inbox and Environment news: Issue 518

November 14 - 20, 2021: Issue 518

Flowering Now: Blueberry Ash

Elaeocarpus reticulatus, commonly known as blueberry ash, ash quandong, blue olive berry, fairy petticoats, fringe tree, koda, lily of the valley tree and scrub ash, is species of flowering plant in the family Elaeocarpaceae and is endemic to eastern Australia. It is a shrub or small tree with a oblong to elliptic leaves, racemes of white or pink flowers and blue, oval to spherical fruit.

Elaeocarpus reticulatus was first formally described in 1809 by James Edward Smith in Abraham Rees's The Cyclopaedia from specimens collected near Port Jackson by John White. The specific epithet (reticulatus) means "with the appearance of a net".

Blueberry ash often grows in tall eucalypt forest, in or near rainforest, often in moist gullies, but also found on stony ridges. It occurs along the east coast of Australia from Fraser Island in Queensland to Flinders Island in Tasmania. In New South Wales it is found from sea level to the ranges and in Victoria to the east of Wilsons Promontory where it is often locally common.

The fruits of E. reticulatus are eaten by birds, including wonga pigeons, crimson rosellas, figbirds, white-headed pigeons and olive-backed orioles and the regent bowerbird collects them to decorate its bower.
Blue berry ash is described as "an outstanding specimen tree for coastal gardens". Propagation of the plant can be achieved from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in warmer weather, but germination from seed can take several years. The shrub is hardy in most situations and can be grown in shade to full sun.

Photos: A J Guesdon, November 2021

Happening Now: Spotted Gums Shedding Bark - Part Of An Endangered Ecological Community

Corymbia: from Latin, corymbium, a "corymb" referring to floral clusters where all flowers branch from the stem at different levels but ultimately terminate at about the same level.
Maculata:  from Latin maculosus, spotted, referring to the appearance of the trunk.

Corymbia maculata is one of around 80 eucalypts which were transferred in 1995 from the genus Eucalyptus to the newly created genus Corymbia. The species was formerly known as Eucalyptus maculata.
Corymbia maculata, commonly known as spotted gum, is a species of medium-sized to tall tree that is endemic to eastern Australia. It has smooth, mottled bark, lance-shaped to curved adult leaves, flower buds usually in groups of three, white flowers and urn-shaped or barrel-shaped fruit.

This tree typically grows to a height of 45–60 m (148–197 ft) and forms a lignotuber. It has smooth mottled pinkish grey or bluish grey, often dimpled bark that is shed in small, irregular flakes. Young plants and coppice regrowth have leaves that are glossy green, broadly egg-shaped to lance-shaped, 70–190 mm (2.8–7.5 in) long and 30–75 mm (1.2–3.0 in) wide and petiolate. Adult leaves are the same shade of green on both sides, lance-shaped or curved, 80–210 mm (3.1–8.3 in) long and 12–30 mm (0.47–1.18 in) wide, tapering to a petiole 10–25 mm (0.39–0.98 in) long. 

The flower buds are arranged in leaf axils on a branched peduncle 3–20 mm (0.12–0.79 in) long, each branch of the peduncle with three, rarely seven, buds on pedicels 1–8 mm (0.039–0.315 in) long. Mature buds are oval to pear-shaped, 8–10 mm (0.31–0.39 in) long and 6–8 mm (0.24–0.31 in) wide with a hemispherical, conical or beaked operculum that is shorter than the floral cup. Flowering occurs from March to September and the flowers are white. The fruit is a woody oval, barrel-shaped or slightly urn-shaped capsule 9–14 mm (0.35–0.55 in) long and 8–13 mm (0.31–0.51 in) wide with the valves enclosed in the fruit.

It adapts to a wide range of soils provided they are not waterlogged. 

Like most smooth-barked eucalypts, the bark sheds in early summer and it can result in an untidy appearance on lawns and paths for a few weeks.

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act,  made a Final Determination to list the Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion as an ENDANGERED ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITY on Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Act.- 
The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. The Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest is the name given to the plant community that is characterised by the following assemblage of species:
  • Acacia floribunda
  • Acrotriche divaricata
  • Adiantum aethiopicum
  • Allocasuarina litoralis
  • Allocasuarina torulosa
  • Angophora costata
  • Angophora floribunda
  • Billardiera scandens
  • Breynia oblongifolia
  • Cassytha paniculata
  • Cayratia clematidea
  • Cissus hypoglauca
  • Corymbia gummifera
  • Corymbia maculata
  • Dianella caerulea
  • Dodonaea triquetra
  • Doodia caudata
  • Eleocarpus reticulatis
  • Entolasia stricta
  • Eucalyptus botryoides
  • Eucalyptus paniculata
  • Eucalytpus punctata
  • Eucalyptus umbra
  • Eustrephus latifolius
  • Geitonoplesium cymosum
  • Glochidion ferdinandi
  • Gymnostachys anceps
  • Hakea sericea
  • Hydrocotyle peduncularis
  • Livistona australis
  • Lomandra longifolia
  • Macrozamia communis
  • Notelaea longifolia
  • Oxylobium ilicifolium
  • Pandorea pandorana
  • Pittosporum undulatum
  • Platylobium formosum
  • Pseuderanthemum variabile
  • Pteridium esculentum
  • Pultenaea flexilis
  • Syncarpia glomulifera
  • Synoum glandulosum
  • Themeda australis
  • Xanthorrhoea macronema
2. The total species list of the community is larger than that given above, with many species present only in one or two sites or in very small quantity. In any particular site not all of the assemblage listed may be present at any one time (at least above ground), seeds of more species may be present in the soil seed bank. The species composition of a site will be influenced by the size of the site and by its recent disturbance history. For a number of years after a major disturbance, dominance by a few species may occur, with gradual restoration of a more complex composition and vegetation structure over time. The balance between species will change over the fire cycle, and may also change in response to changes in fire frequency.

3. The Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest occurs on shale-derived soils with high rainfall on lower hillslopes on the Narrabeen group - Newport Formation, on the Barrenjoey Peninsula and western Pittwater foreshores.

4. The structure of the community was originally open-forest but may now exist as woodland or as remnant trees.

5. Characteristic tree species are Corymbia maculata and Eucalyptus paniculata, associated trees include Angophora costata, Corymbia gummifera, Eucalyptus umbra, Eucalyptus punctata, Syncarpia glomulifera, Eucalyptus botryoides, Angophora floribunda.

6. Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest has been reported from the Local Government Area of Pittwater. The area is within the County of Cumberland entirely within the Sydney Basin Bioregion.

7. Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest is referred to in Benson & Howell 1990, and described in Map Unit 9g (ii) in Benson & Howell 1994.

8. Adjacent communities on sandstone soils are generally part of the Sydney Sandstone Complex (see Benson & Howell 1990).

9. Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest has been extensively cleared from the Barrenjoey Peninsula and the western and southern shores of Pittwater, and is threatened by further clearing for housing and related infrastructure, and for fire mitigation. Remnants are also threatened by weed invasion especially Lantana camara and Acacia saligna and by inappropriate fire regimes.

10. Only tiny remnants on western Pittwater are included within Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park The major remnants on the Peninsula are within Pittwater Council reserves, McKay Reserve, Angophora Reserve and Stapleton Park.

11. In view of the small size of existing remnants, the threat of further clearing and other known threats (listed in 9), the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is likely to become extinct in nature in New South Wales unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate and that the community is eligible for listing as an endangered ecological community.

Proposed Gazettal date: 18/12/98
Exhibition period: 18/12/98 - 29/1/99
Last updated May 28, 2019
This Determination has been superseded by the 2013 Determination relating to the Pittwater and Wagstaffe Spotted Gum Forest.

Angophora Reserve

Angophora Reserve

  1. Benson, D. and Howell, J., 1990, Taken for Granted: The bushland of Sydney and its suburbs, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst.
  2. Benson, D. and Howell, J. (1994) The natural vegetation of the Sydney 1:100 000 Map Sheet. Cunninghamia 3(4):677-787.
  3. ANPS - Australian Native Plants society, Corymbia maculata, from:
  4. Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest - endangered ecological community listing, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
Photos: A J Guesdon

Woolworths Installs Recycled Plastic Seats In Australian Stores

More seats are being installed at Woolworths across Australia containing the soft plastics collected through the RedCycle Program. When customers drop off their recycled soft plastic in the Red Cycle bin, it is then collected by Replas and made into recycled plastic seating! Woolworths is determined to ‘Close the Loop’ by driving the demand for recycled plastic products through their purchases of the Kingfisher Seats.
Those who visit Avalon Woolworths will have noticed the old fragmenting wooden bench outside the store has been replaced by one of these.

Photos: A J Guesdon

Careel Creek: Dusky Moorhen In Residence - Please Keep Your Dogs On Their Leads

A dusky moorhen has taken up residence in Careel Creek during the past few weeks. These are known to be poor fliers, with laboured wing beats and a slow and weak flight. In general, moorhens are capable of flying but tend to not be good at it.

Unfortunately this week a gentleman was encountered with his foxy terrier, a hunting dog breed, off the leash, the dog having just spotted the bird. When it was pointed out that this is an on-leash area, with clear signage of this, and that there are birds nesting here, as it is bird breeding season, the dog owner stated 'I will do what I like'. 

However, he subsequently put his dog back on its lead, and proceeded towards Avalon. Council have been alerted to the fact that there is an almost flightless protected bird in this creek and the gentleman's misconception that the rules to protect wildlife, and other human residents and their dogs, don't apply to him.

The dusky moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) is a bird species in the rail family and is one of the eight extant species in the moorhen genus. It occurs in India, Australia, New Guinea, Borneo and Indonesia. It is often confused with the purple swamphen and the Eurasian coot due to similar appearance and overlapping distributions. They often live alongside birds in the same genus, such as the Tasmanian nativehen and the common moorhen.

Breeding season is from August to January in the south of Australia, with generally one brood, and January to June in the north, often brooding twice. This species builds a bulky nest of reeds or grasses at the water's edge or a few centimetres above the water, often at the base of a Melaleuca and lays a clutch of 5–11 matte whitish eggs that are covered with red-brown dots and splotches. Tapered oval in shape, they measure 53 mm long by 36 mm wide each and have more prominent markings at the larger end. It is territorial when breeding, but otherwise gregarious. The dusky moorhen may nest alongside the purple swamphen.

Dusky Moorhen in Careel Creek, Saturday October 30, 2021 - photos by A J Guesdon

Dusky Moorhen in Careel Creek, Thursday November 30, 2021 - photos by A J Guesdon

Dusky moorhens are diurnal, and roost at night-time alone, in breeding groups, or in non-breeding flocks. They roost on platforms constructed in reeds set above the water, on branches over the water, and more rarely on the ground in the reeds. During the day they rest at these places, and may also sit on floating vegetation, rocks, logs, and on the banks. In hot weather they may sit high up in trees.

The moorhens frequently flick their conspicuous white and black tail. This may be a signal of alertness or of social status, depending on the context.

The dusky moorhen feeds both on land and in water. It diet consists of seeds, the tips of shrubs and grasses, algae, fruits, molluscs, and other invertebrates. It will also consume carrion, bread, and droppings from birds including gulls and ducks. The chicks are fed mostly on annelid worms and molluscs, with plant matter gradually being given in increasing proportions by the parents as the young mature.

The territorial call is a loud kurk or krik, which may be repeated or run together, sounding like kurruk-uk. This call is taken up by birds in surrounding territories and can be heard from over two kilometres away. The birds also make a series of short, sharp squawks and squeaks as alarm calls. Swimming and preening birds may make a series of short, stacatto, widely spaced noises.

Both sexes make a soft mewing noise, or a soft kook noise before and during courtship. Adults may make a quiet hissing noise when their eggs are disturbed. Chicks under the age of three months make a repeated shrill piping noise when begging, when an adult approaches with food, and when they are separated from adults. Adults also make short clicking noises when separated from chicks, and the young give a series of descending whistles in response.
Careel Creek path has lilac petal fringe from overhanging jacaranda trees at present.

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA): Pittwater Nature No:8 

Pittwater Nature is now online: 
This Issue has Safe Rodentbaits, Giant (harmless) Mozzie, Topknot Pigeons and more. 
Beach Spinifex is in flower now. 
Plants are either male or female and their flowers look quite different. 
Female here:

Councils Urged To Get Scrap Together To Turn Food Waste Into Compost

November 9, 2021
More food waste will be saved from landfill thanks to a tailored education campaign to help communities turn more of their food scraps into valuable compost.

Bones, meat, fish, dairy, grass, fruit and vegetable scraps and even yoghurt can all be added to food and garden organics (FOGO) green bins.

EPA Organics Manager Amanda Kane said local councils with FOGO services will be able to roll out the new Scrap Together awareness campaign thanks to EPA grants of $10,000.

“The Scrap Together campaign takes food waste recycling to the next level,” Ms Kane said.

“It follows research that showed while people like the service, some residents were unsure of exactly what could go into a green FOGO bin, others didn’t understand what happened to the scraps from their bins.

“A trial of the Scrap Together campaign in three council areas found it was a great success. Residents put more food in the FOGO bin rather than the red bin after learning all food scraps can be composted.

“The resulting compost is also great for the environment because it’s used to improve soil quality on local farms.”

Currently, NSW households and businesses send almost two million tonnes of food and garden waste to landfill each year, where it rots and generates methane contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

These grants will contribute to the NSW Government’s targets to halve the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030 and net zero emissions from organics to landfill by 2030.

Ms Kane said education is key to boosting food recovery from FOGO in NSW, and the trial found residents like knowing their food scraps help farmers and appreciate tips on how to make sure food scraps don’t smell.

“Currently the rate of food recovery from weekly FOGO is 57%. That is a great start but our Scrap Together campaign shows we can do better once residents are confident about what to put in the bin and where the bin contents end up.”

The grants are open to FOGO councils until 21 December 2021. The total funding pool available is $260,000.

For more details visit Scrap Together on the EPA website.

Wild Pollinator Count: November 14-21

Besides Honey Bees, what wild insects are pollinating your flowers at home or out in the bush? The Wild Pollinator Count gives you an opportunity to contribute to wild pollinator insect conservation in Australia. Wild Pollinator Count is an evidence-based independent project focused on citizen science and pollinator conservation. Some ecologists run it on  their own time with no funding. They invite you to count wild pollinators in your local environment and help them build a database on wild pollinator activity. Click to learn more:

November 2021 Forum For Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Fishing Bats And Water Rats (Rakali)

7pm Monday November 29, 2021 by Zoom
Brad Law, Geoff Williams and Yianni Mentis

Dr Brad Law and Dr Geoff Williams will tell us about the behaviours and environmental requirements of two fascinating species of aquatic mammals - Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) - that forage in, on and near Narrabeen Lagoon. Yianni Mentis will explain how Northern Beaches Council is working to protect the environment, especially the water quality, needed by these aquatic creatures.

Dr Brad Law is a Principal Research Scientist at the Forest Science Unit of the Department of Primary Industries
Dr Geoff Williams is the Director of the Australian Platypus Conservancy
Yianni Mentis is Executive Manager or Environment and Climate Change at Northern Beaches Council.

We hope that members of the local community will start to look for Fishing Bats and Water Rats (Rakali) AUSTRALIA’S NATIVE “OTTER” in and around Narrabeen Lagoon and report all reliable sightings for entry into the Atlas of Living Australia.
Bookings via the website are essential:

Draft Marine Park Management Plan Released

The NSW Government has today, November 1, 2021, released its draft Management Plan for the NSW Mainland Marine Park Network (2021-2031), which has been developed to guide the management of the state’s five existing mainland marine parks.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said our marine parks are a precious and valuable asset that provide habitat for dozens of threatened and endangered species up and down the NSW coast.

“Marine parks are valued for their environmental, social and economic benefits – ranging from diving and recreational fishing to tourism and cultural use of Sea Country,” Mr Kean said.

“This draft plan strikes the right balance between conservation and recreation.”

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the draft would unlock more opportunities for all members of the community to engage in more low impact and low threat activities like recreational fishing while protecting the environmental values of our marine parks.

“The first step in improving the management of marine parks is to ensure we get the 10-year framework right and so this draft plan was informed by evidence on the community’s values of the park network and the threats posed to those values,” Mr Marshall said.

“The plan outlines management objectives and actions to ensure the community, including fishers and aquaculture operators, can get the best out of marine parks without being locked out.

“Up until now, marine parks have been managed by political decisions around lines on maps, but the draft plan is about making evidence-based decisions.

“This is certainly not about creating new marine parks, but rather making sure we get the settings right before looking at the rules of how they’re regulated.”

Mr Marshall said the draft plan will be out for a minimum of two months of community consultation. Following consultation on the draft management plan, we will consult the community separately on the rules and regulations.

“The community is now invited to have its say on the management of the state’s five mainland marine parks, which provide a range of biodiversity conservation, cultural, commercial and recreational benefits,” Mr Marshall said.

The five mainland marine parks in NSW include Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Port Stephens-Great Lakes, Jervis Bay and Batemans marine parks. A management plan for Lord Howe Island Marine Park will be developed separately.

The draft plan does not include any specific proposals around changes to rules or zones. The detail of any proposed changes to rules or zones will be developed in stage 2 after the draft plan is finalised and will be subject to further community consultation.

For more information and to complete the survey visit The plan will be open for consultation until 31 January 2022.

Home Gardeners In Sydney Basin To Help Protect Local Fruit And Vegetable Production: Get Your Free Sticky Trap

Gardeners across the Sydney Basin have been asked to take part in a survey to help protect their crops and NSW’s valuable horticultural industry from an exotic pest, the tomato potato psyllid.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Biosecurity Collections curator, Peter Gillespie, said gardeners from Newcastle to Ulladulla and west to Muswellbrook, Bylong, Lithgow and Katoomba are invited to take part.

“If you grow tomato, potato, sweet potato, chilli, capsicum, eggplant, tamarillo or goji berry plants, please contact NSW DPI for a free sticky psyllid trap and instructions,” Mr Gillespie said.

“Tomato potato psyllid is a significant plant pest which can affect plant growth, reduce yield and spread a serious disease, known as zebra chip, which affects potatoes.

“It was first detected in Western Australia in 2017 and hasn’t been found in NSW. Fortunately, the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes zebra chip, has not been detected in Australia.”

NSW DPI has been conducting seasonal surveillance programs to detect tomato potato psyllid and other pest psyllids which pose biosecurity threats since 2017.

Gardeners and citizen scientists can contact NSW DPI to receive a free sticky trap surveillance kit and instructions, including optional registration details for the MyPestGuide app, by contacting or using the application form.

Migratory Bird Season

A reminder that many of the birds that migrate to our area are arriving exhausted from having flown thousands of miles to be here. Please keep yourselves and your pets away from these shores during these months. They need their rest.

Baby Wildlife Season

Sydney Wildlife volunteer carers are reminding residents that it's baby season in the wildlife world. 
If you find a Joey on its own, it needs help. A sub-adult may be ok, but a Joey is not. If you find one, please try to contain it and keep it safe from predators and exposure and call either Sydney Wildlife (Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services) or WIRES. If you find a dead possum (ringtail or brushtail), check the pouch for a Joey. Brushtails generally have one but ringtails will have 2, sometimes three. If you are unable to, that’s ok, but please call it in to a wildlife organisation so someone can attend to it. 
Sydney Wildlife Rescue - 02 9413 4300
WIRES - 1300 094 737

Harry the ringtail possum.  Sydney Wildlife photo

Blockade Australia Purpose Statement + Actions

Corporate and institutional power is driving the climate crisis and blocking climate action. Australia plays a leading role in organising this destruction. Blockade Australia is a coordinated response to that and aims to develop a culture of effective resistance through strategic direct action.

Blockade Australia coordinates mobilisations at economic bottlenecks and centres of political power. These mobilisations use centralised, sustained and disruptive action to force the urgent broad-scale change necessary for survival.

By utilising direct action in this way, Blockade Australia builds grassroots power focused on opposing the colonial and extractive systems of Australia as a whole.

Action that generates social, political and economic disruption cannot be ignored. It creates political leverage that is needed to make real change. This requires stepping outside of the rules and regulations which maintain and protect Australia’s destructive operations.

The climate collapse threatens all life on earth. The only chance we’ve got of creating a liveable future is by uniting in solidarity and using our collective power to fight for climate justice. Remaining divided risks everything.

Blockade Australia is non exclusive and values collaboration, skill and information sharing. Discrimination, dominating behaviours and aggression towards each other or the public is not accepted. The system is the issue, not the people in it.

Today, Monday November 8 at 6am, Wilkarr Kurikutahr, a Ngemba, Wangan and Jagalingou man, climbed a 9 metre tripod to blockade the railway line leading into and out of the world’s largest coal port in Mulubinba/Newcastle. He stopped all coal trains on the rail network for over 4 hours before being removed from the tripod and taken into police custody.

Wilkarr said, “I’m a Ngemba and Wangan & Jagalingou man standing in solidarity with Awabakal and Worimi mob by blockading the world’s largest coal port in Mulubinba.”

“I’m sick of Australia destroying country and sacred sites to get their resources. That’s why I am here doing this action today to put a stop to it myself.” - Wilkarr Kurikutahr

The climate and ecological crisis is here. Australia and its institutions are fuelling this crisis, and are blocking the urgent action needed. Traditional campaigning methods such as petitions, rallies and lobbying are not working. Organised nonviolent blockading tactics are necessary to cause disruption to Australia’s operations and create the change required. 

This action was taken on the stolen land of the Awabakal and Worimi people.

Earlier today, November 10, Emma and John climbed on top of a 100,000T coal train to stop the Newcastle coal rail network from operating for 4 hours. They climbed onto the carriage and stayed under the highway bridge to delay their arrests. Taking climate action like this is our most effective way of securing a liveable future.

John (72) and Emma (52) are now in custody and are expected to be released soon. 

NSW, ACT And SA To Be Founding Members Of Net Zero Emissions Policy Forum At Glasgow

November 8, 2021
The New South Wales (NSW), Australian Capital Territory (ACT), South Australian (SA) Governments have reached an historic agreement to collaborate and solve the practical problems of reaching net zero emissions.

The Net Zero Emissions Policy Forum, initiated by the NSW, ACT and SA Governments, is a collaboration designed to help sub-national jurisdictions address the practical challenges of achieving net zero emissions.

NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the forum will provide a repository of policies and resources that can help members reduce their emissions, and grow their economies without reinventing the wheel.

"Taking action on climate change is an economic and environmental imperative, and this is about ensuring states and territories are working together to address it," Mr Kean said.

"Greenhouse gas emissions do not recognise borders, and to tackle climate change we need a globally collaborative approach and that is what this forum is about."

ACT Chief Minister and ACT Minister for Climate Action, Andrew Barr said the forum will prove vital in providing sub-national Governments a shared suite of tools to address the policy challenges of achieving net zero emissions.

"Sub-national Governments have a vital role to play in getting to net zero emissions because we have some of the most important levers such as transport, buildings and energy," Mr Barr said.

"This forum will drive a more collaborative approach to developing the policies to get to net zero emissions.

"As we approach the cities and regions day at COP26 in Glasgow, we call on all our colleagues in state and regional governments to work together to take decisive and practical action on climate change."

SA Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs said to combat climate change on a global scale we need to speed up the transition to net zero and solve the technical, economic and policy problems of getting there.

"We are encouraging sub-national governments around the world to join, and help create the low carbon jobs and industries of the future while making sure we leave a better planet to our children and grandchildren," he said.

The forum is designed to provide state and regional sub-national governments around the world an exchange of proven and mature capabilities as well as solutions to address common obstacles in reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The forum's purpose is to:
  • provide a repository of existing policies and resources that can be accessed by participants
  • facilitate collaboration between governments to design policies and to work together to solve the problems of achieving net zero emissions
  • enable problem solving to address policy challenges and speed up the transition to net zero.
The Forum is an Under2 Coalition initiative supported by the Climate Group and ClimateWorks Australia. It will be directed by a Ministerial Group which will set the priorities for research and collaboration.

NSW will chair the Ministerial Group for the first 12 months. As the Forum grows, it is expected that it will be co-chaired by a leading subnational government from overseas.

NSW National Parks Commits To Net Zero By 2028

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is set to become the first national parks agency in Australia to commit to being carbon positive, with the release of the NPWS Carbon Positive Plan.
Environment Minister, Matt Kean said this is another great first for NSW, by 2028 NPWS will remove and store more carbon than it creates, reaching net zero emissions and then becoming carbon positive.

"By 2028 the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by our national parks will exceed the emissions generated by NPWS in managing those parks," Mr Kean said.

"This is a visionary plan that highlights the importance of the national parks in combatting climate change alongside the critical role they already play in the conservation of biodiversity providing home to 85 per cent of threatened species in the state.

"It's all designed to position NPWS at the forefront of global environmental efforts."

NPWS will implement actions to reduce its carbon footprint including switching to 100% renewable energy, electric passenger vehicles, installing onsite solar PV, reducing waste and updating refrigeration and air conditioning assets with high efficiency models.

NPWS will also trial electric vehicle charging stations in key park areas to support the community to continue to visit National Parks using electric vehicles.

National parks also represent one of the largest carbon stores in the State, protecting over 40% of all forest carbon. NPWS will protect these existing carbon stores through effective fire management, and invest in a suite of biodiversity-friendly carbon sequestration projects.

One of these is at Koonaburra, recently registered with the Clean Energy Regulator, where a regeneration project will boost investment in carbon and conservation works (enhanced feral animal management across the park) to remove around 900,000 tonnes of CO2 in the next 25 years.

The launch of the Plan coincides with the tabling of the Protected and Conserved Areas Joint Statement in Climate Change and Biodiversity at the United Nations climate meeting (COP26) in Glasgow, a declaration by protected area managers from around the world, including the NPWS.

"In signing this Statement the NSW Government acknowledges the critical importance of national parks and the commitment the NPWS has to implementing global nature-based solutions, such as revegetation, to managing our twin environmental crises: the accelerating destruction of nature and climate change," Mr Kean said.

NPWS will also be one of the first government agencies to report biennially on climate-related financial risk, as part of the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure and rigorous carbon accounting in alignment with national and international accounting standards.

NPWS is currently investigating the level of annual carbon sequestration by national parks and additional data once analysed, may demonstrate a carbon positive position achieved before 2028.

The Carbon Positive by 2028 Plan is at: Carbon positive by 2028.

Australia's First Renewable Energy Zone Declared

November 11, 2021
Australia's first ever Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), the Central-West Orana REZ, has been declared. Energy Minister Matt Kean said this is a great win for the Central West as the REZ will help drought-proof traditional farming communities, as well as provide new income streams for landholders that host electricity infrastructure.

"New South Wales is driving the nation's action on climate change, by securing our economic and environmental prosperity for decades to come," Mr Kean said.

"Once complete this REZ will provide at least 3000 megawatts of cheap, reliable electricity, enough to power 1.4 million homes. It will also drive $5.2 billion in private investment into the Central West by 2030, supporting around 3900 construction jobs.

"In New South Wales, we not only have targets and plans, we also have nation-leading legislation that will deliver on our commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050."

"REZs are modern day power stations which bring together low-cost solar and wind generation with transmission and storage to produce cheap, clean and reliable electricity."

Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said this is a great milestone for the region, as the declaration gives the certainty the community needs to plan and build the REZ in a way that complements local farming and other land uses.

"As we know our region is blessed with some of the best renewable resources anywhere in the country, and this REZ will provide jobs, investment and economic benefits for generations to come," Mr Saunders said.

"We have spent a long time consulting and working with local communites to make sure this infrastructure is built where our local community wants it, and I will continue to represent community interests."

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo NSW) will be appointed as the infrastructure planner and will coordinate the transmission, generation, firming and storage projects.

As Infrastructure Planner, EnergyCo NSW will assess and recommend REZ network infrastructure projects that best suit each community's needs. Working with a range of stakeholders, it will prepare the declaration in a way that considers local priorities and values, land use planning, investor interest and the legislative requirements.

Central-West Orana REZ includes the areas of Dubbo, Narromine, Wellington, Dunedoo, Gulgong, Mudgee, Cassilis, Coolah, Mendooran, Mumbil, Eumungerie and Gilgrandra.

For more information see Renewable Energy Zones

$13 Million To Halve Kooragang Island's Emissions And Support Jobs

November 9, 2021
One of New South Wales' biggest industrial sites, Kooragang Island, is on track to halve its emissions, after receiving a $13 million grant from the NSW Government’s Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program. Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said the owner of the Newcastle site, Orica, will install an emissions reduction system, which is expected to reduce emissions from its three nitric acid plants by up to 92%.

'This is the first of many major projects to be funded out of our $750 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, which will help businesses accelerate their transition to net zero while remaining competitive and creating jobs,' Mr Kean said.

'Orica’s new emissions reduction system is expected to cut 567,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, which is equal to emissions from 50,000 Newcastle homes.

'This is a massive abatement at one of the State’s largest heavy industrial sites, which will help New South Wales meet its target of halving emissions by 2030.'

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin said the Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project will see air quality improve across the Newcastle region, with the overall emissions from Orica’s Kooragang Island site expected to drop by 48%.

'One of the biggest opportunity for decarbonisation in New South Wales right now sits with a relatively small number of existing high emitting industries, including manufacturing right here in Newcastle,' Mr Martin said.

'Our Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program is a great way for industry to take up innovative technologies, while improving environmental, health and economic outcomes for the Newcastle and Hunter regions.'

Orica Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Sanjeev Gandhi said Orica has been able to co-invest and move forward on implementing a significant decarbonisation project, thanks to the support of the New South Wales and Federal governments.

'The project ensures Orica’s domestic manufacturing operations remain competitive in a low carbon economy, bringing with it significant environment, economic and social benefits for the region,' Mr Gandhi said.

'It also allows us to look at longer-term investments in technologies including production of hydrogen from renewable energy.'

This project is the first funded out of the NSW Government’s $750 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, with Orica’s share financed through a loan from the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The project is expected to start in August 2022 and will take 3 months to complete.

For more information on the Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, visit the Energy Saver Net Zero Industry and Innovation web page.



November 8, 2021
Melbourne: Orica (ASX: ORI) has today announced plans to install an Australian industry first tertiary catalyst abatement technology, EnviNOx® at its Kooragang Island manufacturing plant. The technology is designed to deliver up to 95 per cent abatement efficiency[i], reducing the site’s total greenhouse gas emissions by almost 50 per cent.
To accelerate Orica’s progress towards achieving its 2030 emissions reduction target, the $37 million Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project will install proven nitrous oxide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tertiary abatement technology at its Kooragang Island plant from 2022, with commissioning in 2023.  

To facilitate the project, the New South Wales Government’s Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program will co-invest $13.06 million, together with Orica’s $24 million financed by a 5-year debt facility provided by the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Clean Energy Regulator has also approved the project as eligible to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). 

Viewed as a long-term aid for emissions reduction in high-pressure nitric acid manufacturing plants, the tertiary catalyst abatement technology utilises catalytic decomposition to destroy nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide, generated as a by-product of nitric acid production, is the primary source of GHG emissions at the Kooragang Island facility.  

The technology will be installed across all three nitric acid manufacturing plants used in the production of ammonium nitrate at Kooragang Island, and is designed to eliminate at least 567,000 tCO2e per year from the site’s operations. It is expected to reduce the sites total emissions by 48% and deliver a cumulative emissions reduction of at least 4.7 MtCO2e by 2030 based on forecast production.ii 

Orica Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Sanjeev Gandhi spoke about the critical role collaboration and partnerships will play in the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industries, saying:  

The Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project is a powerful example of a public-private partnership towards decarbonisation and marks a critical step in achieving our medium-term 2030 emissions reduction targets and progress towards our net zero ambition. We’re committed to working with our stakeholders to forge a pathway towards a lower carbon future together. 
“Thanks to the support of the New South Wales and Federal Governments we have been able to co-invest and move forward on implementing a significant decarbonisation project.”    

New South Wales Treasurer, and Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said: “The Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project will contribute to the Government target of reducing NSW emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. The project is expected to deliver a cumulative emissions reduction equivalent to 567,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year providing significant decarbonisation benefits within the decade. 

