Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saving the Superb Parrot


The Superb Parrot is one of Australia's most striking birds, but habitat decline has reduced their numbers to less than 5000.

Key threats:


Superb Parrots are threatened by Removal of hollow bearing trees and clearing other remnant woodland vegetation. The poor levels of natural regeneration of their habitat add to the pressure of habitat loss.


Parrots feeding on grain spilled onto roads from transport trucks are often struck by vehicles, resulting in high mortality for many populations.


Competition from feral bees and pressure from illegal trapping are additional problems for Superb Parrots.




** If you enjoyed this post, please check out:


Orange Bellied Parrot


King Parrot in the wild


Met Office's bleak forecast on climate change

Vicky Pope

The Guardian

Wed Oct 1 2008

The head of the Met Office catre for climate change research explains why the momentum on emissions targets must not be lost.

When it comes to climate change, the scientific evidence has to be at the core of any decision-making. Governments need to understand the consequences of choosing particular targets, but they also need to understand what will happen if targets are missed or if they cannot be agreed on by all countries. Failures could have far-reaching consequences.

The latest climate model projections from the Met Office Hadley Centre show clearly that such failures could have worrying and significant consequences for the world's climate. Even with large and early cuts in emissions, these projections indicate that temperatures are likely to rise to around 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If action is delayed or is slow, then there is a significant risk of much larger increases in temperature. The uncertainties in the science mean that even if the most likely temperature rise is kept within reasonable limits, we cannot rule out the possibility of much larger increases. Adaptation strategies are therefore needed to deal with these less likely, but still real, possibilities.

Temperature rises

Jason Lowe, a climate scientist, and other colleagues at the Hadley Centre have conducted a series of "what if" climate projections, to give a better understanding of the temperature rises we could expect if action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is slow or delayed.

In the first scenario, emissions continue to rise throughout the century. In the other scenarios, emission reductions have been imposed at various times and at various rates.

In the most optimistic scenario, emissions start to decrease in 2010, and reductions quickly reach 3% per year. This contrasts sharply with current trends, where the world's overall emissions are increasing at 1% per year - faster than even the worst cases used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emissions scenarios.

What is very clear is that some increase in temperature is inevitable in the next century, and that the decisions and actions that the world takes now will have a profound impact on the climate later this century.

Even if emissions start to decrease in the next two years and reach a rapid and sustained rate of decline of 3% per year, temperatures are likely to rise to 1.7C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 and to around 2C by 2100. This is because carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will be around for many years to come and the climate takes some time to respond to these changes. Only an early and rapid decline in emissions gets anywhere close to the target of 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 put forward by the G8.

Contrast that with a world where no action is taken to curb global warming. Then, temperatures could rise as high as 7C above pre-industrial values by the end of the century. This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts.

Lowe's two other scenarios are also significant. The consequences of a late decline in emissions are apparent by 2050. Delaying reduction of emissions until 2030, results in a further 0.5C of warming by 2050 compared with early, if slow, reduction from 2010. By the end of the century the differences are even greater - more than 1C.

The consequences of an early but slow decline in emissions of 1% per year, compared with a rapid decline, appear to be small in 2050. However, they increase to 0.8C by the end of the century.

Overall, a delayed and slow decline in emissions would probably lead to nearly 2C more warming than an early and rapid decline in global emissions - a total temperature rise of 4C above pre-industrial levels.

The implications of these levels of temperature change are very serious, but the central projections are not the only things we should be worried by. When commentators look at these projections, they tend to concentrate on the most likely temperature rises. However, if we are concerned about keeping to a minimum the risks of avoiding dangerous climate change, we should also consider the worst case outcome. This will occur if the climate turns out to be particularly sensitive to increases in greenhouse gases and the Earth's biological systems cannot absorb very much carbon.

Dangerous impacts

The risks for worst case outcomes amplify much more quickly than the risks for most likely outcomes. For an early and rapid decline in emissions, the worst case outcome is around 0.7C higher than the most likely temperature rise. With much slower action taken much later, the difference between the most likely and worst case outcome is almost twice as wide, at 1.2C. This takes a worst case temperature rise of less than 3C to one just above 5C by the end of this century, bringing with it significant risk of dangerous impacts to our environment, society and economy.

A major reason for this amplification is the so-called "carbon cycle effect". Plants, soils and oceans currently absorb about half of the carbon dioxide emitted by humankind's activities, limiting rises in atmospheric CO2 and slowing global warming. As temperatures increase, this absorption is very likely to decrease.

For example, plant matter in the soil breaks down more quickly at higher temperatures, releasing carbon more quickly, and amplifying the warming trend. Methane released from the thawing of permafrost will add to the warming. This methane release is currently not included in the calculations, and becomes more of a risk for larger temperature rises.

Hence, the risks of dangerous climate change will not increase slowly as greenhouse gases increase. Rather, the risks will multiply if we do not reduce emissions fast enough.

