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Jun 17, 2009

Milne: The climate nightmare is upon us

Would you put your son or daughter on an aeroplane if you knew that it had a 50-90% chance of crashing? If not, why would you take that risk with the whole planet? Asks Greens Senator Christine Milne.


Greens senator Christine Milne will deliver this speech to the National Press Club today.

Thank you for your warm welcome. I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land.

Gandhi once said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

We have reached a point in human history where “what we do” on this planet imperils our survival. Now is the moment to re-imagine and reconsider “what we are capable of doing”.

As Kofi Annan said recently, “The world is at a crossroads. [The Copenhagen] negotiators [must] come to the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated or continue to accept mass starvation, mass sickness and mass migration on an ever growing scale. Weak leadership,” he said, “is failing humanity.”

So what is stopping us from achieving what we are capable of, of reaching ‘the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated’?

ABARE, the Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, last year unwittingly provided me with the answer! They had sought a meeting on their latest modelling of the economic costs of climate action. I asked them what atmospheric carbon concentrations they were assuming in their models and was astonished to hear that they had modelled nothing lower than 575 parts per million — a level that every projection tells us would trigger catastrophic climate change.

When I suggested that it might be appropriate to run their models using scenarios that have some hope of constraining global warming to merely dangerous levels, even down as low as 350 ppm to deliver a safe climate, my astonishment was matched by theirs.

“But, Senator,” came the reply, “that would be a different world!”


This is a cultural problem. It is not a lack of climate science that holds back action. It is how we respond to the challenge that the science poses, and that is deeply cultural. It is the values that we bring to bear, what we think is good for us, our religious underpinnings, our view of power and opportunity, of what is possible in the world and Australia’s place in it. All these value judgements stop us from embracing change.

Machiavelli understood human nature when in the 15th Century, he said:

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

In Australia, the dominant economic, social and therefore Labor and Coalition view, is that resource extraction underpins wealth, power and influence — always has and always will. Regardless of the physical capacity of the Earth to sustain it, regardless of the collapse of the Murray Darling or the climate impact of burning more coal or logging more forests, nothing will stand in the way of that extraction continuing. All policies to address climate change are seen through that cultural lens.

That is why we did not have a Green New Deal in Australia linking climate policies with economic stimulus and it is why we engage in special pleading in international climate negotiations.

It is why, when people hear the climate science telling us that, if we do not act swiftly and decisively, the world we hand on to our children will be a very different, much poorer world, so many jump through hoops to deny it, to explain it away, or to pretend that we can compromise with the laws of physics and chemistry to suit own imperatives. It is no wonder, as Ian Dunlop observed recently, “climate policy and climate science are like ships passing in the night.”

The truth is the climate nightmare is real and happening now. We are destroying the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the snow caps. We are eroding our beaches, and our coastal cities will face managed retreat due to sea level rise. We are drying our food bowl, the Murray Darling, beyond repair, jeopardising rural communities and our food security.

Many of our Asia Pacific neighbours are struggling with rising seas and extreme weather which threatens a refugee crisis beyond anything we’ve ever seen.

The Himalayan glaciers, which feed all the major rivers of Asia — the Ganges and Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yellow and Yangtze — are melting away. Once they are gone, a third of the world’s people face a parched, hungry and, most likely, violent future.

Red Cross figures reveal that last year 242,662 people died because of climate related heat waves, fires and other extreme weather events and spreading tropical diseases, with at least 800 in Australia. According to Nature, 15%-37% of all species on Earth will be committed to extinction by 2050.

If the Arctic melt already underway triggers the melting of the permafrost, belching billions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere, all bets are off as far as warming is concerned. Our planet will head into a runaway heating cycle, leading to widespread inundation, agricultural collapse, loss of drinking water for a third of the global population, and all the geopolitical and security implications that follow, particularly with nuclear armed giants sitting at the epicentre.

What is more alarming is that our governments, while claiming to take responsible action, are effectively planning to let this happen. The Rudd Government soothes critics by talking about a global target of 450 ppm CO2e while putting forward a plan that is actually consistent with 550 ppm or even higher. They also fail to say that 450 ppm would, according to the conservative and already out-of-date IPCC estimates, give us a 50-90% chance of exceeding 2 degrees warming, risking triggering the nightmare scenario I just outlined.

50 to 90%.

Would you put your son or daughter on an aeroplane if you knew that it had a 50-90% chance of crashing? If not, why would you take that risk with the whole planet?

CSIRO scientist James Risbey who came before our recent Senate Inquiry into Climate Policy told us that: “a safer target would be something that would be closer to 350 parts per million, because that would reduce the risk of exceeding two degrees Celsius to more moderate levels.”

Dr Risbey is not a radical or an extremist. He echoes the work of great names in climate science like NASA’s James Hansen and Potsdam’s John Schellnhuber, who, together with 50 nations, are all calling for targeting 350 ppm.

No Australian Parliamentarian can say they were not warned.

But, as the global ecosystem impacts of climate change become clearer, policy makers are focussing more narrowly on the politics of national sovereignty. Our governance systems are not up to the challenge. Global warming has become just another issue to be managed in news bulletins. Meeting after meeting, document after document are mistaken for action. But no systemic action is being taken.

The fact is we cannot keep a safe climate and keep burning coal, oil and gas, and logging our forests. One or the other must go.

That we may be undone by the refusal, for what ever reason, to believe that another world is possible was demonstrated again this week, with Minister Wong saying: “going further is not possible without causing economic disruption — if it is possible at all.” Minister Wong, do you really want “running up the white flag” to be your legacy?

A self interested failure of imagination, courage and leadership characterises the political and business establishment in this country.

So, it is the job of those who are currently lukewarm defenders of the future, to get over fear or timidity and to move to red hot advocacy; to get behind the community and the Greens in changing the culture, in selling the dream.

