Tag Archives: science

Livestock and global warming pollution

An Anglican bishop, an economics professor and a Nobel Peace Prize winner walk into a bar……and sit down to a vegetarian meal.

It’s not a joke, but a reflection of the increasingly mainstream concept of becoming vegetarian or vegan, or significantly cutting down meat and dairy in your diet, for ecological and climate change reasons.

In 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published the report Livestock’s Long Shadow, looking at the significant and growing ecological destruction caused by livestock farming all over the world. This report has recently been critiqued and updated in a report that found that 51% of the global warming effect caused by humans is caused by livestock farming (meat and dairy). Livestock produces huge amounts of methane (the vast majority from belching, not farting!), which is a potent greenhouse gas in the relative short term. Much of the land clearing and deforestation happening around the world is also linked to livestock farming, being either to clear land directly for grazing, or to grow feed for livestock.

In recent months, Economics Professor Nicholas Stern and Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have both urged people to cut down the amount of meat and dairy they consume, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres has recently become a vegetarian for ecological reasons.

So how about you, can you do it? Cutting down on personal meat and dairy consumption is certainly easier than trying to convince governments to shift their countries away from fossil fuel dependence. It’s a great place to start making a difference!

350 day goes off

Over 100 people had their photo taken on Saturday outside Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street Station, sending a message to Kevin Rudd that we want science based climate change policies, not trade-offs to the big polluters and vested interests, which is an accurate description of his current climate change policy proposals.

This was part of the world’s biggest day of climate action ever (so far!) for 350.org day. In Melbourne around 60 actions took place, including a mass bike ride and several concerts and gigs.

A great time was had by all!!!

Attached is a taste of the photos we took. More are available via our flickr site. Down the bottom of this post is a great video that summarises the day.

Photo above by Rodney Dekker – www.rodneydekker.com

Yep, it’s an emergency folks!

The last few weeks have seen an avalanche of climate science reports and it isn’t pretty. On current trends we are heading towards catastrophe within our own lifetimes.

On Sunday a French scientist warned that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018, 50% by 2050 and 100% by 2100. This will cause the collapse of the ocean food chain, destroying oceanic ecosystems and human livelihoods.

On the same day the UN warned that drought could affect 70% of the planet’s surface by 2025, up from 41% now (currently a rise of 15-25% from 1990).

Last week a UK Met Office report, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change says that temperature rises of 4 degrees on pre-industrial levels are possible by 2060 on current emissions trends. This would mean water shortages for most of the world, hundreds of millions of climate refugees on the move causing wars, and it would be impossible to grow food in most of Australia.

What else does four degrees mean? By 2060 there’ll be no Amazon rainforest, no Great Barrier Reef and no Asian monsoon, and 50% of the world’s species will be extinct. The “once in a lifetime” floods that India and The Philippines are experiencing right now will be regular events, as will mega bushfires in Victoria.

What’s that you say? What about the actions that governments are taking to steer us away from business as usual? Well, depressingly, according to another study for the United Nations Environment Program discovered that even if governments enact their most ambitious climate policy pledges, the world will still warm by 3.7 degrees Celsius (6.29 Farenheit) by 2100.

Yet another catastrophic scenario.

Despite this doom and gloom, all the scientists in these studies say there is still time to avoid these catastrophic impacts. But what governments are proposing to do is nowhere near enough!

We need atmospheric carbon levels brought well below 350 parts per million (Rudd advocates 450ppm at the moment, current levels are 389ppm). We need to urgently start replacing coal-fired electricity with renewable energy (not delay action while money is wasted on researching clean coal), and we need deep and fast emissions cuts, starting yesterday.

Our governments won’t act until you do, and it will soon be too late. There’s no point denying reality, the bad news now being published in mainstream science journals isn’t going away. Check out this blog for current campaigns or contact us at YarraCAN -at- gmail.com

Scientists prove Victoria’s drought is climate change

A three-year study carried out by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO has found that Victoria’s 13 year drought is actually a permanent climate shift linked to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Strengthening high pressure systems are pushing rain bands further south, over the ocean rather than land, due to the warming of the planet.

To view the research visit the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative website, and see coverage of the study in The Age.

Cutting Through the Spin: A pollie-speak translation service

A member of YCAN recently wrote to Lindsay Tanner, Federal Member for Melbourne, asking why his Government continues to rule out transitioning Australia to a 100% renewable energy economy even though they haven’t even explored it as an option.