• Vicky Pope is head of climate change for government at the Met Office's Hadley Centre.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Forced Migration Review:Issue on Climate change and displacement

This 80-page issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR), published by the Refugee Studies Centre of Oxford University, includes a major focus on climate change and displacement and is now online at:


In response to growing pressures on landscapes and livelihoods, people are moving, communities are adapting.

This issue of FMR debates the numbers, the definitions and the modalities – and the tension between the need for research and the need to act.

Thirty-eight articles by UN, academic, international and local actors explore the extent of the potential displacement crisis, community adaptation and coping strategies, and the search for solutions.

Slums of Lagos, Nigeria

Look at this photo and think about 'what is the difference between a NEED and a WANT?
What do I really need?
Health, clean water, food, clean air, open spaces, friends, family, etc.
What do I really want ????
Sustainable future for all living on planet Earth.
What does society need ????
Sustainable future for all.

** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:
Boost the economy and tackle poverty at the same time
Communicating Climate Change
Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'
Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies
So please, tell us what you think.

Costly PR over climate change

Here is a story from The Australian suggesting the Garnaut Report was only 'costly' PR for the federal government.
Christian Kerr
The Australian
September 30, 2008

KEVIN Rudd has cut back on government advertising - but is he just running multi-million-dollar PR campaigns instead? That's the impression created by the Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Approached for a comment on the Garnaut process on Sunday, a spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong offered these lines: "Professor Ross Garnaut's independent review is an important contribution to the Government's thinking on a range of climate change policy issues.

"Professor Garnaut is one of Australia's most esteemed economists and he has already made strong contributions to the debate.

"The Australian Treasury will release further modelling in October.

"More generally, the Government is consulting widely with industry and the broader community on the design of the CPRS (carbon pollution reduction scheme)."

That sounds like a polite dismissal of his work.


CO2 emissions increased from 6.1 billion tons in 1992 to 8.5 billion tons last year

Study: World's CO2 emissions increase
Published: Sept. 29, 2008
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say annual carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and manufacturing worldwide have grown 38 percent since 1992.

The analysis by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee shows CO2 emissions increased from 6.1 billion tons in 1992 to 8.5 billion tons last year.


At the same time, the source of emissions has shifted dramatically as energy use has been growing slowly in many developed countries, but more quickly in some developing countries, most notably in … Asian countries such as China and India," the researchers said.


"The United States was the largest emitter of CO2 in 1992, followed in order by China, Russia, Japan and India," said Gregg Marland of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division.


"The most recent estimates suggest India passed Japan in 2002, China became the largest emitter in 2006 and India is poised to pass Russia to become the third-largest emitter, probably this year."


Marland said the numbers are researchers' best estimates, but precise numbers cannot be known with certainty.


"Also, as countries with less certain data become more important to the overall CO2 picture, the estimates of the global total of emissions become less certain," he added.



The Hon. Kevin Rudd, MP

Prime Minister of Australia

Australian Parliament

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 2600 September 26, 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

The 2007 IPCC report, compiled by hundreds of climate scientists and representing a consensus view of the best available peer-reviewed science, has unequivocally concluded that our climate is warming rapidly, and that we are now at least 90% certain that this is primarily due to human activities.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising at an alarming rate due to human activity - currently by over 2 parts per million per year. The concentration of several other important greenhouse gases is also increasing rapidly.

If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people from around the world will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, fire, floods and storms, our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels, vector-borne, water- and food-borne diseases will spread rapidly, food yields and water supplies will be impaired in many regions, and many ecosystems, plant and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction. Some of Australia's natural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Daintree World Heritage areas, which bring great wealth and recognition to our nation, could be damaged for all time.

Australia is especially vulnerable as pointed out by Professor Garnaut in February when he says we "would be a big loser--possibly the biggest loser amongst developed countries--from unmitigated climate change. The pace of global emissions growth under "business as usual" is pushing the world rapidly towards critical points, which would impose large costs on Australia directly and also indirectly through the effects on other countries of importance to Australia." (Garnaut, February 20, 2008, Interim Report).

The critical next round of focused negotiations for a new global climate treaty is now underway. The prime goal of this new regime must be to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature, a limit that has already been formally adopted by the European Union, South Africa and a number of other nations.

Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the long run, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at a level well below 450 ppm (parts per million; in CO2-equivalent concentration). In order to stay below 2°C, global emissions must peak and decline before 2015, so there is no time to lose.

As highlighted by the Garnaut Review: "... analysis suggests that a global objective of 450 ppm, with discussion of transition to 400 ppm once the 450 ppm goal is being approached with confidence, would better suit Australian interests." This statement, taken from the "Targets and Trajectories Report", is consistent with the climate science cited above. Indeed, there is broad agreement in the reputable science community regarding these targets.

