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Wedging the climate

by David Roffey

No one strategy can do all that we need to stop dangerous climate change. We need to follow several strategies simultaneously - but which ones? And are there solutions without nuclear power?

Many people in the climate change debate either champion one magic bullet as the answer (eg biofuels or nuclear power), or believe that nothing can be done without restricting growth. Others put their faith in new technology that doesn't yet  exist. Or there are totally mad ideas like Bush's plot to pollute our way out of this by making the atmosphere so murky with smoke, or put mirrors in space, so that the sun can't get through. He hasn't yet explained how agriculture is going to thrive in a sunless world, but I'm sure there's a technology solution (growing crops in space on the other side of the mirrors?).

Back in 2004, two guys from Princeton University, Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, set out a series of potential strategies using current technologies. They started from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change standard scenario that business-as-usual (BAU) will take us from current emissions of around 7 billion tons of CO2 a year (7GtCpa) now to around 15 or 16 GtCpa in 2050. To stabilise climate change below dangerous levels we need to get that 2050 number to between 6 and 7 GtCpa - and possibly much lower: Mark Lynas in Six Degrees believes we need to get it down to between 4 and 5 GtCpa.

Pacala and Socolow's paper introduces the handy analytical concept of "Stabilization Wedges", dividing the task into a series of actions each of which can grow over the next 50 years to save 1 GtCpa - alternatively, you can see a Wedge as something that can avoid 25 billion tons of CO2 emissions over that 50 year period. They came up with fifteen possible Wedges, and suggest that we need to follow at least seven: Lynas thinks we need twelve.

The possible strategies

These are the main possible Wedges:

  1. Improve average fuel economy in cars from 30mpg to 60mpg (while still growing the total number of cars in the world from 500,000 to 2 billion as in the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario)
  2. Cut average annual distance traveled by 2 billion cars from 10,000 miles pa to 5,000 - this obviously can't be added to #1 without double-counting some savings
  3. Universal replacement of lighting and appliances with low-energy versions
  4. Efficient buildings: insulate etc to reduce heating and aircon use by one-third
  5. More efficient coal power plants: increase output efficiency in 2050 to 60% (from 32% today and from 40% in BAU) - again, obviously can't be double-counted with all of the substitutions in the next four Wedges.
  6. Substitute gas for coal power: replace 1400GW of coal power stations with gas (this is a four-fold increase in gas-powered stations from today)
  7. Substitute nuclear power for coal power: add 700GW of nuclear power (double current capacity). NB: #5 and #6 together (or #7 and #8 together) replace essentially ALL coal power, so you can't have all four of these wedges at the same time
  8. Substitute wind-power for coal power: add 2 million 1-MW-peak windmills producing power one-third of the time (50 times current capacity - covering 30 million hectares of land or sea)
  9. Substitute solar power for coal power: add 2 terawatts of photo-voltaic capacity (700 times current capacity - covering 2 million ha)
  10. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at 800GW of coal or 1600GW of gas power stations - another obvious point, can't be double-counted with #s 6,7,8, but probably can with #s 4,5. Pacala and Socolow also have two further CCS wedges attached to other types of power source, but these are essentially doubling up of the CCS strategy
  11. Hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered cars and trucks
  12. Biofuels: turn over 250 million ha of agriculture to biofuels (50 times current production) - this may have to be higher to generate fuel for the agricultural etc machinery to produce the biofuel. This is one-sixth or more of all the agricultural land in the world, and would produce about 34 million barrels a day of ethanol
  13. Decrease tropical deforestation to zero and establish 300 million ha of new tree plantations (double present size - obviously competes with #11, at least for land use)
  14. Apply conservation tillage (no plowing, cover crops, erosion control) to all cropland in the world

Some of these Wedges compete with each other, but most can be added together and still get both benefits. A few of them could be doubled up - for example we could choose to have two wind- or solar-power Wedges - but once you've replaced all the coal-power stations in the world you don't gain by building more non-coal-power sources, and you have no possible gains from carbon capture and sequestration if there are no coal or gas-powered stations. And you certainly can't reduce car mileage by half of current levels twice ...

Some of the decisions here are more urgent than others: the most obvious problem is that any new coal-fired power station being planned now will quite likely still be in operation in 2050, so at the very least it needs to be planned in a way that will enable retrofitting of CCS technology once it becomes available.

So, what are the realistic options?

Homes and cars

Numbers 1 to 4 should be no-brainers: there is essentially no negative impact on economic growth with the possible exception of the economies of oil exporters, and more likely some increment in jobs created for building insulation workers and so on. If the peak-oilers (like me) are right, the reduction in use of oil for personal transport will anyway be enforced by lack of supply and consequent price rises. An aside relevant to another Webdiary debate: the UN predicts a doubling of the oil price to US$120 per barrel if Iran is attacked ... that should push #1 and #2 along smartly. As noted, we can't get a full Wedge from both #1 and #2 at the same time, and we probably won't replace every high-energy appliance in the world, so let's call that three Wedges in total from reconfiguring our homes and cars.

Power generation

Numbers 5 through 10 require us to make decisions about the total mix of power generation at the year 2050. It would be unreasonable to assume that we can eliminate coal-fired power generation altogether, so let's talk in terms of aiming for no net increase in coal-fired generation from the current level of around 1.6 Terawatt (1,600GW): it will be hard to keep down to this level, let alone below it, given the amount of coal-fired power already in use and under construction.

Applying efficiency increases per strategy #5 gets us only half a Wedge, because we have only half as many coal-fired stations to apply it to. Another half a Wedge can come from 700 GW of replacement gas-powered stations as in strategy #6. We can generate the remaining 500-700GW that would otherwise come from growth in coal-power with a mix of wind and solar (and/or geothermal power - not scaled in teh original paper) at about one quarter each of the numbers in strategies #8 and #9, leaving us with no need at all for increases in nuclear power, and gaining another half-Wedge.

Nuclear power as an alternative to the wind and solar generation is going to be  at least as expensive, dangerous both in its own right and as a potential terrorist target, and has a much much longer lead time before it can be brought into use at the levels we're talking about, given that there are almost no plants currently under construction, and there is consequently a severe shortage of capacity and skills to get that construction under way even to replace the current nuclear generation capacity, let alone double it. So, while we're at it, lets get another full Wedge-worth of wind, solar and geothermal, which would enable us to eliminate nuclear power from the planet altogether (though with no extra gain on the CO2 side).

Full carbon capture and sequestration on the new coal and gas plants per strategy #10 will in total get us another Wedge and a half. A more extensive program to replace or retrofit a combination of CCS and efficiency improvements in older and smaller coal and gas plants could get us a further Wedge.

There is probably also potential for at least another Wedge on applying CCS to plants producing hydrogen from coal and gas, and to plants producing fuel from coal - these were the extra CCS wedges in Pacala and Socolow's original paper.

This gives us a total gain of five Wedges from reconfiguring power generation and the energy industry compared to the BAU scenario.

As with the homes and cars segment, there are no obvious net losses of jobs here: the efficiency gains mean the world will burn somewhat less coal, but there are major investments and jobs to be had in the gas, wind and solar businesses - and the likely spreading of that half-to-one-million hectares of PV cells over millions of rooftops probably creates a lot of jobs.

Being parochial for a moment, total employment in Australian black coal mining is around 30,000 jobs according to the Australian Coal Association - out of 10 million jobs in total: it is likely that this will fall anyway through efficiencies (after all, after the sainted Mrs Thatcher broke the Miner's Union in the UK, and simultaneously discovered the benefits of burning gas instead of coal, total jobs in coal-mining in the UK fell to less than 5% of the 1980 number). And 49,600 new jobs were created in Australia last month.

The hydrogen economy

This much-touted solution is multiply problematic:

  • the technology is currently unproven,
  • it can't be double-counted with #1 or #2:
  • you need to add two wedges worth of nuclear, wind or solar to power the production of the hydrogen,
  • hydrogen storage and distribution networks will cost some trillions of dollars to build.

It is difficult to see how you can get a full or even a half-Wedge here before 2050, particularly when we're already assuming that our cars in 2050 travel half the distance at twice the fuel economy - and the production of a huge (and potentially explosive /terrorist target) infrastructure would require a lot of energy in its own right. In my view this is for addressing the further Wedges we're going to need in the second half of this century.

Agriculture and biofuels

Strategies 12 to 14 all impact on agriculture. #14 (conservation tillage) sounds pretty fanciful to me, at least in the terms used of requiring ALL agriculture to go this way - but let's be optimistic and assume half a Wedge from this and more energy-efficient agriculture generally.

#12 and #13 obviously compete with each other in terms of the re-allocation of agricultural land: I'd say it would be pretty obvious that the world could not cope with the withdrawal of in total more than one-third of all food-growing land for biofuels and new forest plantations. Personally I'd junk the biofuel program entirely and try for the #13 scenario in full (zero deforestation and plant new forests), but then I'm a tree-hugger from way back. You may disagree, but I think we have to accept that at most we can get one Wedge in total from some combination of biofuels and forests.

I speak of the technology that is to come ...

There may yet be another new technology we haven't thought of yet that can help - though it probably isn't smoke and mirrors. However, it takes around 25 years to get technologies from working lab prototypes to mass market adoption, so if it isn't in a lab somewhere now it probably isn't going to be around in big enough numbers much before 2050. What's more, we've already looked at several technologies that aren't actually working even in prototype yet at the necessary efficiency (clean coal, carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen fuel cells), and made the assumption that we're going to get enough of these working to get a couple of Wedges worth of benefit.

We have also looked for major savings in pretty much every sector of the carbon economy (homes, buildings, transport, power generation, agriculture). Any new new technology we haven't thought of yet therefore potentially replaces some of the gains we've already counted. It would be optimistic to hope for more than another half-Wedge for this as-yet-unknown set of technology miracles, but let's go a bit further and hope for a whole Wedge out of the blue ...

As with the hydrogen-cell side, we anyway need those bright ideas to keep coming on down for the second half of the century, when we need to find a whole new set of Wedges to maintain stability in the carbon economy.

Really old technology

There is one other area of potential benefit from economic development in the third world, which will come from the substitution of modern power sources for heating and cooking by burning wood etc. This has impacts both in direct CO2 production and in deforestation, and could get another half-Wedge toward our target.

How are we doing so far?

Summing up where we've got to so far, we have:

  • three Wedges from more efficient homes, buildings, cars and appliances
  • five Wedges from clean coal, gas, wind, solar, geothermal and carbon capture (and we've got all the power we need while removing nuclear power from the planet)
  • a Wedge and a half from efficient agriculture, biofuels and carbon offsets in plantations
  • an optimistic Wedge from unspecified technological wonders that are to come
  • and half a Wedge from reducing local wood and dried dung burning in the third world.

