Friday, 19 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
The Federal Government has ruled out a deep cut to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, believing the world will not get its act together on climate change soon.
- Emission cuts 15% at most
- Emissions trading to start July 2010
- Business gets many free permits
- Power, coal to get $4 billion aid
- Electricity and gas bills to rise about $6 a week
The government has set an absolute maximum cut to emissions of 15% by 2020 - if the world signs an effective climate pact - in its greenhouse plan released today.
If no pact is signed, Australia will go with an unconditional 5% cut in emissions, compared with 1990 levels.
''We are not going to make promises that cannot be delivered,'' Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the National Press Club as he launched his plan. 'We are starting the scheme with appropriate and responsible targets, targets that are broadly consistent with other developed countries.''
These targets, though, fly in the face of calls from scientists for countries to slash their emissions by 25% to 40% to avert catastrophic climate change.
''Basically there's a massive credibility deficit in the government on its own assessment of the national interests," said John Connor CEO of the Climate Institute. "It's crumbled to the polluter's interests.''
''We're ripping the heart out of momentum for a strong global deal,'' Mr Connor said.
For their part, businesses will remain apprehensive about emissions trading while the global financial ''firestorm'' continues, said Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson, adding that a compensation package worth more than $1 billion to help business and community groups adjust to emissions trading was ``not a bad idea''.
Mr Rudd's target compares with the Europe Union's decision agreed over the weekend to cut emissions 20% by 2020.
Incoming US President Barack Obama has also pledged to introduce a so-called cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions, and promised to add US backing for talks on a global accord to combat climate change set for completion next year.
ANZ Bank economist Julie Toth said Australia's emissions reduction targets have been "watered down significantly.''
''Interestingly, the compensation measures are still significant although the target is much smaller, she said.
''Certainly it means that if the government is going to meet its commitment by 2050 of a cut of 60%, there will have to be some very large cuts further out,'' said Ms Toth.
"It does look like at first cut, they're leaving the harder decisions and the hard work to a later generation."
Australia's targets will enrage conservationists, but the government says it's unlikely the world can forge a strong greenhouse agreement so its targets are realistic.
Indeed, Mr Rudd was subjected to heckling by a female protester at the launch of the emissions trading scheme.
The female protester, believed to be a member of a Newcastle-based group, screamed ''No!'' as Mr Rudd began announcing details of the emissions target. She was removed from the Press Club launch. Separately, a group of protesters is occupying the PM's electorate office in Brisbane.
The unconditional 5% target was equal to a 27% reduction in carbon pollution for each Australian from 2000 to
2020, Mr Rudd said.
''I believe ... that we must remain ambitious for a long-term target for the planet of (an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of) 450 parts per million because that is relevant to Australia,'' he told the Press Club.
''A fair and effective global agreement delivering deep cuts in emissions ... would be in Australia's interests,'' the plan says.
''Achieving global commitment to emissions reductions of this order appears unlikely in the next commitment period.''
The Government has also heeded business concerns about emissions trading, the main mechanism for reducing pollution which will start in July 2010. Business fears have intensified in the wake of the global financial crisis.
''The lobbying from all groups has been intense. And it does look as though groups lobbying for smaller cuts have won out,'' the ANZ's Ms Toth said.
Business groups, though, say the plan will be challenging, particularly the July 2010 start date for emissions trading.
''These challenges for business will be exacerbated by the fact they will have to be met at a time when businesses are being called on to manage their way through an unparalleled global economic crisis and unprecedented domestic economic uncertainty,'' said Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout in a statement.
''For businesses, training personnel and putting in place the internal systems required for a 2010 start will be challenging,'' Ms Ridout said. ''This is especially so in view of the lack of certainty about the international response and huge uncertainty about the prospects for the world economy in both the near and medium term.''
Power, coal industries get $4 billion
The scheme will now be much more generous to business. Straight off the blocks, the scheme will hand about $4 billion to the coal and power industry to compensate it for efforts to tackle climate change. Electricity generators will get about $3 billion, with coal producers receiving about $750 million, according to the Australian Coal Association.
More businesses will receive free pollution permits than the government first planned, and they will get more of them. By 2020, almost half the permits in the system will be given to business for free.
''We've had brutal lobbying from some sectors of business," said Mr Connor of the Climate Institute, speculating on the weakened reduction targets contained in the white paper.
''The most disheartening thing is that many businesses were actually coming out for stronger targets'' before the white paper was released.
''They recognise that in a context of a global deal, 25% and 450 parts per million, we'd have a number of sectoral agreement and flexibility mechanisms which would be much smoother than a 550ppm, 10%-15%-based agreement."
"But in this package, we've had a dramatic increase in free permits for trade-exposed exporters and a reduction in energy efficiency and other requirement for them."
"We've basically blown out the capacity for the economy to deliver significant cuts by wrapping our biggest polluters in cotton wool.''
'High risks' for business
ACCI'S Peter Anderson said the state of the global economy meant businesses were ill-placed to carry additional costs.
''(I)t does beg the basic question and that is whether or not these costs can be borne by business in the first place at a time when Australia is going through an international economic firestorm,'' Mr Anderson told ABC Television.
''We need to come through that economic firestorm with a strong economy and placing domestic stress on the economy is going to just make that more difficult.''
Mr Anderson says the process remains a ''high risk'' for businesses that will face transition costs and new technology costs.
Prime Minister Mr Rudd said the economy would be able to cope with the impost.
''Treasury modelling demonstrates that we can deliver on this 5 to 15 per cent commitment while maintaining solid economic growth.''
Some households will also receive generous compensation for the scheme, which the government says will push up electricity and gas bills by $6 a week. Electricity prices will rise by 18% and gas prices by 12%.
Pensioners, seniors, carers and people on the dole will get an increase to their payments which are worth more than the cost increases. All up, the government is offering $30 billion over five years.
Ms Toth of the ANZ Bank said she was surprised the government's planned compensations to households was unchanged. "I'm just wondering if it's necessary given that cuts are only 5%."
The reduction to the fuel excise tax, promised in July amid surging petrol prices, has also been kept intact, she said. "One wonders if that is really necessarily."
"The main changes is that the cuts will be much smaller. If the government is going to maintain its commitment to a 60% cut to 2000 levels by 2050, there will still need to be some significant cuts and significant changes further out.''
Other low-income households will be fully compensated for the costs, partly through a small tax cut.
Middle-income households will also get compensation, which in most cases will fully cover the costs of emissions trading.
Free permits for many
The emissions trading scheme will give so much compensation and so many free permits to business that there is little money left over for other measures, such as energy efficiency, critics say.
