Aiming for safety: Restoring the balance in our atmosphere

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We have known about the problem for decades: The atmosphere is not an open sewer we can continue throwing 40 billion tonnes of carbon into every year without any consequences. Ignoring the problem, we have created a climate emergency. Now what?

In The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse on 28 October 2015, we talk with author Philip Sutton who calls not only for a complete decarbonisation, but for a draw-down of carbon from the atmosphere in order to restore the balance of greenhouse gases in the air to what it looked like in pre-industrial time.


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 96:

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 LISTENER SERVICE 

More information

…about the content of the 96th Sustainable Hour


Philip Sutton: An advocate for climate restoration

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“In my estimation, we need to get to zero emissions at fast as humanly possible – at a speed way beyond reform-as-usual – to stop making the climate even worse, and we need to take the excess CO2 out of the air to allow the panet to cool down to a safe level. 

This structural change at high speed will require the early retirement of old polluting technology – power production, transport vehicles, etc. – and their replacement with energy demand reduction measures and renewable energy and massive renovation of buildings and the creation of a massive new ‘industry’ to ‘un-mine’ all the fossil fuels that have been used and take all the excess CO2 out of the air. 

It’s taken the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil and gas) and agriculture over 200 years to put the excess CO2 in the air.  But humans and all the other species on the planet can’t afford another 200 years of too-high temperatures.  So if we are to provide real protection to people, other species and civilisation we will have to grow the CO2 drawdown industry even faster than the fossil fuel and agriculture industries grew.

And while this is all happening people need to live so they have their material needs met. And the change has to be very fast and politically feasible.”
Philip Sutton

How can we enable societies to rise to the climate challenge as it confronts us in 2015? Philip Sutton’s recently published discussion paper ‘Striking Targets – Matching climate goals with climate reality’ addresses the scale and speed of change needed, at the 11th hour, to provide the maximum possible protection for the world’s people, species and ecosystems.


» Read more about ‘Striking Targets’ on www.breakthroughonline.org.au


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Philip Sutton’s Geelong Talk

Philip Sutton’s presentation at the Geelong Sustainability Forum on 28 October 2015 where the program for the Act on Climate Festival was launched:

» Download audio file (mp3)

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The graphic shows why 2015 global temperatures are off the charts.

The graphic shows why 2015 global temperatures are off the charts.





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“Those climate goals our politicians keep talking about don’t match with the climate reality. There is a huge gap between what the world needs for climate restoration, and where we are heading. At best, Paris will deliver commitments that will lead to over 3°C degrees of warming.”

Read more about this topic here:

» Centre for Climate Safety:
Houston, we have… a huge gap!





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» Invitation to take part in the Geelong Act on Climate Festival

» Help finding the 100 best climate and renewables news





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 EDITORIAL 

What is wrong with us?

You’d have thought this would have been the world’s easiest decision: Stop polluting the air and reap heaps of benefits from it – health-wise and economically – and on top of that, save ourselves from heaps of dead-serious trouble with extreme weather events, bush fires, rising sea levels, melting permafrost, and the rest of it.

But no. Something went awfully wrong.

The companies with economic interest in maintaining the current business model based on fossil fuels turned out to be much more powerful, immoral and irresponsible than anyone could have imagined. Like the American oil and gas company Exxon, they chose to spend millions on dollars on spreading doubt and buying political influence, rather than on solving the problem.

So what can we do about it? How can we enable societies to rise to the climate challenge as it confronts us now, in 2015?


Emergency response
On 28 October 2015, we talk with our guest in the sustainable studio, Philip Sutton, author of ‘Climate Code Red’ and the discussion paper ‘Striking Targets’, about this. He tells us about the significance of the UN Summit in Paris in December, about his personal journey with the climate campaigning, and about how it is possible to be both optimistic and ambitious when it comes to climate restoration.

Philip Sutton’s recently published discussion paper ‘Striking Targets – Matching climate goals with climate reality’ addresses the scale and speed of change needed, at the 11th hour, to provide the maximum possible protection for the world’s people, species and ecosystems.

“Humanity is at climate crossroads,” warns professor Nicholas Stern, the lead author of the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change.

Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. And they keep rising. We, humanity, spew out around 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every year.

In Australia, extreme events like bushfires and heatwaves have become more frequent and intense. In fact, heatwaves that used to happen once every three years now happen once every 200 days.