“This is a great example of what can be achieved by hard-to-abate industries transitioning towards net zero emissions, under our $750 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program announced earlier this year.” 

In summarising the mutual benefits, Mr Gandhi said: “The project ensures our domestic manufacturing operations remain competitive in a low carbon economy, bringing with it significant environment and regional economic and social benefits.  

“There are also benefits for our customers, by reducing the emissions intensity of our ammonium nitrate we are in a position to offer competitive and lower-carbon intensity ammonium nitrate products, helping them to achieve their sustainability goals. 

“It also allows us to look at longer-term investments in technologies, including production of hydrogen from renewable energy.”  

The Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project was approved in March 2021 by the Clean Energy Regulator to participate in Australia’s carbon market. Orica is eligible to generate ACCUs and was awarded the first optional Carbon Abatement Contract under the Facility Method for the purchase of around 3.4 million ACCUs by the Australian Government. This approach has enabled investment confidence by managing ACCU price risk. 

As Australia’s largest Mining Equipment, Technology and Services provider and a key player in the Australian manufacturing industry, a traditionally hard-to-abate sector, Orica understands that successful decarbonisation requires a collaborative approach. A founding member of the Australian Industry Energy Transition Initiative (Industry ETI), Orica is working with various stakeholders including government, industry, customers and civil society, to accelerate a pathway towards decarbonisation through proven, tangible action.  

The technology is expected to be installed on the first nitric acid plant from 2022. The findings from the Kooragang Island Decarbonisation Project will serve as an important Australian industry case study, demonstrating the potential for tertiary catalyst abatement technology to be deployed more widely across the sector. 

Orica has also recently partnered with the Alberta Government in Canada to commission a similar tertiary catalyst abatement technology at its Carseland ammonium nitrate manufacturing, reducing emissions by approximately 83,000 tCO2e per year. Orica has also assigned approximately $45 million over the next 5 years in capital to deploy similar tertiary abatement technology across its Australian ammonium nitrate sites, including its Kooragang Island site. 

GHG emissions data and performance against targets will be reported annually as part of Orica’s annual reporting suite. Orica’s 2021 annual reporting suite will be published at the end of November 2021, including a Climate Action Report aligned to the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.  

  • The primary source of GHG emissions at the Kooragang Island facility is from the production of ammonia and nitric acid, both intermediaries in the production of ammonium nitrate. The production of nitric acid generates nitrous oxide as a by-product of catalytic oxidation of ammonia.
  • In 2022, Orica will upgrade three nitric acid processing plants at its Kooragang Island site used in the production of ammonium nitrate, with technology designed to abate nitrous oxide emissions. 
  • This will be the first time the technology has been deployed in Australia, and is designed to deliver up to 95 per cent abatement efficiency from unabated levels. We expect to see a reduction in emissions by 567,000 tCO2e per year, and deliver a cumulative emissions reduction of at least 4.7 MtCO2e by 2030 based on forecast production. 
  • To facilitate the project, the New South Wales Government’s Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program will co-invest $13.06 million, together with Orica’s $24 million financed by a 5-year debt facility provided by the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Clean Energy Regulator has also approved the project as eligible to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units.  
  • Kooragang Island employs 253 full time workers and contractors, and in 2019, $120 million was contributed to the New South Wales economy with over 1,500 additional jobs supported at state level. For every $1 million investment by Kooragang Island, an indicative $170,000 in additional activity occurs and 15 additional jobs are supported in the broader economy.  
  • Together with environmental outcomes, the project will ensure Orica’s domestic manufacturing operations remain competitive in a low carbon economy and continue to contribute to the local economy. Almost half of the $37 million project will be spent with local New South Wales suppliers. This builds on Orica’s history supporting local socio-economic development with two-thirds of suppliers to the site being located either in the Hunter Valley (38 per cent) or across New South Wales (28 per cent) 
  • Orica has recently announced a target to reduce scope 1 and 2 operational emissions by 40% (on FY19 levels), and an ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050iii.  

iFrom unabated levels
iiBased on forecast nitrous oxide emissions intensity of 0.13 tonnes of CO2e per tonne of ammonium nitrate produced, adopting nitrous oxide global warming potential factor of 298 as prescribed under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (Measurement) Determination 2008 (Amendments for 2019-20).
iiiCovers our global scope 1 & scope 2 GHG emissions under our direct control, and material scope 3 GHG emission sources. Material means the scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions embodied in purchased ammonia and ammonium nitrate included in Orica’s scope 3 reporting category of purchased goods and services. These comprise around two-thirds of Orica’s scope 3 emissions footprint. Achieving this ambition will require effective government policy frameworks, supportive regulation and financial incentives, and access to new low-carbon technologies operating at commercial scale.

New NSW Frog Species 'Hopping' Into Protection

November 8, 2021
A new frog species has been discovered in Wollumbin National Park in northern New South Wales, and is one of only two known species that store their tadpoles on their bodies.
Researchers from University of Newcastle and the South Australian Museum recently identified the species as distinct from its close relation, another 'hip-pocket' or pouched frog Assa darlingtoni, after genetic analysis.

Minister for Environment Matt Kean said the NSW Government took immediate action to protect the tiny frogs, declaring their habitat an Asset of Intergenerational Significance under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

"This incredible discovery shows just how much we don't know about the world around us, with this tiny 16mm frog found on just one isolated mountain in the Wollumbin National Park," Mr Kean said.

"The small population size makes this frog more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which is why the NSW Government moved quickly to protect its habitat within days of being formally described.

"A conservation action plan will be developed to ensure the survival of this fascinating frog species, which has been living undiscovered high in the cool forest."

The tiny frog population is confined to around 2000 hectares on Wollumbin Mountain (Bundjalung name for Mount Warning) in the Wollumbin National Park, and is within the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

The new species has been named Assa wollumbin sp.nov. in consultation with Aboriginal Elders of the Wollumbin Consultative Group.

University of Newcastle's Dr Michael Mahony, one of the researchers who described the species, said it was an exciting find.

"The hip-pocket frog is not only unique for its amazing breeding biology among Australian frogs, but it is also unique among frogs of the world, since there are only four of the 4000 species worldwide that have male parental care where the male carries its developing tadpoles," Dr Mahony said.

Assets of Intergenerational Significance are areas of exceptional value that warrant special protection and are part of our commitment to zero-extinction within NSW national parks.

The research also revealed the new species will likely meet the criteria for listing as critically endangered due to its specific habitat needs and restricted distribution.

The new frog species is described in scientific journal Zootaxa.

MICHAEL J. MAHONY, HARRY B. HINES, STEPHEN V. MAHONY, BEDE MOSES, SARAH R. CATALANO, STEVEN MYERS, STEPHEN C. DONNELLAN. A new hip-pocket frog from mid-eastern Australia (Anura: Myobatrachidae: Assa). Zootaxa. November 2021. DOI: 10.11646/ZOOTAXA.5057.4.1

The hip-pocket frog (Assa darlingtoni), a small terrestrial myobatrachid frog found in mid-eastern Australia, has a highly derived, unusual, reproductive mode involving a unique form of male parental care. Males have subcutaneous pouches that open near the hip, and the developing tadpoles are carried in these pouches to post metamorphosis. It is found on several isolated mountain ranges in closed forest habitats, associated with high rainfall and temperate or sub-tropical climates. We established genetic relationships among specimens sampled across the range using phylogenetic analyses of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the nuclear genome and mitochondrial ND2 gene nucleotide sequences. These analyses uncovered two lineages that are genetically distinct in both nDNA and mtDNA analyses and that have low levels of divergence in male advertisement calls and are morphologically cryptic. 

Our data support separate species status for each lineage, based on the molecular genetic data. 

The first, which we name as a new species, Assa wollumbin sp. nov., is restricted to a single mountain, Wollumbin (= Mount Warning), the eroded cone of an ancient shield volcano—the Tweed Volcano. The second, the nominal species A. darlingtoni, has a wider distribution in five geographically disjunct subpopulations along 430 km of the Great Dividing Range in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. The distributions of the two species closely approach within 15 km of each other on the central plug and rim of the caldera of the Tweed Volcano. Assa wollumbin sp. nov. meets the conservation criteria for Critically Endangered [A3(e), B2(a,b)]. When all subpopulations of A. darlingtoni are combined the conservation assessment is Endangered [A3(e), B2(a,b)]. Because of the fragmented nature of the distribution of A. darlingtoni, combined with the genetic evidence of concordant sub-structuring, we also conducted a conservation assessment on the five subpopulations. Two were assessed as Critically Endangered (D’Aguilar Range and Conondale/Blackall Ranges), and the remainder as Endangered (Dorrigo Plateau, McPherson Ranges, and Gibraltar Ranges/Washpool).

Assa wollumbin, Mount Warning. Credit: Stephen Mahony

Assa darlingtoni. Credit: Stephen Mahony

Fine Issued For Emissions From Liddell Power Station

November 10, 2021
Electricity generator AGL Macquarie Pty Limited has been fined after Liddell Power Station in the Hunter Valley allegedly exceeded its permitted air emissions.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined the company after solid particle monitoring detected emissions were released when they should have been trapped by specialised equipment.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations David Gathercole said AGL Macquarie notified the EPA that stack testing earlier this year found it had exceeded its solid particles concentration limit.

“Managing emissions from large operations such as Liddell Power Station is a key issue of concern to the community and to the EPA. Any non-compliance is a serious matter,” Mr Gathercole said.

The exceedances were allegedly caused by a small number of failures of bags in the baghouse, which are designed to filter out very small solid particles. These failures were not detected by the continuous monitoring system.

The EPA has issued AGL with a $15,000 Penalty Notice for allegedly contravening its Environment Protection Licence under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

The fine amount is the largest that the EPA can issue under its legislation.

“These were the second exceedances in the current reporting period, but AGL Macquarie has implemented a number of actions aimed at ensuring future emissions are within licence limits,” Mr Gathercole said.

“The bags that failed have been replaced and AGL Macquarie AGLM is working with its filter bag supplier to identify any further opportunities to help maintain bag integrity.”

The EPA is continuing to regulate all power stations to ensure their emissions are minimised. 

People can report concerns regarding air pollution to the EPA on 131 555. All complaints made to the Environment Line are being directed to the EPA officers in the field so they can target those areas of most concern to the community.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at

Fines For Coal Mine For Dirty Water Discharge: Whitehaven's Tarrawonga Coal Mine

November 9, 2021
Whitehaven’s Tarrawonga Coal Mine has been fined and ordered to do an environmental audit after it allegedly discharged dirty water from a failed sediment dam at its mine near Boggabri, in north western NSW.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined the mine $30,000 after its third alleged illegal discharge of dirty water since 2020.

The mine is also alleged to have exceeded discharge limits in the lead up to a major storm with heavy rainfall in March this year.

EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Greg Sheehy said water sample results sent to the EPA indicated poor environmental standards at the mine.

“The results show that erosion, sediment controls and water management were not meeting the requirements of good environmental practice,” Mr Sheehy said.

“We found high levels of metal and bicarbonates discharged from the mine site in to nearby Goonbri Creek (photo at right).

“This can harm the environment and has the potential to cause toxic effects on aquatic ecosystems.”

After allegedly failing to operate sediment basins in a proper and efficient manner, and with three illegal discharges since 2020, the EPA issued two penalty infringement fines of $15,000 each and imposed a Mandatory Environmental Audit to improve protection to the surrounding mine environment.

The audit involves an EPA-approved independent expert assessing water management, including erosion and sediment control practices at the mine.

“The auditor will conduct a thorough assessment, including examining Tarrawonga Coal Mine’s sediment dam construction and capacity, and dirty water management infrastructure,” Mr Sheehy said.

“The site needs to be operating in line with best industry practice and this audit will help achieve that standard.”

The fines issued are the largest amount that the EPA can issue under its legislation.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at

$40 Million Clean Technology Grants Open

Applications are still open for the $40 million Clean Technology Research and Development (R&D) Grants Program, which encourages the development of innovative technologies and services to lower industry carbon emissions.
Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said the R&D grants will support emission reducing innovations developed by universities, industry and other research organisations.

"We're calling on New South Wales' best engineers, scientists and researchers to come forward with their ideas on how we can lower carbon emissions into the future, and accelerate the State's clean industrial revolution," Mr Kean said.

"These grants are part of the NSW Government's $750 million investment in Net Zero Industry and Innovation, which is a cornerstone of our Net Zero Plan to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030."

The grants program is targeting co-investment in early-stage technologies to reduce emissions in 3 key areas:
  • electrification and energy systems
  • primary industry and land management
  • powerfuels, including hydrogen.
"With strong research and financial sectors, New South Wales is ideally positioned to create an ecosystem where clean technologies are rapidly developed, repeatedly innovated and scaled-up to meet our emissions targets," Mr Kean said.

The grants program is administered by the NSW Environmental Trust and will be available annually until 2026.

Expressions of Interest for the current round close at 5 pm on 23 November 2021, with up to $5 million available for individual grants ranging from $400,000 to $4 million.

Green Hydrogen Feasibility Study Positions Port Of Newcastle To Drive A More Diverse Hunter Economy

November 8, 2021
Australia’s deepwater global gateway, Port of Newcastle, is partnering with Macquarie Group’s Green Investment Group and the Commonwealth Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to support the development of a hydrogen economy in the Hunter Region.

Port of Newcastle and Macquarie’s Green Investment Group have launched a $A3 million feasibility study into the development of a green hydrogen hub at the Port that includes the backing of a $A1.5 million funding grant from ARENA, secured under its Advancing Renewables Program. The hub, called the Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Hub, will initially be underpinned by a 40MW electrolyser that over time would increase to a capacity of over 1GW.

The feasibility study into the initial 40MW hub will determine a broad and comprehensive range of potential use cases for green hydrogen in the Hunter which build on the region’s strong industrial heritage. These include mobility, bunkering, energy production and industrial uses at the scale necessary to position the Hunter at the centre of the emerging global green hydrogen opportunity. Developing these use cases would support the creation of local jobs during construction and operations, the development of new industries and contribute to Australia’s long-term economic and energy security.

The study will also assess the suitability of an optimal site within the Port which, given its large size and existing infrastructure, has a range of options for developing and scaling-up hydrogen and ammonia infrastructure that can successfully link into existing East Coast supply chains.

Port of Newcastle and Macquarie’s Green Investment Group have also signed Memoranda of Understanding with Idemitsu, Keolis Downer, Lake Macquarie City Council, Snowy Hydro and Jemena, all of whom will participate in the feasibility study. Macquarie’s agriculture platform, which manages more than 4.5 million hectares of farmland across Australia, will also participate in the feasibility study, focusing on green ammonia for fertiliser production. These partnerships represent key industries in the Hunter Region including agriculture, mobility, export and bunkering, energy generation and transport. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with the University of Newcastle as the project’s R&D partner.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said: “Today’s announcement sets our region up to be become a hub of hydrogen innovation and the University is excited to be a key partner on this important project.

“Our University’s track record through NIER shows we know how to partner with industry to research and demonstrate new hydrogen technologies and their various potential applications in this region - we’ve got the innovation capabilities and the industry relationships to do this.

“Our University is absolutely committed to working with partners to grow new industries for our region and we know today’s announcement will be an important milestone for the future of our region, NSW and Australia.”
Port of Newcastle Chair, Professor Roy Green, said a green hydrogen hub in the Hunter, underpinned by a 40MW electrolyser, would support the development of new industries in the region and contribute to Australia’s long-term economic and energy security, as well as creating local jobs during construction and operations.  

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said: “We are delighted that ARENA has decided to partner with us for this important feasibility study into the Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Hub Project. We thank them for recognising Port of Newcastle’s capabilities for this important regional development opportunity.

“It makes sense for the Port of Newcastle to play a substantial role in Australia’s bid to become a significant renewable exporter. With our existing access to global energy supply chains, world-class infrastructure, strong industry partnerships, proximity to the existing demand, links to domestic road and rail networks, a local highly skilled workforce and proximity to renewable energy zones, Port of Newcastle is well placed to develop a hydrogen hub and export hydrogen as a tradable energy commodity.

“By partnering with Macquarie’s Green Investment Group to develop the Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Hub Project, we are tapping into the expertise of a world-leading renewables developer, investor and financier. Our partnership brings together local knowledge and international experience to support the diversification of the Port, so that the Hunter continues to be an engine of economic growth for the region and New South Wales.”

The Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Project will support the Federal and NSW governments’ ambitions to produce and export the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world. It will focus on the production of green hydrogen for domestic and export use, incorporating a green ammonia plant, green hydrogen plant and grid-connected energy solution that will support the regions abundant renewable resource.

Mr Carmody said: “We are committed to future diversification at Port of Newcastle, and this is a significant vote of confidence in our future ambitions to identify and embrace step-change opportunities to create thousands of low-carbon jobs in a new export industry, contribute to the Hunter, NSW and Australian economy, support local industries and customers, and ensure a stronger Port for the future. This project is part of our commitment to providing Hunter industries with more environmentally sustainable export pathways to global markets.

“This project has the potential to create thousands of low-carbon jobs in a new export industry for the Port, the Hunter, NSW and Australia. Not only does it support our diversification plans here at the Port, but also our commitment to clean energy diversification, renewables projects and further opportunities to support local jobs and more environmentally sustainable export pathways to global markets.”

Macquarie’s Green Investment Group Head of Industrial Transition and Clean Fuels, Kate Vidgen, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Port of Newcastle to progress an internationally significant green hydrogen hub and, in doing so, support the diversification of the Hunter’s economy.  Countries around the world are actively pursuing green hydrogen opportunities but only a few of the projects we see have the Hunter’s attributes: a strong industrial heritage, a number of domestic and export use cases, and existing high-quality transport and energy infrastructure, and a highly trained local workforce.

“We believe Port of Newcastle has significant scope for producing green hydrogen at the scale required to make it price competitive internationally. To put it into context, a 40MW electrolyser can generate sufficient green hydrogen to power 900 buses for a year. An electrolyser with 40MW capacity at the Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Project would support a diversity of use cases, and we are really looking forward to working with our project partners, who represent a range of industries, on this important feasibility study. Working with our project partners, collaborators and a range of stakeholders, this feasibility study will take us even closer to better understanding the range of domestic and export opportunities.”

Mr Carmody said: “The potential for the Port of Newcastle to export hydrogen overseas as a tradable energy commodity is a huge coup for the region, positioning the Port of Newcastle to provide the backdrop for Australia’s future export opportunity and remain a world-leading energy export hub.”

“Not only does the region have existing skill base and infrastructure, but it also has scalability to support a long-term cost advantage as hydrogen strengthens as a global commodity.”

For more information, visit the Port of Newcastle Hydrogen Hub Project.

NSW Government Plan To Revitalise Peat Island And Mooney Mooney Released

The NSW Government’s proposal to breathe new life into old assets and open Peat Island to the public, while also revitalising Mooney Mooney with new housing, community facilities and job opportunities, has been released.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch said the rezoning proposal is now open for public exhibition on Central Coast Council’s website.

“For over a century Peat Island has been closed off to the public and the NSW Government is working to unlock this under-utilised publicly-owned land in this stunning Hawkesbury River setting,” Mr Crouch said.

Key features of the proposal include:
  • Nearly 270 new homes at Mooney Mooney to deliver more housing supply,
  • Retention of nine unlisted historical buildings on the island, and four on the mainland, to be restored and used for new community and commercial opportunities,
  • New retail and café or restaurant opportunities,
  • Approximately 9.65 hectares of open space, including opportunities for walking and cycling tracks, parklands and recreational facilities,
  • Retention of the chapel and surrounding land for community use, and
  • 10.4 hectares of bushland dedicated as a conservation area.
“The NSW Government has been consulting widely, culminating in this rezoning proposal that strikes a balance between future land uses and achieving the best social and economic outcomes for the Mooney Mooney community.”

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the proposal will provide more than two kilometres of public access to the Hawkesbury River foreshore and Peat Island, opening it up for the first time in 100 years, as well as the opportunity for tourism uses including short-stay tourist accommodation.

“This is an area of great significance to the region, local and Aboriginal communities, and many other stakeholders, including those with links to Peat Island’s institutional past,” Mrs Pavey said.

“Any future uses will recognise and protect the site’s significant Aboriginal and European heritage.”

To ensure everyone has an opportunity to understand the NSW Government’s vision for Peat Island and Mooney Mooney, community information webinars will be held over coming weeks. Details will be available shortly.

Mrs Pavey said in parallel to the broader community engagement on the proposal, the NSW Government would continue to work with the Peat Island/Mooney Mooney Community Reference Group on the future of the area’s community facilities and public spaces.

“At the heart of this will be how the Peat Island chapel precinct at Mooney Mooney can be retained by the community and put to its best possible use,” Mrs Pavey said.

The rezoning proposal will also remain open to feedback from the public until Monday, 20 December 2021.

Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison has a bingle or two on the campaign trail

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

It seemed remarkable chutzpah that Scott Morrison, back from Glasgow where Australia remains a criticised laggard despite its embrace of a 2050 target, would hit the trail to campaign on climate policy.

Alternatively, as some suggest, perhaps the prime minister just wanted to tick that box early, before moving onto more congenial issues.

Either way, it didn’t turn out well.

His policy to promote electric cars, which contained minimal substance, backfired. And he wedged himself with a too-smart-by-half attempt to wedge Labor on carbon capture and storage.

Morrison surely must have seen the dangers of exposing himself on electric cars, after all he’d said in denouncing Bill Shorten’s policy in 2019.

The quotes from then were grenades for the throwing. Shorten wanted to end the Aussie weekend, Morrison declared; such a vehicle “won’t tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.”

How did Morrison believe he could execute a turnaround in the harsh political spotlight without being called to account? Especially when his political honesty is under the most intense questioning.

Sean Kelly, columnist and former staffer for Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, writes in his just-published The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison that the PM, “never feels, in himself, insincere or untruthful, because he always means exactly what he says; it is just that he means it only in the moment he is saying it. Past and future disappear.”

Unfortunately for Morrison, the electronic clips don’t disappear. Those on electric cars were there to be played again and again.

Read more: Scott Morrison spruiks electric vehicles – but rules out subsidies and an end-date for petrol cars

Morrison himself explained his about-face by claiming it was a “Labor lie” that he had campaigned against EVs in 2019. “I didn’t. […] I was against Bill Shorten’s mandate policy, trying to tell people what to do with their lives, what cars they were supposed to drive and where they could drive.”

There was another problem with Morrison’s decision to climb into a hydrogen-fuelled car during his first visit to Melbourne in a very long time.

His policy – $178 million for charging and refuelling infrastructure and the like – lacked substance. It had no subsidies, with the government claiming they would not be a good use of taxpayers’ money.

Within hours of the announcement, a devastating critique of the policy came from his own side of politics, delivered by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean.

Speaking to ABC 7.30, Kean contrasted Morrison’s weak policy with NSW’s robust approach and spelled out how Morrison should be acting.

“I would encourage the federal government to be looking at doing things like providing direct support for people who want to purchase an EV. There are a range of taxes and charges that could be waived,” Kean said.

“We want to see things like the federal government investing more heavily in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The funding that they’ve put on the table doesn’t even match the funding that we’ve put here just for the state of New South Wales.

"But the biggest thing the federal government can do is deal with the issue of fuel standards. Australia has some of the worst fuel standards anywhere in the world”, which meant it “is becoming the dumping ground for the vehicles the rest of the world doesn’t want”.

The NSW government is forward-leaning on climate issues, and Kean and Morrison have some interesting history. The PM sledged him spectacularly last year after Kean said “some of the most senior members” of the Morrison government were concerned about its climate change policies.

Read more: Morrison to link $500 million for new technologies to easing way for carbon capture and storage

In one of those “in the moment” prime ministerial statements, Morrison responded that Kean “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and declared “most of the federal cabinet wouldn’t even know who Matt Kean was”.

They certainly know now. Kean is treasurer as well as environment minister in the Perrottet government, and that government is willing to chivvy the Feds when it feels like it.

In another climate announcement this week, Morrison said the government would contribute $500 million for a new $1 billion fund, administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, to help small companies commercialise low-emissions technology.

The legislation will contain a provision widening the remit of the CEFC to allow it to invest in carbon capture and storage, which it is banned from doing at present.

Labor has consistently opposed such a widening, so the government briefed that this would put pressure on the opposition. But Labor took one look at the trap and seems determined to avoid it. It indicated it might support the change, given the $500 million would be “new money” for the CEFC rather than a redirection of existing funds. In the meantime, a couple of renegade Queensland Coalition senators, Matt Canavan and Gerard Rennick, flagged they’d vote against the fund.

More generally, Morrison this week sharpened the Coalition-Labor contrast he has set up on climate policy, between a government that encourages and supports and an opposition that would regulate and tax.

He encapsulated his desired dichotomy by saying that “we believe climate change will ultimately be solved by ‘can do’ capitalism, not ‘don’t do’ governments seeking to control people’s lives and tell them what to do, with interventionist regulation and taxes that just force up your cost of living and force businesses to close”.

Indeed, he seeks to use the contrast broadly. “I think that’s a good motto for us to follow not just in this area, but right across the spectrum of economic policy in this country,” he told a business audience. “We’ve got a bit used to governments telling us what to do over the last couple of years. I think we have to break that habit.”

This reverts to Liberal Party “free enterprise” ideology, which has had to take a battering in the pandemic as the government spent wildly to keep things afloat. It also taps into the post-lockdown sentiment of those exhausted by restrictions and orders and welcoming “freedom” again.

But in terms of climate policy, the reality is far from so simple.

Read more: Book review: Sean Kelly's The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison

The point has been made many times that “taxes” – taxpayers’ money – are financing the multiple billions the Morrison government has committed to encouraging “capitalist” solutions.

While expounding “can do capitalism”, the government is in fact pursuing an interventionist approach by putting all its eggs in the technology-support basket and not enough in the market-creation one.

“Scotty from Marketing” likes slogans, but “can do capitalism” doesn’t ring like one with a future. “Capitalism” works as an economic system (with more than a little help from governments), but it is beyond clunky as part of a sound bite.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

White sharks can easily mistake swimmers or surfers for seals. Our research aims to reduce the risk

Elias Levy/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY
Laura RyanMacquarie University and Charlie HuveneersFlinders University

The presumed death of 57-year-old Paul Millachip in an apparently fatal shark bite incident near Perth on November 6 is a traumatising reminder that while shark bites are rare, they can have tragic consequences.

Despite the understandably huge media attention these incidents generate, there has been little scientific insight into how and why they happen.

Sharks in general, and white sharks in particular, have long been described as “mindless killers” and “man-eaters”.

But our recent research confirms that some bites on humans may be the result of mistaken identity, whereby the sharks mistake humans for their natural prey based on visual similarities.

Sharks have an impressive array of senses, but vision is thought to be particularly important for prey detection in white sharks. For example, they can attack seal-shaped decoys at the surface of the water even though these decoys lack other sensory cues such as scent.

The visual world of a white shark varies substantially from that of our own. White sharks are likely colourblind and rely on brightness, essentially experiencing their world in shades of grey. Their eyesight is also much less acute than ours – in fact, it’s probably more akin to the blurry images a human would see underwater without a mask or goggles.

The Mistaken Identity Theory

Bites on surfers have often been explained by the fact that, seen from underneath, a paddling surfer looks a lot like a seal. But this presumed similarity has only previously been assessed based on human vision, using underwater photographs to compare their silhouettes.

Recent developments in our understanding of sharks’ vision have now made it possible to examine the mistaken identity theory from the shark’s perspective, using a virtual system that generates “shark’s-eye” images.

In our study, published last month, we and our colleagues in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom compared video footage of seals and of humans swimming and paddling surfboards, to predict what a young white shark sees when looking up from below.

Shark's-eye images of surfer and seal
‘Shark’s-eye view’ of a paddling surfer and seal, suggesting white sharks may struggle to differentiate the two. Author provided

We specifically studied juvenile white sharks – between of 2m and 2.5m in length – because data from New South Wales suggests they are more common in the surf zone and are disproportionately involved in bites on humans. This might be because juvenile sharks are more likely to make mistakes as they switch to hunting larger prey such as seals.

Our results showed it was impossible for the virtual visual system to distinguish swimming or paddling humans from seals. This suggests both activities pose a risk, and that the greater occurrence of bites on surfers might be linked to the times and locations of when and where people surf.

Our analysis suggests the “mistaken identity” theory is indeed plausible, from a visual perspective at least. But sharks can also detect prey using other sensory systems, such as smell, sound, touch and detection of electrical fields.

Read more: Why do shark bites seem to be more deadly in Australia than elsewhere?

While it seems unlikely every bite on a human by a white shark is a case of mistaken identity, it is certainly a possibility in cases where the human is on the surface and the shark approaches from below.

However, the mistaken identity theory cannot explain all shark bites and other factors, such as curiosity, hunger or aggression are likely to also explains some shark bites.

Can This Knowledge Help Protect Us?

As summer arrives and COVID restrictions lift, more Australians will head to the beach over the coming months, increasing the chances they might come into close proximity with a shark. Often, people may not even realise a shark is close by. But the past weekend gave us a reminder that shark encounters can also tragically result in serious injury or death.

Understanding why shark bites happen is a good first step towards helping reduce the risk. Our research has inspired the design of non-invasive, vision-based shark mitigation devices that are currently being tested, and which change the shape of the silhouette.

Read more: Fatal shark attacks are at a record high. 'Deterrent' devices can help, but some may be nothing but snake oil

We still have a lot to learn about how sharks experience their world, and therefore what measures will most effectively reduce the risks of a shark bite. There is a plethora of devices being developed or commercially available, but only a few of them have been scientifically tested, and even fewer – such as the devices made by Ocean Guardian that create an electrical field to ward off sharks – have been found to genuinely reduce the risk of being bitten.The Conversation

Laura Ryan, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University and Charlie Huveneers, Associate professor, Flinders University

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

The ‘Ringo Starr’ of birds is now endangered – here’s how we can still save our drum-playing palm cockatoos

Palm cockatoo breeding pair at the nesting hollow. Female on left, male on the right. Christina N. Zdenek
Christina N. ZdenekThe University of Queensland and Rob HeinsohnAustralian National University

Environmental scientists see flora, fauna and phenomena the rest of us rarely do. In this series, we’ve invited them to share their unique photos from the field.

Australia’s largest parrot, the palm cockatoo, is justifiably famous as the only non-human animal to craft tools for sound. They create drumsticks to make a rhythmic beat. Sadly, the “Ringo Starr” of the bird world is now threatened with extinction – just as many other parrots are around the world.

This week, the Queensland government moved this species – also known as the goliath cockatoo – onto the endangered list, due to our research on palm cockatoo populations over more than 20 years.

Our analysis predicts a severe decline from 47% to as high as 95% over the next half-century. Given the current population is estimated at just 3,000 birds, it is likely to drop to as low as 150 birds. They could all but disappear from Australia in our lifetimes.

Is it too late? Not yet. There are concrete ways to protect these magnificent, elusive birds by conserving habitat and their all-important breeding hollow trees, by reintroducing cool burns (including unburnt areas), and finding out more about these special parrots.

One of the crucial palm cockatoo hollows burning down in Cape York. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided

So Why Are Palm Cockatoos In Trouble?

Palmies, as we call these charismatic birds, hail from an ancient lineage on the parrot evolutionary tree. In Australia they only live on the Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland, where they face a perfect storm of threats and vulnerability.

They’re losing habitat due to poor fire management and ongoing land-clearing, but they also have extremely low breeding rates, with females laying a single egg every two years.

Of the offspring, only 23% of their chicks live until they fledge. On average, this means each breeding pair successfully raises just one chick every 10 years. And who knows if that fledgling will make it to sexual maturity at five or more years old?

Read more: Bird-brained and brilliant: Australia's avians are smarter than you think

One challenge in studying these birds is the difficulty in identifying individual birds over time. To date there has been no successful capture of palmies to mark them via leg bands or GPS trackers. Without knowing who’s who, major problems with breeding success could be masked by an ageing population, given their life expectancy is up to 60 years.