Does anyone in this room not use a mobile phone? How many of you email or update facebook with your phone?

Twenty years ago, when I first ran for Parliament in Tasmania, I was the only candidate to have a mobile phone and it took up half my car!

It was only in the second half of the 1990s that mobiles and email really took hold, with Australian early adopters leading the charge. Our lives have been utterly reshaped by these technologies. Ten years from infancy to such ubiquity that we can scarcely remember what it was like before they ruled our lives!

In 1961 as an eight year old girl, I remember sitting by the wireless on a dairy farm in north west Tasmania, listening to President Kennedy promise that, within a decade, America would put a man on the moon and bring him home safely.

Kennedy said:

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to ensure their fulfilment.

But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon – if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Kennedy didn’t promise to get halfway to the moon, let alone 5 to 25% of the way there. He didn’t promise to put a man on the moon if the economic modelling looked okay.

Instead he captured the imagination, and drove the creativity and innovative spirit of not only his own country, but of a whole generation who came to believe that anything is possible. And, sure enough, I remember as a 16 year old at boarding school in Hobart watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. The belief that anything was possible was a gift to my generation.

Committing to delivering a safe climate means embracing the massive challenge of moving to zero emissions fast, frees you up to unleash human creativity in a wave unlike anything we’ve seen. Just as in 1989 we could not imagine the world of the iPhone and Blackberry, in the next 20 years we can and will create something that now seems impossible.

But, if we fail to do what it takes, we will find out the hard way what that different world will be. Whether by deliberately refusing to act or, equally culpably, by recklessly setting our sights too low, we will shut the door on opportunity and make only one future possible.

Which brings me to the CPRS.

While the Greens have been advocating real solutions to climate change, the Government, since its election, has been standing in the way. Whether it is forests, a feed-in tariff or targets, we have simply been told to sign up to their plan which we know sets its sights so low as to actively lock out the option of success. The Greens cannot and will not support a scheme that is environmentally ineffective and economically inefficient.

Supporting the CPRS would mean Australia would have the same greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 as today making deep cuts by 2020 much more difficult and expensive than it needs to be. Rejecting the CPRS gives us hope that real solutions could be implemented in that time bringing down emissions far faster and cheaper.

A failure to agree this year is a better outcome than an agreement to fail.

But isn’t it better than nothing? I say no.

Incrementalism is worse than useless in the face of the climate crisis. Just as you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t stop climate change by doing 5% of what is necessary. Or even 25%. If we trigger tipping points, the heating process will gather its own momentum and there will be nothing we can do to stop it. Doing too little to avoid those tipping points is functionally equivalent to doing nothing.

The reason the scheme must not pass in its current form is, ironically, exactly the reason the Government uses to say it must be passed — because it will send a signal to Australian industry, the Australian community and the global community that cannot be ignored. Yes, it will send a signal, but the signal will be wrong.

The CPRS says to the rest of the world that, regardless of how much the world must do to save the climate, Australia will do as little as we think we can get away with. It is a completely unacceptable and irresponsible signal.

Which countries does Australia say should do more so that we can do less?

The UN climate change secretariat revealed on June 6th that the pledges made by rich countries total between 16-24% below 1990. This falls well short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

A bold global agreement needs a pooling of national sovereignty — all countries of the world acting in our common interest, not in their short term, election informed, national interest as the Howard Government did in Kyoto and the Rudd Government has delivered for Copenhagen.

A bold agreement needs money on the table and an agreement to reform global governance institutions to oversee enforcement and compliance, rather than domestic legislation that gives a Minister the wriggle room to decide whether target commitments have been triggered.

If Australia goes to Copenhagen legislatively constrained from agreeing to a target higher than the 25% minimum that the world requires from rich, high-polluting countries, the only possible impact will be to lower the level of ambition from other developed countries, giving succour to other recalcitrants like Canada, Japan and Russia. This in turn makes it less likely that China, India and other large developing nations will sign up to a deal.

The CPRS may well have provided Japan with the cover it needed to announce its 8% target in Bonn. Chinese negotiators have slammed Australia’s targets and conditions as obnoxious. They say that, unless countries like Australia and Japan offer targets in the order of 40% by 2020, they will not accept any kind of binding targets.

Follow the CPRS scenario to its logical conclusion and the chances of agreement in Copenhagen look very grim indeed with Australia’s 25% conditional in the flying pig category.

The world needs a circuit-breaker — some nation to finally offer what the science requires, not another craven compromise.

Furthermore, the Greens cannot accept a scheme which is clearly geared towards protecting the status quo, sandbagging the old resource based economy when we need transformation.

Business needs long-term investment horizons in order to make multi-billion dollar investments. The CPRS will provide such an investment horizon, but it will be the wrong one. Evidence provided to the Senate Climate Policy Committee by experts from the London Carbon Exchange, the Productivity Commission’s recent report and comments from Sir Nicholas Stern all conclude that, if the CPRS is passed in its current form, Australian industry and investors will be sent a very strong signal that will drive inappropriate and misguided investments. This signal will give business the confidence to invest in ‘low pollution’ infrastructure such as gas power stations and slightly less dirty coal rather than renewables. Yesterday’s announcement expanding Eraring coal fired power station is a case in point.

When, in a few years, we come to our senses and decide to target a safe climate, these assets will be stranded, dropped as sunk costs and replaced with zero emissions alternatives bought overseas. That would be a very stupid and expensive mistake.

Professor Garnaut correctly warned that opening the floodgates to rent-seekers is economically unjustifiable. Handing out $16 billion in corporate polluter welfare is a grossly unacceptable transfer of wealth from the community to the polluters.

