Bushfires in early October – Why won’t government name the elephant in the room? Hint: it’s called “climate change”
Bushfires have been raging in many parts of Australia over the last week, with Victoria particularly affected. As we write, there is an out-of-control bushfire near Lancefield.
Australia regularly experiences such bushfires – in summer. But this is the first week of October. Indeed both Victoria and South Australia set a temperature record for the start of October.
Interestingly in 2013, the Climate Council put out a report Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat, where they noted: “In southeast Australia the fire season is becoming longer, reducing the opportunities for hazard reduction burning. These changes have been most marked in spring, with fire weather extending into October and March.”
CAM member John Englart has put together a series of tweets on the heat wave, bushfires and climate change. Check it out here.
Terrible as these fires are, these events provide an important opportunity to educate the public about the impacts of climate change. They are called “teachable moments”. Researcher Peter Howe noted “First-hand experience of extreme weather often makes people change their minds about the realities of climate change.”
Who is going to make the link between these early bushfires and climate change? Whether the Turnbull government will show leadership on climate change is still a mystery to us. But we expect a better response from the state government. Despite Labor’s reluctance to talk about climate change prior to the Victorian election, Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear that he wants Victoria to be a leader in climate action.
Leaders need to use these “teachable moments” to educate the public about climate change.
But we have checked recent media releases, tweets and Facebook posts for the Premier and the relevant state ministers, and have not found any instance of them making the link between early bushfires and climate change. (If you do find one, let us know!) The Premier has warned that Victoria faces a “long, hot and dangerous” summer, and “we have got a much earlier fire season”. In early September the Minster for Emergency Services noted that Victoria was getting new equipment because of an expected hot and dry fire season. But neither of them is talking about the elephant in the room. (Hint: it’s climate change.)
Instead, we have the federal and Victorian government engaged in an unedifying squabble about why a controlled burn got out of control near Lancefield. Perhaps they are distracting us by targetting someone local to blame so we don’t have to focus on the big culprits – the governments who are failing to act on climate change.
In mid October 2013, the Blue Mountains also experienced a terrible bushfire – again much earlier than expected. At the time, the federal government was refusing to link this event to climate change. When Greens MP Adam Bandt made the link, he was widely condemned. For example, the News accused him of making “political mileage” out of the bushfires and “ignoring the unfolding human tragedy”.
This time Greens MPs Ellen Sandell and Adam Bandt have again made the link with the bushfires and climate change.
After the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires, David Spratt spoke at a forum on “10 days that changed the climate debate in Australia by connecting the dots”. His presentation is available here and is well worth revisiting.
Another likely impact of climate change is reduced rainfall. During the millennium drought, public concern about climate change was very high. When the drought broke in 2010, concern declined. However, drought has returned, with 15-month rainfall deficiencies in western Victoria being the worst on record, and severe deficiencies affecting 47% of Victoria.
Fairfax Media citing a leaked report note that rivers in the Wimmera Mallee area may stop flowing this summer. Victoria’s desalination plant is likely to be used for the first time.
Orginal image of bushfire by Daniel Cleaveley
By David Spratt
More than 70 organisations have now endorsed what is planned to be Melbourne’s biggest ever climate action event on 27 November, just before international climate talks commence in Paris. And leading in to the event, screenings of the film of Naomi Klein’s book, The Changes Everything will commence in late October. In Melbourne there are screenings planned for October 19, 21, 27 and November 2 and 4. Check out screening details.
Filmed in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything re-imagines the vast challenge of climate change and presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.
The Melbourne People’s Climate March will be the biggest climate action event in Melbourne’s history, so put it in your diary now: The March will be held at 5.30pm on Friday 27 November, starting at the State Library, cnr Swanston and Latrobe Streets. Check out Facebook event, and please invite your friends.
The City of Moreland has become first local government to endorse the march, thanks to work by Climate Action Moreland and Cr Sue Bolton. And as well as seven Victorian unions, the ACTU, the Victorian Trades Hall Council and Geelong Trades Hall are now supporting the Melbourne People’s Climate March. The March also welcomes as partners the Moreland Energy Foundation, the Alternate Technology Association, the Kurdish Association of Victoria and the Melbourne Eritrean United Community.
On the weekend of 27-29 November, as world leaders arrive in Paris for the UN climate summit, people will take to the streets in hundreds of major cities around the globe as part of the largest climate mobilisation ever: the People’s Climate March. In Melbourne, a broad and diverse coalition will express the huge public support for real action on climate, hold our political leaders to account and build on existing campaigns to strengthen our movement for the longer term.
John Englart reports from the UK that Shell has abandoned Arctic oil exploration for foreseeable future citing the costs involved and the regulatory environment, but this is really a win for the climate movement who have campaigned against Arctic oil as fossil fuel resources that need to remain unburnt. We must remember that BP is undertaking deep water oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight including in a marine sanctuary. All Deep Sea oil needs to remain unburnt for a safe climate.
John visited northern Wales where Hydro power and pumped hydro power is generated. The Dinorwig Power Station, a 1,728-megawatt (2,317,000 hp) pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, near Dinorwig, Llanberis, with 16km of tunnels, is located at the site of a slate quarry and provides short term operating reserve power for the national grid. It was completed in 1984 after 10 years of construction.
