Friday, January 13, 2017

Guest Post: Arguments for abandoning Commercial Flight in Australia

Life in a post-flying Australia, and why it might actually be ok

Martin Young, Southern Cross University; Francis Markham, Australian National University; James Higham, University of Otago, and John Jenkins, Southern Cross University

In Australia, the amount of aviation fuel consumed per head of population has more than doubled since the 1980s. We now use, on average, 2.2 barrels (or 347 litres) of jet fuel per person per year.

This historically unprecedented aeromobility has enormous environmental costs. Aviation is contributing to around 4.9% of current global warming and this is forecast to at least triple by 2050. Domestic aviation in Australia produces around 8.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

Offsetting schemes, technology solutions and other attempts to lower the carbon emissions of aviation have failed dismally.

The only solution to these intractable environmental impacts is the dramatic reduction, or complete elimination, of air travel. It might be hard to imagine life without the plane, but the idea is not as crazy as it sounds.

Australian aviation fuel consumption per capita 1985-2015. Sources: Australian Petroleum Statistics and the ABS Estimated Residential Population.

Here are nine common objections to grounding planes, and our counterpoints:

1. There are no fast, cheap and clean transport alternatives to the plane.

So we build them. We construct a national high-speed rail network and more efficient intercity, rural and urban transport systems. These projects would involve Australian steel, thousands of new jobs and large-scale regional planning and infrastructure development.

These programs would ameliorate urban congestion, the most pressing priority of Infrastructure Australia, revitalise regional communities and dramatically reduce our imports of crude and refined petroleum.

The continual development of communications technologies, including fast internet and virtual reality, will make much business travel redundant. Investing in virtual technologies and forcing the political and corporate elite to use other transport modes would hasten political support for, and investment in, the development of transport alternatives.

2. What about the economic value of tourism?

If we abandoned all tourist flights, the economy would be A$14.4 billion better off. International visitors spent A$38.1 billion in Australia in 2015-16. But, Australians travelling overseas spent far more – A$52.4 billion – in the same period.

International tourism, both in and outbound, would continue under a no–aviation scenario. As an island nation we will become reliant on ships. Travel by cruise ship is already booming. While cruise ships are currently highly polluting, their conversion to non-fossil-fuel energy, in contrast to the plane, is more achievable.

3. What about our education export industry?

Transnational education, teaching of students by Australian university offshore programs and via online distance education, is already significant, accounting for 30.2% of all higher education international students in 2015. We would invest more heavily in these educational platforms and technologies.

4. What about the jobs in the aviation industry?

Technological replacement and offshoring have decimated full-time jobs in Australia’s aviation industry. The employment generated by growth in domestic tourism and the construction of high-speed rail, ships and other transport alternatives would more than compensate.

Aviation jobs per 1000 revenue passenger kilometres for domestic flights. Sources: BITRE Australian Domestic Aviation Activity data and the ABS Labour Force Survey statistics on employment in the air and space transport industries.

5. What about the needs of farmers and hospitality industries who rely on backpackers?

We would still have a backpacker labour force under conditions of “slow tourism” that uses alternatives to cars and planes. Particularly for longer-stay tourism, arrival and departures by boat would be a small component of a trip.

We could also start using our own population for these jobs by paying higher wages. This might also reduce unemployment and dependency on social welfare and raise additional tax revenue. In the longer term we would transition to agriculture and hospitality industries that are not reliant on exploited and underpaid holiday-workers.

6. What about medical, military and rescue flights?

We need to keep essential flights for medical, rescue and firefighting purposes, and some military capacity. For essential flights, mitigation strategies like offsets may work as emissions would be low in aggregate.

7. What about sport and culture?

Sport and air travel are closely linked. Our national rugby union team is the Qantas Wallabies. Although teams travel, more spectators than ever are staying put – preferring to watch live sports on TV. Technological improvements will continue to produce a better-than-real home experience. And the eSports teams of the future may not have to leave home either.

8. Prohibition never works!

Banning things like alcohol has proven historically difficult, even in Canberra. But no-fly zones are easier to enforce – you couldn’t smuggle an A380 into the country and fly it around without anyone noticing.

9. It’s too radical a change – it would cause chaos!

Arguably, the controllable outcomes of grounding aircraft will be far less severe than the chaos of uncontrolled global climate change. A transformed, low-emissions transportation system can be planned for and, while there will be significant readjustment, life will go on.

A “business as usual” climate change scenario will unleash destruction unparalleled in human history, including the genuine threat of species extinction.

As an island nation we are more dependent than most on the aeroplane. Rather than giving us special dispensation, this puts us in a position to be world leaders in sustainable transport. Our proposal to ground planes and dramatically reduce emissions would need tremendous action in terms of civic will, and a state apparatus politically capable of taking radical action.

Liberal democracies are capable of such action, as evidenced by Australia’s Snowy Mountains Scheme. And Trump’s mandate to build infrastructure shows nation-building projects still command public support. An aviation-free Australia is a genuine and necessary alternative.

