For the next month, I’ll be in Australia, returning to the island continent for the 11th time, and to the four cities in which I have spoken over the last two decades – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

In the past I’ve talked mainly about Vancouver, particularly about urban design and how we accommodate growth.  (Our Commonwealth cousins love exchanging views and advice on our similar cities.)

But this time, I’m there to ask the people I meet one particular question: How is Australia changing now that climate change is your new reality?  How are Australians changing?

I’m not the only outsider to be asking questions like that.

 From Damien Cave, the Australian bureau chief for the New York Times:

“We have seen …the unfolding wings of climate change,” said Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker … in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise. …

In interviews all over the fire zone since September, it’s been clear that Australians are reconsidering far more than energy and emissions. They are stumbling toward new ways of living: Housing, holiday travel, work, leisure, food and water are all being reconsidered. …

Climate change threatens heavy pillars of Australian identity: a life lived outdoors, an international role where the country “punches above its weight,” and an emphasis on egalitarianism that, according to some historians, is rooted in Australia’s settlement by convicts. …

Since the fires started, tens of millions of acres have been incinerated in areas that are deeply connected to the national psyche. If you’re American, imagine Cape Cod, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Sierra Nevadas and California’s Pacific Coast, all rolled into one — and burned.

It’s “a place of childhood vacations and dreams,” as one of Australia’s great novelists, Thomas Keneally, recently wrote.

Tourists in Lake Conjola, a popular vacation destination, took refuge on a beach on New Year’s Eve.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, Australia’s most famous tech billionaire, called it part of a broader awakening.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes said Australia could seize the moment and become a leader in climate innovation. Ms. Wallworth, the filmmaker, echoed that sentiment: What if the country’s leaders did not run from the problem of climate change, but instead harnessed the country’s desire to act?

“If only our leaders would call on us and say, ‘Look, this is a turning point moment for us; the natural world in Australia, that’s our cathedral, and it’s burning — our land and the animals we love are being killed,’” she said. …

Near a bus stop, I met Bob Gallagher, 71, a retired state employee with thick white hair. He felt strongly that the criticism of Mr. Morrison for not doing enough about climate change was unfair.

“The first thing the government needs to do is run the economy,” Mr. Gallagher said. “I just don’t understand what these climate change people want.”

I asked him to imagine a version of Ms. Wallworth’s dream — an Australia with a prime minister who shouted to the world: “What we all love, this unique country, is being destroyed by inaction. We’ll punch above our weight, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help.”

Mr. Gallagher listened without interrupting. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said. “I could support that.”

Full article here.

 

For the next month, I’ll be Instagramming my way across Aus (pricetags) and sending interviews back to be posted on PriceTalks and the blog.

Comments

    1. Bullsh*t Extreme Right publication, promotion of conspiracy theories/pseudoscience, propaganda, lack of ownership transparency. (mediabiasfactcheck.com).

      Poster TB is a PriceTags serial offender always pushing soviet style disinformation propaganda.

    2. Beyer, you’ve lambasted the scientific consensus without a speck of education or experience in the field.

      Simply childish.

      And now you imply that because the solutions may be difficult the problem doesn’t exist.

      I don’t think there is a word that describes just how absolutely pathetic your worldview is. How far would civilization have advanced if people just ignored existential threats? People like you would have us still in the caves.

    3. You’ll have to do much, much better than that, Thomas. Citing known fossil fuel industry critics on climate science is so passe and weak today. Those who do so, over and over again, appear as fools.