The Garnaut Review concluded that an emission reduction target for Australia of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 would be an equitable contribution to the international effort required to achieving this outcome. As a group of Australia's leading climate change scientists, we urge you to adopt this target as the minimum requirement for Australia's contribution to an effective global climate agreement.

Failure of the world to act now will leave Australians with a legacy of economic, environmental, social and health costs that will dwarf the scale of national investment required to address this fundamental problem. Other nations have taken action and have committed to further action. We urge you to act decisively to maintain global momentum and to protect Australia's future.

Sincerely yours,

Professor Nathan Bindoff, University of Tasmania

Dr John Church, Immediate past Chair of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme

Professor Matthew England, ARC Federation Fellow and joint Director, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales

Professor Dave Griggs, Director, Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University

Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, Immediate Past Executive Director, World Climate Research Programme, Macquarie University

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director, Centre for Marine Studies, University of Qld

Professor Lesley Hughes, Director, Climate Risk Concentration in Research Excellence, Macquarie University

Dr Roger Jones, Co-ordinating Lead Author, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report

Professor David Karoly, ARC Federation Fellow, University of Melbourne

Professor Amanda Lynch, ARC Federation Fellow, Monash University

Professor Tony McMichael, NHMRC Australia Fellow, Australian National University

Professor Neville Nicholls, ARC Professorial Fellow, Monash University

Professor Graeme Pearman, Monash University

Professor Andy Pitman, Convenor, ARC Research Network and joint Director, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales

Dr Barrie Pittock, Lead Author, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report

Dr Michael Raupach, Co-Chair, Global Carbon Project

Cc: Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water;

The Hon Peter Garrett MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts


Government 'ignored' Garnaut reports

Here is a story from The Australian suggesting that the Rudd government is down-playing the importance of the Garnaut report. Also Graeme Pearman (former head of CSIRO atmospheric research) suggests that we need to set a 2020 target in the 20-30% region.


September 30, 2008

The Australian


THE Federal Opposition has accused the Government of ignoring Ross Garnaut's climate change recommendations.


The Government's chief climate change adviser will hand down his final report on emissions trading today.


Professor Garnaut has already released three draft reports and a discussion paper on a proposed scheme this year.


Opposition spokesman for emissions trading Andrew Robb said the Government has failed to act on any of the previous papers.


"The Government has delegated the Garnaut report to irrelevancy," Mr Robb told ABC Radio.


"They've said it's no different than 733 other contributors to the (emissions trading) green paper."


Former head of CSIRO atmospheric research Dr Graeme Pearman said the targets should be doubled.


"We do need ambition, we do need reduction targets of the order of 20 or 30 per cent by 2020," Dr Pearman told ABC Radio.


"Both the physical systems and biological systems, are more responsive to these (climate) changes and therefore the impacts are going to be greater than we thought."


"There's a high probability that these will be dangerous and we will really rue the day that this happens if we allow it to happen now."


The Australian Greens are also calling for stronger cuts.


"You can bail out Wall Street but you can't bail out the planet," Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Radio.



Don't go soft on climate, PM warned

Here is a story on the scientists open letter to Kevin Rudd (on the eve of the release of the Garnaut report)
Don't go soft on climate, PM warned
Marian Wilkinson,
Environment Editor
September 29, 2008

IN A move that will test the Rudd Government's climate credentials, Australia's leading climate scientists have written an OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA urging him to impose deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and back a tough global agreement that will avoid dangerous climate change.

The 16 scientists, who all worked with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warn "there is no time to lose" and call on Mr Rudd to slash Australia's emissions by at least 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Their intervention comes on the eve of tomorrow's final report by the Government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, and challenges one of his central findings. Professor Garnaut has already advised Mr Rudd to make a slower start to cutting emissions - 10 per cent by 2020 - even though he recognises the risk of weaker targets globally.

In their letter sent to Mr Rudd on Friday, the scientists, some of whom are leading climate experts for the CSIRO, argue against the slow start.

"Failure of the world to act now will leave Australians with a legacy of economic, environmental, social and health costs that will dwarf the scale of national investment required to address this fundamental problem," they warn.

The scientists say an Australian target of 25 per cent would be "an equitable contribution" to the global effort to avoid dangerous climate change. "As a group of Australia's leading climate change scientists, we urge you to adopt this target as a minimum requirement for Australia's contribution to an effective global climate agreement," they write.

The letter poses a major dilemma for Mr Rudd and his Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, who is due to attend a critical round of UN climate talks in December. In his last report, Professor Garnaut advised the Government to support a global agreement that would stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million, even though this risked dangerous climate change.

Professor Garnaut acknowledged the scientific consensus argued that a lower target of 450 parts per million was necessary to keep the global temperature from rising above 2 degrees and avoid dangerous climate change. But he argued that world powers were not ready to make such cuts and that supporting the 450 target now, rather than in the future, could scuttle the UN climate talks.

