Thursday 29 June 2006

Nott's climate change campaign continues

Bega District News, Page: 10
Friday, 23 June 2006

Lake JindabyneSUNDAY, June 11, was the worst day of the year at Jindabyne, according to Bega Valley campaigner against climate change, Dr Matthew Nott. That was the day he and fellow Tathra campaigner, Mr Grant Prowse, swam six kilometres in Lake Jindabyne to draw attention to the dramatic changes being wrought by our overuse of fossil fuels to create energy. "The water temperature was 8 degrees, and the air temperature was 1 degree," Dr Nott said." There was a southerly gale blowing and there was snow falling.

"We were advised to abandon the swim because the weather was so bad but the idea was to draw attention to climate change so we went ahead." he said. Dr Nott and Mr Prowse were joined for half of the swim by 13-year-old Jesse Greenwood of Batemans Bay and by Ms Julie Mayo-Ramsey, an environmental lawyer from the Eurobodalla. "They retired after three kilometres because they were unable to go on," Dr Nott said.

"Grant and I would not have been able to continue if it had not been for the practical support of Dr Gabe Khouri and Tathra Surf Club member Ben Ellis in a boat and the moral support of a band of sea kayakers from Tathra. "We were very close to the end of our tether when we completed the six km swim." Dr Nott said they had chosen a distance of six km for the swim because "that is the thickness of the biosphere into which we pump seven billion tonnes of carbon each year". "Parents should be campaigning with passion and a great sense of urgency for clean air.

He said they group he had established since his first action in May of getting some 3,000 people to line up on Tathra Beach to spell out the words "Clean Air for Eternity" was taking its inspiration from Germany which has a renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2050. "Currently 30 per cent of their energy is nuclear and they are planning to replace that with wind and solar power. "Australia should be absolutely embarrassed by that example since we have so much better resources." Dr Nott said.

Timor-Leste Friendship Group says thankyou

Riverine Herald, Page: 17
Friday, 23 June 2006

The Campaspe Timor-Leste Friendship Group has extended its thanks to all those involved in the Konsertu held in Echuca in April. The musical, open-air event raised about $1000 for the people of Liquidoe in East Timor's Aileu Province. The friendship group's chairperson, Campaspe Mayor Judi Lawler said many people donated time, goods and goodwill to ensure the afternoon was successful. Cr Lawler said the group was supporting two students with scholarships worth $1000 a year and would provide the Alternative Technology Association with $500 towards the cost of installing a small wind turbine to generate electricity in areas with no connection to electrical power.

The friendship group meets in the Echuca shire offices every two months on the first Monday of the month. The next meeting is on Monday, August 7, at 7.30pm and everyone is welcome. For information, call Freya Fidge on 5481 2202.

Monday 26 June 2006

Wind farms forgotten amid nuclear debate, say states

ABC Online
26 Jun 2006

State Environment Ministers have accused the Commonwealth of attempting to curb the growth of wind farms in Australia in favour of nuclear power.

The states have rejected a plan to introduce a national code for wind farms, put forward by the Federal Government at a meeting of state and federal Ministers in Sydney today.

The Victorian Environment Minister, John Thwaites, says the code would have created another bureaucratic barrier to the growth of a renewable energy source. "The lack of support for wind farms from the Howard Government is coming at the same time they seem to be supporting nuclear energy," he said.

"We believe that clean, green, renewable energy wind farms are much more the way to go. "It's a much more preferable way to go than going down the track of nuclear energy." The Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, says the states should be embracing all forms of renewable energy, including nuclear power.

"Ruling out one technology effectively puts your head in the sand on greenhouse and on energy security," he said. "Australians deserve an honest, open and well informed debate on all of their energy options."

Let wind farms pay to help endangered species they hurt

The Age,
June 26, 2006

ENVIRONMENT Minister Ian Campbell's recent decision to use federal endangered species legislation to block a wind farm development in west Gippsland was controversial. Some in the wind industry now worry whether any proposed development is safe, while others, including me, are wondering whether there is a better way to protect endangered species from such uncertain threats.