Meanwhile, the hypocracy and deception in Australian politics is shocking. Just as one example, here is what the Australian foreign minister Julia Bishop considered herself in a position to be telling the international community at the United Nations:

“Australia is committed to taking strong and responsible action on climate change.”


Who did she think she was kidding? Bishop said this while being well aware that measured per capita, Australia is the worst polluter on the planet, and as far as taking “action on climate change” goes, Australia has managed to position itself at the very bottom of industrialised countries. The same government that claims the nation has a “moral duty” to export thermal coal.

In accordance with that, the Australian government’s emissions targets for 2030 are an insult to the international community, basically. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) which Australia submitted to the United Nations on 11 August 2015 – saying that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 per cent from 2005 levels including land-use, land-use change and forestry by 2030 – is embarrassingly inadequate.

Why? Because if we hold land-use, land-use change and forestry out of the picture for a moment, this target is equivalent to a range of around 5 per cent below to 5 per cent above 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2030. A joke, considering what is needed, according to the science, and in comparison with what other countries are committing themselves to.

All other industrial countries, except Canada and New Zealand, have proposed 2025 or 2030 goals significantly below 1990 levels. Australia’s commitment is not in line with most interpretations of a “fair” approach to reach a 2°C pathway. If most other countries followed the Australian approach, global warming would exceed 3–4°C.

It is shameful and embarrasing. Nothing less.


The Australian coal hypnosis
“The influence of the coal lobby on the government will end up costing Australia billions of dollars because of the delays in acting on climate change and pollution,” says Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. A quarter-century ago, before he became convinced of the threat posed by climate change, he was chairman of the Australian Coal Association.

When you add up all these so-called ‘externalities’, “you find that the real cost makes coal uneconomic,” says George Crisp, West Australian chairman of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

A study done 2009 by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering estimated the health costs resulting from pollutants emitted by coal-fired power stations at $2.6 billion per year. They calculated that per megawatt hour, the externalities added $42 per megawatt hour to black coal, $52 to brown coal and $19 for gas. So the true cost of fossil fuel generation was about double the wholesale price of it.

There was a study done in greater metropolitan Sydney in 2005 looking at the air pollution costs, at about $4.7 billion per year in notional lost lives. About 50 per cent of that was attributed to coal-fired electricity, reported Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper on 24 October 2015.



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» BusinessGreen – 26 October 2015:
Report: Removing fossil fuel subsidies would slash emissions 11 per cent within five years
New report argues axing fossil fuel subsidies in 20 economies would cut global carbon emissions by 2.8 gigatonnes


“The cost of inaction is far more than the cost of action”
Professor Nicholas Stern



“Climate change could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output by as much as 23 per cent by the end of the century, a new research paper from US universities Stanford and Berkeley finds.”

» Sydney Morning Herald – 22 October 2015:
Climate change slams global economy, study from Stanford and Berkeley shows


» Catholic Climate Movement – October 2015:
1.5° C Cap on Climate Change: Ultimately value judgments – What are lives worth?
What will it take to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees C?

Three meter sea level rise “already unstoppable”

“Melting ice in West Antarctica is a major concern for global sea levels, and a key area may already be unstable enough to unleash three metres of ocean rise, scientists say.

The study follows research out last year, led by NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot, warning that ice in the Antarctic had gone into a state of irreversible retreat, that the melting was considered ‘unstoppable’ and could raise sea level by 1.2 metres.

This time, researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research pointed to the long-term impacts of the crucial Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica, which they said ‘has most likely been destabilised’.”

» Sky News – 3 November 2015:
Ice melt could raise seas ‘by 3 metres’


“The world is now decarbonising at a rate of 2.7% per year. However, authors of the latest Low Carbon Index report warn that the decarbonisation rate must reach 6.3% annually in order to limit global warming to 2°C.”
Climate & Development Knowledge Network


“If we don’t conclude [with a successful climate agreement] … it won’t be hundreds of thousands of refugees in the next 20 years, it will be millions.”
French president François Hollande about the COP21 United Nations climate summit in Paris in December 2015


“If the 2°C target is to be met, the remainder of the world would have to commit to per capita carbon dioxide emissions somewhere between seven and 14 times lower than the EU, US or China by 2030.”

