Photos - Bev Lee/Bev Thornell
U3A members concerned about sustainability and climate change were among those supporting the Benalla Student Climate Change rally on Friday 21 May, Delfina and Brian proudly wearing their Grandparents for Climate Change T-Shirts!
Photos - Bev Lee/Bev Thornell
'Sometimes it is hard to come away from our sessions with real hope that Australia will take effective action on climate change'
Victoria's Climate Change Strategy was released at the beginning of May and was a major topic of discussion at our session. While it was considered to have many positive aspects the general feeling from conservation groups was that it had not gone far enough. Dr Nicholas Aberle from Environment Victoria suggests that the climate goals are caught between politics and science. While the Victorian emission targets are politically bold, they are scientifically inadequate. He argues that we must encourage the government for taking responsibility and praise them for their leadership while also pointing out that we need to go much further, much faster, if we are to stay within the 1.5 degree warming limit.
And then of course there was the release of the Federal Budget which was severely criticised for being very light on climate and environmental issues. It seems that the government does not like to even use the word 'climate'. It just appears in two items in Budget Paper Number 2.
The budget allocated considerable money to fund new carbon capture and storage projects which aim to capture some CO2 at the point of emission and store it underground. The aim of this is to allow continued fossil fuel use with lower emissions, which demonstrates the priorities of the Federal government. Recent research into carbon capture and storage projects shows that the vast majority of projects fail.
There was much discussion about this and other aspects of the budget including its support for a 'gas fired recovery', which group members believe will not reduce emissions. Gas is sometimes described as emitting about half as much as coal when burned, but studies have shown its impact is much higher due to the leakage of methane during extraction and piping.
The world's leading energy authority, the International Energy Agency, issued a statement saying that rich countries like Australia have an obligation to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050 if we are to meet the Paris target. The statement said that no new mines are needed, no new coal plants should be built and that no new natural gas fields are needed. Group members contrasted this with the continued support of the federal government for coal and gas. On the same day that the statement from the International Energy Agency was released the government announced it would be spending $600 million of tax-payer's money on a new gas fired plant in northern NSW.
Sometimes it is hard to come away from our sessions with any real hope that Australia will take effective action in relation to climate change.
Due to Easter, we only had one session this month.
As many readers would be aware there has been much discussion in the media about the impacts of climate change, the decline of coal, the 'gas led' recovery and of course emission reduction targets.
Many members had watched the Four Corners program on the "Gas Led Recovery" and the issues presented during that program led to much discussion. A report from the Australian Energy Market Operator that declared "there will be no gas shortfall" also contributed to the discussion.
The topic of battery storage was also raised during these discussions and we read an article about some research conducted by the Australia Institute titled, "Renewables plus batteries offer Australia the same energy security as coal." This led to discussion about how battery storage can provide stability to the grid. Questions were raised about how long battery storage could maintain grid operation in the event of major breakdowns. This is something we need to explore a little further.
Due to the building renovations Sustainability was unable to meet during February and our first session will be on Friday 5th March.
This year we have 17 people enrolled which is the largest the group has ever been over the thirteen years it has been operating.
Maybe this is an indication that sustainability and climate change are becoming important issues to a greater number of people.
It would be good to see that reflected throughout the Benalla community.
There has been a lot of talk about ‘green hydrogen’ as a major source of clean energy and members have been provided with two articles about Twiggy Forest’s ambitious plans to develop ‘green hydrogen’ and ‘green steel’.
I look forward to starting our meetings and to the interesting discussions about such issues
Sustainability's first 'pandemic in remission' session is scheduled for Friday 19 February 2021 - fingers crossed!
This course aims to explore topics such as global warming and climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy options, the challenge of population growth, sustainable agricultural practices, water use, sustainable use of resources, sustainable and energy efficient building design and various economic and lifestyle issues.
The first session of Sustainability in 2021 is scheduled in the U3A meeting room on Friday 19th February from 9.30 to 11.30 am.
John Lloyd 5765 2476
Victorians seem to have done the right thing to suppress the Corona virus and it is looking hopeful for a reasonable Christmas.
This will be the final distribution of sustainability articles for this year as this Friday would have normally been the final meeting for the year.
Because it is the final email I have taken the liberty of attaching quite a few articles.
You may have heard the announcement from the Victorian government that the budget will include a major household energy efficiency package which is a very significant amount.
