Eco-Stories: Oli Moraes – Climate Policy in Australia and Blue Carbon

Eco-Stories: Oli Moraes – Climate Policy in Australia and Blue Carbon

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. See the full interview below.

Oli Moraes has research experience looking at blue carbon – mangroves and seagrasses – in the Pacific Island region as a means to addressing climate change mitigation, adaptation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Oli has a Bachelors of Arts and Science from Monash University where he studied earth sciences and international studies and recently completed a Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne specialising in climate change and conservation. His Masters research took him to Fiji in 2018 where he worked with Fijian conservation NGOs, practitioners, government agencies and Indigenous communities around Fiji to understand the opportunities and challenges of protecting and restoring blue carbon ecosystems through carbon market approaches. He focused on empowering voices and particularly capturing the deep Indigenous knowledges about coastal resource management in his research. Oli has since published part of his research in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, presented at Victoria's flagship conservation conference Vic BioCon, and continues to collaborate with research partners in Australia and the South Pacific.

Oli is currently working as a Research Officer at RMIT University with IPCC lead author on climate change adaptation Dr Lauren Rickards in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.

This interview was recorded on January 19, 2020.

Fiona Martin (FM): Okay. Welcome, Oli. We're with OM. He's with us for The Eco-Interviews. He's joining us from Melbourne, Australia, so thanks for being with us, Oli.


Oli Moraes (OM): Thanks, Fiona. It's great to be with you guys.


FM: Great. So, Oli has research experience looking at blue carbon, which is mangroves and sea grasses in the Pacific Island region as a means to addressing climate change, mitigation adaption, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Oli is currently working as a research officer at RMIT University, with IPCC lead author on climate change adaptation, Dr. Lauren Rickards, in the school of Global, Urban and Social Studies. So, I'm very excited, Oli, to speak to you and hear from you in regards to Australia, the outlook there, and then also blue carbon, but to get started, can you tell us a little bit about the situation in Australia as it stands environmentally in terms of pollution, emissions and where Australia is going in the next few years as we see it today?


OM: Yeah, so as we're speaking today, both Victoria and New South Wales, which are the two states where Australia's biggest cities and largest population is centered, Melbourne and Sydney, are basically all covered in bushfire smoke and there's been a massive bushfire crisis, as many of you will have heard of around the world. It's unprecedented the size, the magnitude, the length of time that these fires have been burning. I've lived during terrible bush fires in the past. One of the worst fires in Victoria was 10 years ago in 2009, Black Saturday, but that only lasted days and weeks. This has been going on around Sydney for three or four months now and it's still probably a few more months of the fire season to go. So, we're really in unprecedented times and I've been working in climate change for a while and been talking about these kinds of impacts, like this is what will happen if we warm above one degree. And, that's exactly what we're seeing now.

I guess people like David Attenborough have said this, that Australia's one of the most high risk climate countries in the world and vulnerable to climate change because we're a big continent, but we're already a very dry and arid continent with low rainfall. There's just all the different kinds of climate hazards and disasters possible here from bush fires, cyclones in the north of the country, floods and they're all getting worse, which is what we're seeing right now playing out. Yesterday, we had unprecedented summer rainfall. We had hail stones the size of baseballs falling, and unfortunately it hasn't been enough to put out fires, so we've got that happening at the same time as these bush fires. It's pretty dire. Yeah, things that we've been talking about for a while in the climate and environment sector, but basically where Australia stands is we're really obviously now, as we're seeing, really vulnerable but unfortunately the federal government has basically blocked any real action.

Back in 2009 around the time of this last major bushfire crisis, there was a Labour, more progressive government, had just come in and they basically put a lot of great policies through. The first carbon tax. It's not another tax, but that came. It was the first in the world. It was really successful. It started dropping emissions. There were all these other policies across reducing pollution in the mining and high emission sectors as well, and agriculture, and a range of really good policies across all sectors.

Australia's emissions had started to decrease, but you may have heard of the opposition leader, this conservative opposition led by Tony Abbott, who's this climate change denier, just an abysmal politician ... We had our first female Prime Minister come in, as well, a few years after that, also progressive, and basically Tony Abbott attacked her. It was pretty embarrassing and also he basically attacked all of the climate change policies, and he ended up winning in 2014 or '13, and basically took everything down and tried to dismantle these climate change authority agencies that had been set up by the previous government. He was pretty successful at doing a lot of that, and since then basically Australia's emissions have gone up. And they're continuing to go up now. In the last year, so up until the end of 2019, emissions in the electricity sector had slightly started to go down but that's only because we've had a really large uptake of solar and renewables, and because Australia is a really sunny country. It makes sense to have solar panels on your roofs.

We've got one of the highest household uptakes of solar in the world, which is this ironic thing. We're really vulnerable, individually we're doing some really great things, but then the government's blocking the really systemic structural changes that we need. And, it's basically because that conservative government has a small block of really conservative back-bencher parliamentarians and ministers, and they're all climate change deniers and they've got ties to the fossil fuel industry. They have continued to spew this anti-climate rhetoric and agenda that's been incredibly damaging. That's why we're here now, where after 10 years, we've had I think six or seven prime ministers. You might have heard in the news that over the last few years that we keep switching prime ministers from both parties. So, it's been an absolute mess.

It's probably worse than Brexit because it's been going on for so long, and we still don't have a climate change policy. Now, there's been a lot of work done by a lot of activists and community groups to put pressure on the government, and that has started to change public perception, and particularly these bush fires now, I think the polls show that the highest level of the population now want the government to take significant action on climate change, but even now the government, while they've changed their rhetoric around, now they say they believe in climate change and they know that it's happening, and that Australia should be doing its part under the Paris Agreement and such, now they're using this ... What my boss says is like denial of denial. So, now what they're saying is, "We never said that climate change wasn't real. We've always believed in the science." But, their argument now is that Australia should just do its part because we are only 1.3% of global emissions.

Yeah, we shouldn't take a leadership role or be ambitious with our emissions reduction. Even now, there's been a lot of experts come out and saying that we won't even meet our targets now, which they're less than the US's. They're 26% below 2005 levels. As I'm sure you and your listeners would know, those kinds of levels, they are the lower end in the Paris Agreement and not ambitious at all. The more progressive party, although they've still got ties to the coal industry as well, are saying they want to aim for 45% reduction by 2030, which is much better, but again it's nowhere near enough.

