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Who's connecting the dots on climate change policy? Not the big two, that's for sure

First published 7 November, 2007

Margo: Hiya. On Monday I drove to Queanbeyan in Eden-Monaro, a few miles from Canberra, to see Kerry Tucker and NSW Greens Senator Kerry Nettle have a go at getting the very fast train project between Sydney and Canberra back on the agenda, and argue for a rapid transit light rail system connecting the far flung suburbs of the bush capital with the CBD.

They're both big projects, costing big money over time. However, they're both designed to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions, take lots of pressure off our roads, and insure us against escalating oil prices due to peak oil. . Both women noted that lower income people, many of whom live in outlying suburbs, would be hardest hit by rising oil prices and would need reliable public transport to survive as oil prices rose.

The Liberal Senator Kerrie Tucker  is trying to turf out, Gary Humphries, responded on TV that night that  voters should take no notice of the ideas, because the Greens hadn't fully costed them.

Oh dear. Billions upon billions are being promised by both sides for roads. There's nothing on the table from the government doling a serious cost benefit analysis over time between spending on rail and roads. It's as though peak oil and climate change are discrete topics rather than overarching challenges to our way of life to which all policy should be directed. Nope, on climate change we'll says a few things and tweak a bit of spending, spend a little bit, and peak oil we'll ignore.

Vote Green to keep these issues on the table and educate the idiots who rule us. For all our sakes.

Today, Stuart gives us an example of how bloody stupid our state and federal governments are on these huge issues.

Monitoring Oil Prices “Not a Core Responsibility” for New South Wales Transport Executives

by Stuart McCarthy

During discussions about peak oil with the uninitiated I am often asked why there is no political will to tackle the issue proactively. Most seem to be disappointed with replies that don’t include Iraq War conspiracy theories or appalling tales of political and corporate corruption. The reality is less sinister but more insidious – ignorance, stupidity and bumbling bureaucratic ineptitude.

These traits were on display for all to see at a recent NSW Parliament budget estimates hearing (transcript pdf). The players were MLC John Kaye, Transport Minister Eric Roozendaal, and Les Wielinga, a principal architect of the Cross City Tunnel Fiasco who was appointed last year as the CEO of the Roads and Traffic Authority.

Even I was astonished when I read this. I would like to hear what you think.


Dr JOHN KAYE (Greens): Minister, can I ask you whether the Roads and Traffic Authority monitors factors that affect long-term oil prices?

The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL (ALP minister): No.

Dr JOHN KAYE: Minister, are you personally aware the IEA, that is the International Energy Agency, in its July 2007 medium-term oil market report said:

Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010 with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimum levels by 2012.