Greenpeace climate campaign coordinator John Hepburn said the government's minimum target of 5% by 2020 is totally unacceptable.
''Mr Rudd has betrayed the science, betrayed the community and betrayed the next generation who will have to live with climate change impacts,'' he said. ''He has caved in to the bullying tactics of the coal and other polluting industries.''
While experts such as climate adviser Ross Garnaut called for some of the revenue to be used to cut emissions, almost all the revenue will be churned back to households and businesses.
The scheme is expected to earn about $12 billion a year; the government has promised all of this will go towards helping Australians adjust.
Of the $12 billion, about $10 billion will go for compensation and free permits. Some $700 million goes for energy efficiency measures.
In terms of how the scheme will work, as expected, petrol will be effectively excluded from the scheme for the first three years, and agriculture for the first five years. Emissions from logging will not be counted.
The government thinks the carbon price will start at $25 a tonne. A price cap will be set for the first five years, starting at $40 a tonne.
Australia will be able to buy carbon permits from overseas.
Emissions trading is expected to cause a spike in inflation of 1.1%.
Details of assistance:
- Pensioners, seniors and carers receive $382 for singles, and $320 each for couples.
- Jobless to receive $307 for singles, and $276 each for couples.
- Low and middle income families assisted by increases in the family tax benefit and an increase in tax offsets.
- A typical family, earning $60,000 with two kids, will receive $1,037 in assistance.
- Low income households that don't benefit from other measures to receive $500 per adult.
Details of emissions trading plans
- Cap-and-trade trading mechanism sets a price for the right to generate carbon pollution.
- Initial starting price estimated at $25 per tonne of carbon, capped at $40 a tonne, increasing annually by 5 per cent above inflation until 2014-15.
- Companies buy or are given free permits, which are tradable.
- Number of tradable carbon pollution permits will be equal to the cap, which is the limit on aggregate annual emissions.
- No limit on emissions from individual sectors - firms or facilities and companies are free to emit at whatever level they choose.
- Companies surrender permits for each tonne of carbon they emit.
- Scheme due to start in July 2010.
Sunday, 16 November 2008
'Jelly balls' may slow global warming
VAST numbers of marine "jelly balls" now appearing off the Australian east coast could be part of the planet's mechanism for combating global warming.
The jellyfish-like animals are known as salps and their main food is phytoplankton (marine algae) which absorbs the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the top level of the ocean. This in turn comes from the atmosphere.
Mark Baird of the CSIRO said salps were notoriously difficult for scientists to study in the laboratory and consequently little attention has been paid to their ecological role until recently.
Dr Baird was part of a CSIRO and University of NSW marine survey last month that found a massive abundance of salps in the waters around Sydney. They were up to 10 times what they were when first surveyed 70 years ago.
Different salp species are found around the world and attention is now being paid to what effect they might have on global warming.
They are also of interest because in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica they are thought to be displacing krill, which is a key food source for many marine animals, including filter-feeding whales such as the southern right and humpback. By eating the algae, the salps turn the algae and their carbon dioxide into faeces which drops to the ocean floor. They also take carbon to the floor with them when they die after a life cycle as short as only a couple of weeks.
This is thought to be a natural form of carbon sequestration similar to what scientists are trying to do with carbon capture from emission sources such as power stations.
Dr Baird said Australian salps, which grow to about half a centimetre, are biologically closer to vertebrates such as humans than to jellyfish because they have the rudiments of a primitive nervous system.
"They are interesting because they are the fastest reproducing multi-celled animal on the planet and can double their numbers several times a day."
Salps had in the past been considered of little interest because they had fairly low nutrient value and were insignificant as a food source.
He said this was a concern because as the Antarctic ice melted, they were replacing krill, which is a high-nutrient food.
Friday, 12 September 2008
WorldofGood.com by eBay is the world’s first online marketplace to convene thousands of People Positive and Eco Positive sellers and products all in one place, empowering you to shop in ways that align with your personal values. Respected, independent organizations verify the positive impact every product has on people and the planet. Our goal is to ensure that every choice you make here is a good one.
Most consumers probably associate eBay more with vintage lunch boxes and low-priced electronics than with laptop bags made from recycled plastic by women in New Delhi.
The online auction operator is trying to change that perception with WorldofGood.com, a web site due to launch today to sell goods produced with social and environmental goals in mind.
EBay developed the site with World of Good, a startup focused on “ethical supply chains” behind consumer products, and licensed the group’s name for the marketplace. World of Good will get a share of the revenue from the site, which had been operating for the past six months as an online community focused on the social impact of business.
The site will sell fixed-price goods that purportedly have some positive effect on people and the planet. The goal is to help consumers align their social values with their shopping decisions, WorldofGood.com general manager Robert Chatwani said.
Shoppers will be able to search for products by certain social or environmental categories, revealing, for example, a photo of the man who produced the fair-trade coffee you’re interested in buying, details of its origins and whether some of the proceeds support a charitable cause.
Independent third-party organisations like Rainforest Alliance and Co-op America will screen sellers and verify the items listed on the site.
“We really want consumers to drill down into the detail of what’s behind that product,” Chatwani said.
Already the market for products that emphasize social and environmental awareness is growing. Chatwani cited the Natural Marketing Institute’s estimate that the US. market for such goods was $US209 billion in 2005, and the group projects that will rise to $420 billion in 2010.
And while there are plenty of places to buy such items already, eBay and its 84.5 million active users might dramatically increase awareness for artisans. WorldofGood.com items will also be cross-listed on eBay proper, blended into standard search results.
The arrangement drew praise from Roberto Milk, chief executive of Novica, which works with artisans around the world to sell their home decor items on eBay. The National Geographic Society owns a stake in the company.
Novica has sold things on eBay since 1999, but given the enormous nature of the site, “nobody knows we’re on eBay,” he said. This could change with additional sales on WorldofGood.com, where Novica will sell items it has either bought or taken on consignment.
“All our artisans really need is exposure,” he said.
As on eBay, sellers on WorldofGood.com will pay fees to list items and give eBay a commission on successful sales. All transactions will be made through eBay’s electronic payment system, PayPal. At launch, the site will have several hundred sellers, including many merchants who are also current eBay sellers.
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
To keep up to speed on what's going on in the environmental thinking
you can watch speeches on TED (Technology Entertainment Design)
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading: A Greener Future
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Vague 'eco-friendly' claims are increasingly incurring the wrath of regulators. So what's a company with a green message to do?
$427 million. That's what the oil and coal industries spent during the first half of 2008 on lobbying and advertising. They're protecting their interests -- and hurting ours.