The scientists' letter, however, warns: "In the long run, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at a level well below 450ppm. In order to stay below 2 degrees C, global emissions must peak and decline before 2015 so there is no time to lose."

One of the letter's signatories, Professor Bindoff, told the Herald the scientists had enormous respect for Professor Garnaut's work, but he said: "We're deciding now what the future climate will be at the end of this century. The question about acting now is really important. The cost of procrastinating is at the heart of this problem."

More here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

7 US states and 4 Canadian provinces have plan to cut emissions

Western Climate Initiative

from their website:

"was created to identify, evaluate and implement collective and cooperative ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the region, focusing on a market-based cap-and-trade system".

Member states (20 percent of the U.S. economy): Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Member provinces (70 percent of Canadian economy): British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

"This is an important road map for what will be the most comprehensive climate program in North America," said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"We're sending a strong message to our federal governments that states and provinces are moving forward in the absence of federal action, and we're setting the stage for national programs that are just as aggressive" said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger



To read the full proposal from the Western Climate Initiative go to:


Carbon Disclosure Project releases results

From their website:

"The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent not-for-profit organisation which acts as an intermediary between shareholders and corporations on all climate change related issues, providing primary climate change data from the world’s largest corporations, to the global market place."


CDP6 Global 500 Report

The report has 5 aims:

(1) To provide institutional investors and other stakeholders with information that facilitates a better understanding of the risks and opportunities stemming from climate change.

(2) To highlight best practice in activities to address climate change across a range of sectors.

(3) To benchmark action and disclosure between different geographies and sectors.

(4) To analyse key issues in relation to climate change disclosure and to comment on different geographically and on a sector-by-sector basis.

(5) To use companies' responses to CDP6 as a way of highlighting key concerns, challenges and future directions around carbon disclosure and wider corporate sustainability.


CDP6 S&P 500 Report

** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:

New Green Jobs ??
Communicating Climate Change
Big firms lack climate change plans
Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies
So please, tell us what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

US views on climate change

From the US Gallup poll 2008 on climate change:

Is Global Warming Occurring?

When asked their views on when the effects of global warming will begin to happen, 61% of Americans currently say "they have already begun to happen." This is a modest increase from 1997, when only 48% gave this response. However, while over three-fourths of Democrats (76%) believe global warming is already happening, only 41% of Republicans share that view.

Views of Media Coverage

While the percentage of Democrats who view the news about global warming as being exaggerated has been fairly stable, at 23% in 1997 and 18% this year, the percentage of Republicans taking this view has increased dramatically -- from 34% to 59%.

Is There a "Scientific Consensus"?

Not surprisingly (in view of trends for the two prior questions), the belief that at least most scientists accept global warming as real has increased more among Democrats (from 51% to 74%) than among Republicans (from 39% to 56%).

Human Caused or Natural Change?

While Republicans' belief in human-induced global warming has declined 10 percentage points from 2003 to 2008 (from 52% to 42%), Democrats' belief has been steady (possibly even rising slightly, though the increase from 68% to 73% is not statistically significant).

Is Global Warming a Threat?

There has been moderate growth in the percentage of Americans viewing global warming as "a serious threat" to themselves or their way of life during their lifetimes, from 25% in 1997 to 40% this year. Unlike the prior items, the trends for this one are fairly similar for Republicans and Democrats. After experiencing only minor fluctuations from 1997 to 2006, this year there was a small but noticeable rise in Republican agreement that global warming is a serious threat -- reaching 29%. Yet the increase among Democrats was greater, from 36% to 50% -- fully half of Democrats in this year's poll.

Summing Up

Overall, Gallup has documented changes in Americans' views of global warming over the past decade. There has been a slight increase in the percentage of Americans who view global warming as already happening, and a more substantial increase in the percentage who believe that a majority of scientists think global warming is occurring, with the result that more than 6 in 10 Americans endorse both views (61% and 65%, respectively). There has also been a sizable increase in the percentage saying global warming will pose a serious threat within their lifetimes, although it is still a minority position at 40%. In contrast, there has been only a slight increase in the percentage saying the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated, as just over a third of Americans currently express this view. Finally, there has been virtually no change in the percentage agreeing that global warming is due more to human activities, with 6 in 10 Americans holding this view.

What these trends often mask, however, are highly divergent trends among Republicans and Democrats. As noted above, the proportions of Democrats agreeing that global warming is already happening, that most scientists believe it is occurring, and that it will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes have increased substantially over the past decade.

At the same time, the proportions of Republicans agreeing that most scientists believe global warming is occurring and that it poses a serious threat have both increased, but more modestly than is true among Democrats, while the proportion of Republicans agreeing that global warming is already happening has declined a bit.