Our research on palm cockatoo genetics and vocal dialects reveals their three major populations on the peninsula are poorly connected, meaning little movement of birds between groups.

Scientist with palm cockatoo
Researcher Christina Zdenek with a palm cockatoo. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided

Each group has developed “cultural” traits which have not spread between the populations. For example, the famous drumming display mainly occurs in the eastern population, where the birds also make distinctive calls including a unique human-like “hello”.

The downside is that if one population is in trouble, the others are unable to pick up the slack and provide breeding reinforcements.

How Do We Save Them?

Palmies are in real trouble. Saving them from extinction will take a concerted effort.

We urgently need a better understanding of why they have such trouble breeding, to figure out if it’s similarly bad across all three populations, and to work out how palmies use the landscape.

At the same time, we have to get better at managing the landscape they need to survive. What does that look like? It means cool burns to prevent extreme bushfires burning down their ancient nesting trees – plus avoiding any further felling of these priceless trees.

Palm cockatoo splintering a stick to make his nesting platform. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided
Palm cockatoos can live up to 60 years. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided

These trees are a key part of the puzzle. Palmies are picky breeders. For these birds, not just any tree hollow will do. They require large, old hollow-bearing trees to breed in, which can be up to 300 years old.

The hollowing process typically starts with a small burn at the base, giving termites access to the insides of the trunk. Eventually, these trees resemble vertical hollow pipes. The palmies then spend months splintering sticks and bringing them to the hollow to make a nesting platform up to a metre deep – the only parrot to do in the entire world.

Unfortunately, these “piped” trees are especially vulnerable to big fires, which also lower termite populations and reduce the chances of future hollows being formed.

Protecting Their Habitat

We’ve found using a brush cutter and rake to clear the grass and debris for three metres around nesting trees is enough to save them from fires. This is of course labour intensive.

Breeding hollow tree for palm cockatoos
Protecting palm cockatoo breeding hollows from fire. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided

A longer-term strategy is to manage fire better. The frequency and intensity of bushfires in tropical Australia has changed for the worse since Europeans started managing the landscape. A return to the traditional cool burns employed by indigenous people from the Uutaalnganu, Kanthanampu and Kuuku Ya’u language groups could largely resolve this problem.

Read more: It's not too late to save them: 5 ways to improve the government's plan to protect threatened wildlife

Land clearing also reduces habitat. Though long saved by distance, Cape York is now seeing strip-mining, road building, and quarrying, which all contribute to habitat loss. We can reduce the damage done if skilled ecologists survey proposed clearance areas ahead of time.

Another vital step towards keeping this species alive is to broadly assess and protect as much as possible of the remaining palm cockatoo breeding habitat on Cape York.

We also need better ways of detecting their nest hollows. We’ve researched these birds for over two decades, and can confidently say that birds don’t come any harder to study than palmies.

Just 23% of palmie chicks live until they fledge. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided
Palmies go quiet during nesting, making them hard to find. Christina N. ZdenekAuthor provided

Hunting for their nests is time consuming and expensive because palmies can lay their egg any day in an eight month breeding season, with pairs often switching among several hollows on their territories. This spreads our survey teams thin.

We’ve also found that palmies go quiet during nesting and are super wary of humans, making finding their nesting hollows especially difficult.

Despite all the challenges in saving them, it is worthwhile. Even after watching them for 20 years, we have not tired of their company. They’re magnificent birds with unique behaviour and a surprising number of parallels with humans, such as drumming, blushing, tool-making, and their “Hello” call.

To bring them back from the edge, we must work quickly to figure out why and where their breeding survival rates are so low, improve how we use fire, and protect their habitat and the all-important old trees.The Conversation

Christina N. Zdenek, Lab Manager/Post-doc at the Venom Evolution Lab, The University of Queensland and Rob Heinsohn, Professor of Evolutionary and Conservation Biology, Australian National University

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

Morrison to link $500 million for new technologies to easing way for carbon capture and storage

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Wednesday announce $500 million towards a new $1 billion fund to promote investment in Australian companies to develop low-emissions technologies.

But the government will use the legislation for the fund to try to wedge Labor.

The $500 million will be provided to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with the legislative package including the expansion of the remit of the CEFC to enable it to invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The CEFC can invest in a broad range of low-emissions technologies, with the only exceptions being nuclear and CCS. The government has previously tried to remove the barrier to the CEFC investing in CCS but has been frustrated by the Senate.

By linking the $500 million to the expansion of the CEFC’s investment remit, the government believes it will put pressure on Labor, which opposed the wider brief for the corporation.

While the government’s legislation would remove the prohibition relating to CCS, there would be no change to the nuclear prohibition.

The government regards CCS, which is controversial and as yet unproven at scale, as a priority technology under its Technology Investment Roadmap.

The proposed fund is the latest in a round of announcements this week as Morrison campaigns on his technology-based energy policy for net-zero by 2050.

Read more: Politics with Michelle Grattan: Scott Morrison has decided electric cars won't threaten Aussie weekends

But Tuesday’s unveiling of his policy to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles – with $178 million for modest initiatives but no subsidies to assist purchasers – ran into immediate flak, with strong criticisms from experts and the opposition, who said it was totally inadequate.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean made it clear the Morrison government should be doing a great deal more.

He said he would like to see it directly support electric vehicles so they would be cheaper for families and businesses. A number of taxes and charges could be waived.

The federal government should also invest more heavily in in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, he told the ABC on Tuesday night.

But Kean said the biggest thing the federal government could do was deal with the issue of fuel standards – Australia had some of the worst fuel standards in the world, worse than China or India.

NSW on Wednesday will announce support for the fleet industry to purchase electric vehicles.

profile of two men in car
The Morrison government announced an electric vehicle strategy on Tuesday. William West/AFP

At a news conference on Tuesday Morrison was confronted by reporters over his 2019 trenchant attacks on Labor’s electric vehicle policy, which he said would “end the weekend”. Despite the quotes, Morrison denied he had campaigned against EVs at the election.

“I didn’t. That is just a Labor lie. I was against Bill Shorten’s mandate policy, trying to tell people what to do with their lives, what cars they were supposed to drive and where they could drive.”

The proposed “low emissions technology commercialisation fund” would include $500 million from private sector investors.

Morrison says in a statement the fund would back Australian early stage companies to develop new technologies.

Emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor says it would “address a gap in the Australian market, where currently small, complex, technology-focussed start-ups can be considered to be too risky to finance”.

The investments would be in the form of equity, not grants or loans.

Read more: As the world surges ahead on electric vehicle policy, the Morrison government's new strategy leaves Australia idling in the garage

The latest initiative brings the government’s public investment commitments to low emissions technologies by 2030 to more than $21 billion.

The government will introduce legislation to establish the fund – expected to earn a positive return for taxpayers – in this term of parliament.

The government’s list of example of potential areas for the fund’s investments include:The Conversation

  • direct air capture of CO₂ and permanent storage underground
  • materials or techniques with the potential to reduce emissions in the production in steel and aluminium
  • soil carbon measurement technologies
  • livestock feed technologies to reduce methane emissions from cattle
  • improvements to solar panels
  • lighter and smaller battery cases
  • software developments to improve the operational efficiency of a variety of low-emissions technologies in all sectors of the economy.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

As the world surges ahead on electric vehicle policy, the Morrison government’s new strategy leaves Australia idling in the garage

Jake WhiteheadThe University of QueenslandJessica WhiteheadThe University of Queensland, and Kai Li LimThe University of Queensland

The Morrison government will today announce its long-awaited electric vehicle strategy, coinciding with COP26 climate change talks underway in Glasgow. The new policy contains some welcome new funding, but is largely notable for what it omits.

In a welcome move, the government has allocated an additional A$250 million for electric vehicles, primarily aimed at charging infrastructure. But unlike every leading electric vehicle market globally, the plan delivers no financial or tax support to help Australian motorists make the switch to a cleaner car.

And the government has failed to explain how the policy will help Australia achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, just as it failed to do when releasing its economy-wide emissions reduction plan last month.

It’s encouraging to see the Morrison government move past its claim of a few years ago that electric vehicles would “end the weekend”. But the new plan is not the national electric vehicle strategy Australia deserves, and badly needs.

man in orangne vest looks at steering wheel
Prime Minister Scott Morrison sitting in an electric vehicle at an engineering facility this month. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Falling Short

Transport produces almost 20% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – 60% of which is from cars. And the rate of transport emissions is fast increasing.

The government says the policy, titled the Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, will lead to 30% of all new car sales being electric by 2030 – which would mean 1.7 million electric cars on Australian roads.

But in 2019, government modelling predicted electric vehicles would comprise 27% of new sales by 2030. So the new measures announced will lead only to a 3% increase in what would have happened anyway.

At COP26 last week, Australia signed a global agreement to make electric vehicles the “new normal” by 2030. One in three cars being electric vehicles hardly meets this goal.

Most concerningly, the government’s plan is inconsistent with global targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The United States, for example, is aiming for at least 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030.

Oddly, it appears the government would prefer Australian motorists remain dependent on expensive, foreign fuel for transport. Its investment in July of $260 million to increase diesel reserves – notably more than the new electric vehicle funding – supports this theory.

Read more: Clean, green machines: the truth about electric vehicle emissions

Blue electric car drives on bush-lined road
The government’s plan is inconsistent with global climate efforts. Mazda

Australia’s Token Effort

Globally, about 5% of all new cars sold are electric and this is rapidly increasing. Yet in Australia, the figure is about 1%.

So what measures does the new strategy contain to shift the needle? In two words, not much. It includes:

  • $250 million to support public charging infrastructure, fleet infrastructure, vehicle trials and smart charging infrastructure in households

  • continued low-interest financing support for fleets via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation

  • an overdue update to the Green Vehicle Guide.

It’s better than nothing. But the government has claimed electric vehicles will deliver around 15% of national emission reductions required by 2050. It’s hard to see how the measures released today will get us there.

The government has also claimed high international demand for electric vehicles could constrain global supply and slow deployment in Australia.

But as carmakers have pointed out, they have little reason to send new, cheaper electric models to Australia because it lacks the policies to stimulate electric vehicle demand.

Read more: The US jumps on board the electric vehicle revolution, leaving Australia in the dust

The Plan Australia Deserves

The Morrison government must go back to the drawing board and produce a national electric vehicle strategy consistent with global climate efforts.

That would mean aiming for at least half of new car sales being electric by 2030, and 100% by 2035. This translates to about one million electric vehicles sold in Australia by 2027 and at least 2.5 million by 2030.

It’s a massive increase from the 30,000 or so electric vehicles sold over the past five years, and at least 50% higher than what’s forecast under today’s strategy.

Forecast of new electric car sales in Australia by 2050: Australian government’s business-as-usual BITRE forecast ( compared to what is required to reach 100% EV fleet by 2050. Dr Jake Whitehead/The University of Queensland

Australia can learn much from overseas jurisdictions on how to boost electric vehicle sales. Until electric vehicle targets are met, the following state and federal policies are needed:

  • increase supply by introducing a national sales mandate for electric vehicles, and penalise manufacturers that don’t meet them

  • reduce upfront costs by making electric vehicles exempt from GST, stamp duty and registration fees (as is done in Norway)

  • support fleet adoption by making electric vehicles exempt from fringe benefits tax

  • fund infrastructure by committing to support the rollout of 100,000 public charging points by 2027 (in line with the European Union’s target).

  • Penalise states that go it alone on taxing electric vehicle usage. Instead, focus on road charges that address Australia’s multi-billion dollar city congestion problem rather than unfairly taxing rural and regional electric vehicle drivers due to the longer distances they have to drive.

Read more: Here's why electric cars have plenty of grunt, oomph and torque

electric vehicle charger bearing Australian flag
Australia should aim for all new car sales in 2035 being electric vehicles to support net zero emissions by 2050. Shutterstock

Why Australia Must Act

The benefits of electric vehicles go far beyond tackling climate change.

We estimate Australians spend more than $30 billion each year on imported fuel. This alone should be enough to spur governments to support electric vehicle adoption and keep this money in Australia.

Recent analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation also found maintaining the current approach to transport emissions could cost Australia up to $865 billion between 2022 and 2050.

Aside from greenhouse gas emissions, the costs were attributed to air, noise and water pollution. But better zero-emission transport policies could enable Australia to reduce these costs by up to $492 billion.

Clearly, electric vehicles deliver a net economic benefit, even after accounting for the cost of incentives and loss of fuel tax revenue.

As the rest of the world charges ahead, the Morrison government’s new strategy looks ever more foolish.

Read more: Wrong way, go back: a proposed new tax on electric vehicles is a bad idea The Conversation

Jake Whitehead, Tritum E-Mobility Fellow & Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow, The University of QueenslandJessica Whitehead, Industry Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Kai Li Lim, St Baker E-Mobility Fellow, The University of Queensland

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

Scott Morrison spruiks electric vehicles – but rules out subsidies and an end-date for petrol cars

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

After demonising Labor’s policy on electric cars before the 2019 election, the federal government has put electric vehicles at the centre of a new “Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy” to be released by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday.

The policy puts another A$178 million into the government’s future fuels fund, bringing it to $250 million, for investment to encourage low emission vehicles.

The expanded fund will focus on four areas of investment: public electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure; heavy and long-distance vehicle technologies; commercial fleets, and household smart charging.

The government estimates its strategy will result in more than $500 million combined private and public co-investment for the uptake of future fuels and involve the creation of more than 2600 new jobs.

But the policy is minimalist, ruling out consumer subsidies and concessions or mandating a phase out of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.

In 2019 Morrison was scathing about the ALP electric vehicle policy – which set a target of 50% of all new car sales being electric vehicles by 2030.

While saying the government didn’t have a problem with electric vehicles per se, Morrison in 2019 claimed “Bill Shorten wants to end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles where you’ve got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives”.

Read more: COP26: here's what it would take to end coal power worldwide

man recharges electric car
PM Scott Morrison was scathing about the electric vehicle strategy of Opposition leader Bill Shorten, pictured, during the 2019 election campaign. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Morrison says in his Tuesday announcement with emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor, “Australians love their family sedan, farmers rely on their trusted ute and our economy counts on trucks and trains to deliver goods from coast to coast.

"We will not be forcing Australians out of the car they want to drive or penalising those who can least afford it through bans or taxes. Instead, the strategy will work to drive down the cost of low and zero emission vehicles, and enhance consumer choice.

"We will do this by creating the right environment for industry co-investment.”

Sales of new technology vehicles are increasing quickly: battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were a record 8,688 sales in the first half of this year, representing 1.57% of the total light vehicle market. This compared to 6,900 in 2020.

But the rise is coming off a low base. About 1% of new vehicles sold in Australia are electric – which lags behind the global average of 5%.

The government policy says by 2030 battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are projected to make up 30% of annual new passenger and light commercial vehicle sales. This would translate into more than 1.7 million battery electric and plug-in vehicles on Australian roads by 2030.

The government says it will promote and bring forward priority market reforms to state and territory ministers “to ensure the electricity grid is EV-ready”.

The additional electric vehicle uptake enabled by the new investment will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8 million tonnes by 2035, the government says.

Labor’s electric vehicle policy, released earlier this year, promised to deliver a discount to cut the cost of non-luxury electric cars. It would cost about $200 million over three years.

Read more: Scott Morrison is hiding behind future technologies, when we should just deploy what already exists

electric vehicle being charged
The Morrison government plan does not include subsidies or other measures experts say is needed to boost electric vehicle uptake. Joel Carrett/AAP

The government says during consultation for the new strategy, there were calls for subsidies or tax concessions to reduce the price difference between conventional and low emission vehicles.

But, it argues, “reducing the total cost of ownership through subsidies would not represent value for the taxpayer, particularly as industry is rapidly working through technological developments to make battery electric vehicles cheaper.

"The Australian Taxation Office will investigate issuing updated guidance for businesses on the tax measures of low emission vehicles to provide clarity for fleet purchasing.”

The government’s position on subsidies is at odds with industry experts, who say the measure is important to encourage motorists to make the switch to clean vehicles.

An exclusive poll of 62 of Australia’s preeminent economists, published by The Conversation in June, found they overwhelmingly backed subsidies for all-electric vehicles and for public charging stations.

The majority also backed setting a date to ban the import of traditionally-powered cars – a move adopted by many other nations including China, the United Kingdom and France.

Back from Glasgow and out on the campaign trail this week, Morrison is promoting aspects of his net zero by 2050 technology policy. On Monday he was in Newcastle announcing a $1.5 million grant through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of a study to assess the feasibility of a green hydrogen hub at the Port of Newcastle.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

COP26: cities create over 70% of energy-related emissions. Here’s what must change

Anna HurlimannThe University of MelbourneGeorgia Warren-MyersThe University of Melbourne, and Judy BushThe University of Melbourne

Cities are responsible for 71-76% of energy-related CO₂ emissions. Today, the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow will convene to discuss this urgent global problem.

Carbon emissions in cities are generated through activities including the construction and operation of buildings, manufacture of building materials such as steel and concrete, and through the movement of people, goods and services.

The sector has been described as the “sleeping giant” of carbon emissions. This includes Australia, where a pre-COVID forecast estimated the population will reach 30 million by 2029 – requiring many more buildings to be constructed this decade and beyond.

Over the next 30 years, lifecycle emissions associated with new homes in Australia are expected to exceed the federal government’s economy-wide net-zero emissions targets. Where we locate new buildings and how they’re built is crucial to reducing emissions and managing our exposure to the impacts of climate change.

Australia’s cities are predominantly coastal, but development is underway in areas we know will face sea level rise. Homes and suburbs are not being built to withstand heatwaves and other climate change threats.

We must take significant and rapid action now to ensure cities play their part in limiting dangerous global warming, so they can cope with the climate challenges ahead.

Read more: The Great Australian Dream? New homes in planned estates may not be built to withstand heatwaves

What’s Happening At COP26?

At COP26 today, national, regional, local governments and the private sector will come together to work towards a zero-emission built environment.

A coalition known as #BuildingToCOP26 aims to halve the built environment’s emissions by 2030. Ahead of COP26, it outlined three goals for the sector. They cover targets to decarbonise buildings, committing to the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign and adopting shared goals for emissions reductions.

A man with a pram looks at a construction site.
Without significant and rapid change to the buildings and construction sector, society will be further exposed to climate risks. Shutterstock

Research consistently shows the clear need to act. Yet our study this year found city planning in Victoria does not sufficiently address climate change.

While Australian states have set goals for emission reductions, these are not yet activated through land use planning and development regulations. We found climate change impacts like sea level rise and urban heat were not sufficiently addressed.

Blind spots like these mean the implications of climate change on our built environment – and on property values – are being mispriced and underestimated.

Without significant, rapid change, society will be further exposed to climate risks.

All of us will bear the cost – through higher council rates to pay for infrastructure damage, rising home and contents insurance costs, and in some cases, being refused any insurance at all. This could devalue your property and put your mortgage at risk.

New Zealand recently made it mandatory for big banks, insurers and firms to disclose their climate risk. This leaves Australia increasingly isolated as a climate laggard and exposed to stranded climate assets (when buildings and properties are worthless due to their climate exposure or lack of insurability).

During extreme weather events, fuelled by climate change, there will be impacts to essential services such as water supply, power, and telecommunications.

These will affect all areas of life – schooling, livelihoods, commercial activities, and retirement plans and funding of them – and the damage is likely to be disproportionately felt by society’s most vulnerable.

Through our super funds, many Australians are investing in properties and businesses that may be exposed to a raft of climate risks, jeopardising our future financial security.

Measures to reduce emissions from the built environment should include a focus on design of buildings and suburbs and active transport options for walking and cycling.

More energy-efficient buildings can reduce emissions and help us adapt to higher temperatures.

Read more: The Great Australian Dream? New homes in planned estates may not be built to withstand heatwaves

people photograph pool collapsed into ocean
Australia’s cities are vulnerable to sea level rise. David Moir/AAP

Barriers To Climate Action In The Sector

Without urgent change, Australia’s 2050 goal of reaching net-zero emissions is at risk. Looking at the new homes required to house Australia’s population to 2050, for example, lifecycle emissions generated in construction and operation obliterates the net-zero target. And that doesn’t even account for emissions from the rest of the building sector.

We must rapidly change how we make and implement decisions around urban planning, property, construction and design. We developed a Built Environment Process Map to help with this task.

It describes the fundamental activities involved in producing the built environment. This can help ensure climate change goals are effectively implemented over a city’s life stages and integrated across sectors and actors.

Our research on the Australian property and construction sectors identified barriers to climate change action. They include:

  • a lack of clear, trustworthy information for key stakeholders about climate change

  • a perception among stakeholders that investing in climate change action when it’s not mandatory will threaten their economic competitiveness

  • a lack of a stable regulatory environment, which hampers investor certainty.

Frontrunners in the Australian property and construction sector are not waiting.

Some property and construction firms and local governments are taking progressively more sophisticated approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

But a lack of government regulation is hampering broad-scale action on climate risks, adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Governments Must Act Now

Existing emissions reduction efforts in the industry now need to be supported and mainstreamed through regulatory change. We also urgently need change in the electricity sector to set us on the path of net-zero emissions.

We can’t afford decisions today that lock in further greenhouse gas emissions.

What happens this week in the COP26 is crucial if we are to work towards a zero-emissions built environment, and achieve the critical goal of limiting warming to 1.5℃ this century.

Read more: Buildings produce 25% of Australia's emissions. What will it take to make them 'green' – and who'll pay? The Conversation

Anna Hurlimann, Associate Professor in Urban Planning, The University of MelbourneGeorgia Warren-Myers, Senior Lecturer in Property, The University of Melbourne, and Judy Bush, Lecturer in Urban Planning, The University of Melbourne

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

Big-business greenwash or a climate saviour? Carbon offsets raise tricky moral questions

Christian BarryAustralian National University and Garrett CullityAustralian National University

Massive protests unfolded in Glasgow outside the United Nations climate summit last week, with some activists denouncing a proposal to expand the use of a controversial climate action measure to meet net-zero targets: carbon offsetting.

Offsetting refers to reducing emissions or removing carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere in one place to balance emissions made in another. So far, more than 130 countries have committed to the net zero by 2050 goal, but none is proposing to be completely emissions free by that date – all are relying on forms of offsetting.

The use of offsets in meeting climate obligations has been rejected by climate activists as a “scam”. Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, joining the protesters, claimed relying on buying offsets to cut emissions would give polluters “a free pass to keep polluting”.

Others, however, argue offsetting has a legitimate role to play in our transition to a low-carbon future. A recent report by Australia’s Grattan Institute, for example, claimed that done with integrity, carbon offsets will be crucial to reaching net zero in sectors such as agriculture and aviation, for which full elimination of emissions is infeasible.

So who’s in the right? We think the answer depends on the kind of offsetting that is being employed. Some forms of offsetting can be a legitimate way of helping to reach net zero, while others are morally dubious.

Climate Change As A Moral Issue

The debate over offsetting is part of a key agenda item for COP26 – establishing the rules for global carbon trading, known as Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The trading scheme will allow countries to purchase emissions reductions from overseas to count towards their own climate action.

To examine carbon offsetting in a moral context, we should first remember what makes our contributions to CO₂ emissions morally problematic.

Greta Thunberg rallies climate activists in Glasgow.

The emissions from human activity increase the risks of climate change-related harms such as dangerous weather events – storms, fires, floods, heatwaves, and droughts – and the prevalence of serious diseases and malnutrition.

The more we humans emit, the more we contribute to global warming, and the greater the risks of harm to the most vulnerable people. Climate change is a moral issue because of the question this invites on behalf of those people:

Why are you adding to global warming, when it risks harming us severely?

Not having a good answer to that question is what makes our contribution to climate change seriously wrong.

The Two Ways To Offset Emissions

The moral case in favour of offsetting is it gives us an answer to that question. If we can match our emissions with a corresponding amount of offsetting, then can’t we say we’re making no net addition to global warming, and therefore imposing no risk of harm on anyone?

Well, that depends on what kind of offsetting we’re doing. Offsetting comes in two forms, which are morally quite different.

The first kind of offsetting involves removing CO₂ from the atmosphere. Planting trees or other vegetation is one way of doing this, provided the CO₂ that’s removed does not then re-enter the atmosphere later, for example as a result of deforestation.

Another way would be through the development of negative emissions technologies, which envisage ways to extract CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it permanently.

The second form is offsetting by paying for emissions reduction. This involves ensuring someone else puts less CO₂ into the atmosphere than they otherwise would have. For example, one company might pay another company to reduce its emissions, with the first claiming this reduction as an offset against its own emissions.

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator issues Australian Carbon Credit Units for “eligible offsets projects”. These include for projects of offsetting by emissions reduction.

The regulator certifies that a company, for example, installing more efficient technology “deliver abatement that is additional to what would occur in the absence of the project”. Another company whose activities send CO₂ into the atmosphere, such as a coal-fired power station, can then buy these credits to offset its emissions.

So What’s The Problem?

There is a crucial difference between these two forms of offsetting. When you offset in the first way – taking as much CO₂ out of the atmosphere as you put in – you can indeed say you’re not adding to global warming.

That’s not to say even this form of offsetting is problem-free. It’s crucial such offsets are properly validated and are part of a transition plan to cleaner energy generation compatible with everyone reaching net zero together. Tree-planting cannot be a complete solution, because we could simply run out of places to plant them.

But when you offset in the second way, you cannot say you’re not adding to global warming at all. What you’re doing is paying someone else not to add to global warming, while adding to it yourself.

The difference between the two forms of offsetting is like the difference between a mining company releasing mercury into the groundwater while simultaneously cleaning the water to restore the mercury concentration to safe levels, and a mining company paying another not to release mercury into the groundwater and then doing so itself.

Read more: We can't stabilise the climate without carbon offsets – so how do we make them work?

The first can be a legitimate way of negating the risk you impose. The second is a way of imposing risk in someone else’s stead.

Let’s use a few simple analogies to illustrate this further. In morality and law, we cannot justify injuring someone by claiming we had previously paid someone who was about to injure that same person not to do so.

The same is true when it comes to the imposition of risk. If I take a high speed joyride through a heavily populated area, I cannot claim I pose no risk on people nearby simply because I had earlier paid my neighbour not to take a joyride along the same route.

Had I not induced my neighbour not to take the joyride, he would’ve had to answer for the risk he imposed. When I do so in his place, I am the one who must answer for that risk.

Read more: Take heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can still hold global heating to 1.5℃

In our desperate attempt to stop the world warming beyond the internationally agreed limit of 1.5℃, we need to encourage whatever reduces the climate impacts of human activity. If selling carbon credits is an effective way to achieve this, we should do it, creating incentives for emissions reductions as well as emissions removals.

What we cannot do is claim that inducing others to reduce emissions gives us a moral license to emit in their place.The Conversation

Christian Barry, Professor of Philosophy at the ANU, Australian National University and Garrett Cullity, Professor, Australian National University

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

Take heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can still hold global heating to 1.5℃

John QuigginThe University of Queensland

Greta Thunberg has already pronounced the COP26 climate conference a failure. In important respects, the Swedish activist is correct.

The commitments made at the conference are insufficient to hold global heating to 1.5℃ this century. Leading producers and users of coal, including Australia, rejected a proposed agreement to end the use of coal in electricity generation by 2030. The Australian government went further and refused to commit to reducing methane emissions – a position endorsed by the Labor opposition.

And the rapid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has produced an equally rapid recovery in demand for all forms of energy, resulting in spikes in the prices of coal, oil and gas.

On the other hand, considered over a longer term, the outcomes of the Glasgow conference look rather better.

At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, participants agreed to aim at holding global heating below 2℃ this century, but did not deliver policy commitments to achieve this goal. The scenarios considered most plausible at the time yielded estimated heating of around 3℃.

The worst-case scenario, commonly described as “business as usual”, implied a catastrophic increase of up to 6℃ in global temperatures by 2100. As a result of all this, the Copenhagen talks were considered a spectacular failure.

But heading into the final days of the Glasgow summit, the goal of limiting heating below 2℃ looks attainable, and 1.5℃ is still possible. Despite the inevitable disappointments in the decade or so since Copenhagen, there is still room for hope.

group of people bumping fists
Former US president Barack Obama greets people at COP26 – where negotiators are seeking global progress on climate action. AP

1.5℃ To Stay Alive

Ahead of COP26, commitments by each nation had the world on track for 2.7℃ warming this century.

The ten days of the talks so far, however, have yielded new binding commitments. According to one analysis, the commitments put the world on a trajectory to 2.4℃ warming. This assessment is based on current submitted climate pledges by each country, known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs, together with legally binding net-zero commitments.

When we account for additional pledges announced – but not yet formalised – by the G20 countries, the projected temperature rise this century lowers to to 2.1℃, according to analysis by Climate Action Tracker released in September.

So that’s the good news. And of course, those optimistic trajectories assume all pledges are fully implemented.

It has become clear, however, that even 2℃ of global heating would be environmentally disastrous.

Read more: The fate of our planet depends on the next few days of complex diplomacy in Glasgow. Here's what needs to go right

Even under the current 1.1℃ of warming since the beginning of large-scale greenhouse gas emissions, Earth has experienced severe impacts such as devastating bushfires, coral bleaching and extreme heatwaves resulting in thousands of human deaths. Such events will only become more frequent and intense as Earth warms further.

This underscores the vital importance of urgently pursuing the 1.5℃ goal. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death for both vulnerable human populations and for natural ecosystems.

The idea of a target of 1.5℃, supported by many developing countries, was rejected out of hand by major countries at the Copenhagen conference.

The Paris conference in 2015 marked an important, but still partial move towards the 1.5℃ goal. There, nations agreed on a goal to hold global average temperature rise to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5℃.

We’re yet to see the final communique from Glasgow, and every word in it will doubtless be subject to lengthy negotiation. But it’s almost certain to include a strengthening of the language of the Paris Agreement, hopefully with a formal commitment that warming will be held to 1.5℃.

flames rise off trees into sky
Australia has already borne the brunt of climate-related disasters such as bushfires. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Reason For Hope

As with previous conferences, policy commitments at Glasgow will be insufficient to reach the 1.5℃ target. Most notably, the commitment to reduce methane emissions is, at this stage, merely an aspiration with no concrete policies attached.

And as analysis released on Tuesday found, real-world action is falling far short despite all the net-zero promises. If that “snail’s pace” continues, a temperature rise of 2.4℃, or even 2.7℃, remains a distinct possibility.

But the technologies and policies needed to hold warming to 1.5℃ are now available to us. And they can be implemented without condemning developing countries to poverty or requiring a reduction in living standards for wealthier countries.

The fact we have these options reflects both remarkable technological progress and the success of policies around the world, including emissions trading schemes and renewable energy mandates.

Thanks largely to government support, advances in solar and wind technology kicked off in the early 2000s. This ultimately pushed the cost of carbon-free electricity below that of new coal-fired and gas-fired plants.

wind turbines and solar panels
The technology to address the climate crisis is already here. Shutterstock

The biggest impact was felt in the European Union, where carbon prices and emissions trading drove a rapid transition. The EU has a clear path to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The most important requirement is to accelerate the transition to carbon-free electricity. This involves rapidly expanding solar and wind energy and replacing petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles with electric alternatives.

These changes would incur a one-off cost in scrapping existing power plants and vehicles before the end of their operational life, but would reduce energy and transport costs in the long run.

Other important steps are already beginning. They include reducing methane emissions, and adopting carbon-free production methods for steel, cement and other industrial products. Hydrogen produced from water by electrolysis will be crucial here.

There is no guarantee these outcomes will be achieved. The leading national emitters – China, India and the United States – have all been inconsistent in their pursuit of stabilising Earth’s climate.

China is currently wavering as economic difficulties mount. In the US, Donald Trump has not ruled out a presidential bid in 2024 which, if successful, would almost certainly reverse progress there.