I have attached the media release from the Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio.
Those of you who have known me for some time know about my passion for energy efficient and sustainable housing, so you won’t be surprised that I have included two articles on this issue.
Other articles include the ‘State of the Climate Report’, good news of renewable energy developments in NSW and of some major ‘green energy’ projects across Australia.
The final article is about how Australia could become isolated over its inaction on climate.
The Sustainability Zoom meeting on Friday will be the final one for this year. See the link below.
As this will probably be my final email for 2020, I would like to take the opportunity to wish everybody all the best for the coming festive season, and hope that we will be able to have face-to-face meetings in 2021.
The link for the Sustainability Zoom meeting at 10am this Friday, 20th November is:
Household Energy Efficiency Package
Media Release Lily D'Ambrosio Victorian Government November 17, 2020
All-electric, self-sustaining homes for suburban Sydney
ARENA 15 October 2020
Should energy efficiency ratings be compulsory?
Penelope Thomas The West Australian Mon, 19 October 2020
Green giants: the massive projects that could make Australia a clean energy superpower
The Guardian Environmental Investigations Adam Morton Sat 14 Nov 2020
NSW's coal heartland to host state's newest renewable energy zone
Peter Hannam Sydney Morning Herald November 16, 2020
Australia warned it could be isolated over climate inaction after Joe Biden victory
Adam Morton The Guardian Sun 8 Nov 2020
State of the climate: five big issues from the report that will affect every Australian
The Guardian Environmental investigations Graham Readfearn Sat 14 Nov 2020
It is that time of the week again when I send you some more articles about sustainability issues.
This week’s articles include two about China’s announcement of its target of Net Zero Emissions by 2060 and the impact this would have on Australia’s coal exports.
Another article explains how the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a major promoter of neoliberal economic policies, is now calling for ‘green investment’ and carbon pricing.
The final article explains what makes a Green New Deal.
I trust you will find these articles of interest.
Zoom Meeting: I did not hold a Sustainability Zoom meeting last Friday because of other commitments, however as there are 5 Fridays this month we have space to have a Zoom meeting this Friday.
There are two weeks’ supply of articles to discuss- a total of seven. I would suggest we deal with these articles as follows:
First session – discuss ‘Backwards Budget’, ‘Net Zero Emissions’ from last week and ‘Neoliberals’ and ‘Green New Deal’ from today’s articles.
15 minute break.
Second session – discuss ‘Old King Coal’ from last week and the two articles about China I sent today.
The link to the Zoom meeting at 10am on Friday 23rd October is:
China just stunned the world with its step-up on climate action – and the implications for Australia may be huge The Conversation October 8, 2020
China's power game puts the pressure on Australian coal
Cheryl Durrant Sydney Morning Herald October 15, 2020
Some say neoliberals have destroyed the world, but now they want to save it. Is Scott Morrison listening? The Conversation October 16, 2020
You’ve probably heard of the Green New Deal in the US — is it time for one in Australia?
The Conversation October 20, 2020
Here is your now ‘weekly dose’ of sustainability articles.
I hope you enjoyed the positive articles I sent you last week. It is not often that I can just focus on ‘good news stories’.
There is one ‘good news’ articles this week about ‘Old King Coal’ surrendering to solar. Some welcome news.
I won’t be conducting a Zoom meeting this Friday as I have other commitments but as we have five Fridays this month, I could conduct one on the fourth Friday, October 23rd. That would still leave two weeks till the first meeting in November.
I will send out the link next week.
Old king coal has surrendered to solar, says global power report
Nick O'Malley The Age October 13, 2020
‘Backwards’ federal budget: Morrison government never fails to disappoint on climate action
The Conversation October 7, 2020
Net-zero emissions target could spark $63 billion investment drive by 2025
Matt Johnson The NewDaily Oct 12, 2020
The ‘lungs of the Earth’ are burning: 2020 Amazon rainforest fires the worst in a decade
Cait Kelly The NewDaily Oct 4, 2020
I am a week earlier than usual, but then with so many articles available I thought I might start a weekly distribution of 3 or 4 articles.
This week there were a number of positive articles and I thought it would be a nice change to send you just the positive news for once.
Of course we then had the budget, which didn’t have any positive news for the environment or climate change, but more about that next week.
Enjoy the ‘good news’ articles.
