Wednesday, June 19, 2019

ITUC – Global Day of Workplace Action – 26 June

In just one week, thousands of workers around the world will have a conversation with their employers on how they are climate-proofing their operations. 
Are you in to climate-proof your workplace? 
Thank you for your support,
Sharan Burrow
Climate Change is a threat to all of us! Extreme weather events are already destroying jobs and livelihoods and, if we don’t act now, temperature increases will lead to the loss of 72 million jobs [1].
With workers on the frontline of climate action, we can begin to turn this around by asking our bosses if they have a plan to reduce emissions. So why not start a conversation with your employer about how they are climate-proofing their operations and climate-proofing your job.
Bold climate actions can generate more than 65 million jobs and avoid more than 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution [2].
The ITUC is working for a ‘Just Transition’ to secure the future and livelihoods of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Workers and their unions can work with employers to climate-proof their business, and put Just Transition measures at their heart of their plans.
All workers have a right to know how their employers are planning to reduce emissions and have a sustainable future for the business. Sign up for the Global Day of Workplace Action on 26 June and ask your boss for their climate plan!
There are no jobs on a dead planet, but together we can build good jobs on a living planet.
In solidarity,
Sharan Burrow

Ready to climate-proof your workplace?
Sign up for the big #cPOW and get your Global Day of Workplace Action campaign pack.
[2] New Climate Economy:

Friday, June 14, 2019


Today, MEAA, along with more than three dozen of Australia’s most prominent and acclaimed journalists and media organisations, has publicly called for urgent changes to the law to provide better protection for whistleblowers and journalists.

In an open letter published in all capital city daily newspapers today and addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and all Members of both houses of Federal Parliament, we say prompt action is needed to protect our democracy for all Australians.

Read the letter and take action to join the call for Parliament to enshrine a positive public interest protection for whistleblowers and for journalists to protect our democracy for all Australians.

The open letter follows the raids by the Australian Federal Police last week of the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst and the offices of the ABC.

These raids, a raft of recent national security laws, and the prosecutions of whistleblowers Richard Boyle, David McBride and Witness K all demonstrate the public’s right to know is being harmed.

Truth-telling is being punished. Intimidation and harassment of journalists is in danger of being normalised.

It is also clear from the global response to the recent raids that Australia’s proud reputation around the world as a free and open society is under threat.

We urge Parliament to legislate changes to the law to recognise and enshrine a positive public interest protection for whistleblowers and for journalists.

Without these protections Australians will be denied important information it is their right as citizens to have.

Last week, hundreds of journalists in newsrooms around Australia stood together to say journalism is not a crime.

Marcus Strom
Federal President
MEAA Media

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

ABC and Press Freedom Proposals


The ABC will push for legislative review to protect freedom of the press after its bosses met with the prime minister following an AFP raid on the broadcaster.

The ABC plans to join forces with other media outlets to pinpoint areas of concern for press freedom in Australia and encourage the federal government to act on them.

The broadcaster has expressed the sentiment after its chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Tuesday.

The meeting was scheduled before two police raids on journalists last week, which sparked a debate on freedom of the press.

An ABC raid came off the back of stories published in 2017 alleging Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.

The other was on the Canberra home of a News Corp Australia reporter over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.

In a statement following its high profile meeting, the ABC said it raised its concerns about the raids and their implications for media freedom.

"The ABC looks forward to working constructively with other media companies to pinpoint areas of concern and to pursue the case for legislative review," the statement read.

That came after Ms Buttrose last week complained to Mr Fletcher of the sweeping nature of the AFP warrant, saying it was "clearly designed to intimidate".

She is weighing up legal avenues the ABC could pursue against the AFP.

Mr Morrison says he is open to improvements to press freedom if they are warranted, but says he will act on the issue "calmly and soberly".

He insists a balance must be found between ensuring no one is above the law and protecting the freedom of the press.

"If there is suggestion or evidence or any analysis that reveals there is a need for further improvement of those (press freedom) laws, the government is always open to that," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese believes the media reports which sparked the Australian Federal Police raids were in the public interest, and a free press is vital for democracy.

"My default position is one of protecting civil liberties and to ensure that there's accountability in our society and if the ABC won't do it as our national broadcaster, who will?" he told ABC Radio Perth.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

US – Climate denial in the United States appears to be shrinking.

A new 23-country survey conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project found that America has the highest percentage of climate denial among first-world nations, behind only Indonesia and Saudi Arabia in all the countries surveyed. A total of 13 percent of Americans responded that “human activity is not responsible at all” for climate change, 5 percent denied that the climate is even changing, and a further 13 percent did not know whether the climate is changing or people are responsible.

These numbers are generally consistent with surveys conducted by George Mason and Yale universities, which most recently found in late 2018 that 14 percent of Americans think global warming isn’t happening, and 23 percent deny that it’s mostly human-caused.

The good news is that those 2018 numbers were at record low levels.

Climate denial in the United States appears to be shrinking.

In evaluating why climate denial is so much more prevalent in America than other wealthy countries, it’s important to consider its demographics. In the 2018 George Mason and Yale survey, just 42 percent of conservative Republicans accepted that global warming is happening, and only 28 percent correctly attributed it to human activities. Older Americans are also more likely to deny human-caused global warming, especially white Americans over the age of 55.

Another recent survey found that Republicans who watch Fox News are more than twice as likely to deny human-caused climate change than Republican non-viewers, and 62 percent of Republicans watch Fox News. Consistent with the demographic breakdown of American climate denial, Fox News viewers are overwhelmingly old and white, as are climate deniers.

