Issue 8

Updated: Jan 2

Letter from the Editor

A few months ago, Damon Gameau and Paul Hawken's new documentary, Regeneration, began production in secret. I came to be included quite by accident, after sending Project Sunset to Paul, who immediately forwarded it to Damon. They suggested that I might like to make a contribution. If you enjoyed the film 2040 or the book Project Drawdown, you're going to love Regeneration.

The editor enjoying the sunset in Clareville

It was also because of my exchange with Paul and Damon that I had advanced warning of the 100-minute YouTube Original livestream, Dear Earth, at 8:00am on 24 October (AEST). The video, also called 100 Awesome Minutes to Save the Planet, featured the K-pop girl group Blackpink, who gave a statement and performance around the 20-minute mark. The livestream chat was almost exclusively filled with Blinks (members of their fanbase). And while it is encouraging to see celebrities like Billie Eilish, Dream and K-pop bands supporting environmental activism, I was slightly worried that the video would just be a montage of famous singers and YouTubers, expressing their concerns about global warming and plastic pollution - nice but not particularly helpful.


I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The vast majority of the video comprised much lesser-known individuals, and gave the spotlight to those who have founded amazing ecological initiatives across the world, from a wide range of countries, ages, fields and occupations. It made me happy to know that many people would have come to the video for the celebrities, but stayed for the actions of those they'd never heard of.

One of the funniest segments of Dear Earth was the satirical 'COB-26' - or the 26th Conference Of Beasts. The concept was an assembly of animals, all with similar names to actors, musicians and politicians, trying to discuss climate change over a Zoom meeting. It was a very familiar scene - especially as I had just come out of 4 months of online school. The skit was divided into three intermissions, scattered throughout the livestream. By far the cutest thing I'd seen all week.

Nicola Allen

Green News Australia Editor


Please be mindful that most photos used in this newsletter have their sources cited underneath. If the photo's source is not cited, assume it was taken by the writer of the article.


Many of these photos are NOT taken by Green Force members, and belong to their respective organisations. If you wish to reproduce these photos anywhere else publicly, you must use the citations. Thank you.


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Review

Big Deal, presented by Christiaan Van Vuuren, directed by Craig Reucassel



As Sam Dastyari describes the elusive world of Australian politics at a fine-dining Melbourne restaurant, which he booked out for the afternoon, Christiaan Van Vuuren's face grows longer and longer, and he completely loses interest in the rapidly cooling mushroom soup in front of him.

"That seems like corruption…" Christiaan murmurs, as Sam sits back, satisfied at the reaction he has elicited, and replaces his spoon on the table. The former Labor fundraiser is too cynical even to laugh. "You can't be that naïve about how this works," he replies, almost exasperated. He resorts to wild gestures to make his point. "Look… you're asking me is it corrupt, and you're asking me whether or not it's legal. They're not the same thing, that's what you've got to get your head around."

When Sam Dastyari, the same man who invited Pauline Hansen to join him in eating a Halal Snack Pack in 2016, cuts the jokes, you know it's deadly serious.

Sam and Christiaan speak over lunch - ABC iView

Big Deal, "A look at Australia's billion-dollar political lobbying industry" (ABC iView) is the directorial debut of Craig Reucassel, presenter of War on Waste, Saving Planet A and Big Weather. Christiaan Van Vuuren takes the lead role in the two-part film, with his particular brand of resilient Australian spirit and optimism in stark contrast to the battle-weary attitudes of the journalists he consults throughout. The question is, how can Chris' optimism last in the face of a seemingly unbeatable enemy: big money?

The answer is with humour. And a lot of public stunts, some of them involving unfortunate bystanders. All I can say is that it's lucky the reception woman at the Labor party's Canberra office has a good sense of humour.

Because Big Deal is led by someone with no scientific or political expertise, any viewer can tune in and feel as though they are the one being taken on Christiaan's journey throughout the film. And this is one of its greatest strengths. Craig does an excellent job of showing that anyone can become involved in politics, fighting for democratic transparency and, by extension, climate justice.


Christiaan Van Vuuren - Madman Films

Although Big Deal is a documentary primarily about democracy and corruption in general, this review focuses on the environmental aspects of the film.

One of the main systemic flaws discussed in Big Deal is the amount of access lobbyists have to politicians, which ordinary citizens don't have. This loophole in our democracy often means that corporations have the casting vote on new fossil fuel developments - not members of the affected community. Take Angus Emmett, for example. Angus owns a farm on Channel Country, in Longreach, Queensland, an area which has long been pumped for gas. But proposed fracking poses a new kind of threat. Longreach sits squarely above the Great Artesian Basin, and since it's extremely dry, locals get all their water from underground aquifers. If the drilling disturbs the groundwater systems upon which everyone relies, there will be serious consequences for all the surrounding farmers and townspeople, not to mention the various native plants and animals which also use the groundwater for survival.

Channel Country - Odyssey Traveller

Angus has been trying to get a meeting with state politicians for over a year with no success. He recalled a conversation with a friend in the oil industry, who'd told him, You mob really are at a disadvantage. If we've got a problem with a government policy, we hop in our jet, and we'll fly to whatever city we need to fly to, and we'll be knocking on that minister's office door the next morning, demanding a meeting… You crew out there, you've got to go through the whole process - it'll take you months before you might get a meeting with that minister, and by then it's all happened, it's too late.