Solar installations go through the roof despite Victoria's lockdown
Miki Perkins The Age October 6, 2020
West Australia to build 100MW big battery – the first on state’s main grid
Giles Parkinson Renew Economy 3 October 2020
South Australia wind and solar served stunning 73% of demand in September
Giles Parkinson Renew Economy 2 October 2020
Aussie tech gurus driving local, low-cost solar panel breakthrough
Mike Foley The Age October 5, 2020
Here I am again with another bunch of articles to keep you well informed.
I have attached seven articles and as usual I found it difficult to restrict it to this number. Of course some of these articles are about the so called “Low Emissions Technology Roadmap” launched by the federal government last week. To me, this roadmap is more about ideology and politics rather than a genuine energy plan. You can read the criticisms for yourself.
Are you aware that President Xi, at the UN General Assembly spoke of a "green revolution" and committed China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060?
You can read about that in one of the articles.
Once again I will be conducting a Zoom Sustainability meeting at 10am on Friday.
The link to the Zoom meeting at 10am on Friday 2nd October is:
Anything but wind or solar: Taylor’s technology plan is “roadmap to nowhere”
Michael Mazengarb ReNew Economy 22 September 2020
Morrison’s gas push isn’t about energy security, it’s about ideology at any cost
Zali Steggall Renew Economy 22 September 2020
What are the key technologies in the Coalition's low emissions roadmap, and can they deliver?
Royce Kurmelovs The Guardian Sun 27 Sep 2020
Why Australia’s hydrogen industry should be renewables only
Michael Mazengarb Renew Economy 28 September 2020
The world's richest one per cent emit more carbon pollution than the poorest half of humanity
SBS News 22nd September, 2020
China's push puts end of fossil fuels in sight
Nick O'Malley Sydney Morning Herald September 26, 2020
EU ramps up emissions reduction target to 55 percent by 2030
Joshua S Hill Renew Economy 22 September 2020
I expect everyone is looking forward to the easing of COVID restrictions in regional Victoria from Thursday, but it still important that everyone practices good hygiene and stays safe.
I thought I had selected the articles I was going to send around, but then the Prime Minister makes his announcement on a ‘gas led recovery’ and so some additions were necessary. The PM”s ‘gas plan’ has created a lot of controversy. I have attached two more articles about the plan. These will obviously contribute to our discussions at the Zoom meeting on Friday morning.
As well as sending the articles have forwarded two emails responding to that announcement, one from the Climate Council and another from GetUp who are seeking signatures for a petition.
Once again I will be conducting a Zoom meeting on Friday morning to discuss these matters.
To join the Zoom meeting at 10am on Friday 18th September click on the following link:
Renewable energy can save the natural world – but if we’re not careful, it will also hurt it
The Conversation September 2, 2020
Laura Sonter, Lecturer in Environmental Management, The University of Queensland;
James Watson, Professor, The University of Queensland; Richard K Valenta, Director - Mining and Geology Research Centre - Sustainable Minerals Institute, UQ
Greta Thunberg champions the plight of climate refugees
Pip Hinman GreenLeft September 10, 2020
These Aussie teens have launched a landmark climate case against the government. Win or lose, it’ll make a difference
The Conversation September 10, 2020
Laura Schuijers Research Fellow in Environmental Law, University of Melbourne
When will Australia's government act on the climate imperative?
John Hewson Blue Mountains Gazette September 10 2020
Earth Hasn’t Warmed This Fast in Tens of Millions of Years
Chelsea Harvey, E&E News on September 13, 2020 Reprinted in Scientific American
Phasing out gas would benefit Australian manufacturers and households
Richard Denniss The Guardian Thu 3 Sep 2020
Dawn of 'green steel' and the revival of Australian manufacturing
Nick O'Malley The Sydney Morning Herald September 7, 2020
No, Prime Minister, gas doesn’t ‘work for all Australians’ and your scare tactics ignore modern energy problems The Conversation September 15, 2020\
Samantha Hepburn, Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law, Deakin University
'We don't need it': Critics say plan for new gas power is unnecessary
Nick O'Malley and Nick Toscano The Age September 16, 2020
Spring has arrived and Spring is always full of promise. Let’s hope this Spring brings an easing of restrictions.
I hope you all watched the third episode of ‘Fight for Planet A’ which was focussed on food.