» Climate News Network – 24 October 2015:
Big emitters shift burden to poorer nations



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 EVENT | MELBOURNE: 

Safe climate estoration under the microscope

Join Breakthrough for this special forum to examine and critique the recently published discussion paper ‘Striking Targets’ with author Philip Sutton.

Advocacy for the restoration of a safe climate calls for solutions that the world does not currently possess. The central question remains ‘is safe climate restoration possible and, if not, what level of action is now morally defensible and yet practically achievable?’

IM-POSSIBLE CLIMATE: FORUM PANELLISTS
Ben Courtice, Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner
Andrea Bunting, Climate Activist, Researcher & Writer
Mark Wakeham, CEO Environment Victoria
David Spratt, Climate Policy Analyst
Adrian Whitehead, Save The Planet Campaign Manager

4 November 2015 at 6pm
LAB-14 Seminar Space
Ground Floor 700 Swanston Street
Melbourne University

REGISTER & JOIN THE DISCUSSION
www.im-possibleclimate.eventbrite.com.au





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About the music in The Sustainable Hour no 96

Mizan Kidanu: ‘7 billion’

Published on youtube.com on 15 October 2015. From Mizan Kidanu’s debut EP, ‘Dark Blue’.

In this song, Mizan Kidanu, an Ethiopian-raised artist based in New York, reflects on the human condition in her contemplative music. “I’m the center of my world, but 7 billion have a say,” she sings. “7 billion have a heart, 7 billion find a way.”

“There are more than 7.3 billion people on Earth (and counting), but apparently only one of them can sing a seriously good song about the fate of our planet,” wrote the American magazine Grist. “Singer-songwriter Mizan Kidanu just released a dreamy track called ‘7 Billion’, and it’s a far cry from the often cringe-worthy climate-themed tunes of the past.”

     Battle against our own selves,
     waste and poison in our air,
     hate and greed in our skin —
     Well, of course it’s not fair.
     One day a dawn will come,
     it won’t be too long at all.
     If we win, we move along:
     If we lose, God save us all.



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‘Symphony of Science – Our Biggest Challenge’ (Climate Change Music Video)

Published on youtube.com on 12 September 2012

A musical investigation into the causes and effects of global climate change and our opportunities to use science to offset it. Featuring Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov. ‘Our Biggest Challenge’ is the 16th episode of the Symphony of Science series by melodysheep. 



» Visit www.symphonyofscience.com for more science remixes






 GENERAL RESOURCES 

Quotes, excerpts and links

Various information and links which relate to the topic of the 96th Sustainable Hour


“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”
Barack Obama, American president


Save the Planet: “There are already enough emissions up there to drag us past the crucial tipping points: zero emissions in 15 yrs is not a safe target. Negative emissions ASAP is.”



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Bill Gates: “We need an enegy miracle”

“It’s good to have people making commitments. It’s really good. But if you really look at those commitments — which are not binding, but even if you say they will all be achieved — they fall dramatically short of the reductions required to reduce CO2 emissions enough to prevent a scenario where global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. I mean, these commitments won’t even be a third of what you need.”
Bill Gates

Bill Gates has committed his fortune to moving the world beyond fossil fuels and mitigating climate change. “The only reason I’m optimistic about this problem is because of innovation,” he says.

Bill Gates had a reputation as a pretty smart guy some 20 years ago. Turns out he has a better understanding of the emissions problem than many of us were aware of that he would have. Read this interview, if you are involved in campaigning for climate change action. And when you’ve read it, share your thoughts below…

» www.theatlantic.com



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Michael Martinez, CEO, Diversitat, wrote in the Geelong Advertiser about climate change on 15 October 2015:
www.geelongadvertiser.com.au



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» The Conversation



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» New York Times: Greenland is melting away



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“So-called ‘global warming’ is just a secret ploy by wacko tree-huggers to make America energy independent, clean our air and water, improve the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, kick-start 21st century industries and make our cities safer and more livable. Don’t let them get away with it.”
Chip Giller



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“As the death toll rises after the Philippines’ 12th typhoon this year, a new report questions the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies making billions in profits without paying for any of the climate damage their product is causing.”

» ClimateJustice.org: Making a killing: Who pays the real costs of Big Oil, Coal and Gas?



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Catholic leaders rally behind Pope for socially just climate breakthrough

Catholic leaders from around the world have called for a transformative breakthrough at this December’s UN climate conference in Paris, saying any deal must put “the common good ahead of national interests”.

