Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: February, 2020

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 25 February 2020

McCormack rejects climate summit calls for urgent action

A strong call for governments to set short-term zero emissions target to avoid catastrophic warming was dismissed by Michael McCormack last week.

Mr McCormack spoke stridently against the prospect of the government agreeing to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050 when he spoke to ABC TV’s ‘The Insiders’.

Sounding like he’d borrowed from President Trump’s tweets he said, “I think if you go down that path, what you’re going to do is send factories and industries offshore, send manufacturing jobs offshore.”

“That’s not the Australian way. Regional Australia is more than doing its fair share as far as making sure that we have lower emissions.”

When asked if he accepted warnings from the IPCC that the emissions target was needed to limit global warming, McCormack said the “IPCC is not governing Australia”.

This brought to mind the recent Climate Emergency Summit, held in Melbourne, which released a declaration saying the warming world was a clear threat to Australian society and civilisation.

“The climate is already dangerous. The Earth is unacceptably too hot now,” the declaration said.

It warned that even the Paris agreement emissions reduction targets would put the world on a path to 3.5C warming by 2100, and 4C to 5C warming “when long-term climate-system feedbacks were factored in”.

“National security analysts warn that 3C may result in “outright social chaos”, and 4C is considered incompatible with the maintenance of human civilisation.

The declaration called on governments to commit to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero, to drawing down carbon concentrations already in the atmosphere, and to integrating adaptation and resilience measures into restructured national and global economies.

The declaration said Australia’s political leaders were especially culpable, guilty of short-term political expediency, which had left Australians acutely exposed to the impacts of climate change.

“The first duty of a government is to protect the people, their well-being and livelihoods. Instead, Australian governments have left the community largely unprepared for the disasters now unfolding, and for the extensive changes required to maintain a cohesive society as climate change impacts escalate.”

Australia was the world’s fourth largest carbon polluter, exports included, and one of the countries most exposed to climate change, the declaration said.

“It makes no sense to build our economy on fossil fuel resources, practices and technologies which are unsustainable, particularly when Australia has some of the best clean energy resources and opportunities in the world.”

Back to where I began. Mr McCormack’s strident denialism about the need to combat climate change is in large part due to the need to ward off attacks from the coal loving duo of Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, who are hovering around for another go at installing the member for New England as the Nationals’ leader.

They champion coal mines and will not stop advocating new coal fired power stations.

Mr Canavan’s replacement as Resources minister, Keith Pitt is not only demanding new coal fired power stations, but wants nuclear fueled ones as well.

But what really irks about all this rhetoric is the rampant hypocrisy involved. They know that there is no future in coal. Investors won‘t invest and insurers won’t insure. So how about a bit of honesty and some real efforts to future proof the lives of those currently dependent on coal? It’s time they stopped conning their constituents.

Rather than looking backwards and digging their heals in, they’d be better following the lead of Greens leader Adam Bandt, who has pointed to a new future in mining for the minerals needed for a carbon free future.

Mr Bandt is also very aware of the concerns of those still working with coal. He said Australia “owes a debt” to the coal workers who “helped power the Australian economy and contributed to our success.

“We have an obligation to see that no one is left behind. Government needs to take the reins and oversee transition so we grow jobs and industry in areas where coal mines and power stations exist at the moment.

“I want a manufacturing renaissance in Australia, for Australia to be an energy superpower and to process the minerals here which we need for a renewable economy” Mr Bandt concluded.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 18 February 2020

ACT leads the way to be carbon free by 2050

The ACT gets its electricity from 100 per cent renewable sources: wind and solar.

This is something all states and territories should emulate. I have also recently learnt that the ACT is planning to tackle other sources of emissions, 22 per cent of which come from the use of gas for heating and cooking, and 60 per cent from transport.

In an effort to reduce its gas usage the ACT government has rescinded the requirement that new developments be connected to gas, and is aiming to have all premises disconnected from gas within 25 years.

Furthermore, it charges no stamp duty on zero-emissions vehicles, and gives a 20 per cent discount on their registration fees. There is a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the territory.

“The ACT should be totally carbon neutral by 2045,” says Dr Will Steffen, an emeritus professor at the Australian National University.

Steffen says the territory will be one of the few jurisdictions in the world to achieve the carbon reductions necessary to avoid runaway global heating.

