Transport Forum question on Climate change and heatwaves

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The Moreland Transport Forum was held on Monday, just a few hours after Premier Denis Napthine signed the East West Link contracts. A few of us from Climate Action Moreland attended handing out our leaflet on East West Link being Climate Madness, and a climate postcard.

Andrea Bunting from our group submitted the following question to be asked at the forum. It was the most highly rated question.

With climate change, we are facing a hotter, carbon-constrained world. Currently during heatwaves we can experience power failures for public transport, unbearable heat in trams and trains, and buckling of train tracks. Dark roads also amplify the urban heat island effect; hence temperatures in our urban areas are much hotter, leading to increased deaths and illness. What will you to do (a) reduce dependency on fossil fuel usage in transport; (b) ensure that all transport infrastructure can deal with heat waves; and (c) reduce urban heat island effect from dark roads?

The question was asked slightly differently in person at the forum to all three candidates – sitting member for Brunswick Jane Garrett MP, Greens candidate for Brunswick Tim Read, and Liberal Party no 2 on the ticket for Northern metro region (Upper house) Gladys Liu.

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During heatwaves in Melbourne in recent years air conditioning on public transport has broken, rails have warped, and major delays and cancellation of services have occurred due to engine and electrical failure, which has had a major impact on economic activity. Rising temperatures due to climate change and the urban heat island effect has made our transport system vulnerable. How did the candidates deal with this curly question?

Garrett called it a profound question and launched into a discussion of the necessity of pricing carbon. She didn’t really answer the question posed about how to reduce the vulnerability of our transport systems to climate change induced heatwave temperatures, although she did take a swipe at the Greens for voting in the Senate against the first iteration of the Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation.

Read was the only candidate who listened to the question and who endeavoured to answer it. He emphasised the need for getting more people to use public transport and also increase renewable energy in Victoria to 40 per cent by 2020. He made the point that our governments need to stop considering heatwaves as ‘acts of god’.

“Many government services are really ill prepared for heatwaves. I have just read through Victoria’s Ebola fever plan. We are better prepared for Ebola fever in this state than the next heatwave. Ebola is unlikely in Victoria… but a heatwave is pretty much certain. We had one in January, we had one in 2009. The one this year killed 170 odd people, the one in 2009 300 odd.

“I favour an enquiry into how all levels of government respond to heatwaves. It has really been haphazard. A lot of reponsibility has been put on Councils. We want PTV to require operators to build and maintain track to a standard where it will survive.” Read said.

For roads Read advocated the importance of more trees to shade surfaces, “Trees are extraordinarily good at reducing temperatures, not just underneath them but for a considerable area around.”

Gladys Liu noted that “the weather has changed a bit”. She didn’t really answer the question on addressing transport vulnerabilities to heatwaves but did say that icy poles are no longer handed out to hot commuters during heatwaves and attributed this to the work her government had done in improving the public transport. Maybe Ms Liu was trying to be humorous but it fell flat with the Moreland audience. Social vulnerability to Heatwaves in Moreland has been assessed as high and heat related deaths is a major concern.

Watch the video of the question and the three responses:

You can watch the opening presentations by the three candidates at the MTF/Leader Newspapers Transport Forums article: East West Link takes centre stage at Moreland forum

Heatwave vulnerability of infrastructure

I read up on heatwave vulnerability of infrastructure early this year, particularly the experience of Melbourne in 2009. This is what I found:

Heatwaves cause failures in infrastructure as temperature tolerances are exceeded. Electricity and transport sectors are particularly vulnerable which can result in cascading infrastructure failure with widespread social and economic impacts. (McEvoy, Ahmed and Mullett 2012, Reeves et al 2010, Nguyen, Wang and Chen 2010)

The electrical generation and transmission system is particularly vulnerable to excessive temperatures and heatwaves. Higher temperatures reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of traditional coal fired power generation cooling systems and transmission lines, at the very time when electrical power is at peak demand including to run the electrified transport systems. This combination drives up electricity costs and stresses the system. The likelihood of blackouts is enhanced. During the January 2009 heatwave in Melbourne an estimated half a million homes lost power, the city’s rail and tram network was disrupted, thousands of businesses were forced to close lacking electrical power and affecting internet services nation-wide.(PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2011, Climate Institute 2012)

The 2009 Melbourne heatwave highlighted the risks and vulnerability to urban infrastructure. Like McEvoy et al (2012) the Climate Institute (2013) identified that businesses and government are largely unprepared for extreme heatwave events of any magnitude and substantial duration and of the danger for system interactions and dependencies breaking down resulting in cascading system failure. The Climate Institute made specific recommendations for both business and Government planning, management and coordination of heatwave risks to infrastructure.