Some 50% of the scheme’s revenue — or foregone revenue, thanks to free permits — is earmarked for shielding polluters from the scheme’s impact, and most of the rest will shield householders from the impact through the short-sighted mechanism of cash handouts or fuel subsidies instead of the long-sighted approach of rolling out energy efficiency upgrades and public transport to reduce costs and pollution. A mere 3% of the scheme’s revenue will actually directly help anyone reduce emissions let alone invest in the technologies that provide solutions and would revitalise manufacturing here in Australia.

Finally, there is the disempowering signal the CPRS would send to the Australian community.

People are angry because they understand that every dollar handed over to the polluters is a dollar less to spend on community solutions. By putting a floor under pollution levels, ensuring that Australia’s emissions cannot fall below that level no matter how hard some of us try, the scheme has been attacked for undermining voluntary efforts to reduce emissions, making them helpful only in reducing the price pressure on polluters.

The root cause of that problem, and the only solution, is the target itself. The 5% target sends a signal to give up in despair, disempowering the whole of Australia, from householders to State Governments. And if the Government aims so low but still manages to convince a majority of Australians that it is doing something worthwhile, it takes the pressure off everyone to actually do what needs to be done.

The Government’s plan locks in the nightmare. The Greens’ plan would inspire the dream.

First we need a global target that can deliver a safe climate. We must preserve the functioning of the planet’s ecological systems, its biodiversity, without which we cannot survive.

To stabilise at 350 ppm in any safe timeframe, Bill Hare of the Potsdam Institute has calculated that the whole world economy must be carbon neutral by 2050. That is undeniably a massive task. Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Wong say it can’t be done. But, as the ecologist Paul Hawken said recently:

“Forget that this task of planet saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was possible after you are done.”

Last week I visited the Newcastle CSIRO Energy Centre and the University. I saw technologies ready to be scaled up and commercialised — technology that will see solar hot water systems powering air conditioners and solar thermal towers able to power the whole of Australia from an area as small as 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres. Technologies that will see solar energy delivered in flexible fabrics like curtains and awnings. I saw technologies that can capture energy from the vibrations of bridges and cars, not to mention capturing energy from walking to charge mobile phones. I saw work on new community scale wind turbines, the intelligent grid and devices that can automatically manage household energy demand, saving huge amounts of energy and dollars.

We humans are capable of amazing things when we set our minds to it. Setting a zero emissions safe climate target would inspire the community and unleash a wave of creativity, of innovative job creation that is right now champing at the bit. Just as JFK’s belief that we can do anything was his gift to my generation, this would be our gift to generations living now.

The political, social and economic make over required is so transformative that it the creates the opportunity to go green fields; to identify what we don’t like about our lives and, in moving to the zero carbon future, fix those things.

This is the silver lining in the storm clouds of the climate crisis.

By rethinking what is important to us and the way we live our lives, we will reshape the spaces we live in and the way we are governed to build a happier, healthier, safer community.

We can overcome our time poverty, our social isolation and loneliness, our unhealthy sedentary lifestyles, our disconnection from nature, our sensory overload. We can face the anxiety in the back of our minds that we are the first generation to hand on to our children a planet in worse repair than we have enjoyed.

Our wealth has not brought us happiness and governments are now analysing scientifically demonstrated ways to improve well-being in everyday life and the policy interventions that would enable them. They are exactly the interventions that need to be made to address climate change and peak oil. Last year, the New Economics Foundation conducted a study for the UK Government, identifying “five ways to well-being”: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.

By re-designing our cities around people instead of cars, with green spaces, cycleways and pedestrian paths, with rapid transit linking urban villages, we will reinvigorate communities, reconnect to each other and be more active in our daily lives.

By taking jobs to communities rather than the other way around, we can increase work flexibility. Instead of being stuck in traffic for hours, we can spend more time with our family and friends and in our communities building supportive and lasting relationships.

By growing some of our own food in community gardens, by supporting seasonal locally grown food and by relocalising services from health to education we can build community resilience, health and well being.

By making our homes and offices more energy efficient and making ourselves more aware of the energy we use, we connect, take notice and learn.

By setting ourselves the massive task of reaching carbon neutrality as fast as possible, we all give — to each other locally to globally in the spirit of climate justice and the Millennium goals, and to the generations that will follow us. As the NEF said, we are “hard wired to enjoy helping one another”!

The Greens have concrete proposals to make this transformative vision a reality: a new politics for a new century, reengaging the community and restoring trust through transparency, equity and participation in decision making from the local to the global.

Our policies start and end with a whole of government, systemic approach that uses every tool at the government’s disposal in a mutually reinforcing cycle, rather than an internally inconsistent and counterproductive one. For example, with the recent stimulus package, the Greens negotiated a $300 million Local Green Jobs package which has been widely praised for creating jobs while protecting the environment and heritage and revitalising communities. This has been so successful that we will be pressing the Government to make it part of the Budget every year.

While putting a price on carbon is a critical part of reducing emissions, it is far from the only tool in the toolbox. If it is to be a useful tool, it has to be well designed. A Greens-designed emissions trading scheme would lock in serious emissions targets and cap the use of overseas CDM permits. It would auction all permits and recycle the revenue into driving emissions reductions through energy efficiency, an intelligent electricity grid, research, development and commercialisation of renewables, and rolling out public transport infrastructure. By implementing the polluter pays principle, we would raise the resources to build that vision in Australia.

Importantly, we would also use some of the revenue for the urgent task of training and redeploying the million-strong workforce we will need to make our vision a reality. Far from climate action being a jobs destroyer, the lack of trained workers is actually our biggest obstacle — after the lack of political will. People who work currently in the sunset industries have skills that we need urgently in the sunrise industries, and the Greens would make sure that those communities transitioning from the old, polluting economy become the first to gain. Newcastle is a case in point. The Hunter can transform from carbon pollution hub to the powerhouse of a carbon neutral Australia.

