s negotiating mandate which only passed into law with the support of Republicans.

On Sunday Australia’s trade minister Steven Ciobo questioned whether it would be worthwhile concluding the agreement without the US, even if it was possible.

“In theory, yes,” he told the ABC’s Insiders. “but is there enough merit to look at a trade deal among the 11 of us? It changes the metrics substantially.”

Mr Ciobo will hold discussions about the future of the agreement at the APEC leaders summit in Lima, Peru on Thursday which will be attended by Mr Turnbull on Sunday.

The US decision leaves two Australian parliamentary inquiries in limbo. The joint standing committee on treaties finished hearing evidence just before Mr Trump’s election and has not yet produced a report. The Senate inquiry has yet to call witnesses.

November 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Queensland: Catholic schools recognised by Vatican for solar energy success

church green 1Vatican praise for Townsville Catholic diocese solar scheme By Ben Millington Catholic schools in north Queensland have caught the eye of the Vatican with a solar project that is cutting carbon emissions and saving millions of dollars.

The Diocese of Townsville, which stretches from the coast to Mt Isa in the state’s north-west, has installed solar panels on roofs of all its eligible schools. The diocese has invested $6 million in one megawatt of solar panels, but diocese director of education Dr Cathy Day said this could deliver a much higher return. “The best figures that I like to think is a saving of $40 million over 25 years,” she said.

“Now when you turn that into teachers that we can pay for, or resources for students, that’s quite a substantial amount of money and I think it’s a great investment.”

In combination with the use of low-energy LED lighting, she said, the diocese had cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent, which is equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road. Dr Day said her main motivation had been to set a positive example for students and the broader community. “We’ve all got to start investing in technology and energy efficiency,” she said. “This is the way of the future. Our students are going to be in these industries. Nobody’s going to be working in a coal-fired power station in years to come.”

Emissions will eventually be cut by 80 per cent With further investment, Dr Day said they expect to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions through installing more solar and energy-efficient air conditioning, as well as using batteries to store the power generated.

She returned last week from a visit to Rome, where she presented the project to Vatican officials in meetings led by former deputy prime minister and onetime ambassador to the holy see, Tim Fischer, who has become a spokesman for the project. Mr Fischer said the scheme was well received in Rome and he would like to see it rolled out in schools across the world. “What has happened in Townsville is mildly revolutionary and is extremely positive in terms of energy savings because it works and it can be monitored in real time,” he said.

“That’s what caused positive ripples in Rome. They saw in this sustainable, cut-through, realistic energy savings created without massive capital expenditure.”

The project is already being replicated in other Catholic schools in Cairns and the Northern Territory.

July 16, 2016 Posted by | Queensland, religion and ethics, solar | Leave a comment

Sisters of St Joseph oppose nuclear waste import, defend sacred lands of Aboriginal people

text don't nuclear waste AustraliaJOSEPHITES QUESTION NUCLEAR WASTE PROPOSAL, Josephite Justice Office, Sydney , 29 March 16 Josephites around Australia have joined in questioning the proposal to import high-level nuclear waste into Australia. This is a move that challenges all of us who are committed to an increasingly fragile planet to look closely at the whole question of radioactive waste.

As Josephites celebrate 150 years since their foundation in Australia, they have reiterated Pope Francis’ call to ‘care for our common home and for those who are made poor at this time.’
‘We are deeply concerned that economic considerations are increasingly the motivation for our most significant decisions,’ said Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph. ‘Surely care of earth and reverence for our land should be our underlying principles. As Pope Francis and Paris COP21 have argued, the abuse of natural resources and the priority given to economic advantage are resulting in devastating results for earth and for present and future generations.’
Josephites fear that the proposed sites for the storage of this high-level waste are likely to be on Aboriginal lands. These are some of the most vulnerable and sacred lands in Australia, and the proposal is clearly in direct conflict with the interests of many Indigenous communities. South Australians have strong memories of the Maralinga lands of the Pitjatjantjara, Yankunyjatjara peoples being used for the British nuclear tests of the 1950s and 1960s. Even after four ‘cleanups’, we know that dangerous materials, including plutonium, lie in shallow burial pits.
The announcement by the South Australian Royal Commission that Australia should welcome high-level radioactive waste from other countries is profoundly troubling. Not one country in the world – not even the USA – has been able to successfully contain its own high level radioactive waste.