The proportion of Republicans who believe news of global warming's seriousness is exaggerated has grown substantially over the past decade, while the proportion of Democrats expressing this view has been fairly steady. A similar pattern of diverging partisan views has also occurred on the issue of attributing global warming to human activities.

The result of these trends is that there are currently stark differences in Republicans' and Democrats' views of global warming. The claim that environmental protection would be a "motherhood" issue that would unite the nation, commonly made in the early 1970s, has clearly not come to pass -- particularly when it comes to global warming.


What do people think??

Comments most welcome !!

Please check out:

Americans and climate change

Environmentalists draft roadmap for Obama

Governors' Global Climate Summit

California Climate Risk and Response

Combating Climate Change and Boosting Growth Are Natural Allies

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Warning about social impact of climate change policies

Wednesday, 17/09/2008

A former speaker of Victoria's Parliament is warning the Federal Government's green paper on climate change will effect whole communities, and isn't planning properly for the social impacts of climate change.

Ken Coghill, now a Monash University politics lecturer, says in order to make the transition to a clean green future, the communities affected by changes to industry have to be re-skilled and given new job opportunities.

Mr Coghill says industries like coal have communities built around them, and if towns aren't shown a clear future the government could suffer at the polls.

"That's a matter of working very closely with the communities to assist people who wish to move into other industries through training, relocation and other assistance," he says.

"And the support has to go not just to the people working directly in the coal industry, but to the communities that are affected."


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Qld 'gifts' water to Murray-Darling

Here is some positive news on the Murray Darling River.
September 12, 2008
The Age
Queenslanders will "gift" over 10 billion litres of water to the ailing Murray-Darling system.

Queensland Water Minister Craig Wallace said it was a gift from Queenslanders.

"Queensland is serious in its efforts to help the commonwealth save the Murray-Darling and Friday's announcement is further proof of that commitment," Mr Wallace said.

The decision comes after the federal and New South Wales governments this week purchased a large cotton farm in NSW to deliver 20 billion litres of water entitlements back to the Darling River.

More here:

Australia buys huge farm to save dying river

Here is some good news on the Murray-Darling River. The Toorale station (mainly cotton but also does other things) has been purchased by the Australian government - allowing 20 gigaliters of water to be returned to the river system.

Australia buys huge farm to save dying river

By Rob Taylor


CANBERRA (Reuters) - An irrigation farm larger than Singapore and sucking up billions of liters of water each year has been bought by Australia's government to help save one of the country's most vital rivers from a slow death and climate change.

Toorale Station, a cotton farm covering 910 sq km (351 sq miles) in the west of New South Wales state, was sold to the national and state governments for almost US$19 million, one day before it was set to go to auction.

The purchase will allow 20 gigaliters -- equivalent to 20,000 Olympic swimming pools -- to be returned each year to the ailing Darling River, which is one of two streams flowing through the Murray-Darling basin, home to almost half the nation's farms.

"Returning this water to the Darling will begin to turn around the long-term decline of this once great river," Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said on Thursday.

More here

UPDATE: CSIRO report into water availability in the Murray-Darling River

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

UK Political parties seen failing on climate

Here is a news story by Jeremy Lovell from Reuters about how the three main political parties in Britain are failing to address climate change.

UK Political parties seen failing on climate

Britain's three main political parties are failing to address climate change as the economic downturn starts to take precedence, the country's leading environmental organisations said on Wednesday.

The recent surge in world oil prices -- and with it domestic fuel bills -- proved that now was the time for the country to reduce dependence on imported energy and produce more of its own, clean power, they added.

"None of the three main political parties are currently showing the vision and courage to prepare the UK for the challenges ahead," said Stephen Hale, director of the Green Alliance lobby group which is one of the nine signatory organisations to the report.

"In a time of rising fuel and food costs, the need for an ambitious approach to environmental policy has never been clearer," he added.

The report "Fit For The Future? The Green Standard 2007-08 Review of the Parties" calls on Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to use the upcoming party conference season to recommit to tackling global warming.
The report's signatories are Green Alliance, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF-UK, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, RSPB, The National Trust and CPRE.

More of this news story below:


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Soft option on climate means opting for defeat

The Age

September 10, 2008

An emissions cut of only 10% by 2020 will not prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

THE Howard government's oft-repeated justification for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol was that there was no point in Australia taking action on climate change while the world's industrial giants remained intent on doing nothing. So when, only hours after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd announced Australia's ratification of the protocol it was understood to mean that the Howard excuse had been officially consigned to history. Australia now accepted that it had to play an active part in responding to the greatest environmental crisis of our time, and would not wait until it was eventually dragged along by others with minimal cost to itself. There had been a fundamental shift in policy — or so it seemed.