So we've got a new ad that tells the truth about what needs to be done -- demanding that our leaders FREE US from an addiction to expensive fossil fuels.
Watch it here.
It's running on TV right now, but we need millions more to see it. The special interests will outspend us, but we can compete head-to-head with them when we find ways to share these messages for free.
That's why I'm asking We members in all 50 states -- from Oklahoma to Ohio, from Minnesota to Mississippi, from New York to North Carolina, and all the rest -- to watch this ad and share it with their friends.
Let's spread the word. It's time to Repower America with 100% clean electricity in 10 years.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Green Pages began in 2005, launching Australia's first print and online directory listing of sustainable products and services. Starting with an annual directory, Green Pages has grown to; 3 Quarterly Magazines, a Lifestyle Directory, a Business Directory plus an online portal of sustainable news and products. The Directory itself has grown to include over 7000 listings and is distributed national at all good bookstores, newsagencies, green & sustainable festivals and various green businesses.
Green Pages is dedicated to being the leading provider of information for businesses and consumers who are looking to go green.
Founder & Executive Director
Katie began her career as an environmental engineer and project manager for commercial and residential construction projects. She has been involved in environmental advocacy and policy development through her role as Vice Chair of the Property Council Sustainability Committee and her position on the board of Good Environmental Choice Australia. She is a regular media commentator on environmental business issues and a contributor for The Age newspaper.
Katie has a fundamental objective to grow the commercial market share of products that are good for the environment and she is also a passionate advocate of the involvement of the creative arts and design in furthering the concept of "green" as a landmark brand.
Located in the vibrant hub of Surry Hills (home of the Green Pages), the new Surry Hills Community Centre is set to be a grand green addition to the sustainably minded suburb. The anticipated 5 storey building will incorporate a library, community centre, a green roof, photovoltaic cells and has aims to achieve a 5 star Green Building Council Association Rating.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Green Vehicle Guide is a great Australian Government website that allow you to determine how green your current vehicle or one your wishing to buy is. Great to see this useful site being put up by government.
It provides a green rating for most vehicles manufactured post 2000 including fuel efficiency and pollution ratings.
The good think about it, is that all tests are independant, so they are not fuel efficiency claim by the manufacturer, but rather ratings developed through accurate independant analysis. A must see site.
For overseas readers, the site is still very useful and includes many imported vehicles.
For more information go to www.goget.com.au
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Help make organic waste a thing of the past.
Here is great site that provides information into worm farming. Worm farming allows you to naturally decompose common household waste ranging from fruit and veges to vaccum cleaner waste. Its easy, safe and friendly to the environment.
It prevents organic waste from filling land fill and has the bonus of provifding you with free fertiliser for soils. Watch your plants grow!!!
Australian Community Foods is a non-profit community service supporting organisations who work to increase our access to healthy, local food.
The main feature of this site is a geographic search and matching service. You can search for wholesome food near you by either browsing the State listings shown under each organisation, or use the geographic search form to find all listings near your particular location.
Friday, 8 August 2008
This is a great site for those wanting home delivered organic foods. The site itself could do with some work, but the staff at Doorstep are friendly and the produce of much better quality than what you will find anywhere else! Here is an excerpt from their site (by the way the "Mixed Boxes" are a must and best value way to buy vegetables and fruit)!:
Doorstep Organics is Australia's original online Organic Food Home Delivery Service. We deliver to all Sydney and Wollongong suburbs and continue our deliveries all the way down to Berry on the South Coast. We sell a complete range of Certified Organic groceries and stock a range of essential groceries for your convenience.
We believe our quality is unmatched as we source our fruit & vegetables from a variety of small organic farms around Australia.
We are so confident of our quality and service we offer you a 25% discount on any fresh produce purchased in your first order*.
*not cumulative with any other offer or discount.
Green TECH 3rd Australian International Trade Show and ConferenceMore Information
Green TECH 08 is proud to present its 3rd Australian International Trade Show and Conference, with a core focus on green building, sustainable design and clean technology.
Friday 15 August to Sunday 17 August 2008
Facing Waste: Australia at a crossroadsMore Information
Australia's waste policies are at the crossroads.
Friday 15 August 2008
Live Green 2008More Information
For all the ideas you need to green your life, head to Live Green, a free event on Sunday 17 August from 10am – 4pm at Victoria Park in Camperdown.
Sunday 17 August 2008
SWAP MY STYLE - VIP Designer Swap-Shopping Night in SydneyMore Information
Swap My Style, the latest craze in “swap-shopping” is holding its very first VIP Designer Fashion Swap set to take place in Sydney on August 27th, 2008 at The Hilton Hotel’s chic Zeta Bar.
Wednesday 27 August 2008
Sustainable House Day 2008More Information
As part of the 7th annual Sustainable House Day, homes across the country will open so others can learn and experience the benefits of all aspects of sustainable living!
Saturday 13 September to Sunday 14 September 2008
Carbon Solutions ForumMore Information
Ethical Investor in partnership with WWF presents its 2nd annual conference and exhibition showcasing strategies and solutions for reducing business carbon intensity.
Monday 22 September to Tuesday 23 September 2008
Greenfest Southbank 2008More Information
Greenfest is Brisbane’s free green festival and a place for fresh energy, it is about full community participation in creativity, new ideas and working together to win the race against climate change . Dr Jane Goodall will open the festival on 10th Oct.
Friday 10 October to Sunday 12 October 2008
Save Water Save Energy ExpoMore Information
Green building products, solar hws & heating, rain tanks, grey water systems, energy efficient appliances and lighting, water savers, and much more.
Friday 17 October to Sunday 19 October 2008
Saturday, 2 August 2008
Your Eco Handbook by Grahame Barrett, Paul Payten & Steve Goldsmith
Your Eco Handbook puts the commonsense back into the debate surrounding global warming and achieving a sustainable future.
This no-nonsense guide is practical and easy to follow, offering realistic solutions to how we can all make changes - at home and in the office - to help save our planet.
From cars to home heating, appliances, ethical investments, water, waste and even your wellbeing, learn how changing the simple things in your life can make a difference.
About the authors
Grahame Barrett is a consultant and mentor, with special interests in sustainability, leadership, strategy facilitation, human, organisational and relationship capital management, change management and mentoring.
Paul Payten is an associate of the national consultancy EcoSTEPS - Sustainability Partner, and in his own business GEENI (Global Ecology and Educational Networking Interface). His focus is on effectively relating to others while working with government, corporate and community environments.
Steve Goldsmith is a graphic designer with a background in architecture. A qualified psychotherapist, he also supports green projects and is assisting two organisations that offer leadership training and conflict resolution work in Africa.