On the southern side of Mount Snowdon the Cwm Dyli Hydro Power Station at Nant Gwynant is one of the oldest grid connected continuously operated hydro schemes in Wales. It was originally commissioned in 1906 to supply power to the slate industry in the area and was upgraded in 1988. A single turbine produces up to 9.8 megawatts of electricity for the National Grid. It is noted as the first power station in the UK to generate alternating current (AC) electricity.
On his travels south he paid a visit to the 23Mw Alltwalis Wind Farm near Pencader consisting of 10 110-metre tall towers at Blaengwen on the hills above Gwyddgrug, Pencader in Carmarthenshire, Wales. This wind farm went into operation in January 2010.
Like Australia, there are the detractors here concerned about visual impact on the landscape who oppose new wind and solar farms in the planning process. But there is general support for more solar farms and wind farms.
The conservative Cameron Government has been going backwards winding back incentives for both solar and wind energy. The IEA has scaled back it’s UK #renewables forecast, citing policy uncertainty under Cameron.
Environmentalists rally at Parliament House before hearings into tax-deductibility status of environment groups
Australian environmentalists have been mobilising in an effort to stop environmentally damaging projects, particularly coal mining. The Abbott government wanted to restrict the influence of the environment movement by using legislation. A recent example was their attempt to stop environmentalists mounting legal challenges to projects. This followed the successful challenge to the Carmichael coalmine by Mackay Conservation Group (including former CAM member Ellen Roberts). However, the legislation to restrict environmentalists’ legal challenges has not passed the Senate, and news reports suggest that the Turnbull government may no longer pursue this.
The Abbott government also wants to limit groups’ ability to raise funds, by limiting eligibility for tax-deductible donations. Currently a government inquiry is being held into what activities are being funded by these donations. The apparent intention was to allow tax-deductibility only for “on-ground environmental works”, like tree-planting and remove the tax-deductibility status from environmental groups involved in advocacy.
Interestingly, the High Court has already ruled that political advocacy is a legitimate activity for charities that have tax-deductible status.
The Victorian government has spoken in favour of environmental groups engaging in advocacy. However, some representatives of the mining industry have used the hearings to accuse groups of illegal activity. For example, at one hearing, a mining industry representative claimed that environmentalists had set a trap to kill a local drover. These accusations have been made under cover of parliamentary privilege, which protects submissions and witnesses from libel lawsuits. It is not surprising that some have labelled this inquiry a witch hunt.
The Melbourne People’s Climate March will be held on Friday November 27, 2015 from 5.30pm starting at the State Library. See Facebook event.
Climate Action Moreland is a regional organising hub for this march, so we are encouraging local organisations to endorse the March. So far, Moreland City Council and Moreland Energy Foundation have signed up. CAM is also contacting Ethnic Community Associations based in Moreland, and have signed up the Kurdish Association of Victoria and Melbourne Eritrean United Community.
If you know of an organisation that may like to endorse the march or that can provide information to its members, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
From October 12, we will be leafleting for the March at various locations across Moreland. On November 14, climate activists across the country will be door-knocking for the March. If you can help with either of these, please email us at email@example.com
These are extraordinary times with enormous changes in society required to reduce emissions to mitigate climate change in the future and also adapt to the rising temperatures, sea levels and extreme weather events already occurring now and in the pipeline due to the enormous inertia in the climate system. One of our members, John Englart, will be travelling to Paris with his teenage daughter, to attend the United Nations Paris climate conference, known as the 21st Conference of the Parties or more simply as COP21.
There will be huge protests in Paris on the same weekend we march in Melbourne and in cities around the world, and a further Paris mobilization protest on December 12 immediately after the conference, no matter the result of negotiations.
We have seen too little results and many failures from 21 years of diplomatic process. Free Trade talks proceed and are often concluded with great rapidity by comparison. Free trade that primarily benefits corporate wealth has been given far more importance from our politicians than a safe climate that benefits everyone and particularly future generations.
John and Tarryn will be in Paris to document and report from the streets and civil society events.
But more than this. John Englart will join the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) NGO official delegation to the conference to observe proceedings. He will have access to main conference plenaries and walk the same corridors as world leaders and diplomats. He will be reporting and posting to his own blog, to the nofibs website, on his own twitter account (@takvera) and will even use Climate Action Moreland’s twitter account (@camoreland) to post occasional updates, and sending updates to social communities on Google Plus and Australian and international Facebook groups he is a member of.
After a leadership ballot, we have a new prime Minister who does not deny the climate science. The defeat of Abbott will be welcomed due to his climate denial and climate inaction, especially after his laughing response to Peter Dutton’s offensive joke about ‘water lapping at your door’, a reference to sea level rise affecting Pacific Island Nations.
But before you get your hopes up, In a post ballot press conference Prime Minister elect Malcolm Turnbull said “Our Climate policy is very well designed and one I support today.”
Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop immediately piped up and said that Australia will stick to current emission reduction targets for the Paris climate talks.