Global action on climate change is still not nearly enough, but we’re undeniably moving in the right direction. By the time of the next major COP, presumably in 2026, Earth could finally be on a path to a stable climate.

Read more: Scott Morrison is hiding behind future technologies, when we should just deploy what already exists The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

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

COP26: what the draft climate agreement says – and why it’s being criticised

COP26 president Alok Sharma. UNFCCC / twitterCC BY-NC-SA
Michael JacobsUniversity of Sheffield

Having led the delegates at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to believe that the first draft of the final agreement would be published at midnight Tuesday, the UK presidency will not have made many friends by delaying it till 6am Wednesday morning. There will have been plenty of negotiators – not to mention journalists – who will have needlessly waited up all night.

In fact, COP26 president Alok Sharma will not have made many friends with the text itself either. As the host and chair of the summit, it is the UK’s responsibility to pull together all the negotiating texts which have been submitted and agreed over the last week into a coherent overall agreement.

But the widespread consensus among delegates I have spoken to is that the draft they have produced is not sufficiently “balanced” between the interests and positions of the various country groupings. And for the chair of such delicate negotiations, that is a dangerous sin.

Let’s recap. This COP (the conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) is the designated moment under the 2015 Paris Agreement when countries must come forward with strengthened commitments to act. There are two main areas for this. One is emissions cuts by 2030, the so-called “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs. The other, for the developed countries, is financial assistance to the least developed nations.

The problem facing the COP is that we know already that, when added together, countries’ emissions targets are not nearly enough to keep the world to a maximum warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, as the Paris Agreement aims for. And the financial promises don’t even reach the US$100 billion (£74.1 billion) a year that was meant to be achieved in 2020, let alone the much larger sums the most vulnerable countries need.

So what have the poorest countries – and the vociferous civil society organisations demonstrating in Glasgow – been demanding?

First, that NDCs should be strengthened before the scheduled date of 2025. And second, that at least US$500 billion should be provided in climate finance over the five years to 2025, with half of this going to help countries adapt to the climate change they are already experiencing.

Urging – Not Requiring

So what does the UK draft text say? It merely “urges” countries to strengthen their NDCs, proposing a meeting of ministers next year and a leaders’ summit in 2023. But “urges” is UN-speak for: “You may do this if you wish to, but you don’t have to if you don’t.” That is not enough to force countries to get onto a 1.5℃-compatible path. The text must require them to do so.

On finance, the text is even weaker. There is no mention of the US$500 billion demand, although it does call for adaptation funding to be doubled. There is no mention of using the special drawing rights (a kind of global money supply) which the IMF has recently issued for climate-compatible development. And there is insufficient recognition that the most vulnerable countries need much better access to the funds available.

Of course, developing countries do not expect to get all their own way in the negotiations. But commenting on the overall balance of the text between different countries’ positions, one European delegate said to me: “This looks like it could have been written by the Americans.”

It is of course true, as Alok Sharma emphasised in his afternoon press conference, that the text can still be changed. There are several issues on which negotiations are continuing and the text has yet to reflect their progress. Sharma has asked all parties to send in their suggested amendments to the draft and to meet him to discuss their reactions. He will find himself asked for a lot of meetings.

But it matters how this early text is drafted, for two reasons. First, the lack of balance means that it is the least developed countries which will have to do the most work to change it. In Paris the French presidency worked the other way round. They drafted an ambitious text and dared the biggest emitters to oppose it.

Second, the perceived imbalance could affect the trust in the British hosts. Sharma has built himself a strong reputation over the past couple of years preparing for the COP. He will not want to lose that in the crucial last days ahead.

COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.
Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. More. The Conversation

Michael Jacobs, Professorial Fellow, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), University of Sheffield

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

Can climate laggards change? Russia, like Australia, first needs to overcome significant domestic resistance

Ellie MartusGriffith University

Former US president Barack Obama took specific aim at Russia at the Glasgow COP26 climate talks this week. According to Obama, the fact Russian President Vladimir Putin (as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping) declined to attend the conference reflects “a dangerous absence of urgency, a willingness to maintain the status quo” on climate action.

As the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and one of the world’s top coal, oil, and gas producers and exporters, Russia is a key player in international climate action. Decarbonisation of carbon-intensive economies like Russia is crucial to reaching global emissions targets.

But like Australia, Russia is seen as an international climate laggard, and must overcome significant resistance to genuine climate policy reform at home.

Despite vastly different political systems, we can draw interesting parallels between Russia and Australia on the climate front.

Read more: To reach net zero, we must decarbonise shipping. But two big problems are getting in the way

Russia’s International Participation On Climate

In a surprise announcement two weeks out from COP26, Putin said Russia will aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. But his decision not to attend COP26 dealt a blow to the summit’s prospects of success.

Russia has long been a reluctant participant in international climate change negotiations. It refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol until 2004, then failed to sign up for Kyoto’s second commitment period. Similarly, Russia signed the Paris Agreement in 2016, but delayed its final decision on ratification until late 2019.

That’s despite a long tradition of Russian climate science research dating back to the Soviet period.

In the end, ratifying the Paris Agreement was an easy political win, given how weak Russia’s commitments under the agreement are.

Russia’s updated NDC (nationally determined contribution, meaning the action it will take to meet its climate commitments) was submitted in November 2020. It sets an emissions reduction target of 70% relative to 1990 levels by 2030.

The target sounds ambitious but the nation’s economic decline in the 1990s, and subsequent fall in greenhouse gas emissions, means it’s easily achievable. This target also leverages the capacity of Russia’s forests to absorb CO₂, though many scientists dispute the extent of this.

So what explains Russia’s limited commitments to date? The domestic politics surrounding climate change offer clues.

A forest is seen in Russia.
Russia’s target also leverages the capacity of its forests to absorb CO₂, though many scientists dispute the extent of this. Shutterstock

Domestic Climate Politics And Obstacles To Reform

Domestic politics on climate change in Russia are fiercely contested, with key individuals and groups competing for influence. These debates occur mostly at an elite level, with little space given to civil society actors.

Attempts to strengthen domestic climate policy in the past have been met with strong opposition from powerful economic interests.

The coal industry remains one of the most significant obstacles to reform. At a time when a growing number of countries are committed to phasing out coal, Russia is actively seeking to expand its industry. The coal industry has close links with key government ministries, including the powerful ministry for energy. The industry has successfully lobbied for subsidies and state support.

Coal politics in Russia are made more complex by the heavy dependence on coal for employment and heating in certain regions, such as the Kuzbass in Siberia. Attempts to wind down the industry would meet significant opposition from locals and regional elites.

Oil and gas companies are moving ahead with their plans to expand into the Arctic, with a warming climate making the region more accessible. Revenues from oil and gas exports make up a significant portion of Russia’s budget, so its highly unlikely Russia will give this up anytime soon.

Putin’s own position on climate has been ambiguous. He and other members of the elite often portray Russia as a global climate leader and “ecological donor” due to its vast forest resources.

However, Russia’s limited policy commitments to date make such statements little more than symbolic.

Winter sunset in the industrial zone of the city of Myski, in the South Of Western Siberia, Kuzbass region in Russia. Smoke and steam comes out of industrial chimneys.
Coal politics in Russia are made even more complex by the heavy dependence on coal for employment and heating in certain regions, such as the Kuzbass in Siberia. Shutterstock

Recent Political Shifts

More recently however, we’ve seen some important developments which suggest a shift may be occurring.

A pro-climate lobby is emerging around the ministry for economic development and other government actors. They take a pragmatic view of climate change and acknowledge the economic cost to Russia of doing nothing.

International pressures are also mounting.

The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (which puts a carbon price on certain imports) has many in the Russian government concerned, given the significant impact anticipated for key Russian exports. Some in government have also questioned the long-term viability of coal given global decarbonisation trends.

Two of Russia’s major state owned corporations, Rosatom and Gazprom, are at the forefront of an attempt to reposition Russia as a renewable energy superpower, centred on the expanding hydrogen and nuclear industries. Both provide Russia with potential to generate significant export revenues.

Support for a more active stance on climate has also come from some of Russia’s largest private companies. Groups such as EN+ and Rusal have made their own net-zero by 2050 commitments, keen to demonstrate their climate credentials to environmentally sensitive international markets.

This newfound momentum has led to a number of important policy developments, culminating in the net-zero by 2060 announcement. So while the obstacles remain huge, there has been a discernible shift in Russia’s approach to climate change.

What Can Australia Learn?

Both Australia and Russia are regarded as climate laggards and face increased international criticism over their lack of policy ambition.

Both have elements of strong resistance to climate action at a domestic level, particularly in the coal industry. But both also have corporate players acting to reduce emissions in spite of government policy inaction.

While much attention has been focused on net zero targets, little detail has been given by either country about how these will be achieved. And neither Russia nor Australia’s net zero commitments say anything about exported emissions.

Ambitious declarations mean nothing if they’re not backed by serious policy reform. Promises aside, significant work needs to be done in both nations to address the gap between vague, high-level commitments and concrete, implementable policies.

Read more: Scott Morrison is hiding behind future technologies, when we should just deploy what already exists The Conversation

Ellie Martus, Lecturer in Public Policy, Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University

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

Scott Morrison is hiding behind future technologies, when we should just deploy what already exists

Simon Holmes à CourtThe University of Melbourne

At the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow last week, more than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal-fired power. Some were big coal-using countries such as Poland, Canada and Vietnam – however Australia was not among them. Australia was similarly absent for a methane reduction pledge.

Achieving the Paris Agreement — limiting global warming to well below 2℃ and preferably 1.5℃ — requires the rapid phase out of coal, oil and fossil gas. Failure to do so will spell the end of the Great Barrier Reef and make a large swathe of Australia virtually unlivable.

Yet the Morrison government’s technology-driven net-zero “plan” contains no concrete measures to end this fossil fuel addiction. It’s more a placeholder than a strategy, fulfilling the government’s need to have a document to wave around. Meanwhile, the government seems intent on sitting back and letting the future happen, rather than creating it.

I’ve spent 25 years working and investing in technology commercialisation, focusing over the past 15 years on clean technologies. I know Australia doesn’t need to wait for new technology before committing to and achieving deep emissions cuts. Most technologies we need already exist – they just need to be deployed, rapidly and at massive scale. And that requires an actual plan.

wind farm in field
Australia has the technology for a net-zero future – now it must be deployed. Mick Tsikas/AAP

We Have The Technology

The Morrison government’s path to reach net-zero by 2050 relies primarily on technology, but fails to even remotely outline what that would mean in practice.

A total of 70% of the emissions cuts would purportedly be achieved by technology “investment”, “trends” and “breakthroughs”. But it’s not technology per se that reduces emissions, it’s deploying it.

The government missed the opportunity to explain decarbonisation at its simplest: electrify everything we can, and power it with renewables.

Some 84% of Australia’s emissions come from activities related to the energy sector. Recent overseas analysis shows electrification could replace 78% of energy emissions using established technologies. Add technologies being developed, and the figure rises to 99%.

Hydrogen, one of the government’s technologies du jour, is likely to play a modest but important role in domestic decarbonisation. And if we don’t get left behind, it could become a significant export earner.

But what’s required in the near term is much more boring: build lots of wind, solar and storage, retire coal and gas as soon as possible, and electrify transport and heating.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a favourite of Australian governments for decades, remains a distraction. First, since CCS adds significant cost but no benefit to a process, it will always require either a carbon price or regulations to be viable. Second, while CCS may play a role at the margins in areas where emissions are hard to abate, such as cement production, its only significant role for coal and gas is as a fig leaf for inaction.

Green steel could be a significant opportunity for Australia, given our abundance of iron ore and access to low-cost clean energy. But while Australia dips a toe in the water, overseas companies like SSAB and Volvo are demonstrating that the days of metalurgical coal — one of Australia’s biggest exports — are numbered.

Clearly, the technologies are here. What we need is deployment.

a mining vehicle made from fossil-free steel
Volvo recently produced the first vehicle made from fossil-free or ‘green’ steel. SSAB

Learn From Henry Ford

A decade ago, energy from wind and solar was significantly more expensive than from coal and gas. But renewables are now the cheapest form of new energy, even including additional costs such as energy storage and transmission.

Renewable energy’s fast fall in price was due to a mix of well-designed government policies and massive private investment, both here and around the world.

The Commonwealth’s Renewable Energy Target, for example, required electricity retailers to purchase a small but increasing amount of renewable energy each year, in a way that did not significantly affect energy affordability. With renewables now at a lower cost than new coal and gas, that early investment is paying dividends.

The experience showed we don’t have to wait until technology is cheap and perfect before deploying it. In fact, the only way to make it cheap and perfect is to deploy it, again and again.

When Henry Ford released the Model T in 1908 his horseless carriage was imperfect and expensive. Yet it kicked off a process of technological improvement in which each successive generation of cars has learnt lessons from those which came before.

If federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor time-travelled back to 1908, would he advise Ford not to release the Model T until it resembled the Tesla Model S?

man stands between two vintage cars
Henry Ford didn’t wait until the Model T ran like a Tesla before deploying the technology. Ford Motor Co

Seizing Opportunities

Most economists agree the most efficient way to reduce emissions is to put a price on carbon and let the market respond. More than a decade of toxic Australian politics has poisoned that well. It leaves policymakers with few tools, and politicians with even fewer ideas.

In the absence of an explicit carbon pricing scheme, the federal government should set clear emissions reduction targets in each sector of the economy.

Monash University’s ClimateWorks has developed a plan for doing so. Such a plan, with an added combination of policy “carrots” (subsidies or incentives) and “sticks” (regulations or taxes) would ensure emissions reduction targets are met.

Our lowest hanging fruit would include a carefully managed coal phase-out and policies to rapidly electrify transport and heating, using existing technologies. This would help us hit meaningful 2030 emissions reduction targets consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, we sit on the cusp of what is almost certainly Australia’s biggest ever investment opportunity. Our wide brown land is chock full of the critical minerals needed in a decarbonising world — lithium, nickel, cobalt, rare earth metals and silicon. Moreover, our windswept and sun-drenched plains are ready to produce the low-cost energy required to locally transform these raw minerals into valuable refined materials.

Our state governments, some having committed to net-zero five years ago, are making progress – particularly in electricity. But complementary and coordinated policies at the federal level would almost certainly make progress faster — and cheaper.

The coal and methane pledges at COP26 shows many of the world’s most emissions-intensive economies are ready to make the transition. Meanwhile, the federal government’s so-called “plan” prevents Australia from claiming our place in the sun, and wind.

Read more: Economists back carbon price, say benefits of net-zero outweigh costs The Conversation

Simon Holmes à Court, Senior advisor, Climate and Energy College, The University of Melbourne

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

Melbourne’s Buildings Could Be Close To Self-Sustaining Through Fully Integrated Solar

November 8, 2021
New modelling, on a scale ranging from individual structures through to neighbourhoods and an entire city, has shown that buildings in the City of Melbourne could provide 74% of their own electricity needs if solar technology is fully integrated into roofs, walls and windows.

Published in the journal Solar Energy, the research, led by members of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science based at Monash University, together with collaborators at the University of Lisbon, is the first of its kind anywhere in the world to model the viability and impact of window-integrated photovoltaics, alongside other solar technologies, at a city scale.

The results indicate that comprehensive adoption of existing rooftop PV technology alone throughout the city could radically transform Melbourne’s carbon footprint, significantly reducing its reliance on grid electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.

Further gains could be made through the widespread deployment of emerging, highly efficient ‘solar windows’ and photovoltaic technology integrated in building facades.

The researchers hope that by using the modelling they have developed, policy makers, energy providers, construction companies and building owners will be able to optimise the PV potential of both new and existing structures.

The researchers compared Melbourne’s 2018 electricity consumption to the electricity production that could potentially be achieved through fully and widely building-integrated solar. Consumption data from Melbourne’s CBD was obtained from Jemena, CitiPower & Powercor distribution companies and was accessed through the independent Victorian research body, the Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET).  

At city-scale modelling, they found that photovoltaics could provide 74% of Melbourne’s building consumption needs. Rooftop solar would constitute 88% of this supply, with wall-integrated and window-integrated solar delivering 8% and 4% respectively.

Wall and window-integrated solar technology was shown to suffer less of a reduction in efficiency during winter months relative to rooftop solar, delivering more consistent year-round benefits and value.

The potential contribution of window-integrated solar rose to 18% at the neighbourhood scale, reflecting high building heights and window to wall ratios.

The researchers determined the annual solar radiation on Melbourne’s building surfaces to identify suitable areas for PV installation, taking into account technical limitations and cost factors.

Detailed modelling enabled the incident solar radiation and PV potential of the urban areas to be simulated. A large range of factors had to be taken into consideration, including the impact of shadows casted by shading systems and balconies, as well as the performance characteristics of the various solar technologies. 

Among other techniques, correlation and linear regression analysis were performed to identify the interdependency between urban form indicators and the annual PV potential.

The total area featured in the study is the 37.4 km2 area of central Melbourne, of which 35.1km2 was built floor area in 2019, consisting primarily of residential and commercial buildings.

The results showed that the photovoltaics potential of this area is driven mainly by the possibility of adding further rooftop solar.

While blocks with high rooftop and wall solar potential are found across the city, the highest potential for window-integrated solar gains is in the city’s high-density urban centres, such as the central business district.

“By using photovoltaic technology commercially available today and incorporating the expected advances in wall and window-integrated solar technology over the next ten years, we could potentially see our CBD on its way to net zero in the coming decades,” said lead author Professor Jacek Jasieniak.

“We began importing coal-fired power from the LaTrobe Valley in the 1920s to stop the practice of burning smog-inducing coal briquettes onsite to power our CBD buildings, and it’s now feasible that over one hundred years later, we could see a full circle moment of Melbourne’s buildings returning to local power generation within the CBD, but using clean, climate-safe technologies that help us meet Australia’s Net Zero 2050 target.” 

Co-author Dr Jenny Zhou said: “Although there’s plenty of policies supporting energy-efficiency standards for new buildings, we’re yet to see a substantial response to ensuring our existing buildings are retrofitted to meet the challenges of climate change. Our research provides a framework that can help decision-makers move forward with implementing photovoltaic technologies that will reduce our cities’ reliance on damaging fossil fuels.”

First author Dr Maria Panagiotidou added: “In the near future, market penetration and deployment of high-efficient solar windows can make a substantive contribution towards the carbon footprint mitigation of high-rise developments. As the world transitions towards a net-zero future, these local energy solutions would play a critical role in increasing the propensity of PVs within urban environments.”

Maria Panagiotidou, Miguel C. Brito, Kais Hamza, Jacek J. Jasieniak, Jin Zhou. Prospects of photovoltaic rooftops, walls and windows at a city to building scale. Solar Energy, 2021; 230: 675 DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2021.10.060

To reach net zero, we must decarbonise shipping. But two big problems are getting in the way

Ian Taylor/UnsplashCC BY-SA
Peter van DuynDeakin University

Shipping, which transports 90% of the world’s trade, contributes nearly 3% of global emissions – a little more than the carbon footprint of Germany. If gone unchecked, this share could increase to 17% by 2050 as the world’s GDP keeps growing.

Curbing shipping emissions has been a hot topic at the international climate summit in Glasgow, with 14 nations signing a declaration last week to bring shipping emissions down to net zero by 2050.

On Saturday, shipping industry heavyweights and senior government representatives met to iron out details of this lofty promise, ahead of the key transportation talks at COP26. Important differences emerged in whether market or regulatory rules will be most effective to push the industry towards net zero.

Shipping and aviation are notoriously difficult industries to decarbonise. They require vast amounts of fuel for international travel, and the questions of which country is responsible for emissions makes reaching agreements a mammoth and glacial task.

Growing Momentum

Shipping’s total emissions are set to increase this year for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008.

If left unregulated, shipping and aviation will be responsible for almost 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2050, according to a study published by the European Parliament.

With so much at stake, we’re finally starting to see change, with businesses (and their customers) placing more emphasis on shipping’s contribution to climate change. In October this year, nine big companies – including Amazon, Ikea, and Unilever – pledged to move their cargo only on ships using zero-carbon fuel by 2040.

What’s more, three of the world’s largest container shipping lines – Maersk, CMA CGM, and MSC – are actively pursuing the use of alternative fuels and aim to be net-zero compliant by 2050 or before.

If left unchecked, global shipping is expected to contribute 17% of emissions by 2050, as international trade increases and other sectors decarbonise. Dominik Luckmann/UnsplashCC BY

A Lack Of Technology

Most ship engines use a low-grade, carbon-heavy fuel oil, which creates significant air pollution. So some shipowners are moving to build new ships or convert existing ships to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead.

While this presents a 25% reduction in CO₂ emissions compared to the current low-grade fuel, LNG still releases methane into the atmosphere – a heat-trapping gas roughly 30 times more potent than CO₂.

This points to a big problem getting in the way of decarbonising shipping: zero-carbon technologies that can be applied at scale to large ocean-going ships do not yet exist.

Read more: Shipping emissions must fall by a third by 2030 and reach zero before 2050 – new research

Commercially viable technologies that create alternative, zero-emissions fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, are still in development by ship engine manufacturers.

A significant challenge is the requirement for vast fuel storage on board ships, and replenishing these fuels in port, especially after long voyages. Battery power using renewable sources can only be used on short voyages such as ferries or on coastal trips.

Nuclear propulsion has also been considered, but there are associated risks and it doesn’t have the support of the general public.

The IMO’s target to halve emissions by 2050 is not in line with Paris Agreement. Chuttersnap/UnsplashCC BY

Global Disunity

In October, shipping was under fire from United Nations Secretary General Antonio de Guterres, who accused the industry of not doing enough to stop global warming. So, is he right?

One of the difficulties in cutting emissions in shipping is that it’s hard to decide which country the emissions should be assigned to.

Should it be based on where the ship’s fuel is sold, where a ship is registered, or the origins or destinations of the ship’s cargo? Each option would lead to radically different emissions responsibilities and associated costs for individual countries.

Read more: Cargo ships are emitting boatloads of carbon, and nobody wants to take the blame

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the UN body that addresses emissions from ships engaged in international trade. It’s currently coordinating measures to curb maritime emissions among its more than 170 member states. And each state has competing interests.

In April 2018, the IMO set a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2008 levels. This has been met with fierce criticism from environmental organisations, who call it weak and unambitious.

This target falls well short of the net-zero by 2050 target declared by nations last week at COP26. The declaration was led by Denmark and includes the US. Notably, it was not signed by countries with big maritime shipping sectors, such as Japan and Greece.

The IMO has agreed, after collecting more data, to revisit their target in 2023. Given growing public interest in climate change and large companies demanding zero emissions in shipping their goods, I believe it’s likely the IMO will bolster its target, and start working towards net-zero emissions by 2050.

So What Needs To Happen Now?

At Saturday’s conference, it became clear most shipowners present were in favour using the market to solve the emissions problem, and suggested using a carbon price.

This echoes the calls of trade groups, representing more than 90% of the world’s merchant fleet. They have asked the IMO to prioritise a carbon tax for the industry to encourage shipowners to invest in alternative fuel technologies.

On the other hand, the representative for Japanese shipowners was in favour of letting politicians come up with the rules, saying the shipping industry would comply with them.

And shipowners that recently invested in ships fuelled by LNG were, understandably, advocating its use, saying no zero-carbon alternative fuels are currently available, and are still a long way off.

Read more: Ships moved more than 11 billion tonnes of our stuff around the globe last year, and it’s killing the climate. This week is a chance to change

But before we can make any real headway to decarbonise shipping, we must have global unity. It is imperative more member states get on board with the net zero by 2050 declaration.

The IMO needs to set international standards around who’s responsible for emissions. Countries with large shipping fleets such as Japan and Greece need to come on board to expedite the process. IMO resolutions take years to develop and even longer to be ratified by its member countries.

well-funded research and development program, which the industry has agreed to pay for within a global regulatory framework, needs to commence immediately under the supervision of the IMO.

The heightened interest we’re seeing across the supply chains and at COP26 is an important opportunity for the shipping industry to be on the front foot, and reduce their emissions sooner rather than later.

COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage of COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.

Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. Read more.The Conversation

Peter van Duyn, Maritime Logistics Expert, Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics (CSCL), Deakin University

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

Feel alone in your eco-anxiety? Don’t – it’s remarkably common to feel dread about environmental decline

Teaghan HoggUniversity of CanberraLéan O'BrienUniversity of Canberra, and Samantha StanleyAustralian National University

Feeling anxious about the ecological crises we face is entirely understandable, given the enormity of the threats.

Eco-anxiety is sometimes described as a mental health problem. It’s not. Eco-anxiety is a rational psychological and emotional response to the overlapping ecological crises we now face.

If you feel this way, you are not alone. We have found eco-anxiety is remarkably common. Almost two-thirds of Australian participants in our recent surveys reported feeling eco-anxiety at least “some of the time”.

The response can be triggered by media stories on environmental and climate crises as well as human efforts to combat them. This includes the barrage of media from the United Nations climate conference, or COP26, now underway in Glasgow.

In this age of ecological reckoning, eco-anxiety is not going to go away. That means we must learn how to cope with it – and perhaps even harness it to drive us to find solutions

Cleared area of rainforest
Awareness of environmental crises like deforestation can provoke anxiety. Shutterstock

Dwelling On Problems We Contribute To

Our study found four key features of eco-anxiety:

  1. affective symptoms, such as feelings of anxiety and worry
  2. rumination, meaning persistent thoughts which can keep you up at night
  3. behavioural symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, working, studying or socialising
  4. anxiety about your personal impact on the planet.

We found similar levels of eco-anxiety in our surveys of 334 Australians and 735 New Zealanders, with people affected in similar ways in both countries. This supports emerging research, which found more than half of young people surveyed across ten countries experienced climate anxiety. Feeling anxious about the state of the planet is likely to be universal.

When we asked Australians how it affected them, they told us eco-anxiety affected everything from their mood to their daily routine to their relationships. It even affected their ability to concentrate, work or study. For some, eco-anxiety made them feel restless, tense and agitated. New Zealanders reported similar impacts.

Read more: The rise of 'eco-anxiety': climate change affects our mental health, too

Our study found people were also anxious about their personal contribution to the deteriorating state of the planet. Some participants noted the state of the planet made them “extremely anxious”, so much so they “find it hard to think about anything else”.

Other research shows many people are anxious about how their personal behaviours impact the earth, such as consumerism or flying. Some young adults are choosing to have fewer children, or none at all, out of concern their children will contribute to the climate crisis or will inherit a degraded world.

These fears appeared in our study too, with one parent participant noting:

My biggest worry is that climate change will affect my child in their lifetime, and I get very upset that I won’t be able to protect him from the effects of it.

Is Eco-Anxiety Different To Generalised Anxiety?

Eco-anxiety has similarities with generalised anxiety and stress, but we found important differences, such as the focus on environmental issues and our contribution to the problem.

We also found people experience eco-anxiety independent of depression, anxiety and stress, suggesting it’s a unique experience.

While it is possible to experience eco-anxiety as someone who is otherwise mentally well, many people experience it on top of existing mental health issues.

What we need to do now is understand what eco-anxiety means for individual (and planetary) well-being, and provide support to people with varying degrees of this anxiety.

Read more: Australians are 3 times more worried about climate change than COVID. A mental health crisis is looming

School students carrying posters calling for climate action
School students marching for climate action in the UK, 2019. Shutterstock

Four Ways To Cope With Your Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety is not going to go away as an issue, given the range of environmental issues the world is confronting. To stop these feelings becoming overwhelming or debilitating, there are a range of behavioural, cognitive and emotional strategies people can use to cope.

Here are four techniques:

  1. validation One part of managing your own anxiety is to validate it, by acknowledging it makes sense to feel anxious and distressed

  2. time out Another technique is to take mental breaks and avoid your 24/7 news feed to give yourself time to restore a sense of balance

  3. seek hope Cultivating a realistic sense of hope about the future can also reduce anxiety emerging from our awareness of ecological threats. That means appreciating the complexity of the problem, while also searching for alternative visions of the future and trusting that we, as a collective, will eventually resolve the crisis before it’s too late

  4. take action Many of us struggle with a sense of overwhelming powerlessness in the face of a deteriorating climate. This can be self-reinforcing. To combat this, you can try action - whether changing your own behaviour or getting involved in campaigns.

As climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has said, “no one is too small to make a difference”.

Climate change has been described as the greatest collective action problem we have ever faced. That means the necessary changes will have to come from the collective action of all individuals, industries and governments. We all must act together now, just as we have in combating the COVID pandemic.

Eco-anxiety is increasingly common. But being concerned about environmental crises does not need to come at the cost of your health and wellbeing.

After all, psychological, emotional and behavioural burnout is not helpful for you – or the planet.The Conversation

Teaghan Hogg, PhD student, Clinical Psychology, University of CanberraLéan O'Brien, Lecturer, University of Canberra, and Samantha Stanley, Research Fellow in Psychology, Australian National University

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

Yes, young people are concerned about climate change. But it can drive them to take action

Emma SciberrasDeakin University and Julian FernandoDeakin University

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow is drawing to a close. And despite high hopes, many young people may be feeling disappointed with the progress at these landmark talks.

They may be feeling anxious about their future, considering they’ll be bearing the brunt of the impact of decisions made over the past two weeks.

Our soon-to-be published research in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health shows most young people in Australia are concerned about climate change.

But that’s not necessarily a problem. For some, a growing concern can motivate them to take action.

There’s A Word For This Concern – Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety relates to worry and despair about climate change. Connected terms include “ecological grief”, which reflects grief related to ecological loss. People can also experience emotions such as fear, guilt and anger about climate change.

We know adults experience these types of climate-related emotions.

Read more: Feel alone in your eco-anxiety? Don't – it's remarkably common to feel dread about environmental decline

However, understanding young people’s views about climate change is important as they are more likely to be alive to experience its worst potential effects.

Young people have also had a prominent role in climate activism, including the School Strike 4 Climate movement involving millions of young people around the world.

Given the level of young people’s worry or concern about climate change we identified in our study, we may see their views becoming more influential as they reach voting age.

Listening to these climate change concerns is vital. However, only 13% of young people in Australia feel government leaders are listening to them.

We Asked Young People About Climate Change

In our study, we tracked concern and worrying about climate change in more than 2,200 Australian young people over a period of eight years. At the start of the study, participants were aged 10-11, so by the end, they were 18-19 years old.

At 18-19 years of age, most young people (75%) had at least some concern or worry about climate change. But we also identified different patterns of climate worry over time.

About half had increasing or had maintained moderate levels of worry over time. A total of 13% maintained high levels of worry over the eight years we tracked them.

But 17% had persistently low levels of worry. Some young people became less worried over time.

Read more: Greta Thunberg emerged from five decades of environmental youth activism in Sweden

Compared to those who were moderately worried, adolescents with high levels of persistent climate worry had higher depression symptoms at age 18-19. However, those who increased their climate-related worry over time did not.

This suggests developing an awareness and concern for the environment was not associated with general mental health difficulties.

Those with persistently high and increasing levels of climate worry had greater engagement with politics and news at 18-19 years.

There Are Some Positives

Some level of worry and anxiety is normal. Anxiety can play an important role in protecting ourselves from danger and threat.

Some worry may also motivate people to engage in constructive responses to climate change.

Although we did not specifically examine activism in our study, previous studies show climate worry is associated with greater feelings of personal responsibility to make changes to reduce the impacts of climate change.

However, anxiety can become a problem when it preoccupies us, leads us to avoid the thing that makes us anxious, gets in the way of daily life or stops us from doing the things we want to do.

Our study shows that for most young people, climate worry is not associated with general mental health difficulties.

However we don’t yet know the relationship between climate-related worry and mental health difficulties in younger children, as our study only looked at mental health outcomes at age 18-19.

Read more: The rise of 'eco-anxiety': climate change affects our mental health, too

What If Your Concerns Are Overwhelming?

Open communication about climate-related worry is essential. Parents play an important role and can talk with their children about these issues and listen to and validate their concerns.

Worrying about the environment is rational and grounded in reality, as we are increasingly seeing the impacts of climate change around us.

