Climate clippings 87

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition picks up the theme of activism mentioned in Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality.

1. Blue sky

After the last election some friends of my younger brother, feeling blue, decided to turn blue into an optimistic colour, and invented the Blue Sky movement. To join all you have to do is ‘like’ the Facebook site put something blue on your front footpath visible from the road, take a photo and post it on the site. Yes, and take the Blue Sky Pledge, which includes reducing your own emissions, displaying blue for 12 months, and encouraging others to join.

Here’s one example:

Blue Sky_1395958_234410770055917_951721907_n
I notice that people have been using the site to share links.

If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.

2. Go Getup!

Ben Eltham thinks GetUp! is currently Tony Abbott’s most dangerous opponent.

The figures from the rallies of 17 November were impressive. Some 60,000 people (25,000 in Melbourne) attended rallies around the country. There was good coverage on the evening TV news, impressive regional reach and scattered coverage elsewhere. However it is Getup!’s digital and social networking capacity that impresses, including half a million subcribers on the email list’

As you’d expect from a GetUp! event, its social media presence has been much larger than any traditional media footprint. According to figures provided by GetUp!, the Facebook page for the event saw 163,000 invites and 1.3 million impressions by more than half a million people. The day of the rally on November 17 saw seven million impressions on @getup posts made about the events on Twitter; 384,000 people liked, commented or shared the single photo of the Melbourne crowd on Facebook.

Eltham sees climate policy as “the central battleground of 21st century politics” and

A widespread community movement that mobilises around climate change therefore represents the best chance of limiting the Abbott government to a single term.

Go Getup!

3. Figueres gives the coal industry both barrels

Leave coal in the ground and remake yourselves as a renewable energy industry, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the international coal industry summit in Warsaw. The coal industry thought she would legitimise their use of new technology. She didn’t and was supported by a group of 27 international scientists from the US, Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, who said that nearly 75% of the world’s coal reserves had to be left in the ground if global warming was to be limited to a 2C rise.

Along the way she warned them about the continued public acceptability of what they were doing.

4. Why the divestment movement against big energy matters

Speaking of public acceptability, Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology at Columbia University, talks of growing activism in the US tertiary education sector. Some 400 divestment campaigns are currently underway at American colleges and universities. These campaigns have in turn established a national network. The campaign seems to aim at changing social norms so that for universities (Harvard for example has $32.7 billion in endowment funds), pension funds, religious groups and large charitable foundations investing in fossil fuel companies becomes ethically unacceptable.

Heather Long disagrees, suggesting that divested stock will simply be snapped up by others. Better to become an active investor and stir up trouble within.

Gitlin sees power in the informal network. The sums of money involved are too small to matter. It’s the noise the activists make that counts. The fossil fuel sector is very concentrated. Perhaps the top 200 who sank $674 billion into acquiring and developing new energy reserves in 2012 will start to worry whether what they are investing in will become stranded assets.

5. Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions

That’s according to new research from the Climate Accountability Institute. This is from The Guardian:

Between them, the 90 companies on the list of top emitters produced 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 to 2010, amounting to about 914 gigatonne CO2 emissions, according to the research. All but seven of the 90 were energy companies producing oil, gas and coal. The remaining seven were cement manufacturers.

The list of 90 companies included 50 investor-owned firms – mainly oil companies with widely recognised names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP , and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton.

Some 31 of the companies that made the list were state-owned companies such as Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom and Norway’s Statoil.

Nine were government run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland, the host of this week’s talks.

There’s an interactive chart here.

6. Go fossil free

Fossil Free Australia are urging individuals as well as institutions to move money out of fossil fuels and into clean energy.

Led by Australia, we work in partnership with the Australian Student Environment Network to campaign for fossil fuel divestment from universities, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change to encourage faith-based divestment, The Vital Few to encourage super funds to invest more in the low-carbon economy and Market Forces to pressure our “Big 4” banks to stop funding destructive fossil fuel projects.

When big banks start to worry about stranded assets we might be getting somewhere.

There is also an international Fossil Free.

The disinvestment campaign in Australia was boosted by Bill McKibbin’s Do the Math tour. Doug Evans sees disinvestment as perhaps our last hope, having elected a climate denialist government and given a fossil fuel tycoon the balance of power in the senate.

For Bill McKibbin, now swinging through Europe, the maths are simple. The carbon budget approach demands that we emit no more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the future. Fossil fuel companies have reserves of 3000 gigatons. So according to my calculator we should mine no more than 18.8%.

An Oxford study found this divestment campaign the fastest growing ever.

It’s about stigmatisation and withdrawing the social licence. There’s hope yet!

7. The China excuse say the bottom line is we can’t use China as an excuse for climate inaction. We have our own ethical responsibility. Nevertheless China is doing a fair bit.

