Saturday, 20 October 2018

DEFORESTATION AND THE GREAT BARRIER REEF


Since 2000, Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In short it is dying, a condition some scientists claim is terminal.

In the face of worldwide condemnation, the Federal and Queensland Governments are now claiming to be doing all in their power to ensure the reef's survival, pouring billions of dollars into various schemes to resurrect the tourist icon.

These belated moves can only be viewed with cynicism, given both governments' abject failure to address the two main threats facing the reef - climate change and pollution. Not only have they failed to act, they are actively encouraging the mining and use of fossil fuels, and on-going land-clearing, both of which drive climate change.

Figures from the latest national emissions accounts show that forests adjacent to the reef, covering 770,000 ha, three times the size of the ACT, have been bulldozed over the past five years, with 152,000 ha felled in 2016-17.

The previous Queensland government approved the clearing of 2,000 ha of forest at Kingvale Station on Cape York, which is expected to receive Federal Government blessing shortly, leading the Wilderness Society to liken Australia's deforestation record to that of the Amazon and Indonesia.

Deforestation increases nutrient and sediment run-off, factors that lower water quality, stimulate algae growth and smother corals, and is also contributing to global warming. All these facts are known to the government, yet still they allow land-clearing to continue, and in a move that should infuriate tax-payers, is planning to spend millions of dollars to help those land-clearing organisations to manage the sediment run-off.

The lunacy doesn't stop there. More than $1billion from Tony Abbott’s Direct Action policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, has been spent on tree-planting and habitat restoration. However, analysis of the latest government data revealed those emissions savings were wiped out elsewhere in the country by deforestation in a little over two years

The flat-out refusal by the current federal government to make any meaningful attempt to rein in greenhouse gas emissions for fear of upsetting their extremist far right colleagues is unforgivable.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 15, 2018. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

POLITICAL SPIN ON AUSTRALIA'S CARBON EMISSIONS


The latest figures on the nation’s greenhouse emissions, released late on Friday September 28 show that carbon pollution continues to rise.  In the twelve months to March 31 2018 total emissions increased by 1.3% from the year before.

What is interesting is the positive spin federal politicians can put this very poor result.  The new federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, has claimed that this increase “shows Australia is on track to beat its 2020 emissions target.” 
 
The latest figures for our emissions were 1.9% below the 2000 levels.  Our 2020 target is to be 5% lower than the 2000 level. A further indicator is the 2005 emissions level.   In relation this level, the 2020 target is to be 11.2 % below the levels in the year to March 2018. 

It is astounding that Price can claim we’re “on track” when, even if drastic cuts were possible, it would be extremely unlikely that  the target for 2020 could be met.  Significant emissions reduction is impossible because the Government has no effective climate policy and its energy policy is a shambles following the dumping of the National Electricity Guarantee (NEG).   For Price’s claim to become a reality, something miraculous is obviously going to happen in less than two years!

The Prime Minister is also unjustifiably optimistic about curbing Australia’s emissions given the lack of any effective policies to do so. On September 30, a few days after the new emissions figures were released, he claimed that Australia would reach its 2030 targets “in a canter”.  The 2030 targets are the commitment the Australian Government made at the Paris climate summit.   That commitment is for a cut of 26% below our 2005 levels.
 
Emissions have increased every quarter since the end of the carbon price period in 2014.  The policies introduced by the Coalition Government following the abandonment of carbon pricing have been ineffective and have obviously failed at cutting emissions.  No part of positive political spin by the Prime Minister or his ministers can alter that.

An increasing majority of Australians want effective action on climate change rather than mindless political spin.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 8, 2018.


Monday, 1 October 2018

MANAGING DROUGHT AS THE CLIMATE CHANGES


The plight of farmers facing the current drought has understandably prompted an outpouring of sympathy that has resulted in a deluge of donations and offers of assistance from the broader community. However, while acknowledging the emotional and economic suffering, questions are being raised about the wisdom of subsidising, and therefore perpetuating, what are clearly unsustainable farming practices.

70% of Australia's mainland is classed as arid or semi-arid, yet over half of Australia is used for grazing or agriculture. Therefore, after removing public forests and national parks from the equation, some 30% of farming activity is taking place in semi-desert country, something which will only worsen as the world gets hotter under climate change.

So far, with no end in sight, and driven by criticism from the industry that the government isn't doing enough, taxpayers have had to commit $1.8 billion in government drought relief. Much of that criticism comes from the same sector that lobbied incessantly against the Native Vegetation Act (NVA), and publicly burned copies of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Ironically, deforestation is known to result in hotter landscapes and decreased rainfall, and broad-scale land clearing is something the NVA was designed to slow. Also it is livestock, and the management thereof, that has caused the bare dirt paddocks and starving animals which fill our media, not the drought.

The farming community has always accused city-based 'lefties' of trying to dictate what can be done on their land, but has no problem demanding assistance from those taxpayers whenever natural disasters occur.

Perpetuating the situation is clearly not the answer so, rather than pay billions of dollars to keep stock alive on marginal land, why not pay landowners to remove livestock, and manage their land as carbon sinks to help reverse climate change impacts?

The conundrum here is that it would require a recognition of the reality of climate change, and the introduction of some sort of carbon trading scheme, both of which are unacceptable to any of the political parties that currently claim to support farming communities.

            - John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 17, 2018.