I do not know whether you are familiar with the IEA. Are you aware of the IEA?
Dr JOHN KAYE: You are not aware of the IEA?
CHAIR: Could you give the full name?
Dr JOHN KAYE: The International Energy Agency.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: Oh, yes, I am aware of the International Energy Agency.
Dr JOHN KAYE: Good. So you are aware that it does predictions of long-term energy prices and long-term availability of energy stocks, primary energy stocks?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: Is there a point to this question?
Dr JOHN KAYE: No, it is a question. Are you aware that that is one of the functions of the IEA?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: I will accept your advice on that.
Dr JOHN KAYE: But you were not aware that what it is now saying is that we are about to head into a period of extremely high oil prices?
Dr JOHN KAYE: Well, are you aware or not aware of that? It is a yes or no answer, Minister, it would not be that hard.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: No, I was not aware of that.
Dr JOHN KAYE: So, what we take from that is that there is no planning within the Roads and Traffic Authority associated with the now commonly accepted scenario that oil prices are going to significantly rise and there will be a significant shortage of oil over the next 10 years. There is no sense of planning for that at all?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: I am the Minister for Roads. One of my agencies is the Roads and Traffic Authority, and we have a responsibility to maintain the road network and deal with the challenges of maintaining the road network. If there is a change in petrol prices, that increase in the cost of petrol will be reflected in traffic flows, I imagine. But I do not see it as a core responsibility of either my ministry or the Roads and Traffic Authority to monitor the – what was it, the IAE?
Dr JOHN KAYE: The IEA, Minister.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: I do not see that as a core responsibility of my agency.
Dr JOHN KAYE: So, am I correct in saying your agency is making planning decisions about motorways?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: No, planning decisions are made by the Ministry of Planning. My agency delivers road infrastructure, the maintenance of road infrastructure, road safety and public transport corridors.
Dr JOHN KAYE: In respect of the M4 East corridor, if the M4 East is developed your department will be a proponent – that is, you will be putting forward to the people of New South Wales and the planning Minister the idea that we should build a road project that is larger and more expensive than the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: Potentially.
Dr JOHN KAYE: So, you will do that without having looked at the likely demands for the use of the road?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: No, quite the contrary.
Dr JOHN KAYE: So, you are saying to me that when you develop such a project you do make forward traffic demand projections?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: Absolutely.
Dr JOHN KAYE: Across what period do you make that forward traffic demand projection, roughly?
Mr WIELINGA: We usually do 10- and 20-year projections on our traffic modelling.
Dr JOHN KAYE: So you are telling me that you are doing 10- and 20-year projections of traffic modelling with no forecasting of oil prices? Is that correct?
Mr WIELINGA: What we are doing is traffic projections. The transport data centre does project ions of land use changes and residential growth, and so forth. It predicts movements, it predicts the share of people of using different particular modes. A number of good research articles show what happens when fuel prices increase. Alternative vehicles come along. A lot of research shows people's strong preference for their commuting modes and there is an expectation in these different scenarios that there will still be a high demand for all transport modes.
Dr JOHN KAYE: I must say, I am quite shocked. You are telling me that your presumption is that traffic demand, demand for use of Road Traffic Authority facilities, will not be substantially affected by a significant increase in oil prices?
Mr WIELINGA: I am not saying there will not be a significant impact on traffic movement. What I am saying is it will affect a number of things. It may affect the type of vehicles on the road they may become smaller with small engines. There may be more hybrid vehicles, they might move to electric vehicles. A lot of different alternatives become viable at that time, depending on the price of oil.
Dr JOHN KAYE: Minister, help me here, maybe I have missed something. On the one hand you said to me earlier that you do not look at oil price predictions, yet we are doing 10- and 20-year traffic projections and the best we can say is, assuming the price of oil rises, that there is a significant rise in the price of oil, it does not matter because there will be other technologies or other vehicles that will compensate, and the demands somehow or other will not be affected significantly by a major rise in the price of oil? Is that the thinking of the Roads and Traffic Authority and the Minister?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: I think you need to take a step back, because you are getting a bit carried away here. The reality is it is the responsibility of my agency and of all governments to anticipate demands and needs of a growing population. It is the responsibility of the Roads and Traffic Authority to manage the road network and plan for the growth of that network and to deal with the challenge of increasing vehicles. A number of issues in relation to the number of vehicles travelling on our roads impact on that. There has been a huge growth in the availability of motor vehicles to families. Whereas 10 or 15 years ago most families had one to two vehicles, it is now quite common for families to have three to four vehicles. People are travelling further and more diversely around Sydney, so there is a growing demand. What impacts on traffic is obviously geographical location people are commuting further to work using private vehicles*cost of petrol, cost of vehicles, the elasticity of incomes if people have
more to spend and it costs relatively less to use their vehicles, they use their vehicles. There are a number of issues. Of course, we are planning for the traffic challenges of New South Wales. For you to suggest that the only …
Dr JOHN KAYE: It is a bit like planning with your eyes closed?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: No. What are you suggesting?
Dr JOHN KAYE: I am suggesting this is quite scandalous; that the Roads and Traffic Authority is planning roads worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is proposing that the people of New South Wales invest hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in roads, with no estimate or even scenarios of where it thinks the price of oil is going, without being aware of the IEA with the Minister thinking it was the IAE and you are asking us to commit to massive amounts of public money. No comment? We will change topic was obviously we are not getting anywhere further with that.


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Israel to give up fuel oil and diesel by 2020.

In Israel's southern desert known as the Negev, where the world's most highly concentrated solar radiation levels could turn sparsely inhabited areas (most of the region has fewer residents per 100 square kilometers than just a square block in Tel Aviv) into a renewable energy gold mine. With 14 hours of sun a day during the summer, and 360 sunny days a year, no wonder Ben-Eliezer is positive about the Negev.


"In the near future, we will propose a government decision to declare the Negev a national priority area for creating alternative energy," the Iraqi-born Ben-Eliezer said, adding that Jerusalem is being considered for major alternative energy investment as well.

Fouad's endorsement of renewable energy plans didn't come from out of the blue. It came from out of the black, with worldwide oil supplies squeezed to the point where even friendly suppliers won't have much left to send to Israel.

"In less than 40 years, the oil will disappear and in 60 years the natural gas sources will also disappear. Therefore, renewable energy is at the top of our agenda. By 2020, fuel oil and diesel won't be used in Israel," the minister added, punctuating his Peak Oil prophecy there in the land of Jeremiah. Source: email report from Energy and Capital dated 06/12/07.

