Friday, June 26, 2015

No Early Rainy Season Onset for 2015

Can the new science of wet season onset help the cattle/ pastoral industry of north Australia?

It is actually not that new but has been refined to provide a regular update from late June through August, with a monthly update to be provided.

Early indications are for a later than normal onset of the wet season. the information to understand what it covers, which is basically enough rain to start pasture growth [ 50mm].

Quite a strong percentage showing a highly probable late start to the rainy season, or as shown - a low chance of early season rain.

More information here - and the infographic is an extract from today's post on the seasonal outlook.

The Bureau's new northern rainfall onset outlook provides guidance on rainfall timing within the first months of the Australian northern wet season.

The northern rainfall onset occurs when enough rain has fallen to stimulate plant growth after the dry season. This is defined as the date after 1 September when a location has received a total rainfall accumulation of at least 50 mm. The outlook is the percentage likelihood of the rainfall onset beginning earlier than normal.

The outlook will be updated monthly from June to August.
Low chance of early rainfall onset for much of northern Australia
  • Areas with a less than 40% chance of an early rainfall onset include northwestern Western Australia, the Top End of the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula and parts of inland Queensland.
  • With El NiƱo conditions in the tropical Pacific, an earlier than normal onset is less likely.

Northern rainfall onset map
Map showing chance of observing early onset (%)
More information
Media liaison: 03 9669 4057

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Food Wastage in the USA is Huge - and Growing!

Americans throw away nearly half of their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report estimates that the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food. Even worse, there is evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.

It’s especially troubling that at the same time, one in seven Americans, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to a study by Feeding America.

Meanwhile, the rest of America continues to throw away unspoiled nutritious food. If we cut our food waste even by a third, there would be enough food for all those people who must rely on food banks and hand-outs to be fully fed.

Why Waste So Much Food?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical American household discards 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk, in addition to plenty of fruits and veggies. 

This is because consumers buy more than they can eat, so the food goes bad, or our meals are just too big to eat. 

There is also  too much reliance on “sell-by” and “use-by” dates; these are not federally regulated in the US and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by dates. (Here’s a guide to help you decipher what those labels mean.)

Restaurant portions are also generally huge, and often not fully consumed. Clearly, these runaway portion sizes in the American food industry exacerbate the waste issue.”From 1982–2002, the average pizza slice grew 70 percent in calories. The average chicken Caesar salad doubled in calories, and the average chocolate chip cookie quadrupled,” the NRDC study reveals

As NPR reports, farming practices are not without some blame for food wastage as they also account for some of the food waste. 

Peter Lehner, from the NRDC, explains that if food isn’t sold to the best buyer, it can end up in a landfill. “anywhere from 1 percent to 30 percent of farmers’ crops don’t make it to market,” says Lehner. “The prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can go up and down quite a bit, and farmers may plant thinking they will get one price, but, by the time harvest comes around, there’s another price, and it’s not even worth it for them to get to the market.”

It is not just the USA though, with a number of other countries also contributors to significant food waste.

Recently one leading tourist hotel in Switzerland [ a country noted for frugal living] has placed notices in the hotel and especially in restaurants to exhort customers to only take what they need from especially buffets and similar openly available food in eateries within the hotel, following very significant amounts of food being left behind after meals.  This has actually seen a very significant reduction in food waste within the hotel.  In their case, it was mostly Asian tourists who were the culprits.

Have a look yourself the next time you are eating out, especially if it is a buffet breakfast or dinner.  Is there significant food left as table waste?  You might be surprised.

We should all be mindful of how much food is wasted and ensure we do our bit to minimise food waste.  It does save money at your home, and helps the environment too.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pope Francis Pushes for Environment and Climate Change Sensibility - Encyclical 2015

Yes, the Pope has spoken out on the environment.  A link will take you the document in English but it is also available in a number of other world languages including Arabic too.

Available publicly the day after the Australian document on developing north Australia is ironic. That document continues to foster debate in Australia today, with extensive media coverage and more expected in coming weeks and months.

The Pope does not pull any punches in his encyclical and quite clearly in layman's terms comes out to support the premise that a major cause of climate change has been and is now, atmosphere changes from increased levels of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels also leading to other effects.

