The following is a joint statement by retired Australian teachers union leaders, and resources for campaigning on climate action. They have asked that it be shared widely, to educators and non-educators alike.
Dear Teaching Colleagues,
We have all watched as drought and fires ravage Australia. Even for those of us who escaped direct impact, it has been the worst summer in living memory. We may feel powerless to stop the deepening climate change unfolding before our eyes. We all wonder how to find a voice.
We know our federal political system has been unable to settle on an effective plan to meet this climate challenge. We know some politicians have tried, and some states have done wonders, but also that our Federal Government is stuck in low gear.
Australia needs to separate science from politics because we are so vulnerable to climate change. We urgently need agile scientific strategies to safeguard our water systems, environment, animals, agriculture, our regional communities, towns and cities.
We need a scientifically planned transition to a low-carbon economy. New jobs in renewable industries is the agile way to protect people and our country.
We need to respect the living Aboriginal traditions of cool burning and employ Aboriginal Rangers who have cared for our country for at least 40,000 years.
An independent Climate Change Commission could oversee the shift from short term thinking to the long term goals Australia needs. Such a commission is now proposed as a private members bill to Federal Parliament.
We, the undersigned, are asking every teacher in Australia to do what our Tasmanian teaching colleagues have already done: write a real old fashioned letter to your local Federal Member of Parliament. Ignore your party preferences and ask your Federal MP to rise above party politics.
Keep writing until our Federal House of Representatives and Federal Senate vote for a scientific response to climate change. Federal Parliamentarians are elected to represent Australia and all Australian people. This issue is above politics. Write from your heart, ask for a written reply.
Please do write respectfully from your own point of view. Be positive. Teachers have a wonderful ability to assimilate and explain information. A shift to scientifically planned emission reductions and development of jobs in renewable industries is possible.
Separate panels are published nearby for reference on Climate Science, Bushfires and Climate Change, Transition to Renewables, Contacting Federal MP’s, and outlining the Independent Climate Change Commission Bill. Please use your own ideas and research as well.
Together, our individual voices will make a significant difference.
Yours very sincerely,
Julie Brown, Vice-President, QTU (Queensland Teachers Union) 2006-2015
Peter Crocker, President TTUV (Technical Teachers Union Victoria) 1976-84.
Phil Cross, President, NSWTF (New South Wales Teacher’s Federation), 1989-1995.
Leonie Ebert, President SAIT (South Australian Institute of Teachers), 1982-84.
Di Foggo AM, Federal President AEU (Australian Education Union) 1988-92; General Secretary NTTF (Northern Territory Teachers Federation) 1981-84.
Anne Gisborne, President SSTUWA (State School Teachers Union WA), 2008-2013
Mary Kelly, President QTU 1985-93
Neil Kimpton, General Secretary TTUV 1988-90.
Keith Lawler, President ACTTF (ACT Teachers Federation); 1975-82; ACTU Federal Executive 1979-83.
Brian Lindberg, President SSTUWA 1994-1999
Peter Lord, President VTU (Victorian Teachers Union) 1986-89; President FVTU 1990-1995; President AEU (Victorian Branch) 1995-97.
John McCombe, South Australian Branch Secretary, AEU (Australian Education Union), 1990-94.
Maurie Mulheron, President, NSWTF, 2012-January 2020
Sue Murphy, Liaison Officer, NTTF, 1982-83.
Maree O’Halloran, President, NSWTF 2002-2008.
Dave Robson, Federal Secretary AEU 1988-1994.
Max Taylor, President NSWTF 1980-82, General Secretary NSWTF 1975-79.
Adrienne Truelove, Co-Editor, Education Journal of the NSW Teacher’s Federation 1980-85.
Geoff Turnbull, President TAFE Teachers Association (NSW) 1984-2007.
Morag Whitney, Senior Vice-President SSTUWA, 1994-1997.
Climate Science: Full context. No spin.
Carbon Dioxide (C02) is a rare atmospheric gas. It was present at 180ppm (parts per million) during ice ages, and then stable at 280ppm for the next 12,000 years until the industrial revolution in about 1750 saw CO2 start to rise steeply in the atmosphere rise. It reached 310ppm by 1950. By 2019 CO2 was a remarkable 417ppm. We are now heading for a doubling of the CO2 present in earth’s atmosphere in just the 300 years 1750-2050. This rise is far too rapid for climate stability.
Our planet has been much hotter in the past. The Jurassic (190-145 million years ago), was much hotter. Dinosaurs ruled the earth, the only mammals were very small rodent-like creatures and humans did not exist. 800,000 years ago, it was hotter than now and small populations of pre-human hominids existed in Southern Africa. Modern Homo Sapiens has existed for about 200,000 years making 2020 the hottest our planet has ever been for humans.
The stable atmosphere of the past 12,000 years held our climate zones stable allowing human civilization to develop. But rapid CO2 increase since industrialization threatens that stability.
Once CO2 is released into the atmosphere it is re-absorbed into living things, soil and the oceans. This is the “carbon cycle”. Between 65-80% of CO2 may be reabsorbed into earth’s carbon “sinks” over several hundred years. But the industrial burning of fossil fuels adds CO2 too rapidly. Atmospheric heat also transfers to the oceans, changing currents and weather.