The good news is: this is a total of ten Wedges, which is enough to get us from the 16GtCpa of the business-as-usual scenario back down to below today's level of 7GtCpa - a 62% reduction. Nine Wedges would be enough to stabilise total atmospheric CO2 levels at or below the EU target of 550ppm by the end of the century, so we can get on to that track if we collectively do almost all of these things, starting now, and also do some other things we haven't invented yet to keep on the right trajectory in the second half.

The bad news is: this is not going to happen unless there is a really marked change in attitudes by essentially all of the politicians in the world over the next five to ten years. On the other hand, essentially nothing we have assumed so far has any significant impact on economic prosperity, and may even have created growth and jobs compared to business-as-usual, so we can hope for this to sink in to even the ones like our own PM who would rather not hear this message.

The worse news is: if Mark Lynas is right, this isn't enough, and 550ppm is heading us for the four-degree world, which is dangerous climate change indeed, and carries a high risk of triggering some of the nastier tipping points that take us on up (see How warm is Warming?). Remember that the long-term future in the four-degree world leaves Australia with no agriculture and substantially under water ... If we can get all ten Wedges, we can stabilise at 450-500ppm, but that still leaves us with a high probability of warming to dangerous levels.

Doing more ...

To be sure of keeping warming to the merely uncomfortable, rather than the dangerous and unpleasant, we need another two Wedges.

There isn't a lot more that can be done in power generation: if we get the full ten Wedges outlined above, we have reduced coal from 50% to 25% of total generation capacity, doubled its efficiency, and captured and sequestered most of the carbon produced. We've also taken renewables to what I suspect is about the maximum possible level, assuming we've eliminated nuclear altogether. There may be another Wedge to be gained there in the long tail of smaller power plants, but that's probably for the second half of the century.

We probably should issue a warning to viewers here: the next paragraph contains adult themes and may shock some readers.

Getting those last two Wedges may require us to sacrifice some of the economic growth of the BAU scenario.

But before we descend too quickly into views of going back into caves or living in trees, let's try and stay rational here: we're not talking about sacrificing the lifestyle we already have, we're talking about having less growth, a smaller increase on what we already have.

To take the most obvious example: the BAU scenario assumes that there are four times as many cars in 2050 as there are now. Do we really think that our lives would be better with four times as many cars on the road? OK, lots of those extra cars would be in developing countries rather than here, but can traffic in our cities stand even a doubling of the number of cars on the road without gridlock? And in fact almost all the cities in the world are as close to capacity, just as much in the developing world as in the rich bits. So let's suggest we can maybe do with only twice as many cars as we have now, and we can have at least one Wedge more.

We can get another wedge in similar form by not acquiring quite as many new appliances, airconditoners, etc as we would otherwise do. Another option would be to substitute vegetable protein for meat in a substantial part of our diet - we'd probably produce more methane ourselves, but not in anywhere near the same quantities that cows and sheep do.

Bottom line: if we all get on board, we can still save the planet without sacrificing our lifestyle in any significant way - so why is there so much resistance?

What can we personally do to make this happen?

The key things here are:

  1. replace all your lightbulbs, appliances, cars etc with more energy efficient ones as they need replacing (we have fifty years here, and replacing them before they need it wastes energy too)
  2. don't buy that second car (or a third one for the kids to use)
  3. travel less, and do more of it on public transport
  4. in particular, fly less (sorry - this is the hard one for me, too, with my kids currently resident in London and in Guatemala City)
  5. buy green power, and thus push your supplier toward making the changes in generation mix set out here
  6. try to choose locally-made and grown products, to reduce the carbon component from transporting what you buy to you
  7. buy carbon offsets from people who can prove they really are planting those trees etc we need for strategy #13
  8. look at this week's New Scientist special and understand the whole thing better [NB the print edition only deals with 7 climate myths, whereas the online extends that to 26, so better to look at the online version]
  9. and last but not least, tell your political representatives that you care about this stuff and want them to care too - start on that by signing the GetUp petition here.

Over to you ...


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John Howard's nuclear future for Australia in your backyard.

Greens lead Senate candidate Larissa Waters and Greens candidate for Bowman Brad Scott have picketed Andrew Laming’s office this morning and challenged him to rule out a nuclear power plant in Bowman if a Liberal government is returned. “John Howard wants a nuclear future for Australia with 25 nuclear power plants by 2050. Will Laming be a lemming on nuclear, or can he categorically rule out a nuclear power plant in Redlands?” asked Ms Waters. In January this year The Australia Institute identified seven sites in Queensland most likely to be targeted for nuclear power plants under the Howard Government's proposals - Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island. All are areas with access to large quantities of water for cooling, close to large centres of demand and transport infrastructure, and with access to the electricity grid. Those characteristics mean Redlands could also be the site of a nuclear power plant. “Queenslanders should be concerned that the Howard Government won't answer where the 25 nuclear power plants will go or where the radioactive waste from the plants will be buried. They could be in your neighbourhood,” said Ms Waters.

I notice that John Howard has gone very quiet on the nuclear issue since the election has been called. I feel sure if the Howard government is reelected we will be quickly taken down the nuclear path. It will be just like the GST and Workchoices forced down our throats without a democratic vote.  Howard doesn't have the courage to be open about his nuclear plans.

PS Cough Splutter

PS. Alan, have you ever considered (I'm sure you have) what the pollution in China would be like if their population had the same penetration per capita of refridgerators and air conditioners that we enjoy in Australia.

Cough splutter cough splutter.

For some comming to terms with reality can be a big ask, but at least if gives our pollies something to waffle about even if same does nothing more than add to carbon emmissions.

Hope your Chinese business associates showed you a good time and took you to some of the many yummy places to feast. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Cheers, old boy.


Justin, my Chinese hosts were brilliant and showed me a great time, I ate some food I did not dare ask what it was, but it tasted good. We drank a few toast's with their favourite liquor, and I still have the after taste.

They are a wonderful people to do business with, I believe they are honest and very competitive. I look forward to a long association with them. However I don't think their workers enjoy some of the rights they are entitled to, but that will change in time.

As for the refrigerators and air-conditioners, I got the distinct impression that if the Chinese government thought that the people wanted to drive gas guzzling V8s, they would make them. So the likes of Bob Brown and Peter Garrett should stop playing politics and go out and get proper jobs, maybe in a Chinese restaurant powered by windmills.

I just wish some the pollies would get out into the real world for a while. That applies to sides of politics.

I spent one day in Shanghai and was blown away by the place. They have I believe a population of 10 million (a third of our total population) and the place is lit up like a christmas tree. I don't think they have heard of Greenhouse Gas. 

Alan is correct like it or not

If you don't believe Alan I would invite you to visit China for yourselves.

The demand for energy is enormous. One of my clients (a well known fashion designer) has garments produced at crazy prices because the people she contracts to make these one-offs work in factories that close down three days a week for lack of energy. These moonlight jobs complement their low wages.

Our contribution to reduce greenhouse gases will be gobbled up (in seconds) by the Chinese who couldn't give a rats.

You may not like what Alan said, but we will have to live with it. He speaks the truth – like it or not. The pollution in China is unbelievable for those who have never been there. But I do love the place and the people.

Attention all global warming sceptics

A vast and ancient sheet of ice, a glacier is in effect the planet’s most sensitive organ, like an ageing knee that feels the onset of winter. Its upper reaches accumulate snow and ice when it is cold; its lower reaches melt when it is warm. Its long-term survival depends on the balance between the buildup and the melting. Glaciers worldwide serve as a barometer for global warming, which has, according to a report this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, been spurred in recent decades by rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Even the Himalayas have grown measurably warmer. A recent study found that mean air temperature in the northwestern Himalayan range had risen by 2.2 degrees Celsius in the last two decades, a rate considerably higher than the rate of increase over the last 100 years.

In its report, the international panel predicted that as these glaciers melt, they would increase the likelihood of flooding over the next three decades and then, as they recede, dry up the rivers that they feed. “In the course of the century,” it warned darkly, “water supply stored in glaciers and snow cover are projected to decline, reducing water availability in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges, where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

That's right, thirty years of flooding, then a lack of water, for over a billion people armed with nuclear weapons. If we haven't fought World War III before 2037 over oil, the water wars will surely be a testing time.  We might argue the toss over the extent to which human activity is responsible for global warming. It really is irrelevant: the planet is warming up, and the results will be disastrous. We must act now to stabilise the temperature.

Even optimists take out insurance

People are beginning to realise what many smart governments and businesses in the United States and Europe have appreciated for a while: that even if the science of future climate change is half right, given the level of risk involved with warming and climate instability, the precautionary principle must be applied.

Not so much to save the planet, but — as so ably concluded by Sir Nicholas Stern — to secure the economy as well. And as Malcolm Turnbull says so compellingly: even optimists take out insurance..........

Now let's move on and, with enthusiasm and energy, develop the new robust policies and business responses to tackle this primarily human-induced problem with the urgency it requires.

Nick Rowley is a director of Kinesis, working on climate strategy and policy for government and business. Previously he worked at 10 Downing Street as Tony Blair's senior adviser on climate change and sustainability, and was part of the team that initiated the Stern review of the economics of climate change.

Nick Rowley is correct: time for debate is over. The planet is sick. Time to give Howard the flick. 

John Pratt, you say "The

John Pratt, you say "The planet is sick. Time to give Howard the flick".

I have just got back from a week in China and I suggest you do the same and have a look at the real world.

Beijing is one of Asia's most polluted cities and by early afternoon the sun is hardly visible, and the air is putrid to breathe by late afternoon it is dangerous to go outside if you have a breathing problem.

The Chinese consumption of coal (Australian) for their power stations is mind-boggling, and their demand for electricity is awesome. If we do as Bob Brown suggests and stop selling them coal, they will get it somewhere else.

The city's peak electricity demand hit 10.51 million kilowatts at 3:50 PM on Friday, the highest so far this year, The figure is already close to last year's peak demand of 10.81 million kilowatts even though the city still has three months of searing heat to come.

The Beijing Electric Power Corporation forecasts Beijing's maximum demand will hit 13 million kilowatts, up 20 percent on last year. Air conditioners alone will consume 4.9 million kilowatts of electricity, 38 percent of the total consumption. Beijing is just one of about 30 cities in China who are also consuming this amount of power.

The Chinese businessmen that I spoke to were adamant that the Chinese had to continue the way they are going, and the government is encouraging them to expand.

The demand for local produced goods is frightening as the Chinese are starting to earn real money, and they want some of the things we take for granted.