"The fossil fuel industry has been very clever and they've had a long-term plan," Angus told Christiaan, perfectly calm despite the dire circumstances. "They'll have advisors in the Prime Minister's office; they'll have it in all the states. They have the money and the political clout to actually get the outcomes they want, even if [they're] not the best outcomes for the country in the longer term."

Trying to give politicians the benefit of the doubt, Christiaan commented, "The government would say that they accept donations, but that that doesn't have any impact on their decision-making."

Angus just smiled tightly. "Yes, and I'd believe that too if it wasn't total garbage. No one believes that… Everyone's supposed to have equal say but anyone who believes that is living in fairyland."

When Christiaan spoke to Ben Smee, an investigative journalist for the Guardian, it was clear that gas companies had control of the government, in the case of the Longreach fracking. Because the government knew what the impacts would be. Ben said, "The QLD Environment Department did a report - they briefed a scientific panel - and they asked them to look at the impact of these sorts of developments on Channel Country. The conclusion of the panel was that they should essentially ban fracking in the Channel Country."

"So did they stop fracking?" asked Christiaan.

"No, absolutely not," replied Ben. "In fact, that report was made secret by the State government and ultimately was ignored." If that wasn't damning enough, Ben described his experience while doing some research into the project: "…I get a phone call from someone from the gas industry lobby, saying they were aware I was doing a report, about this sensitive cabinet document."

"How do they know that?" Christiaan interjected.

"I mean, we can all speculate, right? …There is no other industry that gives the level of donations, that has the same level of access, that has the same level of closeness between its executives, and politicians. The gas industry combined has given… in excess of $600K to both major parties in the last 3 or 4 years… We know from the access registers that QLD ministers regularly meet with lobbyists and representatives of the gas industry."

So, how do the lobbyists of big companies get access to the top decision-makers? There are a number of ways. For every politician in Canberra there are dozens of lobbyists within the halls of Parliament House - described as 'advocates' by Simon Banks of Hawker Britton, and 'locusts' by Senator Jaqui Lambie. These lobbyists schedule meetings with those representatives and senators who are best placed to help their employers. Seemingly unrelated, and often undisclosed, donations are also made to the relevant parties - although these payments may simply be a way of remaining on comfortable terms. Meanwhile, people like Angus are left months waiting for a call that may never come.

Many of the donations are undisclosed permanently. For example, in the 2016-2017 financial year, 55% of Labor party donations and 65% of Liberal donations were hidden. This means that in the last decade, our parties have received over $1B in dark money donations. To make matters worse, even the declared donations are hard to track, because all the information is dumped together at the end of each year, in thousands of pieces of data. By then, any decision thanks to a donation has long been made and had its effect.

In other cases, CEOs and major investors like to contact the politicians personally. Christiaan spoke to Jeff McCloy, a property developer and former Mayor of Newcastle, who was involved in a scandal a few years back, concerning thousands of dollars he'd donated to members of the Liberal party. But he claims he spent even more on Labor ministers.

J: "We had lunch with the Premier and ministers to, fundamentally I think, give them feedback."

C: "What are they selling?"

J: "Come and talk to us and tell us all about your problems… bring a cheque with 100K with you and it'll be ok."

C: "They say that? They literally -"

J: "Yeah. It's $100K."

C: "For two lunches?"

J: "Each." [He grins in satisfaction at Christiaan's shocked expression.]


Jeff McCloy speaks with Christiaan - Madman Films

In his car on the way home from the lunch with the former mayor, a stunned Christiaan reflected, "…for Jeff it all just feels like business as usual, that one spends $100K on being able to dine with the premier and whatever ministers you choose… He doesn't even seem to realise what that sounds like to a normal person."

Although Jeff's specific situation was to do with his property development, fossil fuel executives use the same tactics, and sometimes this direct communication, sweetened by the cheque, is more effective than sending a lobbyist to smooth-talk the politicians for them.

The revolving door of employment between corporate positions and civil service also plays a major role (see more in this issue's Scandal article by Angelica Philips). Below is a list of individuals who have crossed, either from the fossil fuel industry to politics, or vice versa.

Fossil fuel --> politics

John Kunkel

  • Formerly: Deputy CEO of Minerals Council + Chief Advisor on Government Relations for Rio Tinto.

  • Currently: PM Chief of Staff.

Paul Woodland

  • Formerly: Shell QCG + Rio Tinto.

  • Currently: QLD Resources Minister Chief of Staff.

Roger Martin

  • Formerly: Woodside.

  • Currently: WA Treasurer Chief of Staff.

Politics --> fossil fuel

Mark Vale

  • Formerly: Deputy PM.

  • Currently: Chair of Whitehaven Coal.

Martin Ferguson

  • Formerly: Minister for Resources.

  • Currently: Member of the APPEA Advisory Board.

Ian McFarlane

  • Formerly: Minister for Resources.

  • Currently: Director of Woodside Energy + CEO of the QLD Resources Council.

