Friday, 22 September 2017

Bureau of Meteorology attacks pushed by 'fever swamp' of climate denial

Rob Vertessy, who retired as the BOM’s director in 2016, has hit back at ‘time wasters’ and ‘amateurs’ who are given a forum by the Australian

Protesters at a rally to oppose a price on greenhouse gas pollution in Canberra in 2011
Protesters at a rally to oppose a price on greenhouse gas pollution in Canberra in 2011. Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

For Rob Vertessy, the attacks on his government agency became tedious and time-consuming and no less irritating because they were coming from a motivated group of “amateurs”.
Vertessy spent a decade at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. He retired in April 2016 after five years as the agency’s director.
Over that time, Vertessy’s agency was under consistent attack from climate science denialists who would claim, often through the news and opinion pages of the Australian, that the weather bureau was deliberately manipulating its climate records to make recent warming seem worse than it really was.
“From my perspective, people like this, running interference on the national weather agency, are unproductive and it’s actually dangerous,” Vertessy told me. “Every minute a BoM executive spends on this nonsense is a minute lost to managing risk and protecting the community. It is a real problem.”
Now, the agency is under another wave of attack through the pages of the Rupert Murdoch-owned broadsheet, which is publishing claims made by Jennifer Marohasy, of the “free market” conservative thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs.
Earlier this week, the former Abbott government adviser and climate science denier Maurice Newman accused the bureau of “fabricating temperature records” that represented a “smoking gun that threatens the integrity of global temperature records”.
As rhetorical overreach goes, Newman has form. “The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling,” Newman has written.
The current non-story centres on two of the bureau’s 695 automatic weather stations (AWS). As temperatures reached -10.4C in Thredbo and Goulburn in July, a hardware card in the AWS stopped working. This event, detected by the bureau, kick-started several internal quality control processes.
The bureau found four other hardware cards in areas where things can get chilly and replaced them. The cards should not have been used, as they could become faulty at low temperatures.
That’s essentially it. But the Australian and the IPA and the network of climate science denial blogs have once again screamed scandal.
In an interview with shock jock Alan Jones, who thinks climate science is “witchcraft”, Marohasy claimed the bureau had “reached a new low”. Jones called for people to be sacked.
A report was also commissioned by the environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, with three external independent reviewers joining bureau staff.
Was this really a scandal? A smoking gun? No.
The review found the incident, if we can even grant it that status, had “no direct or indirect” impact on the bureau’s long-term climate dataset (known as ACORN-SAT). The bureau’s procedures worked and its data quality control processes were “of a high standard”, the review found.
“The Australian people have been well served by the bureau and can continue to rely on the excellent services it provides,” Frydenberg said.
Much of the current noise is like deja vu for Vertessy, who is now a part-time professor at the University of Melbourne’s school of engineering.
“I was exposed to a lot of it and it took up a lot of my time that’s for sure,” he says. “I feel for my successor and the team at the bureau having to constantly devote energy to this. It’s really quite debilitating.
“Time and time again there has been one independent review by experts after another, all telling the same story. The simple, unimpeachable facts are that the BoM is doing an exemplary job at managing the nation’s climate data and multiple independent reviews have confirmed that and we are recognised by our World Meteorological Organisation peers as being amongst the best in the world; that keeps being restated and restated.
“I think the Australian play on very dangerous ground here,” he says, adding that some editors at the newspaper were guilty of “perpetuating nonsense”.
“For a newspaper that has a strapline that reads ‘for the informed Australian’ they really should refocus on talking to people that know something about the topic, instead of perpetuating this bizarre myth that the BoM are fraudsters [or] conspirators.”
Vertessy says staff inside the bureau are well aware of the concerted attempts to attack their work.