Sponsored by PKF Chartered Accountants & Business Advisers, the book is available from all good bookstores. RRP $19.95.
Order direct from the Herald on 1300 656 059 or click here.
The world has been cooling since 1998.
Temperatures have been going up and down slightly, but the clear trend is upwards. Since regular temperature records began in 1850, 12 of the past
13 years have been the hottest on record. Air samples from bubbles trapped in ancient ice, and cross-checked with other samples, show temperatures are rising faster than at any time since modern humans appeared.
The world is getting warmer but we don't know the real cause.
The causes of global warming are not absolutely certain, but the overwhelming majority of researchers, working independently in different parts of the world and using different models, have been coming to the same conclusions for two decades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reached the conclusion that it is "very likely" that human activity is the main cause of climate change; that is, there is a certainty "greater than 90 per cent". Few scientific theories approach that level of certainty.
Climate change is caused by solar activity.
Changes in radiation from the sun affect Earth's climate, as do oscillations in the Earth's orbit. But since the 1970s, when temperatures increasingly rose beyond norms, both the sun's energy output and the Earth's orbit have been stable. In any case, solar activity is included in climate models.
There is no consensus among scientists.
There is clear and growing consensus in the world scientific community, and in Australia, that human activity is the main driver of climate change, and that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is the only way of slowing it. This is now the view of all the world's leading national science academies and institutes. This does not constitute a unanimous view, however, with a small minority of scientists in relevant fields believing it is too early to be sure.
Why believe long-term predictions when meteorologists cannot even say if it will rain next week?
Climatology takes a step back from day-to-day weather prediction and looks at longer-term patterns. Numerous independent studies have concluded that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases put into the atmosphere by humans are the new variable causing climate change. Climate models have been repeatedly tested and shown to accurately simulate climate scenarios.
Human emissions are smaller than natural emissions, so cannot be blamed for climate change.
Rotting vegetation releases far more greenhouse gases than does human activity, but those emissions are absorbed by an equal amount of growing vegetation and by the oceans. The new element in this closed system is the extra carbon humans are removing from underground coal, oil and gas reserves and putting into the atmosphere.
Scientists are worried about losing funding, so they toe the government line.
There is no evidence that undertaking research on climate change leads to government funding being cut or boosted. In Australia, the system is relatively transparent, with public funding for climate-change work being assessed alongside all other research work, and grants made based on quality of research, not on conclusions. When research is funded by private industry, the process can be less transparent. Much university research does not receive any outside funding.
Climate sceptics are being silenced.
Advocates of this claim are yet to come up with evidence. Many Australian scientific researchers on climate change have told the Herald that the views of "climate sceptics" are given more prominence in the media than their numbers and arguments merit.
Global warming scepticism is being manipulated by tactics reminiscient of an earlier campaign of denial, writes David McKnight.
When the tobacco industry was feeling the heat from scientists who showed smoking caused cancer, it took decisive action, engaging in a decades-long public relations campaign to undermine the medical research and discredit the scientists.
The aim was not to prove tobacco harmless but to cast doubt on the science. In the space provided by doubt, billions of dollars in sales could continue. Delay and doubt were crucial products of its PR campaign.
In May, the multibillion-dollar oil giant Exxon Mobil acknowledged it had been doing something similar. It said it would cease funding nine groups that had fuelled a global campaign to deny climate change.
Exxon's decision came after a shareholder revolt by members of the Rockefeller family and big superannuation funds to get the company to take climate change more seriously. Exxon (once Standard Oil) was founded by John D. Rockefeller.
Brad Miller, chairman of the US House of Representatives oversight committee on science and technology, last year said Exxon's support for sceptics "appears to be an effort to distort public discussion". The funding of an array of think tanks and institutes which house climate sceptics and deniers also worried Britain's premier scientific body, the Royal Society. It found that in 2005, Exxon distributed nearly $3 million to 39 groups which "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change". Its protests helped force Exxon's recent retreat.
The chief scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Dr Jim Salinger, knows all about misrepresentation. Two months ago, an Exxon-funded group, the Heartland Institute, said his work undermined the theory that burning carbon was a cause of global warming.
The Heartland Institute - essentially a free-market lobby group - emphasises "the climate is always changing". It is a theme common to many climate change deniers who talk about a so-called Little Ice Age (1300-1900) and Medieval Warm Period (800-1200). Salinger's research studied variation in climate, so it was enrolled in the denial campaign.
Climate variations were normal, Salinger said, but this did not weaken conclusions about the dangers of burning oil and coal. "Global warming is real," he said, and demanded reference to his work be removed. The institute refused. The Heartland Institute received almost $800,000 from Exxon, according to Greenpeace research based on Exxon's corporate donation disclosures.
Another regular of the PR campaign is the Oregon Petition, which urges US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and claims there is "no convincing scientific evidence" for global warming. It has been cited by climate sceptics such as the Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt among others. It is said to be signed by 31,000 graduates most of whom appear to have nothing to do with climate science.
The petition originated in 1998 with Frederick Seitz, a 1960s president of the US National Academy of Sciences (and a 1970s tobacco consultant) and was accompanied by a purported review of the science co-published by the George C Marshall Institute. This institute received at least $715,000 from Exxon Mobil over the past 10 years.
Claims about the world cooling, not warming, are common in the world of deniers. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, referred to this possibility recently. In his book Heat, George Monbiot gives the example of the TV presenter and botanist, David Bellamy, who is also a climate sceptic. He told the New Scientist in 2005 that most glaciers in the world were growing, not shrinking. He said his evidence came from the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Switzerland, a reputable body. When Monbiot checked the service, they said Bellamy's claim was "complete bullshit". The world's glaciers are retreating.
When pressed, Bellamy pointed to a website, iceagenow.com, which claims we are heading for a new ice age. Last week, it published an article that stated that last month, the American Physical Society had "reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming". This is stunning. Global warming is all about physics and the society is the premier body of US physicists. A check with its website showed the opposite. Prominent was a press release reaffirming that the evidence for global warming was "incontrovertible". Once again, a sceptic website was simply lying.
In Australia, the main body trying to undermine the science of global warming is the Lavoisier Group. It maintains a website with links to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (more than $2 million from Exxon), the Science and Environmental Policy Project ($20,000) and the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide (at least $100,000). The Competitive Enterprise Institute returns the compliment to Lavoisier in its publication, which praised the group for its work in defeating the Kyoto protocol. Lavoisier, it said, "provides the principal intellectual and organisational opposition in Australia to Kyoto". Its sources of funding are not public.