That's where we're at at the moment. These bush fires are definitely changing, I think, how the population is seeing it and they're really, I think it seems like, putting the pieces together that this is actually climate change. Yes, Australia has always had fires and floods and these things, but we've never had fires like this and the fire season is extending basically more than half the year now across the country. So, there's basically fires in Australia all year round now. And, seeing the resourcing challenges with those kinds of conditions bring, our firefighters having to fight in Victoria, and then when that finishes, they'll have to go to Queensland or somewhere else, and all of those government agencies having to spread their resources more thinly, I think is starting to come across.

So, hopefully that means that we will get some better policy in place, but again, the government and particularly our Prime Minister, I wouldn't hold my breath with them still in power. That's where we're at at the moment.


FM: Yeah, it's such a shame and thanks for bringing some insight into that. I feel like the US might be paralleling Australia right now with our current administration, the Trump administration. While there's all this crazy stuff happening in the forefront, what's going on behind the scenes is taking away key parts of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, dismantling the EPA, opening our national parks to fracking and drilling. And, because we have a reality TV person as our president, he has so many other distractions going on in front of us - impeachment, Iran, all that - that this other stuff is being dismantled, and it's certainly insidious. And, am I correct in reading or seeing that Australia is one of the top exporters of coal? So, that's part of your flip is from reducing emissions to now being a great exporter of coal, and then there's also the approval of Adani. Is that correct, the Adani Mines?


OM: Yes.


FM: Do you want to say anything about that?


OM: Yeah, so the export's thing I think brings up some really interesting questions around double counting of emissions reductions, which I think we'll talk about later around blue carbon, as well, but there's an interesting analogy with pollution and also sequestration as well. Yeah, basically Australia is the number one exporter of coal and both of our major political parties, as I said earlier, have ties to the coal industry. It's been a massive part of our economy, I guess, for a long time. On the conservative side, there's ties to fossil fuel companies and then on the more progressive side, there's ties to the trade unions who are fundamental, or have been, to laboring in mines. So, both sides are continuing to support coal exports even though the Labour Party is saying, "We need a much more comprehensive climate policy and we need to reduce emissions, and be much more ambitious, and be a leader and invest more in renewables," which is all good things but they continue to say, "We're going to continue with coal exports."

It's just again this thing where it's like we've got one atmosphere and borders ... Emissions don't stop at the border. I mean, just an example with the bush fires, where I think Australia in the future definitely could be legally culpable under, I don't know, some sort of international environmental criminal court, if that ever exists. But, I've got a friend who works in New Zealand in the National Parks there. New Zealand, it's pretty far away. It's a three hour flight from Melbourne, and the bushfire smoke is basically covered the south island of New Zealand. He sent me videos of him out in Milford Sound, a famous national park, working on the trails and they just got hit by this thick smoke. They couldn't breathe. Yeah, if we sell our coal to India or wherever, or South Korea, or wherever we do, and then they burn the coal, it doesn't matter. It's still going in the atmosphere and we're also responsible for that.

It's a crazy position that both our sides of politics hold, and at COP25 Madrid in December, Australia ... I don't know if you've heard of that fossil of the day. The NGOs run this little competition, prize for who's the biggest lagger out on climate. Australia won it three times during the two weeks, and Australia continues to be ... They rank, I think, most of the OECD and other major polluting countries on a range of different responses to climate change and emission reductions, and Australia was 57th or 58th out of 60, and only really worse to Saudi Arabia and maybe Iran or something, or one of the other big oil producers.

Come on, we've got to do better than that, and we can as well. That's with the export stuff. Adani has just been this ongoing debacle. This Indian billionaire, Gautam Adani. The Adani company has a range of, or a long history of a poor environmental track record in India and around the world as well, like significant pollution and where they were supposed to do environmental clean up and they haven't, and legal stuff as well. Somehow our government, I guess a while ago, they got this mining lease or exploration lease. It takes a long time to get to the mining stage in Australia because there's a lot of different regulations around biodiversity and water and all these things, so it does take a long time. And, community groups and climate activists have been fighting this mine ever since it really got approvals, and it's been going on for years now.

And, the government just kept passing it, giving the green light. Just one example of how ... I don't know how it passes these acts. There's a biodiversity act and there's two threatened species who live in this basin, the Galilee Basin. It's in far north Queensland, so right near the top of Australia. Basically, the mine development would remove all of this vegetation, this ecosystem where these two species. One's called the Black-throated finch, so a small little bird, and it only lives in this area. That's the only habitat that it has left, and the mine proposal ... So, how they get around it to meet the regulation is that they say they're going to clear this land to build a mine but they're going to go and plant the same kind of vegetation ecosystem somewhere else close by, so then somehow this bird species will survive there.

But I'm assuming, and there's a lot of questions around it, they're going to translocate this bird to the new habitat. But, the new habitat's going to take more than 10 years to grow. Where is this bird going to go in 10 years? It's ludicrous, and somehow that passes state and federal environmental regulations and biodiversity protection acts. I have no idea how that works, and I work in the area and have been looking at this mine for years. It's just shocking. Both the state government, which is a Labour, more progressive government, have done all their approvals and the federal government, the Conservative government, has done all their approvals.

Another thing is that the company will basically be able to take as much water as they want. Normally, there's a limitation on the amount of liters they're allowed to take from groundwater. But, the state government's basically said, or given them, an unlimited supply of groundwater. It's in this big aquifer that is already pretty depleted and a lot of farm agriculture in the area depends on groundwater, and they've gone through longterm drought in the last six years in Queensland and New South Wales. And, basically the government saying that this company can come in and build a mine and just take all the water.

Yeah, it's created these interesting tensions because normally the agriculture and farming sector is supported by the coalition, which is the Conservative Party, because it's made up by the liberal party, not small "L" liberal. And the Nationals, which is a country conservative party, and usually the country party or Nationals will support farmers, but now farmers are standing up against this mine because it's going to destroy their livelihoods, and still this coalition government is supporting fossil fuels over food.

So, where the Adani Mine is at, sometimes it feels like it's never going to happen, and there's been a lot of great campaigns. All the big four Australian banks, which are really big banks globally, have said no to investing in the mine because they need investment to build this rail line that goes to the coast where they can export coal on ships through the Great Barrier Reef, and probably destroy the reef as well even more. But, they haven't been able to get financing for this rail line, mainly because of a lot of community pressure on the banks and other companies. Some other engineering companies have pulled out of working with Adani. It makes no sense. There's no business case really for working with them because they've got such a poor record, and also as I'm sure you know, there's a lot of talk about coal being stranded assets, already becoming stranded assets. In places like the US, I guess they're experiencing this where all this money is put into developing something that then will not be able to be sold because there'll be no demand for it.

