The ‘Anthropocene’ was a nice concept, but in truth, it misses the mark

When I was an infant, I was ignorant of everything.

As a child, I was self interested, seeking what entertained me over all else.

As a teenager, I was arrogant and cocky about my knowledge.

As a young adult, I was sure I knew more than enough to succeed and leapt from the nest without a second thought.

I crashed. Time and time, I failed.

Eventually, I began to appreciate how much I didn’t know.

I understood, through my own trails, the real depth of empathy.

I learnt to anticipate the effects of my actions on others and strived to make them positive.

Patience. Patience has been the hardest thing to learn.

And today, I’m not angry, I strive to avoid too much self interest, I seek out what is necessary for a good life rather than listen to the wants of passing desires and I accept what I must work for over what I would like simply handed to me.

I began New Anthropocine with an idea. In short, there’s no question that our species is a force of nature. Daily, we modify the hydrological and chemical cycles, we reshape genetic diversity and natural landscapes and we even modify our climate. It’s the Anthropocine – an era where one species dominates everything.

By ‘New’ I’d like to think that we have reached a level of understanding that we are able to take responsibility for that dominance.

But we’re not at a point where we will willingly work for goals bigger than ourselves. We couldn’t care less for the necessities of a good life while the trinkets of want glitter from shop windows. We still expect an easy life – so much so that we utterly ignore the resulting social and environmental costs result from our actions.

We are impatient, selfish, cruel and heading for crash after crash.

The evidence for this has long been obvious in environmental degradation, debilitating social inequality and the resulting social impacts.

Yet, the political rhetoric surrounding the carbon price (here in Australia), refugees and ethnic groups have all grown more dreadful as they become further from the truth, to the point that facts have become irrelevant. Blind anger is a massive voting block.

From the vote against the carbon price, to Brexit and now, the next President of the free world, I’ve been left speechless. I feel like a mute prisoner stuck in the mind of my young adult self.

Collectively, we are moving down a path that is dangerous, isolating and irreversibly damaging to our resources, our prosperity and ourselves. Bad ideas dominate because they reward their messengers while the rest of us have failed to provide an effective rebuttal.

Hence, I can’t call this the New Anthropocine. I’m even tempted to say that it’s not even the Anthropocine at all.

Maybe, because we are simply the agents of potent ideas, it should be called the Memeocene.

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Fuel in the skies: has sequestration finally found its market?

I just came across an article stating that Audi have just done something pretty awesome.

Using water, renewable energy and atmospheric CO2, they have generated a synthetic diesel.

Read the article here.

Personally, I see it as a much bigger deal than simply a cleaner, more efficient fuel, which of course it is.

It’s actually sequestration. Moreover, it’s sequestration with potentially strong market influences. It’s also sequestration that brings a cyclic relationship to our carbon-based fuel.

Given strong global leadership on it, there is even a potential for us to modify the atmospheric CO2 concentrations to counter long term climate trends that could impact us negatively. Through controlling what we burn or store, we would be able to influence our climate for our benefit.

I recognise that I might be getting carried away with this news. However, depending on how this story unfolds, it could be a genuine game changer.

Sunday Reads #8: All things climate, environmental and politics

Firstly, I need to plug my survey again. I had a great response on Friday, but yesterday saw little movement. If the question and the answer matters to you, please try to get at least three friends or family members to spare 60 seconds to fill it in and a couple additional minutes to get three more to follow on.

Survey: Does the Aust Gov have a mandate on Chaplains in Public Schools?

Coalition’s Green Army passes the Senate

Having worked as a retail “trainee” when I was 19-20 in what was clearly a way to get around minimum wage restrictions, I am concerned by this, but not surprised at the bi-partisan support, sadly.

Carpark run-off cheaper to drink than desal water

Thinking for the 21st century!

Changing what we eat [relating to sustainability climate change]

Great to bookmark and refer to the future.

This Is What Your Grocery Store Looks Like Without Bees (PHOTOS)

Expect this message to become a bigger issue over the coming decades.

Fiji accuses global community of abandoning the Pacific on climate change, singles out ‘selfish’ Australia

Unfortunately, our leaders are not listening.

The jobs of yesterday: Abbott’s roads rear-vision

Sorry, second plug. This is my latest article on the Climate Spectator.

Power bills to drop 8pc in Tasmania if Senate approves carbon tax abolition

When the Gillard government introduced the carbon price, Abbott said people would pay thousands more a year in energy costs. He then said he would save people on average $550 a year in energy costs. Tasmanians’ are set to save $164 a year from the latest estimates.