What I thought was significant about this episode was how it highlighted the significance of behaviour change in reducing carbon emissions. One amazing reduction was the change by the university student to eating chicken rather than very large servings of beef. There were quite a few other behaviour changes that resulted in a smaller carbon footprint. The challenge to all of us is, “Are there behaviour changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint?”
You may remember in one of our February meetings I gave out an article ‘Fifteen Tips to Help Lower Your Carbon Footprint’. I would be interested to hear if you have made some changes to reduce your carbon footprint.
A number of sustainability articles have been included below for your regular ‘update’. As is usual I have difficulty trying to limit the number I send. Following on from the Planet A series, I have included an article about reducing meat and dairy intake. Other topics include the push by business for a ‘green recovery’, proposed changes to environment protection legislation, and Victoria’s move to encourage more clean energy.
Friday morning Zoom meeting
I will be holding another Zoom meeting at 10am on Friday morning. It would be good to see a couple of ‘new faces’ at the meeting. We will be discussing the final episode of ‘Fight for Planet A’ as well as some of the articles I have attached. As the free Zoom time runs out at 40 minutes we normally have a 15 minute break and then come back using the same link for a second 40 minutes discussion.
Click on the following link to join the Sustainability Zoom meeting at 10am on Friday 4th September.
Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth
Damian Carrington The Guardian Fri 1 Jun 2018 (more than 2 years old)
Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock - it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland
Climate crisis: business, farming and environment leaders unite to warn Australia 'woefully unprepared'
Adam Morton The Guardian Friday 28th August 2020
An extraordinary statement by 10 groups says the nation’s future prosperity is at risk without a coherent response
Morrison government resurrects Abbott's 'one-stop shop' environment laws
Mike Foley The Age August 27, 2020
'A shot in the arm:' Victoria backs clean energy in bid to fuel COVID-19 recovery
Nick Toscano and Miki Perkins The Age September 2nd, 2020
Australian Industry Group urges Coalition to spend 'at least' $3.3bn on renewable energy over coming decade
Paul Karp The Guardian Mon 31 Aug 2020
Extract from above article - Peak employer body warns Australia faces ‘costly increase in climate-related impacts and risks’ even in best-case scenario
It has been a particularly interesting month for people concerned about sustainability and the environment, with Craig Reucassel’s wonderful series ‘The Fight for Planet A’ engaging many of us. The dilemma of how to engage people with issues surrounding climate change has often been discussed in the Sustainability class – Craig Reucassel seems to have found the key.
Late August’s Zoom meeting provided the opportunity for members of the Sustainability group to engage in a follow up discussion of the issues raised. This discussion will continue at the next meeting on Friday September 4 at 10am.
The articles selected for discussion at Sustainability’s fortnightly Zoom meetings are being added to the Sustainability page on this website. If you are interested in keeping up with current issues in the sustainability area, just click on the links to the articles in the posts below.
Having watched ‘Fight for Planet A’ last night, which dealt with transport emissions and the advantages of electric vehicles, Here's a link to an interesting article about one group trying to encourage the purchase of EV’s.
The Green Recovery--Electric cars have few downsides except price. One company is looking to change that
Royce Kurmelovs The Guardian 30 July, 2020
How about that drag race segment on the show last night? I knew EV’s had considerable power but WOW!
I am looking forward to our Zoom discussion on Friday morning.
I trust you are all doing what you need to keep yourself safe. I hope you all watched the first episode of ‘Fight for Planet A’ last week and the second episode, which focused on transport emissions, at 8.30pm on Tuesday night. If you missed them you can view them on iView.
I have attached five articles for your regular ‘diet’ of Climate change/sustainability articles. I have tried to include articles with some positive trends.
There have been a lot of significant groups urging the government to implement a ‘Green Recovery’ for the economy, following the pandemic.
We will have plenty to talk about at our Zoom discussion on Friday morning.
We might spend the first 40 minute session discussing ‘Fight for Planet A’, have a short coffee break and then spend the next 40 minutes discussing the articles I have sent you.
Click on the following link to join the Sustainability Zoom discussion at 10am on Friday 21st August:
If you haven’t joined a Zoom meeting before, I have previously sent an instruction sheet about Joining a Zoom Meeting for the First Time.
It would be good to see some ‘new faces’ on Friday morning.
Blackballed: will coal bounce back from slump or is it terminal?