Whether or not that happens in the short term is a different question, I guess, but hopefully we don't get to that stage to test it out because that the amount of coal, it would just blow the global carbon budget. And, that's again where it's like, "Okay Australia," there's high unemployment in the North of Queensland and that's why that both governments are supporting this mine because they think that it's going to bring in jobs. Originally, the mine said there was going to be 10,000 jobs, and then they actually were in court, they said that, and then they actually went back and said, "Actually, it'll be more like 1000 jobs." So, they lied in court. So, there's like a list of other things they've done here which is ... It's a completely unethical company, and just a dodgy company that I don't know why the government has been supporting it.

And, it's also just false. Like the last election the conservative government won, and people think it is because of Adani, because a lot of pressure came from the southeast, where we live, to try and stop the mine because of climate change, and people living up in the rural areas. Kind of like what happened in the Rust Belt in the US with Trump. They were like, "Who are you guys from the city telling us what to do? We need jobs. Blah, blah, blah." Yeah, there's a lot of issues with that, but I guess what the government did was they're selling this idea that coal is going to bring jobs and prosperity to these communities but it's just false because yes, maybe in the short term there will be some jobs in construction, but then most of these mines are going automated, and most of the jobs are for highly trained university graduates, engineers, geologists, who will mostly be fly in, fly out.

They'll probably live in Brisbane or other cities and fly in and work. That's not going to support the community. Maybe there will be some short term benefits, but as the Paris Agreement is implemented around the world and countries do start to move further and faster away from fossil fuels, we're going to be left with all of these assets and the communities are going to be the first ones to lose out and I think that's totally irresponsible on the government's behalf because they should be the ones having foresight and creating jobs that will last and that are healthy for the community. There's been a lot of cases in the last five years in New South Wales in the coal region of black lung disease coming back. All these coal miners getting black lung disease, and I think the same thing has happened in the US as well.

That's not a healthy job for your family to live in a town next to the coal mine, and people won't want to live there. But, who knows what will happen. The last thing with the Adani Mine was that Siemens, the big engineering German tech company, they had signed a contract to do some automation stuff for the rail line for Adani, and then a lot of pressure was put onto them in the last month or so to not work with Adani. There were protests in 60 cites around Germany in front of all these Siemens offices, and a lot of people were emailing the CEO of Siemens Global. I sent him a few emails. I think lots of people here did, and there was a lot of pressure. Then, he came out the other day ... You might have seen in the news, but he basically said ... He wrote this long statement and he said Siemens is doing a lot of emissions reductions.

They do a lot in renewables which is true, but because they've already signed this contract, they have decided to go ahead with working with Adani, which is pretty devastating because we thought that Siemens, they're a pretty progressive company and do do a lot of good stuff, but his argument was we're doing all this stuff, and the coal would ... Some other company would do it if we didn't. Come on, the time for that is done. We need companies to show leadership as well, and tell their shareholders why working with a company like Adani is actually bad and risky, as well. There's a lot of risk.


FM: Oh, so many things running through my head. The Adani thing, I feel, parallels the issues that we've had with Alberta Tar Sands up in Canada and the pipelines that they want to do from Canada all the way through the US, and it goes through aquifers. It goes through indigenous lands. And to be honest, the indigenous peoples of Canada and the Dakotas have been on the front lines of trying to stop those pipelines. And, similarly our government, and not just the Trump administration, but the Obama administration specifically, just kicked the can down the road on making a decision on those pipelines, kicked it all the way down the road until he left. And then, Trump has in the past month ... Another thing that has not made the news here because there's so many other things going on ... has cleared the way for Keystone XL to go ahead.

There's already been tons of leaks that they don't seem to cover unless you really hunt through the internet. So, all the things that the indigenous people and the farmers ... And like you said, generally we think of farmers and ranchers of siding with the conservatives and now they're joining with indigenous peoples and environmentalists because it's ruining their land, and this idea of property rights in the US is so very strong as well, and it just proves if the government or a very, very rich entity like a large corporation can just throw away property rights and have a pipeline go through your ranch, whether you like it or not.

So, so many things running parallel, but one thing I wanted to ask you about because it's going to bring us, I think, around to blue carbon is this wildlife mitigation, or moving ... Like you said, the Adani, they're in the process of destroying a habitat, but they're going to recreate the habitat somewhere else, and that is something I'm interested in because funnily enough, I work in digital marketing and one of my clients six years ago was in environmental restoration, and I did not understand. I heard all these words and didn't understand exactly what they're doing and now I look back, and my understanding of what they do is if the state needs to build a road through the wetlands, the way they can do that and destroy the wetlands is that they pay to restore wetlands elsewhere.

But now thinking about it, it's like, "Well you're destroying this wetlands but the geese don't move from that destroyed place to this other one over here." And then also, I remember I was doing some graphic work and there was a beaver in this graphic, and they specifically said you need to take that out because we consider them a pest. So, that means to me that they're removing or killing the beavers on the land. How is this really ecologically sustainable? A good ecology would include beavers. My other interview I did a couple of weeks ago is actually about reintroducing beavers into the ecosystem, so are having this wetland management or flood mitigation, but it's still manmade? What do you think about that? Is it similar? Is blue carbon getting in that area as well?


OM: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of parallels. Your question earlier about if blue carbon was something not used in the US, it is a global concept, but it's quite new and it's just a new term or way of talking about ecology that we've known about and been talking about for a long time. There has been a lot of work, I think. I can't remember where the US, what state. It's one of the northeast states. There's been a lot of work around coastal wetland management, around these things called tidal salt marshes, which are where there's an estuary or a tidal river. There's these things called tidal salt marshes that grow around them, and so they actually sequester a lot of carbon and that's one of the ecosystem types that come under the term blue carbon.

Then, there's a lot of parallels with the wetland flood stuff that you've just been talking about. I've actually worked in biodiversity offsets and carbon offset organizations here in Australia. A biodiversity offset, which is what you were describing, is where there's a development. I think the regulations in the US are similar to here, that say a developer, whether it's a housing development or a hotel, or whatever it is, or a road, that whoever develops that road, and if they have to cut down X hectares or acres of mangroves and bushland or forest, then they have to plant, in Victoria it's supposed to be six times what they removed, so they have to elsewhere be returning six times, which I think it makes sense to make it more because it takes time to regenerate. I think that, in principle, the policy is okay and understanding that population grows and cities grow, so there has to be development. Unfortunately, that means that vegetation is removed.