October 2, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

Julie Bishop MP shunned at UN Climate Summit

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On Tuesday Australia’s Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop took the podium at the United Nations Climate Summit to an almost empty plenary to announce that Australia was balancing economic growth with climate action, with a puny 5 per cent cut on 2000 level by 2020 using $2.55 billion to fund this cut in emissions. (Read her her speech) Australia’s climate stance has been savagely condemned at New York summit, not least by our neighbours, Pacific Island nations who accuse us of abandoning them to the plight of more extreme weather and rising seas.

For the Paris meeting in December 2015 Australia needs to come up with new targets for after 2020. Bishop told the summit: “Australia will consider its post 2020 target as part of the review we will conduct in 2015 on Australia’s international targets and settings. This review will consider the comparable actions of others, including the major economies and Australia’s trading partners.” There was no mention that the Climate Change Authority had already conducted a review of comparable targets to 2020 for Australia and found that a target of 19 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 already could be justified.

In contrast, Federal Labor Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, spoke at the doors of the House of Representatives Parliaemnt House on Wednesday, on issues ranging from global climate change discussions at the United Nations, Terrorism, attacks on Police in Melbourne, and police powers.

Thomson acknowledged the tens of thousands who rallied for action in Melbourne and round the world.

“I want to urge the Australian Government to heed the calls by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US President Barak Obama at the UN climate summit in New York overnight. Ban Ki-moon has called for bold new initiatives to tackle climate Change, and Barak Obama has said that we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation to do something about it. It is significant that most of the world’s leaders attended the climate summit and have talked in a serious way about the need for urgent action to tackle climate change.”

When Tony Abbott spoke the following day in the discussion on terrorism he said Australia would lead by example, with no mention of our laggard policy on climate change. Tony Abbott is big at playing up terrorism and the fear card to distract from his government’s budget and economic mismanagement and the trashing of climate action and environmental regulations.

At the opening of the UN Climate summit actor Leonardo Di Caprio spoke as a high profile concerned citizen. He invoked no less than the chief of the US navy’s Pacific command, Admiral Samuel Locklear “who recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.” He then elaborated that the summit was at an important time in history “perhaps more than any other gathering in human history facing a difficult but achievable task. “You can make history … or be vilified by it.”

While the UN Climate summit advanced pledges Australia and Canada were noticeably reticent. Indeed, while some pledges made at this summit were considerable there is still a huge gap between pledges and what is needed to meet the challenge. This was articulated by Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, who asked Are pledges enough to avoid the climate change precipice?.

One of the promises that came out of Copenhagen in 2009 was that a Green Climate Fund would be established with a $100 billion in annual funding by 2020 to help the least developed and developing nations to mitigate their emissions as they develop and also help them to adapt to the extreme weather and rising seas and temperatures that are already occurring. Despite the summit hearing $2.5 billion in new pledges for this fund, Oxfam says there is still a large funding gap to the target of $15 billion, the amount necessary to start funding programs. Many western developed countries like Australia, Canada and the USA are still to pledge finance to this fund.

September 27, 2014 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Moreland residents attend Peoples Climate march while Townsville gives a satirical salute

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Did you notice more people on the trams and trains going into the city from Moreland, not to mention more cyclists going into the city? I did. We were all going in to attend the People’s Climate march, a global event at 2700 locations in 160 countries. Some big, most small, and a huge turnout in New York.

New York hosted the main march to send a strong message to the 120 plus heads of state attending the Emergency UN climate summit called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. And what a march it was with early estimates of 310,000 people, later revised upwards due to the large crowds to 400,000 people. It is the largest climate protest that has so far occurred and compares with similar large protests in the US on moral and ethical issues.