Below is Mr. Tanner’s response – a neat summary of the Rudd Government’s current ‘line’ on the climate crisis. We have taken the opportunity to point to several glaring problems with the way Mr. Tanner and his Government are responding to climate change… It took a while to unravel the spin but we got there in the end!

Tanner: Dear [sir], Thank you for…your correspondence…regarding a shift to 100% renewable energy by 2020. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that I understand that many people, like yourself, believe that the details of the Governments Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme should be tougher. It is important to note that the targets proposed are tougher than they appear, and the government remains committed to helping achieve an international consensus for strong action to prevent dangerous climate change. Even the Government’s minimum target of 5 per cent reduction from 2000 emission levels by 2020 involves an actual reduction of about 13 per cent, because emissions have increased significantly since 2000.

YCAN reality check #1 – Though the “appearance” of the targets and the public perception that the 5% emissions reduction target is too low may be important to Mr. Tanner, unfortunately this argument is completely irrelevant. Scientists are telling us that we (wealthy countries) need to reduce our emissions by at least 40% by 2020 (but probably a lot higher) and 100% by 2050 if we are to reduce the risk of hitting runaway catastrophic climate change. Anything less than this is putting the world’s people and species at unacceptable risk. The climate crisis is not an issue to be managed by your public relations staff. It is real and it is an emergency.

On top of this, most of the emissions reductions in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will actually come from importing permits from overseas, under widely discredited schemes such as the Clean Development Mechanism. Reductions won’t be made in Australia. So even the 5% target is actually much lower in reality. The targets are not tougher than they appear, but weaker.

Tanner: The Government recently announced a more ambitious target of 25 per cent by 2020. This target is contingent on global commitment to stabilise levels of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million or lower. This commitment follows extensive consultation regarding the best approach to maximise Australia’s contribution to a substantial outcome in international negotiations at Copenhagen this December.

YCAN reality check #2 – The government’s 25% target is so conditional, it will never happen and they know it. It depends on the immoral condition that developing countries commit to reducing their emissions almost as much as developed countries like Australia (despite historical responsibility for climate change lying almost exclusively with the developed countries). Also, what exactly does “extensive consultation” mean? Since not a single scientist has come out in support of the scheme, and almost all environment and climate action groups are against it, who did they consult with? Just the polluter lobbies?

It is quite clear that, even under the Rudd Government, Australia is playing a spoiler role at international negotiations on climate change. In fact, on the first day of climate negotiations in Bonn in June 2009 it was awarded a Fossil of the Day Award as voted by 450 non-government organisations “…for announcing a midterm emission reduction target including unreasonable conditions on other countries”. Later that week Australia came second for trying to avoid a discussion on the necessary emissions reductions by developed countries.

Tanner: If the world achieves an ambitious agreement, Australia will meet this 25 per cent target by implementing the Rudd Government’s comprehensive climate change strategy which includes:

  • Introducing the CPRS to for the first time account for the harm our pollution is causing;
  • Establishing the Renewable Energy Target which will ensure 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity – the equivalent of all household electricity consumption – is sourced from renewables by 2020;
  • An additional investment of $2 billion worth of initiatives to support the development and deployment of low carbon and renewable sources of energy; and
  • The nation’s largest ever investment in energy efficiency consisting of more than $4.5 billion worth of programs to improve energy efficiency.

YCAN reality check #3 – Of the $4.5 billion going to low carbon and renewable sources of energy (all except $1 billion announced in the 2009 budget), $2.4 billion is going to so called “clean coal” – carbon capture and storage – which is just a delaying tactic to avoid real action. Also, the government’s investment in clean, renewable technologies is small compared to the estimated $7 billion of taxpayers’ money it gives to the fossil fuel industry in subsidies.

Tanner: The Rudd Government has put forward this 25 per cent target because we believe that an ambitious agreement to stabilise levels of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million or lower is in the Australian, and global interest.

YCAN reality check #4 – Actually, the most up to date science says that we should be stabilising emissions at around 300 parts per million carbon dioxide if we want to re-freeze the Arctic and go back to a stable climate away from tipping points. It is well documented (even in the Garnaut Review) that the 450ppm target gives a 50% chance of going over 2 degrees warming – a disastrous scenario. Would Mr. Tanner get on an aeroplane that had a 50% chance of crashing?