      Source Watch hasn’t a lot to say about Viv Forbes, the author of that unreferenced, non-peer reviewed article in a publication not recognized for quality science, but what is does say is very clear and devastatingly discredits the author on discussions about climate change with respect to carbon:

      “Viv Forbes is on the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Australian Climate Science Coalition and is associated with the Carbon Sense Coalition. Forbes is also an ICSC advisor, as well as being an advisor to the Australian Climate Science Coalition and chairman of his own CARBON SENSE [emphasis added] Coalition. When long-serving COAL INDUSTRY DIRECTOR [emphasis added] Mr Forbes isn’t advising to organisations spreading misinformation on climate science, he is serving as a director at coal export business Stanmore Coal. [1]”

      On the Australian Climate Science Coalition, Source Watch has this to say:

      “The Australian Climate Science Coalition (ACSC) is a CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTICS [emphasis added] website created by the the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), a spin-off group created by the the CORPORATE FUNDED [emphasis added] think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. In 2009-2010 the ACSC was almost exclusively funded by the Heartland Institute, via the American Climate Science Coalition [1].”

      https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Australian_Climate_Science_Coalition

      The later two organizations are well-known climate denier sites funded by Exxon, Koch Industries and other fossil fuel companies.

    4. That highly flawed article, like many anti-renewable, fossil-funded propaganda pieces before it, uses the intermittency of wind and solar as a cudgel. That point of view is increasingly irrelevant as technology moves forward.

      It’s worth interjecting another note on the advent of the liquid metal battery. This tech is still under development and evaluation and will be available likely in 2021 or ’22, but it is extremely promising from many different angles. Here is a quote from a Queens University piece on this work developed in part with a Queens undergrad working with Canadian scientist Dr. Sadoway at MIT:

      “Ambri’s liquid metal battery cells feature liquid metal and salt components. Cells operate at elevated temperatures that are maintained by the heat that is released during charging and discharging processes. The battery operates silently, is emissions-free, and has no moving parts. Cells avoid the common failure mechanisms of other batteries, enabling them to operate for decades with minimal loss of storage capacity. They also cost a fraction of traditional energy systems [e.g. lithium ion batteries].

      “We are using commonly available materials and have taken an innovative approach to create this new type of battery that is both cost-effective and longlasting,” says David. “It can respond to grid signals in milliseconds, and is designed to turn sustainable renewable resources, such as wind and solar, from intermittent and unreliable electricity producers to on-demand generators.

      “Ambri’s technology will also be used in other powergrid applications, such as peak shaving, frequency regulation, and voltage support. The company has attracted significant investment, including from Bill Gates, and is currently in the development and verification phase, with a goal to move to commercial production within a couple of years….”

      https://engineering.queensu.ca/curiositycreates/sustainable-energy.html

      1. In other words, any tidal facility or solar or wind farm will generate lots of free energy in intermittent form, but the storage capability of liquid metal batteries (LMB) will be vast and the output will be in the form of stable baseload power. The system is also designed to use very common materials, unlike the lithium and cobalt used in today’s Teslas, and be able to cycle its discharges over and over for years and still perform with 90+% efficacy.

        Here’s a simpler version of this story:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImqmMOkANgg

        One can imagine Australia as one huge solar farm. With LMBs that fantasy could become reality very quickly given the low cost of off-the-shelf solar panels combined with the oncoming affordable, high-performance LMBs and low impedance high voltage DC transmission capability over long distances with minimal loss of power. Electrifying the domestic Australian economy is within reach given these tools. Zero emission power exports to Asia via undersea cables could move from the cloudtops of dreamers into a rational economic venture on the ground.

    5. Yes, the solution is electrification based on renewables. In the long run, it will cost less than not doing it. A recession is not worse than total societal collapse.

  1. Love to see electrification of all machines at similar price of other machinery today.

    May I live to see it .. likely not as I am 60 ..

    btw: A/C systems in cities contribute to significant city warming as they cool the inside of buildings but heat the exterior.

    40+ year ago I was told that “fusion is just around the corner and will solve all our energy problems” .. and nuclear too .. oops .. where is it all ?

    Good ol’ king coal, gas and oil continues to power 70% of world energy today despite rise in renewables .. and with Asia using 90%+ of the world’s coal AND its average age of plant just 12 years old and most coal plants lasting 50+ years there is little hope in bending that CO2 curve down.

    Wildfires in Australia are normal btw ..

    1. Beyer, do you really think that posting under many names fools anybody? Do you really think the debate is balanced by a bunch of non-existent posters? What mental deficiency leads you to do this and to think it would work?