It’s OK for young people to feel worried. And we shouldn’t assume these worries are unproductive or necessarily associated with broader mental health difficulties.

Acknowledging and validating feelings is key, and supporting young people to engage in activities to take action, if they want to, may help.

Reassuringly, most young people in our study were not presenting with levels of worry that would warrant further assessment or treatment.

Read more: Treating a child's mental illness sometimes means getting the whole family involved

Where To Go For Support

If young people (and their parents) want additional support, seeing a GP is a good first step. Young people can also visit specialist youth mental health services such as headspace.

A psychologist or other mental health professional can help young people develop ways of coping with and managing their worries.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Emma Sciberras, Associate Professor, Deakin University and Julian Fernando, Lecturer, Deakin University

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

Australian companies are facing more climate-focused ESG resolutions than ever before, and they are paying quiet dividends

Ian RamsayThe University of Melbourne and Lloyd FreeburnThe University of Melbourne

In 2020, for the first time in Australia, more than half the shareholders of a public company voted in support of a climate change resolution put forward by shareholders in the face of opposition from the company’s board of directors.

The resolution, advanced at Woodside Petroleum’s annual general meeting, called for the company to establish hard targets to bring its own emissions and the emissions caused by the use of its products globally in line with the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below two degrees.

A similar resolution followed at this year’s AGL annual general meeting, gaining the support of 52% of the shareholders.

Although the Woodside vote was described as a “breakthrough moment”, it is part of an increase in shareholder activism around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues that’s been building for several years.

Our analysis of shareholder ESG resolutions put forward in listed Australian companies between 2002 and 2019 finds they have increased in number, prominence and impact.

Shareholder ESG Resolutions Per Year

Freeburn and Ramsay 2021

A record 36 shareholder ESG resolutions were put forward in 2020. So far in 2021 a further 20 have been put forward, with more foreshadowed.

The resolutions have been concentrated in a small number of companies and industries.

Four industries – energy, banking, insurance and materials – accounted for 83.5% of the resolutions, with the 139 resolutions recorded between 2002 and the first part of 2021 concentrated in only 28 companies.

They were generally the companies most exposed to the risk of climate change or which provide finance to these companies.

More Climate Resolutions Are Succeeding

Several have been subjected to more than one campaign a year. The company with the most is Origin Energy, facing 24 resolutions in the last six years.

Of the 83 shareholder ESG resolutions advanced between 2002 and 2019, 48 concerned climate change. A further 26 notionally related to governance, but the governance resolutions were often the ones needed to enable consideration of issues such as climate change.

The others related to workers’ rights, human rights, obtaining the consent of Aboriginal native title holders to fracking activities, and gambling.

Read more: Rio Tinto's climate resolution marks a significant shift in investor culture

Almost all were proposed by just two groups: the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Market Forces.

Until last year the level of support garnered by shareholder ESG resolutions was small, averaging 9.7%. In 2020, support jumped to 14.7%.

In 2021 to date it has climbed to 28%, bolstered by two resolutions of Rio Tinto shareholders that attracted 99% after winning the support of Rio Tinto’s board.

Success Needn’t Mean Being Put To A Vote

Our study sought input from proponents of ESG resolutions, institutional shareholders, company directors, governance professionals and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

We found that winning votes isn’t the only objective of those who propose these resolutions.

Another is to get companies to respond positively even though the resolutions will be defeated, and sometimes in return for the resolutions being withdrawn before the annual general meeting.

As an example, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility submitted a resolution for this year’s Woodside annual general meeting calling on the company to prepare an annual climate report that would include Woodside’s strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and put the report to a shareholder advisory vote.

It withdrew the resolution after Woodside announced it would put climate reporting to an advisory vote of shareholders at its 2022 annual general meeting.

Some of those we interviewed said shareholder ESG resolutions distracted the companies from what they should be doing.

Others said they ran the risk of blurring the distinct roles of directors and shareholders. Many said the process for getting shareholder ESG resolutions on the agenda for annual general meetings is cumbersome.

However, almost all of those interviewed – and not just the proponents of the resolutions – saw them as a valuable way of letting companies know what their shareholders really think about how they should respond to the challenges of climate change and other issues.The Conversation

Ian Ramsay, Emeritus Professor, Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne and Lloyd Freeburn, Research Fellow, Centre for Corporate Law, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, The University of Melbourne

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

On Twitter, fossil fuel companies’ climate misinformation is subtle – here’s what I’m seeing during COP26

Young activists used ‘blah, blah, blah’ as their refrain for criticizing governments’ and industries’ slow actions on climate change. AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Jill HopkeDePaul University

When oil and gas companies took to Twitter during the first half of the U.N.’s Glasgow climate conference, they often presented themselves as part of the solution to climate change and talked about energy security.

In many ways, their messaging on social media provides a window into how these companies want the public to see the future.

For example, while policymakers talk about a “low-carbon economy” – indicating that while there will be carbon in our lives, it will be as low as it can be – the tweets from some oil and gas accounts instead use the phrase “lower carbon.” A “lower carbon” economy is a far more nebulous goal that can involve continuing significant levels of fossil fuel use well into the future.

Social media is just the public face for these companies, many of which have lobbyists at the climate conference. Behind the scenes, the industry continues to invest in extracting fossil fuels that are driving climate change, and its CEOs have made clear that fossil fuel production will continue for decades to come.

Fossil Fuel Industry Misdirection

In 2015, when a colleague and I first researched what key fossil fuel trade groups were saying on Twitter about climate solutions during the landmark COP21 summit in Paris, we found they were largely promoting a narrative that the Obama administration’s climate policies lacked domestic support – despite public opinion research indicating otherwise.

This time around, using the consumer insights software Brandwatch, I studied recent English-language tweets from top oil, gas and coal producers globally during COP26, as well as from the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Executives from four oil companies, API and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had been grilled by members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Oct. 28, 2021, about their roles in the spread of misinformation about climate change.

Chart showing keywords
The most common themes in Twitter posts by fossil fuel companies and trade groups from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8, 2021, were focused on the energy they provide. Jill HopkeCC BY-ND
Chart of keywords
In comparison to the fossil fuels industry, companies and business leaders that have signed onto net-zero campaigns, like the Climate Pledge and Race to Zero, talked in COP26 tweets from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 largely about commitments to take action on climate change. Jill HopkeCC BY-ND

The corporate accounts today present themselves as part of the solution – for example, talking about renewable energy and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Low-carbon projects are only a small part of the oil companies’ portfolios, though. And the same companies fueled the problem while knowing the risks.

This subtle form of misinformation, which scholars have called “fossil fuel solutionism,” involves cherry-picking data and talking points.

For example, a BP tweet saying that reducing methane emissions is key to “slowing the rate of warming” omits an important point. While addressing methane leaks from fossil fuel infrastructure is an important step, a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels is considered crucial.

The International Energy Agency predicts upstream oil and gas investment will increase by about 10% this year, though not to pre-pandemic levels, while clean energy investments remain “far short of what will be required to avoid severe impacts from climate change.”

The American Petroleum Institute in particular has been posting on themes of affordable, reliable, American-made energy and concern over gas prices while also claiming that restricting oil and gas drilling on federal land “would be counterproductive to our shared goal of reducing emissions.” API’s argument is that restrictions would increase use of coal and foreign imports.

Several posts employ a subtle shift in language to talk about technological innovation and energy transition in terms of “lower carbon,” rather than the more commonly heard discourse on “low carbon.” This shift appears to be recent. In the past, the theme appeared in discussions of natural gas as a “bridge fuel.”

The Black Box Of Digital Advertising

These accounts are only one piece of the industry’s social media ecosystem. The paid advertising footprint of oil and gas is much larger. It is also harder to track, especially on Twitter.

According to research by the nonprofit think tank InfluenceMap, the industry deploys Facebook ads at key political moments. For example, during Oct. 16-22, 2021, in the lead-up to the Congressional hearing with the oil CEOs and the recent elections, ExxonMobil spent $565,099 on Facebook ads targeting U.S. users.

Climate journalists Emily Atkin and Molly Taft found the lower-carbon theme in fossil fuel advertising within recent political newsletters.

For example, related to the U.N. climate conference, ExxonMobil is sponsoring the political news site The Hill’s energy and environment newsletter, along with the American Petroleum Institute. Some researchers refer to that as “fossil fuel corporate propaganda.” This amounts to a strategy to enhance corporate legitimacy while at the same time downplay the need for government regulation.

Part Of A Wider Problem

The structure of online social networks is characterized by polarization and echo chambers that allow misleading climate change content to spread.

An example is a tweet that got a lot of impressions at the start of COP26. It was a post from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro containing a logical fallacy in attempting to discredit the U.N.‘s climate work. Shapiro came in third for average reach during week one of the summit within a sample of climate change tweets, following only President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.

Social media companies have been under scrutiny for facilitating the wide spread of misinformation on several topics, including climate change.

In one analysis of Facebook pages, the environmental group Stop Funding Heat found nearly 39,000 posts with misinformation over eight months on 195 pages known for blatant climate misinformation. It also found a 76.7% increase in people interacting with those pages compared to the previous year, suggesting Facebook’s algorithm was sharing the content widely.

Taking a cue from climate disinformation researchers, Twitter launched what it calls “pre-bunks” – sending accurate messages out in search, explore and trends lists. But it didn’t plan to stop people and bots posting climate misinformation or label it as such. In the first 10 months of 2021, Twitter says climate change was mentioned 40 million times on its channels.

Read more: What Big Oil knew about climate change, in its own words

[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]The Conversation

Jill Hopke, Associate professor, DePaul University

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

Why the Australian government must listen to Torres Strait leaders on climate change

Paul Kabai and Pabai Pabai. Talei Elu
Eddie SynotGriffith University

Last month, First Nations leaders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai filed a landmark class action against the Australian government to protect communities in the Torres Strait from climate change.

In the Torres Strait, First Nations communities are facing an existential threat as the planet warms. Rising seas are already inundating infrastructure and cultural sites, and some islands may be uninhabitable by the end of the century causing devastating harm to Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Ailan Kastom culture.

Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai have seen the impacts first hand. They have filed their class action to protect over 65,000 years of connection to land. Mr. Kabai has described the class action as answering their responsibility to community and culture.

We have a cultural responsibility to protect our communities, our culture and spirituality from climate change – for our ancestors and future generations.

Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai are part of a proud history of Torres Strait Islander Peoples fighting for their rights through the courts. They draw on the legacy of Eddie Mabo and his co-plaintiffs James Rice and David Passi, who took on the government and established that terra nullius was a lie, paving the way for Native Title recognition as we know it today.

Mr. Kabai and Mr. Pabai are also part of the foundational tradition of First Nation stewardship of land and water. As Traditional Owners, their knowledge and protection of Country is vital to tackling climate change.

Indigenous Peoples have always known this. Our communities have adapted and thrived together by caring for country for countless generations. The scientific community has only recently caught up.

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognised Indigenous Peoples, our knowledge and rights to land and water are key to tackling climate change.

Pabai And Kabai’s Case

In their class action, Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai will argue the Australian government has a duty to protect the people, islands, and culture of the Torres Strait. The duty arises from the common law of negligence, the Torres Strait Treaty (between Australia and Papua New Guinea, providing protection for the way of life of traditional peoples of the Torres Strait Protected Zone), and the Native Title rights of Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The legal rights Torres Strait Islander Peoples hold as Traditional Owners of their lands and waters are central to Mr. Kabai and Mr. Pabai’s case. As is their deep spiritual and personal connection to the islands.

Mr. Kabai has further detailed that if the government’s climate failure continues they will lose everything.

Becoming climate refugees means losing everything: our homes, our culture, our stories and our identity […] If you take us away from this island then we’re nothing. It’s like the Stolen Generation, you take people away from their tribal land, they become nobodies.

A cross in front of ocean.
Boigu, Torres Strait. Talei Elu

The Australian government’s responsibility to Torres Strait Islander Peoples comes from the particular vulnerability of their communities to climate harms like sea level rise. Similar arguments have been made and won by the Sami people in Norway to protect their rights as part of climate change mitigation. Although in different legal and political contexts, both Indigenous rights and climate action are entrenched, structural priorities.

Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai will argue the government’s failure to reduce emissions will extinguish the Native Title rights of Torres Strait Islander Peoples as their traditional lands are lost beneath rising seas.

In court, they will urge the government to take pre-emptive steps to stop climate change impacts from destroying their islands – and with them, over 65,000 years of custom and culture protected by Native Title.

The government’s responsibility to act is also said to come from legal protections provided by the Torres Strait Treaty. Australia entered into the Treaty with Papua New Guinea in 1978, after grassroots political pressure from Torres Strait Islander leaders like Getano Lui Snr.

The Treaty created a protected zone to acknowledge and protect the traditional way of life of Torres Strait Islander Peoples and requires the Australian government to prevent damage to the marine environment of the Torres Strait.

These protections exist to preserve the deep spiritual connection First Nations communities have to their islands and waters.

A concrete seawall.
A concrete seawall in the Torres Strait protecting against rising sea levels. Talei Elu

The importance of this connection to Country has been recognised by the High Court. In 2019, the court found the Northern Territory government was responsible for spiritual hurt caused to Ngaliwurru and Nungali native title holders by the building of roads and infrastructure on their traditional lands.

It is this combination of legal rights – unique to Torres Strait Islander Peoples – that Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai will rely on to ask the court to create a new duty of care.

Read more: What climate change activists can learn from First Nations campaigns against the fossil fuel industry

Recent Developments

Earlier this year, the Federal Court found a novel duty of care not to cause climate harm to young people. The Court found that the minister for the environment had a responsibility to take reasonable care to avoid harm to children caused by greenhouse gas emissions when exercising her power to approve new coal mining.

Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai’s case is the first of its kind because it argues a far broader case: that the Australian government has a duty to protect the Torres Strait from climate harm.

While this may sound ambitious, these kinds of cases have worked before. Most notably, in the Netherlands, where the Urgenda Foundation and 886 people took the Dutch government to court for climate inaction – and won.

The Urgenda Foundation has partnered with Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai on their case, and the circumstances are similar. Both communities live on land perilously exposed to rising sea levels and face severe harm from climate change.

Read more: If governments fail to act, can the courts save our planet?

A Legacy Of Nation Shaping

First Nations communities have a history of bringing legal cases vital to the development of Australian law. Often against the odds.

Mabo’s legal victory placed the Torres Strait at the centre of a transformation in the way the Australian nation places itself in a long history of Indigenous ownership and connection. Mr. Kabai and Mr. Pabai are inspired by that legacy.

As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, billed as a “last chance” for real climate action, Mr. Pabai and Mr. Kabai are asking the Australian government to step up and stop causing harm.

Their class action could prevent extreme climate harm for all Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and all Australians.

It is a vitally important case. It is also an action taken by traditional owners that highlights our continued commitment to country over countless generations, a commitment that is a proven practice of providing for all of existence.The Conversation

Eddie Synot, Lecturer, Griffith Law School, Griffith University

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

COP26: meat eating is a big climate issue – but isn’t getting the attention it deserves

Emma GarnettUniversity of Cambridge

UK prime minister Boris Johnson launched the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow with the mantra of “coal, cars, cash and trees”. But thus far the summit has largely ignored the elephant in the room. Or rather, the cows, pigs, chickens and fish.

The global food system is currently responsible for about a quarter of all human made greenhouse gases, a figure that is projected to increase. The increase in food system emissions alone threatens warming above 1.5℃. There is no doubt we need to stop burning fossil fuels, but reducing livestock consumption in high- and middle-income countries is also vital to both protect the climate and restore nature.

Governments at COP26 have pledged to halt deforestation and cut methane emissions 30% by 2030. Eating lots of meat is a big driver of both, but so far no reduction targets have been announced. The pledge to protect nature signed by 45 governments didn’t mention meat consumption at all, while the US agriculture secretary claimed in an interview that Americans don’t need to produce or eat less meat at all.

Here are four reasons why less meat (and dairy) on our plates needs to be on the table at COP26.

1. Livestock Have High Carbon Footprints

It is not very efficient to feed plants to livestock when we could eat the plants directly ourselves. Even though cows, sheep and goats can eat grass, unlike humans, they still need lots of land for grazing which could otherwise store more carbon dioxide as natural forests, grasslands or bogs, or in some cases be used to grow plant crops for human consumption. These animals also produce substantial amounts of methane in their digestive systems, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

The carbon footprint of beef and lamb is roughly three times higher than that of pork, poultry or farmed fish per 100g of protein, and 24 times higher than pulses such as beans and lentils. Livestock produces just 18% of global calories and 37% of protein, but is responsible for more than half of food’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Small amounts of meat and dairy have a role in sustainable food systems, while some plants have quite high environmental impacts and some nuts use lots of water. But in general, even meat with the lowest carbon footprints still has higher emissions than the highest emitting plant-based foods which are high in protein.

Graph showing carbon footprint of various protein foods
Beef and lamb are by far the most carbon-intensive sources of protein. Some nuts can even be carbon negative, if the nut trees are grown on former croplands. Data: Poore and Nemecek, Science; Chart: Our World in DataCC BY-SA

2. Reducing Livestock Production Would Protect Nature

Farmland takes up 50% of Earth’s habitable land, and the vast majority of that farmland is used for livestock and their feed. Farming is the leading cause of natural habitat loss, which is the biggest threat to wildlife. Beef production is the top driver of tropical forest loss.

Eating more meat means that more natural habitat needs to be cleared and deforested, and the diets of people in high- and middle-income countries can be key drivers of global deforestation. Conversely, reducing meat consumption would free up land which could be restored to benefit people and wildlife, and store carbon.

Meat on a shelf in a fridge
Meat production requires land, animal feed, water and other resources. Poberezhna / shutterstock

3. Meat Production Has Quadrupled Since The 1960s

Since 1961, meat production worldwide has quadrupled as meat supply per person has almost doubled (from 23kg to more than 43kg) and the human population has more than doubled (from 3 billion to 7 billion).

The number of animals slaughtered each year has consequently skyrocketed. The number of chickens killed each year has increased tenfold since the 1960s (from 6.6 billion to 68.8 billion), pigs have almost quadrupled (0.4 billion to 1.5 billion) and cows have increased from 0.2 billion to 0.3 billion.

Meat consumption is also very unevenly distributed. Just as richer countries tend to have higher greenhouse gas emissions, they also tend to eat more meat. For example, the average US citizen is supplied with 124kg of meat a year, whereas in China, Nigeria and India it’s 61kg, 7kg and 4kg respectively.

Map of meat supply by country.
A map of global meat supply looks similar to a map of carbon footprints or average incomes. FAO / Our World in DataCC BY-SA

4. More Sustainable Means More Healthy

Healthy and sustainable diets broadly overlap: diets with small amounts of red and processed meat, and high in vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. There are some important exceptions: oily fish benefits health but the fuel used by fishing boats means it generally has higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based proteins, while many fish populations are overfished. Sugar, on the other hand, has a relatively low environmental impact but doesn’t have any nutritional value besides calories.

The Planetary Health Diet – a healthy diet designed to minimise environmental damage – recommends on average three small portions of meat, two small portions of fish and seven glasses of milk a week. However, many of the poorest people in low-income countries eat less meat and fish than this or don’t have access to healthy alternative foods. They could benefit from increasing, not decreasing, the amount of animal products they eat. This makes it even more vital that people eating lots of meat, fish and dairy cut back.

There are many different policies that could make healthy and sustainable diets more accessible. These include removing subsidies for livestock farming, helping livestock farmers to transition to alternative farming systems, making menus mostly plant-based, and promoting behaviour changes through prominent positioning and cheaper prices for healthy and sustainable food. Education and public information – while important – won’t be enough by themselves. We need to step up to the plate: the planet depends on it.

COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.
Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. More. The Conversation

Emma Garnett, Sustainability Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

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

COP26: why education for girls is crucial in the fight against climate change

Betty BarkhaMonash University and Katrina Lee-KooMonash University

The Glasgow climate change conference is in its second week, with Tuesday November 9 dedicated to recognising gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls in climate policy and action.

Gender inequality means women and girls will experience climate change in unique and different ways. They are more likely to die in extreme weather events than men. And as climate change brings about forced migration, loss of housing and income, they are vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Child marriage is a common coping mechanism for many families facing climate stress. For example, in 2016 a 15-year-old girl in Mozambique was married in exchange for 2,000 Mozambican Metical (approximately A$42) to forestall her family’s climate-induced poverty.

There is also strong evidence regarding the impact of climate change on girls’ education. In particular, it will exacerbate the already existing barriers girls face. These include learning disruptions due to inadequate funds for school fees, as well as food, water and menstrual hygiene products. During natural disasters girls experience an increase in care work and disruptions due to forced displacement or migration.

Read more: COVID is forcing millions of girls out of school in South-east Asia and the Pacific

The Malala Fund estimates the climate events of 2021 will prevent at least 4 million girls from completing their education. Similarly, a new report from NGO Plan International shows if current trends continue, by 2025 climate change will be a contributing factor in preventing at least 12.5 million girls each year from completing their education. The report states:

Even though girls are significantly impacted by climate change, they are also powerful agents of change, capable of strengthening a country’s response to climate change.

Why Education For Girls Is Crucial

In describing the COP26 summit as “a two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah,” activist Greta Thunberg summed up the attitude of many young people protesting around the world. That is, political leaders are protecting their own interests at the expense of future generations.

The growing youth activism is acknowledgement this damaged planet is theirs to inherit and fix. Young people in our region will endure an increase in severe weather events, a rise in food insecurity, challenges to their health from poorer air quality and pollution, and the impact of species’ extinction and biodiversity change.

In the face of these challenges, education for all young people is crucial. But in particular, education, empowerment and leadership of girls and young women is the key to climate resilience.

Project Drawdown, a global research project which identifies and assesses solutions to climate change, notes that education

shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change.

Young people in our region will endure an increase in severe weather events, and girls are particularly vulnerable. (Children in a school in Papua New Guinea) Shutterstock

Education for girls can be a pathway for fighting the climate crisis in three key ways:

  1. education in both the sciences and social sciences is necessary to address climate change. Girls’ participation in these fields will drive innovation in green technologies as well as a social approach to resilience built on equality

  2. formal education can build on women and girls’ existing community-based knowledge regarding disaster risk reduction and help them respond to climate emergencies

  3. education creates pathways to more independent decision-making for women and girls around work, family planning and community engagement. It also creates opportunities for leadership and participation in formal decision-making.

Girls and young women are already leading the way in climate responses in the region. For example, 17-year-old Anjali Sharma led a landmark class action – with seven other teenagers – in the Australian Federal Court against Australia’s environment minister Sussan Ley. The group was seeking an injunction to prevent Ley approving a coal mine expansion, arguing it would contribute to climate change which endangers their future.

Read more: These Aussie teens have launched a landmark climate case against the government. Win or lose, it'll make a difference

The Malala Fund also iterates the importance of investing in girls’ education in the fight against climate change. It argues such investment increases social resilience and strengthens adaption and mitigation efforts.

Australia Can Do More

The Plan International report shows that in 2019, Australia spent A$516 million of its official development assistance on projects which targeted action against climate change.

That represents just 25% of Australia’s development assistance, putting Australia in 12th place among the OECD’s 30 development committee donors.

Plan International’s report also shows climate education is absent in Australia’s recent development policies and education strategies. For instance, Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response’ policy — launched in May 2020 — fails to mention climate change among the three pillars of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Read more: Ever wondered what our curriculum teaches kids about climate change? The answer is 'not much'

Young people are demanding change from those in power, organising in their communities to educate one another, engaging in activities to protect the environment and adapt to its changes, and demanding to be heard.

Australia must be more ambitious in ensuring youth and young women are prepared for the challenges ahead. By prioritising girls’ education in its funding and partnerships for regional development, Australia can promote gender equitable climate leadership.

Political leaders have a responsibility not only to engage and respond to young people, but also to build their capacity to face climate change, now and in the future.The Conversation

Betty Barkha, PhD Candidate, Monash University and Katrina Lee-Koo, Associate Professor of International Relations, Monash University

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

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You

We're so short of helpers we've had to cancel for the time being. Meanwhile the weeds will go gangbusters. 
We used to meet on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month. Could you come if we worked on another day or time? say a morning, or on a weekend day? 
Contact Geoff Searl on 0439 292 566 if you'd like to help. He'd love to hear from you. 

We have fun using the Tree Popper, here with our supervisor from Dragonfly Environmental. We can lever out quite big Ochnas, aka Mickey Mouse plant from Africa.  We want to bring back the bush, not let the weeds win!

Ochna or Mickey Mouse plant has yellow flowers in spring, then lots of green berries that turn black when ripe. Seedlings come up in hundreds. Ochna has a very strong taproot but the steady pressure of the Tree Popper lifts the plant out of the ground easily. The alternative control is repeated scraping and painting with Roundup, very slow and time consuming. If you have an Ochna you cant remove, you can enjoy the flowers, then PLEASE prune it so that berries can't develop.

Pittwater Reserves + Others

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
Angophora Reserve - Angophora Reserve Flowers
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham's Beach
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
 Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Iris Murdoch: what the writer and philosopher can teach us about friendship

Brian Harris / Alamy Stock Photo
Cathy MasonUniversity of Cambridge

Making friends might come easier to some people than others, but in general, we all use the same criteria for forming relationships. We are drawn to people who share our interests, or who we simply like and admire.

Once we make friends, we tend to hold them in high esteem. We speak positively about our friends, sometimes ignoring or downplaying their negative qualities. For many people, this positive outlook is the core of friendship – being a “good” friend is a matter of thinking and feeling positively about them, as well as acting in caring ways towards them.

This type of friendship is what I’ll call “knowledge-free” – it involves no requirement to really know or understand the other person. On the flip side, this view of friendship suggests that having negative beliefs about your friends (even if those beliefs are warranted) makes you a worse friend.

As an ethicist who has researched friendship and virtue, this view of friendship just doesn’t seem right to me. It doesn’t capture all of what we want from friendship. I have studied the work of British-Irish novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch – and I suggest that her writings provide us with a fuller view of friendship.

Murdoch occupied a rare niche in 20th century philosophy, as a woman working in a fairly male-dominated field. She was also a Platonist interested in the reality of “the Good” in an era when such metaphysical theorising was deeply unpopular. A highly successful novelist, Murdoch’s many books explore the trials and tribulations of intimate relationships.

Love Is Knowledge

Much of Murdoch’s philosophical work examines the moral significance of love (which I take to be part of friendship). She regarded love as a central part of our moral life that had been unjustly ignored in the moral philosophy of her era, in favour of an endless focus on the function of moral language.

Unlike the view of friendship I described earlier, Murdoch’s conception of love is not “knowledge-free”. Instead, she suggests that understanding the other person is an integral part of love (and therefore of friendship, which plausibly involves love).

Take the following passages:

Love is the perception of individuals. … Love … is the discovery of reality. (The Sublime and The Good, 1959)

Love is knowledge of the individual. (The Sovereignty of Good, 1970)

You can see in these quotes Murdoch’s view of love is knowledge of the other person, or seeing them as they really are –- it involves understanding them as a person, both their positive and negative qualities.

Notably, Murdoch thinks that really knowing or understanding another person is a difficult task: “It is a task to come to see the world as it is”. According to the Freudian psychology Murdoch subscribes to in The Sovereignty of Good, humans are prone to “fantasy” – refusing to face the truth because it can damage our fragile egos.

So while we may have a natural, selfish tendency to believe reassuring fantasies about the goodness of other people (especially our friends), true friendship requires us to be patient, kind and accepting of their negative qualities too.

Loving Attention

Being a good friend to others thus involves what Murdoch calls “loving attention”: regarding them in a patient, caring way, and always trying to do justice to who they really are.

In a Murdochian view of friendship, being a good friend involves knowing or understanding our friends more fully. Think about the way a friendship develops: One might initially know a few facts about a friend’s interests, such as that they enjoy classical music. Over time, a good friend would not simply know that their friend enjoys classical music, but exactly what kind of music they like, what it is that they like about it, and the importance that it has in their life. This deepening understanding of the other person naturally leads to a more fulfilling friendship.

Murdochian friendship therefore rules out the idea that being a good friend requires having positive – but false – beliefs about one’s friends. If friendship involves true knowledge of another person, it can’t require us to have untrue beliefs about them.

How might this relate to the other things we usually expect of friends, such as that they treat us well, and help us when we need it? Once we truly, lovingly see and understand another person, the right way to behave towards them will follow naturally. We won’t have to ask ourselves things like “should I bother helping my friend who is in need?”, because seeing their need will itself compel us to act rightly.

Think about Iris Murdoch the next time a friend of yours does or says something you disagree with. Instead of ignoring their flaw or mistake, try to accept it as part of their whole – it may even strengthen your friendship.The Conversation

Cathy Mason, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Philosophy, University of Cambridge

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

Free Training To Support Push For The Bush This Summer

November 5, 2021

Young people are being encouraged to skill up this summer and support the regions with 10,000 free training places across more than 800 courses now available to study.

The NSW Government today launched its Summer Skills program, offering free training in critical industries delivered by TAFE NSW and 120 registered training providers.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said in-demand short courses including construction, agriculture, hospitality, animal studies, shearing and wool harvesting, were available to study for free for people aged 16-24 years.

“We’re encouraging young people to go bush and combine learning with on-the-job experience this summer to support regional industries,” Mr Toole said.

“Now is the perfect time to get out, go and pick fruit in the regions, learn how to make a great coffee working for a local cafe or lend a hand to our farmers with free training funded by the NSW Government.”

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said it was a great opportunity for young people to take advantage of new freedoms in NSW. 

“It’s been a challenging period especially for our young people, which is why we’re committed to skilling them up to take on a job anywhere in NSW ahead of a bumper summer,” Mr Lee said.

“This is about giving school leavers a leg up in their career and the opportunity to put their skills to use after what has been a challenging year.”

Minister for Regional Youth Bronnie Taylor said the program will ensure young people have the confidence and skills they need for the next steps in their life. 

“Our young people have really felt the impacts of this pandemic, whether it was having to learn from home, losing their part-time job or not being able to catch up with their mates,” Mrs Taylor said. 

“This program is great news for our young people and will open so many future employment opportunities close to home, ensuring our rural and regional communities continue to thrive.”

Celebrity Chef and Thankful4Farmers ambassador Matt Moran said encouraging young people to explore the regions and learn new skills was a great solution to the skills shortages the regions are facing. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to have a fun-filled adventure in our backyard, while also making a real difference in the community, learning valuable skills and forging new friendships along the way,” Mr Moran said.  

Summer Skills program is funded under the joint Federal and State JobTrainer program and is available to people aged 16 to 24 who have left school and are living or working in NSW. 

Summer Skills short courses include:

  • Accounting 
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Studies 
  • Hospitality 
  • Construction
  • Process Manufacturing 
  • Transport and Logistics 
  • Shearing and Wool Harvesting 
  • Drone Essentials 
  • Care Roles Skillset

Find out more about the Summer Skills program  

Find out more about gap year working in regional NSW

Online Service To Match Jobseekers To Jobs

November 3, 2021
Thousands of job-seekers will have access to free career guidance and employment advice to help match their skills to job growth trends, thanks to an $11.4 million investment from the NSW Government.

In launching Careers NSW today, Premier Dominic Perrottet said the online service aimed to get people into work faster with tailored assistance that included access to volunteer industry experts in emerging and critical industries.

“NSW is the State of opportunity and has attracted businesses and industries from all over the world, strengthened by investments including the Aerotropolis, and our record infrastructure boom,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Careers NSW will supercharge our pandemic recovery by ensuring every jobseeker in NSW has online access to career advice regardless of their experience or education, so they can take advantage of the jobs of the future.”

One-on-one access to dedicated careers specialists and more than 40 industry volunteers will be available in a pilot across four regions - Western Sydney, South Western Sydney, the Mid North Coast and the state’s North West - ahead of the full rollout in 2022.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the pilot will initially target 10,000 people in key regions and scale up to include school students from the middle of next year.