Israel is taking steps to replace its fuel oil and diesel consumption by 2020. Let's hope that Prime Minister Rudd and his new government will have the wisdom to turn Australia's deserts into Australia's power house. 

Greens latest CC ad

Greens remake classic LBJ ad

The NSW Greens have released a new climate change TV ad based on one of the most well known political ads in the United States.
Daisy ad.

The ad remakes the famous Lyndon Johnson "Daisy" ad which although only shown once in the 1964 US Presidential campaign caused a storm of controversy. It is widely recognised as being a major factor in the defeat of Barry Goldwater because it highlighted the looming threat of nuclear war.

Like the danger of nuclear armageddon during the Cold War, climate change now looms large over every aspect of life and this week the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that the dangers are even greater than many imagined.

Responding to the IPCC report Greens leader Bob Brown released The Greens Six Step Climate Change Action Plan to keep the planet below 2 degrees.

It's simple

David Curry, you're right, I'm too alarmist. Must learn to be more docile and accepting of what those of superior stupidity say, after all they do appear to be more stupid than I am and I try really hard. 

I agree with Howard, you have to have a plan which won't harm the economy if you want this society to continue. A plant to address, survive and reverse the problems, whilst maintaining a sustainable economy which relies upon stability rather than disenfranchising growth, is the only way to logically approach climate change. There are a few barriers in the way of the human race and the planet surviving, the corporate and ideologically controlled lib/lab coalition, bureaucratic insanity across the board in our own country and elsewhere, religion, the fossil fuel cartels and the multinational corporations who control world politics, most commerce, the mainstream media, world conflict and environmental destruction.

It's a very simple thing to do, all we have to do is declare an environmental and economic state of emergency and introduce laws forcing all business to move to alternative energy, manufacture and construction now. To do that we have to build huge amounts of industry infrastructure to manufacture the requirements to put solar power on every building in the country, change all our transport to electric rail and light rail. Build private transport which is small light and uses renewable non polluting energy (electricity). We can use coal for other technologies and for converting it to other higher value non-polluting commodities. Ensure all commodities are either reusable or if not practical, fully recyclable or repairable. The use of biodiesel and seed oil fuels along with ethanol's can make up the need for heavy transport without taxing the food production or environment as we transit from this current fatal sociological approach to a sustainable environment and economy. It's technological growth we need and there is no reason why we can't have it so can evolve all we create, without destroying our planet as we currently are. There's a simple answer for every problem we face, but because it will change the power structure and bring a better equality to society, you will only get opposition to change from those who are controlled by failing ideologies.

Don't get me wrong, I know nothing will change, there's not a chance it can whilst we continue down the current path of the lib/lab coalition, or for that matter the current political and governmental system. This is 2007, not 1907 or 1987, we need a system for this century now, not a continuation of the failed one of the past.

Former liberal leader says Kyoto should have been ratified.

Former New South Wales Liberal leader Peter Debnam has broken ranks with the Federal Coalition, saying the Kyoto protocol should have been ratified long ago.

The New South Wales Opposition energy spokesman has told an energy conference clean coal is an oxymoron and nuclear power is not a realistic option for Australia.

The Federal Coalition has refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change and insists nuclear energy must be considered.

As the Liberal Party prepares to dump Howard, they can't even wait until the election to begin rubbishing his policies. Howard's inaction on climate change is a big reason why he is in so much trouble today. 

Losing The Economy Will Lose The Enviroment

David Curry, and you have no hope of saving the environment by losing the economy. No hope whatsoever.

Enviro-Socialists are making exactly the same errors neo-liberal economists made in Eastern Europe. They believe that with sheer willpower people will change overnight. The fact is people will not because many of them are in a position where they cannot. Eventually all the bad news and doom predictions may in fact end up having the reverse desired effect. Rather than look at slowing economic growth people should be looking at continuing economic growth as a means of solving many of the problems.

Margo: Paul, do you also agree that there's no hope in saving the economy if we don't save the planet? 


Recalling this from John's post on the IPCC report:

"This report makes clear concerted and sustained action now can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios under your forecast," he said.

And from this article add:

An Australian scientist, Dr David Karoly, who worked on the report, told the Herald: "We have already overshot the target for avoiding serious impacts from climate change. We need to peak our carbon dioxide emissions by 2015 and reduce our emissions globally by up to 85 per cent by 2050."

What was the runt's response yesterday?

Mr Howard said while he recognised climate change was a serious challenge, "the world is not coming to an end tomorrow and like all of these things, you've got to have a common sense balanced approach". He said the most important thing was to get a new international agreement that embraced the big emitters including China, the US and India. "But you've got to have a plan that won't damage our economy".

Can't help picturing counting contributions to the party from coal (and other) mining companies.