The Lavoisier group is certainly influential in the Federal Opposition. During the Howard years, a senior figure in the group told Guy Pearse, author of High & Dry, a study of climate policy in Australia, there was "an understanding in cabinet that all the science is crap".
The Lavoisier board includes former mining executives Ray Evans and Ian Webber, the latter a former chief executive of Mitsubishi, and Harold Clough, whose companies include a provider of services to the oil and gas industries. Its president is the former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh.
There are at least three other reasons the oil companies' PR campaign has had success for climate change deniers. First, the implications of the science are frightening. Shifting to renewable energy will be costly and disruptive. Second, doubt is an easy product to sell. Climate denial tells us what we all secretly want to hear. Third, science is portrayed as political orthodoxy rather than objective knowledge, a curiously postmodern argument.
The tide slowly turned on tobacco denial and the science finally was accepted. Some people still choose to smoke and some pay a price for it.
But climate is different. There are no "smoke-free areas" on the planet. Climate denial may turn out to be the world's most deadly PR campaign.
David McKnight is an associate professor at the University of NSW. He researches media, including public relations, and is the author of Beyond Right And Left: New Politics And The Culture Wars.
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
Monday, 14 July 2008
By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor and Urmee Khan
George Bush surprised world leaders with a joke about his poor record on the environment as he left the G8 summit in Japan.
George Bush proves to be quite an entertainer
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.
Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.
One official who witnessed the extraordinary scene said afterwards: "Everyone was very surprised that he was making a joke about America's record on pollution."
Mr Bush also faced criticism at the summit after Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, was described in the White House press pack given to journalists as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice".
The White House apologised for what it called "sloppy work" and said an official had simply lifted the characterisation from the internet without reading it.
Concluding the three-day event, leaders from the G8 and developing countries proclaimed a "shared vision" on climate change. However, they failed to bridge differences between rich and emerging nations on curbing emissions.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Welcome to Job Futures+Green Corps
Building communities from the ground up
Job Futures is working with organisations and individuals to build better communities through the Green Corps programme. We deliver Green Corps in NSW, ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Green Corps is an Australian Government initiative. It gives young people the chance to get six months paid work experience and training on environmental and cultural heritage projects. Participants learn worthwhile work and life skills that can put them on the pathway to employment and education.
Job Futures has been running Green Corp projects since 2002. We link with local organisations to run projects with real, sustainable outcomes for the participants, the community and the environment.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Green Energy Watch is giving away 10,000 Energy Saving Light Bulbs, to help save energy and reduce green house gas emissions. You can register for 2 Free Energy Saving Lightbulbs per household; they’ll also plant 1 tree with Carbon Smart to help absorb Co2.
In early 2005, the collective will was building for energy conservation and environmental good citizenship at least that s the way it felt if you were living in San Francisco, California. The rest of the United States hadn t decided to take those issues seriously yet.
But that was before gasoline spiked to $3.50 per gallon. It was before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. It was before a string of three summers with record heat. And it was before the movie An Inconvenient Truth drastically changed the public perception of human-induced climate change and the potential crisis that it could induce.
Those issues combined with the fact that the technology world is centered in environmentally-conscious Northern California have led to the nascent concept of Green IT. Because the concept is new, it s useful to take a look at what Green IT is, why its proponents see it as one of the next big trends in IT, and why its detractors think the whole concept is flawed.
What is Green IT?
Green IT is the technology industry s way of asking itself what role it should play in the global movement toward building a more sustainable civilization. The answer is typically three-fold:
- Minimize energy use
- Reduce CO2 emissions
- Better manage electronic waste
Why Green IT is important
While many in Silicon Valley and in the environmental movement have very altruistic reasons for pursuing green initiatives passing on a sustainable world to our children there are also very pragmatic reasons that this is becoming a major concern for businesses:
- The cost of energy
- Concerns over the future supply of energy
- Exploding use of energy as data centers expand
- Threat of government regulation of energy consumption
- First targets for Kyoto Protocol (reducing greenhouse gases) coming in 2008-2012
- Growing political support for managing and regulating CO2 emissions
You need to pay attention to green IT issues now and have plans in place to move yourself forward. If you fail to do so, you face serious risks in the next five years, said Martin Reynolds, a Gartner Managing Vice President, at the recent Gartner Sympsium ITxpo on Emerging Technologies, where Green IT was the topic of five different sessions.
If the climate science and carbon abatement projections are close to being correct, and assuming society is willing and able to respond, then we are headed toward a low-carbon economy, according to Simon Mingay, Research Vice President at Gartner. Mingay defines a low-carbon economy as an economy in which the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is halted and reduced, and in which greenhouse gases have a cost and/or are capped, enforced through one or more measures.
Kyoto was one of the first steps down that road.
Why some call Green IT a fad or a myth
As a hot new concept, Green IT also has its critics even within the same analyst organizations that trumpet it. For example, French Caldwell, another Research VP at Gartner, calls Green IT a myth. However, he s not saying that Green IT is pure fiction. He is talking about a myth in the literal sense a simplified story that is used to explain a much more complex set of circumstances so that the masses can understand it.
Charles Smulders, Gartner Managing VP, went even further. He said that vendors are doing a lot of greenwashing right now to sell Green IT products, while IT is responsible for just two percent of global CO2 emissions. He said that population explosion is a much greater concern for CO2 emissions and that attention should be directed toward that. He also claimed that measuring CO2 emissions isn t consistent and so it s difficult for IT to even gauge its status.
At the Symposium on Emerging Trends, Caldwell also argued that some people grasp on to concepts like Green IT with religious fervor in order to feel like they are doing something good for the environment. He thinks it s much more useful for IT to simply focus on reducing power consumption.
However, Caldwell admitted, The Green IT myth is useful in building business cases for infrastructure and investment renewal, and for improving the corporation s license to operate.
Bottom line for IT leaders
Green IT is essentially a rallying call for tech to take a proactive approach in its role to energy conservation, climate change, and electronic waste. In some cases, this can also have a very positive effect on the bottom line especially in relation to energy savings. For example, IBM plans to save $250 million in power costs over five years as part of its current data center consolidation.
The other two areas climate change (CO2 emissions) and electronic waste could soon become economic imperatives if and when governments start regulating them and associating fines with non-compliance. This could be coming sooner rather than later. In April, executives of energy utilities ranked the environment and greenhouse gas regulations at the top of their lists of current concerns.
IT organizations should expect to come under scrutiny for their practices in relation to Green IT, in the same way that Google is being put under the microscope for its policies and approach. So I would recommend running a fire drill to put yourself under the microscope first, so that you have a good idea of where you stand. I expect some best practices for doing a Green IT self-audit to emerge during 2008.
