Thursday, December 24, 2009

Running a lightweight OS on my Netbook

I investigated running a lightweight operating system on my Netbook to get off Windows XP. I looked at Ubuntu Net Remix and Moblin but consider their simplified interfaces too restrictive.

I will be interested to see how the Google Chrome OS compares when it is available.

In the end I installed Kubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) from a USB drive as a dual boot option. Details on the installation and configuration are available in this article on Greenlivinpedia. Being a wiki, you can edit the article and add more information if you wish too.

My overall impressions are that Kubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 is polished, easy to use, stable and quite slick. For those thinking of moving from Windows XP or Vista, this is a compelling option.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The failure of Copenhagen

I was not optimistic that a strong and binding global agreement would be reached at Copenhagen in December, but the so called "Copenhagen Accord" still came as a bitter disappointment.

It is apparent that most of the so called "developed nations" are not willing to curb their indulgent and excessive use of fossil fuels. These nations, including the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada, have produced most of the carbon emissions to date and still have very high per capita carbon emissions, yet they are unwilling to take substantive action to reduce their emissions.

For example, Kevin Rudd was only prepared to commit to a 5% emission reduction target, and he capped the "negotiating range" prior to Copenhagen first at 15% then at 25%. Yet in Bali in 2008, it was agreed based on scientific advice that developed nations should make cuts in the 25% to 40% range.

Australia negotiated at Copenhagen in bad faith. A 5% target is ludicrous and the 25% target was an absolute minimum rather than a maximum.

Many small and developing nations - such as Tuvalu in the Pacific - are feeling severe impacts of climate change through sea levels rises that are engulfing them. Little wonder they were not impressed by rich developed nations ignoring their plight and refusing to put significant emission reduction cuts of 40% or greater on the table.

I believe that the only fair and equitable target is to restrict carbon emissions to 2 tonnes per person per year. This would create a level playing field for all humanity.

The Copenhagen accord is a political agreement that specifies a voluntary target of restricting global temperature increase to 2C. However, current emissions by the world's nations put us on track for a 3.5C rise which scientists tell us would be catastrophic.

It is clear that global and national political and economic systems are failing to address climate change and associated ecosystem collapse, even though we have the technology and opportunity to move to low carbon economies and lifestyles.

It is time for the blame game to end. We must set and achieve goals to ensure a safe climate future such as limiting per capita carbon emissions to 2 tonnes per person, limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C, and reducing atmospheric CO2 to between 300-350ppm.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will Copenhagen yield a safe climate outcome?

The international negotiations at Copenhagen to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions have some significant hurdles to overcome.

The governments of first world countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia wish to continue their high energy use and/or export of fossil fuels and do not seem willing or capable of undertaking structural and economic reforms to move to low carbon economies.

These countries also want the ability to "offset"some of their emissions by "purchasing credits" from developing nations. This is an exercise of smoke and mirrors, as offsets in reality mean no a country can avoid emission reductions.

Developing nations such as China and India wish to continue their growth in use of carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels as their economies and lifestyles grow and change towards the levels of first world countries.

Small and poor nations, many of which are bearing the immediate brunt of climate change - such as many Pacific Island nations and African nations - want immediate significant emission reductions by first world counties and also money from them to improve their economies and living standards.

Given these tensions, it seems unlikely that the Copenhagen negotiations will yield a binding treaty that will move us collectively towards a safe climate future - one where global temperature increases are kept below 1.5C and atmospheric CO2 is below 350ppm.

I think it is likely that the outcome will be:
  • a voluntary "non-binding" political agreement
  • offsets will be allowed
  • emissions trading will be endorsed - even though in most cases it will not reduce emissions
  • greenhouse gas measurements and reporting will not be subject to independent reviews
If this is the case we will need to rethink our approach and mechanisms for addressing and tacking climate change - as "politics as usual" will have failed to give us the best chance of a safe climate future.

I have described the commercial, social and political pressures that were are facing in this wiki article: The end of the world as we know it.

I am documenting progress and outcomes at Copenhagen in this wiki article: Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009

I think the only fair and equitable policy to adopt is to decide on an appropriate carbon emissions per capita amount that all countries should commit to reduce their emissions too.

This figure would be lower than what China is currently emitting, and much lower than most other developed nations. Perhaps Costa Rica is at the best level already?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Will Clive Hamilton win Higgins for the Greens?

Clive Hamilton is running as the Greens candidate for the "blue ribbon" Liberal seat of Higgins in inner suburban Melbourne. Clive is the author of several books, including Affluenza and Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.

Labor decided to not run a candidate. Their motives for this are not clear but it seems they think the seat will be held by the Liberals so it is a waste of their effort.

But Tony Abbott's recent ascendency to opposition leader, thanks have changed.

The residents of Higgins would be justified in feeling abandoned by Peter Costello, and many would be greatly concerned by the Liberal Party's lurch to the right under Tony Abbott, and several recent statements for prominent liberals denying that climate change is happening.

The Liberal candidate is a political animal whose CV includes a stint in right wing student politics at Melbourne University - where she attempted unsuccessfully to shut down the Environment Office - then time in Peter Costello's office as a staffer. She fits the mode of "born to rule and done my party political time".

She is presenting as a "local candidate interested in local issues" and refuses to comment in any detail on climate change and what she will do about it.

In reality, if elected she will become just another muppet on the backbench, silent for most of the time and voting for the Liberal party line. So much for democratic representation.

The question is how many "rusted on" Liberal voters will vote for her? It seems likely that there will be swing against the Liberals based on public concerns about climate and change and the lack of any coherent Liberal/Coalition policy on this topic, and the recently vocal "denialists" such as Nick Minchin and his gang who recently "took out" Malcolm Turnbull.

It is interesting to note that while Turnbull did take a principled stand on climate change he backed a loser with the CPRS - which has been so heavily corrupted by industry handouts and exclusions (such as petrol and agriculture) - that it will not reduce Australia's emissions.

Getting back to Higgins, voters have a clear choice between a candidate that stands for real action on climate change and one who is really only interested in her political career in the Liberal Party.

I predict:
  • a 3% swing against the Liberals, but they will retain the seat 54/46 two party preferred
  • the Liberal primary vote will fall to 48% - which will be a significant outcome in itself
Let us hope that the good voters of Higgins send a clear message on climate change to our politicians. If Clive Hamilton is elected (I will be happy to be proven wrong on this) it will send schockwaves through both Labor and Liberal parties.

It will also help us avoid the end of the world as we know it.

It will also bode well for the Greens prospects in other seats in the 2010 Australian federal and Victorian state elections.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We need funding and improved infrastructure for public transport

After several decades of neglect, Melbourne's public transport system is now running at capacity and old infrastructure is failing. Some examples of this are:
  • Wooden sleepers still abound - many over 60 years old
  • Trains fail when it is "too wet" and "too hot"
  • The old Hitachi trains are clapped out and have very high failure rates
  • No new suburban railway lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1930
  • The signal system is ancient - and apparently so arcane hardly anyone knows how to maintain or replace it
  • No double decker trains are in use - despite one being trialled for a couple of years on the Belgrave line - apparently successfully. I caught it and it worked fine.
  • Trains don't have enough route information in them. The tiny maps are hard to locate, difficult to read, and only coloured according to zones (not lines).
  • The maps of tram routes are almost impossible to decipher. They are all in yellow and the numbers that designate routes are very small and hard to find.
So what have successive governments done?

Both Labor and Liberal governments have taken a "spend as little as possible" approach, regarding public transport as a burden to provide and adminster.