I don't think it should be, but that's just the reality, so having a policy that makes that entity ... The developer will usually pay the government or pay an NGO to go and do the replanting or re-vegetation elsewhere. I think in principle that is good and should work, but from my experience in talking to people, as I'm sure there is the US, there's a lot of dodgy developers out there and a lot of noncompliance. Again, as you were airing to, if you cut down mangroves, a lot of that carbon that's stored in the sediment is often lost. Say you're replanting mangroves, which are notoriously difficult to do, which we can talk about later as well, you're expecting that it's this instant thing, that it's going to be the say level. With terrestrial forests, when you log an old growth forest of over 200 years old, there's so much carbon and nutrients and biodiversity in that forest that yeah, you can replant but it's going to take 200 years to get to the same level, so you're actually comparing apples and oranges.

It's not the same thing. So, it's hugely problematic offsetting, I think understanding though, but I guess that it's better to have that than not having anything at all as many places in the world don't. But yeah, it is problematic. Having said that, there are some great operators and organizations here that do different kinds of biodiversity and carbon offsetting that can be quite successful and there is some good work in there done in that space. But, there are a lot of issues and yeah, particularly for the animals, I think your example with the beaver is similar to the Adani, the Black-throated finch. It's a mind boggling assumption, a human assumption, that somehow an animal is going to move, or even if we translocate, so you take them in a proper program to this new habitat, the habitat is not going to be the same for a long time, and translocations are often unsuccessful anyway. It's a really problematic area.


FM: So, explain to us blue carbon and a little bit about this carbon sequestration process because I'm not sure if my audience fully understands what that means.


OM: Yeah, for sure. Blue carbon is, as I said, it's a new term. It's been around for about 10 years, but the actual science and ecology isn't necessarily too different than ... And, it comes from earlier things, but basically blue carbon is a term that describes the carbon that's captured and stored in coastal ecosystems. So, that includes predominantly, but different literature and organizations will include different types of ecosystems, but the main three ecosystems are mangrove forests, sea grass meadows, and tidal salt marshes, which they look like thick, reedy grass type ecosystems that grow next to estuaries or rivers close to the coast.

These ecosystems, basically through photosynthesis, pull carbon, CO2, out of the atmosphere and also out of the oceans, and they store it in their biomass. They store it in their above ground biomass, which is for mangroves, the trunks, and the stems and the leaves and all that stuff that you actually see. Then, in the below ground biomass as well, which are the roots, rhizomes and the mud and the sediment where they grow.

With mangroves, and actually all three ecosystems, most of the carbon that they pull out of the atmosphere is stored in the mud. So, that's sequestration. Pulling something out of the atmosphere and locking it away is what sequestration means. Actually, all three ecosystems can do this, but mangroves are the most successful and able to do this is they do this thing called coastal accretion. Because they are constantly pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, the mud and sediment under them is actually rising, so they actually can build land essentially. They're pretty amazing ecosystems, and when mangroves are healthy ... There's about 70 different mangrove species worldwide, which is actually not a large number if you look at different genus of plant species, it's quite small, and in a lot of parts of the world usually there's between one and six species in one area.

But, if there is a healthy mangrove forest, often that carbon that's in the mud can last there for thousands of years, so millennia timescales, which is why they're really important for, well not addressing climate change, but in terms of if the international community can stay within our carbon budget, protecting these ecosystems is really important because when you cut them down or degrade them, a lot of that carbon then is released back into the ocean and atmosphere through the microbes decomposing, the actual carbon in the mud and the sediment, and that gets released. That's what we call in academia is blue carbon emissions. As some of your listeners probably know, if you've got an ecology background or biology, all ecosystems are constantly having fluxes of carbon going in and out, so in and out of trees, in and out of mangroves, in and out of sea grasses. But, when you degrade them, they are not able to photosynthesize, so it's all going out. Protecting these ecosystems in a climate changing world is incredibly important.

If we're doing all this work to reduce emissions from electricity or vehicles or whatever else, or agriculture, but then we go and continue to degrade and remove mangroves and sea grasses, then there's so much carbon stored there globally that we'd be in real strife. But unfortunately, the trends ... In my research, I looked at global trends in blue carbon ecosystems and since the 1980s, mangroves, just for one example, have basically halved in their area cover. And, mainly because of land clearing for coastal development, road infrastructure, hotel developments and resorts, aquaculture. Shrimp farming in southeast Asia and Indonesia where there's the biggest concentration of mangrove forests in the world. There's been some of the main drivers of damage to mangroves.

For sea grasses, it's often agriculture where they will drain the swamp, the swamp plants. No pun intended around Trump.


FM: Drain the swamp - I couldn't help but think of that as well.


OM: Globally, it's not looking good for these coastal ecosystems, and a lot of the global population lives within a couple of kilometers or miles of the coast, and we're heavily reliant on coastal resources, and particularly in a lot of places in the Pacific, where I did research, a lot of communities are fishing communities and so they depend on those resources and they depend on the biodiversity that is possible because of mangroves and sea grasses and salt marshes providing that habitat for fish species and turtles, and the range of biodiversity in birds as well. Those ecosystem dynamics and biodiversity are really critical to obviously just in their own right, but also for those communities that are dependent on those resources. If we cut them down, then that biodiversity is going to be lost.

As it is globally, I guess the good thing about this push for protecting blue carbon over the last 10 years is is that people are becoming more aware of the importance of mangroves. Just as an example, when I was in Fiji talking to communities and organizations, as well, who work in conservation, Fijians are telling me about how a lot of people have always just hated mangroves. They smell bad. They're ugly, they block the view of the beach so you can't see if you've got family or part of your community are fishing. The mangroves block the way, so in a lot of places around the world because of that, they've been degraded and removed because they're undesirable.

But because there's a lot more awareness around conservation, I guess, and particularly in places like the Pacific, that people are really starting to understand when you cut down a mangrove forest, there's a whole range of cascading impacts that will happen into that area from coastal erosion, vulnerability to hazards like storms and cyclones that they protect coastlines from and communities, and then all the biodiversity impacts as well, which then impact people's food security and so on and so forth.

Yeah, there is more awareness because of this push for protecting blue carbon, but it's mostly been in academia and research, and it's yet to really result in any tangible large scale conservation and protection outcomes. So, that's where that's at.