Based on Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si” encyclical and signed in the Vatican today, the 10-point proposal calls for legally binding limits to keep average global warming to 1.5DegC, and “an end to the fossil fuel era”.

Catholic leaders want a goal of complete decarbonisation by the middle of the century – 50 years sooner than current G7 and EU targets – as coal and other dirty fuels are among the chief causes of climate change, which is hitting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable first and hardest. While some companies and countries with vested interests continue to push “nonsense” and “obscene” arguments that coal is a solution to poverty, the reality is dirty development pathways represent a double hit for the world’s poor.

Fossil fuels lock them into a volatile and expensive fuel market that damages their health and the local environment, while contributing worsening climate impacts that they are unable to prepare for, or recover from. The only way to ensure a sustainable and socially just future for all is to make the clean energy transition as fast as possible, and for rich countries to help poor ones leapfrog dirty, obsolete forms of development.

» The Tree



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Climate Revolution website

“The website Climate Revolution Now is a documented, alphabetically-organized compendium of the expert views of scientists and of science-informed activists who believe that there is an urgent need for immediate drastic action on climate change to urgently and drastically reduce atmospheric CO2 back to a safe, pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2, noting that carbon dioxide (CO2) together with other greenhouse gases (GHGs), notably methane (CH4), has elevated average global surface temperature to an already dangerous and damaging plus 1°C, and that over 90% of the extra heat has gone into the oceans.”

» Climate Revolution Now



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Still on track for catastrophic levels of heating

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A group called Climate Action Tracker said that while the new global commitments would slow climate change, global warming would still grow by 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2050 and roughly 3.6 degrees by the end of the century. Other forecasts are even more dire.

» www.washingtonpost.com

“If every nation that has so far pledged to cut down on its carbon emissions made good on its promises, the global average temperature would still rise 3.5˚ Celsius by the end of the century. According to a new study from MIT Sloan and Climate Interactive, even with the hard-won commitments from nations around the world, we’re still on track for “catastrophic” levels of planetary heating. If, that is, the governmental targets aren’t stepped up, or paired with other aggressive efforts.”
Brian Merchant in Motherboard on 28 September 2015: Even if Every Nation Meets Its Pledge to Fight Climate Change, We’re Still Fried

» Read the article on www.motherboard.vice.com


» Phys.org – 15 October 2015:
Scientists identify climate ‘tipping points’



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The 2°C-degree window is closing rapidly

Per Henriksen from the Climate Movement in Denmark explains why in this short text:

Produced in the lead-up to the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, this analysis showed the requirement for the annual CO2 reductions if the Earth’s average temperature should not rise more than 2°C degrees.

The first milestone is the year when global emissions reach its peak. When the carbon emissions which we have seen accelerating and increase year on year, finally begin to decrease. We can hope that this peak will be seen in 2015, we won’t know until a few years. But as seen on the graphs, if it doesn’t happen until 2020, then the demands on the annual reduction of CO2 emissions by 5.3 per cent will have increase to 9 per cent per year. Which is very scary.

The slowdown will surely not be linear. It will run through a variety of stages where we must continue to prepare for the next technological quantum leap if CO2 emissions should not get stuck at a somewhat lower – but at the same time still very high – level.

The first test is whether it becomes possible to peak, globally?
The 2°C-degree window is closing rapidly in recent years.

» The Copenhagen Diagnosis:
www.copenhagendiagnosis.org



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Climate genocide

Tim Snyder, an historian, has written a very important book: ‘Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning’. In the concluding chapter, where he focuses on the future, Tim explores stress dynamics that could lead to new genocides. He draws a conclusion that might surprise some of his readers – that climate change might be one of the most serious.

Tim Snyder makes a very powerful argument, developed in the second half of his book, that the ability to rescue threatened people when genocides are underway is terrifyingly limited – so effective prevention is crucial.

