Activists from the Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN) in Adelaide, accompanied by Mark Ogge from Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), went on a road trip to Port Augusta over September 15 to 18 to campaign for solar thermal power. Port Augusta’s two ageing coal-fired power stations, Northern and Playford B, are due to be replaced in the near future. CLEAN and BZE argue that concentrating solar thermal power plants are the logical way forward for Port Augusta and its workforce.
This is a country in serious denial. Australia is a world leader in per capita greenhouse gas pollution and in fossil fuel exports. It produces 30 tonnes CO2-equivalent a person a year and 54 tonnes if Australia’s exported CO2 pollution is included. Pakistan produces 0.9 tonnes and Somalia produces 0.1 tonnes. Yet in these two countries people are dying from climate change as we speak.
Students from the University of Wollongong have campaigned over the past three years for the university to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2015. They have collected more than 3000 signatures from students in support of the plan. The university administration has instead begun plans to build a trigeneration plant on the campus, which would generate electricity through burning natural gas.
A decade ago most experts would have thought it impossible. But several teams of scientists say the Arctic ice cap had shrunk to its smallest recorded extent, volume and area. Environmental physicists from the University of Bremen said on September 9 the Arctic ice cap extent was “small as never before”.
Baba Jan, a federal committee member of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), surrendered himself to an "anti-terrorist court" in Gilgit Baltestan in early September. He had been on the run after police opened fire on a demonstration demanding compensation for those affected by the Atta Abad Lake floods last year, killing two Jan has since been taken from jail and the LPP fears the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is torturing him. Jan’s “crime” was to organise rallies and demonstrations against the police killings.
Will NSW’s Liberal-National state government follow its Victorian colleagues and block the development of wind energy in the state? Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced new planning laws on August 29 that ban wind farms from large areas of the state. The laws put so many hurdles in the way of new wind developments that most wind companies are now talking of abandoning further developments in the state.
Will the host city for the November-December United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) clean up its act? The August 23 launch of a major Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) report, Towards a Low Carbon City: Focus on Durban, offers a chance to test whether new municipal leaders are climate greenwashers. Will they try to disguise high-carbon economic policies with pleasing rhetoric, as their predecessors did?
If you’ve even casually followed the climate debate in Australia over the past few years, it’s most likely you’ve heard a Labor or Liberal party politician utter the phrase: “Governments should not pick winners.” The idea is that governments’ role is not to give direct support to renewable energy such as wind power or solar power, but instead to create the market conditions where the best, most efficient technology can come to the fore. But the argument is always used as an excuse for why governments cannot pick clean, renewable energy.
1. Profit maximisation is the iron rule of capitalism, setting limits to ecological reform. A profit-based economy that requires continuous economic growth makes ecological catastrophes inevitable. 2. Voluntarism, technological fixes and market incentives as they have been constructed cannot achieve even the weak greenhouse gas targets governments have committed to. Even so, many governments, such that of the US, haven’t even initiated these market mechanisms like carbon taxes or cap and trade.
Fred Magdoff co-author, with John Bellamy Foster, of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment, spoke to Scott Borchert of Monthly Review Press. Foster is a featured speaker at the Climate Change Social Change activist conference in Melbourne over September 30 to October 3. * * * Why did you decide to write a book like this, and why now?