Jeff Kennett privatised it, with glowing promises of improvements and greater efficiency. None resulted, and the various operators morphed into single operators for train, tram and bus.

The Bracks (then Brumby) government did not reverse the privatisation, despite its obvious failure to deliver benefits. The Brumby government renewed the licences of operators, then this year change the companies that "operate" both the tram and train networks.

This is just changing the lipstick on the pig. Now millions will be spent on rebranding and new uniforms. This money would be better spent in improving and renewing infrastructure.

The train operator is even called "Metro", so now apparently we have a "metro" in name only - when the city really needs a decent new metro and more outer suburban lines.

We have a new behemoth Southern Cross Station, which also does nothing to improve train services.

The 8 billion dollar tunnel project to connect Footscray with Caulfield has gone very quiet; presumably it will have a slow and quiet death. Its benefits are dubious in any case, and it is not a metro project, despite government spin suggesting that it is. Heavy underground rail is not a metro.

The Liberal opposition criticises the Brumby government but refuses to commit to any increased expenditure as well. If the Brumby government gets turfed out - as they may - the Liberals would continue on in the same vein.

Please consider writing to your local MP on this issue. It seems they really don't care. It is up to us to make them care, and the city of Melbourne and its inhabitants (including car drivers) will all benefit if they do improve public transport.

External links

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turnbull digs and backs the corrupted CPRS

While watching Malcolm Turnbull back the losing CPRS and the Liberal Party climate change denialists go for his scalp may be bloodsport for some, the "debate" needs to be re-framed to actually reducing emissions.

Here is a profile that illustrates a possible emission reduction trajectory to reach zero emissions by 2050.

It is interesting to compare the emission reductions projected above with the recent historical emissions of various countries.

  • The United States has the highest per capital emissions in the world
  • Australia is among the top three in the world, and emissions have increased dramatically over the last two decades
  • Germany, Denmark and Switzerland have all achieved emission reductions and have half (or less) of Australia's emissions
  • China's per capita emissions have increased, but are still less than one quarter of Australia's
  • India and Costa Rica have about one tenth of Australia's per capita emissions.

Source: Australian emission reductions projected, Greenlivingpedia

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It is time to get rid of state governments in Australia

State governments are no longer required. They are artifacts of a time when administration was restricted by the distance you could travel with a horse and cart. This time has obviously passed, especially with the advent of the Internet and modern communications.

Here are some reasons why they should go:
  • They are too parochial and cannot take action in the best interests of bio-regions or Australia. Just look at the death of the Murray Darling basin to inappropriate water management and climate change and the denial of environmental flows to the Snow River.
  • They are now middle-men, soaking up money allocated by the federal government (derived from Income tax, GST and other taxes) in their vast bureaucracies, and delivering precious little to the things that matter such as public transport infrastructure. Even traditional state management resources like hospitals and health services are struggling for money
  • They do not focus on regional and bio-regional services and projects. Public transport infrastructure and services in Melbourne are sorely neglected. There are no signficant major projects or initiatives to boost regional areas so that they will complement and provide alternatives for the over sized city of Melbourne.
  • They seem more interested in looking after the interests of big business such as car manufacturers, coal miners and energy companies rather than supporting real clean energy projects which offer fantastic opportunities for employment across the country - and even for exports.
  • Currently, the federal government is offering up to $40 million to States for bicycle-related infrastructure spending and none are asking for it or have projects to use it, even though cycling infrastructure is very poor across Australia (with the possible exception of Perth).
However, the challenges in getting rid of States include:
  • The Australian constitutions states that they must all agree to their demise - which is very unlikely
  • The federal government is currently not capable of providing services and local focus where it is needed
  • Strong bio-regional entities - with good grass roots democracy - are needed to take over the administration and service provision

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Climate change deniers and politics in Australia

Malcolm and the Malcontents, a remarkable episode of the ABC's 4 Corners program was screened in Australia on 9 November 2009 [link]

The episode was billed as "The inside story of the issue, the people and politics that threaten to tear apart the once powerful Federal Coalition".

You can read a full transcript of the program here: [link]

I have been very worried about the failure of our political system and our politicians to take action on climate change. To me they seem intent on "playing politics" and pandering to vested interests rather than leading the transformative change we need to move to a clean energy economy and lifestyle. I have been writing this article on the topic: The end of the world as we know it.

This program confirmed by worst fears about the failure of politicians to listen to scientists who are now advising of the dire impacts of human-induced climate change which is fast becoming a climate emergency.

I have grouped the statements of most of the politicians interviewed on the program below, and provide a brief analysis in italics of their comments.

  • But that's because they don't understand the issue.
  • Ahh, but hang on, hang on, hang on, Malcolm Turnbull is saying to me I don't agree with you, but when the backbencher doesn't agree with you what do you want to do with the backbencher? You tell him well take, or go jump, I'll go jump.
  • They've swallowed this rubbish.
  • Well look, it's not, why don't you move the motion to change the name of the legislation...
A shock jock who is vitriolic in his opposition to climate change. A substantive fact never crosses his lips.


  • BARNABY JOYCE: And you can go to Copenhagen, you can go to Disneyland, you can go wherever you like but the position of the National Party on this will be quite clear, to understand the word no.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: And if we have to have a double dissolution on this, let's have it, let's have the fight.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: Bob Carter is one of that group that has been denigrated, that has been ridiculed because he dares to say the word no. The only way to get the contrarian view out is to do this. We will fight it, we will fight it on the economics, we will fight it on the science and we will prevail and we will win.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: I believe Australia has drawn a line in the sand over this. And the blue is on.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: I think we're going to win on the ETS. I think it's going to be blocked in the Senate and we'll end up with a double dissolution.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: Look, and I want a little red car for Christmas and if I can ill take cupid wings and float around the room.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: No it's not going to get through.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: The people who have to buy the permits are you people. You people buy the permits.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: There's always sort of the puritanical zeal that says, you will conform lock step, goose step.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: They just see it as this sort of socialist chardonnay rubbish that are dreamt up, that is dreamt up by people who are obviously have no real risk of having to pay for it.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: They're going to have bring around this side of this peg, do a figure of eight back round that side of that peg, back through the gate.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: We've got some other work to do while we are here. We're going to try and knock off the ETS, we're going to try and get some support around town. Otherwise I'm just going to be lumbering you people with a massive new tax and I don't know how you're going to pay it.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: Why should you be lumbered with a tax that is given to you because the globe is warming, so they tell us, but this tax is going to do absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing to change that?
  • BARNABY JOYCE: You leave them with a bill, you vote for this, you bring it in, you bring it in and foist it on these people, yes, absolutely. You know without a shadow of a doubt.
  • BARNABY JOYCE: You're going to go broke and everybody's going to, you'll get some sort of exit package, you know they'll flip you a few dollars to bugger off and that'll be the end of it.
Barnaby is also is vitriolic in his opposition to climate change. He chooses to ignore the world's scientific community consensus on climate change and subscribes to the theories of professional climate change delusionists such as Bob Carter, who is not actually a climate scientist and whose theories are not presented as scientific papers or peer reviewed.

Barnaby's constituents in rural Queensland have been hit hard by climate change by events such as severely reduced rainfall patterns and dust storms. Yet Barnaby seems to think that climate change is not happening and that is some sort of "city based leftie political ruse".