They are very clever business-men and can produce practically anything. It took them one day to produce a prototype of my product, and it was perfect. It can also be produced at a tenth of the cost we can do it for here in Australia. As from November I shall become an importer and not a manufacturer – it’s going to be an easier way of making a living. We are going to be swallowed alive by them, and there is nothing we can do about it.

So whatever we do in Australia about greenhouse gas emissions is going to be swallowed by these countries, unless we take Kevin Rudd and Bob Brown’s word that they are “going to fix things”. I can tell you, they are talking bullshit.

They should get on a plane (and take Garrett with them) and tell the naughty Chinese that they have got to stop what they are doing. To clear the air whilst the Olympics are on they are going to take 1 million cars off the road, and close down the big polluting factories till the games are over. Then it will be back to normal and the people of the world will say what a beautiful city it was whilst the games were on.

Japan is another country that will have "extreme difficulty" meeting greenhouse gas emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Japan, which undertook to cut its greenhouse gas outputs by 6per cent from 1990 levels between next year and 2012, when Kyoto expires, is emitting about 14per cent above the target.

I can only assume the amount of emissions that India is adding to the total. The amount of products and materials that they exporting to China is staggering.

Demand more than your share at your own risk

Alan Curran: I have a lot of respect for the Chinese people, I lived in Hong Kong for three years. What we are witnessing is the folly of economic policies based on continuous growth. The first world has worshipped growth for at least two hundred years. We have strived for more and more. The rest of the world is aspiring to live as we live and demand the same amount of energy that we use. It will lead to environmental disaster and probably the extinction of the human race. We in the first world are still using much more energy per head than the average in China. We should be using our wealth and abilities to reduce our demands on the planet. It is though we are in a race, the first world is way out in front, we should slow down so that the rest of the world can catch up.

Everyone on the planet is entitled to a share of the planet's resources. The first world is demanding much more than its share. The consequences will be a global disaster.

Who is willing to risk, no action on GHG emissions?

THERE have been at least four major ice ages in the history of planet Earth, none of them caused by cars, factories, budget airlines or even burping cows, as far as can be ascertained. So it is somewhat surprising that discussing natural climate variability is viewed by some as not just deeply controversial but downright dangerous.

So says the editorial in the Australian. I believe that very few people dispute natural climate variablility.

Over geological timescales the Earth's temperature rises and falls, leading to ice ages and periods of relative warmth. Between 450,000 and 800,000 years ago it would have been about 10C in summer and -17C in winter. When temperatures later fell the area was covered in ice and this ice sheet seems surprisingly to have remained in place when temperatures rose again about 130,000 years ago. During this last interglacial period temperatures were 5C warmer than today........

According to climate change models, a two-degree rise in global temperatures could cause a collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and dangerously high sea levels by the end of the century. Recent data suggests the rate of ice loss from Greenland has tripled since 2004.

The problem we face with this period of global warming, is that the planet has a population of 6.5 billion people, predicted to rise to 9 billion in the next 40 years. We are already stretched to feed this population. Climate change in the past has led to massive extinctions. One of the predicted outcomes of global warming is more droughts, which will probably lead to more extinctions and possibly a large loss of human life. For this reason, we need to limit human actions that may be causing global warming. Science is suggesting that human derived greenhouse gas emmissions are likely to cause climate change. It is only prudent that we reduce our levels of greenhouse gas emmissions, if the security of billions of humans and mass extinctions of other species may be the result of our inaction. Who is willing to take the risk? We know that climate change happens. We know that it can cause extinctions. We know that we are currently in a global warming period. Why would we risk triggering higher levels of warming?


The great greenhouse swindle laugh.

I'm no expert, nor do I have the education that a lot of people have, but I did watch the show last night until I dozed of half way through. From the start I found many glaring errors in the charts, and suppositions. They relied on such old data and tried to change the realities of what is actually happening.

I had to laugh when they said the planet wasn't warming up as it hadn't got hotter high in the atmosphere. I believe they were saying that as heat rises so the upper atmosphere would be warming as well. When you consider the amount of heat reflected and emitted form the earth's surface since its initial very hot environment, the upper atmosphere still retains its cold, so their theory is shot down from a practical viewpoint.

I do believe they have no real idea what will happen with this climate change, as what is pushing it is not just CO2, but a cocktail of inorganic chemical air pollutants that no only rise in the atmosphere but also hang around closer to the surface, causing what they call heat inversions around the globe.

Then add the effect of localised climate change caused by the cities of the world, which pump out huge amounts of pollutants from small areas in rising columns, then no one can predict the outcome. Already we are beginning to see some signs of what may happen to cities round the world, which appear to be increasingly pummelled by violent unpredictable localised weather patterns.

Maybe someone else can tell me if they explained away the collapsing ice shelves and glaciers of the world. Or did they explain what effect increasing industrialisation, deforestation, collapsing biodiversity and species decline is having, or will have over the next couple of decades?

The Great Greenhouse Swindle

Hello. Would anyone care to review the epic Green House Swindle package on the ABC last night? I thought it was absolutely fascinating.

Here's a link to the response to the program itself from David Jones, Andrew Watkins, Karl Braganza and Michael Coughlan from the National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology.

Yes fascinating, but worrying

Margo: Am not a climate specialist so that's not for me. But I too found it fascinating. What concerned me was that a lot of people could watch something like that, and not see the discusssion, and then go away and think: Oh well there's clearly nothing to worry about, and not do anything personally toward cutting emissions.

I would have liked more on the sudden up turn in temperature in the past 8 years and why it had parted company with sun activity on the graph, when sun activity appeared to correlate with temperature up to that point quite closely. They argued over the graph rather than the fact that there been a parting of the ways. So I am not convinced at this stage that sun activity is not a factor to consider.

I would like to have heard more discussion too on the issue of sea warming because ocean temperature is so closely correlated with El Ninos and La Nina's, and I am not clear as to what causes that warming and cooling as this is not just a post industrial revolution phenomenon.

The fact that C02 levels have reached astronomical levels in past eras is also intriguing though I can understand why levels would follow warming rather than be concurrent. I would have liked more discussion on the information from the ice cores.  

While they did debunk some of the scientists in the film, they did not debunk them all. So is there a case for skepticism at some level?

One thing though I thought a valid point was made about the need for power in the third world and that coal is going to have to play a big part in providing that. If that is so, then clearly a need for clean coal technology is a given. 

I notice the population issue was side stepped and I thought the audience input was rather lacking in substance. 

But it is a far too complex science for a non scientist I am afraid.  I for one will just have to go with the general flow and plant a few more trees. Better to be sure than sorry as they say. A lot is at stake.

Off for the day. On the limit. One a day rule broken as usual. But who wants to do tax returns?

Margo: Not me.  



fascination with clean coal is indeed worrying ...

Jenny suggested: "a valid point was made about the need for power in the third world and that coal is going to have to play a big part in providing that. If that is so, then clearly a need for clean coal technology is a given. "

I really don't think so. 

Energy needs - like much in the developing world - are reliant on, and directed by, international aid. It is the responsibility of those nations who are economic leaders to ensure that the important phase of early investment in third world energy infrastructure is one which nurtures the development of truly clean energy industries and technologies. Building another coal fire station here in Australia is bad enough, but we are wealthy enough to turn our backs on a bad decision (once we realise the costs are too high). Building new coal stations in the emerging economies of the developing world represents an investment which cannot so easily be abandoned: it effectively locks these economies into a reliance on decades of pollution from dirty coal.

And it is dirty coal. Carbon-free power from abundant coal resources may be an attractive thought, but even the most optimistic coal lovers admit that it would be a couple more decades before we could expect to see a production scale coal fire power station that doesn’t simply spew its pollution straight into the air.

I believe the industry recognises that its days on this planet are numbered, so 'clean' coal propaganda has arisen; not so much as a vision for the future as an attempt to forestall it. But carbon capture and sequestration (only an industry stooge could keep a straight face while saying 'clean coal') is not altogether a technology, as much as it is a (hopeful) theory, with significant energy costs (gasification of the fuel, then compression of the waste), long term pollution concerns (the carbon stores will leak - it's just a question of how badly) and efficacy shortcomings (not all the carbon is successfully captured and stored) - see Why Carbon Sequestration Won't Save Us

Fortunately, the choice for powering the developing world can be made on the basis of prudent 1st world investment, rather than 3rd world capacity. Once we bite the bullet, and agree to an international carbon trade scheme (such as that originally pursued through the Kyoto protocol) investment in renewable energy infrastructure in developing nations can be pursued as an attractive way to offset the carbon intensity of established fossil fuel economies in the developed world. While the pressing demands of some emerging economies cannot immediately be satisfied by renewable energy alone, neither do they preclude the implementation of other options (such as LNG, which has only a third the carbon burden of brown coal).

Yes, there is a need for power in the developing world, but the claim that coal has to provide that power lies empty.

the great coal swindle

I was pretty unimpressed that the coal industry got such a great promotion.

Nikki Williams was introduced as CEO of the NSW Minerals Council,  but she's also a director of the Australian Coal Association, so no wonder she told us that coal is a big part of our future.

What a disappointment that, far from freeing her blinkered vision, the rest of the panel simply nodded along to her assertion.

As I've said here before, if the coal industry, who have profited heavily from decades of planet-changing pollution, now want to invest billions in fantasies of 'clean coal' and theories of capturing and storing emissions, then by all means.

But since this research is hopeful at best, such investment should not be sufficient to justify unbridled expansion of this dirty and deadly industry.

As for public funding, we should not (as both major parties have pledged) be spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and our precious remaining months, on hopes and dreams, but should rather invest in proven measures (such as efficiency and demand reduction) and technologies (such as wind, solar and geothermal) that can be relied upon to offer low-carbon energy immediately.

Australia's population just past 21 million, good or bad?

“Each new UK birth, through the inevitable resource consumption and pollution that UK affluence generates, is responsible for about 160 times as much climate-related environmental damage as a new birth in Ethiopia, or 35 times as much as a new birth in Bangladesh,” Prof Guillebaud’s report says.

“A voluntary stop-at-two guideline should be adopted for couples in the UK who want to adopt greener lifestyles.

“It would aim to set an example.”

Official figures show that 669,531 babies were born in Britain last year.

The UK is experiencing its highest birth rate for more than three decades and has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe.

The think tank’s report contrasts with Australian Treasurer Peter Costello’s push for Australian families to have three children - one for mum, one for dad and one for the country - to help increase the birth rate.

In Britain, the think tank argues, economic and political pressures to lift the birth rate “are hopelessly simplistic and should be resisted”.

Australia's population went over 21 million in the last week or so. Costello thinks its a good idea to have one for the country. Howard has immigration levels above 100,000.

