Mar 11, 2018
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While politicians question the reality of climate change, farmers and businesses act
The Cairns Group
What happens when we start producing more electricity than we can consume?
This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 12th of March 2018.
Jon Moore reporting!
As I discussed last month with the new vision statement for the podcast and blog, “Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil.”, in mind I’m calling on my listeners to put forward ideas for an interview episode once a month. If you know anyone who is doing either part of the vision, I’d love to hear from them or, indeed, from you if you are on the front line doing the work.
This week we have an article for the ABC news site entitled: While politicians question the reality of climate change, farmers and businesses act
This article is the written version of a TV program aired last Monday night here in the antipodes.
The title pretty much says it all but let’s dig a little deeper.
David Bruer has been growing vines and making wine at his Temple Bruer vineyard in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia since 1978.
In his vineyard laboratory, weather records for every vintage for nearly 40 years are stacked in plastic folders.
They clearly show a steady increase in maximum temperatures over that time of about 1 degree. It might seem like a relatively small change but the impact has been dramatic.
And from further in the article:
"Thirty-four years ago we used to pick in the middle of March," he said.
"We're now picking in the middle of February."
Grapes have always been a marker of world climatic conditions. During the Medieval Warm Period when Vikings were able to navigate a relatively ice free north Atlantic ocean, reaching Newfoundland as well as colonising Iceland and Greenland, grape vines were growing in England.
Because grapes are a perennial crop, they are in the ground for many years. Planting requires a commitment to the future. Changes, rapid changes in climate can have catastrophic effects on the grower. David Bruer’s quote above shows rapid change in a relatively short period.
Clearly n=1 is not a reason to raise concerns but the article and the TV program goes onto to talk with a wine making company with weather records going back much further.
About 800 kilometres to the east of Temple Bruer, Ross Brown from Brown Brothers Wines has an even longer weather record on file.
His family has been making wine in Milawa, Victoria, for almost 130 years.
Mr Brown says he used to be a climate change sceptic but his vintage charts are indicating things have changed.
In Milawa, Brown Brothers is also picking earlier and their records show temperatures are rising.
Some of the cool climate varieties his family always used to grow here — like pinot noir and sparkling whites — have now become too unreliable so the company has moved some of its operation to cooler country in Tasmania.
If this is effecting wine growers it will be effecting orchardists, soft fruit growers and pretty much anyone in agriculture. The perennial growers have movement issues, that is vines and trees are pretty much going to stay where they are. Cereal growers and graziers have a little more flexibility but not as much as they’d like.
The real punch from the article and the program came at the end. Farmers in Australia don’t receive the subsidies that US and EU farmers do. They are, as a result of Australia being part of the Cairns Group, free traders, even if they’d happily receive subsidies.
However all the other regulatory requirements for businesses do apply to the agricultural sector and things are changing.
Brown Brothers is a big operation. Their winemaking is on an industrial scale and the decision to adapt to the changing weather was driven by the company's board.
It's a shift being seen in boardrooms around the country. Corporate Australia has been warned. The changing climate is something they can no longer ignore.
Last November, Geoff Summerhayes, an executive member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), told businesses climate change posed a material risk to the entire financial system.
His message was that boards and directors had a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to take it into account. He cited legal opinion that found company directors who failed to consider and disclose climate risk could be in breach of the Corporations Act.
Let that sink in. If companies ignore climate change in their risk assessments and shareholders suffer losses as a result, the boards of those companies are, probably, subject to legal action.
While our federal government is controlled by a rump coalition party with ties to coal, gas and oil production whose allies have complained about the “ugliness” of wind turbines and the beauty of coal mines, I kid you not, legal opinion based upon science is taking reality into concern.
For grape growers at the big end of town who have nowhere to go after Tasmania become too hot, those corporate entities who ignore climate change effects on their businesses will find themselves sued.
Meanwhile the National Party whose supporters are on the frontline of agriculture keep pushing the world’s biggest coal mine development in Central Queensland with the likelihood of it destroying aquifers, causing air pollution in the local area and running the risk of shipping accidents on the Great Barrier Reef, an ecosystem suffering 50% coral bleaching from the last two summers.
The dichotomy of political nonsense and the feet on the ground food producers is not helping anyone. As the agricultural sector is a free trading one as a result of government decisions, perhaps it’s time to remove corporate subsidies from the energy sector, both fossil and renewables. The price of renewables is now less than fossil fuels, without subsidies and falling as economies of scale, research efforts and price signals drive demand.
In another article from the ABC Solar power: What happens when we start producing more electricity than we can consume?
While Australia leads the world in the use of rooftop solar power, some experts say there could soon be too much power coming online — and governments will have little choice but to cut subsidies.
Government figures show 3.5 million solar panels were installed on Australian rooftops last year, an average of almost 10,000 every day.
That is a 41 per cent increase on the previous year, driven by the twin incentives of cheaper solar panels from China and rising power bills.
The obvious answer when too much power is being produced is to save the excess not punish the producers. I don’t know, maybe some sort of battery could help. I’ve discussed pumped storage in earlier episodes and that’s a safe, proven, relatively inexpensive form of storage.
What all this comes down to is: The climate is changing, the evidence from the agricultural sector is overwhelming, the federal government in Australia is, if not in the pockets of fossil fuel producers, at least inclined to accept their arguments. What’s happening to science based policy in the US doesn’t bare thinking about but I will have an episode on that soon. While all that’s going on individual households are following the obvious price signals and throwing PV cells on their roofs. The odd one out in this story is government.
If only there was some way we could change governments and some way we could have an actual real choice between alternatives. The conservitive Coalition in power now bows to fossil fuel types, the Labor opposition does so through the mining unions, so the same thing, where is a rational , evidence based party that could step into the breach before Paris COP looks like fine ideal but not a reality?
And with that I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion. Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
As a podcast listener you may be thinking of producing your own podcast but you’re not sure where to begin, drop over to mrjonmoore.com and check out my course. I have been teaching this at Community Colleges around town and have developed an online version. There’s a link in the show notes. Classes start whenever you’re ready, I’d love to help you into this way of communicating.
A transcript of this episode is available at worldorganicnews.com
Thank you for listening and I'll be back next week.