“They understand that there is an organised climate denial network and that it has a fever swamp that communicates amongst itself and occasionally tries to enter the national debate through the agency of leading newspapers and the like,” he says.
“That’s very well understood, because it is very well documented. It remains hurtful and creates anxiety among the technical specialists involved in this but those people do the right thing and buckle down. They are a great bunch of people.”
In 2009, the bureau’s then most senior climatologist, Dr Michael Coughlan, told me that the agency had stopped responding to claims being pushed in the Australian newspaper.
“The Australian clearly has an editorial policy,” he said. “No matter how many times the scientific community refutes these arguments, they persist in putting them out – to the point where we believe there’s little to be gained in the use of our time in responding.’’
So how should the agency respond when it comes under attack?
Vertessy says: “It has perplexed us all over the years about the extent to which we should or shouldn’t engage in the so-called ‘ping pong’ of this stuff. I think Mike’s commentary remains largely intact.
“We see limited gains in arguing with a newspaper that has got a rusted on view about these matters and is not open to reasoned debate.”
He says that, instead, the bureau’s staff put their energies into “continual improvement” of their methods.
Vertessy says that, while he considers the current wave of attacks “a tremendous waste” of the government’s time, he has sympathy for ministers.
“When something makes front-page news in a national newspaper, it requires a political response and I think over the years the government has done a pretty good job in sticking with the bureau and independent experts in examining these matters rationally and reporting on them and communicate them transparently to the public.”
He says that, during his own tenure, the government has consistently supported the bureau because it trusts its experts.
“I’m not saying they would not be concerned about the claims that are made but, at the end of the day, they have a reasonable level of trust and certainly supported me through my time and I never felt under siege by the government. But I felt under siege by the Australian and the IPA.”
He says the constant attacks have also changed the way the bureau interacts with the media on climate change.
“The BoM provides amazing access for the media to its people but, on climate change, we have had to implement stricter protocols about who is authorised to talk and how. I implemented a lot of that stuff, quite frankly, because the minute you are entering the polity of the country in the debate, as are senior bureaucrats, you have to treat it carefully and look at it as a risk and manage it accordingly.
“If someone says the wrong thing then it’s likely to be amplified one hundred times fold into something that looks like a scandal, when it is anything but.”
So when a shock jock or a thinktank employee claims the bureau is trying to cook the books, how should the public react?
What needs to be front of mind, Vertessy says, is that there is “virtually complete consensus on the extent to which the planet has warmed and why, since the beginning of the industrial revolution”.
“The facts are just unequivocal because they have been replicated so many times, by so many teams, using multiple independent methods.”
He says if the bureau “was really making a hash of managing its climate data” then it would be documented in scientific “journals and at symposia” but “that’s clearly not happening”.
He says it “beggars belief” that these commentators “actually profess to know better”.
“They simply don’t,” he says. “Think about the big picture and don’t get lost in the smokescreen that’s created by people who are trying to undermine the science.
“The data absolutely confirms that we have already seen consequences from climate change, certainly in the way the climate system is behaving. There’s just zero doubt about it any more.
“Looking into the future is of course more fraught, but that strongly suggests that we are on a very dangerous trajectory.”
He says while making predictions of the future clearly comes with uncertainties, the planet is on “a very dangerous trajectory”.
“We know plenty enough to say that unless there is corrective action in the amount of emissions – very significant corrective action I might add – then we will enter increasingly dangerous times that will be very costly throughout the world to life, food security, water security and to the economic damage wrought by severe like we have seen in the United States in the last few days.
“So I have to admit that I am something of a climate pessimist because I worry about the trajectory that we are on.
“But, as the costs of climate change accumulate in the years ahead, I can see that leaders of this climate change denial movement will really be seen as culpable.”

