Not so long ago, the polar ice sheet made it almost impossible to circle the North Pole by sea. But in June, two boats set off to do just that. By mid October, both returned to port successful — the first ships to sail around the pole in a single summer season. It’s likely the feat greatly tested the crews’ skill and endurance. But their achievement is no cause for celebration. The Arctic is often called the “planet’s refrigerator” because of the role it plays in regulating the Earth’s climate. Now, it’s clear the refrigerator is breaking down due to global warming.
The following statement was adopted by the Trade Union Climate Change Conference held in Melbourne on October 9. * * * This conference of Victorian union activists and local climate activists commends the report by Beyond Zero Emissions and Melbourne University’s Energy Research Centre. The report outlines a technically feasible and economically viable way for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy within 10 years.
Despite all the rhetoric on climate change, both the NSW and federal governments consider it acceptable to allow seismic testing and drilling to explore for gas and potentially oil off Australia's east coast. Despite the potential to develop entire new industries in clean, renewable energy, governments will not or cannot break their addiction to fossil fuels. They have literally placed the entire offshore Sydney Basin on the market for fossil fuel extraction; an area of 6000km², extending from Wollongong to Port Stephens.
Australia’s big banks would like you to think they care about climate change and the environment. But don’t believe them. A new report by Greenpeace Australia has revealed the “big four” — Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB — are investing billions of dollars in Australia’s dirty coal boom. Burning coal for energy is Australia’s single biggest contributor to climate change, making more than a third of the country’s greenhouse gas pollution. Australia is also the world’s biggest coal exporter — and the export trade is growing fast.
About 40 people attended the launch of a No New Coal campaign by Safe Climate Perth on October 10. The launch took place as part of the 350.org “global work party” — an international day of action involving more than 7000 events around the world. As part of the campaign, activists aim to get 10,000 signatures in 10 weeks on a petition opposing new coal developments in Western Australian.
Gippsland unions and community organisations took part in the fourth in a series of “transition jobs seminars”. The seminar took place on October 13 under the auspices of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). It dealt with the region’s current skills base in brown-coal mining, dairy and other industries, and the sort of training needed to skill workers for environmentally sustainable production.
The “Switch off Hazelwood, Switch on Renewable Energy” protest targeted Australia’s dirtiest coal-fired power station, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, on October 10. It was successful but muted in contrast to its predecessor in 2009. The mood was no less festive, but this year, there was no climate camp, no mass actions and no arrests.
It’s close to an article of faith among environmentalists that using less energy is a big part of the solution to climate change. Energy efficiency is often said to be the “low hanging fruit” of climate policy. On face value, the benefits seem obvious. The knowledge needed to make big gains in efficiency already exists. Using less energy will save consumers and industry money, whereas other policies will be costly. And most importantly, lower energy use could make a big dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.
In “The Return of Dr Strangelove”, a September 6 lecture hosted by Melbourne University and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Clive Hamilton, author of Affluenza, Scorcher and Requiem for a Species gave a short history of the research and investment in geo-engineering solutions to global warming. A move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the logical “Plan A” response to human-caused climate change, but such a response would threaten corporate profits.