Australians still have one of the biggest ecological footprints in the world, and that we produce more greenhouse gases per person than most other countries on the planet.

That's the finding of this report, WWF's biennial statement on the state of the natural world, says on current projections humanity will be using two planet's worth of natural resources by 2050.

 As our population increases, the future looks bleak. Australia's ability to support more people is in doubt. Already several of our major cities are running out of water. Our agricultural areas are in drought and have been for over a decade. It about time we had a debate on what level of population we can sustain. Howard and Costello blindly want more growth and see a steady increase in population as a way to maintain economic growth.

Jenny, I did see Foreign Correspondent the problems the Bolivians face are likely to be similar in Australia.

The Great Global Warming Swindle shown to be wrong

It shows that for the last 20 years, the Sun's output has declined, yet temperatures on Earth have risen.

It also shows that modern temperatures are not determined by the Sun's effect on cosmic rays, as has been claimed.

Writing in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings A, the researchers say cosmic rays may have affected climate in the past, but not the present.

"This should settle the debate," said Mike Lockwood from the UK's Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, who carried out the new analysis together with Claus Froehlich from the World Radiation Center in Switzerland.

Dr Lockwood initiated the study partially in response to the TV documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast on Britain's Channel Four earlier this year, which featured the cosmic ray hypothesis.

"All the graphs they showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things diverged after that," he told the BBC News website.

"You can't just ignore bits of data that you don't like," he said.

"This paper re-enforces the fact that the warming in the last 20 to 40 years can't have been caused by solar activity," said Dr Piers Forster from Leeds University, a leading contributor to this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of climate science.

More research shows the science used in "The Great Global Warming Swindle" is incorrect. How will the sceptics react to this new data?

John, did you see,,?

John: Did you happen to see Foreign Correspondent last night with the item on the rapidly melting Andean glaciers?  I was unaware how serious the situation is becoming for the people of Bolivia, and the melts will not only affect Bolivia. Apparently the whole Andean glaciation is in rapid decline. To see a ski lodge, ski lifts and pictures of skiers on a glacier tens of thousands of years old up to 1998 to what is has all become today, is quite disturbing.  There is just a small sliver of the glacier left, and the ski infrastructure is abandonned. It was a very sobering story indeed.

The prospect that millions of people will run out of water once the Andean glaciers are gone, estimated to be by around 2020, should make even the most skeptical of the skeptics take notice. There we see people even now finding it hard to afford even a jug of water.

We are going to see mass poverty and mass population shift as all this unfolds. And as the pressure mounts from places like Bolivia, the US will no doubt face increasing onflow pressure from Central America. If they think they have an illegal immigrant problem now, I suspect it is nothing compared to what will happen in the coming decades.

The ABC is running the Swindle film tomorrow so I will be most interested to see it. But the title speaks for itself.




Save billions and create jobs.

WASHINGTON (July 11, 2007) – Increasing the average fuel economy of America's new autos to 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2018 would save consumers $61 billion at the gas pump and increase U.S. employment by 241,000 jobs in the year 2020, including 23,900 in the auto industry, according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The Union of Concerned Scientist have just released a report stating that billions of dollars could be saved and thousands of jobs created by increasing the average fuel economy of new cars.  Surely this would be an election winner for the ALP.  Climate change needs to be an important part of this election and its not all bad news.

Climate And Politics

Ian MacDougall

Trickle down theory usually involves wealth trickling down. What you describe is not so much a trickling down of poverty as a rising damp of it.

World growth since the falling of the wall has most certainly been a rising damp (great term). Leaving aside the false nobility of being poor; wealthy and relatively poor people pollute equally. The major driver of pollution, and growth, are people living in extreme poverty becoming richer (attaining luxury items). This in turn leads to a higher standard of wanted living all the way along the scale.

The percentage of world rich to poor, is highly unequal, and will always continue to be so. One cannot make the rich, poorer, without the poor becoming poorer. There is not one possible way of achieving this task. Equally if there were, it would be pointless in regards to climate change - given the large percentage of poor/pollution ratio. To meet a certain pollution standard, a large percentage of people will, and must wear the burden. Talking these people into accepting this (they will not accept it any other way), will be the hardest task of this century.

Ian MacDougall

You are almost certainly right to point out that climate change economics faces great danger of regenerated class warfare, with all the political implications inherent in that.

Wealthy people always have more options measured against poor people (the attraction to being rich), any destruction of world growth, does not change this fact. The downside to slowing rapidly, world economic growth, is to cause an unequal ratio of pain. What may be one less car, for some, may mean starvation for others. The percentage of income costs for food, and energy, decline as ones means enlarge. Any rises in costs will be therefore felt most harshly by the poorest amongst us. This cannot be denied. Any offset to this pain - will most certainly make doing anything about climate change a pointless exercise.

Whilst many are legitimately concerned about climate change, many others are using the subject to make political gains. It will be these people that will destroy any hope of finding an answer.


A must watch

John, I look forward to seeing the program mainly to see how they approach it. I doubt they can cover up the real undeniable evidence, but like all spin from the far right and far left, they'll sure try as many smoke and mirrors tricks as they can.

Aunty now running climate change propaganda

           Friday 25 May 2007 (Updated 6 July 07)


In the lead up to the ABC’s broadcast of the controversial UK documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle” on Thursday 12 July at 8.30pm, the Australian Science Media Centre is providing this resource page including links, critiques and reaction from The Great Global Warming SwindleAustralian climate scientists.

“The Great Global Warming Swindle” (GGWS) was written and produced by British documentary maker Martin Durkin and argues against the scientific opinion that human activity is the main cause of global warming.

A 72-minute version of the documentary was first aired on Channel 4 in the UK in March 2007. The ABC will broadcast a shortened version (approx 52 minutes) in Australia.

Reaction from Australian Scientists

Reaction to the documentary has been received from the following Australian climate scientists:

Professor Nathan Bindoff is a physical oceanographer and Director of the Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing (TPAC). Partners include the University of Tasmania, CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC. He was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC AR4 Working Group 1 chapter on oceanic climate change and sea level observations (Chapter 5).

Professor Barry Brook is Director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and a Contributing Author to the IPCC AR4 Working Group 2 report (Chapter 11 - Australia & New Zealand).

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Other quotes will be posted here in the next few days.


Climate scientists from the National Climate Centre (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) have prepared a critique on the documentary, just published in the Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS).

The group summarise the documentary as follows:

" The Great Global Warming Swindle does not represent the current state of knowledge in climate science. Scepticism in science is a healthy thing, and the presence of orthodox scientific scepticism in climate change is ubiquitous. Many of the hypotheses presented in the Great Global Warming Swindle have been considered and rejected by due scientific process. This documentary is far from an objective, critical examination of climate science. Instead the Great Global Warming Swindle goes to great lengths to present outdated, incorrect or ambiguous data in such a way as to grossly distort the true understanding of climate change science, and to support a set of extremely controversial views."

The critique discusses in detail six assertions made by the documentary. The assertions discussed in the paper are:

ASSERTION: Global average temperature today is not as high as it was during other times in recent history indicating that the recent warming trend is a natural phenomenon.

ASSERTION: Global average temperature decreased between 1940 and 1980, and so could not depend on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which increased over this period.

ASSERTION: Climate models suggest that greenhouse gases should warm the troposphere faster than the surface, but observed data show that the surface is warming more quickly, indicating that any climate change that is occurring is not due to human activities.

ASSERTION: Volcanoes produce far more carbon dioxide than human activities, so anthropogenic greenhouse gases cannot be having a significant effect on global average temperature.

ASSERTION: Ice cores show that, during earlier periods in the Earth’s history, rises in carbon dioxide followed increases in temperature, and therefore by implication the current rise in greenhouse gas concentrations has not caused the recent increase in global average temperature.

ASSERTION: The variation in global average temperature over the last couple of centuries can be explained by the effect of solar activity instead of the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations since the Industrial Revolution.

A full copy of the paper (PDF) as published in the Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS - Vol 20) is available by clicking here. An html version is also available on the AMOS website.

Other Links

The website www.realclimate.org has hosted ongoing discussion of the documentary since it first aired in the UK in March. Click here for a review of the UK version and accompanying blog reaction.

Read correspondence from climate scientist Carl Wunsch who appeared in the UK version of the GGWS documentary only to declare that he had been ‘swindled’ by the producers. He does not appear in the international edition of the documentary screening in Australia.

www.climateofdenial.net was compiled by a group of UK scientists and includes a list of alleged ‘misrepresentations of scientific evidence’ made by the program when it first aired.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s position statement on climate change is available at: www.amos.org.au/statementCC.htm

Click here for the ABC's promotional media release.

Reaction from Australian Scientists

Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. If you need assistance tracking down a scientist to interview, contact the AusSMC on 08 8207 7415 or email us.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"The Channel 4 film is indeed a great global warming swindle. It purports to show scientific evidence casting doubt on the conclusion that most of the recent climate change is due to human burning of fossil fuels. In fact, most of the 'science' is either wrong or selective, so the film does not pose any real question about even the cautious conservative conclusions of the IPCC. If it is shown without an appropriate public health warning, it could give the misleading impression that the science is still uncertain and delay even further the urgently-needed concerted response."
Horizontal rule

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and a Contributing Author to the IPCC AR4 Working Group 2 report (Chapter 11 - Australia & New Zealand).

"This is quite disappointing given the huge problems with the independence of the documentary and its factual basis. This is propaganda not quality documentaries. How could the ABC sink so low in its push to increase ratings?"Horizontal rule

Professor Barry Brook is Director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide.

"The Great Global Warming Swindle (GGWS) is a deeply deceptive and propagandist portrayal of the science of global warming. But this is not really surprising, when you consider that the producer, Martin Durkin, has been previously charged by the UK Independent Television Commission for using selective editing to misrepresent and distort the views of interviewees in his earlier anti-environmentalist documentary, 'Against Nature'. Indeed, the running time of the 75 minute original GGWS, screened in the UK in March this year, has since been pruned by Durkin to 52 minutes, for the ABC. Deletions include the blatant out-of-context quotes of Carl Wunsch (he threatened legal action after the UK screening), a removal of a slew of false statements (such as that volcanoes release far more CO2 than humans, when volcanoes actually release about 100 times less), and a number of distorted graphics, such as the 20th century temperature rise (alas, many others remain).

Some scientific thoughts on "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

An excellent and informative post

John Pratt: An excellent and informative post on the show entitled with ironic self-awareness and perception 'The Great Global Warming Swindle.'

