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Wildfires – drastic climate effects in Australia, but Europe is copping it, too

Wildfires show us how the climate emergency is already affecting Europe, Guardian, Imogen West-Knights We look at the devastation of Australia’s bushfires and don’t believe it could happen here. But it already is, 22 Jan 2020  “………  what we’re seeing in Australia. Since the fire season began there, in the middle of last year, 29 people have died, along with more than a billion animals, and an area comparable in size to the whole of England has been ablaze. It’s a vicious reminder that, for all the sophistication of the modern world, something as primitive as fire can still bring us to our knees. As shocking as the scale of the destruction has been, though, it’s easy to see it on our computer screens here on the other side of the world, in the middle of a British winter, and feel disconnected from it. We accept that the climate emergency is now truly upon us yet still feel that it’s mostly happening to other people, elsewhere.wildfires are increasingly a problem for everyone, including in the UK. Last August, there were almost five times as many of them around the world as there had been the previous August. In the EU, the number of wildfires in the first half of 2019 was three times the annual average for the previous decade. And while they used to be a serious problem only in hotter, southern European countries such as Portugal and Spain, now northern Europe is in trouble too.

The Swedish fires of 2018 were by far the most severe in the country’s history, burning an area almost twice as large as the worst previous wildfire, in 2014. In the UK, 2018 and 2019 were the worst two years on record for wildfires, particularly on moors in the north-west of England and parts of Scotland. One fire last year, at Marsden Moor in Yorkshire, destroyed almost three square miles of land. The damage is on a very different scale to the almost 30,000 square miles that have burned in Australia, of course, but this is still a development we can’t afford to ignore.

Aside from all the more immediate effects – the threat to humans, livestock and wildlife – the recent increase in wildfires has been linked to severe air quality problems. People living up to 62 miles (100km) downwind of fires in the Pennines in 2018 were exposed to toxic fumes. And as there is no sign of cooler weather in the years ahead, it is reasonable to expect more fires in 2020. The EU has now established a fleet of firefighting planes, and the European Forest Institute has warned that unless we take steps to protect the countryside – for instance, by planting less-flammable species and creating barriers to the spread of flames – emergency services won’t be able to prevent the rapid spread and firestorms that have characterised the Australian crisis.

This isn’t all because of the climate crisis – changes to land use and increased urbanisation over several decades are also factors. Weather patterns are noisy data, and it’s difficult to attribute any single wildfire to the climate crisis. The scientific consensus, however, is that it is increasing the intensity and frequency of fire-conducive weather across the world.

Even those fires that are eventually linked to human error, like a still-lit disposable barbecue, are increasingly likely due to warming temperatures. Hotter summers mean more barbecues lit in the first place. The climate crisis is going to change the way we behave in every aspect of our lives. And with the probability of another summer of extreme weather coming, we will need to adapt to new dangers that won’t just be on the other side of the planet but, quite literally, in our own backyards.

It’s not at all clear that we’re ready for what might be coming. There is still a cognitive jump yet to be made when those of us in Europe read about the fires in Australia, from mourning the destruction there to recognising that we face some version of the same threat. When we look at Australia, we’re not looking at the future that might await Europe. That future is already here.

• Imogen West-Knights is a writer and freelance journalist

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Vulnerability of nuclear facilities to climate extremes – Australian wildfires as a warning

the task of civil society is to organize more strongly in order to increase awareness regarding the link between the climate crisis and the vulnerability of nuclear facilities so that public opinion may begin to be altered and political powers may be pressured to begin an exit from the innately dangerous nuclear path.

What Australia type fire may tell us about the possibility of nuclear disasters,  https://www.dianuke.org/what-australia-type-fire-may-tell-us-about-the-possibility-of-nuclear-disasters/   JANUARY 22, 2020  Australia is one of the countries that have experienced extreme weather events, especially in the last decade due to the effect of global warming. According to experts, system interactions triggered global warming, and extinguishing fires has become impossible due to reduced water resources as a result of excessive evaporation and mismanagement of these resources in the last decade in the country. It is estimated that nearly 1.25 billion animal species and at least 27 people have lost their lives, in addition to annihilation of forests and vegetation due to the fires which could not be controlled for almost four months; other species are threatened with extinction and 1800 houses have reportedly burned down.

Unfortunately, the impact of the events is not limited to the period of their occurrence – while four months of carbon emissions, as much as the annual carbon emission amount to the atmosphere, there are scientific studies indicating that there may be an increase in various diseases, especially asthma, especially among children, with the air quality rising to nearly 21 times the dangerous level. Things could have been much worse if the fires had reached the region where uranium mines are located in Australia, which supplies 12% of the uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants operating worldwide; Australia however, has no nuclear power plant of its own.

Even though the extraction of uranium which is used for nuclear power generation, requires high security standards worldwide, danger to these facilities is possible under all conditions, since in order to obtain 30 tonnes of uranium that is used in a 1200 MW capacity reactor in a year, 440 thousand tons of uranium rock must be extracted from the ground. However, heavy metals such as thorium, radium, radon gas, and nickel which are released in the waste and waste pools following the extraction and other processes, causing heavy substances such as arsenic and mercury getting mixed in the environment and groundwater.

Actually such health-related concerns are not limited to Australia since there are also uranium mines in India, the United States, primarily in Niger and Kazakhistan. For Australia, Ranger Uranium Mine, Olympic Dam and Beverly uranium mines have long been on the radar of environmental organizations. According to Dave Sweeney, a renowned anti-nuclear campaigner at the Australian Protection Foundation (ACF), uranium mining and the processing of the extracted material pose enormous risks to the environment and health. However, Sweeney underlines that there are families working in the uranium mines, who inadvertently carry home radioactive dust from the job site.

‘If the fire reached the mines, it would be a nightmare for the world’

A relatively new scientific study published on January 8, 2019, on this subject also points out the danger in uranium mines, especially for those working in the extraction, grinding and production of nuclear fuel and uranium oxide production. Accordingly, due to the regular exposure of employees to radon gas even at low doses every day, it is possible to develop lung cancer due to the cumulative dose accumulated at the end of 10 years. Sweeney argues that the spread of the fires to the uranium mining areas would have been a “ nightmare for the world” since it would have meant the spread of radioactive particles into the air. This would have been in addition to the already existing dangers posed by the uranium mines, such as, in the case of the Ranger uranium mine, whose license, although it has not expired and rehabilitation has not begun yet, there are mineral wastes stacked in waste pools at the production site.

