Archive for the 'climate' Category

World mad.

World gone Mad worth a listen,
just to start a conversation!  Brendan Oneil talking to Julia Hartley-Brewer.  Refreshingly open honest and above board conversation.


The Channel 4 production, Catastrophes, is currently running on SBS in Australia. The final episode is scheduled for next Wednesday.

There is some hype and melodrama but the catastrophe theme of evolutionary development is backed up by reasonable, although one sided, scientific comment. When you research it you find there are opposing theories. Nevertheless, this series is good for a discussion IMO.

The evidence for the destruction of the dinosaurs and 70 percent of other species 65 million years ago by an asteroid the size of Mount Everest was well presented. From the  iridium, shocked quartz and soot in the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer we learn that this giant asteroid collided at Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The crater was discovered by an oil company so I guess there are unexpected benefits arising from oil exploration 🙂

I was less clear about the reasons for the end of snowball earth 650 million years ago. How come those volcanoes that released CO2 into the atmosphere weren’t sufficiently active earlier. This wasn’t clear to me at least.

The general theme, that evolution proceeds in part through a series of catastrophes is one that resonates with me. The challenge is to present this theme in a more thoroughly scientific manner.

The torrent is available: Catastrophe_complete_series

decarbonisation of the economy

Some reasons for supporting an acceleration of the already established decarbonisation of the economy are that:

  • anthropogenic global warming is real, although we are not particularly clear about the urgency of the issue
  • the oceans absorb vast amounts of CO2 and a particular reason for concern is the biogeochemical effects of this

The environmental issues are real but subsidiary to the need for economic development, particularly in the developing world but also in the developed world.

Politically, the correct position is:

  1. full steam ahead with economic development which means more coal use now because coal is the cheapest energy producing fuel
  2. full steam ahead with R&D, with the goal of decarbonisation of the energy economy, ie. finding a cheap alternative to coal

John McCarthy has said that “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense”. I think he meant science and maths as well as arithmetic.

In this article I present the Kaya identity which provides us with the basic maths required to understand carbon emissions.
Continue reading ‘decarbonisation of the economy’

the missing piece of the climate change puzzle

There are three pieces to the climate change puzzle and so far the mainstream political parties have only grasped two of them. The three pieces are based on misconceptions that many people hold about acting on the issue. These misconceptions are outlined in Chapter 2 of Roger Pielke jr’s book, The Climate Fix:

1) We lack political will
2) We must trade off the economy for the environment
3) We have all the technology we need

Pielke’s book argues at length that each of these assumptions is false. I won’t attempt to duplicate that here but rather illustrate the argument through the stance of the Labour / Green alliance and The Coalition in Australia.

Gillard has announced her intention to tax carbon. This is based on her correct belief that the people want some action on climate change. Given public opinion on this issue her political estimate is that it is more dangerous to do nothing than to do something.

Abbott has announced his opposition to a carbon tax and that, if elected, he will rescind any carbon tax introduced by Labour. This is based on his correct belief that the people will not tolerate any serious infringement of living costs based on a carbon tax. He knows that people will not accept a trade off of the economy for the environment.

Continue reading ‘the missing piece of the climate change puzzle’

remaking the environmental movement

The Long Death of Environmentalism

There are good environmentalists and bad environmentalists. Or, it is more accurate to say that more often than not there are good and bad ideas about environmental questions that exist within the same person. In this article I depict this complex reality in simple terms: good Green and bad Green.

The Green Party has a leader, Bob Brown, who makes things up (that the Queensland floods were the direct responsibility of the coal industry), promotes policies that are incompatible with immediate low cost economic growth (coal is bad) as well as longer term economic growth (nuclear is bad too).

Bob Brown represents the dying Greens, the bad Greens. Sooner or later his ideas will be replaced by good Green ideas. My estimate is that the bad Green ideas have peaked and are now in decline.

Let it be said that concern for the environment is a good thing. The environmental movement has alerted us to the real dangers of anthropogenic global warming, real threats to endangered species, etc. These issues are not the most important issues in the world but they are significant. There is a real need for some sort of environmental political movement.

The bad Green movement may appear to have real strength in Australia, with the Gillard minority government (enmeshed in an alliance with The Green Party) recently announcing her carbon tax plan. Or, as she prefers, her carbon price plan. The appearance of strength is illusory. The politics of The Greens has peaked and Gillard’s embrace of a carbon tax will quite likely contribute to her demise at the next election, whenever that is held.

Internationally, the bad Green movement is on the retreat.

Continue reading ‘remaking the environmental movement’

debate: A zero carbon Australia: plan or pipe-dream?

A zero carbon Australia: plan or pipe-dream?