Luckily, it is possible for communities to stand up to lobbyists and corrupt politicians. If well organised and in the majority, opposing constituents can beat big money, against all odds. An uplifting example is from the area around Lismore, in northern NSW. Without public knowledge or consent, 50 wells for drilling coal seam gas had been constructed in the Keerrong locality, and extraction had already begun. Meg Neilson, Judi Emmett and Annie Kia, "tried very hard to get a meeting with the premier at that time, but he wouldn't meet with us." So the community, led by Meg, Annie and Judi, launched a campaign to drive out the gas companies. They also surveyed the locals on whether or not they wanted CSG in their valley, and upon receiving a 99% negative result, declared themselves gas-field free. The irony is that while, "There was no legal basis to [that claim] whatsoever," it was legal for the government to hide the gas drilling from the community entirely.


Protest against CSG in Bentley, outside Lismore - Madman Films

At first, the state government paid no attention whatsoever. In fact, they approved Metgasco’s decision to drill even more wells – this time, in neighbouring Bentley, another farming area outside Lismore. But soon, well over 1000 people had pitched camp on a farm near the proposed CSG site. More than 800 police were sent in to break up the protests and camp, but when they entered Lismore and Bentley, motels, caterers and farmers turned them away, giving them no choice but to give up and go home. By this time, the incident had received a lot of publicity, and eventually, the government relented. "Metgasco's drilling site at Bentley looks to be packed up for good," said an ABC report from the time. David Barrow, Lead Organiser of the Sydney Alliance, explained why this worked: "If you don't have $100K then you've got to organise a lot of people." And it’s not about being a professional, either. As Judi told Christiaan, “Most people there had never done anything like that before… Just locals who cared.”

As Craig Reucassel said in a webinar a few months ago, "At the moment the voice of large donations is being heard a lot more than the public. Somebody just sitting there and saying, 'I spent 100K to have a lunch with the Premier'… There's something… ridiculous about it… This system is well and truly out of kilter if that is normality for someone else." But our democracy isn't entirely broken. Neither is the fossil fuel industry an unbeatable enemy. We still have a fighting chance, and our greatest asset is the strength of community. We can't afford to let cynicism and despair ward us away from taking part in our own democracy. As David Barrow said, "If you think like that then you let power win. They want you to feel like politics is dirty, politics is all blackmail and bribery, don't get involved, leave it to the professionals: that's what they want you to think so, by making you cynical and overwhelmed, they have succeeded."

 

Scandal

The revolving door between the fossil fuel industry and politics - Angelica Philips


The term ‘revolving door phenomenon’ refers to the practice of industries such as fossil fuels offering high-paying jobs to politicians after they leave parliament. This incentivises lawmakers to appease said industries, and has significant impact on policy.


There are many examples of politicians who have left parliament for jobs in the fossil fuel industry: in the Labor Party, Martin Ferguson (former Labor Resources Minister) joined APPEA, an oil and gas peak body six months after he retired from parliament; and Labor cabinet ministers Greg Combet and Craig Emersontook up advisory positions for Santos and AGL (Australian Gas Light) within months of leaving public office.


Martin Ferguson, former Labor Resources Minister, employed by APPEA

In the Coalition, former leaders of the National Party John Anderson (who took up a chairmanship at Eastern Star Gas), and Mark Vaile (who become a non-executive director and chairman of Whitehaven Coal), are examples of the revolving door of politics. Former Coalition Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane joined the Queensland Resources council one year after leaving parliament, and Former Howard government ministers went on to work as lobbyists in prolific numbers: Nick Minchin, Michael Wooldridge, Peter Costello, Richard Alston and Peter Reith all became lobbyists shortly after leaving parliament.


Nick Minchin, Howard Govt. cabinet minister, now lobbyist

The revolving door has had a detrimental effect on climate policy through incentivising politicians to support the fossil fuel industry over their own constituents. Australia’s climate policies have been ineffective and weak, largely because policymakers are rewarded for their loyalty to the fossil fuel industry.

The Howard Government did almost nothing to combat climate change, despite it being a significant issue, before five ministers went on to become lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry. This clearly indicates that the revolving door leads to poor policy with little consequence for the policy makers.


Australia’s current climate policies, such as ‘technology not taxes’ and the weak emissions targets demonstrate how politicians are supporting the fossil fuel industry in the hopes of landing a high-paying job like their predecessors.


The weak climate policy resulting from the revolving door allows greenhouse gas emissions to continue increasing in Australia. This contributes to bushfires, droughts, extreme storms and rising ocean levels, temperatures and acidity, which have a wide range of detrimental impacts such as destruction of habitat, wildlife, coastal cities, rural farming communities, river systems and coral reefs.


Bushfires cause the destruction of habitat, wildlife and rural farming communities.

The practice also contributes to the disconnect between politicians and voters, as politicians are prioritising their own interest in getting a high-paying job over voters' concerns about climate change. The revolving door allows corruption to take place, eroding Australia’s democratic values and fostering an unfair parliamentary system.


To address the revolving door, other countries such as Ireland and Canada have implemented strict legislation governing the extent of the revolving door. In Australia, the only deterrent in place is the Commonwealth criminal code, which prohibits government officials from 'dishonestly' asking for, agreeing to receive, or receiving, a benefit, where that benefit will influence the exertion of their power. This is vague and hard to enforce, as there is no federal legislative framework for prosecuting corrupt behaviour.