Ten months later, rumours of the demise of the Howard excuse appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Last week the Government's chief adviser on climate change policy, Professor Ross Garnaut, recommended that Australia set itself modest targets for reducing carbon emissions, aiming for a 10% cut below 2000 levels by 2020. His reason? That he had "reluctantly concluded that a more ambitious international agreement is not possible at this stage". The Rudd Government has yet to declare whether it will be guided by Professor Garnaut's latest round of advice, but has been conspicuously silent about the reintroduction into the climate change debate of the line of argument favoured by its defeated predecessor.

The most likely effect of a 10% cut would be to contribute to the stabilisation of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million (ppm), a level at which, according to the great majority of climate scientists, the worst effects of climate change would be unavoidable. There would be a high probability of mass species extinction and of the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet. And, to bring the matter home, Professor Garnaut conceded: "I have to say that the odds are not great for the Barrier Reef or for the economic base of the communities of the Murray-Darling if the world gets no further than 550 ppm."

Industry lobbies and politicians may have felt relieved that Professor Garnaut is no longer asking Australians to make an onerous sacrifice, but climate scientists have no illusions about the consequences of atmospheric carbon dioxide stabilising at 550 ppm. As The Age reported this week, three distinguished Australian scientists, all members of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have condemned the strategy of accepting what is politically palatable rather than campaigning strongly in international forums for what is necessary. Professor Amanda Lynch, of Monash University, Professor David Karoly, of the University of Melbourne, and Dr Bill Hare, an Australian at the Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany, all argue that Australia should be aiming for a cut in greenhouse emissions of between 25% and 40% by 2020. Their view is partly a matter of hard science — Australia is the developed country expected to be worst affected by climate change — but partly also a matter of concern for Australia's international standing, which will be diminished if the hitherto aggressive rhetoric on climate change is not ultimately reflected in policy.

The temptation to take a soft option on climate change is as obvious as it is insidious. Politicians enjoy basking in the sort of adulation that Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong received at the Bali conference last year, but baulk at having to devise policies that will, among other things, make life harder for voters. The Opposition has taken a frankly populist line on climate change, and the Government, in its green paper responding to Professor Garnaut's earlier draft report, has clearly assessed his emissions-trading proposals as much by the political cost of implementing them as by the environmental cost of not doing so.

Some areas of policymaking, however, require more than an opportunist eye on the next election. A government that is seriously committed to meeting the challenges of climate change will heed informed scientific opinion on acceptable levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and seek to explain to voters why it is necessary to curb emissions accordingly. It would lobby strongly in international forums to help forge the agreement that is now lacking, rather than acquiescing in disagreement. It would be a government that is willing to lead. Unfortunately, that prospect seems to have become all too intimidating for the Rudd Government and its climate change adviser.


Time to aim high on climate change

Ross Gittens

The latest report on climate change by the economics professor Ross Garnaut is the most disheartening government report I've read. It tells us how hugely destructive climate change is likely to be, but doubts that the world's governments will be able to agree on effective action to halt it. Now you know why economics is called the dismal science.

Garnaut quotes an authoritative American study of the consequences if nothing is done to fight climate change and average temperatures rise by 5 or 6 degrees by the end of this century.

Such a change would be "catastrophic", posing "almost inconceivable challenges as human society struggled to adapt". "The collapse and chaos associated with extreme climate change futures would destabilise virtually every aspect of modern life," the study concluded.

Among the destruction would be the extinction of more than half the world's species. The Great Barrier Reef and other coral formations would almost certainly be killed and much Australian farmland rendered useless.

Worse, the Greenland ice sheet and parts of Antarctica would be highly likely to melt, greatly raising the sea level and inundating coastal areas in Australia and many other countries. These changes would be irreversible.

Garnaut says that to reduce these risks to acceptable levels, we need agreement and action by all the major countries to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million - although 400 would be better.

(Note that we've already reached 455 parts per million, so we'd go well above the 450 target before eventually getting back down to it.)

But Garnaut doubts that any comprehensive agreement will be forthcoming from the post-Kyoto negotiations at Copenhagen in December next year or in negotiations soon after.

Summoning all the optimism at a dismal scientist's disposal, however, he says "there is a chance, just a chance, that humanity will act in time and in ways that reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels".

But don't get your hopes up, because time's running out. "Opportunities to hold risks of dangerous climate change to acceptable levels diminish rapidly after 2013 if no major developing economies are accepting constraints to hold emissions significantly below business as usual by that time."

There you see the source of Garnaut's pessimism: the rapid growth in greenhouse gas emissions by the developing countries in general, and China in particular.

He asserts that the best hope of achieving a comprehensive global agreement would be to settle for a target of stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases at 550 parts per million.

The trouble with this, however, is that such a level would still leave high risks of damage to the reef and farmland and reaching tipping points on ice melting - as Garnaut readily concedes.

This is the reason for the strong criticism of Garnaut's recommendations from environmentalists and some scientists. It's not that he doubted the scientists' warnings, or got his calculations wrong, or said the loss of economic growth would be too high a price to pay, but that he hasn't been ambitious enough in the bargaining position he wants Australia to take to Copenhagen.