“The notion promoted by the Morrison government and its media backers that no one else is doing anything much about climate change is a uniquely Australian bubble phenomenon,” Richard Denniss, chief economist with The Australia Institute told the Saturday Paper,

The prime minister once again refused to commit to anything beyond his government’s current emissions reduction target when he spoke recently at the National Press Club. This doesn’t tally with what is happening at state level, for “Every state and territory in Australia now has a net zero emissions target by 2050,” said Denniss, “which effectively means Australia has a net zero target by 2050. So, it’s meaningless, when every state and territory says it has a net zero target, to have a federal government saying, ‘No, we don’t.’

Of course, it is by no means certain that the states will meet their targets. None have detailed how they will be achieved. There are also plenty of coal and gas lovers in their parliaments fighting hard to keep polluting.

Nonetheless there have been some significant examples of progress towards an emissions free future.

Big batteries to store wind and solar generated electricity are being built.  South Australia’s big battery has been so successful in driving down prices, and stabilising the grid, that its capacity is being expanded by 50 per cent. When the battery was first installed in 2017, Scott Morrison, then Treasurer, ridiculed the project, comparing it to tourist attractions such as the Big Banana.

Equally significant was the news that the Australian Energy Regulator had approved a proposal to build a new $1.5 billion, 900-kilometre interconnector between SA and New South Wales.

The SA government described the new infrastructure as the “foundation piece” of its plans to have 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

The SA government is also moving to fit 40,000 houses with batteries to further improve the system’s resilience.

No news though on how SA will tackle the other sources of emissions.

There has also been a significant reduction in solar farm approvals lately. Furthermore, Australia’s coal-fired generators are getting old. Should one of the big ones close, said Professor Andrew Stock, of the government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, “prices will go very high”.

So the greatest risk is not the one cited by Morrison and his colleagues, the intermittency of renewables when the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. Rather it is that the old fossil fuel plants are more likely to fail.

It’s a concern recognised not only by the experts but increasingly by the more progressive elements on Morrison’s side of politics, who are pushing for the government to lift its renewable aspirations. To date, Morrison has sided with the climate reactionaries in his party.

As to why the prime minister is so resistant to transition to renewables, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s linked to Australia’s dependence on fossil fuel exports.

Harder to understand is the National Party’s love affair with coal. Some of its federal MPs are pushing for more coal fired power stations. The only answer seems to be that some mines are located in Nationals’ voting electorates. Perhaps the tail is wagging the dog.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 11 February 2020

Gas deal will take us into new dark age

Last week came news that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian had announced a $2 billion energy deal to add another 70 petajoules of gas per year into the national electricity grid.

The PM claimed this would simultaneously bring down energy prices and reduce our carbon emissions. This struck me as an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Gas is a fossil fuel so how can it reduce our carbon emissions, I asked myself?

I’d also like to ask Michael McCormack, who reiterated the same nonsense in his victory speeches after winning the Nationals leadership ballot.

Most of the mainstream media treated this as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I could not help but be suspicious, for surely adding to our carbon emissions would increase our contribution to global warming and climate change.

I soon found the evidence I was looking for. As the DA reported, pushing for more gas production will see Australia enter a new “dark age” by shunning scientific advice to lower emissions, Bruce Robertson from the Institute of Energy Economics and Finance Analysis warned.

He pointed out the ‘bleeding obvious’, which had been staring me in the face since I first heard the news. The deal won’t do what the government is promising, which is to simultaneously reduce prices and emissions. “Producing more polluting fuels does not lower emissions,” Mr Robertson said.

Once again Scotty from Marketing is rejecting scientific advice.

“We’re seeing that with climate policy and we’re seeing that with gas policy – we’re seeing evidence thrown out the window,” Mr Robertson said.

This appalling con job gets even worse, for the gas will come from fracking, as the  project hinges on final approvals for Santos’ Narrabri gas project. Options in Port Kembla and Newcastle are also up the state government’s sleeve.

Fracking extracts gas in a water-intensive process which results in excess salt, risking contamination to both land and other water.

Greens MP and Energy Spokesperson David Shoebridge said, “The plan between the Federal and NSW Liberal Government to prop up the failing gas industry will increase the use of unsustainable Coal Seam Gas up to 60% at a time when major industry players have been working on exit plans and the community is demanding real climate action.”
Mr Morrison claimed some of the money would go towards coal innovation to see how power generation and mining can emit less pollution. He’ll be talking about the discredited notion of carbon capture and storage next.

Worryingly, the federal government plans to make similar deals with other states. Apparently this is in lieu of developing a national energy plan. It reminds me of Scotty digging his heels in by insisting bushfire management was purely a state matter at the height of the recent bushfire crisis.