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Here in Melbourne we were part of a 30,000 strong protest, a rebuff to the anti-climate policies of the Federal and State Governments. There were also events in regional towns around the state. You can read my report of the Melbourne Peoples Climate protest and regional events at my blog.

Tony Abbott the climate Wally

Unfortunately our Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a ‘climate Wally’ and is not attending the Climate Summit even though he is in New York the very next day to discuss the threat of terrorism. Instead he is sending Julie Bishop MP, the Foreign Minister, but with no increased targets to present.

Also released today in New York is a new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative which identifies major financial risks for investors in coal producers around the world, from the domino effect of slowing demand growth in China, where thermal coal demand could peak as early as 2016. The analysis shows that some of the world’s biggest greenfield coal projects in Australia’s Galilee Basin are already out of the money under a low-demand scenario. In the US, the potential expansion of mines in the Powder River Basin also has challenging economics. These areas also require major investment in infrastructure to deliver production to the Pacific market, and new ports on the US West coast and adjacent to the Australian Great Barrier Reef have all faced opposition.

You can download and read the report: Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Coal Capital Expenditures.

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Senator Cormann show himself to be a fossil fool

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters raised the issue of stranded coal assets and the governments encouragement of new coal developments in the Bowen and Galilee basins in Question time today. She asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Cormann:

The head of the UN climate convention, Christiana Figueres, has warned this morning that coal has no future in the world’s energy mix and that coal reserves should be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. If the Galilee Basin in Queensland were a country, burning its coal would make it the seventh largest emitter of CO2 on the planet. Will the government now agree that it should not be such a shameless cheerleader for the mega coal mines proposed for the Bowen and Galilee basins?

Senator Cormann responded in a cavalier attitude that it was all to promote economic growth. That coal would and should play a substantial role in our energy sector and export market. But what use is that growth when we are destroying the climate, the atmosphere, the oceans, our environment, our home?

Clearly the Government is not paying attention the the world’s climate scientists, and global institutions like the World Bank, International Energy Agency and financial and economic reports that are increasingly warning of unburnable carbon and stranded assets and with global emissions still rising on the path to dangerous 4 degrees celsius warming or more by the end of the century.

Watch the video of the question and response or read the transcript.

Townsville residents salute Abbott government progress on climate change

The North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) (see Facebook)certainly got their message right for their Peoples Climate Action event on a Townsville beach on Sunday particularly in regards to our Government but also many politicians globally that have been slow to listen to the scientific experts. Imagery courtesy of crankycurlew productions.

George Hirst from Cranky Curlew told Mashable in this article that the protest hoped to highlight the way our leaders are ignoring a planetary emergency.

“People around the world are realising this more and more every day and yet Australia, in particular, is going totally backwards on this. It’s just plain embarrassing and it makes us angry that our government has become so controlled by big coal and carbon polluting businesses,” Hirst said. “We want to show them what we think of this stupidity so it’s fitting that we ‘salute’ them with our butts in the air and our heads in the sand.”

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Well done Townsville residents and North Queensland Conservation Council.

September 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm 1 comment

Peoples Climate Mobilisation calls for action

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Are you coming to the climate protest event of the year this weekend? Thousands of protest events around the globe mobilising hundreds of thousands of people to coincide with the Peoples Climate March in New York City being held just before a UN climate summit at the United Nations headquarters.

Tony Abbott will be in New York to speak at the United Nations on terrorism, yet will not attend the climate summit hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon which will have at least 125 heads of state attending. Australian Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop will be leading the Australian delegation. The summit is designed to build momentum for national and international climate action, including a new global climate treaty that will be finalized in at the UNFCCC talks in Paris at the end of next year.

New York Mobilization organizers say they are looking for “Action, Not Words” at the summit.

“The scale, pace, and power of the organizing happening right now is something that we haven’t seen before,” said May Boeve, executive director of the international climate campaign, 350.org. “People realize that we can’t leave the fate of the planet up to our politicians. We need to come together, raise our voices, and apply pressure where it counts.”