If further wind developments are blocked on the same grounds — that a single individual of an endangered species may die — the decision may affect the development of Australia's energy infrastructure. It may, for example, lead to the development of more coal-fired power plants. How many orange-bellied parrots will then die from the resultant climate change? If we really intend to protect endangered species, we must tackle these issues.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Kyoto Protocol might have a thing or two to teach us about managing wind farm developments. At the heart of the treaty is a carbon trading mechanism that allows polluters who find it difficult or expensive to reduce their CO2 emissions to offset their pollution by buying carbon credits from those who can reduce their pollution more easily. Why should we not allow a trading system designed to protect endangered species to operate in the case of wind farm developments?

The system could work as follows: if it is considered likely that a wind farm development might kill a single orange-bellied parrot each decade, for example, the wind farm developers should be allowed to offset this risk by funding initiatives aimed at increasing the population of orange-bellied parrots by one individual each decade. Such initiatives might include the protection of important habitat, feral cat eradication programs, or even support for organisations committed to saving the orange-bellied parrot.

Such a scheme has the potential to allow both wind-farm development and save endangered species in a cost-effective manner. It should be subject to review: if more parrots are killed, the volume of "endangered species credits" purchased by the wind company could be increased. The same could be done if the measures funded were found to be ineffective in protecting the species. If, on the other hand, it could be demonstrated that no dead parrots eventuated, the credit scheme could be suspended and the funding reimbursed to the wind farm.

Environmentalists might worry that such an offset scheme would lead to inappropriate development should it be applied more broadly. There is a good argument, however, that climate change and wind-power generation is a special case: without wind we are likely to be forced back to dependence on fossil fuels, which will gravely damage many endangered species.

If we are to win the war for climate stability we need to generate as much low-emission electricity as possible, and wind is one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving this. If the wind industry is to avoid being destroyed by thoughtless NIMBYs, its fossil-fuel rivals or political opportunism, it desperately needs an endangered-species credits scheme.

Tim Flannery is an environmental scientist and director of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.

Minister creating a hostile environment

The Weekend Australian,
June 24, 2006

CRAIG Chappelle has learned the hard way the danger of standing between federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell and political opportunity.

When a group led by Chappelle was seeking to build a wind farm in the holiday town of Denmark, south of Perth, last November, they did everything by the book, winning state government approval and then $240,000 in federal funding for the project. But when Senator Campbell got a whiff of community unease about the project - and the possibility of an electoral backlash in the seat of veteran Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey - he suddenly moved to scuttle it.

"He barnstormed into town without telling us and made all sorts of ridiculous comments about the plan," Chappelle said yesterday of Campbell, who has tried to freeze funding for the wind farm. "It was a political grandstanding exercise." A stunned Chappelle wrote to the minister about his behaviour: "For you to sweep into town virtually unannounced and pontificate on a project you clearly had no knowledge about, spent precious little time getting acquainted with, and then condemned to gratify a rowdy minority, displayed incredible arrogance. To cap that by publicly threatening to withdraw an existing federal grant is stupefying."

Barely seven months on, Campbell's critics have only grown louder, with business and green groups accusing the nation's Environment Minister of playing politics with the environment on a grand and damaging scale. They say a raft of baffling decisions, poorly explained and inconsistent, have sent a chill through the country's mining, renewable energy and infrastructure industries.

This week, the minister decided to try to soothe jangled nerves when it appeared that a $650 million pulp mill in South Australia was under threat from a red-tailed black cockatoo that had never been seen on the planned site. The developer of the planned Penola Pulp Mill, which would employ 600 people during production and permanently employ 120, was told the project would need federal approval because of the potential danger it posed to the cockatoo, which feeds more than 4km away.

The notification alarmed the project's managers, given Campbell's decision in April to stop the $220 million Bald Hills wind farm in regional Victoria, supposedly because of the threat it might pose to the endangered orange-bellied parrot. Campbell's bizarre Bald Hills decision was criticised by pro-business and green groups, who say it had less to do with parrots than with a pre-election promise by the Liberals to oppose the Bald Hills plan.

So this week, when a rare bird threatened to spark another political controversy, a gun-shy Campbell effectively pre-empted his department's findings by telling The Australian that he did "not expect any problems" from the cockatoo issue.

Campbell strongly denies any inconsistency in his approach. "We have an approvals process which is applied consistently based on science and based on what is recognised internationally as one of the best environmental (planning) processes in the world," he told The Weekend Australian yesterday.

Danny Kennedy, campaign manager with Greenpeace Australia Pacific disagrees. "Consistency is not this minister's strong point - he does what is politically expedient. His record so far is all style and no substance. He is big on having parrots and whales on the front page but there is nothing of substance on climate change and the energy revolution we need to have."