Nick O'Malley The Sydney Morning Herald August 15, 2020
Business chiefs urge PM to invest sustainably for COVID-19 recovery
Mike Foley The Age August 10, 2020
Joel Fitzgibbon blasted by Mark Butler for backing gas-led Covid recovery plan
The Guardian Wed 12 Aug 2020 Katharine Murphy
Medical experts urge Scott Morrison to act on climate change as part of the COVID-19 recovery
SBS News Tuesday 11 August, 2020
Coal power hits record low, but Taylor still can’t credit wind and solar for lower electricity prices
Michael Mazengarb RenewEconomy 14 August 2020
I would like to inform you about some interesting, and I think important, television shows next week.
First of all on this Monday 10th August at 8.30pm on ABC 4Corners is Plastic Wars: Recycling spin in the plastics industry, a PBS Frontline production presented by Craig Reucassel.
You will remember Craig Reucassel from his ‘War on Waste’ series.
Craig will also be presenting a new three part series titled ‘Fight for Planet A:Our Climate Challenge’, which begins on Tuesday 11th August at 8:30pm.
Fight for Planet A: Our Climate Challenge
The ABC's new show to inspire our thinking and challenge our behaviour on climate change, Fight for Planet A: Our Climate Challenge premieres on August 11th at 8.30pm. Over three episodes Craig Reucassel takes on a climate challenge to reduce our carbon emissions and understand where our energy comes from, how transport and travel emissions affect our health and just what is the carbon footprint of the things we eat?
The series will showcase how individuals, families, schools and businesses can help reduce our carbon footprint by making practical day-to-day changes, especially in our homes. Far from taking the pressure off governments and industry, Craig will check in to see if they are doing all they can to make the changes we need and challenge them to do better.
I would encourage you to watch this series as I believe it will be very informative and could provide all of us with ideas to reduce our carbon emissions.
If the series motivates you to get involved in solutions to reduce our carbon emissions there is an online personalised plan which will provide you with useful tips, tools and advice, https://fightforplaneta.abc.net.au/solutionsplan.
This series will be the major focus of our discussions at our Sustainability Zoom meetings.
In relation to our Zoom meetings I thought we might have had a few more participants. Many group members contributed to our discussions when we were able to physically meet and I think many of you could also contribute to our discussions via Zoom. The few who have participated have enjoyed the discussions.
The technology may sound a little ‘scary’ but in fact it is relatively simple once you join your first group.
While Zoom meetings are not the same as face-to-face meetings they can at least break the monotony of isolation at home.
I have attached the guide sheet for joining a Zoom meeting which should help those who are unfamiliar with Zoom and may feel a little reluctant.
Can I encourage you again to watch this important series and I look forward to seeing a few more people joining our Zoom meetings.
Stay healthy and stay safe.
Hello to everybody,
The COVID situation in Victoria is not looking good at all and I think it could be a long time before we can meet as a group again.
No doubt we all consider ourselves lucky to be living here, in or near Benalla, where we haven’t had any cases of the virus for many weeks, even though we have gone back to stage 3 restrictions.
I hope you are all coping with those restrictions and all wearing masks when away from home.
As usual I have many articles to choose from to send to you for your regular sustainability update and I try to select ones that may be of greatest interest.
Within the articles I have attached, I found the one about lawsuits over climate change risk very interesting. There are also positive aspects to the other articles.
I will conduct another Zoom discussion about these articles at 10am on Friday morning but we will do things a little differently this time.
The last couple of sessions have come to an abrupt ending when the free 40 minutes runs out.
What I plan to do this Friday is to have a 15 minute coffee break when the first 40 minutes runs out and then we go back and click on the same link again and we will get another 40 minutes.
This will allow us to discuss a number of the articles.
The link to the Zoom meeting.
I look forward to seeing some of you via Zoom on Friday morning. Hopefully a few more people may decide to try Zoom this Friday.
Keep safe and keep positive.
5 Attachments: (downloadable PDF's):
Lawsuits over climate crisis risk
Binoy Kampmark Eureka Street 30 July 202
How Australia's state energy ministers are turning the tables on Angus Taylor
Simon Holmes à Court The Guardian Sat 11 July 202
New gas-fired power not needed as renewable energy expands, grid operator says
A roadmap for an optimal electricity market suggests gas prices will need to stay low to compete with alternatives on renewable grid
Adam Morton Environment editor The Guardian Thu 30 Jul 2020
More coal power generation closed than opened around the world this year, research finds
Adam Morton The Guardian Mon 3 Aug 2020
Aren’t we all very glad we live in regional Victoria, a couple of hours from Melbourne!
