Category Archives: disasters

Feb 7, 1995 – Treasurer points to ‘let out’ clauses in the UNFCCC

On this day  in 1995, during the peak of the carbon tax battles,  Treasurer Ralph Willis old Parliament that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which Australia had ratified in late December 1992, contained ‘let-out clauses’ and that the government might decide that a less ambitious target was appropriate Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 7 February 1995, 582 (Ralph Willis, Treasurer).

“Those are not unimportant clauses (and) they have to be taken into account when considering whether we need absolutely to tie ourselves to achieving the (targets)… `(But) we are concerned with ensuring that Australia does everything in its power to try to live up to its obligations to the convention.”

Meanwhile,five of his Cabinet colleagues were taking part in the first of two roundtables about the proposed carbon tax. The environmental and community groups were on the 7th, the business groups on the 8th.

By total coincidence, the Business Council had sent out press releases on the 6th February warning of massive job losses if a carbon tax were instituted…

Thomas, C. 1995. Business Council Hits Plan For Carbon Tax. The Age, 7 February, p.50.


Also on this day –

In 2009 the  Black Saturday bushfires  around Melbourne.  These were also the spur for Philip Chubb to write his book “Power Failure.”

Jan 4, 1995 Liberals say planting trees beats a carbon price…

How things don’t change.  22 years ago, the Liberal opposition spokesman Ian McLachlan (we will meet him again, I think). announced that the Federal coalition would consider an environmental levy “to fund a major national reafforestation project and a ban on further forest clearing for farming to curb the greenhouse effect.”

1995 Kingston, M. 1995. Libs Plan Levy To Revitalise Forests. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January, p.3.

The context of this was that the Keating government was having no end of a problem with wood-chipping and the potential loss of Green preferences.  And it was also in the middle of a Cabinet bloodbath about whether to impose a carbon tax (it didn’t, you’ll be amazed to learn).

This, by the way, was in the end of days of Alexander Downer as opposition leader.

Well, fourteen months later John Howard became Prime Minister, didn’t bother so much with the land-clearing, and even less about curbing the greenhouse effect…  So it goes.


Also on this day-  

2015 Soon to depart Greens Leader Christine Milne  warning on bushfires and preparedness for disasters

“Every year we are going to face these extreme weather events, which are going to cost lives and infrastructure, and enough is enough,” she said.

“The Abbott Government has to stop climate denial and help to get the country prepared to adapt to the more extreme conditions.”

Ms Milne said now was the time to talk about Australia’s preparedness for extreme weather events.

“Look at what is happening to people, communities, our environment, loss of infrastructure and for goodness sake abandon your nonsense about climate variability,” she said.

April 26th, 1986: Chernobyl brings down the Soviet Union, Nuclear renaissance

The Chernobyl disaster (Ukrainian: Чорнобильська катастрофа, Chornobylska KatastrofaChornobyl Catastrophe; also referred to as Chernobyl or the Chornobyl accident) was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR), which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.

The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties.[1] It is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.[2] The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles.[3] During the accident itself, 31 people died, and long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.

As well as a physical disaster, it didn’t do a lot for the health/credibility of the Communist Party, nor the nuclear industry more generally.

Novel worth reading – The Star Chernobyl by Julia Voznesenskaya

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March 16, 1978: Amoco Cadiz oil spill

souslamazoutlaplage“Supertanker Amoco Cadiz splits in two after running aground on the Portsall Rocks, three miles off the coast of Brittany, resulting in the 5th-largest oil spill in history.”

After a while, all these spills/accidents merge into one (ho ho).  The first biggie (Santa Barbara) and some others, such as Exxon Valdez or Deep Horizon still register, but the lesson is that a focussing event that is repeated loses its focus. If only social movements could realise…


Other things that happened on this day

1942 The first V-2 rocket test launch. It exploded at lift-off.

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Feb 7, 2009: Black Saturday bushfires around Melbourne, 173 killed.

The Black Saturday bushfires[7] were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around Saturday, 7 February 2009 and were Australia’s worst ever natural disaster. The fires occurred during extreme bushfire-weather conditions and resulted in Australia’s highest ever loss of life from a bushfire;[8] 173 people died[6][9] and 414 were injured as a result of the fires.

The fires inspired Philip Chubb to write “Power Failure“, his book about the Rudd/Gillard governments and their climate policies.

And yes, attribution.

Other things that happened on this day:

2008 Royal Geographical Society conference on adaptation. I think was hoping to have the same influence for adaptation as the Exeter conference (see Feb 3rd entry) had had for mitigation. Still, it posed the crucial question “are there limits to adaptation”? (Hint, “probably, and we are about to find out”)

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Feb 5, 2010: A coal barge runs aground on a coral reef

According to SourceWatch, on February 5th 2010 – “A ship, the Vogetrader, grounded on a coral reef Barbers Point Harbor, Hawaii. In 2014 it was announced that the shipowner, Denak Ship Management and Vogetrader Shipping Inc., would pay $840,000 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the damage to the reef.”


Coal eh? If we’d taken the 1980s warnings of the climate scientists seriously, would we still have been shipping it hither and thither in 2010? No. But we are, so that’s an interesting puzzle – “why” are we, and what, specifically, did some actors do in the intervening 25 plus years to keep coal reductions/elimination off the policy agenda?

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