Climate Change Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008: an update of the Department of Health report 2008
Climate change is perhaps the most significant environmental problem which mankind will face in the coming century. Efforts to reduce the extent of climate change are of course important, but it is likely that we will have to deal with at least some impacts on health. Preparing for climate change is now one of the top four shared priorities for UK action set out in 2005 in Securing the future: Delivering UK sustainable development strategy.
As a response to the need to estimate possible impacts of climate change on health, this new report, jointly published by the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, is a timely update of earlier work published by the Department of Health in 2002 (Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK). The new report should be read in conjunction with the original report as it focuses on areas where things have changed rather than covering, again, the whole field. A new approach has been taken in some sections and recent research findings have been included in many chapters.
Access the document here.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen." Roberson et al, 2002
In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.
We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy.
How can you help?
We encourage you to set Blackle as your home page. This way every time you load your Internet browser you will save a little bit of energy. Remember every bit counts! You will also be reminded about the need to save energy each time you see the Blackle page load.
Help us spread the word about Blackle by telling your friends and family to set it as their home page. If you have a blog then give us a mention. Or put the following text in your email signature: "Blackle.com - Saving energy one search at a time".
Have a look at our energy saving tips page for ideas on steps you can take to save energy.
There are a lot of great web sites about saving energy and being more environmentally friendly. They are full of great tips covering the little things that we can all do to make a difference today. Try Blackling "energy saving tips" or visit treehugger.com a great blog dedicated to environmental awareness.
Friday, 11 April 2008
When we in the West think about the costs of climate change, we think of rising electricity and fuel prices. But these aren't the main concerns for people living in developing countries.
Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Yemen, Mexico… in fact over 30 developing countries face critical shortages of food due to sharply rising costs for staples like rice, wheat, soybeans and corn.
The cost of rice, for example – the staple food for half the world – has doubled over the past year, and increased five-fold over the past five years.
What's driving price increases is the sharp rise in the price of oil (a major input in the production and transport of food), rising demand from China, land scarcity, especially as more land is being turned over to biofuels, and increasingly erratic weather events – floods, storms and droughts – caused by climate change, which are pushing down crop yields.
And prices are going to keep rising – rice stocks are at their lowest since the 1980s and the major rice-producing countries Cambodia, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam have restricted their exports of rice to other counties so as to feed their own populations. Commodities futures on the world's financial markets are predicting prices will continue to rise.
Many developing countries face famine and civil unrest, warns the World Bank. In just the past few weeks there have been food riots and demonstrations in Indonesia, Egypt, Bolivia and in many small, poor African countries.
In Australia, food prices are rising too – at about 5 to 10 per cent a year – but because food accounts for a much smaller proportion of our household expenditure, Australian families are in a better position to absorb the price rises. But low-income families are already having to cut back on more expensive items like meat and fish.
Eating in the age of climate change
It's not just our energy consumption patterns that will have to change. We'll need to change our food consumption to take into account the effects of climate change, say the authors of an online report called Health Professionals Taking Action on Climate Change, just published by the British Medical Association.
The study, aimed at health professionals, looks at the health effects of global warming – increased deaths from heat waves, more frequent infectious diseases, mental health problems, and malnutrition. It also has advice for health workers as to how they can make their practices and organisations more energy efficient.
Buried within the report are also some recommendations as to how we might adapt our diet to cope with the rising cost of food. It recommends we:
- Buy fresh, locally-produced food, which has less distance to travel and therefore uses less fuel.
- Eat fewer processed and refrigerated foods, which take more energy to manufacture, transport and store.
- Waste less food – about one-third of the food we prepare is thrown away uneaten. Don't over-order in restaurants, and eat smaller portions.
- Drink tap water, not bottled water, which uses large amounts of energy to produce.
- Reduce the amount of meat and animal and diary products we eat. Meat is much more energy intensive and requires proportionally more land to graze animals than crops. Instead, eat foods lower down the food chain – grains, fruits and vegetables that are cheaper to grow, use less energy and less land space.
- Buy foods in season – seasonal products generally use less energy to produce.
Better for you
Now while lovers of meat, cheese, eggs and takeaway food might recoil in horror at these suggestions, in fact they make sense. Not only will they help lower your carbon footprint, they are also a good way to manage the household budget. Low-energy foods like grains, fruits and vegetables are likely to rise in price more slowly than energy-intensive foods like meat and dairy products.
But there's another big benefit: this new diet will actually be better for us.
For tens – indeed hundreds – of thousands of years we've been eating locally-gathered or locally-cultivated grains, fruits and vegetables, supplemented by occasional fish or game.
Some societies still eat this way. If you're living on a Greek island you might eat bread, grains, olive oil, fish, a little red wine and lots of fruit and vegetables. Sound familiar? It's the Mediterranean diet.
If you're living on an island off the coast of Japan it might be a low-calorie diet with small portions, little or no meat and plenty of fish, and green and yellow vegetables. We know it as the Okinawa diet.
Both these diets are associated with longevity and good health.
So from the point of view of our health, it may not be a bad thing to go back to a diet high in fibre (cereals, locally grown fruits and vegetables), low in saturated fat (minimal meat and diary products), and no processed foods; and spend the savings on a bottle of red wine.
Get stuck in to the Climate Change Diet.
Thursday, 3 April 2008
Order your free mobile recycling satchel, which can be posted free of charge. Help the environment by recycling your old mobile phones, batteries, chargers and accessories with MobileMuster.
Friday, 28 March 2008
What does it mean when a label states that a product is 100% organic, organic or made with organic ingredients? As a consumer, it’s important to know what each of the different labels appearing on organic items mean. Below is an explanation of each of the labels permitted under the Standard.
100% organic products must have all of their ingredients, with the exception of salt and water, derived from organic production methods.
Organic products must have at least 95% of their ingredients, with the exception of salt and water, derived from organic production methods. Any remaining product ingredients must consist only of approved substances. Approved substances exclude those derived from genetically modified technology, those treated with ionising radiation, those which interfere with the natural metabolism of livestock and plants, and those that are not compatible with the principles of organic agriculture. Furthermore, any ingredient used that has not been derived from organic production methods must be clearly indicated as such in the product’s list of ingredients.
Made with organic ingredients
A product stating that it has been made with organic ingredients must have at least 70% of its ingredients of agricultural origin derived from organic production methods. All remaining product ingredients must consist only of approved substances. Any ingredient used that has not been derived from organic production methods must be clearly indicated as such in the product’s list of ingredients.