“The Careers NSW service will make lifelong career information accessible for all people seeking to upgrade skills or change careers and guide them to the industries offering employment and opportunities,” Mr Lee said.

“The pilot program launching today enables residents in four priority regions to book appointments on the Service NSW website, receive tailored advice with a careers specialist and/or talk to an expert already working in the industry they’re looking to enter to set them on a pathway to employment success.”

Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello said customers could access a self-service portal which contains a number of resources designed to help people identify their skills, passions and values, as well as learn about prospective industries.

“People want to make informed decisions about their career path, which is why we’re making it easier to explore the industries and occupations they are interested in and the opportunities they present,” Mr Dominello said.

“This includes the ability for customers to compare courses and academic providers and find the study option that suits their learning preferences and location.”

Careers NSW was a key recommendation in the Review of the NSW vocational education and training sector led by Mr David Gonski AC and Professor Peter Shergold AC, released earlier this year.

Professor Peter Shergold AC said Careers NSW will help people navigate their lifetime employment journey.
“It will also be the cornerstone of a comprehensive state-based career information and guidance ecosystem that will support people to make informed decisions,” Professor Shergold said.

Scholarships Open For Vulnerable Youth

Some of the state’s most disadvantaged young people will be supported to achieve their academic aspirations as part of the NSW Government’s Youth Development Scholarships program.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens said applications are now open for the $1,000 scholarships to students in Years 10, 11 and 12 or TAFE equivalent.

“A good education is the foundation for a better future. This program supports disadvantaged students by reducing financial barriers so they may engage in study,” Mr Henskens said.

“It is about giving young people who need support a helping hand. These scholarships will help students achieve their educational dreams.”

The program supports young people living in social housing or on the housing register, students receiving private rental assistance, or those living in supported accommodation or out-of-home care.

The funds can be used to help pay for education-related expenses such as textbooks, IT equipment and internet access.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said more than 3,300 students have been supported by the scholarship program since it was established in 2017.

“Fires, floods and COVID-19 have posed significant social and economic challenges for our communities, and have particularly affected young people,” Ms Mitchell said.

“These grants will help reduce the financial burden for more students so they can focus on their studies.”

The Youth Development Scholarships program is part of Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW, a ten-year plan to drive better outcomes for social housing tenants.

For more information on how to apply, visit Youth Development Scholarships 2022.
Applications will close at 5:00pm, 18 February 2022.

JOIN Ruby “Rockstar” Trew at DROP IN for YOUTH 2021


+ Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam

OVER $10,000 in CASH - PRIZES - GIVEAWAYS to be WON!



@MONA VALE SKATE PARK, 1604 Pittwater Road, Mona Vale

Saturday, 11 December 2021; 09:30 am- $15 entry online. $20 entry on event day, rego opens 9:30am. Vert Comp kicks off 10:30am.


SKATE VERT COMP Kicks off 10:30am


  • - 6 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 8 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 12 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - 16 & Under - Girls and Boys
  • - Open Women’s - All Ages
  • - Open Men’s - All Ages
  • - Masters 45+ - Women's and Men's


Participants can only compete in a single category for the event. Age Group participants are competing for prizes. Entry into the Open category is for anyone who wants to compete for prize money.

Open and Masters participants are competing for ca$h and GLORY!

Skate Park Fun - BEST Limbo, Highest Ollie, Board Jump and Trick Jam competitions are for everyone to have some fun!

Presented by: Avalon Youth Hub - Business Education Network (THE BEN) - Hurley ANZ - Lifeline Northern Beaches - Modest Eyewear Co - Monster Skate Park - Rotaract - Skater HQ

Lifeline Northern Beaches is offering FREE face-to-face counselling at the Avalon Youth Hub for people aged 15-24. Counselling is safe and confidential, and our service is available with or without a referral. For more information, visit To book an appointment, call Lifeline Northern Beaches on 9949 5522 or email

TAFE NSW Grows Workers To Stem National Skills Shortage

TAFE NSW is helping the arboriculture industry tackle a growing national skills shortage by training up and instilling a passion for the industry in workers like Sydney-based arborist Dalton Wills.

The 30-year-old from Coogee was working in the tree business as a labourer when he decided to upskill and enrolled in a Certificate III in Arboriculture at TAFE NSW Ryde.

He said joining the world-class horticultural college at Ryde led to a full-time position with Woollahra Municipal Council and gave him a deep appreciation for the beauty, environmental value, and public benefit of trees.

“Before, my work was just about making money, but the team at TAFE NSW helped me understand that it’s a really important responsibility to take care of trees and our public green spaces,” Dalton said.

“It’s given me a whole new perspective and it’s no longer just a job but a career that I love. Our team at Woollahra Council manages more than 20,000 trees. It’s our responsibility to care for them and ensure they remain healthy now and for future generations.”

Arboriculture Australia, the national peak body representing the industry, describes the current national skills shortage as “critical” while a Department of Education, Skills and Employment occupation report reveals only 15% of job vacancies in the industry are filled.

Dalton said TAFE NSW teachers taught him all the skills to step straight into work as well as a philosophical understanding of arboriculture, such as the broader context for why trees are so important to society.

“We learn to treat removal as a last resort because trees hold so much social, environmental, and economic value in the ground. It’s a very holistic approach to tree management,” Dalton explained.

“The teaching staff at TAFE NSW are experienced arborists with so much knowledge and practical skills. I graduated with all the skills I needed for a successful career as well as learning to understand and respect the role trees play in our city and our culture.”

TAFE NSW’s horticultural college enjoys a decades-old partnership maintaining some of Sydney’s most cherished public spaces, including the Royal Botanic Garden, the heritage-listed Rookwood Cemetery, Centennial Park, and the grounds of many major hospitals and institutions.

Head Teacher of Arboriculture at TAFE NSW Ryde, John Douglas, said the partnership gives students like Dalton the opportunity to grow their skills in some of the city’s most magnificent parks and gardens, embedding a deep sense of responsibility as they help shape Sydney’s green spaces.

“The city gets the tree work done for free while we have a perfect training ground for our students. It’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship,” Mr Douglas said.

“The students work on trees in places that are incredibly special to the people of Sydney, so they take pride in the work, and it helps build their skills, knowledge, and respect for the job.”

Explore hundreds of courses and pursue your passion with life-changing training at TAFE NSW. For more information visit or phone 131 601.

How much time should you spend studying? Our ‘Goldilocks Day’ tool helps find the best balance of good grades and well-being

Dot DumuidUniversity of South Australia and Tim OldsUniversity of South Australia

For students, as for all of us, life is a matter of balance, trade-offs and compromise. Studying for hours on end is unlikely to lead to best academic results. And it could have negative impacts on young people’s physical, mental and social well-being.

Our recent study found the best way for young people to spend their time was different for mental health than for physical health, and even more different for school-related outcomes. Students needed to spend more time sitting for best cognitive and academic performance, but physical activity trumped sitting time for best physical health. For best mental health, longer sleep time was most important.

It’s like a game of rock, paper, scissors with time use. So, what is the sweet spot, or as Goldilocks put it, the “just right” amount of study?

Read more: Back to school: how to help your teen get enough sleep

Using our study data for Australian children aged 11 and 12, we are developing a time-optimisation tool that allows the user to define their own mental, physical and cognitive health priorities. Once the priorities are set, the tool provides real-time updates on what the user’s estimated “Goldilocks day” looks like.

Stylised dial set between 'too little' and 'too much' to achieve 'perfect balance'.
Because of the need to juggle conflicting demands on their time, individuals must fine-tune the daily balance of activities to match their priorities and needs. Shutterstock

More Study Improves Grades, But Not As Much As You Think

Over 30 years of research shows that students doing more homework get better grades. However, extra study doesn’t make as much difference as people think. An American study found the average grades of high school boys increased by only about 1.5 percentage points for every extra hour of homework per school night.

What these sorts of studies don’t consider is that the relationship between time spent doing homework and academic achievement is unlikely to be linear. A high school boy doing an extra ten hours of homework per school night is unlikely to improve his grades by 15 percentage points.

There is a simple explanation for this: doing an extra ten hours of homework after school would mean students couldn’t go to bed until the early hours of the morning. Even if they could manage this for one day, it would be unsustainable over a week, let alone a month. In any case, adequate sleep is probably critical for memory consolidation.

Read more: What's the point of homework?

As we all know, there are only 24 hours in a day. Students can’t devote more time to study without taking this time from other parts of their day. Excessive studying may become detrimental to learning ability when too much sleep time is lost.

Another US study found that, regardless of how long a student normally spent studying, sacrificing sleep to fit in more study led to learning problems on the following day. Among year 12s, cramming in an extra three hours of study almost doubled their academic problems. For example, students reported they “did not understand something taught in class” or “did poorly on a test, quiz or homework”.

Excessive study could also become unhelpful if it means students don’t have time to exercise. We know exercise is important for young people’s cognition, particularly their creative thinking, working memory and concentration.

On the one hand, then, more time spent studying is beneficial for grades. On the other hand, too much time spent studying is detrimental to grades.

We Have To Make Trade-Offs

Of course, how young people spend their time is not only important to their academic performance, but also to their health. Because what is the point of optimising school grades if it means compromising physical, mental and social well-being? And throwing everything at academic performance means other aspects of health will suffer.

US sleep researchers found the ideal amount of sleep for for 15-year-old boys’ mental health was 8 hours 45 minutes a night, but for the best school results it was one hour less.

Clearly, to find the “Goldilocks Zone” – the optimal balance of study, exercise and sleep – we need to think about more than just school grades and academic achievement.

Read more: 'It was the best five years of my life!' How sports programs are keeping disadvantaged teens at school

Looking For The Goldilocks Day

Based on our study findings, we realised the “Goldilocks Day” that was the best on average for all three domains of health (mental, physical and cognitive) would require compromises. Our optimisation algorithm estimated the Goldilocks Day with the best overall compromise for 11-to-12-year-olds. The breakdown was roughly:

  • 10.5 hours of sleep

  • 9.5 hours of sedentary behaviour (such as sitting to study, chill out, eat and watch TV)

  • 2.5 hours of light physical activity (chores, shopping)

  • 1.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (sport, running).

We also recognised that people – or the same people at different times — have different priorities. Around exam time, academic performance may become someone’s highest priority. They may then wish to manage their time in a way that leads to better study results, but without completely neglecting their mental or physical health.

To better explore these trade-offs, we developed our time-use optimisation tool based on Australian data. Although only an early prototype, the tool shows there is no “one size fits all” solution to how young people should be spending their time. However, we can be confident the best solutions will involve a healthy balance across multiple daily activities.

Just like we talk about the benefits of a balanced diet, we should start talking about the benefits of balanced time use. The better equipped young people and those supporting them are to find their optimal daily balance of sleep, sedentary behaviours and physical activities, the better their learning outcomes will be, without compromising their health and well-being.The Conversation

Dot Dumuid, Senior Research Fellow, Allied Health & Human Performance, University of South Australia and Tim Olds, Professor of Health Sciences, University of South Australia

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

Land ahoy: study shows the first continents bobbed to the surface more than 3 billion years ago

Priyadarshi ChowdhuryMonash UniversityJack MulderThe University of QueenslandOliver NebelMonash University, and Peter CawoodMonash University

Most people know that the land masses on which we all live represent just 30% of Earth’s surface, and the rest is covered by oceans.

The emergence of the continents was a pivotal moment in the history of life on Earth, not least because they are the humble abode of most humans. But it’s still not clear exactly when these continental landmasses first appeared on Earth, and what tectonic processes built them.

Our research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates the age of rocks from the most ancient continental fragments (called cratons) in India, Australia and South Africa. The sand that created these rocks would once have formed some of the world’s first beaches.

We conclude that the first large continents were making their way above sea level around 3 billion years ago – much earlier than the 2.5 billion years estimated by previous research.

A 3-Billion-Year-Old Beach

When continents rise above the oceans they start to erode. Wind and rain break rocks down into grains of sand, which are transported downstream by rivers and accumulate along coastlines to form beaches.

These processes, which we can observe in action during a trip to the beach today, have been operating for billions of years. By scouring the rock record for signs of ancient beach deposits, geologists can study episodes of continent formation that happened in the distant past.

The Singhbhum craton, an ancient piece of continental crust that makes up the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, contains several formations of ancient sandstone. These layers were originally formed from sand deposited in beaches, estuaries and rivers, which was then buried and compressed into rock.

We determined the age of these deposits by studying microscopic grains of a mineral called zircon, which is preserved within these sandstones. This mineral contains tiny amounts of uranium, which very slowly turns into lead via radioactive decay. This allows us to estimate the age of these zircon grains, using a technique called uranium-lead dating, which is well suited to dating very old rocks.

Sandstone and zircon grains
Left: sandstone formations (with ruler for scale); right: microscopic images of zircon grains. Author provided

The zircon grains reveal that the Singhbhum sandstones were deposited around 3 billion years ago, making them some of the oldest beach deposits in the world. This also suggests a continental landmass had emerged in what is now India by at least 3 billion years ago.

Interestingly, sedimentary rocks of roughly this age are also present in the oldest cratons of Australia (the Pilbara and Yilgarn cratons) and South Africa (the Kaapvaal Craton), suggesting multiple continental landmasses may have emerged around the globe at this time.

Read more: What's Australia made of? Geologically, it depends on the state you're in

Rise Above It

How did rocky continents manage to rise above the oceans? A unique feature of continents is their thick, buoyant crust, which allows them to float on top of Earth’s mantle, just like a cork in water. Like icebergs, the top of continents with thick crust (typically more than 45km thick) sticks out above the water, whereas continental blocks with crusts thinner than about 40km remain submerged.

So if the secret of the continents’ rise is due to their thickness, we need to understand how and why they began to grow thicker in the first place.

Most ancient continents, including the Singhbhum Craton, are made of granites, which formed through the melting of pre-existing rocks at the base of the crust. In our research, we found the granites in the Singhbhum Craton formed at increasingly greater depths between about 3.5 billion and 3 billion years ago, implying the crust was becoming thicker during this time window.

Granite formation with pen for scale.
Granites are some of the least dense and most buoyant types of rock (pen included for scale). Author provided

Because granites are one of the least dense types of rock, the ancient crust of the Singhbhum Craton would have become progressively more buoyant as it grew thicker. We calculate that by around 3 billion years ago, the continental crust of the Singhbhum Craton had grown to be about 50km thick, making it buoyant enough to begin rising above sea level.

The rise of continents had a profound influence on the climate, atmosphere and oceans of the early Earth. And the erosion of these continents would have provided chemical nutrients to coastal environments in which early photosynthetic life was flourishing, leading to a boom in oxygen production and ultimately helping to create the oxygen-rich atmosphere in which we thrive today.

Read more: The floor is lava: after 1.5 billion years in flux, here's how a new, stronger crust set the stage for life on Earth

Erosion of the early continents would have also helped in sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, leading to global cooling of the early Earth. Indeed, the earliest glacial deposits also happen to appear in the geological record around 3 billion years ago, shortly after the first continents emerged from the oceans.The Conversation

Priyadarshi Chowdhury, Postdoctoral research fellow, Monash UniversityJack Mulder, Research Associate, The University of QueenslandOliver Nebel, Associate Professor, Monash University, and Peter Cawood, Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow, Monash University

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

Mountain biking gives this Tasmanian town a sustainable future. Logging does not

Richard BuningThe University of Queensland

In the late 19th century it was tin mining that drove the economic life of Derby, about 100 km from Launceston in north-eastern Tasmania. But the mine has long closed. From a peak of more than 3,000, by the 2016 census Derby’s population was 178, with a 20% unemployment rate.

Map of Derby's location in northeast Tasmania.
Derby’s location in northeast Tasmania.

What has saved Derby from becoming another mining ghost town is finding a more sustainable mountain resource: mountain biking.

This transition could be considered a role model for the world, a story of hope for mining communities seeking to transition away from unsustainable resource extraction to something more about maintaining balance with nature.

But there’s something competing against this vision. As in many parts of Tasmania, and elsewhere, the forests through which the Blue Derby Trail Network trails have been built are still threatened by logging.

Origins Of The The Derby Venture

In 2015, with funding from the federal government, two local councils (Dorset Council and Break O'Day Council) opened the first 20 km section of the Blue Derby Trail Network, a system of mountain-bike trails that now extends 125 km through temperate old-growth rainforest, catering to a range of skill levels and riding styles.

There are easy trails such as “Crusty Rusty”, a “mostly undulating” track with two crossings of the local Cascade River. There are extremely difficult trails, such as “23 Stitches”, 800 metres of “fast, descending jump trail, littered with dirt jumps, rollers and tabletops”.

The 23 Stitches, rated ‘extremely difficult’

The attractions of Blue Derby Trail Network were quickly acknowledged by interstate and international mountain-bike enthusiasts. By 2017 Dorset Council mayor Greg Howard was boasting the trails were attracting 30,000 visitors a year, with the initial investment of $3.1 million returning $30 million a year.

Turmoil Amid Renewal

Logging of Tasmania’s public forests is overseen by the state-owned business known as Sustainable Timber Tasmania (previously Forestry Tasmania). It manages 816,000 hectares of public forest designated as “Permanent Timber Production Zone land”. This area represents about 12% of Tasmania’s total land area and 24% of its forests.

Each year Sustainable Timber Tasmania is required to extract 137,000 cubic metres of sawlogs from these forests. It maintains a “Three Year Plan” for what parts of Tasmania it is going to log. It updated this document in July 2021.

This plan includes logging two coupes (CC105A and C119A) covering 85 hectares that border the Blue Derby Trail Network by the end of the year. A third coupe, covering 40 hectares, is scheduled for clear-felling in 2022.

Part of the Blue Derby trail system.
Part of the Blue Derby trail system. Blue Derby Pods RideCC BY

Local views on this logging are mixed. Dorset Council mayor Greg Howard has said it won’t make any difference to the mountain bike trails. Conservationists and others are more defiant. Local conservation group Blue Derby Wild has organised protests) involving cyclists, hikers and activists.

Read more: Trails on trial: which human uses are OK for protected areas?

This battle between logging and outdoor recreation in Derby exemplifies the conflict between extraction and conservation affecting communities across Tasmania, Australia and the world.

The Value Of Mountain Bike Tourism

This week more than 180 Tasmanian tourism businesses signed an open letter calling for the state government to end logging in native forests. The letter says:

Brand Tasmania promises an island at the bottom of the world where ancient forests and wild rivers await to reconnect people to their wild side, through nature based tourism experiences found nowhere else on earth.

Mountain biking has become an increasingly valuable part of this tourism mix since the late 1990s, when communities in iconic destinations such as Moab, Utah and Whistler, British Columbia began building mountain-bike trails.

Mountain biking in Canyonlands National Park, near Moab, Utah.
Mountain biking in Canyonlands National Park, near Moab, Utah. Shutterstock

While the size and value of the industry internationally is difficult to assess, mountain bike tourists are typically affluent. They travel an average 12 nights a year, spending US$130 to US$23O each day of their visit. A study published in March 2021 (commissioned by the group AusCycling and funded by the federal government’s Building Better Region Fund), estimates Australia’s mountain bike market is worth about A$600 million a year, supporting more than 6,000 jobs.

How does the mountain-bike tourism compare with the value of logging? Again, while there are no studies that directly quantify this, comparisons between logging and ecotourism more generally point strong to the latter. A study on the economic contribution of ecotourism versus logging in the Wet Tropics of Queensland area, for example, found ecotourism was worth up to ten times more than logging.

In Tasmania, the tourism industry directly employs about 21,000 poeple, compared with about 2,500 in logging (at the time of the 2016 census).

Clear-Cut Choice

Derby has been pioneer in mountain-bike tourism. Communities looking to emulate its success include Harcourt in Victoria, York in Western Australia. and Mogo in New South Wales – which is also battling logging plans threatening the mountain bike trails.

Read more: Don't hike so close to me: How the presence of humans can disturb wildlife up to half a mile away

Mountain bikers predominantly seek out destinations based on the quality of the trail systems, the attractiveness of the terrain and appeal of the natural scenery. But just as important is support from the local community and politicians.

In Derby the choice between logging and sustainable tourism should be clear-cut. Mining didn’t last. Nor can logging. Long-term protections are needed now.The Conversation

Richard Buning, Lecturer in Tourism, School of Business, The University of Queensland

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

Don’t hike so close to me: How the presence of humans can disturb wildlife up to half a mile away

What are you looking at? Greg Shine, BLM/FlickrCC BY
Jeremy DertienClemson University Courtney LarsonUniversity of Wyoming, and Sarah ReedColorado State University

Millions of Americans are traveling this summer as pandemic restrictions wind down. Rental bookings and crowds in national parks show that many people are headed for the great outdoors.

Seeing animals and birds is one of the main draws of spending time in nature. But as researchers who study conservationwildlife and human impacts on wild places, we believe it’s important to know that you can have major effects on wildlife just by being nearby.

In a recent review of hundreds of studies covering many species, we found that the presence of humans can alter wild animal and bird behavior patterns at much greater distances than most people may think. Small mammals and birds may change their behavior when hikers or birders come within 300 feet (100 meters) – the length of a football field. Large birds like eagles and hawks can be affected when humans are over 1,300 feet (400 meters) away – roughly a quarter of a mile. And large mammals like elk and moose can be affected by humans up to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) away – more than half a mile.

Elk viewed over a hiker's shoulder.
A hiker about 75 feet from a bull elk in Yellowstone National Park. Jacob W. Frank, NPS/Flickr

Many recent studies and reports have shown that the world is facing a biodiversity crisis. Over the past 50 years, Earth has lost so many species that many scientists believe the planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction – due mainly to human activities.

Protected areas, from local open spaces to national parks, are vital for conserving plants and animals. They also are places where people like to spend time in nature. We believe that everyone who uses the outdoors should understand and respect this balance between outdoor recreation, sustainable use and conservation.

How Human Presence Affects Wildlife

Pandemic lockdowns in 2020 confined many people indoors – and wildlife responded. In Istanbul, dolphins ventured much closer to shore than usualPenguins explored quiet South African StreetsNubian ibex grazed on Israeli playgrounds. The fact that animals moved so freely without people present shows how wild species change their behavior in response to human activities.

Decades of research have shown that outdoor recreation, whether it’s hiking, cross-country skiing or riding all-terrain vehicles, has negative effects on wildlife. The most obvious signs are behavioral changes: Animals may flee from nearby people, decrease the time they feed and abandon nests or dens.

Other effects are harder to see, but can have serious consequences for animals’ health and survival. Wild animals that detect humans can experience physiological changes, such as increased heart rates and elevated levels of stress hormones.

And humans’ outdoor activities can degrade habitat that wild species depend on for food, shelter and reproduction. Human voicesoff-leash dogs and campsite overuse all have harmful effects that make habitat unusable for many wild species.

Disturbing shorebirds can cause them to stop eating, stop feeding their young or flee their nests, leaving chicks vulnerable.

Effects Of Human Presence Vary For Different Species

For our study we examined 330 peer-reviewed articles spanning 38 years to locate thresholds at which recreation activities negatively affected wild animals and birds. The main thresholds we found were related to distances between wildlife and people or trails. But we also found other important factors, including the number of daily park visitors and the decibel levels of people’s conversations.

The studies that we reviewed covered over a dozen different types of motorized and nonmotorized recreation. While it might seem that motorized activities would have a bigger impact, some studies have found that dispersed “quiet” activities, such as day hiking, biking and wildlife viewing, can also affect which wild species will use a protected area.

Put another way, many species may be disturbed by humans nearby, even if those people are not using motorboats or all-terrain vehicles. It’s harder for animals to detect quiet humans, so there’s a better chance that they’ll be surprised by a cross-country skier than a snowmobile, for instance. In addition, some species that have been historically hunted are more likely to recognize – and flee from – a person walking than a person in a motorized vehicle.

Generally, larger animals need more distance, though the relationship is clearer for birds than mammals. We found that for birds, as bird size increased, so did the threshold distance. The smallest birds could tolerate humans within 65 feet (20 meters), while the largest birds had thresholds of roughly 2,000 feet (600 meters). Previous research has found a similar relationship. We did not find that this relationship existed as clearly for mammals.

We found little research on impact thresholds for amphibians and reptiles, such as lizards, frogs, turtles and snakes. A growing body of evidence shows that amphibians and reptiles are disturbed and negatively affected by recreation. So far, however, it’s unclear whether those effects reflect mainly the distance to people, the number of visitors or other factors.

Graphic showing distances at which human presence affects animals' behavior.
Human recreation starts to affect wild creatures’ behavior and physical state at different distances. Small mammals and birds tolerate closer recreation than do larger birds of prey and large mammals. Sarah MarkesCC BY-ND

How To Reduce Your Impact On Wildlife

While there’s much still to learn, we know enough to identify some simple actions people can take to minimize their impacts on wildlife. First, keep your distance. Although some species or individual animals will become used to human presence at close range, many others won’t. And it can be hard to tell when you are stressing an animal and potentially endangering both it and yourself.

Second, respect closed areas and stay on trails. For example, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, wildlife managers seasonally close some backcountry ski areas to protect critical habitat for bighorn sheep and reduce stress on other species like moose, elk and mule deer. And rangers in Maine’s Acadia National Park close several trails annually near peregrine falcon nests. This reduces stress to nesting birds and has helped this formerly endangered species recover.

Getting involved with educational or volunteer programs is a great way to learn about wildlife and help maintain undisturbed areas. As our research shows, balancing recreation with conservation means opening some areas to human use and keeping others entirely or mostly undisturbed.

As development fragments wild habitat and climate change forces many species to shift their ranges, movement corridors between protected areas become even more important. Our research suggests that creating recreation-free wildlife corridors of at least 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) wide can enable most species to move between protected areas without disturbance. Seeing wildlife can be part of a fun outdoor experience – but for the animals’ sake, you may need binoculars or a zoom lens for your camera.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Jeremy Dertien, PhD Candidate in Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University Courtney Larson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming, and Sarah Reed, Affiliate Faculty in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University

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

Students’ choice of university has no effect on new graduate pay, and a small impact later on. What they study matters more

Andrew NortonAustralian National University

Every year in Australia school leavers suffer ATAR anxiety, worrying about whether they will get into their preferred course and university. New research by the Commonwealth Department of Education, using Australian Taxation Office earnings data, examines in detail how much difference what a person studies, and where, makes to their future income.

It finds students’ course choices matter more than their choice of university. Qualifications in some fields of study lead to much higher incomes nine years after graduation. Which university a student attends has little influence on short-term graduate earnings, but differences emerge over time.

Read more: Let's not focus on graduate incomes when assessing the worth of education

Why Might Graduates Of Some Universities Earn More?

We would expect some university effect on earnings. Universities vary in their teaching quality, at least as measured by student satisfaction. In theory, those whose graduates learn more could expect labour market rewards.

Whether justified by objective learning gains or not, some universities are better known and more prestigious than others. This could influence employers when choosing between job applicants.

And some universities, especially those with many full-time and on-campus undergraduates, offer greater networking opportunities. The people met at university could open up employment and business opportunities.

Why Might Graduates Of Some Courses Earn More?

Previous research shows graduate earnings vary greatly according to a degree’s field of education.

Some degrees are entry points to specific occupations. The pay for those jobs is a major influence on graduate earnings. Other degrees provide more general skills that are valued to a greater or lesser extent in the labour market.

These differences reflect market conditions, occupational regulation and political decisions more than how good either the university or the graduate might be. University and graduate factors can influence who gets hired and promoted, but job markets set the salary range.

Read more: Want to improve your chances of getting a full-time job? A double degree can do that

What Do The Department’s Results Show?

The Department of Education’s graduate income report and accompanying spreadsheets show earnings at various time points after graduation. I will mainly discuss the medium-term results, as at 2017-18 for people who graduated in the late 2000s.

As the chart shows, bachelor degree earnings differ significantly by the field of study nine years after graduation. At the high end, half of medical graduates reported annual incomes of A$149,500 or more (the median). A quarter earned $206,900 or more (the 75th percentile). The equivalent figures for performing arts were $53,000 and $80,300.

The overall results (including fields not shown here) were a median of $77,100 and a 75th percentile of $102,600.

Bar chart showing median and 75th percentile earnings for bachelor degree graduates in 2017-18 by profession
Source: Author/ANU. Data: DESE graduate income data from Australian Taxation Office records

The department’s statistical analysis shows substantial course differences persist after taking into account university attended and personal characteristics such as gender, socioeconomic background and ATAR. For example, compared to business and management graduates, law and engineering graduates earn an extra $11,000 a year.

Much of the apparent variation in earnings between universities reflects differences in enrolment patterns. For example, universities with more graduates in high-paying fields such as medicine, law and engineering end up with higher median earnings than universities that focus on teaching or nursing.

Read more: Think our unis are all much the same? Look more closely and you will find diversity

The department’s analysis does show, however, that a decade after leaving university Group of Eight (Go8) graduates earn about $4,300 a year more than others from a comparison group of universities. Australian Technology Network (ATN) university graduates also earn more than non-Go8 graduates. These findings take into account course taken and personal characteristics such as gender, socioeconomic background and ATAR.

Does This Change Our Understanding Of Graduate Outcomes?

These findings confirm general patterns observed in previous research. They do so in ways that give us more confidence in earlier results.

Several studies have found either no or a small Go8 salary advantage for new graduates, after taking into account other factors known to influence graduate pay. The short-term results (one to two years after graduation) using ATO data also report no such advantage.

These findings count against strong prestige effects. If there were such effects, we would expect these to be greatest early in graduates’ careers, before they have had a chance to demonstrate their quality to employers.

Before now, longer-term earnings by university have been very difficult to analyse. Few data sources record both income and university attended more than three years after graduation.

The main exception has been the HILDA survey. Its data were used in a study I co-authored at the Grattan Institute in 2014 and a later one by Curtin University researchers.

Both these studies found small university and larger course effects on income. The Grattan paper also found Go8 and ATN graduates doing slightly better. The Curtin paper found an earnings disadvantage for regional university graduates, with other university grouping differences not statistically significant.

Read more: How does your choice of university affect your future?

At the time of the Grattan paper there was some surprise that the university differences were not larger. Given the modest number of graduates in the HILDA sample, including people who finished university at many different times, its findings needed to be checked using other data sources.

The Department of Education’s analysis includes most graduates who finished in the same year. It both provides a much larger sample and lets us compare people at similar points in their career who faced common economic conditions. The strong parallels between the HILDA and ATO-based findings give us confidence the conclusions are right.

Read more: Surveys are not the best way to measure the performance of Australian universities

Caveats And Suggestions

While a significant step forward, the ATO data source has some weaknesses. It relies on students borrowing under the HELP loan scheme to create the link between tax file numbers and enrolment records. The analysis excludes international students and domestic students who paid their fees up-front.

For future work using the ATO data I suggest looking at the effects of local labour markets. After taking into account courses taken and student characteristics, most of the universities showing earnings premiums are in NSW or the ACT.

Have universities there found a special strategy for improving graduate outcomes? Or are there simply more well-paid jobs in Sydney and Canberra? With the Grattan and Curtin papers both finding a NSW premium, the second explanation looks most plausible.

Will Student Choices Change?

The ATO data show significant differences in earnings by course taken, but this is already well-known and probably won’t change students’ course choices. Student interests primarily shape these choices.

Within a prospective student’s range of interests, labour market prospects affect choices, but job availability is the main driver of shifts in applications. Nursing, which recorded a big increase in applications for 2021, may not lead to high salaries but is a reliable source of flexible employment.

On university choice, the main message is that earnings should only be a small factor in students’ decision-making. University attended explains only a small proportion of all the variation in graduate income.

A degree from a Go8 university is not going to open many doors that would otherwise be closed. A wide range of personal, occupational, firm, industry and broader economic factors influence long-term earnings.The Conversation

Andrew Norton, Professor in the Practice of Higher Education Policy, Australian National University

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

Why Australian uni students have a right to know class sizes before they sign up

Peter WoelertThe University of Melbourne

Proliferating metrics and rankings in recent decades have, for better or worse, reshaped the priorities of universities around the world. Despite this “metric tide”, Australian universities provide little reliable, publicly available data on their class sizes. To this day, there is no mechanism for reporting how many students are allocated to the various types of classes at universities in Australia.