Although things are a little more relaxed up here we all need to do the right thing and practice social distancing and hand hygiene.
I have attached a number of articles about hydrogen, energy efficiency, renewables and moving investments away from coal.
There are seven articles there and I have probably overwhelmed you with all these articles. But then, you have some extra time to read them as there is a three week break between this Friday and the first Friday in August.
Zoom session: Last time we only had a very small group taking part in the Zoom meeting but we had a lot of very good discussion.
I hope we might have a few more join us this Friday 17 July at 10am. The link to the meeting follows.
Join Zoom Meeting
Hydrogen didn't work for the Hindenburg, but can the gas be safely supplied to Australian homes?
By Cameron Slessor abc.net.au July 10, 2020
Hydrogen power moves step closer
Peter Hannam The Age July 3, 2020
Chief scientist joins calls for Australia to dramatically boost energy efficiency
Adam Morton Environment editor The Guardian 21 Jun 2020
Australia has failed miserably on energy efficiency – and government figures hide the truth The Conversation June 23, 2020
Hugh Saddler, Honorary Associate Professor, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, ANU
Renewable energy zone for New England to challenge output of coal-fired power stations
ABC News ABC New England 10 July 2020
Renewables-dominated South Australia delivering cheaper power than Vic, NSW
Sophie Vorrath ReNew Economy 13 July 2020
Top super fund dumps coal miners as emissions cuts intensify
By Nick Toscano The Age & The Sydney Morning Herald July 9, 2020
A Sustainability discussion group is now meeting via Zoom in the regular fortnightly time slot (first and third Fridays, 9.30 am.
John is distributing articles beforehand - here are the articles (click on links) sent out for sessions in July if you haven't received them:
Up to 11,000 renewable energy jobs could be lost under Morrison government policies
Adam Morton Environment editor The Guardian 25th June, 2020
Social housing with zero running costs: Is this WA's boldest COVID-19 jobs plan?
Emma Young WAtoday June 24, 2020
Steggall calls for conscience vote on zero carbon bill to kickstart Covid recovery
Michael Mazengarb ReNew Economy 1 July 2020
The Green Recovery Australia could create hundreds of thousands of jobs by accelerating shift to zero emissions
The Guardian June 29,2020 Adam Morton Environment editor
World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert
Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent The Guardian Thu 18 Jun 2020
For more information about the Zoom meetings - contact John Lloyd 5765 2476
Did you know that it’s Plastic Free July! The Plastic Free July campaign encourages us to reduce our use of plastic and to set an achievable goal or two which results in reduced consumption of Plastics. Find out more at https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/
Thinking of going for a drive? Consider a trip to Glenrowan via Winton to check out the construction of the new solar farm near the Electricity Sub-station. It’s quite impressive.
"Roving Reporter" (name supplied!)
These are extraordinary times when we are all threatened by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In our final session before the cancellation of our program we discussed the question, "Does more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere help plants grow?"
The scientific study we were discussing indicated that more carbon dioxide does make plants more efficient. This is because photosynthesis (the process essential for growth) relies on using the sun's energy to synthesise sugar out of CO2 and water. Plants use this sugar as an energy source and the basic building blocks for growth. When the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air around the plant goes up, it can be taken up faster, supercharging the rate of photosynthesis.
We humans are producing more carbon dioxide which is causing more plant growth, however this does not mean that producing more CO2 is a good thing. And it definitely does not mean that we should use the concept of carbon dioxide fertilisation to downplay the severity of climate change. While more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does allow the landscape to absorb more CO2 (a little over a quarter), almost half of our emissions remain in the atmosphere.
The authors say their research highlighted the capacity of plants to absorb a proportion of human emissions, slowing the rate of climate change. They point out that this underscores the urgency to protect and restore ecosystems like forests, savannas and grassland and secure their carbon stock.
The authors also conducted research into how different aged forests around the world take up carbon. They found that young forests, often regrowing on abandoned agricultural land, draw down even more carbon dioxide than old-growth forests. In a mature forest, the death of old trees balances the amount of wood grown each year. A regrowing forest, on the other hand, is still accumulating wood, and that means it can act as a considerable sink for carbon until it reaches maturity.