Over $140,000 raised as Bernardi backlash prompts flood of donations to school's 'wear a dress' day

Updated about 5 hours ago

An outraged tweet from Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi over a primary school's fundraising drive has resulted in it raising more than $140,000 — far exceeding the school's original target of $900.
Senator Bernardi took issue with Craigburn Primary School's involvement in the Do It In A Dress campaign, where students at the Adelaide foothills school were encouraged to wear a dress or casual clothes to school and bring a gold coin donation.
In a tweet criticising the fundraiser, he wrote, "This gender morphing is really getting absurd".
The post gained instant backlash, including from Australian comedian Josh Thomas, who donated $2,000 to the charity. It prompted others to donate and the amount raised is skyrocketing.

One school in SA now has 'wear a dress day'. This gender morphing is really getting absurd 
"It's about a casual clothes day that supports an organisation that focuses on supporting young female students in Africa and kids can wear casual clothes or just a regular school uniform," he said.
He said he welcomed the attention the charity had received.
"If I look at it in the context of the amount of awareness it's raised and the money, I think it's superb," Mr Luke said.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham blasted the comments and said Mr Bernardi should have checked his facts.

They're 5X their fundraising goal now. This is the first night in a while I will log of twitter feeling joyous. 
"If those kids want to have a bit of fun along the way, who is a politician to come along and condemn them for doing so?"
But Senator Bernardi defended his stance and said the charity event, which the school entitled Casual Day Fundraiser, was inappropriate and accused the SA Department for Education of social engineering.
"We know that there is this heteronormative rebellion that's going on where anyone that conforms to traditional gender models or doesn't support same-sex marriages is ideologically opposed by our Education Department," he said.
"That's what we've seen with the Safe Schools program. We're seeing it in the marriage debate as well, where our children are being politicised and indoctrinated.
"Encouraging your son to wear a dress to school at the behest of the school, I think, is totally weird."
  Leah MacLennan @lmaclennan
The Craigburn Primary School fundraiser page has now crashed. The last time I checked they'd raised more than $50,000 @abcnewsAdelaide
The head of South Australia's Education Department, Rick Persse, responded by tweeting a picture of himself wearing a dress as part of the same charity event last year.
South Australian Education Minister Susan Close called on Senator Bernardi to apologise and said he should consider donating to the cause.
"If anyone is politicising it, it's Cory Bernardi and I think it's actually disgraceful to take something that's innocent and student-led and turn it into something that plays out a whole lot of adult concepts that the kids don't need to be involved with," she said.
The Casual Day Fundraiser will be held on the last day of term three.

Charity CEO 'face-palmed' to Bernardi tweet

The Do It In A Dress campaign is a fundraiser for the charity One Girl, which provides scholarships to girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda, and makes schools safer through initiatives such as building toilet facilities.
One Girl CEO Morgan Koegel said it had been an interesting 24 hours.
"When I saw that last night, the tweet, I honestly face-palmed because it was just so far off what the campaign's all about," she said.
"In the schools that we work in, in Sierra Leone and Uganda, a school dress is a really big deal because only one in six girls has the opportunity to go to high school. For a girl to get to wear a school dress, that means she's educated, that she's empowered, that she's had an opportunity and so we use it to represent the same thing here."
Ms Koegel said it cost the charity about $300 to educate a woman for a year, so Craigburn Primary School's fundraiser would have a huge impact.
She said her organisation had been in touch with the school since the controversy started.
"What I have been worried about is how the students at Craigburn Primary might be feeling, but honestly I hope if anything they are feeling incredible pride because they've been able to make an enormous difference in the lives of women and girls," Ms Koegel said.

'Harsh thing to make kids feel bad': comedian

Thomas told ABC Radio Melbourne he sympathised with the students.
"My boyfriend is a bit of a pussy and he was crying because he was so upset that these kids would go to school today feeling like maybe they'd made a mistake," he said.
"This is really a harsh thing Cory's done to make these kids feel bad about trying to raise money."
Thomas said the groundswell of opposition to Senator Bernardi's comment was based on genuine sentiment.
"I've got 442,000 [Twitter followers] but I don't think it is all me. Honestly, I think it's people getting annoyed at Cory Bernardi. It's kind of one of these things where the dislike for this man is tied into this great positive."

High-energy cosmic rays are extragalactic visitors from beyond our Milky Way

Extract from ABC News

It's been a mystery of astrophysics for decades — where do the most energetic particles that bombard the Earth come from?

Key points:

  • Cosmic rays are the most energetic particles that bombard Earth
  • Because these particles are so rare, it has been hard to pinpoint their origins
  • Scientists confirm for the first time that high-energy cosmic rays come from a galaxy-dense area of sky 100-200 million light years away
Now, for the first time, an international team of scientists using data from the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina have confirmed they are extragalactic visitors from beyond our Milky Way.
The discovery, reported in the journal Science, will help scientists understand more about the origin of the Universe and how black holes and galaxies formed.
"These results will make people think again about how we understand things we thought we understood," study co-author Roger Clay, of the University of Adelaide, said.
High-energy cosmic rays are subatomic particles — predominantly the nucleus of common elements such as hydrogen and iron — travel close to the speed of light.
But it's very rare for cosmic rays above 2 joules to reach Earth — there's only about one per square kilometre per year — which means you need an observatory that covers a lot of ground to pick up a significant number of rays.
The Pierre Auger Observatory is just that. The 3,000 square kilometre observatory, which sits at the base of the Andes in Argentina, has detected more than 30,000 cosmic particles over 12 years.