A warning for the rest of the world

Australian fires can even be considered as a warning in many respects for the rest of the world for the factors which triggered the fires, including the mismanagement of water resources that may occur in other continents within five to ten years and lead to the occurrence of large-scale and non-extinguishable fires. Undoubtedly, any explosion at gas facilities, gas plants, chemical factories, cyanide pools, silver, gold, and copper mines would also have multi-dimensional impacts on the overall pollution levels, but it would be infinitely worse if we were to take the nuclear chain into consideration.

What if similar mega-fires were to break out in the US?

When we look at the issue in terms of the location of nuclear power plants and uranium mines, health, and environment-related risks should be remembered. Considering a note by Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of ‘Nuclear Energy No Solution’ – according to her, an average 1000 megawatts reactor produces 225 kilograms of plutonium annually, and the spread of 500 kilograms of plutonium into the atmosphere is enough to have everyone in the world get exposed to cancer. In this respect, if mega-fires were to break out in the US, it would mean that according to the data of October 2019, 98 commercial reactors and 4000 uranium mines will be at unprecedented risk. At this point, I would like to point out that I do not mean that there will certainly be fires happening at nuclear facilities but, in the case of a fire, nuclear disasters may occur.

Similarly, when we evaluate the map of Australia, where the fire density is seen, over the continent of Europe, we see that 128 reactors pose a risk that according to the map, this number increases to 164 with the addition of 36 reactors from Russia. On the other hand, the possibilities for experiencing such multiple disasters are not limited to fires alone. As experienced in the USA with the Harvey and Irma hurricanes in 2017, there is a danger for the whole world in terms of both, the reactors and the wastes accumulated in the facilities due to extreme weather events such as storm and hurricanes, and the melting of glaciers and rising water levels. Therefore, these reactors should be shut down as soon as possible since there will be a need to wait for 10 years to have used reactor fuel rods transported from nuclear power plant area in case sea level rises become dangerous for nuclear power plants plus the amount of unsolvable waste problem should not be increased. The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the radioactive solid wastes stacked in the open area which have since found their way into the sea with each storm can be considered as an example of the susceptibility of nuclear facilities/sites to extreme weather events. The risk and danger posed by these nuclear reactors and their radioactive wastes can be understood more clearly when one considers the fact that the half-life of the plutonium is 24 thousand years and the cancer-causing effects last at least 240 thousand years.

Moreover, according to their half-life, other radioactive isotopes (strontium 90, cesium 137…) extending to tens of millions of years are also spread into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there are nearly 400 nuclear reactors worldwide, thousands of uranium mines as well as waste facilities in operation, which have the potential of Chernobyl and Fukushima-like disasters.

These grim scenarios are meant to underscore the fact that the reality of the climate crisis often hides within its folds the very real possibility of a multiplicity of disasters. If scientists, who predict that the climate crisis will cause climate migration in the near future, could also take into account the fact that the conditions of the climate crisis may trigger nuclear disasters, and in turn, lead to massive waves of migration, steps can be taken to demand urgent changes in this regard, or at the very least the weak and often demonised voices of opposition to nuclear energy and weapons worldwide may be strengthened.

In this regard, the task of civil society is to organize more strongly in order to increase awareness regarding the link between the climate crisis and the vulnerability of nuclear facilities so that public opinion may begin to be altered and political powers may be pressured to begin an exit from the innately dangerous nuclear path. ‘Children for nuclear-free life’ and the involvement of more well-meaning youth such as Greta Thunberg will go a long way into promoting an appreciation of this little understood and/or acknowledged threat to our environment and health – there is an urgent need to phase out polluting industries including nuclear mines and promote worldwide usage of renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.

The author is a Turkish activist and researcher. Earlier, we published her interview on our website. 

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Australia May Add Record Amount of Renewable Power in 2020,

Australia May Add Record Amount of Renewable Power in 2020, Bloomberg, By James Thornhill, January 21, 2020

  • Corporate demand for clean electricity driving growth: Rystad
  •  Policy uncertainty seen undermining longer term expansion

Australia is set to add a record amount of renewable power in 2020, driven by growing corporate demand for clean electricity and to fill generation gaps created by the retirement of aging coal-fired plants.

New markets are expected to unlock growth as pilot hydrogen projects start and oil, gas and mining projects invest in off-grid renewables generation, according to Rystad Energy. The positive outlook would be a rebound for Australia’s clean energy developers after a sharp drop in investment in 2019.

“We expect the industry to bounce back in the second half of 2020,” Rystad said in a media release, citing projects with corporate power purchase agreements and the winners of government auction schemes that are scheduled to start construction this year.

Nearly 2 gigawatts of large-scale solar projects and 1.6 gigawatts of wind power are due to complete commissioning in the year ahead, up nearly 40% on 2019 levels. Wind and solar developers are also lining up to replace the Liddell coal plant in New South Wales, which is due to close by April 2023.

Still, developers may face headwinds over the longer term. The industry has already met the government’s 2020 target for renewable generation and there is no new target to replace it. Meanwhile, the profitability of projects located a long way from major demand centers has been hit by marginal loss factors — the amount of power lost along transmission lines.

Losing Momentum

Australia renewables investment fell 38% last year   “While the outlook for the commissioning of new projects still looks solid in 2020, there is a risk that activity tails off in the years ahead as the impact of falling investment starts to feed through,” said BloombergNEF analyst Leonard Quong.   AT TOP https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-21/australia-may-add-record-amount-of-renewable-power-in-2020

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, renewable | Leave a comment

White Kimba, Australia, voted “Yes” to a nuclear waste dump, but the traditional Aboriginal owners held a separate ballot, with a “No” result

The Australian government held a “community” vote. in a small outback town, on whether or not they should accept a nuclear waste dump. Not surprisingly, what appeared to be generous financial incentives, particularly for the white landholders who volunteered their land.  Unfortunately the traditional Barngarla Aboriginal owners were excluded from the vote. So they held their own separate vote.
Kim Mavromatis   Fight To Stop A Nuclear Waste Dump In South Australia
KIMBA AND BARNGARLA SEPARATE VOTE COMBINED : “YES” 43.75% .
Scomo’s Fed Govnt Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dumps process excluded Barngarla traditional owners from the Kimba ballot – so Barngarla organized their own independent vote and this is the combined Broad Community Support Yes Vote %.
Barngarla traditional owners and Kimba Farmers Speak out – watch these short films :
“Barngarla Speak Out” : vimeo.com/382855709
“SAVE SA Farmland – Kimba, Eyre Peninsula” : vimeo.com/381938156

January 13, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, politics | Leave a comment

Climate protests in London, Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and Stockholm target Australian government

Climate action protesters angry over Australia’s bushfires rally across Europe   https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-11/scott-morrison-labelled-laughing-stock-europe-climate-protests/11859988      BY EUROPE CORRESPONDENT BRIDGET BRENNAN AND ROSCOE WHALAN IN LONDON

Thousands of people have taken part in demonstrations across Europe, taking aim at what they say is the Australian Government’s lack of action on climate change during the bushfire crisis.