This issue will be debated at the next The Monthly Argument

Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions) will present the Zero Carbon Stationary Energy Plan

Following this Matthew and Arthur Dent (formerly know as Albert Langer) will debate it.

When: Thursday March 10, 2011 at 6:30pm for 7:00pm start
Where: The Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning Street, Carlton

Thou Shalt Not Build Dams – Ever!

The Queensland floods have caused tragic loss of life, vast damage to infrastructure and will cost several billions of dollars. They are among the worst floods in Australia’s twentieth century history. Similar devastation occured in 1918, 1954 and 1974. I know a couple of farmers ‘up north’ and one tells me that after a bad drought comes a bad flood. He adds that this is followed by a couple of good years with ‘bumper crops’. He might be right – I don’t know. At least he is offering a testable hypothesis.

What I do know, though, is that the floods will generate a much-needed public discusion, and hopefully a debate, about the role of dams in flood mitigation. No new dams of significant size have been built in Australia for about three decades. During the recent long drought, the ‘dam’ question arose again but the response from experts and governments was along the lines of ‘Why build a dam if the climate has permanently changed in a way that means there will be less rain in future?’.

Opposition to dams has been a key success in the development of the Green movement and its party since the early 1980s. But to use the term “opposition” understates the situation: it is really ‘demonization’ of dams. In the Green quasi-religion, dams are evil, akin to a Satanic force. Thus, there must NEVER be any new major dams built. Not ever. The Green policy is expressed at their website as a principle: “There should be no new large-scale dams on Australian rivers”. 

Had the Greens been as influential in the second half of the 1970s as they have been since the mid 1980s, it is unlikely that the Wivenhoe Dam, on the Brisbane River, 80 kms from Brisbane, would have been constructed (after years of planning and building, it was opened in 1984). The Wivenhoe was designed, following massive floods in 1974 (on current indications, worse than the present Brisbane flooding), with a flood mitigation function alongside the usual water supply role. Like all dams, it is an example of human beings changing the natural world, by unnatural means, into something very useful and necessary to us in terms of our needs, standard of living and future progress.

During the terrible Australian drought, the Queensland Government moved to build a new dam on the Mary River, the Traveston Crossing Dam. It was seen as necessary to providing reliable water supply to Brisbane. Opposition to it, spear-headed by green activists, was successful and the Traveston dam was never built. Given that the drought had been so severe and gone on for so long, back then the argument that there might not be enough rainfall to justify such a large dam carried some weight to many people. But there were also those who argued convincingly for it and it was only halted because of a decision by the Federal Minister for the Environment in 2009 who was worried about the loss of endangered species (a lungfish, a local turtle and a local cod). In the recent floods, the Mary River peaked (at the town of Gympie) at over 19 meteres. What would have been the flood mitigation impact had the Traveston Corssing Dam been in place?   

To the Green mentality and ethos, changing Nature is destroying Nature, dams are an assault on the ‘delicate balance’ in Nature, an example of human arrogance going ‘too far’. In this regard, the Green mentality and ethos are quasi-religious. The late Michael Crichton put it neatly in a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 2003 when he talked of the “remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths’. He said: 

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe. Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs.

(Full text: )

It’s good that he identified them as ‘profoundly conservative beliefs’. They are very reactionary beliefs.

As has been pointed out many times at this site, it is indicative of our strange times that opposition to dams, as a matter of principle, can be seen as left-wing. What is the traditional practice of left-wing parties in power on this question? What is the left-wing theoretical foundation for a policy on dams?

In practice, revolutionary left-wing parties in power – such as the communists in Russia/Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s and China in the 1950s and 1960s – were gung-ho in the building of dams. They did so because making a revolution is about changing things for the better, raising the standards of living and opportunities for liberation from wage slavery. To borrow from Karl Marx, it’s about ‘unleashing the productive forces’ – not forcing them into a sustainable relationship with Nature. It’s about an attitude based on “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” – not ‘tread gently – Nature’s resources are finite’. But this is ‘red’ politics, not green. The Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong was so into dams that in 1956 he wrote a poem about his dream for the Yangtze:

“Great plans are afoot:
  A bridge will fly to span the north and south,
  Turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare,
  Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west
  To hold back Wushan’s clouds and rain
  Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges
  The mountain goddess if she is still there
  Will marvel at a world so changed”. 

In chapter 1 of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx expressed his enthusiasm for the revolutionary consequences of the rise of the new bourgeoisie in transforming Nature and extending human horizons. He said:

It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades. 

It is unlikely that he would not have been as awe-inspired by the wonders of large-scale dam construction and the range of benefits on such a vast scale arising from dams: the capture and storage of safe and reliable water supply, generation of hydro-electricity, irrigation, flood mitigation and recreational uses (all on a scale unimaginable in Marx’s time).