Tanner: If the world achieves this ambitious agreement, the Government would seek a new election mandate to increase our 60 per cent by 2050 target.

YCAN reality check #5 – What’s the point of having election mandates if you don’t keep your promises to tackle the climate crisis anyway? The Rudd Government had an election mandate to take serious action on climate change in this term, and it hasn’t.

Tanner: The importance of getting a global agreement means we need to secure passage of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme through the Parliament this year. Australia cannot responsibly sign up to targets without a means to deliver them and that is what the CPRS does.

YCAN reality check #6 – Actually, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme would lock in failure by setting in stone inadequate and un-scientific targets and loopholes (such as imports of international permits). It is also unfair – the CPRS would see the biggest transfer of wealth from the Australian taxpayer to the big polluting industries in our history.

Tanner: The Government recognises that there will be some who say that what we are doing is not enough and it comes too late. We know others will say what we are doing is too much and too soon. Australia has had a decade of denial, delay, reviews and neglect under the Liberal Government. The world will meet in December this year to work out a global agreement. Passing the CPRS will ensure we can play our part at Copenhagen and sign up to do our bit. Failing to legislate the CPRS will give other countries an excuse not to act.

YCAN reality check #7 – This is a clever ploy by the Rudd Government, to paint themselves as charting the middle path between “some who say that what we are doing is not enough and it comes too late…[and] others [who] say what we are doing is too much and too soon.” Let’s see how these sides stack up:

Those who say the Government is doing too much: The coal lobby, polluting industry, the oil and gas lobby, the Liberal Party, the National Party.

Those who say the Government is not doing enough: CLIMATE SCIENTISTS, most of the Australian public, progressive businesses, local councils, environment groups, climate action groups, Aid charities, human rights lawyers, doctors, The Greens, the list goes on…

Tanner: Australia’s population is growing more rapidly than most comparable countries, particularly those in Europe. That means we have an inbuilt additional driver of emissions growth to overcome as well. Even if the Governments minimum target is all that is achieved, that will mean that Australia’s per capita emissions will be 27 percent lower than in 2020 compared with the 1990 level. Once population growth is taken into account Australia’s proposal is comparable with the European Union position and significantly in advance of the proposal initiated by US President Obama.

YCAN reality check #8 – Again, this is irrelevant – it is not consistent with scientific necessity. You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics and chemistry. You can’t negotiate with bushfire and drought. Also, the Rudd Government has some cheek using per capita emissions as a reason to do less when Australia’s per capita emissions are the highest in the world!

Tanner: Specific assistance to sectors most affected by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is inevitably the focus of public debate. I would urge you not to underestimate the challenge involved in introducing this scheme during a period of great economic uncertainty and fragility. The transition to a low carbon economy will be an enormously challenging task. Australian businesses are currently dealing with the worst global recession since the great depression. The Government is committed to making this transition, but we are also committed to ensuring that we minimise the economic disruption it involves.

YCAN reality check #9 – All the evidence shows that the Rudd Government is not interested in transitioning Australia to a zero carbon economy. What it is interested in, is managing public perception of the issue in order to win the next election. We don’t underestimate the challenge of the transition necessary, it will be hard, but it is nothing compared to the catastrophes we face as the climate crisis worsens. The Rudd Government, with its support for the coal industry and business as usual, is only delaying this transition and making it harder in the future.

Yours sincerely
Lindsay Tanner MP

YCAN’s selection for a winter’s night in

When the weather turns cold there’s nothing like snuggling up on the couch to watch some DVDs. So as part of our service to you, dear reader, here are some of our favourite videos doing the rounds at the moment.

Wake Up, Freak Out, Get a Grip

This brilliantly animated video is the best explanation we’ve seen of the climate science concept of tipping points and positive feedback loops. Essential viewing.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week
This video series systematically demolishes all the common climate change denier myths. Great for getting your confidence up in discussing climate change.

A Time Comes: the story of the Kingsnorth Six
This inspirational 20 minute documentary on the Kingsnorth Six looks at a group of people who too peaceful direct action against a coal fired power station in the UK, and were then acquitted of all charges using the “lawful excuse” defence. They successfully argued that by damaging a coal-fired power station they were preventing greater damage from occurring.