There are two options to address the revolving door; either implement legislation to close it (as done in Canada and Ireland) or institute a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Implementing legislation would be a very difficult and time-consuming process, and would be vulnerable to lobbyists watering it down.


A Federal ICAC could be a lot more effective: the corrupt actions of former NSW Premiers Nick Greiner and Eddie Obeid have been exposed due to ICAC, suggesting that it is an effective way to deal with corruption and should be implemented on a federal level to inhibit corrupt politicians. A federal ICAC could close the revolving door of politics, leading to better environmental policies and a more democratic parliament.


The Conversation, The revolving door: why politicians become lobbyists, and lobbyists become politicians, https://theconversation.com/the-revolving-door-why-politicians-become-lobbyists-and-lobbyists-become-politicians-64237, 22/9/16

The Guardian, Dirty coal to dirty politics: everything is connected through a malformed political economy, https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/21/dirty-coal-to-dirty-politics-everything-is-connected-through-a-malformed-political-economy, https://www.greenpeace.org.au/blog/dirty-coal-to-dirty-politics/, 21/7/17

Michael West Media, Revolving Doors: how the fossil fuel lobby has governments ensnared, https://www.michaelwest.com.au/revolving-doors-how-the-fossil-fuel-lobby-has-governments-ensnared/, 9/2/18

Independent Australia, Climate and energy policy corrupted by government - lobbyist 'revolving door', https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/climate-and-energy-policy-collapsing-from-government-shuffling,11939, 28/9/18

ABC News, The long history of political corruption in NSW — and the downfall of MPs, ministers and premiers, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-15/nsw-history-of-corruption-icac/12767346, 15/10/20


Photos (in order of appearance)

The Weekend Australian, Martin Ferguson appointed to Fair Work panel, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/martin-ferguson-appointed-to-fair-work-panel/news-story/d9cf8a6bc7644605fb6f9e13a87b7f4a, 12/3/20

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Senator Nick Minchin – ACM Patron, https://norepublic.com.au/senator-nick-minchin-acm-patron/, 9/8/11

World Extreme Medicine, An Australian Firefighter’s Insider View of the Australian Bushfires, https://worldextrememedicine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Australian-bushfires-1024x689.jpg, https://worldextrememedicine.com/blog/2020/01/firefighters-view-of-the-australian-bushfires/, 21/1/20

 

Analysis

Student Research Projects for Science, with environmental themes


A few months ago, the Science department of my school tasked the whole of Year 10 with SRPs - Student Research Projects. These were individual assignments which could be first-hand investigations, surveys or secondary research projects, and each one had to test a hypothesis or claim. After handing in my SRP - a dissection of the links between climate change and Black Summer - it occurred to me that I wasn't the only one who had researched in the field of ecology for this assignment. Below are five examples of SRPs which focused on environmental topics.

Lydia Bodsworth - Migration of endemic diseases due to shifting climate zones


Georgia McCormack - The viability of nuclear power in Australia


Lara Enright - The future of deforestation in the Amazon


Angelica Philips - The world's most effective carbon caps and other policies

Nicola Allen (Editor) - Links between climate change and Black Summer


LYDIA BODSWORTH

When most people think about climate change, many images come to mind, images that most likely involve melting icebergs, or raging bush fires, or even crop failure and water pollution. And while all these occurrences are tragedies that we are on a trajectory towards, not much discussion has been had about the biggest killers potentially heading our way - viruses and diseases - which is odd because, in the past few years, virus and disease seems to be all we've been talking about. I have followed this method: firstly, to find the most favourable climate for mosquitos to spread their disease; secondly whether climate change will affect this environment; thirdly whether mosquitos can actually travel to new places in the world. From there I was able to form a conclusion and predict future consequences.


Mother with child who received pilot malaria vaccine in Nairobi - N. Thomas for the WHO
Women receiving anti-malaria tablets - WHO
Lydia Bodsworth SRP presentation script (V2)
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Lydia Bodsworth SRP
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GEORGIA MCCORMACK


When someone talks about the controversial "Nuclear Energy" topic in Australia, I always find myself wondering: why hasn’t Australia considered nuclear energy? This source of energy is such a big part of our world today, from it producing 10% of the world’s electricity, to nuclear powered submarines. With this in mind, my aim is to find out how NSW could provide enough power for its citizens with nuclear energy alone.


Georgia McCormack SRP proposal
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What is nuclear energy? The simplest explanation is that it is a non-renewable power source produced from nuclear fission, which is the splitting apart of atoms in a chain reaction, creating energy in the process. But, for the main aspect of my question, I needed to find an example of a nuclear power station that I could use as a model for NSW, from countries such as the US, Canada, France and the UK.


Georgia McCormack SRP presentation script (V3)
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Overall, I have found a way that nuclear energy would technically be able to provide for the whole of NSW, but there are many other features of this energy source that would be hard to get going in Australia – and by that point, would nuclear still be an accepted source of energy?