The Wivenhoe Dam on the Brisbane River worked effectively in mitigating bad floods around Brisbane in 1999 but, alas, despite its 1.4 million megalitre flood mitigation capacity (on top of its water supply capacity of 1.1 million megalitres) it could not stop the extensive damage that occured during the current floods. And to return to the opening point of this article, there needs to be debate about all this. To what extent did the Wivenhoe mitigate the flooding of Brisbane? How much worse would it have been without that mitigation capacity?

There is good stuff on this at Catallaxy 

I know that it will be argued that dams are ‘so 1950s’ but that is not an effective argument unless the proponent can offer something new and better. And, no, the state imposing compulsory water storage tanks in homes is not something better. I live in a trendy inner city suburb and a few of my neighbours have multiple storage tanks in their gardens, a reflection of their susceptibility to climate change alarmism. (They no longer have that glow of self-righteousness about them but will no doubt keep the tanks in place).

An area that interests me greatly is geoengineering and its possible roles in controlling rainfall. I have no expertise in it or in hydrology. But I do know about politics and the politics that declares, as a matter of principle, that there must be no new large dams is a dogmatic, conservative and reactionary politics. It is highly unlikely that adherents of such green politics would support greater funding for research into geoengineering solutions – indeed, geoengineering is abhorrent to them – let alone new dams with enhanced flood mitigation capacities, as appropriate in flood prone regions.

It always strikes me, when these issues arise, how backward the social system of capitalism really is. Human lives and billions of dollars are lost yet only a pittance is invested into research and development into geoengineering, let alone dams, and even that is contested by the reactionaries.   

AWESOME HUMAN THEORY: those buildings aren’t sky-scrapers, they’re ‘progress trees’!

“I do think that people are a little kneejerk about the whole environment thing. Some people act like the Earth is broken just because it’s so hot. It’d be refreshing to hear one intelligent person, besides myself, suggest the seemingly obvious possibility that the Earth is just fine, thank you, but perhaps there’s something wrong with the Sun! I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure that that son-of-a-bitch is where all the heat is coming from.”

– Arj Barker



I attended the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and saw Arj Barker at the Melbourne Town Hall. The times they are (possibly) a-changin’, and his hour long routine included some very well-received send-ups of green ideology and global warming alarmism. I’ve followed the comedy scene for several years now and usually the jokes are about the ‘deniers’. The beauty of Arj’s routine was that it was very, very, funny but also the routine had a positive message; namely, humans are AWESOME!
No sooner had his espoused his ‘Awesome Human Theory’ than a facebook group had been set up using that name! Borrowing one of Arj’s lines, the facebook group introduces itself thus: “Awesome human theory proposes that humans are not bad for the environment. Rather the environment is simply not good enough to handle how awesome humans are”.
Arj Barker packed out the Town Hall most nights of the festival. I reckon the uber-earnestness and quasi-religious fervour of the alarmists is starting to piss people off (at long last). No-one likes to have a big finger waved in their face telling them they’re wrecking everything. You can either bow down to that crap or rise up against it – and satire/ridicule is a very effective weapon.
The more upset the reactionaries get, the more they wag that finger in our faces – thus proving the point.
I couldn’t find Arj’s routine on youtube but he uses a couple of the lines in this radio interview (goes for 90 seconds):

Great to see some stand-up comedy that challenges the mainstream in a progressive way rather than pander to audience assumptions about things.

Global Warming – the real debate is about politics, not science @clim8resistance

The Climate Resistance blog, despite its rather odd-sounding name, is one of the better anti-climate-alarmism sites around. Instead of diving into the nuttier depths of the “It’s a UN conspiracy to take over the world and hand it over to the Jews bankers” arguments, it tackles the real issue in the climate debate head on.

A recent post there, “It’s all in the Head…lines” points out the shallowness of the alarmists’ position:

Sachs and Corner, like many alarmists, are continuing to hide behind the idea that the climate debate divides on a single point of difference: “Climate change is happening” versus “climate change isn’t happening”


The argument is really about how climate ‘science’ turns into ethical imperatives and politics. Our argument here is that ‘catastrophe’ is the premise of climate politics, not the conclusion of climate science.

The post also criticsises some people skeptical of the idea that drastic slowing of human activity is the only way to deal with global warming:

With arguments like this emerging from academia, it is no surprise that people sense the snake oil, and head for the science as the object of the debate. We’ve said before that this is a mistake that sceptics make. They mirror their counterparts such as Sachs and Corner, who believe that the debate begins and ends in “the science”. As we point out, probably too often, the politics is prior. It is Sachs and Corner’s politics which stinks. “The science” is an afterthought.