Emissions from human industry in just the last 70 years have produced the most rapid temperature rise in the earth’s geological history. If global temperature continues to rise on this steep upward curve, it threatens the stability of global weather and climate zones by altering ocean temperatures, changing ocean currents, rain patterns, cyclone intensity, areas of drought and the productivity of agriculture. We are watching as our world climate begins to destabilize.
Carbon Dioxide is a rare “greenhouse gas.” Carbon is vital to living things. It is present in the atmosphere in very small quantities, but this is enough to create a “heat trap”. A property of CO2 is to trap heat in the atmosphere. Heat arrives from the sun and CO2 traps a small amount of this heat. The rest of the heat is reflected and re-radiated back into space. Adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere and trapping significant extra heat changes global climate.
More rare than carbon dioxide, ozone is also a vital greenhouse gas which comprises just 10ppm of our atmosphere. Yet 10ppm of ozone blocks most ultra violet radiation from arriving on earth’s surface. If ozone was absent from our atmosphere, life could not exist on earth.
Australia currently emits 1.3% of global CO2 emissions, but accounts for 0.3% of world population. By resisting more ambitious emission cuts we are actually asking other countries to offset our emissions. Currently Australia is one of the highest emitters per person, in the world. What if all countries did what we are doing?
Human civilization is threatened if CO2 “warms” our atmosphere beyond the ability of our climate zones to continue sustaining humans. Currently, scientists believe this to be about 1.5 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that is believed to be unsafe.
To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial average global temperature, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) calculates we have until 2030 to cut global CO2 emissions by 45% of 2010 levels, and that we need to aim for net zero emissions by 2050.
Transitioning to Renewable Technology
Renewable technologies to cut emissions exist now.
Each country needs to build its own path to emission cuts. Some Australian states are working to develop renewable energy production and storage. Tasmania and South Australia “aim to reach 75-80% of renewable energy within five years” and to export the excess energy. South Australia is investing in “closed loop hydro”, and “large scale battery storage.” NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Keane thinks “we can win the climate wars by lowering our carbon emissions in a way that creates jobs”. Keane points to the way “the Netherlands are overbuilding wind generation hydrogen …to export it to the rest of Europe.” (Quotations from SMH article by Deborah Snow, January11-12, 2020).
Australia could transition to solar powered electric or hydrogen powered cars by 2050. Petrol and diesel vehicles currently create about one-third of global CO2 emissions.
Australia has the capacity to be a leader in developing and exporting renewable technology and jobs. The Australian Business Council believes “we need a credible climate change and energy policy that puts us on a transition path to net zero emissions by 2050.”
What we need now is to develop a whole country pathway to zero net emissions in 30 years.
Writing to Your Federal Member of Parliament
A search of “Federal Parliamentary Website” will bring up electoral addresses and names for both Members of Parliament and Senators. Use a key word search of: “Contacting Senators and Members of Parliament”; “How to Address” and “List of Members”. MP’s and Senators can be searched by State or Territory, Name and Electorate.
With your Member’s Name and Electorate, enter these into the search panel to get the address of your Federal Member or Senator’s Electoral Office. This is the best address for a letter.
The Federal Senate has 12 senators representing each state, and two each from the ACT and Northern Territory. Names and addresses are on the Parliamentary Website, listed by state.
A Climate Change Bill 2020, for an Independent Commission
Zali Steggall OAM, is the Independent Member for the Federal Electorate of Warringah (NSW). Ms Steggall will propose a Climate Change Bill to create an Independent Climate Change Commission to the Federal House of Representatives. The Commission would set realistic carbon budgets for Australia, as has been done in Britain and New Zealand.
The Climate Bill would force the Federal Government to assess risks across the economy and would bring the Federal Government in line with 2050 targets already set by some Australian states. A full overview of the bill is available on: www.zalisteggall.com.au/climate.
Ms Steggal says “Climate is a matter of conscience, it is not a party issue. It is everyone’s responsibility [and] people power can make it happen. As for the passing of legislation, Zali says she “won’t let up and will keep pushing for legislation on this issue.” Her website is accessible on www.climateactnow.com.au
Bushfires and Climate Change
Sir David Attenborough on Australia’s bushfire emergency: “The idea that these bushfires are not caused by climate change is palpable nonsense.” (From a BBC Interview, January 15, 2020)
An open letter of April 2019 signed by 23 former emergency chiefs and sent to the Prime Minister, said in part: “In the last year we’ve seen unseasonal fires in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, floods and twin cyclones in parts of Northern Australia, longer bushfire danger periods and fires burning in rainforests.” ……….”Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.” (Quoted in SMH article by George Megalogenis, January 11 2020),
A CSIRO Report: ‘Climate Change Impacts on Fire Weather in South-East Australia’ warned in 2005 that “the combined frequencies of days with very high and extreme forest fire danger index ratings are likely to increase by 4-25% by 2020 and 15-70% by 2050.” This CSIRO report warned of the extension of fire seasons. So 2005 scientific predictions are now a 2020 reality.
Our world climate appears to be losing its stability and entering a changing climate emergency. The 2019-20 bushfires have been described as “unprecedented” their effect likened to an “atomic bomb”. Firefighters say they have never experienced fires of this ferocity.
The world cannot cease all CO2 emissions overnight, but we can reduce emissions over a period of years. Australia needs a solid transition plan to reach zero net emissions by 2050.