Nuclear power plant - Shutterstock, via UNSW
JG_McCormack
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LARA ENRIGHT

The aim of my SRP was to investigate the decline in the Amazon Rainforest, specifically when it would reach a tipping point. A tipping point is the threshold at which the Amazon's ecosystem will irreversibly change and lose its ability to function as a rainforest biome. The Amazon expert Nobre estimates the tipping point will be reached when 20-25% of forest is removed. Worryingly, today, we have already reached 17% of Amazonian deforestation. My hypothesis was that we would reach 20-25% deforestation within the next 60 years.


Lara Enright SRP proposal
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My method of answering this question was to obtain information from several government sites and widely accepted research papers to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information I found. I also maximised the validity of the researched results by comparing multiple accepted scientific papers. I then collated the deforestation rates data into a graph, extrapolating when the tipping point would be reached. My findings are that this devastating tipping point will be reached by 2030.


Lara Enright SRP presentation script (V2)
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Burning forest to clear land in Mato Grosso - Victor Moriyama for The New York Times
Lara Enright SRP
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ANGELICA PHILIPS

Putting a price on carbon is vital to the future of our planet. The latest IPCC report warned that drastic and rapid emissions reduction is necessary and with every fraction of a degree of heating, the effects of climate change accelerate, making AGW the most pressing threat to our earth and society.


Wildfires blazing across 30,000 sq km in Russia, 2019 - EPA, via the Guardian

A carbon tax is a policy which requires emitters to pay a certain amount to the government for emitting carbon into the atmosphere, disincentivising companies from emitting carbon, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. A cap and trade scheme is when the government sets a cap, or maximum amount of emissions it will allow, and then gives permits to major polluters. If said polluters emit less than the cap, they can trade the permits in a market. Both of these schemes are currently in place around the world, with major cap and trade schemes in Europe and Canada, and planned carbon pricing schemes in China and Brazil.


NK_Philips.pptsx
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Australia implemented a carbon tax ten years ago, but it was scrapped after it caused a 10% rise in energy prices. However, it was effective, and caused a 1.4% drop in GHG emissions in a year. Therefore, Australia should reinstate the carbon tax, as there is more reliable technology nowadays and there wouldn’t be such a dramatic rise in prices.


NICOLA ALLEN

The question I decided to investigate for my SRP is, "Was the intensity of the Australian Black Summer bushfire season, 2019/2020, caused or heavily influenced by anthropogenic global warming?" It took me a while to settle on this exact question, but I knew I had to use the opportunity of having the support and feedback of the school science department wisely, since the evidence connecting the season with AGW is purely scientific, and not something I would normally feel qualified to investigate. After the acceptance of my proposal and the beginning of my research, I realised that the data I was gathering could be organised under three headings:

  1. Evidence of climate change affecting fire weather (patterns and correlations)

  2. How climate effects fire weather (mechanisms and explanations)

  3. Evidence of climate change affecting Black Summer (specific data)

I researched for around a month and a half, starting in early August and finishing in late September. My proposal, research table and progress log are all included in the attached PDF, for additional reading. Suffice to say that it went much better than my last SRP - actually enjoyed this one, and felt that I had learnt something useful and done good research.


PDF 1 Nicola Allen SRP proposal, research and progress log
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The conclusion of my presentation was, as I expected, that Black Summer was heavily influenced by AGW, and that this is part of a nationwide and global trend towards more intense fire weather and more frequent catastrophic bushfire seasons. In the attached document is the final, edited and cut, script of the presentation which I submitted on 22 October this year. Below that, in the same document, is the uncut version. And finally, I have also attached my audio presentation, with the accompanying PowerPoint, for those who would prefer to watch rather than read.


PDF 2 Nicola Allen SRP presentation script (V3 + V2)
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A firefighter in Black Summer, 2019/2020 - Matthew Abbott for NYT, via Judith Neilson Institute
JG_Allen
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Action

What really went down at COP26?


Of all the Conferences of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which have taken place over the years, perhaps none have been as heavily weighted and as divisive as COP26. The third COP to the UNFCCC to be held since the Paris Accords in 2015, many activists and politicians had very high hopes for COP26. A UN climate report had just been released to coincide with the talks; world leaders were expected to renew their Paris commitments with a warming cap of 1.5 degrees by 2050 in mind; and the world had already been through several devastating natural disasters in the first half of this year alone. The pressure was high, and negotiations would be tense. Many viewed this conference as one of the last milestones before the tipping points of 2030. So, the question is: what came of it?

LEADUP

COP26 was held from the 31st October to the 12th November, in Glasgow, Scotland's most populous city. The full description of the meeting is (brace yourself), the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It also happens to be the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement.

Glasgow Science Centre - Alan Copson for Getty Images, via Lonely Planet

The aim of a COP is to emerge with a document or set of documents, and the most successful one so far was the Paris Agreement in 2015, when all UN countries agreed to limit AGW to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. Part of the agreement was that every country needed to update/improve their commitments every five years (a year late due to covid) and this is why COP26 was viewed as the last chance to lock in an emissions reduction of 50% in the next ten years, before the IPCC's predicted irreversible tipping points around 2030.

Greta Thunberg addressed the 'Youth4Climate Pre-COP26' conference on 28 September, before leading the biggest protest that week, in the streets outside Glasgow. This march was joined by several other prominent activists from around the world, including Nicki Becker of Argentina, Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Kenyans Elizabeth Wathuti and Eric Njuguna, and Sophia Kianni from the United States, all representing the globe's Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA).