For me, this is a clear indicator that reality is likely to be about 20% the estimate offered by our current PM.

Coal’s share of world energy demand at highest since 1970

And this is a genuine tragedy for the coal rich country down under, regardless what the short-term economics might say.

 

Sunday Reads #5: All things climate, environmental and politics

Don’t like the budget? Your options aren’t limited to voting

While some in the government are calling the actions of many disappointed Australians “socialism” in truth, civil disobedience and peaceful protesting is an essential element to a fully functional democracy. Of course, the opposition, when they have no genuine rebuke, will resort to name calling, so let them have that, at least.

Pyne short on maths when it comes to ‘prestige’ degrees

For those who care about the quality of the minds of future Australian who will be in charge when we are old and needing assistance (hoping that we haven’t made them selfish and apathetic). The best point of this article, for me is the simple point; if university graduates are likely to earn 75% more, why not add a tax to those currently earning 75% more to support those who follow them?

It avoids the debilitating debt the current proposal will create and it will avoid further insult to the disadvantaged – those who may not make the supposed 75% more, women who take time off to have children, people who suffer an unforeseeable health problem down the track when they have already completed university and are unable to work in the same fashion, etc.

Climate change by any name is economics

A little shameless self promotion…

Why ethics won’t help cut emissions

An excellent article to support a carbon price

Rules to cut carbon emissions also reduce harmful air pollution

What’s more, CO2 isn’t the only thing that comes out of exhaust pipes. Reducing carbon emissions reduces all other relating chemicals and particulates. A decarbonised world makes for healthier lungs!

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own heartland funded NIPCC propaganda

This made me laugh… But we must give them a little room. After all, they have such a small resource base to work from that this type of this is inevitable.

‘Damage already done’: Climate Change Authority staff quit amid uncertainty

My initial thought in reading this was, “Well, I’ll happily apply for a role!” (noting, obviously, my skills sets are probably not a great match)

I’ve written numerous articles over the years about the how poorly the Australian Green Sector has established itself. Since 2009 it went downhill for some time and I had a sense last year that again momentum was indeed rebuilding.

Nowadays, I’m careful of whether or not I include the words “climate change” or certain publications in an application. We all have mouths to feed and lives to live. The cuts to research and anything relating to climate by our current government is an effective tool to undermine the confidence of the sector.

Global survey: Climate change now a mainstream part of city planning

And despite the strange behaviours in Australia, the world is building cities to that buffer them from future climate change… it feels a million miles away from sprawling urban Australia.

Abbott pedals against the global climate awakening

And there you have it.

Hot 2013; adaptation to climate change is no longer trivial

Firstly, thank you to all followers of NewAnthro. I hope you have enjoyed my work here over the past year and will continue to do so into 2014.

My only hope for the coming year is that, with the heat waves over the past autumn, the warmest winter on record, incredible bush fires of this past spring and the first day of the new year threatening to break records for maximum Australian temperatures, the dialogue will shift away from trivialities in certainty of expected climatic change and to what matters; making Australian communities more resilient in any case.

Energy companies were once telling us that price rises were likely if Abbott removed the carbon price and now they’re telling us the opposite. The only thing I think Australian families can bank on is ever increasing prices for electricity, gas and fuel. For this reason too, the dialogue needs to shift towards making the Australian economy more resilient (which starts with those who do the work – the wage earners).

Looking at heat stress, losses in primary production, human respiratory health (air quality in relation to dust, smoke and smog), economic stress on families and direct damage to communities due to bush fire and flooding should be enough to change the tone of the conversation in Australia towards activities that would otherwise be considered to both mitigate from and adapt to future climate change. It’s a niche market that is only likely to grow and we can prosper from leading the way or pay through the nose if we lag.

Apart from this, my silence over the past few weeks is due to a few factors.

Firstly, I have been writing. I’ve produced a number of articles that I’ve provided to various outlets and been undertaking some revisions to suit their platforms. This is in the hope of increasing my audience (I’ve produced more than 600 posts now on this blog – I know it is of value from the feedback I receive, so I’m hoping to maximise the impact of my work).

I’ve also started a few projects, more or less as a hobby. I’m interested in learning more about a lot of technology. This has led to building an 115W, 12V solar panel thus far which I’m very happy with. All up, I managed to build it for under AU$100.

I have a lot of experience with off-grid systems, so I’ll make good use of it and have since moved onto other projects.

This recent activity has been spurred by the common point that a lot of climate aware commentators make; we currently have much of the technology required to decarbonise human activity.