Adding this age effect to the carbon dioxide fertilisation effect make young forests potentially very strong carbon sinks and so reforestation should be encouraged to enlarge the area of regrowing forests.
While our U3A sessions are shut down I will be providing class members some articles to read so that we all stay well informed. One interesting link I provided to them was to a climate change tracker, where after entering the year you were born, you can see how temperatures have changed over our lifetimes, and how we can mitigate future impacts if we all work to lower our emissions.
'Sustainability' COVID-19 response - classes cancelled to end of April when situation will be reviewed
I have had a response from half the members of the group who have all supported cancelling some sessions.
This afternoon all convenors received an email from U3A President, Dorothy Weber, saying that U3A classes will continue if convenors are comfortable with that. If convenors don’t want to lead their class, that class will close down. U3A will continue to use the room until the council or government close it down
I think I have made it clear in my last two emails that I have serious concerns about continuing to hold the Sustainability sessions.
My concerns are based on the following:
The 65+ age group is at significant risk from the COVID-19 virus. Many people in the Sustainability group are in that age group.
The risk is even greater for people in the 80+ age group and we have a number of members within that group.
The greatest risk from the virus is to those in the 65+ age group with pre-existing medical conditions and there are a number of people who are in this category.
Government guidelines say that sharing a room for 2 hours with a person who is infected (but may not be aware of that) can lead to the spreading of the virus.
U3A sessions last for two hours in a closed environment.
We are also strongly advised to practice social distancing to prevent the spread, i.e. staying at least one and a half metres away from each other.
I don’t believe that is really possible in the U3A room with more than 10 people, and what about when we go into the kitchen to get our cuppa?
For these reasons I believe the safest option is to cancel Sustainability sessions for a number of weeks.
There will be no Sustainability session this Friday (March 20) and I believe I should also cancel the two sessions that would have been held in April.
I will review the situation in late April.
However, I will not let Sustainability just ‘fade away’ as I will continue email contact with you and continue to provide articles for you to read.
Of course we will miss the discussion but if anyone wants to share comments about any of the articles that can also be done by email.
I have some very interesting articles lined up. I may send one around early next week.
Everyone please take notice of the advice from government authorities and stay safe and healthy.
Much of our first session for the year was dominated by discussion about the horrendous bush fires. A major point of discussion was the role that climate change had played in bringing about the conditions that resulted in such disastrous fires and loss of life and property. There was general concern about the lack of action from the Federal government and its refusal to talk about climate change.
During the second half of the session we looked at some more positive aspects. Professor Ross Garnaut has a positive vision for Australia if we rise to the challenge of climate change. In his new book,' Superpower', he thinks that Australia "can emerge as a global superpower in energy, low-carbon industry and absorption of carbon in the landscape." Australia is more richly endowed with sun and wind than any other developed country and has great scope for "natural climate solutions" such as carbon farming. Garnaut also says that to maximise our chances of benefitting from the move to a low-carbon world we have to get to zero net emissions sooner than the other rich countries.
Some more positive news was found in the results of a poll conducted by Ipsos Australia during January which showed that the environment now trumps the economy on Australian's list of biggest worries. "Cost of living" and "health care" ranked as the equal-second biggest concerns. Younger Australians are the most worried but concern among older people is catching up with 42 percent of Baby Boomers considering the environment a top issue. However, it appears that confidence in political parties' ability to solve environmental problems was low across the board.
Politics is a difficult topic to avoid when discussing climate change and it arose again in our second session when we discussed an article by Waleed Aly. He asks the question, "Has anything really changed in our political landscape after the fires, floods and extreme weather events?" Despite all the media activity and the headlines, the Coalition is still split on the issue of climate change and Labor continues to be spooked by the damage it sustained last election in coal mining seats. There was much discussion around this article and a general agreement with Waleed Aly's conclusion that there has been little change in "what really counts".
To finish our session in a more positive note we looked at an article which had "Fifteen Tips to Lower Your Carbon Footprint."
An important aspect of this list was that the tips required minimal effort so there was really no excuse for not doing them. While many of the tips were probably known to group members the list was compiled in such a way that made it easy to understand.
