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Environment + Energy — Analysis and Comment

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…
Australians have been promised a carbon tax windfall, but it shouldn’t be the competition commission’s job to make sure it happens. Shutterstock

Competition watchdog shouldn’t be the carbon tax price police

With the carbon tax scrapped almost a month ago and the federal government promising A$550 savings in the first year for the average family, you might be wondering when everything is going to start getting…
When it comes to arguing about climate science, it would be better to play the science, not the scientists. MaRS Discovery District/Flickr

Appeals to the climate consensus can give the wrong impression

You might have heard that 97% of climate scientists agree the world is warming and people are the cause. This level of agreement, known as “consensus”, is often put forward in the climate debate in support…
YouTube footage of a man kicking a squirrel off a cliff has prompted outrage, yet we all need to stop and think about how we treat animals. YouTube

Outcry over squirrel kicker, yet disrespecting animals is the norm

An online video apparently showing a French tourist kicking a squirrel off a cliff in Grand Canyon National Park was greeted with horror and incredulity after being posted (and since removed) on YouTube…
Economist Thomas Piketty has warned “climate change cannot be eliminated at the stroke of a pen”. Parti Socialiste du Loiret/Flickr

Thomas Piketty, climate change and discounting our future

French economist Thomas Piketty and his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century are a global publishing phenomenon. But while Piketty’s writing on wealth inequality has been widely debated, far fewer…
The Rufous Scrub-bird: will it have to move to Tasmania to survive? Allan Richardson

Finding new nests for birds threatened by climate change

Rufous Scrub-birds have been calling loudly from the mountains of eastern Australia ever since Australia parted from Gondwana 65 million years ago. They are still there today – as noisy as ever, though…
Back burning against a bushfire in New South Wales, January 2013. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Explainer: back burning and fuel reduction

The recent surge of bushfire disasters has introduced fire-fighting tactics to everyday language. Two important approaches that use fire to fight fire are “back burning” and “fuel-reduction burning”. Unfortunately…
Gump, who died in May, was the last known member of her species. Director of National Parks/Supplied

Vale ‘Gump’, the last known Christmas Island Forest Skink

Among the most haunting and evocative images of Australian wildlife are the black and white photographs of the last Thylacine, languishing alone in Hobart Zoo. It’s an extraordinary reminder of how close…
The Green Army will plant lots of trees: good for mopping up carbon, but not always good for water catchments. Britta Campion/AAPImage

We mustn’t waste water while taking action on climate change

Should we pick and choose our climate strategies based on how water-wise they are? As our new research published in Climatic Change shows, some activities aimed at tackling greenhouse emissions can also…
Right idea, wrong execution: the Ord River irrigation scheme needed better surrounding infrastructure. isthatdave/Wikimedia Commons

To grow agriculture in Australia, farmers need to think like miners

It’s perhaps fitting that mining magnate Andrew Forrest is in the vanguard of a move to position Australia as a major food supplier to China. Fitting, because if the plan is to work, Australian agriculture…
Forestry is credited under New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme. World Resources Institute/Flickr

Carbon pricing is still the best way to cut emissions, if we get it right

The Coalition government has recently axed Australia’s carbon “tax”, leaving us with no carbon price. Alternatives include the government’s “Direct Action” plan, or Clive Palmer’s proposed emissions trading…