Contrary to the naysayers, the labour market actually has an extraordinary capacity to handle structural change. For example, in the decade to November 2007, employment in rural industries dropped by almost 100,000, employment in manufacturing dropped by almost 50,000, and employment in wholesale trade dropped by 35,000. Yet, over this period, the unemployment rate fell from 8 and a half percent to 4%. Similarly, over a million workers employed in February 2005 were no longer with the same employer a year later, and over half of these changed industry.

The Government must conduct a full jobs audit of Australia — matching the skills of workers whose jobs are at risk with the skills we so desperately need, and filling any gaps with targeted job creation, education and training initiatives.

In addition to the multi-billion dollar direct investment program we could afford if we auctioned all permits, the Greens have an array of specific programs which can and should start immediately, cutting emissions straight away, regardless of whether or not we can agree on emissions trading this year.

The Greens want to see renewable energy providing 40% of our electricity by 2020, driven by a stronger Renewable Energy Target, supplemented by a gross national feed-in tariff that would pay a premium rate for all renewable energy – bold, but achievable on current global growth trajectories for many renewable energy technologies.

Farming renewable energy would no longer be a dream but a reality for those farmers desperate to supplement their income and stay on the farm. Every home and business could become a mini power station.

Our Energy Efficiency Access and Savings Initiative is the boldest policy yet for retrofitting all 8 million existing homes across Australia. We are developing new legislation to drive commercial building efficiency, and at the industrial scale, we will again move to require the largest energy users to not only audit their energy use but to implement the findings of those audits. We would introduce new standards for appliances and buildings and vehicles to maximise energy efficiency, and support them with government procurement.

An aggressive energy efficiency rollout together with the RET, would mean we could begin retiring coal fired power plants, something that leading Australian climate scientists recently called for in an open letter to Australian coal generators.

Around the world there is a deep and rising concern about biodiversity loss and the need to give species their best chance of survival by habitat protection and restoration. The Greens would protect the carbon stores in our magnificent forests and native vegetation, creating thousands of jobs in environmental stewardship in regional communities, including remote indigenous communities. This would also improve water supplies and increase the well being that comes from being able to enjoy the wonder of nature. Feel Blue, Touch Green.

I know this will not be easy.

But I also know that, in the face of vested interests, we have the strongest possible allies — the people!

Politically, the Greens are at a turning point in Australia and globally. The Global Greens are the only international political force united around strengthening local communities and building global citizenship. Our representation is steadily growing, with big swings in recent European elections taking us from 35 MEPs to 46 in a Parliament shrunk by 49 seats. In Australia, we are the third political force, with 26 State and Federal MPs — half of them women — and over 100 local government representatives, numbers that are steadily increasing.

Outside politics, the groundswell is even faster. In kitchens, classrooms, offices, factories, farms, campuses and communities a powerful people’s movement is burgeoning.

Addressing the Climate Summit here in Canberra in January was inspiring — seeing some 500 people from 140 communities across Australia come together to demand that our democratic institutions respond to the climate crisis. Their work continued with rallies in capital cities last weekend.

More recently, I became an ambassador for the one million women campaign to inspire women across Australia to reduce their emissions. Not since the women’s movement in the 1960s and ’70s has the call gone out to women of all ages and all backgrounds to unite around one cause. The Baby Boomers are retiring and radicalising again, ready to take up where they left off! Another driver for new politics.

In just a few weeks, the wonderful young people from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition will be holding their Powershift conference, bringing together more than 1500 to engage in skills-sharing and inspiring discussions before returning to their communities to drive change. That they can do it is indisputable. Remember that the average age of those working on the Moon Mission was 26. They were the space generation. Old Parties and Old Polluters beware, here comes the solar generation with a power shift in Canberra.

Philanthropists are opening their purse strings ever wider. Institutional investors are waiting in the wings. Scientists and technologists are beavering away across the country, coming up with brilliant ideas most of which are yet to be tested because government and industry have not pressed the Go button.

We are standing at an extraordinary moment in history. We must choose the dream or face the nightmare? Hope and fear are powerful emotions, one shrinks the space for action the other amplifies it.

If we try, we may still fail. But if we do not try, we cannot possibly succeed.

The Greens intend to try. The community is with us. We intend to make the difference between what we humans do now and what we are capable of doing.

As Thoreau said:

I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.



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52 thoughts on “Milne: The climate nightmare is upon us

  1. meski

    Ugh! I couldn’t help but feel, reading this speech of cliched quotes and emo statements that there was more obscurity than clarity here.

  2. Philip Cocker

    Truly inspiring and real…

  3. Andrew

    Easter Island’s End

    By Jared Diamond, in Discover Magazine

    August 1995

    “In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism.

    Are we about to follow their lead?”


  4. Tony Kevin

    a magnificent statement, thank you senator milne.

    memo to australian political, corporate, trade union and media elites – don’t tell your children in future decades that you were not warned.

    you were warned , in great detail, in this statement by senator milne, on 17 june 2009.

    tony kevin

  5. Mark Duffett

    Unfortunate that the only mention of the word ‘nuclear’ was in relation to weapons. Senator Milne doesn’t seem to realise that technological development has been taking place in nuclear energy as well as mobile phones since the 60s and 70s. In this she is just as wedded to Old (Green) Thinking as the “Old Parties and Old Polluters” she decries.

  6. David1

    Greens, nothing has changed with them since the party was conceived. Incidently while on that subject, an interesting revealation this morning on News Radio, it was suggested Sen Browns debt of nearly a 1/4 million buckaroos was fully covered before he appealed for assistance nation wide!! I know no more.

  7. Grant Doyle

    Can anyone identify which Machiavellian tome/title the extended quote attributed to him is lifted from? Is it just me or should such citations be a bit more thorough?

  8. Jonathan Maddox


    You’re right, nuclear reactors aren’t very dangerous if built with safety in mind. But uranium mines and nuclear fuel processing facilities tend to be horrendous leakers of radioactive poisons. It is therefore unsurprising that anyone with a Green bent would avoid advocating for nuclear power.