It’s been argued here before that this is the most important factor about the global warming debate. Even if humans are causing the climate to warm – even if that is an undisputed scientific fact – that fact doesn’t mean that the “science” can tell us what political decisions we need to make. The response to global warming is a political one, not a scientific one, and once the scientists have described what is happening, they have no more authority than any other reasonably well-informed citizen.

Wong responds in writing to Fielding’s three questions

Senator Wong has provided a written answer to Senator Fielding’s three questions. It will be interesting to see what debate ensues. For climate skeptics, it should be a good test of their metal one way or the other.

A rejoinder from the scientists who accompanied Fielding to the recent meeting with Wong can be found here. A somewhat acrimonious exchange can be found at JoNova.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition will no doubt keep us up to date on developments.

Via Spiked: Authoritarians treat climate change debate as a disorder

An article by Brendan O’Neill in today’s Spiked Online discusses a conference on climate change denial about to be held at the University of Western England.

O’Neill says

In a sense, this vision of elite, brainy environmentalists on one side and a baying, insult-hurling crowd on the other speaks, however accidentally and however crudely, to an underlying truth: environmentalism remains a largely elitist project, beloved of politicians, priests and prudes keen to control people’s behaviour and curb our excessive lifestyles, and it rubs many ‘ordinary people’ up the wrong way. Of course much of the public goes along with the environmentalist ethos, bowing to the central idea that mankind is destructive and observing such rituals as sorting their rubbish, but they do so half-heartedly, recognising that, fundamentally, greens’ anti-consumerist, anti-reproduction, anti-travel arguments run counter to their own personal aspirations. Yet rather than recognise this frequently hidden divide between the green elite and the ‘baying crowd’ as one built on differences of opinion, on clashing aspirations, even on rational assessments by sections of the public that recycling is a waste of time, increasingly environmentalists pathologise it, turning it into evidence of their wisdom in contrast to the public’s mental instability.

I’d just observe again that IMO it’s important to divide authoritarian, reactionary, anti-human Greens from people who’d identify as Green but who aren’t opposed to human progress, and also from those who may hold ideas we disagree with but might actually be won over in debate.

Good grief, a demonstration in favour of something!

While the carbon cult killjoys demonstrated on Friday outside Downing Street against the third runway for Heathrow,  a counter-demonstration organized by Modern Movement was held nearby calling for more air travel. They are a group campaigning for ‘faster, cheaper, better transport for all’.

To quote from “Our right to travel” :

“Mobility is at the centre of everyone’s lives and the expansion of cheap flights in recent decades is one of the few tangible increases in the standard of living of most people. Whereas our housing stock has not improved much in either quality or quantity, and our railways and roads are undeveloped and congested, flying has plummeted in cost and has put weekend breaks within the reach of all. Now not only the rich can enjoy the freedom of flying, but we all can.”

So the anti-flying campaign is just one more example of how green politics is hurting people.

More here and here . (Yes, it’s the Spiked and Institute of Ideas crowd.)

Since when has it been left wing to be green?

Here’s an article  by Barry and published at On Line Opinion .  The comments thread at On Line Opinion is worth reading too.

In the political discourse around green issues, the world outlook associated with various green groups is portrayed as left wing. This is largely because the green world outlook generally opposes capitalism, its leaders frequently use the rhetoric of the Left, are promoted as being left wing by the mainstream media, and usually identify themselves as being of the Left.

Moreover, many green leaders and activists were radicalised in the 1960s and 1970s and have genuinely left wing backgrounds. They see the green movement as a continuation of their previous left wing radicalism.

Continue reading ‘Since when has it been left wing to be green?’

Getting out and about: The Australian Environment Foundation Conference

Last weekend, a few of us drove up to Canberra to attend the Australian Environment Foundation conference.

You need to get out more

“You need to get out  more!” my kids always say . Anyway, we went and it was fun.  Immediately below is my report, followed by a separate report from David McMullen.

AEF conference slide

It was an interesting and refreshing experience to meet with people outside my normal circles.

I enjoyed being among   people engaged in real-world politics which could make a positive difference in the here and now (see DavidMc’s report below for more details).  For decades  now “leftwing politics” has been the politics of protest and abstract demand that those in charge to make things all better.

Continue reading ‘Getting out and about: The Australian Environment Foundation Conference’

Not evil, just wrong

There’s a new documentary feature film being produced by PhelimMcAleer and Ann McElhinney called ‘Not evil, just wrong’. It counters the dominant global warming alarmism, particularly Al Gore’s widely distributed film.

Continue reading ‘Not evil, just wrong’