  • Demonstrations organised by Extinction Rebellion were held in London, Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and Stockholm
  • The protesters called for stronger action on climate change in response to the Australian bushfires
  • Protesters in London rallied outside Australia House, while protesters chanted outside the Australian embassy in Berlin

Protesters stopped traffic in London and turned out at rallies in Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and Stockholm to show their support for victims of the disasters.

At the Strand in London, hundreds gathered outside Australia House, where the High Commission of Australia is located, calling for stronger action on climate change as part of a protest organised by Extinction Rebellion.

Anne Coates travelled from Sheffield, north of London, to attend the rally.

She began to cry when she spoke about watching the effect of the disaster on people who had lost relatives and homes.

“It’s just too much for your heart. You just can’t live with it. It just gets worse and worse every day,” she said.”Absolutely devastating to watch it. It’s like hell. And it seems like governments around the world are in a race to drag us down to hell.”

She said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was “a laughing stock around the world”.

“We’re absolutely furious with him. And I don’t know what’s it going to take. Governments should be listening,” she said.

Many people wore koala hats to represent the massive loss of wildlife in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Fi Radford from Bristol carried a sign which said “koalas not coal”.

“We’re here to say to the Australian people, challenge your Government on the evidence they’re giving you,” she said.

“Australia, you are custodians of precious species that exist nowhere else in the world. Overturn your Government, they’re leading you to destruction.”
Among the protesters were some of the tens of thousands of Australians living in London.
Harley McDonald-Eckersall from Melbourne said she had been watching on in horror at what has been unfolding in Australia.

“It’s been so horrible being away … Australians are extraordinarily resilient — like our First Nations people who have survived genocide and are still caring for the environment,” she said.

Australian Dylan Berthier said he believed the catastrophic conditions in Australia were a wake-up call for the world.

“I think a crisis of this magnitude is a global crisis. I think world leaders have a responsibility to call on the Australian Government to enact new policy that will actually prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.

In Germany, protesters chanted outside the Australian embassy in Berlin.

One man carried a sign which read “Aloha from Berlin” in reference to Mr Morrison’s maligned trip to Hawaii when the bushfires were burning in December.

The climate action group Extinction Rebellion organised the protests across Europe.

They followed rallies around most capital cities of Australia on Friday, with thousands of protesters criticising Mr Morrison’s handling of the fire emergencies in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Bushfires ‘a warning to the whole world’: UK politicians

The bushfire emergency has been front-page news in the UK for weeks — and has forced Tourism Australia to temporarily pull its new $15 million advertising campaign, fronted by Kylie Minogue.

When the UK Parliament returned earlier this week, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said what had been happening in Australia should act as a “wake-up call for the world”.

Last year, the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom passed legislation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — one of the most ambitious targets set by a major economy.

But many environmental groups have said 2050 is not soon enough.

Labour leadership contender Clive Lewis told the House of Commons: “So as Australia burns, as millions in African states face climate-driven famine, and floods have swept the north of England, will this Government give a damn about this existential threat and act, not posture?”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who is vying to become the new opposition leader, has criticised the Morrison Government.

“I hope that the horrendous wildfires in Australia, brought on by record temperatures, with such devastating impacts for the human and animal populations in New South Wales, will not just wake up Scott Morrison’s Government to its wilful inaction over climate change, but serve as a warning to the whole world,” she said.

Earlier this week, outspoken British television presenter Piers Morgan cut short an interview with Liberal MP Craig Kelly on Good Morning Britain.

Climate change and global warming are real and Australia is right now showing the entire world just how devastating it is,” he said.

“And for senior politicians in Australia to still pretend there’s no protection is absolutely disgraceful.”

In an address to Vatican diplomats this week, Pope Francis also criticised climate inaction.

“Many young people have become active in calling the attention of political leaders to the issue of climate change. Care for our common home ought to be a concern of everyone,” he said.

“Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern.”

January 13, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Thousands march in Australian cities protesting government inaction on climate change

Sydney CBD climate protest attracts over 30,000 people, SMH, By Janek Drevikovsky and Matt Bungard, January 10, 2020 — More than 30,000 protesters brushed off hot and humid conditions to voice their displeasure at the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis and its attitude towards climate change.The event in Sydney’s CBD was set up a few weeks ago by Uni Students for Climate Justice, in conjunction with Extinction Rebellion…….

Protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho ScoMo has got to go” as speakers climbed Town Hall’s side steps, and later moved on to “The liar from the shire, the country is on fire”.

Izzy Raj-Seppings, 13, waited to address the crowd.

She was given a move-on order by police while protesting outside Kirribilli House last September. Her hope is that Friday’s protest will create change……….

Protests also took place in other Australian capital cities. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/sydney-cbd-climate-protest-attracts-thousands-20200110-p53qhq.html?promote_channel=edmail&mbnr=MTM2NDAwMjM&eid=email:nnn-13omn655-ret_newsl-membereng:nnn-04%2F11%2F2013-news_pm-dom-news-nnn-smh-u&campaign_code=13INO009&et_bid=292

January 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Australian government plans to transport nuclear wastes 1000s of kilometres, a dangerous plan in view of bushfires

Transporting nuclear wastes across Australia in the age of bushfires, Independent Australia, By Noel Wauchope | IN 2020, the final decision on a site for Australia’s interim National Radioactive Waste Facility will be announced, said Resources Minister Matt Canavan on 13 December.

He added:  I will make a formal announcement early next year on the site-selection process.”

With bushfires raging, it might seem insensitive and non-topical to be worrying now about this coming announcement on a temporary nuclear waste site and the transport of nuclear wastes to it. But this is relevant and all too serious in the light of Australia’s climate crisis.

The U.S. National Academies Press compiled a lengthy and comprehensive report on risks of transporting nuclear wastes — they concluded that among various risks, the most serious and significant is fire:…..