It comes as new Clean Energy Council analysis shows investment in large-scale renewable energy projects has significantly slowed.

Investments plummeted from 51 projects worth $10.7 billion in 2018 down to 28 projects worth $4.5 billion last year.

This is a dangerous plan which will only make matters worse. We are in the middle of a terrible summer of fires, drought and smoke and this is when the Coalition, State and Federal, commits to more coal and gas projects. This is a reckless and illegitimate plan that will make the climate crisis worse.

It’s 2020. We don’t need to be extracting more gas to ‘transition’ to renewable energy, we need to be building solar, wind and renewable storage now.

The plan is typical of Scotty from Marketing, for he is pretending to take action on climate change while committing to more coal, more gas, and worsening the climate crisis.

“We need a transition to 100 percent publicly owned renewable energy now and with it create thousands of highly skilled and well paid green jobs,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Abigail Boyd, Greens MP and Mining Spokesperson said, “The last thing the country needs right now is for Morrison to be advancing the interests of the fossil fuel giants ahead of the community’s needs.”

Pushing the lie that gas is a necessary transition fuel, or that more gas will reduce energy prices, while reducing carbon emissions is more than an oxymoron, it is grossly irresponsible.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 4 February 2020

Can climate change deniers really love Australia?

Last week’s Australia Day celebrations set me thinking and provoked this week’s column.

This year it won’t be my usual call to change the date, which of course we should do, but instead a musing on the conundrum posed by those who profess to love Australia but refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change.

Because as sure as apples are apples, climate change will destroy much of what we love about this country.

It also brought to mind Dorothea Mackellar’s poem ‘My Country’. Not just because I do indeed love a “sunburnt country”, but rather because I am heartily sick of hearing climate change-denying politicians recite it as though it is evidence that climate change has not occurred.

Because here’s one thing I do know: when she published that poem in 1908, the average annual temperature in Australia was about 2c lower than it is now.

Those conservatives who recite that “sunburnt country” ignore that climate change is going to wreak havoc with everything we love, such as the tenuous balance of droughts and flooding rains, the ability of agriculture to exist on “thirsty paddocks”, our rivers, our wildlife where “orchids deck the treetops”, even the crisp air and “pitiless blue sky”. All this will change.

This summer has shown how precarious our Australian environment is. The bushfires that have not stopped since September; the mix of fires, smoke and of course, dust. We are a nation on the extremities, where climate change will affect and strip away what we love much sooner than will occur in Europe and North America.

As the Guardian Australia observed, no self-respecting Australian can be anything but angry to read stories of over a billion native animals killed in the fires. Our wildlife is so exceptional and precious that the upset that comes from climate change will render some habitats unliveable and the species that live there extinct.

Conservative politicians and those who vote for them love to talk up Australia “punching above its weight” on things such as sport or business or war, but they turn to self-hating cowards when it comes to climate change.

They love to remind us that Australia “only” accounts for around 1.3% of emissions. They forget to add that per capita we are the highest ranking producer of carbon emissions.

Given the fragility of our ecosystem, any political leaders who profess to love Australia should be acting on climate change as a matter of extreme urgency.

We should do this even if it is out of purely selfish reasons of loving our country and wanting it to remain in the same state that has caused that love.

However, this year’s Australia Day was characterised by something else that set it apart from business as usual.

For this time the eyes of the world were on us. A headline in the New York Times, “Australia shows the way to hell” questioned whether our economy was as fragile as the landscape we routinely exploit.

I’m not only referring to tourism, which even ‘Scotty from marketing’ has realised could be in big trouble. Apart from Mr Morrison’s $76 million to help that industry the continuing fires have brought little action about our future sustainability from the government, except of course the same old anti-green and pro-coal propaganda.

But this summer from hell has brought the realisation that we are at a crossroads and that a choice needs to be made. We can go on pretending that exploitation is a sustainable way of life. We can pursue this culture of denial, where truths about nature, climate, women, sexuality and gender identity, and Indigenous peoples are held in contempt.

Or we can wise up to the fact that white Australia has always relied on easy exploitation. From the moment the British arrived, we’ve been kidding ourselves that arrogance and theft add up to a lifestyle with a future. We dig stuff up and flog it, no value added, no questions asked. Though some wise farmers are practising regenerative farming most grow food in the most destructive possible manner – clear-felling, monoculturing, irrigating and overgrazing; destroying soil, desertifying land and belching carbon.

This summer has shown how precarious our entire way of life is. We need to seriously address climate change and these exploitative issues if we are to have any sort of future to celebrate.