He uses clear, easy to read language and does document material, relying on scientific evidence.

There are a few excerpts around with this one which appeared on the ABC web site in Australia a reasonable overview  -

" Pope Francis has issued a major encyclical on the environment, called Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home. Here are some key excerpts from the official English version:
On climate change and its causes
In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth's orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun's rays reflected by the Earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.

On dangers to the planet
If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world's population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet's capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.
On consumption, sustainable development and wealth disparity
We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.
We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste, which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

On fossil fuels
There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced - for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.
We know that technology based on the use of highly-polluting fossil fuels - especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas - needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions. But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition.
On political myopia and bureaucratic inertia
Recent world summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.
A politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth. In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures, which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment. The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion of a far-sighted environmental agenda within the overall agenda of governments.
On market forces and carbon credits
Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximising profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.
The strategy of buying and selling "carbon credits" can lead to a new form of speculation, which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.

On relationship between banks, environment and production
Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system. A power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world.
Production is not always rational, and is usually tied to economic variables which assign to products a value that does not necessarily correspond to their real worth. This frequently leads to an overproduction of some commodities, with unnecessary impact on the environment and with negative results on regional economies.
The financial bubble also tends to be a productive bubble. The problem of the real economy is not confronted with vigour, yet it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.

On effect of mining on the environment and local people
Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialised north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining. There is a pressing need to calculate the use of environmental space throughout the world for depositing gas residues which have been accumulating for two centuries and have created a situation which currently affects all the countries of the world.
In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there - a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.

On public pressure on companies and boycotts

A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.  "

The full document is about 82 pages and if interested in the environment is essential reading, covering ethical issues about the environment and how it has influenced social and moral issues.

I am sure it will not be forgotten as ordinary citizens, scientists and politicians pore over the document in the coming weeks and months.

The Pope carries a bit of clout, and the document and various extracts will be widely read .......worldwide.

Will it influence the world's politicians?  Early days, but the US President has reacted positively to the material.

Lets hope that a decent outcome can be achieved later in 2015 at the climate summit in Paris.  The Pope seems to believe that significant change is needed..........for the world and us.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Development of North Australia - Real Progress to Start??

Newly released today is the Australian government white paper on north Australia, along with actual $$ to do some things.

Lots of people and organisations are poring over the document today, but it seems to have been broadly well received do far.

Check it out yourself, with the web address to access it at the bottom of the press release.

As someone living in north Australia it is a long felt need to invest and do more in north Australia but successive governments have seemed reluctant to really commit the money to develop the region, especially on a long term basis.

Lets consider the issue in five years???

Our North, Our Future: A Vision for Developing North Australia

18 June 2015
Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
Minister for Trade and Investment

The Government has today released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia: Our North, Our Future.

This is Australia’s first White Paper on developing Northern Australia, building on our Green Paper and pre-election statement.

It is an essential part of our plan for a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.

With a land mass covering over three million square kilometres, and a population of over one million people, the north has untapped potential.

It is home to some of our most treasured icons including the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of Queensland, Uluru, Kakadu and Cable Beach.

The White Paper is a roadmap for achieving our vision for the north by 2035 and we are starting work right away – alongside the people who live and do business in the north.

We have set out an ambitious long term reform agenda for the north because a strong north means a strong nation.

The White Paper delivers an initial investment of $1.2 billion.This is in addition to the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to provide concessional finance for infrastructure projects in the north.

The Commonwealth Government has already committed nearly $5 billion of its $50 billion nationwide investment in transport infrastructure to the north (including $3 billion for northern sections of the Bruce Highway, $172.2 million for the North West Coastal Highway and $90 million for the Northern Territory Regional Roads Productivity Package).

The White Paper includes measures to unlock the north’s potential across six key areas: simpler land arrangements to support investment; developing the north’s water resources;  growing the north as a business, trade and investment gateway; investing in infrastructure to lower business and household costs; reducing barriers to employing people; and improving governance.

Land in the north has the potential to support greater and more diverse economic activity. But the complexity of land arrangements has slowed development to date.