      And not that anything could possibly convince you, but your tactics are exactly what the fossil propaganda machine does to fool people just like you. It creates a false narrative of a debate that has many voices on both sides when that isn’t true. The science was settled decades ago. Only those weak-minded people sucked in by the fossil message think otherwise.

    2. I am 67. I am confident I will live to see a great deal of electrification. In fact, I believe once it starts it will snowball once the affordable numbers stimulate investment. The only real resistance will be from vested fossil interests who see this shift as a threat to the status quo, the politicians they have purchased to compose compatible policy and to resist disruptive tech (even when it’s in the public good), and vocal fossil supporters like Thomas / Susan / Victor who take to online comments almost like they’re being paid 25 cents a word.

  2. Nate Hagens on climate change, appears in an article entitled ‘The Party’s Over’ in the February 2020 issue of Watershed Sentinel.

    __________

    A bunch of mildly clever, highly social apes broke into a cookie jar of fossil energy and have been throwing a party for the past 150 years. The conditions at the party are incompatible with the biophysical realities of the planet. The party is about over and when morning comes, radical changes to our way of living will be imposed.

    Some of the apes must sober up (before morning) and create a plan that the rest of the party-goers will agree to. But mildly clever, highly social apes neither easily nor voluntarily make radical changes to their ways of living. And so coffee and stimulants (credit, etc.) will be consumed during another lavish breakfast, but with the shades drawn. It’s morning already.

    It is likely that, in the not-too-distant future, the size, complexity, and (literal) “burn rate” of our civilization will be much reduced by forces other than human volition. We will not plan for this outcome – but we could react to it with airbags, social cohesion, an ethos and prepared blueprints based on intelligent (and wise) foresight.

    What aspects of our current world can and should be preserved? What can we do to make the path ahead less painful? How can we nurture ecosystems and species, as well as the great body of human culture and knowledge, so that they can, as far as possible, survive the bottlenecks of the 21st century?

    What really, could we aspire to become as a species? Can we use science to guide us from mildly clever to moderately wise? Can we tap into our wiring for group co- operation to align ourselves with a pur- pose beyond turning trillions of barrels of fossils into microliters of dopamine?

    What sort of economics will help us ask, research, and inform these questions?
    Thirty years ago, ecological economics pioneered a systems approach to economics, but unfortunately became dominated by a narrow micro-focus on ecosystem services, monetary valuation, and conventional economics (Plumecocq, 2014).

    Whatever we’ll call it, we are desperately in need of a set of guideposts and principles that include not only ecology but also biology, psychology, physics, and emergent behaviours. This discipline will focus at least as much on “what we’ll have to do” as on “what we should do.” And it will apply the evolving knowledge of experts with a view to the maps and charts made by generalists.

    Ecological economics was shaped as a next step from earlier classical ideologies so as to consider the inclusion of sources and sinks.

    Over the next 30 years, ecological economics must be both torchbearer for a systems economics and midwife to a smaller flame.

    __________

    The above is the conclusion of ”Economics for the future — Beyond the super-organism,” N.J. Hagens, Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future, (http:// energyandourfuture.org/) United States. Published in Ecological Economics 169 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecol- econ.2019.106520

    1. How I see this article by Hagens, a very smart fellow, is that no matter how much “good” tech is developed to mitigate emissions there will still be a substantial falldown in total useable energy. Andrew Nikiforuk takes it further by defining money as a proxy for energy. This becomes evident when you look at fossil fuels (and all energy, for that matter) in terms of the laws of physics where you determine the energy return on the energy invested.

      The Alberta tar sands are one of the most extreme energy consumers on the planet (60% of the natural gas used to melt out the tarry substance known as bitumen from the sand and clay comes from BC) and therein give a lousy energy return. They are also expensive to produce. The age of cheap oil peaked in 2005 (look it up), and ever since then the expensive, more energy and emissions-intensive unconventional energy has been mixing into the pool of fossil energy used in the global economy.

      Now there is climate change to contend with, and that will impose an enormous cost on society not just in damages, but in paying a steep price to remediate the damage. Living more efficaciously in a smaller world will no doubt become the new normal.

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