Current bushfire danger areas include much of New South Wales, including the Lucas Heights area, North and coastal East Victoria and in South Australia the lower Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas. If nuclear wastes were to be transported across the continent, whether by land or by sea, from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney to Kimba in South Australia, they’d be travelling through much of these areas. Today, they’d be confronting very long duration, fully engulfing fires.

Do we know what route the nuclear wastes would be taking to Kimba, which is now presumed to be the Government’s choice for the waste dump? Does the Department of Industry Innovation and Science know? Does the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) know? Well, they might, but they’re not going to tell us.

We can depend on ANSTO’s consistent line on this :

‘In line with standard operational and security requirements, ANSTO will not comment on the port, routes or timing until after the transport is complete.’

That line is understandable of course, due to security considerations, including the danger of terrorism.

Spent nuclear fuel rods have been transported several times, from Lucas Heights to ports – mainly Port Kembla – in great secrecy and security. The reprocessed wastes are later returned from France or the UK with similar caution. Those secret late-night operations are worrying enough, but their risks seem almost insignificant when compared with the marathon journey envisaged in what is increasingly looking like a crackpot ANSTO scheme for the proposed distant Kimba interim nuclear dump. It is accepted that these temporary dumps are best located as near as practical to the point of production, as in the case of USA’s sites.

Australians, beset by the horror of extreme bushfires, can still perhaps count themselves as lucky in that, compared with wildfire regions in some countries, they do not yet have the compounding horror of radioactive contamination spread along with the ashes and smoke.

Fires in Russia have threatened its secret nuclear areas……

Many in America have long been aware of the transport danger:

The state of Nevada released a report in 2003 concluding that a steel-lead-steel cask would have failed after about six hours in the fire and a solid steel cask would have failed after about 11 to 12.5 hours. There would have been contamination over 32 square miles of the city and the contamination would have killed up to 28,000 people over 50 years.

The State of Wyoming is resisting hosting a nuclear waste dump, largely because of transportation risks as well as economic risks. In the UK, Somerset County Council rejects plans for transport of wastes through Somerset.

In the years 2016–2019, proposals for nuclear waste dumping in South Australia have been discussed by government and media as solely a South Australian concern. The present discussion about Kimba is being portrayed as just a Kimba community concern.

Yet, when the same kind of proposal was put forward in previous years, it was recognised as an issue for other states, too.

Most reporting on Australia’s bushfires has been excellent, with the exception of Murdoch media trying to downplay their seriousness. However, there has been no mention of the proximity of bushfires to Lucas Heights. As happened with the fires in 2018, this seems to be a taboo subject in the Australian media.

While it has never been a good idea to trek the Lucas Heights nuclear waste for thousands of kilometres across the continent – or halfway around it by sea – Australia’s new climate crisis has made it that much more dangerous. Is the bushfire apocalypse just a one-off? Or, more likely, is this nationwide danger the new normal? https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/transporting-nuclear-wastes-across-australia-in-the-age-of-bushfires,13465

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia Will Lose to Climate Change

Australia Will Lose to Climate Change https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/  Even as the country fights bushfires, it can’t stop dumping planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

ROBINSON MEYER, JANUARY 4, 2020  .Australia is caught in a climate spiral. For the past few decades, the arid and affluent country of 25 million has padded out its economy—otherwise dominated by sandy beaches and a bustling service sector—by selling coal to the world. As the East Asian economies have grown, Australia has been all too happy to keep their lights on. Exporting food, fiber, and minerals to Asia has helped Australia achieve three decades of nearly relentless growth: Oz has not had a technical recession, defined as two successive quarters of economic contraction, since July 1991.

But now Australia is buckling under the conditions that its fossil fuels have helped bring about. Perhaps the two biggest kinds of climate calamity happening today have begun to afflict the continent.

The first kind of disaster is, of course, the wildfire crisis. In the past three months, bushfires in Australia’s southeast have burned millions of acres, poisoned the air in Sydney and Melbourne, and forced 4,000 tourists and residents in a small beach town, Mallacoota, to congregate on the beach and get evacuated by the navy. A salvo of fires seems to have caught the world’s attention in recent years. But the current Australian season has outdone them all: Over the past six months, Australian fires have burned more than twice the area than was consumed, combined, by California’s 2018 fires and the Amazon’s 2019 fires.

The second is the irreversible scouring of the Earth’s most distinctive ecosystems. In Australia, this phenomenon has come for the country’s natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef. From 2016 to 2018, half of all coral in the reef died, killed by oceanic heat waves that bleached and then essentially starved the symbiotic animals. Because tropical coral reefs take about a decade to recover from such a die-off, and because the relentless pace of climate change means that more heat waves are virtually guaranteed in the 2020s, the reef’s only hope of long-term survival is for humans to virtually halt global warming in the next several decades and then begin to reverse it.

Meeting such a goal will require a revolution in the global energy system—and, above all, a rapid abandonment of coal burning. But there’s the rub. Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal power, and it has avoided recession for the past 27 years in part by selling coal.

Though polls report that most Australians are concerned about climate change, the country’s government has so far been unable to pass pretty much any climate policy. In fact, one of its recent political crises—the ousting of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the summer of 2018—was prompted by Turnbull’s attempt to pass an energy bill that included climate policy. Its current prime minister, Scott Morrison, actually brought a lump of coal to the floor of Parliament several years ago while defending the industry. He won an election last year by depicting climate change as the exclusive concern of educated city-dwellers, and climate policy as a threat to Australians’ cars and trucks. He has so far attempted to portray the wildfires as a crisis, sure, but one in line with previous natural disasters.

In fact, it is unprecedented. This season’s fires have incinerated more than 1,500 homes and have killed at least 23 people, Prime Minister Morrison said on Saturday.* There were at least twice as many fires in New South Wales in 2019 as there were in any other year this century, according to an analysis by The New York TimesClimate change likely intensified the ongoing epidemic: Hotter and drier weather makes wildfires more common, and climate change is increasing the likelihood of both in Australia. Last year was both the hottest and driest year on record in the country.

Perhaps more than any other wealthy nation on Earth, Australia is at risk from the dangers of climate change. It has spent most of the 21st century in a historic drought. Its tropical oceans are more endangered than any other biome by climate change. Its people are clustered along the temperate and tropical coasts, where rising seas threaten major cities. Those same bands of livable land are the places either now burning or at heightened risk of bushfire in the future. Faced with such geographical challenges, Australia’s people might rally to reverse these dangers. Instead, they have elected leaders with other priorities.