I want to know more about what this technology actually is, how practical it is, how we can adopt, adapt and improve and what potential setbacks actually exist. I started with solar because it’s what I’m most familiar with. I hope that all of this experimentation will both help my writing and eventually shift my career into something I’m highly motivated about.

On that note, I must admit that reading and writing are among my greatest passions, which makes me feel a little disappointed with myself for leaving NewAnthro idle for so long. Hopefully, I can find a new groove into the new year and return to a better pace of writing.

The role of democracy: Not to fold to the biggest minority, “just because”

Since coming into power, the Coalition have continually stated that other parties, especially the Greens and ALP, owe it to Australians to not stand in the way of their legislations. That, the people voted for the Coalition and so it is the responsibility of these parties to support core Coalition plans.

Hang on a second. The Coalition won with just shy of 46% of the primary votes. That means 54% voted for another party. So the Coalition really only speak for around half of the voting Australian public. It’s a large minority, but not an overwhelming majority.

I know the Senate will change in the middle of next year which will make life a lot simpler for the Coalition, but until then, other parties are where they are because they were voted there to do their role, based upon the principles they offered to their voters. Their obligation in these seats remains unchanged. They have a responsibility to stand up for the principles they entered with even if those are contrary to those of an incoming government.

Over the last several years we saw the Coalition stand against a wide range of changes – remember how Abbott wouldn’t agree on any asylum seeker strategy except for his favoured option of detention on Nauru… and how well has that worked out?

No, I hope the other parties continue to stand in the way of removing the carbon price for as long as possible, as do the 60,000 people who attended the nation-wide GetUp climate rallies last month (remember Abbott’s comments to the then government demanding a vote based on the few thousand protestors against the carbon price in March, 2011? It’s also note worthy that he told that crowd they would be $2000 worse off annually and now saying the average household will be $550 better off without the carbon price… “bear false witness” indeed…)

By standing in the way of removal of the carbon price for as long as possible, we have a bigger dataset, both in the cost of average bills and national carbon emissions which we can then hold up against the alternative this government wishes to implement. The larger the dataset, the most convincing the results, whether or not there turn out to be any real surprises.

The future history of The Great, Tony Abbott: A carrot by any other name is still bad policy

Early into the Abbott government’s term, the Coalition realised that something had gone wrong. While Direct Action and the promise of cheaper electricity were enough to get the team in, scepticism on both fronts began to creep into the general population.

Concerned about public opinion and especially in keeping the public informed, members of the party began bugging journalists for interviews.

Reluctantly (as many journalists were in the middle of solitare on their Desktops) some granted them interviews.

It took a few weeks, but repetition paid off and soon an almost audible gasp of amazement spread over Australia.

Direct Action was a carrot! Of course!

The method being adopted globally and in the early stages of conception within our boarders, that is a carbon price, was nothing but a whipping stick to punish polluters. Direct Action rewarded self-motivated good behaviour.

The people finally got it and opinion of the new government rose to record breaking heights. Some, more motivated members of the public took it a step further, pledging donations to various big business if they were able to clean up their activities.

It became a national past-time, with Australian shares taking over the market.

Amazed by this phenomena, the Coalition realised just how powerful the tool they developed really was. Soon, the carrot was appearing in legislation to revolutionize everything in Australia.

Cameras were set up on every roadway. Speeding by these cameras no longer meant a fine appearing in your letter box, no. Bad drivers just missed out on the cheques that good drivers were sent annually.

So too, prisons nationally were closed for good. Good behaviour was instead rewarded by a larger tax return an naughty members of the community missed out.

Following the triumphant second election win which saw the largest swing towards a single party in history, the Coalition quickly implemented new legislation that allowed them to hand over a “carrot”, in the form of payment, to media providers that had been highly positive of the Coalition over the election period. Murdoch himself, wrote a personal letter of thanks and praise that appeared across his media empire.

Before long, the carrot was adopted as the icon for the Coalition, to massive approval from the general public.

Tony remained Prime Minister until he retired on his own accord. There were many tears shed that day, even from all the other parties (small and trivial as they had become).

In his honour, above Parliament House in place of the Australian flag, a bigger than life brass statue was erected. It sported Tony riding a giant Clydesdale, rearing, with “business” stamped on its hide. In his left hand he held a rod (not a stick), like a jousting sword, with a carrot dangling from its tip.

Australia makes a bad start at Warsaw climate change meeting

By Ian McGregor, University of Technology, Sydney

It’s been embarrassment after embarrassment for Australia at the Warsaw climate change meeting.