The critics think we should aim high and let others beat us down from there rather than aim low and end up lower.

I agree. Our goal can't be to cut our emissions hard for its own sake. Without an effective agreement by all major emitters, what we do makes no difference. So all our effort must go into helping to achieve such an agreement, and that means being willing to put an offer of big cuts on the table.

Garnaut argues eloquently that what we offer to do matters, that other countries will be watching us closely and that we can have a disproportionate influence on the outcome of negotiations.

Great. Let's do it.

Garnaut says that for a global agreement on a target of 550 parts per million, we should offer to cut our emissions in 2020 by 10 per cent of their level in 2000. For a target of 450, we should offer to cut them by 25 per cent in 2020.

So Kevin Rudd could answer much of the criticism - and make a much more constructive contribution to the negotiations - by advocating the lower, tougher target with the greater cut.

Garnaut's calculations show that the increased degree of adjustment and loss of economic growth involved in cutting emissions by 25 per cent rather than 10 per cent would be surprisingly small.

But Garnaut has made his recommended cut of 10 per cent look smaller and easier than it really is by proposing that we advocate a move to a system where the size of each country's reduction in emissions is set in a way that leads over the long term to all countries accepting roughly the same size cuts when expressed as cuts per person.

In other words, he wants account to be taken of population growth, with countries with growing populations allowed to make smaller cuts in total emissions while countries with declining populations are required to make larger cuts in total emissions.

Unless you believe the system should create an incentive for countries to reduce their birthrate - or that migration makes a significant difference to global emissions - this is a fair and sensible idea. And the developing countries want it.

But it favours countries such as Australia, the United States and India, while disadvantaging Western Europe and Japan.

And it makes our offer of a 10 per cent cut in our total emissions by 2020 look a weaker effort than it is. That translates to a cut of 30 per cent per person, while a 25 per cent total cut translates to 40 per cent per person (that's the surprisingly small difference I mentioned).

The European Union has made an unconditional offer to cut its total emissions by 20 per cent, whereas Garnaut says we should offer unconditional cuts of a pathetic 5 per cent.

But get this: translated into cuts per person, the EU's 20 per cent shrinks to 17 per cent whereas our 5 per cent expands to 25 per cent. Now who's not trying?

With one stroke, Garnaut has given unwarranted offence to environmentalists while giving false comfort to our short-sighted and selfish big business lobby.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Garnaut pushes low-key target

The Garnaut report has finally been released. Will the Rudd government listen to the advice of Garnaut or will he be only one of a number of 'voices' that are in the Prime Ministers ear on climate change? Time will tell - but the government already seems to be down-playing his report.
Garnaut pushes low-key target
Lenore Taylor
September 06, 2008
The Australian

KEVIN Rudd's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has opened the way for the Government to adopt a modest greenhouse gas reduction target in a report that has won cautious business support and outraged environmentalists.

Releasing his latest report yesterday, Professor Garnaut recommended Australia set a low initial greenhouse gas reduction target of between 5 and 10per cent by 2020.

The finding is likely to form the basis of the Rudd Government's political compromise on climate change.

In controversial recommendations, Professor Garnaut has proposed that Australia only agree to bigger domestic reductions inside a much tougher international deal and that it set a fixed price of $20 a tonne for carbon in the first two years of its emissions trading scheme, between 2010 and 2012.

The long-awaited Treasury modelling partly unveiled in Professor Garnaut's interim report yesterday revealed that a 10per cent cut - within a global agreement - would come at a surprisingly low cost for Australia, about 0.1 per cent of GDP a year or a 1.1 per cent reduction in growth by 2020.

It would result in a carbon price of about $34.50 by 2020 and push up household electricity prices by 40 per cent over that period, although Professor Garnaut pointed out the Government's intention to compensate low- and middle-income households for the increased costs they would be forced tobear.

Business groups generally welcomed Professor Garnaut's support for a modest emissions reduction goal linked to the success of international talks.

But conservationists were horrified by Professor Garnaut's assessment that the only achievable global goal in the short term was to stabilise emissions at a level that could destroy the Great Barrier Reef and the economy of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Professor Garnaut defended his proposed "first stage" target of stabilising carbon in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million, saying it was his "reluctant conclusion that a more ambitious international agreement is not possible at this time".

"My aim is to nurture the slender chance that humanity can get its act together," Professor Garnaut told the National Press Club yesterday.
More here

Sarah Palin's record on environment is abysmal


While I disagree with many of Sen. John McCain's policies, I was willing to concede that he may at least make a wise, rational president and represent a step in the right direction for the nation. No longer. With his pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, he has shown a spectacular, even dangerous lack of judgment.

