On 29 January 2020, WATCH produced the following media release:
2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, heralding Australia’s longest bushfire season. Locally records were also broken, with Border Mail letters to the editor on climate change hitting an all-time high and signalling strong community support for climate action.
Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH) has maintained records of climate-related letters since 2009. Their convener, Lizette Salmon, noted a major spike in letters published in 2019, with 84 letters on the topic, up from the previous record of 68 letters in 2011 and almost three times as many letters as 2018.
“Averaging out at 1.6 letters per week, I can’t think of any other topic that’s had a similar volume of letters. People are charged up like never before, with letters about the school climate strikes, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, government inaction, climate emergency declarations, bushfires and arguments about whether The Border Mail should publish letters by climate deniers.”
Almost a third of the year’s letters were by climate deniers; a total of 26 letters by 16 people. This was second only to 2011 when climate denier letters peaked at 30 with the introduction of the carbon price.
“Only two of last year’s 26 climate denier letters were by women and, based on internet searches, the men are nearly all in their 60s or older. A common theme among some deniers was a focus on perceived costs of climate action, particularly electricity prices.”
“What the deniers need to understand is that Australia could set a path to 100% renewable electricity, significantly cheaper wholesale prices than today and a highly reliable grid by introducing a handful of policies consistent with the Morrison government’s election platform,”, said WATCH Chair, Lauriston Muirhead.
“Economist Ross Garnaut’s new book Superpower explains how the cost of cutting emissions has fallen far below what modelling suggested 11 years ago. No other developed country has a comparable opportunity for large-scale, zero-emissions power, supplied at low cost. Along with the development of green hydrogen, Australia could expand industries in aluminium, steel, silicon and ammonia, which would benefit regional centres in every state.”
For the best part of a decade WATCH was Albury-Wodonga’s only climate advocacy group, but the past two years has seen the formation of several other groups including a local StopAdani group, Knitting Nannas for Renewables, School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion.
“The influx of new people mobilising in our region has been incredible and the crowd of 2000 attending last year’s September school strike a major highlight. It felt like a real turning point in community sentiment, backed by churches, banks and universities,” said Ms Salmon.
“And now of course the enormity of Australia’s horrendous bushfires is galvanising society in a way we haven’t seen before, with fire-fighters and bushfire survivors publicly exposing the Coalition government’s weasel words about climate change, coal and their link to the widespread devastation.”
This media release resulted in the following Border Mail article (and photo) on Saturday 1/2/20: https://www.bordermail.com.au/story/6608238/what-10-years-of-climate-change-letters-to-the-editor-reveal/