In her Youth4Climate speech (see images above from Doha Debates video), Greta mocked world leaders, saying that, "As long as we ignore equity and historic emissions, and as long as we don't include consumption of imported goods, burning of biomass, etc., and as long as clever accounting is one of the most efficient ways of reducing emissions, we won't get anywhere." She went on to say that climate change is, "A crisis based on the idea that some people are worth more than others, and therefore have the right to exploit and steal people's land and resources. And it is very naïve to believe that we can solve this crisis without confronting the roots of it."

Greta also spoke to the protestors on the streets of Glasgow, six days later: "The leaders are not doing nothing… This is an active choice by the leaders to continue to let the exploitation of people and nature… take place… It seems like [politicians'] main goal is to continue to fight for the status quo… This is now a global northern greenwash festival. A two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah… The facts do not lie, and we know that our Emperors are naked." Her words were met with cheers and yells of approval.


Greta speaks to protestors - The Guardian

By contrast, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger approached climate change from a very capitalist perspective - an important addition to the discussion, since it must be understood that AGW knows no political boundaries and can be avoided in many different systems of government, as long as there is a clear goal and everyone is working together in a bipartisan effort.

"[California] shows you that you can protect the environment and the economy at the same time… When I was running for Governor, one of the things that was brought to my attention was that we could have we could have a tremendous impact on our environment… The environmentalists mean well. They're passionate… But they have a problem when it comes to communicating… They tell you how many millions of tonnes of pollution… But this is not going to sell the ticket…" Instead, Arnold suggests, "We have to make people understand: where can they participate? …You can have global capitalism, but you have to be smart about it… You can have the best capitalism in the world, but if people are dead, they're dead. Over."

And then we have the speech which trumps them both. David Attenborough is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary science communicators to have ever lived, and the most prolific by far. Every time I see him speak I find myself caught off guard and blown away by the intensity of his presence and his unequivocal manner of speech. Sir David addressed the 26th Conference of Parties, at the age of 95, with the vivacity and passion of a 30-year-old. But it was slightly melancholy to hear him say to the assembled leaders, "In my lifetime, I have witnessed a terrible decline in the natural world - but in yours, you should witness a wonderful recovery!" As if he knows that, in all likelihood, he will not see the success which he has fought for all his life. Surely, after everything this extraordinary man has done for the world, and the mentor he has been to so many people, myself included, we have a responsibility to make him proud.

Sir David addresses world leaders at COP26 - CNBC TV

If you watch nothing else about COP, watch David Attenborough's speech. It expresses in a few minutes what world leaders couldn't in almost two weeks of negotiating.


Sir David Attenborough - The Daily Adora

AFTERMATH

At the end of COP26, a document was produced, but it has been viewed as a failure by many. One of the key goals of this COP was to come out with a definitive agreement on phasing out coal. In fact, the COP26 President, Alok Sharma, had said that, "If we are serious about 1.5 degrees, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal power to history."

However, at the last minute, India, China and South Africa banded together to oppose this very section of the document, and since ultimately they could not be convinced to change their minds, the wording was altered from phase out to phase down. Mr Sharma delivered this news to the audience with a sombre expression on his face. "I apologise for the way this process has unfolded, and I am deeply sorry." He paused. "I also understand the deep disappointment, but I think as you have noted, it's also vital that we protect this package." At this point, he held back tears as the guests applauded him (see below from The Telegraph.)



Many of the assembled guests expressed their own concerns. Swiss Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga said, "We stress our profound disappointment that the language that we have agreed on, on coal and fossil fuel subsidies, has been further watered down." Meanwhile, a Marshall Islands envoy, Tina Stege, said, "We accept this change with the greatest reluctance. We do so only - and I really want to stress, only - because there are critical elements of this package that people in my country need."

Mr Sharma said that he decided to protect the rest of the package and make an unwelcome compromise on coal in order not to sacrifice all the negotiations. Time will tell whether this was the right decision, or whether other countries should have made more of an effort to pressure China and India into agreement. But we know examples of what happens when consensus is not reached. For example, in 2000, at COP6 in The Hague (Netherlands) the resistance of some countries in the European Union to the United States, who essentially wanted to get out of some emissions reductions, led to the talks falling apart. No consensus or document was produced.

After having been named this COP's 'colossal fossil' by activists, there was no denying that Australia's presence at COP26 was underwhelming at best and counterproductive at worst. Scott Morrison, unsurprisingly, both arrived and left without any climate policy to speak of, let alone the kind required by the Paris Agreement. And as we know, Paris is only the bare minimum.


Scott Morrison - Carbon Footprint Network

10 News political editor Peter van Onselen remarked that, "There are a lot of people that want action… with Australia… being perceived to be the laggards… that's a huge problem for him politically… He's definitely keen to shift the focus [to] the economy… Tax cuts news is a clear sign that we're heading towards an election… It could be as early as March…" He's not wrong. With an election fast approaching, Morrison wants Australians to have faith in him so that he can continue his Prime Ministership. But with 80% of Australian voters saying that, 'it’s important for Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,' the failure to impress at COP26 is not going to do him any favours.