BOB CARTER, Geologist and self proclaimed "Climate Change Skeptic"

  • BOB CARTER: And Einstein was indeed a very wise man, because all he said was this. It doesn't take 100 scientists to show me wrong. It takes one fact. Thank you Max, if we can have the lights, I'll take questions.
  • BOB CARTER: But as Barnaby said, you have to beat down the door of every voting senator, forget the Labor ones, every voting Liberal senator, forget the National ones, they're going to vote against it anyway. The Liberal senators have to be convinced this bill's got to be defeated a second time. They voted against it once.
  • BOB CARTER: I don't have a message. I'm a scientist. I work in the area of climate change. And as a scientist I don't have an opinion, I don't have a political view.
  • BOB CARTER: Temperature has gone down and carbon dioxide has gone up. How is it possible to have a Prime Minister that believes that increasing carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming?
  • BOB CARTER: The temperature in 1958 is the same as the temperature in 1979, is the same as the temperature in 2005. How many of you in this room are under 50? There's been no global warming in your lifetime. None. Zip. Zero. None.
For a man with "no political views", Bob Carter certainly talks a lot about politics and beating down the doors of senators. He is also not a climate scientist. His resume states that he is a is a palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist. His claims that there is no observable global warming or human induced climate change are patently false, yet he continues to issue them in shrill political forums of his "true believers".


  • I thought I might just talk about the national interest and my argument really was simply is this legislation in the national interest? And why are we doing this when this will make our country less competitive?
  • BRETT MASON: I'm not certain that I am. It depends whether they're talking practically or as a matter of principle. Tactics is not my forte. I leave that to the leadership but as a matter of principle I think there are a lot of people who support what I said the other day.
Mason opposes emissions trading on the basis it will "make our country less competitive". He seems to have forgotten that the CPRS is supposed to reduce Australia's carbon emissions, and he is oblivious to the huge opportunties for jobs and exports in the clean energy sector.


  • I was making a statement of the bleeding obvious which won't come as a revelation to anyone, that a political party in 2009 that seeks to present as a professional political party, must do so in a way that is united and not divided.
Pyne pointed out that Coalition's glaring division on climate change, and the CPRS, would cost them dearly politically. He is correct in this - which raised the issue about why as politicians the "skeptics" and delusionists within the party just don't keep their mouths shut? There is no obvious answer to this. It appears they are still in disarray in opposition, and that intrigue and positioning regarding their leadership will continue for some time.


  • CORY BERNARDI: This scheme is just another stake through the heart of regional Australia.
  • CORY BERNARDI: Hardly the stuff of leadership as I would've thought.
  • CORY BERNARDI: Immediately before an election, this policy of an ETS was announced by the Prime Minister, you know there may have been a cursory discussion in the Party room, I don't recall it, but you're not you know we're not in the habit of rolling a Prime Minister months out from an election on an issue that was you know so important to the public.
  • CORY BERNARDI: One front bencher doesn't speak for the Party room, and particularly on this issue.
  • CORY BERNARDI: Our policy was to oppose the CPRS because we didn't think we should be acting ahead of Copenhagen and knowing what the rest of the world should be doing, a very clear policy. We walked out of that Party room meeting, you know singing from the same sheet. You know the sceptics and the believers.
  • CORY BERNARDI: The challenge for Australia, and the Australian parliament is to examine the facts of climate change and not just the opinion polls.
  • CORY BERNARDI: The earth is not actually warming, we have still rainfall falling. We have crops still growing. We can go outside and we won't cook.
  • CORY BERNARDI: The fact that Nick has publicly supported the right of back benchers and others to speak up on a very critical issue is certainly encouraging.
  • CORY BERNARDI: There are more scientists that feel comfortable about coming out and expressing their reservations and there are lots of flaws being exposed and quite frankly frauds that have been exposed on the other side of the argument.
  • CORY BERNARDI: Well I think that scientists need to justify their own actions. They will keep putting forward and saying we've got all this evidence, the evidence is increasingly discredited, why have they done it, what's their motivations for doing it? Are they afraid to stand up to the extreme green lobby?
Bernardi openly refutes that climate change is happening. He also claims that scientific evidence relating to this is "discredited" without bothering to provide any factual basis for his claim.

We have greatly reduced rainfall falling. We have many crops failing, particularly in the Murray Darling basin. And there are days when we can go outside and be "cooked" in temperatures higher than 47C. His own state of South Australia is right now experiencing and unprecedented run of days over 35C in November. He seems to think that an "extreme green lobby" is exaggerating climate change and somehow influencing scientist.


  • DAVID GRIGGS: The science of climate change is very complex and it can be misrepresented or misunderstood and these are important decisions that are being made and we think it's important that they're made on the best science.
  • DAVID GRIGGS: Australia is the probably the most vulnerable developed country in the world to climate change so if Australia isn't going to act on climate change then which developed country is?
Griggs points out that Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, as we are now well aware due to bushfires and severe reductions in rainfall across the country.


  • DAVID KAROLY: There is absolutely no dispute that the climate system has warmed since the 1950s or since the 1970s by half a degree. Every single data source, including the favourite data source used by the climate change sceptics of climate change today as the satellite data shows a clear warming of nearly half a degree over the last 30, 30 years.
  • DAVID KAROLY: Agriculture is also a massive opportunity in terms of not only reducing emissions but storing carbon through changes in agricultural practice because there are opportunities to store carbon in soils, or to store carbon through changes in vegetation.
  • DAVID KAROLY: I am trying to raise the alarm that urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to seek to slow down climate change and to reduce its impacts. If that is your definition of alarmist then yes I am being alarmist and it is very justified based on the science.
  • DAVID KAROLY: Typically there would be one to 2,000 scientific papers published every year in the fields of climate change science contributing to the understanding of climate change science and none of those seriously contradict the conclusions of the IPCC.
Karoly is a scientist, but not one that many in the Liberal party choose to listen to. His warnings of the severe impacts of climate change are clear and concise, yet they are dismissed by the "skeptics and delusionists" within the Coalition. Presumably they think he is also some sort of "green agent provocateur" - which seems very unlikely to me.


  • DENNIS JENSEN: The party room doesn't want to be messed around on this. The party room has got a very strong view.
  • DENNIS JENSEN: Well I don't think a lot of people liked that. I mean apart from anything else, it meant that attention was drawn to us and it was drawn to the leadership where there wasn't no real issue there, I mean no one was doing any numbers or anything else.
  • DENNIS JENSEN: With the party room discussion we got straight into the guts of the amendments with the ETS, where from my point of view that was not just missing the wood for the trees, it was missing the wood for the twigs. We were going right down into the guts for it, without addressing the overall elephant in the room, which is should we be doing this anyway?
While Jensen did not engage in any rants about climate change "not being real", he has in the past. To him, the Party Room is the ultimate arbiter and authority on the matter, and he staunchly opposes the ETS without actually managing to say why.


