Tuesday, 5 March 2019

SAVE THE TREES - IT'S COOLER IN THEIR SHADE


The summer heat is unbearable and you can’t stand to be in the sun. You love the cool of the shade under a tree with a dense canopy of green leaves. And yet our Council has been chopping down mature shade trees on roadsides and in parks.

It’s not just the culturally important scar tree in Dovedale that was so important to local Aboriginal People.

Remember the blue quandong which used to shade the corner of Victoria and Prince Streets next to the Council building? It was removed and replaced with a low-set garden that provides no shade at all to pedestrians. In the absence of any shade, that section of footpath is now unpleasantly glary and hot – a sharp contrast to the opposite corner with the big old white fig. 


Plants under heat stress where the Blue Quandong used to be




Elsewhere along Prince St, trees have been removed with the excuse of improving drivers’ ability to see pedestrians about to cross the road, but without considering the amenity of the main street. And ignoring the fact that most of the trees that were removed didn’t actually block drivers’ sightlines of pedestrians. 


Bare garden area in Prince Street where shady lillypillies used to grow.

Beyond the older streets in our towns, newer subdivisions are going in without any street trees. Extensive areas of established suburbs such as Westlawn, Townsend and South Grafton Hill also lack any substantial trees.

Street trees are a vital part of cool-scaping our towns, to remove the urban heat-island effect. This effect is due to the concrete, bitumen and other built surfaces re-radiating the sun’s heat, and has been quantified in Sydney, where morning summer surface temperatures in treeless urban areas are on average 12.8°C higher than treed non-urban areas. But we’d need more than a few jacarandas: it would take a 14% tree cover to completely offset thermal loading of urban materials.

Trees and outdoor infrastructure (such as shelters, public swimming pools, community gardens) all contribute to reduce the heat. They should be priorities for Council’s investment, not chainsaws and demolition crews.

Without them, people are being driven to air-conditioned indoor spaces and household energy bills soar.

            - Janet Cavanaugh

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 4, 2019. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

PROBLEMS WITH CLOUDS CREEK STATE FOREST LOGGING


Earlier this month a protest gathering in the Clouds Creek State Forest was attended by local residents, political candidates, and representatives from local environment and community groups. The action was called to protest Forest Corp's plan to log the forest early in 2019, including use of “intensive single tree selection” (aka virtual clear-fell).

Clouds Creek's forests are some the most fertile in NSW, supporting tall wet sclerophyll and rainforest communities which, unfortunately, have experienced dreadful over-logging for many decades. Old stumps measuring upwards of 2 metres diameter indicate what used to be, but today trees greater than 700mm are a rarity, with only widely scattered old or deformed trees remaining which were unsuitable for timber.

As part of the Regional Forests Agreement, signed in 2000, all rainforest and old-growth forest was mapped and protected. However, immediately prior to the signing, and knowing those old-growth forests would be “locked up”, the then Forests NSW moved into Clouds Creek and absolutely decimated them.

Protestors at the time managed to blockade and save some areas that are now part of the Nymboi-Binderay National Park, but much of the old growth was lost in that 1999 blitz.

In 2010 to 2012, Forests NSW returned for another round of harvesting, this time supposedly legally, but still managed to interpret the clause calling for a maximum 20% basal area logging rate, to allow rates as high as 80%, which after the trampling and destruction of smaller vegetation by industrial logging machines, is virtually clear-felling.

Following that old-growth logging episode, Koalas which were relatively common in the mid1990s, judging by the fauna surveys undertaken at the time, were found to be virtually non-existent in a 2017 survey conducted by the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Another previously common forest resident, the Greater Glider which was recently added to the threatened species list, also could not be found during the 2018 pre-harvest survey by Forests Corp.

With Government planning to extend the Agreements for another 20 years, and more logging planned, is it any wonder residents and the broader community are appalled by what is happening,

            - John Edwards



This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 28, 2019. 

Saturday, 9 February 2019

EXTREME WEATHER IN 2018 - CLIMATE COUNCIL REPORT

The Climate Council recently published a new report - "Weather gone wild: Climate change-fuelled extreme weather in 2018".  It discusses extreme weather globally as well as in Australia.

There are four key findings.

The first is that the past four years have been the four hottest on record for global surface temperature;  this continues a long-term warming trend.  In 2018 the global average surface temperature was between 0.9 and 1.1 degrees celsius above temperatures in the late 19th century.  In Australia last year the surface air temperature was 1.14 degrees celsius above the 1961-1990 average. It was the third hottest year on record. And 2018 was the warmest on record in the oceans, surpassing the previous record set in 2017.

The second finding is that climate change is increasing the frequency and/or severity of extreme weather both globally and in Australia. These extreme events are occurring in an atmosphere that contains more energy than it did 50 years ago.  In 2018 extreme weather included extreme heat in many parts of the Australia, as well as severe bushfires in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. While intense rainfall led to flooding in north Queensland, southwestern Western Australia and Hobart in Tasmania, southern Australia was in drought.

Events in other parts of the world included intense hurricanes in the United States southeast and record-breaking wildfires in California.  Scandinavia suffered from extreme heat and Sweden had severe fires while drought in South Africa created a water supply crisis in Capetown.

The third finding is that the impacts of extreme weather last year have been both damaging and costly.  Economic losses associated with weather-related disasters are estimated at US $215 billion globally.  In 2018 in Australia insurance payouts  (only a small part of the total costs of extreme weather) were $1.2 billion following major extreme weather events.

And the current eastern Australian drought is likely to cut the country's GDP growth in 2018-19 by 0.75% or up to $12.5 billion.

All of these impacts have resulted in the fourth finding which relates to our nation's lack of an effective climate policy. 

The Climate Council points out that Australia's current climate policy is "an abject failure, with greenhouse gas pollution increasing over the past four years."  What is needed is a policy which drives down emissions across all sectors - electricity, transport, industry, agriculture and land use.  This should be directed to reducing emissions by 45-65% below 2005 levels by 2030 "as recommended by the Climate Change Authority in 2015".

Australia is doing so poorly currently that it will fall short of its much weaker 2030 target of a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution below 2005 levels.

The message is very clear.  Extreme weather events generated by climate change are increasing in both frequency and intensity. We need governments at all levels to accept this reality and to act urgently to cut drastically our greenhouse emissions.