How do we know when a cosmic ray hits Earth?

We can tell when a cosmic ray hits the Earth because it creates a shower of electrons and photons as it strikes the atmosphere.
The Pierre Auger Observatory has an array of 1,600 detectors, a handful of which will pick up a single cosmic ray strike.
By determining when different detectors pick up the cosmic ray, scientists can calculate the direction from which it came and its energy.
Data captured by the observatory indicated the particles were not hitting the Earth uniformly.
Instead they were coming from an area of sky about 90 degrees away from the direction of the centre of our Milky Way.
This area is about 100–200 million light years away and is dense with galaxies, said study co-author Bruce Dawson, also of the University of Adelaide.
"There must be something more powerful in these other galaxies … accelerating cosmic rays to these energies."

What creates cosmic rays?

While the scientists say they've shown the direction high-energy cosmic rays come from what's still unclear is what creates them.
Professor Dawson said lower-energy cosmic rays come from our Sun, or when stars explode in a supernovae.
But the energy generated by those sources is not enough to accelerate a cosmic ray to the levels of energy detected by the Pierre Auger Observatory.
Whatever's accelerating the rays must be an even more violent force, he said.
"Supermassive black holes in other active galaxies are spewing out magnetic fields and particles in big jets, and we think in those jets there may be particle acceleration up to these enormous energies," Professor Dawson said.
"Other possibilities include gamma ray bursts in other galaxies, which may accelerate cosmic rays."
While scientists weren't sure on the source of cosmic rays yet — or precisely which galaxies they come from — Professor Dawson said understanding the direction was a key piece of the puzzle.
"We haven't solved that part of the mystery — we haven't identified individual galaxies or sources at this stage, but this is a big step," he said.
The next step is honing in more precisely on those sources.
That'll be made possible by upgrades to the Pierre Auger Observatory happening now and which will become operational in 2018.
"We'll be able to be much more sensitive in being able to determine the source directions — and hopefully hone in on some particular source types," Professor Dawson said.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Cashless welfare card recipient fears for family when new Centrelink scheme starts

Extract from ABC News

Posted about 4 hours ago

Matthew Biggin, 31, of Bundaberg, is among those in the Wide Bay region who will be expected to use a cashless welfare card next year in the place of Centrelink payments.
The Federal Government has chosen the region as the first urban area in the country to get the scheme.
According to government data, 90 per cent of under 30s on unemployment benefits in Wide Bay had a parent who was also on welfare during the past 15 years.
Under the program, 80 per cent of a person's welfare income will be quarantined on a debit-style card that cannot be used on alcohol, gambling or to withdraw cash.
As a father of three, Mr Biggin said he was worried how cutting access to cash would affect his family.
"It makes me feel really down and out, and like I can't support my family properly," he said.
"I'm just really stressed out. I don't like the idea of them having control of my money.
"We wanted to go on a trip to see my Dad in Victoria, and without cash it will be really hard."

Mr Biggin predicted the change could even drive up the crime rate in the city.
"It's definitely going to increase, because a lot of people are going to try and get cash to buy drugs and other things they don't need," he said.
Mr Biggin disputed the Government's claim the card would be an incentive for people to get work.
"I've been trade qualified for a long time now and Bundy's really dead," he said.
"There's no work here at all, and I've got my ticket and everything and I just can't get a job.
"Maybe the people who are on drugs should be tested and they should get the cashless card, not everyone."
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey welcomed the card but said it would need to be backed up by investments in infrastructure and mental health services, to help reduce unemployment.
"I don't think it's a one-stop shop to be able to solve generational issues ... and I really applaud the different levels of government getting involved to sort out the scourge of drugs, and alcohol, and mental health," Mr Dempsey said.
"It needs to be supported by other incentives to turn that huge cycle around.
"A job is one of the most precious things in a world a person can have, it brings dignity".
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the Wide Bay region had serious social problems the Government needed to address.
He said he hoped the card would be an incentive for people to find work. 

Pumped hydro storage 'could make Australia run on renewable energy alone within 20 years'

    Extract from ABC News

    Updated 53 minutes ago

    Australia has the capacity to store up to 1,000 times more renewable energy than it could ever conceivably need, according to an analysis by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU).