    In an ideal world, nuclear power should compete on merits and cost with renewable energy and fossil fuels on a playing field levelled by penalty prices for greenhouse gas emissions and any other harmful pollution throughout the economy.

    Coal would double in price under such a scenario. And the sound of capital seeking better returns in better technology would be beautiful indeed. Some would be invested in nuclear power, no doubt. But the quicker and more reliable returns are elsewhere: consumption efficiency, fuel efficiency and renewables.

  9. Jonathan Maddox

    David1: Google is your friend.

    The full text is of course at Project Gutenberg, since it’s out of copyright.

  10. Jonathan Maddox

    Duh, last comment was a reply to Grant Doyle, not David1. Apologies.

  11. Mark Duffett

    Grant Doyle: http://machiavelli.thefreelibrary.com/Prince/7-1

    Generally I agree that citations should be done much better by mainstream media (no excuses for not doing so in an online environment), but they’re pretty hard to do orally, as was the case here.

    Jonathan Maddox: I don’t know much about nuclear fuel processing facilities, but I do have first-hand experience of uranium mines. In the latter case, putting it as mildly as I can, your idea of ‘horrendous’ must be very different to mine (no pun intended).

    I agree with your idea of an ideal world, though.

  12. jonb2

    Milnes speech sounds great, but in reality the Greens oppose everything.
    Except for some bizarre dream-past where the horse and cart pulled the loads of organic, free-range garlic grown on a matriarchally structured homestead to the lovely market.

    Here in Tassie, McKim opposed Gunns building biomass generators saying “Gunns should leave saving the planet to those people who really care about it”. But biomass generators feature prominently along side Hydro-electric plants in the much hyped Green Jobs revolution. Oh, I forgot we can’t have Hydro schemes either under the Greens…

  13. Mark Duffett

    …noting that since $8000 rebates haven’t been enough, and the industry is demanding feed-in tariffs at four times the going electricity rate on top of that, I don’t think solar photovoltaics would fare too well in such an ‘ideal world’.

  14. David1

    Ah Jonathan and I was about to get all Machiavellian in response…..tks for the link anyway.

  15. Most Peculiar Mama

    Starts with “Thank you for your warm welcome. I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land.” and goes downhill from there.

    Armed with a suitcase full of cliches and boringly altruistic soundbites, Christine Milne once again amply demonstrates why the Greens are a rabbled political conclave of woolly cave-dwelling proselytes, lights-out lumpenproletariats and anti-progress miscreants.

    Such paternalism, once the dominant dogma of the cosseted Left, has now spawned shoots into the most irrelevant of all modern political philosophies.

    Enjoy the time you have left Christine.

    14:57, 14:58, 14…

  16. jonb2

    Sorry, a closer read revealed this little gem.

    “Scientists and technologists are beavering away across the country” What, building dams?

  17. Roger Clifton

    Okay, so a Great Extinction is imminent. We had better make up our minds – is it due to burning carbon-based fuels or to nuclear energy? We can’t have it both ways.

  18. meski

    Nuclear may be dirty, but so is production of silicon in the form necessary for PV cells. It’s a feel-good technology that isn’t scalable. Solar thermal on an industrial scale, OTOH, would scale.

    You could (probably) convert a coal/gas power plant to a solar thermal plant.

  19. Tom McLoughlin

    As I understand it, Senator Brown’s legal costs were mentioned in an earlier interview, and he has already paid $600K or so in legal fees. Already. Not that the next tranche of $250K was covered.

    And the Coalition Senator, the grub from Tasmania if memory serves, innuendo today that Brown wrongly ‘claimed the $250K would make him bankrupt’ is deceptive as rather Brown as I understand never claimed he would end up bankrupt, rather that Forestry Tasmania have ‘sent him a letter that threatened him with bankruptcy’ proceedings with a deadline of some 3 weeks.

    Even a Senator doesn’t easily make a fire sale of their home or savings even if they do have the value.

    The truth is the mainstream parties are all shocked as Paul Daley implied in the Sydney Sun Herald (Fairfax) last week that Senator Brown has such profound social capital to draw on like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. Daley asked rhetorically whether even Kevin Rudd as PM would be assisted in the same context.

    That kind of political capital in Senator Bob Brown is dangerous to vested interests.

  20. Colin Bower

    After reading the above responses to Christine Milne’s speech, it is tempting to conclude that the human race isn’t worth saving from itself. However, it is easy to see where the scepticism and outright derision have come from. All sorts of doom prophets (religious, economic, environmental, even medical) are peddling messages of annihilation almost incessantly, with no apologies when the predicted catastrophe fails to eventuate. All this crying wolf makes it very easy to miss a wolf when one finally appears. All I can do is suggest, respectfully, that people drop their bullshit shields for long enough to carefully consider the weight of scientific evidence for human-induced climate change and what it actually means.

  21. scottyea

    Not only do we have government by popular vote, but also government by committee, and not only one government by committee, there are more than a hundred of them. Those governments that aren’t run by committee are incsequential in terms of practical action on climate change anyway.

    The human race is eminently worth saving, but has been mislead into shallowness and ignorance by commercial interests into blind consumptionism, and away from any kind of inner meaning.

    just see the fun.

  22. jonb2

    “However, it is easy to see where the scepticism and outright derision have come from”

    That is certainly true. and on that point, Philip Cocker @2 are you the same Philip Cocker of the The Tasmanian Greens who was number 1 on their last HCC election “how-to-vote” card?