Alga, unfortunately I fear you are right.

Losing the earth to save the economy

Now look, Bob and Alga, enough of your alarmism.  You’re just succumbing to a Marxist-driven fear campaign.  Haven’t you been reading Eliot’s posts? 

The critical line from Mr Howard is that “you've got to have a plan that won't damage our economy”. 

You see, the economy exists separately from everything else.  Rivers can dry up, rainfall can move several latitudes, temperatures can soar and none of it has any bearing on the economy.    

Perhaps Mr Howard has a plan to move us all to the moon. 

We can win this war we've created, only lose big time

What we do in the next three years will determine the economy for the next three hundred years.”

John, you are right, but not for the next 300 years. There will be no economy without an environment and what we have already done to this planet has seriously challenged the future for us all. Ratifying Kyoto is a nice gesture, but in reality it will make no difference until all societies of the world make the drastic changes to their approach. No matter what our political ideologies, we all know the major world polluters won't change anything except cosmetically. The latest scientific information beginning to come out is that climate change is now happening at a rate faster than their worst case scenarios, meaning what lies ahead in the next couple of years may be beyond our ability to cope as a society. Any sensible caring government would see this looming situation along the same lines as a coming invasion of our country and would take the appropriate measures to combat or survive the event. This may sound over the top, but we need a strategic approach to out future and we need to establish lots of safe areas and structures where people can go when nature throws its weight around. Call them climate change shelters, just like bomb shelters. However, as few people are prepared to accept we may be in for a hell of a ride, the governments will only do what they have to, which is really nothing until it is too late.

Human societies don't learn from their past mistakes, otherwise we would have evolved past war along with ideological and cultural conflicts. The truth really is we have got worse and not only fight amongst ourselves creating destruction everywhere we go, but have fought the nature of the planet and are about to lose again, big time.

IPCC report on climate change warns of catastrophic change.

The IPCC's latest report is a distillation of their previous work and states the evidence for climate change is "unequivocal".

It says there is a 90 per cent chance that climate change is caused by human activity and may bring "abrupt and irreversible" effects.

It warns that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed quickly to avert more heat waves, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

After personal trips to Antarctica and the Amazon rainforest, the UN chief says the damage is like a science fiction movie, but even more terrifying, because it is real.

He says the IPCC report sets the stage for a real breakthrough in negotiations on the issue.

Mr Ban says real and affordable ways to deal with the problem exist and he has urged politicians to respond at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Bali.

"This report makes clear concerted and sustained action now can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios under your forecast," he said.

"Our sights are now set on the UN climate change conference in Bali next month.

"It is the opportunity to provide critical answers to these scientific findings."

The IPCC report is confirmation of the worst fears of global warming. We must make sure we elect politicians that have to the courage to act. Howard has shown he does not have the ticker to tackle climate change head on. The best way to get change is to vote Green with your preference to Labor. What we do in the next three years will determine the economy for the next three hundred years.

Climate change

John Pratt, Rudd has said that the first thing he will do as PM is ratify Kyoto. How naive can you get? With Labor that is about all they will do regarding Climate Change.  As I have said before, whatever we do here in Australia will count for nothing as long as China and India keep on doing what they are doing.

"The best way to get change is to vote Green" - all that will do is give some no-hoper a seat in the Senate where they can waste the taxpayers' money. There is more hot air coming from Brown and Nettle than from the power stations. 

Wasting taxpayers' money in the Senate

Alan, I share your concern about taxpayers' money being wasted in the Senate, and nobody has wasted more money than John Howard. 

Since the Coalition's Senate majority has there been a point to any Senators turning up?  Hard to see what it might be, other than to keep up an appearance of democracy and accountability.  They might have well have all taken three years off, on taxpayers' money, since Howard won't let them do what they're actually elected for. 

You must be outraged.

The Libs used to be GREEN!

From the author of High and Dry, Guy Pearce, this 1990 document  on Liberal Greenhouse policy. And then, John got talking to the polluters, who gave the Libs money, and then...


Climbing Mt Howard

I bought a copy of Mark Lynas' High Tide - How Climate Crisis is Engulfing Our Planet (Harper Perennial, London, 2005) that was on the discount table outside a bookstore the other day. In it I read a most curious fact.

As the reader will know, Mt McKinley in Alaska is named after a slain President of the US, Mt Kosciuszko in Australia after a great Polish patriot (named by the great Polish explorer Strzlecki (pronounced 'Streletski') and Mt Cook in NZ after another famous explorer. All are the highest mountains in the US, Australia and NZ respectively.