In addition to her frightening lack of qualification to be vice president (much less president) of the United States, Palin is an evangelical, anti-choice, pro-gun, right-wing conservative who wants creationism taught in schools. She is currently under investigation by the Alaska Legislature for alleged abuse of office. Many of us in Alaska simply cannot imagine Palin having anything to do with U.S. foreign policy, domestic policy, national defense or the countless other affairs of federal governance.

A particularly worrisome aspect of the Palin candidacy is her abysmal record on the environment during her two years as Alaska governor, and how that would translate into national environmental policy if she became vice president. Her environmental record as governor of the nation's "last frontier" deserves close examination.

Climate change. Although Alaska is ground zero in the crisis of global warming, Palin has done virtually nothing to address the problem except hold meetings and appoint a "climate sub-cabinet" that likewise has done little. Lots of talk, no action. Although in the past two years the Arctic summer sea ice shrunk to the lowest levels ever recorded, Palin apparently does not believe it is human-induced or cause for alarm. She was asked to establish an Alaska Office on Climate Change, an Alaska Climate Response Fund (based on a tax on Alaska oil production) and emissions reduction targets for Alaska, but has taken no action on those requests.

Polar bears. This summer, Palin filed suit against the Bush administration over the federal listing of polar bears as threatened, saying that her opposition was based on a "comprehensive scientific review." But when asked to release the scientific review, she refused. The document, later obtained by the public (from the federal government), clearly shows that, contrary to Palin's assertions, the state of Alaska's marine mammal scientists agreed with the federal conclusions that the polar bears are in serious trouble because of global warming and loss of their sea ice habitat, and that they would be gone from Alaska by 2050. Palin clearly decided to oppose the listing in order to protect Arctic oil and gas development, then publicly misrepresented the basis for her decision, and then tried to conceal all of that. Having run for office on a platform of honesty and transparency, this behavior was neither. Her extreme position here puts her to the political right of the Bush /Cheney administration.

Endangered species. Earlier this year, Palin approved a $2 million state appropriation for a conference on the "economic impacts" of the Endangered Species Act, designed to persuade the public that ESA listings were too costly and unwarranted. Recently she agreed to use the money instead to fund the state's lawsuit against the Bush administration over the polar bear listing -- a likely violation of the state constitutional provisions on appropriation. She opposes additional species listings and other protections in Alaska, where many species are at risk because of climate change and other threats.

Predator control. Palin approved and expanded the state's aerial predator control program, where wolves are shot from aircraft and bears hunted from aircraft and killed upon landing. This year, her state biologists even dragged 14 newborn wolf pups from their den and, having already shot their parents, then shot each of the pups in the head at close range. Last year, her administration offered a $150 bounty for each wolf killed until the bounty was ruled illegal by the courts. Hundreds of wolves are killed each year by this antiquated state program that has no scientific justification whatsoever, but rather is designed to appease Palin's urban sport hunter supporters.

Pebble mine. Palin aggressively opposed the "clean water initiative" on the August ballot in Alaska (which then failed), favoring instead foreign mining company desires for fewer government regulations controlling their toxic effluent into salmon streams. She has supported virtually any and all mining proposals that have come her way, even likely the enormous Pebble gold and silver mine proposed in the Bristol Bay watershed. That plan put at risk the largest runs of sockeye salmon in the world, where this summer fishermen caught more than 27 million salmon.

Oil and gas drilling. Palin has supported oil and gas drilling plans anywhere in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the central Arctic, the entire Arctic Ocean, and in fish-rich Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet. On her watch, regulation and government oversight of Alaska oil facilities is terribly lacking, and she has declined to establish a citizens' advisory council to provide more effective public oversight of the expanding oil and gas operations in Arctic Alaska.
Exxon Valdez oil spill damages. Palin refuses to push Exxon to pay the government for the unanticipated environmental injuries from the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Almost 20 years later, the private case is still unresolved and the governments likewise have yet to collect full payment from Exxon. Shortly before Palin took office in 2006, the governments presented Exxon with a demand to pay $92 million for this additional environmental damage, but her administration has since not pressed the issue nor taken Exxon to court to collect the money. Meanwhile, Exxon reaps record profits from Alaska.

Trans Pacific shipping. Palin repeatedly has been asked by coastal residents and organizations to enhance the safety of merchant shipping through Alaska's Aleutian Islands, a primary shipping route between Asia and North America, but she's done nothing. Citizens want better vessel tracking, powerful rescue tugs along the route and a risk assessment. While her predecessor funded a scoping study, the Palin administration has not appropriated one dime to improve shipping safety through the Aleutians, and says it will take no further action to reduce risk for several years into the future.

The pattern is clear. On the environment, Sarah Palin is essentially George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and perhaps James Watt rolled into one, but with a more pleasant demeanor. At a time when the nation and world urgently need strong environmental leadership from the United States, it is important to look beyond charisma and carefully consider the environmental implications of our vote in November.

Rick Steiner is a professor at the University of Alaska.