Products containing less than 70% organic ingredients
Any product that contains less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic on the principal display panel (main or front label). However, reference can be made in the ingredients list of the product to any ingredients used that have been derived from organic production methods.
The term “in-conversion” refers to a production system that has adhered to the Standard for at least one year but has not yet achieved full organic certification. It should be noted that a minimum period of three years must elapse before a production system can attain full organic certification.
Products labelled as “in conversion” must comply with the Standard. Equivalent ingredient threshold percentages apply to in conversion organic products. For example, a product labelled as being in conversion organic must have at least 95% of its ingredients, with the exception of salt and water, derived from in-conversion organic production methods.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
This article from Australia explains how misleading organic labelling can be. When buying organic especially from supermarkets it is important to look for the organic labelling found at the end of the article.
LABELLING on organic products in Australia is confusing, potentially misleading and urgently needs reform, consumer advocacy group Choice says.
It is calling for a single, unified system of certification to replace the current method, whereby several different bodies regulate producers, and some brands make completely unsubstantiated claims to be organic.
Research by The Sun-Herald reveals how buying "organic" can cost customers more than twice as much. The organics industry is one of the fastest growing in the Australian food and grocery sector, increasing by 30 per cent in the past year.
It is now worth about $400 million a year in the retail sector, the Government's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation says.
There are eight organic certification bodies, which are overseen by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
But some own-brand organic products bought by The Sun-Herald in Coles and Woolworths last week had none of the official logos. Woolworths' organic tinned tomatoes had no official certification, and the small print on Coles organic carrots stated "product in conversion to national standard" with no other explanation.
Five different products bought in Coles used five different organic logos.
The Sun-Herald also looked at the cost of organic goods compared with conventional products.
Organic carrots from Coles cost $3.48 for one kilogram compared with $1.68 for the conventionally produced equivalent.
In Woolworths, organic carrots were $3.98 compared with 94 cents for the mainstream equivalent.
Organic tinned tomatoes in Woolworths cost $1.15, compared with 58 cents for a "normal" tin.
And 500 grams of regular minced beef from Coles cost $5.55 compared with $7.33 for its organic rival.
Andrew Monk, spokesman for Biological Farmers of Australia, one of the largest official certification bodies, said: "Coles and Woolworths are both working very hard to simplify the system of organic certification.
"We do have concerns about organic labelling and we have to make sure we are not just bandying about the word organic willy-nilly."
On the subject of price, Dr Monk said: "Some organic products such as carrots are always going to be a little bit more expensive because they cost more to produce without pesticides and chemicals, but there is no reason why other things should cost more."
Coles and Woolworths did not respond to requests for comment. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it might look at the cost of organic brands in its inquiry into the price of groceries.
Labelling to look for
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA)
P.O. Box 768
Stirling SA 5152
Phone: (08) 8370 8455
Australian Certified Organic
P.O. Box 530
Chermside QLD 4032
Phone: (07) 3350 5716
Organic Growers of Australia (OGA)
P.O. Box 6171
South Lismore NSW 2480
Phone: (02) 6622 0100
Organic Food Chain (OFC)
P.O. Box 2390
Toowoomba QLD 4350
Phone: (07) 4637 2600
Safe Food Queensland
P.O. Box 440
Spring Hill QLD 4004
Phone: 1800 300 815
Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers (TOP)
P.O. Box 13
Campbell Town TAS 7210
Phone: (03) 6381 2004
Bio-dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
Powelltown VIC 3797
Phone: (03) 5966 7333
Friday, 21 March 2008
FIRST fast food, then plastic bags. Now bottled water is the next alleged social evil to find itself in the crosshairs of pressure groups.
Environmentaists lay the blame for a growing mountain of plastic in landfill and the increasing strain on water resources directly at the feet of the large companies that sell bottled water.
The problem of our growing addiction to bottled water will come up at a meeting of environment ministers next month where the question of a national refund scheme for plastic or glass bottles will be raised.
Figures show the thirst for bottled water is far from being slaked. The market is expected to grow 9.1 per cent to $460 million this financial year, according to a forecast by the market researcher IBIS World, and Australia lags other developed countries in consumption.
NSW households are second only to those in South Australia in their reliance on bottled water: 13 per cent of South Australian households say they rely on bottled water as their main source of drinking water, compared with 9 per cent in NSW.
In the next year Australians are expected to drink 242 megalitres of bottled water, the equivalent of 19 600-millilitre bottles each. IBIS World predicts a boom in "premium" water as manufacturers claw back the higher costs of producing the plastic bottles from a crude oil derivative.
Expensive brands of water, marketed to younger women as essential fashion accessories or the key to a healthier lifestyle, are appearing on the market. The latest from Coca-Cola Amatil, which dominates the water market, is the trendily packaged Glaceau brand which contains added vitamins.
As sales of fizzy drinks flatten, beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Frucor are turning to water to pick up the slack. Audrey Riddell, an analyst for IBIS World, says canny marketing, in particular to women who drink more than men, is driving demand for a demand for a product only as good as what comes out of the tap. "Young women aren't buying it just for rehydration but to send a signal that they can afford to pay for something that is many more times expensive than tap-water," Ms Riddell said. "They are showing off their affluence and sophistication."
Clean Up Australia estimates the average price of bottled water is $2.53 a litre, against about a cent a litre for tap water.
The chief executive of Clean Up Australia, Terrie-Ann Johnson, said the shift in drinking habits from sugary fizzy drinks to water was showing up in waste. "We are finding more and more that the [plastic] bottles that we find in the waste stream are for water," she said.
The director of the Total Environment Centre, Jeff Angel, who wants a national refund scheme such as the one operating in South Australia, said: "When you look at the life cycle of a bottle of water from the extraction process, through to the transport and right the way through to its disposal, which is more often than not in landfill, then you have to say that this is an unjustified luxury."
The Department of Environment and Climate Change estimates about 200 millilitres of oil is used to produce each one-litre bottle, including the plastic, transport and refrigeration.
The bottled water industry says that amount of oil makes three bottles.
Mr Angel added: "As demand increases, there's a serious potential to exhaust local supplies of water [from aquifers]."
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Great report in the Newscientist which looks at the effect of climate change on endangered species.
Life on Earth is in the throes of a new wave of mass extinction, unlike anything since the demise of the dinosaurs. In the last 500 years, 844 species - like the passenger pigeon, auk, thylacine, and quagga - are known to have died out, and up to 16,000 others are now known to be threatened. Two thirds of turtles could be gone by the 2025, great apes have recently declined by over 50% in parts of Africa, half of marsupials and one in three amphibians are in jeopardy, and a staggering 40% of Asia's plants and animals could soon be lost.