  • IAN MACFARLANE: Well Malcolm's shown, wants to show that we are a modern Party, it's part of the change, the evolution from John Howard to Malcolm Turnbull.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: All we've got from the party room and I don't want to say, understate it but all you've got from the party room is agreement to frame up the amendments and to begin the negotiation. What the party room have said is that they want to be the arbiter on whether or not we vote for the legislation based on what amendments are agreed to so.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: And I tell you, it's a small minority of this party room, I can tell you I know exactly who said what. And the thing that surprised me this...
  • IAN MACFARLANE: And why have I got a flying pig? Because people used to come in and say we need a billion dollars to get this process off and the staff say "don't get the pig" and I said "there's the flying pig, when pigs fly, I'll give you a billion dollars."
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Electorally difficult would be an understatement, I mean a double dissolution on this issue would be very hard for us in terms of an election to fight.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Even when the Labor Party were in Opposition, even in their worst days when they were changing leaders you know fairly rapidly, they maintained some semblance of discipline. We're a year from the next election and we need that same sort of discipline.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: I guess a successful outcome is to get to the party room to agree to an emissions trading scheme.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: I think if you ask the party room today they'd say you've got no chance. I'm hoping that on Sunday they will have given me enough space that I can look Penny Wong in the eye and say this is a fair dinkum negotiation.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: If international powers balance sheet gets destroyed they are shot. Absolutely.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: It won't be taken until the negotiation with the government finishes and I don't know how long that negotiation will take. That's in the hands of Penny Wong.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Its going okay, I must admit I get different looks from different people when I say that. Obviously some of my colleagues want it to succeed, some want it to fail but it's going okay.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Look, I think, it's hard to estimate obviously. The National Party have announced they won't vote for anything and so we strike them off.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: No one should underrate how difficult this is going to be to get through the Party room a second time. People have thought about it, they'll expect, obviously the expectations are high and getting it cleared in the Party room the second time is going to be an enormous feat.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Obviously since this process started, the party room has raised the bar in terms of the number of compromises I can make. So the actual amendments haven't changed much from when I basically took the job over from Andrew Robb. But the compromises have shrunk quite dramatically.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Oh it'll be tough, but I've been there before.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Oh it's an even bet. I mean at least with Penny you know what you're dealing with, but she's tough, she's tough. I think she's a very smart woman.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Okay well I've got the numbers and there in my little black book.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Probably not, although we did have - I did have some pretty ferocious periods when I was the Minister for Industry and Resources. But yeah I mean this is flat out full time.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: So there'll be resistance obviously from the department and it will be almost evangelistic.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: That's the black book.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: The reality is, you are not going to see another coal fired power station built in Australia. That's, that's a simple fact. You can talk about all the stuff you like about carbon capture storage, that concept will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: They're not happy because they're not getting a big enough slice, they want another 4 billion.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Until someone can show me a way that they can reduce emissions in agriculture and they can show me another country that does it, then obviously you are simply imposing a tax on one of the most vulnerable sectors of our economic community.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Well Malcolm has shown, wants to show that we are a modern party and wants to show that that you know that we can communicate with the 18 to 35 year olds who are very strongly supportive of an ETS, but an ETS is only one factor in modernising the Party, it's, it's not, it's not the raison d'etre of the Liberal Party, it's part of the change, the evolution from John Howard to Malcolm Turnbull.
  • IAN MACFARLANE: Well yeah I mean I, I don't have that time frame. That, that's a nothing to me. I guess I lose a lot of leverage after Copenhagen because I can tell even from tonight that, and from Kev, from the Prime Minister in the chamber that that they want this before Copenhagen.
Macfarlane came across as refreshingly honest. In particular his comments about not building new coal fired power stations and the hoax of "carbon capture storage concepts" were quite revealing, and a reversal of his political positions when he was the Industry Minister in the previous Howard government, during which he advocated for "clean coal", nuclear power and stated that "renewable energy cannot provide baseload". Most of his comments were addressing the political cut and thrust in the Coalition Party room and during negotiations with Labor's Penny Wong. At least he did not declare himself as one of the "skeptics".


  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: No I won't be supporting an ETS under any circumstances.
  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: I believe Malcolm putting his leadership on the line over this was folly indeed.
  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: I can't think of another issue, other than say Native Title that would surpass it in relation to real fundamental debate and beliefs, core philosophy, it brings it all together. Every now and then an issue passes through the parliament like this, this is one. A good leader would have picked that up.
  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: In 2007, and in post 2007 I have to say as a party we were intimidated by the force of the climate change debate. It just seemed to be the issue of the moment and everyone got drawn into it. Since then there has been a seismic shift in public opinion.
  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: Look I think it has basically been more credible science has come out to counter just the one or two documents put on the table over this issue.
  • JULIAN MCGAURAN: The Liberal Party did have a position but it got messed up by a whole lot of nervous nellies on the front bench I should add, who just believed you know we've got to avoid an election, a double dissolution. They had this fit in their head, they've mucked up the politics for us all. They've mucked up our chance. They've almost made it self-fulfilling and to speak about it publicly is nothing short of dumb, it's a folly.
McGauran seems to think that climate change impinges on his (and the Liberal Party's) core philosophy. In a way it does. We cannot continue to burn vast amounts of fossil fuel and pollute the atmosphere, but he seem to think we can. He also thinks that public opinion has "shifted" on climate change, but he provided no sources for this assertion. Sceptic and delusionist.


  • Climate change is one of the great moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age.
While this statement for Rudd is quite accurate, his CPRS is manifestly inadequate for addressing the challenge of climate change for the simple fact that it won't reduce Australia's carbon emissions.


  • Because these scientists are some of the most eminent scientist on climate in Australia and one of the arguments you always find is the sceptics always seem to get oxygen prevail...
  • MAL WASHER: I don't want you to do that, mainly because I have people who are sceptical who would feel a sense of entrapment.
Washer seems to display rare acceptance (among Coalition politicians) of the seriousness of climate change and is working inside their party room to convince his colleagues. Largely to no avail it would seem.


  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: Australians are more focused on climate change than just about any other developed countries.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: I am asserting my authority as the leader of the Liberal Party and the leader of the Opposition.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: If there was an election held in the near future and the polls remained where they were, we obviously wouldn't win.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: I'm confident that we will emerge from the party room with a set of amendments that will protect thousands of Australian jobs.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: No that's not, it is, Alan, it's because they understand this...
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: Tonight we are putting the ball back into Kevin Rudd's court. The Coalition is, the coalition party room has agreed to sensible amendments, practical amendments which will save thousands, thousands of Australian jobs.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Alan this is the problem you see.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well he's very approachable.
  • MALCOLM TURNBULL: You're saying to me why don't I agree with you, and the reason I don't agree with you is because I don't agree with you.
Turnbull says he is committed to take action on climate change, and that he will lead his party to achieve this. So far, many in his party don't accept this position. And Turnbull is sanctioning further weakening of the already compromised CPRS by excluding agriculture and providing further free permits and cash payment to polluters. This makes him a hypocrite.


  • If an ETS is nothing more than a big new bureaucracy and a big new tax, which in the absence of a global agreement it would be, then why would we go down that path?
While Corman may be correct about the failings of the CPRS (ETS), he does not acknowlege climate change, nor does he provide any policy direction that we should take in Australia.


  • NICK MINCHIN: For 10 years the left internationally have been very successful in exploiting peoples' innate fears about global warming and climate change to achieve their political ends.
  • NICK MINCHIN: 2007 was a particularly difficult year for the Coalition, the tail end of a long government, drought affecting much of Australia, Al Gore in full flight, the public were easily persuaded that what they were seeing by way of drought and water restrictions and everything else was connected to what Al Gore and others were saying was happening to the climate and it was all our fault.
  • NICK MINCHIN: For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they've always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.
  • NICK MINCHIN: I don't mind being branded a sceptic about the theory that that human emissions and CO2 are the main driver of global change - of global warming. I don't accept that and I've said that publically. I guess if I can say it, I would hope that others would feel free to do so.
  • NICK MINCHIN: I frankly strongly object to you know, politicians and others trying to terrify 12 year old girls that their planet's about to melt, you know. I mean really it is appalling some of that that sort of behaviour.
  • NICK MINCHIN: I probably have a bit, yeah. I probably am, I, the quantum in which human's, mankind's contribution towards global warming in my mind is moving up. The reality is that there is a case to make sure we lower greenhouse gas emissions. That's firmly established. I accept that.
  • NICK MINCHIN: If the question is, do people believe or not believe that human beings are causing, are the main cause of the planet warming, then I'd say a majority don't accept that position.
  • NICK MINCHIN: I've never felt that we should be constrained in examining this matter by fear of double dissolutions.
  • NICK MINCHIN: People won't listen to politicians necessarily; we don't have the credibility I guess. But the Bob Carters and the you know Garth Paltridges and the Ian Plimers, significant Australian scientists who are saying the UN has actually got this wrong.
  • NICK MINCHIN: The leader, whoever he is or she is, is the ultimate authority figure in our Party, but when you're not the Prime Minister you have less authority by definition.
  • NICK MINCHIN: Well it's going to be quite difficult for the Coalition members to do so. We did vote against the bill in August for good reason.
inchin certainly nailed his "skeptic and delusional colours" to his mast. He then quotes "hired gun" skeptics such as Carter and Plimers as authorities on the topic. Rather than climate change being some kind of "left wing conspiracy", the reverse is actually the case. The delusionists are constructing their own reality in denial and turning it into a mindless cult.