Continue reading

March 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | 2 Comments

Australian Ethical Superannuation finds the nuclear industry to be an unacceptable risk

Logo Australian Ethical

Australian Ethical Super  Dr Stuart Palmer, Head of Ethics Research at Australian Ethical. 6 Jan 16 
We agree that the nuclear energy is a complex issue given the need to transition globally to low-emissions power. However, Australian Ethical has a strong negative screen on nuclear power for a range of reasons including:
· frequent association with nuclear weapons manufacture;
· radioactive pollution from uranium mines;
· the intractability of radioactive waste;
· the potential for catastrophic failure of nuclear power stations;
· security risks associated with the operation of nuclear power stations, and with the transport and storage of nuclear waste.
In our view these concerns outweigh the potential climate change benefits of nuclear power. Even with new generation nuclear plants we still consider the level of risk to be unacceptable, particularly given rapid advancements in renewable energy and storage technology.
I hope this information is helpful in explaining our approach.

January 6, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Quakers remove funds from 4 major banks – cannot fund uranium, nuclear weapons, coal

ethics-nuclearQuakers to pull funds from Australia’s four major banks, citing ethical concerns Religious group says it can no longer support investment and lending practises lacking ‘clear ethical policies’. The Quakers are pulling their funds from Australia’s big four banks, saying they can no longer support investment and lending practises lacking “clear ethical policies”.

The religious group says it will remove all corporate funds from the four major banks – and also Macquarie and St George – and they are calling on others to do the same.

Presiding clerk Julian Robertson said the group had for years avoided direct investment in alcohol, tobacco, military weapons, uranium and other mining industries.

“We also have a problem with the investment policies of the larger banks in Australia, where our money is being used for financing some of these companies.

“We are particularly worried about carbon-intensive industries and some others which do not have the ethical standards that we would like,” he said.

January 19, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Pope Francis takes on the world’s polluting industries, and promotes renewable energy

Parkinson-Report-How Pope Francis could tip the balance against fossil fuels By  on 23 December 2014 Six years ago, Pope Benedict XVI installed more than 1,000 solar panels on the Vatican’s audience hall, helping him earn him the sobriquet of the “Green Pope.

vatican-solarSome time in the next few months, his successor Pope Francis may just go one step further. His actions could tip the balance against fossil fuels, as the world’s wealthiest institution takes on the world’s most powerful industry.

The signs have been building. In November, the Pope sent a letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urging him to address climate change and sustainability at the G20  summit – something Abbott had pointedly refused to do.

At Lima, the Pope sent another letter urging diplomats to agree on a strong deal to tackle climate change as UN negotiations drew to a close. In a message to Peru’s environment minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who led the discussions in Lima, Francis warned that “the time to find global solutions is running out.”

A group of Catholic Bishops went one step further, calling for an end to fossil fuel use, citing climate change’s threat to the global poor as the lodestar of their concern. The document, signed by bishops from all continents, insisted on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels — a considerably more ambitious goal than the 2°C ceiling that’s generally agreed on as the threshold beyond which climate change becomes truly dangerous.

They also called for the building of “new models of development and lifestyles that are both climate compatible” and can “bring people out of poverty.” Specifically, they said: “Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100 per cent renewables with sustainable energy access for all.”

There is growing speculation within church circles that this view is held at the highest level. Pope Francis wants the image of the Catholic Church to evolve beyond that of a huge multi-national corporation, to its origins as a social and humanitarian based organisation.

As he showed in his extraordinary speech this week to the priests, Pope Francis is very much his own man, not of the establishment.

Francis told the bishops and cardinals who run the Curia – the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church – that their careerism, scheming and greed had infected them with “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.

It was Benedict, though, who put the wheels in motion. The solar panels on the audience hall were enough to power the lighting, heating and cooling of a portion of the entire Vatican state. According to this National Geographic article, he authorised the Vatican’s bank to purchase carbon credits by funding a Hungarian forest, thus making the Catholic city the only fully carbon neutral nation-state.

Several years later, he unveiled a new hybrid Popemobile that would be partially electric. Francis went a step further, commissioning Osram to install 7,000 LED lights in the Sistine Chapel, cutting energy consumption by 90 per cent. It is now being extended to other Vatican museums.

But how much further could Pope Francis go? There is speculation that in his Encyclical, due in April, or even in a New Year’s speech, he could call for dramatic reform by the Catholic church. It would be similar, but bolder and more practical, than the Ecological Conversion address of Pope John Paul II in 2001.

This could include divestment. No one knows how much the Catholic Church has in its funds. It is likely to be hundreds of billions. The Uniting Church in Australia has voted to divest from fossil fuels. In July, the World Council of Churches, an umbrella group representing over half a billion Christians, announced its plans to fully divest from fossil fuels.