It is interesting that the Howard Government, so keen to promote the Australian coal industry, even if needs be at the cost of the planet, has been dragged kicking and screaming to belated acknowledgement, that yes, there may be problems with burning all that coal and pumping all that CO2 into the air. To keep this within the tightest possible bounds, it appears to have used its appointees on the ABC Board to intervene in ABC programming policy, setting a rather dangerous precedent for further attacks on ABC independence.

This could all backfire, as both the program and the manner of its coming to air on the ABC will generate controversy, not necessarily to the government's advantage.

For example, Michael Duffy has written:

Just to make sure young children are not led astray by the program, there will be a panel discussion afterwards in which supporters of the orthodoxy can present their point of view and discuss it with others (including myself).

One thing Swindle doesn't tell you about is a major objection to the orthodoxy [sic] that emerged at a New York conference last week. The new claim says that when scientists stop doing science and start making forecasts, they are engaging in a very different form of intellectual activity, one at which they're not very good.

A lot of people assume that if you accept that human-created carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere, then it is almost inevitable that a number of bad climate changes will occur in coming decades, rising temperatures being the most important. However, the links between the two propositions are many and long, and involve a large number of facts and theories about how climate works. In other words, the orthodoxy involves a lot of complicated forecasts. The new critics say the processes by which these forecasts have been made are so poor we can't trust the results.

(It is interesting to note in passing that Duffy's 'orthodoxy' is not the 'there's nothing to worry about' line that has been promoted by vested interests since the CO2 issue was first raised about 100 years ago. No. It's the opposite case being put forward by the dissenters, who unlike the mining and other business interests supporting the Swindle mob, are drawn from those described by those same people as 'the elites.')

Duffy goes on to elaborate on this, and like many a denier before him, he attempts to capitalise on the 'uncertainties' in the underlying climate change science. "I've seen Swindle," he says,  "and most of the scientists in it are important figures in their fields, and lots of other scientists share their views about global warming.


The documentary is passionate, sensational and entertaining. Sometimes it attributes too much certainty to matters that are still in doubt. In other words, it is similar to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

 I take it here that he is saying that until there is more 'certainty', it is best we assume rising CO2 concentrations in the air will have no adverse effects, or at least, no serious ones. Yet I would venture to say that should Duffy or the makers of this program suffer failure of their windscreen wipers when out driving on a dark and rainy night, they would quick smart exercise the precautionary principle and stop, rather than drive on until more evidence and 'certainty' accumulated that it was dangerous to do so, like getting onto a downhill course from which there was no escape.

In other words, the consequences for the Earth of ignoring Al Gore as compared with the consequences for ignoring Duffy and the Swindle mob are vastly different when we consider the implications in turn of one being right and the other wrong.

I suppose by 'forecasts' Duffy means predictions about things going on in complex systems like the atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere and the human economy. But the making of predictions, or preparing the ground for the making of them, is a major reason for doing science in the first place. It would all be pretty useless if it gave us no enhanced predictive ability.

My conclusion: If Duffy's article is a foretaste of what he is going to say in the panel discussion, I predict he will be eaten alive.


A little political interference maybe

John: How could Aunty sink so low asks one learned Prof? Well maybe a bit of political pressure from certain quarters?

But all is not yet lost.

I note Aunty is going to run discussions of this doco so called with a panel of experts, so with a bit of luck she will be able to shake off the shame. Just so long as she choses the right experts.

Chosing the right experts. That is the key. John Howard is actually himself quite good at that. Think nuclear power issue. But they all do it, not just him. They must think we are all stupid.

Branch stacking, committee stacking, panel stacking - all amounts to the same thing - distortion of results, findings, outcomes.

Cheers John.


Intellectual flatulence

Yes, Ian, not a bad assessment. Such effluent a fluent style, eh?

For future reference, when the link to The Oz article eventually expires (probably soon), John Kay's piece is also available here on his website.

I made some brief remarks on the article back in January, as follows:


What can one say about this effort? Seemingly a companion piece to The Australian’s editorial on Friday [19 Jan], this piece continues an apparently concerted effort by the paper to trivialise and marginalise legitimate public concerns.

Caricature, hyperbole and specious equivalence abound to produce a heady mix that’s sure to be well received by ... er, the choir to whom Kay is preaching. Kay works up a nice little alarmist line about “environmental evangelists”, but of course fails to identify any individuals who exemplify this new bogey.

It’d be nice to have the time to critique Kay’s tract line by line, but just for a taste, consider the following:

Environmentalism embraces a myth of the Fall: the loss of harmony between man and nature caused by our materialistic society. ... This lost Eden never existed. Humans have burned and eaten the environment since time immemorial.

Oh sure. Except that humans are now “burning and eating the environment” in exponentially increasing numbers, which hasn’t obtained until the last 100 years or so, a mere blink of an eye in human history. This is one of a host of empirical facts that inform widespread environmental and existential concerns.

It’s the sort of public concern that has, in the last 40 years or so, spurred many initiatives that have widely succeeded in improving the environment, particularly the urban environment in Western cities. Kay makes much of the “manifest fact” of such improvements, but fails to consider that these may be attributable to past environmental “evangelism”.

Kay’s article is rather a slick, but ultimately worthless, piece of work, unless one needs a laugh. It pretends to be an objective and erudite exposition, but – with, for instance, the assertion that “Business should treat the environmental movement as it treats other forms of religious belief,” – it becomes clear that it is written with a business audience in mind.

Or perhaps I should have said, a business-as-usual audience.

Environmentalism and religion

Jacob:  Thanks very much for the link to the John Kay piece, which is arguably one of the finest examples of intellectual flatulence I have ever read.

Kay does not deny that global warming is occurring. Even Paddy McGuinness over at Quadrant is prepared to concede that, and asks “Is global warming a real phenomenon? If so, is it the result of human activity? If so, what can we do about it? If it is beyond human control, what should we be doing? And how urgent is it to take action? These are the central issues in what has become an increasingly important controversy in our community, and in the world as a whole.”

On whether it is a reality, the result of human activity action, necessitating countermeasures, and if so how urgently, one can be an affirmer, a denier, or one who allows the possibility of either of the alternatives. My own position is the latter, which means that in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, I am assuming the affirmers to be right until they are proven wrong.

I have no hesitation personally in saying that I would like the deniers to be right. That would offer easily the most comfortable future. As I would describe myself as an environmentalist, and as an adherent of Kay’s ‘religion’, I am in a position analogous to that of a Christian who hopes that the atheists turn out to be right.

I don’t think that this is where I break down. I think it is where Kay’s metaphor does.

As for Rupert: I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty. Given the quality of his papers, that is a big leap, I know.

But why not? Before we know it, it will be Christmas. Good will. Good cheer. And good night.

Margo: And to you. Rupert is evil. 

Another Way To Look At It

Ian, if you can find it, I recommend the late Dr. Per Bak's book How Nature Works

Don't be put of by the pretentious title, it is a reasonably accessible, given the maths, physics and statistics, explanation of his Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) theory and his work on it at the Brookhaven. It is very apt in helping to approach a decision regarding global warming. Amongst the many natural phenomena he addresses, species extinction is one.

The frightening thing about some of his modelling data is that they show that catastrophe's happen in very short time periods. It is possible that we will not have much more than a figurative heartbeat before the devastation from climate change wipes away much of the world we know. Mankind is impotent when facing the energy embedded in nature.

I am a convert to Bak's view of runaway natural energetic events and I would not entertain erring on anything but the side of extreme caution. If we want to hedge our bets, it is with Eternal Bookmaker.

Per Bak

Yes Roger, thanks for the reminder. I remember the comment you wrote involving  Bak quite well. I will buy a copy before I get too much older and add it to my growing collection of climate change literature. Actually I seem to read little else these days.

In case other readers may be unaware, much can be extracted from the Webdiary archive by use of this site's own search engine. On this topic it yielded ?q=node/1643 (scroll down comments) coming from the listing at this=

Interesting Technique

Ian,  that is a very interesting search technique. Thank you for the tip.

I am pleased to see that I am consistent, at least where Per Bak is concerned.

I think that your focused interest in climate change is quite wise. They say that what does not kill us makes us stronger but I think that sentiment is questionable in this case.

You Should Not Burn Down The Villiage To Save It

Alga Kavanagh:

Costs only rise, because there is no control of the markets and they also rise, because the elite determine they want more and more. With the right controls, you can have a stabilised market which removes inflation and deflation providing technological advances and improved living standards.

I would be opposed to anything approaching price controls. Governments already interfere in far too many areas, failing miserable in most cases. Getting involved in things they know even less about would not be a good idea. The folly of price controls can be studied by looking at the failed communist experiment of the previous century, which proves where price control theory is headed. I would choose not to live in a nation which would go down this path to ruin.

Alga Kavanagh:

Living standards have improved because of technological advances, not economic growth.

These technological advances are most apparent in wealthy nations. The reason for this is not difficult to understand.

Alga Kavanagh:

It takes many more working hours to purchase a house and obtain what people see as, allowing them to create their futures with security, than 40 years ago before the mantra of deregulation and open slather economic corporate growth was introduced.

House prices may be more expensive (finite product). Many other products (once luxury items) are much cheaper and more attainable for many more people. Any measurement of forty years ago, especially in North America, and Australia, must be seen in context with WWII. Large parts of the world were devastated - leading to massive opportunities for primary producing nations unaffected. This economic situation was a unique one.

I find debating economic growth rather pointless. It is an emotional subject that is either accepted, or it is not. I have yet to change any person's opinion on it. Each individual decides for themselves, that which they wish out of life - hopefully free from interference. That is all I have ever asked for myself.

Alga Kavanagh:

So what”s you answer Paul, more of the same, or put our heads in the ground and hope climate change and global warming will go away and the world won't change. It's painfully obvious, constant economic growth is the major cause of and fuelling climate change. There's nothing else pumping out the growing tonnage of pollutants into our environment, than the deluded drive for more money for the benefit a very small number of people controlling more and more. There's nothing wrong with our technology, just how we implement and use it.

Gradual change is what I would advocate. Change should have a limited affect on economic growth. One can do this by bringing the people voluntarily along, not with the big stick of shock to the system rules and regulations. Higher investment in, and making the alternative energy industry profitable (through market competition), would go some way to doing this. All companies change, and major oil for example is investing vast amounts into alternative energy, there is no reason to think, they, and others, will not have some future success. It is down to the consumer to decide what companies supply, and it always has been.

It Is A Tough Task

John Pratt I am not against the theory of climate change, nor doing something about it. I am against lying to people, about the ramifications. Firstly it would be immoral; secondly it will not solve the problem. If people feel they are being duped, they will resist such change.

John Pratt

I am trying to understand what you are trying to say. I don't understand why you see climate change as a war with winners and losers.

A certain percentage of a persons daily living expenses are both food, and energy (energy is a part of the food cost also). The further down the scale one goes, the higher percentage this cost becomes. The higher up the scale one goes, the lower percentage this cost becomes. This is an undisputable fact. Any rises in costs which can only come about, (the size of which depends upon the level of change), will affect the poor consumer a lot more than the rich one. In fact, it is probable the rich consumer, will not have to change the level of consumption at all.

From an employment view, the changes will affect, the poorer person, even more drastically - especially when one considers that the last ten years of growth has been driven bottom-up. Any changes to this growth will affect the lifestyles of the consumers (middle class), and the prospects of the drivers (workers in emerging nations). The added costs (massive in some instances), will see an end to much of the comparative advantages these nations workers are enjoying. At this point in the cycle, something like that would be devastating for a great many people. Any person that has had the opportunity to visit nations such as China, and India twenty plus years previous will understand exactly what this could mean.

Without these nations on board, change is pointless. Using government subsidy to help the poor with costs, makes change pointless. Asking somebody to change, and go through this pain, is no small task. Perhaps now, you understand why I called it: The greatest challenge facing the world.

Economic growth is climate suicide


None of these things are possible without economic growth. A simple study of the stagnate, and declining middle ages (dark ages) proves this point. You'd be right if we wish to continue down the same failed road as the past shows, I prefer to live in the future 21st century, not the past 20th or middle ages.

Looking at the future from a lateral view, shows options capable of providing survival for our society, without loss of living standards but improvement for all.

Poor people will carry the burden. It cannot be any other way. Somebody will always live on the hill, and somebody will always live in the valley. The faces may be changed, the situation never will be. Any extra costs will be passed down, and felt by the lowest on the scale.

What you call poor people, I class as suppressed, nor do they have to suffer Because of positive change, their lives would improve. The only reason that will happen is if we continue, down the path of economic rationalisation and constant unsustainable growth. Costs only rise, because there is no control of the markets and they also rise, because the elite determine they want more and more. With the right controls, you can have a stabilised market which removes inflation and deflation providing technological advances and improved living standards. Of course, you will always have differences in living standards in any sane society, people have different aspirations and drive.

By any measurement, basic living standards have improved across the board. People will not willingly give those improvements up. Pushing such measures will cause a collapse of the system. The lifestyles of many people will be damaged beyond repair.

Living standards have improved because of technological advances, not economic growth. It takes many more working hours to purchase a house and obtain what people see as, allowing them to create their futures with security, than 40 years ago before the mantra of deregulation and open slather economic corporate growth was introduced. When you have a sustainable, stable market and environment, then you can plan and provide improvements in peoples lives. Currently, we have unsustainable economic growth, causing massive foreign and personal debt, unaffordable housing for more people and rising living costs. I believe more than 75% of people earn less than $35000 a year and are struggling to keep their heads above water. We have more and more unable to buy a home or homeless, meaning more people with less disposable income and just a few getting richer and richer. In the 50-60-70's, you could reture and live ver y nicely on agovernemtn pension. Now you have to save large amounts of your income for all your working life and will struggle to live under economic growth.  Add diminishing competition through economic rationalisation, the people enslaved to living to work, rather than working to live. This is damaging peoples lifestyles beyond the point of mental despair. Rising costs for everything, including paying to drive on roads that were once provided free, along with diminishing services. The cost of living is impoverishing more and more, yet you wish to continue down the same road. Economic growth, is destroying the world. The seas are running out of fish, irrelevant as to the effects upon peoples gluttony, it's killing the oceans of the world. But economic growth requires more and more people to buy, buy, buy. When do you reach the point of population saturation, dwindling food supplies and the environment to grow it, what's left.

There's no competition associated with economic growth, just monopolisation and down sizing. Australia has two companies controlling more than 90% of our food, liquor and fuel. Even the supposed independent supermarkets, get their supplies through those two companies, who own the wholesalers and control most food imports.

So what”s you answer Paul, more of the same, or put our heads in the ground and hope climate change and global warming will go away and the world won't change. It's painfully obvious, constant economic growth is the major cause of and fuelling climate change. There's nothing else pumping out the growing tonnage of pollutants into our environment, than the deluded drive for more money for the benefit a very small number of people controlling more and more. There's nothing wrong with our technology, just how we implement and use it.

Destroying Economic Growth Destroys The Poor

Alga Kavanagh

We don't need economic growth, we need sustainability on all fronts. To get that, you need economic stability and restraint, technological growth and sustainable services, infrastructure and energy. Economic growth only benefits the rich and elite, not the populace, environment or the future.

None of these things are possible without economic growth. A simple study of the stagnate, and declining middle ages (dark ages) proves this point.

Of course with any change there will be winners and losers, but it can be balanced out, so the effects aren't that detrimental. In fact, it can be a win win situation, the problem is just about everyone refuses to give up the past failed approaches and clings desperately to the dogmatic mantra, populate, economically grow or perish.

Poor people will carry the burden. It cannot be any other way. Somebody will always live on the hill, and somebody will always live in the valley. The faces may be changed, the situation never will be. Any extra costs will be passed down, and felt by the lowest on the scale.

By any measurement, basic living standards have improved across the board. People will not willingly give those improvements up. Pushing such measures will cause a collapse of the system. The lifestyles of many people will be damaged beyond repair.

Fear of globalisation is an irrational middle class one. It is the fear of losing ones place in the world through increased competition -the marking of ones patch. The ironic thing is a destruction of economic growth will cause exactly that.

The climate change religion is pushed wholly and solely by the new western professional middle class rich. It is this class of people that will benefit the most, and feel the least pain by the destruction of growth. Excepting the wealthy elites of course.

There has to be a winners, and there has to be losers, and there will be. As I have previously said, that is the part nobody wants to talk about.

Ecomonic growth, equaltes to environmental disaster

Economic growth is an unsustainable religion (another illusion). It requires constantly growing human populations and commodity consumption to be sustainable. These are the basic causes of global warming.

We don't need economic growth, we need sustainability on all fronts. To get that, you need economic stability and restraint, technological growth and sustainable services, infrastructure and energy. Economic growth only benefits the rich and elite, not the populace, environment or the future.

Of course with any change there will be winners and losers, but it can be balanced out, so the effects aren't that detrimental. In fact, it can be a win win situation, the problem is just about everyone refuses to give up the past failed approaches and clings desperately to the dogmatic mantra, populate, economically grow or perish.

Our country has gone beyond it's ability to sustain the population we already have - anything more is insanity. To have a viable sustainable population, you have to be able to provide all your requirements from your country's resources, export any surplus and all without endangering or destroying the environment. Currently that's far from the case.

Economic growth, monopolisation, globalisation, economic rationalism, all have failed the future miserably. After all, the only thing that counts is the future, nothing else matters, there is no now, just a past and the future. Currently the only future society is looking at is one of massive upheaval, disruption and annihilation in it's present form.

Sceptics must be wringing their hands as the evidence flows in with increasing alarm. Climate effects that are happening now, they predicted wouldn't happen for 30-100 years in the future. World ice shelves and glaciers collapsing, thousands of year old Arctic lakes and ponds disappearing, bigger and more violent storms and weather patterns around the globe.

People also seem to be forgetting what the disintegration of biodiversity will do locally and worldwide, which is integral to our survival throughout the food chain. With the increasing drive towards feed lot production, huge corporate food production and monopolisation, we are seeing the collapse of many environments.

As an example, to combat climate change the Tasmanian salmon industry has gone from using about 6 kilo's of antibiotics per year, 5 years ago, to using about 18 tonnes so far this year. This is to try and stop the spread of disease, as water temps change and warmer water parasites move to once cooler waters. It's the same with all feed lot and intensive corporate farming, all unsustainable, being heavily reliant on the ever-increasing use of environmentally and health damaging chemicals, hormones and antibiotics. All to cope with increasingly diseased, physically and mentally damaged animals, birds and fish. The political corporate approach, is not working, but making it worse by the day.

Spring thaw for the Sun King

Ian, the late 'conversion' of Rupert could be the spring thaw of a trend I noticed a while back.

In January, The Oz reprinted a column by John Kay of the UK Financial Times, in which he milked the environmentalism-as-religion meme for all it was worth. But then Kay concluded:

Business should treat the environmental movement as it treats other forms of religious belief. Business leaders do not themselves have to believe its doctrines. Indeed we should be wary if they do: business linked to faiths and ideologies is a sinister and unaccountable power.

But companies must respect the belief systems of the countries in which they operate and acknowledge the constraints these structures impose as well as the commercial opportunities that arise.

Most environmental initiatives that have been implemented - phasing out fluorocarbons, renewable energy and emissions trading - have significant commercial lobbies behind them.

Still, myths play a valuable social role and the intentions of their proponents are generally benign. The social impact of religions and ideologies, for good and ill, does not depend much on the factual accuracy of their stories. The injunction to be careful of the impact of our actions on the air, the earth and the water is well taken. The danger of environmental evangelism is that ritual, gesture and rhetoric take the place of substance.

Perhaps Rupe just had to wait to make sure the 'commercial lobbies' were okay to jump on board the climate change wagon. Thank heaven the commercial lobbies are 'generally benign' in their paternalism, eh?

The Thing Nobody Wants To Face

Ian MacDougall

If they will turn over a new leaf, Rupert will keep serving the beef. If they will start a new day, Rupert will keep paying the pay. If a truly new field they have sowed, they can stay on the Yellow Brick Road. Webdiarists all rejoice, and shout 'Hallelujah!'

Essentially, the denier industry versus the believers' industry is a false dawn. I find it hard to believe the "climate change is not happening" crowd, have much of a future. The simple fact is; climate change has become accepted widely.

The real debate will be how to implement a strategy without the destruction of economic growth. Not an easy task, in fact, probably one of the most difficult tasks the world faces.

The current round of growth is bottom up driven. That is it is driven by the worlds poorest becoming richer. The wealth gap etc is a deception used to attempt to muddy these waters. The reason for this is quiet simple: Any correction will also be bottom up driven. That is the worlds poorest will have to wear the burden, by becoming poorer.

The myth is the rich will have to share the burden by changing their lifestyles. The fact is the opposite will occur. The reason is the war will essentially be fought against a growing middle class, and it will be these people along with the worlds poor that will be damaged the most. With the destruction of economic growth, the rich will indeed become richer, whilst the poor will become poorer. And that Ian is the part nobody wants to discuss.

A cursory glance at the history of communist Eastern Europe proves, economic growth is not directly related to pollution. The poorer a nation, the higher, the environmental damage - rich people do not enjoy living in a polluted dump. The rich also have options available to avoid this situation, the type of options, neither available, nor attainable, for the poor. When one faces starvation (often the difference between having a job or not), one is not overly bothered about the world in future years.

What the rich of the world have worked out (and it is indeed the rich, driving this new religion), is they will not be paying for it. The burden of cost is a trickle down, and the further it goes down, becomes a tidal wave.

The problem with the climate change debate is it is politically and nationalistically driven. With any change, there must be winners, and equally there must be losers. The truth of this unfortunately is easily avoided, and ignored, by pointing at someone, and yelling heretic. It will though eventually have to either be faced, through honest discussion, or by living the reality. No person can honestly predict the outcome of that reality.

John Pratt

Howard thinks we shouldn't act on reducing GHG emissions until the rest of the world does. John Sauven is correct, we have exported our emissions to China, and it is our responsibility to fix the problem. We all share in the benefits of the cheap goods coming from China, we will have to have a greater role in reducing GHG emissions. China is building two large power stations a week. We are supplying the coal to run these power stations.

So China should be punished for its success (evil)? Australia should also undergo pointless self flagellation because of this success? Anyone still doubt this has not become a religion?


Regeneration of class warfare?

Paul Morella: "Howard thinks we shouldn't act on reducing GHG emissions until the rest of the world does. John Sauven is correct, we have exported our emissions to China, and it is our responsibility to fix the problem. We all share in the benefits of the cheap goods coming from China, we will have to have a greater role in reducing GHG emissions. China is building two large power stations a week. We are supplying the coal to run these power stations.

"So China should be punished for its success (evil)? Australia should also undergo pointless self flagellation because of this success? Anyone still doubt this has not become a religion?"

With most religions, those doing the preaching are themselves believers. But in the case of the new Gospel According to St Rupert most of the preaching from News Ltd pulpits will be of the same sincerity as that done by Johann Tetzel in selling indulgences around 1517.  The latter's sales pitch was, roughly along the following lines: "As the instant your cash hits the bottom of my bin, St Peter opens the gate and lets your poor departed loved one in. Also, I've got a nice line here in splinters from the True Cross, if you'd step this way and take a look. You won't see prices as low as these again either." (Read Luther's denunciation of this at http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/tetzel.htm)
Now Rupert himself may well believe what he now publicly advocates, and maybe some of the hacks he is flogging along to produce copy for him will as well. Or it may all be yet another cynical exercise in bandwagon-jumping. Time will tell. 

But if the climatological mainstream is right, the Albrechtsens and Bolts etc will all finish up telling time's tale anyway, and most sincerely. Because it will be reality, not just Rupert, compelling it.

However, under whatever system of carbon trading and accounting that might operate at any one time, a given ton of carbon emission can only be counted once. If the carbon is mined in Australia as coal, exported to China and burnt there, it either goes onto China's account or onto Australia's. It will confuse things enormously to count it twice, or more than twice. From memory, the country where it is burnt is deemed to be the emitter under the Kyoto Protocol.

We get the goods coming in from China, but they get our money in return. If it did not suit the Chinese to sell the goods at the prices they do, they wouldn't. The political game to be mastered is one of a world of often competing nation-states dealing with atmospheric changes that they are each contributing to unequally.

Trickle down theory usually involves wealth trickling down. What you describe is not so much a trickling down of poverty as a rising damp of it. You are almost certainly right to point out that climate change economics faces great danger of regenerated class warfare, with all the political implications inherent in that.

Interesting times.

Climate change is not a war with winners and losers.

Paul Morrella, you say: "The reason is the war will essentially be fought against a growing middle class, and it will be these people along with the worlds poor that will be damaged the most. With the destruction of economic growth, the rich will indeed become richer, whilst the poor will become poorer. And that Ian is the part nobody wants to discuss..............

So China should be punished for its success (evil)? Australia should also undergo pointless self flagellation because of this success? Anyone still doubt this has not become a religion?"

I am trying to understand what you are trying to say. I don't understand why you see climate change as a war with winners and losers. If the planet over heats there may be no winners. We may destroy all human and possibly all animal life.

We live on a finite planet, I look at it like a space ship travelling in a very hostile space. Temperature in space is just above absolute zero, and it is a vacuum. It is Earth's atmosphere which protects us from hostile space, just a few kilometre above us, life cannot exist.  If we continue down the path of continuous growth, and every human on the space ship demands a car, a television, overseas holidays, a three or four bedroom house. We will pollute the atmosphere to the extent that it will no longer support life.  Do you understand that, the atmosphere will no longer support life, that means no winners.  No good, no evil, no success, no life.

We would not let people in an aircraft pollute the air in the cabin. We need to look at the atmosphere as the air in our cabin. 

No wedges, only survival.

The whole basis for the political direction in climate change we all know, it's not in the Lib/Lab corporate interests. It's a con job that alternative energies aren't economically viable, they are and along with other alternatives, they can fix all our problems.

The non alternatives, coal and nuclear, are unsustainable, expensive and highly polluting for the duration of their operations and long after. The lib/lab subsidise the coal industry to the tune of 1-2 billion dollars and Nuclear will require massive subsidies. They both use huge amounts of water, non renewable energy, in mining, transport, processing and with coal, producing power. The last nuclear power station built in the USA, cost $7 billion and took 22 years. There's no such thing as clean coal burning, it's years away, if ever.

The money saved from not propping up these primitive industries, could be used to put grid connected solar and wind systems on most rural houses and businesses. Its the same for fuel, biodiesel and straight vegetable oils are very viable. We can produce the seed crops without cutting back on food production. Ethanol is another bad joke, the amount of energy you use to create ethanol, is ridiculous and you have to use food crops to make it. Biodiesel is already being tested in aircraft and being used as lubricants and plastics and seed oils, reduce pollutants by about 80% and are renewable and environmentally friendly.

We have available very efficient solar cells, solar powered Stirling engines, redox batteries, solar cubes and much more, that the elite are suppressing or denouncing. I've lived off and on with solar power for more than 30 years, I use it now and its very cost effective. I run a vehicle and a small generator on vegetable oil, a mate has his own small solar Stirling engine and is going to build one that'll provide him with power 24 hrs a day. It's all there, even people in the cities can reduce their reliance on the system. If we had solar cells on every home and building, over time we would reduce costs for everyone and never have blackouts. The problem we face, is the corporate controlled politicians, can't let anything positive happen that would change the status quo. They will only tolerate, single point of control and production, single point distribution and single point sales. Unless they have full control through all aspects of society, globalisation and corporation, will fail in the end. So to have alternative non polluting long term energy resources, means decentralising, expanding production, processing and distribution points. It would mean having lots of small businesses around the country, growing and producing fuels, making and repairing systems. No blackouts for anyone. So the Lib/Lab will do anything it their power to maintain the almost complete takeover and rationalisation of the countries businesses, it makes no difference to them what is the outcome for the climate or our future.

It's just more money, more control, more suppression. But I believe we are about to go through something that will nearly wipe out our society, not from the expected terror, heating or droughts, but from the wildness of the weather and the seas. Remember, we build house and building for aesthetic and economic reason, not to strength or durability. So the weather will more than likely wipe out our major population areas, by destroying the buildings and infrastructure. The most frightening situation we face, is there is nothing we can do about it, it's going to happen with a vengeance. Sensible people will prepare in whatever way they can, governments won't do anything rational, just continue as they are. Look at the huge amount of money they are throwing at the internet, a unreal virtual world. Flick the switch and its gone, just another illusion, like our society. But one we all enjoy.

It's a good one, Margo

It's a good one Margo!  It is locked, loaded and explosive. Provocative comments have their place and if they spark a discussion then it is a good thing.  Why do things by halves?  A comment that makes you smile and think more deeply at the same time has to be a good one.

Margo: Why thank you.  

High and Dry

I learned through today's Crikey that the Liberal Party member and former Liberal staffer who exposed Howard's Carbon C mafia on Four Corners last year, Guy Pearce, has written a book detailing the utter corruption of Howard's climate change stance. It's called High and Dry. I've read Clive Hamilton's Scorcher: the dirty politics of climate change, and it's horrifying. Clive relied partly on Pearce's interviews with the Greenhouse Mafia for his thesis. 

Pearce's book is out and he's about to publish a list of Carbon Club members who've been given honours by the PM. Journos included - that's Miranda Devine, Christopher Pearson, Alan Jones, Greg Sheridan and Oz editor Chris Mitchell. All earning big bucks to feather their own nests and run the line of the current elite.

And I bet there's a big link between Libera Party donors and climate denying polluters and co too. Hugh Morgan runs the Li8bs front trust to hide donors from public view. Would someone like to review either of these books for Webdiary?

As an aside, when Penguin published my book Not Happy, John! in 2004 - which exposed some of the hidden links between corporate power and Howard , I asked for a website to go with it. Penguin had never done it before, let alone an interactive one, and it was very basic. Jack Robertson, Antony Loewenstein and David Davis worked countless hours making the thing work, while i spent countless hours posting NHJ car stickers to people who wanted them. Pearce's book has a slick Penguin Website. Yes!!! You know. I reckon I was ahead of my time in some ways. I'm told that usually means you fail by conventional tests, but not in your heart, if you're prepared to listen. It feels great!

Reviews R'Us

Hi Margo, I would love the opportunity to do another review. Which one does not matter.

Perhaps at some point in time, there will be a genuine attempt to acknowledge your pioneering role. I have read that the main reason why pioneers die is the arrows in the back from the ones that follow.

Margo: Hi Roger. How about Scorcher to start with? 

Scorcher It Is

Ok, I'll get a copy and go to it. By the way I am currently reading Carl Berstein's biography on Hillary Clinton, A Woman In Charge.

Perhaps that can be reviewed as well when I'm finished.

Margo: Yes please!

It was in the Age as well

Margo, in case you don't know, that quote has appeared in the Age as well.

Margo: Thanks David! What do you think of it? One of my good ones, or a mistake?  

Climate change and future fuels; inextricably linked.

Margo, as I wrote a little while ago I think the so-called ‘Green’ debate is much more than a simple ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ position on the ‘climate change’ argument. (Margo: Indeed! It's an existential issue.)

Incorporated within the debate are a whole range of issues that need to be discussed, not least of which are the planet's energy needs for now and in the future, and at the core of the debate is how and to what extent those energy needs are likely to effect climate change on our planet. In other words, the energy debate and the climate change debate are inextricably linked.

There are, however, certain realities that we need to be aware of regardless of the argument about ‘climate change’. Reality number one is, of course, that the current major energy resource that the world uses, oil/gas/fossil, is a finite resource and that as such, it will eventually be exhausted regardless of whether its use as an energy resource contributes to ‘climate change’ or not. This brings us to reality number two and that is making decisions about the alternative energy resources once the existing oil/gas/fossil resource is exhausted.

Essentially there are only two alternatives; human derived nuclear energy (uranium sourced) and naturally derived nuclear energy (solar sourced). Uranium derived nuclear energy has its own special problems not least of which is sourcing it, making it into a usable fuel and then disposing of a highly dangerous waste. Solar derived nuclear energy only has one problem and that is how to convert it in to usable energy in such abundance that it is cost effective.

The uranium sourced nuclear energy cycle option is vast, expensive and complex. The uranium itself needs to be mined from massively expensive mining operations and then processed and refined into a useable fuel, which is also a massively expensive operation, which, in turn, can then be used in a nuclear reactor, another very expensive item of which more than one will be required. Finally the very dangerous waste product from the reactor then needs to be disposed of which is yet another massively expensive operation. Meanwhile, there is always the risk of a Chernobyl-like disaster and also the risk that some nations that have nuclear energy facilities may also want to extend their nuclear capabilities and facilities to include the manufacture of nuclear weapons whether overtly or covertly.

The solar sourced nuclear energy cycle option has many advantages over the human sourced nuclear energy cycle, the most obvious of which is the fact that the actual energy source itself is free and readily available. It does not need to be dug up in order to access it and it does not to be buried in order to dispose of the waste once used – indeed, there is no waste. The real problem with solar energy is that we have not yet devoted enough time and financial resources into developing it into a viability that would make it available en mass at a competitive price. The problem of converting solar energy into usable energy, however, can easily be resolved if governments and industry are prepared to make the necessary financial commitments to further research and advance the development of the relatively new technologies related to solar energy particularly in the areas of wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells. Breakthroughs in these technologies, particularly in relation to cost, could also bring to fruition the abundant fresh water supplies needed for dry nations via seawater desalinisation, another technology that needs more research and development in order to produce mass benefits for all.

The ‘climate change’ debate is not really a political one. Politicians are, well… politicians; they’re not scientists. The ‘climate change’ debate will be resolved once and for all when the scientists have finished their work and the denialists realise how stupendously wrong they’ve been. But, regardless of the politics of the ‘climate change’ debate, one thing is for dead sure (and certainly can’t be denied even by the denialists); our present major fuel (oil/gas/fossil) sources are finite. We will run out of it sooner or later. The uranium sourced energy is too risky and besides, even that will also run out sooner or later as well.

The solar energy road will eventually be the only alternative for mankind. We might as well get on that road sooner rather than later because ‘later’ might just be too late – especially if ‘climate change’ is man-made. And, if it isn’t, then we’ve lost nothing. Future generations will thank us for thinking of them rather than curse us for having used the present energy systems to simply fuel our greed for today without consideration of them.

the denialists protest too much...

The ultra right denialists are still in denial, and flailing around to attack those who did not blind their eyes to the evidence. A line I wrote earlier this year has done the rounds all over that world.

Here's an example, The seeds of the global warming police state:

Along with the campaign to subsidize government-approved speech, there always comes an attempt to suppress speech that challenges the official line. The designation of those who challenge the global warming scare stories as global warming "deniers"--smearing them as the equivalent of Holocaust deniers--has introduced the hard edge of dogmatism and character assassination to the public debate. The implications of this phrase were made clear by another Australian. (Apparently Australia, like Britain, is a few steps ahead of America in how seriously it takes its global warming dogma.) Referring to a British historian who was jailed for denying the existence of the Holocaust, leftist Australian journalist Margo Kingston growled: "David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial. Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offense--it is a crime against humanity after all."

Kingston is a leftist provocateur and has gone beyond what the mainstream of the left has so far contemplated--but only a little beyond. Back in the United States, the left is still gingerly working to prepare the ground for green censorship, with Al Gore branding right-wing dissent an "assault on reason" that has "broken" the marketplace of ideas--which requires government intervention to fix. The fix is now being prepared in the form of a regulatory assault on right-leaning talk radio, among other initiatives.

Weird stuff. By the way, I'm not a left provocateur, I'm a small l liberal with nowhere left to go but The Greens. I can't remember where I said this, and the people blasting away at me don't link to it. Does anyone know? If I didn't, i certainly wish I had. The potential loss of life caused by the powerful denialists is exponentially greater than the Holocast victims, and like the Nazi persecution of the Jews, it was known and nothing was done. My latest piece on climate change is It wasn't Bob Brown who lost the plot on climate change.

Roll up! Roll up! For the greatest roll-over ever!

Go here and you can read about climate change sceptics criticising 'polar bear science'. Just a minor skirmish in the ongoing war.
Then go  here and you can read Janet Albrechtsen's latest and last hurrah (May 2) for climate change denial.

Go  here and you can read how a dyed in the wool climate change denier (Andrew Bolt) has mastered the art of the back-track at full speed. Takes some doing.
But go  here andyou can read why: Albrechtsen's and Bolt's patron, paymaster and prophet, Rupert (He Who Must be Obeyed) Murdoch has done a 180 degree about-face turn on the issue.
Expect a few 'we were never really serious' or 'Who? Me? Never!' columns from the Bolt, Albrechtsen and The New Affirmers. It will be without doubt the latest and greatest born-again revivalist chorus ever, and featuring the most spectacular lineup of repentant-sinner hacks from the Murdoch stable yet seen. All will take the oath, sign the pledge, talk the talk and walk the walk.

If they will turn over a new leaf, Rupert will keep serving the beef. If they will start a new day, Rupert will keep paying the pay. If a truly new field they have sowed, they can stay on the Yellow Brick Road. Webdiarists all rejoice, and shout 'Hallelujah!'

Ah! The ABC

Carbon Cops, I missed this one, not heard of it, did not ruffle the old grey matter. A quick Google tells me this is one of Aunty's.

Poor old Robert Tracinski, being ensconced in the US, he would not our ABC from a hole in the ground. I am sure that he would not be writing about the impact that the PBS would have in the US if they were airing a similar show.

Of course, no one is coercing anybody to appear on the program. You could always say no!. So, if you appear, it is by choice (and perhaps you get paid for it).

It was a slow news day, I guess.

Like our own home grown-right-wing zealot/denier and well-paid Murdoch talking-head, Andrew Bolt, Tracinski completely misses the point.

There are no brownie points to be earned by being right or wrong on the impact of climate change. We, who believe, may, in fact, be wrong and there will be a cost to the global economy because we were. But, the global economy is resilient and will recover, quickly.

However, if we are correct, then not just the global economy but life on earth is in danger of ceasing. Prudence would dictate that we err on the side of caution. We do that all the time in all the areas of our lives. Now Bolt and co can be as bloody-minded as they like but not with my family's well-being. A potential downturn in the world economy, which is all that these big business hounds are yapping about, is not the end of the world. Climate change, however, has the potential to be just that.

In the US SUV's will get an average of 35MPG by 2020

Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, said earlier in the week as he inspected new plug-in, hybrid electric cars in a park adjacent to the Capitol.

If the Senate bill becomes law, new cars, light trucks and SUV’s will have to get an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, compared with roughly 25 m.p.g. today.

As the push goes on, in the US for more fuel efficient cars, it is time for Australian politicians to put some teeth into their emissions policy. It would be so easy to pass laws that make Australian cars more efficient. It would be popular, saving motorist a fortune at the bowser. It would reduce our demand for fuel as well as decrease our C02 emissions. For the good of the planet why not?

Every year Australia exports 548 million tonnes of GHG emissions

China is building two large power stations every week. We need to convince China that they don't have to make a choice between prosperity and protecting the climate. We need to help them towards a low-carbon future:

 "Responsibility for China's soaring emissions lies not just in Beijing but also in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo," said Greenpeace UK director John Sauven said.  "All we've done is export a great slice of the West's carbon footprint to China, and today we see the result.

Howard thinks we shouldn't act on reducing GHG emissions until the rest of the world does. John Sauven is correct, we have exported our emissions to China, and it is our responsibility to fix the problem. We all share in the benefits of the cheap goods coming from China, we will have to have a greater role in reducing GHG emissions. China is building two large power stations a week. We are supplying the coal to run these power stations

According to Hong Kong-based utility giant CLP, China's installed power generating capacity grew by 105,000 megawatts to 622,000MW in 2006, adding in one year more than twice Australia's total capacity.

And despite rising concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, much of that new capacity is cheap coal-fired power. On average, a new coal-fired power plant is coming into operation every five days in mainland China, according to CLP.

The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics is forecasting Chinese imports to grow by 14 per cent this year, to 36 million tonnes, as coal consumption in the country rises by a further 150 million tonnes.

Every year Australia exports about 230 million tonnes of coal which, when burned, releases more greenhouse gas emissions than all sources in Australia combined. Newcastle is the world’s largest coal export port, with a capacity of 102 million tonnes of coal a year. Recently approved expansion plans, could allow that figure to rise to 211 million tonnes of coal a year within the next decade. The climate implications of this are huge. When burned, that 211 million tonnes of coal will produce about 548 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution. Australia’s current emissions of greenhouse gases from all sources are about 560 million tonnes.

Australia international disgrace on Climate Change

Australia by 2005 emitted just 2.2 per cent more greenhouse gases than in 1990 — but only because of the 19 per cent cut in emissions from changes to land use, mostly due to the ban on land clearing. (Excluding land use, our emissions were 28 per cent higher than in 1990.)...........................

The Government's experts estimate that even with that huge one-off saving, by 2010 we will be emitting 9 per cent more greenhouse gases than in 1990, and by 2020 we will be pumping out 27 per cent more.

Australia gave itself the lowest bar to clear of any Kyoto signatory, while Europe set its bar much higher. The EU of the time, 15 Western European nations, pledged to reduce its emissions by 8 per cent. Australia pledged to increase its emissions by 8 per cent.

Europe is getting a bad rap on climate change. Because it has led the way, it has made mistakes; it knows that all too well. But it will have made its mistakes and corrected them before we get started.........

the EU ambassador to Australia, Bruno Julien, points out that emissions trading is only one part of its response to climate change. The EU has also set a target for 20 per cent of energy to be supplied by renewable sources by 2020. It already sets the world benchmarks for energy efficiency, but has directed further 20 per cent gains by 2020. Car makers will have to make deep cuts in the average emissions of their sales range, airlines will be brought into the emissions trading scheme from 2011, and the EU and its member governments are making heavy investments in public transport, energy research and development, and adapting workplaces and homes to produce lower emissions.

Australia has a shameful record on Climate Change under the Howard Government. If we continue doing what we are doing it looks like we will be pumping out 27 per cent more GHG in 2020 than we did in 1990. 

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