  • PENNY WONG: This bill may be going down today, but this is not the end.
  • PENNY WONG: He's quite good to negotiate with actually, he's quite kind of straight I suppose, you know, we might disagree but he's reasonable in that.
  • PENNY WONG: His job is harder because they're more divided, absolutely and they have a lot of people who don't want to do anything. I don't think the people in their caucus who have an ideological view about this were going to be softened or hardened by anything. I mean they're hard because they have a very clear ideological view with which I pretty vehemently disagree, they're not going to shift on it.
  • PENNY WONG: Well I haven't spoken to Ian about that but what I think is this, we've got a job to do in Australia. We've got to reengineer our energy sector. We've got to reduce emissions from coal and we've got to find a whole range of other energy sources.
  • PENNY WONG: You know what will destroy agriculture? If we allow climate change to continue unabated. I mean Garnaut's figures should be a wake-up call for anybody who professes to stand up for rural Australia. Ninety seven per cent reduction in agriculture by the year 2100 or thereabouts. I mean they are sobering figures.
  • PENNY WONG: You know, in this job you're so used to people having a go at you and I'd actually thought I'm not quite sure what to say when he said something nice about me so, maybe a little bit embarrassed.
Wong seems to be enjoying her "negotiations" with Macfarlane to further comprise the already fatally flawed CPRS. There is of course no public input to their process or any consultation about it. The exercise is pure politics; devoid of any representation of the public interest, and deviod of any acknowledgement of scientific recommendations to reduce emissions urgently and immediately.


  • PETER SHERGOLD: There were discussions with the PM. There were discussions with cabinet. There was a ceremony in which I handed over the report to the prime minister.
  • PETER SHERGOLD: The key message was go soon because the longer you delayed, the higher the cost you imposed upon yourself and the greater the investment uncertainty.
Rapid and effective action to address climate change is indicated by science, and it is cheaper to start this immediately. However, the CPRS will not reduce emissions so it is a red herring.


  • What the polling is saying is climate change is still important, but not as important as what it was, and that there are other issues that are also important, like jobs. When the two issues have been put together, people have said that they are - they increasingly believe that climate change policies will affect jobs.
This points to the big lie in the industry spin to lobby for free permits and "protection" from a carbon price. Industries and company's don't care about jobs. They offload as many as they can via automation and machinery to reduce their labour costs. But they know people are fearful of losing their job, so suggesting that the CPRS will "cost jobs" creates fear and uncertainty.


  • STEPHEN NEWNHAM: Public concern for climate change has dropped and that trend is clear. The margin might differ from poll to poll, but it's clear over the last 18 months concern for the issue has dropped.
  • STEPHEN NEWNHAM: From between 10 and 20 per cent. That represents a significant shift in, I think in peoples' priorities to other issues.
Newnham, ex Labor State Secretary in Victoria, state that his company's polling data indicates that "people's priorities hve shifted to issues other than climate change". Even if this is the case, it is no reason to avoid policy and legislation that will ensure a safe climate future.


  • TONY ABBOTT: One of the things which I think has disconcerted a lot of people is the evangelical fervour of the climate change alarmists.
  • TONY ABBOTT: I think that in response to the IPCC alarmist - ah in inverted commas - view, there've been quite a lot of other reputable scientific voices. Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer's position but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists.
  • TONY ABBOTT: It seems that the world has cooled slightly since the late 1990s. One of the things which I think has disconcerted a lot of people is the evangelical fervour of the climate change alarmists because they haven't pursued their case with the kind of careful moderation that you normally associate with the best scientists.
  • TONY ABBOTT: We embraced the policy then for good reasons which means that it's not a crazy policy but that doesn't mean that we can't modify the policy or change it or even abandon it should that be our current judgement.
  • TONY ABBOTT: We want to be careful that we're not jumping on a bandwagon or being taken in by a fad.
  • TONY ABBOTT: Well, well the people who will tell you as if it's as obvious as night following day that we have a huge problem and that unless we dramatically change the way we live, life as we know it will be under massive threat.
Abbott seems to think that climate change is some sort of "stalking horse" and fad for evangelical lefties, and that includes the IPCC scientists. Quite a remarkable claim, and one that is based on a fantasy and a penchant for the game of politics, He may not believe what he says - but is certainly trying the "frame the debate" so that those calling for urgent action on climate change are part of some sort of leftist plot. Playing politics is his prime focus.


  • We just have to reiterate the message that as time goes on the science is even more secure rather the other way around. We are having longer data sets, it is absolute much clearer what the trends are, there is no doubt that the earth is warming.
Unequivocal statement from a climate scientist.


  • Well we have a leader whose previous business was hedge funds. I think he still owns one. And he believes in this market solution, I don't.

  • A re-elected Coalition Government will establish the world's most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in Australia, commencing no later than 2012.
In summary

Both the federal government and the coalition are engaged in a game of politics concerning climate change. Both use it as a tool to criticise and discredit the other - which is standard practice for politics.

However, neither are focused on policy settings and legislation to actually reduce Australia's carbon emissions. The Rudd Government is also intent on locking in the CPRS prior to Copenhagen, apparently oblivious to the possibility that negotiations there may deliver a treaty that requires more stringent and effective measures to reduce emissions.

Why lock in failure before Copenhagen?

How can Penny Wong suggest with a straight face that a non-binding aspirational "political agreement" from Copenhagen will be a good outcome when quite obviously it won't.

The game of politics we have created could end up costing us the earth.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Real leadership on emission reductions is required now Mr Rudd.

Kevin Rudd is a hypocrite and a political opportunist who is doing nothing to reduce Australia's emissions with a fatally compromised CPRS (ETS).

Instead he just plays politics by slamming "the opposition" and torpedoing Copenhagen negotiations for his fossil fuel Corporate mates (with his ridiculous 5% emission reduction target).

Developed nations such as Australia, the United States and European countries must demonstrate how to live a low-carbon lifestyle in a sustainable low-carbon economy replete with green jobs.

This would provide a template for developing nations such as China and India to adopt. Unfortunately, our political leaders are intent on providing corporate welfare to polluters to continue on, and are not displaying the leadership we need on this.

We don't need nuclear or more coal exports.

We need:
  • real emission reductions each and every year on a trajectory to 40% reductions by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2030
  • renewable and zero emissions energy now - wind, solar, wave and geothermal
  • improve energy efficiency by 40% or more.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Kevin Rudd plays politics with asylum seekers lives

Kevin Rudd's recent stance on refusing entry to Australia for asylum seekers from Sri Lanka is a disgusting political debacle. He is looking at the polls and positioning his actions to try and neutralize the Oppositions attacks on him and appeal to people on Australia who regard incoming asylum seekers as a bad thing.