Martin Young, Associate Professor, School of Business and Tourism, Southern Cross University; Francis Markham, PhD Candidate, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; James Higham, Professor of Tourism, University of Otago, and John Jenkins, Professor, School of Business and Tourism, Southern Cross University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Installing #Solarhotwater makes both financial and climate sense

I came home from attending #COP22 in Marrakech only to have my gas-boosted hot water system die a week or so later. A good opportunity to upgrade to an electric boosted solar hot water service to increase household energy efficiency and reduce emissions, although lousy timing for my Christmas finances.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Guest Post: “We’ll always have Paris”

This detailed, but succinct analysis of the United Nations climate conference at Marrakech, COP22, by the Heinrich Boll Foundation is well worth reading. The authors are Lili Fuhr, Liane Schalatek, and Simon Ilse. The original was published 1 December 2016 and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons- Share-Alike licence.

At the UN’s COP 22 climate conference in Marrakech, the international community closed ranks despite (or perhaps because of?) the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president. Thanks to its swift ratification by currently more than 110 countries, negotiations on the technical implementation of the Paris Agreement could begin. The pace must increase significantly, however, if the 1.5°C limit is still to be met.[1]

The Paris Agreement entered into force on the 4th of November, two days before the opening of the climate conference in Marrakech. A majority of states had ratified the agreement in their national parliaments. Never before have so many countries joined an international agreement in such a short time – a mere ten months. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon praised the determination of the states in the last speech of his tenure at the conference in Marrakech. Shortly thereafter – two days into the summit – the elation vanished abruptly. The clear election victory of Donald Trump – who has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and questioned the gamut of U.S. international commitments – depressed the mood in Marrakech. The well-founded fear that Trump would back out of the Paris Agreement and reverse all of the achievements of his predecessor Barack Obama, or even cancel U.S. membership in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dominated almost all discussions. The intended broad theme of the conference – climate change in Africa – thus took a back seat.

A lot is at stake for the continent: Africa already suffers heavily from the impacts of climate change. African governments are calling for financial and technological support as well assistance in building their capacity for the implementation of their national climate plans – and not just with regard to climate protection, but especially on the much more urgent issue of climate change adaptation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Marrakech: we will move ahead

On the last day of the UN climate conference, COP22 in Marrakech, Greenpeace organised a photo shoot outside the entrance to the COP22 conference venue with a huge banner saying: We will move ahead. It was advertised to delegates as the largest photo shoot of the UNFCCC 'family'. Party delegates and observers, media and members of the secretariat gathered for the photo.

After the emotional rollercoaster ride of the US presidential election and considerable chatter about what a Trump Presidency would mean for climate action, the event was a fitting summary of the resolve of people at the conference. To forge ahead despite a climate denialist being elected President of the USA.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Marrakech Action Proclamation at COP22

Host country Morocco developed the Marrakech Action Proclamation (PDF), which was read out to the full Plenary on Thursday 17 November 2016.

The one page statement articulates the urgency of climate change, and the unstoppable global momentum on climate action and sustainable development action by governments, businesses, investors, sub-regional government and cities. It can be read as a veiled message to Donald Trump and his election to the US Presidency, that the world is proceeding to act on climate change. In Fact, Ed King from Climate Home has done just that: Marrakech Call decoded: UN sends Trump its climate demands.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Julie Bishop signs Second Because the Ocean Declaration

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop sure has the gift of the gab with fine rhetorical statements on Australia’s strong targets (ahem), that presently commits the world to 4 degrees C or more of warming.

I caught up with her on Monday night of the second week of COP22 in a high level event at the French Pavillion. She was there with several other ministers to sign the second ‘Because the Ocean declaration’ to improve ocean and reef conservation efforts as part of the UNFCCC climate change process. (See details on signing the First Declaration in Paris at COP21 here)

She highlighted the Australian Government’s 2015 Reef 2050 plan, and $2 billion over 10 years to reduce water pollution affecting the Great Barrier Reef at both this event and later in her ministerial statement to COP.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kick Polluters out of COP22: Climate Justice activists stand with Moroccan communities

Article first published at San Fransisco Bay Area Indymedia

Morocco has painted itself as a green leader at this UN climate conference, and in many ways it is, but beneath the surface there are also the stories of pollution, greenwashing and hypocrisy which activists have brought to light.

Activists on Thursday highlighted two of these stories, of heavy pollution caused by phosphate mining of the water at Safi, a town on the Moroccan coast, and at Managem's silver mine at Imider. Water is Life. The phosphate company and the silver mining Company are both sponsors of COP22 that are destroying the water quality, health and life of local communities.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Multilateral assessment of Australia at COP22 for climate action

Australia was under the spotlight at COP22 in Marrakech as part of the SBI multilateral assessment process for climate action. You can read the 31 pages of written questions and responses already on record (PDF).

Each country was allocated 30 minutes of live questioning following a brief statement by the country being questioned.

Europe was up first with their statement and then questions from USA, New Zealand, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Singapore, China. Europe then responded to these questions.

Then it was Australia's turn with Australia's lead negotiator Ambassador Patrick Suckling saying that the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is delivering real emissions cuts and that Australia is on target for meeting 2020 and 2030 targets.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Investor perspectives on beyond Paris and the US election at #COP22

Ceres and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) press conference on Beyond Paris and the US elections: investor perspectives. It highlighted that climate change is viewed by many businesses as both a risk and an opportunity.

Kids win: US #climate court case moves forward

The Our Children's Trust climate court case against the US President, US Government and Fossil Fuel Industry has passed another hurdle with Federal Judge Ann Aiken rejecting U.S. government and fossil fuel industries motions to dismiss.