Want to act on climate change but not sure how? Tweaking these 3 parts of your life will make the biggest difference


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Andreas Chai, Griffith UniversityLast month’s dire report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have left you feeling overwhelmed, or unsure what to do next. We often hear about ways everyday people can tackle climate change, but which acts will make the biggest difference?

The academic literature tells us three spheres of our lives contribute most to climate change: home energy use, transport, and food consumption. Together, these activities comprise about 85% of a household’s carbon footprint.

As one study showed, by adopting readily available practices, households in developed countries can cut their carbon footprint by 25% with little or no reduction in well-being.

Clearly, national governments must set, and meet, ambitious emissions-reduction targets. But 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to household consumption. So small changes at the household level really can make a world of difference. Here’s a guide to get you on the right path.

climate protest signs
Many people want to act on climate change at a household level, but where’s the best place to start?
Shutterstock

1. Home

Using energy in the home more efficiently is a good way to reduce your impact on the climate. Signing up to so-called “demand response” programs is a relatively new way to do this.

Demand response involves making changes to energy use to reduce stress on the electricity grid during times of high demand. In Australia, this often entails electricity companies offering financial incentives to households so they use less energy at peak times.

For example in Queensland, the state-owned company Energex offers up to A$400 to those who install a “PeakSmart” air conditioner. When the electricity system is under stress, the electricity network will remotely switch the air-conditioner into a lower performance mode.

Energy retailers have also been trialling demand response programs in other states. For example under AGL’s Peak Energy Rewards program, customers can choose to receive an SMS message prompting them to reduce their energy use at peak times. By turning up the temperature on the air conditioning or waiting to do the laundry, people can earn discounts on their energy bills.

Demand response leads to less electricity use and reduces the need for fossil-fuel electricity generation at times of high demand – and so, can cut greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector.

hand holds remote control at air conditioner
Demand response programs encourage people to reduce energy use during peak times.
Shutterstock

2. Transport

If you drive a traditional petrol or diesel vehicle, try to reduce the amount of time your engine idles. Research last year found Australian motorists are likely to idle more than 20% of the time they’re driving. If idling was eliminated from all journeys, the emissions saved would equal that of removing up to 1.6 million cars from the road.

While some idling is unavoidable such as when stopped at traffic lights, drivers can turn their engines off while parked and waiting in their vehicle.

And drive smoothly, not aggressively. Driving with limited acceleration and braking has been found to significantly reduce emissions.

You might be thinking of making your next car an electric vehicle. While the cost of electric vehicles has traditionally been prohibitive for many people, the technology is expected to reach price parity with conventional cars in Australia in the next few years. And these days, you can even get a good second-hand deal.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about whether electric cars are a good choice for the planet. So where does the truth lie?

It’s true that electricity used to charge an electric vehicle’s battery is often sourced from fossil fuels. And energy is still required to make an electric vehicle – in particular, the battery.




Read more:
Want an electric car? Here’s how to buy second-hand


However, last year, research found in 95% of the world, electric vehicles were less emissions-intensive than traditional cars over their full life cycle – even accounting for the current emissions intensity of electricity generation.

If you buy an electric vehicle, it’s important to ensure potential emissions savings are realised. One way of doing this is by recharging during the middle of the day when renewable electricty is most abundant. And don’t forget, as renewable energy forms an ever-increasing share of the electricity mix, the climate benefits of electric vehicles become even greater.

And of course, don’t forget about the obvious low- or zero-emission ways to get around: walking, cycling, catching public transport and car pooling.

family unloads boot of electric car
Second-hand electric cars are a lower-cost option.
Good Car Co

3. Food

Research earlier this year showed food systems are responsible for a third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And recent studies show even if the world stopped burning fossil fuels immediately, emissions from the global food system could still push global temperatures over the 1.5℃ warming threshold.

Reducing meat consumption is a well-known way to cut your carbon footprint. In fact, recent research from Sweden showed just how high emissions from meat and dairy products are, compared with substitute products. It found:

  • lamb is 25 times more polluting than tofu
  • milk is five times as polluting as oat drink
  • dairy-based cheese is four times as polluting as vegan cheese.



Read more:
Ordinary people, extraordinary change: addressing the climate emergency through ‘quiet activism’


In Australia, the range of meat alternatives is growing quickly. In just one example, Sydney-based All G Foods is developing plant-based mince, sausages, chicken and bacon, as well as “cow-free” dairy products. Helped along by $5 million in federal government funding, the company’s first product launches this month.