The Business Council of Australia has also been unsettled by the parrot and cockatoo controversies. "When you look at those sort of decisions, and they appear to come out of the blue without clarity about why they were taken, it creates a sense of concern about making long-term investments," says Maria Tarrant, director of policy at the BCA, which represents the nation's top 100 companies.

Andrew Macintosh from the left-wing think tank The Australia Institute believes Campbell is driven by political rather than environmental motives and is misusing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. "The use of the act has descended into a farce," he says.

Ironically this might be less controversial if Campbell were a consistent colour on environmental issues, but the minister has proven to be uneven in his passions. "On the positive side he has been a strong voice for whale conservation and he has also recently been acknowledging that we need to look at a carbon price to tackle Greenhouse," says Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation. "But on the negative side, environment legislation has been applied weakly by Ian Campbell and his predecessors."

Although Campbell has been big on saving whales and the orange-bellied parrot, he has been less loving towards other animals. The flatback turtle on Barrow Island in Western Australia did not get preferential treatment, with Campbell this month choosing not to block the $11 billion Gorgon gas project there despite the threat it poses to the rare turtle.

Campbell has also dismissed concerns about the southern blue-fin tuna which remains a legitimate target for commercial fishermen despite being endangered. "He is hunting with the hounds and running with the foxes," says Chappelle. "You can't pick up where he is coming from or where he is going to. That makes it tough."

Earth hottest in 400 years

The Herald Sun
AP 23 Jun 2006

THE Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years and perhaps thousands of years, US scientists say.

The US National Academy of Sciences reached that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by the US Congress. In a report released yesterday it found the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia".

A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers Earth was running a fever and "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming".

Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about half a degree Celsius during the 20th century.

The report was requested in November by chairman of the House Science Committee Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican, to address those who questioned whether global warming was a major threat.

Climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes had concluded the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2000 years.

Their research was known as the "hockey-stick" graphic because it compared the sharp curve of the hockey blade with the recent uptick in temperatures and the stick's long shaft to centuries of previous climate stability.

The scientists confirmed that research from the late 1990s was "likely" to be true, said John "Mike" Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington and a panel member.

The report's conclusions "are very close to being right" and are supported by even more recent data, Prof Wallace said.

Overall, the panel agreed that the warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last 1000 years, though relatively warm conditions persisted around the year 1000, followed by a "Little Ice Age" from about 1500 to 1850.

Japan kick-starts biofuel transport

The Herald Sun
21 Jun 2006

JAPAN plans to have 40 per cent of cars running on biofuels within five years in a bid to slash greenhouse gas emissions and foreign oil dependence.

Vehicles account for about 20 per cent of energy consumption in Japan, which is nearly entirely dependent on the Middle East for oil.

The Environment Ministry would launch a project to boost the production of ethanol made from sugar cane produced on Miyako island in Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily revealed.

Early birds feel the heat

The Herald Sun
21 Jun 2006

MIGRATORY birds are arriving earlier in Australia and leaving later, most likely because of global warming, a study has found.

Researchers analysed the movements of migratory birds visiting southeastern Australia since the 1960s. Using published literature, bird observer reports, and observations of bird watchers, the team compared the arrival date for 24 species and the departure for 12 species over the past 40 years.

Heading the study were Macquarie University PhD students Linda Beaumont and Ian McAllan, together with Associate Prof Lesley Hughes. The study is believed to be the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and is published in the international journal Global Change Biology.

The study found half the species analysed -- which included sandpipers, kingfishers, bee eaters and plovers -- showed a significant trend towards earlier arrival since 1960. It showed they were arriving on average 3.5 days earlier each decade across the study group, and staying an average 5.1 days later.

Temperature change in Australia of around 0.5C since the 1960s was "very likely" to be influencing the birds' migratory patterns, Ms Beaumont said. She said the big concern was that the change would alter the life cycles of birds, including when they reproduce. "(A temperature change of) 0.5 degrees for us is nothing, but birds and insects respond very rapidly to changes in temperature," she said. "Birds time their breeding so that when the eggs hatch it coincides with the optimal timing for whatever is the source of their food."

There was also a danger that short distance migratory birds, such as the channel-billed cuckoo, may stop migrating become permanent residents of southeastern Australia, she said.