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Environment + Energy — Analysis and Comment

It should be possible to enjoy your holiday and give the planet a break. lazyllama/Shutterstock

Can you be a sustainable tourist without giving up flying?

Australians love to travel. About 9 million Australians travelled overseas last year, 60% of them on holiday. For most tourists, sustainable development and climate change were probably not high on their…
Apollo Bay in Victoria. Australia’s coastal towns are vulnerable to changes in the surrounding seas. ccdoh1/Flickr

Your coastal town’s climate score? There’s a website for that

Australia’s coastal towns, many built around fisheries and tourism, are particularly vulnerable to climate change. South east and south west Australia are marine hotspots — they are warming much faster…
The government knows that solar panel subsidies are very popular with voters. zstock/Shutterstock

The pitfalls of using renewable energy as a political football

Federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane has finally revealed his opening gambit on negotiations on the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET). He and environment minister Greg Hunt have pledged to…
Australia’s reputation for strict farming standards helped its beef industry weather the BSE crisis. Malcolm Paterson/CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons

Australia shouldn’t sacrifice food safety standards for free trade

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
When it gets hot in the city, where’s the best place to go? Alpha/Flickr

Smart urban design could save lives in future heatwaves

Heatwaves — Australia’s biggest natural killers — are getting more frequent and hotter thanks to climate change. One day cities such as Melbourne may see unprecedented heat, perhaps 48C or higher. But…
A green trade deal would encourage the development of renewable energy in big carbon emitters such as China. Kaj17/Flickr

Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens a green trade deal

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
Starting earlier, lasting longer: the challenge of managing the New South Wales bushfire season is getting harder. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Bushfire season in New South Wales grows longer and stronger

In New South Wales in 2013, bushfires in January and October collectively burned 768,000 hectares of bushland and destroyed 279 homes. Tragically, two people lost their lives and the damage was estimated…
The Ord River dam, completed in 1971, formed Australia’s largest artificial lake in the far north west. Graeme Churchard/Flickr

Dams are not the smart way to secure water for agriculture

Some 27 irrigation and dam projects are highlighted in the green paper for agricultural competitiveness released this week by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce. Six of the projects – five in Tasmania…
Shipping gas overseas can be good for Australia - but bad for Australian gas bills. Ken Hodge

Pain and gain as gas export boom is set to drive up domestic bills

Queensland’s liquid natural gas boom, built on the back of vast reserves of coal seam gas, will bring huge gains to Australia. Exports of gas are set to quadruple by 2018, creating investment, jobs and…
Portable fusion by 2015? Still the stuff of science fiction, sadly. Ed g2s/Wikimedia Commons

Don’t get too excited, no one has cracked nuclear fusion yet

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s announcement this week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated excitement in the media. Physicists…
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore gives car-sharing a try. By 2016, one in ten of the city’s households will have joined a car-share scheme. AAP Image/Paul Miller

1,000 cars and no garage – why car-sharing works

Owning a car can be a hassle, especially if you live somewhere where driving is an occasional, rather than daily, necessity. This might help to explain why car-sharing schemes are going from strength to…
Could carbon capture and storage be the way to clean up coal power stations, such as this one in Australia’s Latrobe Valley? Monash University/Flickr

Carbon capture and storage — reality or still a dream?

To have any chance of avoiding dangerous climate change we’ll have to reduce the carbon emissions from our energy sectors — currently the largest human source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And…
A new study shows plants may absorb more carbon than we thought. Jason Samfield/Flickr

Plants absorb more CO2 than we thought, but …

Through burning fossil fuels, humans are rapidly driving up levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn is raising global temperatures. But not all the CO2 released from burning coal, oil…
Indigenous rangers at the Fish River Station in the Northern Territory. Indigenous Land Corporation

Why Australia’s outback is globally important

There are places in Australia that are awe-inspiring, spectacular, mysterious; they touch our spirit and help define our nation. Kakadu is one, Uluru another, the magnificent red sandy deserts, the Kimberley…
Australia’s Commonwealth marine parks were designed to protect marine life, including important foraging areas for sea birds.

Marine park review looks set to repeat past mistakes

In June 2012 the Labor government announced the “world’s largest” system of marine parks, adding 2.3 million square kilometres and taking the overall size of Australia’s Commonwealth marine reserves to…
ANU’s divestment decision is only worth A$16 million - but the outcry suggests it will be more influential than the numbers suggest. AAP Image

Outrage at ANU divestment shows the power of its idea

Is the Australian National University’s decision to sell its shares in some resource companies merely tokenistic? Far from it. The outrage from the affected companies shows how much influence universities…
A king tide in New Zealand, part of a project documenting what future sea level rise might look like. Witness King Tides/Flickr

15 years from now, our impact on regional sea level will be clear

Human activity is driving sea levels higher. Australia’s seas are likely to rise by around 70 centimetres by 2100 if nothing is done to combat climate change. But 2100 can seem a long way off. At the moment…
Having two children could leave more carbon emissions than you can save by changing lightbulbs. p.Gordon/Flickr

How family planning could be part of the answer to climate change

You’ve changed your lightbulbs, you recycle, you’ve retrofitted your house, cycle when you can, and drive an electric car when you can’t. You’re doing your bit to reduce your carbon emissions and prevent…
Global warming sceptic Maurice Newman wants the Bureau of Meteorology reviewed. Good idea, although he might not like the result. AAP Image/Julian Smith

An independent inquiry into the Bureau of Meteorology? Bring it on

Maurice Newman, chair of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, has called for an independent review of the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate data, following a stream of recent articles in The Australian…
Shark Bay is one of Australia’s 19 World Heritage Areas, home to dolphins, dugongs, and sharks. Matthew Fraser

Climate change threatens Western Australia’s iconic Shark Bay

In the summer of 2010-2011 Western Australia experienced an unprecedented heatwave — but not on land. Between December 2010 and April 2011, sea temperatures off the WA coast reached 3C above average, and…
A coal seam gas field in New South Wales. The independent review concludes health impacts can be regulated; experts say otherwise. Jeremy Buckingham/Flickr

Chief Scientist CSG report leaves health concerns unanswered

The long-awaited independent review of coal seam gas (CSG) in New South Wales, released last week by the NSW Chief Scientist, highlighted many risks and uncertainties around human health from exposure…