Another food that promises to help cut your carbon footprint is seaweed. Australia is only just catching on to the benefits of commercial seaweed production, which can be grown with few environmental costs.

Australia’s first factory manufacturing food-grade seaweed products opened in New South Wales last year. It has the capacity to put seaweed into pastas, and even muesli!

seaweed in ocean
Commercial production of seaweed, a sustainable food source, is ramping up.
Shutterstock

Reduce, reuse, inspire

Reducing your climate footprint is not just about buying “green” stuff: it’s also about avoiding consumption in the first place. So try to buy less – and if you can’t avoid it, try and buy second-hand.

You never know, you might start a revolution. Evidence suggests people who observe their peers undertaking environmentally friendly behaviour often adopt similar actions.




Read more:
‘Do-gooders’, conservatives and reluctant recyclers: how personal morals can be harnessed for climate action


The Conversation


Andreas Chai, Associate Professor, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate science is now more certain than ever. Here’s how it can make a difference in Australian court cases


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Laura Schuijers, The University of Melbourne

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited report on the physical impacts of climate change. It painted a terrifying picture of a warming planet increasingly subject to extreme weather events.

If there’s a silver lining to the 3,900 pages of gloom, it’s that there’s still time to avert the worst damage if global emissions are rapidly cut. So what happens if the Australian government continues to lag?

Well, while foreign countries can’t sue Australia under the Paris Agreement, they can apply political and economic pressure, such as through publicly calling our leadership out and applying carbon border adjustments.

But we’re also seeing another important and growing trend: domestic climate litigation.

In fact, Australia is second only to the US in terms of the volume of climate change cases brought before the courts.

In the last few years in particular, we’ve seen Australian cases succeed in influencing action. With this new IPCC report, climate science is more certain than ever, making it more likely this trend will continue.

Avoiding catastrophic impacts

The IPCC report concluded that escape from climate change is no longer possible. And, the report indicates, Australia will be badly hit.

It’s believed our best achievable scenario is to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury, on a global scale. This will hopefully equate with an around 1.5℃ temperature rise above preindustrial levels, which is what the IPCC says is our maximum to avoid catastrophic impacts.

 

Although some countries have made pledges under the Paris Agreement in line with this goal, Australia, we know, is shirking. If all countries adopted targets as weak as ours, global warming would be in the order of 4.3-4.5℃.

While climate change is caused by the actions of many, some are in better positions than others to mitigate it. So it’s no surprise businesses, financial institutions, and governments have been the prime targets of a new wave of litigation.

Courtrooms are changing

Fifteen years ago, the Australian federal court considered the climate change impacts of one particular coal project to be “speculative” and “minute”, citing a “paucity” of detail about the possibility of coal contributing to climate change.

But the situation is changing, and courts are changing with it. One of the reasons for the about-face is the progression of climate science and the availability of new information from advanced modelling. The work of the IPCC is instrumental to this.


Read more: This is the most sobering report card yet on climate change and Earth’s future. Here’s what you need to know


A couple of recent examples of cases show how climate science is becoming more influential in Australian court decisions.

In a case heard this week between the Bushfire Survivors group and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, a NSW court allowed evidence to be presented from former Australian Chief Scientist Penny Sackett on climate change impacts.

It is the first time this kind of evidence has been allowed in a case about the alleged failure of an authority (the EPA) to perform a statutory duty (the regulation of greenhouse gases). On Tuesday, the Bushfire Survivors asked the court to allow her to comment on the IPCC’s sixth report.

And in a landmark case in May against the federal environment minister, the federal court found Australia’s young people are at high risk of suffering personal injury from climate change in their lifetime, including death and hospitalisation.

The judge was considering a coal mine approval. He said even though one coal mine won’t single-handedly cook the planet, it could serve as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, given climate science tells us irreversible “tipping points” may be reached one day, and it could be soon.

The judge cited the IPCC’s findings, recognising the IPCC as the authority on climate change, and called on one of its authors as an expert witness.


Read more: In a landmark judgment, the Federal Court found the environment minister has a duty of care to young people


How will climate science play into future cases?

What’s happening in Australian courts is part of a bigger global trend.

It’s not just that the volume of cases is increasing, cases are also becoming more creative, exploring new avenues to hold polluters and decision makers to account. These cases are more likely to succeed where a link between actions and impacts can be supported with evidence.

In a case against Shell in May this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, relative to 2019 emissions. To reach this figure, the court extensively cited the past work of the IPCC. It concluded Shell’s corporate policy was “hazardous and disastrous” and “in no way consistent” with the global climate target to prevent a dangerous climate change for the protection of people, the human environment and nature.