FM: Interesting. So, in the article that I read by you, and I'll link to that article in the notes for this episode as well, my understanding - the premise of the article that you wrote - is that the Australian administration is using blue carbon offsetting as proof that they are doing something for climate change. But, it sounds like you don't necessarily agree with that. Is that correct?


OM: Yeah. I had been working in the Pacific before I started my masters, I remember flying over the islands and I was trying to figure out ... I'd actually just come from the US and I was working in conservation in Yosemite National Park and doing stuff on giant sequoias, and being out there, it was pretty inspiring. And, I was coming back to do some work in the Pacific before I went back to Australia, and I was thinking, "What's an area that brings together all the things I'm interested in? Conservation, climate change or mitigating climate change, but also helping communities adapt to the impacts of climate?"

And, I remember just thinking mangroves, it's these ecosystems. They pull that carbon out of the atmosphere, so alleviate climate change. They provide protection from storms and cyclones and sea level rise as well, and also are really important for biodiversity and sustainable development. So, that's why I ended up doing this research in blue carbon, but I was always a bit skeptical of the whole offsetting thing.

Just to go back on talking about how blue carbon offsetting would work is that basically a polluter, a country or a government or an individual, would put money or purchase offsets or credits to offset their emissions from industry or vehicles or a whole national economy's emissions by investing that money into protecting or restoring mangroves or sea grasses. So, that's how it works. How other carbon markets work is that they can be a central body where credit offsets and credits can be traded and that money from the sale of credits between polluters and people that are reducing emissions in their activities will then go to setting up a marine protected area or a national park to protect those ecosystems.

So, that's how it works, but offsetting is important in the global response to climate change. There is a place for offsets and we do need to sequester a lot of carbon. I don't know if you've read Project Drawdown.


FM: I've heard of it. I haven't read it.


OM: Yeah, it's a great book. It's basically a hundred solutions to climate change, and really easy to read. So, I suggest you sharing it actually with your listeners because-


FM: Is that Paul Hawken?


OM: Yeah, yeah. Paul Hawken. All the solutions and everything in the book is available just free online as well so you can look at it. In that book, he talks about ... Now, I've lost my train of thought while I was talking about Project Drawdown. I guess the main thing is that offsets will play a role in responding to climate change, but they're by no means a solution in themselves. They will play a minor part, but we need all these other structural changes to move away from fossil fuels is the key one.

The Australian government has continued to, as I've discussed, support new coal mines and our emissions keep going up, but we've used this new concept of blue carbon as a way to tell the rest of the world that we are doing something, and it's a bit more complicated than a lot of our public agencies. I know people who work in the federal government environment department, and there's a lot of great people that ... Similarly to the Trump administration, there's a lot of great people who work in government and are trying to do the best that they can with the situation that they find themselves in because of the politics. So, I think the Australian government, about two or three years ago, announced that they were going to invest $6 million AUD, which is nothing really but in the Pacific that's still a lot of money, in research and development around blue carbon to try and get it eventually to a place where they can be saleable carbon credits for protecting mangroves and sea grasses.

But, it's been clear that they've only really been doing that because they're not doing anything else. Or, they're doing that and then talking about it as if it's one of their central climate policies, which is just ludicrous when we're subsidizing fossil fuels billions of dollars a year just in Australia alone, and then we're going and saying, "We're going to invest $6 million AUD in blue carbon research as a central part of our climate change response." For me, that was happening as I was starting my project, and I was always like, "Do I want to do research on this because I can see that there's issues?" But, I was like there's still a lot of benefit and it's important that we talk about those ecosystems and that we do protect them. As I've spoken about earlier, there's so many benefits; biodiversity, coastal protection, carbon sequestration and protecting them from emitting these blue carbon emissions is really and fundamental.

But, we can't just do that and not do anything else. That's what our governments continue to do. At the three COPs in the last three years, they've used blue carbon and referenced blue carbon in the minister's main speeches, our prime ministers ... So, they keep talking about it at the election. I was at a local minister's panel with his opponents who were running for that particular electorate, and he mentioned blue carbon as if that's what we're doing, "Australia's committed to climate change mitigation and we're doing this on blue carbon research."

It's been clear to me that we've been using that and some other things as a bit of a smokescreen internationally for our inaction, and blocking. At COP, we were one of the blockers in negotiations. I'm not sure how the US was in this last one, but I know they have in the past, as well, just actively preventing collaboration and joint measures and commitments, and really just washing down the whole Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement has limitations, but it's a pretty phenomenal effort that the international community has come together and got commitments for 1.5 degrees around climate change. All the research is out there, and the knowledge and how to do it.

Obviously, the challenge is implementing all those things globally. But, then to have countries like Australia and the US actively blocking that for fossil fuel interest, and just thinking ... I don't know if you follow COP much, but I just heard from someone that some of the sponsors are fossil fuel companies, and the oil companies like Shell and Chevron and the rest of them are all there. They're in the room. How are we going to make plans to decarbonize when the biggest polluters and the causes of the problem are in the same room? It doesn't make sense.


FM: It's a shame. I think this is why it's important that we all take the time to educate ourselves because as you've mentioned, preserving these habitats are incredibly important for just preserving the ecology and the benefits that it provides the environment that we didn't even know about when it comes to carbon sequestration. But, it is all too easy for the powers to be to use that as like, "Oh look, we're doing something." I think we've all experienced this locally, nationally and internationally on a variety of issues. When the people in power are not listening to the people, they'll basically give lip service and it sounds like that this is happening.

In my research looking at the article you sent me, but even looking back at that client I had, it raised an interesting question - another way that using carbon as a commodity, how this is creating loopholes for double counting, which I thought was crazy. Can you talk about that? I didn't even understand what I read.


OM: Oh God, yeah. When I learnt about double counting in carbon offsetting and stuff, I was just like ... Yeah, it's bit mind blowing. But, with blue carbon, this is the issue around Australia even investing in the Pacific. I'd just first like to again how Australia has been using the blue carbon thing with the Pacific is just ... It's again just a sign of total disrespect and essentially quite neo-colonial and racist views of our Pacific neighbors. The last three COPs, the Pacific COP, which was COP 21 in 2017, was presided by Fiji. Since a few years before that, and then over the last couple of years, the Pacific have been the leaders in COP and the international response.