Australia will continue to burn, and its coral will continue to die. Perhaps this episode will prompt the more pro-carbon members of Australia’s Parliament to accede to some climate policy. Or perhaps Prime Minister Morrison will distract from any link between the disaster and climate change, as President Donald Trump did when he inexplicably blamed California’s 2018 blazes on the state’s failure to rake forest floors. Perhaps blazes will push Australia’s politics in an even more besieged and retrograde direction,   empowering politicians like Morrison to fight any change at all. And so maybe Australia will find itself stuck in the climate spiral, clinging ever more tightly to coal as its towns and cities choke on the ash of a burning world.

 

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Australia’s bushfires and their danger to nuclear waste transport

In all the propaganda for a nuclear waste dump in Kimba, South Australia, there was no mention of bushfire risks.  An extraordinary omission, don’t you think?

The whole bizarre plan to trek the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor wastes some 1700km by land, or even longer by sea, would entail trucking highly radioactive  (they call it intermediate) wastes through forest areas, towns, ports, to what used to be an agricultural area.

The nuclear industry touts itself as the cure for climate change. In reality,it is the other way around. For Australia especially, climate change, bushfires, water shortages –  make every aspect of the nuclear industry ever more dangerous.

The Lucas Heights nuclear reactor itself is uncomfortably close to the bushfires. But nobody’s talking about that. That reactor shoud be shutdown, and no more wastes produced.

January 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Dangerous climate is now upon Australia- Michael Mann

Australia, your country is burning – dangerous climate change is here with you now , Guardian,   Michael Mann  1 Jan 2020, I am a climate scientist on holiday in the Blue Mountains, watching climate change in action,

After years studying the climate, my work has brought me to Sydney where I’m studying the linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.

Prior to beginning my sabbatical stay in Sydney, I took the opportunity this holiday season to vacation in Australia with my family. We went to see the Great Barrier Reef – one of the great wonders of this planet – while we still can. Subject to the twin assaults of warming-caused bleaching and ocean acidification, it will be gone in a matter of decades in the absence of a dramatic reduction in global carbon emissions.

We also travelled to the Blue Mountains, another of Australia’s natural wonders, known for its lush temperate rainforests, majestic cliffs and rock formations and panoramic vistas that challenge any the world has to offer. It too is now threatened by climate change.

I witnessed this firsthand.

I did not see vast expanses of rainforest framed by distant blue-tinged mountain ranges. Instead I looked out into smoke-filled valleys, with only the faintest ghosts of distant ridges and peaks in the background. The iconic blue tint (which derives from a haze formed from “terpenes” emitted by the Eucalyptus trees that are so plentiful here) was replaced by a brown haze. The blue sky, too, had been replaced by that brown haze. ……

The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change. Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated.

The warming of our planet – and the changes in climate associated with it – are due to the fossil fuels we’re burning: oil, whether at midnight or any other hour of the day, natural gas, and the biggest culprit of all, coal. That’s not complicated either.

When we mine for coal, like the controversial planned Adani coalmine, which would more than double Australia’s coal-based carbon emissions, we are literally mining away at our blue skies. The Adani coalmine could rightly be renamed the Blue Sky mine.

In Australia, beds are burning. So are entire towns, irreplaceable forests and endangered and precious animal species such as the koala (arguably the world’s only living plush toy) are perishing in massive numbers due to the unprecedented bushfires.

The continent of Australia is figuratively – and in some sense literally – on fire.

Yet the prime minister, Scott Morrison, appears remarkably indifferent to the climate emergency Australia is suffering through, having chosen to vacation in Hawaii as Australians are left to contend with unprecedented heat and bushfires.

Morrison has shown himself to be beholden to coal interests and his administration is considered to have conspired with a small number of petrostates to sabotage the recent UN climate conference in Madrid (“COP25”), seen as a last ditch effort to keep planetary warming below a level (1.5C) considered by many to constitute “dangerous” planetary warming.

But Australians need only wake up in the morning, turn on the television, read the newspaper or look out the window to see what is increasingly obvious to many – for Australia, dangerous climate change is already here. It’s simply a matter of how much worse we’re willing to allow it to get.

Australia is experiencing a climate emergency. It is literally burning. It needs leadership that is able to recognise that and act. And it needs voters to hold politicians accountable at the ballot box.

Australians must vote out fossil-fuelled politicians who have chosen to be part of the problem and vote in climate champions who are willing to solve it.

January 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, politics | 2 Comments

Australian Parliamentary Report uses dodgy and incorrect nuclear information

House Of Reps Report Supports Nuclear – But Only If Everyone Is Into It  https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/nuclear-energy-australia/   December 19, 2019 by Ronald Brakels  Last Friday the House Of Representatives released a report on nuclear energy in Australia.  They said it’s a good idea — provided everyone is cool with it.Australia.  They said it’s a good idea — provided everyone is cool with it.

The report is called:

“Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia”

It gives the country three recommendations :

  1. Consider using nuclear power.
  2. Gather information to support the future use of nuclear power.
  3. End or partially lift the moratorium that prohibits building nuclear reactors.
  4.  
  5. \While nuclear is a low-emissions source of energy,  .I don’t agree with these recommendations because:
  1. There is no point considering nuclear power here until one of the countries that have been using it for decades gets it right and starts building reactors that supply energy at a lower cost than renewables.
  2. There is no point paying people to study nuclear energy until other countries with existing nuclear industries show it can make economic sense.  If it never manages to pay for itself, the research will be a waste.   If it does pay for itself then the cost effective reactors may be very different from existing ones and the effort will, again, have been wasted.
  3. We live in a country where the government is always going to require you to get permission before you can build a nuclear reactor, so saying the magic words, “The moratorium is lifted!” makes no practical difference.  But I figure we may as well say the magic words just to make it clear the reason we don’t have nuclear power isn’t because they haven’t been uttered.

The problem with this report is not that the House of Representatives committee and I have a difference of opinion.  The problem is, only someone who has been whacked on the head with a graphite rod could look at the problems new nuclear power is experiencing around the world today and recommend Australia go ahead with it.

The problems have nothing to do with safety, nuclear waste, or security.  These issues are irrelevant because nuclear power can not pay for itself.  If it can’t do that, there is no point in worrying about the other issues and it is painfully clear new nuclear power makes no economic sense when renewables are now cheaper than coal power and continuing to fall in cost.

In the United Kingdom — the nuclear power possessing nation that is, embarrassingly, most similar to our own — they will pay 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for electrical energy from the under-construction Hinkley C reactors.  That’s three times its average cost in the Australian National Electricity Market this year and fives times its average price in 2015.