  23. Janet Rice

    OK, so I might be biased, having been a member of The Greens since we started, a Greens Councillor, and I know quite a few climate scientists quite well, but I am astounded by the criticism expressed here. I think this is a landmark speech ; inspirational and visionary, telling it how is is, but giving hope not fear, that its not too late; and with commitment, determination and human ingenuity we can yet pull ourselves back from the brink of human stupidity and shortsightedness. Doesn’t the prospect of a 50%- 90% chance of dangerous climate change, the arctic melting, the Greenland permafrost melting worry you critics just a bit? Don’t you realise that business as usual looks pretty likely to be a direct path to incredible suffering and an awful lot of people dying?

  24. scottyea

    @ Janet Rice.

    I’d be more worried if the conveyor-belt current slowed down, causing rapid global cooling! Much more worried! What’s the status on that current, btw?

  25. jonb2

    @Tom “That kind of political capital in Senator Bob Brown”

    Yes, it beggars belief.

  26. Bill Parker

    At the end of the day, I read the highly polarized comments about Sen Milne’s speech and wonder where politics has gone in the country (and others) the two main parties are so alike it is hard to tell the diff. Here we have a feisty woman who is a fighter and a do-er. The bland crap that comes out CBR these days is worth nothing to me. Rudd changed nothing.

    I am biased, I am a member of the Greens and whilst I do not agree with all they say, I agree with the principles and I find Milne and Brown to inspiring people.

    We have a huge problem that will far exceed World War II in its capacity to destroy and change. We also have the capacity to deal with it. We have the technology, we need nothing except politicians with the courage and the determination to lead.

    I am sick of the “corporation led” governments. Bugger the vested interests, they do nothing for me.

    “conclave of woolly cave-dwelling proselytes, lights-out lumpenproletariats and anti-progress miscreants”

    Lovely stuff. I am a company director, a scientist and a writer and wool keeps me warm. I do not live in a cave, have enough lighting and use the sun’s warmth to provide comfort in my house.

    Remember Chamberlain? Maybe not.

    This is far worse.

  27. Janet Rice

    @JonB2. As I understand it, the latest research indicates that the shut down of the gulf stream is still a possibility, but occurring not as quickly as other changes due to warming. Its impact would be mostly on the North Atlantic region, not globally. But it’ s the same scientists and the same climate models that are modelling the shut down of the Gulf stream that are telling us how it is overall with climate change – you can’t just believe the bits you want to. Yes there is uncertainty in climate science, but the risks are so high, we can’t not act because there’s a small chance that everything will be ok. Do you have house insurance? car insurance? The risk of dangerous climate change under a business as usual path is far greater than the chance your house is going to burn down or your car is going to be stolen.

  28. Mark Duffett

    @Janet: This critic agrees with you on the risk of climate change. What I’m saying to Senator Milne, and the Greens in general, is that we shouldn’t be fighting it with one (nuclear) hand tied behind our back.

  29. MichaelJChristie

    The current model of the national energy grid is designed for maximum consumption. The model of the national energy grid is not sustainable for a national climate change strategy. We already see the repeating of past mistakes of investments by picking pet projects and having power carried across long distances with geothermal in Queensland. The current business practices of the national grid stakeholders will easily want to make the existing systems more efficient and effective when government policy has designed the system to maximise energy output.
    Coupled with these problems of the national energy grid of high levels of distribution inefficiencies is how Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Green Power both of which seemed to be designed for large economic players to benefit from. With Green Power it is lot clear what it is purchases and for RECs how it is counted.
    Another level of complexity there seems to be little interest in a distributed energy system from the managers of the energy industry. Added to this is the executive management culture of the Australian power industry that is based on status quo management where the game is to maximise their sunk costs and their myopic strategic thinking.
    Hence we do not see much roll out of Renewable Energy like large-scale wind farms.

  30. Veronica Guy

    I am no member of any political group, club or party. The comments left on this site in response to this speech remind me of Nero. Please, people, it is obvious to any thinking person who keeps up (as much as is possible – there’s so much of it) with the growing evidence and the scientific modelling, that our climate is changing. It doesn’t matter who says it or how often it is said. As far as we should be concerned it should be shouted from the tree tops and urban roofs constantly, without let up and ever more loudly.

    At this stage, it matters not one jot how much of that change is due to human activity. The point is that until the self serving governments of this world publicly state that economics is a sub set of the environment and NOT the other way around and start working in a direction that will change our world and economies, we are headed towards our own extinction and more than probably by our own hand.

    Pretty simple really. Start working toward what the scientists have warned is the best we can achieve – 350ppm. Start educating the population into accepting what needs to be done to achieve that. Start funding renewable energy schemes on a massive scale. Let urban dwellers collect their own roof water and don’t even think of charging them for it (Victoria toyed with this one!!). Subsidise (properly) their costs in setting up their own power systems on their roofs and give them decent power rebates when feeding back any excess energy into the reticulated grid.

    Above all, stop pettifogging and get on with it. My grandchildren (three of them) face a very bleak future while the power mongers play ridiculous, short term greed gains with the future of the world.

    I could carry on with the exponential growth in global population. Population control underpins all the current woes but no one at all, let alone governments is willing to address the fecundity of our species. Medical tech has wiped out most pandemic type diseases andf kept more babies, children and now old people alive. The world is a finite place with a finite carrying capacity.

    The way we are living is just not sustainable. When will it ever be addressed? Seemingly not in my lifetime.