The president of Tuvalu, the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, Fiji and other countries in the Pacific have been pushing. They pushed for 1.5 degrees and they achieved that, and they've been huge leaders. I think it's important that we acknowledge the incredible work the Pacific communities have been doing. One group, 350.Org, have a subsidiary in the Pacific called 350 Pacific, and the Pacific climate worries ... You might have seen ... they do a lot of activism work around COPs and we're good friends with them, so I know quite a few of the warriors. They're great people for your listeners to look up there. They do amazing work.

I think how Australia treats the Pacific is very paternalistic and disrespectful, and the blue carbon thing, it's like we're using this as this almost carrot and stick thing. China's influence in the Pacific is rising, as you've probably seen in the news. Now Australia's military leaders are trying to tell the government that we need to counter ... And, the US as well ... try to counter China in the Pacific. Then, that all interplays with this climate stuff where Australia is then using ... We'll invest in the Pacific on blue carbon, but actually the reasons why we're doing it are probably more because we're worried about China and their influence. We don't actually care about you. It's pretty depressing and just embarrassing. I've got a lot of friends in the Pacific, and there's a lot of people here who are trying to get that change, but it's pretty sad.

So, back to your question about the double counting, essentially this hasn't happened, but it was talked about at COP. It was like, "What happens when countries are purchasing carbon credits in another country?" There's a lot of this happening in the Amazon and in Brazil where European countries ... So in the EU, countries like Denmark and Norway have been investing in REDD+ or reducing emissions from deforestation. Just this big carbon offsetting scheme for terrestrial land like forests. They have been setting up these systems and investing in trying to generate carbon credits. And so, they're counting that as their emissions reductions, or part of their approach to responding to climate change, but then Brazil ... And, Bolsonaro, who's ... God. Let's not talk about him, but he's actually made a good point. I don't necessarily agree with how sovereign worlds operates in terms of borders and stuff, but it is Brazil's land, and it's like this progressive colonialism as well where these NGO's come in and take it away from indigenous people in lots of examples in South America, which is hugely problematic.

Then, Bolsonaro made a good point. It's like, "Actually, you guys can't count those are your commitments." Even though he probably doesn't believe in climate change anyway, and he's also blocking in COP. So, it raises questions for blue carbon. It's like, well, is Australia trying to, which it seems like it is, to set up these systems that it can benefit from carbon credits that will be really cheap in Fiji? Rather than buying more expensive credits locally? And, then we count those towards our emissions reductions? But then, it's Fiji's resources, or the Pacific's mangroves, so surely if they're doing their assessments of their carbon systems, how are they even practically going to not count that little bit of mangrove forest?

I think practically it's highly problematic, but also ethically, and again, it doesn't help the cause. We need to reduce emissions. We need to sequester carbon, so double counting is just totally counterproductive, because it also makes it ... I can see how a future government can say that they're doing all this stuff and they are reducing emissions and then they're meeting the rest by purchasing carbon credits by offsetting. But, those offsets are in some other country. Those systems are a large part of their own emissions reduction or sequestration targets. It doesn't make sense. It is being talking about at COP and in the UN, so hopefully there can be systems that are set up that it doesn't happened, but it's challenging.


FM: Well, I think setting up our environment as commodities on a capitalist system just makes it rife for abuse in multiple ways. As you mentioned, double counting carbon sequestration for the country that it's in, but then also this other country. In some of my research I found also wasting of taxpayer's money in our country because the state Department of Transportation will have paid for this wetland restoration because they had a road, but then also the federal government paid for it, but it was actually the same project. So, a project that was supposed to be a million dollars, that company made $2 million off of it and had to go to court, and still managed to argue it because they'd found the loophole that made that accessible. That's really bad because if that stuff gets out, that turns people against any sort of let's try and maintain or restore any of our natural habitats.

It's just rife for people taking advantage unfortunately, and there's too many people out there willing to do that. But, another thing that you were talking about that I'm very interested in is this style of carbon offsetting and blue carbon, and the terrestrial carbon. Does this disproportionately affect indigenous people? And, I know you worked in Fiji and I've read about it. We mentioned in Brazil where maybe they would pay a tribe for their indigenous land, like an NGO would come in and the tribe gets a big flush of cash, but they're totally taken off of their land. So, the forest is maintained but it's fenced off and it completely destroys the indigenous people and their ability to fish and grow and that sort of stuff. Is that happening from what you see?

OM: Yeah. Because blue carbon offsetting, or the idea around that, has come after a lot of terrestrial work and a lot of hard lessons learnt, I guess, at an international level around what's happened with REDD+ in South America and in a lot of places in the Amazon and elsewhere as well, and in Africa as well, is that we do have that experience and understanding of the problems and risks. In the literature laced in research, there's a lot of great work being done around that we need to co-produce solutions to conserving these ecosystems with local communities, and that local communities and traditional knowledge has to be integrated and part of any implementation process, and that people on the ground who are directly linked and connected to these ecosystems have to be central in any scheme or anything that's set up.

So, there's a lot of good stuff in research around that and in the academic space, but it's yet to ... There's only a few examples of blue carbon projects that are actually generating offsets and through the voluntary market, which is not through a government regulated system. It's like an NGO sells their carbon offsets just to anyone, so individuals can buy them. That's in Kenya, and it's a very small project. It's about a hundred hectares or something. It's very minimal and it's really successful so far, but that's the only one that's set up. There is progress elsewhere but it's a bit different than terrestrial because a lot of the mangrove stocks are in the intertidal zone where practically there's not usually people directly living there. They might be living right next to it, and then land rights in a lot of countries are variable in that intertidal zone.

In the Pacific, and in Fiji, for instance, there is traditional indigenous land rights over land, and also over the marine area, but the marine area, there's government ways around the indigenous land rights. It's a lot more difficult to monitor and police. There are issues around tourist operators coming in. It's more around the degradation and clearing of those ecosystems without indigenous or local community knowledge or understanding of what's happening. And because there hasn't really been any big projects set up, that hasn't really surfaced. But just one example, when I was interviewing specialists in conservation in Fiji, and someone I spoke to was telling me an example of a carbon project that was trying to be set up in Papua New Guinea, I think, or the Solomon Islands.

Basically, what happened was that this community, their forest was really healthy and they were living very sustainably because traditional practices are very sustainable as they would be in North America, as well, and in South America and in Australia with Aboriginal people as well ... are very ecologically sustainable, but it's when those Western concepts come in that things change and that knowledge is lost and then you see environmental impacts. But, this example, so basically this NGO or carbon offset developer came in and told the community, "This is what we want to do. We want to protect your forest from logging or clearing." Okay, cool. "Your community is going to get these benefits and these returns." They basically were involving the community and it seemed like a good project.