While Australia’s wholesale electricity prices are unusually high at the moment, they are not going to get three miles high on this island.  Thanks to the decreasing cost of renewable energy they are expected to trend downwards from their current high of one-third the cost of new nuclear energy in the UK.

Britain’s not the only place where new nuclear power is extremely expensive.  A similar price is required for it to be constructed in the US.  There have also been huge cost overruns building reactors in other countries, which include France and Finn’s land.  Because Australia doesn’t have an existing nuclear power industry it could be even more expensive here and, last time I checked, we didn’t have any magic pixie dust we could sprinkle on nuclear energy projects to make them cheaper or on our politicians to make them smarter.

To me, it seems this report is an expensive face-saving measure by Parliamentary supporters of nuclear power.  It makes no sense for this country given the current and decreasing cost of renewable energy, but they’re not willing to admit that.  They instead want to pretend nuclear power is a great idea for us but the reason it’s not going ahead is because it’s unpopular.  Hence the title, “Not without your approval”.  In other words, they are saying the Australian people aren’t smart enough to know a good thing when they see it and that’s the only reason why we’re not building nuclear reactors.

Well, I say screw you House of Representatives Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment and the plutonium powered pony you rode in on.  I felt that looking into nuclear power once again was a waste of time, but if you had investigated it and said

“Nuclear power is far too expensive to make sense for Australia.  If this changes and new reactors overseas produce electricity at a lower cost than renewables we can look into it again, but until that happens, forget about it.”

Then at least we’d know the system works.  We would be able to see that Parliamentary committees are able to look at the bleeding obvious and interpret it correctly.  But instead, they only looked at information they liked while avoiding asking the obvious question of — are modern reactors making enough money to cover the cost of their construction and operation?  Rather than do this, they took bits and pieces they picked from around the obvious question, turned them this way and that, and squinted until they were able to announce that it looked good — but the punters wouldn’t appreciate it and they’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.

They did this rather than admit what has been obvious for years now, that new nuclear will not pay for itself in Australia and, given the decreasing cost of renewable energy, it looks impossible for current nuclear designs to ever pay for themselves here.

By choosing to protect their egos rather than admit they were wrong, the nuclear energy supporters have sullied Parliament’s good…  well, they’ve sullied Parliament’s name.  I don’t expect anything run by humans to be perfect, but I really think we need a turn around in the ratio of sullying to pride inducing Parliamentary moments.

It’s A Long Report

The report is 214 pages.  It could have been a lot shorter.  I could have gotten it down to something like:

“Given that:

  1. The UK will be pay around 22 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money for electricity from the Hinkley C nuclear power plant, and…
  2. In the United States new nuclear capacity requires a similar price to proceed and nuclear plants have been abandoned while under construction because it became clear they would never pay for themselves.
  3. Australia has no advantages in building nuclear power stations while having the disadvantage of no existing nuclear power industry.

It is therefore not reasonable to believe we can build nuclear generating capacity for less than what it costs in the UK or USA.  Until reactors are built overseas that produce electricity at a cost that is competitive in Australia, the subject does not merit further consideration.

 

Additionally, given that:

  1. New reactors under construction in France and Finland have had long delays and are far over budget, indicating the high cost of new nuclear capacity is not confined to English speaking countries, and…
  2. No organization is offering to or wants to build a nuclear power station in Australia at a price we would find anywhere close to acceptable.The idea of nuclear power in Australia should be abandoned and only reviewed if there are major improvements in its economic viability.”That’s under 214 words while having the advantage of being correct.  The House of Representatives committee used 214 pages to come to the wrong conclusion.  But arriving at the right conclusion can’t be easy if you have no ability to smell bullshit in your own research.
  3. One Solar Panel Does Not Cause 0.8 Tonnes Of CO2 Emissions

    Take a look at this table included in the report, taken from a publication that advocates nuclear power:

Casually looking at that you might think CO2 emissions for both nuclear energy and solar PV are pretty low.  But if we stop for one minute and use basic mathematical ability that’s available to anyone who doesn’t have to take their socks off to count to 20, then we can see that a Parliamentary committee saw fit to include a table in an official report that gives ridiculous results.

Looking at their minimum figure for Solar PV (Utility scale), I see they are claiming a large solar farm will result in at least 18 grams of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour generated.  While generating electricity from PV doesn’t result in any emissions, they are involved in the manufacture of solar panels, so they aren’t completely emissions-free.  However, they are a lot bloody closer to emission free than this table suggests.

These days a typical standard sized solar panel is around 300 watts.  In a solar farm in Australia on a fixed mount it will generate around 12,300 kilowatt-hours over 25 years.  This means they are saying the solar panel will result in a minimum of 222 kilograms of CO2 emissions.  If we use their maximum figure it will result in 2.22 tonnes of CO2, all for a panel that weighs about 18 kilograms.   So they are saying manufacturing and installing one solar panel results in emissions equal to burning 80-800 or more kilograms of coal.

Jinko Solar, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, has a figure from 2017 of just 2.19 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour generated by a solar farm.  As this has been decreasing year by year it will be even lower now.  However, this is just for the solar panel and doesn’t include emissions from the construction of its ground mount or inverter, so I’ll double it to 4.4 grams.  This means the actual emissions per kilowatt-hour are probably less than the best figure on the table and more than 40 times less than the worst figure.  Even if we triple the Jinko figure it still comes to less than their median emissions for nuclear energy and less than 4% of their maximum figure for PV.

It’s clear the committee had no ability to detect figures that were bullshit — or they simply didn’t care.

Renewable Energy Increases The Cost Of Nuclear

Here is section 1.50 of the report:

Committee notes on renewable energy

I note the committee has failed to understand the economics of nuclear power if they think it works well with solar and wind energy.  This is because if a nuclear power station produces half the energy its capable of, it almost doubles the cost of that energy.  This is due to nuclear fuel being very cheap1 per kilowatt-hour, so very little money is saved by ramping down, while nearly all other costs remain the same.

This means nuclear power, which is already too expensive when operated in the most economical way — almost continuously at full normal power — becomes even more expensive when used in a grid with a significant amount of solar energy and/or wind power capacity.  Australia already has more than enough to adversely affect the economics of nuclear energy and, even if we approve and build a nuclear power station in one quarter the average time it has taken overseas this century, things will be much worse for its economics by the time it’s complete.