Meanwhile, the Labor party, afraid that climate policy of all things will lose them the election, has been watering down their targets and commitments all year. Although, a few weeks ago, Chris Bowen did announce their new 2030 goal of 43% emissions reductions which, while not really being enough, is a lot better than Liberal's. Ideally, as stated earlier, a bipartisan agreement could be reached, but with the current political atmosphere in Canberra, this is looking less likely than ever, and Labor's best option to help mitigate AGW is to hold their ground on climate policy.


Doha Debates, Greta Thunberg's Full Keynote Speech at Youth4Climate Pre-COP26, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n2TJMpiG5XQ, 29/9/21

Financial Times, The make-or-break issues facing the COP26 climate summit, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zYAvivirkR0, 6/10/21

BBC News, Arnold Schwarzenegger calls leaders 'liars' over climate change, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpy4xBftFuY, 29/10/21

Science Insider, Insider At COP26: Accelerating Action to Combat Climate Change, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZcDSHGqOM4, 29/10/21

ABC News, What is COP26 and why should we care?, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IhzHJSyKMz8, 30/10/21

CNBC, Sir David Attenborough's full COP26 speech, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A6SO0xkr_uI, 1/11/21

NBC News, Greta Thunberg Leads Massive Climate Protest Outside COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ljRzyjTELUk, 5/11/21

Sky News, COP26 is a 'two-week-long celebration of business as usual', says Thunberg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNDVJgL_ECg, 6/11/21

10 News First, COP26 Puts Australia Last In Climate Policy, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmjg_ro85wI, 12/11/21

CNBC, A look at what countries vulnerable to climate change want from COP26, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GKB_FGrgXiI, 12/11/21

ABC News, Emotional COP26 President apologises for climate deal to 'phase-down' coal, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OmCZGQj6ojA, 13/11/21

Simon Clark, COP26: success or failure?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBP54V4bfTg, 21/11/21

 

Eco Warriors

The scientists who won a Nobel Prize for climate research


The Nobel Prizes for 2021 were announced last October - a set of prestigious awards which celebrate the achievements of a few carefully chosen individuals across the fields of science, maths and the arts. One of the most highly anticipated was the Nobel Prize for Physics, which recognises the greatest breakthroughs in human exploration and comprehension of the universe, and is often shared between several people.

This year the prize was split into three. The first two quarters of the prize went to Japanese-American Syukuro Manabe, and German Klaus Hasselmann - both climate scientists. Manabe was one of the first people, back in the 1960s, to prove that humans were warming the planet through our emissions of greenhouse gases. His research was so pioneering that it is still fundamental to most climate research in the 21st century. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated that Manabe, "laid the foundation for the development of current climate models." Meanwhile, Hasselmann followed up from Manabe's discovery, almost a decade later, to prove how weather was linked to climate. His research established for the first time that, although weather patterns may seem random and unpredictable, they do follow a certain comprehensible pattern, meaning that climate models can reliably predict rises in global temperatures.

The other half of the prize went to Giorgio Parisi, an Italian physicist whose rather abstract and borderline esoteric work concerned "the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales." (ABC News) These systems are incredibly difficult to research and understand. Parisi is not a climate scientist, but when asked about the crisis, he commented, "it's urgent that we take very strong decisions… It's clear for future generations that we have to act now."

Like so many other things, the Prize's recognition of climate research was very timely, coming just as COP26 was about to kick off in Glasgow. Unfortunately, as one who has read my article on COP26 from earlier in this issue would know, not all of the politicians seemed exactly reformed by the dedication and tireless research of the scientific community.


From left to right: Manabe (IPCC, via HubPages), Parisi (Il Denaro), Hasselmann (BBVA Foundation).


ABC, Scientists who 'laid the foundation' for modern understanding of climate change awarded Nobel Prize in Physics, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-05/nobel-prize-physics-awarded-to-three-climate-scientists/100516424, 5/10/21

CNN, Nobel Prize in physics awarded to scientists whose work warned the world of climate change, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/05/health/nobel-prize-physics-winner-scn-2021/index.html, 5/10/21

The Nobel Prize, The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2021/summary/, 24/10/21

 

Breaking News

News Corp changes their tune on climate change


It was early September when the news suddenly broke that News Corp Australia was about to rebrand themselves as eco-friendly and support a target of net zero emissions by 2050. Reactions from the media and the public were essentially split into two groups: those who couldn't believe their ears and hoped that this might be the beginning of a tipping point into a greener future for Australia; and those who were sceptical that it would even happen, and didn't think much of the changes anyway. But it certainly came as a great surprise to everyone. After decades of giving a platform to climate-denying commentators, tearing down three Australian PMs over climate policy, downplaying the role of AGW in the Black Summer bushfire season and even derailing a few climate conferences, it was understandably difficult to imagine the same company suddenly promoting renewable energy and supporting emissions reductions. So, what brought about this seemingly abrupt change in tune? What are the consequences of News Corp's rebranding for climate action in Australia? Is this really all 'too little, too late'?

News Corp has had a net zero emissions by 2050 company policy for quite a few years but, as the Guardian put it, "that endorsement is distinct from its editorial stance." A study by the head of UTS' Journalism Program, Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist Wendy Bacon, concluded that around 45% of articles published in three of News Corp's biggest papers (the Australian, the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph) are sceptical of anthropogenic climate change. The study also noted that this statistic was even higher for opinion pieces, with closer to 67% of these opposing the scientific consensus on AGW.