 

There are many ways climate science will be instrumental to the success of future cases. The evidence released so far by the IPCC shows us different warming scenarios under climate change, each depending on the actions we take now and in the near future.

Chapter 3 of Monday’s IPCC report is dedicated to spelling out the now “unequivocal” influence of humans. This type of evidence could support cases seeking to force government action, as well as cases against businesses for failing to disclose and mitigate climate risk, and for greenwashing.


Read more: Communicating climate change has never been so important, and this IPCC report pulls no punches


Next year, the IPCC will release its findings on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. This could support cases relating to fire, flood, and sea-level rise, including human rights cases, property, planning, and insurance cases.

Climate change will unfortunately be costly, and litigation can help determine who should take action, and who should pay.

The more Australia’s governments and businesses lag on climate change, the more litigation we are likely to see. And, the greater the extent leadership decisions are at odds with the science, the stronger plaintiffs’ cases will be.

 

 

The Conversation

 

Laura Schuijers, Research Fellow in Environmental Law, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to answer the argument that Australia’s emissions are too small to make a difference


Matt McDonald, The University of Queensland

After a recent foray into the debate over Australia’s so-called “climate election”, I received plenty of critical replies to my argument that Australians should take climate action more seriously. The most common rebuttal was that Australians were right to focus on other issues at the ballot box because Australia’s contribution to global climate change is small anyway.

This is precisely the argument Alan Jones advanced in a now notorious Sky News segment in which he used a bowl of rice to explain away Australia’s climate obligations.

Australia, Jones noted, contributes only 1.3% of global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, which in turn represents just 3% of the overall amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere, which in turn makes up little more than 0.04% of the whole atmosphere. So why, he asked while triumphantly brandishing a single rice grain, are we so obsessed with Australia’s climate policy when the planet is so big and the consequences of our actions are so tiny?




Read more:
Why old-school climate denial has had its day


This is a powerful critique and, on the face of it, a simple and compelling line of argument, which is precisely why it’s so often used. Why bother, if we lack the power to do anything that makes a difference?

But there are at least three obvious responses to it.

The ‘per capita’ problem

The first and most obvious response is that Australia emits much more than our fair share.

Sure, our emissions are 1.3% of the global total. But our population is 0.3% of the global total.

This isn’t the only way to allocate national emissions targets. But if rich countries like Australia aren’t doing more to reduce their disproportionately high emissions, what possible incentive is there for developing countries to take the issue seriously? Nations such as India, Brazil and China can ask – as indeed they have at various climate talks – why they should reduce emissions when Australia does so little.

In this sense, Australia’s position on climate action is significant, not only for the 1.3% of greenhouse gases we produce, but for the potential influence on global policy.

As a nation so proud of “punching above its weight” in fields such as sport and technology, Australia is missing a big chance to show global leadership on climate.

The ‘coal exports’ problem

The 1.3% statistic is only true if we focus purely on greenhouse emissions within Australia itself. Fair enough, you might say, given that this is the way the Paris Agreement, and the Kyoto Protocol before it, measures countries’ emissions.

But this approach excludes some significant factors.

First, it fails to take proper account of emissions created in one country while manufacturing goods for export to other countries. Emissions due to Chinese-produced goods destined for Australian consumers, for example, count towards China’s emissions, not Australia’s. If we take this “consumption shadow” into account, the climate impact of developed countries, including Australia, becomes much higher.

Second, there is a similar issue with coal exports. Coal dug up by one country but burned in another counts towards the latter’s emissions. As one of the world’s largest coal exporters, this is clearly important for Australia.

In 2012, the campaign group Beyond Zero Emissions estimated that if Australian coal was factored into Australia’s emissions, our contribution to global emissions would be 4% rather than 1.3%. This would make Australia the world’s sixth-largest contributor to climate change.

Are we responsible for what other countries do with Australian coal? According to the Paris treaty, the answer is no. But drug barons and arms dealers use similar arguments to wash their hands of drug addiction and war.

What’s more, Australia already limits a range of exports based on concerns about their use in importing countries, including weapons, uranium and even livestock.

So there’s certainly a precedent for viewing exports through the lens of our international responsibilities. And with the UN secretary-general joining recent calls to end all new coal power plants, a global coal treaty or even embargo might eventually force Australia’s hand.

The ‘capacity to respond’ problem

The third rebuttal to Alan Jones’s arguments is that Australia has far more capacity to take climate action than many other nations. Again, this works at two levels.

