There’s been so much political spin around the Julia Gillard government’s carbon tax announcement. Of course, there’s the predictable hysterical hollering from Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the climate change denier’s camp, but there is also tons of bullshit from the Labor government. However, a couple of developments have provided a much-needed reality check.
It’s the best news on climate change for years, and you’ve probably not heard about it. Spain’s new Gemasolar power plant produced uninterrupted clean energy all day and all night for the first time on July 3. That’s 24 hours of zero emissions power, here and now. Gemasolar is a concentrated solar thermal power plant. It uses a field of mirrors to concentrate solar radiation in a central tower. What’s new about Gemasolar is that the plant can store solar energy for up to 15 hours. That’s baseload renewable energy, supplied all through the night.
Ever spent time in Dubai airport, on the shores of the Persian Gulf? You might have reflected that human beings can live quite well when temperatures exceed 50°C. All they need to do is stay behind plate glass, with the air conditioning on maximum. No doubt you looked out through the glass at the dust and sand. If you’re unusually reflective, you might then have asked yourself: if this is what global warming has in store for huge stretches of the Earth, what’s everyone going to eat? See also:
A small but spirited group of protesters braved driving wind and rain outside Fremantle’s Notre Dame University on the evening of June 30 to express their opposition to the university playing host to British climate change denier Christopher Monckton. Earlier that day, Perth's daily newspaper The West Australian had obligingly provided free publicity for Monckton’s impending speech in an article occupying most of its front page.
Feeling the heat from opposition leader Tony Abbott’s scare campaign against the government’s planned carbon price, PM Julia Gillard told ABC radio’s AM on June 24 that she “never meant to mislead anybody during the last election campaign about carbon pricing”. This was a reference to her promise — made days before the 2010 election — that a Labor government would not set up a carbon tax.
The public wants meaningful action to address climate change. The 2010 annual Lowy poll found that 86% of Australians support climate action. Forty-six percent said they supported strong action and a further 40% supported gradual steps. Moreover, a 2011 poll by the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign asked 14,000 people their views on renewable energy and the government’s responsibility. It found 91% of respondents think the government should increase action to roll out renewable energy and that 86% think the government needs a plan to get to 100% renewables.
A magistrate dismissed charges against 49 climate activists on June 16. The protesters had committed non-violent civil disobedience at a climate camp against a new coal-fired power station being built in the Hunter Valley. The charges related to an action on December 6 at the NSW climate camp near the Bayswater Power Station in the Hunter Valley — Australia’s single largest source of carbon pollution. The ruling means they have no conviction recorded, no criminal record and their fines dropped.
It wouldn’t be okay for Amnesty to take donations from military dictators or for Animal Liberation to accept abattoir-owners as sponsors. Such scenarios are so unlikely they just sound bizarre. So why should we accept that it’s okay for Australian environmental groups to take money from fossil fuel corporations? Surely it’s the ultimate conflict of interest. How can groups set up to stop climate change accept cash from companies that make millions from polluting the planet?
Ninety-one percent of Australians think the government should take more action to roll out renewable energy and create green jobs and 86% say the government should develop a plan to get to 100% renewables. These were some of the outcomes of one of Australia’s biggest ever polls on climate change and climate policy, which was released by the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign on June 14.
About 5000 people walked across Canberra’s Commonwealth Bridge and rallied in front of Parliament House on June 5, calling for real action on climate change now. Up to 45,000 people rallied nationwide. Speakers at the Canberra rally included former Liberals Leader John Hewson, Richard Denniss 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.