Discussing the list raised the issue of 'How can small things by one person have an impact on climate change? The answer of course is that if very many people undertake to do these things the impact is significant.
Our final session for the year was held during the time of the bushfire emergencies in NSW and Queensland, and so the link between climate change and bushfires was a major topic of discussion. There was also much disappointment, and frustration, with the federal government's refusal to acknowledge the connection between a warming world and more frequent bush fires.
We read an article by Greg Mullins, a former Fire & Rescue NSW commissioner who has 47 years of experience in fighting fires. He said these fires are unprecedented and are burning in places and at intensities never before experienced - rainforests in norther NSW and tropical Queensland, and the formerly wet old-growth forests in Tasmania. This drought which has been made worse by climate change is more intense than the Millennium Drought, with higher levels of evaporation due to higher temperatures. This has dried out the bush and made it easier for fires to start, easier for them to spread quickly, and enabling spot fires to start twice as far ahead of the main fires as we would normally expect.
For most of this year the news about climate change has been very depressing with very little good news and so I decided that we would finish the year looking at some positive developments. An obvious place to start was to look at the developments with renewable energy. Rooftop solar installations set a new record during October and there are now more than 2.2 million homes and businesses in Australia with small scale rooftop solar installations.
We also learnt that the output of wind and solar generation was greater than the output from brown coal for the entire September quarter. This was the first time that had happened for the whole quarter.
More good news was that renewables, solar, wind and hydro, combined to deliver more than half the power into the National Electricity Market for ten minutes on Wednesday 6th November. The continuous rollout of rooftop solar (mentioned above) was a key driver in reaching this achievement.
We also heard about the potential for hydrogen to be a game-changing technology in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Hydrogen is a versatile fuel capable of powering everything from household appliances to transport to industrial processes, and can be stored in our gas pipelines or shipped overseas.
We started our first session in October with reports from people who had attended 'School Strike 4 Climate' rallies in Shepparton and Wangaratta. The general feeling was that the rallies were worth attending.
We then spent some time discussing the "Greta Thunberg phenomenon" and watched a video of her address to the UN summit on climate change - which our Prime Minister did not attend!
We also watched the recent Foreign Correspondent program about three young women leaders of climate action in Germany, USA and Australia. These young women, teenagers or early 20's, were most impressive with what they had done to organise large climate movements in their home countries.
One of the articles discussed was by Tim Flannery, Climate Councillor and well known climate activist, who said that climate deniers are a threat to our children, and that the lack of climate action by our government leads him to believe that his 20 years of climate activism has been a colossal failure.
In the week leading up to our second session in October there had been lots of climate protests by the Extinction Rebellion groups causing quite a lot of disruption to people in our capital cities. There was much discussion about how annoying these protest were and if they would achieve their goal of more action on climate change.
This lead to discussion about how civil disobedience, or non-violent resistance, had resulted in significant achievements in the past such as the civil rights movement in the USA and Gandhi in India, and even our own 'anti-Vietnam War' marches.
One of the articles we read summed up the situation as follows. "Whatever your views on civil disobedience, the climate emergency would be far less serious if governments had taken action decades ago. Further inaction will only lead to more numerous and active social movements, driven by the same mixture of love and rage that provoked Extinction'.
The human impact on our planet has, in recent times, become the concern of governments and ordinary people world-wide and has resulted in many questions about the sustainability of our present lifestyle. This course aims to explore topics such as global warming and climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy options, the challenge of population growth, sustainable agricultural practices, water use, sustainable use of resources, sustainable and energy efficient building design and various economic and lifestyle issues. From time to time we might also focus on the politics of climate change – a topic that can hardly be ignored. Our sessions during the year will examine different aspects of these major topics with a focus on looking towards a sustainable future. No prior knowledge of these topics is required just a general interest in the issues around climate change and sustainability. With discussion of these topics throughout the year you will find that you become better informed about these issues.
1st and 3rd Friday
9.30 to 11.30 am
U3A Meeting Room
Convenor and contact details
John Lloyd 5765 2476
Renewable Energy Benalla - website
Economists for Equity and the Environment
The Future Economy
Population Matters-For A Sustainable Future
Strathbogie Voices Seminars on Climate Change in Euroa (YouTube)
Frank Dunin's paper 'Fire reduces water harvest from Melbourne's water supply catchments'.
Frank Dunin's response 'Chemistry Lesson for Scott Morrison'