Former UN Climate Chief, Yvo de Boer, upbraided Australia for its failure to send a Minister. Australia was also criticised for its topsy-turvy climate policy in the opening issue of ECO, the non-government organisation newsletter produced at the talks.

Australia pulled a triple bad start by being awarded Fossil of the Day on the summit’s first day. The award is given by the international Climate Action Network to the country which has done the most to block progress at the climate change negotiations on that day.

Australia also topped the Fossil of the Day Awards on Wednesday beating out Turkey. This one was for seeking to repeal the carbon price (hence “hurling Australia back into the abyss of time”, as opposed to the more than 40 countries, states and provinces who have moved into the modern times with a carbon price) and also stripping $435 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and removing $10 billion of investment in clean energy.

Australia is blocking progress in a myriad of ways, but the outstanding one is its statement that it will not sign up to new finance commitments in Warsaw. Many would have thought Australia’s position at the climate summit could not have got much worse after the dismantling of its climate change department, abolishing the Climate Change Authority which provides independent advice on policy, ridding itself of the burden of a climate change minister and putting removal of its carbon price before Parliament during this summit.

But the lack of committed climate finance seems to do so. That it’s done in the face of the crushing losses suffered by the Philippines this week – a country which is a Pacific neighbour to Australia and needs international climate finance to build resilience against future tragedy – makes it even more telling.

It illustrates starkly this government’s lack of understanding about why climate finance is needed. Our Cabinet ministers apparently characterise climate finance as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism”. But I have news for you: it’s not socialism, its equity – our fair share – and it’s our responsibility as one of the richest countries and highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.

Perhaps Australia could do better on emissions reductions? The US and China have made important announcements on strengthening their climate action this year. And the Climate Change Authority has described our the existing emissions reduction target of 5% by 2020 as “inadequate” and “not a credible option”. So it would have been good to see the Australian Government seeking to keep up with the ambition of other developed countries.

But instead our Government continues to prevaricate. Tony Abbott said yesterday:

Australia will meet our 5% emissions reduction target, but this government has made no commitments to go further than that. We certainly are in no way looking to make further binding commitments in the absence of very serious like binding commitments from other countries, and there is no evidence of that.

This statement is despite repeated assertions by both the prime minister and the environment minister Greg Hunt that the Coalition still support increasing Australia’s emissions reduction target to up to 25% under a specific conditions for global action accepted by both major parties.

And this is despite a finding by the Climate Change Authority that the conditions for a target higher than 5% had already been met.

The mood of the climate talks are clearly with the lead negotiator for the Philippines, Yeb Sano, whose hometown of Tacloban City was among the worst affected by last week’s typhoon. He said:

It’s time to stop this madness.

To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific… and see the impacts of rising sea levels; … to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce… And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.

The science has given us a picture that is getting ever more focussed. The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Typhoons such as Yolanda (Haiyan) and its impacts are a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action. Warsaw must deliver on enhancing ambition and should muster the political will to address climate change.

Australia’s reputation at these talks needs to change, and it will rely on Prime Minister Abbott’s political will and good diplomatic sense. If Abbott agrees with the science, and has confidence in his own proposed policies, it can’t be too hard to accept the independent advice about the level of action needed.

Ian McGregor is a Lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney and Official Adviser at the Climate Change Negotiations to the Government of Afghanistan. He is also a Steering Committee Member of Climate Action Network Australia.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

An Open Letter to George Monbiot

By Victoria Rollison

“The Rudd and Gillard governments definitely were not a waste of time. They wanted the NBN to be for all Australians, but Abbott has said no. Labor wanted Australia to do our bit to reduce carbon emissions via the Carbon Price, but Abbott has said no. And Labor wanted to redistribute the wealth accumulated by greedy corporate interests through the sale of Australian natural resources, but Abbott has said no. And now Abbott is handing power to the very same people who helped him to produce the political policies to benefit themselves…”

Read more here.

Business: stick in the mud complaints

In the news today, business has been making a little noise to encourage the government to remove the carbon price because, get this, it makes business more expensive.

Really? Who would have thought that a policy aimed to remove the profitability from dirty practices actually made business more difficult?

The point was to add resistance to business as usual. Of course the other side to this is provide opportunities and assistance to clean up operations, which I’ve seen little of in the last five years.

Instead, business wants the stick and carrot for doing this out of the goodness of their heart (straight from the tax payer’s pocket, no less). So I’ll just wait for my tax cuts for saving water and energy and for recycling.