    Key points:

    • Investment in renewables will see an increased need for hydro storage, researchers say
    • Study found at least 22,000 suitable locations for pumped hydro sites
    • Researchers say Australia could transition to 100pc renewable energy in 20 years if just a few of those sites were built

    ANU engineering professor Andrew Blakers has conducted a study looking into pumped hydro sites and has concluded that there are at least 22,000 suitable locations nationwide.
    Professor Blakers said if storage was built at just a tiny fraction of those places, Australia could transition to 100 per cent renewable power within two decades.
    "No matter where you are in Australia, you will find a good pumped hydro site not very far away from where you, or your wind or your solar farm is located," he said.
    "We only need to build about one or two dozen to support a 100 per cent-renewable electricity grid."
    Pumped hydro works by pumping water uphill between two connected reservoirs when power is plentiful, and dispatching power to the grid when demand is high or when wind and solar do not work.
    ANU engineering research fellow Matthew Stocks said a typical pumped hydro facility could deliver maximum power for between five hours and one full day.
    The power could be quickly dispatched to the grid, when needed.
    "It can go from zero to full power in about one minute," Dr Stocks said.

    The technology behind pumped hydro is not new — a facility was opened in the 1970s at the Tumut 3 Power Station at Talbingo in New South Wales.
    Pumped hydro is also widespread in Europe, especially in the alpine parts of Italy, Germany and France, and in Scandinavian countries like Norway. It is also widely used in Japan and the United States.
    Professor Blakers said as investment in renewable sources of energy like wind and solar increases in Australia, the need for pumped hydro storage would grow.
    "We have so little solar and wind in the system at the moment that we don't need the storage," he said.
    "Maybe now South Australia, at 50 per cent wind and solar PV, is just getting to the stage where it does need either strong interconnection or a pumped hydro or both.
    "But the other states will catch up and will be at the 50 per cent level by the early 2020s I think, so they also need to start planning with pumped hydro now."

    'Australia could be fully electrified within two decades'

    For the report, Professor Blakers, Dr Stocks and their colleagues looked closely at tens of thousands of sites Australia-wide.
    They found the greatest density of pumped hydro storage sites was in New South Wales, where they estimated there was potential to build 29,000 gigawatt hours' worth of storage capacity across 8,600 sites.
    In Victoria they estimated there were 4,400 potentially suitable sites capable of storing 11,000 gigawatt hours' capacity, while Tasmania could theoretically support 2,050 sites, adding 6,000 gigawatt hours' of storage.

    "The Great Dividing Range is the best place," Professor Blakers said.
    "All the way from North Queensland down to near Melbourne has thousands and thousands of sites."
    Professor Blakers said if pumped hydro storage facilities were built at just a handful of sites spread out nationwide, Australia could run on renewables alone.
    "Pumped hydro, high-voltage DC interconnectors between the states, solar photovoltaics, wind, batteries and demand management can do the whole job," he said.
    "Not just the whole job for electricity, but the whole job for energy — electrify land transport, electrify heating and cooling and you could make 75 per cent cuts in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
    "And I think this is going to happen over the next 15 or 20 years."

    Major expansion of hydro storage: Frydenberg

    The ANU researchers' work was funded by a $500,000 grant made by the Federal Government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

    ARENA is itself already funding feasibility studies into pumped hydro storage in Tasmania, and in the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia and Kidston in north Queensland.
    ARENA's CEO Ivor Frischknecht said while additional research was now needed into the 22,000 sites identified by the study, the message was clear — Australia could have 100 per cent renewable power.
    "There's no question that wind and solar investment are going to keep going," he said.
    "The challenge is to ensure that we end up with a reliable system that is also affordable, and that's where this study comes in.
    "This study shows that it would be relatively affordable to run the entire system on wind, solar and pumped hydro."
    In a statement to AM, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg welcomed the study's findings.
    He said the Government was already delivering a "major expansion" of the Snowy Hydro scheme and cited the on-going feasibility studies in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

    The Minister also indicated that the Government was working on a "new priority funding round for large scale storage and other flexible capacity projects including pumped hydro".

    Malcolm Roberts signed citizenship form without reading it, High Court hears

    Updated 30 minutes ago

    One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has admitted to signing a form which said he was a British citizen, but says he did so without reading the document.

