About 5000 people walked across Commonwealth Bridge and rallied in front of Parliament House on June 5, calling for real action on climate change now. Speakers included former Liberals Leader John Hewson, Richard Dennis from the Australia Institute, 2010 Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds and Bishop Pat Power. Hewson said we needed to respond to climate change with a greater sense of urgency and in a way that recognised the magnitude of the problem.
Blind Carbon Copy, June 4 — World Environment Day on June 5 was the Say Yes Australia rally called by an alliance of unions and NGOs like GetUp. A large number of environmentalists, including the Greens party, rightly rejected the last attempt of the government to set a carbon price, the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”. It was shonky, riddled with loopholes big enough for a diesel-spewing truck to drive through.
A big ad campaign — “Australia says yes” — began this month to support the federal government’s proposed carbon tax. The campaign has been organised by a coalition of peak environment and social justice organisations including GetUp!, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One of the people featured in the advertisements is actor Cate Blanchett. Her presence attracted the ire of conservative politicians and commentators as soon as the commercials aired.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Codrington wind farm in Victoria’s southwest, the state’s first. On May 18, planning minister Matthew Guy announced approval for the latest, the three-turbine Chepstowe wind farm near Ballarat. But Victoria’s wind industry is threatened by the policies of the state’s new Liberal government. The government came to power with promises to ensure no-go zones for wind farms in the Macedon ranges, Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, and the Great Ocean Road. These are some of the best areas in the state for wind farms.
The proposal for a carbon tax raises the issues of tax equity and political strategy. Yet despite their inter-relatedness, we need to disentangle these issues to focus on the original question. As a mean of addressing climate change, the carbon tax proposal comes in the context of difficult global negotiations, where almost any proposal has been seen as a breakthrough, and where (after the last financial derivatives bubble) there is justified suspicion of emissions trading schemes.
“EPA: Extreme Pollution A-OK” read a banner held up by protesters outside Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as it announced on May 20 a partial approval for the HRL Dual Gas project, which will use brown coal for electricity generation. With a record 4000 submissions to the EPA opposing the project, the Stop HRL campaign group reacted with a spot protest outside the EPA during the announcement and a further protest of over 300 outside state parliament on May 24.
The worst thing about the Labor government’s proposed carbon price scheme is that it’s a diversion from real action on climate change. Few of its supporters say it will deliver significant renewable energy or emissions cuts any more — only that it will “start the process” and complement other measures. See also: Green illusions and the carbon tax Critical Decade report understates climate threat
It took Arrow Energy more than 24 hours to cap a major gas well blow-out. The well sprayed water and methane up to 90 metres in the air on a farming property west of Dalby in Queensland. The leak took place on May 22 when the well was being prepared for production. The leak was not reported to authorities until two hours after it occurred, and it took the gas company a further four hours to inform property owner Tom O'Connor.
Climate scientist Will Steffen told reporters at the May 23 launch of The Critical Decade — the first report from the federal government-appointed Climate Commission — that “we don’t have the luxury anymore of climate denialism” and “need to get beyond this fruitless, phoney debate in the media”. And straight away, the Coalition began a fruitless, phoney debate about the report in the media.
To every complex problem there is a simplistic response, which is usually wrong. For instance, to the challenge of generating all of Australia’s electricity from renewable energy, the deniers repeatedly utter the simplistic myth that renewable energy is intermittent and therefore cannot generate base-load (that is, 24-hour) power. However, detailed computer simulations, backed up with actual experience with wind power overseas, show that the scoffers are wrong.