The SMH reports that in the same month, the Anglican Church of Australia passed a motion encouraging its diocese to divest. It noted then than a global campaign for the Vatican to divest had just been launched. Ironically, the Vatican’s finances are now controlled by Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney who is a noted climate science denier.

There is speculation that the Pope could emulate the bishops’ call for 100 per cent renewables. What he could do is repeat and enhance the efforts to install solar and lighting at the Vatican across the church’s global assets. In effect, he could follow in the footsteps of other corporate giants – such as Google, Apple and Ikea – and set a goal of 100 per cent renewables for his own church, or corporate entity.

The Catholic Church is not just the largest private employer in Australia (and other countries), with some 180,000 employees, it is also one of the biggest energy consumers – with a combined annual bill that runs into the billions of dollars from schools, aged care centres, churches, parish centres and hospitals.

A series of initiatives that encouraged energy efficiency, the installation of solar systems – schools would be perfect for this because usage matches solar output – and also battery storage would have a profound impact on the incumbent energy system, hastening the inevitable transition to decentralised energy grid.

Not only will this encourage and facilitate a much higher overall adoption of renewables, it will also likely result in cheaper energy for all consumers. Major network providers in Australia see this as inevitable, and are already installing – without subsidies – battery storage instead of upgrading grids,and talking of renewables-based micro-grids instead of relying on the old centralised model.

In the US, the combined energy consumption of Catholic organisations – schools, hospitals, aged care, churches, seminaries and the like, would run into the tens of billions. In Europe, the same again.

But if the Pope’s criticism of the Curia was greeted by stunned silence in the Vatican, it is unlikely that any move towards divestment or a massive uptake of renewables would be greeted in the same way.

The fossil fuel industry is certainly worried. Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh, who has repeatedly told everyone that the future is coal, took part in a “day of reflection” at the Vatican in September last year. It was ostensibly billed as a chance for mining companies to get “Christian ethical input” to their conversations about the future of their industry. Others saw it as a lobbying exercise.

More recently, the AFR reports, Walsh and other CEOs of major fossil fuel companies took part in an “Ecumenical Day of Reflection on Mining” at Lambeth Palace, the seat of the Church of England, another massive institution – both in terms of funds, and energy consumption.

December 26, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Uranium companies rejoice, as universities and groups get out of fossil fuel investments?

pray-radDivestors painting themselves into the uranium corner, JAMES KIRBY THE AUSTRALIAN OCTOBER 11, 2014
SUDDENLY the urge to “divest” is reaching fever pitch. Inside a couple of weeks there has been more noise than we have had in years as universities, religious groups and super funds announce they are “getting out of polluters”.

Indeed, the ANU’s plan to ­divest itself of seven resource companies, including oil and gas major Santos, has been branded a “disgrace” by federal Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs.

Like most trends, this started in the US where a number of leading funds have been loudly exiting resource stocks. The rush reached something of a climax in recent weeks when the heirs of Standard Oil founder John D Rockefeller said they were getting out of oil.

Now Australia will mark a ­national “Divestment Day of Action” targeted largely at banks that invest in resources on October 18, an initiative backed by………

Uranium prices have staggered up off the floor in recent months at the same time as the divestment movement has gained attention worldwide……..

October 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Anglican Church transfers investments from fossil fuels to renewables, calls for carbon pricing, and assessment of fracking

piggy-ban-renewablesAnglican Church divests from fossil fuels, calls for fracking scrutiny in WA  By Jacob Kagi and Katrina Alarkon 6 Oct 2014, The Anglican Diocese of Perth has decided to divest itself of fossil fuel investments over what it says is a responsibility to act on climate change.

The diocese made the decision at its annual synod over the weekend and now plans to put funds into renewable energy investments. It also passed a motion calling on the Federal Government to put in place an “effective carbon pricing mechanism”.

Father Evan Pederick said he hoped the measures would help to increase pressure for action to stop climate change.”Divestment was used very successfully in relation to apartheid,” he said. “It’s people power basically, it means we’re actually withdrawing energy from the offending industries and there’s no more effective message than the price message.

“In the absence especially of effective government action in this country, I think it is actually up to private institutions, or private individuals and institutions, to show the way,” he said.

Another motion appealed for the State Government to evaluate the effects of fracking in Western Australia. Father Pederick said he feared health concerns and social impacts in relation to fracking were not being adequately explored.”At the moment shale gas fracking proposals aren’t subject to the usual environmental protection agency controls,” he said.

Its investment board, the Perth Diocesan Trustees, will release a report within the next 12 months detailing how it will redirect investments into renewable energy. In August, the Uniting Church in Australia also moved to divest itself of investments in companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels.

October 8, 2014 Posted by | religion and ethics, Western Australia | Leave a comment