They Don’t Even Know Who Buys Our Coal

The report suggests South Korea could build nuclear power plants for us at low cost.  It’s a very strange conclusion because South Korea is the third largest importer of Australian coal.  You’d think if they could build nuclear reactors cheaply they wouldn’t get nearly three times as much energy from flammable rocks:

If you try breathing the air in South Korea you’ll soon wish they could build nuclear reactors at a lower cost than coal power, but unfortunately they can’t, and — as I’ve probably mentioned in other articles — Australia can build renewable generating capacity that supplies electricity at a lower cost than new coal power.  This includes the cost of firming the renewable energy so supply is always available.

It is amazing we have a Parliament dominated by a party obsessed with coal, but this committee can’t even get their head around the fact that the country that imports more of our coal per capita than any other nation isn’t likely to be in possession of the secret of cheaper than coal nuclear power.

Smaller Is Not Cheaper

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are suggested in the report as a way of making nuclear power economically viable.  The problem with this is they cost more per kilowatt than large ones.  This fact should not be a surprise to anyone.  The engineers who designed the large nuclear reactors in the world today are not idiots who are currently slapping their foreheads, saying, “I’m so stupid!  If only I had thought of making them smaller instead of bigger!”  Modern reactors are very large to keep their cost per kilowatt down.  Going small has the opposite effect.

That small reactors are not cheap is made obvious by the fact Britain, which has the longest history of nuclear power generation of any country, decided to power their new aircraft carriers with kerosene and diesel rather than small nuclear reactors because of they are so expensive.  This is despite the alternative being expensive oil products rather than much cheaper solar and wind energy.

An advantage given for SMRs is they will supposedly suffer from fewer cost overruns.  But that sales pitch is not enough to make nuclear energy economically attractive — pay for a more expensive product so you’ll have less of a chance of unpleasant surprise expenses down the line.2

They Want Money Wasted On More Reports

The report suggests we get people to write another report on how much nuclear power will cost here:

But I have a different suggestion.  A much cheaper one.  We just wait for another country to build and operate a nuclear power plant at a low enough cost that would be competitive in Australia.  Then we can look into it.

Better yet, to make sure they aren’t exaggerating how cheap their nuclear power is, we say:

“Hey, budget nuclear energy guys, how would you like to build a nuclear power station in Australia?  We give you nothing, but you get the market price for whatever electricity you sell.”

If they say, “nyet” or “bu shi” or “piss off” then we can suspect it’s not as cheap as they’re making it out to be.

If they say, “yes” then we can talk about how they’ll be required to insure it for a reasonable amount based on the costs of nuclear accidents that have occurred in the past.  While nuclear power is very safe, there must have been at least one or two minor little upsets.

Everyone Has To Love Nuclear Energy

The report says that social acceptance of nuclear power is necessary for it to go ahead.  So it’s not going to go ahead because that’s not going to happen.  Nuclear energy has turned out to be an economic disaster overseas, we have much cheaper alternatives, and now that I think about it there have been one or two major nuclear accidents overseas that have left a bad impression.

There was a problem with a nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan.  The Japanese Government estimated the cost at around $270 billion dollars.  As our government is currently willing to spend around $4.5 million to save an Australian life through public health and safety measures, if we lost that amount of money it would represent around 60,000 Australian lives that potentially could have been saved with it.

Since nuclear power — at the costs we see overseas — is only going to increase electricity bills, and we have far cheaper ways to reduce emissions that are quicker to deploy, and because Australians aren’t in love with a very very small chance of a nuclear accident that has a very high cost, there will never be acceptance for nuclear power in this country.  Not in its current form.  But be sure to let me know when a DeLorean compatible Mr Fusion becomes available.

I’m guessing the entire section on social acceptance is only in the report so when nuclear power doesn’t get built, its supporters can say, “It’s the fault of normal Australians for not believing in the nuclear economic viability fairy hard enough”, rather than admit they themselves were wrong.

The Moratorium Means Nothing

Currently there is a moratorium on nuclear power in Australia.  This means you’re not allowed to build it without special permission from the government.  Well, guess what?  In this country you are never going to be allowed to build a nuclear reactor without permission from the government.  That’s just the way it is.  I know it’s a terrible infringement of our right to build nuclear reactors in our backyards and squash courts.  But on the other hand, it does support our right not to live next door to someone who’s building a nuclear reactor in their backyard, so I could go either way on this one.

The report suggests scrapping the moratorium or partially lifting it.  I’m not sure what partially lifting it means.  Maybe you have to ask for permission but you don’t have to say pretty please or maybe it just means they won’t be too worried if you have an eye patch, a cool scar, and introduce yourself as “The Jackal”.

Because the moratorium doesn’t really mean anything, there may not be any harm in lifting it and shutting up a few idiots who think the only reason nuclear power isn’t currently under construction in this country is because the government hasn’t muttered the magic words, “The moratorium is lifted!”  So they may as well say moratorium leviosa and be done with it.

It’s not as if nuclear power is going to be built in this country one way or the other.  Supporters will soon discover no one’s lining up to build reactors even with our current high wholesale electricity prices.  The only way they will get built is with very substantial subsidies and the government is too busy trying to keep coal power afloat while Australia burns to waste its energy subsidising nuclear.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Catastrophic weather in Australia does not influence its climate denialist government

 

Time is running out for a climate adaptation plan, Independent Australia

By Chad Satterlee | 30 November 2019  While the climate-deniers in power continue to burn our country, they still have no contingency plan to help those affected, writes Chad Satterlee.

THE POSSIBILITY that the effects of climate change could be more extreme and materialise much sooner than expected was never hypothetical. At the end of the last ice age, it is estimated that temperatures in some regions of the world spiked between five and 15 degrees celsius in just a few decades.


Catastrophic
 climate conditions have already arrived in Australia. With a growing sense that the events of the last few weeks could be the new normal, dealing with the immediate effects of climate change may take increasing priority over historically unsuccessful emissions reduction efforts.

It is striking that Australia has no unified climate adaptation plan.

Our bushfires are escalating in number and intensity. Given this reality, leaving individuals to enact their own bushfire survival plans again and again seems inadequate. In light of successive governments upholding policies designed to discourage asylum seekers from risking their lives at sea, where is the plan to permanently move residents out of areas surrounded by highly flammable material?  …..

These are just a few matters of relevance, before we even get to responses to heat stress (cooler living spaces), or the erratic intensity of droughts (innovative measures to ensure food and water security), storms (systematic storm-proofing of property) and floods (moving communities to higher ground where necessary).

