Jul 01 2016

Australian election: say no to the polluting major parties

It’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm for another election. It’s clear that neither of the major parties will act in the public interest. Still, it’s the one time in three years when we get a say about the future of our country, so here’s how I’ll be voting and you should too.

The most pressing issue facing Australia and the world is human-caused global warming. In 2015, atmospheric CO2 reached 400 ppm, the highest level in around 15 million years, and global temperature exceeded 1°C above preindustrial, around the warmest in 10,000 years. 2016 is on track to be even hotter, with February hitting a record-smashing 1.95°C above preindustrial. Coral reefs around the world are dying, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The rate at which human activity is changing the Earth’s climate is without precedent since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. We are already experiencing increasing extreme weather costing human lives and record-drought-driven war in Syria. Worse, we are already passing several tipping points which will amplify carbon emissions and warming, and flood island nations and agricultural river deltas.

An increasing number of the world’s top climate experts are warning we are in a climate emergency. 24 prominent Australians have called for emergency climate action, including scientists, business leaders, a former defence department secretary, and a former chair of the Australian Coal Association. (You can add your name to the petition here.) The statement read: Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 14 2015

Will Turnbull act on climate?

As I write this, it looks like Malcolm Turnbull may replace Tony Abbott as Australian Prime Minister tonight. (Update: Turnbull is now PM!)

Abbott has spent his two years in government doing everything he can to dismantle every climate change policy, and most recently was caught on tape joking about rising sea levels with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. On the other hand, at least Abbott is an obvious enemy of the climate – with him in charge, it’s obvious nothing is being done.

Turnbull may be the most popular politician in Australia. Almost everybody I speak to seems to adore him. Whenever his name crops up in political news and commentary, he’s usually presented in a positive light. Most importantly, he is perceived as a rare green Liberal. He is now much more popular than when he previously led the Liberal Party in 2009, probably because the circumstances in which he lost the leadership made him look like a sort of green martyr. So when I tell people I am distrustful of him, they are astounded. Surely Turnbull would be far preferable to Abbott?

In the past Turnbull has painted himself as a champion of the climate, and for years many in the climate movement have dreamt of him becoming Prime Minister. Yet today, he said he will hold the party line on climate policy mechanisms and targets (and also on same-sex marriage, his other major point of difference with Abbott). He described Abbott’s climate policy as “very well designed, a very, very good piece of work”. In today’s press conference announcing his leadership challenge, he made not one mention of climate. Not one. Rather he talked of “economic leadership”, “economic confidence that business needs”, and free trade agreements – the buzzwords of those who oppose climate action.

Let’s look systematically at the various incarnations of Turnbull that have existed over the years and the various positions he has taken on climate. Which if any of them is “the real Malcolm”? Is he really any different from Abbott? And if Turnbull plans to change climate policy despite his denials, what kind of changes might he make?

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 01 2015

Are we approaching peak stupidity?

You’ve heard about peak oil, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Increasingly concerns are being raised about the sustainability of the most important resource keeping fossil fuel industries alive: stupidity.

As environmentalist Comm. N. Sense explains: “the fossil fuel lobby relies on stupidity to keep the public electing the politicians who are allowing them to expand their mines and exports. But like any non-renewable resource, stupidity is bound to run out sooner or later. I believe the relentless increase in stupidity production we are currently observing is creating a stupidity bubble that could burst at any time. When the bubble bursts, society will wake up to the urgent threat of climate change and act at emergency speed to phase out fossil fuels.”

This would be a devastating development for the mining industry. How else might society be impacted when stupidity production peaks?

“The world as we know it will come to an end,” explained Idi O’See, an expert with a BS in stupidity. “Most people don’t realize how much we use stupidity in our everyday lives. For example, after peak stupidity the media will no longer be able to devote so much coverage to sports and celebrity news. People will stop going to church, and sales of many luxury goods could plummet. Voters will turn away from the traditional political parties and elect candidates with new ideas.”

Economists warn that climate change impacts will make it progressively harder to extract stupidity: “Just like coal mines can be put out of action by fires and floods, these extreme weather events also threaten to create at least a temporary reduction in stupidity. The mining lobby has to work ever harder after such events to return stupidity production to prior levels.” Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 18 2015

Is Turnbull a green Liberal?

If you’re Australian and you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll know PM Tony Abbott narrowly survived a leadership spill motion in the Liberal party room last week. Most commentators agree we haven’t heard the end of this. The apparent leading candidate is Malcolm Turnbull. It’s also possible Abbott could be challenged by Julie Bishop or Scott Morrison, but here I have chosen to focus on Turnbull because of the particular way that he is perceived by the electorate.