But then, what happened was that this NGO went away. They were probably trying to set it up and probably trying to do the right thing, but what happened was that after a couple of years, this community was waiting for the benefits and nothing was coming. It takes a long time to set this stuff up and there's a lot of regulation things around setting financial systems that go along with these offsetting schemes, and it takes years. So, this community hadn't received anything and apparently they started to ... They were basically like, "Well, actually our forests are worth money so we can get money for them." So, they went and engaged logging companies and logging companies came in and logged the forests because they could see that they could actually make money.

But before the NGO came in, they didn't even look at the forest in that way. They didn't have that Western concept of monetizing everything, or capitalist concept, I should say. And so, they would never have done that, but it was only when they realized, because they'd been given this idea that they could make money off the resource, that it ended up having this much worse environmental impact. That was a classic example of ... especially that Western approach to conservation stuff ... You have to be extremely careful, and in a lot of cases, it's probably best if we just stay out and empower locals to do that work in their own way and to keep that traditional ecological knowledge and approaches to land management that were in place before colonization.

That example for me was like, "Okay, that's where blue carbon would potentially become highly problematic, as well." My motivation for doing the project was it's likely that people will try and set up blue carbon projects, so I wanted to try and offer a perspective that put the local people, whoever they are ... They don't have to be indigenous. It can be anyone who's locally there and dependent on that particular resource for their livelihoods, or they're just there being the stewards or custodians of that ecosystem. That they essentially in any approach, and that their voices are heard, and they're part of the process, not just at the start, but throughout and then in the ongoing management.

That was my motivation. This stuff is probably going to happen, so how can we provide a way for local people to be heard and central in conservation implementation.

FM: That's certainly a noble cause, and I hope that you stay on the forefront of making sure that this new blue carbon landscape can be as beneficial as possible to everyone who's around. And, beneficial not meaning monetarily beneficial because I think that's our short-sightedness as well is that everything comes down to the dollar and that short term colonial way of thinking, like you said, we need to unprogram that. That is such a huge, scary task that I don't know how it's going to happen, but when you have people like you who've recognized that and are trying to move forward with a different way, creating different ways of doing this so that the people benefit in the long term, that everyone benefits.

OM: Yeah, for sure. Can I just add one more thing? An example of answering your question in a different way from Australia actually where it's actually a bit more positive. Aboriginal people continue to be disenfranchised in Australia, and our policies ... It's not a good situation in Australia for a lot of indigenous communities, but one thing that has happened over the last 10 years is ... And, actually since that progressive government came in around 2007 and set up a lot of climate policies. One of their policies was this land-based approach, so a carbon market approach to land management. So, planting trees, other conservation approaches, and one of them is this thing called savanna burning, which basically the whole top third of Australia has a type of savanna. It looks a bit different from the savanna you've been familiar with in Africa.

It's sparse vegetation, but with smaller trees. It's a quite rough landscape, but it's beautiful in a cool way. Basically, fire is part of the natural ecology there, all over Australia, as it is in a lot of places in the US as well, but since colonization, fire regimes have changed and we've prevented those natural small low intensity fires from burning the ecology, which promotes regrowth and regeneration and also puts carbon back into the soil, and then removes fuels so that major fires like the fires we're seeing now, don't occur as often. This approach, savanna burning, was basically where they invested money into indigenous ranger programs and Aboriginal rangers basically have been doing this savanna burning, so it's like back burning or controlled burns or prescribed burns. It's different terminology in the US as well, but where in the fall, autumn, and spring as well, so it's not too wet but it's not too dry or high fire risk, they'll go and do these low intensity burns across the landscape.

They use this thing that's like a mosaic, so they'll burn little bits in different areas on a rotating annual basis so that everything does get burnt moderately. What it's done is it's actually generating carbon credits. The two things how they measure it is that it's putting carbon back in the soil, but also what it's doing is it's preventing these mega fires, that when they happen, all of this carbon is released back into the atmosphere. It's been really successful across the top end of Australia, and now with these fires here in the southeast, people are talking about why aren't we using this kind of mosaic burning down here as well, and using that Aboriginal and indigenous knowledge?

But, the co-benefits to this savanna burning and this Aboriginal ranger programs are that there's been a lot of investment in remote indigenous communities. Sustainable employment that isn't based on working in a coal mine or some other extractive industry, and it's also putting ... They have this terminology, "putting people back on country", because that's how Aboriginal talk about it's their country, so getting back onto country where they might, because of colonization, they might have been just not living out in the bush and engaging with their traditional knowledge. This savanna burning program, or ranger programs, has been able to put young people back in employment, getting them outside, getting them involved in conservation and it has been really successful and I think there's a lot of benefits to that.

Yeah, it's definitely an interesting thing to look into, and I think it's an example of where carbon offsetting and land management sequestration projects can really be successful in terms of the environmental benefits, but also the social and economic benefits to empowering local people. From that example here in Australia, I think the Pacific and blue carbon, there are opportunities to learn from that, and I think there are opportunities to do that in a sustainable way. But again, as I mentioned earlier, we need all that work. That's really important. Actually why I mentioned Project Drawdown was that a lot of the IPCC and the Paris Agreement commitments depend on the whole world sequestering a lot of carbon, so drawing down a lot of carbon from the atmosphere in the second half to the century.

We need to reduce emissions to zero and net zero, but we also need to take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere so we can get back to safe levels, and that's what Project Drawdown's really about, all those different solutions to withdrawing CO2 from the atmosphere in a range of different ways. So, blue carbon and carbon offsetting is going to be really important in doing that. Carbon offsetting is a capitalist approach and maybe not the right one, but it is something and I think it can be done in a way that it is beneficial.

FM: Well, I'm definitely going to look up savanna burning, and I'll be putting links to all that information because it's great to hear those success stories as something that hopefully we can emulate throughout the world and all the people in it. That's fantastic. So Oli, just one last question for you. What advice would you give someone who is just now waking up to the climate crisis?