The result is a clear lack of systematic evidence on how universities organise their teaching in terms of class sizes. We also don’t know for sure how this may have changed over the years.

Read more: What to look for when choosing a university as the digital competition grows

3 Reasons We Need To Know About Class Sizes

From a policy perspective, having reliable, publicly available data on Australian universities’ class sizes matters for a number of reasons.

First, class size metrics would provide prospective students with more meaningful information about a key aspect of their future learning experience.

University rankings such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities are mostly geared towards research performance. They provide little guidance on how universities value and approach their teaching.

Student-staff ratios are part of some rankings at least, but this information is similarly limited. These ratios do not provide accurate information on the actual sizes of the various classes students attend. They also generally do not distinguish between different fields of study.

All this means student-staff ratios are a limited source of information.

Second, class sizes could have impacts on students’ learning outcomes and levels of satisfaction.

Some studies suggest student outcomes get worse as classes at universities get larger. Other studies paint a more complex picture. These suggest the the effect of increasing class size on students’ achievement differs substantially between academic disciplines. It also depends on the student demographics.

Read more: Think our unis are all much the same? Look more closely and you will find diversity

The picture of the relationship between class sizes and student satisfaction remains similarly inconclusive.

It is ultimately undeniable, however, that smaller classes provide students with better access to and more interaction with their lecturer or tutor. This is particularly important for tutorial classes, which are meant to enable high levels of interaction. It is reasonable to assume smaller tutorial classes make it easier to provide students with more detailed and targeted feedback.

Third, publishing reliable information on class sizes would eventually lead to better understanding of trends and their potential impacts on students’ learning experiences.

Ample anecdotal evidence suggests Australian universities’ class sizes have increased dramatically over recent decades. For example, tutorial class sizes of more than 35 students are not uncommon these days. Only a decade ago an upper limit of 20 students appears to have been the norm.

Unsurprisingly, these numbers are a long way from what tutorial classes looked like before mass higher education. A 2017 study has shown UK universities in the 1960s, for example, had tutorial classes of only about four students on average. The picture at Australian universities would probably not have been too different given the similarities of these two higher education systems.

Read more: The mass university is good for equity, but must it also be bad for learning?

How Could Class Sizes Be Reported?

To make university class-size data usable for prospective students and other stakeholders, consistent reporting standards would need to be agreed. Any published class-size metrics should clearly distinguish different modes of delivery, such as online or face-to-face, and different levels of education, such as undergraduate or postgraduate.

Metrics should also reflect the variety of sessions students typically attend. These include lectures, seminars, tutorials or lab classes. Information on class sizes is much more meaningful for group-based and highly interactive teaching activities such as tutorials than for less interactive activities such as lectures.

Logistically, collating class-size metrics should not be too onerous for universities. The information already exists in their learning management or business intelligence systems. The public reporting of data on class sizes could use existing mechanisms such as the annual Quality Indicators for Leaning and Teaching (QILT).

Overall, from a higher education policy perspective, publishing relevant class-size metrics would greatly enhance the transparency of Australian universities’ teaching offerings. It would provide students with meaningful information about what to expect at the university of their choice.The Conversation

Peter Woelert, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne

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

The Moon’s top layer alone has enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people for 100,000 years

John GrantSouthern Cross University

Alongside advances in space exploration, we’ve recently seen much time and money invested into technologies that could allow effective space resource utilisation. And at the forefront of these efforts has been a laser-sharp focus on finding the best way to produce oxygen on the Moon.

In October, the Australian Space Agency and NASA signed a deal to send an Australian-made rover to the Moon under the Artemis program, with a goal to collect lunar rocks that could ultimately provide breathable oxygen on the Moon.

Although the Moon does have an atmosphere, it’s very thin and composed mostly of hydrogen, neon and argon. It’s not the sort of gaseous mixture that could sustain oxygen-dependent mammals such as humans.

That said, there is actually plenty of oxygen on the Moon. It just isn’t in a gaseous form. Instead it’s trapped inside regolith — the layer of rock and fine dust that covers the Moon’s surface. If we could extract oxygen from regolith, would it be enough to support human life on the Moon?

The Breadth Of Oxygen

Oxygen can be found in many of the minerals in the ground around us. And the Moon is mostly made of the same rocks you’ll find on Earth (although with a slightly greater amount of material that came from meteors).

Minerals such as silica, aluminium, and iron and magnesium oxides dominate the Moon’s landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but not in a form our lungs can access.

On the Moon these minerals exist in a few different forms including hard rock, dust, gravel and stones covering the surface. This material has resulted from the impacts of meteorites crashing into the lunar surface over countless millennia.

Some people call the Moon’s surface layer lunar “soil”, but as a soil scientist I’m hesitant to use this term. Soil as we know it is pretty magical stuff that only occurs on Earth. It has been created by a vast array of organisms working on the soil’s parent material — regolith, derived from hard rock — over millions of years.

The result is a matrix of minerals which were not present in the original rocks. Earth’s soil is imbued with remarkable physical, chemical and biological characteristics. Meanwhile, the materials on the Moon’s surface is basically regolith in its original, untouched form.

One Substance Goes In, Two Come Out

The Moon’s regolith is made up of approximately 45% oxygen. But that oxygen is tightly bound into the minerals mentioned above. In order to break apart those strong bonds, we need to put in energy.

You might be familiar with this if you know about electrolysis. On Earth this process is commonly used in manufacturing, such as to produce aluminium. An electrical current is passed through a liquid form of aluminium oxide (commonly called alumina) via electrodes, to separate the aluminium from the oxygen.

In this case, the oxygen is produced as a byproduct. On the Moon, the oxygen would be the main product and the aluminium (or other metal) extracted would be a potentially useful byproduct.

It’s a pretty straightforward process, but there is a catch: it’s very energy hungry. To be sustainable, it would need to be supported by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon.

Extracting oxygen from regolith would also require substantial industrial equipment. We’d need to first convert solid metal oxide into liquid form, either by applying heat, or heat combined with solvents or electrolytes. We have the technology to do this on Earth, but moving this apparatus to the Moon – and generating enough energy to run it – will be a mighty challenge.

Earlier this year, Belgium-based startup Space Applications Services announced it was building three experimental reactors to improve the process of making oxygen via electrolysis. They expect to send the technology to the Moon by 2025 as part of the European Space Agency’s in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) mission.

How Much Oxygen Could The Moon Provide?

That said, when we do manage to pull it off, how much oxygen might the Moon actually deliver? Well, quite a lot as it turns out.

If we ignore oxygen tied up in the Moon’s deeper hard rock material — and just consider regolith which is easily accessible on the surface — we can come up with some estimates.

Each cubic metre of lunar regolith contains 1.4 tonnes of minerals on average, including about 630 kilograms of oxygen. NASA says humans need to breathe about 800 grams of oxygen a day to survive. So 630kg oxygen would keep a person alive for about two years (or just over).

Now let’s assume the average depth of regolith on the Moon is about ten metres, and that we can extract all of the oxygen from this. That means the top ten metres of the Moon’s surface would provide enough oxygen to support all eight billion people on Earth for somewhere around 100,000 years.

This would also depend on how effectively we managed to extract and use the oxygen. Regardless, this figure is pretty amazing!

Having said that, we do have it pretty good here on Earth. And we should do everything we can to protect the blue planet — and its soil in particular — which continues to support all terrestrial life without us even trying.The Conversation

John Grant, Lecturer in Soil Science, Southern Cross University

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

How Meditation Can Help You Make Fewer Mistakes

November 11, 2021
If you are forgetful or make mistakes when in a hurry, a new study from Michigan State University -- the largest of its kind to-date -- found that meditation could help you to become less error prone.

The research, published in Brain Sciences, tested how open monitoring meditation -- or, meditation that focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or sensations as they unfold in one's mind and body -- altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.

"People's interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits," said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author. "But it's amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators."

The findings suggest that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects and Lin explained that there is little research about how open monitoring meditation impacts error recognition.

"Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open monitoring meditation is a bit different," Lin said. "It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery."

Lin and his MSU co-authors -- William Eckerle, Ling Peng and Jason Moser -- recruited more than 200 participants to test how open monitoring meditation affected how people detect and respond to errors.

The participants, who had never meditated before, were taken through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography, or EEG. Then, they completed a computerized distraction test.

"The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses," Lin said. "A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls."

While the meditators didn't have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers' findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.

"These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain's ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes," Moser said. "It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment."

While meditation and mindfulness have gained mainstream interest in recent years, Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that take a neuroscientific approach to assessing their psychological and performance effects.

Looking ahead, Lin said that the next phase of research will be to include a broader group of participants, test different forms of meditation and determine whether changes in brain activity can translate to behavioral changes with more long-term practice.

"It's great to see the public's enthusiasm for mindfulness, but there's still plenty of work from a scientific perspective to be done to understand the benefits it can have, and equally importantly, how it actually works," Lin said. "It's time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens."

Lin, Eckerle, Peng, Moser. On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring. Brain Sciences, 2019; 9 (9): 226 DOI: 10.3390/brainsci9090226   Photo: Joelle Pearson

ASIC Sues Timeshare Company Ultiqa For Poor Financial Advice Outcomes

ASIC has commenced civil penalty proceedings against Ultiqa Lifestyle Promotions Ltd (Ultiqa) for failing to ensure that financial advice to consumers to buy timeshare products was in the consumers’ best interests.

ASIC alleges the advice was provided by financial advisers who were authorised representatives of Ultiqa from October 2017 to March 2019. Ultiqa promoted a timeshare scheme called the Ultiqa Lifestyle Scheme.

ASIC’s case is that Ultiqa’s authorised representatives did not act in their clients' best interests and did not give appropriate advice based on clients’ circumstances. ASIC claims that some consumers had not sought advice regarding a timeshare scheme and some were not aware they were receiving financial advice.

During ASIC’s investigation, consumers reported to ASIC that upfront costs of joining the timeshare scheme were approximately $10,000 to $25,000, with ongoing fees of up to $800 per year. Some consumers complained to ASIC that they had difficulty booking holidays due to lack of availability.

ASIC Deputy Chair Karen Chester said, ‘Timeshare schemes are complex financial products. They can be difficult to understand and compare with other products, and involve long-term financial commitments.  Consumer harm can and has resulted when consumers are not aware of the up-front costs, ongoing fees or the nature of their investment - like how easy (or not) it is to exit.

‘This is the first time ASIC has taken action against a timeshare provider in relation to financial product advice practices. The timeshare industry is on notice to ensure existing compliance and advice practices comply at all times with the obligations on all financial advisers, especially for that advice to be in the consumers’ best interests,’ concluded Deputy Chair Chester.

ASIC further alleges that Ultiqa did not:
  • provide relevant training to its authorised representatives
  • monitor and supervise its authorised representatives appropriately, and
  • have documented policies and procedures in place to support the advice process.
ASIC also alleges Ultiqa’s conduct amounted to a breach of its obligations as an Australian financial services licensee to act efficiently, honestly and fairly.

ASIC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties and other orders to be made by the Court.

Ultiqa ceased selling interests in the Scheme on 28 January 2020 and was placed into members' voluntary liquidation on 30 April 2021. The Scheme remains active, as does the balance of the Ultiqa Group entities. Ultiqa currently holds an AFS licence.

The first case management hearing has been set down for 12 November 2021.

Timeshare schemes are managed investment schemes and financial products that commonly involve property in the form of holiday accommodation. They are complex products that typically involve high upfront fees and ongoing annual costs.

Timeshare financial advisers typically sell timeshare ‘memberships’ by providing personal product advice to consumers and can use persuasive sales tactics. In many cases, consumers do not recognise they have received financial advice, which presents a significant risk, as consumers are not aware of the financial commitment of the product and whether it is suitable for them. ASIC’s Report 642 Timeshare: Consumers’ experiences showed a high-level of discontent amongst timeshare participants.

Report 642 looked at consumer experiences with timeshare following consumer research conducted in 2019.  

It also indicated that many research participants were dissatisfied with their timeshare membership and that timeshare memberships contain significant risks, including:
  • the long-term nature of contracts, which typically range from 20 to 99 years
  • the high upfront costs of joining which average $23,000
  • the ongoing annual costs of membership which average $800
  • the fact that many consumers often need to borrow to make the membership purchase, with 48% of consumers taking out a loan to buy a membership
  • the high cost of loans taken to purchase membership, with an average loan cost of $19,699 and an average interest rate of 13.51%
  • the fact that timeshare memberships are often difficult to exit.
The Scheme is one of approximately 15 registered timeshare schemes currently operating in Australia. Up until January 2020, it was one of approximately five schemes issuing interests to new members. Data provided to ASIC by the Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council indicated that there are currently approximately 180,000 timeshare members in Australia.

ASIC previously fined an Ultiqa Lifestyle timeshare lender for responsible lending failures in 2018 (18-253MR) and raised concerns with Ultiqa Lifestyle's disclosure and sales practices in 2016 (MR16-418).

ASIC’s Moneysmart explains what to look out for when buying and selling timeshares.

Friday essay: beautiful, available and empty – how landscape photographers reinvented the colonial project in Australia

Anson Brothers Studio, Fern Tree Gully, Hobart Town, Tasmania, 1887. Albumen print. Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Jarrod HoreUNSW

Colonial history overflows with commodities. From the early 1800s, wool generated extraordinary wealth for squatters and pastoralists and substantial investment in the Australian colonies. In the 1850s, gold motivated tens of thousands of people to work the earth or service the diggings. Coal, copper, tin, wheat, barley and cotton all assumed importance at different times.

In those great cathedrals of late 19th century colonial self-representation, the International Exhibitions, any visitor would have immediately noticed the way New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania sought to identify with the commodities produced in these places.

In a photograph from 1879, the NSW Department of Mines filled its portion of the exhibition building, the Garden Palace, with gold ingots, silver ores and samples of tin. On the balconies above were coal sections and geological maps.

The prominent mining displays inside the Garden Palace, 1879. Collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney

Walking through these displays a visitor would also have noticed walls of landscape photographs, which, mirroring the extractive logic of settler colonialism itself, worked to bring all these raw materials together in a vision of abundant nature.

Photographers captured images of budding settlements, seemingly empty vistas, and stunning panoramas of emerging colonial cities.

The increasing popularity of these photographs throughout the final decades of the 19th century shows colonial expansion was not just generated by the search for raw materials to extract and exploit. Colonial Australia was also a product of vision and imagery: literally developed through chemicals, glass and light.

Charles Bayliss and Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, Panorama of Sydney and the Harbour, New South Wales, 1875. Albumen prints on cloth. Art Gallery of New South Wales

I have studied over 2000 early landscape photographs, taken by six settler photographers between the 1850s and the 1930s. They show how colonisation was re-enacted in the imagination of places, rather than simply through the movement of people from one site to another, the Lockean mixture of labour and earth, or the transfer of deeds.

Visions of nature allowed for a different kind of investment in the colonial earth. They paid off in feelings of belonging even for those who never turned a sod. These photos reveal, as the American environmental historian William Cronon has insisted, that nature itself is a profoundly human artefact.

In settler colonies, landscape photography framed nature as beautiful, available and empty. In Victoria and Tasmania especially, landscape photography flourished. And although this mode of photography was not uniquely antipodean – it was pioneered, then perfected in the American West by photographers like Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge – it did have remarkable purchase in the Australian colonies.

J. W. Lindt, Lindt’s Hermitage, 1894. Gelatin silver print. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

A Photographic Sleight Of Hand

Figures such as Nicholas CaireJohn Lindt, and John Beattie took up the camera to encourage settlers to feel at home in Australian environments. This perspective disguised the ancestral ownership and continuing presence of First Nations peoples, turning their homelands into a wilderness through a photographic sleight of hand.

Read more: Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the 'wilderness' myth

The best example of this was in Victoria, where Caire and Lindt began framing the stretch of bush between Healesville and Narbethong as a kind of wilderness retreat from the late 1870s.

Caire, born in Guernsey in 1837, came to this collaborative work via South Australia, the forests of Gippsland and the Goldfields. Lindt, originally from Frankfurt, had just finished photographing Bundjalung and Gumbaynggir people along the Clarence River in northern NSW.

Around 1878 Caire captured Fairy Scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur, which quickly became one of his most popular photographs.

Nicholas Caire, Fairy Scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur, c. 1878. National Gallery of Victoria

In it, Caire focuses on a glade of tree-ferns clustered on the side of a gully. Writing in 1904, Caire and Lindt boasted about the wildness of this pocket of the Great Forest, the ancient age of the trees, and the “refreshing” seclusion of Fernshaw. Lindt wrote that the allure of places like this came back to their capacity to “carry you back to the morning of time”.

The empty natures of the Yarra Ranges relied on the removal and containment of Woiwurrung, Bunurong, and Taungurong people at the Coranderrk mission. Located just kilometres away from Lindt and Caire’s “refreshing” forest, Coranderrk helped the photographers create a partition between the environment and its ancestral owners.

The mission became a complementary site of interest. When promoting the natural features of the Yarra Ranges, Lindt and Caire wrote about Coranderrk as a place where tourists could mimic the anthropologist, just as they mimicked the geographer or explorer while traipsing through sylvan glades or gazing up at giant mountain ash.

At about the same time that Caire and Lindt were developing their visions of nature in the Yarra Ranges, the photographer Fred Kruger was taking influential shots of life on the reservation. One of the key challenges for aspiring landscape photographers in the 1870s and 1880s was to deal with this presence of Aboriginal people in landscapes that were becoming coveted for their natural beauty.

Caire and Lindt took up an established tradition of photography at Coranderrk, combining it with a new interest in wilderness, balancing the apparent contradiction between Indigenous presence and absence.

The Tasmanian Sublime

In Tasmania, too, photographers began constructing a similar wilderness tradition from the 1870s. Emigrating from Scotland in 1878, John Beattie, the so-called “prince of landscape photographers in Australasia”, settled with his family in New Norfolk, about 30 kilometres up the Derwent valley from Hobart.

This was a perfect location for a budding photographer, and Beattie made attractive pictures of the river and its hop gardens in the 1890s, but the interior of the island offered a different order of beauty.

This photograph frames a harmonic interaction of settlement, agriculture and geography on the lowlands along the Derwent River. John Beattie, Hop Garden, New Norfolk, 1895–1898. Albumen print. Art Gallery of New South Wales

In 1879 Beattie began making expeditions into the bush around the valley, onto the central highlands, and eventually all the way to the remote Lake St. Clair. In 1882 he joined the Anson Brothers’ photographic studio and quickly became their most important artist.

An Anson Brothers image from 1887 is quite likely Beattie’s work, showing a stand of ferns on the Huon Road. Unlike Caire’s shot, however, this image includes a group of settlers enjoying exactly the kind of immersion in nature that these photographs were designed to evoke.

Taken on the Huon Road, this photograph depicts the kind of vegetation that could be found in pockets of bush around the Beattie’s property at New Norfolk. Anson Brothers Studio, Fern Tree Gully, Hobart Town, Tasmania, 1887. Albumen print. Art Gallery of New South Wales

Many of Beattie’s photographs are deeply Romantic. Between 1896 and 1906 he conducted regular presentations in Hobart and Launceston based on the wild features of the Tasmanian landscape, cultivating a high wilderness aesthetic in his magic lantern shows.

Read more: Friday essay: journey through the apocalypse

Photographs of Lake Marion and the Du Cane Range and another of Lake Perry and The Pinnacles trade in the sublime. Beattie evoked the great American transcendentalist poets in his respect for the mountaintop, which often moved him to wordlessness: “I am struck dumb, but oh! my soul sings.”

John Beattie, Lake Marion, Du Cane Range (Tasmania), 1890s. Albumen print. The Richard Ledgar Collection of Photographs, 1858–1910, National Library of Australia, Canberra. National Library of Australia

These sublime sentiments relied on old Romantic ideas that stretched back to Edmund Burke and William Wordsworth, but they rested just as heavily on new experiences of space. Beattie’s breakthrough years were in the 1890s, a decade in which depictions of wilderness in Australian Romantic painting went into terminal decline and were replaced by photographic visions of nature.

Romanticism, through photography, came to influence how environments were envisioned and how histories of dispossession were remembered. The high wilderness imagery of settler photography came to support a fantasy of spatial control, delivering reproducible, enduring symbols of the natural world.

This photograph of Lake Perry in the Hartz Mountains gives a good sense of the gradations of the Tasmanian highlands and the dramatic topography that attracted photographers. John Beattie, Lake Perry and Pinnacles looking Nth, Hartz Mountains, c. 1900. Glass Lantern Slide. Tasmanian Views Collection. State Library of Victoria

Aboriginal Extinction And Romantic Communion

Just as Caire did, Beattie divided his visions of nature and his portraits of native people. He was an insatiable and opportunistic collector of photographs of the “last” Tasmanians, leaning into and commercialising the myth of Tasmanian Aboriginal extinction.

Sometimes advertisements for these pictures featured on the back covers of Beattie’s landscape collections, gently leading interested audiences to the other side of the partition.

Read more: Friday essay: painting 'The Last Victorian Aborigines'

Most of Beattie’s photographs of Aboriginal people were simple reproductions of the portraits that Francis Nixon, the first Bishop of Tasmania and amateur photographer, took in 1858 at putalina (Oyster Cove). Nixon took pictures of the few remaining Aboriginal people, who had survived exile on Wybelenna Station on Flinders Island and a decade of surveillance at the former penal probation station just south of Hobart.

In the 1890s Beattie copied these images and labelled each of them with the phrase “the last of the race”.

It is no simple coincidence that this language was adopted by one of Australasia’s most successful landscape photographers. Aboriginal extinction and Romantic communion with the wilderness were the twin fantasies that shaped settler visions of nature in the late 19th century.

This dynamic influenced landscape photography well beyond the Australian colonies. Across the Tasman in New Zealand, the Dunedin photographer Alfred Burton became famous for an 1885 album called The Maori at Home, which delicately balanced ethnographic and wilderness imagery, much as Caire did.

Burton used the camera to carve the the local Māori from their ancestral homes, creating a “terra incognita”. He created visual partitions between the traditional custodians, Ngāti Maniopoto, and the landscapes of the Waikato and divided the people of Ngāti Tūwharetoa from the monumental geography around Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe, and Ruapehu.

Burton and Payton are pictured here outside a whare in Taumaranui, near the centre of the King Country. Alfred Burton, Burton Brothers Studio, Photography Collection, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Burton and a party of adventurers returned a year later, in 1886, to immerse themselves more fully in these sublime environments. More settlers would follow in Burton’s footsteps from the mid 1890s, when, after a long struggle with Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the heights around Tongariro became New Zealand’s first national park.

Alfred Burton, Burton Brothers Studio, Ngauruhoe—(Tongariro)—Active Volcano, 1880s, 1885. Black-and-white print. Photography Collection. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

The same kind of processes shaped settler attitudes to one of the United States’ most famous national parks, Yosemite, where photographers like Watkins and Muybridge erected similar partitions between their natural and human subjects.

This division was spectacularly represented in a set of photographs that used the still waters of Yosemite’s reflective lakes to capture stunning landmarks. In these works, the myth of empty wilderness was turned into the beautiful motif of a glassy lake.

Eadweard Muybridge, Mirror Lake, Valley of the Yosemite, 1872. Albumen silver print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

We might expect that Caire, Beattie, and Burton consciously adopted this technique from their American kin but there is no evidence this was the case.

Control Over Land

It’s more likely that comparable visions of nature developed in parallel, drawing from similar histories of dispossession and environmental transformation in different settler colonies.

In a whole range of places where pastoralists failed to graze their herds and geologists struggled to identify economic deposits, photographers helped colonists continue the cultural work of establishing dominion over stolen land.

The earliest visions of nature in Australia perfectly captured this drive, fixing its orientation to the physical world and its settler colonial history onto glass negatives, lantern slides and paper cards.

And here is where the commodities come back into the story. Settlers adopted the holistic vision of landscape photography to exert control over land. Figures like Caire and Beattie perfected a kind of environmental image-making and storytelling that encouraged settlers to feel an affinity with the natural world.

Their customers were drawn to breathe in the highly oxygenated forest air or pursue the Romantic thrill of summiting a mountain. These experiences became a commodity in and of themselves, and so did the photographs documenting them. They adorned sitting rooms, galleries and exhibition halls – summoning memories and lending a new assurance to the settler enterprise.

Jarrod Hore’s book, Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism, is available for pre-order now.The Conversation

Jarrod Hore, Co-Director & Postdoctoral Fellow, New Earth Histories Research Program, UNSW

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

Predictive Falls Risk Model For Aged Care In Development

Macquarie University is working with an aged care provider to develop a predictive falls risk model for the aged care sector to help minimise falls among senior Australians, this week’s national conference on gerontology research heard.

The project is in response to a recent systematic review that identified a lack of suitable predictive falls risk models for aged care.

The model is being developed in partnership with New South Wales aged care provider Anglicare with funding from a national research council grant.

It will use data that is routinely collected data in residential aged care, said Dr Karla Seaman, a research fellow at Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation.

“We are designing and developing a dashboard for this predictive model to sit integrated within client data. And there’ll be two risk models that we’re exploring; falls and quality of life,” Dr Seaman told the 2021 Australian Association of Gerontology Conference on Wednesday.

“We’re co-designing with aged care clients, family members, aged care staff and GPs,” said Dr Seaman, a co-lead investigator on the study.
Fellow co-lead investigator Dr Kristiana Ludlow said the university conducted the study to identify models for predicting falls in residential and home aged care services using routinely collected electronic health record data.

“We were interested to know how falls risk models have been developed in these settings, what was their accuracy and use in falls prediction, and then how they’ve been implemented to prevent falls,” said Dr Ludlow, a honorary postdoctoral fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation.

Falls are the single largest contributor and behind just over two in five injury-related hospitalisations among older Australians, she said.

“Six out of seven people who suffer fall-related injuries live in residential aged care homes or receive care services from home-based or community providers,” Dr Ludlow said.

The study involved screening more than 7,000 papers but only four met the inclusion criteria. They included two each for residential and home aged care settings.

It identified nine predictive fall models and seven fall predictors including demographics, assessments conducted with residents or clients, fall history, medication, health condition, physical abilities and environmental factors.

However, Dr Seaman said there were limitations on the usefulness of predictive performance of the identified models.

“This really limits the utility of using these predictive performance models for other organisations and replicating these models,” said Dr Seaman.

“None of the models identified had been implemented and evaluated within practice. And it’s critical to determine their true effectiveness and cost effectiveness for health and wellbeing outcomes,” Dr Seaman said.

“There’s a large amount of data collected and stored in routine practice in residential aged care… but there’s limited evidence from predictive models for falls within aged care services. More research is needed and more… statistical methods are needed as well,” she said.

The 2021 AAG Conference took place 9 -12 November.

New Aged Care Visitor Access Code Released For Public Consultation

November 9, 2021
Australians are invited to consult on the revised Industry Code for Visiting Aged Care Homes, developed by 12 aged care consumer and provider organisations led by Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, to balance reasonable safety measures in aged care while respecting the rights of older Australians and their emotional wellbeing.

The sixth revision of the Code is informed by the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response and the shift towards highly targeted lockdowns.

It proposes that during a local outbreak aged care homes be classified into one of three categories, each with its own infection prevention and control measures: Code Green (minimal COVID-19 in the local government area), Code Orange (heightened risk due to COVID-19 in the local government area) or Code Red (an exposure or outbreak has occurred inside the Aged Care Home).

The Code also includes an ‘Essential Visitor’ policy which allows residents to designate one person who will always be permitted to visit them in person to provide essential physical and emotional care, regardless of outbreak status.

Australians can submit their feedback on the draft code by filling in the online form at or

Ian Yates AM, Chief Executive of COTA Australia says:
“The aged care sector must find a reasonable balance between common sense safety precautions and the dignity and wellbeing of older Australians receiving care.

“Aged care consumer and provider peaks have been working throughout the pandemic to achieve a nationally consistent approach to aged care visitation, and have constantly revised the Code to respond to the latest health advice and the shifting reality of the pandemic.

“Going forward there will be Covid outbreaks across Australia, but aged care providers can’t implement rolling lockdowns. I urge all Australians with experience of aged care, whether as a recipient, worker, or family member, to fill out the consultation form and have their say.”

Paul Sadler, CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia says:
“COVID-19 is still circulating in the community and aged care will remain at the front line of the pandemic for some time. This makes the visitor’s code extremely important to make it clear how to balance infection control measures with the kind of social supports that keep older people happy and healthy.

“Staff, older people and their friends and family must work together to keep everyone as safe as possible. We thank everyone for their understanding and hard work. It’s been a huge effort through an extremely difficult period.”

The consultation closes Friday November 19, 2021.

Start Of COVID-19 Booster Vaccination Program

November 8, 2021
Today, the Australian Government’s COVID-19 booster vaccination rollout program officially gets under way, with the initial focus on residential aged care and disability facilities.

Everyone living in Australia aged 18 and over who has completed their primary two-dose course of vaccination at least six months ago is now eligible to have an additional booster shot.

The booster rollout program will initially target population groups that were prioritised for early vaccination because the great majority of people within these cohorts are now ready for their booster vaccination, having had their second dose six or more months ago.

As is the case for the primary course of vaccination, booster doses will be administered for free.

In relation to residential aged care facilities, the booster program will start with in-reach clinics delivered primarily by vaccine administration providers under contract arrangements with the Commonwealth.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine be preferred for the booster dose – irrespective of what vaccine a person received for their primary course of vaccination.

With over 151 million Pfizer, Novavax and Moderna vaccines already secured for supply into the future, Australia is well prepared to provide booster doses as approvals are provided by the medical experts.

Severely immunocompromised people who have had a third dose to complete their primary course of vaccination are not currently being recommended by ATAGI to have a booster dose.

In the context of boosters, it is important people know that two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection, especially against severe disease.

A booster dose, six or more months after the second dose, will make sure that the protection from the first doses is even stronger and longer lasting and should help prevent spread of the virus.

While this is the formal start of the booster program, as of Saturday over 173,000 boosters had already been completed.

Today also marks the start of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine being administered by community pharmacies.

This mean from today, all primary care sites around the country will progressively be able to offer all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia, increasing choice and making it easier for whole families to get vaccinated at the same time.

People eligible for a booster vaccine can make an appointment by visiting or through the Vaccine Clinic Finder at

Anxiety Effectively Treated With Exercise

November 9, 2021
Both moderate and strenuous exercise alleviate symptoms of anxiety, even when the disorder is chronic, a study led by researchers at the University of Gothenburg shows.

The study, now published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, is based on 286 patients with anxiety syndrome, recruited from primary care services in Gothenburg and the northern part of Halland County. Half of the patients had lived with anxiety for at least ten years. Their average age was 39 years, and 70 percent were women.

Through drawing of lots, participants were assigned to group exercise sessions, either moderate or strenuous, for 12 weeks. The results show that their anxiety symptoms were significantly alleviated even when the anxiety was a chronic condition, compared with a control group who received advice on physical activity according to public health recommendations.

Most individuals in the treatment groups went from a baseline level of moderate to high anxiety to a low anxiety level after the 12-week program. For those who exercised at relatively low intensity, the chance of improvement in terms of anxiety symptoms rose by a factor of 3.62. The corresponding factor for those who exercised at higher intensity was 4.88. Participants had no knowledge of the physical training or counselling people outside their own group were receiving.

"There was a significant intensity trend for improvement -- that is, the more intensely they exercised, the more their anxiety symptoms improved," states Malin Henriksson, doctoral student at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, specialist in general medicine in the Halland Region, and the study's first author.

Importance of strenuous exercise
Previous studies of physical exercise in depression have shown clear symptom improvements. However, a clear picture of how people with anxiety are affected by exercise has been lacking up to now. The present study is described as one of the largest to date.