Malcolm Turnbull may be the most popular politician in Australia. Almost everybody I speak to seems to adore him. Whenever his name crops up in political news and commentary, he’s usually presented in a positive light. Most importantly, he is perceived as a rare green Liberal. He is now much more popular than when he previously led the Liberal Party in 2009, probably because the circumstances in which he lost the leadership made him look like a sort of green martyr. So when I tell people I am distrustful of him, they are astounded. Surely Turnbull would be far preferable to Abbott?

To begin with, I reject any notion that Turnbull’s “charisma” or suchlike makes him PM material. We cannot rely on instinct to discern which politicians are more trustworthy. It’s a politician’s job to appear as if their speech and body language is natural and sincere, and to manipulate our instincts to create such an impression. A politician who intuitively seems more natural may in reality be more fake.

Let’s have a look at the various incarnations of Turnbull that have existed over the years. Which if any of them is “the real Malcolm”? Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 08 2015

2014 the warmest year as global heating speeds up

2014 was the hottest year in the global surface temperature record, according to independent analyses by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), US National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), UK’s Met Office, and even the team of skeptics at Berkeley Earth. The one exception is the University of York dataset, which has greater warming over the last two decades and a higher record which 2014 was not quite able to break. The former two records go back 135 years; the latter three cover 165 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the dirtiest trade deal you’ve never heard of

As someone who’s been warning for a while about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP – see my previous posts on the issue here and here), I’m pleased to see a large activist group like GetUp! come out against it. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 02 2015

Tony Abbott’s intergenerational theft

It was advertised as the speech that would turn around his government’s plummeting popularity. Government backbencher Andrew Laming said it would be “bigger than Ben-Hur”. But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s National Press Club address today was underwhelming compared to even my expectations. He didn’t really say much that was new. The future he outlined is the same tired vision that his Liberal Party (and to a lesser extent, Labor) have advocated for as long as I can remember.

The silliest thing he said was his justification for addressing the budget deficit: it would be “intergenerational theft” to leave future generations with a legacy of debt. Does he have no sense of irony? Intergenerational theft is exactly what Abbott’s government is doing on the far more important issue of climate change and the environment. It is my generation, babies being born today, and those who come after who will suffer the costs of the decisions made now. If they are going to insist on calling themselves the “adult government”, a slogan Abbott recycled yet again today, then it’s time they stopped flouting their responsibility to protect their children.

The mountain of evidence that anthropogenic global warming is a real and urgent problem continues to grow. 2014 was the hottest year on record globally (more on that tomorrow). Last week, the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology released the most comprehensive ever climate projections for Australia. They warn that Australia could warm up to 5.1°C by 2090 in the highest emissions scenario. Another study predicted an increase in “super La Ninas” meaning “more occurrences of devastating weather events, and more frequent swings of opposite extremes from one year to the next, with profound socio-economic consequences”. But of course no amount of evidence will ever change Abbott’s mind, because evidence means nothing to him; the only language he speaks is power.

Abbott mostly talked about creating a stronger economy, even saying “only this government has had the courage… to build a stronger and more prosperous economy” – as if no previous government ever prioritized a stronger economy. Never mind that the economy, as currently designed for endless material growth and profit over people, is an anachronism that no longer serves the needs of society. At the current level of economic development, national growth is no longer doing much to increase national wellbeing, rather it is feeding an endless cycle of status competition while depleting our resources and polluting our environment. In 2015 it makes little sense to see growth as the number one priority. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 01 2015

2014: the year that was

Welcome to 2015! If you believe Back to the Future, this year our climate problems should be solved by the invention of fusion-powered flying cars. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

There seems little point in writing a “year-in-review” post as I’ve kind of already written it for most of the year. These three posts together provide a comprehensive review of Australian politics from September 2013 to October 2014:

In summary, it’s been a horror year in Tony Abbott’s Australia for the climate and on all policy fronts. Blinded by neoliberal ideology, Abbott and his Liberal Party are making the rich and powerful more so with every decision, except for the occasional bit of tokenism. And in Australia there is no group more rich and powerful than the fossil fuel industry. On the bright side, the Abbott government is extremely unpopular and public support for climate action is slowly trending upward, reversing the downward trend during the former Labor government.

At the international level, some possible glimmers of hope have (finally!) begun to appear, with the US and China announcing emissions targets for the next decade. But with one eye on the mounting evidence that we are already hitting tipping points for runaway global warming, I fear it’s too little too late. (I intend to write a post soon on how little difference has been made by the US-China deal.)

Beyond that, I thought I’d take this opportunity to plug some of my best posts of 2014. So without further ado, here are some of my best posts of 2014 (in chronological order):

At the beginning of 2014, I promised to “counter fossil-fuel-justifying ideology”. Looking back on the year, it turns out I haven’t really done much of that. Instead I’ve alternated between not-so-rapid response to events, cataloguing government actions, and depressed inactivity.

