Australia: Out With the Old, In With the New

“The climate change argument is absolute crap.”
-Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

“[Australia] should take a prudent, cautious, insurance approach, and say, we should seek to restrain the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, insofar as we can, in order to offset [the chance of catastrophic climate change.]”
-New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Last week the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was defeated in a leadership callenge brought on by Maclolm Turnbull. His Liberal Party was falling behind in the polls, and Turnbull was one of many who thought it was time for a change. Turnbull then went on to to defeat him, becoming Australia’s 29th Prime Minister.

Given Abbott’s quote at the beginning of this post, it’s easy to imagine that anybody who cares about emissions and climate change is celebrating this changing of the guard. But will Turnbull be any better when it comes to climate and energy policy than Abbott was? Continue reading

Anti-Wind Takes Another Blow! (Get it?)

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
William Arthur Ward

Along with Australia, Ontario has one of the largest anti-wind movements on the planet, to the point where groups have resorted to lawsuits in their opposition to wind energy. The bulk of their arguments comes down to wind turbines hurting two things: their health and their property values. So far, not one legal case based on health concerns in Ontario has been successful. Now you can add a constitutional challenge to the list.

Wind farms have been increasing in number in Ontario since 2009 when the Ontario Green Energy Act prevented municipalities from blocking their development. A Feed-in Tariff also helped, giving owners the opportunity to sell their unused electricity. Such wind farms need a Renewable Energy Approval (REA), and these can be appealed on various grounds including serious harm to health. When those appeals were rejected because evidence of serious harm wasn’t found, opponents looked to the courts for the next step in their fight. The Ontario Divisional Court has rejected their claim that the test for harm is itself unconstitutional.

The onus is on the opponents of wind turbines to prove they cause harm. Continue reading

New Report: It's Going to Get Hot Down Under!

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”
—Charles M. Schulz

Findings from the latest CSIRO and BOM (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Bureau of Meteorology) report shows that Australia will be hit harder by climate change than most other countries, based on forty global climate models. This conclusion is not too surprising given that nine years ago they announced the same thing. But in the time since then, has Australia done anything about it? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Which raises the question: why does a country bother paying for such reports when it proceeds to ignore the results, often condemning the scientists as idiots when they don’t like their conclusions?

According to the report, Australia is headed for a five degree increase in temperature by 2090 if we continue with business as usual and don’t start curing our addiction to fossil fuels. That amount would cause serious injury to the Great Barrier Reef, threatening agricultural and fishing industries significantly. Last year was Australia’s third warmest ever, and the year before was its warmest, so the trend is evident. Here are a couple of highlights the Aussies can look forward to:

– Melbourne will have an average of 24 days above 35C, up from 11 in 1995. Sydney will have 11 days above 35C, up from three days in 1995.
– Australia will experience 45cm to 82cm of sea level rise, even higher if the Antarctic ice sheet collapses.
– Episodes of extreme rainfall will increase but overall rainfall will drop in southern Australia by as much as 69%.
– There will be more extreme and longer droughts with an increase somewhere between 5% and 20%.
– Hotter temperatures and dryer conditions will lead to more severe fire danger.

Sadly, this lack of political will from Australian politicians to listen to these projections made by their own scientists is nothing new. There are various ways that politicians deal with statements and recommendations made by climate scientists that we’ve witnessed all over the world. Scientists in Canada and the U.S. making similar recommendations and their politicians ignore them as well, but they take different tactics. Canadian politicians muzzle their scientists. American politicians simply claim they themselves aren’t scientists and then it seems as if it’s case closed, as if that gives them adequate permission to ignore the issue.

We all know what has to be done. Statistics show that the general public understands this issue better than politicians do—probably because we aren’t in the back pocket of the fossil fuel industry. Even conservative right-wing citizens are more accepting of the facts and the conclusions scientists make than conservative right-wing politicians are.

Perhaps the onus is on us, the voting public. Perhaps it’s time we start demanding that our politicians listen to our concerns on the issue of global warming and climate change. It’s time we start changing laws, not just light bulbs.

Is Carbon Pollution Fueling Australia's Fires?

“We have never had this in October. This is a feature of slowly evolving climate. We have always had fires, but not of this nature, and not at this time of year, and not accompanied by the record-breaking heat we’ve had.”
—Phil Koperberg, former rural fire services commissioner

Australia’s election last month gave a mandate to Tony Abbott, a political leader staunchly opposed to his country’s existing carbon tax. Although some took this as a message that Australians were opposed to the carbon tax in general—as one of my contrarian friends put it, “deomcracy in action!”—that’s not necessarily the case. One of my Australian friends pointed out that as far as Australian media coverage dealt with the election, immigration was the bigger issue, not the carbon tax. (She also pointed out that Abbott would never have won if not for the heavy financial backing of both Rupert Murdoch and Rinehart mining. Nice to know that the fossil fuel industry calls the shots even down under: Democracy in action, indeed!)

Regardless of whether the carbon tax was an important issue or not, Australians are now feeling the heat of climate change. Continue reading

Australia's Election: Where Does Climate Change Come in?

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”
—Charles M. Sculz

Tomorrow Australians go to the polls to elect their next government. You may not have heard a lot about it because unlike in the U.S., most nations spend only about a month or so campaigning for their federal elections, rather than what seems like years and years the way Americans do it.

But global warming and climate change tend to be topics of discussion for most elections around the world. (Again, something different from the American way.) The two political leaders in Australia vying to have their parties win so they can be the next Prime Minister are Tony Abbott (head of the Liberal Party and leader of the opposition), and the incumbent Kevin Rudd, leader of the Labor Party. At this point, the predictions are that Rudd and his Labor Party will lose to a conservative coalition made up of the Liberal and National parties.

Interestingly, climate change has played a much bigger role in Australian voters’ decisions than in our elections here in North America. Continue reading