China has a goal of reducing its power generation from coal to below 65% by 2017, as well as getting wind and solar production up to 13% of the total energy pie. This is far from all that China can be doing to mitigate its climate impact, and we still need to encourage China to shift away from dangerous alternatives like Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) and nuclear, but these are steps in the right direction.


China is currently piloting carbon trading markets as a potential precursor to a carbon tax. You read right: China is considering a national carbon tax. This would be a significant step toward the world’s largest emitter curbing its climate change pollution.

I understand China has large reserves of shale gas, but it may not be as accessible as it is in the US.

8. On target for 15% emissions cut

Research by the Climate Institute finds that emissions cuts of 11 to 19% will be achieved if the current laws are not changed.

Under the current laws, emissions trading commences in July 2015. Unless parliament sets levels for the cap part of cap and trade by May 2014, automatic caps are provided under the legislation. These will yield 11 to 19% cuts by 2020. The variance comes from emissions created by industries and companies not covered by the legislation.

7 thoughts on “Climate clippings 87”

  1. I’ve added this at the end of the Blue Sky entry:

    If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.

    I’m afraid I missed it. To join, post a photo, preferably including yourself with something like:

    “I’m from [suburb or town] and I heard about the Blue Sky Movement from X. I think this movement is a fantastic idea and I fully support its goals. Keeping a price on carbon is a must for the sake of future generations!”

    Btw, have a look at Cass O’Wary’s post on the BSM page (need to scroll down a bit.) She’s put a fantastic video of action against CSG in N-NSW. NB the “Bad Gas” backing song!

  2. Thanks, Brian for including a reference to the “Blue Sky Movement” in the above post. This group was started by a friend’s family. When they told me about it, I complimented them on a great idea. I reasoned that there are millions of people in Australia who accept that climate change is real and that humans are contributing to it. As well, many of these also want a price placed on the emission of carbon in our economy.
    A recent on-line Sydney Morning Herald poll (>15000 respondents) had the following results today (still in progress):
    * Scrap the carbon tax and replace with Direct Action – 4%
    * Scrap the carbon tax and replace with nothing – 10%
    * Scrap the carbon tax and replace with an emissions trading scheme – 57%, and
    * Keep the carbon tax – 29%.
    While these data almost certainly represent a biassed sample of the overall Australian population wrt views about climate change, it should still give a useful approximate guide re what the community wants.

    So my question is, if way more than half of the Australian population (as an approximation of the 86% in the above poll who supported either an ETS or the Carbon Tax), then why aren’t more people prepared to give witness to their views by taking the “Blue Sky Pledge”? We had envisaged that the BSM would spread exponentially and go viral, but perusal of the Facebook page indicates that this is far removed from what has happened in reality.

    Personally, I have found it to be an affirming thing to do. It has enabled both my wife and I to have a discussion about climate change with lots of people with whom this matter would likely not have arisen without them enquiring about the story behind the blue, queen size sheet draped around a tree on our footpath. It feels good to bear personal, tangible witness in relation to an issue that is of great importance for both current and future generations across the world.

    So ………. if anyone has any views about how to make the BSM “go viral”, and hence give pause for thought to our Prime Minister, then please respond. Note that Prime Minister Abbott and our government are in the 4% mentioned above, or maybe they are really in the 10% in favour of scrapping the carbon tax and doing nothing, but thought it would be difficult to get elected if such a policy had been adopted. Oh cynical me!

  3. Len, it’s hard to say why people have not gone Blue Sky. We haven’t done it yet I guess out of sloth. Also I’m not an active Facebook user, more a lurker.

    The survey is interesting. As I understand it online polls conducted by newspapers are not reliable, but when they come out so strongly one way they surely mean something.


  4. Yes, Brian. Your personal response re taking the Blue Sky Pledge is typical, according to my friend who started the Facebook page. When people who are concerned about climate change hear about it, they commit to putting something blue near their footpath (or on their bicycle, or on their balcony, or similar), but days, then weeks go by and nothing happens! Oh well………
    Personally, I have found it to be a very satisfying thing to do. Both my wife and I had a great time at the Get-up rally in Queens Park, Brisbane (see your item 2 above). Everyone we spoke to thought it was a great idea. But a highlight of the rally was that the organised singer could not attend. As it happened, one of the organisers new that John Butler and his family were in town. A quick phone call and they were there in a flash to do a wonderful set for the crowd …… featuring both John and his wife – she is a delightful singer as well. And their young daughter joined them for a moving rendition of “From little things, big things grow”. Turns out that John Butler is a committed to fostering effective action on climate change as well.

  5. China has been undergoing radical change over the past dozen years. Yes, they were building coal-fired power stations like all get-out to meet immediate needs …. but at the same time they were going full steam ahead with alternatives. My guess is that sometime in the 2020s, China will be the world leader in renewable power and they will be demolishing coal-fired power stations.

    So hurry up, you won’t be able to use the “China Excuse” for too much longer.

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