John Howard I learn is the only Australian PM to have had a mountain named after him. Anywhere. On Tuvalu there is "a three metre high bank of rubble - the highest bit of land on the island - pushed up off the beach by Hurricane Bebe in 1972." (p. 87) The locals, very mindful of the Australian Prime Minister's militant and heroic stand against signing up to Kyoto, call it Mount Howard, to his honour, and most appropriately too.

I am surprised that in the current campaign, the Liberal Party has not made more of the fact that the people of a foreign country have honoured our Prime Minister by naming their highest mountain after him. Possibly it is ignorant of the fact, but more likely I would say that Mr Howard himself is displaying characteristic modesty and reticence, and is reluctant to draw attention to this distinction he has achieved, lest it put him at an unfair advantage.

Nuclear Winter

Cloud says:

"Alan, I suspect in a decade I will be too busy coping with the effects of global warming to hunt you out to rub your nose in it."

One of the main benefits of Global Warming as a political rhetoric is that it allows you to pretty well defer indefinitely the 'dire consequences' of 'not doing something about it'.

"Oh, yes. You may laugh now, sonny Jim. But ten years from now..."

It's a bit like other religious dogmas, that way.

You know? Like Nuclear Winter was in the 1980s. And Peak Oil.

Eliot's creative logic

Eliot, I know false analogies are part of your stock in trade, but really, nuclear winter and global warming?  

Your logic seems to be: the nuclear winter didn't happen, despite dire predictions, and now, because people (scientists, mainly) are making dire predictions about climate change - it must just be another example of them crazy Marxists gittin' all excited 'bout nothin' agin! 

Oh, wait a minute.  The nuclear winter required ... a full-scale nuclear war between the USSR and the USA.  Which, um, didn't happen. 


Bring back Reagan..

What Eliot is really hinting at is that he has insider information that in the mad laboratories of neo-liberal think tanks nuclear winter is being seen as a solution to global warming. It is easy, see? One is too hot and the other is too cold. Therefore one is the antidote to the other. And why not? Nature?  Hell, it'll grow back! At this very moment a character called Dr Strangelove is reviving a cryogenically preserved Ronald Reagan who will provide credible global leadership for this transition.

The Joke is Kyoto

Alan, you say Bob Brown is a nutcase, but why? He doesn't come across as a nutcase to me. I see no evidence of it. What do you see, that I don't?

Ernest William and John Pratt, the following is not a joke, Irish or otherwise. Nor is it a ball game. Unlike those things, I think it reflects pretty accurately the present situation.

Consider the planet we live on as a person. The person has been found to have been ingesting a low-grade, accumulative poison for many years; he is beginning to experience symptoms. He seems to be addicted to it — his consumption has been increasing over the years. The poison is one which stays in the system for a long time, so whatever happens he will be a bit sick for a long time and the symptoms will get worse, but he should eventually recover, if he stops ingesting the poison.

Now, given all that, what should he do? Obviously not continue to ingest the poison at at an ever increasing rate, if he wants to survive. Should he stabilise his rate of ingestion, and hope for the best? No, because, as already said, it is an accumulative poison. The lesser amount he ingests from now on will just add to what is already in his system. Or should he gradually and slightly reduce his rate of ingestion, and hope for the best? Of course he shouldn't. That might make him feel he was doing something to remedy the problem, and make him more confident of a future; but all it would really do is delay by a few days or weeks or years the inevitable point of no return.

The bloody idiot should reduce his consumption of poison to below the rate at which he can metabolise it! The level of poison in his system has to go down, not be made to go up a bit more slowly!

Spot on Bill, but will we recover?

Bill, you will get no argument from me, on the level of poison. I am not sure about the eventually recovering, part though. I don't think we know how bad it will get, at the moment we are experimenting with our future.

De-population the only solution

Kyoto is just another ploy trying to take people's eyes of the fiery ball in front of us. It's the same with carbon trading, can't and won't do anything to stop the rot, just push it round with paper trails to deceive even more. We are beyond being able to change the climate future - what is starting to happen now is largely caused by what we did between 1900 and 1977. In a few short years we will begin to experience the effects of what we did from 1977 onwards, as the amount of pollution has dramatically risen a hundred fold and they won't stop economic growth until they are forced to. So we can see faintly the real dilemma we face. What we need is a total world economic collapse, major chaos, conflict or attrition to reduce the population by at least 70%. Then life as we know it may have a chance of survival, if we continue at this growth rate of polluting beyond 2010, we are in dire trouble, if not already. What people fail to accept is there's no escape from nature and its wrath, not when you are suffocating in your own excrement.

We could slow it down in this country and have contingency plans to cope. But it would take the people to make an actual effort and not rely on government to do it for them. Currently they do nothing but contribute feverishly to the problem.