The treatment of asylum seekers is a weak spot of Labor. Adopting a "small target me too approach" on this issue was one of the factors that cost Kim Beazley and Labor the 2004 Federal Election.

So Kevin Rudd is trying to tread a line where he is:

"Tough on people smugglers" , "Tough on border protection" and "Sending a message to asylum seekers that Australia is not an easy place to get into".

Sounds a lot like John Howard doesn't it? Rudd has now adopted Howard's position and tactics on this issue in attempt to neutralise the issue politically.

However, this has not stopped the opposition criticising him for "being too weak", "encouraging illegal immigrants" and even "allowing terrorists into Australia" (this last from Wilson Tuckey).

The glee in the oppositions approach is tangible - they know they get some political traction and support on their outrageous statements. They too are poll driven, and some of them are clearly racist and guilty of spreading misinformation on this matter.

The problems with the Government's approach on this are:
  • Human rights are being breached - people and children in distress are being interned
  • Forcing them to stay in Indonesia potentially puts them in a worse situation than being interned in Australia
  • UN conventions on treatment of refugees that Australia is a signatory are being contravened
  • The "get tough" approach is really not deterring desperate people fleeing civil wars and persecution
  • The issue is wasting a lot of government time which would be better directed towards some of the real crises we face such as ensuring a safe climate future
  • Border protection is not the issue - we are not being invaded or at war with these people. The impact of climate change in the near future could see a huge increase of "climate refugees" from swamped Pacific islands.

Kevin Rudd and Labor should do the right thing and just accept and process asylum seekers. People smugglers should be deterred by jail terms. Playing politics with people lives and trampling over human rights is just not acceptable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Transition off brown coal rather than exporting it

The burning of brown coal is Victoria's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions - we need to establish a transition off using it for power generation and replace it with renewable energy sources.

The export of more brown coal to other countries being considered by the Brumby government will result in further greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we need to be reducing them. This must not be allowed.

Climate change is recognised as the most serious problem facing humanity and life on earth. We need urgent and immediate emission reductions not rhetoric and expanded use of fossil fuels.

There are opportunities to reduce our current use of electricity by up to 40% by introducing efficiency measures - this should be a major priority of the Victorian Government. In addition to reducing carbon emissions it will also save us money and create green jobs and export opportunities.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Our round the world trip in 2009

We embarked on a round the world trip in 2009. Lena had work conferences to attend in both London and Basel, so we decided to buy round the world tickets and visit friends and family in both the United States and Europe.

This map is a work in progress of our trip.

View Our round the world trip - 2009 in a larger map

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brown Mountain forest Potoroos need protection immediately

To Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings

Dear Minister Jennings,

Further to your press release on Friday when you released the DSE survey of Brown Mountain forest in East Gippsland, the presence of threatened and endangered species in the Brown Mountain forest adjacent to the creek warrants the immediate permanent protection of this forest.

I note that the "additional 400 hectares of Brown Mountain to be protected" you announced is in fact already protected.

I also note that the forest in question contains numerous trees that have been confirmed at over 600 years of age and that this forest is designated as "old growth" by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Reading the DSE report, it states that high density populations of Greater Gliders and Yellow-bellied Gliders were found. This means they require immediate protection, contrary to you interpretation.

While no Long-footed Potoroos sightings were confirmed by DSE, their diggings were seen in the study area, and the forest type was assessed as good quality habitat for them.

The photograph of a Potoroo taken by a movement sensitive camera within the forest in question on 3am Friday 21 August 2009 now mandates immediate protection of the forest as per the Code of Forest Practice.

Could you please now take action to immediately protect this Brown Mountain forest?

Could you also take action to "protect all remaining old growth forest currently available for logging" as per the Labor Party's election promise and policy commitment made in 2007?

Peter Campbell
(home address and phone number supplied)


UPDATE 3pm Tuesday 25/8/09: DSE visited the camera site today on Brown Mt and have confirmed the LF Potoroo, the site is now ground truthed. From Jill Redwood.


Please consider sending your own email to Gavin Jennings at

and/or call his Ministerial office on (03) 9096 8830

CC your email to your local state MP, Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Bailleiu

If you're on Twitter send Gav this message - @GavinJennings stop logging Brown Mountain immediately & protect endangered #potoroos

More information

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What is the political definition of renewable energy?

Labor's grubby political maneouvre to link the long overdue Australian Mandatory Renewable Energy (MRET) target with the failed CPRS has now thankfully been reversed.

An MRET of 20% renewable energy by 2020 was an election promise by Labor in 2007 - it is an indictment of their lack of action on clean energy that it has taken two years to get to this point.

Unfortunately, Labor is now bending and redefine what renewable energy is, in a breathtaking display of yet more political maneouvring. The draft MRET legislation deal between the Govenment and the Opposition now includes as "renewable energy" sources:
  • Burning woodchips from native forests, including old growth forests.
  • Coal seam methane as a 'renewable' gas
Both are quite obviously not renewable. This is scam.

Our forests should be protected as carbon stores rather than woodchipped and burnt.

And coal seam methane is no more renewable than coal itself.

Pemba Dorje Sherpa calls for action on climate change

Pemba Dorje Sherpa, talking through an interpreter, spoke in Melbourne on Monday 17 August 2009 about the drastic effects of climate change in Nepal where glaciers are melting forming lakes which sometimes flood the valleys destroying villages and causing loss of life.

Pemba Dorje has climbed Mount Everest 10 times and has once ascended the mountain in a record time of 8 hours and 10 minutes.

He called for Australia and other developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% as part of a global approach to combat climate change.

Damien Lawson from Friends of the Earth introduced Pembe

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An open letter to every Australian Senator - please oppose the CPRS

Please oppose the CPRS and work towards leglislation that reduces our greenhouse gas emissions

Dear Senator,

Tomorrow, the Australian Senate votes on the second reading of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) bill. The bill in its current form should not be passed as it fails the primary test - it will not reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in the foreseeable future.

The Rudd government was elected on a promise to take effective action to tackle climate change. Unfortunately, the process for developing an effective policy response and accompanying legislation for doing this has been corrupted by industry influence on government.

Several hundred public submissions during the consultation period on the CPRS white paper then the CPRS green paper have opposed most of the basic structure of the legislation, pointing out that it will not be effective in reducing carbon emissions. Government has ignored these submissions.

The Government has also ignored key recommendations in Professor Ross Garnaut’s final report on climate change such as not giving away free pollution permits to the worst polluters, and providing no exemptions for petrol.

The main problems with the CPRS are:

  • The unconditional greenhouse target of 5% reduction by 2020 is tiny and far lower than the 25% to 40% target range flagged at the United Nations Bali Convention on climate change in 2008.
  • It encourages the growth of highly polluting Energy Intensive Trade Exposed industries such as aluminium smelters by allocating them 25% of permits free of charge, increasing to 45% by 2020.
  • Free permits are given to coal power over the first 5 years. This provides windfall profits to polluters and encourages dirty coal power to continue in the short term.
  • Permits are granted as property rights instead of temporary licences. This means that polluters who get them will be paid compensation in the future if more stringent emission reductions are introduced.
  • There is no limit on overseas offsets, so Australia's emissions could increase and emission permits bought from overseas to "offset" them.
  • The initial cap on the CO2 price is $10 per tonne – a figure far too low to provide incentives for clean energy production.
  • The high "cap" is also a "floor" so emission reductions by households are simply on sold by power stations to other polluters, resulting in no actual emission reductions.
  • The government has made a political decision to link the CPRS bill with the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) in attempt to bolster their negotiating position.
  • The scheme invalidates emission reductions previously associated with GreenPower.
  • It ignores the latest science that shows climate change is accelerating past worst case estimates and that deep emission cuts are required immediately to counter this.
  • 16 billion dollars of taxpayers money is being given to the worst polluting industries as corporate welfare by the Rudd Government. This money should be invested in green jobs and clean energy production.
Climate change has emerged as the great challenge of our lifetime. Please do not play politics with an issue this serious. Quite literally, the future of the planet and all life on it is at stake.