You can access the basic ideas in Tim Snyder’s book in the following articles.
The New York Times article is the one where he explores climate change in most detail:

» New York Times:
The Next Genocide

» The Guardian:
Hitler’s world may not be so far away

» London School of Economics:
Lecture audio: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning




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“We are living in a state of planetary emergency. To have a chance of averting the collapse of civilization and the destruction of the natural world, we must mobilize our society on the scale of World War II to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions [1] at wartime speed. The fact that we have already heated the world to such dangerous levels and show little sign of stopping, is evidence of widespread institutional failure. We cannot expect anyone else to save us. We must organize to save ourselves.”
Margaret Klein Salamon, The Climate Mobilization | 26 September 2015

» EcoWatch – 26 September 2015:
The Climate Mobilization: Catalyzing the Emergency Climate Movement




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‘Climate Change Capitalism and Corporations’
Published on youtube.com on 21 October 2015.

“Climate change is the greatest challenge we will face this century. Indeed, the worst-case scenarios paint an unimaginable vision of large tracts of the Earth rendered uninhabitable, the collapse of global food production, mass species extinction, the acidification of the oceans, substantial sea-level rises and storms and droughts of growing intensity. Yet, despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to rely on the maintenance of ‘business as usual’.

In this special event a panel of leading thinkers explore how business has responded to the climate crisis and what a more constructive role might involve? Based on the new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, discussion will explore the links between corporate capitalism and human-induced climate disruption, the dominance of a ‘fossil fuels forever’ imaginary, and the possibility of alternatives to ‘business as usual’.

About the Speakers
– Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University
– Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies and leader of the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney Business School
– Daniel Nyberg is Professor of Management at Newcastle Business School and an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney
– David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific
– Amanda McKenzie (chair) is an environmental leader and CEO of the Climate Council

Video courtesy of Marcel Zammit, Bombora Audio Visual



“Despite the grim nature of the climate crisis, Clive Hamilton ended the night on a positive note. Asking the audience to imagine a government that took climate change seriously, aimed for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, and divested from fossil fuel investments. He then pointed out that the ACT Government is doing that right now!

Despite the Herculean nature of the challenge now facing us, in the words of Al Gore: “…we should feel a sense of joy that those of us alive today have a rare privilege that few generations in history have known: the chance to undertake an historic mission worthy of our best efforts. It should be seen as an honor to live in a time when the future of human civilization will be shaped forever by what we do now.’ ”
Jane Morton, in a comment on Facebook

» Read more on www.climatepeopleorg.wordpress.com



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“Biggest risk to economic stability”

“With climate change, the more businesses invest and change with foresight, the less they will regret in hindsight”.
Mark Carney, Bank of England Governor, in a recent speech at Lloyd’s of London

The world’s most influential banker, Mark Carney, chairman of the G20 countries’ Financial Stability Board, says an orderly switch from fossil fuels to renewables is needed to avoid turmoil on world stock markets. His speech, entitled ‘Breaking the tragedy of the horizon – climate change and financial stability’, is a warning which could represent a tipping point for the climate change debate, say campaigners.

» www.bankofengland.co.uk

» www.climatenewsnetwork.net






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Parent and grandparent groups from around the world have come together to demand bold action to protect the children we love from catastrophic climate change

See video:




» Sign the petition: www.ourkidsclimate.org

» Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ourkidsclimate

» Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ourkidsclimate



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Pledge: “Dear Leaders: Take climate action now”

Join the Climate Reality Project in demanding that world leaders sign a strong agreement at the Paris climate negotiations in December.”

» Sign the pledge: www.climaterealityproject.org/addyourvoice







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Petition: Kick big polluters out

petition_kick-big-polluters

Petition to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

“We call on you to take immediate action to protect COP21 and all future negotiations from the influence of big polluters. Given the fossil fuel industry’s years of interference intended to block progress, push false solutions, and continue the disastrous status quo, the time has come to stop treating big polluters as legitimate ‘stakeholders’ and to remove them from climate policymaking.”

» www.kickbigpollutersout.org/take-action



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A Victorian Renewable Energy Road Map underway

A month ago, the Victorian Government asked the public for submissions to their proposed Renewable Energy Road Map.
These were the submissions from Barwon Heads Sustainability Group and Geelong Sustainability



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Check also…

» Sign climate petitions


If you found this podcast interesting, you may also want to listen to:

» The Sustainable Hour on 12 July 2014:
Pathways to safe climate restoration
Excerpts from speeches at the first Breakthrough conference which was held in Melbourne on 21-22 June 2014.




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Listen to all of The Sustainable Hour radio shows in full length and in selected excerpts:

» Archive on climatesafety.info – with photo and direct link to podcast audio file

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