Both treatment groups had 60-minute training sessions three times a week, under a physical therapist's guidance. The sessions included both cardio (aerobic) and strength training. A warmup was followed by circle training around 12 stations for 45 minutes, and sessions ended with cooldown and stretching.

Members of the group that exercised at a moderate level were intended to reach some 60 percent of their maximum heart rate -- a degree of exertion rated as light or moderate. In the group that trained more intensively, the aim was to attain 75 percent of maximum heart rate, and this degree of exertion was perceived as high.

The levels were regularly validated using the Borg scale, an established rating scale for perceived physical exertion, and confirmed with heart rate monitors.

New, simple treatments needed
Today's standard treatments for anxiety are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotropic drugs. However, these drugs commonly have side effects, and patients with anxiety disorders frequently do not respond to medical treatment. Long waiting times for CBT can also worsen the prognosis.

The present study was led by Maria Åberg, associate professor at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy, specialist in general medicine in Region Västra Götaland's primary healthcare organization, and corresponding author.

"Doctors in primary care need treatments that are individualized, have few side effects, and are easy to prescribe. The model involving 12 weeks of physical training, regardless of intensity, represents an effective treatment that should be made available in primary health care more often for people with anxiety issues," Åberg says.

Malin Henriksson, Alexander Wall, Jenny Nyberg, Martin Adiels, Karin Lundin, Ylva Bergh, Robert Eggertsen, Louise Danielsson, H. Georg Kuhn, Maria Westerlund, N. David Åberg, Margda Waern, Maria Åberg. Effects of exercise on symptoms of anxiety in primary care patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2022; 297: 26 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.006

Sitting More Linked To Increased Feelings Of Depression And Anxiety

November 8, 2021
As people adhered to stay-at-home orders or self-isolated during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, daily commutes turned into shuffles between the bedroom and the living room. Clicking Zoom links erased time spent walking to meeting rooms, and Netflix spilled into time otherwise dedicated to the gym.

In short, a lot of people suddenly became more sedentary during the onset of the pandemic. Recently published research found people who continued to spend a higher amount of time sitting between April and June 2020 were likely to have higher symptoms of depression. A closer investigation into this association could play a role in helping people improve their mental health.

"Sitting is a sneaky behaviour," said Jacob Meyer, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and lead author of the paper. "It's something we do all the time without thinking about it."

As the director of the Wellbeing and Exercise Laboratory at ISU, Meyer and his team look at how physical activity and sedentary behaviours are related to mental health, and how changes to those influence the way people think, feel and perceive the world.

"In March 2020, we knew COVID was going to affect our behaviour and what we could do in lots of weird, funky ways that we couldn't predict," Meyer said.

To get a snapshot of those changes, Meyer and a team of researchers received survey responses from more than 3,000 study participants from all 50 states and the District of Colombia. Participants self-reported how much time they spent doing activities, like sitting, looking at screens and exercising, and how those behaviours compared to pre-pandemic times. Using standard clinical scales, they also indicated changes to their mental wellbeing (e.g., depression, anxiety, feeling stressed, lonely).

"We know when people's physical activity and screen time changes, that's related to their mental health in general, but we haven't really seen large population data like this in response to an abrupt change before," Meyer said.

Survey data showed participants who were meeting the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines (i.e., 2.5-5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week) before the pandemic decreased their physical activity by 32%, on average, shortly after COVID-19-related restrictions went into effect. The same participants reported feeling more depressed, anxious and lonely. Meyer and his fellow researchers published their findings in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year.

Meyer's latest paper in Frontiers in Psychiatry served as a follow up to see whether the participants' behaviours and mental health changed over time. Participants filled out the same survey each week between April and June.

"In the second study, we found that, on average, people saw their mental health improve over the eight-week period," Meyer said. "People adjusted to life in the pandemic. But for people whose sitting times stayed high, their depressive symptoms, on average, didn't recover in the same way as everyone else's."

The participants who continued to spend a large portion of their day sitting experienced blunted mental health improvements.

Meyer emphasized that finding an "association" between sitting and mental health is not the same as saying more sitting causes depression. He said it's possible people who were more depressed sat more or that people who sat more became more depressed. Or there could have been some other factor that the researchers did not identify.

"It's certainly worthy of more investigation," Meyer said, adding that monthly survey data from June 2020 to June 2021 are intended to become publicly available soon. "I think being aware of some of the subtle changes we've made during the pandemic and how they might be beneficial or detrimental is really important as we look to the other side of pandemic life."

Meyer said both starting and stopping a habit is very difficult, even when someone wants to change their behaviour. But he hopes more people will recognize that even a little bit of movement can improve their mood and mental health, and try to find ways to build it into their day.

Meyer recommended people take breaks when sitting for long periods of time.

"If you're no longer walking down the hall for in-person meetings, you can still incorporate that break from sitting by taking a short walk before and after your Zoom call," Meyer said.

People working from home can try walking around the block before and after the workday to mimic their pre-pandemic commute, which Meyer said can benefit people physically and mentally, and help add structure to the day.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin and University of Limerick contributed to this research.

Jacob D. Meyer, John O'Connor, Cillian P. McDowell, Jeni E. Lansing, Cassandra S. Brower, Matthew P. Herring. High Sitting Time Is a Behavioural Risk Factor for Blunted Improvement in Depression Across 8 Weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic in April–May 2020. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.741433

We revisited Parramatta’s archaeological past to reveal the deep-time history of the heart of Sydney

Australian paintings by J.W. Lewin, G.P. Harris, G.W. Evans and others, 1796-1809; State Library of NSWAuthor provided
Alan N WilliamsUNSW and Jo McDonaldThe University of Western Australia

We know quite a lot about the past 200 years of history in Parramatta. Located in Sydney’s geographical centre, on the Parramatta River, it was the first township to be established outside Sydney Cove’s penal colony after the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in 1788.

Parramatta became the breadbasket of the early European colony, with land clearing and farming dispossessing the Darug people of the Cumberland Plain. This formed the focus of Aboriginal resistance, culminating in the 1797 Battle of Parramatta led by the great freedom fighter Pemulwuy.

Parramatta’s European history is evident to those who wander through it today — with the remains of old buildings and signs of historical events on almost every corner.

But What About Before 1788?

Parramatta has seen intensified development in recent years. High-rise buildings, light rail, road upgrades and landscaping have all impacted the remaining archaeological record of both its deep history and more recent colonial past.

New South Wales’s current state planning laws require each new development to have an archaeological investigation conducted before it proceeds. The aim is to identify archaeological evidence before development starts, and make sure it is managed appropriately.

Where sites are of high cultural or scientific significance, there is an emphasis on protection. Otherwise, the evidence is recorded and recovered before development proceeds. There have been more than 40 such studies in the past 15 or so years.

In our article published today we review these studies to provide a definitive understanding of their results, and reiterate the importance of Parramatta’s culturally significant deep-time history.

14,000 Years Of Indigenous History

Paramatta’s urban centre has grown upon a more than 3-metre-thick layer of sand. This sand began to be deposited by the Parramatta River 50,000-60,000 years ago as a result of massive floods and other extreme environmental conditions. It continued to be deposited sporadically until about 5,000 years ago.

It’s estimated about 800,000 tonnes of sand were deposited across two kilometres of the CBD, where it is still found today. This is all the more impressive when you consider the Parramatta River is fed by only a relatively small catchment upstream.

The Parramatta River has been subject to significant flooding in the past, with nearly a million tonnes of sand having been deposited below the CBD. Laressa Barry

This sand was blown around during the last Ice Age (or the “Last Glacial Maximum”) between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. Ultimately this reworking resulted in a sand sheet of about 70 hectares, or roughly 100 football fields. Unfortunately, our study found some 29% of these deposits have been destroyed through development over the past 15 years or so.

A map showing the distribution of the sand body, and areas where sand deposits have been disturbed or removed (in red).

This sand body has been in place since the First Nations people arrived on the continent 50,000 (or more) years ago. It retains an amazing archive of evidence that reveals their use of the landscape in deep time, and also records major climatic changes.

Read more: When did Aboriginal people first arrive in Australia?

So far, our earliest evidence for Aboriginal people in the Sydney region is from along the Hawkesbury-Nepean River around 36,000 years ago.

While the Parramatta sand sheet does provide glimmers of evidence for people using it back then, our analyses show they mostly visited this part of the Parramatta River after the Ice Age, which is supported by layers of artefacts in the area dated to this time.

An excavation at the corner of Charles and George Street revealed Indigenous and historic remains survived the construction of a factory here in the 1950s. The site has now been destroyed by subterranean car parking for apartments. Jo McDonald CHM 2005 report

Moving With The Tide

Specifically, our paper explores three archaeological projects on the sand sheet at George Street, Hassall and Wigram Streets, and in the grounds of the Bayanami School. All of these sites show increased human use at a time of significant sea-level change.

About 14,000 years ago, the large ice sheets that characterised the glacial period began to melt rapidly. By 9,000 years ago, the sea level in Australia went from 125 metres below current levels to current levels.

This inundation of more than 2 million square kilometres drove people off the continental shelf all around Australia, including from the Sydney Basin. We find fewer sites in Sydney, or indeed the entire southeast corner of Australia, that date to before this sea-level rise.

Read more: Australia's coastal living is at risk from sea level rise, but it's happened before

A previous study of one of these key archaeological sites showed people were highly mobile as a result of this sea-level rise beginning 14,000 years ago. One stone artefact dated to 14,000 years ago was sourced from the Megalong Valley, west of the Blue Mountains, 70km from Parramatta. Most earlier artefacts were sourced from the Hawkesbury River gravels, about 40km away.

An andalusite hornfels stone tool found on the north side of Parramatta River was dated to 14,000 years ago, more than 70km away from the CBD. Laressa Barry

Then, over the past 10,000 years, we see a massive increase in local site use and visitation. People used a different stone material for artefacts sourced widely from across the Cumberland Plain (western Sydney), reflecting greater local knowledge of stone resources, longer occupations and likely different trade and exchange networks.

A range of tools have also been found, including grindstones, axe-heads, backed artefacts (such as spear barbs), hearths with heat retainers and heat-treated raw materials — all of which indicate repeated residence over long periods.

Similarly, parts of the sand body with more artefacts also show evidence of camping sites which have retained their structure, demonstrating repeated use. One rare finding at the corner of Charles and George Streets was a pierced shark tooth that was probably used as a hair decoration.

Sharks tooth ornament overlain on an image painted at Port Jackson of an Aboriginal man with fishing gear and fish teeth hair ornaments. Excerpt from a work by the Port Jackson Painter 1788-1792.

Our analysis fills an important gap in the Indigenous past of one of the oldest townships in Australia. It reinforces the importance of undertaking heritage assessments in areas which are thought to already be “disturbed”.

It also provides a timely reminder these archaeological and cultural landscapes are finite, and are being lost at an unprecedented rate.

Read more: The last ice age tells us why we need to care about a 2℃ change in temperature The Conversation

Alan N Williams, Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, UNSW and Jo McDonald, Director, Centre for Rock Art Research + Management, The University of Western Australia

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

'Cold Bone': Researchers Discover First Dinosaur Species That Lived On Greenland 214 Million Years Ago

November 8, 2021
The two-legged dinosaur Issi saaneq lived about 214 million years ago in what is now Greenland. It was a medium-sized, long-necked herbivore and a predecessor of the sauropods, the largest land animals ever to live. 

Living reconstruction of Issi saaneq. Photo: Victor Beccari

It was discovered by an international team of researchers from Portugal, Denmark and Germany, including the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). The name of the new dinosaur pays tribute to Greenland's Inuit language and means "cold bone." The team reports on its discovery in the journal Diversity.

The initial remains of the dinosaur -- two well-preserved skulls -- were first unearthed in 1994 during an excavation in East Greenland by palaeontologists from Harvard University. One of the specimens was originally thought to be from a Plateosaurus, a well-known long-necked dinosaur that lived in Germany, France and Switzerland during the Triassic Period. Only a few finds from East Greenland have been prepared and thoroughly documented. "It is exciting to discover a close relative of the well-known Plateosaurus, hundreds of which have already been found here in Germany," says co-author Dr Oliver Wings from MLU.

The team performed a micro-CT scan of the bones, which enabled them to create digital 3D models of the internal structures and the bones still covered by sediment. "The anatomy of the two skulls is unique in many respects, for example in the shape and proportions of the bones. These specimens certainly belong to a new species," says lead author Victor Beccari, who carried out the analyses at NOVA University Lisbon.

The plant-eating dinosaur Issi saaneq lived around 214 million years ago during the Late Triassic Period. It was at this time that the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart and the Atlantic Ocean began forming. "At the time, the Earth was experiencing climate changes that enabled the first plant-eating dinosaurs to reach Europe and beyond," explains Professor Lars Clemmensen from the University of Copenhagen.

The two skulls of the new species come from a juvenile and an almost adult individual. Apart from the size, the differences in bone structure are minor and only relate to proportions. 

Issi saaneq skulls. Photo: Victor Beccari

The new Greenlandic dinosaur differs from all other sauropodomorphs discovered so far, however it does have similarities with dinosaurs found in Brazil, such as the Macrocollum and Unaysaurus, which are almost 15 million years older. Together with the Plateosaurus from Germany, they form the group of plateosaurids: relatively graceful bipeds that reached lengths of 3 to 10 metres.

The new findings are the first evidence of a distinct Greenlandic dinosaur species, which not only adds to the diverse range of dinosaurs from the Late Triassic (235-201 million years ago) but also allows us to better understand the evolutionary pathways and timeline of the iconic group of sauropods that inhabited the Earth for nearly 150 million years.

Once the scientific work is completed, the fossils will be transferred to the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Victor Beccari, Octávio Mateus, Oliver Wings, Jesper Milàn, Lars B. Clemmensen. Issi saaneq gen. et sp. nov.—A New Sauropodomorph Dinosaur from the Late Triassic (Norian) of Jameson Land, Central East Greenland. Diversity, 2021; 13 (11): 561 DOI: 10.3390/d13110561

A Quantum Leap In Faster And Safer Travel In NSW

NSW is leading the world with an ambitious plan to use quantum technology to run the transport network, saving travellers time and potentially even their lives.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said in an unprecedented leap from current computers, quantum computing would process and analyse massive amounts of information almost instantaneously, allowing customers to more accurately track the location and capacity of a train or bus. 

“This ground-breaking technology can also calculate potentially life-saving information during a bushfire or flood by mapping out the safest route on the road network or to the closest evacuation centre,” Mr Toole said.
“The faster you get information in an emergency, the better your chances of protecting life and property are, so this will be a game changer when it’s rolled out to the regions.”

Minister for Transport and Roads Rob Stokes said quantum technology would boost the computing power needed to reduce delays, improve reliability and optimise journeys.

“While this might sound like the stuff of science fiction, Transport for NSW is making quantum computing a reality. It has the potential to solve problems on the network in real time by instantly recalculating timetables and routes,” Mr Stokes said.

“It could essentially become a ‘self-healing’ network that interacts with cutting-edge technologies, including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and smart sensors. It may also allow Transport for NSW to give customers personalised real-time information to make their journeys faster, safer and more reliable.”

As part of this plan, Transport for NSW is establishing a Centre of Quantum Technology based in Sydney’s Tech Central, which will be co-led by a dedicated quantum technology director and a fellow of Quantum Technology.

The Centre will draw on an Expert Advisory Panel consisting of pioneers from government, industry and university sectors, including 2018 Australian of the Year and University of NSW Professor Michelle Simmons.

“To be at the leading edge of technology is not only exciting but essential for our future. This is an example of where the State of NSW is getting ahead of the game and preparing for the future. It is building a scientific capability that we are going to need and we are shoring this up now with the ultimate aim of making people’s lives better,” Professor Simmons said.

Transport for NSW is also seeking Expressions of Interest from global industry leaders, academics and start-ups to help research, develop and implement quantum technology pilots and trials across the transport network.
Industry briefing sessions will take place in the coming weeks with a plan to award contracts and finalise co-investment proposals in early 2022. Transport for NSW is excited to release a Request for Expression of Interest for Quantum Technology Solutions. 

Submissions close on Friday 10 December 2021.

For more information please download the Transport for NSW and Quantum Technology (PDF, 5.56 MB) brochure. 

First Sod Turned On $80 Million NSW Institute Of Applied Technology For Construction

November 8, 2021
The NSW Government today announced the start of construction of a new $80 million Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) for Construction at TAFE NSW Kingswood.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the new facility would help train the workforce of the future in a purpose-built environment, and ensure the next generation of trades workers have the skills needed to build the smart cities of the future.

“Our $108 billion infrastructure pipeline means thousands of people working on new schools, hospitals, roads, and social housing right across NSW,” Mr Perrottet said 

“We are determined to not only help build better communities but also create the careers of the future and this new centre at Kingswood will deliver on this.”

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Member for Penrith Stuart Ayres and Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee were on-site to turn the first sod of the new signature training hub.

Minister Ayres said the new IAT for Construction will revolutionise education and training in Western Sydney.

“The new IAT will skill up the trades workers needed to support the pipeline of major infrastructure projects, civil construction works, and residential developments that will service Western Sydney’s fast-growing population,” Mr Ayres said.

“These brand-new facilities are what the local community deserves – a signature construction training hub that fosters a network between schools, universities, and industry, will significantly enhance education and training in the region.

“Importantly, the new facilities will ensure TAFE NSW can continue to deliver high quality, industry-relevant and innovative training that leads to jobs.”

Minister Lee said the IAT will deliver specialised training for 700 new trades students each year.

“The IAT will transform TAFE NSW Kingswood into a construction-focused campus with state-of-the-art facilities.

“This $80 million construction project is estimated to create between 200 to 250 jobs over the life of the project,” Mr Lee said.

“With its partners, the Institute will develop market-leading training in areas such as trades, smart construction, digital design, smart infrastructure, renewable energy, and supply chain skills.”

Member for Mulgoa, Tanya Davies, said this announcement is a great win for young people in the local community.

“The NSW Government is investing in our young people today to see them equipped for the construction jobs of the future, and for their own businesses one day,” Mrs Davies said.

Australian-owned company ADCO Constructions was awarded the construction contract with the facility scheduled to open in early 2023.

ADCO’s NSW State Manager John Basilisco said ADCO was thrilled to be selected as the builder of choice for the IAT for Construction.

“With nearly 50 years’ experience, ADCO has a successful track record in delivering large-scale, quality, and innovative commercial projects across Australia. We are excited to commence construction on the IAT at Kingswood,” Mr Basilisco said.

An artist’s impression of the Western Sydney Construction Hub.

AFP's Heart And Soul On Display At Canberra Museum And Gallery

The Australian Federal Police is pleased to launch the Threads of Policing exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG). The exhibition will open on Saturday, 6 November 2021, and run until 5 March 2022. It will showcase the varied work of the AFP, and celebrate its achievements, while honouring the dedication and commitment of its members.

The exhibition has been a labour of love for AFP Museum Curator Chris Cranston and the team, who have painstakingly selected over 100 items for display from the AFP's vast holdings.

"We are dedicated to preserving significant moments in AFP history and ensuring future generations know of the incredible work and achievements of AFP members throughout our 40-year history," she said.

The exhibition features AFP members' contributions to the AFP 40th Anniversary Quilts. The quilts were a collaborative effort by AFP members who contributed patches that represented what the AFP meant to them.

"We had such a wonderful response from the organisation with these quilts, it illustrates how proud our members are of the work they do to help keep Australia safe."

Items on display include those from significant AFP operations such as the response to the 2002 Bali bombings, the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, the 2018 cave rescue in Thailand, as well as peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

"What's reported in the media, the pictures and interviews are important, but I think these items can help convey the personal involvement of our people. The world was captivated by the story of the Thai cave rescue, but to see in person the equipment they used, to get a sense of how demanding the job was for our AFP divers, really helps people understand the work the AFP does."

CMAG Director Sarah Schmidt said she is delighted for CMAG to host this important exhibition which recognises and celebrates the vital, often overlooked contribution of the AFP in keeping Australia safe.

"Our visitors will be moved by the objects and stories in the show, which highlights the work the Australian Federal Police," Sarah said.

The exhibition will feature two events at the Gallery, one a recount of the Thai cave rescue with AFP divers and the other a Curator's talk to give an in-depth look at the exhibition. The first presentation is scheduled for 16 February 2022; tickets are free but bookings are essential.

Microbiome Discovery Could Help Save Kids’ Hearing

November 9, 2021
Bacteria found in children's upper respiratory systems could help fight chronic middle ear infections, the leading cause of preventable hearing loss and deafness in Indigenous communities.

The University of Queensland's Dr Seweryn Bialasiewicz said this discovery helped explain a long-held mystery, while providing hope for potential treatments.

"We've been puzzled for years now, trying to work out why some children never develop chronic ear disease, despite being in a high-risk category for contracting it," Dr Bialasiewicz said.

"By focusing on the microbiomes in the upper respiratory tracts of disease-resistant kids, we could investigate the ecological networks of bacterial interactions that seemed to be working together to protect against the condition.

"It was clear that these two groups of bacteria needed to not only be present, but to be interacting with each other, to provide protection from middle ear infections."

Dr Bialasiewicz said they were hoping to use this information to figure out what the exact mechanism of protection is, and then mimic it in the very young children, as a therapy or a preventative measure.

"This could take the form of a molecule that can be used as a drug for treatment, or as a protective probiotic so that these 'good' bacteria can be seeded in the nose early enough to offer protection against the incoming 'bad' bacteria," he said.

Dr Andrea Coleman, who completed her PhD work on the project this year, said the research provided a new perspective on how middle ear infections develop and could pave the way for new treatments.

"Chronic middle ear infections can affect between one third to one half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is far above the four per cent threshold that the World Health Organisation considers as a disease needing urgent public health action," Dr Coleman said.

"This disease can cause hearing loss and can have life-long impacts on speech and language development, education, and future employment prospects, and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations contributes to the wide gap in educational and employment outcomes."

The study investigated the microbiomes of 103 children aged two to seven from two north Queensland communities.

Dr Bialasiewicz said chronic middle ear infections resulting in hearing loss was a major problem with Indigenous and other disadvantaged populations globally.

"Our discovery could be applied across the world, helping improve health and reducing the disadvantage gap for a wide range of people," he said.

The team has acknowledged the support of the Deadly Ears team, the Queensland Health's statewide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ear Health Program doing on-the-ground treatment and education, as well as the generous assistance of parents and children within the participating communities.

Andrea Coleman, Julian Zaugg, Amanda Wood, Kyra Cottrell, Eva Grahn Håkansson, Jasmyn Adams, Matthew Brown, Anders Cervin, Seweryn Bialasiewicz. Upper Respiratory Tract Microbiome of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in Ear and Nose Health and Disease. Microbiology Spectrum, 2021; 9 (2) DOI: 10.1128/Spectrum.00367-21

Global Temperatures Over Last 24,000 Years Show Today's Warming 'Unprecedented'

November 10, 2021
A University of Arizona-led effort to reconstruct Earth's climate since the last ice age, about 24,000 years ago, highlights the main drivers of climate change and how far out of bounds human activity has pushed the climate system.

The study, published this week in Nature, had three main findings:
  • It verified that the main drivers of climate change since the last ice age are rising greenhouse gas concentrations and the retreat of the ice sheets.
  • It suggests a general warming trend over the last 10,000 years, settling a decade-long debate about whether this period trended warmer or cooler in the paleoclimatology community.
  • The magnitude and rate warming over the last 150 years far surpasses the magnitude and rate of changes over the last 24,000 years.
"This reconstruction suggests that current temperatures are unprecedented in 24,000 years, and also suggests that the speed of human-caused global warming is faster than anything we've seen in that same time," said Jessica Tierney, a UArizona geosciences associate professor and co-author of the study.

Tierney, who heads the lab in which this research was conducted, is also known for her contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and climate briefings for the U.S. Congress.

"The fact that we're today so far out of bounds of what we might consider normal is cause for alarm and should be surprising to everybody," said lead study author Matthew Osman, a geosciences postdoctoral researcher at UArizona.

An online search of "global temperature change since the last ice age" would produce a graph of global temperature change over time that was created eight years ago.

"Our team's reconstruction improves on that curve by adding a spatial dimension," Tierney said.

The team created maps of global temperature changes for every 200-year interval going back 24,000 years.

"These maps are really powerful," Osman said. "With them, it's possible for anyone to explore how temperatures have changed across Earth, on a very personal level. For me, being able to visualize the 24,000-year evolution of temperatures at the exact location I'm sitting today, or where I grew up, really helped ingrain a sense of just how severe climate change is today."

There are different methods for reconstructing past temperatures. The team combined two independent datasets -- temperature data from marine sediments and computer simulations of climate -- to create a more complete picture of the past.

The researchers looked at the chemical signatures of marine sediments to get information about past temperatures. Because temperature changes over time can affect the chemistry of a long-dead animal's shell, paleoclimatologists can use those measurements to estimate temperature in an area. It's not a perfect thermometer, but it's a starting point.

Computer-simulated climate models, on the other hand, provide temperature information based on scientists' best understanding of the physics of the climate system, which also isn't perfect.

The team decided to combine the methods to harness the strengths of each. This is called data assimilation and is also commonly used in weather forecasting.

"To forecast the weather, meteorologists start with a model that reflects current weather, then add in observations such as temperature, pressure, humidity, wind direction, and so on to create an updated forecast," Tierney said.

The team applied this same idea to past climate.

"With this method, we are able to leverage the relative merits of each of these unique datasets to generate observationally constrained, dynamically consistent and spatially complete reconstructions of past climate change," Osman said.

Now, the team is working on using their method to investigate climate changes even farther in the past.

"We're excited to apply this approach to ancient climates that were warmer than today," Tierney said, "because these times are essentially windows into our future as greenhouse gas emissions rise."

Matthew B. Osman, Jessica E. Tierney, Jiang Zhu, Robert Tardif, Gregory J. Hakim, Jonathan King, Christopher J. Poulsen. Globally resolved surface temperatures since the Last Glacial Maximum. Nature, 2021; 599 (7884): 239 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03984-4

Global River Database Documents 40 Years Of Change

November 9, 2021
A first-ever database compiling movement of the largest rivers in the world over time could become a crucial tool for urban planners to better understand the deltas that are home to these rivers and a large portion of Earth's population.

The database, created by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, uses publicly available remote sensing data to show how the river centrelines of the world's 48 most threatened deltas have moved during the past 40 years. The data can be used to predict how rivers will continue to move over time and help governments manage population density and future development.

"When we think about river management strategies, we have very little to no information about how rivers are moving over time," said Paola Passalacqua, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering who leads the ongoing river analysis research.

The research was published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The database includes three U.S. rivers, the Mississippi, the Colorado and the Rio Grande. Although some areas of these deltas are experiencing migration, overall, they are mostly stable, the data show. Aggressive containment strategies to keep those rivers in their place, especially near population centres, play a role in that, Passalacqua said.

Average migration rates for each river delta help identify which areas are stable and which are experiencing major river shifts. The researchers also published more extensive data online that includes information about how different segments of rivers have moved over time. It could help planners see what's going in rural areas vs. urban areas when making decisions about how to manage the rivers and what to do with development.

The researchers leaned on techniques from a variety of disciplines to compile the data and published their methods online. Machine learning and image processing software helped them examine decades' worth of images. The researchers worked with Alan Bovik of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and doctoral student Leo Isikdogan to develop that technology. They also borrowed from fluid mechanics, using tools designed to monitor water particles in turbulence experiments to instead track changes to river locations over the years.

"We got the idea to use tools from fluid mechanics while attending a weekly department seminar where other researchers at the university share their work," said Tess Jarriel, a graduate research assistant in Passalacqua's lab and lead author of the paper. "It just goes to show how important it is to collaborate across disciplines."

Rivers that have high sediment flux and flood frequency move more as it is in their nature and part of an important trade-off that underpins Passalacqua's research.

By knowing more about these river deltas where millions of people live, planners can have a better idea of how best to balance these trade-offs. Passalacqua, as well as researchers in her lab, have recently published research about these tradeoffs between the need for river freedom and humanity's desire for stability.

Passalacqua has been working on this topic for more than eight years. The team and collaborators are in the process of publishing another paper as part of this work that expands beyond the centerlines of rivers and will also look at riverbanks. That additional information will give an even clearer picture about river movement over time, with more nuance, because sides of the river can move in different directions and at different speeds.

The research was funded through Passalacqua's National Science Foundation CAREER award; grants from the NSF's Ocean Sciences and Earth Sciences divisions; and Planet Texas 2050, a UT Austin initiative to support research to make communities more resilient. Co-authors on the paper are Jarriel and postdoctoral researcher John Swartz.

Teresa Jarriel, John Swartz, Paola Passalacqua. Global rates and patterns of channel migration in river deltas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (46): e2103178118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2103178118

Can't Find Your Keys?; You Need A Chickadee Brain

November 9, 2021
For the first time, researchers have shown that there is a genetic component underlying the amazing spatial memories of Mountain Chickadees. These energetic half-ounce birds hide thousands of food items every fall and rely on these hidden stores to get through harsh winters in the mountains of the West. To find these caches, chickadees use highly specialized spatial memory abilities. Although the genetic basis for spatial memory has been shown for humans and other mammals, direct evidence of that connection has never before been identified in birds.

These findings were just published in the journal Current Biology. The research is a collaboration among scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Oklahoma.

"We all use spatial memory to navigate our environment," says lead author Carrie Branch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Without memory there's no learning and an organism would have to start from scratch for every task. So, it really is life and death for these birds to be able to remember where they stashed their food. We've been able to show that natural selection is shaping their ability to remember locations."

If natural selection (survival of the fittest) is shaping chickadee memory, certain criteria have to be met. There has to be variation in the trait: some chickadees are indeed better than others at re-finding their stores. There has to be a fitness advantage: birds that perform better on a spatial memory task are more likely to survive and produce offspring. Importantly, variation in the trait must have a genetic basis.

"Environment does still matter a lot in terms of shaping behavior, but our work here suggests that genes may create the brain structures, and then experience and learning can build on top of that," Branch explains.

How do you measure a chickadee's memory? Senior author Vladimir Pravosudov and his team at the University of Nevada, Reno, designed arrays of "smart" feeders to measure memory in a population of wild Mountain Chickadees in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Each feeder is equipped with radio frequency identification sensors. The 42 birds tested were fitted with leg tags the size of a grain of rice which give off an identifying signal. Each bird was assigned to one of the eight feeders in each array. The feeder sensor reads the bird's ID tag and if it's the matching feeder for that individual, a mechanism opens the door, and the bird gets a seed. The scientists then tracked how many tries it took before the birds consistently went to the correct feeder.

"This is an effective system to test spatial learning and memory in hundreds of wild chickadees in their natural environment," said Pravosudov. "We have previously shown that even very small variations in performance are associated with differences in survival."

To understand the connection between spatial memory and genetic architecture, co-authors Georgy Semenov and Scott Taylor at the University of Colorado Boulder, sequenced Mountain Chickadee genomes.

"We used two methods to link genetic variation with spatial memory in chickadees," said Semenov. "In the traditional genome-wide approach, we compared genetic data across individuals, from those that performed well on the spatial learning and memory task to those that performed poorly. We did the same comparison with a new machine learning algorithm. Both methods showed hundreds of differences associated with spatial memory. Many of the variations in the genomes turned up in areas known to be associated with learning, memory, and neuron development in the brain."

The authors say many questions remain about the influence of spatial memory itself, including what role it may play in the female's choice of a mate.

This research was supported by grants to the University of Nevada, Reno, and to the University of Colorado Boulder, from the National Science Foundation and by a Rose Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

A mountain chickadee. Photo: Vladimir Pravosudov/Provided.

Carrie L. Branch, Georgy A. Semenov, Dominique N. Wagner, Benjamin R. Sonnenberg, Angela M. Pitera, Eli S. Bridge, Scott A. Taylor, Vladimir V. Pravosudov. The genetic basis of spatial cognitive variation in a food-caching bird. Current Biology, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.10.036

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.