  31. MichaelJChristie

    Unless we empower ourselves with the terminology of the energy industry and that of renewable energy and energy efficiency governments will ignore the issues of a fully distributed renewable energy sector.
    The current discussion papers on the white paper for a national energy policy indicates a complete lack of priority for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Clearly it is large translational mining companies and the, coal and gas power generating corporations that are shaping energy policy in this country.
    As scientific evidence is being continually being announced of ever increasing rises in global temperature and increasing growth of Green-House-Gases. Voters are realising that this is a very real and serious problem. Voters are also realising that the biggest barrier are the politicians and their lack of action.
    Until governments allocate resources to more ambitious renewable energy projects, voters will continue to move their vote to the environment.
    The Australian Government needs to dramatically increase the “solar flagship” program and have at least 20 gigawatts of plants over 10 years (instead of one gigawatt), and allocate a similar amount of resources to a wind energy program.
    Why are there politicians in this country that believe the evidence for climate change is a conspiracy?
    I am interested in regional climate change action. A lot of focus to date has been on the individual, household, state national and international levels of climate change with little focus on the neighbourhood, local area or at a regional level. By focusing on a business owners, regional and local level it allows communities, government and industry to bring together the issues and actions they are taking on climate change.
    Transition towns’ is a very good model as it is driven from the grass roots and is very good for local communities. A limit of the transition town model is it is not being supported to happen across the country or a region in a systematic manner. The practice or field experience of the transition town model is the development of experimentation with the principles of energy, water, food, transport, carbon life cycle etc. That is examining climate change at a hamlet, commune, village, neighbourhood, town or suburb level there is no real definition for what sustainability means and what measures exist to benchmark against climate change data.
    Al alternative approach is examining climate change at a regional level that allows for cooperation between towns, institutions, the commercial sector and government on the issues of climate change. The regional level also has great access to data to be able to measure the impact of climate change on a geographic location.
    The evidence is clear on this as least cost strategy for a major impact in Energy Efficiency. In contrast the scientific evidence now on the rate of climate change means that we are taking up the EE strategy too slowly and will need to make major inroads not only into buildings and cars but also fossil fuel generation. The major hurdle at the moment is not that we do not have the expertise or technology to implement these changes but the quality of our leadership.

  32. Mark Duffett

    Please, green advocates, at least give some indication that you’ve come to grips with the issues set out here before stating or implying that a big rollout of solar and wind will be enough to significantly mitigate climate change. Even better, if you can, spend a few hours at http://bravenewclimate.com.

  33. MichaelJChristie

    Power companies are promoting Green Power as a means for the consumer to buy renewable energy. A brochure produced by the Greens in Queensland is encouraging consumers to subscribe to Green Power. The brochure is titled “The Greens Jobs: Protecting the Climate is a job for everyone”. The brochure was issued by Michael Kane PO Box 661 Albion BC Q. 4101. On the last page of the folded document it states, ” Go Green Power- Check with your electricity provider if you can purchase green energy, ensuring your power comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar, tidal, geothermal or wave plants”
    1. Why do the Greens promote green power?
    2. When the consumer buys $1.00 of Green Power where does that money go? What does the consumer’s purchase buy?
    3. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are meant to be phased out in the near future. What is the Greens position on the replacement of these?
    4. What is the Greens opinion of RECs in what they buy? And explain the Greens understanding accounting cycle of RECs?
    5. What will be the Greens position on what happens to Green Power when RECs are phased out?
    6. Do the Greens believe the current RECs system is fair and equitable to small and medium sized renewable energy generators?
    7. What is the Greens position on accountability and transparency of Green Power, RECs and what RECs will be replaced by?

  34. MichaelJChristie

    Hi Mark, thank you for this links they are very interesting. Unfortunately if we let the market solve major economic, social and climate problems we made be up a Creek without a paddle. Since the global economic crisis we have not hear much from the rational economists of Canberra but the Australian energy industry is still coming out with a paradigm that is out of context. For instance how much is the Australian fossil energy industry subsidised each year? How as taxpayers can we justify this indirect cost to the power industry? It has been a long time since the executives of the Australian power industry had to adopt a new way of thinking about energy management.

  35. Bill Parker


    Mark, I am fully aware of the need for GIGAwatts of clean energy not only to satisfy present demand but also to meet growth in demand. Solar is not the only answer, it is part of a mix. But there is one matter that doesn’t “rate” – energy efficiency. Hands up all those who know exactly what their energy usage is in kilowatthours every day? Try a reality check with David Mackay’s book:

    Mackay talks about the UK, and notes the need for “country” sized solar thermal plants and some. But the alarm bells should ring as he picks apart consumption. We are fixated on technological solutions and the answer is also to be found in our habits.

  36. Peter Campbell

    An excellent speech by Senator Milne.

    I think that the current “politics as usual” paradigm in Canberra and State goverments across Australia is a part of the problem rather than the solution. As are the predictable comments from several naysayers who have posted responses.

    I think we are in the midst of a period of great change, but the extent of this is not yet evident to many people. Often only portions of the change are visible/obvious (e.g. bushfires, floods, reduced rainfall, a protest rally, TV and news reports).

    I also think that our current structures and systems are not well suited to handling paradigm shift change – such as weaning ourselves off profligate fossil fuel use, reducing excessive consumption, and sorting out the festering sore of global inequity.

    Many current influential stakeholders (energy industries, mining industries, logging industries etc) are resisting change that impacts their perceived interests – and the political system is accommodating them.

    The notion that our political/democratic system somehow “does what the community wants” is really not valid in this context.

    I think we need a combination of:

    * Personal changes – including adjustment of some lifestyle expectations
    * Societal changes
    * Political and governance changes (legislative, executive & judicial)
    * Corporate changes – genuine sustainable practices rather than lipstick and marketing.

    This won’t be easy, but it will sure be an interesting challenge.

    I find it reasurring that Christine has layed out a vision for where we need to get to and how to get there.

    Here is a supporting Greenprint I have been working on.

  37. MichaelJChristie

    It issue for the Greens as a movement in Australia is they are stuck in a paradigm model of Aristotle of Democracy rather than Socrates. In making for analysis of existing processes and structures is overlooked for analysis of what is the responsibility of the individual, who is the victim of western capital and the nation state.

