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Environment + Energy — Analysis and Comment

Australia’s weather records need careful analysis to correct any introduced errors. Photographic Collection from Australia/Wikimedia Commons

No, the Bureau of Meteorology is not fiddling its weather data

Over the past week or so, the Bureau of Meteorology has stood accused of fudging its temperature data records to emphasise warming, in a series of articles in The Australian. The accusation hinges on the…
Tony Abbott may have planted a few trees, but he’s also sought to bury many of Australia’s environmental safeguards. Britta Campion/AAPImage

Abbott’s environment agenda is even harsher than he promised

Before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott gave us fair warning that he would turn the clock back on the environment. As promised, his government has devoted itself to short-term economics and the sort of hardline…
A dead coral reef in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. superqq/Flickr

In Conversation with environment journalist Elizabeth Kolbert

Scientists are coming to the conclusion that we are on the brink of a mass extinction — the sixth known in the history of the Earth, and the latest since an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million…
A cloud is hanging over Australia’s renewable energy industry after the government’s review recommended that the Renewable Energy Target be scaled back. Leon Brooks/Wikimedia Commons

Renewable Energy Target review – experts respond

The review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has recommended deep cuts to the scheme. If implemented by the government, the changes could mean closing off the scheme to new large-scale wind…
Tasmanian forests will be opened for logging for “special timbers”. Ta Ann Truths/Flickr

End of Tasmania’s forest peace deal heralds more uncertainty

Tasmania’s parliament yesterday passed new forestry laws to undo the state’s forest “peace” deal. The laws are the most significant step so far in delivering the Liberal government’s pledge to “tear up…
Under federal law, coal seam gas projects must be approved by the environment minister if they could have a significant impact on water. Jeremy Buckingham/Flickr

Coalition’s environmental one-stop shop is falling apart

The Palmer United Party (PUP) has added to the Coalition’s headaches in the Senate by announcing this week it would seek to remove the so-called “water trigger” from the government’s “one-stop shop” for…
Most new roads will be built in developing nations. Here, a road-killed tapir in Peninsula Malaysia. © WWF-Malaysia/Lau Ching Fong

Global ‘roadmap’ shows where to put roads without costing the earth

“The best thing you could do for the Amazon is to blow up all the roads.” These might sound like the words of an eco-terrorist, but it’s actually a direct quote from Professor Eneas Salati, a forest climatologist…
Australia’s transport is among the least energy efficient, largely thanks to continuing investment in roads over rail. Phillip Capper/Flickr

Australia’s transport is falling behind on energy efficiency

Australia has scored poorly in the energy efficiency of its land transport, and is well behind other major economies, a recent international scorecard has revealed. That means Australians are using more…
Clive Palmer, with the unlikely backing of Al Gore, may have found a way to salvage something from Australia’s looming climate policy vacuum. AAPImage/Alan Porritt

Stopgap carbon policies: far from perfect, but better than nothing

Climate policy is back on the agenda in Canberra this week, with the focus on the government’s centrepiece Direct Action plan. The Coalition will have to negotiate with the Palmer United Party, which will…
Planes and airports both have big carbon footprints – and the sector is still growing. ssguy/Shutterstock

Airline emissions are set to rise – and people are threatening to sue

No matter what the aviation industry does to reduce emissions, it will be outweighed by growth in air travel, according to a new analysis. Growth will trump emissions cuts even if significant (and contentious…
As early as 2015 China’s use of thermal coal for electricity could peak. Bret Arnett/Flickr

Ross Garnaut: China to reach ‘peak coal’ for electricity by 2015

China’s use of coal for electricity could peak as early as next year, then decline until 2020 in a turnaround of “global importance”, according to economist Ross Garnaut in a lecture presented at the Melbourne…
Forests logged in the past two decades burned more severely the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. AAP Image/Andrew Brownbill

Victoria’s logged landscapes are at increased risk of bushfire

Victoria’s forest management policies need to be urgently reviewed in response to the discovery that logging can contribute to the severity of bushfires in wet forests, like the devastating fires on Black…
You can lay on the facts as thick as you like, but some people don’t want to hear them. Shutterstock

Speak out, climate experts – but stop making tactical mistakes

Earlier this week, prominent climate scientist Michael Raupach used the occasion of a speech to the Australian Academy of Science to make an impassioned call to fellow scientists, urging them not to sit…
An El Niño - even a weak one - can cause reduced rainfall in eastern Australia. Tim J Keegan/Flickr

Don’t dismiss a 2014 ‘super’ El Niño just yet

It looks like it’s all over bar the shouting for the chance of this year bringing on a “super” El Niño. Or is it? The Bureau of Meteorology has brought the odds of an El Niño event down to 50%, from 70…
Is the ABC biased against fossil fuels? The IPA thinks so, but it’s not really the most constructive question to ask. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Claims of ABC anti-coal and gas ‘bias’ aren’t backed by the facts

It’s tempting to view The Australian’s latest broadside at the ABC as just another salvo fired between our nation’s two biggest media organisations. But the coverage, based on an Institute of Public Affairs…
New research shows golden orb weaving spiders are larger in cities compared to their relatives in the bush. Lizzy Lowe

City spiders are getting bigger — but that’s a good thing

Find yourself thinking that the spider living in your garden is the biggest you’ve ever seen? You could be right. New research shows some spiders are getting larger and even doing better in cities than…
Some of the bird world’s mimicry superstars. Clockwise from top left: superb lyrebird; silvereye; satin bowerbird; Australian magpie; mistletoebird; brown thornbill. Alex Maisey; Justin Welbergen; Johan Larson; Leo/Flickr; David Cook/Filckr; Patrick/Flickr

The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing…
A male Onthophagus vacca, the species of dung beetle being released this week in Western Australia. CSIRO

French beetles flown in to clean up Australia’s cattle dung

The average cow drops between 10 and 12 dung pads (also known as “pats”) every day and just one of those cow pads can produce up to 3,000 flies in a fortnight. With more than 28 million cattle in Australia…
The International Energy Agency was set up to avoid a repeat of the 1973 oil crisis - but four decades later the rules need updating. David Falconer/US Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

The G20 has a crucial role in preventing future energy crises

Next week, Brisbane hosts the final meeting of the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group before the main G20 summit in November. Government officials and energy experts from 20 of the most powerful countries…
Rich or poor, being stuck in traffic is always annoying. Shultz6/Wikimedia Commons

FactCheck: do poor people drive less?

“The people that actually pay the most are higher income people, with an increase in fuel excise… The poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases.” – Treasurer…
Poorer people are more vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather events. Pictured: the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. DFID - UK Department for International Development/Flickr

Climate change will widen the social and health gap

Climate projections suggest that, thanks to human activity, we will likely see an increase in extreme weather events, disruptions to agriculture, loss of livelihoods and displacement of people. While everyone…
The latest report on the health of the Great Barrier Reef shows the reef condition is “poor” Scientific Editor/Flickr

Reef condition is ‘poor’, and probably worse than healthcheck suggests

The latest healthcheck of the Great Barrier Reef shows the overall outlook is “poor”, and getting worse. According to the Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, climate…