As an Australian Senator, I urge you to represent the best interests of the Australian public and work towards real and immediate emission reductions. You must represent the people who voted for you, not the corporate interests that lobby you.

The CPRS in its current form must not be passed. It is a political solution for an environmental and lifestyle problem.

I urge you to develop alternative legislation that will deliver emission cuts each and every year with a target of reaching zero emissions by 2020.

I also urge you to set a target of 300ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to give us the best chance of restoring a safe climate future.

The majority of investment should be directed towards energy efficiency measures and clean energy production.

In addition, strategies need to be enacted for all sectors, rather than focusing on stationary energy. For example, stopping logging of native forests immediately could reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 5%.

You have an opportunity to lead Australia and the world in an economic and social transition to a sustainable zero emissions economy and clean energy production. Please do not squander this opportunity.

It is vitally important that an effective global approach to tacking climate change is achieved at Copenhagen later this year. I believe Australia must play a lead role in this.

This letter was sent to every Australian Senator

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Politics as usual will delivers the CPRS camel

So now it seems that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, skilfuly crafted by the Labor government to reward the worst polluters with corporate welfare largesse from the taxpayer, and to not reduce emissions until 2020 or later, will now pass through the Senate with Malcolm Turnbull's and the Liberal Opposition's support.

Why? Because Turnbull wants to avoid a double dissolution trigger for an early election he knows he would lose, and because the Liberal Party is equally beholden to the same corporated dirty industry interests that the Labor Party is.

Those who claim that the CPRS needs to go in so "it and the targets can be strengthened later" are either fooling themselves or trying to fool the rest of us.

It it goes in lame due to industry influence - as appears to be the case - it will remain lame.

"Politics as usual" does not have a framework for delivering the paradigm shift we need to embrace a clean energy future.

I am still uncertain as to what will deliver this paradigm shift. I think it needs to a combination of:
  • More direct input from climate sicentists on emission reduction targets
  • Remove the profit motive from polluting carbon intensive industries, perhaps by putting a real and effective price (tax) on carbon instead of a nebulous "trading scheme" full of loopholes
  • Referendums on climate and energy policy - rather than interminable irrelevant debates in parliament and bad policy like the CPRS
  • Set up a bipartisan taskforce on climate change to remove the crippling political and industry interference from policy creation
  • Pressure from a grass roots movement across Australia and the rest of the world to foster policy and process change.
The CPRS bill may be rejected the Senate next week and the final date for a vote delayed by several more months, but the final outcome is clear: The Labor and Liberal parties will eventually vote together to pass the CPRS and lock in failure to reduce emissions in Australia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Al Gore treads the middle road

I attended the launch of Safe Climate Australia over breakfast on Monday 13 July in Melbourne. The guest speaker was Al Gore, who I was very keen to hear.

I regard the Inconvenient Truth as one of the better movie-documentaries I have seen. It struck a chord with me when I viewed it, particularly Gore's observations about the shortcomings of the United States political system with respect to tackling climate change.

Gore speaks very well. His delivery is excellent. He engages the audience and looks about in a calm but forceful manner.

His content was good to. He spoke about the climate emergency the need for urgent action. But then he slipped up. He praised the Rudd government for displaying global leadership on climate change.
While this statement may be politically correct, it is factually untrue. Australia's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will not reduce emissions, but he didnt go into this.

I felt there was a gap between his rhetoric and his call for action. If governments around the world don't set the right policies and legislation to drastically reduce carbon emissions they will greatly hamper our ability to ensure a safe climate future.

We can't lock in failure to reduce carbon emissions, which is what the CPRS will do.

I think Gore was intent on delivering a positive message and unifying some of the fractures that have emerged between environment groups intent on political lobbying and those that are more closely aligned with the latest science and grass roots climate action groups.

However, as I have observed recently, our political process, the structure of our governments, and the influence industry has over them are part of the climate change problem at present, rather than part of the solution.

We need to build a movement with grass roots engagement that cannot be denied by recalcitrant goverments, and we need to recreate the political process so that people really do engage with it, trust it, and be truly represented.

This sounds odd doesn't it? Political and government systems that people want, like and trust! It is a real challenge to achieve this, but I feel we really need this to facilitate the paradigm shifts required to move to a low carbon society with a safe climate future.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Kevin Rudd really a climate pessimist?

Some curious statements by Kevin Rudd have been reported from the G8 chinwag.

On the one hand he states publicly that the world should strive to reach agreements on reducing carbon emissions at Copenhagen and the importance of this.

Then in a quieter conversation with the Danish PM (maybe off the record, but recorded?) he says he is "pessimistic about the world reaching agreement on reducing carbon emissions at Copenhagen" and that "our negotiators are hampered".

Our negotiators are hampered - by the Rudd Government's policy settings for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - which thankfully has not yet been passed by the Senate, and hopefully won't be.

The CPRS sets an upper cap on Australia's negotiating range of 25% reductions by 2050, and has a measly and demonstrably inadequate 5% committed (minimum) target. Which is equivalent to no emission reductions.

So here are some tips for you Kevin:
  • Set the negotiating range as 25% to 100% by 2050
  • Set real targets for annual tangible emission reductions - which means no increases every henceforth, and no offsets
  • Display leadership on this issue - not pessimism
  • Focus on the thousands of green jobs associated clean energy research, development, manufacturing, installation and exports.
  • Announce a twenty year transition off fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas
  • Stop listening to entrenched industry interests that are polluting your government's policies and response to climate change - and start listening to the people.
It's your job to do this Kevin. You are the leader of our country.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sustainable water solutions are needed not costly ineffective ones.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Tim Holding and the Brumby government are in a state of panic over Melbourne's reduced water supplies.

Water Minister Tim Holding's continual refusal to enact cost effective and high water yield options such are recycling waste water (200 gigalitres per year), capturing stormwater and more domestic water tanks (200 gigalitres), stopping logging in water catchments (30 gigalitres) is just not acceptable.

Recycling more water would have the added benefit of stopping pollution from the ocean outfall at Gunnamatta beach.

Instead he is intent on building a pipeline that will deliver very little water to Melbourne, and the extremely expensive desalination plant that will belch out greenhouse gases and destroy an pristine coastline.

Its time to go Tim.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Victorian feed-in tariff introduced with improvements

I have just received a media release from Energy Minister Peter Batchelor stating that the Brumby Labor Government’s feed-in tariff legislation passed by the Victorian Parliament on 25 June 2009.

The final structure of the Victorian feed-in tariff includes:
  • 60 cents credit per kilowatt hour for energy fed back into the grid within that year. This is about four times the current cost of electricity in Victoria.
  • The tariff is paid to residences, community organisations and small businesses with energy consumption less than 100 MWh a year
  • An array size limit of 5kW applies
This outcome is a significant improvement on the feed-in tariff initially proposed by the government. Amendments introduced in the Upper House which improved the scheme include:
  • extending participation to community organisations and small businesses with energy consumption less than 100 MWh a year
  • increasing the array size limit from 2kW to 5kW
Two electricity retailers have also provided letters which state they will provide cash or rollover credits for energy produced, rather than these credits "expiring" as was initially proposed.