All of this will require a great deal of resources and coordination. While governments, both State and Federal, have been much too slow to act, politicians interested in keeping their jobs could conceivably be motivated to do so by increasingly engaged voters.

At the same time, the market has failed to respond anywhere near adequately and it is hard to see it doing so. The private sector-led installation of the flood-proofing infrastructure Brisbane needs is nowhere to be seen.

When warmer temperatures melt arctic ice, sun-reflecting white layers on that ice disappear, causing more heat to be absorbed by darker surfaces, a further rise in temperature and a further melting of ice. A number of chain reactions operate like this in the climate system. There could be many more that have not yet been discovered and that could behave in unanticipated ways.

Under some scenarios, changes could be so rapid that even attempts to adapt could become impractical. We haven’t a moment to lose. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/time-is-running-out-for-a-climate-adaptation-plan,13365

December 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, politics | Leave a comment

Sir David Attenborough shocked at Australian government’s disdain for climate action

Sir David Attenborough hits out at the federal government over climate position,

 https://www.sbs.com.au/news/sir-david-attenborough-hits-out-at-the-federal-government-over-climate-position   Sir David Attenborough has taken another swipe at the Australian government’s climate policies, expressing his shock at the government’s hesitation to link recent extreme weather with global warming.

December 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment

Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment  https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/rudd-says-assange-faces-unacceptable-and-disproportionate-punishment-20191125-p53duj.html By Rob Harris, Kevin Rudd says Julian Assange would pay an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” price if he is extradited to the United States, arguing the WikiLeaks founder should not take the fall for Washington’s failures to secure its own classified documents.

In a significant intervention into Mr Assange’s extradition fight, the former Australian prime minister said US prosecutors had not made any specific allegations that anyone was seriously harmed as a consequence of the release of highly classified documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010.

The Morrison government is resisting a rising tide of demands to intervene in the case of the 48-year-old Australian citizen, as his supporters grow increasingly concerned over his deteriorating health in a British prison.

Mr Rudd, himself targeted in WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables nine years ago, said while he had “serious reservations” about Mr Assange’s character and conduct, he did not believe he should be extradited to face an “effective life sentence” in the US.

In a letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Rudd said he could not see the difference between Mr Assange and the editors of many American media outlets that reported the material he had provided them.  

“If [the US prosecutors’] case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information,” Mr Rudd wrote.

“In other words, why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?”

The group was briefed by barrister Jen Robinson, a member of Mr Assange’s London legal team, as well as Greg Barns from the Australian Assange Campaign and human rights and due process advocate Aloysia Brooks.

Mr Rudd said he was “deeply opposed” to the leaking of classified diplomatic or intelligence communications, which needed to be protected to maintain Australia’s national security interests and that of its allies.

“Ultimate responsibility for keeping sensitive information secure rests with governments. The United States government demonstrably failed to effectively secure the classified documents relevant to this case,” he wrote.

“The result was the mass leaking of sensitive diplomatic cables, including some that caused me some political discomfort at the time. However, an effective life sentence is an unacceptable and disproportionate price to pay. I would therefore oppose his extradition.”

More than 60 doctors from the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Sri Lanka, wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday asserting that Mr Assange urgently needs medical treatment at a university hospital.

The doctors said in a letter, distributed by WikiLeaks on Monday, that he was suffering from psychological problems including depression as well as dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

Mr Barns welcomed Mr Rudd’s intervention saying his comments, like his former colleague Bob Carr, rightly pointed to the threat to freedom of the media.

“The Australian government and all MPs we hope will place pressure on the US to make it understand that the treatment of an Australian citizen this way is not something that should happen,” Mr Barns said.

“Mr Rudd and Mr Carr could never be described as anti-Washington but they clearly understand the need for Canberra to take action to prevent this gross injustice.”

Mr Assange will return to court briefly next month before a full hearing of a US extradition request in which he faces a 175-year jail sentence if found guilty on 18 charges relating to computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Appeal from former political prisoner to Australia’s Prime Minister to help Julian Assange

“This is how diplomacy works,”   “You can pick up the phone, Mr Morrison, and speak with whoever the United Kingdom’s next prime minister is; requesting that Julian Assange not be extradited to the United States to face the very real possibility, if not the certainty, that he will die in prison.”   at right, Prime Minister Morrison

Former political prisoner pleads for Scott Morrison to not let Assange ‘die in jail’, The Age By Rob Harris, Filmmaker James Ricketson, who spent 15 months as a political prisoner in a Cambodian jail, has implored Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “pick up the phone” to his British counterpart to ensure Julian Assange does not die in prison.

There are growing fears for the psychical and mental health of the 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder, who is in a London prison fighting an extradition request to the United States, where he faces espionage charges relating to the release of classified files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In an open letter to Mr Morrison, Mr Ricketson has joined a “rising tide of voices” in support of Australian government intervention to bring Mr Assange back to Australia before full extradition proceedings in February.

“The evidence that Julian Assange is not being ‘treated fairly’ in accordance with UK law is now overwhelming, as is evidence of the psychological torture he is being subjected to in Belmarsh Prison,” Mr Ricketson writes.

“If Julian Assange does die in prison, will you, with a clear Christian conscience, be able to inform the Australian public, in all honesty, that you did all within your power (and more) to protect Assange’s legal and human rights.”

Mr Ricketson was arrested and charged with espionage in June 2017 for flying a drone over an anti-government rally in Phnom Penh. He was held in the notoriously overcrowded Prey Sar prison for 15 months until he was pardoned by Cambodian authorities.

The filmmaker said it was former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who intervened to secure his release, despite the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s insistence that it could not interfere with another country’s legal proceedings.

“This is how diplomacy works,” he writes. “You can pick up the phone, Mr Morrison, and speak with whoever the United Kingdom’s next prime minister is; requesting that Julian Assange not be extradited to the United States to face the very real possibility, if not the certainty, that he will die in prison.”

A newly formed federal cross-party parliamentary group, comprising 11 MPs dedicated to advocating for the return of Mr Assange, will meet formally for the first time on Monday in Canberra. ….

Mr Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne have repeatedly ruled out any intervention in the case, with the PM saying last month he believed Mr Assange should “face the music” in court.

The former Australian high commissioner to Britain earlier this month mocked the idea of Mr Morrison acting on calls from Mr Assange’s supporters to do all he could to bring him home from Belmarsh Prison, where he has been held since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, which gave him asylum for almost seven years. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/former-political-prisoner-pleads-for-scott-morrison-to-not-let-assange-die-in-jail-20191124-p53dks.html

November 25, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment