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One Climate Crisis Disaster Happening Every Week, UN Warns

20 July, 2019 - 05:00
The Guardian

Developing countries must prepare now for profound impact, disaster representative says
Aftermath of the damage left by Cyclone Kenneth in a village north of Pemba, Mozambique in May. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.
Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”
This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”
Estimates put the cost of climate-related disasters at $520bn a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure that is resistant to the effects of global heating is only about 3%, or $2.7tn in total over the next 20 years.
Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough. Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for.” That would mean normalising the standards for new infrastructure, such as housing, road and rail networks, factories, power and water supply networks, so that they were less vulnerable to the effects of floods, droughts, storms and extreme weather.
Until now, most of the focus of work on the climate crisis has been on “mitigation” – jargon for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and not to be confused with mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. The question of adapting to its effects has taken a distant second place, in part because activists and scientists were concerned for years that people would gain a false complacency that we need not cut emissions as we could adapt to the effects instead, and also because while cutting emissions could be clearly measured, the question of adapting or increasing resilience was harder to pin down.
Mizutori said the time for such arguments had ran out. “We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot confront this [issue of adapting to the effects] we will not survive,” she told the Guardian. “We need to look at the risks of not investing in resilience.”
Many of the lower-impact disasters would be preventable if people had early warnings of severe weather, better infrastructure such as flood defences or access to water in case of drought, and governments had more awareness of which areas were most vulnerable.
Nor is this a problem confined to the developing world, she said, as the recent forest fires in the US and Europe’s latest heatwave had shown. Rich countries also face a challenge to adapt their infrastructure and ways of protecting people from disaster.
“Nature-based solutions”, such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands which could form natural barriers to flooding should be a priority, said Mizutori. A further key problem is how to protect people in informal settlements, or slums, which are more vulnerable than planned cities. The most vulnerable people are the poor, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and displaced, and many of these people live in informal settlements without access to basic amenities.
Regulations on building standards must also be updated for the climate crisis and properly enforced, she said. One of the governance issues cited by Mizutori was that while responsibility for the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions was usually held in one ministry, such as the economics, environment or energy department, responsibility for infrastructure and people’s protection was held elsewhere in government.
“We need to take a more holistic view of the risks,” she said.

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'Just A Matter Of When': The $20bn Plan To Power Singapore With Australian Solar

20 July, 2019 - 05:00
The Guardian

Ambitious export plan could generate billions and make Australia the centre of low-cost energy in a future zero-carbon world
There are ambitious solar and wind projects planned for both the Northern Territory and the Pilbara in Western Australia. Photograph: Alice Solar City/AAPThe desert outside Tennant Creek, deep in the Northern Territory, is not the most obvious place to build and transmit Singapore’s future electricity supply. Though few in the southern states are yet to take notice, a group of Australian developers are betting that will change.

If they are right, it could have far-reaching consequences for Australia’s energy industry and what the country sells to the world.
Known as Sun Cable, it is promised to be the world’s largest solar farm. If developed as planned, a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of panels will be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock.
Overhead transmission lines will send electricity to Darwin and plug into the NT grid. But the bulk would be exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore. The developers say it will be able to provide one-fifth of the island city-state’s electricity needs, replacing its increasingly expensive gas-fired power.
This will be the channel through which Australian energy production will greatly reduce [global] emissions
Ross Garnaut
After 18 months in development, the $20bn Sun Cable development had a quiet coming out party in the Top End three weeks ago at a series of events held to highlight the NT’s solar potential. The idea has been embraced by the NT government and attracted the attention of the software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm.
The NT plan follows a similarly ambitious proposal for the Pilbara, where another group of developers are working on an even bigger wind and solar hybrid plant to power local industry and develop a green hydrogen manufacturing hub. On Friday, project developer Andrew Dickson announced the scale of the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub had grown by more than a third, from 11GW to 15GW. “To our knowledge, it’s the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world,” he says.
The skyline of Singapore. The Sun Cable plan could replace one-fifth of the city-state’s electricity needs, currently filled by expensive gas-fired generation. Photograph: Edgar Su/ReutersThese developments are still at relatively early stages of planning. Both teams say it will be four years before they lock in finance, with production scheduled to start mid-to-late next decade. But renewable energy watchers are cautiously optimistic they could help spark a new way of thinking about Australia’s energy exports – one that better aligns with the country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement, rather than broadening a fossil fuel trade at odds with it.
Opponents to Australia taking significant action on the climate crisis often point out the country is responsible for about 1.4% of greenhouse gas emissions, placing it about 15th on a table of carbon-polluting nations. A recent report by science and policy institute Climate Analytics makes the case that this underplays Australia’s contribution, which increases by 5% if fossil fuel exports are included.
The latter figure is expected to increase over the next decade. Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and rivals Qatar as the leader in selling liquified natural gas (LNG). There is bipartisan support for a significant expansion of both industries, though government economists anticipate export earnings from coal will fall.
Ross Garnaut, former advisor to Labor governments who is now professor of economics at the University of Melbourne and chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, makes the case that there is another way ahead. In a recent lecture series that is being turned into a book, he lays out his analysis of how Australia, with the best renewable energy resource in the developed world, could expand its energy production while significantly reducing global emissions.
Garnaut points to the transformative reduction in the capital cost of renewable energy and energy storage over the past two decades. As most of the cost of clean energy developments is capital (the fuel is free), he says the transformation has radically changed the ability of clean projects to compete with fossil fuels. Given capital costs are lower in developed countries, Garnaut says it means Australia can, if properly managed, be the centre of low-cost energy in a future zero-carbon world.
It would make it the natural home for growth in minerals processing for a world that increasingly values production powered by solar, wind and other clean sources. Industries that would flourish under Garnaut’s vision include familiar energy-intensive operations such as aluminium, iron ore and steel, and new opportunities in silica, lithium, vanadium, nickel, cobalt and copper.
“This will be the channel through which production of energy in Australia will greatly reduce emissions in the rest of the world. It will also be a foundation for a new era of economic expansion and prosperity,” he says.
Garnaut believes exporting electricity through high-voltage cable and green hydrogen will be a part of this clean energy future, though they would mostly be expected to come later. Sun Cable’s chief executive, David Griffin, is bullish about the possibility of his company helping power Singapore from the outback in less than a decade.
He says the project will use prefabricated solar cells to capture “one of the best solar radiance reserves on the planet”. But he says the major transformation that makes the farm possible is the advent of high-voltage, direct-current submarine cable, which he describes as the “greatest unsung technology development”. Sun Cable’s underwater link to Singapore will run 3,800km.
“It is extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn’t been widely identified,” Griffin says.
“If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels – oil and LNG – to electrons. Ultimately, that’s a vastly more efficient way to transport energy. The incumbents just won’t be able to compete.”
Sun Cable’s backers believe Singapore, as a well-regulated electricity market that runs mostly on gas piped from Malaysia and Indonesia and shipped as LNG, is ripe for competition.
Across in the Pilbara, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub proposal has taken another tack. The developers – a consortium of InterContinental Energy, CWP Energy Asia, wind energy company Vestas and financiers at the Macquarie Group – began with a plan to send energy to Indonesia via sub-sea cable. That has been dropped in favour of green hydrogen – a shift driven, Andrew Dickson says, by falling costs and growing international and local interest that suggests a much bigger market.
An expanded hub proposal released this week says it will be spread across a vast area – 6,500 sq km, or about half the size of greater Sydney – and create 3,000 construction and 400 operational jobs. About two-thirds of the 15GW capacity will be met with giant wind turbines and one-third solar panels. The developers say up to a fifth of the total capacity is expected to go to large industrial energy users in the Pilbara, potentially including new and expanded mines and mineral processing. But most of the electricity generated will be used to run a hydrogen manufacturing hub.
The hydrogen would be sold domestically and exported, most likely to Japan and South Korea, which have expressed a desire to shift energy consumption in that direction. Dickson says producing green hydrogen at large volumes could open up possibilities such as using it to replace coking coal in steel production. It could allow an expanded version of the “green steel” model adopted in Whyalla by British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta.
Dickson points to recent appraisals by the Australian chief scientist, Alan Finkel, and the International Energy Agency as evidence of hydrogen’s potential. “People are realising, after several decades of promise, that now could be the time for it to be a thing,” he says.
Griffin and Dickson both decline to comment on the role the federal government could or should play in developing green exports, although they volunteer that some local MPs and state governments are supportive. Both note the fact their proposals are off-grid has helped insulate them from politically loaded debates that pit renewable energy against fossil fuels.
Roger Dargaville, a senior lecturer in renewable energy at Monash University and member of the Energy Transition Hub, underlines the amount of work that is going into examining what a future of clean exports will look like. A recent project he was involved in suggested a 40-gigawatt sub-sea electricity cable into Indonesia – much larger than that initially proposed by the Asian Renewable Energy Hub – would be viable by 2035 if that country adopts a low emissions target.
Dargaville believes future exports will almost certainly be a mix of hydrogen, cabled electricity and minerals refined before shipment. He says no one should underestimate the scale of what would be necessary to replace Australia’s existing fossil fuel industries (coal and LNG industries are worth more than $100bn a year and employ tens of thousands) and that the political and technological challenges will be significant. But he stresses no one should mistake where international markets are taking us.
The only question is whether it is in the timeframe climate scientists says is necessary. “It’s not really yes or no, it’s just when.”

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Lower House Inquiry To Set 'Responsible Road Map' Out Of Coal For NSW

19 July, 2019 - 06:18
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

Plotting NSW's transition away from coal will be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, including how the state can make the most of renewable energy supplies.
Submissions for the lower house's committee of environment and planning inquiry are open from Wednesday until September 15, with an aim to sidestep the "ideological debate" over the fossil fuels and climate change, said Alex Greenwich, independent MP and committee chair.
A coal-processing plant in the Hunter Valley: NSW lower house inquiry will examine the changing energy market in NSW including the rise of renewable energy. Credit: NineThe terms of reference of the inquiry into the sustainability and energy supply and resources in NSW, include the economic opportunities of renewables, emerging trends in supply and exports, and the role government policies can play to support communities affected by changing markets.
"It allows us to plot a responsible road map for renewables in NSW," Mr Greenwich told the Herald. The inquiry will seek to avoid "pitting coal communities against climate change activists".
The inquiry will also look into the impacts on regional communities from the current energy system. These will include the effects coal-fired power have on water supplies in a drought and the sector's wider impact on the environment and public health.
The government's latest budget forecasts are for little immediate change for coal. Mining royalties, 94 per cent supplied by coal, are predicted to total just over $2 billion this fiscal year and barely budge over the following three years.
Within the government, ministers are working to deal with the planned closure of AGL's 1680-megawatt Liddell coal-fired power plant, and the integration of a flood of large-scale solar and wind farms before the 2020 federal renewable energy target ends.
Danielle Coleman, coordinator for Hunter Renewal, said the inquiry was a chance for people in regional coal communities "to speak for ourselves about how we want to prepare for our future".
"We need a plan for a future that is less dependent on coal mining and that sets us up with new jobs and industries for the long-term," she said.
Sophie Nichols, a Singleton student, said there was "considerable worry" in her town aout the future of coal exports.
"It’s clear they cannot be relied on and we need to prepare for change, and this inquiry is a chance to put the Hunter region on the road to renewal," she said.