OM: Yeah. I think for me, having been involved in it and working and volunteering and active in the space for about six, seven years now, it's still emotional for me. It's devastating seeing these fires happen now, and it can be really emotional, particularly when you first realize the real implications for our life as people and as humanity and life on earth. So, I think first of all, just try and talk about it. Find someone that you can talk about it with who also maybe understands the issue, or knows a bit about it. If you don't have anyone that you know, find a Facebook group or actually even better, find a local organization that does something. There's a whole range of ways you can get involved. There are groups that do conservation stuff that you can get involved in if you want that practical hands-on. There are also more activist community groups that there will be other people that you can talk about how you're feeling. I think that's really important and something that's not talked about, that emotional side.

Apocalyptic movies, everyone thinks that's just so far fetched, but that's what we're facing if we don't do everything that we already know we can and implement all those solutions. That's hard to stomach, so I think finding someone to talk to about it, I think is really important. Something I have noticed, the best way for my own mental health in terms of climate grief, which is a whole new psychological field around coming to terms with the climate crisis, is actually taking action is the thing that makes you feel the best. I went to a climate protest last week, and I haven't been to one in a while. You can have different views about protesting and how effective it is, but just going there and being with thousands of people and knowing that there's other people out there, I think, is really powerful. I was feeling good after it. Whether or not it's going to change Australia's climate policy is a different question, but I think whenever I've taken action I've felt good about it afterwards, and I think that is a way to deal with that emotional side of things.

So, talking about it, joining a local group. There's so many different types of organization wherever you are now, so just jump on Facebook, search around, climate change volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to take action in different ways. I think the organization I used to work with was Climate for Change. We'd basically use the Tupperware party model, but instead of selling plastics in people's homes, we'd have conversations about climate change. We'd go to people's homes, usually through someone you know so it's not random door knocking. You have your friends, or whoever's hosting it invites their friends over. You have some dinner, watch a short video about climate change that explains the science and the impacts and also the solutions, and then just have a conversation about it. It's a really effective model and it's been wonderful to be a part of.

At Climate for Change, anyway, we're focused on trying to get people to take what we called citizen-based actions that are really putting pressure on those leaders of power that are really stopping climate change action or responding to the issues. I don't know how it works in the US, but I assume there is a possibility to contact your local congressman or parliamentarian or senator, or even if it's local jurisdiction governments or your state government. Contact them and ask them, "What are you going to do?" Or, if they've done something that you're not happy with, let them know. I don't know how it is in the US, but a lot of ministers and politicians here in Australia, they don't receive many letters or email. Some receive a lot, but often they don't receive many letters, handwritten ones, or calls or people actually visiting them. That's what they're there for, so I really encourage people trying to get involved in putting pressure on your local member.

It is a way to let them know that you actually care about this issue and you want change. I think it's interesting times in the US now with the Democratic primaries and the impeachment thing and Trump, the next election, but I think there's never a better time than before an election to I don't know, join, do some volunteering, go do door knocking. I don't know. Just try and talk to people, put pressure on governments, tell them that regardless of if you're a Republican, you're a conservative, you're a liberal, whatever, climate change doesn't care about politics and I think we need to come together. The more people we talk about it, the more we can move past that cognitive distance around ... There's this classic thing in Australia, I don't know if there's global statistics, but there's this thing where in Australia, the majority of Australians believe climate change is real and they think the government should be doing more. But 50% of that large ... I think it's 75% now. The other 50% of the population don't even believe in climate change, so they don't actually talk about it because you're constantly worried that probably someone sitting next to you doesn't believe in it and is going to berate you for believing in this climate conspiracy or something.

So, people don't talk about it. The work at Climate for Change, we're trying to promote people to talk about it and I think that's where it's really important to break down those barriers between, or that stigma around talking about it because I think it's really important to talk about it. Yeah, have a go at writing a letter to a congressman. It would be awesome to hear how that goes. I don't know if there are organizations that support doing that. You can do other things like petitions and go to a protest, join the climate student strikes. They've been massive. Or, other groups. Yeah, try something. There is lots of different ways that you can take action, and that can be a bit overwhelming but just try one, join a group, give it a go. If it's not for you, that's okay. There's other things out there, but I think we need to be talking about it. We need to be supporting each other and bringing it out in the open and talking about the emotional toll of this issue, as well, and share those stories that you do here that are positive.

FM: Well, that's great advice, Oli. I appreciate it. I think it's good advice to get more involved, especially as you mentioned. In the US, we're in an election year, and these things very much matter. And, I agree with what you're saying. I mean, climate change to me, I don't understand why it is a partisan issue. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. It is a world issue. It shouldn't be one country or one party or anything like that. I would hope in the best of circumstances that this is something that could actually rally the entire world's population to do something good and prove that humans are this smart species that we like to believe we are and do something about it.

OM: One thing that made me think of about, an example of and really relevant to Australia and the US is the UK where, I don't know if you follow, but they've been in political turmoil with Brexit for years now, for the last three or four years, but the whole time through all of that, they've had a bunch of prime ministers, as well, and just total government breakdown basically is that they've improved their climate policy over that time. Boris Johnson, whatever you think of him, one of his election commitments was net zero emissions by 2050. Now, whether or not he is the person that's going to be able to actually achieve that, or that they will, but the UK has done a lot of good stuff on climate and phasing out fossil fuels, investing in renewables. They're a small geographic country, which makes them different to the US and Australia, but they've got a big population and they're influential. Their conservatives have very similar views to our conservatives.

But, they've still managed ... Climate change and climate policy has stayed out of politics, and hopefully that stays. I think it's heartening for us in Australia and the US when you see that because it can be non-partisan and it should be. I think it's a really relevant example to keep in mind. Yeah, if you're worried about talking to your Republican uncle about climate change, do it anyway because we need everyone on board. I think it's really important that we're all talking about it.

FM: Yeah. Well, I appreciate your time, Oli. I know you're about to kick off your day in Melbourne. And everyone, I'll just express our thoughts ... I'm not going to say thoughts and prayers. I really hate that phrase, but there's a lot of energy and sympathy going towards Australia. It's been going on for months but it really hit our news over the holiday period, and people are heartbroken. If any good comes of it, I hope it's the wake up call that people need to understand that this is real and these are the results of climate change. It's not a meteor hitting us and everything goes away. It is going to be longer fire seasons, stronger fires. Where I live, our hurricane season is expanding and the hurricanes are stronger and stronger, and people somehow compartmentalize that and say it's not climate change when it's very clear that it is.

The Australian wildfires in particular, were they not outlined in the IPCC report two or three years ago? They basically said this is what's going to happen and it's happening. Lets all, like you said, speak to one another, rally a community together and take action to make a change. I appreciate it, Oli.

OM: Thanks so much, Fiona.