The Government is supporting simpler and more secure land arrangements in the north, by investing:
• $20.4 million to support native title bodies to realise their potential and negotiate more efficiently with business;
• $17 million to support secure property rights for cadastral surveys, area mapping and township leases; and
• $10.6 million for pilot land tenure reforms to help fund ‘next steps’ for projects that demonstrate the benefits of tenure reform, particularly on pastoral leases.

The Government will also work with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to:
• reduce native title costs and delays – the Government wants all existing native title claims settled in the next 10 years; and
• allow Indigenous Australians to borrow against or lease out exclusive native title land.

The Government will support the development of more water resources in the north by establishing a $200 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The Fund will provide up to $5 million for a feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, and up to $5 million for a detailed examination of land-use suitability for Ord Stage 3.
Secure water rights will be a condition for any water delivered through new Commonwealth funded water infrastructure.
The Government will also provide $15 million for water resource assessments of the Mitchell River (Queensland), West Kimberley (Western Australia) and Darwin region (Northern Territory).

More business, trade and investment means stronger growth, more jobs, higher incomes and better living standards in the north and across Australia.

The proximity to the fast-growing Asian and tropical regions means boundless opportunities where demand for Australian goods and services is reaching unprecedented levels.

The Government will help attract more investors to the north by:
• hosting a major northern investment forum in Darwin in late 2015 to bring together international investors, supported by the new investment prospectus: “Northern Australia emerging opportunities in an advanced economy”;
• setting up a new $75 million Cooperative Research Centre on Developing Northern Australia;
• investing $15.3 million to position the north as a global leader in tropical health;
• providing $12.4 million for Indigenous Ranger groups to expand biosecurity surveillance, with further details on biosecurity to be announced in the forthcoming Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper; and
• helping business enter new markets and supply chains by increasing access to the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme and Industry Skills Fund.

For too long, governments have tied up investment in unnecessary red tape. The Government will end these delays by partnering with the Northern Territory Government to establish a ‘single point of entry’ in Darwin to streamline regulatory processes and cut red tape for major investors.

The Government will also remove excessive regulatory burden by streamlining and simplifying cultural heritage, fisheries, and wildlife trade regulations, and supporting northern industries including fisheries and crocodile trade.

Infrastructure is critical to fast tracking growth and unlocking the north’s economic potential.

The Commonwealth Government will focus on funding high priority infrastructure through:
• a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, providing concessional loans for major infrastructure in the north and supporting projects prioritised on the new infrastructure pipeline;
• a new $600 million roads package to improve key roads in the north, including consideration of upgrades for the Arnhem, Barkly, Flinders, Great Northern, Savannah and Hann highways, the Outback Way and the Tanami Road;
• a $100 million beef roads fund which will help improve cattle supply chains;
• investing $39.6 million to upgrade airstrips and subsidise air services in remote Australia; and
• investing $5 million in rail freight analyses — starting with a pre-feasibility analyses of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek railway and an upgrade of the Townsville to Mount Isa line.

The north’s workforce needs are unique. Many businesses effectively shut down or cut back during the wet season; working long hours in the dry season. For example, tourism workers often need to work outside standard hours, while mining or agriculture workers can be required to stay onsite for extended periods of time.

The Government will build on existing initiatives across Australia, including reforms to higher education, skills and training and the $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business Package to create the right conditions for small business to grow and create new jobs.

The Government is also helping more Australians to work in the north by:
• assisting the Northern Territory Government to streamline recognition of occupational licenses from other jurisdictions, abolishing red tape and expanding job opportunities;
• supporting northern business to invest in the skills of their workforce with additional assistance under the Industry Skills Fund; and
• supporting remote job seekers to work in real jobs through reforms to the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme.

To complement our investment, we will continue to work with Indigenous Australians, the northern jurisdictions and industry so the north can reach its full potential.

The Northern Australia Strategic Partnership — the biannual gathering of First Ministers from the Commonwealth and northern jurisdictions — will be made permanent.

The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia has been continued for the life of the Parliament to ensure ongoing bipartisan support for developing the north.

Shifting the Office of Northern Australia to the north will also increase links between the north and the Commonwealth.

Northern Australia can grasp its full potential and become an economic powerhouse within our great country.

We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business; making it a more attractive place to invest and work.

By building a prosperous north, we will build a better future for all Australians.

More information on the White Paper is available at: