Office for Environmental Programs - Theses

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    Multiweek-to-seasonal prediction of fire weather in south-eastern Australia
    Sibbing, Joshua ( 2021)
    Weather and climate prediction play a vital role in preparing the public and emergency management authorities for extreme events. In this study, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal forecasting system, ACCESS-S1, is tested on its ability to predict severe fire weather in south-eastern Australia. For the severe event occurring on 07 February 2009 (“Black Saturday”), a hindcast dataset is used to compare model predictions of fire-weather-relevant variables to reanalysis values at lead times of 6, 14, 23, and 69 days. At the longest lead time (69 days), predictions were also compared with those from other years and correlated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index NINO3.4. At sub-seasonal lead times (6, 14, and 23 days), ACCESS-S1 is found to skilfully predict Tmax values but overpredict rainfall. At the longest lead time (69 days), ACCESS-S1 predicts ordinary counts for hot and dry days during the 2008-2009 summer period, despite this period showing anomalously high counts in the reanalysis. For all hindcast years(1990-2011), model predictions of hot and dry day counts correlate strongly with NINO3.4 values, suggesting an overdependence by the model on the state of ENSO when predicting these variables. Other model biases, such as a warm bias in central Victoria and a wet bias in New South Wales, are suggested to exist due to the routine overprediction of hot day counts (central Victoria) and underprediction of dry day counts (New South Wales) found at these locations. Further investigation is needed to determine the reasons contributing to the model biases identified here and to gain a comprehensive understanding of the model’s abilities.
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    Power Shifts: A study of Agency in the Australian Environmental Movement
    Bock, Chante ( 2022)
    Successful environmental campaigns have become critical as the consequences of delayed action on climate change have become extreme in Australia with the frequency of floods, heat waves and bushfires severe. This research constitutes a qualitative study into how campaigners’ agency informs their strategies in the Australian environmental movement. Detailed data was gathered from 4 semi-structured interviews with campaigners in Australian in an effort to understand the relationships between campaigns and campaigner’s understandings of their agency. The data was thematically analyzed through the lens of Bourdieu’s sociological Practice theory of habitus and the field to find themes. Identified themes focused on the structure of the participant organisations such as: fundraising and financial independence; internal barriers like team relationships and burn-out; large external themes were power structures, like capitalism and campaigns strategies that related to those. The research suggests that organisations’ fundraising structures, as well as activist cultures held elements that acted as barriers towards campaigns at times. Campaigners were concerned that through the social cultures that they built around and within their organisations, they could be reproducing structures of capitalism and other systems of oppression. The thesis ends by offering theoretical and practical implications that the results hold, as well as recommendations and words of encouragement for the Australian environmental movement.
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    The Aesthetics and Politics of William Morris: Precursors to Eco-Socialism
    Sather Jenkins, Rebecca Jeanne ( 2021)
    William Morris (1834-1896) continues to enjoy a lasting and significant legacy as an artist, poet, and prominent British socialist leader. Scholarship has aligned him with the eco-socialist movement to varying degrees, concentrating on his explicit socialist career from the 1870s onwards. Exploring several of Morris’s key publications, this essay contextualises Morris’s role as a precursor to the eco-socialist movement, and contends that although he would not describe his socialist beliefs as such until his later life, his earlier work as a designer and aesthete is defined by similar principles. Using close analysis, this essay demonstrates that Red House — completed with Philip Webb in 1860 — provided an opportunity for Morris to embed his social and ecological philosophies in his decorative arts, and that the house would become a significant launching point for many of his later socialist endeavours.
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    A changing electricity landscape: The trade-offs of household Solar PV, Battery Energy Storage Systems and Electric Vehicles to customers and the power sector in Greater Melbourne
    Brown, Felix ( 2021)
    The decarbonisation of the energy system is causing a dramatic shift in how the electricity market is structured, which in Australia has been traditionally dominated by large, centralised generators. This shift to decentralisation has been heightened by a significant increase in households installing solar panels and generating their own electricity over the past 10 years, making electricity customers active participants in the energy market. Along with the electrification of other services, such as transport, and the decreasing costs of household battery energy storage systems (BESS), further opportunities are being afforded to households to become increasingly self-reliant while reducing their energy bills and carbon emissions. This will create challenges for the power sector going forward, and one of the goals of this research is to understand the potential changes to the electricity landscape so that there are minimal roadblocks on the path to decarbonisation, while ensuring that the transition is equitable. This research uses an open sourced techno-economic model with real household energy data and driving profiles. The model has the objective of minimising a household’s annual energy bill in the Greater Melbourne region and is used to assess the impacts that distributed energy resources (DER) and electric vehicles (EVs) have on a household’s energy consumption patterns, their energy bills and emissions profiles over a one-year period. Time-of-use (TOU) and flat tariff structures are used with different combinations of solar PV, BESS and EVs with the aim to provide context to grid planners and policymakers on the potential trade-offs of a decentralised electricity landscape.
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    Subnational implementation of the Paris agreement : A case study from the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand
    Bahuguna, Haritima ( 2021)
    The 2015 Paris Agreement received accord from 190+ nations as a global climate action plan to limit global warming and to protect vulnerable communities with limited resources. However, climate impacts over vulnerable communities in India, an eminent actor in the Paris Agreement, have significantly increased over the last decade. Success of the Paris Agreement depends on the fulfilment of nationally determined climate targets formulated by the central government which gives the government total control over climate governance and implementation of climate policies in India. However, barriers restrict global aid from reaching vulnerable communities. This research aims to investigate governance barriers to implementation of the Paris Agreement at sub-national level, using theories of polycentric governance, through a case study of Uttarakhand, a highly climate vulnerable Himalayan state in India. The national delegation from India in the Global Climate Regime represents a populace of more than 1.3 billion but the findings show that the central government has been highly insufficient in fulfilling its pledged targets at the sub-national level and has increased the gap between vulnerable communities and global resource aid. Limited involvement of non-government sub-national actors in climate action, dominance of the central government on climate policies in India and a lack of sub-nation climate action reporting framework at the global level were identified as key governance barriers to the subnational implementation of the Paris Agreement. Concludingly the report provides recommendations to increase involvement of local actors through community-based climate actions and to bridge the gap between sub-national climate action and the Global Climate Regime.
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    Holidaying in the ‘fire-scape’ : Examining absentee landholders’ sense of community, place-attachment, and preparedness in Halls Gap, Victoria
    Miller, Gabrielle ( 2021)
    Fire is an integral feature of the landscape across much of south-eastern Australia, especially in Victoria one of the most fire-prone areas of the world. Changing local fire regimes and shifting socio-cultural fabrics of rural communities across Victoria has contributed to the increasing complexity of fire management across these landscapes. In recent decades, amenity-led in-migration has been a driver of social change. In Victoria, ‘difficult-to-engage’ absentee landholders have been identified by fire agencies as a barrier to “shared responsibility” for building communities' capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from fire. Despite this emphasis on community-level resilience in emergency management, what is meant by 'community' and 'community resilience' remains contested in practice and theory. Further, little is known about how the values, knowledge, and attitudes of non-resident landholders in the context of bushfire influence social resilience at the community-level. Through a case study in Halls Gap, Victoria this research contributes knowledge of individual and community level resilience in the context of a rapidly changing rural landscape; characterised by high fire risk, amenity-led in-migration, and a high proportion of absentee and newer landholders. Twenty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with absentee landholders’ with the aim of eliciting their knowledge of bushfire, sense of community, place-attachment and responsibility for place and examining the influence of these social factors for fire preparedness and resilience at both the individual and community level. Thematic analysis of interview data contributes novel insights of the knowledge, values, and attitudes absentee landholders bring to the ‘fire-scape’, which present challenges and opportunities for building strong community resilience in Halls Gap. A key finding of this study is that there is significant interest in learning about fire risk and management among absentee landholders, who draw on varying place-attachment, sense of community, social capitals, and networks in making sense of risk, responsibility, and resilience in bushfire landscapes. If effectively channelled and linked with community-level capabilities, these individual characteristics can contribute to strong community resilience. An important implication of these findings in the context of changing rural communities is the importance of understanding how sense of community and place variably influence decision-making and engagement regarding bushfire preparedness and mitigation actions.
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    Bringing Back Bolin: Uncovering evidence for the flood history of the Birrarung from a particle size analysis and the geochemistry of the Bolin Bolin Billabong sediment core.
    Simpson, Callum ( 2021)
    There is a growing interest in restoring the physical and natural environments of urban wetlands and waterways (Balaguer et al., 2014), however, there is a lack of historical references as to their preEuropean invasion condition to guide this rehabilitation work (Willis et al., 2010). Bolin Bolin Billabong, in Bulleen, represents an ideal candidate for the necessary palaeoecological study to produce such historical information. The site of Bolin Bolin has had an interesting role in the history of Aboriginal and European land use, sits on a major floodplain of the Birrarung (Yarra River), and is a relatively undisturbed waterbody compared to most other urban wetlands. A 494cm sediment core was extracted from Bolin Bolin Billabong in 2019. A laser diffraction analysis was performed to establish the particle size of sediment across layers of the core at a 2-centimetre resolution. An ITRAX core scanner was used to measure the metal geochemistry at a 1-millimetre resolution. The data produced from these analyses and presented in this research shows a decrease in particle size due to a loss of natural flooding of the Birrarung. River flow regulation through damming was far more impactful on Bolin Bolin’s physical environment than other environmental factors. However, the impact of past fires and recent urbanisation is also readily discernible in the core’s composition. From this research, a paleoenvironmental reconstruction and some baseline environmental information is presented for the history of Bolin Bolin. This research also lends support to changing how society views urban water catchments and their wetlands. The history of Bolin Bolin indicates the vital importance of natural flooding to floodplain health. Previous catchment management strategies that aim to eliminate flooding from the landscape need to be replaced with a dynamic stewardship of floodplains that allow flooding to occur and bring the related ecological benefits (Wolfenden et al., 2018).