  38. MichaelJChristie

    Senator Fielding
    Dear Senator Fielding
    Your actions this week to vote down by deferring the Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation has placed the Australian solar industry into a dramatic decline. You have left Australians with little support for solar power installations. Affecting both its reputation to its suppliers, bankers and customers. The new legislation you deferred would have taken away from households installing solar PV additional financial support.
    Can you please answer the following questions?
    1. Why as a politician do you believe the evidence for climate change is a conspiracy? That the evidence provided by the Australian Chief Scientist is not factual? What criteria have you based your decision on regarding climate change?
    2. While you were in the USA on your taxpayer funded trip recently. What US Government Agencies and Universities did you visit on climate change and renewable energy? Was the Senator aware that the US Pentagon of any government agency in the world spends the most on renewable energy and energy efficiency?
    3. What is the current value is the Australian solar PV industry in employment and sales?
    4. In the next three months what is the anticipated number of jobs and have been lost due to your decision of deference to this industry?
    5. How many families have you affected by not being able to access this program?

  39. Mark Duffett

    @MichaelJC, on your point 2, I’m pretty sure Senator Fielding self-funded his recent US trip, though why he couldn’t ‘as an engineer’ simply read the literature is beyond me.

  40. Timonie

    Thanks so much for sharing Christine’s speeach with Paul Hawken’s call to action.

    He also founded WiserEarth:


    WiserEarth an online global community space for individuals and organizations working on social justice and environmental sustainability. WiserEarth Groups provides free wikis, discussion boards, file sharing, and other collaboration tools.

    There are more than 3,800 Groups, Organizations, and Events related to Climate Change on the site.

    With thanks for the important work you do.

  41. MichaelJChristie

    Thanks Mark for this. Yes that is a good point on getting the details from a local expert. Senator Fielding is obviously a well trained and a professional Australian Senator. Though Senator Fielding may have funded is own travel expenses he was representing this country overseas and we were most likely as taxpayers paying for this salary and the tax deduction she receives for this trip as a work related expense while he was visiting the USA. In representing this country which as tax payers we contributred towards directly and indirectly as a well trained and a professional Australian Senator why did he not seek all points of expert views in the USA and Australia?

  42. Most Peculiar Mama

    “In representing this country which as tax payers we contributred towards directly and indirectly as a well trained and a professional Australian Senator why did he not seek all points of expert views in the USA and Australia?”

    Leave the unicorns alone.

    All he was hearing was the ‘other’ side. He went seeking balance. He found it. Now he wants answers.

    Why can’t Wong and her minions simply answer the questions put to them?

    Steffens about face today is a laughable disgrace, but entirely predicatable

    Does anyone take this man seriously?

  43. MichaelJChristie

    Why do families in the renewable energy industry have to suffer because of this Senator’s slow learning curve?

  44. MichaelJChristie

    Why do families in the renewable energy industry have to suffer because of this Senator’s (Fielding) slow learning curve?

  45. David1

    Michael I am sure a great amount of Feildings problems are caused by him having to serve so many masters. I have no sympathy for him on that score, he is supposed to be intelligent with an engineer degree. Sure doesn’t act like it, he sems to not know exactly where he stands, what he wants or how to get it. With the greens doing their usual over the top grandstanding, Brown is sounding more like Turnbull with his holier than thou, sicky sweet goodness oozing out, where have all the real pollies gone. Damn Hawkie and Keating were good for a bit of good ole biffing. What have we got now, Swanee, Turnbull sh.t, pretty Pyne, fat boy Hockey, mad monk, chairman Kev… they wouldn’t get a look in against ‘real’ pollies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Then there was Abetz yuk

  46. MichaelJChristie

    A worthwhile read to get a copy of this very telling of the calibre of the politicians we are electing for our children’s future.
    The Miseducation of Steve Fielding
    Saturday, 20 June 2009 | The Australian Financial Review | Tom Dusevic National affairs correspondent page 23.
    The Family First senator’s belated interest in climate change would be diverting if not so serious.

  47. MichaelJChristie

    The major weaknesses of these types of publication like Greenprint are:
    1. Based on motherhood statements and lack and real measures of GHG.
    2. It is very difficult to measure GHG at the local/ household level.
    3. Often the individual is made to be the major offender while they are the victims.
    4 These types of publications while focusing on the individual do not address the energy waste and alternative energy sources of the major GHG offenders who are corporations, farming, land fill, SMEs, institutions and government.
    In conclusion it is always easier to blame the victim rather then liberate them. So a Chapter on GHG outside the household and what action people can take would differentiate this book in the market place.

  48. MichaelJChristie

    Christine Mile gives a very good analysis of the state of play on the lack of implementation of achieving 350 parts per million. Yes we do need a Green New Deal for Australia and the Globe. In here analysis she identifies some of the major players who are not accepting this new reality. What could have been expanded further is the lack of quality leadership in nation states or large corporations of the climate change strategists and climate change field marshals who will get on with the job of organising for our new reality. Other forces at work resisting this new reality can be categorised into deniers, fear-ist and retreat-ists. What we have not scene enough of yet with the lack of action by nation states is anger from the populous.

  49. MichaelJChristie

    Today the Bligh government announced the Queensland’s renewable energy plan. An overview of this is on the following press releases:
    The first point of analysis is how much GHG gas will be reduced by this spending program? How does a $1 spent with this program compare to world best practice and with the McKinnsey strategy?

  50. richard3109

    Senator Christine Milne really demonstrates in this article the importance of tackling Climate Change, attacking the stand-for-nothing politicians like Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull – who are just letting the destruction to our planet continue.

  51. MichaelJChristie

    Climate change is the most complex issue the human species has faced. Executing change in regards to climate change is about knowing the detail about climate change economics, CC society and psychology, renewable energy and energy efficiency, CC ecology, CC meteorology, CC building and design, CC urban design, CC transport etc.
    It may seem our Australian Senators are not up to the mark. While Rome (Canberra) burns below are examples of the level of detail in CC change other countries are doing this week.
    UK Government
    I guess the Devil is in the detail!!!

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