We can only try, especially now we have a vote.

G'day Alga,

Even though I am half Irish, I still like the Irish jokes because so many of them try to explain to us that we are often stupid.

I can imagine what you are saying is consistent with the observation that an Irishman who was falling from a 30 story building said, as he passed the 15th floor, "so far so good".

It serves no usefull purpose to accuse the ignorance of successive governments in the past whether it is Australia or any other nation that has sacrificed the future for profit.

We  will soon have a chance of removing a government which does not believe in climate change and replacing it with one that does.

A small step yes, but at least a positive one.

After all, Alga, having realised our errors, we should make some effort to rectify - even if we are kidding ourselves.

Those in trouble have only themselves to blame if they sit on their hands and do nothing.

Cheers mate,

Ern G.

Kidding yourself

Ern: "We  will soon have a chance of removing a government which does not believe in climate change and replacing it with one that does," even if we are kidding ourselves.

In the Domain today The Greens booed Garrett because they know that Labor will not act on climate change. Labor is treating The Greens like the idiots they are, they will accept their preferences and then do nothing. Bob Brown wants the "balance of power" - hence the preference swap, and once he gets what he wants it will be a sad day for the country. I would rather Labor or the Democrats held the balance of power. Brown is a nutcase, and I cannot understand how so many normal intelligent people can even think about voting for The Greens.

Schadenfreude ... but for whom?

Alan Curran: "Brown is a nutcase, and I cannot understand how so many normal intelligent people can even think about voting for The Greens."

This is one of those cases when I can't revel in anticipation of  a bout of schadenfreude.

Alan, I suspect in a decade I will be too busy coping with the effects of global warming to hunt you out to rub your nose in it.

Every intelligent person in my (fairly wide) circle of friends and acquaintances is a Greens voter. Some can't break a lifetime's habit of working for Labor but now vote Green; some hand out how-to-votes for both parties on polling day.

I cannot understand how any intelligent person can vote for any other party! But then at 60 I'm gobsmacked by the stupid things otherwise smart people persist in doing even when it's manifest that their behaviour is doing them no good at all.

Unfortunately the Langer method of voting (whereby one can exhaust one's vote without having to finally hand it to either of the two big parties) has been declared illegal. If my vote has to dribble down to one of the behemoths it has to be Labor ahead of the "been there for a decade but only just discovered the word environment" Coalition dinosaur.

Bob Brown is a stand out prophet in a morass of woeful ignorance. 

As an icon of widespread idiocy I give you the humble plastic bag.

Australians use about 5 billion of them every year. Our idiot government has spent a very great deal of (our) money trying to persuade us to stop using them having finally cottoned on to the fact that these bags consume non-renewable resources in their manufacture, transport and disposal and are used for an average of 20 minutes per piece. (Jeez, how did we shop before they existed?)

In an even greater piece of moronic behaviour the Coalition government decided that persuasion would change the Australian public's behaviour and that we were so much smarter than the Irish (who'd had great success with their Plastax).

Anyone who hasn't seen the widespread advertising intended to reduce our use of these obnoxious items just hasn't been awake for the last few years. I live in a small rural town and  conducted a widespread 'No Plastic Bags' campaign. Got the local Chamber of Commerce on board, did an information session for the local Council, got info published in our local papers. Got a Tidy Towns award. Saturation education.

Yet, watching the checkout lines at our local supermarket, it's obvious that the use of plastic bags has INCREASED over the last few years.

Now if people are so stupid and or lazy that they can't make that small change in their lives ... refusing plastic bags ... what hope is there that they'll make the bigger changes that are necessary to turn around the human contribution component of global warming?

And, Alan, you want to persuade us that Bob Brown's the 'crazy'? You must be nuts!

Who's kidding who, Alan?

Alan - if Labor is not going to act decisively on climate change - and that's a fair proposition at this stage of the election campaign - how on earth can you remain so enthusiastically one-eyed about the merits of the Howard Government?  What evidence is there that they will do anything about climate change? 

This is a Government which, until the polls showed a change of public sentiment following the Stern report, was proudly skeptical of any connection between humans and global warming. 

Alan, you almost sounded like you were wavering on the Greens (nutcase comment notwithstanding).  Vote for them - you know you want to.  We won't tell. 


Dithering about with bats and balls is what makes the whole world look silly.

Get Serious Then

John, it's not only the floods that are exasperated. I am too, when I hear what politicians plan to do to combat global warming. Do you really think that wussy litte Kyoto Protocol has any chance of solving the problem? About equivalent to replacing the wiper blades when the brakes are broken.