    Key points:

    • Senator Roberts sent two emails to inactive addresses during attempts to check his citizenship status
    • Senator Roberts conceded he did not read his citizenship form, which his sister filled out for him
    • He said it remained unclear whether he still held his British citizenship

    Senator Roberts' claims he did everything he could to renounce his British citizenship before the 2016 federal election are being tested in a High Court hearing in Brisbane today.
    The constitution bans people with dual citizenship from being elected to Federal Parliament.
    Questions were raised as to whether Senator Roberts held dual citizenship because he was born in India to a Welsh father and Australian mother.
    Under questioning from counsel assisting the court Stephen Lloyd, Senator Roberts said his father had given him an Australian citizenship form in 1974 which his then 16-year-old sister filled out and he signed without reading.
    The form contained a line which said Senator Roberts held UK and Colonies citizenship.
    "If my father had said 'here, sign this' I would have," he said.
    Senator Roberts conceded he would have realised he was a British citizen if he had read the form.
    He said from birth, he was always raised to believe he was Australian only.

    This was based on the fact he travelled on his mother's passport as a boy and that his father never mentioned formal links to Britain.
    "He would have ribbed me for sure if he knew I was British. He would have let me know in no uncertain terms," Senator Roberts said.
    He said it remained unclear as to whether he still held his British citizenship.
    "All my correspondence with the UK prior and after the nomination [for Parliament], no-one from the United Kingdom has said I am British. No-one," Senator Roberts said.
    The court heard Senator Roberts was automatically granted Indian citizenship by birth, but that was renounced when he became an Australian citizen when he was 19 years old in 1974.

    'Am I still a British citizen' email sent to wrong address

    Mr Lloyd said Senator Roberts sent emails to a non-existent email address and a decommissioned account that had not been used for six years while trying to make inquiries about the potential of him holding British citizenship prior to the 2016 election.
    He said the emails to British authorities were sent on May 1 and June 6, 2016.
    His first email, titled "Am I still a British citizen", went to an address ending with the domain ".uksydney", Mr Lloyd said.
    Mr Lloyd asked Mr Roberts: "Have you ever seen any email address that ends with anything like '.uksydney'?"
    "No," Mr Roberts replied.
    Mr Roberts said he found the email address online but could not remember where.
    The next email, complaining that nobody had got back to him, went to a decommissioned account which had been inactive for six years, Mr Lloyd said.
    "None of these emails led to any responses," Mr Lloyd said.
    He said Senator Roberts sent a third email with inquiries and that one worked.
    Mr Roberts repeatedly denied he knew he was British when sending the emails, but conceded that he felt there was "a very small possibility".

    Roberts' email attempts irrelevant, lawyer argues

    Mr Lloyd said other evidence to be presented would include documents Mr Roberts received while he was preparing to nominate himself as a senator, which provided tips on what candidates could do if they had doubts about eligibility.
    But Robert Newlinds, acting for Senator Roberts, said the evidence about the emails was irrelevant and "inadmissible".
    Mr Newlinds said his client "didn't believe he was [a British citizen] but suspected he might be when he nominated to be a senator".

    Senator Roberts is one of seven federal politicians embroiled in the dual citizenship crisis gripping Canberra, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
    The Queenslander has long protested against questions about his citizenship, suggesting it was another attack against One Nation.
    When he asked the High Court to consider his citizenship status, Senator Roberts further confused matters by repeatedly refusing to say when he filled in the form renouncing his British citizenship and paid the associated fee.
    Last week, his lawyers also told the court they intended to challenge expert legal advice the Commonwealth had received from a British barrister about Senator Roberts.
    His lawyers also suggested they would argue Senator Roberts did not have to have formally filled out the renunciation form to have kickstarted the process.
    Their argument was that his attempts to email the British Home Office to notify them he intended to renounce his citizenship was enough.
    Senator Roberts' sister may also be called to give evidence.