Wendy Bacon - The Wheeler Centre

However, in the past few months, that has all begun to change. About five weeks after the rumours started circulating, News Corp finally launched their two-week campaign, Mission Zero. Headlines made up of green slogans mixed with patriotism adorned the front pages of some of their biggest publications. The company officially announced their support for a net zero by 2050 emissions target for Australia.

Why did the company choose this moment to make an about turn? Well, there has been mounting pressure on News Corp, in the last few years especially, to support national action on climate change, from Emily Townsend's blunt open letter to all her fellow employees, to James Murdoch's criticism of the climate scepticism within his own father's company. But this pressure is only one of many factors which affected Rupert Murdoch's decision to change with the times. There is also the fact that, in the long term, there's far more money to be made in supporting renewables, and seeming to be ahead of the curve, than there is in dragging the ball and chain. News Corp was never going to remain sceptical of climate change forever, because it ultimately would begin to work against them, rather than in their favour.


James Murdoch has spoken out against News Corp before - The Washington Post

The real question is whether or not this change will help our country to step up and work with the rest of the world to combat AGW. At this point, only a few months into the shift, it's hard to tell. The Carbon Market Institute's John Connor described the move as 'tectonic,' as it signalled the defeat of the climate denial industry in Australia. However, as the SMH put it, "There was no edict at News Corp to tell its strongest voices what to write. Andrew Bolt isn’t changing." Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray are just a few people within News Corp who are known to be staunch climate deniers, and if they aren’t persuaded to change, just how much impact will this campaign have? Besides, Michael Mann, a climatologist for Pennsylvania University, said that, "Focusing on a target of 2050, three decades away, kicks the can so far down the road that it’s largely meaningless."

It's also possible that too much damage has already been done. Marian Wilkinson, author of The Carbon Club, "says the Murdoch empire helped derail climate action along with well-connected fossil fuel industry lobbyists and complicit politicians from both parties… years have been lost and billions of dollars of public money wasted." (SMH)


Time will tell whether or not this campaign is useful to Australia and our climate policy. But one thing's for sure: News Corp has already done a lot of damage, both domestically and around the world. And we all have the responsibility to continue to hold them to account.


Grist, Rupert Murdoch launches effort to green News Corp.’s operations and programming, https://grist.org/article/murdoch/, 9/3/7

Independent Australia, What happens to News Corp newsrooms when Rupert goes green?, https://independentaustralia.net/business/business-display/what-happens-to-news-corp-newsrooms-when-rupert-goes-green,3446, 2/6/11

The Guardian, News Corp employee lashes climate 'misinformation' in bushfire coverage with blistering email, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jan/10/news-corp-employee-climate-misinformation-bushfire-coverage-email, 10/1/20

The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Dangerous, misinformation': News Corp employee's fire coverage email, https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/dangerous-misinformation-news-corp-employee-s-fire-coverage-email-20200110-p53qel.html, 10/1/20

SBS News, James Murdoch blasts News Corp's 'ongoing climate change denial', https://www.sbs.com.au/news/james-murdoch-blasts-news-corp-s-ongoing-climate-change-denial/99380967-f22b-43f7-b2ce-49d1c09f46f5, 15/1/20

The Guardian, Is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia really shifting away from ‘climate denialism’?, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/sep/08/is-rupert-murdochs-news-corp-australia-really-shifting-away-from-climate-denialism, 8/9/21

The Sydney Morning Herald, News Corp about-turn on emissions too little, too late, scientists say, https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/news-corp-about-turn-on-emissions-too-little-too-late-scientists-say-20210910-p58qja.html, 11/9/21

The Sydney Morning Herald, News Corp’s climate campaign is a political development with impact, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/news-corp-s-climate-campaign-is-a-political-development-with-impact-20211011-p58z21.html, 11/10/21

ABC TV, News Corp Goes Green | Sammy J (S4 Ep35), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32T7lXgENAc, 14/10/21

News Corp, Sustainability, https://newscorp.com/news-corp-sustainability/, 2022

 

Creature Corner

Animals in The Sutherland Shire - Valerie Monteith


Hi, I am Valerie and I am 10 years old. I live in the Sutherland Shire and I love animals. I have seen many cute animals in my life and I hope to see more. These are some that I've seen.


Limnodynastes peronii (Striped Marsh Frog) found in my backyard.
Bull ray at Jibbon Beach, Port Hacking.
King Parrot at my house.
A sand crab found at Durook Park in Cronulla.
Chicken at Robertson.
Echidna near Temptation Creek.
A jackie lizard we found on a bushwalk.
Mag Pie (😂) at my house.
King parrot on my head.
My dog, Patsy.
King Parrot on my tightrope.
Stingray.
Leaf-tailed gecko found at my house.
Turtle.
Crab at Bonnie Vale.
Frog found in a bucket.
Oyster at Jibbon Beach, Port Hacking.
Diamond python in my backyard at night.
Weevil beetle.
Blue groper at Clovelly.
Python.
 

Comic Relief

Rupert Murdoch has a rude awakening - Ivy Rush, Ella Purcell



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