Kyoto is the first step

Bill Avent, Kyoto is only the first step. Global warming is a by definition a global issue, we must engage with all nations to work through the problems. To pack up our bat and ball is no solution. It just make Australia look silly.


John Pratt, Kyoto is a sham as long as China is doing what it is doing and thumbing their noses at us all. They are building coal-fired power stations at the rate of one a week, and during the next 5 years worldwide we will have another 1000 coal power stations. Perhaps you could get Rudd (with his perfect Chinese accent) to tell the Chinese to stop. You are being conned by the likes of Bob Brown, and I doubt whether Garrett really believes we can do anything. 

You say, "To pack up our bat and ball is no solution. It just make Australia look silly". The Chinese and Indians already think we are silly, so what else is news. As I have said before, go to China and have a look at what is going on there. They are going to eat us alive.

Climate Change is a global emergency.

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than anywhere else on Earth in the last 50 years, making the continent a fitting destination for Mr Ban, who has made climate change a priority since he took office earlier this year.

"I need a political answer. This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action," he said during a visit to three scientific bases on the barren continent, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.

The planet is facing an emergency situation says UN Secretary General. The time has come for emergency action. When you vote in 13 days' time, it is time to look at the politicians' climate change policy. If they belong to a party refusing to sign Kyoto then they do not deserve your vote. We need politicians that are taking the climate change emergency seriously.

Forgotten victims of Mexico's flood

For the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, the drama of the first few days of the flood is now over. However, the hard graft of surviving in a calamitous situation is just getting started.

Like many Tabasquenos, Matilde Martínez thought she was used to a bit of extra water. But the sheer quantity this year took her entire tiny weather-hardened community of El Corcho by surprise.

Now her daily routine includes waving a red rag at every passing helicopter in the hope it will land with aid.

"We lost our papayas and our bananas, our chillies and our guayabas, and soon our supplies will run out altogether," the 32-year-old said, cooking beans on an open fire outside her waterlogged home. "We have nothing but our fields, and now the crops are rotting in them."

Back in Villahermosa, some 70,000 people are crammed into government shelters in churches, stadiums and parking lots. Some assume it will be weeks until they can go back to what is left of their homes.

An unknown number of refugees are holed up with friends and relatives. Many of these spend their days inching forward in queues for bottled water and food that last from dawn until well past midnight.

After one of the worst floods in Mexico's history, a flood many would say has been exasperated by climate change. The victims are forgotten, if this was New Orleans or somewhere in Europe it would still be front page news. This sort of disaster is predicted to become more common and still we ignore the changes taking place all over the planet.

The floods produced at least $5 billion in economic losses, wiping out Mexico's largest banana crop and threatening Tabasco state's famed giant Olmec heads, an important cultural treasure and tourist draw.
For thousands of years the Grijalva River has nourished southern Mexico, providing trade routes and fishing grounds for Olmecs and Mayas.

President Felipe Calderón left no question where the blame should go: "I can assure Tabasqueños that the origin and cause of this catastrophe is enormous climate change," he said during a tour of the ravaged state. He called the flooding the result of three days of record-breaking rainfall.

Swiss Francs Anyone?

John Pratt, cheaper oil! Not very good for the environment, I wonder how the eco-socialists will take this news? Mr Chavez by the way, and I take you have never been to Latin America, has most of his government spending projects off the book. What you know about them is what he tells you about them. They will be judged in good time.

Chavez has an "Evil" idea - cheaper oil for the poor.

Venezuela is Latin America's second-biggest oil producer after Mexico.

"I propose to you that we unite, that we join together in mechanisms of cooperation with countries that don't have oil and who cannot afford to pay $100 per barrel," said Mr Chavez, who has used Venezuela's oil wealth to spread his influence in the region. Oil prices reached record highs of more than $US98 ($107) per barrel this week.

Leaders - most of them leftist - from Latin America, Portugal, Spain and Andorra are in Santiago for a three-day Ibero-American summit where energy has been high on the unofficial agenda.

Many Latin American economies have expanded rapidly in recent years and energy supplies have been stretched by booming consumer demand and factory output in countries such as Chile and Argentina.

Mr Chavez and leftist allies in Bolivia and Ecuador have tightened state control over their energy industries and Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, recently forced Argentina and Brazil to pay more for its natural gas.

One price for the rich and another price for the poor, now that sounds evil.

Too little too late. A titanic clash of interests.

"Dr. Robert Watson of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying that the earth's temperature is rising twice as fast as thought ten years ago. In another story, scientists are saying that methane is building up in the atmosphere for the same reason it did 14,000 years ago, in an event that (we) believe resulted in the last superstorm. At the same time, Nature Magazine has published a paper saying that ocean currents are slowing down, and other scientists have announced that climate change is likely to be sudden."