Climate Code Red Talks
Watch presentations given by Melbourne based David Spratt and Matthew Wright, experts in climate science and renewable energy respectively, on the climate crises and the solutions available.
Part 1

350.org Videos
These short videos from 350.org communicate the climate problem and the October 24 international day of action. Great to pass on to others.
Video 1
Video 2

The Great Disruption
Technically not a video, this radio program features Paul Gilding discussing the physical and biological limits to our current economic model. Excellent for understanding the bigger picture.

Climate Science Updated

The synthesis report from the March 2009 climate change conference has now been released. This is one of the most important publications since the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in 2007. Click here to download a copy.

The message from the world’s climate scientists couldn’t be clearer. The Earth is warming at an accelerating rate, and climate change is happening faster than previously predicted. To avoid ecological, social and economic catastrophe, we need to act now to reduce emissions, and that means, primarily, burning less fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy technologies.

The Yarra Valley Climate Action Group has prepared a summary of the synthesis report, available here.

What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia

The view from the USA – this excellent article, published in the LA Times, gives a fascinating perspective on climate change in Australia, one we don’t usually get from within this country.

(Los Angeles Times / Brian Vander Brug)

Reporting from The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia — Frank Eddy pulled off his dusty boots and slid into a chair, taking his place at the dining room table where most of the critical family issues are hashed out. Spreading hands as dry and cracked as the orchards he tends, the stout man his mates call Tank explained what damage a decade of drought has done.

“Suicide is high. Depression is huge. Families are breaking up. It’s devastation,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve got a neighbor in terrible trouble. Found him in the paddock, sitting in his [truck], crying his eyes out. Grown men — big, strong grown men. We’re holding on by the skin of our teeth. It’s desperate times.”

A result of climate change?

“You’d have to have your head in the bloody sand to think otherwise,” Eddy said.

To read the full report, including a video and pictures, click here.

(Los Angeles Times / Brian Vander Brug)

Five things the government doesn’t want you to know about climate change

The following text is from a flyer that Yarra Climate Action Now has produced. For electronic or hard copies of the flyer contact us on YarraCAN@gmail.com.

The world’s scientists are telling us that we are facing a climate emergency. We are running out of time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and need to act urgently. The effects of runaway climate change are unthinkable and must be avoided at all costs. However, our governments are beholden to vested interests in the fossil fuel and other dirty industry lobbies and are not dealing with this issue adequately. This is what you need to know:

1. The Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is worse than nothing.
The scheme will:
– Lock in inadequate emissions reduction targets of 5-25% by 2020 on 2000 levels – completely out of touch with what the scientists are calling for.
– Undermine international negotiations on a global emissions agreement by showing Australia is not willing to pull its weight.
– Expose taxpayers to possible compensation claims when we have a government that will actually take climate change seriously by giving pollution property rights to polluters.
– Result in a massive transfer of wealth from all of us to already rich, polluting companies, through free permits and other “compensation” giveaways.
– Disenfranchise voluntary action by households and communities, by ensuring their efforts do nothing to reduce emissions and only free up more permits for polluters.

It needs to be scrapped and sent back to the drawing board. Even without a scheme Australia must participate in international negotiations and so will be forced to reduce emissions in any case.

2. Climate science (it’s worse than you think)
As climate scientists study our climate system, they are discovering that they initially underestimated the effects of carbon pollution. Global warming is happening faster than previously stated, and most governments are basing their policies on outdated science. See key outcomes from the March 2009 gathering of climate scientists in Copenhagen.

3. Climate change is bad for the economy, fighting climate change creates jobs!
Climate change will cause progressively worsening economic shocks, which we are already witnessing, such as prolonged drought and extreme events (bushfire, heatwaves and windstorms). It will do the same to our trading partners. As climate change worsens, it has the capacity to cause recessions and depressions. Fighting climate change on the other hand, is likely to stimulate the economy and create jobs, since it will require a large investment to install renewable energy technologies and these technologies are more labour intensive than the old-fashioned dirty ones. See: www.unep.org/greeneconomy

4. Individual action is not enough
Governments like to talk about black balloons and changing light bulbs, but the truth is to stop climate change we will need significant change to business and politics as usual. This will require not only individual, but collective action that shifts the power balance in this country away from the big polluters and towards the Australian public.

5. The necessary technologies already exist
The technologies required to shift our economy to 100% renewable energy already exist. We do not need to wait for unproven technologies that are decades away like carbon capture and storage (clean coal). We can make the change now while leaving the coal in the ground. See: www.beyondzeroemissions.org and www.wecansolveit.org