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    The Road to FOGO: The Intentions and Realities of Municipal Organic Waste Management in Metropolitan Melbourne
    Hawkins, Rosina Rockliff ( 2021)
    A sustainability transition is currently observable in Melbourne, Australia: the universal implementation of residential food and garden organic (FOGO) waste collection programs by local governments. In the past five years (to 2021), a range of interrelated waste ‘crises’ triggered a change in the Zeitgeist, providing the impetus and favourable conditions for a number of local governments to implement a FOGO service. The transition is framed as one requiring ‘community-wide behaviour change’ by the Victorian State Government due to the need for resident participation and compliance in municipal waste collection. However, the accepted wisdom of ‘sustainable behaviour change’ with its focus on individual attitudes, behaviours and choices, has been widely questioned in terms of its ability to elicit sustained change. Using Binder’s (2012) Model of Recursive Cultural Adaptation (MORCA) as an analytical framework, this study identifies an expanded range of factors influencing how and why council employees design and implement FOGO systems. The study attests to the applicability of the MORCA to a study of step-wise change, examining specific instances where council employees defended and extended their practices in response to challenges and disruptions in their council context. Ten qualitative interviews with twelve employees from councils in Metropolitan Melbourne were undertaken, in which interviewees reflected on their experience of designing and implementing their councils’ FOGO program. Interview data was analysed in conjunction with a document analysis of two key documents published by a Victorian State Government body intended to guide councils’ implementation of FOGO. The study finds that Victoria State Government ‘best practice’ recommendations guided council employees’ design and implementation of FOGO, but they faced several challenges during implementation which were not adequately addressed in the two documents. The study revealed that design of FOGO systems is also influenced positively and negatively by the organisational and spatial layout of councils, the privileging of communications expertise and ‘behaviour change’ techniques, and a perceived risk of community resistance to FOGO. Implications and topics for further study are discussed.
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    The urban political ecology of access to solar PV: Energy justice and climate justice in the Darebin Solar Saver program
    Tice, Julianne ( 2021)
    Certain groups within society, including the poor, the elderly, and those renting their homes are at risk of bearing disproportionate costs resulting from the transition to a low-carbon economy. These groups are particularly at risk of energy injustice and climate injustice related to being able to purchase sufficient energy or being able to adequately heat or cool their homes as the impacts of climate change continue. The Darebin Solar Saver program in the City of Darebin, Melbourne, Victoria is an attempt to address these issues. The program enables pensioners, low-income residents and renters (the target audience) in Darebin to install solar PV on their home with no upfront costs and with system costs repaid interest-free through their council rates over ten years. This research identified how well the program was successful in reaching its target audience and the extent to which it was successful in achieving climate justice and energy justice outcomes for participants in the years 2018 and 2019. During the years 2018-2019, the scheme was expanded to all Darebin residents to reach Darebin City Council’s goal to double solar generation capacity in Darebin from 19 to 38 MW. A survey was sent to program participants who received solar PV in 2018-2019, and four randomly selected survey respondents were interviewed: two Darebin City Councillors and one former Darebin Solar Saver staff member. Once the scheme was expanded in 2018-2019, demand by residents outpaced the council’s capacity to both deliver solar PV installs and actively focus recruitment efforts towards its target audience. Wealthier homeowners joined the scheme at the expense of those with lower incomes. The program failed to reach many renters, although this was one group within the target audience. Energy and climate justice was achieved for the 32.8% of low-income and pensioner residents who were reached through the program, and to a lesser extent for nearly half of other survey respondents. Schemes such as Darebin Solar Saver have the potential to achieve energy justice and climate justice outcomes for residents at risk of energy poverty and disproportionate climate impacts. However, this and other similar schemes must be actively targeted to achieve equity and justice goals.
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    The Impacts of the COVID-19 on Rural Poverty Alleviation in China
    Li, Shenquan ( 2021)
    Under the circumstance of the widespread influence caused by the COVID-19 and the end year of China's long-term poverty alleviation program, this research aims to investigate how the pandemic impacts the rural poverty alleviation in China and the risks of returning to poverty caused by the COVID-19. The study chooses one poverty village, which was lifted out of poverty before the pandemic as the study area. Semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis of poverty alleviation data are conducted to investigate the impact degrees. The key findings are the strict lockdown measures imposed to prevent the spread of the epidemic have decreased the poverty households' incomes. Meanwhile, many migrant workers were forbidden to return to the village, which caused mental stress among older people and children. As a result of such impacts, the risk of returning to poverty in the village has been increased. In addition, the research reveals that there are false figures and wrong numbers in the official poverty alleviation documents, which critically challenges the achievements of China's poverty alleviation program.