First, we’re rich. Australia is a top-20 world economy in terms of both size and average wealth. This means we are more able than most countries to manage the economic costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Second, thanks to decades of relative climate policy inaction and modest targets, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for Australia to ratchet up its climate ambition. This applies most obviously to the renewable energy sector, but also to areas such as energy efficiency and transport.

Australia’s land-clearing rates are also among the highest in the world – we are the only developed nation to feature in a 2018 WWF list of deforestation hotspots. Reducing this would significantly cut emissions while also protecting important carbon stores.

As economist John Quiggin has noted, the longer we wait to move away from fossil fuels, the more expensive it will be.

What does this all mean for Australia?

Jones’s argument is a beguilingly simplistic response to a wicked problem. Climate change is a global problem that requires global action. But the calculations around who should take the lead, and how much constitutes each nation’s fair share, are fiendishly complex.

But, by almost any measure, a country like Australia should be leading the way on climate policy, not being dragged kicking and screaming to take action that falls far behind that of comparable nations.




Read more:
Not everyone cares about climate change, but reproach won’t change their minds


The current reluctance to act seriously on climate change appears at best self-serving and at worst an outright moral failing.

We should take the argument that Australia’s climate contribution is insignificant with a grain of salt. Or perhaps rice.The Conversation

Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to answer the argument that Australia’s emissions are too small to make a difference


Matt McDonald, The University of Queensland

After a recent foray into the debate over Australia’s so-called “climate election”, I received plenty of critical replies to my argument that Australians should take climate action more seriously. The most common rebuttal was that Australians were right to focus on other issues at the ballot box because Australia’s contribution to global climate change is small anyway.

This is precisely the argument Alan Jones advanced in a now notorious Sky News segment in which he used a bowl of rice to explain away Australia’s climate obligations.

Australia, Jones noted, contributes only 1.3% of global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, which in turn represents just 3% of the overall amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere, which in turn makes up little more than 0.04% of the whole atmosphere. So why, he asked while triumphantly brandishing a single rice grain, are we so obsessed with Australia’s climate policy when the planet is so big and the consequences of our actions are so tiny?




Read more:
Why old-school climate denial has had its day


This is a powerful critique and, on the face of it, a simple and compelling line of argument, which is precisely why it’s so often used. Why bother, if we lack the power to do anything that makes a difference?

But there are at least three obvious responses to it.

The ‘per capita’ problem

The first and most obvious response is that Australia emits much more than our fair share.

Sure, our emissions are 1.3% of the global total. But our population is 0.3% of the global total.

This isn’t the only way to allocate national emissions targets. But if rich countries like Australia aren’t doing more to reduce their disproportionately high emissions, what possible incentive is there for developing countries to take the issue seriously? Nations such as India, Brazil and China can ask – as indeed they have at various climate talks – why they should reduce emissions when Australia does so little.

In this sense, Australia’s position on climate action is significant, not only for the 1.3% of greenhouse gases we produce, but for the potential influence on global policy.

As a nation so proud of “punching above its weight” in fields such as sport and technology, Australia is missing a big chance to show global leadership on climate.

The ‘coal exports’ problem

The 1.3% statistic is only true if we focus purely on greenhouse emissions within Australia itself. Fair enough, you might say, given that this is the way the Paris Agreement, and the Kyoto Protocol before it, measures countries’ emissions.

But this approach excludes some significant factors.

First, it fails to take proper account of emissions created in one country while manufacturing goods for export to other countries. Emissions due to Chinese-produced goods destined for Australian consumers, for example, count towards China’s emissions, not Australia’s. If we take this “consumption shadow” into account, the climate impact of developed countries, including Australia, becomes much higher.

Second, there is a similar issue with coal exports. Coal dug up by one country but burned in another counts towards the latter’s emissions. As one of the world’s largest coal exporters, this is clearly important for Australia.

In 2012, the campaign group Beyond Zero Emissions estimated that if Australian coal was factored into Australia’s emissions, our contribution to global emissions would be 4% rather than 1.3%. This would make Australia the world’s sixth-largest contributor to climate change.

Are we responsible for what other countries do with Australian coal? According to the Paris treaty, the answer is no. But drug barons and arms dealers use similar arguments to wash their hands of drug addiction and war.

What’s more, Australia already limits a range of exports based on concerns about their use in importing countries, including weapons, uranium and even livestock.

So there’s certainly a precedent for viewing exports through the lens of our international responsibilities. And with the UN secretary-general joining recent calls to end all new coal power plants, a global coal treaty or even embargo might eventually force Australia’s hand.