In short, the unusual level of climate denial in America is heavily concentrated among the Fox News viewership demographic of old white conservatives, and Republicans who watch the network are extremely likely to deny human-caused global warming. This suggests that the presence of Fox News and other conservative media outlets may be the primary explanation for why climate denial is more prevalent in the United States than in other developed countries.

Fortunately, a new study published in Nature Climate Change offers some hope. The paper documents an experiment in North Carolina involving “intergenerational learning.” Teachers were trained in a climate change curriculum that included engagement with parents through an interview conducted by students. The study found that the children and their parents were both more likely to be concerned about climate change after the class than those in a control group. Critically, “politically conservative parents who had the lowest concern levels before the intervention displayed the largest gains in climate change concern … fathers displayed greater gains in climate change concern than mothers,” and “daughters were more effective than sons in fostering climate change concern among their parents.”

In other words, because “high levels of parental trust in their children often leads to parents being willing to listen to or accept their child’s views on complex topics,” children can be the antidote to the climate denial brainwashing spread by Fox News. To achieve this goal, the United States should expand climate change education in middle school and ideally involve parents in class activities to promote this type of intergenerational learning.

As we’ve seen with the growth of school strikes for climate and protests by youth groups like the Sunrise Movement, today’s kids are becoming increasingly concerned and vocal about climate change. We may see American climate denial continue to shrink as more parents become convinced by their kids’ well-informed climate concern and advocacy.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists – Moribund US Nuclear Industry Dangers

In its effort to revive a moribund US nuclear industry, the Trump administration has put itself in the hands of our national laboratories. The laboratories have used the opportunity to reach for the public purse to pursue their nuclear dream, the same one that they have had since the beginning of the nuclear age, and that now has nothing to do with the country’s energy needs. The starting point on their wish list is a multibillion-dollar “Versatile Test Reactor” at the Idaho national laboratory, to test fuel for a new generation of advanced “fast” plutonium-fueled reactors.

From the beginning, the nuclear power technologists have really had one idea that gripped their imagination: that it is possible to build a plutonium-fueled fast reactor (“fast” because the neutrons released in the fission reaction are not slowed by a moderator) that produces more plutonium than it consumes. This allows continually refueling the reactor and using the excess plutonium to start more such reactors (hence the name “breeder reactors”).

It sounds like getting something for nothing, but in reality, it means using all the relatively cheap natural uranium as fuel instead of only the less than 1 percent that is uranium-235, as is done in the current generation of power reactors. In principle, this hugely extends the available fuel supply, a vital consideration in the early days of nuclear energy, when uranium was thought to be a scarce material.

In the 1960s the US Atomic Energy Commission saw the fast breeder reactor as the answer to the country’s long-term energy needs. It organized itself to produce prototype breeder reactors that industry would then replicate commercially. Breeder cores needed lots of plutonium as an initial charge. This had to come from reprocessing of spent fuel of existing reactors, so reprocessing was an essential feature of the shift to a fast breeder future. “Atomic” commissions in countries around the world followed this example, all with experts absolutely sure fast breeders would soon take over electricity generation.

As we know, it didn’t happen. The fundamental flaw in the argument was that uranium wasn’t scarce at all, there’s lots of it. Also, the breeder and reprocessing technologies turned out to be much more challenging and expensive than expected. Altogether, they didn’t make economic sense.

Another negative element entered the equation in the late 1970s. In their excitement over the fast breeder, the nuclear community ignored the consequences of feeding plutonium, a fuel but also a nuclear explosive, into commercial channels throughout the country, and ultimately the world. In 1976, to the dismay of fast-breeder enthusiasts, President Gerald Ford announced that US non-proliferation objectives would take precedence and put the technology on the shelf. He added that we could develop nuclear energy perfectly well without it. Jimmy Carter continued these restrictive policies with respect to plutonium.

None of this, however, changed the fast breeder’s Holy Grail status within the nuclear engineering community. That community got another chance during the George W. Bush administration, under a program called Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP. This time, instead of arguing uranium resource constraints, an economic non-starter, they focused on the nuclear waste issue and claimed fast reactors (now dubbed as “burners” rather than breeders) had special advantages in dealing with waste.

GNEP proposed to “burn” the (mildly radioactive) longest-lasting waste, by incorporating these elements into the plutonium fuel and consuming them along with the plutonium. The trouble was, making such fuel to commercial standards remained an unsolved problem, and the fast breeder prototype, slated for the Nevada nuclear lab, never got off the ground. In any case, with the advent of the Obama administration, the GNEP program was disbanded, and the Energy Department’s fast reactor program dropped out of sight.

It is now returning for the third time in the guise of the Versatile Test Reactor, which itself is derived from a fast breeder reactor design. Just like the old Atomic Energy Commission did half a century ago, the Energy Department now tells us plutonium-fueled fast reactors are in our energy future, never mind economics or the dangers of flooding the world with plutonium fuel. Under the heading of “Putting America First,” the Energy Department tells us building fast reactors is essential for “protecting our interests,” apparently because the Russians and the Chinese, unconstrained by economics, would be building them, and we would fall behind. It is thus “imperative” to build the several-billion-dollar VTR as a first step.

The first surge of interest in fast breeders the 1960s had a certain rational basis in resource economics, even though it got the basic facts wrong about the scarcity of uranium. The second surge, during the George W. Bush administration, however poorly conceived and opportunistic, was an effort to take advantage of a real public concern about disposal of nuclear waste. The current third push, using the Versatile Test Reactor as the thin end of a larger wedge of government support for fast breeder reactors, is based far less on economics or concern about waste than  purely on patriotic slogans. We don’t need it. Congress should say, “No.”