If they are right, Strieber said we should expect a dramatic warming during the next few years. He said temperatures in the tropics could exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit, forcing a human exodus north and south into more temperate areas. Also fierce storms can be expected to continue to ravage Europe and North America, increasing in violence with each passing year. Excessive flooding will be more and more common all over the world.

There is dramatic evidence that all of the above events are happening even as I write these words. Super localised storms, with straight winds clocked at 100 miles-per-hour and higher, are more and more common. Areas that normally see moderate rainfall are parched. Forest fires are ravaging large areas of the planet due to abnormally dry conditions. Some parts of the globe that are usually arid are getting flooded with too much rain. Flowers are blooming in barren desert areas of the Southwest.

It becomes clear that the climate crisis represents a titanic clash of interests. It pits the survival, as we know it, of the biggest commercial enterprise in history -- big coal and oil -- against the survival of the planet and its people. It also pits the fossil fuel industry-dominated Bush (Howard) administration against the rest of the world.

When we go to the polling booth on in 14 days' time we need to decide where we stand. Survival of big coal and big oil or survival of planet and its people. It might just be our last chance.

aaah, I love the smell of failure in the morning...

A highly informative piece and, of course, what we all either know or suspect.  Yes, Minister!

One thing that really does fascinate me is the failure of policy makers, parliamentarians and most others to understand that our entire economy is based on oil.  A peak oil availability and pricing crisis will impact on much more than motor vehicles and transport.  Buildings and commodities, for example, in energetic terms are aggregated and solidified oil.

Given the lack of any planning it is likely that a peak oil crisis will send our economy into a deadly tail spin.  It wont be just the availability of fuel for personal transport that will be the issue so much as a collapse in social infrastructure and the availability of food.  Sensible planning would designate the remaining available oil for the production of transitional (non-carbon based) technologies.

Otherwise, we really are facing a melt down.  In fact, the window of opportunity to organise a crisis free transition to non-carbon energy based industries has probably already shut.  I know of no agency in Australia that has anything even vaguely like a national contingency plan for widespread unemployment, food, water and fuel shortage.  Perhaps the military, who are in the habit of contingency planning, may have one but no-one else does.

In this scenario it may be a good idea to take a look at the emergency measures mobilised during WWII which included rationing and the protection of employment in 'essential' industries. Otherwise it would be a good idea to get your legs in shape by becoming a hardened pedestrian right now.

Monitoring of oil prices

The above extract misses the answer from the RTA:

Dr JOHN KAYE: Minister, can I ask you whether the Roads and Traffic Authority monitors factors that affect long-term oil prices?


Mr WIELINGA [RTA]: What we do is monitor the expected prices of bitumen, which affects the roads, and that is affected by oil prices. It is not our role to monitor oil prices per se."

Happy motoring.

The RTA will soon have to monitor the length of petrol lines at filling stations. Crude oil production peaked in May 2005. Read my article
Did Katrina Hide the Real Peak in World Oil Production? And Other Oil Supply Insights.

Peak oil is not just about oil prices. There will also be physical shortages.

Margo: Hi Matt, and welcome to Webdiary! 

No surprises

Having worked in a Road Transport policy area in ACT Government I am not at all surprised by the transcript.  

One of the big governance challenges for environmental issues is the ‘silo’ problem, where each Department works quite separately from others that deal with huge overlapping issues, like sustainability.  There was almost no coordination at all between the section I was in and the ‘sustainable transport’ section in the Department responsible for planning (whatever it was called).  

“Different issues”.  “Not our responsibility”.  These were the prevailing sentiments in Road Transport about sustainability.  

I have to say, too, that in my experience most of the people attracted to jobs in RTA-type authorities are petrol heads, to put it crudely.  Greens, cyclists, even proponents of alternative fuel vehicles, are viewed at best with deep suspicion, contempt at worst.  

The ‘Yes Minister’ reality is another problem.  In response to a pledge from the ACT Chief Minister to look at alternative fuels I worked on a proposal to use differential stamp duty to encourage the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles, based on the DOTARS Green Vehicle Guide, but it went nowhere.  Still haven’t heard anything about it, and I haven’t been a public servant for almost a year now.  NSW started working on something similar about five years ago – dead.  

Car culture rules.  I’d like to do a piece on this issue for Webdiary, since there’s some interest in it at the moment.  (One last exam to go, on Friday!)  There are some policy initiatives that can make a difference, like the London congestion charge, but the political will just isn’t there for the most part.  Governments are in denial, I think – especially Howard’s, whose policies actually encourage car use, and SUVs.  But the states and territories are almost as bad, as this piece illustrates. 

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