    Wednesday, 20 September 2017

    Anti-Adani protest censored by operators of Melbourne's Federation Square

    Exclusive: Operators demand images of newspaper headlines and politicians, and ‘explicitly negative’ environmental messages be removed

    Anti-Adani protesters at the screening of Guarding the Galilee
    Anti-Adani protesters at the screening of Guarding the Galilee. The operators of Melbourne’s Federation Square demanded changes to the slideshow before the screening. Photograph: Julian Meehan

    The operators of Melbourne’s Federation Square have censored the content of an anti-Adani slideshow presented there, demanding that all images of newspaper headlines and politicians, as well as “explicitly negative” environmental messages be removed.
    On Saturday, a coalition of environmental groups held a screening of the documentary Guarding the Galilee at Federation Square, attended by about 300 people. The film is about the fight to stop Adani’s Carmichael coalmine, which would be the biggest coalmine ever built in Australia and one of the biggest in the world.
    In the week before the event, Federation Square demanded to see the slideshow that would be presented before the screening and then demanded much of it be removed.
    In email correspondence a Federation Square representative told the event organisers they “cannot permit any slides with protest messaging, slogans or memes together with slides that show pictures of politicians, newspaper headlines or any explicitly political messaging”.
    The operators objected to any content that was “negative and inflammatory” and demanded the majority of the slides be removed or significantly altered.
    That included removing all pictures of newspaper headlines, politicians, political memes, protests or pictures of the Great Barrier Reef with “inflammatory messaging”.
    Federation square also demanded that the “stop Adani” logo be changed to black and white, and that it not take up a whole slide.
    The original slideshow that the organisers forwarded to Federation Square’s operators. Slides crossed out were censored from the final presentation.
    “I would recommend putting together a slideshow that focuses more on the environmental aspect of the reef without the protest messaging,” the Federation Square representative said.
    The demands surprised the organisers, since Federation Square had approved the screening of the Guarding the Galilee, which included footage of protests, criticisms of the federal government, images of politicians presented in a negative light as well as explicit protest messaging.
    As part of the agreement for hiring the venue, the organisers were told the material must be “G or PG rated” and the written agreement stated: “The hirer understands that Fed Square reserves the right to reject material that is deemed unacceptable or inappropriate for public exhibition in terms of quality, format type or content.”
    Federation Square had told the organisers over the phone that “politically partisan” slides would not be allowed but the organisers said they were told that related to messaging related to political parties.
    When challenged by the organisers over email, Federation Square said: “Although not associated specifically with a political party, the content is certainly political in nature and partisan in its opposition/protest to the current governments and their policies.”
    In order to ensure the meeting went ahead, the organisers removed more than half the slides.
    Odette Joannidis, a Stop Adani volunteer and co-organiser of the event, said the debacle revealed Federation Square was not “a friend of the people”.
    “The management had us over a barrel, threatening to pull the plug on our event unless we obeyed their crazy request to cut the most benign of images from being shown,” she said. “It felt like being in an Orwellian nightmare, not Melbourne.
    “It’s disturbing that in 2017, in an era of climate change, executives at Fed Square would actively censor photos of mums, dads and grandparents engaged in peaceful actions and suggest they were ‘inflammatory’ images.”
    Because Federation Square refused to tell the organisers exactly which slides were causing the problem, and discussion was occurring just days before the event, the organisers removed anything they thought might be considered partisan, negative or inflammatory.
    “We asked for guidance from Fed Square on a slide-by-slide basis so we could better understand what exactly it was they objected to,” said Pablo Brait from Market Forces, who also organised the event. “However, Fed Square refused to give us this guidance and instead issued an ultimatum that the next version of the slideshow had to be acceptable to them, or else there would be no slideshow at all.”
    Federation Square refused to answer a series of questions from the Guardian asking which sort of material was and wasn’t allowed and why. Instead, a spokeswoman sent through the following statement.
    Fed Square was delighted to approve the screening of an important environmental documentary, Guarding the Galilee. The event organiser subsequently requested to present a large PowerPoint presentation, which Fed Square did not approve. Fed Square’s venue hire agreement states that Fed Square can refuse the right to play or remove from display any screen content considered offensive or inappropriate for any reason whatsoever. This was communicated to the event organiser and a mutual agreement was reached.
    The event was organised by groups including Bayside Climate Change Action Group, StopAdani Eltham, Crochet for Coral not Coal, Darebin Climate Action Now, GetUp Melbourne East, AYCC Victoria, Melbourne Ports Stop Adani Group and Market Forces.
    The groups crowdfunded the event and major sponsors included the National Tertiary Education Union and Melbourne builders Jenkinson Building.