The additional amendment put by the Greens for the tariff to be paid on the gross output (rather than the net output) was not accepted.

The tariff does not apply to large scale solar or wind either, so there is potential to further improve this legislation in the future.

On balance, this is a significant improvement over the legislation initially proposed. The government states that the amendments were made "in response to input from responsible environment groups" which demonstrates that the efforts made to contact politicians and build community support for a good feed-in tariff were successful.

Well done ATA, Environment Victoria, Climate Action Groups and everybody who spent time and considerable effort on this campaign.

2008 Feed-in Tariff rally at Parliament

External links

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Public transport for Melbourne rather than more freeways

Below is a map of the 1969 freeway plan for Melbourne. This is part of the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan commissioned by then Victorian Premier Henry Bolte, which was heavily biased in favour of freeways over public transport options such as rail.

It looks like a nightmare - Melbourne converted into Los Angeles. It is also interesting to note which freeways have been built - such as the Metropolitan Ring Road, the Monash, the Eastern, and most recently Eastlink.

Map of 1969 freeway plan for Melbourne

Here is a map from the same transport plan which shows details of proposed rail projects - including the new Rowville and Doncaster rail lines and the City Loop, which was the only one of these that was constructed.

A map of the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan map of rail projects

And here is a photograph of the new integrated freeway and train line linking the Perth CBC to Mandurah along the coast to the south.

Perth to Mandurah road and rail

So what has gone so horribly wrong in Melbourne? Why has no new suburban train line been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1930?.

The short answer to this is the triumph of short term politics and the road lobby over sensible transport planning.

The Brumby Victorian government announced another Victorian Transport Plan in 2008.
This plan provided no further suburban rail lines to Melbourne's east, but it did at least include some rail project in Melbourne's west and north. It also included a very expensive $8b rail tunnel linking Footscray with Caulfield to be built in stages. Given that the Eddington Report that the plan was based upon was tasked with investing "east west link needs", I have little confidence that a comprehensive study of Melbourne's transport needs and the best solutions was in fact conducted.

For example, new rail lines to new suburbs would surely carry more people than a tunnel linking two sections of Melbourne that not many people actually want to travel between.

Melbourne "metro train tunnel" and Tarneit link. Source: Eddington Report

Proponents of the train tunnel claim that "it is needed to free up capacity in the central rail network to allow more suburban lines to be built" but they don't provide any evidence to support this. The Eddington study was simply not tasked to investigate this so it is spurious to claim that it did. More politics with no planning. In any case, there are no plans or commitments to build any of the promised but never delivered rail lines such as Doncaster and Rowville.

Climate Change considerations

The proliferation of roads and freeways as primary transport infrastructure in Melbourne has proceeded with the assumption that fossil fuel supplies will continue forever, and that the associated carbon emissions don't really matter. The most recent Eddington Report and Melbourne Transport Plan did not even quantify emissions associated with transport modes. Both suggest that "hybrid cars" will provide the solution, when quite clearly they wont.

Here are some relevant facts from the Eddington Report:
  • Car travel is the biggest transport source with more than 10 million trips across the city every day.
  • About two million trips are in the morning peak and 78 per cent of Melburnians use their cars to get to work.
  • 11.3 per cent of Melbournes used public transport during the morning peak.
  • The demand for car travel is forecast to grow 30 per cent by 2031.
Taking the approximate figure of four million commute trips to and from work by car every day in Melbourne yields this information:
  • Number of trips: 4,000,000
  • CO2 per km (kg): .025 (average figure - for a Holden Commodore)
  • Average length of commute trip: 9km
  • Total tonnes of CO2 emitted: 900
A trip on a train has 1/8th the carbon emission of a trip by car, so if all these car journeys were shifted to trains, the total CO2 emissions would drop to 113 tonnes, resulting in a saving of 788 tonnes of CO2 per day.

It is therefore quite clear that rail transport should be the first priority for transport in Melbourne, after decades of neglect.

Our trains and trams are now full to capacity on existing lines and now significant new suburban lines are planned for the next decade. This is not acceptable.

Bass Straight oil is already greatly depleted and Australia now imports over 50% of its oil at considerable cost. If a proportion of the money spent on oil was redirected to climate friendly tranport modes such as rail and cycling, we would see some real benefits and long term financial payback.

Privatisation fails to deliver benefits

Melbourne's public transport system, including trains, trams and buses, was privatised by the Kennett government in 1999. This was done to supposedly create competition between private operaters and thereby provide better services. However, over the next decade several of the initial companies participating have exited. Three train operators became one - Connex, owned by Veolia. Two tram companies became one - which may soon also be taken over by Connex.

The proposed public bike scheme for Melbourne may also be operated by Connex if they win the contract to do so.

So there really is no "competition" except when tenders are renewed.

However, the worst impacts of privatisation are lack of accountability and lack of investment. The Brumby and preceding Bracks Labor government have chosen to retain privatised public transport. The government has blamed recent problems with cancelled services, faulty trains, whole system shut downs during heat waves on Connex. Connex in turn has responded that they operate the service but are not responsible for investing in sorely needed infrastructure improvements.

So it is stalemate, with nobody apparently accountable for delivering an effective and appropriate public transport network.

An unhealthy focus on revenue

Another undesirable by product of the privatisation of public transport is the unproductive focus on raising revenue from public transport users. This of course benefits the companies trying to make profits from the system. However, the large contingents of ticket inspectors, euphemistically called "Customer Service Officers" regularly stake out CBD stations and "bust" people for travelling without valid tickets.

Unfortunately, they often bust peoplewho make honest mistakes, such as those that carry a valid ticket but forget to validate it.

They are dishonest too. When they take your name and address they often suggest that you may not be fined - when the majority of people who they report actually do get fined.

Occasionally they are heavy handed and thuggish. Some people have been manhandled and even injured when they descend on someone en masse and attempt the "subdue" them. Such tactics are wholly inappropriate and should be left to the Police when they are warranted.

The Victorian government is also spending $1.35b - a huge amount of money - on the new Myki ticketing system - the benefits of which lie fairly obviously with Connex as the private operator. This money would be better spent on service improvements such as additional new trains or a new railway line. The current Metcard ticketing system was fully commissioned as late as 1998.


While the facts and figures associated with tranport can be daunting and difficult to find and assess, the directions we need to go in are quite clear.

We need more climate friendly rail and light rail transport to service new suburbs and growth corridors.

A metro service for Melbourne would provide better linkage between inner centres such as Carlton, Melbourne University, the Melbourne Zoo, South Yarra, South Melbourne and Footscray. A light rail metro similar to the Paris metro would be cheaper and more effective than the proposed heavy rail tunnel.

Some existing railway lines could be put underground (e.g. the Glen Waverley line through Toorak and the Box Hill line through Hawthorn to Camberwell and beyond) which would free up land above for residential, commercial, park and cycle path usage options.

More freeway projects such as the Frankston bypass should not proceed.

Cycle paths should be integrated with existing railway easements, where unused land within the easments is available.

We need a safe cycle path network that will allow commuters and recreational riders to use bicycles as the most climate friendly transport option.

We need our public transport system to be owned by and operated for the people, rather than for profits.

A safe climate future and a liveable city needs climate friendly transport options, and they are needed immediately.