The ‘capacity to respond’ problem

The third rebuttal to Alan Jones’s arguments is that Australia has far more capacity to take climate action than many other nations. Again, this works at two levels.

First, we’re rich. Australia is a top-20 world economy in terms of both size and average wealth. This means we are more able than most countries to manage the economic costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Second, thanks to decades of relative climate policy inaction and modest targets, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for Australia to ratchet up its climate ambition. This applies most obviously to the renewable energy sector, but also to areas such as energy efficiency and transport.

Australia’s land-clearing rates are also among the highest in the world – we are the only developed nation to feature in a 2018 WWF list of deforestation hotspots. Reducing this would significantly cut emissions while also protecting important carbon stores.

As economist John Quiggin has noted, the longer we wait to move away from fossil fuels, the more expensive it will be.

What does this all mean for Australia?

Jones’s argument is a beguilingly simplistic response to a wicked problem. Climate change is a global problem that requires global action. But the calculations around who should take the lead, and how much constitutes each nation’s fair share, are fiendishly complex.

But, by almost any measure, a country like Australia should be leading the way on climate policy, not being dragged kicking and screaming to take action that falls far behind that of comparable nations.




Read more:
Not everyone cares about climate change, but reproach won’t change their minds


The current reluctance to act seriously on climate change appears at best self-serving and at worst an outright moral failing.

We should take the argument that Australia’s climate contribution is insignificant with a grain of salt. Or perhaps rice.The Conversation

Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tents: With a Difference


The links below are to an article and a company website relating to some rather odd tents.

For more visit:
http://gizmodo.com/5891646/this-hammock-tent-is-like-a-swanky-hanging-three-bedroom-apartment/
http://www.tentsile.com/index.html

Copenhagen Summit Fails to Deliver


In news that has delighted the ears of climate change sceptics the world over, the Copenhagen summit on climate change has failed to deliver anything of real value that will actually make a difference. It is truly disappointing that even in the face of a massive environmental disaster that will affect the entire planet, global leaders have failed to lead and work together in finding solutions to the major issues we face over the coming decades and century.

Newspapers in Australia have reported the failure of the summit and are reporting on the leader of the opposition gloating over the failure of the summit. His solution is to ignore the real issue and hope that the Australian people prove to be as oblivious to climate change as the coalition he leads.

Typically, the usual anti-Kevin Rudd biased journalists and climate change sceptics of the newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) I read this morning, were also quick to pour further scorn on the Prime Minister and the problem of climate change itself (which they deny). One particular vocal climate change sceptic in the Sunday Telegraph has very little credibility with me and I find his obsessive anti-Rudd tirades more than a little tiring. This self-opinionated buffoon is little more than an embarrassment for both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph for which he also writes. His columns are becoming more of a personal vendetta against Kevin Rudd than anything resembling real journalism.

I’ll be finding a better way to become acquainted with the daily news than continuing to read the biased diatribes that continue to be put forward by these papers in future. I’ll also be hoping that our leaders can overcome the various preoccupations each have with self-interest (whether it be personal or national) in order to reach a real workable agreement on dealing with the growing threat of climate change

EARTH HOUR: A COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME???


Earth Hour is to be held this Saturday (March 28) between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm. All you need to do to take part in Earth Hour is simply turn your lights off for the hour between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm on March 28.

Earth Hour began as an annual event in Sydney in 2007, when an estimated 2.2 million buildings switched off their lights for an hour. This year Earth Hour is going global for the second year and is giving people the opportunity to ‘vote’ for either the Earth or global warning. By switching off the lights for an hour a person can ‘vote’ for fighting global warning.

Organisers of Earth Hour are hoping some 1 billion people will ‘vote’ for the Earth and hope to be able to give world leaders 1 billion ‘votes’ for the Earth at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. The conference is the forum in which world leaders will determine policy to supersede the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas reduction.

For more on Earth Hour visit the official website at:

http://www.earthhour.org  

However, is Earth Hour a colossal waste of time? What is really being gained by turning the lights off for an hour once a year? All other electrical devices are still on and a lot of people go for alternative lighting devices that also pollute the environment. Other than awareness of global warming (which I would suggest everyone knows about now and either believes or does not believe – turning off some lights won’t change anyone’s mind on global warming), what does Earth Hour really achieve?

The following Blog post makes for interesting reading:

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/earth_hour_crashes_to_earth/

Am I against reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions? Am I against reducing Global Warming and other associated disasters? Am I anti-environment? The answer to those questions is no! I’m just simply saying Earth Hour is little more than tokenism by most people who are against the Rudd government Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction policies and other policies that actually aim to make a difference.