    Tuesday, 19 September 2017

    Ambitious 1.5C Paris climate target is still possible, new analysis shows

    Goal to limit warming to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change was seen as unreachable, but updated research suggests it could be met if strong action is taken
    New research suggests the aspirational 1.5C goal is more hopeful than thought. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

    Damian Carrington Environment editor
    Tuesday 19 September 2017 01.00 AEST Last modified on Tuesday 19 September 2017 07.00 AEST
    The highly ambitious aim of limiting global warming to less than 1.5C remains in reach, a new scientific analysis shows.
    The 1.5C target was set as an aspiration by the global Paris climate change deal in 2015 to limit the damage wreaked by extreme weather and sea level rise.
    It was widely seen as impossible because analysis at the time indicated it required carbon emissions to fall to zero within seven years, a speed deemed “incompatible with democracy” by one climate economist.
    However, an updated analysis using the latest data shows the global carbon emissions budget that meets the 1.5C goal is significantly bigger than thought, equivalent to 20 years of current annual emissions.
    The scale of the challenge remains huge but it means that, if the world’s nations ratchet up their emissions cuts in future as intended under the Paris deal, the expected “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world could be avoided.
    “It is looking more hopeful that we can really achieve the Paris goals,” said Prof Michael Grubb, a climate economist at University College London and one of the team that produced the new analysis published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
    In 2015, Grubb said the massive scale and speed of carbon cuts needed to meet the 1.5C target were “incompatible with democracy”.
    But the new work has changed his mind, showing there is more room for emissions than thought. He also said carbon emissions have stopped growing sooner than expected, especially in China, and that renewable energy costs are plummeting unexpectedly quickly. “We are in the midst of an energy revolution,” he said.
    Prof Myles Allen at Oxford University, who was part of the team that produced the new analysis of the 1.5C goal, said they used several methods to make a fresh estimate of the necessary carbon budget, including updating measurements of the emissions and warming that have already occurred. Previous computer models had also projected more rapid warming in the expectation that, for example, sun-blocking pollution particles would be cleaned up more quickly than it has in reality.
    “A lot of people said 1.5C is simply not possible,” said Allen. But the new work revealed that for a 66% chance of meeting the 1.5C target in 2100, the budget is 240bn tonnes of carbon, assuming that other greenhouse gases such as methane are also controlled. This means the target could be met if strong action is taken. The scientists also warned that carbon cuts need to happen sooner rather than later, starting with countries strengthening their Paris pledges in 2018. A commonly used scenario for ambitious carbon cuts, called RCP2.6 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, projects ever bigger carbon cuts as time passes. But Grubb pointed out that this would eventually require annual drops in carbon emissions only previously seen when economies collapsed in the 1930s depression, the second world war and at the end of the Soviet Union. Instead, he said, cutting carbon by smaller amounts but starting much sooner could deliver the 1.5C goal.
    Grubb said the “politics is still not easy”. But he downplayed the impact of President Donald Trump’s decision to take the US out of the Paris deal, saying other nations, as well as states and cities in the US, were pressing ahead regardless, not least because of the economic attraction of ever cheaper green energy. On Sunday, both secretary of state Rex Tillerson and national security adviser HR McMaster indicated the US is open to negotiations on staying in the Paris deal.
    As the new work was published, the UK’s Met Office said that the “slowdown” in the rate of global temperature rises seen in the first decade or so of this century was over, with 2014, 2015 and 2016 all setting new heat records. In the latter two years, the world’s surface air temperature was more than 1C above pre-industrial levels for the first time.

    2017 was the warmest July in 137 years of modern record-keeping, at about 0.83C warmer than the mean July temperature of the 1951-1980 period. Only July 2016 showed a similarly high temperature (0.82C). All previous months of July were more than a tenth of a degree cooler. Photograph: GISS/Nasa
    However, increasing air temperatures only account for about 3% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases. The other 97% is absorbed by the oceans and the rising global warming experienced by the planet as a whole has remained unchecked for decades. Evidence of this is the inexorable rise of sea levels, caused by melting ice caps and the thermal expansion of sea water.
    The slowdown in rising air temperature between 1999 and 2014 resulted from a natural decadal cycle in Pacific, the Met Office scientists said. This led to the ocean circulation speeding up, enabling it to drag more heat down into the deep ocean and away from the atmosphere. But that cycle has now ended, returning temperature rises to their long-term gradually accelerating trend.
    The temporary slowdown does not mean the challenge to tackling climate change will be any easier, said Allen: “The slowdown has not helped us in any way.” This is because it merely reflects a natural variation superimposed on the strong warming trend driven by the carbon emissions from human activities.