Whilst not a new report the, The 2007 Antarctic Ozone Hole Summary: Monday 01 October 2007, reminds us that whilst the Ozone hole over the Antartic has slowed growing and reversed in previous years, there are signs that it will continue to remain a problem. There are also signs that other factors other than CFCs are contributing to its depletion.
Refer to the following report:
The 2007 Antarctic Ozone Hole Summary
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Here is a great ebay store that sells energy efficient lighting. I would recommend in particular (if looking for a downlight (halogen) replacement) to buy the following:
MR16 - 3w - Led Down Light, it comes with 1 year warranty and is equivalent to a 35w Halogen using less that 1 tenth of the power. This means less greenhouse gasses and cheaper electricity bills!!!!
Check out this sellers ebay store, by far the cheapest most effective halogen replacements on the market.
Monday, 3 March 2008
Public Transport Challenge 2008 - Apply Now!
Environment Victoria and Metlink are inviting secondary schools across Melbourne to get aboard and register their interest for the 2008 Public Transport Challenge.
Educating students about greener, smarter travel is the aim of the game, as teams of year 7 – 10 secondary students go head to head in a contest of skill and strategy! Traveling only on public transport and earning points as they go, students will get to know their transport system by visiting checkpoints across the city and the suburbs including sports stadiums, entertainment hotspots, beaches and environmentally important sites.
The Public Transport Challenge - a joint EV and Metlink intitiative.
Saturday, 1 March 2008
New-generation biofuels may help to keep air fares down as well as fight global warming, writes Peter Needham.
You're jetting towards a blissful holiday. Your plane has just climbed through the clouds, flight attendants are about to serve cooked lunch and all seems well with the world.
Who cares what sort of fuel powers the plane? For most people, that's a technical issue - best dealt with by aviation engineers. Airlines, however, are increasingly keen to come up with alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuel.
Their motive has much to do with ticket prices. Fuel is the greatest single recurrent expense they face, accounting for more than half the total cost of a long-haul flight. Qantas, for instance, will pay almost $4billion for fuel next year and the annual sum is unlikely to fall. Qantas chief risk officer, Rob Kella, expects oil prices to remain around current levels in the foreseeable future. The cost is passed on to consumers as a substantial part of the air fare. Many airlines list some of their fuel costs separately as a surcharge, making the core fare appear lower.
Global warming - and the widespread public perception that air travel plays a role in it - worries airlines too. In reality, aviation's contribution to global warming is small. Flying produces perhaps 2 per cent of man-made carbon dioxide - and the man-made variety constitutes only about 3 per cent of the atmospheric total. But aviation is growing fast, especially in emerging markets like India and China. Although aviation is becoming more fuel efficient (at the rate of about 1 per cent a year) its contribution to greenhouse gases is growing as well. Planemakers want to make the industry as clean and green as possible. Airlines have no wish to be slugged with hefty carbon imposts which, in the form of carbon taxes or tradeable permits, could lift the cost of a Sydney-Europe round-trip flight by more than 20 per cent.
At a seminar hosted by Boeing in Sydney this month, tourism economics expert Professor Peter Forsyth estimated that any climate change mitigation scheme involving a carbon price of $50 a tonne was likely to push up air fares from Australia to Britain by 21.2 per cent. That would see a return fare of $2400 soar to $2909. Forsyth said the $50 a tonne price was at the high end of the scale. Details will be hammered out in a year or two.
Whatever taxes may be around the corner, airlines have only two ways to reduce their carbon emissions. They must use less fuel or switch to "greener" fuel with a smaller carbon footprint. Manufacturers are tackling the first issue with lighter, new-generation aircraft and engine designs, augmented by new navigation techniques that cut fuel burn. Airlines are pushing for a 25 per cent further improvement in fuel efficiency by 2020. Qantas is on track to slash 2 million tonnes from its greenhouse gas emissions by 2011.
The search for greener aviation fuel, meanwhile, focuses on plants and seeds. Airlines see biofuel as a better solution than hydrogen for the near future because it can be used in existing engine technology, rather than requiring radical - and massively expensive - modifications. Airlines don't plan to clear rainforests, savannas, wetlands or grasslands to grow the "feedstock" to produce biofuel. That would end up releasing more carbon than it saved. Instead, they plan to produce biofuels from wasteland, in brackish, undrinkable water and on land not considered arable.
Boeing's managing director, environmental strategy, Billy Glover, said recently that enough fuel to sustain all aviation could be produced "from a space about the size of Belgium". Aircraft were likely to be using biofuel blends within five years, Glover said, adding that just two years ago, he was "a total sceptic that this would work". Rapid advances in the meantime have converted him.
Biofuel flight tests are under way already. Virgin Atlantic is due this week to fly one of its Boeing 747 aircraft between London Heathrow and Amsterdam using a "truly sustainable type of biofuel that doesn't compete with food and freshwater resources", according to the airline. The fuel will be a mix, probably 20 per cent biofuel and 80 per cent conventional jet fuel. Its exact formula is secret. The flight will be a demonstration run, carrying no passengers, operated in conjunction with Boeing and engine maker GE Aviation.
Announcing the trial, Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson said the demonstration flight would give the airline "crucial knowledge that we can use to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint." The Virgin Group, he pointed out, had pledged to invest all profits from its transport companies towards developing clean energy. "With this breakthrough we are well down the path to achieving our goals."
Virgin's test flight will be followed, less than a year later, by a similar test involving Air New Zealand, Boeing and engine maker Rolls-Royce. One engine of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 will run on a blended biofuel/kerosene mix and the other three engines will be powered by regular aviation fuel.
In a parallel development, aircraft manufacturer Airbus has run one of its giant double-decker A380 planes in a test flight using a liquid fuel processed from natural gas. The industry's main thrust, however, remains biofuel.
* Algae These simple plant-like organisms, known collectively as pond scum, are a promising future feedstock option for biofuel production. Boeing researchers believe algae could provide a much higher oil yield per hectare than many other biofuels, as well as being far less demanding on the environment.
* Babassu This native Brazilian palm tree produces a nut that might provide a sustainable source of oil for biofuel in Brazil. Different biofuel feedstocks will be used in different parts of the world, suiting local conditions.
* Halophytes Saltwater plants, or halophytes, grown in desert areas and irrigated with seawater could become a promising biofuel feedstock. Australia's arid regions are suited to this, as is the Sahara.
* Jatropha This hardy bush, known to botanists as Jatropha curcus, is believed to have the same medicinal qualities as a laxative. Its profile has surged with the discovery that it might also be an ideal biofuel crop, producing seeds with up to 40 per cent oil content.