'Catastrophic' climate change
Prior to the March election, Mr Greenwich – along with fellow independent MPs Greg Piper and Joe McGirr – called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to develop a 10-year plan for coal-mining communities if the government was "serious about saving the world from catastrophic climate change".
Mr Greenwich said post her election win, the premier "indicated she was open" to the inquiry after the three MPs offered to provide support for the government in Parliament if required.
He said he hopes the probe will draw submissions from all sectors of the communities, including "champions within the government" for taking action to prepare for a lower carbon-intensive economy.
Coal mines in the upper Hunter Valley near Bulga. The committee inquiry will also examine the effects on water security and public health from existing and future energy supplies.The five-person committee counts three Liberal MPs, including Felicity Wilson, a supporter of climate action, and Nathaniel Smith, the member for Wollondilly, a coal-mining region. Backing for the inquiry was unanimous with Anoulack Chanthivong, a Labor MP, the fifth member, also voting in support.
Matt Kean, the Minister for Energy and Environment, said his government was "focused on the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy for NSW customers".
Adam Searle, Labor's energy spokesman, questioned the need for another inquiry after an upper house probe last year "thoroughly" dealt with the key energy issues in the state.
"We all know renewable energy is the cheapest new-build supply," he said. "The time has passed for another inquiry - the time for action is now."
Upper house independent MP Justin Field had sought support for a joint select committee for the future diversity of the Hunter Valley economy with the aim of taking a wider approach than just energy supply and generation.
The Greenwich-led inquiry will aim to report its findings by next March or April.

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Drought Now Officially Our Worst On Record

19 July, 2019 - 05:00
Farm OnlineGregor Heard


THE ongoing drought through the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is now the worst on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Speaking during a BOM seminar on climate, BOM climatologist David Jones said the drought had now exceeded the Federation Drought, the WWII drought and the Millennium drought in terms of its severity through the MDB.
"Our records only go back 120 years but in terms of the rainfall records it is the most severe," Dr Jones said.
Hydrologist and water sector engagement lead with BOM Matthew Coulton said this had also translated into markedly lower run-off into the system.
Dr Jones added temperatures were as high as they have been during the human era, saying the nearest equivalent according to paleo-climatic data (analysing historical weather trends) was a hot period encountered 2-3 million years ago.
"We are still below that threshold of a couple of million years ago but we are starting to approach it," Dr Jones said.
And the BOM panel had tough news for those hoping for a swift resolution to the big dry.
"Our climate forecasts for the next three months show well below average chances of exceeding median rainfall through most of the MDB, especially in the north," Dr Jones said.
Data shown during the seminar also demonstrated there is good accuracy in the BOM's forecasting skills over the spring period in the northern MDB.
It is going to be a long and arduous road back, with BOM data showing most of the northern basin, centring on river valleys such as the Barwon, Gwydir and Namoi, would need the wettest three months on record to drag itself back out of official drought conditions.
Poor summer rain in particular has been the killer for northern areas of the MDB.
"There just hasn't been the summer rain to get recharge," Mr Coulton said.
And he said the problem was worse in the subsoil, with aquifers taking longer to recharge than above-ground reservoirs.
Farmers in the Murray Darling Basin are suffering through the worst drought on record with no immediate end to the big dry in sight."When you see heavy rain, such as we saw in 2016 in parts of Australia you can get a relatively quick rise in storage levels, but to get recharge in the aquifers it is a much slower process and relies on a long period of rain rather than a short, intense rain system."
While the focus has been on the high profile woes of the MDB, the BOM data showed much of Australia was in drought.
"There was the good rain over summer in western Queensland, but for many other parts of Australia since the start of 2017 it has been very dry over a run of seasons," Dr Jones said.
He said the farming sector was well attuned to managing climatic variability but that the sustained run of dry seasons was making it difficult.
Gippsland, often referred to as the forgotten drought region of Australia and south-west Western Australia were other areas the BOM data highlighted as experiencing well below average rain over the 30 month period since the start of 2017.
The WA case is slightly surprising as grain yields out of the west have been excellent, especially last year, with further good prospects this season.

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Australian Federation Drought, Painting Grim Future For Australia’s Biodiversity Under Climate Change

19 July, 2019 - 05:00
National Geographic

Scientists utilised Over 37,000 newspaper articles to reconstruct the impacts of the Australian Federation Drought.
Carcasses of cattle at a drying waterhole on Bowra Station, north of Cunnamulla, Queensland, ca. 1900-1902. IMAGE CREDIT: National Library of AustraliaBY RECONSTRUCTING the events of the Australian Federation Drought Period (1891-1903), a new study by the CSIRO has revealed the impact the continent-wide ‘megadrought’ had on biodiversity.
This is the first time scientists have been able to comprehensively reconstruct the impacts of an historical drought on flora and fauna using newspaper articles.
The researchers warn that given increases in the frequency and severity of ‘megadroughts’, which are predicted for the future, Australia’s biodiversity is gravely under threat.
The paper, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used digitised newspaper articles sourced from Trove, an archival platform by the National Library of Australia, to reconstruct the ecological impacts of the Federation Drought across all states and territories.
More than 37,000 newspaper articles were read, of which 1500 referred to the drought and more than 400 provided information about local impacts on native animals or plants.
Mortality of rabbits due to lack of water and feed at Cockburn Railway, SA, 1892. (Image credit: National Library of Australia)“The Federation Drought had the biggest documented impact on plants and animals across a continent yet studied,” says lead author of the paper Robert Godfree.
“In Australia, more than 60 bird, fish, mammal, reptile and plant genera were severely affected across 2.8 million square kilometres, or more than a third of Australia.
“Herbivores, grain-eating birds, fish and plants were most vulnerable, while predators that could feed on dead animals, and other groups like waterbirds who could travel long distances, were less impacted.”
According to the paper, the presence of agriculture in the country exacerbated the impacts of the drought, noting it increased the potential for “overgrazing-induced meltdown and permanent ecosystem change.”
Through understanding the potential pattern and magnitude of ecological change brought about by megadroughts, the scientists hope they can predict locations at immediate risk of biodiversity loss under climate change.

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Climate Change Threatens Human Rights And Democracy, UN Official Warns

19 July, 2019 - 05:00
Canberra Times - Sherryn Groch

International law scholar and UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human right Philip Alston. Philip AlstonPhilip Alston is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University. He is currently UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. In 2014 he was a member of the Security Council-established commission of inquiry on the Central African Republic. He previously served as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (2004–10), as well as Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991–98). During the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he was UNICEF’s Legal Adviser. It reads like the pages of a dystopian novel - a world stuck in a "climate apartheid" where only the rich can escape the worst of global warming while hundreds of millions battle disease, food insecurity, forced migration and monster storms.
And, on our current course, scientific modelling says even that number is a best-case scenario.
Speaking at the Australian National University on Thursday, the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston will deliver a sharp warning to Australia on global warming.
In a world already one degree warmer than it was before the industrial revolution, the effects of climate change are starting to bite but nations remain unprepared for their full force, Profesor Alston said ahead of his lecture.
That puts human rights and even democracy at greater risk, as civil unrest, migration and soaring health care costs threaten to tank economies - and governments - in the years ahead.
"If you do nothing and it gets to the point it is, of emergency, it's like any emergency it becomes very hard to act logically," he said.
"Syria and other places are going to look fairly small-scale in comparison with what climate change is going to do over next 30 years or so.
"And it's the middle classes as well as those who are very poor who will feel it."
While Australia so far did not appear to have the same appetite for populism he saw on display in his native US, Professor Alston said it was just as opposed to the economic reform needed to avert disaster.
"Australia is a lesson to the broader community," he said.
"What we are seeing is an extremely short-sighted preoccupation with neo-liberal economic policies that oppose any kind of intervention or regulation [of industry]."
Australia was a major player in global climate action as a rich nation, he said, but appeared to be falling into step with the anti-climate science agenda of US president Donald Trump.
"Trump uses political rhetoric as only he can do, but the [Australian] government is doing pretty much the same thing without using the offensive words," Professor Alston said.


AUDIO:'The globe's at risk of climate apartheid', UN rapporteur warns. ABC
While the Morrison government has moved to downplay Australia's rising emissions, advice from its own advisory Climate Change Authority released earlier this month urged Australia to adopt more ambitious policies to put the nation "firmly" on the path to a zero-carbon economy.
Professor Alston said the authority appeared to be "weak as water" compared to the model in the UK, where a special committee on climate change produced recommendations that had to be considered by parliament.
Ticking boxes will not save humanity.
Professor Philip Alston
He noted jobs had to be considered carefully in the switch over to renewable energy from fossil fuels, which produce the emissions behind rising temperatures.
But he stressed governments could not keep pouring trillions of dollars into subsidies for the same companies polluting the planet.
"No one wants to inflict pain on a particular industry, [but] the fiddling around, the 'let's set another target'...incremental change has been a proven disaster," he said.
More damage has been done in the three decades since the UN established its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) in 1988 than in the whole of human history before it.
Professor Alston said the only hope of containing runaway climate change to 1.5 degrees of warming - and so averting more than 190 million deaths - now lay in a radical overhaul of the system.
"In some ways democracy has failed on climate change," he said. "You get politicians only thinking about the next election year.
"If you watch Fox News or read The Australian you will see that the push-back is this idea that it's all a Trojan horse for socialist upheaval [from] people pretending to be concerned about climate change."
The science - and increasingly the economics - told the real story, he said.
The World Bank now predicts climate change could push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030.
While the poorest half of the world's population - 3.5 billion people - is responsible for just 10 per cent of carbon emissions, they are also the most at risk.
Professor Alston said pursuing ambitious reform now offered an unprecedented opportunity to make systems inherently fairer.
"Economic prosperity, decent work, and environmental sustainability are fully compatible," Professor Alston said.
More than 20 countries had already uncoupled their economies from fossil fuels without slowing them down, he found in a recent report. Not only did they create new green jobs, they reduced poverty at a faster rate than elsewhere.
Professor Alston's criticism is not just reserved for governments.
Human rights organisations across the globe - including his own UN - have barely begun to grapple with climate change, he said, and remained too wedded to traditional means of litigation or advocacy.
"They've long resisted prioritising one issue over others....or more radical methods," he said.
"Voluntary emissions reduction commitments will only go so far."
Fortunately, he said, the movement was gaining momentum in another place it was desperately needed - on the ground.
From millions of students striking for climate action to environmentalists and farmers winning court actions against fossil fuel companies, people were beginning to recognise that saving the planet was really about their rights.
Earlier this month, celebrated broadcaster Sir David Attenborough also lashed Australia for its climate inaction, noting the country was especially at risk from the adverse effects of global warming such as increased heatwaves and bushfires.

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Australia’s Strategic Thinkers Can’t Continue To Ignore Climate Change

18 July, 2019 - 05:00
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute 


Mark Beeson
Mark Beeson is professor of international politics at the University of Western Australia. His latest book is Environmental populism: the politics of survival in the Anthropocene (Palgrave 2019). Hugh White’s latest book, How to defend Australia, has attracted much attention. As the book’s back cover rightly claims, White is ‘Australia’s most provocative, revelatory and realistic commentator on defence’. But, as he himself might say, this is both good news and bad news.
The good news is that we have someone who is willing to think the unthinkable—the possibility that the US might leave the region and that we ought to think about getting nuclear weapons if it does—in a way many policymakers and strategic types find intensely discomfiting. The bad news is that White’s book is not nearly as ‘realistic’ or ‘revelatory’ as we might have hoped.
He’s not alone. On the contrary, the intellectual universe inhabited by ‘serious’ strategic thinkers is one that continues to revolve around a very traditional notion of possible security threats and the best ways to respond to them. One thing there does seem to be agreement on among Australia’s strategic elites, however, is that we ought to be spending much more on defence, despite real concerns about the appropriateness, viability and effectiveness of recent acquisitions.
But for an epistemic community that prides itself on its hard-headedness, it’s remarkable that climate change remains a niche concern and one that only really matters if it affects traditional geopolitics. While the recent speech by the chief of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Campbell, on the implications of climate change in the Pacific is a welcome acknowledgement of reality, his remarks were primarily concerned with the possible opening it provides China.
Campbell apparently assured his listeners that the defence organisation ‘has been preparing for the impact of climate change “for years”’. Whether his audience of senior public servants were reassured by that observation isn’t clear. Given that the ADF’s response to most issues usually involves buying more weapons and preparing for the worst, perhaps they were. That has been, after all, the default response of Australian strategic thinkers for most of our history as an independent nation. As White’s book reminds us, it still is.
No doubt many readers will think this is the self-indulgent nit-picking of an over-privileged limp-wristed liberal and/or inner-city greenie with no conception of strategic reality. Perhaps so. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I, or—much more importantly—the vast majority of the world’s scientific community, aren’t right to be deeply concerned about our collective, entirely unsustainable, impact on the biosphere.
There’s one big difference between the possible threat posed by climate change and that posed by, say, China, India or Indonesia. As even the most bellicose and alarmist of the Canberra commentariat would (presumably) concede, it’s very difficult to conceive of any circumstances in which any of the usual suspects are actually likely to pose a direct existential threat to Australia.
Climate change, by contrast, is already happening, getting worse more quickly than even pessimists thought, and likely to affect the world’s driest continent particularly badly. Our very own water wars are a taste of what’s to come.
In the meantime, we spend increasingly large sums of money on weapons systems that no one expects to use, even in the unlikely event that they actually work as advertised. White implicitly acknowledges the inherent implausibility of traditional security thinking when he points out that even if Australia’s trade routes were threatened (a slightly more plausible scenario), ‘we would have no practical options to protect our seaborne trade from attack’. Quite so.
It’s also important to recognise that when—not if—the impact of climate change gets much worse, it is sure to exacerbate all of the ‘usual’ challenges that keep strategic types up at night, plus a few new ones that don’t bear thinking about. Environmental refugees are a problem that looks especially ill-suited to a military response. Or perhaps not, if our principal ally’s policy on border protection is anything to go by.
Indeed, Campbell isn’t the only one who has been turning his mind to the strategic consequences of climate change. His counterparts in America’s military establishment have also been war-gaming the implications of unmitigated climate change. They’ll need to do a lot more of it given that their commander-in-chief doesn’t think it’s happening and is seemingly intent on doing everything he can to make it worse.
Tragically, the most immediate, direct existential threat that Australia (and every other country, for that matter) needs to defend against is one that threatens the very foundations of human life itself, not to mention democracy and a civilisation worthy of the name. Hyperbole? Sadly, almost certainly not. Schoolchildren seem to get that, even if some of the smartest people in this country still appear to be incapable of doing so. When we have a real and immediate danger to confront, do we really want to waste our very limited time responding to the improbable variety?

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The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change

18 July, 2019 - 05:00
The Conversation

Zero-emissions energy is part of the solution to climate change. U.S. Department of Energy/flickrIn a May episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Bill Nye the Science Guy took a blowtorch to a miniature globe. It was an effort to startle Americans out of their complacency over climate change.
Whether on late-night TV or the nightly news, alarm is a recurring feature of climate change stories. Climate news is full of references to worsening wildfires, melting glaciers and rising seas.
However, this emphasis on doom and gloom can leave citizens feeling helpless and hopeless that they can make a difference.

‘Green New Deal,’ Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO). The segment with Bill Nye begins at 18:20.

“Threatening messages can capture the public’s attention and create a sense of urgency, leading to a heightened level of concern,” according to Climate Access, a non-profit research group. “But worry by itself is not an effective motivator for action, as it more often leads to resignation and hopelessness.”

Rethinking climate coverage
One approach that can better engage news audiences is a style of reporting known as solutions journalism.
Solutions journalism is reporting on ways that people and governments meaningfully respond to difficult problems. It is an alternative to just reporting on the problem itself.
Solutions stories are not fluffy, good news stories. Instead, they are hard news stories meant to highlight what has worked based on tangible proof.
The approach has been shown to increase interest in a subject, and to elevate the public’s sense of self-efficacy.

More facts ≠ more concernNo subject is arguably more timely for a solutions-oriented approach right now than climate change. The evidence could not be more clear. The planet has heated up steadily since the Industrial Revolution. Most of that warming has happened over the past four decades.
The Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Yellows, oranges and reds show regions that are warmer than the baseline. NASA’s Scientific Visualization StudioDespite all the evidence, mustering the political will to take climate change more seriously is a persistent problem. Why is that?
There are many reasons why politicians and the public have difficulty engaging with climate change. For example, climate change can feel distant, and there is often little immediate gratification for dealing with it.
Unfortunately, academics, governments and journalists have long assumed that citizens would take action if only they had more facts about climate change.
However, there is growing evidence that more facts do not translate into more concern. In a widely cited study, Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School, and his colleagues found that people who had more knowledge about the science of climate change were not necessarily more concerned about it. Instead, lack of concern had much more to do with people’s personal beliefs and values.

Effective climate communication
Effective climate change communication challenges the idea that more facts produce more concern. Instead, effective climate change communication considers that tapping into people’s values is a far more effective strategy for engagement.
Good climate communicators ask the question: what is it about people’s experiences and circumstances that make them unlikely to engage with the climate crisis right now?
Effective climate communication also begins with the premise that climate audiences are not simply a monolithic whole, equally interested or disinterested in the climate crisis. Good climate communication calibrates messages of hope or alarm depending on who the messages are being communicated to.

Engaging by example
Solutions-oriented journalism on climate change provides examples of how ordinary people are making a difference. It illustrates how those changes are having a tangible, beneficial improvement on their lives.
For instance, climate stories can reflect locally sourced food and its health impacts, or the cost savings on gas from buying an electric vehicle.
This style is markedly different from the conventional doom-and-gloom approach to climate reporting, which builds on the standard of individual action. Instead, a solutions-oriented approach to climate news underscores the importance of collective action and political mobilization.
Students protest the Belgian government’s climate policies in Brussels in February 2019. ShutterstockClimate as crisis
There is also an important role in environmental communication for what Steve Schwarze, a University of Montana communication studies professor, refers to as “environmental melodrama.”
Highly dramatic accounts of personal or political struggle are typically associated with the oversimplification of complex problems. But melodrama can also produce “productive forms of polarization,” according to Schwarze. For example, melodrama can galvanize a group of citizens around a common cause, or it can be deployed to point out who the villains in the story are.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to climate change communication is not sufficient for engaging news audiences.
Instead, effectively engaging the public on climate change requires a careful calibration of messages framed around solutions, the urgency of the climate crisis and individuals’ reasons for engaging or not engaging with the subject in the first place.

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Young Climate Activists ‘Most At Risk’ Of Being Spied On By AFP

18 July, 2019 - 05:00
New DailyCait Kelly

Children and young adults who go to protests are the most likely Australians to have their phones tracked and monitored by police, a prominent security analyst has warned in a submission to an inquiry cybersecurity laws.
Dr Stanley Shanapinda of La Trobe University said that politically minded youth are “the most at risk” of having their digital footprint watched by the AFP.
“They’re the most at risk because of their social media habits, they’re a lot more vocal. As a community they’re the most likely to be targeted,” he told The New Daily. 
The Australian government can legally spy on activists fighting against environmental issues. Photo: GettyUnder the metadata laws passed in 2015 the Australian Federal Police force (AFP) has the power to view the metadata of citizens who are deemed as a risk to national security, up to two years old without a warrant.
Dr Shanapinda argues that both Liberal and National politicians have highlighted young climate change activists, Adani protestors and The Greens as threats.
“Senior members of the government have labelled the protest actions of the young people and the Greens … as threats to national security and the national economic interests, openly in national media,” he said.During the federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that The Greens are a greater political threat to national and economic security than Clive Palmer or Pauline Hanson.
Dr Shanapinda said that these concerns over Greens policies, and young protestors could open the door to party members and activists having their metadata watched.
“Opposing the Adani coal mine and protesting against it, on climate change on ideological bases, may therefore legally be categorised by the government as posing a threat to national security, if the government wanted to, because of its economic and job creation value,” Dr Shanapinda said.
Protestors having their phones used against them has become an increasing issue around the globe.
Young people during a Climate Change Awareness March in March. Photo: GettyPeople hitting the streets in Hong Kong recently accused the Chinese government of silencing their protests by hacking an encrypted messaging app used by thousands of demonstrators.
To protect democratic freedoms Dr Shanapinda said the Australian government should introduce a warrant process for location information.
“To ensure the democratic right to protest free from the fear of surveillance, aided by big data analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities,” he said.
While it may sound Orwellian – the Australian government spying on school kids – when the laws were passed no one thought they would be used on journalists, a fact that was proved wrong last week, Dr Shanapinda points out.
Anti-Adani protestors hit the streets of Brisbane in July. Photo: GettyThe laws came under fire after it was revealed the AFP had accessed metadata from journalists’ phones almost 60 times within a year.
In June, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that a plan to create new powers to spy on Australians is still on the table.
Speaking on Insiders, Mr Dutton said the government had no wish to spy on its own citizens but called for a “sensible discussion” about whether the Australian Signals Directorate should have the power to do so.
“I think they are reasonable discussions to have in the 21st century,” he said. “We saw an attack on the major political parties in the run-up to this election, a cyber-attack.”
Dr Shanapinda said under the current laws there are not enough protections for citizens.
Senator Richard Di Natale and Larissa Waters attend an anti-Adani protest. Photo: Getty“Now we realise protections for those laws don’t go far enough,” he said.
“If you want to use them on things not terror-related, that’s the big missing gap.
“When we speak about young people who want to stop climate change, there are no protections for them. Is it likely? Possibly.”
Metadata can be used to see where a person is within one-meter accuracy, what apps the person is using and who they’re calling.
While the government could seek a warrant to access the content of encrypted messages, several apps like Signal have said they would not comply with a request.
Signal developer Joshua Lund wrote in a blog piece last year: “By design, Signal does not have a record of your contacts, social graph, conversation list, location, user avatar, user profile name, group memberships, group titles, or group avatars.
“The end-to-end encrypted contents of every message and voice/video call are protected by keys that are entirely inaccessible to us. In most cases now we don’t even have access to who is messaging whom.”

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Adani Demands Names Of CSIRO Scientists Reviewing Groundwater Plans

17 July, 2019 - 05:00
ABC NewsJosh Robertson

Stage 1 construction is underway, but Thursday's approval means the miner can now start significant work. (Twitter: Matthew Canavan) Key points:
  • Emails show Adani gave the federal environment department five days to provide the names of people from the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia involved in the review
  • Adani says it wrote to the department to request "assurance that individuals involved in any review processes were independent"
  • CSIRO's Sam Popovski says "our scientists just want to get on and do their best job ... without their social media being tracked"
Adani demanded the names of all federal agency scientists reviewing its contentious groundwater plans so it could check if they were "anti-coal" activists, emails obtained under freedom of information show.
The revelation has alarmed CSIRO staff representatives, who said it indicated Adani had "a deliberate strategy" to pressure scientists by searching for personal information it could use to try to "discredit their work".
Emails obtained under freedom of information by environmental group Lock The Gate show Adani gave the federal environment department five days to provide "a list of each person from the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia involved in the review".
"Adani simply wants to know who is involved in the review to provide it with peace of mind that it is being treated fairly and that the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda," the company told the department on January 25.
A department spokeswoman said it "consulted with CSIRO and Geoscience Australia about Adani's request" but did not provide the names "as the advice on the plans was received from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, rather than individuals within those agencies".
Days before the demand, in a January 21 newspaper article Adani had questioned the independence of a scientist leading a Queensland review into the company's bird conservation plan because he tweeted from a climate rally nine months earlier.
The ABC revealed in February that Adani last year hired a law firm, AJ & Co, that had drafted a commercial proposal called "Taking the Gloves Off", in which it vowed to act as the company's "trained attack dog".
It proposed a "war" strategy including that Adani "not settle for government department's dragging out decisions — use the legal system to pressure decision makers".

Infographic: Law firm AJ & Co's draft strategy document for Adani. (Supplied)
 
In a section called "Play the Man", it said: "social media is a tool to use against ... decision makers. Look for evidence of bias..."
AJ & Co subsequently threatened legal action against activists, moved to bankrupt an Indigenous opponent and applied for ABC journalists' expenses, phone records and emails under FOI.
But the firm has said it rejected the "Taking The Gloves Off" strategy internally.
In February, Adani told the ABC it "won't apologise for pursuing our legal rights" but "will not comment in detail on the legal firms we use, their marketing material and any matters where they may represent us or advice we may receive".
But last week Adani said in a statement it had "never seen, received or endorsed the AJ & Co pages published by the ABC".
Adani said it had written to the federal environment department in January to request "assurance that individuals involved in any review processes were independent".
This followed "concerning reports at the time that the state environmental regulator had commissioned a review which constituted individuals who had expressed anti-coal, anti-mining sentiments", it said.

'Adani seemed to be suggesting bias'
Sam Popovski, a former livestock scientist and now secretary of the CSIRO staff association, said it was "the first time it's come to our attention that names of scientists involved in a scientific process have been requested".
A document titled "Adani Commercial Proposal — Taking the 'gloves' off" from legal firm AJ & Co."We're very concerned on behalf of our scientists at the CSIRO that a big company would go into looking at the personal lives of our members, including trawling their social media, in order to potentially discredit their work," he said.
"It was clear that Adani seemed to be suggesting bias, or potential bias, way before any of the scientific evidence was actually presented to the department.
"We are concerned that that type of behaviour might be encouraged or used in the future by other commercial entities or parties seeking to achieve a commercial outcome.
"Our scientists just want to get on and do their best job they can and provide the most rigorous, independent scientific advice, without their social media being tracked, and without their personal lives and potentially their families' personal lives being assessed and interfered with."Emails show that 10 days before Adani asked for names, Geoscience Australia's acting director of groundwater advice and data raised concerns that the company had "actively searched/viewed" his and a colleague's Linked In profiles.
He reported to a manager that one of his former academic supervisors was an expert witness in a Queensland Land Court challenge against Adani, raising "potential for perceived conflict of interest".
"Thought I would share this reminder in case a query/challenge comes from left field. I'm perhaps being paranoid," he said.
The manager replied: "I have no concerns, however I will flag it with the executive here simply so that they are aware."
Emails also highlight concerns at CSIRO's senior ranks around relaying its findings of flaws in Adani's draft plans to federal Environment Minister Melissa Price, who later issued approvals in controversial circumstances.
"This could blow sky high," CSIRO's land and water director Jane Coram told colleagues ahead of a March 28 ministerial briefing.
Explainer: What we know about Adani's Carmichael coal mine
Here's what we know — and still don't know — about Adani's Carmichael coal mine project in central Queensland.Under the terms of the review of Adani's groundwater plans, it was not to be provided with information directly from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
But on January 7, the federal environment department agreed to Adani's request that it provide the names of five CSIRO and Geoscience Australia staff involved in a video conference about groundwater with the department and the company late last year.
Mr Popovski said there did not appear to be "any reason for those names to have been released".
"The information that both the department and Adani actually need is the comprehensive scientific analysis," he said.
"If a scientific review is being conducted by CSIRO, there are usually multiple people involved and that science is rigorously reviewed before it is then provided to the department.
"So in our view, there are very limited circumstances, if any, for names to be released to a commercial entity."CSIRO's brand relies on its integrity and independence, and anything that commercial organisations or the government of the day do to threaten that brand and that trust that it's established with the Australian community can only be detrimental to the future."
However, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he could understand why Adani demanded the names of the scientists.
"I mean they were made to jump through more environmental hoops than perhaps any previous project in the nation and no doubt they wanted to determine that, I suppose, those arguing against their proposals were not some sort of quasi anti-development groups and individuals," he said.

'More than a little disturbing'
Scientists say they are concerned that their social media profiles have been viewed by AJ & Co. (ABC News)Lock the Gate campaigner Ellie Smith said: "We saw in the case of the independent review of the black-throated finch that scientists' names were brought through the mud through the media.""So I can imagine that there was a lot of pressure on those individuals within Geoscience Australia and CSIRO."
Kirsten Lovejoy, a former Greens candidate and long-time policy adviser in the Queensland Environment Department, said she discovered her profile was viewed by an AJ & Co lawyer in March.
"It was more than a little disturbing ... they were looking for details about me personally," she said.
"People who work for various organisations, including the public service, have to adhere to processes and codes that make sure that they operate with integrity.
"To see undue pressure placed on those organisations is particularly outrageous."

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How Germany Closed Its Coal Industry Without Sacking A Single Miner

17 July, 2019 - 05:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Nick O'Malley

Hans Mohlek stood at the gates of the Prosper-Haniel coal mine in the Ruhr Valley in the west of Germany on a warm summer afternoon earlier this month, looked up and wept quietly.
The mine closed last December and Mohlek was among the last workers to leave. But what moved him so much on a recent visit with a handful of journalists was not just end of mining at Prosper-Haniel, but the end of a way of life that it represented.
Mohlek understood, he said, that the industry was no longer sustainable, but he missed the camaraderie of the mines.
Activists climb into the Garzweiler lignite mine in Germany on June 22 as part of a protest against coal mining. Credit: DPAWhile Australia continues to open new coal mines, Germany is in the midst of closing down its entire coal sector. The last of the country’s black coal mines was decommissioned last year, the victim of the economic reality that nations like Australia could dig the stuff up cheaper than the Germans could.
Now Germany is beginning the process of ending its brown coal industry and shutting down the energy plants that it feeds so it can meet its agreements under the Paris climate accord.
Some see Germany’s audacious decommissioning of the industry as a model from which Australian has much to learn. Others believe that Australia is simply politically and culturally ill-equipped to do so.
The sheer scale of the German undertaking is hard to even contemplate from the Australian perspective, where coal is still king and where significant political decisions are met with particularly stern punishment.
Miners hold the last lump of coal during a closing ceremony of the last German coal mine Prosper-Haniel in Bottrop, Germany on December 21, 2018. Credit: APGermany’s industrial sector has been a force so great that it has shaped the modern world. Germany followed Great Britain into the industrial revolution, but with coal mining and steel manufacturing in its Ruhr Valley it soon caught up. The Ruhr’s heavy industry fuelled German militarism, helping spur it to two terrible world wars and then from the mid-1940s it was the engine that helped a shattered nation recover. It then formed the heart of the European Coal and Steel Community, which evolved into the European Union.
By then Germany was so determined to become a force for good that a distinct form of capitalism - known as Rhenish capitalism - evolved in the mines and steelworks of the Ruhr Valley, says social historian Professor Stefan Berger. Rhenish capitalism was - is - marked by an aversion to conflict. Unions work closely with management and major business decisions are not made without significant community consultation.At the height of the industry, in 1957, Germany produced 150 million tonnes of black coal and employed 607,000 miners. The nation became an exporter of plant and equipment as well as chemicals and vehicles.
In the decades that followed though Germany had to sink its mines deeper and deeper to reach the black coal, and the government was forced to subsidise the industry to keep it viable. Under an agreement between business, unions and the federal government the mines were consolidated under a single owner, RAG, and long-term plans were put in place to close the industry.
Operating under a slogan that, loosely translated, declares that no one would be left behind in the pits, it was determined that not a single miner would be forced out of work. Instead pits were closed progressively across the region. Workers who wanted to stay on were transferred from mine to mine, while others were offered retraining, or if they were over 50, generous voluntary payouts.
To maintain the communities from which the miners came, new transport infrastructure and universities were built, waterways rehabilitated and mine sites and coking plants were converted into parks, exhibition areas and museums.
The last mine was closed last year and today RAG’s headquarters at what was once Europe’s largest coking plant is part of a complex that is a world heritage site. RAG still employs 5000 staff across the region.
Some work in offices dedicated to managing pensions and compensation, many more are engineers, working to rehabilitate the landscape and maintain the pumps that keep the region’s poisoned groundwater below ground, part of RAG’s €220 million ($355 million) annual “eternity fund”. According to one RAG executive, the company expects that more energy will be expended on the pumps than was extracted from the mines in the first place.
With the black coal industry closed, German policymakers turned to the nation’s brown coal, the softer, wetter, dirtier material still burnt to create 37 per cent of the nation’s energy - 41 gigawatts of power. In January this year, the government announced that it would close the brown coal industry by 2038 in order to meet its emissions targets under the Paris agreement.
Observing the lessons learnt from the closure of the black coal industry, the transition would be phased and orderly, supported by government and marked by cooperation between unions and industry. It would be a “just transition” that will in the coming 20 years cost 20,000 jobs.
An offshore wind farm operated by RWE. The rapid shift to renewables has shaken up the country's energy market. Credit: BloombergOne of the men who has led this transition is Michael Mersmann, director of global affairs with German mining union IG BCE. Mersmann is well travelled, charismatic and blunt.
Asked if he thinks that Australia could manage such a transition when and if the time comes he says “No”.
"One of the biggest problems Australia has is there is no existing relationship between employers, trade unions and states," he said.
"In your country you are rather heading towards a conflict, not a consensus. What we are trying to do here is have softer negotiations and find a solution at an earlier point."
But when you explore the notion in Australia, you discover there is another stumbling block. There is simply no acceptance in Australia that coal has a limited future.
Tony Maher, the CFMMEU's mining boss, has worked closely with Mersmann over the years and admires what Germany has achieved with transition. Indeed he notes that his German colleagues are often appalled by the state of industrial relations in other Western nations. “They see it as a problem in the English-speaking world, this culture of ‘sack them and forget them’.”
But he points out that much of Australia’s coal is destined for markets in Asia, which are not bound to the same emissions reductions agreements as Germany. Coal, he says, has a long future in Australia.
Nonetheless, Maher acknowledges that in a generation or so - sometime after 2040 - Australia’s thermal coal industry might begin to wind down. He does not believe there is anything to be gained by scaring the communities that depend on the industry now, but when the time comes, he says, Australia should take note of Germany’s transition process.
Maher does not believe that the current government - or one like it - would be able to do so, though, because it has no culture of working with industry and unions.
He believes Australian unions would have more luck building a just transition program directly with employers in the energy sector and proving that it works. Such a model might even be deployed across other industry sectors as needed.
When the Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age approached the Minerals Council of Australia - the mining industry’s peak body - the council referred us to Coal21. Coal21 is funded by a voluntary levy on coal production and dedicated to commercialising so-called “clean coal” technology with a view to ensuring that the industry can survive in a low-carbon economy.
Coal21’s chief executive is Mark McCallum, who also serves as an executive in charge of energy and climate at the Minerals Council of Australia and was formerly head of government relations with Shell.
He says that with clean coal technology carbon generated by burning coal can be harnessed for uses as varied as hardening concrete to help extract oil from oil fields more effectively, safely keeping it out of the atmosphere.
Dr Martin Rice, acting chief executive of the Climate Council, which provides independent climate and energy advice in Australia, scoffs at the very notion of “clean coal”, likening it to “dry water”. “It is a fossil, you can’t burn it cleanly,” he says.
Coal21’s upbeat assessment of the future of coal is at odds with the view of the industry in Germany too, where executives of both NAG and the giant brown coal miner RWE both told the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age that the industry has no future.
One sunny afternoon earlier this month Guido Steffen, a spokesman for the brown coal mining giant RWE, stood before a vast open pit at Hambach mine, not far from Cologne in western Germany. To this day RWE produces 35 million tonnes and over Steffen’s shoulder vast earth-moving equipment scraped up the ore.
Steffen said it had shocked the company when earlier this year the government’s expert coal commission recommended phasing out the industry by 2038 at the latest. The company, he said, had expected operations to continue into the 2050s.
“It will mean major cuts to our assets and our crew, they will be hard cuts,” he said. “But there is a consensus, there is a direction [about climate change] and now governments and politicians should transform those recommendations into law, into contracts.
“We have to do a lot for climate protection, and if society says we want to phase out coal, then we can’t work against it.”
It is hard to imagine Australian miners sharing that view.

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Defence Chief Sounds Warning On Surge Of Climate Change Refugees

16 July, 2019 - 05:00
SBS - AAP

The ADF warns there may be a rise in climate change refugees from the Pacific region, which could spark the need for more patrols off the north coast.
Defence chief Angus Campbell. AAPForeign Minister Marise Payne says Australia is focused on tackling climate change in the region, pointing to the signing of the Boe Declaration at the recent Pacific Islands Forum.
The declaration recognises climate change as the greatest risk to life and security in the Pacific.
Ground staff prepare Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft. Defence bosses have warned of the rise of climate refugees. "We are very focused on our engagement on climate in the region," she told ABC's Radio National on Monday.The government is also helping pay for projects in the Pacific through a multibillion-dollar fund.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the government is committed to tackling climate change. AAP"Which will stream climate adaptation and resilience through its investment in energy, in transport, in communications and in water, reflects the priority we place on these issues," Senator Payne said.
The minister recently met Fiji's attorney-general and finance minister to look at financing infrastructure projects for the island nation.


David Attenborough appearing as a witness during the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee meeting in London. UK Parliament

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Defence Lacks 'Overarching Strategy' To Deal With Climate Change Conflict, Internal Notes Warn

16 July, 2019 - 05:00
ABC NewsMark Willacy

The ADF has already identified climate change as a challenge to Australia's future security. (RAAF/AAP: LAC Benjamin Evans) Key points:
  • A briefing note warns there is no "overarching strategy" to address climate change risks
  • The Indo-Pacific region is projected to experience prolonged droughts and increased flooding from rising sea-levels
  • Defence admits that their operations could be impacted by ocean acidification and extreme weather
Australia's military has warned of a possible influx of climate refugees and an increased potential for conflict because of the effects of climate change.
Internal Australian Defence Force (ADF) briefing notes from last year, obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information, also predict the military may be forced to increase patrols in Australia's northern waters to deal with "sea-borne migration" sparked by rising sea levels in the Indo-Pacific.
One document warns that climate change could "exacerbate the potential for conflict" and contribute to "state fragility and the undermining of economic development in our immediate region".
Former Defence Force chief Chris Barrie said Australia would be seen as the "land of opportunity" for many people affected by climate change.
"I once suggested to government we might be talking 100 million people," said Admiral Barrie, who is now a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change.
"One-hundred million people when we're only 40 million people — you can get the enormity of this problem. Frankly, it would be beyond our resources."
The Defence Force admits in the documents it "does not currently have an overarching strategy or policy to specifically address the risks posed by climate change beyond the 2016 Defence White Paper".

Climate change 'may directly impact' Defence operations
The ADF has refused to release documents relating to the impact of sea level rises and flooding on defence training areas, telling the ABC that it is not in the national interest.
"Release of this information could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the ability of the Defence Force to remain an effective force as well as potentially providing an avenue through which foreign incursions could significantly impact our critical infrastructure," it said.
Climate change and the ADF
Australia's Defence Department has spelled out clearly to a Senate inquiry that climate change will create "concurrency pressures" for the Defence Force as a rise in disaster relief operations continues.
But one briefing note warns that the Indo-Pacific region is projected to experience challenges such as prolonged droughts and increased flooding from increased sea levels.
"Sea level rise, ocean acidification, increase in extreme temperatures and a forecast increase in intensity of bushfires and extreme weather events may directly impact Defence capabilities, personnel and equipment," it read.
The ADF has already identified climate change as a challenge to Australia's future security.
Its 2016 Defence White Paper predicted that Australia may be called on to conduct more humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The internal notes obtained under freedom of information go further in warning about climate change risks.
"Further, an increase in illegal foreign fishing or sea-borne migration to Australia because of climate change effects may increase demands for Australian Defence Force patrols in Australia's north waters," the briefing note said.
Admiral Barrie said Australia was "wide open" for climate refugees, using Bangladesh as an example — its border with India is already being heavily patrolled by the Indian military.
"Bangladesh — a very populated country — runs out of fresh water and also has problems with sea level rise. Where will all the Bangladeshis go?" he said.

'Impacts are unavoidable'
The briefing documents include a report assessing the impact of sea level rises and flooding on "selected defence training areas and ranges".
The report, by global infrastructure consultancy Aecom, says the "warming of the climate system is unequivocal…atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years".
Ex-ADF chief Chris Barrie says Australia will be seen as the "land of opportunity" for many people affected by climate change. (AAP: Alan Porritt)It states that the warming of Australia's mean air temperature could "reach 0.6 degrees Celsius to 5.1C depending on the emission scenarios".
The report cites such impacts as increased flooding, coastal erosion, bushfires and heatwaves.
"Even with considerable reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, the inertia of the global climatic system means that many of these impacts are unavoidable."
Last year defence chiefs told the Senate's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee that rising sea levels and coastal erosion could damage military bases "in the short to medium term".
The committee's report warned that "climate change may also eventually contribute to greater irregular migration pressure in vulnerable countries to Australia's north, potentially becoming a substantial security threat to Australia".
A United States Department of Defence report released this year warned that more than two-thirds of the US military's "operationally critical installations" were under threat by climate change, with flooding being the biggest single risk.
Admiral Barrie said Defence had been considering the threat to their bases.
"I know what Defence has been doing is looking at some of its bases and things from an infrastructure development perspective and saying given sea level rise, given potential vulnerabilities our bases might have, doesn't it make sense to start thinking about moving some of those around," he said.
"I guess that's the bit that's been redacted [in the FOI documents] because no decisions have been made.
"I mean you don't have to look far beyond a map of sea level rise to realise just how serious this problem is."

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Defence Chief Sounds Climate Warning

16 July, 2019 - 05:00
AFRAngus Grigg

Australia’s Defence Force chief, Angus Campbell, has used a private speech to warn that China could take advantage of climate change to occupy abandoned islands in the Pacific.
While not naming China, General Campbell said if smaller islands were abandoned from rising sea levels it could open up the potential for territorial expansion.  Alex EllinghausenIn previously unreported remarks General Campbell said the changing climate could inject new tension into an already contested region, suggesting the Morrison government is under pressure to show more leadership on the issue.
"They [Pacific Island nations] are calling for the rest of the world to take more ambitious and decisive action," he told an invitation-only forum, according to one person with knowledge of the event. "They want us to do more."
The speech in mid-June by the nation’s most senior soldier could leave the government open to criticism its lukewarm approach to combatting climate change is becoming a national security issue.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the Pacific as “our patch” and made it his top foreign policy priority but he has been cautious about using Australia’s “step up” in the region for greater cooperation on climate change.This is despite Pacific leaders talking repeatedly of its importance amid rising sea levels and increasingly frequent natural disasters.
At the same time, China has sought to extend its influence into the Pacific through state-backed loans, greater spending on infrastructure and a larger naval presence.
While not naming China, General Campbell said the potential for territorial expansion could be opened up if smaller islands were abandoned as a result of rising sea levels.
"If other states see the opportunity to occupy uninhabited spaces then it could introduce new tension into our region," he said at the forum on climate change and national security.
Chinese dredging vessels building islands in the South China Sea. Reuters


China has shown itself willing to use land reclamation in disputed areas of the South China Sea to raise the level of islands previously submerged at high tide.

Relationship-changing issue
Its island building program, which began in December 2013, has seen Beijing build seven man-made islands and rapidly militarise them, despite earlier assurances to the contrary.
"If the predictions are correct it [climate change] will have serious ramifications for global security and serious ramifications for the ADF," General Campbell said, referring to the Australian Defence Force.
"The issue of climate change will influence our long-standing relationship with our Pacific Island neighbours.”
The Defence Department declined to elaborate on the remarks or provide further context.
"The comments were delivered extemporaneously and a transcript is not available," a spokesperson said.
General Campbell’s speech was delivered to 40 mid-level managers working on national security issues across the public service and its agencies.
The forum was organised by the Institute for Regional Security and held at Bowral’s Gibraltar Hotel, in the NSW Southern Highlands.
In promoting the closed conference it said climate change was “one of the many threats the national security community, and indeed the whole of government, will need to address in coming years”.
In his speech, General Campbell said Defence has been preparing for the impact of climate change “for years”.
He said Australians were living in the most “natural disaster-prone region in the world” and a further rise in global temperatures would likely put more pressure on the Defence Force's ability to respond.
Those who know the Defence Force chief said he was often provocative in closed-door sessions in an effort to make people think more broadly and creatively about issues.

Pacific priority
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Australia must listen to the Pacific. AP
The Pacific is a foreign policy priority for Mr Morrison, but rather than focus on climate change his trip last month to the Solomon Islands was based around economic development, infrastructure, labour mobility and security challenges.
Former Solomons prime minister Rick Houenipwela said it was “disappointing” climate change was not raised as “it’s a very, very important issue for us".
“In my constituency, two large communities that were on two islands five years ago are now no longer,” he said.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who arrived in the Solomons shortly after Mr Morrison, said any country that wants to “step up” in the Pacific needed to take climate concerns seriously.
“If you want to be engaged here, the first thing you’ve got to do is come on a listening mission," he said.
“If that’s their number one concern, and it seriously is right across the Pacific, then maybe, just maybe, you should take them seriously.”
After his surprise election victory in May, Pacific leaders urged Mr Morrison to act on climate change.
The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said Australia had been lagging on the issue and needed to show more leadership.
“Climate change is the single most dangerous challenge facing planet Earth,” he told The Guardian.
Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, also urged Mr Morrison to act on climate change, which he called “the most urgent crisis facing not only the Pacific, but the world”.

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US Philanthropists Vow To Raise Millions For Climate Activists

15 July, 2019 - 05:00
The Guardian

Fund donates £500,000 to grassroots Extinction Rebellion and other groups, with promise of more to come 
Striking school students marching along Whitehall from Parliament Square in June. Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images A group of wealthy US philanthropists and investors have donated almost half a million pounds to support the grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion and school strike groups – with the promise of tens of millions more in the months ahead.
Trevor Neilson, an investor and philanthropist who has worked with some of the world’s richest families, has teamed up with Rory Kennedy – daughter of Robert Kennedy – and Aileen Getty, whose family wealth comes from the oil industry, to launch the Climate Emergency Fund.
Neilson, who has worked with figures such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson, said the fund was inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion protesters in the UK in April.
Neilson said the three founders were using their contacts among the global mega-rich to get “a hundred times” more in the weeks and months ahead. “This might be the single best chance we have to stop the greatest emergency we have ever faced,” he told the Guardian.
The new fund has the author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, who set up 350.org, and David Wallace Wells, who wrote international best seller Uninhabitable Earth, on its advisory board.
The money will initially be used to support school strike and Extinction Rebellion groups in the US, but will also be available to help “seed” similar groups around the world.
It offers tiers of funding to support different-sized groups, from teenage activists wanting money for leaflets and megaphones, to funding for salaries and offices for established groups in big cities. It has already committed some of the fund to support Extinction Rebellion groups in New York and Los Angeles.
Neilson, who co-founded investment company IX investments, said although he had been a longtime backer of environmental projects, it was only when he was forced to flee his house in California last year during a wildfire that he realised that radical action was needed.
“Something about throwing my two-year-old and wife in the car and evacuating from the worst fire in the history of southern California brought the issue into a new type of focus,” he said.
He said the new fund would back non-violent legal action.“It will provide resources to grassroots activists who seek to disrupt in a non-violent way [and] to demand that governments declare a climate emergency and put in place policies to address this crisis.”
He said that most “of the world’s biggest philanthropists are still in a gradualist mindset”, adding: “We do not have time for gradualism.”
“History shows us that change comes from the people. It is grassroots movements throughout history that force governments to act when government is resistant.”
A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion welcomed the move, saying: “It’s a signal that we are coming to a tipping point. In the past, philanthropy has often been about personal interest, but now people are realising that we are all in this together and putting their money forward for our collective wellbeing.”

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The One Viable Solution To Climate Change

15 July, 2019 - 05:00
ForbesSteve Denning

The current existential question facing the human race is climate change. If we continue on the current path, some currently populated areas of the planet will become uninhabitable. For instance, coastal cities will be submerged and the whole nation of Bangladesh will be displaced. Everyone will be affected.
Something has to be done. But what? The problem is that none of the paths presently under consideration are viable, except one.
Cloudscape with eye of hurricane. GettyThe Limits Of Wind, Solar And Batteries
As explained in a paper from the Manhattan Institute, we are near the theoretical limits of what is possible from efficiency improvements in existing hydrocarbon technology or from wind, and solar energy and battery storage: those technologies are radically inadequate to handle the challenge of climate change.
Hydrocarbons collectively supply 84% of the world’s energy. wind, solar, and batteries provide about 2% of the world’s energy and 3% of America’s.
There have been suggestions that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage could be significantly enhanced in the way that improvements in computing and communications have been drastically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. These suggestions ignore profound differences between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.
For instance, as the Manhattan Institute report points out:
"Solar technologies have improved greatly and will continue to become cheaper and more efficient. But the era of 10-fold gains is over. The physics boundary for silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, the Shockley-Queisser Limit, is a maximum conversion of 34% of photons into electrons; the best commercial PV technology today exceeds 26%.
 Wind power technology has also improved greatly, but here, too, no 10-fold gains are left. The physics boundary for a wind turbine, the Betz Limit, is a maximum capture of 60% of kinetic energy in moving air; commercial turbines today exceed 40%.
 The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand.”There is simply not enough room for improvement in these technologies to make a big enough difference.

Nuclear Power
Other experts push for greater investment in nuclear power, which is the second largest low-carbon power source after hydroelectricity. It supplies about 10% of global electricity generation. While these experts push for nuclear power as “the answer”, disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima dominate the popular imagination about nuclear power and make wider implementation politically difficult.
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Photo Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)While experts claim that the technological and safety obstacles that once affected the nuclear sector have largely been overcome, laymen continue to worry about the safety of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years. Presently, waste is mainly stored at individual reactor sites and there are over 400 locations around the world where radioactive material continues to accumulate. It would be an improvement if there were centralized underground repositories which are well-managed, guarded, and monitored, but no one can guarantee the fail-safe longevity of those arrangements for thousands of years. Unless and until the storage question of nuclear waste is resolved, nuclear power can hardly be seen as a rational answer to climate change. Pursuit of this option could be jumping out of a climate frying pan into a nuclear fire.

More Regulatory Action And Voluntary Efforts
Meanwhile, regulatory action or voluntary efforts will be utterly insufficient to make a difference. The 2015 Paris Agreement called on countries to individually make their best efforts to contain the damage. This was perceived as a positive step, but it was not enough to stay climate change, even if the Agreement were to be fully implemented.
Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO Michelin in Paris 2015. Photo Christophe Morin/Bloomberg © 2015 Bloomberg Finance LPUnder the Paris Agreement, each country is to determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming. No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets.
Introducing further regulations and controls with ever more intrusive impacts on lifestyles would require enormous political support, which is unlikely to be forthcoming in the current divisive political climate.
The more important problem is that the best efforts by countries individually, even in the unlikely event that all fulfilled their obligations, would not be nearly enough to deal with the issue. That’s because the countries don’t have the technology that would enable them to make enough impact. The current technologies, even with the best will and motivation in the world, will not get the job done. No amount of Paris Agreements can change that. It's like agreeing to try to fly to the moon on a bicycle.
The Paris Agreement 2015 was a setback in the sense that it fueled the illusion that the problem of climate change can be solved by government regulation in each individual country. It can't. It's not that kind of problem.

The Only Viable Solution
The human race didn’t succeed in handling big challenges in the past by upgrading yesterday’s technologies or passing new laws. The Internet didn’t emerge from improving the dial-up phone or regulating phone calls. The electric light bulb didn’t appear from efforts to develop better candles or telling people to use less light. The automobile didn’t arrive by trying to breed faster horses.
The human race solved big problems through basic research that led to radically new technical solutions that changed everything.

A New Manhattan Project
So what if a massive effort in basic research with the best minds and adequate funding was undertaken to find new technology for creating non-polluting energy for the planet?
What if it was launched by one country to get it started and then other countries were invited to join it so as to make it a multinational effort.
Is there any real alternative, except denial?
When do we stop our magical thinking and work on the one thing that will sustain the human race? Is there anything more urgent or important?
When do we start?

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Country Towns Close To Reaching 'Day Zero', As Water Supplies Dry Up In The Drought

14 July, 2019 - 09:52
ABC NewsLucy Barbour

Farmers have never known Walcha, in regional NSW, to be so dry. (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)Across New South Wales and Queensland's southern downs, country towns are approaching their own 'day zero', as water supplies dry up in the drought.
Ten towns, including major centres, are considered to be at high risk of running out within six months, if it doesn't rain and if water infrastructure isn't improved.
Councils are rushing to put emergency measures in place, but more than a decade since the end of the millennium drought, water security is still almost non-existent for many rural communities.

Early learnings
In a small country preschool in northern New South Wales, children start each morning with the same lesson: If it's yellow, let it mellow.
Tenterfield preschool director Chloe Daly reminds the students not to flush their number ones.
"Who can tell me why we don't flush the toilet when we do a wee anymore?" she asks.
"Because we're in a drought," they chime.
"And what does a drought mean?"
"It means we're running out of water!"
Tenterfield preschool children learn to soap their hands with the tap off to conserve water. (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)The children practice how to wash their hands without wasting a drop. The tap stays off while the soap's rubbed in and they count quickly to 10 as the water washes it off.
"Because otherwise the fish will die and we won't be able to drink," they say.
Habits are being honed early because Tenterfield is running out of this most precious resource. The town's dam is two thirds empty and the bore that supplements supply could fail any day.
Locals have had to severely cut back their water use and are not allowed to wash cars or water gardens. Many are following the council's advice and showering less too.
"I don't like to say this, but I have a shower every second or third day, and then it's a really quick one," antiques store owner Elizabeth Macnish explains.
She normally opens her home on Airbnb, but recently closed it because guests were using too much water.
"They just don't care. They say, 'We're paying. Too bad, too sad for you'," she says.
Tenterfield Dam is two-thirds empty, and locals have had to severely cut back their water use. (ABC News: Mark Leonardi)Flower farmer Mandy Reid also apologises for not showering.
"Luckily it's winter and we can get away with it," she chuckles.
But the laughter turns to tears when she shows the oldest section of her 23-year-old nursery, where decades of toil, love and care have been reduced to lifeless, brittle limbs.
Ms Reid has not set foot in this part of the garden for four months because she finds it too upsetting.
"You only get one chance to build a garden — a good mature garden. This was mine, but it's gone," she says.
Silver birch and snowball trees will have to be ripped out; their leaves crumple in her hands.
"It's all dead," she says flatly.
Mandy Reid, a nursery and flower farm owner in Tenterfield, shows how the lack of water has affected her garden. (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)She longs for flooding rain, but according to the Bureau of Meteorology's long-range forecast, that is unlikely anytime soon.

Time running out
Tenterfield Mayor Peter Petty recalls a time when the dam was even lower, at just 19 per cent capacity.
"But in one night, it rained and built up 13 inches," he recalls.
Mr Petty's hoping a plan to find new bores, with the help of State Government funding, will save Tenterfield from its "worst-case scenario": trucking in water.
That, for any town, is a hugely inefficient and expensive challenge and he says it would put an extra 1,400 B-double trucks on the road each month.
"If it happens, I'll hang my head in shame that we'd let the community down," Mr Petty says.
But what if it doesn't rain and new bores are not successful?
"We're buggered," he admits.Bigger centres like Tamworth and Orange, and potentially Dubbo and Armidale, plus smaller towns like Cobar, Narromine and Nyngan are all considered to be at "high risk" of running out within six months if things do not change.
Across the border in Queensland, water shortages are biting hard in towns like Stanthorpe and Warwick, which are inching towards emergency restrictions.
Southern Downs Shire Mayor Tracy Dobie says water may have to be carted from Warwick to Stanthorpe in December, and she fears ratepayers may have to foot the bill.
"We could be looking at anything from $500,000 to $1.5 million per month, to transport the water, depending on how far we have to truck it from," she says.
Trucks are already a big part of the landscape in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, carting livestock between saleyards and abattoirs.
But water restrictions are making those journeys longer, more expensive and messier, because councils have closed the wash stations drivers use to clean excrement from their vehicles.
Chris Betts worries about the Walcha wash station closing. (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)The closures have forced trucks to driver further south to Walcha, in New England, where one wash station remains open.
"I think our council understands the importance of the cattle industry around here, that we need to be able to manage our effluent for biosecurity. We just can't keep building it up in the trailer," freight transport company owner Chris Betts explains.
But he's worried about the strain that's putting on his own town's water supply. A dirty truck needs to be hosed down constantly for three hours, and with Walcha sitting on severe water restrictions, Mr Betts knows the wash station could close any day.

Promises and pledges
Walcha is regarded as a high rainfall area, but locals are constantly on water restrictions. The town gets its water from the Macdonald River and flows are pumped into the town's reservoir, but in the past year the river has stopped flowing a record nine times. Now there is 120 days' supply left.
The council is hurriedly finishing a feasibility study to build another off-stream storage in the hope it will drought-proof the town in future.
Long-time locals like stock and station agent Bruce Rutherford support that proposal, but say water storage has been "talked about" for decades.
He and his wife, Sal, have lived in Walcha for 33 years and run a small farm on the outskirts of town. They were drawn to the area partly because of its high rainfall records, but now their dams are dry.
Mr Rutherford writes a column for the local newspaper and recently used it to call out a lack of foresight when it comes to water security.
"Part of the problem has been that local council hasn't been aggressive enough in chasing this as being an end result for Walcha," he says.
"I think governments, periodically, have supported some sort of (water infrastructure) facility to be built here and they seem to run out of money once we get going with the idea."
It is a familiar story for many rural communities, where water projects have been promised and pledged, but the funding and action are too slow to arrive, leaving communities like Walcha dry.
Country towns are rushing to improve their water infrastructure, as the drought dries up supplies. (ABC News)Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes is confident the latest plan to build a new dam will succeed because "it's easier to get noticed" at the moment.
He has been buoyed by the interest from the New South Wales Government, which has spent $650 million on water infrastructure in the past 18 months.
But regional town water supply coordinator James McTavish says the situation could still get worse.
"The next three months is looking very very dry and we're looking at the potential of an El Nino over summer," he says.
"That'll mean that inflows into those major storages will continue to be less than we would like."
And what if the drought suddenly breaks, filling thirsty dams and rivers?
Bureaucrats quietly say they are worried the current "urgency" to help country towns sure up water supply will be lost.
The Federal Government has a $1.3 billion National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, to help state, territory and local governments fund appropriate projects.
Seven are currently under construction, but in the six years since the fund's inception, nothing has actually been completed.
The sheer cost of water infrastructure makes it too expensive for local governments to manage alone, and red tape and disagreements between state and federal governments often drag the process out.
Mr Rutherford describes the situation as a "political nightmare" and he's frustrated by the bureaucracy.
"In the country, we're always looking to attract industry, but no one's going to come when there's no water."
Pejar Dam, the main water supply for more than 24,000 people in the NSW town of Goulburn, pictured on May 27, 2005. (Reuters: Tim Wimborne)Pejar Dam has benefited from improved infrastructure and Goulburn residents have become more water wise. (July, 2019) (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)Successful legacy
One town where benefits have flowed is Goulburn, in southern New South Wales. During the eight-year-long millennium drought, Goulburn residents were stuck on extreme, level-five water restrictions.
"It was almost shower-with-a-friend time," Mayor Bob Kirk recalls with a laugh.
But today the dams are three quarters full. In the depths of that natural disaster, heavy lobbying saw the council win state and federal funding to help raise a dam wall and build a pipeline.
But Mr Kirk says it "absolutely" took an emergency for governments to act.
Since then, new industry has come to town, including a large brewery that co-owner Anton Szpitalak says would not be able to operate "without a guaranteed supply of water."
Plans for a large poultry processing plant are also currently before the council.
But it takes more than big builds and business to drought-proof a town. Mr Kirk says he is just as impressed with the Goulburn community, which has not forgotten the lessons of harsh water restrictions.
"People were standing in the shower with one leg in the bucket to let the water run in. They learnt to make good use of the water, to change their habits and practices, even in their gardening methods and storing water in tanks."
A recent report to council showed Goulburn's water consumption is currently the same as it would be if the town was on level-three water restrictions.
"So Goulburn residents are still adopting water-wise practices," Mr Kirk says proudly.
Proof that hard-won wisdom can become a lasting legacy.
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Europe ‘Could Get 10 Times’ Its Electricity Needs From Onshore Wind, Study Says

14 July, 2019 - 05:00
Carbon BriefJosh Gabbatiss

Aerial view of a windfarm in Germany. Credit: Leonid Andronov / Alamy Stock Photo.An increased rollout of onshore wind turbines across Europe could technically provide the continent with more than 10 times its existing electricity needs, according to a new paper.
To make their estimate, a team of German researchers took into account changing wind speeds, all the available land and, crucially, futuristic turbine designs that are already coming onto the market.
While they note that generating 100% of Europe’s power from wind would not actually be feasible due to social, economic and political constraints, the scientists say their estimate gives a “significantly higher” figure than most previous assessments of wind potential.
Their paper, published in the journal Energy, also suggests that, as technology advances, the cost of the resulting electricity will be cheaper than previous studies have estimated.
Some nations, including the UK, have struggled with political opposition to onshore wind. However, with the EU facing ambitious climate targets in the coming years, wind is expected to be the biggest contributor to the region’s power supply within less than a decade.

Renewable goals
As it stands, the EU is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990, amid mounting pressure on member states to agree to a net-zero target.
Achieving these goals will require an enormous shift across the continent to renewable power sources. Germany has already pledged to switch almost totally to renewables by the middle of the century.
Wind – particularly onshore wind – is expected to make a significant contribution to these targets. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook last year concluded wind energy is set to overtake coal, nuclear and gas and become the EU’s largest power source by 2027.
However, as demonstrated by the UK – where cuts to government subsidies and tighter planning rules have effectively blocked onshore wind’s progress since 2015 – political, social and economic factors have added significant uncertainty to the future of this technology.

Installation of the first Vestas V136-3.45 MW® turbine. Credit: VestasVarious studies have attempted to estimate the wind capacity of the entire continent, adding to the body of evidence concerning the technology’s feasibility. These studies take into account factors such as weather patterns and hypothetical locations for windfarms to gauge the maximum potential wind power has across the region.
These studies have tended to estimate a total European capacity of between around 8 and 12 terawatts (TW), which would result in a total annual generation of between 16 and 21 petawatt hours (PWh). Given the annual electricity generation for Europe – according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy – is just 3.6PWh, this already vastly exceeds the amount required on the continent.
However, in their new paper the authors explain that they think this is an underestimate when considering future wind generation potential in Europe.

Futuristic designs
The figure the researchers arrive at is 13.4TW of installable wind capacity across Europe, only marginally higher than previous estimates.
However, the big step up comes from their estimate of average annual generation potential, which is 34.3PWh. This is 13PWh higher than the nearest estimate made by other scientists and 10 times more power than the BP data suggests Europe uses today.
In their paper, the authors attribute this discrepancy partly to their methods of identifying eligible land for windfarm construction and estimating weather. Crucially, they also emphasise their focus on futuristic turbine designs of the type that are expected to become standard in the coming years.

SourceEligible land
[106 km2]Capacity
[TW]Generation
[PWh]Average FLH
[kWh kW1] This Study1.3513.434.32560 Bosch et al.1.2312.421.31724 Eurek et al.1.9910.021.12117 Stettern/a8.721.52471 McKenna et al.0.948.416.41946 Zappa and Broekn/a0.543n/an/a IEAn/an/a11.5n/a JRCn/an/an/a3942Table showing estimates of total European onshore wind coverage, capacity, generation and full load hours (FLH), as estimated by different research groups. (Ryberg et al., 2019)

David Severin Ryberg, a PhD student at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in North Rhine-Westphalia who led the study, explains to Carbon Brief why this is so important:
“The use of futuristic turbine designs has a major impact on the outcome of these generation potential investigations and, by extension, will drastically change the result of hypothetical energy system design efforts.”Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in turbine capacity, hub height and rotor diameter, and these trends are expected to continue. While other studies have used contemporary turbines as their baseline, Ryberg and his colleagues chose instead to use a futuristic turbine that they think will be widespread by 2050.
They say its features represent “conservative estimates” of future norms based on the historical rate of change and note that such a design aligns with a projection described as “likely” by the IEA. Furthermore, such turbines already exist in the form of the Vestas V136, 4.2MW wind turbine, which made its debut earlier this year in Denmark’s first subsidy-free windfarm.
Andrew Canning from trade association WindEurope tells Carbon Brief it is “highly likely” that “better, more efficient and more powerful turbines” will continue to emerge in the near future:
“We’re definitely seeing a trend over the past few years where wind turbines are becoming more efficient. They have grown in height certainly, but they’ve also become more efficient. They can work at slower and higher wind speeds allowing them to capture more of the wind more of the time, meaning they generate more electricity [for a given installed capacity].”These newer turbines have the potential to be used in the “repowering” of existing windfarms as well. This is where turbines at an old windfarm are replaced at the end of their life, with newer and often larger models.
Canning notes the case of El Carbito onshore windfarm in Spain, which saw its power capacity boosted from 22.8MW to 31MW after 90 first generation turbines were replaced with 15 new ones.

Location and cost
To undertake their analysis, the researchers first ruled out everywhere that was unsuitable for windfarm construction. This included excluding 800m zones around all settlements and 1.2km zones around the most densely populated areas. More exclusion zones were placed around a wide variety of locations, ranging from airports and power lines to protected bird habitats and campsites.
Even after this effort, the researchers were left with a total area of 1.3 million square kilometres – roughly a quarter of Europe’s entire land area – where windfarms could theoretically be built. This is within roughly the same range as past studies.
They then used an algorithm to identify the maximum number of installation sites for turbines and a simulation to determine the hourly generation at those sites over the course of a 37-year lifespan.

Average annual wind capacity factor mapped across Europe, not including any consideration of how suitable land is for windfarms. (Ryberg et al., 2019)This is where the new projection diverges from previous studies. The combination of increased overall capacity and increased efficiency of the new turbines means it estimates a far higher generation potential. The authors note this significant uptick is not distributed evenly across Europe, with nations benefiting from strong winds, such as the UK, Denmark and Ireland, seeing the biggest potential gains.
Ryberg and his team also consider the cost of wind power under European renewable energy scenarios that have been outlined in the literature. They find that futuristic turbines were able to produce electricity at a cheaper rate than contemporary designs, in part due to their ability to withstand lulls in wind speed better and, therefore, operate with less backup storage. Even in areas where the most windfarms are constructed, they conclude that electricity costs from wind are unlikely to exceed €0.06 per kWh (5p), the study says.

The future of wind
Ryberg notes that their paper is based on a hypothetical situation. While they were careful to exclude unrealistic turbines built “on top of a school”, for example, that does not mean a quarter of Europe would ever realistically be covered in windfarms. He explains why he does not think Europe is heading towards en entirely wind-driven future:
“Much of this technical generation potential would not be economically attractive. Furthermore, the geospatial distribution does not correspond perfectly to all energy demand areas – for example, we find a high wind-generation potential in Sweden, which has a relatively low energy demand compared to Germany, France, Italy and the UK…In addition to this, the ‘intermittency’ of wind is a well-known concept which could make an all-wind European energy system costly – due to energy storage and transmission requirements – and difficult to manage.”However, this does not mean the paper lacks real-world implications. While politicians in places such as Poland and the UK have resisted onshore wind in recent years, Canning says polls show the European public to be “overwhelmingly” in favour of the technology.
The study conducted by Ryberg and his team shows that not only is an extensive rollout of wind power conceivable, it is likely to be cheap. These facts “speak for themselves”, says Canning, and should influence the decisions of politicians formulating their national energy and climate plans in a bid to meet European emissions goals.
Ryberg says the use of only existing turbine designs when trying to gauge the future systems powering Europe might add bias to their design, putting people off investing in any locations that are not traditionally “strong” for wind power. Using his team’s more up-to-date simulation, he explains the scope can be far broader:
“Since policymakers must rely on these hypothetical energy system evaluations in order to inform their decisions, it is clear that the use of futuristic turbine designs should lead to further proliferation and support for the wind energy sector in Europe.”Links
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Pacific Leadership On Climate Change Is Necessary And Inevitable

14 July, 2019 - 05:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Katerina Teaiwa*

The office of Nei Tabera Ni Kai (NTK), a film unit based in the town of Taborio, in the small island nation of Kiribati, is a small concrete building situated two metres above sea level, 30 metres from the lagoon on one side and 45 metres from the ocean on the other.
Stacked under the louvred glass windows of one of its small rooms are 200 internal hard drives taken from computers over a period of 20 years.
The office has no air conditioning, and the air is salty; there are regular electricity blackouts; and higher than normal wave surges, or “king tides”, threaten the town – and the whole southern end of the atoll, South Tarawa, on which it is located – more frequently than they used to.
Villagers now use the ferry to cross from one part of the village to another at high tide. Credit: Justin McManus
Once a Kiribati household name, NTK has not worked on major projects for a couple of years. One of the co-founders, John Anderson, cameraman and editor, passed away in 2016. His long-time partner, producer, manager and scriptwriter Linda Uan, has been dealing with the loss and reflecting on the best way to preserve their shared legacy.
The independent film unit documented more than two decades of culture, history, creative arts practice, development, and social, heritage and environmental issues across the islands.
In the absence of a national film agency or television media, NTK managed to piece together various sources of funding to work with government and communities to produce educational documentaries, feature films and “edutainment”.
Their output had a significant impact on the scattered Kiribati population – people from other islands travelled to South Tarawa by boat or canoe just to pick up the latest VHS, and later DVD, of their productions.
In March 2019, Uan attended the Maoriland Film Festival in Otaki, New Zealand. During a discussion panel, she spoke passionately about NTK’s work over the years. She ended with a humble request for assistance with archiving, taking one of those rectangular hard drives containing raw footage from her handbag and unwrapping it from a lavalava (sarong), then holding it up for the audience to see.
The group of New Zealand and international filmmakers gasped at the condition of the drive, and the prospective loss of decades of visual chronicles, exposed to the elements in Kiribati.
All but one of the 33 islands in Kiribati are less than two metres above sea level. Large parts of the country are expected to be under water by 2050.
From 2003 to 2016 Kiribati was led by President Anote Tong, who successfully raised global awareness of the climate change threats faced by his country.
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn in 2017, Kiribati was described as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries.
Annual temperatures in South Tarawa have increased by roughly 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade since 1950, according to the conference’s briefing paper.
This warming, coupled with increasingly ferocious tidal storms and coastal flooding, is destroying the island’s ecosystems.
Saltwater that floods the islands from storm surges devastates land and property, polluting reservoirs that capture and filter groundwater for consumption.
Salt water also jeopardises resources such as coconuts, pandanus and breadfruit, which residents rely on for food and many other household needs.
In the Kiribati population, there has been a rise in waterborne diseases, among other climate-change-induced illnesses, including cholera and dengue fever.
Warming oceans, combined with increased ocean acidification, disrupts sea life, which is the cornerstone of Kiribati identity and the country’s economy. Kiribati depends almost entirely on its fishing sector for food and revenue, but the catch potential is expected to decrease by 70 per cent by the 2050s.
Kiribati is one of 48 nations in the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of countries most under threat from global warming. These include Tuvalu, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and the Marshall Islands.
Tebunginako has had to relocate because of rising seas. Credit: Justin McManus

Kiribati once chaired the forum, and under Tong was a vocal proponent for limiting the temperature rise from global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond this temperature, sea levels are expected to increase to a point that would make Kiribati uninhabitable.
Despite global campaigns calling for “1.5 to stay alive”, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change seeks to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. This is devastating for most Pacific island countries.
Anote Tong was vocal about the need for Kiribati to face climate-induced migration “with dignity”. However, the current government, led by Taneti Mamau, rejects this vision of mass migration, instead emphasising local development.
The government aims to develop and increase the land area on South Tarawa by about 100 acres, and on Kiritimati (also known as Christmas Island) by 767 acres. It also owns 22 square kilometres of land on Vanua Levu in Fiji, with potential for forestry, livestock farming and other activities to shore up its food and economic security as Kiribati farmland comes under threat.

Reality too much for many to fathom
The level of carbon now in the atmosphere is more than 415 parts per million.
The last time the Earth experienced these levels was during the Pliocene Epoch, between 5.3 and 2.5 million years ago. Then, global temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher, and the sea levels 25 metres higher.
Pollution from climate change today is on track to push the Earth towards similar conditions.
To many Australian voters, this reality is too much to fathom, presumed to be a hoax, or utterly unknown.
A sea wall in the village of Tebunginako at low tide. Credit: Justin McManus
Prime Minister Scott Morrison might support climate adaptation and mitigation programs in the Pacific through his “Pacific step-up”, but he does not support similar domestic policies, such as increased research on climate change or the introduction of a carbon price, and Australia has no renewable energy targets beyond 2030.
It is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal but faces falling demand as its biggest customers – Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and India – all shift towards cleaner energy.
Burning coal is in Australia a bit like the right to bear arms in the United States: a freedom that causes major planetary harm, but the issue is severely politicised and many are not willing to imagine a future without it.
This protection of the mining industry is not new.
For more than a century Australia has had a relationship with the South Pacific region that furthered its economic interests. Australian mining companies have been present in the Pacific since the beginning of the 20th century, wreaking havoc on ancient cultures and sustainable environmental practices while extracting phosphate as quickly as possible from places such as Nauru and Kiribati.
The value of phosphate, the superphosphate fertiliser it produced, and the growth effects it had on Australian farming production and exports were massive.
In 1983 a monograph produced by the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies described phosphate as “the magic dust of Australian agriculture”.
In the case of Banaba, an island that forms part of Kiribati, the mining infrastructure was left to rust and decay.
 People there live among the asbestos-riddled rubble, in a place that looks more like a post-apocalyptic lunarscape than a Pacific paradise.
When Peter Dutton made his flippant aside in 2015 in response to a quip by Tony Abbott about how islanders are not good at keeping to time (Dutton said, “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”) Tony deBrum, the former foreign minister for the Marshall Islands, posted on Twitter, “Next time waves are battering my home & my grandkids are scared, I’ll ask Peter Dutton to come over, and we’ll see if he is still laughing.”
Former minister for the environment Melissa Price’s words to Tong were also offensive. When she was introduced to him in a Canberra restaurant, it was widely reported – and verified by others in the restaurant – that she said, “I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?”
That kind of attitude towards Pacific island leaders needs to change. Such leaders have been criticising the production and consumption of fossil fuels and their impacts on the environment for almost 30 years.
The former Nauru ambassador to the United Nations, Marlene Moses, wrote in 2016, “For the people of small islands, understanding the importance of the ocean to human survival is as natural as breathing. If the ocean is healthy, we are healthy; if the future of the ocean is uncertain, so is ours.”
The Pacific islands may be smaller states demographically and geographically, but the sea in which they sit covers one-third of the planet’s surface area. Pacific leadership on climate change is necessary and inevitable.

Knowledge a source of resilience for 2000 years
Since 1997, Nei Tabera Ni Kai has produced more than 400 films in both English and the Kiribati language focused on Kiribati knowledge, lives, issues and communities. They have documented what residents call “te katei ni Kiribati” – the Kiribati way.
Their work should be stored in a well-funded archive and maintained for posterity. The name of the unit comes from a female ancestral spirit belonging to Linda Uan’s clan, responsible for women’s health and success. Climate change threatens not only the lands of families and clans such as hers, but the spiritual and cultural spheres associated with these landscapes.
The knowledge inherent in these spheres has been the source of resilience for more than 2000 years in an oceanic environment with limited land, flora and fauna, allowing islanders not only to survive but to produce complex, creative societies.
Australia is now saturated with messages about the existential threat of climate change, but the impacts will cut across all dimensions of human existence – the social, the political, the cultural, the economic, the environmental, and everything else that shapes our identities and relationships.
Climate change is here today, not just in some distant future, and Pacific Islanders who cannot always crawl into air-conditioned, climate-controlled bubbles experience its effects on a daily basis.
While the people of the Pacific are resilient and have survived centuries of upheaval, climate change is already at emergency levels in the region – representing some of the first and starkest signs of the greatest ecological threat to ever face humanity.

*Katerina Teaiwa is an associate professor in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. This is an edited extract of her essay "No Distant Future: Climate Change as an Existential Threat" published in Australian Foreign Affairs.

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