It’s your chance to voice your disapproval of the Abbott Government and their destruction of carbon pricing in Australia, energy efficiency programs and attacks on the Renewable Energy Target, and their continued encouragement and subsidies to mining companies, especially to new coal developments.

Join us in Melbourne

What: People’s Climate March Melbourne – part of a global day of action
When: 11am, September 21, 2014
Where: State Library, then march to Treasury Gardens

For more information see Getup! Melbourne event page, or visit the
People’s Climate Mobilisation Australia to join one of the 107 events being organised around Australia. There are over 2000+ events planned in 150 countries.

September 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Moreland increasing tree canopy to combat Urban Heat island Effect

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Moreland Council at it’s September 2014 Council meeting adopted a report on increasing vegetation tree canopy and resolved “to support and fund current initiatives aligned with the management of climate change and the Urban Heat Island Effect.”

The Council report – DCI70/14 REVIEW OF TREE COVER IN MORELAND AND HEAT ISLAND EFFECT (D14/225415) (full text below) – was prepared for the Director of City Infrastructure as a result of a motion by Cr Davidson (full text below) at the July council meeting. It outlines that Council will plant 5,000 trees annually as part of the Moreland Street Landscape Strategy (see Street Trees on Council Website) with the biggest tree suited to an area to be planted to increase canopy coverage. The goal is to plant 30,000 trees across the municipality by 2020.
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September 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

Disruption – the Movie: Peoples march for climate action September 21

Disruption, the Movie is a call to arms to march on september 21 globally to take strong climate action. This is the people’s climate march. It coincides with a meeting at the United Nations in New York by gloabl leaders convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Consider what you are doing on Sunday 21 September and come along to one of the many street marches taking place around the world.

Check out events for Australia (currently 94 events 8/9/14). The main event is listed as in Melbourne, but you can be sure capital cities and many regional towns will also be on the streets.
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September 8, 2014 at 1:21 am 1 comment

Carbon emissions rise from electricity generation – largest 2 month increase since 2006

The latest CEDEX assessment by Pitt and Sherry shows an increase in Australian electricity demand in June and July with rising supply from coal and gas since the Abbott Government abolished the carbon tax and talked about abolishing or emasculating the Renewable Energy Target with the Warburton Review.

Emissions rose by about 1 million tonnes – about 0.8 per cent. It is the largest 2 month increase since 2006 according to Peter Hannam in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The monthly Pitt and Sherry CEDEX report tracks carbon emissions, electricity contribution from different generator types and electricity demand.

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The August 2014 report, with data to the end of July, concluded:

With the carbon price having ended and report of the RET Review expected in the next few weeks, it is timely to assess the contribution of the various drivers to the fall in electricity generation emissions since the peak reached in the year ending December 2008. The fall in emissions since then has been 18%, all resulting from the decrease in coal fired generation, making for a relatively simple calculation. Reduced demand has contributed 49% of the total emissions reduction, increased hydro and increased wind each 19%, and increased gas generation 9%. The remaining 4% is attributable to increases in the average thermal efficiency of coal fired generation, as older, less efficient generators have lost market share or been withdrawn from operation altogether. These changes in demand and generation mix are the result of the RET (in its various forms), other pro‐solar factors like falling costs and feed‐in tariffs, higher retail prices, energy efficiency policies and the carbon price. Many of these policy, technological and consumer demand factors remain highly dynamic.

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Abolishing the carbon price and the Warburton review has greatly impacted on business investment certainty in Australia. While there are still some wind and large scale solar projects in NSW and Victoria under construction, after which there is little investment in the pipeline for large scale renewable energy.

This change also signals an increase in the profitability of the coal generators, at the expense of the pollution and social impacts of coal mining, transport and power generation. Just ask the people in Morwell or Anglesea how they feel about the continuation of coal pollution instead of more sustainable and non-polluting energy generation.

The dinosaurs are roaring, but it is stalling the inevitable with reports from the Worldwatch Institute that Renewable Energy at the Tipping Point and according to a Clean Technica report Renewable Energy Momentum Has Passed The Tipping Point.

These fossil fuel companies know their Kodak moment is coming and are trying to extract a little more profit from consumers which will only make people’s willingness and preparedness to transition to alternatives when they are available more prominent.

September 3, 2014 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

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