Hopefully in the new year, I’ll get around to finishing some of my more big-picture posts. I’m working on lots of ideas about both climate and general politics.

Dec 15 2014

Australia continues climate obstructionism in Lima

The COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru concluded yesterday. It will take a while to sift through the outcomes and figure out what they mean, but for now I want to concentrate on the Australian government, which has unsurprisingly continued its crusade against climate action.

Unlike last year when Australia didn’t bother to send a minister to the talks, this time around we’re sending two. Unfortunately neither of them is the Environment Minister: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb. Both of them are climate change deniers, and they are accompanied by BHP lobbyists.

According to news reports, this unusual arrangement is due to a power struggle between Bishop, PM Tony Abbott, his Cabinet, and his chief of staff Peta Credlin. Credlin blocked Bishop’s initial proposal to attend the conference, Bishop bypassed Credlin by securing Cabinet’s approval, and Abbott personally requested that she be chaperoned by Robb. Robb was a key player in installing Abbott as Liberal Party leader five years ago. It’s unclear whether this intrigue is over policy differences or simply power. Reportedly Bishop’s reason for attending is so Australia doesn’t look bad for not attending, but on the other hand Abbott is apparently concerned that Bishop might agree to something “too green”.

There is little danger of that. Australia has been declared the world’s worst-performing developed country in a new Climate Change Performance Index report from think-tank Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN). Denmark came in at fourth place, with the top three rankings left blank to symbolize the reality that no country is doing anywhere near enough.

CAN has also granted Australia five Fossil of the Day awards. The first and third were for refusing to contribute finance to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – more on that in a moment. The second was for arguing that the promised “loss and damage” mechanism should be merely part of adaptation. The fourth was for trying to remove from the negotiating text any mentions of “global solidarity” and the agreed goal to limit global warming to below 1.5-2°C above preindustrial, saying they do not understand the concept of a temperature limit. The fifth was because Robb told an audience of Australian businesspeople that Australia won’t sign up to next year’s agreement if it disadvantages us relative to our “major trade competitors” (who apparently now include Saudi Arabia, the most anti-climate country of all). Finally, Australia received the Fossil of the Year award for all of the above and more. Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 29 2014

I Didn’t Vote for Abbott

A chronicle of the Abbott government’s terrible actions, to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (full lyrics below). Please share it to help spread the word not to vote for the Liberal Party in the Victorian election today!

Climate Council, Minchin’s back, boycott ban, officials sacked

Coal seam gas, ignored distress, let’s all watch sports


Peta Credlin, Wiki Greg, Tony Shepherd, gays can’t wed

Guild witch-hunts, cut fire payments, and expenses rorts


Maurice Newman, corporate crime, gunboat gift, torture’s fine

Warsaw, no FoIs, risky Trans-Pacific ties


Tim Wilson, Timor raid, mega-mines, polluters paid

Green tape, EEO, Murray-Darling, eco-lawyers goodbye


I didn’t vote for Abbott

Our leader Tony is a plastic phony

I didn’t vote for Abbott

We’ve never liked him but we’ll try to fight him


War on boats, lesson reviews, cheap soldiers, forgotten Jews

Unpatriotic ABC, Cory Bernardi


Manus Island, nutrition, TPVs, Dick Warburton

Poor Green Army, SPC, lying on subsidies


Repeal Day, nukes okay, marching on St Patrick’s Day

Loggers praised, ignore war crimes, 457s, knights and dames


Dob in critics, protest votes, fines if you can’t stay afloat

Corporate rights, green cop maimed, Facebook, fighter planes


I didn’t vote for Abbott

Our leader Tony is a plastic phony

I didn’t vote for Abbott

We’ve never liked him but we’ll try to fight him


Harm the old, hurt the poor, screw orphans of war

Young and jobless in strife, best day of Hockey’s life


Student debt, GP tax, renovations, aid axed

Science slashed, natives knifed, no shelters for battered wives


FOFA, dementia, kidnappings, Canadia

Probable torture, non-profits’ lips sealed


Forty jobs, Albrechtsen, on-water detention

Godly chaps, skillful Japs, Clive gets carbon tax repealed


I didn’t vote for Abbott

Our leader Tony is a plastic phony

I didn’t vote for Abbott

We’ve never liked him but we’ll try to fight him


Team Australia, metadata, freedoms better wait ’till later

Empire a good cause, NT out of labour laws


Fatal foot, climate snub, whistleblowers will be drubbed

Delay super, Cambodia, follow Yanks into a war


Illegal infant, Barry Spurr, polluter fund censored

No wind turbine energy, shirtfront at the G20


I didn’t vote for Abbott

Our leader Tony is a plastic phony

We shouldn’t vote for Abbott

’Cause until he’s gone, we will still go wrong and wrong

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