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Environment + Energy — Analysis and Comment

Indigenous land owners weren’t consulted in the past about the creation of Western Australia’s huge Ord River irrigation scheme – but a recent agreement offers a more positive example for developing other parts of northern Australia. Pete Hill/Flickr

Lessons from the Kimberley on developing Northern Australia

We are very happy to have got this far. We have had our disagreements but we have managed to work through them and now we are all getting on with the job. We have learnt a lot through the process. Standing…
Clouding the issue: the latest analysis of the impact of the Renewable Energy Target contradicts previous reports. Bo-deh/Wikimedia Commons

How does the Renewable Energy Target affect your power bills?

The review of the Renewable Energy Target is due to be handed to the federal government any day now, yet amazingly there are still conflicts over whether the policy makes electricity more or less expensive…
The Saraji coal mine in the Bowen coal basin produces around 5 million tonnes of coal each year. Adani’s Carmichael mine could produce up to 60 million. Image Library/Flickr

Carmichael mine is a game-changer for Australian coal

The Carmichael coal project, approved this week by environment minister Greg Hunt, is unprecedented in its scale, and also represents a significant shift in Australia’s coal industry. If the mine goes…
Tasman Lake, which is fed by melt water from the retreating Tasman Glacier, photographed in March this year. Trevor Chinn

New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys. Since…
Stuck in the past: Sydney’s rail system is crying out for investment, but Australian approaches to fares and funding are out of date. Chris Hale

Public transport has been let down by our reluctance to pay for it

Public transport has a problem with money. Campaigners often argue that mass transit is a public good in its own right, and hence should be very cheap or even free. Mainstream media and even many self-proclaimed…
Ice cores reveal that Antarctica was polluted long before Scott and Amundsen set foot there. Andrew Mandemaker/Wikimedia Commons

Our pollution reached Antarctica long before the great explorers

Lead pollution from Australia reached Antarctica in 1889 – long before the frozen continent’s golden age of exploration – and has remained there ever since, new research shows. In our study, published…
The polar vortex played havoc with Niagara Falls (and much of the rest of North America too). EPA/Rick Warne

The ‘pre-Holocene’ climate is returning – and it won’t be fun

A string of events earlier this year provided a sobering snapshot of a global climate system out of whack. Europe suffered devastating floods, Britain’s coastline was mauled, and the polar vortex cast…
Environmental activist Jonathan Moylan (centre) with supporters as he leaves a Sydney court in 2013. Moylan has been charged over a hoax email that affected the share price of Whitehaven Coal. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Environmentalists have a right to protest – but not at all costs

Here is a tough question – what are the limits of legitimate protest? As Lord Keynes is famously reputed to have said, everything depends on everything else. What is protest? What is legitimate? I’m going…
Australia has a strategy for abandoned mines - but it needs implementing. Caveman/Flickr

What should we do with Australia’s 50,000 abandoned mines?

Wandering around Australia, you might want to watch your step — the country currently has more than 50,000 abandoned mines. Some represent a significant threat from contamination; others may pose safety…
Battery costs can make up a quarter of the cost of an electric car such as this Tesla Model S. Shal Farley/Flickr

Affordable batteries for green energy are closer than we think

At the heart of the current debate around energy is the question of storage. In cars, how to build batteries that run for hundreds of kilometres; in electricity, storing energy from solar panels for when…
Green turtles can travel immense distances using stored fat reserves. R.D Kirkby & B.S Kirkby

Space tracking reveals turtles' record-breaking ocean swim

A satellite-tracking study of green turtles in the Indian Ocean has rewritten the record books for long-distance marine animal migration, showing that they can travel some 4000 kilometres without stopping…
A coal seam gas pilot well from the Santos Narrabri Gas Project in New South Wales, which has divided opinion in the local community. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

The challenge of sorting fact from fiction on coal seam gas

Can you match the following three statements with the answers just below? Coal seam gas is bad for the environment and we should all protest against its use. Genetically modified foods are a part of multinational…
Even when the wind doesn’t blow, it is technically possible for Australia to get all its electricity needs from renewable sources. David Clarke/Flickr

Renewable energy is ready to supply all of Australia’s electricity

In a recent article on The Conversation, University of Melbourne Professor Emeritus Frank Larkins wrote that Australia’s targets to increase renewable energy will make electricity more expensive, thanks…
Journalists inside the budget lock up scrambling to file multiple stories, often across a wide range of topics, while meeting tight time and space constraints. Lukas Coch/AAP

Hard news: the carbon tax shows up cracks in media reporting

Apocalyptic claims and counter-claims have typified the climate change policy debate in Australia, leaving the public confused and mistrustful. Often, the news media hasn’t always helped clear up that…
A tourist train from Sheringham to Holt steams past an offshore wind farm, one of many that have sprung up along the UK coast. Gerry Balding/Flickr

UK shows how Australia can cut emissions without a carbon tax

Australia’s carbon price has gone – but a UK review released this week shows that to lay the foundations for a low-carbon economy, pricing carbon is far from the whole story. Over recent months, as Australia’s…
A cheap or costly drop? You might be surprised to find out how Australian taxes on petrol compare to overseas. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

FactCheck: do Australians pay high petrol taxes?

UPDATED ON TUESDAY 22 JULY: See editor’s note below for details on the updates. In this year’s federal budget, the Abbott government moved to restart automatically increasing the fuel excise in line with…
High-emission brown coal power generators including Hazelwood are set to be among the short-term winners from the carbon tax repeal. AAP Image/David Crosling

Who gains most from axing the carbon tax – and at what cost?

When the carbon tax was introduced, there was a lot of discussion about winners and losers. The Labor government limited the number of businesses that had to pay the tax, while it also gave carbon tax…
Even before it was born, the carbon price had plenty of friends – and lots of enemies. Shutterstock

Obituary: Australia’s carbon price

The Carbon Pricing Mechanism, known to its friends as the carbon price and its critics as the carbon tax, passed away today in Canberra, aged two, after a long battle with slogans. While it won praise…
Emissions from Australia’s power network fell sharply as a result of the carbon price. Peripitus/Wikimedia Commons

Despite its imminent demise, the carbon price has cut emissions

Carbon emissions in Australia’s national electricity market would have been 11 to 17 million tonnes higher if Australia had not introduced a carbon price. New research using the latest data indicates that…
Leader of the House Christopher Pyne and Environment Minister Greg Hunt when the carbon tax repeal passed through the lower house on Monday. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Carbon tax repeal raises long-term risks for Australian business

The bill to repeal Australia’s “carbon tax” is poised to pass the Senate, potentially leaving Australia without a working price on carbon. In the short term, the repeal may provide some relief for businesses…
Melt pond on the Greenland ice sheet. NASA / Michael Studinger

What climate tipping points should we be looking out for?

The concept of a “tipping point” – a threshold beyond which a system shifts to a new state – is becoming a familiar one in discussions of the climate. Examples of tipping points are everywhere: a glass…
Brazil’s cattle herd is the world’s second-biggest - and welfare standards are on the up. Zeloneto/Wikimedia Commons

Tighter rules mean Brazil is now kicking goals on animal welfare

While Brazil’s footballers have failed spectacularly to live up to expectations, there are other areas where the country is quietly exceeding them. Perhaps surprisingly, Brazil’s rapidly improving animal…
Australia’s Tim Cahill never loses sight of the goal – and neither should we on climate change. Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Keeping our eyes on the ball is the only way to hit our climate target

Kicking goals is a whole lot easier when you’re running hard, with a clear line of vision. But amid so much backpassing and confusion on climate policy in Australia, it could be easy to lose sight of what…